Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Notes to a Newbie from James Boyle author of Ni’il, The Awakening

For those just beginning their writing career, or contemplating embarking on one, please accept a few humble words of advice.

First, if you want to be a writer, write. Hemingway said it best when someone asked him how they could be a writer: “Go somewhere and write.” So, go somewhere and write. Write every day. Set yourself a goal, say 1000 words, and write those 1000 words, every day.

The object is to write enough, often enough, that the mechanics of building sentences and paragraphs become second nature. You write your 1000 words a day for the same reason a musician plays scales, or an artist sketches, practice.

Second, write what you know. This has almost become cliché, but it is often misinterpreted. This does not mean that if you're a high school student in Peoria, you can't write about commercial fishermen in Denmark, though that might be difficult. What it means is if you're a big fan of western fiction and have read every Louis Lamour and Zane Grey novel ever written, don't try to write an Agatha Christie style cozy mystery. You know the conventions, the rules, of western fiction. You know what works and what doesn't. Write a western. Write what you know.

Third, read. Read, read, read. Read everything you can get your hands on. Read fiction in your genre and out; read poetry; read history and philosophy; read the back of cereal boxes. Read like a writer. Watch how other writers put their sentences and paragraphs together. See how they handle dialogue and description. Notice what works well and why. Notice what doesn't and why. Every published writer is a teacher. Learn from them.

But mostly write and don't let anybody tell you you're wasting your time. You aren't.


When several people are brutally killed in the town of Placerton, on the isolated Oregon coast, most locals think a rogue bear or cougar is roaming the forested hills near town. Police Chief Dan Connor is not so sure. He has witnessed some very strange things lately, such as disembodied voices, muttering a strange foreign language and an old Indian man who seems to be near every crime scene, but disappears before he can be questioned.
Dan’s investigation takes him to the local Sihketunnai Indians and their legend of the Ni’il, magical shamans charged with maintaining the balance between humans and the natural world. According to the elders, one of the Ni’il is responsible for the murders and intends to kill everyone in the community. It is Dan’s job to stop it.
It sounds unbelievable, but is the only explanation that fit the facts.

As a violent Pacific storm crashes ashore, cutting the town off from the outside world, Dan finds himself entering a strange world of myth and magic that was not covered in his police training. He must use all his wits and new-found powers to save himself and his community from the Ni’il.
You can find James Boyle at http://www.jamesboylewrites.com/


“Hi,” A young girl smiled at him through a mouthful of braces. “What
can I get for you?”

He ordered a soda and waited while the girl dispensed it from the

“You’re the Chief of Police, aren’t you?”

Dan nodded. “Guilty.”

The girl giggled and waited for the foam to subside on his drink. Dan
watched her, smiling. The girl was probably sixteen, or seventeen. She could
have been quite beautiful, and probably would once she got used to her own
sexuality. Her hair was thick and curly, her body curved in all the right
places and with the firmness of youth. Right now though, she wore too much
make-up and her miniskirt and sweater were a touch too tight. With age
would come subtlety. Maybe.

“Should I know you?”

“You gave a speech to my class last year,” the girl said and set the paper
cup of soda on the counter. “On drugs.”

Dan gave her his money. “Was it any good?”

She shrugged and gave him his change. “It was okay. I already knew most
of the stuff you talked about.”

“Oh well,” he said. “At least I didn’t put you to sleep.”

She giggled again.

He thanked her and stepped outside to take a quick look around the
school. The night was calm and starless, absolutely quiet but for the muffled
cheers from the gymnasium and the distant rumble of surf. He could smell sea salt and popcorn.
The sidewalk led around the side of the gymnasium and he followed it,
walking casually, neither slow nor hurried. He sipped his cola and scanned
the parked cars and dark buildings for anything unusual. He’d found through
experience that the unusual was usually easiest to spot and unusual for a

He rounded the back of the building. Th e sidewalk ended and he found
himself walking across asphalt that was both the access road and parking lot
for the teaching staff when school was in session. School, however, was not in
session and the parking areas were empty.

The calm darkness was peaceful, if a little spooky. Even in adulthood,
he had not outgrown the feeling that the school was supposed to be full of
young voices. He had spent many hours among these buildings. Seeing it
dark and empty felt like a Twilight Zone episode where everyone else on the
planet had been killed.

As he passed between the main building and the dark mass of the shop
building on his left, a furtive movement caught his eye. It was unusual. Th ere
was no legitimate reason for anyone to be back here

His senses went on high alert, but he did not change his pace or
attitude. He continued past the spot where he’d seen the motion and used his
peripheral vision to examine it more closely. Again, he saw motion, a shadowy
silhouette ducking behind the back of the building. Someone was trying to
hide from him. He kept his pace even and nonchalant until the neighboring music
building hid him from the suspect’s sight. Then, as quickly and quietly as
possible, he slipped next to the wall of the music building and doubled back
until he was almost at its edge. A security fence ran along the back side of the
buildings. If the suspects wanted to escape, and they thought he had kept
going, they would emerge from between the buildings. They had nowhere
else to go.

He could probably reach out and grab them.

For a few moments, he heard and saw nothing. He waited. Then, came
soft footsteps from around the corner. Approaching.

He readied himself. It was probably just some kids sneaking a beer, or a
joint, but it could just as easily be a burglar or vandal.

The footsteps reached the edge of the music building and stopped just
around the corner. They must want to double check that Dan had really
kept going.

He stayed where he was, pressed flat against the wall. When in doubt, let
the other guy make the first move.

Laughter. Deep bass laughter sounded from around the corner. They, he,
was laughing! Something about it made his flesh crawl and the hairs stand
up on the back of his neck.

“Ni’ ilshanla,” A voice pronounced.

He knew he was there.

Dan fumbled for the small pistol he wore on his belt. With the pistol
gripped in tight in both hands, Dan leaped away from the wall and around
the corner. “Police! Hands where I can . . .”

No one was there.

He quickly scanned the area between the buildings, then carefully moved
up to check behind both the Shop and the Music building. No one was there
either. He was alone.

He lowered his pistol and leaned back against the wall of the music
building. His hands were shaking and his heart pounding. Had he imagined
the whole thing? Somehow, he found that hard to believe. He was not prone
to hallucinations, at least he hadn’t been in the past. But how else could he
explain what he’d seen and heard with what he’d found when he’d rounded
the corner?

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