Friday, June 26, 2009

My writing this week

Resurrection by Clayton Bye (short story) and review of Fear by L. Ron Hubbard at

Review of Fog Island Flowers by Tonya R. Moore at

Review of Androgynous Murder House Party by Steven Rigolosi at

For more of Clayton Bye's writing, visit his website or become a fan.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


Harper Collins has an experiment running on the net that I believe is a worthwhile endeavor for any author, independent or otherwise.

How it works: You register, then upload single chapters of your manuscript or self-published novel. A minimum of 10,000 words is required. You then compete with other authors each month to attain first 5 spots. These reads will then go to a Harper Collins review board for publication consideration. Your chances of reaching this pinnacle? Probably very small.

I've been at it for about six weeks with one novel and my current manuscript. I've been as low as 750 out of about 3,500 competitors. But what's great about the experience is the different books I get to read (usually the first two chapters) and the feedback I'm getting on my own manuscripts. The experience can only improve my own writing.

It takes up time to compete, even to participate, but I believe it's worth the effort. The website URL is

Copyright © Clayton Clifford Bye 2009

For more of Clayton Bye's writing, visit his website or become a fan.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Review of Valley of the Shadow by Steven Knutson

Valley of the Shadow
Steven A. Knutson
Knutson's Publishing, 2008
ISBN -13: 978-1-60725-994-7
148 pages
Paperback/ eBook (Feb 2009)

Buy eBook:
Buy Paperback: Amazon

Behind the scene in Vietnam:

Valley of the Shadow is a book about the working man’s war in Vietnam. No firefights or daring rescues here. Steve Knutson’s stories are about what the majority of soldiers did in the Vietnamese war, rather than those unfortunate enough to have had to fight on the front lines; the men in these stories worked hard to support their country and the fighting soldiers and, in the end, were painted with the same unkind media brush. Lloyd Lofthouse who also reviewed this book, and fought in the same war, wrote “There are ten to twelve men in uniform in support positions for each grunt in the field...”

Each chapter in Valley of the Shadow is a short, personal story about Knutson’s experiences from when he first signed up, through his tour in Vietnam, to his final departure and reassignment back in the States.

Frank, sometimes funny, in places sad and, in others, angry—Knutson tells his stories exactly as he remembers them happening.

This isn’t a polished work... Steve has trouble keeping his narrative voice in the past, and he uses so much jargon it slows down the reading. But Valley of the Shadow is history as real as it gets.

A work which should be read by each one of us who has never soldiered or been to war, I can only hope Valley of the Shadow someday finds a publisher willing to help the author turn it into the fine gem it could be.

copyright © 2009 Clayton Clifford Bye

For more of Clayton Bye's writing, visit his website or become a fan.

New author for you...

Jeremy C. Shipp. Terrific short fiction. Check it out at

For more of Clayton Bye's writing, visit his website or become a fan.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Friday, June 12, 2009

John R. Little is finalist for the Bram Stoker Award

John R. Little, a Canadian author, is a finalist for a Bram Stoker Award (winner to be announced tomorrow). Check out my review of the nominated novella, Miranda, at

For more of Clayton Bye's writing, visit his website or become a fan.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The basics of story telling

One of the first things I learned about story telling is that you must take your hero or protagonist (yes, they are different things) and put them into terrible trouble. The rest of the story is devoted to getting he or she out of that trouble. Want a story to succeed? Begin by dropping your main character into the frying pan. You'll never have to worry about hooking your reader.

Do you know how many want-to-be writers there are who don't understand the function of plot and theme? Worse yet, many reviewers fall into the same category.

Plot is the rack you hang your story on; it's the logical structure you must build into a story in order to communicate effectively with your reader. You learned in school everything must have a beginning, a middle and an end. OK, this is true. But think of it in terms of a skeleton: each piece must smoothly connect to the next in order for the creature in question to be mobile. Failing to plot is to plot to fail!

Theme. This is perhaps the most difficult aspect of writing. Theme is your message, what the story is about, what it means. Thanks to inept critics, many authors shy away from consciously creating a message in their fiction. The critics are famous for saying "Fiction with a message is bad fiction." What nonsense! Every story has a message. We use language to lend meaning to our experiences; how can a story not have meaning?

Let's take my novel, The Sorcerer's Key as an example of what I've been talking about.

As the story opens, Jack Lightfoot, the protagonist (he's a lead character, not a hero), is suddenly plunged into a 20 year-old power struggle between his father and the very nasty Morgan Heist. The plot is two-fold... First, we have the progression of the power struggle. Second, the reader witnesses the unfolding of an alternate history of The Fall of Man. There are two skeletons to unearth in this book.

And, finally, we come to the theme. It may seem to be apparent on first read (at least one foolish critic thought so), but it is not. Careful thought will bring the reader to the understanding that this is a story dedicated to showing how life never turns out as we expect; it is a malleable and unknowable set of ever-changing, intermixed events. This meaning was purposefully inserted.

There is no need for beginning, middle (exposition) and end in this kind of writing. The problem or item of discussion is introduced, the author attempts to solve the problem or explain the topic, and he or she reveals that solution or summary. It's a logical progression; the construction of a clear beginning, middle and end is inherent to the process. The author's true effort lies in the mechanics of writing, the grammar and such.

Not so complicated, is it?

copyright © Clayton Clifford Bye 2009

For more of Clayton Bye's writing, visit his website or become a fan.

Monday, June 8, 2009

A travelling man

The rope was strung waist high and ran the full eighth of a mile from Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Alert to the Department of Environment's (DOE) weather station. Given this was the land of the midnight sun, one might wonder what the rope was for.

"That's so you don't get lost in a snowstorm," my so-called boss told me. I referred to him in this manner because I had been asked to leave Resolute Bay, NWT where I had originally been posted to come up here to the gray-haired top of the world to unofficially run the place. "We're having some problems," my real boss had said to me; this was the Assistant Deputy Minister of the Environment at the time. Knowing the guy, it was probably a fabrication, but here I was.

I was given the tour of the station. Not much different than any other I'd been posted to. A weather office, a computer room where we tracked the balloons we sent up twice a day and did our analysis of the data, a large, fiberglass dome for the ancient tracking dish and a hydrogen generation building (the hydrogen was for the balloons). Ah! There was one difference: a very comfortable living room with all the movies a fellow could want, a reel-to-reel tape deck and a library. I spent many happy hours there.

Which brings me to the point of this little monologue... It wasn't all fun and games. The sun didn't stick around all year. And the snow did come back.

There came a morning when I had to use the rope to get to work. You couldn't tell it was morning--there was no sun and the snow was flying horizontal to the ground. I was lucky to get a glimpse, every once in a while, of the rope my hand was attached to.

Anyway, I made it to the weather station, and the fellow I was relieving made it back to CFB Alert. Not long afterward, I received a call. "You can't come back, and there won't be anyone down to relieve you," the Officer-in-Charge (OIC) said. "All personnel have been confined to base."

This didn't seem like much of a big deal. I was comfortable, and I had my guitar. I settled in for some serious practice time.

Two days later, it was a big deal. I was bored. Food was also getting scarce. But the storm was still raging.

What to do? The answer was simple, and it was also the reason I never ended up in the armed forces. I went out into the storm, walked the rope with my eyes closed (because they froze shut anyway), had a bite to eat at the cafeteria, then went and knocked on my relief's door. I left it up to he and the OIC as to what they were going to do next. I figured the DOE wasn't going to fire me if a weather observation or two didn't get made.

Turns out I was right.

Copyright © Clayton Clifford Bye 2009

For more of Clayton Bye's writing, visit his website or become a fan.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


I see pictures in my mind...

Three teenage boys in a small fishing boat. The boat lies lengthwise along the face of a cliff. The boys are reclining, backs against the rock, feet on the outer gunnel of the boat. All three boys sport a fishing rod and are lazily bouncing minnows on the bottom of the lake. A stringer of fish runs out and away from the boat like a roiling column of black smoke. There are too many fish to count. The sky is blue. The cooler is full of cold drinks. Life is good.

* * *

A lone figure trudges across a frozen fjord to the base of a medium-sized iceberg. He carries a fire axe in one hand and a cardboard box in the other. The man walks directly to the centre of the inner face of the berg. He has been told that here the ice is, in all probability, millions of years old. It is as clean and unpolluted as anything on this earth. Listening to the wind for a few moments, the man then begins to swing his axe. In no time at all the box is filled with ice. He throws the axe on top and begins the trek back to the base.

He is a weatherman, and this is the weather station known as Eureka. It is situated on the southern tip of Ellesmere island, the northernmost island in the Arctic Archipelago.

The iceberg ran aground prior to freeze-up. It is positioned in the fjord halfway between Ellesmere and Axel-Heiberg islands.

When added to a glass of Canadian Whiskey, the ice makes a drink so fine it makes his heart swell in his chest.

And now the memories begin to flood together...

The elderly couple met during a champagne breakfast on a Ward Air flight to Florida. Their warm invitation to join them at their home in Fort Meyers, a visit he never makes because a storm drives him into a Ramada Inn just outside Orlando, and he spends the next few days getting to know a wonderful troupe of Canadian women whose band is named Garbo. Their talent and versatility leaves him with an appreciation for the saxaphone. And what about those evening shuttle flights from Toronto where he meets such people as the inventor of the computerized scanning system now used by all major railways and that replaced the caboose, and Bobby Hull, the great Canadian hockey player? Or the time he loses his job, his apartment, his girl friend and, in a few short days from then, his car? But at this moment, halfway between his current world and the world of his past, he is stopped in his tracks. A work crew is struggling to remove a boulder the size of a house—a blasting session gone wrong. It's a beautiful summer day. He has old-time Rock 'n Roll playing on the car stereo and has nothing at all to do but think. So he does... And then he begins to write: poems, observations, descriptive scenes. It all goes into a journal, quickly turning a terrible day into a useful one.

And here he is, today, twenty years later,
using some of those words to share with you. Go figure!

Copyright © 2009 Clayton Clifford Bye

If you enjoyed this piece, you'll probably like my anthology of travel-based articles, The Contrary Canadian, by C. C. Bye.

It's on sale at:, XYZ Books, Alibris, Alibris uk,,, Borders Marketplace,,, Baker & Taylor, United Library Services Inc, Library Services Centre, Coutts Information Services, Whitehots, Alibris for Libraries