Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Every year I have a hard time staying in the spirit and I do everything I can to keep from going full-on humbug. These are three that are helping this year:

1 - Baby It's Cold Outside, by Tom Jones & Cerys Matthews

My favorite version of this song, bar none. He sounds seductive and desperate, she sounds gorgeous and totally putting up a fight she wants to lose. Even if I didn't already love the song, I'd choose this for the way they seem to actually be enjoying it. I wish I could find a better video, but it's pretty spectacular in its own right too.

2 - A Shameless Christmas Carol by the cast of Shameless

A new one, this was just released a few days ago, but I love it in many boozy ways. And Emmy can still wail!

3 - And THIS video.

Because these are the three things that work for me about Christmas. Sex, Booze and Nightmares.

What videos sum up the holidays for you?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Holy crap! THE DEPUTY, by the excellent Victor Gischler is available for the Kindle and Nook for FREE for a limited time. This is an excellent modern western noir novel - very hardboiled with some humor peppered throughout and you'll dig it. I promise.

You can read more here on the author's blog too.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Back Flap: Twitchy's Dream

When I was twenty-one, I was living in California with my buddy Rob, unloading trucks on the overnight shift for the largest Wal-Mart in the area. (How I got there is a totally different story) I worked with a whole crew of misfits and weirdos, as is fitting for an overnight crew thirty minutes from Hollywood.

Amongst them was a little Mexican dude we called Twitchy. I think at one point, after I moved back to Idaho, my buddy told me his real name, but I'm not sure I knew it the entire time I worked with him. He was just over five feet tall, slim and had the eyes of a really paranoid rabbit. I don't think he was actually on anything, though it wouldn't be overly surprising, but he seemed to be continually strung out on life in general.

We didn't really chat much with the crew while I worked there, we were kind of the token white guys and the newest to boot, but one night Twitchy started chatting with us about where we were from. When he found out - after a bit of explaining and possibly, charades - what state Idaho was, he got excited and melancholy at the same time, something that can really only be accomplished by a short Mexican at 3am.

There in the darkened hallway leading to the stockroom, Twitchy poured out his hopes and dreams to us. His greatest ambition in life was to move to Idaho, buy a trailer with a porch, a pistola and a cow. Then he could sit on his porch in the evenings before bed and watch his cow. (And presumably use his pistol to celebrate at weddings or chase off snakes or something, he didn't get into that.)

That was the extent of his dreams. After telling us about it, he got a look on his face that was almost heartbreaking in it's simplicity. It was the face of a child on December 18th after sitting on Santa's lap. I'll never forget the little man's simple imagery, how such a small, basic existence could be the pinnacle to a man's existence. In a way, I felt pity. I wanted to become rich and famous. Write a best-selling novel, draw a comic book series, act in a movie, hell, I was happy with the dream of meeting a beautiful woman and living in an elaborate house large enough to need a ladder in the library.

But then and now, I think I envied him more than anything. I often get so caught up in the "What-Ifs" and the "If this, then that"s of my life that I don't stop and realize how lucky I've been. I grew up poor, I remember walking to the grocery store with the last of our food stamps in my hand like they were gold, the nights in my room when I could hear my mother sobbing quietly about bills. At times it was hard and throughout, I had fantasies of making it big, countless, myriad variations, each resulting in a fabulous life for me and my loved ones.

And the whole time I had a wonderful life around me. Family that loved me, friends I could count on. Two full floors of books at the public library. It made me who I am today, and that guy ain't too shabby.

I have a beautiful wife, family that loves me and friends I can count on. I own two dogs that weigh as much as a cow and I have a trailer that I could sit on the steps and watch them poop in front of if I really wanted to. No pistol, but I am starting to teach myself to cook Mexican food, so you never know.

I still dream big, but at the same time, I've learned to love where I am in life, to appreciate how lucky I've already gotten. This is a picture my mom loves, and it could have taken the place of this entire post....
I think it's a great reminder to be thankful for the simple things in life.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

There's no Wri in my NaNoWriMo.

I'd planned on writing a novel for National Novel Writing Month, I really had. I have a great story, a couple of thousand words written as a nice, thorough plot, I've even started up with some cover design elements, but last night night I officially decided not to participate.

At least, not in the full spirit and madness of the month. I'll still plug away at Falling Domino when I have the time and the urge, but for me, apart from outside influences and obligations (Inventory and Christmas prep at work, a few other projects) November has become a different acronym:


Neal's Novel Finishing Month!

I have two novels that I'm in the finishing stages of right now; Mr Pale Steps Out, which I wrote last year for NaNoWriMo, and Graves, a zombie novel I started three or four years ago.  Mr. Pale just needs a nice breeze through revision and Graves is about the same. So instead of setting those aside in favor of fresh meat, I'm diving into these seasoned piles of flesh and pounding them into finished dishes in November.

It's hard though. I'm still keeping up with my friends and online acquaintances, tracking their progress and man, I want to join in! I have characters in me dying to get out - to kiss and kill and plot and scheme. But there are those ahead of them that deserve their due first. Writing. What a cool gig.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Rant About Zombie Movies

 Zombie from Mindspill

I love me some zombies. Like... forever. Well, not forever. My buddy Rob introduced me to them in high school I think, before that, I wasn't much of a horror movie person, but after watching the original Romeros and a few others, I loved 'em. There was something so terrifying about the idea of something dead walking, mindlessly trying to kill you. A neighbor or friend or family member. This once whole person in shreds, wanting nothing more than to kill you. And what a visceral way too - biting. It's so personal and animalistic. I got bit once in... first grade, I believe. A girl named Brittany bit me on my shin for throwing her friend's snoopy toy on the roof of the cafeteria. Then I had to go into the Principal's office, where I had to pull down my pants so the could look at the bleeding wound. Trauma of two sorts, that.

A funny side note, the girl whose snoopy doll I tossed later dated Rob, just one of the many strange but true coincidences that exist in mid-sized vortex towns in the West.

So maybe I had some sort of ingrained fear of being bitten already, but it just clicked. And now, despite being cliche and all over the place, I still dig the undead bastards. I watch anything I can with them, read novels featuring them, hell, I'm finishing up a novel of my own about them as we speak.

Here's my real problem though. Most zombie movies and books for that matter...well... they bite.A lot are just plain BAD. Poorly written, bad acting, no budget, but most importantly, a lot of them lose track of what really makes zombies scary in the first place. In my opinion, Zombies can be scary one of two ways -

1 - Zombies bring out the horrors lurking within the uninfected man. This is touched on in quite a few flicks, if only to have an excuse for some hillbillies to rape someone or for some gunplay rather than as the main plot with the primary characters. It's the classic Post apocalyptic Mad Max syndrome. I understand this, but to me, it's actually more effective in non-zombie books and movies. If I want to see the true animal in a man released in a tense situation I have other options for that. Not that it makes for a bad movie - Dawn Of The Dead is this kind of flick at times.

2 - Trying to survive as humanity actively devours itself. I LOVE this kind of movie, where people are generally good folks, not he-man commandos, just people surrounded by zombies that used to be people. Survivors that have had to watch their loved ones die, possibly had to kill them to survive. These aren't movies about fighting or explosions or heroes, these are movies about ordinary people trying to find safety and not lose their minds and their humanity in the process. There are not a lot of examples of this done well, in fact, most are pretty dire, but The Night Of The Living Dead and to an extent, Shawn Of The Dead are this kind of movie.

There are other kinds of zombie movies and books, of course, but I don't think they're nearly as effective - Cordoned Off Zombie Territory Missions, Smart Zombies That Learn To Talk, Zombies As An Excuse To Pen People Up In One Place For An Entire Film, that kind of thing, but the worst offender in my opinion is Military Shoot-Em-Up Zombie Movies.

It has no emotion, a lazy excuse for plot and it usually exists solely as an excuse to have bad actors kill lurching shapes for no real reason but to hear BANGs. There's rarely any character development - after all, there are elite military stereotypes, there's rarely any real peril as they have unlimited clips of ammo. The only true conflict usually comes from other military or mean hillbillies. I hate this kind of movie.

Now, don't get me wrong, there's a few good exceptions in each of these, (Except magic talking zombies) but for the most part, they don't scare me. Entertain, sure, but they don't make me double check the locks on my door and sleep with a sledge next to my bed.

Oh yeah, and then there's the classic Voodoo Zombie movies... Which I would love, if they'd ever really made a good one.

What about you? Think I'm off base? Convince me! I'd love to be proven wrong about Military Zombies.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

 THE HERMIT by Shutupandwhisper

It's been a while. I apologize for the lack of updates here, between work and life, writing has kind of fallen by the wayside. But no more. I need to take the bull by the horns and realize that if I want to be able to write, I need to find the time to write myself, it isn't going to fall out of the sky. Right now, in addition to THE WHISPERING FERNS, a children's adventure written under the name Kristopher McClanahan, I'm finishing up edits and final work on two adult novels and plot breakdowns on the next, a murder thriller set in the 1960's.

I'm pretty excited about the new book for a couple of reasons. I love the idea, naturally, but it's also the second NaNoWriMo novel I'll have worked on, and I'm using it as the kick-off to getting into a writing routine. It's also the first time I've used a very thorough plot as I write. Usually, I'll write up a brief summary, maybe a page at the most and then let the character's take me on their journey. But this book's a little twistier and I'll need a good outline to keep on track. I also think it will help write faster and more efficiently. We'll see.

So stay tuned. I plan to be a lot more active online, both here and my various other locations (Twitter, Facebook, my occasional reviews for Reviews Of Unusual Size)

Saturday, August 6, 2011

There's a man in Bangor that has a fabulous, dark brown, Sam Elliot-style mustache. He tools around in a small white hatchback that also sports a large, luxurious brown mustache wired to its grille.

While I cannot say I want to be friends with this man, I would like to know him well enough to exchange pleasantries with him at some sort of casual event.

Because he is awesome.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


In case it wasn't obvious, I'm on a bit of a hiatus from blogging - we've got family in town all summer and we're in the midst of a drawn out effort to move. I'll hopefully return by the middle of July.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Wag The Blog - Type M For Murder

This is a fun blog.Run by a conglomeration of around eight authors, this is an excellent place to visit if you want to be inspired, get some insight or just kill a few hours reading when you should be writing... Not that I ever do that....

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

eBook Thoughts - Whispering Ferns Update #1

I released my first self-pubbed eBook, The Whispering Ferns, roughly three weeks ago. I'd planned it as a kind of soft release, partly just to test the waters and see what exactly went into the procedure of releasing an eBook, in advance of the release of Mr. Pale Steps Out, which is my adult novel being completed right now. I hadn't planned on any real promotion, just a few posts here and there, a couple of announcements to friends

Which is good, because the second I hit publish, my personal life got busy and I haven't had time to do much of anything. Sure, I checked the stats obsessively for the first few days, but that was about it. Tonight was the first time I've checked them in a week.

So how have I done? So far, between Smashwords (Which includes Kobo, iBooks and a few other sources) Amazon and Barnes & Noble, I've sold 7 copies of my book.

Which isn't going to make me rich any time soon, but I have gotten a positive review (Which, admittedly is from a friend, but one that is always quite honest and candid, so it still felt good) and that's enough for a dinner out. As long as I don't order drinks and my wife stays home....

But y'know what? It's been super educational, and despite any misgivings, you can freaking type my (Pen) name into google or amazon and see my awesome cover. That is cool, and this is just the beginning of my journey.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go write so I have more than one book to jabber about!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Friday, May 20, 2011

A Place I Visit

I've loved William Lashner for years, his books are irreverent and clever, with the main character often flawed and more human than a lot of his contemporaries. Lashner also has a huge encyclopedia of love for the genre in his head, which makes his blog such excellent reading. Check it out!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

eBook Thoughts #2 - What is an eBook?

What is an eBook? Essentially, its a book in digital form, designed for reading on any number of electronic devices. eBooks aren't new, people have been reading books on computers for years, but with the creation of the eReader, they've taken on a new significance. I actually remember reading a few novels and comic books on my computer back in high school... It wasn't the most pleasant of ways to do it, but they did the trick.

At the times, it was a glorified text file, often even opening in a text editing program to be read. Slowly, comic books became more widely accepted in digital form, since the geeks are usually the first to accept anything but changes to Episode IV. A few reading programs and formats came out, like the .cbr (Comic book reader) format, which was similar to a pdf file, allowing the reader to zoom in and flip pages in a more natural fashion.

Technical and scholarly books were around too, some even offered free in libraries and a few enterprising authors posted their work online for the masses to read. A large jumble of "Fan Fiction" slinked out there too. For many a young man or woman, these fan created stories about their favorite characters from movies, cartoons and video games were their first experience with the eBook reading method. (Be warned, most of Fan Fiction is sexual in nature, so search with care)

Text files are small, too. An entire library of books can take up less space than a single movie file, or a collection of photos. One early method of disseminating bootlegged, scanned copies of books on less reputable sites was to embed the novel in a photo of the cover. Downloaders could then manually change the extension and unzip the book.

eBooks are cheap too, of course. no dead trees, no dead glue monsters, the foil rats have grown to dangerous populations in Norway without the production of covers to cull the herds. All you need is a edited book, a decent cover and a computer.

But reading a book on a computer screen is kind of crappy. It's backlit, flickery, bright, fake and awkward, even on a laptop. And of course, it loses all of the charm a real book has. So for a long time, that's how things stayed.

Then e-Ink was created....

Sunday, May 15, 2011

This is a still from the 1933 film Dragnet Girl. I think it's a great shot. My father in law has a plastic version of the RCA/Victor dog, which was based off of a real dog named Nipper.

Friday, May 13, 2011

 A Place I Visit

Margot Kinberg is a mystery novelist and teacher and her blog, Confessions Of A Mystery Novelist is very well-written. Check it out - she writes about Australian crime fiction, bullying, teaching, perception and all of it is beautifully related to great crime and mystery novels. I love it!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

eBook Thoughts - #1 - Writing What You Love

Self Publishing eBooks.  Yeesh. I have so much to say about this, yet I find myself struggling to decide where to begin... I guess with my books. That would be a pretty cool place. I read a lot of blogs about writing and post regularly on a few forums, but I also know a few people read this blog that have no toes dipped into that pool, so I'm going to start with pretty beginner stuff here. After all, I'm a beginner.

I've always wanted to write, I filled long notebooks of rambling fantasy stuff back in junior high, longing for a computer or typewriter at home I could use to make them official. For a long time though, the urge faded. I'm not sure why, I was certainly as interested in reading as ever, but the writing side of me lay dormant.

Then my wife started writing a novel and it lit that fire again, seeing how much enjoyment she got from writing made me want to try too. So I started two very different books. A childrens novel and a book about a zombie attack. I also came up with about a dozen other ideas that I've since started to plot out.

I'm not a conventional typist, I hunt and peck with the best of 'em, however, usually just using my index fingers with an occasional tap or two from my other fingers, and writing a long book was a challenge. (Still is) But I kept at it, surprised at how the creation of the story in my head, even if no one else would read it was so therapeutic and exciting.

But a lot of my ideas are kind of unconventional. Sure, zombie books are hot right now (though I've been a fan for decades) but mine is a small scale novel, taking place in one location over the course of one eight-hour shift at a drug store. And it's told in short chapters from different points of view. My kid's book? Old school all the way. A little slow moving and good-hearted, with humor but not the scathing sarcasm that passes for humor nowadays. Mr. Pale Steps Out is a classic revenge novel that happens to take place in an alternate timeline 1960's where a biological weapon explosion has killed 85% of the population and left the rest infected or struggling to survive. And it's a short novel, pulp sized.

So I decided to write novels and promptly set about writing a bunch of books that I will never be able to sell conventionally to "Legacy" publishers. Then eBooks reared their digital heads... That's more like it!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Crab
This Piece is by an illustrator named Rodney Matthews. I don't know much about him, but he's created unique visions of fantasy for over 35 years, including Thin Lizzy covers, fantasy and sci-fi novels and some truly sweet heavy metal logos. You can see more of his work HERE.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

On April 26th, I released my first self-published eBook. It's a fun little throwback to the adventure novels I loved as a kid, called The Whispering Ferns. It's written by my alter-ego, the good twin, Kristopher McClanahan and is the first in a planned series of kids novels about a fictional fishing village on the coast of Washington called Moonstone Bay.

I love the setting and the characters, and I adore writing the books, and I had some pretty positive responses from legit agents when I was sending it around, looking for conventional publishing, but the simple fact is that the novel doesn't have enough of a hook. It's a quiet novel about ghosts, friendship and bravery, inspired by stuff I love like John Bellairs, Encyclopedia Brown and the Hardy Boys.

If that sounds intriguing, check it out! It's available on Smashwords in multiple formats, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and will soon be available for iBooks, Kobo and more. Even better, it's only three bucks. Check it out and if you like it, please help out and review it wherever you can.

The simple fact is that this is an experiment. In the next few months I'll also be releasing a post-apocalyptic 60's revenge novel on eBook and The Whispering Ferns is kind of my dry run, letting me hit my growing pains before I get to Mr Pale.

Additionally, I'll be updating everything here on my blog - from the efforts and tricks needed to format your book, to choosing a cover, to how many pennies I make.

This is coming from a guy with no free time, no pre-built customer base and no money to spend promoting this, so think of it as the anti-Konrath. I used to love reading his blog, but nowdays, it's so full of self-promoting and aggrandizing fools that the thing I loved about it, Joe's humor and real advice about writing and publishing seems to have slipped to the wayside. That said, I love the cover to Flee, and can't wait to read it.

So come along for the ride, and if you have any questions or advice, chime in.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

I cannot possibly add anything to this photo to make it more awesome.

Monday, April 18, 2011


A month since I've posted anything....

I'd like to say that it's because I've been too busy writing, but that would be untrue... I did get a new desk and in my defense, I've been studying for a work-related test that I finally passed....

Huh.... looks like I'd better get out there and find something interesting to post about!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Growing up, if I was reading a book, you can bet the cover either featured a dude in armor, a dragon, a wizard or some combination of the three.

I lived for fantasy! I was in second or third grade when the local librarian recommended A Spell For Chameleon, by Piers Anthony. Before that, I'd read any kids books I could find, especially loving books like Half Magic and Castle In The Attic, but once I realized the breadth of books available in the "grown up" section of the library, I went crazy.

I read everything I could, important books, long books, short books, elaborate series and collections of short stories. I loved it all, but I eventually found myself drawn towards light fantasy. Tolkien was great and all, but it all seemed so important. I wanted to have a good time reading and it didn't take long to hone in on a few faves.

Lawrence Watt-Evans is my favorite author, bar none. His books are fun and good hearted and always clever. I started with The Misenchanted Sword and enjoyed it so much that I stole the book from the library (I later donated a new copy, wracked by the guilty thoughts that I was depriving others from reading it) and I own every book he's written since. I buy any copy of his I can find and give them away to people because I don't think enough people read him.

Some other faves from that time  - C. Dale Brittain (Funny, fresh takes on wizardry) Piers Anthony (Who I don't really dig anymore) Terry Brooks (Which I haven't read in a long time) the Dragonlance Series (This either) and Terry Pratchett (Who took me a while to warm up to, but is at the top of my list now, naturally)

And I stayed pretty faithful to the sword and sorcery set for a very long time. Every once in a while, I'd pick up some sci-fi and even rarer, a horror of some sort, but it was usually all shining armor, all the time.

In recent years, I found a new appreciation for thrillers and crime novels, eagerly devouring old 60's pulp and recent authors like Marshall Karp and Victor Gischler, and for the most part, my fantasy addiction retreated to it's underground lair, to languish on the paperbacks of yore. But every once in a while, I feel the urge to dive back in. I've read three Watt-Evans novels in the last week and just downloaded Brittain's catalog (Or what's available... She's devilishly hard to find!) It's been a lot of fun and kind of a palette cleanser.

Is this normal? Have you always read the same genre of books, or do you bounce around a lot? What were/are some of your favorites?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. It happens every winter to some. Its a general sense of depression and discomfort that comes on with the short winter days, the closed up houses, the decreased activity and added stress.

I've never really been affected before but this year I think I'm getting a bit of the SAD action. In our old house, we used to be able to walk a block to get to a shoveled walking path we could take our dogs on and we had a nicely fenced yard. We have a nice yard here... somewhere under the three feet of snow out there. So I guess I could get some outside experience if I wanted to play Donner Expedition...

I've been having a hard time concentrating on my revisions and I think part of it is a lack of energy. So spring needs to get here soon so I can shed my hibernation weight, get some exercise and get my book finished!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Growing up, there was one man that meant Superman for me. It wasn't Christopher Reeves, though I watched his movies and Tom Wellings or Brandon Routh hadn't come around yet. For me, it was a man from before my time. In my opinion, it was a man from a better time - Kirk Alyn. My buddy Rob and I used to spend hours watching crusty VHS copies of old movie serials. It was our thing in high school especially. We'd get out of school, borrow some cash for junk food and ice cream from his brother (Because we could, not because we needed it) and go to any video store we could find that carried them. Any serials at all, we loved every one. We relished their little sum-ups, their outlandish cliffhangers and even more ridiculously great escapes.

I desperately wish I lived in an era that still did movie serials. For a long time, I thought that could be the solution to getting folks to visit the theater again. Who wouldn't go once a week to see a show if, before the feature, there was a twenty minute installment of a production? Especially if it was well done and starred real actors and actresses. I loved the idea of it.

Right now, there's a chance to try something similar in the writing world. For decades, magazines published serialized stories and Stephen King did something similar with The Green Mile a few years ago but now, with the advent of electronic publishing, someone could release a chapter a week, set their price and string happy readers along for months. Who wouldn't plop down a quarter once a week to read the next chapter in a book by their favorite author?

Lawrence Watt-Evans, one of my fave fantasy authors, has been doing something vaguely similar for years. After interest in his fantasy series waned slightly, his publisher stopped printing them, so he started releasing them himself on his website, in serialized form. After he's received a set amount in donations from readers, he puts up the next chapter and announces it on Facebook, Twitter and his site. You can read the entire book for free, provided other fans pony up the dough. And as an added bonus, anyone that donates over $25 over the course of the novel, they get a copy of the eventual printed book gratis.

I think Watt-Evans has the right idea, and he's been doing it for years before the e-reader came about. I wonder what the chances of an unpublished, largely unknown author like myself would have trying something similar with one of my books. I have a zombie novel that just needs its last few chapters finished that would be perfect for this. Wide range of characters, lots of cliffhangers and if I timed it right, it could be out in time for Halloween. What do you readers think? Could something like this gain enough of a following? Would you pay a quarter for a fifteenth of a book every three weeks or so?

Friday, February 18, 2011

I had planned to dig up some great news tidbit to report, since I have nothing interesting to say today, but instead I just thought I'd post this photo. Has anyone ever seen a magician that actually pulled a rabbit from his hat?

Saturday, February 12, 2011


I'm neck deep in my final re-writes/revisions for Mr. Pale Steps Out, and I've been thinking a lot about methods. Sometimes, I love the feel of having the printed manuscript in front of me, covered in scribbles and highlighted stretches. Other times, it seems so much simpler to go into the text file itself and just dive in. I think my fave right now is to print the MS and do a cursory overall story edit, then use that as a guide for my onscreen edits. That way, I don't miss any overarching plot or repetitive passage, but I can revise quicker because I'm only doing it once.

How do you usually revise your writing? Does reading it aloud help?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Whosoever is delighted in solitude is either a wild beast or a god.
~Francis Bacon Senior

Thursday, February 3, 2011

My New Cover

So, this is a bit premature, as I'm still finishing up a few last revisions, and I don't have a firm release date (it'll be out sometime in the early summer, folks!), but I couldn't resist sharing the cover to Mr. Pale Steps Out.

Ain't she a beaut?

Mr. Pale Steps Out is about a criminal in a slightly alternate version of the sixties. He is trapped in a safe room just before a world altering series of accidents occur that leaves the world barren and crawling with mutated beasts, shambling zombies and violent gangs. He's in a world he doesn't understand, but his bullets still seem to work just fine, and revenge still tastes just as sweet.

I really wanted something that fit the era that the story takes place in, something that looked like a legit paperback novel, and I think my buddies over at Deeply Dapper Designs did a fantastic job. The blurb across the top and the tagline may change, I'm not totally sold on them, and I'm debating on the idea of adding a price or some sort of little detail, but overall, I think it turned out amazing!

And if you're looking for a designer for your novel, drop 'em a line.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Wag The Blog - Jon's Life

A new feature here, wherein I plug another blog out there in the internet wonderland that's worth checking out!

This week, I'm talking up Jon's Life. Or other odd people doing odd things. Jonathan Arntson is funny and goofy. He's working on a book, is 25, works at a dollar store, used to work at a gas station (Me too!), has an adorable dog, is gay, likes M&Ms, has great taste in music and has a bit of a sad-sack personality that makes his posts both humorous and poignant.

Jon's been blogging for about a year or so and in that time, he's managed to build up quite a fan club, and with good reason. His blog may not be quite the fit for the author of horror novels that likes crime fiction and action flicks, but I still swing by there every week or so to unleash my inner Children's Book author. Go say hi, and enjoy!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Stephen King

I've never really read Stephen King until recently. I knew he existed and that many, many, many people loved him, but he'd just kind of stayed out of my radar. I read mostly fantasy and sci-fi growing up and once some of my interests strayed, it was to noir, crime and thrillers, with a few gory horrors thrown in.

But when we moved to Maine last year, I thought it would be kind of funny to check out some of his books, since he's so linked to the state. I was surprisingly impressed. A few things seemed too goofy or obvious, and I admittedly have pretty low standards for a novel anyway. If it's entertaining and has the F-Word at least a dozen times, that's good enough for me. So I read a few of 'em. I read Cell and Under The Dome and half of the Stand. (Until my nook squarked out on me halfway through and I didn't feel like hitting the page turn button 6,000 times to get back to my place. Maybe I should start again now that it can select pages...)

I liked the way his characters were pretty down home. Average Joes with problems and histories. Then I got a bunch of Richard Stark novels and King was laid to the side.

But I recently listened to a crusty old version of a book on tape of his seminal novel, IT. And it was a different experience listening to a Stephen King novel. I'm a speedy reader, usually averaging around 200 books a year (Though this year has been lagging quite a lot) and I found myself breezing through long passages about the characters back history without really batting an eye. But when you're a captive audience, cruising the back roads of Maine in your Honda Element, listening to the gravelly voice in your speakers, you have a chance to realize how great King is at creating a world with these characters. It was often that I'd sit and listen to 45 minutes of back story on a person that was promptly killed off. When I was reading that, it kind of annoyed me. Like when someone goes into too much detail about clothes. They were a pair of black, strappy heels, that's great. I don't need to know that they're 4.3 inch heels with 1/4 inch straps, manufactured in Taiwan by the hands of 12-year old orphans, stamped with the logo of a flying gargoyle and a gold embossed signature blahblahblah....

But I loved it in audio form. I don't know why, and there's a chance that I was just missing out when I was reading the novels - I'll have to read one and see - but I liked knowing the odd yet common backgrounds on the weird little Mainers that inhabit King's stories.
So I guess what I'm saying is that there's always a benefit to experiencing things in a new way, whether it's an audio book or an e-book, or watching a movie in it's original language with subtitles. Get out there and try something new!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Pulpy Goodness

At our local grocery store, they have a wooden box by the back door that's usually filled with books. They have a donation box above it and ask for $.50 a paperback and $1.00 for hardback. The proceeds go somewhere valiant, though I can't say I've ever noticed where, I just dig the idea of a place people can drop off or buy books that's just a randomly assigned spot. Kind of like the charity fueled version of BookCrossing. Usually, I don't find much, just a pile of ancient romance novels and some self help nonsense. But every once in a while, we score some gems. Look at all that awesome up there for three bones. I can't wait to dive in. I love new old books!

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Story Of A Dude

Once upon a time, this Dude wrote a novel.

He wrote a mystery novel that he was proud of, that he felt was worthy of being printed, bound, and sold to the masses. So the Dude starts a blog and tracks his path from unpublished writer to New York Times Bestselling Author. He quits his job (where he was making over 130k a year) and waits for the requests for fulls and offers of representation start rolling in.

Then time passes, as do agents. The Dude stays philosophical, about things, though a hint of frustration starts to peek in. He hasn't started a second novel, whats the point, when his first is worthy of being published and it's not getting selected. Why start a second novel when people are too blind to want the first?

More time and agents wave as they whizz by. His posts become more bitter, angry and expletive filled. He calls out the very agents he's courting, questioning their professionalism, their choices, their jobs. He sends out query bombs to dozens of agents, all the same, assuming agents don't talk about such things in their clandestine circles.

I don't understand the Dude. Yes, this can be an incredibly, soul shatteringly hard business to break into, of that there is no doubt. And many of us never will. Most because they never deserved to in the first place, some because they didn't try hard enough and some simply because they were never in the right place at the right time. Getting upset or depressed isn't a bad thing, the problem with the Dude, where I stand, is that he isn't looking at his writing as a career. Agents are supposed to be your literary soulmates, the person that believes in your books almost as much as you do, the woman or man that wants to see you succeed and will do anything they can to make it happen. You don't find a soulmate by sending out hundreds of identically written letters to anyone that happens to be available. You look into the people and find a few select people that you want to work closely with for the next few/dozen years. Your agent should be someone who believes in you and your work and has great ideas for making it better. Who has great taste in other authors, her other clients. A person that you can be proud to say "Represented by" in front of their name.

And then there's the writing thing. One book. Really? You quit your job making damn good money to devote all of your time and energy into selling one solitary thriller? I don't care how good your novel is, you should be looking at this as a career, not a novel. Why would an agent want to start a long lasting, meaningful relationship with someone that has already written the only thing they can represent? Get out there and write. Write dozens of books, hundreds! Your writing and plotting can only improve the same novel so much, but every new book is a chance to improve.

Where is this vague rant coming from, you may ask? Maybe a little bit of jealousy. I wish I could have had a good job to support my family with, let alone the ability to quit it and try to become an author. I can't imagine how much I'd get done if I didn't spend 10 hours a day returning toothbrushes and toilet paper for customers that don't know how to read an advertisement, let alone a novel.

But mostly, it's a mighty yawp about how much I love this business I've decided to be a part of. I love writing novels, the thrill of creating new worlds and people. I cherish the conversations I've had with my wife about her books, the friendships I've made online because of my writing. I dig the way a marked up manuscript looks in front of me. I'm going about things differently for the next few novels I write, releasing them as e-books and forgoing the agent route entirely, which is it's own kind of adventure.

So I wish the Dude all the best, good luck with your one, obsessively over-edited novel and your hundreds of identical agent queries. I wish you the best with your scotch-soaked diatribes against the business that you want to be a part of. Let the bear eat you. Me, I'm off to write about zombies, hitmen, robots and boy detectives. Even if no one ever reads them, I still love this job!