Friday, December 21, 2012

Because I Love You: 2012's Worst Words by The Atlantic Wire

So I mentioned in an earlier post that December has become all about the Best Thing of 2012. Well, I happened across the best I've found yet. The Atlantic has compiled a list of the words that are 2012's worst. In reading it, I can assure you some of these are recognizable as fingernails-on-chalkboard annoying. Some of the more obvious are Epic, Actually, and Literally. And then there are some real gems that evoke a pickle-sour a-hah moment when you recognize them on the list. I won't spoil the fun, so check it out at the link below!

An A-to-Z Guide to 2012's Worst Words - Entertainment - The Atlantic Wire

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The horror.

I think I've stared at this screen a hundred times, trying to use this keyboard to achieve some kind of catharsis with regard to these feelings I have about those twenty babies stolen from this world. What I realized is, there really isn't anything that can be said that will make it make sense.

Evil is senseless.

Every day I look at my nine-month-old child and fear for him growing up in this world. And now that a few days have passed since the tragedy, political lines are being drawn, and I see people digging in their heels to defend the need for more guns.

More guns.

I just...I don't understand. Sometimes I feel like I don't know this country at all. As far as I know, the modern interpretation of the Second Amendment has never protected us from any foreign entity. Yet, we're killing each other or ourselves to the tune of twelve thousand deaths a year. I'm fairly certain the intent of adopting the Second Amendment wasn't so that we could wage war against fellow citizens.

More guns.

I don't know. I'm so sad, so angry for what those children had to experience in their last moments.

I hope the world changes for the better because of this. It's what those kids deserve. It's what we all deserve.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

You're the Best...Around

The Karate Kid had such awesomely terrible music. I love it.

So it's Christmastime again.  Apparently, according to Fox News and The Daily Show, there's a war being waged against the holiday. Though, with most of my local radio channels having been dedicated to Christmas music since the day after Thanksgiving, I think Christmas is winning. I wonder if Roman Pagans thought there was a war on their Winter Solstice holiday when Constantine gave December 25th to the Christians?

But never mind all of that. I think I've discovered the true meaning of the holidays: Best of the Year Lists! If you've turned on a TV or a computer or read a newspaper you might have noticed The New Years Creep that began slipping into your life sometime at end of November with special year-in-review episodes, or Best of Lists. Oh, my. Are there ever lists. Lists of the year's best books, video games, fashions, restaurants, etc., etc. December is saturated in them. And why not? Thanksgiving did it to Halloween with early announcement of Black Friday specials. Christmas did it to Thanksgiving. Black Thursday anyone? I think it's only fair that the New Year get its due.

Of all these lists the one that gets me is the Best Books of 2012, put out by most literati publications. These lists inevitably make me feel like some illiterate ape. Usually, I only recognize about ten percent of what's even on them. But with editing and writing my on stuff, I run about a year behind, catching up on must reads. At least, that's my excuse.

Below, I've compiled the list of lists. A Best of List of 2012 of the Best Books of, List!! (Say that three times fast.)

1. The New York Times Best of 2012

2. Publishers Weekly Best Books 2012

3. Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2012

4. Goodreads Choice Awards 2012

5. NPR Best Books of 2012

6. Vogue Magazine Best Books of 2012

7. Huffington Post Best Books of 2012

8. Washington Post Best Books of 2012

9. Best Books of 2012

10. Entertainment Weekly / Amazon Best Books of 2012

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Rule of Two

Not too long ago, I got some notes back from my agent on a new manuscript I sent him. Overall, they were positive and what he suggested I address amounted to optional fine tuning on an otherwise submission-ready book.

Now, I'm not bringing that up to pat myself on the back for a job well done in writing it, but rather, I'm calling attention to the necessity of criticism when it comes to the art of writing.

I've been plowing away at publication for a couple of years now. Not too many compared to some, but enough to get a sense of the predictable spectrum of those that proclaim themselves to be writers. To sum it up, they range from "I'm an amazing writer," to "Woe is my writing talent". In the middle is a sort of realist that recognizes that he or she may possess some measure of talent, but that talent needs work and training to foster any sort of success.

Believe me, you want to be in the middle.

Those that think they have some divine talent typically write like shit and those that think their writing is shit are often talented, yet they are hampered by an inability to overcome their own perceived limitations.

Usually, what both ends of the spectrum lack is a good critique partner. It's my general rule that for each of my manuscripts, I use at least two critique partners before it's ready to send to my agent. Why two? Because if two of the critique partners pick up on a particular criticism, then addressing the criticism becomes mandatory. Their criticism becomes true, so to speak, and not just opinion. Obviously, this presupposes that I've got good critique partners for this project. I do. (Thank you Shandy Lawson and Mindy McGinnis.)

Editing can be difficult trying to figure out what stays and what goes. Stephen King is famous for (among other things) coining the phrase "kill your darlings," in reference to snipping good prose. Knowing which darlings to kill helps when your critique partners are in agreement. Remember, the purpose of being critiqued, ultimately, is so you can tell a better story.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Little Milestones

My critique partner Mindy McGinnis just posted about getting a firm release date of September 9th, 2013 for her debut, NOT A DROP TO DRINK. It got me thinking a bit about the scarcity of moments when this whole book endeavor doesn't seem like something that is happening to someone else.

The publishing business can be one giant, somewhat coordinated ballet of hurry-up-and-wait. I've spoken before, I think, about the milestones a debut author reaches on the way to their actual - neigh mythical - release date.  The first time you get an advance, the first time the PR department contacts you, the first time you see your cover - these stepping stones on the publication path are more like waypoints cemented in reality for a journey so detached from an author's everyday life, the author often needs a reminder that he or she is even on the journey at all. Ultimately, these little moments give weight to the words, "I signed a book deal," even when that statement is met with a suspicious eye.

So when debut authors reach these milestones, we tend to want to make a big deal out of them. It's a good opportunity to stop and catch our breath and reflect on the amazingness of what is happening. Though it may seem like some kind of shameless self promotion for a book still a long way off, I can assure you there is much more catharsis to the jumping and shouting and cheering. It's our way of inwardly saying, "See? It's real! I'm not crazy!" Because let's face it, in this market, a book deal in fiction has more in common with a Bigfoot sighting than we authors want to admit.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Where the Atmosphere is Thick

These past few months I’ve been woefully out of touch. My blog sits unused with a post dated from early September dangling out there in the digital ether. Notes from my agent are getting stale on my desk. A sequel to The Revelation of Gabriel Adam awaits a completion of the first draft. 

Yet, I just can’t seem to get it together.

Perhaps it’s having an eight-month-old child at home to contend with, or the grind of trying to lock down a job, but motivation has been a struggle to find.

Worse, I’m writing this from a coffee shop in Seaside, Florida. In paradise, it’s difficult to find motivation to do much of anything.  Something struck me, though, as the barista handed me my cappu-latte. This place has atmosphere.

The shop isn’t a large one and the constant whir of grinding beans and tinking of glass cups on saucers makes it seem even smaller. The bar takes up most of the floorspace, selfishly hoarding elbow room for the staff and leaving only a long and narrow one-sided bench pressed up against the opposite wall with a few chairs full of customers waiting on their orders. At the far wall is a six-top where I’ve managed to spread out most of my books, notes, and computer in an effort to have osmosis jump-start my creativity.

I don’t know what kind of crowd I was expecting for this Thanksgiving week, but Seaside is slammed. Two deep at the till, the bubbly-eyed girl is having a difficult time fielding orders, credit cards, and dollar bills as they fly through the air. Some guy behind her with a face full of scruff and a head full of purposefully messed up hair is orbiting her in a kinetic angst fueled by the orders stacking up by the register. He barks out for another pickup to a customer that’s inevitably walked away.

All along the walls are black and white canvas pictures of smiling Ngäbe people picking coffee beans. One giant, close-up color image of calloused hands holding a scoop of red beans over an overflowing wicker basket hangs over my table. I wonder how many cappu-lattes that basket would make. The homage to a notoriously underpaid and exploited race seems an odd decoration choice amongst the six-dollar beverages and I’m struck by a twinge of guilt as I sip mine.

People pass by the front windows, some of them shopping; others going to or from the beach. The temperature hovers somewhere in the lower sixties - cold enough for anyone from the south to wear a jacket and warm enough for anyone from the north to wear a bikini. It’s a laughable mix of skin and polar fleece.

I'm reminded what atmosphere can do for the imagination, whether you’re reading or writing. It can be like spice. Too little may leave you in a flavorless boredom and too much can overpower.  For now, at least, I’ve found enough to inspire some momentum. If you’re keen, stop by, where we can talk a little more specifically about atmosphere and writing.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Avoiding the Writer's Wall (FTWA)

Vacation time! In my absence, here's a repost of a contribution to FROM THE WRITE ANGLE. Back soon!

Avoiding the Writer's Wall
by Stephen L. Duncan

In my fairly limited existence as an author, there have been many truisms that I’ve run across while trying to get the words onto the page. More often than not, these little bits of advice on the dos and the don’ts of being a writer get stuck somewhere in the back of my mind, only to be quickly forgotten. I'm just stupid like that. One, though, rings truer than others and I try to keep it in mind whenever a distraction attempts to call me away from the work.

Writing a novel is all about momentum.

You stick a word down, then another. Soon you have a sentence, and a paragraph follows until a page is filled. You do this over and over, and eventually you'll have all the pages your little spark of an idea needs to be a story.

That’s fairly simple, isn’t it?

Indeed. Yet there are always obstacles in our way. You’ve heard of one, no doubt. The dreaded Writer’s Block. I’ve never suffered from it, but it sounds horrible—a sort of frozen paralyzed state where words just don’t exist in the mind. Momentum can help prevent this little hiccup, because words are like water and a book, after all, is merely the result of a broken dam. The faster the flow, the harder it is to stop.

What I have experienced recently with the novel I just tuned in to my agent is the Writer’s Wall. If Writer’s Block is this leaded state of being that weighs you down, immobilizing you, Writer’s Wall is something you crash into.

In a way, it’s the opposite of Writer’s Block. You have too much going on in your writing life, too much spilling out of your head onto the page. And then, like something out of NASCAR, you hit the wall. (Hey, I’m from Alabama. I can only go so long in a day without a racing metaphor.) Your words are broken, not working, and your story seems futile. Worse, you're no longer certain you should be writing it.

The symptoms are these: From an abnormally confident valuation of your own work, often joined by a heightened productivity, you will experience a sudden onset of fear of publication characterized by a consuming doubt in your own taste and talent. Every word choice will be in question, every sentence’s worth made suspect. You will begin to negatively compare yourself to notable successful writers. While ideas and stories may flourish, you will encounter a paralyzing lack of esteem that prevents these ideas and stories from being realized.

A lot can steer you into a Writer’s Wall. Rejection. Negative feedback. Too much momentum. The list could go on and on. But the trick to pulling out of the crash is to take some time away from your work. Let it marinate in your head a little. Slow down. Live some of your life away from your computer.

Of course, if you’re like me, you might read this and then quickly store it in some recessed part of your mind, ready to be forgotten.

Write hard, y’all.

Stephen L. Duncan writes young adult fiction, including his debut, the first book in The Revelation Saga, due in 2014 from Medallion Press. You can find him blogging on and on Twitter.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Literary Agents: It's Not Who You Know

I’m listening to Life’s What You Make It by Talk Talk on my Internet radio while I write this. It’s a random track, but somehow timely to what I want to say about the business of getting published. Specifically, getting an agent.

These days there are a lot of people out there with their dreams saved on a hard drive; digital hopes floating around in .doc files containing the latest draft of a novel, a work-in-progress memoir, or some other passion project that so far has only culminated in a long list of missed social events, late nights, early mornings, and acid reflux from more coffee than is safe for any human to consume.

The summit these dreamers seek to reach is the same for nearly all – to walk into a bookstore and see their book on a shelf. That’s a big mountain to climb, especially in today’s publishing market. I won’t lie; the odds are stacked against you.

But here’s the thing – if I can do this, anyone can. After all, I’m nobody.

This week, an article titled “The Right Fit”:Navigating the World of Literary Agents appeared on the online magazine, The Millions.  Written by Michael Bourne, the essay seeks to give the reader an insight into how futile the endeavor of seeking traditional publication can be, given the incestuous nature of the New York publishing industry. Basically, unless you’re an insider, you’ve hardly got a chance. 

Like any good journalist, Mr. Bourne spent some time with his boots on the ground at Folio Literary Management, a bustling agency in New York City, where he shadowed a few agents. While there, co-founder Scott Hoffman explained to Mr. Bourne that the agency receives roughly 100,000 unsolicited queries a year, or about 200 a week for each of the nine Folio agents who accept unsolicited queries. Hoffman has taken on four new writers in the last year, only one of whom came in through the slush pile, putting the odds of an author without connections getting Hoffman to take on his or her book at roughly 1 in 11,111.”

One Hundred Thousand queries a year seems about right for a substantial agency like Folio. An agent taking on four new clients for a year is fairly reasonable, too. That's some stiff competition for an agent's interest. At this point in the article, what he learned with the limited time he spent with these agents is applied to the industry as a whole. What I have a problem with is Bourne’s suggestion that unless you are connected, your odds of finding representation are miniscule. In what turns into something of a mild-mannered rant, Mr. Bourne expresses his frustration (suggesting occasional anger) at the constant rejection he’s seen in his unsuccessful attempt to find representation. There are some valid points made on the benefit of interacting and socializing with others in the industry, but they're overshadowed by his assumption that his limited time with these agents is how it is all the time, in all the agencies. 

Let me say this before it seems I’m piling on the author – a writer like Michael Bourne will get an agent. He’s good. But his problem, like a lot of us, is simply finding the right story. At the end of the essay, Mr. Bourne finally stumbles onto this simple truth that we all face when trying to break in. “I haven’t written a book an agent can sell yet,” he writes.

That’s all it takes. That’s the whole recipe to getting your book onto that store’s shelf. I’ve been represented by two agents. My first was with William Morris Endeavor, one of the biggest entertainment agencies in the world. My second, the brilliant John Rudolph, is with Dystel & Goderich Literary Management, one of the most successful literary agencies in the world. I got hitched to both of them the same way – an unsolicited query. A shot in the dark.  Every author I know has been born from the slush pile, including me. To get an agent’s attention – a good agent – you don’t have to know a soul in the industry, you just need a good query letter and a manuscript that keeps the promises the query makes.

Everyone gets rejected. In this industry, you’ll see an epic amount of No Thank You, but there doesn't exist some inner circle that's conspiring to keep you out of the club.

The odds are still long, but even if you’re a thirty something-year-old nobody in Alabama who’s never even sat foot in New York City, take heart that it’s not who you know, it’s what you know. So long as what you know is how to tell a damn good story.

Friday, August 10, 2012


One of my favorite online pals just had her book deal announced over at Publishers Weekly. Here's how it went down:

Catherine Onder at Disney has acquired debut author R.C. Lewis's Stitching Snow, a sci-fi YA thriller due out in summer 2014. In the book, a royal teen runaway is scraping together a living in a mining settlement on the far side of the universe, until she is discovered and "rescued" against her will. Jennifer Laughran at Andrea Brown Literary Agency brokered the two-book, six-figure pre-empt.

Y'all. It's Snow White IN SPACE. Um...hell yes!  I've read a few pages of this, and they kick ass. Literally. It's awesome. Look forward to a LARGE career out of this author.

Be sure to stop by her blog and read all about it!

Monday, June 4, 2012

My First Interview!

Who says two years is too early to start pushing a book release?

Sean Taylor, pulp fiction author and comic book writer extraordinaire, was kind enough to invite me to an interview over at his excellently-titled writer's blog Bad Girls, Good Guys, and Two-Fisted Action. I mean, this guy writes for Gene Simmons. How awesome is that?

Please stop by and check out what I’ve got to say! Also, do be sure to stop by Sean’s to see all the irons he’s got in the fire! He's a great guy and has a wealth of knowledge on the ins and outs of publishing.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

An invitation to YOU!

I've been invited to join the team over at From the Write Angle!  For those who aren't aware of the website, it is a blog dedicated to writers who wish to take that journey towards publication. The contributers range in experience, and cover a wide spectrum of genres and subjects from query letters to marketing, but each member brings a wealth of experience to the table to share.

If you've ever wanted to be a published writer, this blog offers an amazing resource of information on how to navigate the hurdles that stand in your way.

So please stop by and, if you're very kind, follow the blog!

You can find my first post coming on MAY 14th, 2012!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Fake Pointy Ears

Last night I went to a midnight screening of The Avengers. It was, to put it simply, the most fun I’ve had in a theater in a while.

I was asked to tag along by a friend who was probably more excited than any 35-year-old man should be to see a movie, and I figured (since I wasn’t getting any sleep at home with the new baby anyway) what the hell.

Now, midnight screenings aren’t really my thing. 1999. That was the last time I’d gone to midnight screening and it had left an excruciatingly sour taste in my mouth for the whole experience. Having waited what felt like a lifetime for the heroes of my childhood to finally appear again on screen, only to open their should-be-epic story by responding to mild discontent in the form of a galactic trade dispute, will do that to you.

*Jedi Knights: The Customer Service Representatives of the Universe*


Yet, here I was, 13 years later, in a theater filled with a quite underestimated crowd for a school night. Unable to sit together, my friends and I were lucky to find seats at all in the sea of comic book t-shirts and unending bags of Sour Patch Kids which had undoubtedly been snuck into the theater.

As I write this, what stays with me from last night is the energy in the air. It was everywhere and for everything. The excited anticipation for the lights to fall and the first trailers to roll. The seconds ticking away until their favorite comic and movie characters appear together on screen.

Everyone in that theater was an Avengers fan, and many dressed accordingly in cosplay (a term I've recently just learned meaning costume and role play...look, nobody said I was the brightest bulb). In fact, just before the film began a costume contest took place, won by a Hulk who seemed that much more committed to the look, having pumped his body with what I can only guess had been a few years' regimen of a steroid program. That’s dedication, people.

Go see the movie, by the way. It’s a blast. And to see it with every comic fan in the city, cheering and applauding; the experience was that much better. Joss Whedon, the director, and a bit of a comic geek himself, should direct all the movies. I’m not talking about all The Avengers movies. I’m saying he should direct ALL THE MOVIES.

He’s that good.

The night got me wondering, though. What does it take to have an intellectual property like The Avengers reach that status where its fans dress up and stay out to the witching hours to catch a first screening? It’s not just movies and comic books, either. I recall being in London and seeing the queue stretch down the block at Waterstone’s for the release of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Twilight has the same kind of following. Star Trek, too.

What makes the fans so dedicated?

Agent Jessica Papin at DGLM linked to a article about what it takes for a book to reach blockbuster status. I have no idea. Nor, it seems, does anyone else, but author James W. Hall of a new book Hit Lit: Cracking the Code of the 20th Century’s Biggest Bestsellers, thinks he’s found some common denominators.  It’s an interesting article (which explores some ideas of Hall’s book), but what happened last night at the movie reaches beyond blockbuster. That sort of love of something is special.

It’s a cult, in a way, requiring dedication and loyalty, and not just market success.

So, what is the X-factor?  I’d love to know.

As would every entertainment exec on the planet.

If you’ve got some reasons, leave ‘em in the comments.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


Stephen L. Duncan's THE REVELATION SAGA, pitched as a sweeping adventure with elements of Raiders of the Lost Ark and Harry Potter in which seventeen-year-old Gabriel Adam - an archangel born as a human - must travel to England in a plot to stop the second war between Heaven and Hell, to Emily Steele at Medallion Press in a deal by John Rudolph of Dystel & Goderich Literary Management.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


Huge news is inbound here at INKROCK, which I think you’ll find excuses my lack of updates and posts – so stay tuned.  In the meantime, though, I wanted to share something amazing I came across while researching my new novel, THE FAR AND NEAR BEYOND.

I love the video below (great production quality aside) because it captures the power of words, the importance of bookstores, and just how dramatic the narrative of history can be. And in some small way, it reminds us that fate and luck are big players in all our lives. 

KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON is iconic in our modern culture, and yet the famous red and white posters were nearly lost to time, relegated to an obscure note in the war records if not for the owners of one amazing bookstore in the Northeast of England. 

In a story worthy of cloth and paper, the video nicely captures the narrative of how KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON found a second life in modern culture. 

Saturday, February 11, 2012

True Storytelling - Han Shoots First

Okay.  You know the story by now.  That famous scene in the cantina on the outer rim of a galaxy far, far away.  If not, here’s a refresher that’s on everyone’s (at least us dorks) mind now that Star Wars Episode I The Phantom Menace is back in the theaters to cash in on the whole 3D craze. 

So, who shot first?  Greedo or Han Solo?

There’re two opinions on this matter – George Lucas’ and everyone else’s.  Just to clear it up: we’re right and he’s wrong.

But why?

A good point, as presented by a commenter in the MSNBC article (citing FPBMurray37 on is that Greedo, that green, bug-eyed alien, competent enough to be hired and entrusted by the most vile gangster in the universe to collect a bounty on the probably low-credit-scoring and delinquent Han Solo, couldn’t have missed.  He was a pro.  Pro enough to track him down to Mos Eisley.  Pro enough to corner his target.  Pro enough to get the drop on Solo at point blank, sitting directly across from him in a pub booth.

All was well with this for many years until, with the magic editing of George Lucas and the Special Editions, Greedo shoots first, putting a nice crater in the wall half a foot away from Han’s head.  And then, of course, Solo kills him, apparently now justified and no longer – at least in George Lucas’ eyes – a “cold blooded killer.”

Okay.  The Greedo Shoots First scenario, much like the commenter pointed out, is not very plausible.  Yet, I suppose, with a little suspension of disbelief, I guess…maybe…it could have happened like Lucas wanted it to.  I mean, that Greedo had some ridiculous hands.  I think there are suction cups on the tips of his noodley fingers.  Must be tough to get a grip on a blaster’s trigger.

So, maybe he fumbled.  All pros do.  This one was just untimely.

The "How" isn't the real issue though.  It's the "Why."  The problem with this justification of Han Solo killing Greedo is that this simple, decades-late edit has ruined the story of Han Solo.  No, in fact, it has ruined Star Wars itself.

You’re thinking, Hey, relax.  It’s just a tweak in a film. 

And you’re right.  Really, I’m not a Star Wars super-fan.  I don’t really care.  But I am a storyteller.  I am very invested in telling good stories and recognizing good stories, and as a storyteller, I’m telling you George Lucas broke Star Wars with that one revision.  As I edit my latest work, seeing the interconnection between character’s actions and their motivations and who they truly are, I find it unbelievable that Lucas failed to recognize all that he was undoing with his changes, especially given the brilliant stories the man has given to the world.

Greedo Shot First and Ruined Star Wars?  Explain yourself.

The Star Wars Universe in its original state – before Special Editions, before Prequels – was a dangerous universe.  Filled with wretched villainy and scum.  A dangerous place of Evil Empires and those who struggled to make ends meet. What gave this sci-fi adventure so much appeal to audiences was the “used” feel of the places, the ships, and the people and aliens that inhabited these worlds.

When Han meets Luke and Ben Kenobi, he takes the job for the money.  He couldn’t give a damn about anything but getting paid.  Because money means survival as much as the gun he carries on his hip.  He’s cocky, he’s hard, and in a universe where men get arms cut off in dive bars whose patrons take brief notice only to go about their drinks as if nothing happened - and he’s at home in it.  To be at home in it you have to be dangerous - as dangerous as the space that surrounds you, if you want to survive.  So what would a smuggler do when cornered?

He would shoot first. 

Normally, if Han were a bit player, nobody would care.  Sure, we’d think, Well, the Star Wars Universe is less dangerous than we thought, and everything is black and white, but whatever.  Except that now, we know exactly how things turn out in this Universe.  Han shooting first means there are good guys and bad guys.  No in between.  That means that Luke and Ben are always safe with Han, because he’d never turn them over when caught by the Death Star tractor beam, because he’s not that kind of guy.  And in Return of the Jedi, there’s no way in hell Luke takes the Emperor’s offer.  All that hesitation and angst?  You can flush it.  Because in this universe, good guys never falter.

Ruined it, you have.

The problem in the Han Solo character arc is that Greedo shooting first deflates Solo’s path to righteousness.  In fact, Greedo shooting first means Solo was never going to abandon Luke to fight the Death Star alone.  After all, Han has been a good guy all along. And good guys fly in an shoot bad guys out of the trench with their walking-carpet co-pilots and lasers.

But when Han shoots first, well, that’s different. Our eyebrows raise.  We’re invested.  We’re guessing at motivations and outcomes.  We recognize that the world these characters play in is multi-dimensional.  It can be unpredictable.   Like our world, the real world.  We see the honesty in how the characters relate to their circumstances, because we see it in our lives, every day. 

That’s my point, as a story teller – something that George Lucas has somehow forgotten.  We create places and characters and we have this god-like power to make them do and act in any way we choose, but if those actions and those characters aren’t true, or real, then what’s the point?  Why would anyone care?

Friday, January 27, 2012

First Draft, We're So Over.

Dear First,

It’s you.  Not me.  I just want that to be clear, in case you’re confused about this break up.

I went out into this world looking for something magical and honest and true, and I found you.  At the time, you were everything I was looking for, but I’m sad to say that I’ve grown since then.  I’ve changed.  But you wouldn’t.  You refused.  For a while, I thought it wouldn’t matter, that you'd be enough.  I had dreams of the perfect match, blinded by my love for you.  Those days were the best of our time together, when everything we did was magic. It was honest and true. 

Then the doubt seeped in.  You felt it, too, I know.  Our love faded, as did the newness of us.  I saw you with different eyes.  You, content for me to parade you into the world your flaws open and exposed as if you were proud of them, and me, seeing your potential inside that you refused to grasp. 

Maybe I wasn't being honest with you.  Or with myself, for that matter.  Maybe I wanted to change you all along and just wasn't able to admit that what we had going wasn't working like it should.  For that, I'm sorry.  That’s a relationship, I guess.  You never know what you truly want until you’re in one.

If I’m being honest, I’m glad we met.  I’m thankful for the time we had together.  For the things we discovered when our bond was strongest. 

We’ll always have 4am.

I learned a lot, thanks to you. I learned what worked for me and what didn’t.  Not to kick you when you’re down, but you’re unbelievably sloppy.  Even proud of it, I think.  I mean, seriously.  You’ve never once even bothered to fix yourself up.  Like you didn’t care about how you reflected on me.

I do.  I do care.  I know we were always about substance, but I’m sorry - in this world, appearances matter.  But I guess not to you.  And that’s okay. You are who you are.  You gotta be you. 

So, we’re over.  I’m moving on.  I’ve met someone, already.  Someone a lot like you, actually, but cleaner and with better manners and a better body.  It’s shallow, I know. 

Such is life.

You’ll always have a special place in my heart. For now, though, we must say goodbye. 

All the best,


Wednesday, January 18, 2012


No, not that Twilight. 

It’s 4am. 

Early.  Way early.  Especially for me, a guy who digs his beauty sleep.  (Though, it hasn’t helped much thus far.)

Even better, it’s this early and I’m up.  Writing. 

Do you know what’s happening at 4am?

Jack squat.  For about three weeks now, I’ve been getting up before work and cranking out from four to six a solid one to two thousand words.  At least three days a week.  I’m averaging five thousand words of free words. 

Yeah.  Free.  The words come no matter how busy my day.  No matter how hectic my life is after work, or what social events hang in the balance.  When getting the nursery is ready, and all I’d rather do is piss off with a glass of whiskey and vegetate in front of the television. 

Five thousand words.  No matter what.

But really, this progress is just a symptom.  It’s an ailment to the greater infection.  The disease? 

Wanting it.  Ambition.  Desire. 

My goal since November has been to write professionally.    Not necessarily as a profession (I’ve yet to get paid for any of my words and baby needs a new pair of, well, frigging everything), but write in a way that respects the craft and respects the amount of hard work that it takes to get anything in this world.  Professionally.  Life will always be there, getting in the way, but if the need is great enough, you can make it happen.

Use the time you have.  All of it.  4am included.  And that’s my cheesedick advice for the morning.  I know.  It’s very Nike of me.  But seriously.  Wake up.  Go for it.  Follow your heart like a pro.  There’s nothing to lose at 4am.

Just do it.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


Over at YA HIGHWAY, this week’s Road Trip is a little more literal than past iterations.

The question is, Where is your dream writing retreat?

I think I’ve touched on this a little in past posts.  I’m one of those writers who believe that places inspire the writing – I mean, that’s the crux of INKROCK – so trust me when I say I’ve thought long and hard about where I’d go.  Also, considering its ninety eight year old founder George Whitman just passed away, a little tribute to what he gave to us is the least I could do.

Without hesitation, if given the opportunity, I would spend a month or two in Paris.  Specifically, the Latin Quarter, where I’d work, and even bunk for a while, at Shakespeare & Company, the little English bookstore just across from Notre Dame.  I’d drink wine, maybe even smoke a cigarette, and write in only the way one can write in Paris.

It’s the history, you see?

Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Stein.  The list goes on.  In their day, they all frequented that store.  In many respects, they still do.  Ernest Hemingway even goes to some length about what a resource it was to him in A Movable Feast.

Shakespeare & Company is just one of those places, you know?  It is literature.  It is prose.  They embrace it and they pride themselves on supporting the art of the word. 

If you’re a broke writer in Paris, they’ll put you up for free, provided that you work a shift or two.  Heck, when you’re there, maybe we can share a bottle of red and talk about the world.