Archive for March, 2015

I took the plunge and finally made a video blog today. Why not check it out and let me know what you think.

I apologize for not having a new blog entry yesterday. Been a busy time in my household. I have a question for you all. I’m considering trying to do a video blog once a week. Do any of you follow a vlog or do one yourself? What do you think about them? 

This will be a quick entry, and I’m sorry for sounding like a bad imitation of Bill and Ted, but I wanted to share that I received the second most awesome delivery of my life yesterday. Being there for the delivery of my son was obviously the most awesome. Yesterday, just as I was about to cut my hair (which explains why it looks the way that it does), my son knocked on my door and said that there was a delivery out front. A minute later he brought up a cardboard box that seemed pretty heavy to him. I thanked him, opened it, and just stood there smiling. It was twenty-five advanced copies of my book. I had a box full of my first published book! It’s still two and a half months before its release, but I feel so thrilled about it now!

box of books

I’m thrilled to announce that my first published novel, Pup, is now available for preorder. It is currently available for preorder on three sites with more to follow. You can find links to these sites on my web page www.accidental-author.com  The Amazon link includes a pretty expansive preview of the novel. Check it out and let me know what you think!

So you have come up with a wonderful idea for a novel. You have it all planned out. You know every detail of what is going to happen with your main characters. You know what plot twists are going to throw your reader for a loop. You’re set! Then you start writing and find a huge problem. It isn’t enough. Your plans for a novel have resulted in a short story with dreams of growing up into a novel. You add more details to your characters, embellish a little on the story, and even get creative with your spacing. Still not enough. You need a side story. Where are you going to come up with a side story? You fried out all of the creative circuits in your brain imagining the main plot. It’s all over! The book is ruined! Time to go back to watching Star Wars way to much and living off of popcorn! (Not that there’s anything wrong with that!)

Before you format your hard drive and burn your printed copies, you should realize that a side story isn’t that difficult to create, and it can make a world of difference in your characters realism. Think about it. Do you do only one thing all of the time? Even people who are obsessed with something take a break from it now and again. Your characters should, too. That is where a good side story comes in. It transforms your characters from characters into people. So where do you find a good side story? My suggestion for that would be the same suggestion that I give for most things. Open your eyes! The perfect side stories are all around you or have already been a part of you and your life.

One of the favorite approaches I have seen some authors use is to make the setting of the book a side story. That is a tried and true technique. It’s especially useful if you are very familiar with the setting yourself. When this happens, the setting becomes a character all its own. Could Batman take place anywhere other than Gotham City? I really enjoy the Dresden Files series. In it, Jim Butcher often uses the setting of Chicago as a source for side stories. He takes common sites in the city and twists them to fit into his paranormal world. You can certainly do the same.

Of course, everyone doesn’t want to use the same formula for creating side stories. That would make for boring literature. So what else can you look to for side stories. Think of your own life. I don’t mean that you should make every story a biography. I mean that everyone can look back on an event in their life and imagine how it could have been different. You can positively or negatively change how things are handled by your characters in the same situation and create a good side story that will be very believable. After all, the situation did occur in real life, right? You can also look to your own activities. Why not incorporate some of your own hobbies, your job, or some of your interpersonal interactions into side stories. Once again, reality creeps into fiction, and it makes for a better story.

So, if it is big cities or family reunions, career moves or airsoft games, you can find lots of ideas for side stories for almost any book. Just look around, remember, go through a photo album, or talk to a friend. Personally, I am using airsoft in the book I am working on now. It gives me a good side story and an excuse to go and play!

airsoft pic

A very wise man once said, “Becoming an author was an accident. Being a writer was on purpose.” Ok, it wasn’t a very wise man. I wrote those words as an introduction to my website (check it out at www.accidental-author.com), but I have looked back at them and wondered if I was being monotonous. Is there a difference between a writer and an author? Is it just six of one, half a dozen of the other? Does anyone care? I just read someone else’s blog entry (at https://thehappytypewriter.wordpress.com/) that convinces me that there are people who need to know that there is difference.

same difference

Dictionary.com defines an author as “a person who writes a novel, poem, essay, etc.” The same site defines a writer as “a person engaged in writing books, articles, stories, etc.” Seems pretty much the same thing, right? Not if you really read the definition. The author has written. The writer is engaged in writing. Being a writer is more than just an activity. It is something that is a part of someone. Its something that you do because you feel that you must. That writing might be in the form of a poem, a story, a novel, a blog or journal entry, or even freeform thoughts on a page. When you are a writer, you put some part of yourself onto that page. I am not making any claims about talent or ability or possibility of success. I am simply saying that there are a lot of writers out there, and that they shouldn’t stop being writers. Sometimes you feel that you need to take whatever it is in your mind, heart, or soul and record it on that most mystically seductive medium known as paper. Follow that need. Success isn’t a promise, or maybe not even a goal. For a writer, the writing was the goal.

An author is someone who has the talent, ability, planning, and ingenuity to take that need to write and turn it into something that others will consume through reading. There is a massive element of talent involved, as well as business acumen, interpersonal skills, and maybe even a little luck. Very few writers become authors, and fewer still become successful ones. However, every author is a writer. That is something that the most successful author has in common with a kindergartener that writes their first two-sentence tale.

If you are a writer that has not become an author, it doesn’t make you any less of a writer. I still haven’t achieved the level of an author (but a website called accidental writer sounds too awkward). That’s just fine. Be a writer. Don’t let anything stop you from it. Being a writer isn’t something that you do for success. It is something that you do for you. The last great acceptable selfish act.

I will preface this by saying that I am not a poet. I have read some wonderful poetry in my day, and none of it was written by me! I accept that limitation without complaint. However, there are times when you feel the need to express something, and you do so however you can, even if it is not in your area of strength. Such was the case several years ago when it was the anniversary of my grandfather’s passing. Family can be a great source of stories, but it can be a great source of pure inspiration as well.

PawPaw

He would not have read this poem

Even if he were still here.

Poetry was not his style.

He would have put it on that table next to his chair

But still talk about it with that crooked smile.

I tried to tell him in my own ways.

I think that he still truly understood.

There had been so many things

Some others couldn’t forgive him for,

But all his grandson saw was good.

He knew how much that day meant

When we drove around for hours

And how his opinion was everything,

But was he speaking the day we laid him down

When there was thunder but no showers?

My son shares your name now, PawPaw,

But he doesn’t have your crooked smile.

That is something that you gave to me.

I will place this next to your stone,

But you don’t have to read it.

I still know you love it. That was your style.

PawPaw

Some of you reading this blog are fairly young. Some of you reading it have a little more experience at life. All of you have already or will soon experience a moment in which someone makes you feel old. I mean ancient, ready for mummification, show up in history books, The Doctor thinks you’re one of his parents old. It will not be pleasant.

I experience this almost every day. Teaching middle schoolers is a challenge that I love, but they have no concept of age. One of my first years teaching I had students guess my age. They guessed about 45-50. I was 21 and looked like I was 17! I’ve started seeing toys I played with as a child show up in antique stores. I was born the same year as the original Star Wars movie was released, and it’s now referred to as “Classic!”

So when faced with these assaults on our youth, do we just sit back, turn on daytime television and wait for our social security to begin? That depends on whether that is what you want to do. I have known many who were elderly, honestly elderly, that I could not keep up with their level of activity. I have known teenagers that had slugs call them lazy. I’m not saying you’re as old as you feel. I’m saying that you’re as old as you want to be. Some people want more maturity, some people want to hold onto youth. Don’t let other people’s observations and limits define your age. I can be an old fogey and a little kid in the same moment. It’s loads of fun.

By the way, “Classic” Star Wars rocks! Don’t argue. Just accept it.

Also, if you recognize the style of the featured image, it says nothing about your age. Some cool things never become uncool.

pop photo

I do admit to being a bit of a sic-fi geek. I saw the original Star Wars trilogy twice a week every week throughout my entire childhood. Modern sic-fi just can’t compare, with one exception: the short-lived series Firefly. I stumbled across reruns of this show and was so depressed to discover that it only ran for the one season, but I’ve learned so much from it. I understand why the fans of the show, known as Browncoats, are so dedicated.

Firefly is, in essence, a sci-fi western. Some hi-tech, lots of low-tech, and no aliens. This show was very character-driven, and boy did they have some characters! The young, spoiled doctor. His schizophrenic yet brilliant younger sister. The much less brilliant and trigger-happy fighter. The list goes on, but the character that has influenced my writing the most was the main character, brilliantly portrayed by Nathan Fillion, Captain Malcolm Reynolds. Reynolds had fought on the losing side of an interplanetary civil war, and now he just wants to take his cargo ship and stay as far away from the central government as he can. He can be very witty and charming, then turn right around and be violent and insulting. As one of the passengers on his vessel once said, she never knew which personality she was going to have to deal with.

I learned something important from Captain Reynolds and Firefly: you don’t have to make people love, or even agree with your main character in order to have them cheer for them. I’m fairly certain that if Captain Reynolds and I had met in real life, he probably would have shot me, or at least hit me with a pool cue. I doubt we would have seen eye to eye on much. Even so, I cheered for that character throughout the show and the follow-up movie, Serenity. He was a character you would follow anywhere just because you felt that you should. I try to remember this whenever I am writing a new character. No character is perfect, so put a little bit of a bad side in them. They will be more real to the readers and they will still cheer for them. As Captain Reynolds once said, aim to misbehave!

browncoat