Thursday, October 25, 2012

Goodreads Review of The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling

First, an apology.

I apologize in advance for all J. K. Rowling fans everywhere, and to J. K. Rowling herself. I did give her new book a fighting chance, but in the end, I just didn't like it.

Here is my review over on Goodreads, where I discuss exactly what I thought worked and didn't work in J. K. Rowling's latest book, The Casual Vacancy:

Has anyone else read the book? What were your thoughts on it? Feel free to leave your comments, as I'd love to discuss what everyone who's read it thought about it here.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Goodreads Review of The Vindico by Wesley King

I'm taking a break from writing reviews for the ARCs I received at BEA this year to bring you a review of The Vindico by Wesley King. I highly recommend this YA book about a team of supervillains known as the Vindico who take on 5 teens as they proteges and the hijinx that ensues afterwards.

Come check out my review on Goodreads, here:

Stay tuned for reviews of the ARCs for Artemis Fowl: The Last Guardian by Eoin Colfer, Two or Three Things I Forgot to Tell You by Joyce Carol Oates, Clockwork Angels by Kevin J. Anderson and Neil Peart, and The Fault In Our Stars by John Green. I also need to review Odd Apocalypse by Dean Koontz and The Host by Stephenie Meyer, which I have also read recently. I'll get to all these eventually.

Monday, September 24, 2012

50 Favorite Reads

Hi all

Recently, Mr. Joe Hill, son of Stephen King and an awesome writer in his own right, posted a list of his 50 favorite books on his website. If you haven't been following him or his amazing career, you should check out his website now:

In the comments section of his latest post, I posted my own list of 50 favorites. While I was putting together my list, I found it very difficult to pick just 50. The ones I wound up with are by no means a definitive list, even for myself. A month from now, if you asked me to put together a list of my 50 favorites, it would probably change a bit, although I'm sure some will always be staples on that list.

Regardless of what books appear on my list, however, the reason for each appearing on it is always the same. Usually there's something about the book that, either while I'm reading it or after I've put it down, hits me like a ton of bricks. Like a "Wow, what did I just read?" moment.

For a novel like The Stand by Stephen King, for instance, it's the amazing scope of the work that hit me. A cataclysmic event that affects the entire world. An epic quest to save the rest of the good people remaining against an evil force. Characters that you fall in love with that jump from the page, vividly painted, and the ones you cry over (yes, dammit, I did) when they don't make it. Characters who are not all good and not all bad, but a mix of both. Flawed. And in that sense, perfect to read about.

For a novel like The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, on the other hand, it's the sheer absurdity of the novel that gets you. Sure, the plot doesn't really go anywhere throughout the entire series. You're not sure what the point of the books are. It's the RIDE that's important here. It's a wild, zany ride that you can laugh out loud about (in libraries, with repeated warnings to quiet down), with characters that are some of the most outrageous in science fiction, and poking fun at things in life that just don't make any sense. Arthur Dent is the clueless everyman, trying to understand the meaning of life and not getting very far in the process, and you can sympathize with him because, let's face it, who really has the answers to these things?

So I'm not stealing Joe Hill's idea, I'm not going to ask my followers to list their own 50 favorite books. Of course, if you want to, feel free. I'll include my own list again below. However, what I would love to know is, what did your favorites do for you that launched them into the top positions on your list? If you were to sell one or two of your favorites on your list, how would you describe how they moved or changed you?

I look forward to hearing your comments. In the meantime, here's my own list of 50, in no particular order:

1. The Stand by Stephen King
2. The Talisman by Stephen King, Peter Straub
3. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
4. Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer
5. The Wish List by Eoin Colfer
6. Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling
7. The Hobbit by J. R. Tolkien
8. The Lord of the Rings series by J. R. Tolkien
9. The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle
10. The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
11. The Green Mile by Stephen King
12. 20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill
13. John Dies at the End by David Wong
14. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
15. The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
16. The Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde
17. 1984 by George Orwell
18. The Giver series by Lois Lowry
19. Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz (I like the series, but the first book blows the others away)
20. Ring series by Koji Suzuki (first movie was great, but the books will blow your mind like the movies never did)
21. Watership Down by Richard Adams
22. 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher
23. The Call of Cthulu and Other Weird Stories by H. P. Lovecraft
24. Complete Stories and Poems of Edgar Allen Poe by Edgar Allen Poe
25. The Books of Blood series by Clive Barker
26. Weaveworld by Clive Barker
27. Strange Highways by Dean Koontz
28. The Dead Zone by Stephen King
29. Firestarter by Stephen King
30. Flowers in the Attic series by V. C. Andrews
31. The Dark Tower series by Stephen King
32. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
33. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
34. Room by Emma Donoghue
35. Everlost series by Neil Shusterman
36. Lemonade Mouth by Mark Peter Hughes
37. The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins
38. Evil Genius series by Catherine Jinks
39. The Odyssey by Homer
40. Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link
41. Eon/Eona, by Alison Goodman
42. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
43. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
44. Holes by Louis Sachar
45. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
46. It by Stephen King
47. Inkheart series by Cornelia Funke
48. The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga
49. On Writing by Stephen King
50. The Novels of Tiger and Del series by Jennifer Roberson

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Goodreads Review of Son by Lois Lowry

Hi all.

Sorry for my absence, but the day job and other things have been keeping me incredibly busy lately. I'm hoping to get back to regular posts in my blog soon.

For now, I have put up another book review for one of the books I received at Book Expo America 2012. It's for Lois Lowry's latest book in the Giver series, Son.

Come check out the review here:
Enjoy! And do add this one to your TO READ list.

More reviews to come soon.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Goodreads Review of Crewel by Gennifer Albin

Hi all.

I have put up a book review of one of the books I received at Book Expo America. It's for Gennifer Albin's book, Crewel.

Come check out the review here:

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Three B's of BEA

This is the final installment of my BEA experience for this year.

So what are the three Bs of BEA? Books, books, and books!

After the author breakfast on Wednesday morning, I first went on a mission to find the book cover for Joe Hill's new book, NOS4A2. For those of you who don't know who Joe Hill is, he's the son of Stephen King. Joe Hll is an incredible author in his own right, and after locating the Harper Collins booth, I found the cover of his new book on a digital display there:

A funny thing happened on the way over to find this display, and I'm sure people who have attended BEA before are very familiar with this kind of thing. As I was walking through the Harper Collins booth, I had two books thrust into my hands. I don't think I've ever experienced people wanting to give anything away like that before, so I was taken aback by it. By the end of BEA, however, it became very natural and commonplace. What were the two books you ask? The Peculiar by Stefan Bachman and The Great Unexpected by Sharon Creech. I've never heard of either of these books before, but they both look like good ones so I can't wait to dig into them.

Aside from receiving random books, I actively sought out many authors there.

Like John Green, whose book, The Fault in Our Stars, I had already received that morning at the author breakfast.

(Yes, there's my infernal blurry phone camera again.)

My only comment to him was that I had never read anything by him (I figured I'd be honest), and he feigned being taken aback and said that put him under a lot of pressure and that he hoped I enjoy the book.

I got a similar reaction from Maureen Johnson, author of The Name of the Star, when I told her the same thing.

The day before I left, Maureen Johnson was posting info about the Javits Center and made a comment about snakes roaming around the huge conference. So I made mention that I hadn't seen a single snake. She looked all serious for a minute, glanced above her, and said that the thing about the snakes is that they drop down on you from above. Needless to say, I enjoy her sense of humor, which is what got me interested in checking out her books. Can't wait to read The Name of the Star.

Let's see, who else did I see? Oh yes. This guy:

That's me with Mo Willems, author of the fun Pigeon books, among other things. I managed to get a signed poster for his new book, Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs, and a signed copy of The Duckling Gets a Cookie?!, where, as he explained to everyone there, the Duckling gets to steal the show from the Pigeon.

Then there's this guy:

Yes, that's a blurry R. L. Stine, back with another creepy book called Goosebumps Wanted: The Haunted Mask. Just take a look at the cover over on the right there. That one will give you nightmares. I'm not sure if he took my comment that my kids and I love books that are a little creepy and "off", because he gave me an equally creepy look back. People tell me he does that kind of thing all the time...

Some other people I saw there:

Dav Pilkey, author of the Captain Underpants series. He autographed the latest book in the series, Captain Underpants and the Terrifying Return of Tippy Tinkletrousers.

Judy Schachner, author of the Skippyjon Jones books that my son and I love so much. The latest installment is called Cirque de Ole'. I talked to her about how the books work on different layers for kids and adults, and she quipped that there's a third layer in the Skippyjon Jones books. It's buried under the kitty litter.

The incredibly prolific Joyce Carol Oates. She was autographing her new book, Two or Three Things I Forgot to Tell You.

Patricia MacLachlan, who has a new book in the Boxcar Children series called The Boxcar Children Beginning. She was so amazing, gracious, and fun when I met her. She not only autographed the hard copy of her latest book, but she also autographed a digital copy of the book which she had sent to me via email after the conference. In addition, she autographed my daughter's copy of Skylark. I loved it when someone in the line mentioned something about an e-autograph not being the same as a real autograph, and her response was to step up, it's 2012, lol.

Finally, that's me with the lovely and amazingly talented Erin Morgenstern, whose book The Night Circus you should put on your reading list immediately if you haven't read it already.

Those are all the pictures I have of everyone I met. If it weren't for my horrible phone camera and the fact that BEA was very overwhelming at times, I'd have more pictures. Next time. And there WILL be a next time. I wouldn't miss this experience for all the world, and I'm only disappointed that I didn't catch on to this much earlier.

Keep checking in at the blog, because I'll have reviews of the books I received at BEA as I finish them. I'll post the reviews on Goodreads (

Thursday, July 19, 2012

11 Questions

Now we come to the question and answer part of our show.
My good writer friend Kat Ellis tagged me for 11 Questions. You can see her blog, her original post on this, and her answers here:

I figured it would be fun to give some info about me, the man, instead of me, the writer.

So, without further ado, here are my answers to her questions:

1. What are your top 5 movies?

This is a tough one. I could go with the whole Harry Potter movie set, but that's more than 5 movies, so that won't even work. So I'll only put that as one on my list. Here goes: Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (I'll pick that as my favorite of the HP movies), Contact, The Ring, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and The Matrix.

If I had to pick a couple others, they would be Better Off Dead and Army of Darkness.

2. Would you rather go a year without make-up or without shaving?

This, folks, is a no-brainer. I think I can handle a year without make-up.

3. What is a recent good book you've read?

I'm currently reading Son by Lois Lowry, and it's great so far. So I'll go with that one.

4. What is a recent not-so-great book you've read?

I don't like to diss any books at all, but I'd have to go with Sourland, a collection of short stories by Joyce Carol Oates. I think I put up a review of this one on Goodreads, but as explanation, I'll just say that I found the stories to be a) very, very dark and depressing, and b) very incomplete and random and thus not satisfying as complete stories.

5. Name one food you could eat for one meal every day for a year.

Pasta and meatballs.

6. What was your best part of your senior year of high school?

Graduation and, thus, the end of it.

7. What is one piece of electronic equipment you could live without?

Easy - my cell phone! I get called WAY too many times on it for my day job. If I were to accidentally lose it next time I went to the beach, for instance, I wouldn't miss it at all.

8. Do you usually drink from a straw, a glass, or another type of container?

Plastic cup, since I mostly drink water out of dispensers these days.

9. Would you rather haev glow in the dark skin or squishy teeth?

Are you kidding? Squishy teeth? I wouldn't be able to EAT anything! That ain't happenin'. Besides, glow in the dark skin would be cool.

10. Who would win a fight between Gandalf and Dumbledore?

Gandalf has more experience fighting the forces of darkness I think. So I'd have to go with him.

11. Are push-up bras a form of dishonesty?

Being a guy, I'm not touching this question.

There you have it.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Goodreads Review: Chris Colfer's The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell

Hi all.

I have put up a book review of one of the books I received at Book Expo America. It's for Chris Colfer's book, The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell.

Come check out the review here:

Friday, July 13, 2012


Here are some of my promised pictures and a few more details regarding BEA 2012. Disclaimer: my phone that I used to take the pictures stinks! So I'm leaving out the pictures that are really fuzzy and only including the ones that are somewhat fuzzy.

The first thing I did when I entered the conference (after registering and standing in line for tickets to get to see some of the ticketed authors that is) was head right for the author breakfast that I had signed up for. Who was there you ask?

Walter Dean Myers - award winning author, board of director for the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, and National Ambassador for Young People's Literature - who made the opening remarks for the event:

(See what I mean about the camera? I actually had to use the picture I took of the monitor nearby since the actual picture of him didn't come out so well.)

The theme for the entire breakfast was a great one, concerning the importance of literature in a young person's life, and everyone's talk seemed to center around that theme nicely.

Next up was Chris Colfer, who many may know from his acting on the TV show Glee. Well, apparently he's also written a children's book, called The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell, and a pretty good one too now that I've read it (I will put my review up on Goodreads hopefully soon). He was the Master of Ceremonies of the event, and after listening to him I quickly realized two things: he's a natural in front of an audience (I guess no surprise because of all the experience he must have so far), and he's a really funny guy. Anyway, here he is:

It was fascinating to know where he got his ideas for his story and how they went from conception to the finished product. He showed early drawings and notes. He also went into a funny anecdote about being interviewed about the book and some of the crazy questions he was asked. I think many writers could relate, although some were very specific to him and his acting career, etc. All were funny as hell. As far as I'm concerned, unlike some other celebrities-turned-writers, he's one of us.

Next up was John Green. Now, I'll admit I've only heard the name thrown around in writing circles but have never read anything by him. But I've heard plenty of buzz about his book, The Fault in Our Stars, and he's another guy who's incredibly cool and funny, trading banter with Chris Colfer on stage, telling his take on the topic of reading and its importance in a child's life, and telling a surprisingly funny anecdote about a news report he saw during the war in Afghanistan.

So now I have a whole lot of catching up to do on this guy's career, the whole Nerdfighters thing, etc. I know, I live under a rock. I admit it.

After that was the amazingly talented and prolific writer, Lois Lowry. Although her talk was very serious, she opened with a fun anecdote about how she no longer has to take off her shoes in the airport because of her age. Then her talk turned to the latest installment in The Giver series, called Son, and I learned something about her that I didn't know. The four books in the series all tell a very personal journey of hers involving her son. It gave a whole new perspective on the books, and I can't wait to get into the new one (I just started it yesterday).

She also talked about the first time she was at BEA and the great company she was with at the time, such as Dr. Seuss and Robert McCloskey. They all received standing ovations at that time, and at the time she was a newcomer. The day of the breakfast, she got her standing O, which she greatly deserved.

Finally, the last speaker was Kadir Nelson. Again, like John Green, I didn't know much about him before I went to the breakfast. His talk was a bit different than the others', focusing on the artwork for his new book,  I Have a Dream, where he created illustrations to go with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's famous speech. The details of the artwork were amazing, and it illustrated not only Dr. King's passion during his speech, but also the passion of Mr. Nelson himself with the work he was interpreting.

My only regret (and I'm leading up to another BEA tip here) was that the poster that was given out to promote this book during the breakfast got a bit ruined during my time at BEA. For anyone interested in attending BEA, it might be a wise idea to bring a tube for any posters you might pick up. That might help them survive the jostling your posters are sure to take throughout your day.

I'll end this post here, but will put up more shortly. I'll leave you with one last picture of John Green, Lois Lowry, and Kadir Nelson sitting on the panel, just in case you thought I was viewing this on a monitor remotely somewhere:

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

BEA The First

Hi all.

Although it's a bit late, I am finally getting around to posting about my experiences going to my FIRST Book Expo America event EVER. I went for the children's book day only, which was on Wednesday, June 6th.

I just have 2 words to describe it: EXCITING, and CRAZY.

First, for those of you who don't know what Book Expo America, or BEA, is all about, here's a quick description:

BEA is the largest annual book trade fair in the USA. Book publishers use BEA to tell librarians, book sellers and buyers, and basically anyone involved with or who loves books about their upcoming titles. You can find out information about them here:

Before I let everyone know of my first experience there, I want to share the lessons I've learned this time around so that hopefully anyone who is thinking of going next year will have a great experience there. Not that I didn't have one, but I think it would have been much easier if I had done these few things:

1. Bring a decent camera. All I packed with me was my little junk phone, which is one of those old flip phone jobs. Although it DOES take pictures, it doesn't take very good ones, as you'll soon discover when you see them. You'll want to take lots of pictures there, because there are lots of authors floating around to meet, talk to, gets books from, and get autographs from.

2. Bring a lunch and lots of water. I did pack some snacks and ONE bottle of water. The water went FAST. The snacks? Well, the snacks were in the same bag as the one I started cramming books into. So you can imagine what they looked like when I got a chance to eat them. So a simple lunch, preferably one that doesn't need refrigeration, is key. And snacks. Durable ones. And lots of water. Which brings me to my next lesson learned...

3. Bring BAGS! Lots and lots of bags. So how many did I bring, you ask? I brought TWO. One of them was a plastic bag which had the aforementioned snacks in it. The plastic bag didn't last long once I started putting books in it. I also had a cloth bag my sister in law, who attended BEA with me, gave me, but one cloth bag wasn't enough to hold all the books I wanted to bring home. Fortunately I aquired another cloth bag at the author breakfast I went to Wednesday morning. Someone suggested to me that I bring suitcases next time, check them in the baggage check in area, and then as I fill up the bags I am carrying (and I'd bring at least two bags you can carry easily and that are durable), I can dump the books into the suitcases and then fill up on more books.

4. Check the itinerary carefully. Planning my attack would've helped me find out things that I either missed or found out about too late. I did a little planning, but I still wound up missing a couple things I REALY wanted to check out. BEA is huge, so you're bound to miss something anyway. It's inevitable. But I'd do as much planning as you possibly can before you get there.

5. Go for the whole conference. I could only take one day out of work, so I could only go for the children's author day on Wednesday this year. It was very hectic traveling to New York City, going to BEA for one day, then trying to drive back home and get some decent sleep to go back to work the next day. Also, there is so much going on, as I said earlier, that you don't want to miss anything. For instance, if I had stayed for Thursday, I would've been able to see Daniel Handler, a.k.a. Lemony Snicket, and that's one person you don't want to miss.

So there are my lessons learned. Now, on to the fun stuff.

Like, the books!


OK, so in addition to my camera having not so good pictures on it, it appears that my USB adapter that I plug my phone memory card into isn't working either. *sigh*  I'll have to post all my pics another time.

For now, though, I'll say that I managed to bring home a bunch of books, ARCs or partial ARCs from BEA this year. An ARC, for those who don't know, is an Advanced Reader Copy. Just about all the books I have from BEA are books that aren't even out yet, which is definitely exciting because I get to read them before most other people do. And I will, of course, in the good spirit of a BEA attendee, be reviewing all those books. I'll most likely post my reviews on Goodreads, since I want to reserve this blog for my own writing experiences. If you're not on Goodreads, I'd definitely recommend it. You can connect with other readers, get reader reviews of books, and connect with the authors themselves. When I post a review of one of my ARCs, I'll leave a link here so followers of my blogs can check them out. For now, head on over to and create an account there.

One last thing. Just to show how awesome the BEA experience was, here are some of the authors I saw while I was there, and their new books:

Lois Lowry - Son (last book in The Giver series)
Chris Colfer - The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell
Eoin Colfer - Artemis Fowl: The Last Guardian (last book in the Artemis Fowl series)
John Green - The Fault in Our Stars
Maureen Johnson - The Name of the Star
Mo Willems - The Duckling Gets a Cookie
R. L. Stine - Goosebumps Wanted: The Haunted Mask

Just to name a few.

OK, signing off for now. I'll try not to be a stranger. Look for my book reviews soon. I've already finished Chris Colfer's The Land of Stories and the partial of Kevin J. Anderson's Clockwork Angels, so I'll be putting up those reviews on Goodreads shortly.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Another Agentversary Contest Entry

So I've decided to throw in another entry into Gennifer Albin's Agentversary contest that she's holding on her blog, here: http// Check it out, and enter while there's still time!

My latest entry is here, which I like to call "Color for a Black Heart":

Be sure to check out my earlier entry too, which I like to call "The House of the Crescent Moon", here:

While you're checking out my work there, also check out the other awesome entries to the contest.

Although the entries didn't call for titles, I always try to put names on everything I write, whether it be an overall title for the piece, section, or chapter I'm working on, characters I'm writing about that may not quite be fleshed out yet, etc. Because names have power. Hey, maybe that'll be a topic for a future blog entry.

Anatomy of a Story Idea

First, before I go into the guts of this blog post, I wanted to let you know there's a new sample of my writing out in the Interverse. It's an entry for a contest on Gennifer Albin's blog. For those interested in the contest, post a caption of 150 words or less based on the image she has up on her site (one image and one entry per day during this week) and receive a chance to win a query critique with Mollie Glick of Foundry Literary. Plus, you can find out about Gennifer and her new book, Crewel. I'm probably not doing her enough justice, so check out the contest and her good news on her blog:

My entry is in the comments section for the first day's blog entry:

Go check out the picture and my piece I wrote on it, then come right back. I'll wait.

Finished? Good. Now, on to the subject of where story ideas come from.

As I banged out my entry to the above contest, I was suddenly awed by the whole process of it. Where DID this thing I created come from? Personally, I feel certain elements come from… somewhere else.  Without getting too philosophical. However, in the midst of those little nuggets that don't seem to have a source are some that do have a certain logic to them and follow one from another.

To illustrate what I mean, let me bring you through the process I went through to create the piece for the contest mentioned above.

1)      Stared at the picture for what seemed like a LONG time. When a writer is struggling to find words, a few seconds can seem like a long time.

2)      First, I decided the two characters in the picture needed names. I don't know why, but Nadia popped into my head immediately for the girl's name (again, here is one of those little nuggets that seem to come from outside my brain). I next had to decide what the creature was with Nadia. A wolf immediately sprang to mind, but not just any wolf. This was Nadia's friend, and thus needed a name. Bane popped into my head first, but I rejected it as too obvious, so I played around with it a bit until I came up with the name Bens.

3)      Next, I wanted to figure out what the rest of the scene represented and make use of every visual element. I decided that all structures in the image were buildings. The ones with crosses on them were churches. That just left three other structures: the one with the spires, the one with the crescent moon on its top, and the one whose balcony you can see on the left hand side. Nothing immediately sprang to mind, so I left those alone for a bit.

4)      The idea popped into my head that Bens was once human but was now a wolf through some kind of powerful magic. Nadia had to try to change him back, but how? She was taking him somewhere. Where? To the House of the Crescent Moon. Why? Someone there would help him.

5)      I had to raise the stakes for her. How? She had to sneak him there, at night, so she wouldn't get caught. By whom?

6)      I suddenly had a glimpse of the world Nadia lived in. Men and women worshipped differently. Women went to the churches run by the High Priestesses. Men worshipped at the House of the Crescent Moon, led by Master Henrique.  Both houses believed in magic and a Governor who ruled over all. The High Priestesses believed in a more natural, passive magic, a magic more in harmony with the earth. The Master practiced a more active form of magic and used the Governor's power to force change in the world.

7)      I raised the stakes more for Nadia. She wasn't allowed to set foot in the House of the Crescent Moon. Why? She would be outcast from the houses of worship run by the High Priestesses. They would prevent her from even entering the House of the Crescent Moon, to protect her. I need to raise the stakes even more. If she were to set foot in the House of the Crescent Moon, she would be destroyed. How? Why? Don't really know, but just this fact seemed to fit the small piece I was writing, and details weren't necessary.

8)      Finally, Nadia made a decision to lay down her own life to restore her friend to his former self.

9)      Once I was done with this chain of thoughts, the ideas simply needed to be written down in a nice, narrative format. How I chose the voice, language, etc. for this piece, I'm not entirely sure. It just came out that way, more or less, even before editing.

So there you have it. I don't know if this necessarily answers the question "Where do story ideas come from?", but maybe the process I went through above will shed some light on the subject. There seems to be some combination of "moments of awe", where ideas just beam in from somewhere else, and those ideas that come from asking the questions "Who?" "What?" "When?" "Where?" "Why?" "How?"

So where do YOUR ideas come from? What process do YOU go through to bring them to light? Please feel free to share in the comments section.

Friday, May 4, 2012

You Can't Do That!

Let's talk a little more about fear, shall we? A slightly different kind of fear.

Say you have this great story idea. A teenaged boy's parents die in a car crash, and now he has to live with his uncle who is an alcoholic and cruel to him and…

Wait a minute. You can do that. You HAVE an alcoholic uncle. If you wrote something like that, what would he think? What would the rest of the family think?

OK, maybe this idea. These four kids live in this small town in the middle of nowhere. A circus blows in one crisp fall day. Suddenly, children go missing. After a child is taken, a creepy looking doll is left in his/her place, and…

Hold it. You can't write that either. That's a horror story! What would your mother think? Your spouse? Your church pastor??

OK. One more. A mother loses her son at an early age, and now she has to deal with the effects that has on her marriage and…

Stop, you definitely can't write that. That's too personal and PAINFUL to write about!

So, you can't write about the alcoholic, abusive uncle, and you can't write about evil circus people stealing children, and you can't write about a woman who loses her son and has to deal with the aftermath. Why? Because you're either afraid of what other people might think, or you're afraid of your OWN thoughts about the situation.


If you had to stop every time you put some conflict into your story that touched on a nerve, be it your own or someone else's, nothing would get written. There would be no story, because there would be no conflict. All you'd be left with is fluffy bunnies frolicking in a field of lettuce. Unless you know someone who objects to the exploitation of fluffy bunnies. Then you won't even have THAT.

Now, I'm not saying you need to go out of your way to bad-mouth your loved ones, write a story so horrifying you alienate yourself from every civilized person you know and acquire some new friends who aren't so civilized in the process, or cause yourself so much pain from dredging up old memories you don’t even want to get out of bed in the morning. All I'm saying is, if your story calls for these types of elements, you can't be afraid to write them down!

Think about this. Maybe some of your readers also dealt with an abusive caretaker, and they WANT to read a story like that. They're looking to make some sense out of the situation. Or something horrific happened in their own lives, and they're looking for a safe place to deal with that by reading your horror story. Your story can do that for someone, but only if you're not afraid to write down the details.

Writing can be therapeutic. That's the beauty of writing. You can use it to face your own fears. But writing is even more powerful than that. It also has the power to help OTHERS deal with THEIR fears as well.

So don't be afraid to write it all down. Conquer those fears, both yours and your readers'!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Cupid's Literary Connection's "The Writer's Voice" Contest

Going along with my topic of fear for this week, I'm going to conquer my fear of getting my work out there, because even though I've submitted a lot of stories since I've started this writing thing, every time is still scary. So I'm entering Cupid's Literary Connection's "The Writer's Voice" Contest. Here are the plot summary that I would put in a query letter and the first 250 words of my middle-grade fantasy novel, Oliver and the Underlings. Blog readers, feel free to comment on my entry. Feedback is always welcome!

Although the morning time slot is filled up by now, feel free to pop over to the following link to find details about the evening time slot for this contest:

Good luck to all who enter. And here's a hint. Be quick! The time slot fills up fast!


Oliver and the Underlings Plot Summary:

Oliver Bradshaw wants a normal life. One with a dad, a less freaked-out mom, and no creepy stranger following them wherever they go, or monsters invading his room at night.

When Oliver's classmates begin disappearing, Oliver realizes the monsters are really looking for him. In order to find answers and to save his friends, Oliver must leave the human world and step into the monsters' world, armed with only his wits, his best friend Daryl, and the one monster he has befriended.


First 250 Words of Oliver and the Underlings:

Oliver Bradshaw stared out the window of the rental car as his mother pulled into a parking lot next to a faded red Colonial house. The top floor overshot the bottom floor in the front, making the building look like it had an overbite. A sign reading "Fred's Variety" dangled like a loose tooth from the overhang.

"Why are we here?" Oliver asked.

"To see about an apartment."

Oliver looked up at the second floor again. "I was afraid you were going to say that."

"Fully furnished apartments are hard to come by."

His mother had a point. They really didn't have any furniture. How could they when they'd moved three times in the last five years?

The landlord, a tall, wiry man with silver hair growing in a half circle around the back of his head, met them under the sign. He handed Oliver's mother a stack of papers. The name on the top page was "Joseph Shoute". In his head, Oliver called him "Mr. Shout", but the man said, "My name is Mr. Shoute," pronouncing it "shoot" instead. "I'm the landlord."

"Excuse me Mr. Shout," Oliver said, "I mean, Shoute, but the sign says Fred's Variety. Where's Fred?"

Mr. Shoute's blue eyes narrowed. Oliver noticed they were the same murky color as the ocean water he and his mother had passed as they drove up the coast of Connecticut and into Rhode Island. "Fred's dead. If there are no more questions, I can show you the apartment upstairs."

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Who Am I?

Of course, this being a new blog and all, it's only natural that people stumbling upon this blog would like to know the answer to the question posed in this first blog entry's topic. Before I answer that question, I'd like to talk a little bit about why I named this first blog entry the way I did, and why I decided to start a blog in the first place.

Lately, I've come to a realization. Let's say you, Dear Reader, are asked the following question: "Who are you?"

Some people answer with the basics. "I'm a 29-year-old man", for instance. (Don't I wish.) Others go into their family status: "I'm married with nine children." (I, personally, have slightly less children than that.) Most people then go into their occupation, because for most people, this is what defines them as a person: "I'm a bank teller", "I'm a car salesman", "I wrestle elephants on TV." Whatever. Not hard, right? It should come natural to discuss whatever it is that you do for a living.

Now suppose, for whatever reason, you're ashamed to admit that you wrestle elephants on TV. (Why? I dunno. Seems like a great career choice to me.) So when someone asks you what you do for a living, you either make something up ("I'm a brain surgeon", for example) to make your life sound more exciting, or maybe the elephant wrestling is just a part-time job. Most of the day you're a teacher at an elementary school, so you give that as your standard answer.

Right after you answer the question, part of you is upset with yourself for your answer. Why would you do that? You love elephant wrestling. You took classes at night to learn how to do that. It's been your passion ever since you fell into the elephant exhibit of the zoo as a five-year-old kid, right? So what's stopping you from telling someone about it?

I have recently realized that I am guilty of exactly that same thing. When people ask me what I do for a living, I immediately say to them, "I'm a software engineer working at a hospital." Never once do I say, "Oh yeah, and I'm a writer too." Even that answer sounds like it's an afterthought. If I said it fast enough or soft enough, no one would even notice. When I'm out and about and someone asks for a business card, or if I need to offer some contact information to someone, I never once reach for one of my writing business cards.

It has taken me a long time to realize what I've been doing. I've had other people point this out to me, but like everything, it doesn't sink in until you really starting noticing it for yourself. Once I did start noticing it, I tried to understand why. A quick check of my emotions gave me the answer.

It's fear. The fear that the people I'm telling won't take it seriously. That they'll laugh at me, make fun of me, think I'm wasting my time. After all, what future is there in writing? I'm certainly no expert in it. It's just a hobby, right? I've been doing it for less time than I've been a software engineer. And my day job is a good paying job, with good benefits. Why would I need anything else?

Here's the thing about that kind of fear. That kind of fear is very powerful. It produces a downward spiral. Fear of discussing what that passion of yours is not only makes you embarrassed to talk about it, but more embarrassed to do it as well. Lacking the confidence to say you're an elephant wrestler kills your confidence to actually DO elephant wrestling. The mind is a powerful engine, but that power can turn it into an engine of destruction if you allow that fear to creep in.

How you do combat this fear? It's tricky. As I said, fear is very powerful. But I know how you can start. It all starts with how you answer the question, "Who am I?"

Which is the main reason why I started this blog in the first place. To begin to face my fear.

Finally, here is my answer to the question: "Who am I?"

I am a 41-year-old man, a husband, and a father. I am a pet owner, with 4 cats and 1 dog. I an a software engineer who works at a hospital. I love playing piano, camping, hiking, and bicycling.

And, I'm a writer. I'm PROUD to be a writer. I'm a PUBLISHED writer too, which means someone out there thinks I'm good at it, even though I still feel like a beginner.

Most important, I'm no longer afraid to admit I'm a writer.

So, who are YOU, Dear Reader? Feel free to comment, and more importantly, don't be afraid to.