Monday, October 25, 2010

What's Your Story?

It is my firm belief that there is a writer in each of us – a writer with a very unique story to tell. And how you tell it, is what makes you unique.

When I realized I enjoy writing enough that I should do it on a regular basis, something clicked inside me, like a cog, perfectly inline with my inner workings. It felt right, and I have since discovered how much of my story is in the stories I write. The ideas flow in and out of my mind as I live with my wife and four children. The words often come from those crazy moments when we are all packed into our Chevy Impala. You heard right. All six of us cram into an Impala (with a bench seat of course): 2 adults, 3 rapidly expanding boys and our darling little girl, who incidentally gets mercilessly squashed more often than not. Poor thing!

Sometimes, I think, “What if _________?” (fill in the blank) and off I go, musing over another idea.  If I’m lucky, the idea is entered into my black book. From there I make a few scrambled notes, and organize a general plot summary, and then I walk away (“Break the wrist and walk away” – Napoleon Dynamite. Sorry I had to add that). It’s like writing has become a third arm, second head, or some other dimensional extension of who I thought I was. The story is always on my mind. It’s always moving through me, questioning my last paragraph, my last line, my last scene of dialogue – almost as if it’s genetic. And perhaps it is. People have always been storytellers, verbally passing down histories, and ancestral narratives. I’m no different, I guess.

Today we love movies and books and magazines. Stories are what entertain us and keep our minds busy when we decide to put our feet up and look at the world from a different perspective – from the eyes of the storyteller. I think that explains why we are so interested in reality TV. We crave the story, fact, fiction, or grossly unrealistic, it doesn’t matter. The wilder the better!

Don’t feel bad, or less if you’re a reality TV junkie! I love the story too. In fact, as much as I love writing fiction, I actually prefer true stories! But for some strange reason, I love the mystical, spiritual, and paranormal realities of this world. I love writing about the spiritual angst that we all feel and wonder and worry about. What if there are ghosts? Where exactly is Heaven and Hell? How do we co-exist if these dimensional realities clash directly with our own existence? And how do our inner struggles move us closer to, or further away from God? These are all questions that are part of my story and likely part of yours.

I know first hand that writing has given me a sense of myself that I’ve never known.  What about you? Have you started your own story, or tucked your writing away? If so, I’d urge you to get back to it, for your sake and for the sake of anyone who needs that word that only you can give them – a word written from your heart, that’s meant for others to read.

Let me know about your long lost story. What’s it about? How were you inspired? What keeps you from going forward? Maybe this blog was written just for you, to encourage and inspire you. I hope so! BOOM!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Making Something From a Tintinnabulation?

Do you mean to tell me that tintinnabulation is a word, a real word? Yes it is. And I am so glad I found it in the dark recesses of my thesaurus. Here's what happened...

While shuffling through the many words that make a metallic ringing sound – the sound a stainless steel kitchen knife would make if it hit the ground, I found something very special. It started with words like ping, clang, ting, ring and ding. And then out of nowhere, this huge, double-edged word rushes me like a bull in heat and knocked me off my feet!

I saw stars. I felt dizzly. My eyes grew bigger than an alpine grizzly! And yes, God and all of his angels appeared before me holding this golden word, shining like the radiant beams of Sirius. It read…TINTINNABULATION (tin-tin-nab-u-la-tion). I shook my head and readjusted my focus. Was it true, I wondered? Is there really such a word? Could Webster actually create such an aberration? The answer was yes. But would it fit? Would it sound right? Is it too freakish to actually use in a work of fiction? These were my musings, but the angels bit their tongues. All I could do was try it out. I did. I looked. I peered. I bent closer to it and contemplated its appearance and locution. And wouldn’t you know it…it worked! (Well, at least I think so)

I even re-read an excerpt from Whispers by Dean Koontz to test the waters and found similarly striking words; not that I’m trying to imitate him; I just know he has a prodigious vocabulary. Anyway…here’s what I came up with and I hope you like it. I’ve added the previous paragraph to sort of put you in context. This is from a novel I’m currently working on. It’s tentatively titled Footprints, but I think that’s gonna change.

….He shook his head side-to-side and Anita’s head mirrored his motions, only with a greater intensity. The violent movements whipped her skull back and forth as if her deceased husband had risen from the grave to pound her flesh for another minor infraction. The rain washed over her, and she painfully cried out to Benji as her face showed signs of bruising and tearing.
Rick watched as she screamed, and noticed a stream of blood run out of her nose and across the top of her upper lip, diluted by the splashing water. Then without warning, the hand holding the knife twisted and broke upwards in a mangled deformation, severing her ligaments, ripping her flesh and crushing her metacarpals. Anita shrieked and the knife clanged with a tintinnabulation as it hit the ground….

Ahhh yeep, that’s it. That’s all I wanted to tell ya. But isn't tintinnabulation a good word? I think it's one of those words that actually sound like its meaning. Can't you hear the metal clang, ting, and ringing against the pavement when you read it? I can. And I was just so excited to share this incredible word that I stopped everything just to write this short blog entry. 

What about you? Do you have any fabulously favorite words? Let me know. BOOM!

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Story Behind the Story

Someone once said, “Every book has a story behind it,” and I believe it. I recently started a discussion thread on Amazon, asking other writers to share their story behind their book. I got a ton of responses ranging from alien abduction, and abuse to a longing to come home. They were all interesting narratives about the inspirational moment when they decided to write their book.

I’ve had many of those moments, but honestly, most of them were ideas that simply popped into my head for no good reason. However, some of my book ideas were inspired by meaningful moments in my life…and one of them was a scary moment. That’s right. It was, dare I say, a Stephen King moment that inspired me to write a grizzly short story that I published in the Kindle store.

What happened you ask? Well, I took my family camping this summer fully expecting a weekend of nice weather. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out for us. After setting up camp and roasting some hotdogs, the sunny weather took a dark and windy turn. A storm blew in and we were ushered into a camp store cellar (compliments of the Park Ranger) with the other vacationers. It was cramped and cold and my kids began asking about the other campers, wondering if they were safe, which was ironic because I was wondering the same thing. At that point, I couldn't resist, the storyteller in me weaved the terrifying tale of  The Rumblin' by spontaneously creating fictional characters out of the other campers. It was a priceless moment seeing the frightened looks on my kids faces after learning that the little old lady with the poodle was packin’ heat! 

The point is, stories always come from somewhere: dreams, nightmares, experiences, questions, etc. But the real test of a writer’s gumption is his or her ability to plot and draft and organize those ideas into characters and a setting that has meaning, and an emotional impact on the reader. And that’s where creativity and a personal attachment to the book come into play. I find that the more meaningful the idea is to me, the more interested I am in taking the idea all the way to completion. For example, Killing the Giants, was inspired after hours of shop talk and debate over who is really running our country, and 20th (not yet published), was birthed because I wondered what would become of children effected by school shootings such as the Columbine massacre. And I have others – a black book full of ideas actually.

So if you ever have a good idea for a book, just send out a telepathic message and I’ll let you know what I think. Or, you could jot it down and start your own black book – a black book of dreams and nightmares and questions and… those precious moments in your life that you don’t ever want to forget. BOOM!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Producing my Platform?

Imagine writing your memoirs or teaching the world everything you know about your profession or trade in a best-selling non-fiction. Or perhaps you'd like to write an acclaimed murder mystery series. Sound good? Sure it does. I talk to lots of people who tell me that they've always wanted to write a book, and I always encourage them to go for it. But what I don't talk about is publishing's dirty little secret - the elusive author platform. So if you're going to write a book, don't leave home without it. 

What's an author platform, you ask? An author platform is the missing link that most aspiring writers lack. Joanna Penn writes in her blog, The Creative Penn, "The author platform is how you are currently reaching an audience of book-buying people, or how you plan to do so. It is your influence, your ability to sell to your market. It is your multi-faceted book marketing machine!"

Most new and aspiring authors do not have a significant platform (present company included), which is a shame because it may be the one thing that keeps most writers from getting an agented publishing deal, regardless of writing quality and creativity. It hasn't always been that way, but the publishing business is in an economical funk and isn't investing much $ in new authors right now. But as they say, it's just business.

The interesting thing is, I just recently received a letter of acceptance for my book, 20th, from a publisher  who really liked the idea and my writing style. At the same time, they declined to publish, because I do not have an author platform; zero speaking engagements, no 100,000+ twitter fans, and I don't have thousands of pre-established readers, or viral video. Ugh! What a conundrum! 

So what do I do? Well, I'm not going to spend thousands of dollars on a publicist (not yet anyway), but I have decided to work my platform and show the folks in New York City how an Indy author can rise to the occasion, even when the economy is in the tank. That's right. Starting now, I am officially on a mission; a mission to divide and conquer the far reaching expanse of the planetary platforms for self-publicized-published-authors. So watch for me in the latest headlines and seven o'clock news, because I need a platform damn it, and I'm going to get one!

Oh, and by the way (sheepishly humble), would you mind sharing this link with all of your friends and family who happen to enjoy reading and getting to know the authors they love? Be sure they know that I'm the author of  the political thriller, Killing the Giants, and two other thrillers I hope to publish soon. And if you think about it, stop by your local library and ask them to purchase my book and invite me to speak! I mean really, it's the least you can do to help the author of The Writing Bomb get that elusive publishing contract! Boom!

By the way, Killing the Giants is available on Kindle for ONLY .99 for a short time.