Absent, But Not Lost

It's never good to begin something, like a blog, only to abandon it shortly after afterwards. To that end, please let me assure those few who have dared to follow along with me thus far, that I haven't abandoned this effort, and that I will try to do better about being more regular with my postings going forward. If it helps, I have a REALLY good reason. (Well, it's a good reason to my mind, anyway.) 

I'm rapidly approaching the end of the first draft of book one of the Find Your Truth series: Your Truth is Out There. (It also happens to be the first draft of my first full-length novel.) I have just a few more chapters to write and it will be complete, so literally every free moment is going into the writing of this book. And when I say every free moment, those of you who work full time, have families and write "on the side," understand how few and far between those free moments can sometimes be.

For example, I just finished writing chapter 25 (loving it!) and am now taking a quick break to write this blog, before spending the evening with my lovely (and very understanding) wife, who I get to see precious little of during the work week. 

Another example is my Twitter feed. Over the past 12-16 months, my Twitter following has grown to more than 3,100, mainly because I'm a good "retweeter," meaning, I help promote others - and in turn, they help promote me (for which I'm eternally grateful). Sadly, I haven't been much of a retweeter and/or promoter lately (like I haven't retweeted anything in over 10 days! Yikes!). It's not because I don't want to - I love helping promote others, but it's terribly time-consuming, and I'm just so hyped-up about getting this first draft done, that, once I have the free time to work with, I can't seem to sit still long enough to do much of anything else except work on the next chapter.

That doesn't make me a terrible person does it? I will be back soon, I promise!!

Blessed & Amazed

This week, my family and I were treated to an amazing and wonderful event - the birth of my grandson. While this was certainly special for all of us, it was even more so for me: allow me to explain. My wife and I will celebrate our fifth anniversary in July and at the moment I said "I do," I not only married an amazing woman, I was, at the same time, also blessed with a wonderful daughter, terrific son-in-law and precocious granddaughter, all of whom, I love very much. Here's the thing-I never had any [biological] children of my own, so when they announced that we were going to be welcoming a new grandchild into the family, one of the side-stories was that "now David will be able to experience the whole Grandpa thing from the very beginning." (It seems my wife is especially excited for me to change my first diaper!).

Now, biology aside, my daughter is MY daughter, and will always be MY daughter and so, knowing how happy she and her husband were when they announced the new baby, I was ecstatic for them, and very excited to be a part of this experience "from the very beginning." As the big day drew closer, we were all getting more and more excited, and yes, a bit nervous as well. No matter the advances of modern medicine, pregnancy and childbirth still has its shares of risks, dangers and uncertainties, as we were to soon find out.

My daughter's doctor admitted her to the hospital on Tuesday evening, with the plan to induce labor the following morning at 6:00 a.m. Without going into too many details, things went more or less as planned, except that, whenever my daughter would have a contraction, the baby's blood pressure would drop - not so far as to put him in danger (yes, we knew he was a boy), but enough to cause the doctor concern. He monitored her progress throughout the morning, and then, shortly after noon on Wednesday, he made the call that gave us reason to pause - "we need to do a C-Section," he said.

I think all of us stopped breathing for a moment and I know our hearts skipped a beat. But our trepidation lasted only a moment as the hospital staff kicked in to high gear. Within minutes, our beautiful daughter was being whisked off to surgery, while her husband, dressed in scrubs, was following along, trying to shake off the shock of what was happening. Meanwhile, my wife and I, doing our best to keep our tears (and fears) on the inside, took all of the their clothes, computers and other belongings and moved them from the birthing room to their new recovery room.

I won't lie, it was a rough time. We believed in our hearts that all would be okay, but we couldn't help but be more than a wee bit terrified of the unknown. Fortunately, the surgery not only went very well, it also went very quickly. Within a few minutes of her entrance into the operating room, we had smartphone pics from the proud papa of his newborn son. A few minutes later, the nurse came out to let us know all was well and that our daughter, son(-in-law) and new grandson would be out to greet us in about 20 minutes. 


While full relief wouldn't sink in until we'd seen our daughter with our own eyes and could see in hers that she was okay, we knew the worst was over. Over the next 24-48 hours we have watched as she continually grows stronger and as our new grandson passes all of his newborn tests with flying colors. He really is something to behold. I've never been more proud, nor honored, nor blessed in my life than I have in the past five-plus years since I became a part of this family. This last week has been a culmination of these blessings, and my thankfulness can never be fully expressed by mere words.

(Oh, and by-the-way, that chapter that was giving me so much trouble a couple of weeks ago: DONE, along with the next one!)

This Chapter Has Me Whupped

What is going on here? It's a very simple chapter. Really it is. Two of my characters are traveling (in a spaceship, across the galaxy), on their way to confront the bad guy...well one of the bad guys...okay, it's who they think is one of the bad guys. Trust me, it will all make sense when you read it in context. I know what's going to happen. I know who's involved. I know where it begins and ends...well, pretty much anyway. It should be easy-peasy and on to the next chapter, right? Right. So why have I already written it twice and am under the nagging suspicion that it's going to take at least one more attempt to get it right? 

There could be several reasons for this, but I believe the overriding one is simple human nature, more particularly, the behavior of the human reader. Like any reader (or at least me, when I read), the closer I get to the climactic scenes of a book, the faster I want to go-I WANT TO SEE WHAT HAPPENS NEXT. The problem with being the writer and not the reader (aside from the fact that I already know what happens) is that as the writer I can't rush through it. I have to ensure my characters remain true to themselves and take every step they're supposed to take, say every word they're supposed to say, and yes, stop and pause every single time that it's appropriate for them to do so.

It's maddening really. They need to just hurry up and get to where they're supposed to go and do all the things they're supposed to do so that I can get on with writing their sequel.

I suppose that would be all well and good, provided I was the one actually telling the story instead of relying on the characters themselves to tell me how it all really happens. (Sigh.) I guess it's better to write it correctly than to write it quickly. They do understand the book is due out this summer, right?

Saving Ms. Travers


My wife and I watched "Saving Mr. Banks" last night - a thoroughly enjoyable movie about the behind-the-scenes wrangling between Walt Disney (that is Mr. Walt Disney, the man, before he became a multinational media conglomeration) and P. L. Travers, author of the children's classic, Mary Poppins. My wife watched it from the perspective of one who had seen the Mary Poppins' Disney musical as a child, and then again as a mother raising a child of her own. I, on the other hand, am one of the few people on planet Earth who has never seen the Julie Andrews/Dick Van Dyke spectacular, which, combined with my creative writing background, allowed me to view Saving Mr. Banks from a very different perspective.

According to the movie, P.L. Travers was beyond difficult to work with. She was a self obsessed women who wouldn't allow anyone inside her own little world, not even to offer help of any kind, for fear she might be taken advantage of. Her stubbornness and zeal to force Disney and his team to shoot the movie her way and only her way was something approaching lunacy and it was only through Walt's disarming honesty and folksy charm that the rights were ever secured and movie history ever made. That's the Disney story and they're sticking to it. 

Personally, I have no reason to dispute their story. I have no vested interest one way or the other, except that it all seems just a bit too "neat" to me. A little too cozy. I have no doubt that Mr. Disney was a wonderful man, a creative genius who brought an unbelieveable amount of magic into the world. Something for which we all, myself included, will be forever indebted to him. But, he was also a man, and a businessman at that. A businessman who built an entertainment empire on the back of a cartoon mouse. That doesn't happen without a certain amount of shrewdness, which is not a bad thing. A lot of wonderful, beautifully creative things get lost in this world because those responsible for them aren't shrewd enough to make them last. But, it does tell me that perhaps Ms. Travers isn't as soley responsible for the "making of" difficulties as this movie made her out to be.

Let's also not forget that Saving Mr. Banks is, in fact, a Disney production (how could a movie about Walt Disney not be a Disney production?). As such, it is masterfully told. Anyone who wants to learn anything about storytelling need look no further than a Disney production, for very few do it any better. Saving Mr. Banks is no exception. It tells a very powerful story, laying all of the pre-production issues carefully at the feet of Ms. Travers, without actually blaming her for anything, while the ever cheerful Mr. Disney, never loses heart and not only saves the day in terms of inking the movie deal, but also in helping Ms. Travers resolve her own internal issues. Great storytelling, even if I don't actually buy it all. Again, let me reiterate that I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. Whether one accepts it as fiction or non, it's a great way to spend an evening and I heartily recommend it.

As an author, however, the movie made me think about the actual signing over of movie rights to a work of my own. Clearly this is not anything I'll need to be concerned about any time soon, since one has to actually FINISH a novel before it can become a best seller, which is usually a prerequisite for Hollywood to come a knocking. Even so, I can't help but think it's something every writer dreams of at some point. Seeing their work immortalized on the big screen. Well, that and the ginormous paycheck that comes with it. But, (according to the movie) even as Ms. Travers was nearly broke at the time, she was, in fact, ready to face poverty rather than see Disney portray her characters in a way she believed to be untrue to the way she saw them. I wonder how I would react when faced with that actual choice. Would I be willing to "sell out" characters that I have, literally, lived with for years, for the chance for fame and a large payday. The practical side says, "heck yes," take the money and run, but the reality says, "it depends on what they're going to do with my characters and their story." In the end, I'm afraid I might have to side with Ms. Travers and my characters. If the movie cannot be done correctly - true to the characters - then it shouldn't be done at all.

And with that, it's time to rent Mary Poppins and see what all the fuss is about. Perhaps I'll read the book first.

Blown Away & Loving It

As I'm writing this blog, I'm also closing in on the final chapters of the first draft of my very first full-length (sci-fi) novel. I find that I am full of mixed emotions at the prospect of typing the words "The End" after pecking out somewhere in the neighborhood of 60,000 words. Clearly, there's the obvious excitement over the accomplishment itself. Taking a group of characters from a starting point and watching them work, fight, negotiate and otherwise find their way through this adventure until they reach their final objective is not an easy task and the excitement and pride I'm feeling over nearly reaching that endpoint is really quite something.

Of course that pride and excitement is tempered by the very real fact that it IS just a first draft, which by default means, that at its best it's only average and at its worst...well, you know. So, when the words "The End" finally roll off of my fingertips onto the page, it really only means that the rewrite has just begun. But since that will be a completely separate process, and a rather long, arduous, and tedious one at that, I will take at least a day or two to bask in the glow of the first accomplishment before tackling the second.

More than the pride of finishing my first full-length novel, however, I'm feeling more accomplished on a personal level than ever before. Not just at the prospect of completing something long and difficult, although that is certainly part of it, but from all that I've learned during the process. For example, I've always been a "rewrite as you go" kind of writer - write a sentence, paragraph or maybe even a whole chapter and then, before going any further, go back and rewrite, and then rewrite again until I'm totally satisfied with that piece. This style has never been productive for me and has invariably led to having a stellar opening sentence, paragraph or chapter, but very little, if anything beyond it. I've either gotten bored with the characters or story, lost any momentum I might have had, or simply couldn't figure out where to take the whole thing next - so this stellar beginning usually winds up in the bottom drawer of my desk, where it's destined to sit for all eternity.

This time has been different, however. With much encouragement from my wife (she is and has been my truest inspiration), I have been able to resist this temptation in my current novel. Difficult though it has been to not go back and rework earlier portions, I haven't, but have instead, moved ever forward, saving the look-backs until the entire first draft is finished. What I have found has been nothing short of fantastic. Essentially, I have some weak and inconsistent first chapters, as is to be expected, but, and here's the fun part, I also have much stronger work through the middle that is turning into something really special as we head into the the home stretch. By the time the first draft is complete, and I know my characters more thoroughly and I know what they're going to do and how they're going to react, I will be able to go back to the beginning, well-armed with everything I need to properly fix the aforementioned deficiencies and build a final draft that will be strong, consistent and (hopefully) engaging for the reader.

Another thing I've learned is that working alone, in a proverbial vacuum, is not a good thing, at least not for me. I started a writer's group at my workplace a couple of years ago hoping to to find the motivation and camaraderie from fellow writers that I felt I desperately needed. I have not been disappointed. My writing peers have been phenomenally helpful (as I hope I have been for them). We review each other's works and offer critiques and encouragement, but most of all, we do our best to inspire one another. We all work at the same, exceptionally fast-paced company, each doing different, but extremely busy jobs and when we show up for meetings with pages in hand, it shows that yes, in the midst of life's chaos, there is still time to write - if indeed that is what you really desire to do.

The final and most important lesson I've learned is that, in the words of prolific fantasy author Terry Brooks, "Sometimes the Magic Works." When I first began writing this story, I KNEW EXACTLY how it would go. I knew the characters (most of them anyway) and what they were going to do. That in and of itself made me more than a little nervous, because I honestly didn't believe there would be enough material to support a full-length novel. As I began to write, however, the characters reached out to me - not always in the nicest of ways - and essentially took over the telling of the story, essentially relegating me to the role of stenographer. I soon found that I had been wrong, I didn't know the whole story. While I perhaps had the essence of the story in my head, there was so much more I didn't know, and couldn't know until I started writing it. Even now, with just a few chapters to go, new things are being revealed to me that I would have never dreamed of before I began, including a nobody character - a henchman, who had been nothing more than a means to an end, with only a line or two - who has suddenly become much more important to the entire story arch. As I finished the last chapter and that character gave me a menacing smile right before he flew away in his spaceship, chauffeuring one of my main characters, I literally thought to myself: "Whoa! What just happened?" Which was followed immediately by: "Hot damn, this is fun!"

Storytelling 101 (or why Star Trek Doesn't Suck)

Okay, let's get one thing straight right from the start: as you may have guessed from the title of this blog, I'm a Trekkie, which means that most of what you are about to read will have a certain "pro-Trek" slant. That does NOT mean I'm an over-the-top, costume-wearing, Klingon-speaking, convention-attending Star Trek zealot (not that there's anything wrong with that). What it DOES mean, however, is that, like a large, less vocal, number of Trekkies, I'm a fan of the shows, the characters, the stories and yes, the writing. It also means that I'm a reasonable, level-headed individual, capable of intelligent, rational conversation, who recognizes that even at its best, Star Trek sometimes goes just a bit over the top. (Khaaaaaaaannnnn!!!! Khaaaaaaaannnnn!!!!) And, at its worst has produced some really horrid stuff (ST:The Motion Picture, I'm looking at you.)

So, why is it, then, that Star Trek - on the whole - doesn't suck? The answer is quite simple, really. It's the characters, and how they interact with one another, that makes it special. Yes, the stories are far-fetched, the setting is outer space and the dialogue is sometimes...well, you know. But the characters are real. Jim Kirk is real (unlike, for example, William Shatner). Spock, Vulcan though he may be, is real. Bones, Uhura, Chekov, Sulu and Scotty are all real, and so are the relationships they form. And even though some of the plot-lines are mind-boggling ridiculous ("Spock's Brain" anyone?), we can overlook them, because at some point the characters became real to us and we fell in love with them. In other words: it's Storytelling 101.

So, when exactly did I recognize the artful storytelling found within the Trek universe, and realize that it applies across media to all fictional works? (Translation: When did I become a Trekkie?)

The year was 1982 and I was 19. Yes, I had watched more than one rerun of the original series (which, btw, was the only Trek series at the time - yes, I'm old), but nothing had ever really, truly clicked for me. I was out messing around one Saturday afternoon with nothing better to do and saw a theater with Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan playing and I thought "eh, why not?"

The movie was fun, engaging really. I enjoyed seeing all the familiar faces, mixed in with a few new ones. It had action, comedy and Ricardo Montalbon in something other than the dreadful Fantasy Island.

But then, something happened. Something unexpected. Something magical. Just when it seemed darkest, when all hope was lost and our heroes were trapped inside a dead planet for all eternity, Kirk popped open his flip-phone, called Spock and said: "Kirk to Spock, it's been two hours, are you ready?" To which Spock replies, "Right on schedule, Admiral."

I was hooked.

It seems hokey now. In hindsight. Really hokey. But it's not. It's Storytelling 101. Let's break it down for a moment and play it back as if we're watching it for the first time.

The set up: Kirk, Bones, Chekov and Saavik, along with Drs. Carol and David Marcus (who, by now, everyone except David, knows is Carol and Kirk's love child) are trapped inside the middle of Regula One, a dead planet (and also the site of the Phase 2 experiments of the Genesis project - did you get all of that?). According to the last communication between Kirk and Spock, the Enterprise had been so badly damaged during its last encounter with Khan, that it couldn't even beam them back on board. The ship was ordered to leave them behind and hightail it out of there, if they could. Now, bear in mind, that Kirk and Spock were speaking in code the whole time and also that they blatantly tell us they are speaking in code right up front. But here's the fun part - we missed it. At least I did the first time around. It's obvious now, of course. When I watch it now I think, how in the world did I NOT catch that the first time. 

Here's why: I was caught up in flow of the movie, watching the characters interact with one another and how they were going to react to each new twist and turn. I was too busy enjoying myself to try and figure out what was going to happen next. 

Storytelling 101.

Good stories do that to us. One of the basic tenets of good fiction is that it takes ordinary people and throws them into extraordinary circumstances. It introduces us to characters that we become involved with. Hero or villain, leading character or supporting, as long as they are real and identifiable, they will engage the reader in a way that no amount of fanciful plot line or special effects ever could. 

In the world of science fiction, like say, Star Trek,  for example, it falls to the author to determine what constitutes ordinary within the confines of the world(s) they've created, but even when you're talking about a super-logical Vulcan, a genetically enhanced über human like Khan or an over-achieving farm boy from Iowa, there still has to be enough recognizable humanity for the audience to relate to them. Otherwise, no matter how good the plot, dialogue or anything else, it simply won't resonate. Hey, nobody said Storytelling 101 was easy.

Anyone up for a glass of Romulan Ale?

The Voices in My Head

I'm a writer. Whether or not I'm any good is a matter of opinion and is not up for discussion at this particular moment. The fact of the matter remains, I am a writer. As such, there are voices in my head. Some loud, some soft, some angry (especially in rush hour traffic), some happy, some insistent, some meek, some serious, some hysterically funny and some...well...just hysterical. I don't know if everyone has these voices. Since I've lived with them for more than 50 years now, it seems natural to me and I can't imagine anyone not having them, although I suppose it's possible, likely even. Perhaps everyone does have them, but not everyone acknoweledges them for fear of being considered "strange." If that's the case, all I can say is: "Have you looked around lately?" I think "strange" is pretty much the "norm" these days. 

I will go out on a limb and say that the voices in our heads are essential for all of us, because they ARE us. Each voice represents a different aspect of our personality and is key to us understanding, and accepting,  who we really are. Even, and dare I say, especially, the voices that make us the most uncomfortable. Those voices that represent aspects of our personalities that we wished didn't exist at all. Perhaps that is why we sometimes pretend not to hear any of the voices, when they whisper to us in the quiet of night. But we need to listen to and acknowledge them, if for no other reason than to better understand them and learn how to keep those undesirable sides of our personalities at bay.

If you're a writer, then simply listening to the voices in your head is not enough. You need to talk back and engage them in conversation. We write what we know and the more we know about ourselves, including knowing all of the various aspects of ourselves, in the form of the voices in our heads, the better our writing will become (Hello! Can you say "characters" people?) Don't forget to take lots of notes, too. Some of those voices can get a little talkative!

Who's talking in your head? Let's hear about the voices you hear in the wee small hours of the morning!

Writing Snob

I'm a snob. I freely admit that I'm a snob and I gladly embrace my snobbery...er...snobbishness...uh... snobgobbledegook. Okay, whatever.

That's not to say I'm snooty. I don't look down on others. I don't think any less of anyone else simply because they don't agree with me or don't like the same things I like or whatever else some people look down on others for. I simply know what I like and am, admittedly, rather snobbish about it. I'm a snob in how I dress. I'm a snob in where I like to shop (be it groceries, clothes, gifts, etc.). I'm a snob in where I like to vacation - and where I stay when on vacation (ocean view, please) and am willing to pay extra, even if it means going less often.

I'm a snob when it comes to writing as well. I like works that are concise, well written and have a clear point to them. Obviously, my writing snobbery covers the simple things like spelling, basic grammar and consistent use of tense (are you speaking in the past or the present - make up your mind, please!). But it goes beyond that. I expect reasonably good sentence phrasing, clear lines of thought and, in the end, writing that conveys the message that's being (or attempting to be) delivered.

Perhaps I'm not that snobbish after all, I mean what's wrong with clear, concise writing that delivers one's message? Nothing really, as long as it doesn't get in the way of good storytelling.

As writers, we should all strive to continously improve our technical skills. That much at least should be a given. But it should never come at the expense of our craft. Our jobs as writers is to tell the story in the most engaging way possible. Clearly there must be a certain level of technical competency or the story will be unreadable, regardless of how good it may actually be. But there comes a point where spending too much time over how a certain sentence can be "phrased better" becomes counter-productive and the writing snob within becomes nothing but an old blow-hard who should be not only ignored, but summarily dismissed. I speak from experience, as I have been a victim of my own snobbishness, both in terms of my own writing (thinking too much and feeling too little) and while reading the work of others (critiquing too much and not enjoying enough).

Ultimately, it's all about telling a good story, one that draws the reader in so deeply that they feel as if they're living the story right along with the characters. Do that and snobs like me won't have anything to say when it's over except: "When is the next book coming out?"

Welcome to the DAKlog

Welcome to DavidAllenKimmel.com - my new home on the web. As you can see, the content right now is primarily focused on the late summer release of Find Your Truth, Book 1: Your Truth is Out There. I'm very excited about the new book as it's given me the chance to revisit my old friends from my first (and only) self-published novella, Rockin' Across the Galaxy. The entire gang is back, along with some new faces and an adventure that is sure to be exciting, insightful and a whole lotta fun.

I expect to add new blog entries regularly and new content to the site as it becomes available. Especially as other works, unrelated to the Find Your Truth series are published. Or as developments appear in the world of writing at large - like some of the research that Hugh Howey is doing on self-publishing vs. traditional publishing. Or as other random, writing-related thoughts jump into my brain that I feel must be shared! (We'll see how often THAT actually happens!)

Anyway, welcome once again to my little corner on the web. Comments always welcome!