Monday, November 8, 2010

A Fellow Advocate for Adopting Pets - Mr. Simon Wood

My wife and I will always have rescue dogs, if we have dogs at all. We both think the Tamaskan wolfdogs, given notoriety lately because of NC State adopting one as its live mascot, are absolutely beautiful. And frankly, we both want one, quite badly.

However, we've both agreed from here on out, only recues, just like the girls we have now.
Those of you (all 4 of you) who have followed this blog know I am a big advocate for adopting from shelters, so I was especially touched when I learned today of the awesome deal Simon Wood is offereing on all of his books for the next two weeks. Thus, I thought I would repost it here. To wit:
So from Simon:

This is for the animal lovers out there.

I doubt anyone is aware that my wife and I foster animals for the ASPCA and other organizations. We usually take the no hope cases, where the animals aren’t expected to survive or need specialist care. Over the last few years, we've rescued dozens of cats and dogs and found them new homes. Our family pets are all rescues -- ones that we couldn’t give up after the care we'd given them.

Our cat, Bug, was one of those rescues we couldn’t let go of after we’d taken him in. After five fun fill years, Bug died last week. He was a great cat and a lot of fun to have around the house. We’re going to miss him a lot.

In Bug’s honor, I’m going to donate all eBook royalties earned at Amazon and for the next two weeks to Best Friends, an organization I truly admire. This applies to the following titles:

The Fall Guy
Asking For Trouble
Working Stiffs
The Scrubs
Road Rash
Dragged into Darkness

Please feel free to share this appeal on Twitter, Facebook or your blog. If there's a strong showing, I’ll extend the appeal.

Thanks for listening,
Simon Wood
So grab you a book for the upcoming holidays!!!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Timesuckers...or, "Watch out, these people VOTE!!"

I've discovered something about myself (I really always knew, but work with me here): I have a horribly addictive personality. Couple that with the ability to focus on really meaningless shit, and you have the things I am supposed to be doing getting left by the wayside in favor of timesuckers. I'm sure, knowing that many of the 5 or 6 of you who are reading this are unpublished writers like me, you are aware that writers are notorious for letting shit distract them when the writing isn't going well. And unpublished writers are the worst. If you don't know that, I'm probably talking about you. Don't take offense, I'm talking about me, too.

By the way, if you don't know what a timesucker is, you need to get out more. If you do know what a timesucker is, or you're like me and know ALL TOO WELL what they are, then we REALLY need to get out more, eh?

So anyway, as I'm tooling around the internet (instead of doing what I should be) over the last few days, I found a new one.

Whoa, Nelly, did I find one. I thought it was going to be funny. Instead, it terrified me.

The site is called (The Customer is) Not Always Right. Wow.

Yeah, I know some of it, even most of it maybe, is made up by people with too much time on their hands. But come on. You can't read through the horror stories on that site and not remember incredibly stupid people you've come across. For instance, I can remember being asked by someone (names witheld to protect, and all that), "Okay, so that's how I play the DVD. Once it's over, how do I rewind it?"
And that's nothing compared to the stuff I've heard up and down the halls on a daily basis...
(even on workdays)....

Remember, many of the people on that site, at least the ones that involve Americans, can vote. And you wonder why our government is so monumentally huge and sluggish and inefficient.
I came to one solid conclusion as I read through that site: They should license people to breed.

I know, I know.
Hey listen, I TEACH Orwell's 1984, and all about the Orwellian State. I know the dangers. Hell, I've been paying attention as the last two presidents have grown the government exponentially. I know governmental control is a bad thing, okay? Big Government=Bad.
Thanks. I get it.

I still came to, and stand by, that conclusion. Because the thought of some of those people raising children frightens me (and I'm using the word "raising" in such a broad and expansive and nonspecific way that I may have stretched any real meaning right out of it). Go ahead, peruse the site. It would scare the shit out of Jaws, I'm convinced.

Okay, Jaws would just be like, "drop 'em in the water, I'll take care of it," but you get the idea. Think on that for a minute, whydontcha, and have a good weekend....

Monday, September 27, 2010

Writers' Police Academy - AWESOME!!!

Just got back from the Christmas present my wife got me last year. I've been foaming at the mouth to go to this thing ever since I read about it on Lee Lofland's blog. And you know what?

It. Rocked.

There is no other way to describe it. Great job by Lee, Verna Dreisbach, The High Point Public Library, and everyone else who pitched in! Got to meet and hang out with lots of published writers (a great thing in and of itself), and even went through F.A.T.S. training with the amazing, talented, and all-around wonderful C.J. Lyons and Kelly Irvin (who both kicked ass in the training just as well as they do on the written page)!

I will be posting some of the stuff I learned from the workshops for you guys over the coming weeks, along with lousy photos I took with my cell phone (had the digital camera there with me, but the batteries got a really good charge since I left them in Raleigh...).

So, stay tuned for more, coming soon!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

First Gear

Yeah, it's been forever, I know. I let life get in the way. So sue me.

Anyway, I managed to let life get in the way of my writing, which is the biggest no-no out there if you're a writer. Why? Because writers write. They don't talk about their book to others. They don't sit and daydream about the story for a month or two. They sit their ass down in the chair and write.

And if it sucks? Successful writers edit.

They don't look at the first piece of random frog shit they come up with and say, "MASTERPIECE!!!" They go back to the frog shit and clean it up until it's less like shit and more like a real story. Then they repeat until there isn't a whiff of shit to be found.

But it's that time between initial idea and blank screen that causes me trouble. Because frankly, I DO daydream the story, and take too damn long to organize it, and so forth. Why? Because I dove in the first time, and I could never clean it up past the "still whiffs of shit over here" phase.

It's okay, I can admit it, because the fact is it wasn't a good story. I have no idea if this one will be better, but I have taken WWAAAAAAYYYYYYY too long in preparation just to try and make sure it is. Now I'm ready to let that clutch out and start off.

And I'm freaked out. So the only thing I can do is put the (horrible) working title on the top of page one, and away we go.

How about you? What's it take to get you to the starting line? Let the clutch out slow, or pop it and hope the sucker starts?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Get out there and ADOPT!!!

The SPCA of Wake County is celebrating 43 years of saving lives by reducing all adoption fees this Saturday, June 12 and Sunday, June 13. Their shelter is packed full of adoptable cats, dogs, puppies, kittens looking to go home.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Taking the Plunge...

So we all know about the "Bright and Shinies", right? That idea that grabs you around the middle of your current work (if you get that far, hell it's hit me in plotting stage before), and plays your ego against your own self-doubt?

You know...the self-doubt says, "it must be the writing that is screwed up, because this is dragging." And, instead of shlogging through it to fix what's wrong and make it work, the B&S swoop in and placate your ego, saying, "NO, it's not the writing, it's just that the idea isn't as good as you first thought...but THIS IDEA over HERE is the one you should really be writing, 'cause it ROCKS!!" Yeah, we all get 'em. I get 'em a lot. I keep a whole MSWord folder of them so I can get back to them.

My questionis, how often does everyone else get them in a completely different genre?

I write crime. Blood, gore, mayhem, violence. That's me. If someone's getting away with disembowelment, or arson of a human being, I'm in.

So am I the only one that worries for our youth if my NEW BRIGHT SHINY idea (a YA that is more urban fantasy than thriller...who knew?) gets any traction in the marketplace? Look, I'm no great shakes when it comes to publishing credentials, so I'm not saying monitor little Sammy's and Sally's library account just yet, but still. No one gets set on fire? And there's not any hint of a hitman? WTF am I gonna write about?

I'm actually really, genuinely excited about this story, but I'm wondering if it's just me that thinks, "Hmm, stuff that's totally unlike anything I've ever written before? SURE, I CAN DO THAT, NO PROBLEM!!!"
It's just me, right? Nobody else would be stupid enough to actually have this kind of blind and unfounded confidence, right?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Is there something wrong with me?

So, I have a colleague who also teaches Creative Writing, and he told me of a very interesting questions one of his students asked him the other day. The kid, according to him, seems like a very passive, mild, sweet student, but she writes really dark, violent fiction.

My kind of girl, y'know?

And yet, she says people are telling her she belongs in a mental hospital because there's something wrong with her to come up with this stuff. Some of the ones telling her this are related to her.


Now, I haven't read any of her work, but my friend has read mine and says the kid's work is no darker, just a little more gore in some places. So who the fuck is telling this kid something's wrong with her?

Does that mean there's something wrong with me? I've got four very different stories out there, and each of them has something dark in it. Does that mean I'm crazy too? (Okay, ignore that one, I am)

Look, I'm all for a sense of propriety here. There are some truly sick people out there, and I condemn them for their acts. But that's just it...they are ACTS. Hell, Eminem says some pretty offensive shit in his music, but until he actually BECOMES a rapist in a Jason mask, I'm not going to sit here and tell you he's certifiable. And I damn sure wouldn't if I was RELATED to him. (He might come after me, if nothing else).

But hey, I'm very biased, so let's hear it from you guys. Are the "violent crime" writers among us truly sick in the head, or do some folks just need to remove the holier-than-thou stick before they sit down next time?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Rescue of the Week: U-TURN

Okay, so once again it's been a while. Don't ask. At any rate, I have a little climber that shouldn't be left alone in a fenced yard, but would make a great addition to any active home: U-TURN!!
She's a full-grown 20 lb. Beagle mix, a little "senior" at 8 years old, and very sweet.
For more information about this animal, call:
SPCA of Wake County at (919) 772-2326
Ask for information about animal ID number A062812

Thursday, April 8, 2010

What's your style, and why?

Things are crazy at the moment, so I'm just going to drop in and ask something quickly: What's your plot-preparation style?

The reason I ask, to be honest, is we are getting into "plotting vs. pantsing" in my creative fiction class, and I'm just always curious how other folks go about their writing. I've read plenty of accounts of authors who can't start a book unless they know how it ends and what most of the major twists and turns will be. Then there are those who can't plan it out ahead of time because it is so boring to try and write after that, and they go on to a more engaging and NEW story to write.

Me, I'm actually trying something new. My first manuscript was one that I did as a half-and-half. I started with a rough chapter-by-chapter outline (really rough, and I rewrote--or at least re-ordered--the first third of the book after I had written it). Thing is, I was so excited about the story that I dove in right after finishing the rough outline.

Boy did that screw me. Granted, it was my first shot at a novel-length manuscript, but even for that it stunk. I've since gone through all the rewrites, and I'm pretty happy with it even if it never gets published. Maybe someday if I hit it big, I'll put it on my web site as a freebie or something, who knows. Point is, I am not a guy who can just dive in and go. I gotta know:

1) where I'm headed
2) how I plan to get there, and
3) if that plan is a sound one.

Yep, missed step 3 that first time....

So now I'm trying the Alexandra Sokoloff Index Card Method, and we'll see how it goes. Once again I'm really jazzed to get into the story, but this time I'm gonna make sure my plan is well-thought-out beforehand.

So what about you? Do you plot away the days before writing, or do you jump on the chair, strap in, hold on, and fly that story by the seat of your pants?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Rescue of the Week - TATER!

Trying to get back in the swing of things, so I thought I'd send you another pup who needs a good home. If you need a bundle of energy and can keep up, here's Tater!

For more information about this animal, call:
SPCA of Wake County at (919) 772-2326
Ask for information about animal ID number A060741

Monday, February 15, 2010

Characters - What's your recipe?

What is it we all want readers to take away from our work? Lots of writers have different ideas about this, and I'm always curious what makes other writers out there (published or not) tick. So I figured I'd start the conversation myself and see where, if anywhere, it goes.

I want my readers to come away with a solid understanding of who my characters are, and to identify with them as though they were real people.

I think they have to be memorable to do that.

So how do we go about creating memorable characters? Well, I always start with some particular emotion or motivation that I want to stand out. Sometimes I'll even use that to help me find a character's name, or maybe a specific trait or physical feature.

I also think they have to have multiple flaws. Few readers want the Johnny Good-guy who is always polished, perfect, and unflappable. How boring is that?

And they have to have humor. Ever met a cop who didn't have a good sense of humor? They see the worst that society has to offer, and in many cases they have to laugh to keep from crying. Or a PI who isn't a wiseass? (I think you have to pass a comedy test to get your license here in NC, to be honest).

Next I stir in a few friends that can help define personality by offering them situations and conversations in which they can reveal their character.

Bake it in the pressure-cooker of a really tough case, and hopefully you wind up with a character people will think they know. If it's done really well, they'll even miss that character and want to hear more about him/her/it(?), which is the ultimate compliment, right?

So what about you guys? What's your recipe?

Rescue of the Week - SQUIRREL

Well it's been a while since I put up a rescue. For those pets who haven't gotten picked up, I apologize. So without further ado, here is a sweet little lady named SQUIRREL!

For more information about this animal, call:
SPCA of Wake County at (919) 772-2326
Ask for information about animal ID number A061588

Monday, January 18, 2010

Here it comes, here it comes...

Your 19th nervous breakdown? No. But we're in the middle of exams here, which means the new school year is only a week away.

And with it, a fresh batch of sinners for the, I mean a new group of students in my creative writing class, and therefore a good group with which to start my new "come one, come all, and offer criticism to the young and enthusiastic writers who want to learn" initiative here at the Pen-ferno.

So be patient, my friends, as there will soon be some new writers you can push to be the best they can be.