This is not a VIRUS – I am reposting old blog posts

For anyone following me you might notice around 100+ emails for blogs posts.  This is not a virus.  I am merely reposting old blog posts from Google’s Blogspot to this new blog here on WordPress.  It does not make sense to maintain a blog that is not supported by its creators.  WordPress will provide me more capabilities to categorize my posts.

My apologies for loading up your email list.  This should end very shortly.

 

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A Toast to Authors

I am a member of Toastmasters International. Why? As an author, it provides me with the tools to present my stories to the public. It provides a feedback forum on my interpersonal skills, communication skills and yes, even my writing skills, because I convert my written speech to verbal.

In Toastmasters we learn leadership and management skills, which all authors should strive to learn to manage their own affairs. It teaches us time management and research. We have a section of the meeting called Table Topic’s which allows people to think quickly and creatively to provide a response to a question not known in advance.

One of my favorite sections is called Observational Humor. We take what members say or do and make fun of it. Some of my blog posts are directly related to learning this skill of observation.

We have a grammarian who listens to our speech and tells us if we are grammatically correct. This has definitely helped me. We have evaluators of the meeting and of each speech. The evaluation section is similar to a reader’s review. Without evaluation none of us can improve. Giving a speech and receiving positive feedback helps develops confidence. All in all, Toastmasters will enrich your life.

Now let me tell you what has happened to me since joining. I have made speeches on my stories and piqued interest in many of the members. I have won speech contests and moved from area contests to district contests. If you keep winning, you move to regional and then the international speech contest. Contest winners appear on Toastmasters’ website and in international publications. Each time you enter a contest you are interviewed by the contest Toastmaster. You supply a brief outline of yourself and your interests. Every time I have been interviewed I have 20-30 seconds to talk about my story. Almost every time, someone in the audience has asked me about my books. I have made sales, but most importantly, my name is spreading.

You owe it to yourself to experience all that Toastmasters has to offer. But you must participate and set aside your fears because every speaker who steps up to a podium or stage has this same fear. But you know what? Audiences love speakers and the stories they tell. Most of all you gain knowledge of the people and world around you, and that provides plenty of reasons to write about.

Click here to find a club near you Toastmasters International

Hamming it up

As an author I am able to converse with other authors from many countries.  My favorite is to converse with British people because their sense of humor is closer to mine than American humor.  I was raised on watching Monty Python’s Flying Circus on PBS whenever our rabbit ears and tin foil worked well. Yes, that is how old I am.

Later Monty Python came out with the Holy Grail and Life of Brian.  The series and the movies are quite silly and the actors regularly “ham it up.”  One of my author acquaintances via Twitter and Facebook is Jane Isaac, author of An Unfamiliar Murder.  Now she had never heard of the phrase “Ham” or “Hamming it up” in the context of being silly.  I made mention her dog Bollo was a ham in a photograph of hers and she responded, “Okay what’s a ham?”

So this was my opportunity to describe some of our  “Yankee” phrases.  Unknown to her is that I am from Texas, but live in Oklahoma, so my phrases also come with a slight doubly corrupted and outrageous accent, of which I have tried to kill off like one dynamite rodent with a holy hand grenade.  I have always wondered what certain British phrases mean.  For instance what is a “Bugger” and why is “Bloody” considered offensive? I am afraid if I ever visit the UK and order a Bloody Mary, I just might be stoned by women wearing mustaches and beards trying to talk in a low male voice.

I assume “Hamming it up” might give a British person the image of someone from Arkansas throwing a piglet into the air back and forth, or if I say their dog is a ham, they think we Americans eat dogs as much as pork.  I was truly not interested in Jane’s Bollo as a meal.  So I had to let her know how weird we Americans are. We actually vote for our kings. I have an excuse and I blame it all on Monty Python, so in reality it is British humor that is my downfall.  I blame it all on you bloody buggers with shrubberies trimmed by herrings.  So give me your best shot. I can withstand many flesh wounds and second taunts from your elderberry mother and hamster father.

See! Now I can relate with all the great people of Britain.  When I do visit I look forward to the taste of migrating coconuts and hamming it up with all of you silly kniggits. Ni, Ni.

I would love to read some of your silly phrases and their meanings.  If I say “Ham in a Kilt” what comes to your mind? My apologies to all Scottish people. I was going for the William Wallace costume effect, but ham in kilt seemed more apropos.

Ham in a Kilt

 

My fears of ordering a Bloody Mary:

Toastmasters – The Art of Storytelling

As a CPA and financial advisor, I’ve done public speaking for over 20 years.  My largest audience ever was around 2,000.  The topics were of course accounting, tax, business, investments and technology.  Only those interested in such topics attend and pay any attention to my speeches.  Two years ago I joined a Toastmasters Club here in Norman, OK.  My first speech was an ice breaker and I had 4-6 minutes to speak about myself.  I had no idea what to say about myself.  It was my worst speech ever.

As time progressed my speaking improved, but the topics were not about business.  I gave a presidential speech, I spoke about a national water grid, and just about anything other than business. Time came when I wanted to give a speech on my epic trilogy that comprise the beginning to my nineteen story mythology.  My first attempt bombed big time.  So I went back to the process of trying to describe the stories as quickly as I could.  Here is how I approached this speech the second time:

  1. I classified the story as a mythology and asked my audience what they knew about mythologies.  First step was to connect familiarity to Greek and Roman stories.
  2. I further identified the inspiration for writing this trilogy, specifically mentioning J.R.R. Tolkien’s works.  This helped many understand what epic meant, if they had seen the Lord of the Rings movies.
  3. I spoke about the self-publishing route I had taken.  I later discovered there were other aspiring authors in the group.  This drew even more interest.

That speech provided me with the basis for answering readers questions at book signings and other events.  As I moved on I gave a humorous speech and was urged to enter a humorous speech competition.  I won three rounds of competition with the speech before finally losing.  At each contest the speakers are interviewed.  This was the opportunity for me talk about my books.  Because of that I was approached by people who wanted to read the stories.

So if you are beginning the path of becoming an indie author, consider joining a local Toastmasters.  Give it a try, there is nothing to lose and you also get valuable feedback on your ability to deliver what you write.  This is a plus.  Finally, I have an enormous amount of fun and laughter.   Look up Toastmasters International and consider joining one today.

Toastmasters International

If you are an author and are already a Toastmaster, share your experiences here.

Reviewing an Indie Author’s Works

An independent author’s success is dependent on one thing and one thing only, the reviews of their readers. We need a review to prove people are actually reading our stories and to assist us in improving as an author.  Because of this we independent authors have to have a thick skin to ask for a review and to receive constructive criticism.

I have mentioned before that I am a member of Toastmasters International.  Part of that membership is the art of crafting speeches, presenting speeches and being evaluated by peers.  We also have contests on our speeches.  As an evaluator, your job is to be honest, yet constructive.  Here are some of the guidelines to a speech evaluation that you as a reader can consider when posting a review:

  1. Identify what you liked about the story and the characters.
  2. Give your opinion on areas where the story could have been better, without giving away any spoilers.
  3. Supply comparisons if possible to other stories you think the author should read.
  4. Supply comments of areas of improvement.
  5. Supply a rating and a recommendation.

Life is about evaluation.  We all are evaluated in one manner or another.  We should all strive to help someone who is making an effort to improve.  Belittling someone for flaws helps no one.  At some point in time we all need the assistance of another person. Sometimes we fail to ask for an evaluation and assume we are either really good or really bad.

With all this said,  if you have read my trilogy I am now asking for your assistance. I have given ten years of my life in  creating an entertaining, thought provoking and emotional epic. Please post an honest, yet constructive review.  My success as a writer is dependent upon your simple act of kindness and giving up five minutes of your time to assist another.  I am sure I speak for most indie authors that it is you the reader we care most about.  Let me and other indie authors know how we are doing.

You have my thanks and appreciation.

Influence of Faith in Novels

I am going to go out on a limb here in the hopes of learning from fellow authors and readers.  If you read that a novel was influenced by Christian, Jewish or Islamic faith, would you immediately discard reading the book?  The reason I ask this is that many stories have elements of faith embedded in the story, whether allegorically or intentional.  Would the writers faith in something greater than himself be a turnoff?  Would a story embedded with familiarity to stories of faith prevent you from reading the story?

In the year 2000 I began a quest to develop my own mythology similar to the one created by J.R.R. Tolkien.  He is the inspiration for creating this entire premise of mine.  Yet, while talking to some friends about movies, one friend made a comment that gave me much thought.  Many stories present evil. They give evil a name or they give it a persona.  Yet, the source of good is usually benign, or comes only within a person’s mind.  What is wrong with a story that actually refers to a creator as the source of life and goodness?

In my trilogy, The Chosen One of Allivar, the first nine chapters will bear striking resemblance to the book of Genesis.  Why?  First, the book of Genesis is read by three of the worlds great religions.  It brings familiarity quickly to the story.  Because Genesis is the creation story, it sets the scene for all that follows, the introduction of evil into the world, the telling of history and the line of prophets.

Yet many who have read Genesis rarely ask enough questions.  For example, when Adam and Eve were expelled from Eden, why were Cherubims sent to guard the eastern entrance with flaming swords?  Why is the tree of life mentioned in Genesis and then again Revelations?  Who were the watchers that bred with human women? Who and what are the Nephilim?  Per Genesis: “They were the heroes of old, men of renown.” Why are the undead brought back to life in the final battle of good versus evil at Armageddon?  Who was Enoch and why did God take him from Earth without experiencing death? Why were certain stories included and excluded from books of faith?  I wanted to embed some of these same elements into the first nine chapters so that they reader will ask “What does this have to do with the story?”  The answer is that you must be patient and finish the trilogy.

These intriguing questions led me to the development of a story that would rival the Lord of the Rings in scale.  I will never be on the same level of Tolkien, but I will give a reader a challenging and entertaining read.  What is our purpose in life and death?  How is evil created?  The interpretations are vast.  In my trilogy and in the subsequent “chronicles” I will attempt to create a mythology that has answers.  My stories have been labeled by some as “Christian Stealth”, yet Christians I know say it so unchristian like.  Go figure, damned if I do, damned if I don’t.

My stories are not meant to convert anyone or change the faith they already have.  They are simply stories of the interaction of mortals and immortals, good versus evil, of love, family, war and dealing with our own weaknesses and immortality.  One of my favorite works of literature is John Milton’s Paradise Lost where the Archangel Michael gives Adam a vision of the future. Or, Dante’s Inferno which gives us an idea of what hell would be like.  As influential as these stories are to my mythology, so are Pagan stories such as Greek and Roman mythologies.

So if the title of the book scares you off and you are unwilling to invest time in the first nine chapters, then you should not give my books any consideration.  If you love a series of stories, one more exciting than the previous, that requires thought and contemplation of questions no one can truly answer, then you will find the story well worth your effort.

So what story have you read or movie have you watched lately that incorporates faith in an entertaining fashion, without being preachy?

Of Mythology and Tragedy

I am currently on my fourth book of a nineteen story mythology.  I have already completed a trilogy which by itself stands alone as very entertaining and though provoking read.   This fourth book is an expansion of the history contained in the first nine chapters of the first book of the trilogy, Rise of the Fallen. In the compressed history subtle clues are given that are only revealed in the final book of the trilogy, Last Stand of the Living.

In book one the reader is exposed to the creation of ten heavenly worlds and the subsequent destruction of nine of those worlds by the influences of evil.  That’s about all I provided, because to expand upon the detail would have spoiled the conclusion and reactions I wanted the reader to feel in the final story. Again, without spoiling the ending what happened on those nine worlds, and in the first six ages of the first heavenly world, Allivar, affect the outcome of the final battle of good and evil, where one crescendo after another keep the reader guessing what is going to happen next.

As was in The Fellowship of the Ring, a story had to be developed to connect the readers emotionally to the characters.  I will say this much, in the final battle I will rip your heart out, with the express intent of having you think of the loss of life and of all existence.  How the end of times is determined, well, this is why I will go no further.

However, a mythology is truly great when multiple stories exist explaining the interactions of mortals and immortals.  The first book in this history expansion of the tragedies of the nine fallen worlds is titled, The Fall of Helloria.  In this story I create the detail of the fall of the first mortal, Gahar, and his rise to promised power.  Gahar is in fact a pawn.  This story and eight more in the series I call The Rise of Evil series, will play upon mortal weaknesses and the seven deadly sins.  As I write this post, I pause at 85,000 words in total.  Yet, I have at least 30,000 or more to complete the story.

One of my young adult female readers proclaimed:

“It took a while for me to truly get into the book, but after the first few chapters, I was hooked! I loved how detailed the first few chapters were. The author gave me a great view of the history of the wonderful universe. I’m a huge J.R.R. Tolkien fan, but I have to say that this was 100 times better than the Lord of the Rings, the Hobbit, and the Silmarillion combined!”

As I read the Silmarillion, it helped me to understand all of Tolkien’s world, the origin of Sauron, Elves, Balrogs, Orcs, Dragons, etc.  With that in mind, the next sixteen stories in my mythology goes into that much detail.  So far this fourth story is just as exciting to me as the ones I have already written.  It is character rich with a valiant heroine. It is full of romance, epic action, and is a complete tragedy.  I guarantee this story will touch your soul and hopefully help you realize we have so much to lose in our own and very real world.

I can play the destroyer of nine worlds, nine paradises, but we have only one.  What will be our fate? Will we fall to our mortal weaknesses and join the forces of darkness, or will we have the courage to stand for what is good.