My Gig as a Television Host

For grins and giggles, here’s a couple photos of me hosting an interview segment for the television show, Mastering Business Communications. It’s a monthly show which airs on cable networks in the Washington DC metropolitan area. The show was recorded on February 19, 2013.

These are also the only photos in existence of me with a beard.

David Keener, Television Host

Hosting "Mastering Business Communications"

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The Unexpected Knight

I’ve been working on a story called “The Silent Knight” for quite a while. It’s about a knight named Sir Kedric Hawkthorn. The backstory is that Kedric’s tongue was ripped out while on a diplomatic mission for his liege, King Bannon. Hence, the nickname, the Silent Knight. After the king’s death, Kedric’s entered the service of the new king, a spoiled imbecile who hates everything associated with his father, including Kedric.

It was an ambitious story, featuring a character who can’t talk, some elements of romantic comedy, a dastardly villain who can influence the story but can’t physically oppose the hero until the very end, and a time span of about four months. All of these things are challenging.

I reached about 11,000 words of what I intended to be a novella, a story of 18K to 25K words. I also intended it to be Part 1 of a 5-part serial, with all of the parts being individually self-published on Amazon. Then, I intended to gather the parts together into an omnibus, a book.

The problem was that the story didn’t come together the way that I wanted. The further I continued, the less I felt that I was building the conclusion on a solid foundation. I still believed in the story, and the characters. But it didn’t feel like it was coming together for me.

So I put writing the story on hiatus. I let it sit for a while. Then I sent it to one of my beta readers, a friend who is also a non-fiction writer. She’s also in Toastmasters which, while it is an organization for teaching public speaking, also provides training on giving evaluations. In other words, she knew I was looking for problems, not praise. In the story, where sections were left unwritten, I provided a concise outline of what was supposed to happen and how it would affect the characters.

This is what I got back from her:

I’ve read it, all in one shot. It’s a great story. I have few suggestions. Need your list of what you are concerned about to continue.

One suggestion: If you have a term that is strange or foreign to people of this generation and time, the first time you use that term you need to define it. After that, use it without the definition.

It’s a good story. I want the ending!! I saw the roughs of the ending. Cool ideas. Where are you stuck? What doesn’t feel right?

How long do you intend it to be? Does it have to be of a certain length for some reason, or the length is no problem. I could see this as a whole novel. The silent part is not a problem. Clever tactics to get to know him by other people talking about him.

Great writing!

I was totally floored. What wasn’t working for me, worked just fine for my beta reader. Naturally, I sent her the list of my concerns so she can continue her evaluation. At this point, I think I’m also going to run the story past some of the members of my writing group as well.

It looks like this story is going to come off the back burner again this summer, probably right after I complete the second story about Pageeda and Scuffee. Even with its problems, the story has achieved some of the impact I was hoping for. I’m excited again. You don’t know how good that feels.

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Pitfalls: The Silver Lining

I guess there’s a silver lining to my recent, semi-disastrous presentation on the “Pitfalls of Medieval Fiction Writing.”

Well, first, I guess I shouldn’t really call it a disaster. The audience was successfully entertained despite the multiple A/V failures that unfolded before them. Likewise, I was pleased with the reaction to my content, although I would have clearly preferred to give my talk backed up by all of my slides, rather than totally without them.

Anyway, I recounted my horror story to the attendees of the Saturday Morning Review, which is the weekly writing review session sponsored by the Loudoun County Writer’s Group. It was near the end of the meeting, and we’d already reviewed the week’s writing samples. After commiserating with me about my experience, a few of my fellow writers asked me to elaborate on some of the points that I’d covered in my talk.

As I gave them an overview of some of the pitfalls I’d identified, I was gratified to notice that they were nodding in general agreement with my observations. Finally, one of them said, “I’d really like to see that talk.” The rest of the attendees made it clear that they, also, would be interested in hearing a talk like this.

That’s my silver lining. I discovered that there are, indeed, fellow writers who find my topic interesting.

So. I’ve decided to expand my talk into a full 50-minute presentation, suitable for a convention like Capclave, Balticon, Ravencon, etc. It’s going to take some effort to work that into my schedule, but I think the talk would function nicely for those types of events. When I get the presentation done, I’m planning to present it locally for the benefit of writers in the area, particularly the ones from my writing group.

My tentative plan is to host a free meeting at the Ashburn Bertucci’s sometime this summer. I think Bertucci’s would work nicely, because they have an excellent back room that is free for groups. The event would take the form of either: 1) a late lunch on a Saturday or Sunday (late so as not to conflict with the various 10:00 AM – 12:00 writer’s meetings in the area), or 2) it could BE one of the Loudoun County Writer’s Group workshops.

I’ll use Evite to manage the RSVP’s. I’ll also videotape the meeting. Hopefully, I can also get one of my friends to man the camera for me. Overall, I think it’ll be a lot of fun. I’m really looking forward to it.

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American Craftsmen: A Reading by Tom Doyle

American Craftsmen - A novel by Tom DoyleI was fortunate enough to be in attendance at last night’s WSFA (Washington Science Fiction Association) meeting. Tom Doyle, who lives in the DC area, was there to do a reading from his new book, which was released on May 6 by Tor books. It’s called American Craftsmen and it’s, well, sort of like an urban fantasy crossed with a special ops thriller, with maybe just a dash of Indiana Jones tossed in for good measure.

The craftsmen of the title are mages, part of a secret unit of mages who have worked for the United States government since the time of George Washngton, and before. So, along with magic and action, you also get a delightfully wacky, alternate version of what really happened during some of the our nation’s most important events (did you know that our weather mages cleared the fog that hampered the D-Day invasion in World War II?). Fun stuff, with the same kind of delicious historical reveals as the hit show, Sleepy Hollow, which plays with American history in similar fashion.

Tom did an excellent reading, and his book is certainly on my buy list.

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Loudoun County Writers Group

Loudoun County Writers GroupThis past spring, I realized that I was getting really serious about my writing. One of my stories had failed to come together, but the next one was coming along extremely well. I wanted to get other viewpoints on my writing, hopefully informed viewpoints from other writers.

I decided to find out if there were any writing groups in my area. It turned out there was one. It was called the Loudoun County Writers Group. The group met every Saturday from 10:00 AM to Noon for the Saturday Morning Review. Once a month, they ran the Writers Workshop on Sunday at the same time, but at the Atanta Bread Company, a nice restaurant for breakfast/lunch. Group membership and the meeting schedule were coordinated using Meetup.

I decided to check them out further. I literally had no idea what to expect. Were they going to be a bunch of pretentious literary types? Or a dismal group of no-talent wannabes? Or, maybe, just a group of serious, hard-working, aspiring writers like myself?

The Saturday Morning Review was capped at 12 attendees, and the next one was full. The closest, upcoming event was the Writers Workshop the next day, so I registered for that. Even if the experience was negative, at least I’d get a good meal out of the Atlanta Bread Company.

I showed up early for the event and got myself a drink and a breakfast pastry. Then I sat down and waited to see if a group coalesced anywhere, figuring that would probably be the workshop attendees.

My plan worked. A few minutes later, I was one of seven people sitting around a couple of tables that had been pushed together. In the center, the organizer, Elizabeth Hayes, had placed a bunch of books that had something to do with the topic of Point of View (POV).

Over the ensuing two hours, we had a wide-ranging discussion of POV, as well as other writing topics. I had a lot of fun, and felt that I learned something from the discussion as well. Further, and this was a curious effect, I felt more like a writer. Here were people who were experiencing the same problems I was.

Granted, the attendees varied in what I perceived as their writing level, but some of them were clearly competitive with my own skill level. I seemed to have the edge on everybody there in terms of depth of knowledge of the science fiction field, although Elizabeth Hayes probably had me beat in the fantasy realm. She also knew more about The Lord of the Rings than anybody I had ever met. Interestingly, I had also met one of the attendees before. Beth Sadler had been in the same Writing Workshop as me at Capclave 2013.

Since the Writers Workshop had been such a positive experience, I decided that my next step was to attend a session of The Saturday Morning Review. I registered for the next session online. I also submitted my story, “Winter Roses,” for review.

The first five stories submitted each week by Wednesday at 11:00 AM were reviewed on Saturday. Each story, or chapter or fragment, was expected to be under 2000 words. All of the attendees would review all of the stories, discuss them on Saturday, and then hand the author of each story their notes.

Now, I submitted my story as a bit of a test. It’s really a speech. It takes about ten minutes to present. As a speech, it has some inherent limitations as a prose story. It’s locked into one scene, one POV, and has the narrator relating his feelings about some incidents in the past as his lover lies dying. In 1500 words, it’s a love story, a crime drama, a fantasy and a revenge tale.

I wanted to see how the group critiqued it, because that would really let me know how good they were. Essentially, I wanted to know whether this group was going to be worth the investment of my time.

For me to read and do a quality review of 8000 words per week (all the stories except my own) took about three hours. The meeting itself was going to last for two hours. That’s five hours per week out of my already hellacious schedule. Frankly, the group had to provide some tremendous value in order to be worth that much of my time.

Prior to the meeting, I had quite a good time reviewing the other stories. I learned a lot from what the other writers had done well, and also what they had not done well. I was able to write up what I felt were some very good notes for the other writers.

Next, I attended the meeting on Saturday at the Cascades Library. There were eight of us present. Overall, the reviews of the various works were very insightful

Then, my turn came up. The group quickly pinpointed all of the issues that I had expected. They also came up with some good ideas for expanding the story so it would work better in prose. Finally, one of the other writers even suggested a plot twist that I’d never thought of that could help take a longer prose version of the story to the next level. I was extremely impressed.

There was no question in my mind that the review session had been exceptional useful. By the end of the meeting I had already decided that the Loudoun County Writers Group provided exactly the type of support that I needed to take my craft to the next level. Those five hours a week — indisputably worth it.

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Total. Audio. Visual. Fail.

I just gave a talk on “The Pitfalls of Medieval Fiction Writing,” covering many of the problems I see in stories, films, and TV shows that feature medieval cultures, whether in a historical setting or transplanted into a fantasy milieu.

Can I say…

Total. Audio. Visual. Fail.

Yes, I believe I can.

The screen showed up, but not the projector. Then my Dell laptop glitched, so no PowerPoint slides. Not even for me, the speaker. So, I gave the talk from memory.

It all worked. Somehow.

Worst A/V debacle I’ve experienced in my seven years of public speaking. (As a conference organizer with more than twelve conferences and dozens of smaller events under my belt, I’ve seen worse failures. This was just the worst that I’ve personally experienced.)

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