A work-in-progress. No publication date set.

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Origin of The Dragon Universe

I love science, science fiction, and fantasy. I always have. Nevertheless, it never occurred to me I could write it as a career. I had dabbled in writing stories for fun, but never considered it more than a hobby. Then along came the Internet and the methods it provided for sharing. I discovered people liked my fiction about Dragons, even as amateurish as it was. When career changes provided the opportunity to move into a new life, I had many options. I settled on pursuing a new career as a speculative fiction writer.

For years, I had successfully written technical documents and articles. What could be so hard about becoming serious about writing fiction? Everything. Fiction writing is not technical writing. Fiction requires a different skill set. I studied everything I could find to learn how to write quality fiction. I set a goal of 10 years, 10,000 hours, 1,000,000 words to hone my skills. I am not yet to the 10-year mark, but I have exceeded the 10,000 hours, and I have created nearly 1,000,000 words of trunk novel material. I am improving, but I still have more practice to do.

During those years of practice, experimentation, and development, I created the worlds, characters, and plots for The Dragon Universe. Initially, I imagined a single book, but I eventually realized the story was too large. Rather than lose the story's heart and soul by cutting it to an acceptable size, I split the five phases of the story into five books. When I finish with the current trunk novel version of the story, I will return to the beginning and apply everything I have learned to create a work of art.

I feel good about how well my writing skills have developed, I am pleased by how the story has evolved, and I am excited for what the future holds. While it is still a work-in-progress, The Dragon Universe is wonderful. Follow me on my journey by following me on my web pages, Facebook, and Twitter. When the final version of the books come to market, read them and let me know how I did.

Lester D. Crawford Blog

All Writing is an Experiment

All writing is an experiment.

The judge of the success of an experiment is the reader.

The principles of storytelling have existed since the beginning of human kind. Our minds are wired for it, and some people tell well structured stories instinctively. For all of us, the quality of our stories can be improved by studying, practicing, and actively implementing those principles. That’s not to say there isn’t a lot of flexibility, but the greater the outlier the greater the risk of failure. It’s also true that the greater your fan following, the more deviation editors and publishers accept.

I strongly discourage writers from harboring the idea that they don’t need to learn the craft of storytelling, that they’re free to do whatever they want, and if a reader doesn’t like how something is written, it’s the reader’s problem, not the writer’s problem because there are no rules. I say learn the craft, learn the principles, learn the rules, and then you can deviate and know that you are. Then you can experiment.

One analogy I use is photographic composition. There are rules to composing a photograph. Those rules are as old as art itself. Most people with cameras don’t know them. Some people refuse to acknowledge they even exist. But all photographers, painters, and other artists benefit by knowing and following the rules.

Image contains two pictures.  One is well composed.  On is not.

Christmas Rock

Christmas Rock
by Lester D. Crawford

My gift from Santa was a rock, a mesmerizing rock with swirling Christmas colors — silver and gold and red and green. I stared at its iridescence, drawn by desire and need and hope. The rock possessed me. The rock was all that mattered to me. Why had Santa cursed me with the rock?

Then, it hatched.

Out came a shimmering silver and gold and red and green Christmas dragon. Before he hatched he had bonded me to him, made me fall in love with him. Now I will spend the rest of my life serving him.

Thanks a lot, Santa.

This is my 100-word Christmas story for 2017.

Sudden Inspiration

On Halloween, a news story led me to a NASA recording called “Chorus Radio Waves within Earth’s Atmosphere.” The sounds are the data recorded by the Electric and Magnetic Field Instrument Suite and Integrated Science (EMFISIS) aboard NASA’s Van Allen Probes. It was supposed to sound spooky.

In the first book of my “The Dragon Universe” series, the protagonist is injured and abandoned in a forest, but he does not know he’s on an alien world. That first night, the forest is full of sounds the protagonist has never heard before, sounds that frighten him. This audio file flooded me with feelings of that first night. The challenge I face is capturing those feelings in words.

Talking about my Work

Some people say talking to others about your writing can be fatal to your desire to write, that your ideas will evaporate if exposed, your feelings of intimacy and revelation in the story will be lost, and you risk criticism that can have destructive effects on your desire to write.

They say you should keep your writing a secret. Tell know one you are a writer and never talk about what you are writing. And for those who do know you are a writer, when they ask what you’re working on, do not tell them anything.

The problem with the global admonition about talking about your work is each of us is an individual with our unique thoughts, motives, and inhibitions. What works for one person, may or may not work for someone else. Some people might experience the above problems. For them, keeping their work secret might be best. For me, the opposite happens. My friends know better than to ask me about what I’m writing. They know it will set me off into a long-winded presentation about everything going on in my head. I become excited. I become empowered. I become effervescent, bubbling and oozing, making a mess all over the place. Being aware of this, I try to restrain myself, but it’s difficult.

If keeping secrets helps you succeed, do that. If talking to your friends and family helps you, do that (if your friends and family can take it).

That said, when I talk about my writing and my stories, I tailor my lecture to the audience. For some people — the ones I know don’t really care or understand — I say little more than I’m writing science fiction/fantasy. For others, I give them my elevator speech (especially if we’re actually riding an elevator.) For those who already know a great deal about what I’m writing, I’ll expound on some new story world revelation or nifty scene that has occurred to me. With my first-line alpha readers, I share actual written words. Since everything I write is an experiment, I rely on their reactions to help gauge how well the experiments work.

Beyond simply talking about my writing as described above, when I’m to the point of having prose I consider to some degree finished, I trust my beta readers to help me polish the words. Instead of talking, I give them the manuscript to read and mark-up. This is an entirely different level of sharing my writing, so it does not count toward the admonition about talking about my work.

My advice: Do what works best for you.

A Cup of Water

Events early in my childhood left me with certain personality traits regarding food insecurity. I think of those traits as scars. Talking about them is intensely emotional, the memories bringing tears to my eyes.

So many memories. I’ll describe one. I remember being very hungry, sitting at the kitchen table, and being given a bowl of broken pieces of stale bread with a small amount of Karo Syrup poured over them. The bread was hard, but the syrup softened it. I vividly remember picking up the bread pieces with a fork and enjoying them greatly. I enjoyed it so much, as an adult I tried to recreate the meal. It’s not as good if you’re not famished.

I learned not to waste food. I learned to worry about not having food. I learned to take advantage of every opportunity I had to access food because I never knew when food would again be available. I learned that starving people do not waste food. I learned that starving people dig in the dirt for every last spilled grain of rice.

Where I live, the September 2016 report on food insecurity indicated 42 million people in my country were living in food insecure households with 13 million of those being children. With the political climate as it is now, I don’t know if that report will be produced again because it’s the kind of information the current administration does not want known. And when those same politicians talk about letting children go hungry because it ennobles them and makes them work harder, I become incensed.

These experiences inform my writing. All of my stories are touched. In one story about surviving the end of civilization the plot is driven by food acquisition. It’s a part of me I can’t escape.

Brandon Sanderson, in his September 16, 2017, blog post, “Robert Jordan Tenth Year Commemoration,” refers to Robert Jordan as the mentor he never met and how Jordan taught him how to describe a cup of water: “…a cup of water can be a cultural dividing line — the difference between someone who grew up between two rivers, and someone who’d never seen a river before a few weeks ago. A cup of water can be an offhand show of wealth, in the shape of an ornamented cup. It can be a mark of traveling hard, with nothing better to drink. It can be a symbol of better times, when you had something clean and pure. A cup of water isn’t just a cup of water, it’s a means of expressing character.”

This touched me deeply and expanded my horizons. The lesson about a cup of water applies to food insecurity. The difference between someone who grew up often being hungry and someone who never missed a plentiful meal can be significant: I see the difference between my son, who I never let go hungry while growing up, and me. Attitudes toward food are a means of expressing and exploring characters.

But it goes beyond a cup of water and a meal. It applies to everything in life. The haves versus the have-nots. Variations on life experiences and expectations. Different interests, wants, and needs. I passively apply these things to my characters now, but the lesson is to actively include these character defining moments.

I am applying this lesson to my writing, expanding how I deepen characters to give them their personalities. Thanks to Sanderson’s blog post and the lesson Jordan taught him, I have grown.

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