Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Emotional toll . . .

To write from a character's point of view, you have to occupy his mind for a time. Sometimes, as with my characters: Jonathon and Kayla, that can be a good thing. These are good, decent people. There are times, necessarily, when you have to put them through turmoil. And since you occupy their mind, you put yourself through turmoil. With good characters doing decent things, even through tragedy, this can and may even be beneficial to the writer, but also emotionally draining.

On the flip side is the murky bog that are the minds of the bad guys. In my novel there resides a pretty evil nemeses who does numerous despicable acts. One of which is child molestation. I must say, I wrote these scenes with trepidation. I hesitated before putting myself in this deviant mind, but ultimately, it's the only way to write from his pov. But I did have to take periodic breaks from this perverted mind meld.

I started a new novel with a scene where the good guy comes across a scenario where a sicko is trying to kidnap a little girl so he can what else . . . rape her. I guess I use the child molestation for my bad guys because what better way to garner hatred for the guy. I think these scenes work very well---they may, if I may be so bold, even be powerful. The problem is I'm not sure how many more times I can do it. I know I don't ever want to get to a place where it's easy or comfortable to write them.

I assume I'm not the only one, but I'd be curious to hear what other writers have to say. Does this happen to you?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

He said, She said . . .

So I'm at my first conference and I see an editor with several books on his table. These are the books that he'd personally worked on. I start thumbing through the books to see if this editor is someone I'd want to schedule a meeting with when I spot a book I'd recently read.

This book is one that caused me some consternation. It was replete with one of the great blights on publishing: synonyms for said. i.e. he joked, he retorted, he exclaimed, etc. etc. etc. Of course we've been told, lectured, advised, commanded, informed, and warned not to do this.

Now personally, I don't like these either. They bother me. I worked hard on using action beats instead of dialogue tags and using only said when necessary. Besides, not only don't I like them, it's universally agreed upon within the publishing industry that this practice is universally frowned upon and better left on the ash heap of history.

But here it sits. A published novel whose word count owes a substantial debt to this plague.

I decided to take this opportunity and ask this professional's advice. After all, he's an editor of a major publishing house. So I open the book, point out a few examples, and asked him for a definitive answer to this puzzle. He looked me straight in the eye and said "We don't really care about all that."

Wow. Tell that to the agents and the how-to books. (yes I know you really can't tell that to a book, but that's how I wanted to write the sentence, so get over yourself. : )

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Ummm . . . what?

So I'm at a conference. I'm done with my three editor meetings and I'm looking for lunch tables of possible editors I want to pitch to. For those of you who don't know, at some conferences, tables are "hosted" by an editor or agent. This gives you a chance to possibly pitch to someone who you didn't have an appointment with. I personally don't like pitching at these tables. There's usually 8-10 people who are pushing themselves on these poor souls who are trying to eat.

So my strategy is I don't pitch unless they ask and they usually will. If they don't then that means they didn't want me to and I'm fine with that. At one of these tables, hosted by an editor, who said he was representing both fiction and non, asked me about my script and what kind of response I've gotten at my meetings. I told him (gender neutral) and he then asked me to send it to him. (Can't remember if it was a partial or full)

The response was pretty quick and he gave me a few paragraphs of advice which I thought were pretty thoughtful and I did appreciate his time. He did write that he wanted to encourage me because my writing was almost there. That's great to hear.

However, he told me I should write stories unique to my neck of the woods, that would grow organically from the area, and gave me examples. Now this would have been good advice if I were writing that To Kill a Mockingbird "great American novel". But I write suspense with a supernatural element. He said that my story should be set ANYWHERE but south Louisiana. As though, my story couldn't happen where I set it. Ummm. . . . What?

He then finished with and I'll slightly paraphrase: "I'm not even a fiction editor so take these thoughts with a grain of salt."

Ummm . . . consider it done.

So I my script got rejected by a publisher's non-fiction editor. What if the fiction editor would have liked it?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Instance 2

Confused? See the last post.

This one's pretty tame and similar to the last one. This time I'll use gender neutral "she" to refer to this editor.

At my first conference, I had 3 editor meetings. All three asked for a submission. Two fulls and a "3 chapter" request. All three meetings went well. In fact, they went great. The one that I thought went best was led to the "3 chapter" request. Of the two fulls, one publisher decided shortly later to drop their adult fiction line thus my submission was no longer appropriate. Tough break. The other led to pretty good experience. The publisher gave some great feedback, asked me to rewrite, I did, they considered for a while, and eventually passed. Really good experience. Because although they did passed, their interest and feedback provided me with some great affirmation that I was on the right track. Now about the 3 chapter request . . .

Still haven't heard. (And, no I don't expect to.) Don't worry. This doesn't bother me. But I do find the following curious. I ran into this editor at another conference several months later. I attended a class by this editor. Really good class, great info. I stayed after class to ask a follow up question to one of the topics brought up during the class. She answered and I then asked her about the submission. I politely asked if, as is quite common, a "no response" equals a "no" response. She assured me that it didn't and that she always responds. Always. Still haven't heard from her.

This is not a criticism of this editor. I really like her. These things happen. She also told me that if I didn't hear from her for a while to resubmit. I didn't resubmit because I had a couple of agents interested and decided it would be better if I let the agent submit to this editor. By the time interested agent after interested agent showed interest and passed, a couple of years had passed and I decided that too much time had gone by to take up the resubmit offer.

I know. Pretty tame, huh. I promise the next one is more interesting.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

I am not a coward . . .

As is probably obvious, I resist the urge to criticize the CBA. (publishers, editors, agents) The fact is the CBA is people. People take criticism personally even when it's the institution not the individual being criticized. I feel it is not practical to destroy possible future relationships by publicly calling someone out. Don't misunderstand, I'm not saying those who do are wrong. That's a personal decision and about half the time, they're right.

With that said, I have had a few instances that have left me scratching my head. I have long avoided writing about them here, because I don't want it to be obvious who I'm talking about. I've said all that to say that I'm gonna start posting these instances in such a way that doesn't sound like I'm beating up on someone or being a whiny baby. Let me know if I don't succeed.

Instance #1 (gender neutral "he" used throughout)

An agent who asked for a full and who has publicly boasted how he always responds within 3 months to a full, encourages people to send follow up emails after so many months (6 if memory serves) without worrying about upsetting him. Well after 10 months I sent a follow up email. I was grateful to be considered and took him at his word. In fact, I waited longer than he said. My email was simple. I just stated the dates of submission, request for full, submission of full, time elapsed, and my appreciation for their time. The response was a little snarky: I'll paraphrase -- if you don't want to be considered any longer, just say so. Because of his continuing boastful dedication to responding timely and being considerate of us unpub's time and dedication, I expected him to say something like: Oh, sorry about that, I do try to respond but some slip through the cracks . . . blah blah blah, I pass or blah, blah, blah, give me some time look at it . . .

Well, it's been 2 years --- No response. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind that the agent has apparently passed. It does strike me that this person brags that he doesn't do this.

What do you think? Should I post things like this or keep my keyboard shut?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

random political thoughts. . .

. . . from an introspective Conservative.

I like Sarah Palin but I don't think she'll ever be president. I personally can't take her accent. (I know that may sound crazy coming from someone with a Cajun accent.) She just doesn't sound Presidential enough. It is possible to sound like a regular American and a President. Reagan proved that. I'm not saying she should become robotic and monotone, but she should back off the Palinisms a little.

Before the election I predicted that if the Repubs win control of congress, President Obama would be guaranteed re-election. My reasoning was that it would follow the same model as the Clinton years. The 94-96 Republican congress balanced the budget and turned the economy around and Clinton got the credit and won re-election. But now I'm not sure. Dems still have the presidency and the senate. The house won't be able to control spending like they want to so unless the economy turns around despite what the government does, the President will not be re-elected.

Note to Shawn Hannity: Romney cannot win. He may be the most qualified candidate who ran last time, but a mormon cannot win. Evangelicals don't delineate between casual mormons and devout mormons. To most Christians, if you're a mormon, it means you believe in some crazy things. This is an insurmountable barrier. Unless . . . well if you want to know, ask in the comments.

Note about Hannity: He makes conservatives look bad. I really wish I could replace him. He does to the dems all the things he accused them of doing to the reps. He is not fair in the slightest. Completely blinded by his ideology. His only "talent" appears to be repeating what he hears Rush say without being entertaining. There are enough legitimate things to criticize the pres and dems for without castigating them for every innocuous thing they do.

I truly believe that if the President, while jogging by a burning house, ran inside, saved a puppy, and helped put out the fire, Hannity's narrative would be:

President caught at the seen of a fire molesting an animal and destroying public property with a water hose. The President is also a known smoker who carries a lighter. Authorities have not ruled out arson in the matter.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Friday, October 29, 2010

Wow . . .

Almost six months.

Six months and I haven't done any writing. Things are starting to settle down and I'm hoping to start again soon. I started playing music (guitar) in church again.

I say again because it's been, with a couple exceptions, 15 or 16 yrs since I last played with a worship band. I had to quit playing because my left ear suffered some damage. So much so that I had to stop attending church. It's not that I couldn't hear, but any loud noise--even clapping--caused a lot of pain. I had to wear an ear plug for a year while my ear slowly healed. Right when I stopped wearing the plug, a transformer blew in my ear as I walked out of a local drug store. Another year of pain a ear plugs.

I have not been able to attend concerts, wedding receptions, church services, or any other noisy venue for 15 years. Two months ago I realized that my ear hadn't hurt in a few months. It dawned on my that I was listening to the radio louder than usual. I decided to attend church where the real test--live drums and bass--resided. No pain. I then inquired about playing in the worship band and was welcomed. So far, so good. I still wear the ear plug, but I haven't had any problems. I even played one Sunday without the plug and it really didn't hurt although there was some discomfort.

It's been a long time since I've played. Don't know any of these new fangled songs and I'm definitely rusty, but it's a blessing to be able to serve in that capacity once again. I just hope I'm not causing damage to the ears of those who have to listen.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Catching up . . .

I guess you've noticed I haven't posted in a while.

Excu..., I mean reasons:

1. Buying a house. Should be closing shortly.
2. see # 1.

Also, I've reached a point where I have to do some more research on possible agents to query. I've been fortunate to have some great responses, but unfortunately I've had no takers.

Request for fulls and compliments about my writing-- even when they include a "but"-- are great and I truly appreciate them, but in the end, it still means my manuscript is not gonna be published as of yet.

I don't have a second novel finished, so it will be a while before I can start querying anew with a fresh script.

In the meantime, I just finished my version of The Scream by Edvard Munch.


I call it the Yell.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

One man's flaw is another man's vice . . .apparently

I've been purposefully not posting about writing. I was hoping to have a book out by now and thereby have more gravitas on the subject. However . . .

The insistence of having flawed characters has either been mis-interpreted or incorrectly taught. At least in my opinion. It seems that many translate having a flawed character as having a character with a vice. Why can't novels have a really good person as the lead character? Some say it's unrealistic. Hogwash. I've known some wonderful people in my life and I love reading about good people. They hardly ever come out on top in real life. At least they can prevail in fiction. It may be the only thing keeping me sane. They definitely don't make a novel less appealing. Dean Koontz's stories are filled with good, decent protags and I'm pretty sure he's sells a few books.

I think this idea needs to be tweeked. It's not a flawless character you should avoid. It's an invincible one. Kryptonite is not superman's flaw, it's his vulnerability. Good, moral, decent characters with vulnerabilities are my favorite. They play by the rules and the antags don't. So your lead character's flaw (vulnerability) could be that he's too trusting for instance. Antags can take advantage of that. We want to read about characters who follow their morals, play by the golden rule and still beat the bad guy.

With that said, sometimes an invincible character works. See James Bond, Jason Bourne, Rambo. But I think it's for the same reason. Readers (viewers) want to see the good guy triumph in a world where they usually don't.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Watermelons for sale . . .

I'm not a big Dan Rather fan, but you northerners and city folk have got to relax.

In the south, watermelons are sold on the side of the road. And strawberries, oranges, field peas, etc. And in Louisiana: Shrimp. Also, we love to use saying such as "He could sell ice cubes to an eskimo" and the like.

Now I know if a conservative said it, he or she would get no benefit of the doubt and all hell would be breaking loose. But we conservatives are supposed to be better than that. The weird thing is that it's liberals who seemed the most taken aback by the comment. Well, they did creat the p.c. monster.

Btw, next time we make up a fake stereotype, can we pick something less delicious than fried chicken and watermelon. I can't get enough of either and neither can my fellow white southern brethren.

p.s. If you've never tried it, put a little salt on your watermelon. It's like a party in your mouth. It's also very refreshing on a hot day.

Wow, watermelon is like the bacon of fruit. I can't stop thinking about it. Hmmm. I wonder what bacon wrapped watermelon would taste like?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Avoiding absolutes . . .

I have been accused early and often as being opinionated. I rarely sit on the fence and almost compulsive in letting people know what I think. But when it comes to Biblical interpretation I avoid declaring absolutes which aren't clearly spelled out. Which can be problematic with my Christian brethren because the standard for "clearly spelled out" is a moving target to say the least.

I usually avoid these topics because it can cause strife with my fellow Christians who don't apply the same standard I apply to secondary theological issues. Many declare you lost or damned if you disagree on a peripheral issue. Usually because they have made it the cornerstone of their salvation foundation. I don't condemn (nor am I allowed to) anyone for disagreeing with me on a secondary issue. I may give them my opinion which they may mistake as such, but I try to do so with kindness and, more importantly, respect. Unfortunately, I'm not always afforded the same measure.

For instance: I don't speak in tongues. I have studied the issue and do not believe there is enough evidence to declare today's utterances the Biblical utterances. But hey, it's not absolute. I could be wrong. But since it's not absolute, I'd rather contract to essential Christian doctrine than expand beyond it. I do believe in the gift of tongues (languages) for the Apostles in preaching the Gospel because it is clearly spelled out.

Now, keep in mind, I don't hold anything against people who do speak in tongues. An acquaintance of mine once declared it demonic and strongly suggested I leave the church I was attending (and playing guitar in the worship band in the youth group for). I defended my tongue uttering friends by assuring this person that they believed in essential Christian doctrine and are definitely not demonic.

On the other hand, I've had tongue speakers declare that I'm not receiving the fullness of the Holy Spirit.

This pastor of the aforementioned church who would declare God's presence in our church only if a majority of the congregation were speaking in tongues. It was not only a litmus test but a measuring stick. Sort of like a God decibel meter. This goes against "where two or more are gathered." Of course, you can always go non absolute and claim the Bible writers left out the inferred "where two or more are gathered (and speak in tongues.)"

Now I know that those who do speak in tongues may be able to give what they claim is an absolute interpretation of the issue to back their beliefs, but I don't see it. However, they are still my family in Christ and do not deserve to be denigrated.

Side question: Do you think someone who speaks in tongues would now be hesitant to buy my novel (if published)?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

poeparee

--The Saints superbowl euphoria is still going strong. Pat on the back for us: victory parade - 800,000 people, no burned police cars, riots, or looting.

Special shoutout to everyone who thought Brees was washed up when he hurt his shoulder and was shown the door in San Diego. I spent the first off season re-assuring my fellow fans that Brees was the answer. I never could understand why the Chargers kept looking for a QB when they had Brees. So he ain’t 6’4”, 220, with a 80 yd bullet pass. He’s a football player. I’ll take a football player like Brees or Flutie over a spec sheet player ( Jeff George ) anyday.

--For those of you who’ve read Tosca Lee’s Havah, I joked with her that I was working on a companion volume titled Adam. The same story from the male perspective. All I’ve got is the first line: It’s her fault….. Can’t really think of anything else to say.

That was a joke. I don’t blame Eve for Adam’s decision. The Bible says Adam was not deceived.

Actually, I love the idea. A scene by scene (almost) Adam version of Havah.

--I’m very hard to offend, but two words do cause me momentary involuntarily pause: the F-word and the N-word. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t stop reading and write the author a nasty gram. And I’ve uttered these words too many times in my life. The N-word, though my least favorite word in the English language, is necessary sometimes in novels. See Athol Dickson’s River Rising. (if memory serves)

--Just got a letter from the child I sponsor through Compassion. There was a drawing of a butterfly on it. For those of you who’ve read my novel, you can see why this caught my attention.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Get your ticket before it's too late . . .

I saw one of the best movies I've seen in a long time last night: The Book of Eli. Great performances and a great story. Not only is it a great movie, but (to use CBA debate venacular) it's one of the best Christian movies I've ever seen.

I personally didn't mind the language. It wasn't gratuitous or jolting, but it will prevent alot of people from the evangelical community from seeing it and that's a shame -- at least when it comes to ticket sales. This is a great movie with great commentaries on the Christian walk and the effect of Christianity on the social political aspects of the human condition.

The only drawback is that I was working on a very similar story for a novel. Foiled again. Now people will say "hey, he got that from The Book of Eli." They'll never know I thought about it two years ago. Oh well.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Ruminations on the whole Tiger thing . . .

First a thought: My golf game has been awful lately. Maybe I should get married and cheat on my wife.

Tiger did not make a "mistake". His was a pre-meditated willful pattern of behavior.

Apparently I'm not human. I keep hearing variations of the phrase "proves he's human". I have never cheated on anyone: wife, girlfriend, even crushes. So I guess I'm not human. So what am I? Hmmm . . . quite the conundrum.

I've always been a reluctant Tiger fan. He is an incredible talent, but I've never liked the way he's treated the fans. I even rationalized it: That's just his personality. He's just trying to remain focused. etc. I've always theorized that he had an elitist streak. So I'll give him credit for admitting it in his apology speech. He seemed genuinely humbled. I hope this carries over to the course. It's the only way I'll ever pull for him again.

Sidenote: He could learn alot from Phil Mickelson. He signs all autographs, poses for photos, and even talks to the fans. Believe it or not, most golfers act like the fans are bothering them. At the first pro golf tournament I attended, Phil thanked me for being there.

Tiger signs no autographs and doesn't even look at the fans. I don't mind him ignoring me, but little kids. Come on.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Is it just me?

Am I the only one who thinks that Carrie Prejean is a lousy role model for Christian women (and girls)?

I imagine the reasoning to the contrary goes something like this: I know her almost naked body is splashed all over television and she got breast implants so she could use her sexuality to become famous, but at least she claims to be a Christian conservative so we'll look the other way. On second thought, we'll forget by staring at her.

Monday, January 4, 2010

My latest . . .

This is a rather crude interpretation of church on an island in Lake Bled in Slovenia.

I say crude because it's not the most accurate reproduction, but it's close. Besides, if I wanted it to be exact I could have posted a photo.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Get over it! (but wait 30 seconds.)

Well it happened again. I just read the first 50 pages of a novel that was to put it bluntly: Terrible. I really don't like saying that because I know how hard it is. But in this instance, it didn't even seem like the writer (or the editor) even tried. Ladies and Gentlemen, I smell the foul stench of nepotism afoot here. Or something equally heinous. (28 mississippi) I mean if I had tried to pitch this to an editor( 29 mississippi) I'd have been laughed out of the room. And another thing . . .

30. Okay I'm over it. No, really I am. The above is just an example. This applies to all the things about publishing that bothers us aspiring novelists.

The advice usually given is: Don't let this (and other things) bother you. This is sour grapes. You're probably wrong.

While this is good advice, I think it skims too quickly over our humanity. There is a difference between having a reaction and having a reaction control you.

I say "Let it out." Get upset. Tell your spouse or your dog all about how unfair it is. And then GET OVER IT. Getting over it doesn't mean it's still not true. It does mean that you won't let it stop you from trying. It does mean that from a goal perspective, you won't assume you're gonna fail before you start.