Writers: An Author’s Guide To Torturing Readers

15 10 2018

readers cartoon





Writers: For Amazon and Goodreads Reviews…

13 10 2018

Reviewing on amazon





Four More Days! Audio Book In The Works!

5 10 2018

I’ll be releasing an audio book of “Fishtown Blood Bath: Lampreyhead Book One” next year.

In the meantime, you can read it for free starting Tuesday for a limited time! Or you can read it now with your Kindle Unlimited account. Its 33K words of quirky, bloodthirsty action. Click on the cover to learn more.

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Writers: How I Wrote My Novella Series

26 09 2018
blueberries cake chocolate chocolate cake

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selective focus photography of people having a toast

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CAKE OR BEER? IN TIME, I SHALL HAVE BOTH.

The three books of “Lampreyhead” are now uploaded on Amazon. A year ago, I started writing Book One. Through last Winter and Spring, I wrote Books Two and Three. I hired a cover artist, then had to hire another, and learned formatting for CreateSpace (RIP, now merged with KDP) and Kindle.

Part One! The Writing!

Peering from this site banner is Ned Winter, the protagonist of my new series “Lampreyhead.” Ned is a failed vampire prototype. The approved vampire prototype, Dracula, brought three separate bites with three separate nights of sexual ecstasy. Ned fastens on for three days straight, bringing a three-day long orgasm.

I had this “vampire prototype” joke floating in my head for almost twenty years. I wrote two  “MAD Magazine” style short stories where Lampreyhead was like Jerry Lewis’ Nutty Professor character, then set him aside. I wanted to write a novel about him, but the character wouldn’t work for a longer piece.

The problem with an over-the-top character is that once started, there is no room the nuance needed to sustain a longer work. The style and tone wear the reader down and eventually the humor becomes boring. To make a series, Ned needed a character arc.

I tore down the old Lampreyhead and built a new one.

I started him in modern Philadelphia USA because I know and love this area. How did her survive the centuries? How else? He’d been a gigolo since the 1400s, keeping a low profile from the church and the law. I needed him to be an underdog, so I held to the most oppressive myths regarding vampires: no silver, no sunlight, all holy objects causing spiritual agony or physical injury.

Then I took away most of the vampire perks. No transformations beyond turning into a seven foot parasitic fish. No control of lesser animals. Ordinary hearing and sight. I started feeling sorry for him, so I kept him notably stronger than humans.

For me, the big question regarding vampires is this: why would they be any more accomplished than humans? If I could live forever, would I become a violin virtuoso? Would I even pick up a violin? I lived for six years in a house that held the entire Great Books Series and I had no interest in broadening myself. I think I represent most average humans. So I made Ned not so much a slacker, as someone who settled into a decades long routine. He had no ambitions, but he also had to survive, and the birth-death cycle of mortals broke his heart.

Heart? This vampire has a heart? Yes, unlike the other prototypes, Ned has emotions.

Which gave his story a great new dimension. Most people worry about whether God exists because they see no conclusive proof. All Ned has to do is go past a church and he can feel God’s existence, but God Doesn’t Like Ned. Centuries of this knowledge would wear on a guy.

So I had a sympathetic character struggling to distract himself from his emptiness and wondering at the universe through The Fortean Times and astronomy.

I started the first book with a date. Ned has a date with an affluent, debauched woman. Ned would be well-practiced at concealing his transformation through an absolutely dark hotel room. Because he’s compassionate, he would prepare room service to have food and water ready at the door for “after care”. I threw in some lingerie, but the scene didn’t have much purpose beyond titillation.

Ned then goes to his usual diner to sit all night reading magazines. His routine is interrupted by an old friend and fellow prototype, a character of particularly gruesome nature, Gustav.

Gustav serves three purposes. He gives the reader an idea of what a horror Ned could have been and could still become. Gustav provides information that transforms Ned’s life. Gustav is a toddler with a fanged, prehensile umbilical cord. I love Gustav.

This brings Ned to a journey that is part horror and part slapstick.

Here was the problem: this left callow Ned to process these events on his own. Ned had no moral compass beyond “do as little harm as possible and survive.” He lacked the ability to distinguish Evil.

Remember his date? He still had her phone number. So I had him call her.

That’s how a throwaway character became the protagonist’s confidant for 90K words and still going strong. To grease the skids, I rewrote so that she saw Ned transform during their date. Why wouldn’t she freak out at seeing Ned attached to her? I made her a thrill-seeker also looking for answers through the supernatural.

My favorite TV show has always been “Kolchak”. One of my second favorites is “X-Files” but ONLY the “Monster of the Week” episodes. I wanted to do MotW books where Ned encountered and fought the rest of the vampire prototypes (now called the Formulae).

My research showed that a series needs a plot arc for it to be satisfying for the reader. I’ve tried to split the difference. Ned fights pretty cool vampires while picking up clues about Satan, Hell, the Apocalypse, and Magick, with an eye towards his future development.

Next time, the Editing Process.





Stephen King’s Top Ten Rules For Success

23 06 2018





Writers: Get This Book!

18 06 2018

“The best selling character eats, nods, opens, closes, says, sleeps, types, watches, turns, runs, shoots, kisses, and dies….The most important thing to note is that in the best selling novel someone is doing something as dramatic as surviving or dying, and they are not, as their less-selling friends prefer, yawning.”

This is a quantitative analysis of best sellers. What best-selling characters are most prone to do. How the plots are structured. How men and women write differently. How the novels are titled. Down to percentages of “the” in best-selling text.

The book reinforces everything you may have seen in other writing books: active characters, dynamic plots, use of  arcs, etc. But for me, this book gives a concrete foundation for all of the advice.

I’m already adapting my plots accordingly. What I have taken away so far: my characters need to express “need” in detail. I tend to underwrite. I tend to think things do not need explanations. I thought I was being economical, but I’m realizing that I’m just not committing to my characters.

Writing an action pulp series is helping me to realize I need to be bolder in my choices. This book is helping me to see that this boldness will produce results.

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Creating Tension: Writing Lessons From Balticon 2018

28 05 2018

At Balticon this past Saturday, I watched a panel about Creating Tension with Scott Andrews, Mark L. Van Name, Gail Z. Martin, and Chuck Gannon.

All agreed that for tension to work, the threatened character must be relatable and the stakes recognizable. Maybe summarize the details of what would happen if All Was Lost.

Andrews: It is best to end a chapter with a cliffhanger to keep the reader engaged. Disquietude can act as cliffhanger by using awe, mystery, or curiosity. Entering an awesome new environment can pull the reader into the next chapter. The reveal of an important question can pique curiosity.

Van: Lee Child says unanswered questions keep the reader on edge. In foreshadowing a menace, heighten tension through proximity. For example: the threat is first mentioned, then later detailed, then seen at a distance, then when the protagonist has to hide from it. Morbid humor works, for that read the memoirs of soldiers.

Gail Z. Martin says that Jim Butcher novels will almost resolve a conflict completely, then introduce a last complication.

Gannon says that tragedy is two honorable characters working toward opposing ends (he made clear this was not an original thought, but I can’t remember who he was quoting). Trust your instincts above any plot formula.

Other panels reinforced reading Romancing the Beat and Save the Cat.

 





First Draft Done, What I Have Learned, and Publishing Coaches

30 11 2017

This will be  my usual post about writing, terse yet rambling, with some sundry crits at the end of movies and writers who have caught my brain.

doggo

So! Finished with draft one of Lampreyhead at 25K words. The world building was fun. The story is set in contemporary Philadelphia because I know the Northeast US well. Religious aspects appeared, were inevitable really, which added a whole new layer to the characters and conflict. The jokes are good. There may be one darling, but we’ll see if it survives (the “moist” joke I posted on my FB three weeks ago.)

How did I write the draft and what did I learn? I did a bit of an outline, but it was way too spare. I discovered a good way to outline a few weeks ago, but I also discovered that very few writers enjoy writing outlines or synopsis.  New method for outlining is like the Snowflake Method of writing novels: one line summary of each chapter, then add three lines to each summary, then add three more lines to each of those lines, etc. I’ll try to do that next time.

So, with what I thought was an adequate outline, I used Rachel Aaron’s method of speed writing, so I wrote the fun scenes first and backfilled the remainder of the plot. Writing the filler was not only a bit tedious, it exposed the gaps in my outline. Writing the draft took longer than it needed to, but this is how we learn.

I had a tough time getting a grip on the protagonist. I had behavior for scenes, I had previous short stories, but I didn’t have a deeper character profile that could support this work.

I kept his nerdiness and built around that. I considered that LH was 700 years old and that he would be a little bored. Being made Evil, he knew there is a God because religious items caused injury. However, I had him go 700 years without knowing who made him or why. His problem became the reverse of Mortality: is there a Satan to justify his existence?

Supporting characters fulfilled their functions, but they need more depth in the second draft. He meets the werewolf who will be a recurring character in the series, but the were doesn’t have a lot of agency. The Mortal in this story (needed to help bring out the supernatural world-building) became a sophisticated businesswoman thrill-seeker; can I pull off this complicated character?

I was hoping to market this series as “Erotic Paranormal”, but I have no experience in writing erotica. Besides, the plot only has one valid erotic scene. I’m now looking at the humor market.

I have to finish the second draft for my writers group, that deadline being Sunday.

I learned about Publishing Coaches on the Science Fiction and Fantasy Marketing Podcast. My research has provided a couple of names and I will be contacting them tonight.

Recent discoveries: the movie “The Devil’s Candy” is a pleasant throwback haunted house horror that’s well made. “The Midnight Meat Train” squandered a great production on a weak Clive Barker story. “Cult of Chucky” still camps it up, but keep an eye on Fionna Dorrif, because she is excellent. Belgian horror “Raw” takes your unsettling French moodiness to a college for veteranarians, but worry not, the animals are safe from the cannibal sisters. “Demonic” takes ghost hunters to a haunted house, but even Maria Bello can’t save us from a flat ending.

 





Learn Writing From Wince Inducing Comments About “Blade Runner 2045”

9 10 2017

There is nothing wrong with loving without qualification. It opens your heart, lowers blood pressure, extends endocrine life, whatever. As I seem to be a wet blanket with in rare exceptions, I rarely have that rosy glow of fan-a-vision to distract me from a media’s problems.

How do we know that rosy glow of fan-a-vision is blocking our critical eye? Have you used these phrases?

“It was fantastic for the first two parts, but fell apart in the last third.” The last third of anything falls apart because of the first two parts. A resolution falls apart because the conflict had flaws. In Blade Runner 2045 (BR2045), the world was so complicated it stumbled over itself.

SPOILERS ON

Let’s work backwards: The MacGuffin chick was going to procreate and lead the Replicants…with a immune system that makes skin-to-skin contact impossible. Deckard’s body wasn’t going to be found…in a world where a drone can locate a box buried 30 feet. Quasi-Rachel had the wrong color eyes…after Jared Leto could have double-checked her DNA off the original’s skull. There’s more, but I’m bored.

SPOILERS OFF

You’ll note that none of these details had direct bearing on the plot. The immunity, the location technology, the skull, were all details which could have easily been fixed. But the plot was so damn complicated, the details tripped up the cohesion. One can overlook a few sparkles, but in a 2 hour 40 minute film, the sparkles become a haze.

“The artistry of (actor/director/whoever artist) stood out.” In a work of art, nothing is supposed to be a darling. The previous comment was applied to Jared Leto’s villain. Jared Leto did a great creepy job. He was a great creep. He had to be exceedingly, noticably creepy, because the script gave him absolutely nothing else to do but sit and be creepy. In the first BR, the genius scientist played chess, day-traded stocks, explained genetics, and was understated in creepiness. (In real life, company CEOs are dynamic and involved with their corporation.) Here in BR2045, Jared Leto had nothing to do except two acts of ewww, forcing the director to have Leto overact. Again, a weak script.

“Such a beautiful movie!” How much money was spent on this movie? It better damn well be pretty. Again, dazzling doesn’t help a weak script.

You know how you’re not supposed to let your darlings in, no matter how pretty? The Rachel’s Eye scene could have been a flat-out rejection of artifice instead of eye-color. The Zen CEO could have been deleted and the heavy lifting given to his henchwoman. McGuffin Chick could have been healthy.

All of those fixes would have smoothed out the wrinkles in the plot. But man, their scenes sure were pretty, SFX laden set-pieces.

I’m guessing this movie will fare better than Prometheus in movie history. But not by much.

Use darlings sparingly and avoid screwed up plots.

 

 

 

 

 





“Paperbacks From Hell”: A Really Fun Writer Takes on ’70s/’80s Pulp Horror

25 09 2017

Are you a child of the 1970s and/or 1980s? Did you grow up sneak-watching slasher flicks like The Slumber Party Massacre and Silent Night, Deadly Night while your parents slept? Were you the kind of kid who felt there was only one holiday worth celebrating, and that was Halloween? Was Elvira your number one crush? If you answered yes […]

via Book Review: Paperbacks from Hell by Grady Hendrix (Quirk Books) — CULT FACTION








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