Optimism is NOT Arrogance

Arrogance is the belief that you are BETTER than others. Optimism is the belief that you have the same CHANCE as others. We all have the chance to achieve our dreams. Don't ever let anyone tell you differently.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Silence is annoying...but to be expected...

Well, according to Chuck, agent communication can be a feast or famine kinda thing.  I guess it makes sense - as they get more involved with other projects I guess they tune everyone else out.


Ya know, someday I'm gonna have them at my beck and call.  They'll be calling ME wondering why I haven't said anything in a few weeks.  But I'll have them get in touch with my PR person.  Cuz I'd have to fit them in between the signings and the movie discussions and well, actual writing.


Meantime, I'm getting further along with my memoirs of being unemployed.  However, I'm not a big memoir fan, so I guess I better bone up on it.

They say never write something you'd never read.  Or that you've never read.  The format may or may not be the memoir genre, it just feels like me rambling.  But it seems to make sense, and it is relevant to my experience.  So I'll just keep at it until I grow tired of it.

Meantime, I'm also outlining the next book in The Timepiece Chronicles, just to keep hope alive.  I'm using the outline technique that I stole from J.K. Rowling and outlined here.  I gotta tell ya, that woman must write SMALL.  I don't know how she fits it all in such tiny boxes.

But that's really the point isn't it?  If you can't sum up a chapter plot point in a few words, you probably need to rethink it and narrow it down some.

Well, anyway, back to work.  Be well, my friends!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Some sound advice from my man Chuck.

Ok, I'm probably not close enough to call him "my main man", which also sounds a little moronic, but I did write to him about agent expectations.  After all, the man wrote the book on agents...ok, the man wrote the Guide to Literary Agents...so he should know right?

Chuck's a great guy, and I'm gonna plug his blog again here, just cause he responded to me.

Anyway, he said that I shouldn't worry about it.  His book, "How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack: Defend Yourself When the Lawn Warriors Strike (And They Will)", was just published.  It looks hysterical and I can't wait to read it.

But the revisions from his agents took EIGHT MONTHS to get back to him.  Wow.  Now granted, Chuck's probably repped by some high-profile, ICM or Agent-to-the-stars kinda company, and his agent was probably busy typing notes on Dean Koontz's latest manuscript, but still...EIGHT MONTHS?!?

Well, Chuck did acknowledge that he probably should've been a little more pressing around month three or four.  Eight months seems too long.

So my next question to him is:  what about communication?  Is it too much to ask that the agent just acknowledge your existence?  A simple five word email:  I'll get back to you.  Something!

So we'll see what he says next.  Stay tuned...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Ok, it's been 4 weeks since I heard from Caitlin that she'd get back to me in a week with the revisions.  Wrote her last week - still no response.  Not even a recognition that I exist.  No reply.  Is she ok?  Is she hurt?

Or am I just low man on the totem pole and she's focusing her attention elsewhere?

I actually hope it's latter, cuz I don't want anything bad to happen to her.

But man, it's been a long time...

While we wait, here's some info for you guys courtesy of the man, Chuck Sambuchino over at Guide to Literary Agents...

"New agent seeking writers! Denise Little of The Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agency "

Best of luck!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Man, this is tiring...

I've forgotten how exhausting this work thing is.  Weeks blow by like the cow in Twister, and by the time I get home at 6:30-7ish I'm ready for some food, some drink and BED.  How the heck am I supposed to write like this?

Full-time writers may have forgotten, but this kinda life ain't easy.  It's literally like having two jobs, and depending on what your day job is, it can leave you very little in the can to do your writing.

We all know the key is goals - ya know, write the same amount every day or spend the same amount of time writing, etc. etc.  But here's something I heard that I never really realized.  It takes about 4 weeks for a "habit" to officially burn itself into your brain by re-routing neurons and making it a part of your life.  So while the number of words or the time may seem important, they're not in the beginning.  The important thing is to (excuse me, Nike), just do it.  Every day.  No weekends off.  Same time, same thing, every day.

The second key is the time - start small.  One hundred words, maybe.  Gradually build up to your goal over those four weeks.  Don't rush into it because if you fall short you'll skip the next day and then BOOM the whole thing's done.

I'm trying it with exercise as well.  1 minute a day.  Just 1 minute.  Then after two weeks I'll double it.  But it's gotta be at the same time or a part of the same routine like brushing my teeth or showering.

So I'll let ya know how it turns out.  Meanwhile, if you're like me and coming home exhausted to the point of exhaustion, don't fret.  We'll grind this out together and keep each other company throughout.

Oh, and STILL NO WORD FROM CAITLIN!  I'm beginning to get worried.  Has my agent suddenly gone psycho through the streets of Manhattan?  Is she locking up some huge-mega-deal that she doesn't want to divulge to me until it's near final?  Or has she gotten totally sick of my project and just figured "ta heck with him".

Inquiring minds wanna know...

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Time to get Re-started

Well, it's been about a month, so I guess I better get crackin' on book 2.  I've started a few other projects in the meantime, but this is the one that's got a good foothold, so I gotta get serious about it.

Still no word from Caitlin...hope she's doing ok.  It's maddening to wait, as you can imagine.  Trust me, once you land an agent, the work is far from over.

So I have to figure out what Book 2 is going to be all about, and I'm going to shamelessly steal an idea (at work we call it a 'best practice') from someone who knows a thing or two about writing very popular books:  J.K. Rowling.  You might've heard of her.

Anyway, her chapter notes and outline are available out on the internet, and I think she's got a pretty good thing going here.  Take a look.

Notice the detail she goes into - this isn't someone outlining a book just so they have everything in order and can get published and make millions.  This is someone who is LIVING in another world!  If J.R.R. Tolkien didn't do the same thing I'd be shocked.  You have to when you're writing fantasy.  You've created an entire universe where everything down to the month of the year in the book has to be known. One slip, as Pink Floyd sang, and down the hole we fall.

But I think it's true for any book.  By the time your readers are totally into what you're writing, if one character behaves out of sort, or if one little thing is introduced that they've never heard of before, they'll know it, and cry foul.  And conversely, anything you've taken the time to point out better be of significance, because otherwise they'll be asking "What about the dagger on the mantle back in chapter 1?"

Readers will be as absorbed in your world as you are.  And they will subsequently know it as well as you do.  Meaning, if you get lost, they'll get lost.  And then they'll just pack up and leave your world behind.

So.  I'm off to outline book 2.  As soon as I get it completed I'll post it here so you can see the progress of a series book.  Til then, happy writing!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Sex in Young Adult Books

Mary Kole, agent extraordinaire and brilliant bloggist, wrote a great post about sex in YA that I won't try to duplicate or top, but I will provide my own two cents.  See, this, being my blog, allows me to do that.  Check out her post about whether it's good or bad or what (and I agree with 100% of what she says).

Now consider this:  why are we, as a society, so up in arms about it?  Why does it get our panties in a twist?   Or was that too sexual a reference?

I know some of you out there are from overseas, so feel free to chime in and entertain us with your perspective from across the big lake.

My perspective?  America, being still an infant in the grand scheme of things, is desperately trying to avoid growing up.

Our society is no different than the growth of a human being - primarily because we ARE human beings.  But consider - Europe has been around as a progressive culture for centuries.  They've gone through their witch trials and Spanish Inquisitions and all that rubbish a long, long time ago.  Britain banned and abhorred slavery when we were still trying to get out from under their skirt.  We just gave African Americans equal rights FIFTY YEARS AGO.  Think about that.  Sixty years ago African Americans couldn't even ride the same bus as whites in some states.

We tend to think in terms of days and weeks now, because the velocity of progress is so fast.  We get a new iPod every three months, and the technology outpaces our own ability to effectively use it that half the things we know aren't even being put to good use.

But, in the essence of global progression and evolution, our past one hundred years has been a blink.  Now maybe the rate of progress will accelerate as compared to our brethren across the sea, but it will still take a long, long time before we can come close to replicating their level of social justice and secularism. Boobs on TV?  In America?  HELL NO!

So, what does all this have to do with sex in YA?  How does this affect your career as a writer of good soft porn?  Well, it's like Mary Kole said in her blog.  You have to be true to yourself and to the characters.

Sure sex for sex sake can be over the top, but then again so can stomping feet or say "like" every other word.  Anything in excess without purpose is annoying.  But sex when it fits the situation and the story? Gotta have it.  Otherwise the alternative will feel forced like you're trying to avoid the elephant in the room.

Teenagers have sex.  Not mine, thank God.  But others.  Teenagers drink.  Not mine either.  I'm kinda batting 1.000 here.  But my character who lives in a broken home?  Or who has an alcoholic for a father?  Yeah, they will.

And that's because in reality it really happens.

SO - if you plan on writing and you have some scenes where sex is to be mentioned, and you really feel it's necessary, go for it.  But remember the infantile country we live in:  people will hate you.  You'll get hate mail from evangelicals who think you're trying to corrupt the minds of our country's youth.  They'll all but try to burn you at the stake.

But don't let them stop you.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Bad Guy Within

We all know that the villain of the story meets up with the hero of the story in the epic showdown in the last act of a good book, right?  The gunfight at the OK Corral.  The big stand off.  Good versus Evil, that kind of thing.

But what if the bad guy IS the good guy?

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  A Catcher In The Rye.  Moby Dick.  These are novels where the hero and the bad guy are actually one and the same.  Dr. Jekyll is easy.  A Catcher in the Rye, I believe, has Holden Caufield against the world, sure, but really it's against his perception of the world.  It's him against his own negativity.  And Captain Ahab is driven by his own past to try and slay a monster that, although it seems to be the villain, really is nothing more than a whale wanting to live its life on its own.

So how does this conflict get resolved in a way that is engaging and exciting?

SPOILER ALERT!  (Ok, if you REALLY don't know how these books end, then shame on you!)

Usually, the way to end the internal struggle is through an external force killing the hero and the villain.  In Moby Dick, some may argue that Ismael is the hero, and there's a good argument for that.  But the question I would pose back is "how does Ismael really change in the novel?"  But that's another discussion.  So for the sake of argument, let's say Ahab is the hero and his inner drive is the villain.  The fight, the last bout with the whale, is really, I think, a metaphor for his fight against himself.  And when he sticks the one harpoon into the whale, the rope gets tied around him and pulls him underwater, where he drowns.

In Catcher in the Rye, it's the Carousel that Holden's sister rides on that allows him (I think) to win the fight of his internal negativity.

In Jekyll and Hyde, the hero kills himself.

In all cases, the hero and the villain can no longer exist in the same body.  One of them has to go, and sometimes the bad guys takes the good guy with him.  It's a center piece of tragedy:  the inner conflict of the hero.  In fact, if you're writing a tragedy, I'd argue that to make the hero face an EXTERNAL hero and have them kill each other makes the audience feel cheated.  ONE of them is supposed to survive!

So if you're writing about a hero and the story centers around his own internal "bad guy", be prepared for the big showdown to result in something tragic, like the death of both.  But regardless of the outcome, make sure the internal struggle is there all along, that the reader senses it, and that it's no different than any other hero on his/her journey being blocked by an antagonist.  That's what makes reading fun...

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Tweeting as an Author

Check it out!  Over there  ----->>  NO!  THERE!  No.  Sheesh.  Ok, nevermind.  It's down to the right.

I'm all a-twitter!  I'm a twitterer.  Or a twit.

You pick.

Don't twitter yet?!?  What kind of AUTHOR ARE YOU!?

Got news for ya, it ain't that big a deal...yet.  BUT, when you're hugely famous and movies are being made from your books and you're relaxing by the side of your pool with a Mohito perched on your nicely tanned, flat stomach, you're gonna need SOMETHING to do, right?

Besides, all those fans of yours will want to know all about you - what you love to wear, how you like your Mohito (I hope I'm spelling that right, I'm not much of a drinker), and where you're going...right?


Ok, maybe if you're HUGELY popular, like Brad Pitt or something, will people sign in to see what your doing right now.

Most people, however, I believe are using Twitter for inspiration.  For thoughts that they can use.  Things that help them see you as a real person, because that helps them realize that real people can make it.

Tweeting is not like blogging.  It's a way to quickly reach out to people, but what you reach out to them with depends on the audience.  If your followers (boy, doesn't THAT sound messianic) are all family members, they may wanna know where you and what's happening with the kids.

But if they're fans of your work, they'll want to know about the process - are you writing, if so, what, what is inspiring you right now, and should they give it all up to hawk Slurpees at the nearest 7-11.

Don't be arrogant.  Don't presume they care about your fifth car.  And don't think of yourself as the center of THEIR universe.  They're following you for other reasons, and will drop you if you don't seem to care.

Tweeting is a great marketing tool, but it can be a very transparent marketing tool.  Too much of "MY NEW BOOK IS STILL IN BOOKSTORES EVERYBODY" will get very old.  So keep it fresh, keep it honest, and keep it focused on helping others, not yourself.

We don't really need to know how gorgeous you look in that new Porsche...

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

How Much Blood?

Well, c'mon, it is the month for Halloween after all!

So if you're writing horror stories, how much detail should you go into?  When is too much gore a bad thing?  Well, I'll give you my humble opinion, do with it what you will...

I was a big fan of Dean Koontz for a while, a long time ago.  Then I read one of his books, I can't even remember the name of it, and I almost got sick by page 10.  There was a scene in an abandoned Tunnel of Love (if this sounds familiar to anyone let me know), and it was so graphic and gory that I couldn't finish it.

To me, the best effective scare in any genre or medium, is one where the IMAGINATION of the reader is where the horror lies.

In movies, for example, Alfred Hitchcock never once shows the knife going into Janet Leigh.  Not once.

In Stephen King's IT, easily one of the scariest books I've ever read, the details of the first victim's death includes very little detail.  He uses other senses to let your imagination piece together what happened, and how horrible it is.

"...and suddenly there was a ripping noise and a flaring sheet of agony, and George Denbrough knew no more."

"The left side of George's slicker was now bright red.  Blood flowed into the stormdrain from the tattered hole where the left arm had been.  A knob of bone, horribly bright, peeked through the torn cloth."

Simple.  Just descriptive enough to let you know what was going on, but not gushing with blood, guts or dismemberment.  In fact, the focus of that entire scene isn't the horror of a young boy dying, it's the horror of the THING that's killing him:  it's in a FRIGGING SEWER!


So I say minimize the descriptive details of the gore.  We don't need a lesson in how a bleeding artery sprays blood over the face of the victim while the rubbery intestines seep out of the cut spreading across the abdomen.  That's a little gross.

You could say that the hero felt his world going black and a horrible burning as his body ripped open.  The rest you just leave up to the reader.

In my opinion...

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Scary Bad Guy

Jason.  Freddie.  Randal Flagg.  Dracula.  The monsters that haunt our dreams.  What makes a horror bad guy different than a regular bad guy?  I mean, both should get in the way of the hero and his journey, right?

Yes, but there's a subtle difference.

In a regular story, the bad guy, or antagonist, may be a somewhat sympathetic character.  Even if he's human, you can understand perhaps why he is the way he is.  By making the bad guy more real, he becomes more three-dimensional, and thus a more realistic bad-guy.  It makes the conflict more interesting, because you're rooting for the good guy, but the bad guy has so much going on that you're actually interested in him too.

In horror, the bad guy is usually more one dimensional.  They don't give a shit about anything.  They're "monsters", devoid of any feelings or backstory or empathetic experiences.  They want to kill, maim, rule the world, whatever.  And that doesn't make them any less interesting, because in the horror genre, we don't want to feel anything but revulsion for the bad guy.  Hannibal Lecter is a perfect example.  He just doesn't care that eating people is bad.  He doesn't care who thinks he's a monster.  He just kills, and kills well.  We spend the whole novel hoping like hell that the hero doesn't have to get too close to him.

Horror monsters are humans, diseases, beasts, aliens, anything that destroys without abandon.  Fiction bad guys shouldn't be that one-sided, because then the conflict becomes less interesting.  That's why I struggle to think of Frankenstein as a real "horror" novel, because yes the monster kills, but who would blame him?  I mean, if you were dead and then suddenly alive with some whacked out brain, that would make anyone cranky.  So it's more just an interesting study in the pros/cons of dead tissue reanimation.

But Pennywise the Clown in Stephen King's IT?  That dude's bad.  He just doesn't care who he kills.

For more on the subject, check out Kidlit.com - great summary of the role of an antagonist in fiction.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

It's OCTOBER?!? That's some scary *@!%.

When the hell did this happen?  I was sunning myself by the pool the other day, I swear!

Ok, so in honor of October, I thought I'd kick it off with a bit of writing horror.  Now, I've written several horror stories in a collection called "The Firelight Tales", but they haven't seen the light of day yet.  And I've already talked about what scares you, so I'll go off on a couple of specifics here over the next few weeks.

Today we're talking location, location, location as a means of scaring the crap out of someone.

Most good horror stories start out big, but end up small.  You see this a lot in movies, where the actual setting of the story starts out in a town, a house, a city, etc.  There's safety in large spaces.

But when the shit hits the fan?  Somehow, the hero always seems to be locked in somewhere.  The location shrinks.

Not literally, of course.  I mean, if every horror film ended in a box or a closet it'd get really boring.  But relative to the hero's journey, the final showdown typically takes place in a smaller location than where they started.

Why, you ask?  Easy.  Because there's nowhere to run to, baby.  Nowhere to hide.  Trapped.  In a city the options for hiding and avoiding the bad guy are endless.  In a building, less so.  On a floor, even less.  On a floor with no working elevators, in the dark and the bad guy has night vision goggles on?

You're screwed.

Some examples I can think of:  Stephen King's The Stand.  Starts out all over the United States.  But what good is that?  The boogey man can't possible hit everyone everywhere (ok, well Randall Flagg was pretty bad-ass).  So King moves them to TWO locations:  Vegas and Boulder.

Same thing with IT by Stephen King.  Starts out in a big town, great, lovely.  Ends up in the tight quarters of the underbelly of town, down in the sewers.  Dark, dank, and confined.

So if you want to ratchet up the stakes and scare the hero to death (hopefully not literally), squeeze them out.  Put them in progressively tighter locations.  Take away their options.  THEN see what the hell they can do about it!

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