Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A word about Tom Clancy

Today I, and the world, lost a treasure. Tom Clancy has passed.

Most writers can look back and find that moment where they absolutely fell in love with books. I'm no different. Born in the late Seventies, my childhood was a never-ending battleground for my attention. Atari was this new thing, and I spent hours playing Pitfall and Pac Man. Cable television appeared with like, eighteen channels. Then Nintendo. Even with that at home, we'd spend days at arcades, playing the big machines, wasting god knows how much money on tokens. And the movies - Star Wars, Indiana Jones, E.T. They stayed in the theaters forever and we'd see them over and over and over again. Of course, there was playing in the woods with my friends, reenacting the adventures we'd seen on screen. There just wasn't enough time in a day.

To be honest, I wasn't a reader. Having summer reading forced on me every time school was let out probably associated the experience to schoolwork. And I hated schoolwork. So unless it was a comic book, I just didn't bother.

At some point in my childhood I developed a love of all things WWII. My grandfather, Lyman Cleveland Duncan had been a B17 pilot, flying out of Foggia, Italy. I remember him staying with us during the holidays - Christmas, I believe. He was just finishing The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy. At this point, my grandfather was pretty much the most interesting person I knew and while he didn't like to talk about The War often, when he did let loose a story, I was transfixed. So when he finished the book, he suggested I should read it.

The book opened my world in a way I did not expect, and afterwards I was officially a reader.

I read other things from Clancy - Red Storm Rising, Clear and Present Danger - but I was reading other authors as well. It's a strange thing having such a technical, detailed writer be the author responsible for making me fall in love with books.

So when I learned of Clancy's passing today, I couldn't help but reflect on the debt I owe him. No words do justice for the gratitude I feel for what The Hunt for Red October did for me, so I guess the best I can say is Thanks, Tom.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Alabama Phoenix Festival 2013

I had the pleasure of speaking at the Alabama Phoenix Festival this year, and for whatever reason, I never followed up with what an amazing experience it was participating alongside so many unbelievably talented and creative people. So, instead enduring the inadequacy of me trying to capture The Awesome that was that weekend, why don't you just watch the following video instead?


Monday, August 26, 2013

Unblocked at the Ollie Irene

I did this thing on Friday. Something I've never done as a writer. I took a pen and legal pad into a nice restaurant, sat alone at the bar, and made notes about a book I'm writing. I must have looked like a food critique, jotting little nitpicks about the consistency of the course-ground Dijon mustard.

How embarrassing.

Look, writing in public isn't really for me. Unless it's a coffee shop. For whatever reason, be it the smell of ground beans, the whir of the thing that does whatever that makes the slurping noise and the steaming of the milk, which results in my Big Girly Coffee - it all sort of fits together into this haven for writing creativity.

But something happened Friday. I had been blocked on this scene in my sequel. A frustrating, evil mix of plot, device, and character that I just couldn't fit together to carry the story forward, and all I wanted to do was escape. Little editorial fixes for another book were calling out my name, begging me to hop manuscripts. Basically, writing had become hard.

And then, a revelation.

When writer's block breaks, you can grab any number of cliched descriptions to explain what happens in your head. Flood gates, geyser, volcano...blah, blah, blah. Basically, you have lot of new ideas all at the same time.

That release causes a bit of a panic and you think if you can't grab all those ideas bouncing around your head that somehow, they'll bounce right out of your ear or something. The trick is writing down as much as you can, and hope for the best.

So there I was, me in a restaurant, sitting at a bar alone, scribbling in a notebook. A bit sad, really. Though, the wait staff seemed to really be on their A Game, if not a bit nervous about my opinion of the Boudin.

Figure I got, like, seventy-five percent of those ideas before they either bounced out of my ear, or were drowned in Old Fashions. 

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Great Expectations

So, unless you've recently chosen some Unibomber lifestyle, or you're camped out in some hole in the earth a la Saddam Hussein, you've probably figured out that the next actor to don the ole cape and cowl is going to be none other than Ben Affleck.

And, no doubt, being aware of such news you've probably had a somewhat visceral reaction to it.

Admittedly, I had a sort of WTF moment. But then, I did the same when Heath Ledger was given the role of The Joker. #spoonfedmyshorts

With regards to The Dark Knight, I'm no purist. Frankly, I don't read the comics. The only real exposure I've had to the character has been through the movies, beginning with Tim Burton's play. But even still, the announcement took me by surprise.

I think it did so because the Christopher Nolan trilogy is so recent. My enjoyment of that series probably prejudices my reaction to the Batman vs. Superman news. As did my love of Ben Affleck's movies. He's a brilliant actor, but I just can't see it. Then again, I wasn't exposed to the audition reading, and anyway, what the hell do I know about the movies? Without a doubt, the choice is interesting. Can't wait to see how it pans out.

All this reaction, by the way, was observed by me, an author who is currently writing a sequel to my debut book, coming out in one year's time. Not that Gabriel Adam will grab the hearts and loyalty of fans in the same way as Batman, but the fact is, there will be those who read the first book, like it, and then expect as good or better of a reading experience in its sequel.

Currently, that notion is freaking me the F out.

So. Expectations. This is a tough one. Setting a standard can be a lot to live up to. How is one to overcome it? Difficult to say. My current plan is to outrun the reviews. Basically, to have the book finished before any reviews chime in. The peanut gallery can be horrible under the veil of the anonymity of the internet and I don't want the discontent, however much, to influence the narrative that's working its way out of my head. I'm hearing the same from much of my OneFourKidLit author pals.

Anyone got a tip or two as to how to overcome the Sophomore slump? Writing that Sequel Equal? Any sequel out there that did it better than the the original? Any ones that were worse?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Operation One Year

This August marked the one year countdown to the launch of my debut book, The Revelation of Gabriel Adam. It's a weird place to be, this so-close-yet-so-far-away publishing limbo, and to be honest, being consumed by writing the sequel and editing my middle grade WWII story for another round of submissions for my agent, I hadn't much thought about the upcoming release. That is, until my editor sent me the jacket copy for approval. (It's the description of what the book is about.)

As it turns out, a year isn't very much time at all. There will be cover approvals, copy edits, advance reading copies, final pages consuming the days from now until then. The deadline list goes on and on. And after it all, in one year's time, my book hits the shelf.

What that means is that here, at INK ROCK, I'll be posting a lot more. I want to include you on the process, tell you about cool lit places and the characters that inhabit them. In addition, I'll toss in some interviews with some authors you really need to know.

So stay tuned!

Friday, August 16, 2013


A Repost from the Archive at FROMTHEWRITEANGLE:
by S. L. Duncan

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably read enough articles about the publishing industry to teach a writing studies course at your local community college. And no doubt, you’ve probably read somewhere that a big part of making it, of getting published, falls into the hands of pure, dumb luck.

This is not one of those articles.

Look. There are a hundred different ingredients in the recipe of becoming a good writer, and luck is absolutely one of them. With enough time and hard work, you’re going to pull something out of the oven one day that ain't half bad. If the stars align, maybe the world will get a taste.

So be patient. In the meantime, stop and take stock of just how lucky you already are at this moment.

I’ve suffered through a few identity crises. Probably having one right now. I think most authors do. Hell, I think most humans do. Nobody’s ever been born knowing what they’re going to be passionate about in life. No doctor ever popped a kid out of his mother, spanked him and announced, “He’ll make a fine plumber.” A lot of folks stumble through their years, bouncing off of failed efforts and lost interests, seeking something that sparks them to wake up to their own lives. It’s one of the biggest obstacles of growing up: discovering yourself through your passions. And who the hell knows what they're passionate about until they've tried it? How many would-be Speilbergs never held a camera? How many would-be Ronoldos never kicked a football?

It happens though - people luck into something they love. They discover a talent they want to grow and nurture. They figure out a small part of who they are in the world, and let me tell you, that is nothing short of extraordinary. But if you look hard enough you can spot them, these lucky souls. That actor that lets the role consume her. That artist that expands the notion of creativity. The teacher that opens up the universe to young minds. The janitor that beams with pride at the shine on the linoleum.

And then there’s you. 

You found a pen and paper and spilled a few words onto a page and in doing so, you found joy. How lucky is that? How lucky is it that you’ve found something you love? Maybe you can make a career out of it and maybe you can’t. Who cares, though? You’ve found this and it’s yours.

With all the distractions and pressures of life, it’s easy to linger in your day-to-day existence, consumed by work, by reality television, by whatever, carrying on just to satisfy that power bill. But even if that still sounds like your life, you’ve got your writing. It’s that little corner of light in your life that you can run to and just let loose your passion and somehow, everything else becomes clearer. You become clearer.

If only everyone were fortunate enough to find their passion. 

Lucky you.

S. 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 and on Twitter.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Author Interview! Shandy Lawson THE LOOP

If you don't know who Shandy Lawson is, you soon will. 

A singer songwriter based in New York City, Shandy is the author of the fantastic new young adult novel, THE LOOP, coming this Tuesday, April 30th, 2013 from Disney Hyperion. I've read his stuff, and y'all, you need to check him out. I've asked him here to give us a little interview and to fill us in on his upcoming release.  Ladies and Gentlemen, Shandy Lawson.


Hello! I'm very happy to be here. Thank you, Stephen, for allowing me some paragraph space on your fine blog.

Before I answer the interview questions, I feel some backstory is in order, to put this guest-post into context.

The year was 2009, and I had just completed a first draft of THE LOOP. The economy was, as we all remember, in sorry shape, and I...

...Eh. I'm kind of realizing just now that this is a really long story. For the sake of expediency I'll cut straight to the wrap-up. I had typed it all out before seeing how long it was, so I'll just copy and paste the ending, which is really the only important part:

So, clearly the catapult worked even better than we had planned, and by the time I fished him out of the trees, Stephen had pretty much sworn off Mexican prisons as a source of quick cash. The armadillo population bounced right back (just as I had said it would) and thanks to top-notch doctoring on both sides of the border, Stephen and I both got our right arms reattached–– though with us being of similar height and build, the surgeons were not exactly sure which arm belonged to whom. To this day we can never be a hundred percent sure, but I like to think I have a little bit of Stephen with me wherever I go.

And if you're wondering about that poor girl with the hiccups, well... she didn't make it. Rest in peace, kiddo.

ANYWAY. True to his word, Mr. Duncan is letting me pimp my book on his blog. And all I had to do was bust him out of jail with a catapult. Gracias, amigo.

Where did the idea for the book come from?

My first agent kept complaining that I didn't have enough romance in my stories, so I thought I could shut him up by writing one where the universe draws these two teens together, only to have them get murdered over and over and OVER just as they're beginning to really fall in love. A little dark, sure, but I found the premise very romantic. 

[EPILOGUE] The agent didn't like that story either, so I found a better agent and now you can buy my story in stores and stuff.

What genre does your book fall under?

Young Adult Suspense, is what I'd call it. I'm not sure what Hyperion files it under. I should ask.

What actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

That's a tricky one, because I really have no idea who the young players are in Hollywood these days. I guess I could rule out the kids from the Twilight movies, just because there's something about them, the boy especially, that I don't like. The boy looks like maybe he doesn't smell so good or something.

But to (partially) answer the question, I'd cast Tom Waits in the role of Steve, since he can do sketchy like nobody else. I'm sure I'll come up with a better answer as soon as it's too late for one.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Set in New Orleans, two teen lovers desperately try to break out of a time loop that always ends with them being killed in a botched robbery.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

Forty-six days. Followed by three and a half years of revision.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Hmm... I don't remember there being any one inspiration, mostly I just wanted to write something that hadn't already been done to death. Which is ironic, given how the story is predicated on the same events happening over and over and overnadoverandoverandover.

What else about the book might pique a reader's interest?

Well, my mom said it was the best novel written by one of her children that she's ever read.* Not too shabby, yeah?

*My mother has no other novel-writing offspring, and she has not actually read my previous novels.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

TAGGED! The Next Big Thing

by S. L. Duncan

So, nearly two months ago, Wendy Orr (NIM’S ISLAND, THE NIM STORIES) tagged me for this sort of blog chain letter called The Next Big Thing. As I am a complete slackass, I totally got tied up in the new job and have neglected all things writerly.

But no longer, I tells ya!

So, while I object to the implication that what I’ve written might be ‘the next big thing,’ I’ll play along.  Here’s my interview on how my first book, The Revelation Saga (Medallion Press, 2014) came to be!

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I was living in Birmingham and had graduated from college with this geographically useless film / broadcasting degree that was tethered to an equally useless lack of ambition and direction. Also, I was totally chickenshit when it came to the idea that I may have to move to LA or New York to make my dreams come true.

Instead of taking a leap of faith, I ended up in law school. In – no surprise here – Birmingham. Something about the sterile nature of legal writing for the classes I attended caused my creative inner self to revolt. At the same time, I was having this moment where my religious upbringing didn’t match with what I perceived in the real world. I began researching canonical and non-canonical religious texts, trying to figure it all out, and just got inspired. Basically, I wondered what would happen if the books of the Bible were compiled in error, and the one book that might hold the key to surviving the second war between the angels and demons had been purged by Constantine’s Rome in the homogenization of the religion. After living in England for a semester abroad, Gabriel Adam’s story began to materialize. Then it was just a matter of getting it down on paper.

In hindsight, I probably should have been studying Con Law or something.

What genre does your book fall under?

It’s a Young Adult Adventure / Thriller.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

I’m going to go with Jodie Foster, Abigail Breslin, Bindi Irwin, and Gerard Butler. I promise I didn’t steal this answer from Wendy Orr.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Seventeen-year-old Gabriel Adam learns he is the Archangel Gabriel born human and sent to stop the second war between Heaven and Hell.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

Altogether, probably a year. I false started a lot. These days, I’m running about four months on a draft. The long hours come in editing.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Really, the experience inspired itself. It was fun, and that created a momentum until that last day when I typed “The End.”

What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?

My agent, John Rudolph of Dystel & Goderich Literary Management pitched the book as RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK meets some of the fantastical elements of HARRY POTTER.

Also, there may or may not be a dragon in it. 


I'm tagging agency siblings Shandy Lawson (THE LOOP, Disney/Hyperion April 30th, 2013), Andrew Smith (WINGER, Simon & Schuster May 14th, 2013), and Rachele Alpine (CANARY, Medallion Press August 1st, 2013).

Thursday, February 14, 2013

THE NIM STORIES: Wendy Orr's Next Big Thing

You know what I love? A can-do book about a can-do girl. For me, Wendy Orr's NIM'S ISLAND stood out as a book that empowered young girls - rare in a market filled with books about the girl needing rescue. Or the girl helpless to some idiot's charms. Nim is a fantastic character. Driven and inspirational, she redefines girl power and expands on expectations of the young female hero.

Coming in April to Australia is Wendy's THE NIM STORIES, which includes both NIM'S ISLAND and NIM AT SEA in one volume. Both books were given the Hollywood treatment and star Jodie Foster and Bindi Irwin, respectively.

If you've got a young girl, give it to her and watch her horizon expand. If you've got a young boy, give it to him so that his definition of what it means to be a girl isn't limited to the pop culture cliche. If you can't get the bound together version, just get both books! They're fantastic.

Wendy tagged me in this blog tour, so next week, after you've bought and read THE NIM STORIES, I'll tell you a little bit about how I got on this journey.

Thanks, Wendy!

author journal: Nim Stories in the Next Big Thing blog tag: My lovely friend, and brilliant artist and author Lauren Stringer tagged me for “The Next Big Thing,” and so after a bit o...

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Disney's Paperman - The Beauty of Art in Animated Form

Sometimes, the beauty in the art is so apparent, it speaks for itself. You owe it to yourself to watch this.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Inner Nerd: THE HOBBIT

Anyone see The Hobbit? I thought it was fantastic and very respectful of its source material. I love a good journey adventure, as you'll see in 2014 with my debut. One of the best moments of the film was a song that breaks out in Bilbo's home, sung by the Dwarves. It's a sad moment that underscores the wrong these little fellows intent to right. So, in that theme, I give you this little piece of awesome I found on the interwebs. Enjoy!

Monday, January 7, 2013


Oh, man. Was 2012 crazy, or what?

There's no way 2013 can top it. BUT! We're going to try. My resolution is to have two books sell to publishers by the end of the year? One is neeeeearly ready. And the other is nearing a draft completion. It should shape up to be a fun year, with cover reveals and possibly a few galleys to give away.

So here's to the coming year! May it always get better!

And just to keep with the cool things coming this year, these guys are visiting Birmingham on January 17. I'm totally there. Maybe being an author can be like being a rockstar. Well, at least for these folks.

Unchained from Matt Perry on Vimeo.