Friday, January 28, 2011

Our Art

*If you comment on this piece, please be honest. If you didn’t like it, just say so. You don’t have to try and find the one redeeming factor in this piece to make a comment. Tell me it sucks and I should hang myself, it’s the greatest story every, or anything in-between. Just be honest if you comment.

Josie’s heels echoed as she strode across the hard marble floors of the museum. Further down the gallery, an elderly couple stared at a Manet, whispering amongst themselves. Those morons don’t know anything about art. Look at them pretend to be all pretentious. They have no idea.The security guards were just around the corner, asking somebody to back away from a Chagall.

She sat down on a bench and stared ahead, between the paintings at the stone blocks that made up the west wall of the museum. A cold draft blew in from the window on the far side; the cool winter air crept up her skirt and between her legs. Josie ran her hand through her hair, then careened her neck over to see if the security guard was still in the other room. She couldn’t see him, but just knew he was there.

The elderly couple moved away into the next gallery. Good, I don’t want to see you anymore. Assholes. Josie got up and went over to the Manet. There you are. You beautiful thing. She looked around, and with nobody watching she ran her fingers over the canvas. She could feel each brush stroke, each dash of genius poured into the paint. She joined with it; and for a moment, she was with Manet as he stood in his studio painting.

She pulled her hand away and leaned in close. Around the corner, she could hear the guard’s heavy footsteps. “Ma’am, you can’t get that close. You just set off–”

“Oh I’m sorry.” Josie backed a step away from the painting. “These things can just draw you in, you know.”

The guard raised his hand to his head, tipping his hat. “Yea, I know what you mean. Sometimes I catch myself doing the same thing…while I’m supposed to be working none the less.”

Josie smiled at him. “I’ll try to resist the urge to get a real close look.”

“Sounds good.”

The guard lingered in the gallery, even as Josie went back to the bench and sat down. Another couple entered, but they seemed to be taking the speed tour of the museum and promptly left after giving each painting a single glance. The guard followed them out of the room.

Josie got up from the bench and went back to the Manet. She looked around, and seeing nobody, Josie grabbed the painting around the edges and lifted it off the wall.

Alarms began ringing as she dashed through the gallery towards the emergency exit. She kicked open the door and ran outside into the cold. When she turned around, Josie saw the guard standing in the doorway. She tucked the painting under her arm and started running.

He chased after her, but she had a decent head start. She made it all the way to the overpass where she held the painting over her head. The guard stopped about twenty feet away from her. “Ma’am. Please. I beg of you. Put the painting down.”

“It’s not yours. It’s not yours.”

“What do you mean it’s not mine?” The guard implored.

“This painting. It doesn’t belong to you. You have no idea what it means.”

“I don’t–”

Josie hurled the painting off the overpass and into the traffic passing below. The frame buckled as it crashed into the asphalt, then split. The canvas rolled out into the road then stopped. For a moment it was still. Then a truck came barreling down on it, running it over and tearing it to shreds.

Moving soon

Soon, I'll be moving here, once I figure everything out and get the time. I don't like my wordpress blog. It sucks. I have one of those crazy ones I host on my own and I just don't have the time to do all the customization.

Until I get this running, you can check out my current postings at

Monday, January 24, 2011


As a writer, you need to read in order to write. It’s just one of those truths out there. I personally can’t stand when I talk with somebody and they say “I’m writing a novel.” or “I’m thinking about starting a novel.” My next question then is usually “What kind of book are you writing.” They then start to sputter because their book is far too complicated to be stuck in a single genre and be summed up in a mear couple sentences. So then I follow up with, “What do you read?” And let me tell you, it is incredibly sad when the response I get is “I don’t really read all that much.”


If you want to be a painter, you need to be immersed in paintings. If you want to be a musician, you need to immersed in music. If you want to be a writer…I guess that’s all you need. No! You need to be immersed in books. The question then is, what should you, as an author, read?

I think there are about four levels that an author has in their reading list. The first level is the most crucial for them to read. It’s their genre and where they will get a lot of their voice from. The second level are the classics. They help immerse the author in truly great works in the art. The third level is the out-of-genre modern books. These, if time requires, should be sacrificed, but are important none the less. Finally, we come to the non-fiction aspect. Here you can gain incredible insights into how the world, mind, people, organizations, etc. work. Reading non-fiction, while it won’t necessarily help much with your prose and story telling, it will give your writing a real sense of legitimacy.

So obviously reading in your genre is the first thing you want to do. You need to know what types of things fans of your genre like and expect. You need to know whether or not certain themes have been done to death and become cliched. You need to figure out what things have not been done and would make your work new and unique. You also will find that a lot of descriptions are shared throughout genres. Romance will describe love making pretty frequently. If you write romance you better have lots of ways to describe that. Fantasy will describe new and interesting characters/worlds. You had better be able to do that if you write fantasy. And so on and so on. So I’ll stop here since I shouldn’t have to convince any of you on this point.

With respect to the classics, you might say that it’s a waste of time to read those. You might say that “people don’t write like that anymore.” or “That style sounds so dated.” But there is a lot you can learn. First, each writer will have at least one fundamental aspect of story telling down right mastered. Be it plot, voice, dialogue, characterization. No matter the time period, those aspects never go away as requirements for a good story. So learn from them because they are classics for a reason.

Imagine you read the ten greatest books published each year (as defined by Professor Smith’s 2134 Literature 435 class at Yale) How would those books on rank overall on average? Perhaps the top book might crack the top 200 of all time, once in a while. The 10th greatest book that year, probably in the 1000’s. So to hammer this point even further. Even if you read (regardless of genere) the best books each year, chances are they still won’t match up to the classics in terms of greatness. So since you emulate what you read, read great books.

Now onto those out of genre books. They will provide you with a good round backing for the rest of your story. There are some things that certain genre books do quite well. For instance those a fore mentioned romance books. If you read some of those, I will guarantee you that the next little romantic encounter you throw into your thriller novel will be written much better. Similarly for the romance writer: If you read more thrillers, you will be more apt to put a compelling bit of suspense and action to spice up your romance.

The same thing goes for all the other genres. Literary fiction will teach you characterization and good symbolism/theming. Fantasy/Scifi will teach you how to really create a compelling setting. Mystery will teach you how to create suspense and good puzzles. Even childrens books will teach you how to convey a message in as few words as possible.

Finally, as for non-fiction, reading those types of books will give your books that last little touch of legitimacy that can change something from good to great. Reading a book on psychology will make your characters more believable in their actions and emotions. They can give you insights into family situations you don’t have personal experience with. They can teach you just how far a person can go in terms of mental illness. Other books can teach you just how the inner functions of government work. Another might give you some great perspective on the life of a police officer. These books might not be relevant for whatever you’re working on now, but you never know when this knowledge will come in handy and help you craft the perfect scene and or book.

So keep reading, read wide, and read often.

Please let me know if I forgot anything.

Friday, January 14, 2011


Alex’s eyes felt heavy, eyelids yearning to give his pupils rest. He slapped himself on the cheek, and for a moment, his eyes felt light; then exhaustion set back in. With his hands resting on the steering wheel, he sped over the hill. The sooner I get home, the sooner I can go to sleep.

The road was covered with snow and ice, with only a couple narrow slits of bare asphalt cutting though it in each lane. It had been a couple days since the storm, but the plows out here didn’t run unless it was absolutely necessary. Alex looked down at the clock, then back up to the road. The sun was just about to peak over the horizon, and the dim light reflected off the snow, lighting up surrounding fields.

As he crested on the hill, Alex saw the intersection; he was about to cross a US highway. The red stop sign caught his eye, and Alex pressed on the brakes. He didn’t slow down, and as he pressed harder, the ABS began to shake and vibrate under his foot, filling the car with the dull electronic whir.

His eyes opened to their fullest extent and scanned the area. The highway was busy, and he could see a truck heading towards the intersection. Alex pressed harder, but the car didn’t slow. To his right was a snowbank; he turned the wheel.

The car edged over to the side and brushed up against the snow. The front bumper caught on the bank and Alex felt the back end of the car start to curve around behind him. He watched the world spin around through the windshield, and his grip solidified on the steering wheel. All the while the ABS kept on humming.

As he slid out into the intersection, he heard the deep bellowing of the truck’s horn, getting louder and louder. Alex faced back up the road he slid down; there were no tracks in the road for his car, it was all slick ice. He looked over at the snowbank that failed to stop him as a sinking feeling settled into his gut.

Then the sound of the horn changed pitch and started to get quieter. It missed me. I’m alive, I’m alive–

He heard another horn blow and turned his head. He saw two headlights out of his passenger window and his car stopped sliding; the ABS turned off. Alex swallowed and took his hands off the wheel, resting them in his lap. He only heard the horn for another second.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Keep the Creativity Flowing

Some quick and (as always) free advice while you’re out editing your WIP. Make sure you make time to write something new.

This is crucial for any writer, but especially a novelist. As I’ve found, you can spend many months on the editing process; and if I find myself ignoring my advice, my edits start to get dull. Why is this? I’m not writing.

Writing something new keeps those creative juices flowing. It’s almost like creativity is a muscle. If you exercise and train it a lot, it will get stronger. But as soon as you neglect it, take it out of training, it will start to regress. The cure for that is to make sure you have a project you can work on while you are editing.

If you’re a novelist, then have another novel that you are working on. Before you sit down with your red pen, take 20, 30 min or so and just type away. You will find that not only will you have another novel done pretty quickly, but you will also be all warmed up for your edits! It’s a win win.

So, I need to make sure I keep heeding my own advice, and hopefully it will work for you as well.

Tell me, what experiences do you have with writing while you are mired in stacks of edits? Does it seem to help you?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

I'm Putting my Foot Down

I’ve been very busy lately polishing my current WIP novel, Bleed Well. I think I’m on about the 7th revision right now, and I’ve come to the realization that I will never ever be completely happy with it. I think that I need to put my foot down and say I’m done.

As writers, we have to know that we will never be perfect, and chasing perfection will just take you further and further away from your audience. To grow and become better, we don’t need to constantly go back and forth as to whether or not to keep that adverb or that line of dialogue. We need to get it to a point where we can live with it, and then let it sink or swim on its own merits.

A short story I recently read, “In the Reign of Harad IV” by Steven Millhauser in the April 10, 2006 issue of the New Yorker. It’s about an artist that strives for perfection, and while eventually he reaches a point where he is satisfied with himself, he has lost his audience, respect, and any type of productive career. Basically chasing perfection is a fool’s errand.

So in that spirit I encourage all of you to put down that red pen and evaluate your work, not on if it’s perfect, but on if you think you have reached a level of professionalism that would leave you satisfied.

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