Monday, January 30, 2012

Brevity: Need I Say More, Writers?

Apparently, I love the sound of my own voice. Same goes for my writing: I love to read my own words. What can I say? There are times I think I’m the greatest thing since sliced bread.

And when I get on a roll, Faulkner ain’t got nothing on me. I can easily make one thought, one sentence fill three pages… front and back.

For readers, it is pure agony. You might as well ask them to sit in a chair and read all that piled up nonsense with a metal tray of hot coals in their laps. It’s that enjoyable.

I’ve been thinking a lot about storytelling and how it relates to writing a novel. I say novel because that is truly my favorite form. I had written three novels before sitting down to write my first short story. In writing the short story, I felt constricted and longed for elbow room to develop my story and characters.

After completing a few more stories, I began to appreciate the challenge of getting the “story” across in thirty pages, instead of three hundred. The tightness of a thirty page story provides a powerful impact not as easily attained or sustained in a novel.

As I’m in the development stages of my first new book in gabillion years, I find myself hesitant to follow the same process as previously taken with my other novels. As the story takes shape, I’m conscious of the short, powerful punch I want to make. I want this book to hit the reader in the gut, to stun and astound. And maybe induce vomiting.

Sounds like a compacted story is the way to go. Only, it may not be so simple whittling the four hundred pages of story in my head down to two hundred and fifty pages.

And yet, I think of conversation I had once with a professional songwriter from Nashville. After twenty years writing songs for some of the top country stars he was taking a shot at screenwriting. He was interested in the chance to tell a story in a format longer than a three and a half minute song. He wanted more elbow room.

But the more I think about story, and structure, and emotional impact, I can think of no other storytelling format that has the impact a well written song has.

What four hundred page book could add anything to the song, Ode to Billy Joe? Do any of Bob Dylan’s songs need additional material to impart the tone, setting, and plot intended? Who hasn’t heard Eleanor Rigby and not felt what it was like to be her?

I believe when I was a less experienced writer, I felt I had to get everything into a manuscript; every word, thought, and feeling. But now, I’m at a point where I’m interested in what does not make it into the manuscript. I’m seeing the beauty in less is more. And I think I like it.

Writing is a solitary expedition that starts at one point and ends in a place completely unimaginable. As I dive deeper into this latest book, I believe my expedition is taking me away from the familiar path I’ve worn thin over the years. Now into my fourth novel, I am heading into a jungle of gnarled trees and twisted roots that must be hacked and hacked and hacked to proceed.

And I am most excited.

As much as I’d like to go into more detail, I think I’ll keep it brief and get my machete out. Let the hacking begin.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

I Don't Normally Pimp Myself Out

I’m sure you won’t expect this from me at all, because I certainly never, ever do this type of thing. But I am in dire need of reviews for my short story collection, Headshots, and I have reason to believe you may have read this fascinating literary fiasco sometime in the past. If you haven’t read it, then please disregard this once in a lifetime invitation.

I wouldn’t normally pimp myself out so flagrantly but my agent instructed me to do this – at gunpoint.

Would you mind clicking the following Amazon link and leaving a review. Be honest in your review, if you just want to give it some stars that is fine, too.  Anything you can do is greatly appreciated.

Would it be too much to ask you click the Barnes and Noble link below and leave a review as well? If you do mind, please remember, I know where you live. Well, not really. But I can find out. Then maybe we can have lunch sometime. Wouldn’t that be nice?

If you just can’t stop yourself from leaving Headshots reviews, there’s like a gajillion other places online to leave reviews. Just look up Headshots in Google and knock yourself out. But I be pleased as peaches with just reviews on the above sites.

And if I haven’t said thank you, I’ll say it now. Thank You. You are a credit to the human race and a much better person than those who choose not to leave a review. Actually, I don’t know if that’s true or not. But I sincerely appreciate your assistance.


Monday, January 23, 2012

Dear Published Authors: Stop Stealing My Unpublished Writing, It’s Getting on My Nerves

This one time at writing camp, I wrote short story about undead beings that glitter in sunlight and the next thing you know a little book called Twilight is published chocked full of GLITTERY UNDEAD VAMPIRES.

Okay, so I never wrote about glittery vampires and Stephanie Myers did not steal from my unpublished writing. And say what you will about Twilight, it wasn’t too bad (for a third grade primer).

But I have had instances where my characters show up in print or on television while I’m still in unpublished edit mode. And I’m getting pretty sick of it.

In my novel, Rooted, my villain was powerful, viscerally cruel, dark and cunning. I had every aspect of his character down: his accent, his hand made clothing. The way he moved like a bull in one scene and Fred Astaire in another. This man had any women he wanted, and he wanted all of them, often. He was an animal.

Thinking back on him, I miss him terribly. Of course, I can visit with him anytime I like. All I have to do is watch an episode of the Sopranos and there he be, the physical version of my solitary writings. Only, I wrote the durn character a couple of years before the Sopranos debuted. By the time I got around to watching the Sopranos, several years later, Rooted was pretty much solid. Only, my villain was now such a cliché he would never work in the story.

It was back to the drawing board. I changed my villain from a charismatic mob boss to a revenge seeking coal miner from West Virginia. I’m taking a gamble that HBO does not intend to develop a series about a coal miner with a mean streak and missing fingers. This, I hope, takes care of any future infringements on what I have already written in my unpublished novel, Rooted.

Two weeks ago I listened to the audio version of The Help, only to discover that one of my main characters currently in development has a name very similar to one of the main characters in The Help. And like the character in “The Help”, my character is a black female in Mississippi.

How in the world did The Help’s author know I am currently developing the most tragic literary figure of all time with a name very similar to Abeline, one of the main characters in The Help? My character is a black child in Mississippi, but her timeframe goes back to the 1880s. Her speech is so similar to Abeline’s from The Help, that I can’t get Abeline out of my head.

It’s like I’m now writing the child version of Abeline from The Help. Which makes me wonder, how did Kathryn Stockett know that one day I would develop a character so similar to her published Abeline? And how dare she write Abeline knowing I would be writing a similar character so soon after the publication of The Help?

To be plagiarized prior to anyone reading my work is quite unnerving. To be plagiarized before I even write anything is downright spooky.

So I beg all you hotshot published authors, have pity on this struggling writer. Please do not beat me to the punch. Leave me a few crumbs of my own writing to be sprung on the unsuspecting masses like a tiger from a bush.

For if you do, there will be a special place in heaven for you. And 36 virgins. I promise.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Winter: The Official Writing Season

When the air dips into sub-zero temperatures, there’s only one sure way to save those fingertips from frostbite and your head from brain freeze and that is WRITING THE NEXT GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL.

So what are you waiting for? Go lock yourself in a room and get to writing! Success may be just days, months, okay, years away.

So fire up the computer and let the words flow. Don’t let anything stop you from pounding away on your masterpiece.

But first:

• Chop a bit of wood and get a nice roaring fire going so that when you come out of your writing room, exhausted and depleted, you’ll be greeted by a warm fiery breath.

• Once the logs are crackling nicely in your fireplace, please take a second to make yourself a cup of homemade hot chocolate. Don’t waste your time on bland hot chocolate mix, but treat yourself to real chocolaty goodness. Don’t have the cocoa on hand? Best run to the store and stock up. Again, you want everything just right when you step into your writing retreat.

• With that steaming cup of cocoa in hand you might be tempted to take it with you to your office. But please, I beg you, take a moment to sit by a window and watch the soft white flakes float effortlessly down. Let you mind wander. Relax. If needed, doze a little. Again, you want to be fresh and ready for the writing storm that is about to commence.

• When you take your empty cup to the kitchen and are confronted with the mountainous stack of dishes you’ve been ignoring for the past twelve hours, don’t fret. Even though your mind is overflowing with the tenderest text ever imagined, you know deep in your heart of hearts you will not be able to concentrate on plot and character and narrative when you’ve got lasagna petrifying on your dinnerware. Go ahead and knock the dishes out. You’ll feel much better.

• Now that the dishes are washed, and the refrigerator cleaned out (because really, how long has that science experiment been going on), everything has been taken care of to really allow your mind to settle into the most poetic prose the world has yet to see. Or will be, once you call your insurance agent and inquire into possible rates for the two seater convertible you expect to purchase once your book is a mega bestseller.

• Finally, in your author’s chamber, you settle in for a long winter’s day of writing, luxuriating in the knowledge that it is just you and your characters. Thrilling a little with the expectation of all the unknowns you are about to unveil to yourself and the world in general, after you check Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon, the weather forecast, and find a dessert recipe that calls for cocoa.

• With all this settled and done, the curser placed at the beginning of the first word of the day, your eye catches on the clock and you curse desperately.

Time to pick the kids up from school.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Is it True That Slade Pooped on Glass Tables?

If You Search For My Website With: “Is it True That Slade Pooped on Glass Tables”…

Apparently and unfortunately, you will get my website. But I do not understand how. Sure, I’m glad it gets you to my site, but really, how embarrassing to search for me with such an unflattering question.

First off, my character Slade is a washed up drugged out punk rocker, prone to violent outbursts and the most offensive behavior. But he certainly has not pooped on a glass table. I’m not ruling out other types of tables, rugs, socks or small furry animals. But I assure you, he’s not defiled a glass table. At least, not yet.

Secondly, if anyone were to associate the word “poop” which one of my characters at least get the character correct. When I think of my writing (which I assure you if of the highest caliber) and poop, I think of Chigger “FreckleFart” Larson who was caught praying on the pooper.

Quite scandalous, I know. In Chigg’s defense, the bathroom stall was the only place she could find for such a private moment. The praying, I mean.

As a writer, I’d like to think that readers could find my website by searching for any of the following:

• “Greatest writer on the face of the earth.”

• “Winner of every Nobel Prize for Literature for the next eighty years.”

• Or simply, “She who’s name cannot be spoken.”

As a realist, I’m pretty certain the last selection would not direct people to my website. But as my literary career progresses, I’m fairly confident readers will be able to find my site using the first two selections.

But until then, I guess just search for me with, “Is it True That Slade Pooped on Glass Tables”…

You’ll get me every time.

Monday, January 16, 2012

A Bunch of Dead People on the Prowl

My new novel, Incinerate, is one dark read. In fact, I do not foresee one amusing word or anecdote finding its way to the page in this bad boy.

What can I say? It’s a book about a bunch of dead people on the prowl. It’s not a vampire book, or a ghost book. There aren’t any zombies save for one zombie voodoo child with aspirations beyond her years.

The setting of this morbid tale is post civil war Mississippi. A place and time where things were pretty bad for a lot of people. But for the residents of a utopian black planting community, life was difficult but rewarding.

UNTIL the price of cotton hits rock bottom, and the Mississippi river changes course, and flood and pestilence all combine to threaten the survival of this utopian community which had outlasted slavery, war and reconstruction.

Unwilling to give up the land they’d fought and struggled to make their own, the community desperately turns to Doc Creole, a New Orleans voodoo priest known for his powers over heaven and earth.

And that’s when things really get bad.   More to come as things develop.

As always, thanks for your continued support.

Methinks I’m going to need it on this one.