Tuesday, December 20, 2011

You know you're a character-intensive writer when...

My mother used to comment about how I studied people, even when I was a kid. I vaguely recall watching my parents' friends so closely that I sometimes made them uncomfortable or prompted them to ask what I was thinking about. My mother would quickly chime in that she suspected I was going to become a psychologist, and I was getting a head start studying human nature. I soon learned to people watch from the corner of my eye.

My sweet mother might have been surprised to learn I began writing instead of psychoanalyzing, creating woes for fictional characters instead of helping real people deal with theirs, but she wouldn't have been surprised that my novels are so character-focused.

We just returned from Mexican Riviera cruise. It was a great and relaxing trip, and time and time again I was reminded how I enjoy people- (and animal-) watching and speculating on motivations and lives beyond the sliver I get to witness. So:

You know you're a character-intensive writer when...

...you see a harem of seals lounging by the ocean and study them, wondering what kind of dynamics are going on.

...you wander off a cruise ship in Mexico to wade through streets lined with locals "in your face" about taking you fishing or sailing or to a beach and you look into their eyes as you say "no thanks" for the one hundredth time and wonder what their lives are like.

...you sit on the cruise ship and actively listen to conversations around you, noting what folks observe and comment on, what attracts their attention and why.

On the other hand, you know you're NOT an artist when you see incredibly beautiful or visually fascinating, colorful sights but don't want to paint or draw them, instead making mental notes of how you might describe them in words. I'm terrible about not taking pictures, but here are a few that make me wish I painted (or wanted to learn how). I'd describe them instead of posting pictures, but these shots save me 4000 words to use somewhere else. Enjoy.

Monday, December 05, 2011

I can be bought

Amazon links by country:
To view and/or purchase my novels in the US   ==> Click here
To view, and/or purchase my novels in Canada ==> Click here
To view, and/or purchase my novels in the UK ==> Click here

Amazon links by title:


eBook now available at Amazon:
                 US link: AMAZON.COM
                 UK link: AMAZON.CO.UK
                 Canada link: AMAZON.CA

Paperback now available at Amazon:
                 US link: AMAZON.COM
                 UK link: AMAZON.CO.UK
                 Canada link: AMAZON.CA

eBook now available at Amazon:
                 US link: AMAZON.COM
                 UK link: AMAZON.CO.UK
                 Canada link: AMAZON.CA

Paperback now available at Amazon:
                 US link: AMAZON.COM
                 UK link: AMAZON.CO.UK
                 Canada link: AMAZON.CA

eBook now available at Amazon:
                 US link: AMAZON.COM 
                 UK link: AMAZON.CO.UK
                 Canada link: AMAZON.CA

Paperback now available at Amazon:
                 US link: AMAZON.COM
                 UK link: AMAZON.CO.UK
                 Canada link: AMAZON.CA

eBook now available at Amazon:
                 US link: AMAZON.COM 
                 UK link: AMAZON.CO.UK
                 Canada link: AMAZON.CA

Paperback now available at Amazon:
                 US link: AMAZON.COM
                 UK link: AMAZON.CO.UK
                 Canada link: AMAZON.CA

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Interview with a villain's maker

Jake Webb, clearly the bad boy of Above Haldis Notch, had his own interview a couple days ago on my publisher's BLOG. Now it's my turn. I chose the high road and didn't threaten Jake in return for his "stuff my mouth" comment.

I'm very happy to be Amaleen Ison's guest. She posts great interviews, and now I know how she pulls so much information out of writers.Check the interview out by clicking the image below.

I hope you'll stop by. There's a comment trail, and I'll stop by periodically today, so feel free to say hello or ask a question (like "Okay, just how does Amaleen pull so much information out of writers?").

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Interview with a villain

A character from Above Haldis Notch got his own interview over on Musa Publishing's BLOG. Unfortunately, it was Jake. He's not a nice man on a good day, and it seems he was in a particularly bad mood for the interview, even by his standards. I've never been threatened by one of my own characters before.

Was it something I said?

Check out Jake's interview at http://musapublishing.blogspot.com/2011/12/interview-with-jake-webb-from-above.html.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Lessons from a Newsletter

I emailed subscribers of my Horror with Heart Newsletter a new issue yesterday, The Vermont Issue. I enjoy emailing out the newsletters for several reasons. For one thing, I like to be read, and the newsletters spread the word about my novels. I also like connecting with friends and readers, and the newsletters give folks a reason, or at least a prompt, to write back and say howdy. A couple dozen subscribers reply after each newsletter -- more if I specifically ask for input about something -- and I love that contact. It's the only direct connection I have with some friends.

This newsletter was especially fun to write because it was about the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, my former home and the setting of my new release. I included an "Insiders Info to Above Haldis Notch" section, and writing it led me to remember living in Vermont. Remembering led me to share some pictures. I set a limit of eight, so I wouldn't overwhelm anyone. I'm not much of a shutterbug, but after a decade in Vermont, surrounded by so much natural beauty, I have enough photos that selecting only eight was difficult.

I'm happy with the way the newsletter came out. If you don't subscribe, you can view it online by clicking this link: Horror with Heart Newsletter 9 - The Vermont Issue. Go ahead and take a look, see the pictures of Vermont I mentioned. I'll still be here when you get back.

Now that you've seen it, I'll tell you what I learned with this newsletter. Include enough beautiful photos of Vermont, and folks won't even notice there's no cover image for the new novel, the one the newsletter is supposed to be promoting. Yikes!

When I was readying the newsletter to send out, some glitch in the program I use made some pictures disappear, so I had to reload them. I didn't notice the cover image for Above Haldis Notch had gone missing, and I sent the newsletter out without it. I got my usual flurry of replies. All mentioned how great the photos of Vermont were. Several mentioned they purchased my new novel (yay!). NONE mentioned the lack of a cover. I finally asked a few people if they'd noticed. Nope. Ha. Just another way the beauty of Vermont continues to impress me.

Did you notice? Post a comment if you did.

I've posted pictures of Vermont and my cabin there before, so if you liked the pictures in the newsletter, here are links to earlier BLOG posts with more photos: Coincidences you couldn't get away with in fiction, Spot the dog, and Remembering Vermonters and Vermont.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Release day for Above Haldis Notch

WooHoo! Release day is finally here, and it feels great to have a fresh novel on the market. It's been over two years since the original release of my second published novel, Dark Knowledge. But Now Above Haldis Notch joins the marketplace. And believe me, it lives up to the brand, Horror with Heart. There's a lot of heart in this novel, and it just might scare you too.

I've always loved this novel and the characters in it. It's kind of my tribute to the decade I lived in Vermont, a great time in my life. There's been a lot of work going into getting the novel all gussied up and ready for sale. Musa Publishing did a great job. As mentioned in an earlier blog, I was very pleased with the editing. I love the formatting, the way it looks on an e-reader (or in .pdf if you read on the computer screen), and the cover's fantastic.

It's available for $4.99 at Musa Publishing's website, where you can also read a summary and an excerpt. Same price at Amazon's site, where you can read a nice long excerpt using "look inside." You can read the prologue on my website, and today, my BLOG post, A Tale of Two Notches, is up on Musa Publishing's BLOG to give a little background and insight into the novel.

So there are plenty of opportunities to sample before you turn loose of that $4.99 to purchase. If it looks good to you and you read it, I'd love to hear your impressions.

I'll email a new issue of my Horror with Heart newsletter to subscribers in a few days, sharing some inside information behind and inside the novel. If you're not subscribed but want to be, look at the top right portion of this site and use that gold box to sign up. I'll also post a link to view the newsletter online once it's been emailed to subscribers.

Thanks for letting me crow. Release Day is a BIG DAY for us authors. WooHoo!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Above Haldis Notch available for pre-order

Physical death is tragic, but the
death of a spirit is a life lost forever

The folks at Musa Publishing did a great job with my novel. I love my cover, and I'm thrilled with my editor and the way Above Haldis Notch has been groomed for publication.

I've been lucky with editors, and Bri, my editor for this novel, certainly continued my streak. It energizes me when my editor and I team up with the common goal to make my novel stronger and to get rid of every little (or big) thing we can find that might jolt a reader out of my story. It's even better when trust is developed between author and editor, and that trust was established early and did nothing but grow as the process continued.

So here's a big thank you kiss to great editors everywhere.


And now that my novel is in its final revisions and coming down the home stretch, exactly one month away from its official release day, I'm pleased to announce that it's now available for pre-order from the publisher for $4.99. Go to the Above Haldis Notch webpage at Musa Publishing by CLICKING HERE. Be sure to specify which eBook format you want. And a bonus tip: Look around at the other Musa titles while you're there. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Can we chat?

Sure we can, and here's where and when...

Celebrity Sunday Chat
Horror Month
Sunday, October 23rd
from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM (EST)

Writer's Chatroom is an award-winning website where writers interact. In addition to their workshops and classes, they have weekly chat sessions with selected guest authors. Readers or other writers ask questions about writing in general, the guest author's novels, or anything they'd like to know (and the guest author chooses to answer). I'm proud to be the guest author October 23rd as part of Writer's Chatroom's Horror Month.

There's no fee, no password needed, no subscription required. Just go to http://writerschatroom.com/Enter.htm when the chat opens or during the chat and enter a user's name for your visit. Ask me questions or sit back and take it in, it's up to you, but be sure to stay through the first hour. They give away prizes at the midpoint break.

Please note the time is EST, so make adjustments accordingly. There's a little clock on the entry page which shows what time it is in that time zone.

Hope to chat with you there.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Above Haldis Notch has cover

The release date for my paranormal thriller/horror novel Above Haldis Notch is the day after Thanksgiving, just over 7 weeks away. Musa Publishing has been great to work with. My editor Brianna is wonderful. We've completed the first round of edits, and I'm happy with how we're tuning it up. We have a second round of content edits to go and then the copy edits, but we're making good progress.

And now I have a cover, designed by the very talented Kelly Shorten. I love it. It's gritty and creepy in just the right proportions, has a rural Vermont feel, and contains important elements from inside the pages. I'd write another thousand words describing the cover to you, but I'm sure we'd all rather I post a picture instead. So here it is. *drum roll please*

I hope you love it as much as I do. 

Above Haldis Notch now has its own page on Musa Publishing's website. If you're interested in a few details of what happens inside the cover, CLICK HERE.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Musa Excitement

I can't even imagine the work involved in starting up a publishing company, so it's been fascinating to witness a little bit of the activity. My publisher for Above Haldis Notch launches October 1st, tomorrow as I write this.


I'm a pretty careful guy, and normally, I might have steered clear of a start up publisher, but I'm thrilled to be on the ground floor of this one. There's a great depth of talent and experience at Musa Publishing, and I've been stunned (in a good way) at the amount of energy, enthusiasm, and just plain hard work going on by all these talented folks. They have quite a staff and already have a full schedule of novel and book releases through the first quarter of 2012.

I know it's been tremendously hard coordinating everything involved in this effort, but they've done a great job and should enjoy a spectacular launch tomorrow. They'll take off with three new books and the inaugural issue of their speculative fiction e-magazine, Penumbra.

As for me, things are moving along very well with my paranormal thriller, which is scheduled to be released the day after Thanksgiving, November 25th. I have a great editor, and I look forward to seeing -- and sharing with you -- the cover Musa is designing for my novel. I'll be mentioning Above Haldis Notch more as the release date nears. Until then, if you're looking for something good to read, click the Musa Publishing banner above to visit their website and share the Musa excitement.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Minions of Misery

It's about time someone started handing out awards for being dark and disturbed, and I'm honored to have received the Minions of Misery Award. It was bestowed on me by Julia Kavan, talented author of dark and steamy fiction (BLOG HERE, my interview with Julia HERE). To fulfill my duties, I must divulge a shocking and dark secret, share a dark and disturbing novel, and recommend a dark and terrifying movie. Then I earn the right to nominate three new minions of misery.

A dark secret -

As a child, I was near-sighted to the point of being legally blind without corrective lenses, but nobody knew it. It wasn't discovered until the day I started first grade. My parents were shocked. They'd worried that I was so quiet and didn't interact much with others, but I was a happy and healthy child, so it wasn't a huge concern. I got glasses at once, of course, but for years I had to be forced to wear them. Everyone thought I resisted because they were so thick and heavy that they hurt. They did, but my secret is: I didn't wear them because...I saw dead people.

Okay, that last part is a lie, but the rest is true, and I didn't wear my glasses because I was very good at keeping myself entertained without the outside world. I enjoyed making everyone else disappear.

A dark and disturbing novel -

Stephen King's Pet Cemetery. I went way into my past for this one. It's one of the first horror novels I read after graduating college, and it kicked off my ongoing love affair with the genre. It remains one of the creepiest, most disturbing novels I've read, therefore I'll always love it.

A darkly terrifying movie -

I'm reaching back again, into the same time frame when I first read Pet Cemetery. I rented a dvd of a movie called Evil Dead II. It's a strange and memorable mix of fear, dread, gross-me-outness, and humor. I've watched it at least six times over the years, and I think I may be about ready for another Evil Dead II fix. There are good reasons this movie is a dark classic.

And now to nominate three Minions of Misery (in no particular order):

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Horror Author's Got Posse

Everyone needs buds to hang out with, even us horror authors. Meet my posse.

With me are (left to right)
Targ, Igor, Balthazar, and Emmett.

We watch.

Don't cross us!

Note how Targ resembles the cover of Dark Knowledge. Hey, even gargoyles have kismet.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Julia Kavan Interview

Please welcome dark fiction author Julia Kavan. Julia recently interviewed me on her blog, and now it's my turn to ask the questions. Mmwhahaha. I'll lead off the interview by mentioning that I read Julia's short story, "Dreaming, not Sleeping," and I'm impressed. It's difficult to write a story from inside a dream, and she nailed it for this reader.


A woman is tempted away from the safety of her husband’s arms by a skillful nighttime visitor, but they both find nothing is as it seems…A short story that will draw you into a nightmare. Would you want to stay or go home?


Born in the University city of Cambridge, England, Julia has spent most of her life living in Cambridgeshire - atmospheric and the perfect inspiration for ghost stories.

She has taught creative writing classes for the last ten years, whilst writing screenplays, tackling a novel and experimenting with short stories.

A true Scorpio, her tastes definitely err towards the dark side. She devoured horror stories as a teenager, including James Herbert and Stephen King in her list of favorite authors, moving on to Clive Barker and Peter Straub. As a child she would watch anything that even vaguely looked as if it may be scary... so perhaps it is only natural that this is the area her writing tends to wander into - even if she doesn't always intend it to!


Keith: What is the greatest appeal of writing fiction, especially dark fiction?

Julia: As a child I would often escape the real world by losing myself in books and inside my own imagination. I loved writing stories then– and gradually those stories got darker as I grew older. I enjoy exploring the darker side of life… and our minds. I love the challenge of trying to capture the sinister and unsettling thoughts we have and creating stories from them.

Keith: After reading your short story, I have to ask a few related questions: 1) Do you dream? 2) If so, how often and how vividly? and 3) Do you welcome your dreams or dread them?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

New Horror with Heart Interview

Excellent interviewer and fellow Etopia Press author Julia Kavan asked me questions about Dark Knowledge, writing in general, and me.  Check out the interview on Julia's BLOG by clicking my face below. No really, click my face to read the interview.

Did you do it? Yeah, I know you did, and I need to point out that you were a little rough with my face, but never mind. I hope you enjoyed the interview. Let me know if you did. 

I'll turn the tables on Julia in the next week or so, once I come up with some good questions to ask. I'll post the interview here. Until then, click the Etopia Press logo below (no, I'm not about to let you click Julia's face too hard the way you did mine) to sample her dark short story, "Dreaming, not Sleeping." I really enjoyed reading it.

Monday, August 22, 2011

My Excellent Month

I've had a very good month. I issued an email newsletter last week announcing the release of Dark Knowledge and my news that I have a new novel scheduled for release around Thanksgiving. I pasted a section of the "Yippees Come in Threes" issue of my Horror with Heart Newsletter below. If you're not a subscriber and want to read the newsletter in its entirety (aren't you just a little curious about the insider info on Dark Knowledge?), you can view the online version by CLICKING HERE.

To get future issues delivered by email, enter your name and email address in the gold box near the top right of this BLOG and click "submit."

Hello subscribers. Since I visited your in-boxes two months ago with the "The Return of Wesley" issue, I've had lots of good news, and I'm here to share some of it. Also, as threatened, I'm including some insider info on Dark Knowledge. But first, I need to release the yippees.
Yippee from the Past

When lightning comes calling,
you're going to answer.

came out in paperback two years ago. Now Regal Crest has made it available as an eBook too. Yippee!

If you've been waiting to read Struck and still have room in your Kindle for another novel, I hope you'll consider it. Struck is my award-winning paranormal thriller set in Albuquerque, a fictional pueblo, and the Anasazi ruins in Chaco Canyon. There are some great reviews on Amazon (where, by the way, you can also purchase a paperback or Kindle eBook).
Yippee for Now
When good and bad intertwine, taking one means accepting the other.

Dark Knowledge
is available again! Yes, I cleverly timed this newsletter to the release day because I'm so thrilled to have this novel out as an eBook again. And just look its amazing new cover. A larger image is posted on my BLOG here. Yippee!

Thanks to Etopia Press for giving new life to this horror with heart novel. Adding extra yip to my yippee, there will be a paperback edition too. I'll keep you posted on that.
More info and some reviews are ON MY WEBSITE.
Yippee into the Future
My home for ten years in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont.

Above Haldis Notch
is under contract, which means more Horror with Heart is headed your way. Musa Publishing is working incredibly hard to make it available this year as an eBook, with the possibility of a paperback in the future. The tentative eBook release date is November 25, 2011. Yippee!

In Above Haldis Notch, two neighboring families--one loving and respected in the community, the other made dysfunctional by abuse and scandal--must join forces to save a small Vermont town from a threat that jeopardizes not only their lives but also their afterlives.

Tense, huh? Yeah, well just wait until you read it.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Dark Knowledge's New Cover

Tomorrow is release day for the eBook version of Dark Knowledge. WooHoo! I'm grateful to Etopia Press for getting Wesley back on the job of protecting mankind from evil. I love this novel, and I love to be read, so you can imagine how happy I am to get Dark Knowledge back on the market.

Now the edits are done, and Etopia is extremely busy preparing everything for tomorrow's release. And just look at the cover they designed for Dark Knowledge. I'm ecstatic over it.

What a cover! Thanks, Etopia. And once you're inside the cover, here's a short summary of what you'll find.
A mentally challenged man named Wesley can't resist a gift of knowledge, but it comes with a dark destiny. Wesley is thrust into an evil contest, where he must fight to survive, piece together his heritage, and weigh the value of his soul against the fate of mankind.

When good and evil intertwine, taking one means accepting the other.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Cruising Alaska

We returned home from a great Alaskan cruise a week ago. We've wanted to cruise Alaska for years, so this was a nice fulfillment for us. We sailed on Holland America's Oosterdam, and it was a wonderful experience. Impressive ship, fantastic staff, great ports, and happy passengers all made it a fun time. And then there's Alaska. Wow! We left from Seattle, cruised up Glacier Bay, and stopped in Juneau, Sitka, and Ketchikan. Our last night, we also stopped for a few hours in Victoria, BC.

It rained a lot. Okay, almost continuously, but we expected it, so it wasn't a problem. We were lucky with our excursions. We took a float plane in Juneau that flew over several glaciers. It was cloudy, but the cloud cover helped bring out the blue in the glaciers.

The cloud cover helped bring out the blue in the glaciers of Glacier Bay too. We saw -- and heard -- some impressive calving.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

STRUCK for Kindle

My paranormal thriller STRUCK was published as a paperback in 2009, and it's been fun and satisfying. Now it's out as an eBook with a Kindle version available at Amazon, and I'm enjoying a nice surge of new energy, like a second release two years later.

I'm really pleased about this development, because lately I keep getting asked if it can be downloaded to a Kindle. Now it can. See for yourself. To go to the Amazon Kindle page for STRUCK, CLICK HERE.

When lightning comes calling,
you're going to answer.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Looking good from here

Perspective is important. We learn and re-learn that as we grow older (or so I hear *smile*). Perspective helps control anxiousness. It's easier to let go of worries after stepping back and realizing that we're worked up over something that doesn't matter much in the bigger picture of our lives. Perspective is hugely important in being happy or staying happy. We can obsess of something that makes us sad or see how fortunate we are to have the good things we enjoy.

I love playing with perspective when I write. We writers call it "point of view." I've made multiple posts about pov over the years, because it's such a powerful writing tool. In addition to choosing what character's pov to write a scene from, we choose how a character sees things, how his mood affects his impressions, what his overall life perspective is. It's fun to keep those things in mind as a writer, and it's important, because perspective colors everything in fiction, just like it does in life.

This morning, I decided to go for a run. It was later than my usual summer runs. The sun was well up. It didn't cool much overnight, so it was already in the 80s, and after last night's monsoon, it was quite humid. But I felt energetic, so I took off. I knew at once it was a good decision. My stride and breathing were easy, it didn't feel all that hot, and I was enjoying myself and moving right along. I felt youthful and proud of my running pace despite the steamy morning.

About 2/3 through the run, I startled a young coyote out of a bush, and he took off down the wash I run beside, leaving me behind like I was running backward. I watched him dart ahead and, for a moment, hated him. I felt slow and labored and awkward and old. I was still running the same as before, but my perspective had changed. That change didn't last long. Seeing critters makes me happy, and we all know better than to compare our running speed to a coyote's. I mean...get real!

I reached the end of the run, shut off my watch's timer, and saw I'd run three miles at one of my faster paces, despite the steamy morning. Add "accomplished" to the list of things I felt. Cooling down on my walk home, I saw the coyote in the wash, resting in the shade of a bush, and I waved at him before I caught myself. Felt a bit silly, but that's okay. The coyote was my friend now.

So I took a run this morning--three miles and at least as many perspective changes. Can't wait to play with something similar with my characters. Or my life. The next time I feel down, I'm changing perspective.

And just because, here's a picture of one end of last night's rainbow. You can see the double rainbow if you look hard. The main rainbow was full and bright. The double only showed near each end. This picture has nothing to do with this post, other than I mentioned the monsoon last night, but there ya go.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Return of Wesley

I've been quietly working away on things lately, but I'm surprised it's been so long since I posted here on my BLOG. Sheesh! Where does the time go? But I have some great news to share. In fact, I sent out a newsletter this morning with the news. If you're not a subscriber and want to be, there's a little gold box to the right, near the top, where you can sign up. It's easy and just as easy to unsubscribe if you decide you don't like my newsletters. I send out maybe three or four a year.

This issue was fun to write because I announced that my previously published novel, Dark Knowledge, is under contract to be published again. Yay! There are more details in my newsletter, which I'm sharing online this time. CLICK HERE to read Horror With Heart Newsletter #7, The Return of Wesley Issue.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Try to be alive

I stumbled on a great website for author inspiration today. It's http://advicetowriters.com. I've only given it a quick once over so far. A Mark Twain quote about caring for characters really spoke to me, like Mark Twain quotes tend to do, but my favorite quote so far is this one, by William Saroyan.
The most solid advice . . . for a writer is this, I think: Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive, with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell, and when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.

Any other writers find favorites there? 

Friday, April 22, 2011

A Dozen Dialogue Tips

For Earth Day, I'm recycling one of my most popular writing tip posts, things to keep in mind when writing dialogue.

A Dozen Dialogue Tips

Writing effective dialogue isn't as easy as you'd think. When characters in your story or novel speak, their conversation must flow as easily and naturally as a conversation you hear on the street--only better. Here are a dozen dialogue tips.

1.  Be natural. Most people use contractions and sentence fragments when they speak. If your characters don't, they may sound stiff.

2.  Dialogue is more than words. A lifted eyebrow or forced smile can convey more meaning than a spoken sentence. Non-verbal responses can add nuance or completely change the meaning of spoken words.
a) "Sounds great." He slapped Jim's back and whistled on his way out the door.
b) "Sounds great," he said, but he frowned and looked at his feet.
c) "Sounds great." She rolled her eyes and snickered.
Gestures can also replace spoken words and make a scene feel more realistic. Picture a father and son building a fort. Here are some options for a line of dialogue:
a) "Would you hand me that hammer beside your knee, son?" Dad asked.
b) Dad nodded at the hammer beside Billy's knee. "Hand me that, would you?"
c) Dad extended his hand, palm up, like a surgeon awaiting an instrument. "Hammer." 
3.  Characters don't all sound alike. Dialogue can help make your characters unique and distinctive, but a little dialect goes a long way. The same goes for speech quirks. In real life, someone might stammer or say "uh" every other sentence, but

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Mimic the Saguaro

I took a day off from writing on the new novel yesterday to enjoy a beautiful morning hiking Ventana Canyon just outside of Tucson. Perfect day, incredible views, great hike. I figured, though away from the computer, I'd plot as I plod, but my mind even took the day off from the novel. Can you blame it with views like these?

But I did find inspiration...in a cactus. There are many, many saguaros in Ventana Canyon, and I love them all, but I did find two favorites.

The first picture is a saguaro that caught my eye because it had so many arms. I don't recall seeing one with so many before. Keep in mind saguaros grow slowly. They can take up to 75 years to develop their first arm. The second picture is another cactus that has really hung in there. Apparently the ledge it was growing on fell out from under it, but it had enough anchor remaining to stay in place. And grow. What determination and perseverance. I do believe these saguaros could make it as a writers.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Pitch & 250 novel contest at Ebysswriter BLOG

Novelists, here's an interesting contest over at a fellow bloggers site. Ebyss is running a contest that's taking entries from now (actually yesterday) through Sunday, April 17th. All prizes feature critiques from Gina Panettieri, president of Talcott Notch Literary Agency. You can find out more about Gina and her interests in this recent interview with Ebyss. First Place wins a full novel critique from Gina and signed copies of novels by two of Gina's clients. Second through Fourth place prizes are critiques of progressively smaller writing samples from your novel.

Entering is quick and easy, providing you find coming up with a tweet-sized pitch of your full-sized novel easy. Sheesh. That's right, you have 140 characters to pitch your novel. And I mean CHARACTERS, not words. And remember, a space between words counts as a character. Here's what I came up with for my novel Daeva.
Sharon upsets a demon's plan to influence mankind
and becomes the key to its success. Her death will
either empower the demon or destroy it.
140 characters exactly.

Then you include the first 250 words of your novel. That part really is easy, just use the word counter on your word processing program to find the stopping point.

Here's the link to the site where you enter the contest ==> Ebyss's Pitch & 250 Contest. All the details you'll need to enter are there. Good luck to all who enter. Let me know if you do. We can root for each other.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Cracking the whip (in isolation) on the WIP

The hardest time for me to blog is when I'm writing first draft. Go figure. It's all writing, right? I'm already cranking out words. Why not spend a few of them here? But when I sit down to type, guess what document I open? Yep, the work in progress (WIP).

Complicating matters, I'm one of those writers who won't discuss my WIP. Today proved how sincere I am about keeping it all in. I've written a decent sized chunk on the new novel. I remain excited about the story, I love the characters, and it's something I'm excited to pursue. But today I realized I have too much backstory (stuff that happened before my novel opens) to include without some drastic measure. This problem arose when writing STRUCK too. In that novel, I came up with a device to incorporate a huge chuck of backstory in a single section mid-novel. It worked very well for STRUCK, but that method ain't going to work twice, at least not on this novel.

So I've been scratching my head, and, for the first time, thinking about who I could turn to for input. I have wonderfully talented writer friends who are as generous as they are gifted, and I know they'd be willing to shell out the energy to help me through this if I asked. But then I'd have to reveal my story, my dilemma, all this stuff so safely tucked away in my mind and my computer. I clinched at the thought.

It's not that I think anyone's going to steal my idea or my story or my characters. New writers endure that paranoia openly, but we get over that phase sometime during our first novel, which we later "trunk" as trash before moving on to a novel that has some commercial promise. No, it's just that I don't want input. This novel is mine and mine alone until I'm ready to share it. I don't really know why that's important, but it is.

Isolation is one of the hard parts of writing a novel. Yeah, plotting is difficult; research is time-consuming; writing first draft takes great perseverance and dedication; editing requires concentrated effort, time, and attention to every detail.... But believe it or not, it's the isolation that's the most trying sometimes. It's like keeping a big secret that you're very excited about for a year or more. Every day provides at least one opportunity to share that secret, but somewhere inside you, you believe sharing it will diminish it. So you don't. And I didn't. And I'm glad.

I think I've found a new track for tomorrow, a solution to my latest problem. With luck, this solution will take me well into next week before I need to rethink things again, face renewed temptation to seek input, which I'll decide against, and find another solution to some big problem.

So having said all that, here's my detailed report on my WIP. It's going well.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Happy Vernal Equinox

Vernal translates from Latin to Spring,
Equinox translates from the Latin words aequus, which means equal, and nox, which means night.

Welcome to spring and the day when the hours of daylight and nighttime are nearly equal. I love the equinoxes, which won't surprise anyone who has read Struck. In my novel, the earth was threatened from a ritual performed in Chaco Canyon on the vernal equinox, and whether or not Earth would survive was determined on the next autumnal equinox.

I enjoyed making multiple visits to the Anasazi ruins in Chaco Canyon as I geared up for, wrote, and refined Struck. Like many ancient civilizations, the ancestors of today's Pueblo Indians were very much in tune with the solar and lunar cycles. There are still big events at the ruins in Chaco Canyon to mark the summer solstice, the longest day here in the northern hemisphere and the start of summer. There may be celebrations for the winter solstice and equinoxes as well, but the summer solstice is the flashy one, as I've mentioned in a previous blog.

I still like the equinoxes, though, especially the vernal equinox, or as I like to call it for the rest of the day, today. Buds ready to burst forth with leaves or blossoms, warmer days coming, lots of sunlight. So happy vernal equinox, everyone, and enjoy the spring.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Unplanned Characters

Writers, what do you do with an unplanned character who decides he wants a bigger role in your novel?

I'm only in chapter 2 of my work-in-progress, and I've already got one of those. This happens a lot to me, probably to many fiction writers, so I'm not surprised. Many times this situation has worked out well for the unplanned character (and me!). In fact, every one of my novels has at least one major or very strong minor character who started out as a one-page toss-away, but after they'd served their purpose, they came back with big ideas of sticking around. Other times a persistent toss-away character's efforts aren't rewarded with a significant, long-term presence, but they still end up with a bigger purpose.

Then there are the ones I end up resenting. Maybe they frustrate the crap out of me by popping up all the time without ever finding a purpose in the story, and I have to delete every trace of them and fill in the holes they left behind. One character I resent but still love stayed in the novel--a fairly significantly role for the section she was in--but she caused extra work because I had to continually cut back her character development. Still, she kept popping up, demanding more examination. So I killed her. What did she do? Half a novel later, here she came again, a "cold spirit" with a warning for the main characters, and she was just as relentlessly insistent to be heard by them as she'd been with me.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Horror Novel Contest at JournalStone

Have a horror novel you'd like to get published? 

JournalStone Publishing is having a contest for horror novels that looks interesting. I'd never heard of JournalStone, but now I've done some research, traded emails with the owner, purchased one of their books for my Kindle, and read their standard contract (seems very author-friendly). They're a young small press but make no pretensions about themselves or their capabilities. I'm not qualified to endorse a contest, but I'm seriously considering entering this one. A few basics:
  • Horror novels only, at least 75,000 words
  • $2000 advance against future royalties with a publishing contract for 1st place
  • $500 advance and publishing contract for 2nd
  • $200 advance and publishing contract for 3rd
  • Submit full manuscript according to guidelines before 11 PM Pacific time, June 1, 2011
  • Novels that don't place are still considered for publication
Here's a link for full details on their website: http://journalstone.com/2000-in-2011-horror-contest

Let me know if you enter, and good luck to all who do.

   **3-3-11 update: I entered. Please wish me good luck too.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Missing the Manipulation

I'm such a dog person, always have been. I had a special bond with Nicky, a German Shepherd mix, who was my primary companion during my hermit years in Vermont. I've blogged about her several times over the years -- when she was alive (Dogs, Spot the Dog), after she died (A Year Later), and in my dreams (Detailed Dreams).Yesterday marked 3 years since I lost her, and I like to remember her with happy thoughts.

When I first got Nicky from a shelter (a corner of someone's barn) in very rural northeastern Vermont, she'd apparently been ripped off the teat a bit early. I could easily hold her in the palm of one hand. She was so tiny, despite my ongoing rule of no dogs on the furniture, I'd hold her in my lap in my easy chair while she slept. I couldn't resist. When she woke and started gnawing my fingers or climbing all over me, I'd set her on the floor. Nicky quickly learned to manipulate me.

She grew at the rate puppies who'll become large dogs grow, and in a few weeks, she demonstrated great cunning (and charm). She'd wait until I was comfortable in my easy chair, leap up into my lap, and immediately feign sleep. She'd learned I wouldn't put her down if she were asleep.

It was very funny. I could flip her over, hold her upside down, jiggle her little body, sing her name...Nicky would remain limp and "asleep." I recall laughing so hard my stomach hurt. She "slept" through that too. In the end, she established a tradition I loved, where every night, she'd curl up with me in my chair.

December 2005

Once she'd grown, I'd sit at my computer writing for hours and hours, while Nicky lay faithfully at my feet, waiting patiently. When her patience finally wore out, or her stomach growled, or her bladder filled, she knew how to get me out of that office chair. She'd circle behind me, jump up, put a paw on each shoulder from behind, and begin to clean my ears. A dog tongue in my ear is a certain way to get me on my feet. Then she could lure me outside with her energy, and we'd romp and play.

Nicky was a special part of my life for 13 years, and I still think of her often. I miss so much about her, even the way she manipulated me.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

HWH Newsletter Issue #6 is out!

All subscribers to my Horror With Heart Newsletter should now have a horror story and a half in their in-boxes. I hope you all enjoy "Finger Food" with the original and alternate Valentine endings.

I don't plan to post this issue online like I have other newsletters, but it's not too late to receive a copy. I'll forward Issue #6, Feeding the Spirit of Valentine, to everyone who subscribes to my newsletter through February 14th. To subscribe, enter your name and email address in the gold box to the right. 

And to those of you who've questioned whether it'll be hard to fall asleep with "Finger Food" on your mind, just keep your hands under the covers and ignore any skritching sounds coming from behind your bed. You'll be fine.

Thanks again to my subscribers for the encouragement and support. Sure means a lot to me.