Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Opportunities for All - A Contest (of sorts)

I've been mulling over an idea for a while now. I realized some time ago that, though I see people checking in a lot, I'm not really providing anything other than a blog roll and the occasional nudge to adopt a cute kitty or pup. And so I had been rattling this thought around in my head - giving people a chance at offering feedback to newbie writers.

And in some cases, by newbie, I mean VERY raw talents. Some more so than others.

What finally did it was seeing a recent blog post by someone I respect a lot, and it just sorta seemed like a sign (Unless...JT, are you reading my mind? If so, what was it my wife said last week that she wanted for Christmas??).

JT Ellison and JA Konrath have both spoken/written many times about being someone who adds value. I don't have a lot of value I can add from my own experience (wanna learn to be a better teacher? Of course not, you already know, because anyone can teach, right?). So instead, I'm going to try to "give something back" in the form of opportunity, both for you the readers AND for my students.

See, those creative writing students of mine who hope to some day be published will get the opportunity to receive real world feedback. No, this isn't a publishing credit, but it is a chance to get opinions from folks who come to a writer/reader-oriented blog regularly.

Don't worry, I will do my best to minimize their delusions that their story will get 70-80 comments (y'know, from all 6 of you out there), or that this story they put up will get all nice comments, or any at all for that matter. I will also make sure they understand that some magazines won't like that fact that their chosen story has appeared anywhere else, even a place as innocuous as this blog. Be that as it may, I thought this could be a great way for any of you out there to drop a little knowledge or advice on a youngster who is probably tired of hearing it from me, and also a great way for them to get that very first hurdle of "putting their stuff out there for consumption" over with. And don't worry, this is strictly voluntary, on both sides.

Would you rather not say anything than be nice? Okay.

Do you genuinely not know why you dislike like it, you just do? Okay.

Do you love it and want to sign them to an eight-figure contract? Okay, I'll only take a small finder's fee...say 40%. (Yeah, I know, but it sounded funny in my head)

Anyway, I look forward to my first submission coming soon (I'll keep you updated through the holidays), and if you have any suggestions, fire away.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

They made a book outta that movie?

Tooling around the net the other day, and I got to thinking about books being made into films. See, I know lots of novels get optioned but never make it to the screen, but I wonder if it's really to the author's chagrin or not. They've already gotten some nice bank out of the optioning, haven't they (if not, please let me know and I'll fix the post)?

I know the possibility of big stardom comes with a successful film that ramps up your book sales. It may even bring you new fans. Hell, I started reading Deaver because I had seen and liked the Denzel film.

But then there's a guy like Robert Crais, who was fine with his stand-alones on the silver screen, but refuses to option the rights to anything with Elvis Cole or Joe Pike...presumably because he thinks Hollywood would screw it up (be honest, they would).

What do you think? Would you go for the big movie and the check, even if Hollywood completely altered (or even destroyed) your characters or book? And if you are a reader, what do you think when this happens? Are you happy the movie got made anyway, or bummed that it changed your favorite book so much?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

THANK YOU, VETERANS.


For all who have served, and all still serving: God bless you, and thank you for everything you've done to preserve the freedom so many in this country take for granted. Stay safe, and may you all be welcomed home with love and gratitude.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Do we just love ALL great storytelling?



I'll tell you a secret, and it's probably the worst kept secret on the planet: I love video games. It's the worst kept secret because, well, I'm a guy. We pretty much all love video games, don't we? Okay, yeah, there are the uber-class men who prefer their glass of wine from the cellar downstairs while listening to something from the Baroque period and watching the stock exchange numbers go by on the bottom of the muted 97" plasma, but they aren't 'guys', they're "refined individuals of quality", so they don't count.
I'm not refined. I'm just an average Joe. And the really cool thing is: my wife loves a lot of the same video games I do.

That's right gentlemen, I got one who loves to sit down and watch a good storyline game with me.


Hell Yeah.


The reason I bring this up is that we just got a new Bioware game for our xbox called Dragonage: Origins. We love Bioware games...played through Mass Effect several times.

But why? I mean, what is it that trips our collective trigger over games like these? The gameplay isn't that much different from many other games. The graphics aren't exactly light years better either. One's Sci-Fi while the more recent is Epic Fantasy. And if you really look at it, the Bioware games don't have any online multiplay, which is what gets so many people pysyched about the Gears of War and Halo franchises.
Wanna hint? It's the storytelling. What we all love about books are the way we can connect with the characters, to feel like we are right there in the moment. So why do so many people trash the idea of grown men who love games like this, where the storytelling is INTERACTIVE?
I just don't get it. Any ideas why there is such a stigma out there?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Rescue of the Week - TONY



Well folks, it's been a while since I've done a kitty, and I know the thing to do is probably to promote a black cat with it being so close to All Hallows Eve and all, but I couldn't help it. This guy's coloring just won me over. So without anymore gilding the lily, and with no more adieu, I give you: TONY the TIGER!!

Tony is about 3 months old and very pl;ayful. Lots of spirit and patience will make this a great companion for you for years to come!

For more information about this animal, call:

SPCA of Wake County at (919) 772-2326

Ask for information about animal ID number A059220

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Bad starts

I'm an animal lover, as many of you may have guessed. I may not own a farm-full, but I never want to see any animal hurt. I'm a big softy like that. Guilty as charged. Some folks think sometimes I care more about what happens to animals than I do what happens to people. Well, when you have to deal with some of the people I've met in my time, maybe sometimes those folks are right.


As such, it's really hard for me when animals do what they naturally do, and one gets hurt because of it. And when my wife and I have to 'solve' the problem, it makes for a really rough start to the day.


Please forgive me, I'm just feeling sorry for myself and for my wife over something most of you will consider trivial. See, a little over a year or so ago, we discovered that there was a little wild rabbit living under our back deck. We'd see him (we're just guessing it was a him) every once in a while when we'd go out back, and he'd have to run like hell to get out through the fence before one of the dogs caught him. So we got in the habit of going out to check for him before we let them out.


Then he stopped showing up. Just wasn't around any more. We'd seen him maybe once in the last 3-4 months, and he'd gotten so much bigger we figured he'd moved on to start his own little rabbit warren. So we stopped checking for him, 'cause he was never out there anymore anyway.


Yeah, you know where this is headed. This morning, while I was upstairs getting ready for work, my wife let the dogs out to do their business. Apparently, one of them spotted him, and they chased him all over the yard with my wife, God bless her, trying to get them to leave him alone.


Being dogs, they didn't.


They caught him out behind the shed, and they hurt him pretty bad. She knocked on the door to let me know she needed help, and when I saw her holding him my heart broke. He couldn't move his back legs at all. Once she got the dogs off of him, she told me she had to pick him up because he kept trying to crawl but only his little front legs would move. And he was bleeding.


Having to choose between letting him live like that 'hoping' he would get better before something else got him, or putting him down as quickly and painlessly as possible, is a really shitty way to start a day. It just shits a little on how you feel all day long. Yes, it's the humane thing to do so he doesn't suffer, but for an animal lover who doesn't have access to anesthesia or anything like that, it really sucks having to put him down like that. I felt horrible. Hell, I still feel horrible.


If you want a question, tell me what completely unexpected things have ruined your day/week that you just can't plan for.


If not, no worries, I just felt like getting it off my chest. Don't worry, I'll probably delete this later anyway.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Who would star???

I overheard the greatest word the other day:

Placeholders.


I had never heard that before, and it is so fitting. Here's the concept: as a writer, do you ever 'cast' your books in your head? I have heard of some writers who do this, and it seems to work well for them. Jeffery Deaver, for example, once said at a reading that he had always pictured a grizzled Harrison Ford as Lincoln Rhyme, and I've heard that some other writers picture their protagonists as certain actors when they are writing the book.


I tried it. Apparently I picked the wrong actor.

See, I wonder if part of the rationale behind doing this is the hope that your book will someday make it as a big budget movie. That's an awesome hope. Thing is, I know my first one won't make it. I'm okay with that. As Chris Roerdan said this weekend, writers are the only people on the planet who think they could solo at Carnegie Hall the first time they pick up an instrument. I know that isn't the case (it's okay, trust me, I've read my first completed manuscript).



But the thing is, I keep trying to jam a square peg into a round hole. Or rather, one of my favorite tall and lanky pegs into a moderately squared-off hole. If I were ever to have a book made into a movie, I'd kill for John Cusack to star in it. That would make the world totally cool for me.




Problem, though. Every time I try to picture Cusack as my protagonist, it doesn't work. He's totally wrong for the part. And I'm the one writing the part. HowTF did that happen?

So tell me, do you do this? Or have you tried it, only to be thwarted by your own imagination as I have? Am I just pissing into the wind here?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Rescue of the Week - Cordelia

I know it's been a while, but now that the school year is back in full swing, it's time to get back to gettin' some animals adopted!! So without further egging the custard, and with no more adieu, I give you:

CORDELIA!


As you can see from the photo, she's a sweet girl who had to get some treatment for her tail. It's healing up, and she'll be a wonderful and happy addition to your home. She's housetrained, crate-trained, and loves people.


For more information about this animal, call:
SPCA of Wake County at (919) 772-2326
Ask for information about animal ID number A057185

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

And here they come...

Yep, the kids are back in school.

H'ray.

Honestly, I love the second day of classes (today) so much more than the first. The first is when we have all the admin crap we have to get straight, and it leaves very little time some days to teach an actual lesson (which they need so they get it in mind from day one that they are going to have to work...y'know, kinda like the real world we're preparing them for...)

So I'm actually really excited today. But yesterday was rough. I have to agree with the kids on this one: Summer ain't long enough some years.

So this question is for those of you who have kids, or are kids. What, if anything, does the start of the school year mean in your household? More time to write? Less time? No change whatsoever?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

HE'S BACK!

No, I'm not talking about me. And believe it or not, I'm not referring to Harry Potter, either.

I'm talking about an email I got a short while ago, about which I am VERY excited. It was titled, "Joe's Back."

Yep. Joe Pike.

I'm trying to keep my face impassive, while only letting my lips twitch, but it ain't working.

I was so stoked when I first read THE WATCHMAN, because I always loved Elvis and Joe, but for Joe to get his own gig was really cool. And of course, Robert Crais rocked a fantastic book, again.

And now Joe's getting a second gig. Hell Yeah.

See, Joe Pike is one of several inspirations of one of my own characters I'm really excited to get started writing in the next little bit. He's not the only inspiration, but let's face it. All apologies to 49er fans, there is NO Joe Cool like Pike.

So it got me thinking. Writers: Who are some of the inspirations for your characters? and Readers: What characters stick with you long after the book has been read (or re-read)?

Monday, June 29, 2009

Ti-i-i-ime, is on my side, yes it is....

God has a funny sense of timing, doesn't he? This past week/weekend has been a doozy. My wife had to deal with some pretty serious grief, and I was heartsick both because of it and for her. Then, we get some good news about her father's successful surgery, but the recovery is taking a while. And now, even with her back home for the day, the writing and editing is just dragging. So what happens?


I get another shot in the arm.


"Midnight on the Links", my third published short story, is now available in the newest issue of Spinetingler Magazine. Just found out about it today.


That feeling of "YES!" just never gets old, y'know? Special thanks to Jack Getze and Sandra Ruttan for taking a chance on me, as this was the first story I ever had accepted for publication.


(Oh, and JT? I swear I wrote that story well before I'd read the Killer Year anthology.)


Since I'm just now getting the itch to ramp up my edits and finish this damn book (can't start on the next until this is as good as it can be...that would be unprofessional, even if I REALLY want to start that next one like NOWNOWNOW!!!), I think I'll leave it at a simple question for you guys:

What has given you a shot in the arm (or a kick in the pants) lately?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day!

I awoke this morning to a card at my bedside, "signed" by my two puppies. No, I don't have kids (least not when school's out), but my girls love me and that's enough. Thanks to my beautiful wife for that nice little surprise.

And thanks to my Dad, my Step-Dad, my Grandaddy, my Grandpa, and all the other men in my family who've had such a profound influence in my life. Thank you.

And to all the fathers currently serving around the world so that I might live in a country and be free to say what I feel without fear of governmental retribution or persecution, THANK YOU. God bless every one of you. Happy Father's Day.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Rescue of the Week - Priscilla ADOPTED!

Well, I just saw that Tuffy (who was just there the other day) has finally gotten a forever companion and a new home. That is great news, because he's a wonderful dog. So now it's time to get this beautiful little lady a place in someone's heart:



Priscilla is a little over a year old, and is just the sweetest, lovingest pup you could hope for. She really is just fantstic to visit with. Stop by and see if she's right for your home!



***EDIT: PRISCILLA IS NO LONGER AT THE SHELTER!!!***

Friday, June 5, 2009

Is silence golden?

Everyone has their own way of writing. I don't mean style, mind you, but the actual process. A lot of us are plotters, who plan the story to varying degrees before actually beginning to write. Others are "pantsers", who sit down to a blank page/screen and start writing, and just see where the story or their characters take them. That's also not exactly what I'm thinking about.

I'm talking about when you finally sit down, where are you? What has to be in place?


I remember reading Stephen King's Misery, then watching the film (not sure whether the axe or sledgehammer would have been worse, but I'll bet neither was pleasant). In the film, he had to have a glass of wine and one cigarette waiting for him when he finished his draft. That's the kind of particular I'm wondering about.



See, I can write as long as it's on a computer. My hands cramp (I have psoriatic arthritis) if I try to go at a blank page with a pen or pencil. But a keyboard works better for me.


The other thing is sound. I used to have to have complete silence. That's not so easy unless you live completely alone, and I love my wife and dogs more than my writing (by a long shot). So I tried listening to an iPod once.

It was a problem at first, because I kept singing along to the tunes. But as things went along, and I listened to the same playlist every time, I stopped humming along and eventually tuned it out all together.

Now I can't write well without it, which is a blessing and a curse.

So what about you guys? What little peccadilloes are involved in your process of physically putting butt-in-chair and writing?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Rescue of the Week - Joseph ADOPTED!

Well, shortened week this week, so I wanted to squeeze as much of a rescue as I could into it. This is Joseph. He's huge.


No, I mean it. Dude is B-I-G.


He's also gorgeous and sweet and calm and lovable. And unfortunately, he has heartworms and is being treated for them. You'll notice the telltale patch that's been shaved onto his haunches. But he's an incredibly sweet dog (and the heartworm treatments usually make them more passive anyway). So if you are in the market for a big black version of Clifford from the childrens' stories, this is your guy. Please take him to a good home!

***EDIT: JOSEPH HAS BEEN ADOPTED!!***

Friday, May 22, 2009

It's been a while, since I could....

Hey gang. Been a week or so between posts. Sorry. I know your lives have been just as hectic as mine has, but I hope all is well. I'm stoked because two of my stories are now on the web, published in Pulp Pusher and The Flash Fiction Offensive, plus another coming soon in Spinetingler Magazine.

But this weekend is the big news. Memorial Day. Why is it big news? Because my wife and I get a break. A three-day weekend to catch up on grading, writing, and sleep.

Not necessarily in that order.

So what about you? What plans do you have for observing and honoring those who have gone before?

And remember, flags at half mast on Monday! Have a great weekend!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Rescue of the Week - Sebastian ADOPTED!

Sebastian is a very handsome young dog. He is a little nervous when you first approach him, but he warms up to people quickly. He's also very loving, but because he's young and excitable, it might be better if he went to a home with older children rather than young ones.


***EDIT: SOMEONE IS A VERY LUCKY OWNER, BECAUSE SEBASTIAN HAS BEEN ADOPTED!!!***

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Now I'm crying over Manny being Manny

Ugh, I'm bummed. Last night my Carolina Hurricanes won game 3 of the series with Boston, and my LA Dodgers set the modern-day record with a 13-0 record at home to start the season.

And today I found out Manny is gone for 50 games.


F-I-F-T-Y.


Five-Zero.


Look, we have a great team, and we may still win the NL West, if for no other reason than we're playing the equivalent of three AAA clubs and a rookie-ball team. But still, it has to have an effect on the players to lose the guy for 50 freakin' games.

And he isn't even going to appeal, which says a lot.

He was tested and found to have elevated levels of testosterone, which led via paper trail back to a medicine called hCG, which is essentially a fertility drug. Thing is, it is also often used to reactivate the male testosterone-producers after a round of HGH (an illegal steroid that tests can't detect).



Maybe he really needed it for he and his wife, and we're all jumping to the wrong conclusion. Truth is, with Barroid still out there and no one able to indict him and his huge San Francisco melonhead, I don't think it much matters. My team is still going to go a loooooong time without Manny, and I'm now disappointed in a guy I really liked to cheer for. Maybe I'll be a hypocrite when he comes back and still hate Barry but love my guy again. I dunno. But I'm still bummed for the moment.


What does this have to do with writing, you ask? Hell, not much.


Except that somewhere Jeff Shelby, SD madres fan extraordinaire, is bound to be smiling.
Dammit.

Friday, May 1, 2009

"Hey mom! So, about that story..."

That was a weird conversation to have. My family knows how much I love them. They know how badly I want to be a novelist some day. And I got my first official publishing credit this week.

So I had to call them and tell them not to read it.

See what I mean about weird?

Thing is, the story is noir. It's not over-the-top, but it's a bit strong for most of my family. Even my wife was like, "Good story, but the language and stuff was a bit much for me."

So there I am emailing and calling and saying, "Hey, I'm published!! ....uh, no, I can't tell you where...well, 'cause I don't think you'll feel very good about me when you've read it. But I'm really happy to have it out there with my name on it!!"

Yeah, I know, it's probably just me.

Still, what about you? I'm a crime fiction writer, so most of my stuff will follow some pretty twisted paths. Some of it I'm fine with my folks reading, some of it not so much. Do you have anything out there like that? Or anything unpublished that you hide away and hope no one ever sees that that kind of stuff exists in your head?

Or is it just me?
God...imagine if the parents of some of my students read it...(evil chuckle)

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Rescue of the Week - Pearl ADOPTED


This is for those of you who want a loyal, affectionate, loving pet who will adore you every day. Pearl is the sweetest, cutest little girl you've ever seen. She's listed as a lab mix, but she shows very little of it in her appearance (looks more like a pointer/pit mix). Not only does she show absolutely no aggressive tendencies (even if food is involved, which is really good), but she literally went back and forth between my wife and I to be petted. Wasn't interested in toys, just wanted to love on us and rest her head in our laps. She seemes like she'd be wonderful with kids too.


***EDIT: Pearl has gone home with her new family!!***

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

What distractions tend to--Hey! Something Shiny!!!

Okay, I'm not the most dedicated writer, and I may never be. I can admit that. I write most every day. But I also have a few things (mostly family or school related) that take up time as well. Recently it's been the Hurricanes.

I can't help it, I'm a big fan of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Even moreso when the Canes play.


Now I'm an all-around sports fan, and I know a lot of writers are. There isn't anything wrong with that. But I feel guilty as hell sitting on the couch with my wife watching the Canes score with 0.2 seconds left to win a game they should have run away with (grumbleBrodeurgrumble).



Oh, and WAY TO GO CANES!!

Okay, that's not true. I felt guilty as hell AFTER the game was over. During the game, I was alternately cheering and chewing my nails with nervous energy. Oh, and storming off cursing when the Devils tied it in the 3rd.

But the thing is, I know writers always preach "write every day." I do that. I may or may not be a successful writer one day, I have no way to know right now. But should I be beating myself up over taking a night to rest, pretend i don't have stuff to grade, and just watch some playoff puck?

Am I becoming the lazy wannabe that writers snicker about? Or would they say, "Who cares? Why aren't you writing RIGHT NOW?!?" What (if anything) distracts you from your writing?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Rescue of the Week - Winken ADOPTED

This little guy is Winken! Trust me when I say he is as adorable a pup as you will find.

As someone with a Plott Hound mix at home, I can tell you they make FABULOUS (if slightly strong-willed) pets. They are affectionate and at the same time GREAT guard dogs. Plotts are bred to pack-hunt bears, so a prowler should be no problem.

One thing though, Plotts will bark, and it is a sharp, LOUD warning bark. So if you live in an apartment complex, you may need to check with the front office. Then again, if you aren't a high-energy person, you may want to pass because these dogs need lots of exercise.

Still, they are fantastic companions. And Winken is as cute a little hound as there is anywhere. Come play with him and see!

***EDIT: Winken has been adopted!!!***

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

So many wonderful choices, how do I choose???

It's now officially Spring Break starting today (or a truncated version of it, thanks Wake County scheduling...), and my wife and I are doing as much recharging of the batteries as possible. As such, I got nothin' for you guys.

So I figured I would find out a little about your process as readers for those writers out there hoping to woo you. How do you choose which books to read, to buy? What process, if any, do you go through? And what are the factors that may operate on your subconscious when you're looking?

See, I used to go with the Bestsellers only. I know, I know, but bear with me, okay? I was always playing sports, and didn't think I had time for reading when I could just as easily watch a movie in what free time I had between teaching and grading. So I didn't pick up a book unless it had hit the list. I guess I figured, "If everyone else liked it, must be good enough to occupy my time too."

I have a feeling a lot of the writers I know that read this blog are cringing or shaking their heads. Believe me, I'm embarrassed enough already, I promise.

I didn't know how fickle the industry, and the public, could be. So when I thought I'd give writing another try after years of beating myself up (see the high school writing teacher post for more details), I just naturally started without really having read much outside of Michael Connelly, Stephen King, Michael Crichton, and Jeffery Deaver.


The first version sucked. I mean REALLY sucked.

Then I found Miss Snark. And I started reading all over the web. I discovered a fantastic local writer - J.D. Rhoades, who was incredibly gracious and answered all kinds of newbie questions instead of turning up his nosethe way I figured any famous author would.


Then he directed me to another group of writers - the Murderati, which led to others - the First Offenders, the Outfit, the Kill Zone Authors, etc., and suddenly I had a shitload of new books to read before I started trying to revise my manuscript.


But the writing is what led me to Zoe Sharp, and Sean Chercover, and all the rest. I don't know that I would ever have found them otherwise.


And so what about you? How do you pick who is the next on your TBR pile? Is it as weird as my path? Even weirder?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Rescue of the Week - Reuben ADOPTED

This week's rescue is Reuben. He's a big lovable dog, and has already matured past his puppy years. He's okay with other dogs, but would be better with a dog whose play style fits his. He likes to lounge around a good bit and is very calm. Essentially, he's a big lap dog that would love to join you in your home!

Let's give him a forever home!!

***EDIT: GREAT NEWS!! REUBEN HAS FOUND A NEW HOME!!!!***

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

"What would it take to make you love me?" - villainous motivation

I am shamelessly stealing an idea for this blog from a writer I admire. And even if I didn't (which I do), she stole from me first! (just kidding, Kathryn)


Anyway, over at the Kill Zone, the discussion sparked by Kathryn Lilley deals with truly evil villains and how to write them. And as several people point out in the comments, there's the old saying that the villain is the hero of his or her own journey.

That's great, but it isn't nuts-and-bolts enough for some people.

Which got me thinking about my own antagonists. I always approached the antagonist's motivation by asking myself, "what would it take to make me do this?"

As far as killing, that's easy. Mess with my family and you'll be looking over your shoulder the rest of your life, 'cause somehow some way, I'm coming for ya.

But that doesn't cover the REALLY bad guys. The ones who enjoy watching people suffer. I mean come on, I can't stand to watch an animal in pain without feeling for it...and I'm talking about a buzzard or an alligator, nevermind the cute ones like dogs and the occasional cat. So how do I get inside the head of a person who for example, finds sexual release in the death-throes of a human being, or the person who can only quiet their own inner demons by forcing someone else to scream until they choke on their own blood? Those people are sick, and I'm sorry, but I can't think of anything that could ever "make me do that."

So where do you go now, as a writer?

Well, I found something that makes sense to me, and has worked pretty well so far. Don't think about what it would take to make you do that, because a lot of the time the answer will be, "nothing on this earth."

Instead, think what might allow you to love that person.

Yep. What could possibly have happened to them, or what 'other side' of them could be there that could make you love that person, either in a spousal way or at least a familial, cousin-ish way?

Because that will make them human, and not JUST a monster. The characters who do the kinds of things I mentioned above are monsters, make no mistake. Justify it however they might, as much a hero as they may believe themselves, they are monsters. But what makes them human will make them conceivable and engaging in your fiction. I firmly believe that, pre-pubbed though I may be. And it has worked for me so far.


The example I gave at Kill Zone, and the best one I can think of here, is the backstory Thomas Harris gave for Francis Dollarhyde in RED DRAGON. When he, as an adult, sat down to pee 'like a good boy' because that's what his grandmother had taught him and because of the way she had tortured/treated him, it made sense. He was still a cruel moster, but he was also a human one.

Oh, and can you guess which of these is the one mentioned in the book, vs. which one is shown in the film?

One is the The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed in Sun, the other is The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with the Sun.

I always wondered if Harris had switched them in his mind, if the copyeditor had put in the wrong title (because they are so ridiculously similar), or if the Hollywood people had gotten it mixed up.

So what about you guys? What examples do you have of reasons to love a character who is, in all other respects, a monster?

Monday, March 30, 2009

Rescue of the Week - Ella ADOPTED

Sorry I missed a week, but we had the contest going on and I wanted it to stay at the top so everyone could see it as they came over.
That said, we need to get back to the business of finding forever homes for these pets. So, meet Ella.
Ella has been at the shelter for a few weeks now, and is absolutely adorable. She's an energetic puppy, but she is as sweet and loving as they come. Stop by and see if she's your kind of companion!
****EDIT: Ella has found a Forever Home!!****

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

AFRAID to write a Super Short

J.A. Konrath writes the Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels mysteries, as well as a phenomenally helpful blog for aspiring writers. He has also dabbled in the horror field, and has published the horror novel AFRAID under the name Jack Kilborn. To promote AFRAID, Joe is doing an exhausting tour all across the world...via the internet. As part of his whirlwind blog tour, he is stopping by The Pen-ferno today with a little challenge. And so, here's Joe:

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I'm currently blog touring, flogging the release of my new horror novel, AFRAID. It's being released on March 31, and I wrote it under the name Jack Kilborn. Please run out and buy fifteen copies.
During all of this guest blogging, I've written well over fifteen thousand words, and I'm close to running out.

So let's try a little writing experiment.Write an entire story in 20 words or less.

It's doable. Hemingway did it with his famous super short:
"For sale: baby shoes, never worn."

Now, I'm not Hemingway. Which I'm happy about, because he's dead. But I admire his ability to tell an entire story in just a few words.

Here are two of mine:
"The adrenalin really kicked in when Carter realized he forgot to pack his chute."

And one for the Jack Kilborn crowd, with more of a horror slant."Is my hair okay? I can never tell. Is that why you won't invite me in for a bite?"

Now it's your turn. You have 20 words. Use them well.

Joe

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Joe and I will both choose a winner (he gets first pick, it being his challenge and such). The first prize winner will get a copy of AFRAID, signed by Joe himself. The second prize winner will get a copy of Joe's first Jack Daniels mystery, WHISKEY SOUR.

***EDIT: The deadline has passed.

The winners are jane, candid and lettera22.

You all did fantastic, and this was great fun! Thanks again to all for stopping by The Pen-ferno!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Rescue of the Week - Willa ADOPTED!

Okay, so I let my wife pick this week's rescue. She initially chose a sweet, gorgeous mix puppy named Tyler. Well, let's be honest, she initially picked him and was trying to figure a way to convince me we had room and money for him. Then we got home later that day and found he'd been adopted that day.

So she chose her second favorite from this latest visit...Willa. Willa is sweet and wonderful, and will make someone very, very happy.

***EDIT: Willa has gone home!! I hope this one is forever!!***

Sunday, March 8, 2009

"Good people...I missed my introduction!"

We've all heard from agents, other writers, even readers: You have to grab their attention right off the bat. As Miss Snark used to be fond of saying, "Set someone's hair on fire."

Well, I'm going through my WIP, and I can't even get a spark. Not a cinder. Nothin'.

So, I'm looking for inspiration and thought some of you might like the same. I'm going back through those first few lines of some of my favorites (not the prologue, because several agents say those are cheats...so chapter 1 it is). Here are some I always liked, in no particular order:

1) "I've watched through his eyes, I've listened through his ears, and I tell you he's the one. Or at least as close as we're going to get."
"That's what you said about the brother."

--Orson Scott Card, Ender's Game

2) When Edward Carney said good-bye to his wife, Percey, he never thought it would be the last time he'd see her.

--Jeffery Deaver, The Coffin Dancer


3) The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.

--Stephen King, The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger




4) The Bar at the Ritz-Carlton looks out on the Public Gardens and requires a tie. I've looked out on the Public Gardens from other vantage points before, without a tie, and never felt at a loss, but maybe the Ritz knows something I don't.

--Dennis Lehane, A Drink Before the War

5) Harry cut through the morning rush-hour crowd like a shark fin through water. I was following from twenty meters back on the opposite side of the street, sweating with everyone else in the unseasonable October Tokyo heat, and I couldn't help admiring how well the kid had learned what I'd taught him.

--Barry Eisler, Rain Fall


Okay, now it's your turn. Share some of your favorite intros, whether they are yours or someone else's. And don't forget to tell us where it's from...

y'know, in case it catches our attention, like it's supposed to...

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Rescue of the Week - Smudge ADOPTED

Well, being a dog lover and all, I think I've been neglecting those little buggers I'm allergic to. But they still deserve a new home, as many of them have had it just as rough. So if you are looking for an adorable little feline, here's a beautiful, shy girl named Smudge!



***EDIT: HOORAY!! SHE FOUND A NEW HOME!!!***

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Writing Teachers

Okay, so I've written about this once before, but I'll elaborate here.

Ever had a writing teacher who just turned you off to it completely? I did. Now I'll admit I had a part in the problem, but I had help too. What was my part? I quit. I let it get to me. Stupid and weak, I know. Would that I could take it back....

When I was in High School my senior year, I took a course I was really stoked about called "Writer's Studio". Figured I'd love it. I didn't, for a number of reasons, but the professor was one of them. My laziness another.

It seemed to me that the only people who had their writing praised were those who wrote slice-of-life, mainstream type stuff. I didn't write that because I was a metalhead outsider who didn't read it. I read Sci-fi and Horror, so that's what I wrote. You remember me, I was the kid with the long hair and ripped jeans buried in a Stephen King novel when I wasn't telling you to piss off.

So that's what I wrote. I wanted to be the next SK.


Don't we all.



My teacher told me it was crap. I don't mean she said it in a nicer way, I mean she said it was awful. All of it. And that I needed to focus on more realistic writing. I replied that I was trying to write stuff like Stephen King, and why was that a bad thing.

She said, "Well, when you have published as much as he has, call me. Otherwise I say that trash will never do."

Okay, that's not a direct quote, but it's damn close...especially the first part.

I was crushed. Seriously thought I'd never write a damn thing worth reading. Ever.

I wrote one thing from 1992 to 2003. That's freakin' 10 years I could have been working and improving, and I'll never get it back. Yeah, I quit. Know why?

Because I thought, having been effectively told so by a 'recognized authority', that nothing I ever wrote would rise above the level of the garbage in a land fill.

And you know what? The writing I did in that class was awful. All of it. The premise, the structure, it was lame. But you know what I've learned since I started going to school to be a teacher? We're supposed to TEACH. So what she could/should/here's-what-I-would've-done is freakin' TAUGHT me what was wrong and helped me improve.

I may never get anything but a few shorts published like the one coming out later this spring. But I know this much: Any of my students whose writing is absolutely terrible in their HIGH SCHOOL YEARS can count on me to be honest about what's wrong, show them how to identify it, and encourage them to keep at it and never give up. Oh, and I know that of any book I do get published, I'll have a free signed copy for the lady in question, if she has the guts to claim it in person.

So how about you, readers? Have anybody you're saving a *special* copy of your first published work for, or that you already gave away if you are a published author?

Monday, February 23, 2009

My Medias wouldn't go In Res today....

Okay, so today I'm trying to help some of my Creative Fiction I students, many of whom are freshmen and just getting used to this 'we have to do work now?' thing called High School. Not many of them understand why they should be starting their stories with action and conflict instead of backstory. It was, unfortunately, quite useless to name from the ba-zillion novels that do it correctly, because not enough of my kids have read a great deal of fiction (popular or classic) yet. So I went with movies. No big deal, right? Gotta take them where they are and teach 'em up from there, right?

Only one problem.

I spaced.

Seriously. Me. The guy who posts movie quotes for all of my students to guess during the day. I wracked my brain for some good examples, and I came up with nothin'.

Squat.
Diddly.
Bubkus.
You get the picture.

So yeah, I copped out and asked them to volunteer some examples (those that got what I meant by In Medias Res, at least) and got a few good ones...the Bourne films, Bond films, the new one with Nick Cage (Bangkok Dangerous?).

But obviously, I need a much bigger list for next time, and certainly more of a genre variety. I am constantly chastised because I don't use enough quotes from "girl movies" (Better Off Dead counts, doesn't it?). So anyway, a number of acceptable "girl movies" that start in the middle of things would be massively helpful.

Whaddaya think, gang? Any ideas to help my poor burgeoning writers grow? Alex, I'm lookin' at you here (just kiddin')

Friday, February 20, 2009

Rescue of the Week - Tuffy ADOPTED

Sorry this one's coming in late, had computer troubles this week.

My wife and I went by the SPCA adoption center earlier this week and met all the pups. Let me tell you, if you like a dog who LOVES to play and is full of life, this is your guy. Tuffy and one of the guys that work there were outside playing with the soccer ball. Tuffy decided he'd rather PICK UP one of the small plastic kiddie pools and fling it around like a frisbee. After the guy working there finished laughing (and filming it) he decided he'd play a joke on Tuffy and stand in the pool. He almost lost his balance when Tuffy muscled up and dragged him around in the pool. I mean it, this dog is a fun-loving goofball. At the same time, families with younger children or no backyard should probably take a pass. Tuffy is rambunctious and probably wouldn't do well without a lot of room to exercise and play.


EDIT: TUFFY HAS FINALLY FOUND A FOREVER HOME!!!!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Comfort, where do you draw the line?

I know a lot of authors say they can write under some pretty extreme circumstances. Riding while the spouse drives, cramped up on a little hotel bed with the laptop or a pad and pen, circling Chicago on the El. I can write under some pretty rough circumstances if I feel the urge.

But not heat.

It's like going to sleep at night. I can be freezing and find a way to get to sleep, and I can write fairly well when I'm cold.

But heat? Not a chance.

See, all week in North Carolina we've had weather that's very spring-esque. That's great, except that our A/C at school hasn't been tripped. So instead, we get the heat running during the day. It's like 85 degrees in my classroom right now.

I can teach in that hot, humid level of sheer suckitude.

But I can't write. And it pisses me off, because my computer at home (where I would be editing) got all virused up, and I can't do anything at school because I'm pissed and miserable.

So what is the threshold for you? What is that one thing, that last straw that says, "nope, can't get it going because ________________"?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Rescue of the Week - Mike ADOPTED

This week, we have an older fella who needs a good home. Typically, Dogs who undergo treatment for heartworms (either because they were out in the wild before, or because someone didn't do a good job keeping their heartworm treatment current) are a little calmer, but also less likely to live to the very far end of their age spectrum. So at seven years old, this handsome guy named Mike is likely to be a loving, loyal, ccalm companion for someone who just likes to relax and take their friend for a walk, or share a spot on the sofa. Please consider giving this good boy a home. The Wake SPCA will contribute up to $250 for his heartworm treatment.


****EDIT: YAY!! Mike has been Adopted!!!!!****

Thursday, February 5, 2009

You keep a-using that word...I do not think it means what you think it means...

Okay, so there is apparently something in the transatlantic water today. Zoe Sharp over at Murderati is blogging about getting some of the minor details correct (and we crime writers can have some interesting details we need to discover). Thing is, I was reading a book not half an hour after I first saw that post that had a very tiny little detail wrong. It is so inconsequential that it almost didn't even need to be there, but it had that niggling effect that shot the writer's cred on this one teensy issue.

Thing is, I happen to respect this writer a hell of a lot, and I really don't know if someone at the publisher changed it, or if the writer just got confuzzed for a minute. And I genuinely want to avoid being *that guy*.

You know the one. The guy who neener-neeners because he found an infinitesimal little error and wants to try the patience of someone genuinely more talented, because he knows that's the closest he could ever get to a published work.

THAT guy.

I'm not that guy. I don't ever want to be that guy. I genuinely want to be helpful, especially since I have such a high opinion of this writer and I kinda want to thank him/her for such a great read (don't worry Zoe, I brought you up because of your post only...it isn't your book).

So, is there a really nice, helpful way to broach this subject in an email or letter, or should I just keep my big mouth shut and mind my own business?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Rescue of the Week

The Wake SPCA has a gorgeous dalmation mix. His name's Oreo, and he is a very family- and other-pet-friendly dog. He's about 18 months old.




****EDIT: GREAT NEWS!! OREO'S BEEN ADOPTED!!!****

Friday, January 30, 2009

Hi, I used to be pseudonym, but you can call me....

I know this business is tough, but I always like to ask weird questions (it's okay, I know they're weird). There are so many writers out there giving fabulous advice--that I'm in no position to give--that I like to think in terms of what a reader or a pre-published writer might wonder about. This is especially true if it's something where I don't see much written about it elsewhere.

I have read/heard from several authors that, if their first work is promising but doesn't do well, a writer might be asked to change their name (adopt a pseudonym) if they are to try again. Now that could really suck if you used your own name the first time, and it might make a book tour awkward if someone bought your first book and knew it was you. Then again, if your first book didn't go well, probably didn't have many people stopping in on that book tour anyway, eh?

So yeah, I get where that can be awkward, even though you might be thankful just to get a second shot. But what if you had planned a series? Would that not completely suck?

See, we all have those moments of self-doubt. Even well-known bestsellers will tell you they have times where they feel likethey'll never have another good idea, or premise, or lead character again in their lives.

How much more pressure would there be, knowing your first one to actually get published, flops...and now you have to be someone new, and create someone new, because the character you had living in your head for so long wasn't dynamic enough in the marketplace?

Yeah, I know it's kind of a fringe thing to worry about, but every now and then when I'm editing or plotting my next book, a weird thought like this one pops in my head and takes up residence. What can I say?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A Hurried, but New, Beginning

I find myself in an interesting position. Due to the snows, today was the last day of exams for the first semester. Tomorrow is the first day of the second semester. I'm also in the editing-the-first-and-fleshing-out-the-premise-for-the-second manuscript stage. Big goings-on, I tell ya. So yeah, we teachers are all a little freaked out because we have no break at all between the two, and I'm even more freaked out with my manuscripts, even though I have no real deadline for them. I just never wanted to be the "I spent five years writing this!" guy.

I imagine that freaked-out feeling must be what it's like when you have book deadlines, on top of editing deadlines, along with putting together a premise for the next book (series or no). Sounds pretty harrowing.

I'd still take it in a heartbeat, but that's not what has me concerned.

How will I handle it when I have those deadlines AND school?

See, here's the thing: most writers I know of, who are the primary family breadwinners, still have their day job. It's widely known that only a precious few have the sales to live on their writing alone. That said, you've got to burn a hell of a lot of midnight oil to essentially work two full-time careers like that.

I worry about whether or not I'll be able to cope, because it's not a matter of choosing what to sacrifice at night when you have stuff to grade. My writing can go at my own pace NOW, because I'm writing to land that first agent/editor/book deal. But once those wheels get rolling, I will still have papers to grade. I am completely in awe of authors who make that work, because I have no idea how I'll do it.

Don't get me wrong, I AM going to find out. I'm just wondering/worrying what it'll be like when I do.

So my question is this:
To published authors - Man, how do you guys and gals do it? (honest answers or pithy comments welcome...Shelby, Getze, I'm looking at you two here...)

To pre-published writers - Am I alone in this, or does anyone else worry about the same thing?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Rescue of the Week

Well, we've got another cutie that needs a new home. Andi is a chocolate and white American Staff mix, and is full of energy at a little under 2 years old. She also is a little finnicky about pet friends, and would need to be in an Andi-only family (she wants all of your time to herself).

****EDIT: Andi has found her new home!!!****

Friday, January 16, 2009

Loyalty

Yes this blog is geared primarily toward writing and publishing, but I wanted to address something that is really bothering me in these tough economic times: Undeserved loyalty. I have seen too many people I know, in person or online, have to deal with bean counters and piss-poor executives, and I've about had my fill.

Hypothetical...see if this sounds like a situation someone you know has had to go through:
Person A has been working somewhere for a number of years. New management comes in a few years later, and Person A hits it off with the new supreme commissar...er, the new company manager. Much of the workforce, in fact, feels that the new boss has a great management style. Not a micro manager, she/he claims to trusts employees and to see who really works hard, and who is just cashing a paycheck.

Many of the workers, like Person A, work hard for the new com--I mean, manager. They feel a sense of loyalty to her/him. They follow the new rules (even the ones they disagree with and grouse about a bit) to the letter. They stick up for and defend the manager when others poor mouth her/him behind her/his back. Person A is EXTREMELY diligent, moreso than many of Person A's colleagues, in following every rule to the best of Person A's ability.

Flash forward to now, a couple years later. In these rough economic times, is Person A rewarded, or at least spared the trouble that comes others' way?

Not a chance. Why? Because Comrade Manager never really saw anything.

See, Person A thought she/he was doing something over-and-above to improve the standing of the company. Many of Person A's veteran colleagues felt Person A showed outstanding initiative. Unfortunately, some of the consumers of the company's product didn't approve. Supreme Commissar doesn't like when consumers (even one, as in this hypothetical) are unhappy. Nevermind that Comrade Manager has numerous employees who are terrible at their jobs, but good at hiding their shortcomings from her/him. Do those lazy bas--uh, other workers have to deal with any retribution for their shortcomings?

Nope.

Instead, Comrade Manager and Person A have a misunderstanding. Person A is later made to feel incompetent and disloyal, because no one gets the benefit of the doubt with the Supreme Commissar. Person A now feels the weight of the hanging axe above her/his proverbial neck, and it has been made clear, "BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU." Perhaps they've even lost their job, like a few people I know of.

This reminds me specifically of people who kick their dogs. Dogs are loyal, period. When an owner kicks a dog, shows malice and cruelty to a creature that did nothing but try as best it could to do everything to make that owner happy, that owner deserves to be doused in gas and set ablaze.

So too with the smug little Napoleons that insulate themselves, even as you read this, while swinging that iron fist from the comfort of an impenetrable office where they know no fear of retribution. Why is it that, especially in tough economic times, the people who deserve most to be praised and sheltered end up getting hurt the most? Does crap really float to the top? Are we just blind to it until it's too late?

I'm sick and tired of seeing people I know and care about, like many of you out there, get stepped on by people who wouldn't know loyalty if it curled up at their feet and gazed adoringly up at them. Those people don't deserve loyalty. They deserve to be dragged in front of their families and humiliated, the way the people they hurt constantly are. Then they deserve to be thrown in the street and shot.

Twice.

Well, I may be nobody (trust me, if you're not one of these managers, they probably see you that way too), but I would at least like to give comfort to those who have had to get raked over the coals or put out of work by these useless empty lying suits. Whoever you are out there, know that I'm praying for you.

And if you know someone who has had to go through this, feel free to send them a good word, here or on your own. Better yet, send them a good word and a gun, and let Big Brother know we can find out where she/he lives. (grin)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Rescue of the Week

HeyGang! Sorry I was gone so long. The holidays were followed by the last week or two of the semester, and now it's time for exams. So yeah, I'm swamped. Still, life is great for me compared to all the little homeless critters out there, so I wanted to draw your attention to another sweet pup that needs a good home. She's ASTRID:

***EDIT: HOORAY!! ASTRID HAS FOUND A FOREVER HOME!!!***