A Cold April: My Time on the Jury of a Murder Trial

GavelOn Saturday, I drove past the scene of a murder.

There was the house of the victim, there was where the shooters stood. I could even see where the shooters parked their car for the getaway. They snuck through that yard, and over that fence, around the side there, and…

I circled the block three times, studying the real places that before only existed to me as images on a screen or as a faded picture circulated between me and the others on the jury. But it was real, so very real, and strangely all smaller than I expected. I think I made them all bigger in my mind, because during the three weeks I was on the trial they felt big.

So very big…

Monstrously huge, making everything in my life, my concerns, my worries, seem small and petty.

You worry about bills? We were discussing life and death and part of that was on me. Guns and bullets and questionable detectives and criminals aplenty. Two weeks of witnesses and theories and arguments, and one week of deliberations. And here it is months later and I still haven’t come to grips with the fact that I had a hand in deciding whether someone would spend the rest of his years in a jail cell.

That was my life then in April and I hated every minute of it… and I hate that I still think about it so much today. Continue reading

The Questions Around Arthur

ArthurI like to think of myself as a connoisseur around a few highly important topics.

Certain books and authors, sure. The Beatles, definitely. Classic jazz, I’ve taken the classes. Nerd films like Star Wars? I have three lightsabers in my house, thank you very much.

But here is the thing- over the last few years I feel like I’ve added a new one to my list.

PBS Kids.

Yes, I am now an expert on PBS Kids and I feel I have the power (nah, not just the power, but the knowledge) to back it up, to say what is working and what is not on the lineup of shows PBS gives to our little ones.

There are the shows I love (Wild Kratts [which I wrote an entire post about here], The Odd Squad, Word Girl, and Daniel Tiger [a post here]); there are shows I like (Curious George, Peep and the Big Wide World); there are shows I think that need a lot of help (Sesame Street, I’ve written a few posts about them, but I would like the writers to stop and consider this: parodies don’t work when the audience doesn’t know the reference; all you are doing is negatively impacted their future enjoyment of the work being parodied- mind blown, eh?); and finally shows I think are awful (Clifford and Caillou). I’ve seen them all. I’ve been to the mountain, climbed it and returned with my tale.

Yet, there is one show I truly cannot put my finger on. My opinion changes every time I watch it. Sometimes I feel love for it (real love), and others I shake my head wondering what the writers were thinking.

It’s like leftover night for dinner, when sometimes things taste great and other times you just wish you ordered pizza.

I’m talking about Arthur, based on the books by Marc Brown, one of the great mainstays of PBS Kids, airing now for over 20 years. A show that has grown so vast since it started—with characters, subplots, etc.—that an encyclopedia around the world would not be unheard of. That is the show Arthur, and honestly, I have no idea how I feel about the residents of Elwood City.

Yes, It is my television broccoli. Continue reading

New WKAR Book Review: Bright Shards of Someplace Else by Monica McFawn

Current StateRecently on WKAR’s Current State, I reviewed the new collection of short stories by Monica McFawn. Bright Shard of Someplace Else was also selected this year as one of the Michigan Notable Books.

You can listen to my new review here: http://wkar.org/post/book-review-monica-mcfawns-bright-shards-someplace-else

If you would rather read my review, you can do so below.

Hey, did you know Current State has a podcast? If you subscribe, you can download episodes and segments (and you can find me every other Thursday). Here is a link to find it on iTunes- https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/wkar-fm-current-state/id594609653?mt=2

You can find the novel on Amazon.com here. If you want to check out my other book reviews for WKAR’s Current State, you can do so via links on this pageContinue reading

Please, Make It Stop: A Rant About Game of Thrones

DragonAvast there, me hearties! Here thar be spoilers aplenty! (Wait! It’s not Talk Like a Pirate day? What was I thinking?)

Let’s get this out of the way first. We’ve all been holding off saying this for a while, but it’s time.

Game of Thrones is a soap opera.

I don’t know about you, but I feel a lot better after saying it.

I’ve recently found an interview with George R.R. Martin where he argues his book series is not a soap opera, maybe it was his way of preparing an argument before it came at him from outside his circle, but it is. Both the TV series and his book series… two words… soap opera.

Look, I hate to say it as much as the next person. The idea of someone truly doing something new in a very established (and usually predictable genre) is an awesome idea. He combined the history of the middle ages and fantasy… but the result is a freaking soap opera. With history almost being used as an excuse (or as a resource) for twists that help the soap opera continue.

Consider:

  • Soap operas and A Song of Ice and Fire both has multiple POVs of good and questionable individuals.
  • Both end every moment in a cliffhanger (You can almost hear the “stay tuned” at the end of some of the chapters in the books).
  • Both have meandering plots (I feel like I should be capitalizing meandering; no seriously, all caps).
  • Time seems to have its own rules. And both have marriages that seem to last for the same amount of time (and just like in soap operas most are bad matches).
  • And both are not working towards a clean resolution. There is no Mount Doom in sight from what I can see.

Oh, and all of these points is before I even bring up the fact that George R.R. Martin used to work in television and was a writer on a popular fantasy-lite soap opera in the 1980s.

Game of Thrones is a soap opera with people in funny costumes and dragons and we have bought into it.

Heck, I didn’t just buy in, I bought the DVDs, the books, the shirts and even gave them as Birthday presents to people I love. (I was like: “Hi, I love cocaine, I want you to take it too. Here- Happy Birthday!”) Continue reading

Gender-Swapping: Some Writing Tricks for Taking on the Other Sex

GendersDuring my blog tour for Permanent Spring Showers (my last novel) I had an interesting question from a reader. It really inspired this post.

Here is the quote:

I always am amazed when a man writes from a woman’s perspective or a woman writes from a man’s perspective so convincingly. I was wondering how the author found writing from the opposite sex’s POV.

I don’t want to claim I’m an expert on this. That would be naive, because truly no one knows what it is like to walk in another’s shoes (or high heels), but I’ve experience doing this in my books and I have some tricks that work for me.

In my new book, I have a few female main characters (including one that has diary entries); and there is my book Megan which is entirely one afternoon in one woman’s life. So if you are thinking of writing a work where the “other” gender is the main POV, well, maybe my advice can help.

Oh yeah, and I’m the dude who wrote an entire book with Jane Austen as the main character… Again, not saying I know everything, but… come on! Jane Austen! That gives me some cred, right? I mean… freaking Jane Austen!?! Continue reading

A Highlighting Break: A Quick Writing Update

HighlighterAfter the madness of the blog tour over those ten days (you can see the posts and interviews I did on the page for Permanent Spring Showers), I needed to get away from the site. Yes, this site you are reading right now.

Yeah, I got a bunch of ideas for posts, that never seems to stop, I just began to wonder how I would feel if I was a follower here. And really it has been feeling relentless, one post after another about the new book. Now, if you found me via my fiction (which is awesome), you might be cool with the updates, but there are others that come here for my personal updates, my writing advice, my rants about entertainment and the like. Well, those readers might be feeling differently. And while I would love for everyone to buy my new book, the last thing I want is for this site to just be about my novels. (I did mention they are awesome, right?) So less about my writing. Deal?

So here’s a writing update!

Wait… That didn’t make sense. Okay, a new writing update! How about that?

Well, I’m busy working on a new novel. I’m in the midst of a second draft. I don’t want to say too much about it (Heck, I don’t even want to say the title here), until I have a copyright in my hand. I will say it is probably the closest I will get to a science-fiction work, which isn’t a science fiction work.  I can also say it is very different from anything else I have done. I really have a hard time finding something to compare it to (from my past works to other authors). And this book has made me cry in quite a few spots.

Crying in a good way, not like in a “Man, I suck.” kind of way. (I do have those moments just not with this book.)

I’m trying a new trick with this editing of the book. I just combined all of my chapter drafts into one giant document (we’re reaching over 420 pages now) and I plan to re-read it with a highlighter. I’m going to highlight the sentences, the moments, even the dialogue, I might not be happy with.

See, I envision this as a targeting editing approach. I’ve not done this before. Usually, I always take my books as a whole (well, except for A Jane Austen Daydream, but everything was different with that book), but this will focus me down just to sections I need to work on during this draft. This feels so efficient!

Okay, can I just say now using the word efficient is rare when it comes to my writing. I’m a scatter shot, all over the place. Let me give you an example, recently I cleaned the hard drive on my computer and found three unfinished screenplays and four unfinished novels. My books are born on the bodies of those that didn’t make it, kind of making me think of those war movies with the survivors crawling over the dead.

Where was I?

Oh, yes, I am writing. The new book is going great and it’s a lot of fun. There, that sounds like an ending. Almost… damn.

New WKAR Book Review: Sweet Forgiveness by Lori Nelson Spielman

Current StateRecently on WKAR’s Current State, I reviewed the new novel by bestselling author Lori Nelson Spielman. It is called Sweet Forgiveness. In the past on the show, I also reviewed Spielman’s first book, The Life List (you can check out that review here).

You can listen to my new review here: http://wkar.org/post/book-reviewlori-nelson-spielmans-sweet-forgiveness

If you would rather read my review, you can do so below.

Hey, did you know Current State has a podcast? If you subscribe, you can download episodes and segments (and you can find me every other Thursday). Here is a link to find it on iTunes- https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/wkar-fm-current-state/id594609653?mt=2

You can find the novel on Amazon.com here. If you want to check out my other book reviews for WKAR’s Current State, you can do so via links on this pageContinue reading

A Writing Interview with Jacquie Biggar’s Blog (Book Tour Last Day)

QueenSo right now I feel like that moment in a song by Queen, where everyone is supposed to hold hands and sing together. It is the end of the online book tour! Six blogposts and four interviews later and here we are. It’s that moment. Cue the drums.

Next week life returns to normal, and you’ll see that on the blog. After a breather, I want to catch you up on what I’ve been doing with my writing the last five months, I have a few writing posts lined up, and I even want to say something about the new season of Game of Thrones, because… Well… who doesn’t? Seriously, it is all over the place.

Anyway… This last interview is with Jacquie Biggar and a lot of the questions are related to my own experiences as a writer. For example in this question I take on the controversial topic of publishing today and what is the best option:

Self-publishing may be the way of the future, but I still think the market is too congested to easily find a market that way (unless you are super lucky). Usually, I tell the writers I work with to think of it as a last resort, try some other safer routes first. The dream approach is still agents and bigger publishers, and I don’t think that is going to change in the next decade.

Personally, I have had a lot of luck with independent publishers. There is a lot of passion there and I think it is because each publisher is putting their own money behind your project. It’s that personal touch. If a writer can’t find that dream agent or publisher, I would recommend talking to indie presses before self-publishing. There is still a possibility for success via that route.

You can read the interview here.

Permanent Spring ShowersI’ll be putting up links to all of the articles I wrote and interviews on the page for Permanent Spring Showers. You can also find them by scrolling below.

This is also one of the last days to grab an eBook copy of the novel for only $1.99. You can find it on amazon for Kindle here and for the NOOK here. Now, I’m going to go lie down… I’m a little tired…

An interview with Books Direct about new novel Permanent Spring Showers (Book Tour Day 9)

Even Superman writes!Just two days left on the book tour, which also means the book giveaway is coming to an end. You can enter on any of the sites I have been on over the last two weeks. Today, I’m on Book Direct with a new interview.

What is really cool is that Lynda Dickson who runs the site is actually reading the book right now and gave this update before my interview:

I have started reading this book and am enjoying it immensely. It’s like nothing I have read before. The plot and structure are extremely original and the writing is superb.

That quote kind of made me feel like the guy I put up in the corner of this post.

We cover a lot of the writing and inspiration behind the novel in the interview. It is chock full of my experiences and advice since I began this mad little writing adventure.  One example is this answer I gave around my hopes for the work:

There are a lot of layers to Permanent Spring Showers and none of the answers are very clear since it only covers three months in the characters’ lives. It really, in a way, is a book made for book clubs and the classrooms and discussions over coffee. What does it mean to be a good person? What is a good decision? Does great art truly justify everything? What is love? Is anyone truly happy?

Heck, I love books like this, works that dare readers to come to their own decisions, not having them dished out in a nice clean spoonful. What can I say? The book makes me happy. Hopefully, it will inspire its readers as well.

You can read the entire interview, enter the giveaway, check out other reviews, and take a gander at an excerpt here.

This was the ninth appearance on the book tour and the third interview (the other two can be found here and here). I have also written six guest posts on the book. They are on a range of topics from how it feels to write an anti-romance (here), eccentric characters (here), then about passion and sex in the book (here), the importance of springtime (here), and even some advice for new writers (here).Permanent Spring Showers

Hey! Did you know there is a sale on the book right now!?! Just for the tour, the eBook of Permanent Spring Showers is on sale! Just $1.99, it can’t get cheaper than that! So there is no better time to grab a copy. You can find it on amazon for Kindle here and for the NOOK here.

“Beautiful Illogical Messes” A Guest Post on Marlow Kelly (Book Tour Day 8)

Messy BrushesOnly a few days left on the blog tour. Today is the 8th day and another guest post. This one is on the creative writing process and the creation of my latest novel Permanent Spring Showers.

The guest post is entitled “Beautiful Illogical Messes.” Here is an excerpt from the beginning:

I wish this could all make sense.

It would be wonderful if the arts worked in the same side of the brain as logic and math. But it doesn’t, creativity lives with dreams. It resides in that wonderful land people visit when they want to “think outside the box.” And if you try to control that part of the brain with deadlines and rules, it turns off, creating that painful writer’s block.

The trick, I have found, is learning to go with it. It’s almost zen in a way, allowing the river to take you, as compared to fighting against the current. So when someone asks me where my ideas come from, I never know exactly how to start. When you are in a river, the last thing you are thinking about is how you got there, you are more curious about where you are going and when you will reach shore again.

You can read the rest of the guest post here.

This is my sixth guest post on the tour. The others covered a wide range of topics. You can check out posts on how it feels to write an anti-romance (here), eccentric characters (here), passion and sex in the book (here), the importance of springtime (here), and some advice for new writers (here). There were also two interviews (here and here).Permanent Spring Showers

Just for the tour, the eBook of Permanent Spring Showers is on sale! Just $1.99, it can’t get cheaper than that! So there is no better time to grab a copy.

You can find it on amazon for Kindle here and for the NOOK here.