Thursday, March 26, 2015

The writing community today

I've been writing for a long time. When I first attempted to get published right after college it was poetry and literary short fiction I specialized in. It was a painful experience because at the time there was a lot of snobbery in those spaces. It was all about who you knew and who you wrote like. Everyone trying to be the next Raymond Carver.

In the creative writing program I was in, if you were writing, reading or even discussing genre fiction you were looked down on. Everyone was in competition for one of the few slots in the various magazines and publications that were considered to be erudite enough to submit to. It was not a fun program and from what I've heard it's representative of many of the other writing programs of that time (late 80s).

One of the things I adore about the self publishing community is the open and friendly sense of camaraderie that pervades. I meet and talk to lots of other SPAs and everyone tries to help each other. I've really not met any that weren't friendly and open. We retweet each other, we read each other's work, we share experiences and ideas and it's so comfortable.

But there are still those folks out there who love to talk about themselves as Published Authors, and brag about the Reputable Publishing Company they signed with. They're poisonous, competitive and hostile. I really don't miss those people.

Today I read a review that some author-to-remain-unnamed put on Goodreads. It was three paragraphs that opened with a disclaimer detailing her complete lack of relationship with the author, the second talked about how horrible the book was in every possible way. And the third said that she wasn't going to leave a review or stars because she couldn't get past page 30. Why would someone EVER do that to another author?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Waking Dreams is free on Amazon for a limited time

I've decided to make my first book, in kindle edition, free for the next 5 days. Between the new cover and some general cleanup, I feel like it's a good time to see if I can get more readers to catch the first installment of my stories about the Dreamside. So step on over to and get your copy today.

And if you have the time, leave an honest review on Amazon when you're done. I say 'honest' because I don't want anyone to think for an instant that I'm soliciting high rating reviews—I've interacted with a few other authors who want to trade 5 star reviews and I don't want to compromise any reputation I might have for fair reviews. Your honest opinions will help me more when the dust settles.

Anyway, check out the first Dreamside novel and let me know what you think!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Music is my religion...

Those were my grandmother's words and they've always resonated with me. Music is both an intellectual and emotional experience that I crave it. 

I listen to it constantly. In the car, while working, while exercising—for me, everything in the world ties into music in some manner. It creates a place where I feel safe and comfortable, yet at the same time on the edge of something new: excited, energized and on the brink of some great adventure.  

Indeed, music drives my creativity. Everything I’ve ever written has been born in a moment when some music moved me. The tiny idea I had that led me to my first book, Waking Dreams, came to me while I was listening to a song by Nine Inch Nails. My latest novel, The Scary Girls, was inspired by a song by Veruca Salt. 

The first moment I envisioned in waking dreams was Colin’s dream of a house fire. The following lyrics from Sunspots by NiN started me down the path to that central scene: 

Peel off our skin we're gonna burn what we were to the ground
[F Bomb] in the fire and we'll spread all the ashes around”

Nothing about that song’s content actually appears in the book, but those words and the sheer driving, yet controlled power of the music raised emotions so strong that my mind began to do its thing. The idea of burning what we were away, creating ourselves anew. That and the visceral feeling of pain as the fire burns away our skin. Those images and feelings led me to that scene.

The Scary Girls came to me in a similar way. I was listening to Seether by Veruca Salt and the combination of the strong female presence and the idea of emotion taking control and becoming an entity in its own right—those ideas led me to the scene where Trick first meets the Scary Girls. While the girls aren’t meant in any way to be representative of the women in Veruca Salt, the strength of those people definitely started me down the path that ended up with the birth of Foxglove, Forsythia, Jessamine and Hazel. I’ve always loved stories with strong female characters.

Both of my books were born in a single song, but a wide range of music elevated me while I worked. Mahler’s first symphony, anything by Queens of the Stone Age, Radiohead are just a few of the sources of energy and emotion that I fed on—that I continue to feed on.  My musical tastes are eclectic and sometimes seem unfocused. I always gravitate toward guitar heavy, powerful music. I love a subtle and almost unexpected minor chord. I love depth of sound and also bareness as well. 

Classical music, old school jazz, older country music, rock, older pop, alternative, electronica, industrial and even some bluegrass. I like it all. It’s not about finding a genre that moves me, it’s about finding music. I’ve got playlists that I use when I go running and it’s not unheard of to find Willy Nelson, Elvis Costello and Tool side by side. I’ve often considered putting together a playlist for each of my books and publishing them on my website. 

But that’s work for another day...

Friday, March 6, 2015

Blog hop: Top 10 favorite screen characters

Tag! I'm it!

"For this blog hop, name your 10 favorite characters from movies or TV then tag up to 10 friends to do the same."

Tim Hemlin tagged me for this hop. Check out his site for his top ten picks.

  • Charlie Crews -- The main character from the TV show Life, as played by Damian Lewis. I often wish I had Charlie's zen approach to the world around him.
  • Eleanor Arroway -- From the movie Contact, played by Jodi Foster. This movie just happens to be my favorite, and largely because of the way Foster brought Ellie alive. 
  • Luke -- from Cool Hand Luke. Paul Newman.
  • The Joker -- As portrayed by Heath Ledger. Pretty much the best Joker I've ever seen.
  • Rick Deckard -- Blade Runner. Harrison Ford. Epic. 
  • Joe Turner -- 3 Days of the Condor, played by Robert Redford. One of my favorite spy movies ever. 
  • Jason Bourne -- The Bourne whatever movies, played by Matt Damon. I can watch these movies over and over again. I loved the books when I was a kid, though as an adult I didn't enjoy them as much, I have to admit.
  • Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff -- The recent spate of Marvel movies. Ok, I have to admit that I have a bit of a crush on Scarlett Johansson, but Natasha kicks ass and I love it.
  • Sully -- Paul Newman's character in Nobody's Fool
  • Veronica Mars -- TV show of the same title, played by Kristin Bell. Veronica is the Queen of Snark, funny, strong and smart. Oh and really attractive. The chemistry between her and Enrico Colantoni (her dad) was wonderful.
Strangely many of my selections are fairly modern. There were a lot I considered that didn't make the list, including Happy Gilmore, George Bailey, Dana Scully, Megan Reeves (Numb3rs) and Dr. Spencer Reid (Criminal Minds.)

Honestly I can't think of anyone to tag on this, but I'll see about adding some people later...

Genre confusion

I've been struggling for the last year to describe my genre. The easy way out is to just say Urban Fantasy and move on. The problem with that is that what urban fantasy used to be has radically changed in the last ten years or so.

Urban fantasy used to be defined by the work of Charles de Lint, Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore and other authors of their ilk. The stories were set in the modern world with fantastic aspects. Many of the stories are born out of ancient mythos' and folklore. There are touches of horror although that's not always present. And they are centered around heroes that have to come into their own over the course of the story.

This is different from what urban fantasy has become in recent years. Lately the genre is characterized by stories rife with monsters and in many cases monsters that are the hero or perhaps anti-hero that the stories center around. Think vampires, werewolves, demons, succubi and other. They are often wrestling with own nature and how they fit into the modern world. There's a lot of elements of hardboiled detective stories as well. Finally, there is often a strong romantic aspect to the work.

Don't misunderstand me; I love to read the books that make up the current wave of urban fantasy. There are strong female leads, imaginative worlds that are created within our own and plenty of relationships to explore. All of these things are right in my wheelhouse as a reader. I also have some ideas on my whiteboard revolving around some of these elements.

But my current work is more in the vein of de Lint's old school urban fantasy than the new wave of vampires and werewolves. I often worry that calling my work urban fantasy will be misleading and might be missed by my target audience entirely.

Recently I've heard of a genre label that has become popular yet still fringe: slipstream. It seems to be characterized somewhere between magic realism and new urban fantasy and it's possible that my work falls right into that niche. Here is a couple of references to slipstream fiction:

When the dust settles I generally end up describing my work as urban/contemporary fantasy, and slipstream. It's a mouthful when talking to people and I usually end up having to describe the differences. And I have to hope that my readers find my work. Maybe I'm overthinking this...