Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Offensive material

Over at mystery author JA Konrath's blog, he received an e-mail from a woman complaining about the violence in his writing. Various comments then followed on his blog.

First, I've never read any of Konrath's novels. I have a couple of them, but haven't got around to reading them yet. But since I've not read any of his books, I really have no basis upon which to form an opinion about whether the violence in his books is too much, just right or possibly even pretty weak. But his main character is a HOMICIDE detective, so how the heck could he write a series of mystery novels with such a character and not have some violence?

I also wonder if I'm relatively immune to violence in literature. The only author who has ever made me squeamish was Clive Barker, though Neil Gaiman has come close a couple of times. Stephen King? Nah. I think King's pretty tame when it comes to violence.

But then when I think about movies, I don't really like overt gore in them. I can't stand the "Saw" movies, and not just because they're horrific and gory, but because there doesn't seem to be any REASON for the gore; there's very little plot line, just a bunch of people trapped and being tortured. Also, the one movie that made me almost puke was "8MM," starring Nicolas Cage, which was about snuff films. I do, however, love zombie movies, but not so much the gore in them (I like zombie movies for their social message — and yes, there is one).

Then I think about my own writing. I don't usually (I repeat, usually) set out to intentionally disgust or offend anyone, but I'm sure some of material is likely offensive to someone. After all, stories with swords in them without anyone ever actually swinging a sword are pretty boring.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Back to harping

Okay, so enough about taking a break. Get back at it. Get to writing. Get to rewriting. Get to editing.

Even if you only write a couple of hundred words a day. Even if you just edit one chapter a day. Even if you only rewrite a minor scene of a hundred words.

Why? Because it's all motion. It's all moving ahead.

Today you might have had a bad day. Maybe you're sick. Maybe you lost your job. Maybe someone important to you is in dire straits. Maybe the news from Iraq depresses. But still ... if you punch out a few words, you've accomplished something.

And you'll feel all the better on those days when you feel great and type out 5,000 words in an hour.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Other genres

I write mostly about fantasy on this blog, mostly because that's what I've been working for a couple of years, but I have pretty strong interests in horror also. Here's my break-down on interests in other genres.

Horror: I love good horror. Bad horror is ... well, bad. I don't like the basic slice-n-dice stories filled with nothing but gore. But I love horror that focuses on the human element and upon mystery; the monster behind the closed door is always more frightening to me than when the monster is revealed. That focus on humanity is one of the reasons I like Stephen King so much; many of his horror stories are relatively mundane, but they have a strong human element that only King can provide. Actually, horror is probably my favorite genre to read, even more so than fantasy.

Science fiction: To tell the truth, I don't care a lot for most science fiction. When I do, I prefer "soft" science fiction. "Hard" science fiction just bores me; if I want to read a technical journal, I'll go buy one.

Mystery/Thriller: I've read a fair amount of mystery stories, and I tend to prefer hard-boiled tales. A lot of mystery novels don't seem to do much for me, because I feel there's no chance you (the reader) can figure out what's going on.

Westerns: I love western movies, but not so much the fiction. The one big exception being Larry McMurtry's "Lonesome Dove."

Romance: I have next to no interest in romance, but to be fair to the genre, I've never actually set down to read a romance novel. Unless Anne Rice counts.

Mainstream/Literary: In my experience, most so-called "mainstream" works are really just genre novels, with a lot more words than usual.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Break time

Despite my steady ranting that one should write every single day if one wishes to be a professional writer, I have to admit there can be times to take a day off. Many writers won't admit this, but I will.

I generally allow myself one day a month off from writing (or editing and rewriting and everything else that goes along with being a writer). But there are a few days where I don't write much, maybe just a few hundred words, or I only edit a few pages.

The brain needs time to rebuild your mental energy sometimes, and there are days where you're just too exhausted from running around and doing other things. The real world intervenes. Sometimes, every once in a while, you need to let the real world win for a day or two. Otherwise, you'll wear yourself out physically and you'll freak yourself out mentally, and it will be so much harder to get back to writing.

So, my suggestion is to write every day, but allow yourself a day off every once in a while, and allow yourself a few days where you still work at your writing but maybe not as much as normal.

Keep yourself sane ... especially during the holidays.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

My library

To tell you the truth, I have no idea how many book I own, nor how many books I have read over my lifetime. If I had to take a wild guess, I would say I've read about 5,000 books, and I've probably owned about 4,000 books total at one time or another.

But why don't I know? I'm glad you asked. There are two reasons.

Reason One: I have moved four times in the last five years. Where I live now, I do not have any bookshelves except for a small rack in my writing office, and it holds the thirty or so books that are my "to-be-read" pile. Almost every book I currently own is stuffed into boxes in my attic, or in boxes in the bunny room (where my three house rabbits live). So, books are scattered everywhere, and I'm sometimes surprised when I stumble upon something I read thirty years ago because I didn't know I still had it.

Reason Two: I have a habit of giving away books to libraries. I do this about every ten years. I pick out books I know I will likely never read again, or want to read, then I take them to the local library of wherever I'm living at the time. I've done this three times in my life, and I'll probably do it again within the next year.

When I was a teen-ager I had a compulsive need to keep everything I read. No longer. I've even given away a few books I really liked, simply because I knew they were easily replaced. And I don't collect books for any financial value. First editions and signed copies mean little to me, though I have a few, and I read them. When I go to an author's signing, it's not to get something from him or her I can sell on eBay; I want to meet this person for professional reasons.

Well, I gotta run. I do most of my posting at work, and have to get back at it.

Friday, November 24, 2006

To write is to live

I'm sitting in my car at a red light the other day, thinking about my trilogy, when it dawns on me there has not been a time since I was in fourth grade that I have not wanted to be a fiction novelist. Then it dawns on me that most other people don't have my dream.

I can't imagine not wanting to be a writer. Truly, I can't. If I woke up tomorrow, and suddenly I did not want to write any more, I don't think I would have any reason to live. I'm not suggesting I would kill myself, but I believe I would go through the rest of my life like a zombie, as if I had no soul, plodding along from one useless task to the next.

And I often wonder why other people aren't the same. I realize other people have their own dreams, but very many people seem to NOT have any dreams. They just go to work, go home, eat, watch TV, go to bed, then start the whole thing over the next day. I don't understand this. And I don't mean to be making a value judgment about those type of people, I'm just saying I don't understand.

If I didn't write, I couldn't breath.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

My influences, Part II

In the earlier post, I listed novelists who I feel have had a big influence on my dream of wanting to be an author (though not necessarily on my style of writing). Here I am listing other people, not generally novelists, who have had a big influence on my writing.

1.) Neil Gaiman. Neil has become a novelist in the last decade or so, but in the early 1980s and 1990s he was best known as the writer for DC Vertigo's line of Sandman comic books, which have become a series of graphic novels. The first 6 or 7 issues of Sandman are almost a work in progress, but by issue 7 or 8 Gaiman really finds his niche and sticks with it through the rest of the run of the comic, about 75 issues if memory serves. I don't write like Neil, but his Sandman stories have had a huge impact on how I think about fantasy writing. If you have not read any of the Sandman graphic novels, I implore you to go out and buy one. "Dream Country" is the shortest and cheapest of the Sandman graphic novels, collecting four issues that were each separate short stories. No other author I'm familiar with can blend classical mythology, Christian mythology and his own, created mythology like Gaiman.

2.) Frank Miller. Another comic book writer. I don't care much for Miller's more recent works, but his "Return of the Dark Knight" to this day is my all-time favorite comic book story line. If you like hard-boiled fiction, this story is as hard-boiled as can be.

3.) Sergio Leone. Leone was a movie director best known for his work with Clint Eastwood in the Dollars trilogy of movies, Fistful of Dollars, For A Few Dollars More, and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Yes, they're cheap and easy shoot-em-ups. But no, they're not. The movie are more than that, much more. Leone had a fantastic eye for picking out character actors, people with faces so unique they almost don't seem real, more like characterizations from artist Mervyn Peake (yeah, the same Peake who wrote the Gormenghast books). Leone also had a great eye for the camera, switching back and forth between exteme closeups and super wide shots, showing fantastic backgrounds. As for story telling, no one can build suspense like Leone. Don't believe me? Watch the last half hour of Good, Bad and Ugly; the violence is over extremely quickly, but the build-up to that violence is breathtaking.

4.) Adam Duritz. My favorite living lyricist (John Lennon and Kurt Cobain being tied for not-living lyricists, in my opinion). I wish I could write novels like Adam writes lyrics for Counting Crows. Of course, then I'd probably be a romance writer, but it would still be fantastic.

5.) George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. No child of the 70s or 80s can be involved in the entertainment industry and not have been influenced by these two. I list them together because so much of their early work was together, from Jaws to Star Wars to Indiana Jones.

6.) Mel Gibson. Despite Mel's recent idiocy, I have always appreciated his movie work, specifically his works as an actor portraying a vengeful character. Mel really does a great job at this, from the Road Warrior to Ransom to Patriot, Braveheart and Payback. While Mel sort of fills a niche as this vengeful character, he fills it like no other I've seen. Kron Darkbow's sense of righteousness owes a lot to Mel.

Monday, November 20, 2006

My influences

Below is a list of authors who have had the biggest influence on my wanting to be a writer:

1.) Stephen King. I like anything he has written, even the not-so-good stuff and his short stories. He might not be the best writer to ever live, but in my opinion he is the best story teller of the last 30 years (at least). More than any other writer, when I read a King book, it makes me WANT to be a novelist.

2.) J.R.R. Tolkien. The Hobbit was the first fantasy novel I ever read, so I have to say ole J.R.R. has had a big influence on me, even though he's not necessarily my favorite fantasy author. I like The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring best.

3.) Andrew J. Offutt. I've probably only read a dozen or so short stories by this author, but his Hanse Shadowspawn shorts from the Thieves' World series are some of my all-time favorite sword and sorcery stories. My own Kron Darkbow is a very distant relation to Hanse, though I'm sure they would hate one another if they ever met.

4.) Don Pendleton and Mike Newton. I put these two authors together because they worked on a series of men's action/adventure novels called "The Executioner," about a Vietnam vet named Mack Bolan who returns from the war to spread vengeance upon the mafia for killing his family. Marvel Comic's Punisher character is based upon these short novels. While The Executioner books are basically modern, cheap pulp action stories with lots of guns and some gore, they are great tools for learning how to write action. Don and Mike were the earliest writers in the series, and a score or more of writers have taken on the series since.

5.) Alexandre Dumas. Specifically, "The Three Musketeers," though I love everything I've read by Dumas. He is my favorite classical author. "The Three Musketeers" is sort of like Forrest Gump for me; it seems to contain a wide swath of the human condition, and human emotion. While Musketeers is often portrayed as a simple adventure story in the movies, it is so much more. A single movie could not begin to encompass all the Dumas brought to his story of the Muskeeters. Yes, the novel has its share of action and adventure, but it has much, much more ... love, hate, sadness, revenge, defeat, victory ... on and on. Dumas' Athos is one of my all-time favorite characters, and Athos would not be the same man without Aramis, Porthos and d'Artagnan.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Fantasy sub-genres

I write fantasy. It's not all I'm interested in writing, but of late that's what I've been focusing on. I also have strong interests in horror, but I've other, even mainstream, ideas too. I'll get around to writing that stuff eventually, if I live long enough. But for now, at least the next six months until completely finishing rewriting and editing on my trilogy, I'm focusing on fantasy.

But even within fantasy there are multiple genres. There's dark fantasy, romantic fantasy, sword and sorcery, and a score or more of other sub-genres.

I recently was asked which sub-genre of fantasy I write. My answer was "I don't know." That might sound lame, but it's the truth. I guess my trilogy is sort of a mixture of heroic fantasy and sword and sorcery, but I never really think of it that way while writing or editing. I don't think my work is true heroic fantasy, because some of my protagonists are more anti-heroes than heroes. I also don't think I write true sword and sorcery, because a number of my characters are interested in saving or helping the world around them, not just their own goals. I guess I have a mixture of characters, some more heroic and others more sword and sorcery.

As for the future, I have a few fantasy-related ideas that are not so action/adventure oriented. But I also have plenty of more tales to tell about Kron Darkbow and some of the folks surrounding him. Now if I can just land a publisher, I could start a series of Kron books, and sometimes other works.

To the future!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Duality of writing and editing

Looking back over, and editing, my first novel (written a little more than a year ago) ... it's daunting in some ways. I haven't looked over this material in a while, and it's odd. I read one chapter, and I'm like "Wow, that rocked!", then I read the next chapter and I'm like "Yikes! That was total dreck!"

So, you keep on editing, and hope you can turn out the best story you can. Sometimes it's a hit, sometimes it's a miss, but nothing beats that feeling of writing a hit. Unless it's maybe seeing that hit published.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

I am evil, at least partly

Find out just how evil you are. Don't lie. I was surprised at how many things on the list I had done. I guess I'm a bad person. Oh well, back to writing about big guys with swords slaughtering innocent people.

You Are 58% Evil

You are evil, but you haven't yet mastered the dark side.
Fear not though - you are on your way to world domination.

Welcome to Hollywood

Now I'm being asked what my trilogy is about. I haven't yet summed up 270,000 words into the 20-word soundbite that's needed, but (with some help from Howard vonDarkmoor over at sfreader's forums), I can give you the Hollywood version of the trilogy as follows:

Book 1: Batman meets the Sopranos ... in Thieves' World.
Book 2: Batman goes on a road trip.
Book 3: Batman and Jesus take on Sauron.

Now, I'm not being literal. I'm writing a fantasy story with characters of my own, not any of the characters listed above. I'm just using those names as a frame of reference for any readers here (there are a few, right?).

Saturday, November 11, 2006

At last!

I finished the first draft of the third book in my trilogy, thus ending the first draft work for the entire trilogy.

It only took 20 months and about 270,000 words.

Now, back to editing and rewriting.

After I have a beer to celebrate.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Only one more to go

I only have one more chapter to write. Then ... a long sigh of relief ... and back to editing.

As always, I'm not happy with much of what I've written. But that's what rewriting is for, to clean up and correct.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Excitement, excitement!

Finished the first draft of the climax to my trilogy last night! Yahoo!!!

Now on to the anti-climax, and sorting out loose ends.

Three chapters more max, maybe two if I'm lucky.

Ahhhhhhh! The light at the end of the tunnel is near!

Though I still have plenty of rewriting and editing to do.

I'm so excited, I'm already getting ideas for my next novel or two.

Thursday, November 02, 2006


Usually I don't find writing exhausting, but last night I wrote 1,700 words in the climactic chapter in the third novel of my trilogy. I'm still not finished with that climax, but I had to stop. Not because I didn't know what came next, and not because I was blocked or scared to write more. I had to stop writing because I was drained, mostly mentally but also physically.

Writing is a lot of work, and writing that 1,700 words was tough. It's not the greatest of prose, but it's also just the first draft. I'm still drained from it, but I'm looking forward to getting back at it tonight. Just hope I can finish it. I'm predicting I'll need at least another 1,500 words.

After that, I should only be 2 or 3 chapters from ending the whole trilogy.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Politics? No thanks!

Somebody online recently asked me why I don't write on my blog about politics, daily events or other things that have the potential to drive more traffic to my site. To be frank, the reason is because I don't want to.

My blog is meant to be about fiction writing, specifically about the road I'm traveling trying to be a career novelist. That doesn't mean I won't sometimes throw in a little something else, but I have enough stress in my life without turning my blog into a soapbox. I also have to deal with politics enough in my day job, so I don't want to deal with it elsewhere.

Yes, I have my own opinions about various things. I share them sometimes on other Web sites or others' blogs, but I find it generally to be useless. I'm not going to change somebody else's mind, and usually they're not going to change mine. So why waste the time bickering?

Besides, I'll let my fiction writing speak for me.

Fuzzy mind

I recently read Terry Brooks' "Lessons from a Writing Life: Sometimes the Magic Works."

It's basically Brooks' "How to be a Writer" book, which it seems every top-selling author is doing nowadays. First, let me say, Brooks is not a favorite author of mine. I've read four or five of his novels, but that's been twenty years ago; his writing was okay, but his plots and worlds were too cliche for my taste. He has talent; he's had to, to survive in the publishing world for 30 years.

Anyway, in the recent book on writing, Brooks' first chapter is titled "I Am Not All Here." He goes on, in the chapter and throughout the book, to talk about how there is a joke in his family about how he is always kind of mentally "gone." He's never fully there, mentally, for his family. He's kind of spaced out, or has what I call fuzzy mind. Apparently this is something he has had nearly all his adult life since he has been a professional writer.

No, he's not a victim of some dreaded disease, or ADD, or anything. He's just a writer. And he often lives in worlds beyond our own.

I got to thinking ... that's me. Ever since I began my trilogy in March 2005, I've felt ... it's odd to describe ... but almost as if I'm floating along in this world, our real world. No matter what I'm doing, no matter how important, a piece of my mind is focused on my trilogy.

Filing my taxes? Thinking about the trilogy.
Laying out pages at work? Thinking about my trilogy.
Sending out a resume for a new job? Thinking about my trilogy.
Having surgery? Thinking about my trilogy.

Thank God I don't have kids, because I would not want to distance myself from them mentally. It's bad enough I never see any friends any more, I hardly think about work and my significant other sometimes informs me I'm clumsy and scatterbrained.

No, I'm not. I'm just not all there.