Happy New Year

I’m not much on resolutions. I figure I can break promises to myself without resorting to once-a-year resolvathons where everyone decides they’re going to make magic until it gets too difficult or time-consuming. You’ll see this at the gym where it’ll be packed with people until the end January, you’ll see people trying to start businesses and people deciding to write books only to decide it’s easier to kick back and watch TV.

Let me just say, if it’s worth doing, it doesn’t matter a whit how hard it is. A buddy of mine likes to say success at cycling is a matter of how much pain you can take before you quit. Writing a book means you’ll be eventually hit a point where your eyes are closed and you’re still writing. Being successful at martial arts mean sweating and bleeding on mat so you don’t have to on the street. Starting a business means endless stress and long hours.

All of these things are worth it. None of them are easy. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it. And, let’s face it, it feels so fucking good to succeed when the odds are against you and you have to bust your ass to get it done.

I hope your next year is great. I hope all the ass-busting and endless hours and sleepless nights pay off. But most of all, I hope you don’t quit. Keep cycling. Keep writing. Keep fighting. Keep going, even when it seems like the world is against you because the difference between success and failure is the amount of times you can get knocked down and get back up.

Happy New Year, everyone.

And now, your moment of Zen.

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Book Review – Rainbow Monsters by Sylva Fae

Let me stop you right here: this is a children’s book, so if you’re looking for a panoply of colorful monsters tearing things up, you’re in the wrong place. I pitched that idea to Sylva, along with the rest of the plot including aliens, missiles, and gun play, but she felt none of those things were appropriate for younger audiences.

Instead, we get a happy story, full of brightly colored monsters laughing and playing that’s perfect for very young kids. This is the kind of book my son would have loved when he was much younger than he is now and would be much, much easier to read than Fox In Socks.

This is a wonderfully clever book about colors and monsters and activities. The only real downside is my son is now too old to appreciate books like this, but when he was a wee lad it would have been great for learning about colors. The extra activities at the end of the book make it a truly remarkable departure from the normal children’s books that just throw some words and images on the page and call it good. Sylva has put together something that you can not only read to your kids, but interact with them, too.

On a mixed up rainy, sunny day,
The rainbow monsters love to play.

Jump on a cloud and join the rainbow monsters in their fun and games. Come and meet each of the monsters and learn the colours of the rainbow.

Get a copy for the little monster in your life here (paperbacks also available)

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Show Me The Stuff

Here’s an interesting factoid for you: The cast of the original Star Trek were among the last actors that were trained by picture. Apparently, when they were learning to act, part of their training consisted of showing them pictures of people doing particular faces to represent various emotions. This is what a scared person looks like. This is what a happy person looks like. So on and so forth.

Better than his Spocked face.

In a way, it makes a certain kind of sense. As a TV actor, part of the job is making sure the audience understands what’s going on. If you make a particular face, everyone knows you’re shocked. Then we don’t have to expend additional energy trying to decide who’s shocked, who’s got ennui, and who’s blasé about about life; we can focus on the antics of Spock and Bones.

What does all this have to do with price of tea in China? Funny you should ask. But first, allow me to digress.

Back when I was still teaching Kenpo, I learned more teaching than I did learning. The reason was I had to not only be able to teach the techniques as I learned them, but be able to explain why the technique worked. It required an in-depth understanding to do it well.

Editing can change things.

Editing a book is kind of like teaching. It forces you to look at things differently. While I’m editing someone’s book, I’m also mentally editing my own works and noting what works and what doesn’t work when I’m reading it instead of writing it.

I’ve recently been editing a book for some folks. While it’s not a bad book, there are a few things in there that had me scratching my head and a few things that could really be expanded. In the writing world, we love to say “show, don’t tell.” The things that needed expanded fell into the “show, don’t tell” category. It wasn’t that they were bad lines, they just needed some expansion.

I’m not going to reproduce their lines here. Like I said, they’re not bad lines. But you see bad lines all the time. Little throw-away lines that would be easy to turn from bland to interesting.

Take this:

“I could tell she was upset.”

It’s a classic example of tell, not show. It’s also boring and feels half-assed. To make it interesting, look back to the way the original cast of Star Trek was trained and start asking question. How could I tell she was upset? Well, she looked upset. What does that look like? If you were to paint a picture of someone who was upset, what would it look like?

Steam always comes out of ears when people are upset. Seriously, watch a cartoon sometime.

That’s the essence of showing instead of telling.

An upset person can scowl, furrow their brow, snort, frown, grimace, narrow their eyes, glare, yell, blow steam out of their ears, and break things. Think about a person you’ve known and what he or she looked like when they were upset. Then write that.

Instead of “I could tell she was upset” how about:

“Her glare could peel the paint off a battleship. Those expressive brown eyes I love so much wouldn’t meet my gaze. She was completely focused on the bent spoon in her hand when she said, ‘I can’t believe you cheated at Street Fighter 2. I had that match and you know it’.”

Without ever saying “she’s upset” we know she’s upset. If in doubt, toss in a line about steam coming out of her ears.

Show it, don’t tell it.

Got any tips for showing instead of telling? Drop ’em in the comments and let the world see. In the interim, keep writing.

Writing Process

 

I type like the wind.

Stephen King has repeated said he writes every day. I saw him when he was in Albuquerque being interviewed on stage by George R.R. Martin. Martin, at one point in the interview asked, “How do you write so fast?” Or words to that effect. I seem to remember him asking “How do you write so fucking fast?”, but that may just be my unrequited love affair with the word ‘fuck’. Either way it was asked, King’s response was “I write six good pages a day. Every day.” Again, words to that effect. I don’t seem to remember King saying, “I write six good fucking pages a day”, but he might have.

At any rate, this was not new information. I think everyone knows Stephen King writes every day. He’s been forward about that for years. After all, it’s his job and you don’t blow off work just because you don’t feel like doing it. On the other hand, George R.R. Martin is famous for taking years to knock out a new novel. In Martin’s defense, let’s face it, A Song of Fire and Ice is some crazy complicated shit and each scene has to work with every other scene that has come before it. So, it’s not entirely surprising that the TV series will likely end before the book series.

So, what does all this have to do with the price of tea in China? I’m of the opinion that writing every day is a good thing. It could be a couple lines, it could be a few hundred, but I write something every day almost without fail. For me, it’s just become something I do out of habit and I feel bad if I don’t do it. Writing is my way of unwinding and I feel a bit lost if I don’t get some in every night.

House is on fire, but I’m almost done with this chapter.

But that’s not necessarily for everyone. A couple days ago I came across a Twitter thread about exactly that thing. The general gist of the thread was that feeling like you have to write every day is bullshit. Life, it seems, oftentimes has other plans for our free time. Be it work, play, or a new Star Wars movie coming out, sometimes you simply can’t find time every day to put words on pages.

Besides, as I’ve repeatedly said, I didn’t start writing to follow everyone else’s rules. The world is already full of people following everyone else’s rules. My rule is trying my damnedest to write something every day, but it’s not for everyone. Rules are for suckers, anyway. Make your own rules.

At the beginning of the year, I wrote a post about the magic of writing. Now that the year is coming to a close, I’d like to reiterate what I wrote then: If there’s something you love to do, find time to do it. It doesn’t matter how far you go. It doesn’t matter how fast you go. It matters that you go.

So, get out there and go.

What about you? Got any thoughts on writing every day? Drop ’em in the comments; I love comments and am usually fairly good at replying to them.

And now, your moment of Zen.

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Book Review – Prey Till The End by S.L. Eaves

I recently wrote a post on the urban fantasy genre and how it can be a lot trickier to work the paranormal into the real world and have it be believable than most people think. The true mark of understanding in the genre is when you can read a book set in our world and have critters like vampires and werewolves make sense in the context of the story.

Of course, vampires would work with the Defense Intelligence Agency. If any government group is going to know about vampires, it’s DIA. That’s exactly the kind of thing they’d find out about and vampires, justifiably, would be leery of working with them.

It’s the little details like those that can make a good urban fantasy story pop. Lori’s smoking – she’s dead, after all, it’s not like she’s going to get cancer – and drinking, the fact that she’s not 100% on board with being a vampire, and her moral flexibility all add to the gritty realism of a world where vampires are real, werewolves are real, and at least part of the government knows about it.

I guess that’s one of the things that doesn’t ring true about a lot of stories where vampires are running around doing vampire things and absolutely no one knows about it. It would only take a handful of people being drained of blood before even the most jaded cop would wonder if the stories were true.

So that’s the world of Prey Till The End, S.L. Eaves’s latest brilliant mix of urban fantasy, thriller, and horror story. I reviewed Dead And Damaged a little over a year ago and found it a cracking good story about how vampires and werewolves would be excellent fodder for any number of secret groups that would absolutely love to use that kind of genetic material to make super soldiers.

In Prey Till The End Lori, our protagonist from the previous book, finds herself stuck between an alpha werewolf who wants violent revenge, a rogue group of vampires doing nasty vampire stuff, and the purebloods that will kill every vampire if the rogues aren’t stopped.

Through her eyes, we see a world that looks and smells real. It’s soaked in booze and reeks of cigarettes, the coppery scent of blood, and the musky smell of werewolves. S.L. brands Prey Till The End as the final installment in the Endangered Series. Maybe that’s the case, and I can certainly understand the desire to move onto other things, but I’d like to see more of Lori’s life (death, she’s a vampire) in the future, even if it doesn’t follow on with the theme of the rest of the stories.

This is a really good, just like the previous one, and it’s nice to see someone taking classic monsters – vampires and werewolves – and doing more than making soft-core erotica with them. S.L. has created a great twist on the traditions and not only brought those creatures into our world, but managed to make the fantastic seem real without feeling mundane.

If you like action tinged with horror and topped with a thriller cherry, check these books out. They’re great and great fun.

The 3rd installment brings the The Endangered Series to a gripping conclusion that will keep you on the edge of your seat till the last page. 

Seven years have passed since Lori exiled herself from her clan. Seven years without bloodshed, without demons, without torture, without premonitions. Seven years of peace and quiet in the civilian life she’s cultivated for herself.

Seven boring years. 

Then Vega appears at her doorstep with alarming news: a former member of his clan is responsible for the recent string of homicides across the southwest and the Purebloods are holding her clan responsible. To make matters worse, this traitor is working with an enemy from Lori’s past who is hell bent on revenge.

Now she’s faced with returning to the world she’s tried so hard to escape in order to save the only family she has left. Lori finds unlikely allies in a slayer and a werewolf hybrid, both survivors of S&D Pharma’s experiments. Together they fight to stop the vampire’s killing spree and absolve her clan from the Pureblood’s wrath. That’s if a ghost from her past doesn’t succeed in stopping her first.

Get your copy here.

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