Thursday, December 8, 2016

Yelling vs. Screaming

            Hey, everybody. Many thanks for your patience while I sorted out family crisis stuff.
            And, jeeez... now it’s three weeks until Christmas.  What the hell...?
            Anyway, I wanted to take a quick minute to talk about something I used to screw up a lot—word choice.
            I know I go on and on about spelling and vocabulary a lot.  To be honest, I make a point of working it into the schedule every four or five months.  I’ve mentioned before how many editors, script readers, and contest directors mention spelling as one of the main problems in a manuscript.
            Thing is, if I want to be taken seriously as a writer, I need to know my vocabulary.  Not guess or generally understand or depend on my spellcheckerknow.  Because there are lots of subtleties to any language –especially a crazy, messed up one like English.  One word can have a slightly different meaning than another, and that difference can have a huge impact on how that sentence or paragraph is understood by the reader.
            In my current project, there’s a big gun fight in a barn.  Between three different groups.  And did I mention that the barn’s on fire?  There’s a lot of stuff going on, and it’s a big, loud moment.
            And it made me look at my “loud” dialogue descriptors, because I realized the tone of the fight didn’t feel consistent.  Some people sounded angry, others scared, and a few almost seemed... well, bored.
            Check it out.  Here’s the same line of dialogue a few times with a different “loud” descriptor on it.  Take your time, pause between each one, and read through them...

            “Dot,” he shouted, “look behind you.”
            “Dot,” he screamed, “look behind you.”
            “Dot,” he called out, “look behind you.”
            “Dot,” he shrieked, “look behind you.”
            “Dot,” he yelled, “look behind you.”
            “Dot,” he bellowed, “look behind you.”

            D’you notice how they all have a slightly different feel?  Shouted and called out feel kind of low-energy with screamed between them.  It just seems a bit more urgent.  Shrieked gives the line a bit of desperation, whereas bellowed makes it sound kind of like a demand or order.
            Y’see, Timmy, this is that subtlety I was just talking about.  I’ve seen these words used lots of different places, lots of different times, so I’ve picked up on the distinct use.  And I’ve taken the extra step of looking them up—I want to know what the words mean, not just have some vague idea.
            Because if I only have a vague idea what words mean, I’m only going to be able to create vague scenes with vague emotions.
            And nobody’s going to connect to that.
            Next time, I’d like to reminisce about a wonderful talk I once had with one of my favorite screenwriters.
            Until then, go write.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Better Books by Better Authors

            Hey, folks.  Sorry about last week—I had, alas, a family emergency I had to fly back east for, and there just wasn’t time to get a ranty blog post put together.  So, now that I’m back, I thought I’d give you this for now and return to our usual semi-useful writing stuff on Thursday...
            As I have in the past, it’s time for me to toss out a few more titles and names for you.  Essentially, these are a bunch of books I really wish I could say I wrote.  They’re not in any order, and I don’t even think they all came out this year, but if you’re looking for something new and different for somebody (or for yourself), it’s going to be tough to go wrong with any of these. In fact, you may have heard me mention some of them before...
            As before,  I’ve put links to a few of them, but you can also just go to your local bookstore.  You may spend an extra buck or two, but you’ll feel better about yourself in the long run...

The Unnoticeables/The Empty Ones by Robert Brockway– This is a fantastic, twisted little series about punk rock and stuntwomen and angels.  It manages to swing back and forth between damned funny and seriously unnerving, sometimes on the same page.  The first book works as a stand-alone, which is why I was stunned when he pulled off the second one.

Experimental Film by Gemma Files—If someone you know is a horror fan, they’re going to love this book.  If they also happen to be a film fan (as in, the process of filmmaking), this is going to be their new favorite book.  It’s about a film student who starts researching one of the early pioneers of filmmaking in Canada, a woman who had some very eerie subject matter.  This is one of the very few books I’ve read in recent years that  freaked me out and actually made me feel nervous about shutting lights off at night. Seriously.

Rise of Io by Wesley Chu—If you know his Tao books, this is the first of a new series set in the same universe.  Although now things are flipped—Ella is a smart, savvy street-urchin in a future-shantytown who finds herself sharing headspace with one of the most incompetent Quaslings on Earth.  It’s got action, humor, a touch of romance, some political intrigue—it’s just fantastic and a beautifully smooth read.

Anamnesis by Eloise Knapp—This overlooked gem is half identity crisis, half biomedical thriller.  Ethan’s a low-level drug dealer whose life began a few years ago when he woke up on a beach with full amnesia.  He stumbles across the new thing hitting the streets—a drug that erases recent memories—and feels compelled to help people affected by it.  Now imagine every creepy thing you could do with that drug... Wonderful character stuff with a creepy-as-hell plot

Invasive by Chuck Wendig—I’m sure you’ve heard about Wendig’s Star Wars books, and if that’s your thing you should definitely check those out (they’re fantastic).  Invasive is for everyone, though.  Unless you have a thing about bugs.  And if you don’t now, you will by the end of this.  Hannah’s a brilliant character, and the premise is skin-crawling.

The Voodoo Killings by Kristi Charish—This is another one I got an early peek at, and then I was kind of annoyed because I couldn’t talk to anybody about it for another four or five months (and now I’m waiting for her to finish book two so I can whine and plead to see that one early).  This book takes zombies back to their voodoo roots, and imagines a world where the supernatural is real, publicly known, and so heavily regulated that our main-character, sorceress Kincaid Strange, has to pay the bills by summoning up dead rock stars for frat parties.  And then an illegal zombie shows up in her neighborhood...

Panacea by F. Paul Wilson—If all goes well, this book is the start of a fantastic ‘80s homage series.  This one starts with a simple premise—what if there was a substance that could cure anything?  And then think of all the different reasons people might be searching for it. It also has, hands down, one of the most horrific death scenes I’ve read in years.  So there’s that...

The Crooked God Machine by Autumn Christian– Do you like Ray Bradbury?  The Addams Family?  Small town America?  Dystopia?  If you can answer yes to any of these, you’ll love this story of the life of Charles, his family, friends, and the girls he falls in love with. It’s dark and beautiful and one of my absolute favorite things I read this year.

Made To Kill by Adam Christopher—This is a noir detective novel about a robot assassin, Ray Electromatic, in 1960s Hollywood.  And if I need to say any more than that to make you pick up this book, you are dead to me.  Seriously.

Breaking Cat News
by Georgia Dunn—If you or someone you know is a cat lover, you’ll love this little comic strip about a cat news team as they report on the odd happenings around their home and the bizarre behavior of “the people.”  Plus, Georgia just got the strip syndicated—she’ll be in your local paper soon, so buy the book now so you can look all in-the-know and cool before everyone else jumps on the bandwagon...

The Last Adventure of Constance Verity by A. Lee Martinez—I just finished this one a few days ago on a plane (it had been on my Kindle for a while) and I absolutely love it.  A young child, Constance was blessed (or cursed) to have a life of action and adventure.  Now, after over two decades of fighting monsters, cults, ninjas, clones, and killer robots—having stopped wars and saved the world countless times—she just really, desperately wants to have a normal, boring life.  This book is to the action/adventure genre what Shaun of the Dead was to zombies.

            And there you have it.  Eleven books I’ve really loved.  Please check ‘em out, or feel free to mention anything I’ve overlooked down below.
            Next time, long overdue... I’ll be shouting at you.
            Until then, go write.
            And maybe do some Christmas shopping and pick up a few books.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Cyber Monday IV: The Von Trappening

            If you’ve been following this page for any amount of time, you know I hate pimping my own work, but we’re officially in the Christmas season now.  And in theory this is the big internet shopping day.  And the marketing people—who are seriously wonderful folks—have dropped certain hints.  Sooooooo...
            I have to ask you all to buy stuff.
            I’m so very, very sorry.  I'll try to be quick.
            Here’s a list of my books and also a few anthologies I’ve got stories in.  Put them on your holiday wish list or get them as gifts for friends and family members. I’ll put links to most of them, but you can also scroll down through that sidebar on the right and find links to pretty much every version at every store you could ever want.
            Also, there’s still about a week to place orders with Dark Delicacies in Burbank.  You can order a book through them, leave instructions for an autograph, and I’ll swing by there to scribble in said book.  Again, do it in the next week and you should have said book in your hands in time for the holidays.
            Really, either way, just go to your local bookstore.  They’re cool and they could use the business, and then you’re not one of those conformists falling for that Cyber Monday capitalist nonsense.
            Anyway...

            Many of you are probably here because of the Ex-Heroes series.  Ex-Heroes, Ex-Patriots, Ex-Communication, Ex-Purgatory, and as of this spring Ex-Isle! All of these are available in a number of formats and a number of languages.  Also, Audible's included the first two books in a fantastic sale today soooooo... move quick if audiobooks are your thing.

            The Fold came out in paperback this year, but I think there are still some hardcovers kicking around if you know where to look  Early on someone described it as something like a horror-suspense novel disguised as a sci-fi-mystery, and I’ve been using that ever since.  The audiobook’s narrated by the always-amazing Ray Porter.  It’s also loosely connected to another semi-popular book I wrote...

            At least a third of you have probably found your way here because of –14— my odd little Lovecraftian-sci-fi-urban-horror-mystery novel.  There’s a paperback, an ebook, and another audiobook narrated by the amazing Ray Porter (it's part of that big Audible sale, too).  And, if things progress as planned, Team Downey’s finally shooting the pilot this spring.

            You can pick up all of The Junkie Quatrain as either an ebook or an audiobook (no paper, sorry).  It’s my attemptat a “fast zombies” tale, a series of interconnected stories I’ve sometimes described as Rashomon meets 28 Days Later.  It also features a recurring character of mine, Quilt, who keeps showing up in different stories in one way or another... 

            The Eerie Adventures of the Lycanthrope Robinson Crusoe also got a brand new edition this year, with a damned fantatic new layout. It’s the more-or-less true story of how the legendary castaway ended up on that strange island, some of the things he found there, and some of the things that found him.  I admit it’s a bit of work to read, but I still love it. 

            I also have a ton of short stories out in anthologies right now.  The big one is The X-Files: Trust No One, edited by the wonderful-in-so-many-ways Jonathan Maberry and with stories from Gini Koch, Tim Lebbon, Heather Graham, Brian Keene, and more.  My story here is “The Beast of Little Hill,” a classic Muder and Scully tale about roadside attractions and fake aliens.  Supposedly Chris Carter really enjoyed it, which is... well, cool.

            Naughty or Nice is a collection of fun, twisted holiday stories which run... well, the full gamut.  Don’t get it for your nine year old, let’s say that.  Or your less-than-open-minded mother-in-law...

            Corrupts Absolutely is a collection about superheroes gone wrong.  Mine’s a little standalone called “Bedtime Story,” about a hero called Omnes and some parents trying to explain to their little boy why the way the world is the way it is.

            You can pick up Kaiju Rising, which contains “Banner of the Bent Cross,”my WWII pulp adventure featuring the first team up of mercenary Dar Carter and history professor Ken Kraft  It also has a fantastically funny story by Peter Stenson (author of Fiend).

            There’s also “The Apocrypha of Gamma-202, ” a story about robots and religion, which appeared in Bless Your Mechanical Heart.  You’ll also get some great stories from Seanan McGuire, Ken Scholes, and Lucy Snyder.

            And thus ends my shameless Cyber Monday appeal to capitalism.  Again, so very sorry, but please tell the marketing folks you read it.  I’ll also do another list later this week with some great books I’ve read by other, much better authors.  And please don’t forget my Black Friday offer if you happen to be someone who needs it.
            Please feel free to resume your internet shopping.   Browse responsibly.  Clear your history on a regular basis. 
            No, don’t click on that—that isn’t really from PayPal.