Inspirations


Who inspired me to write? I’ve read about a dozen articles that say I should write something on this…

I’ve been writing most of my life. I worked on my first stories when I was well… I was living in New Jersey at the time, so I probably was about 6 or 7.

I tried writing Star Trek fiction when I was in 7th or 8th grade.

Back then, there were always books in my house. I had an older sister who read a lot. She liked Agatha Christie, and the somewhat dissapointing “Rabbi” series. So she was into detective fiction, popularly known as a “Whodunnit”.

I had mostly bizarre horror books for kids – I don’t know what my mother was thinking of! And I inherited a large collection of “Dark Shadows” books, and some books by a related TV series, something about Paradise, and a man who had a painting of his dead brother, but his brother was trapped in the painting… I don’t know. I was really young, and I only read one of those. Note for parents… this is probably not good stuff for your kids to read until they’re 30 or so.

Incidentally, the Dark Shadows mansion was not where the TV series was filmed. It was actually the building where the parent-teacher meeting before the first day of school took place when I moved to Newport as a boy. So, here I was, watching a creepy tv show and reading the books in New Jersey, we move to Newport and… two months later i’m standing inside that mansion.

So, all this sets the stage for me writing.

Who inspired me? My dad got me into Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury. I read them when I was younger. I wouldn’t say they inspired me.

I read Tolkien when I was younger. A kids magazine my mother got me a subscription to featured the Riddle game between Bilbo and Gollum, and so I wanted the Hobbit. And then the Lord of the Rings.

I read those a lot. But at some point, I started reading Heinlein. I used to collect Heinlein stories written in the 50’s. Something happened to Heinlein in the 60’s, and he began to change.

So, who influenced me the most? If you’ve been following me since the beginning, you know the answer. Tom Clancy, and to a point, Frederick Forsythe. Really, I wasn’t influenced by reading anyone that made me want to write – it was more that… I’ve always written. I wrote my first stories in 1st Grade, in New Jersey.

movies that influenced me – Three days of the condor… wow, that movie still influences my fiction writing.

most of my interest in movies is military movies. I really would like to see good movies about the Bible, but alas, they haven’t written any. There’s been MANY movies about events in the Bible, but I can’t think of one good, accurate one. There’s been quite a few that I can say really was a movie about characters with the same names – but few movies about the Bible.

What influences me the most is really going to surprise you. it’s when someone does a book or movie on something that SHOULD have been good… and wasn’t.

Your thoughts?

What I’m studying right now


These posts are usually written on the weekend, then they’re timed to go up during the week, because I get busy sometimes and I’d forget.

So, right now I’m reading a book on characterization by Orson Scott Card.

I went from reading a book by Nancy Kress on writing. Now she’s obviously very good, because her book was well planned, thoughtful, had lots of information. I felt like I was highlighting almost every page.

Compared to that… Mr. Card had a very tough act to follow. And so, I’m for the most part having a hard time following his book. Mr. Card seems to proceed from the viewpoint that the plot drives the character. Yes, it does… but the character drives the plot first.

So, I’m having a hard time following his book. I think the better approach would have been to ignore dialogue, narration, style, and plot – and WRITE a book solely on character!

Better yet, write a three part or four part book series on writing – characterization, dialogue, plot, and conflict. Don’t try to address everything in one book! Most of his book really had more to do with plot and style than on characterization so far… and I’m halfway through it.

So someone in a writer’s group I’m part of mentioned that Nancy Kress has a book on Characterization, and my wife got it for me. It should be here in my mailbox today. I’ll be putting aside the Card book for now, and starting on that book immediately.

Why am I reading books on writing when I’ve already written books? Because if you’re paying several dollars for one of my books by this time next year… I want it to be worth your hard earned cash… and more importantly, your time.

When you read a book, you invest time and emotions into it. I want to make sure that book is as good as it can be, and not “Bunny go hop hop”.

Locations for my novels


The coastal boreal forest, drenched in fog for much of the summer, acts like a sponge

I wanted a good picture of a space in the forests of Quebec. Unfortunately, I just don’t have the time or money to travel to where I’m writing about!

But here’s a good example. A hill below a higher hill, and paths leading down and away. This kind of forest is called a Boreal forest, a hilly, very dense tree kind of forest… so dense that most of the trees stay small in size. There’s none of the thick tree trunk size trees you see farther south. Trees stay small but tall there.

so when my novels get published… now you’ll be able to visualize it!

The difference between a novel and a screenplay


I read a throwaway comment yesterday on the difference between writing a fiction novel, and writing a screenplay.

Novels are internal – screenplays external.

Yeah. Good description. I can go for a couple paragraphs on how someone FEELS, on their thoughts, their emotions, their fears. i’ve got one scene where I dwelled on the fear a character experiences when armed troops raid their hideout and capture everyone, while one man hides in another building, wishing he had a weapon, wishing he knew how to use it, and hating himself because he just wasn’t a movie character who could dive into the fray, shoot everyone, and not break a sweat.

In a movie, it’s reduced to action, character name, and VERY truncated dialogue! Example…

CHARACTER crouches beneath the window, peering out. Fear is evident in his face.

CHARACTER

No, no, Nooooo!

Like that.

Books have lots of dark sections on white paper. Screenplays should look like lots of white paper and isolated small dark sections. I’ve read that the people who review movie scripts simply flip through it at first wtihout reading it. If there’s not enough white paper evident… in the rejection pile it goes.

I bolded the above so you could see the difference between a screenplay sample, and my book style of writing above that. And some directors even get annoyed if I put the “Fear” part in the book. The director wants as little direction from the screenplay writer as possible. It’s called Wrylies in the industry.

And apparenlty, they all want VERY strong action verbs in every sentence. “ran” is better than “Went to.” “slid the book across the desk” is better than “Handed”.

Ta-da.

Getting Rid of a Short Story Idea


Okay, I’ll admit it.

I have Coulrophobia.

Fear of clowns.

I grew up with my mother putting a picture of (I guess) some famous actor dressed as a clown. So, you wake up at 3 am with some little kid’s nightmare, and the FIRST THING you see on your wall is some horrific grinning whitefaced monster with big red lips and an evil grin. Somewhere beneath the picture frame, you just KNOW is an axe.

So, I turned the picture around.

My mother put it back.

I took it off the wall.

She put it back.

I threw it away.

She took it out of the trash.

I finally did something with it, I don’t remember what, but the picture eventually stopped making its appearance.

Then I made the mistake of reading a short story years ago by some British author about a man who was kidnapped and driven insane by a researcher… and got out. And the researcher had coulrophobia.

And the trick of the lighting made the insane man look like a clown, as he came, hopping and skipping, clutching an axe to kill the researcher.

AAAUGH!!!!!

And I’ve got a friend who from time to time harasses me with clowns. Yes, indeed. I’m still deciding upon suitable revenge.

So, a month ago, I jotted down a note at work, “killer psycho clowns”. I thought it would be a great short story.

I wrote 400 words in it last week before bed.

I woke up from a horrific nightmare.

I tried musing about the plot from the story, and had another nightmare.

I tried filling out the info on Homy Sidal, the lead clown, and… had nightmares.

So I’m dumping the story. Apparently, it takes me as long to get the point as just about everyone else!

Clowns are horrific. I’m sure Ronald McDonald somewhere is plotting my gruesome death.

Evernote!


While I’m out and about, or at my day job (which of course, I’m praying I’ll be free of by this time next year, as I get my first book published and my first screenplay sold and I’m VERY BUSY this time next year, scoping out possible houses to buy in Rhode Island)…. I often am jotting down a MILLION notes, thoughts, scene fragments, and to-do’s on any available piece of paper.

I have a notebook for that purpose, but sometimes I’m somewhere without the notebook, and I get an idea.

Write it down.

Up until now, I’ve used a very cool program called “Notebrowser” to keep track, and Cintanotes before that. Last year, my new Dell laptop (replacing several years’ reliance upon bloated HP computers) came with OneNote. I moved to that immediately. Indeed, I began going into Notebrowser and finally cleaning it out, with the intention of deleting it.

Of course, the need to get 1,667 to 3,000 words a day into my books puts an effective barrier into that.

So, I liked OneNote, but I didn’t like that it was a full screen app, and not a program. It made it VERY difficult to use it effectively.

Recently I discovered that the OneNote I had wasn’t the full program, but rather a “lite” version from the Windows App store, installed as a factory setting with Windows 8.1… More on that later

So, since I took a Michael Hyatt webinar recently, he pushed of course Scrivener and Evernote. Scrivener I’m already a believer in. I downloaded Evernote during the webinar,, but I didn’t install it for a couple of days.

A couple of days ago, i installed it, and began to play around with it. I resolved to move everything instead over to Evernote, and installed the “Clipper” function in my Opera browser. Now, I can directly store things into it. Normally, I print to PDF, but the Evernote way has an advantage… I can find it quicker.

The concept of notebooks and stacks was easy to figure out, by thinking of a stack as a multi-subject notebook, and the notebooks as the individual subject sections.

Ta-da!

MUCH easier. Now, supposedly, I can scan or take pictures of all my handwritten notes, and Evernote will OCR them – in other words, read them and copy it into Evernote, allowing me to delete the images.

But since I suddenly came up with an idea of a kid’s book, my odd little sketches of strange little animals won’t get deleted or thrown away any longer!

Writers… write


I bet the average book reader wonders if authors sit around and pontificate upon the motives and back stories of their characters. The answer is, yes… they do.

To make someone like Carpenter believable, he’s got to have back story. Much of the back story of your character never makes it to the books.

Like, Carpenter tried playing chess once and got completely wiped out by someone who wasn’t very literate, and described himself as a Texas redneck. And the humiliation of being beaten so badly made Carpenter never want to play chess again.

That will probably never make it to the books.

And of course, every one of my characters in some point in their lives has had the flu. Why? Almost everyone gets the flu. I’ve only met one or two people who can say they’ve never been sick.

But of course, there’s absolutely no reason to put that in the books. I suppose I could work that in, but who would care?

Recently I read some advice that I should have 5 writer friends. That would be a miracle, because I seem to have had a hundred acquaintances in my life, but precious few friends. The only real friends I have are of course my wife, and a guy I used to work with.

Sinus headaches are terrible. I’m sitting here rambling. It reminds me of the most horrible book I ever read in my life in school, Catcher in the Rye, where the hero character rambles and digresses for 400 pages.

Horrible book. Hated every word of it.

School made me read 1984. I read it, and tore out every page, one by one, and burned it. When they asked me where my book was, I told him, “I burned it. Page by page.” The teacher made me write that out as a book report, and I got an A on the class.

What I need right now is sinus meds.

Rambling!

The Perils of Self Publishing


What’s the best thing to hit the fiction market?

Self publishing.

What’s the worst thing to hit the fiction market?

Self publishing.

Publishers had a hold on the market, similar to record companies. You’re the only outlet, so…

But the advent of free music hosting websites and the CD burner on computers cost the record companies billions. Now, they’re not so arrogant.

The book publishers were never arrogant, they just haven’t changed the way things are done in years.

They’re adjusting, thanks to self publishing.

Unfortunately, the market is now flooded with really bad books. Trust me, I’ve read a lot of really bad books in my life. I’ve read a lot of really good ones.

If you go on Amazon, and check out their publishing arm, you’ll see probably thousands of books. Great! I’m sure there’s a HUNDRED classics in there!

And 50,000 complete landfill material.

And that’s the problem. The 50,000 terrible books are making it harder to get published, because they see so much absolute rot from people who aren’t ready to publish yet. I’m sure my first novel would be the same if I’d just dumped it on Amazon the minute I was done with it.

Thanks to the fact that you can write a book and self publish, you can write a book filled with “Bunny go hop hop” for 200 pages, and it will get published, and at least 5 people will buy it. Unfortunately, it makes it harder now for someone to put out a quality book, and then go to Random House or S&S and say, “I’m a published author”, because one of them will have read “bunny go hop hop” and think that’s representative of the entire market.

And because “Bunny go hop hop” accidentally made it to Barnes & Nobles, and got the treasured shelf space, they’re now reluctant to give shelf space to anyone who self publishes.

Self publishing was good. Self publishing was bad.

Comment away!

Saturday


Time for sweet, creamy coffee!

I normally drink my coffee straight during the week, except for those mornings you wake up and feel like you tossed and turned all night. Those days, I drink bulletproof coffee.

Once I am a published author-screenplay writer who does nothing besides write… I will drink much more coffee.