Sunday, May 22, 2011

My Best Beta Reaser

    I’ve realized that my wife has found the address to both my blog and my twitter username! So I had to quickly take down all the porn and such, and I converted this site into a writers blog...phew. I hope she didn’t see it before :P

    Anyways I would like to share a couple thoughts on one of the best beta readers I’ve got. Yes, it’s my wife, Kelly.
    Most of the time, we are warned as writers to steer clear of our family members for betas because they can sugarcoat the problems in your work, or worse yet, they won’t tell you at all. While this is good for a confidence boost, it doesn’t really help your writing.
    But Kelly is different. She will point out where the pacing seems slow, or mostly in my case, rushed. She’ll tell me when characters seem off and don’t have the right motivation. She’ll tell me where my writing is weak and even where I’ve abused or underused pronouns. She’s even not afraid to tell me when something just sounds plain awkward.
    But then once I’ve gotten all battered and bruised and my ego is back where it probably should be, she has a way of dressing those wounds without re-inflating that dreaded ego. It’s pretty amazing what she does.
    So Kelly, thanks again for being my #1 beta reader, and since you’re reading this now...can you hurry up with Chapter 28? ;)

    Love you.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Ones

I had written a lighter comedy piece...but I was unsatisfied with it and wasn't going to be posting anything this week. But then I listened to this song and I got inspired, writing what I would say is probably my first horror piece. Hope you enjoy.

    I watched from my perch on the tree outside Mr. Jennings' window as he reached towards his mouth. He spit out a wad of blood as he frantically searched for his missing bicuspid. He looked around his room then screamed.
    This was the first time I've visited Mr. Jennings. I rather liked the way his bedroom was arranged as it had a certain feng shui quality to it that made what I did more enjoyable. I made a mental note to myself that I must come back as  I huffed on the tooth and wiped it off on my shirt, giving it a polish that allowed it to brilliantly reflect the moonlight.
    I took off from the tree and flew across the city, giving a shout out to my buddy Pat as he prepared to enter a high-rise apartment. He had been hitting that entire complex for over a year now. His game was all about creating community-wide panic. Me, I liked to single people out.
    Alighting on the windowsill of Mr. Adams, I looked down at the new ADT security sign pounded into the front lawn and laughed. Companies like that make so much money playing on the fears of people, convincing them that they are only seconds away from getting robbed. But in reality, we are the ones you should be fearing.
    On Mr. Adams' dresser were a couple empty bottles of whiskey. It always made me smile when I brought somebody to this point, when even alcohol couldn't get them peace of mind when they went to sleep. I watched him lie there in bed, counting his teeth with his tongue. "Are they all there?" I whispered into the breeze.
    Mr. Adams closed his eyes and I passed through his window. I watched as his breathing slowed to a pause and the blinking colon on his alarm clock froze in place. Pulling a rusty pair of pliers from my pouch, I got to work and and found a nice molar. I squeezed hard as I yanked it out of his mouth. Little droplets of blood burst out from his empty socket, hovering in the air as I passed back through the window. Once outside, I took my pliers and broke the glass next to the alarm sensor and watched.
    He shot up from his bed screaming almost as loud as the alarm system that screeched and announced to the world that I had been there. I took it all in, every night, as they screamed. It never got old. I polished off the tooth and put it with the others before I left for my next stop.
    It was the last house of the night and probably one of my all-time favorites, Herr Schultz. An engineer on a temporary work visa from Germany, I had visited him twelve times in the last four months. He was fun because he tried the hardest to stop me, and even if I wasn't going to take any of his teeth, I would stop by from time to time to see what he was doing that night to thwart me. He tried staying up all night, sleeping during the day, hotels on the other side of the country, salt rings around his bed, garlic, and he even had a priest spend a night with him. I got him every time.
    Tonight as I peered into the bedroom, there was something different. I couldn't quite make out what he had done. Then I saw the bloody needle and thread on his nightstand. When I looked to Herr Schultz I saw that he had sewn his mouth shut. He then turned towards the window as if he knew I was there. With the string pulling tight, digging into the dozens of amateur lip piercings, he smiled in my direction.
    You can't escape me. Don't even try.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Writing your Query Letter before your Novel

    One of the most painful things for a novel writer is the dreaded query letter. We hate it. We really do, but I shouldn’t have to tell you. You know, don’t you?
    I mean how do you condense a brilliant novel into just a couple paragraphs? It can’t be done. How can you get across your brilliant symbolism and genius characterization? How can you show the subtlety of your foreshadowing? How can you explain your fiendishly twisted plot?
    You can’t.
    And I’m not here to tell you how to write your query letter. But what I am here to tell you is that half of the pain is in distilling and sifting out the main idea from your novel. That is if you even have a main idea to distill...and if you don’t, this can be a SUPER painful process. And the one way to reduce this pain is to write your query letter before you even type “Chapter 1.” Yes that’s right, I said before.
    The reason is simple. If you have an idea for a novel, yes you can write it and make it interesting. But once you go to write that query letter, it’s easy to find out that you don’t have a hook, or a plot that can summarized to the point where an agent, editor, or more importantly, a reader, will want to hear more. If you write your query before hand, you are no longer handcuffed by your novel and if you realize that the plot just can’t be dressed up enough to make somebody drop everything and read your book, you can change it. No longer will you think, “I wish I could just change that death to a kidnapping. I could do A, B, and C and my book would be amazing!” You can just do it.
    Oh, and did I mention that you won’t have to go through the alchemy of finding your main point? Did I mention that you’ll have, sitting in front of your computer as you write, a guiding light to keep you on track? Did I also mention that when your friends, family, and other co-workers ask about that novel you’re writing, you can succinctly tell them what it’s about?!?!
    Yes, that’s right. You’ll never have to fumble around for 15min only to leave them wondering how anybody would ever make sense of the nonsense that was your plot!

    So yes, I know. Writing query letters can be painful, but if you do it as soon as you have an idea for a novel, it will not only make your life easier, but it will make your novel better. I wish somebody told me this years ago...

Friday, May 13, 2011


    I didn’t want to see them. Not here. Not now. Not ever. But my mother thought otherwise, so there we sat in my car with her at the wheel. I couldn’t be trusted to drive anymore. She nodded at me as I looked back up at the looming double doors of Max Krupsie and Sons Funeral Home. I got out and slammed the door as she drove off, leaving me there.

    I stood outside for a while, watching some adult couples come and go. I reached into my purse to text my friend Charlotte, looking for comforting words, but as my hand touched the phone, I pulled it out. I had to do this on my own, and I went inside.

    There, an older woman with grey hair stood at the front directing people where to go. She wore an old and faded flower print dress that smelt of mothballs, or formaldehyde. But yet, when she looked at me I felt comfortable.

    It was her eyes that did it for me. They seemed to tell me that it was OK to cry. She waddled up to me as a small tear formed in the corner of my eye, and said, “Is there anything I can do for you honey?” I shook my head. “Are you here for the Wilson funeral?”

    I nodded and she pointed over to my left. “Over there...So tragic isn’t it? So young. So innocent.” I tried to back away from her, but she kept talking. “These ones are the hardest.”

    Pulling myself away from her I walked towards the end of the line that ran down the hallway. In front of me was one of the couples I watched enter the funeral home. They were in their mid-thirties and dressed in fine black clothes. They whispered to each other for a while before the man turned to me and said, “How did you know Jamie?”

    I swallowed, not because my throat was dry, but because that question seemed to hollow me out inside and I needed to fill the void, even if it was with my own spit. “I...I didn’t know her.”

    “Same with us. I worked with John. So sad, and yet so preventable. She didn’t have to die.” The man leaned in closer and shook his head. “I heard they might reduce the charges down from manslaughter. That’s just...unbelievable.”

    I lowered my head as the woman started talking, “People just think that, especially your generation, not nothing against you personally, but they think they’re invincible.” She pointed towards the casket. “Nobody is.”

    The woman, satisfied, turned around as we waited. I couldn’t see the parents quite yet, but I knew they were there.

    Then my phone vibrated and I reached into my purse on instinct, pulling it out. It was a text from my mother. Apparently she was going to pick me up in 30min. She was running errands. I started to reply when the man turned around.

    “What are you doing?”


    “You don’t text at a wake...especially this one!” The room went silent as he grabbed my phone and closed it. Off to the side I could see Mrs. Wilson.

    She stormed towards me and shouted, “You! What the hell are you doing here...and with that thing!” She took the phone from the man. “This is to come nowhere near my DEAD BABY! And the same goes for you.”

    Mrs. Wilson threw my phone against the wall, shattering it into six or seven different pieces. “GET THE FUCK OUT! YOU MURDERER!”

    I left the pieces of my phone on the funeral home floor and sat outside, trying to avoid the looks of the mourners coming out. I heard them talking about me as they walked past. Some kind enough to whisper, others just said what they thought out-loud. Still, it wasn’t as bad as the people that yelled directly at me.

    When they left me alone, I passed the time staring out towards the road. It was as good as anything to do while I waited for my mother to come pick me up  As the cars zipped by I watched as people talked, texted, and played with their phones as the drove.

    “Why me?” I sighed. “Why?”

Sunday, May 8, 2011

My first face to face critique group

This Saturday I met with my first in-person critique group and let me say boy was I nervous. We had to bring 3-5 pages of a recent piece of work with us to read out loud for the group. The night before I went over my first chapter of Bleed Well many times. I read it to my wife, who had already read a number of version of it, and just needed a little bit of encouragement. She tried to give it to me, but let's just say I'm not in danger of her being too nice to me when it comes to my work.

But after a couple good suggestions from her, I got a version that she said was passable. That was probably the best thing she as ever said about something I've written, so I was actually feeling alright.
But then in the morning I started to have my doubts again. I mean my wife, as brutally honest as she is, is not a writer. What would these people say? What would they find? I would just have to wait.

I got to the restaurant about 30min early so I could try and talk to these people before hand, but as it turns out, the it opened right when the meeting as supposed to start. Rats. What could I do now but worry about my manuscript? Luckily it was near a mall with a B&N and I killed some time there.

Once the meeting started I was again nervous, but as we introduced ourselves, I found out I wasn't the only person there who was at their first critique group. There were actually two others, and one of the women was also new to the group. That made me feel good that at least I wasn't the weird new guy there (Oh yea, I was the only guy...Flashbacks of AP English all over again)

They started reading their works and I started to fall into a good comfort zone. I heard a lot of really great things, but I felt like I was also able to give some pretty good feedback for them as well. (One of the writers though was absolutely AMAZING! If I was reading that in a bookstore, I told her, I would be at the checkout only a couple pages in).

Finally, my turn came and to my delight, they didn't tell me I was the worst writer in the world and should go to hell. Phew. They actually like it. Nobody saw anything structurally wrong and thought it was a good beginning. I did get some good feedback though on a couple lines that should probably be tweaked to make it work better, but overall I left with my ego in tact and good suggestions for my WIP.

I will be going back there for sure, because for one, I got good feedback. For two, it was nice to meet other people face to face who were writers like  me. It's a lonely hobby/profession, so face to face contact is always a good thing.

Overall it was a great experience and like every other writer says, FIND A CRITIQUE GROUP IF YOU WANT TO TAKE YOUR WORK TO THE NEXT LEVEL.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Mathias’ Journey

    The old man sat in his chair, watching the twenty-four news channel, trying to hear the latest on the elections in Russia. His sons and daughters, as well as their spouses, sat on the couches of his living room. They talked over, under, and around each other, creating a web of sound that was impossible to follow. He reached for the remote and turned up the volume. If the TV was loud enough, then perhaps he could at least pick it out from the myriad of sounds coming from everybody.
    One of his sons got up from the couch and leaned in towards him. He said something, but the old man couldn’t hear. He leaned forward in his chair and turned up the volume on his hearing aid, but that just amplified the noise around him. “What?” he finally said, seeing that his son was getting frustrated at his lack of response.
    His son grabbed the remote and turned off the TV. Everybody stopped talking and the old man heard his son say something about dinner. “Yea, let’s go eat.” He lowered the footrest on his chair and slowly stood up. His legs ached as he hobbled towards the kitchen.
    His wife was still in there peeling potatoes.
    When he turned around, he saw his son following him; his head listed to the side, and he looked confused. The old man felt embarrassed and tired. He didn’t want to go sit back down, having gotten up and made a fool of himself, so he turned towards the liquor cabinet and said, “Let’s have a drink.”
    He took out a bottle of brandy and a pair of shot glasses, filling each one only half-way. No use in drinking too much. The longer he could go without having to make a trip to the store, the better. He toasted with his son then made his way back to his chair.
    The old man looked out the window where his grandchildren were all playing a game of football. He smiled and closed his eyes.
    When he opened them, he was in his own backyard with many of his long-dead friends. They were playing their own game of football at the far end of the field. He watched for a moment, and when they waved him over, he took a step forward. His legs didn’t feel sore, and he could bend his left knee for the first time in many years. He took another step, then another, and before he knew it, he was running.
    The wind rushed through his thick hair that bounced with each step that he took. When he reached his friends, he felt the exhilaration of catching his breath and the pounding of a strong heart against his chest. They began playing, and he scored the final winning points in the waning moments of the game; but this wasn’t what he wanted. 
   He thanked his friends as they piled into the couple cars parked out front and waved as they drove away. As they disappeared on the horizon, he walked back into the yard. 
   There, he looked up into the sky and watched the white, puffy clouds stream across sky and there in that moment, he felt like somebody was calling him. He could hear his name broadcast off in the distance. From up above he heard it again and started running then jumped up into the air where he took off, flying towards the heavens.
    The old man opened his eyes and was back in his chair with one of his daughters standing over him. His hearing aid took a moment to adjust but he heard her say, “Dad, dinner’s ready. You ready to join us in the kitchen?”
    The old man looked around at his children and grandchildren gathered in the living room, his wife holding one of their infant granddaughters. “Yea. That sounds good.”

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Sample Chapter of Bleed Well

Fredrick dipped his clothes into the icy stream, letting the glacial water lift the blood from the fabric. His hands shook, and the rock lodged into the muddy bank sent a wave of nausea rolling through his stomach. Downstream, the water turned a light pink, a silent witness to his crime. 

Once more, he checked to see if anybody followed him, but he was alone. “Evil...Destruction...Sacrifice...” he muttered, mimicking the phantom voices. Where did they come from? He clasped his hands together, plunged them into the water, and splashed it onto his face. He knelt, frozen, over the stream and thought of the small corpse resting in a pool of blood. Fredrick threw his shirt over his head and shivered while the wind whipped through the soaking fabric. With shaking legs, he stumbled down the mountain, grasping at the tree branches for support.

The early morning sun struck the valley floor and warmed everything it touched, but Fredrick remained cold, both outside and in. Back in his village, the smell of fresh bread wafting from the kitchen brought his nausea back. He staggered past the huts, keeping his head low and avoiding the community hut where most of the villagers were gathered.

He slipped behind the kitchen to get to avoid seeing anybody, but the moment he saw a clear path to his hut, somebody called out to him, "Good morning." Susan leaned out the kitchen window, shaking out a dishrag. A couple wisps of gray hair framed her sun-worn face, and as always, she was smiling.

Fredrick kicked at the ground, stirring up a cloud of dust and stones to turn back to her. The sound of her voice calmed his nerves, and his stomach settled. "Whatever you're baking this morning smell wonderful. Please tell me it's acorn bread."

"You're right. We thought that since everybody has been working so hard in the fields, you all deserved a little treat."

"Do you think you can sneak me a taste?" Fredrick said with a half smile.

"I'm sorry, but I can't. Everybody gets to eat at the same time."

"Not even for me? I'm practically your son."

Susan laughed. "I think you're a very special young man, but I don't think I could ever take the place of your mother. You'll always be her son." She dropped her dishrag on the window-ledge. "Come here anyways and give me a hug."

Fredrick stepped closer and leaned into the window, wrapping his arms around her in a solid embrace. He pressed himself against her, feeling her heart beat and a wholesome warmth radiating from her. "Thank you for everything, Susan."

"It was my pleasure." She pulled away from him. "Your shirt, it's soaking. And're freezing. Where have you been?"

"I went up into the mountains this morning."

"You know I don't like it when you go up there."

"I know you worry about that, but trust me, I'll be fine.” Fredrick glanced down at his hands which were trembling.

"I'm just afraid that one day some evil spirit is going to cast a curse on you. Then you're going to slip, fall, and crack your skull against a rock, and you'll lie there in the mud while some wild animal eats your liver."

"That might have worked when I was still young, but--"

"You should take my warning to heart. I don't want anything bad happening to you, and I certainly don't want you offending the gods."

A shiver swept through his body. "No, I wouldn't want to do that."

Susan reached out and caressed his cheek. "What's wrong? Something's different."

"I..." He brushed her hand away. "Nothing's wrong." He ran his fingers through his long, black hair.

"You can't hide anything from me. The gods and I can see right through you."

"Maybe I'm a little nervous--"



"Are you going to ask Anna to marry you today? Is that it?"


Susan smiled and picked up her dishrag. "I think that's it. You're nervous because you're going to finally do it."

Fredrick leaned against the kitchen, facing the temple. "I like her, but she would never say yes to me...I just don't share--"

"Just because she's always at the temple doesn't mean you and her can't get along."

"Yes, it does. We're friends, but we're just too different. She's so pious and I'm--"

"You're special." Susan reached behind her and broke off a piece of bread, giving a small piece to Fredrick. "May the gods smile down upon you."

"Thanks." He took the warm bread and ate it. The nutty flavor filled his stomach and began to warm him from within. "It's very good."

"Go see her."

"Thank you...You've always been so good to me."

"Go, go. Quit wasting your time and ask her already."

He started off towards the temple, his shoulders pulled back, radiating confidence. Susan cried out to him, but the sound never registered in his mind; his thoughts focused on Anna.

At the temple, he paused and ran his fingers around the sculptures of bears, vultures, rats, and rams, carved into the smooth stone walls. He peeled his fingers off the rock and looked up at the bell-tower that pierced the sky from the valley floor. It stood as tall as five grown men, and perched on top, a statue of an eagle grasped a thistle in its talons. Fredrick closed his eyes and pictured himself flying over the mountains and away from the village.

From inside, he could hear a woman's voice. It resonated clear and crisp, full of excitement, yet laced with reverence; it commanded the attention of the room. Fredrick walked along the wall to the opening of the temple and there, surrounded by children, stood Anna.

The children were caught up in the web of her story. Their heads followed her every movement and so did Fredrick. His eyes focused on her soft, smooth, lips with just enough color to give them distinction, but not so much that they looked unnatural. They were perfect. Fredrick studied her fine cheeks and sleek, black hair, then rested his head up against the wall.

Anna's arms whipped through the air as she approached the climax, and the children gathered in closer, staring up at her with their mouths open. Suddenly, Anna looked up and saw Fredrick. She stopped, letting her hands drop to her side. The children, curious to see what had interrupted their story, turned around, and with their innocent eyes, glared at him.

"Look at that. Fredrick came to try and listen in again." Anna acknowledged one of the girls in the group. "Elizabeth, do you want some boring old adult hanging around here while we try to have fun?"

Elizabeth shook her head. "No."

Anna squatted down next to her. "And why's that?"

"Because old people are boring."

Anna laughed and smiled at Fredrick. "You know you can't be interrupting me every morning. I have a job to do." She dropped her eyes towards Elizabeth. "Plus, you're boring." The children broke into laughter.

Fredrick leaned against the door frame. "They're allowed to stay." He pointed at the parents in the far corner.

"Those people?" said Elizabeth. "You're not that old."

He took a step forward. "Will you at least sit with me at breakfast?"

She shrugged. "We'll see. But from what my kids have indicated, there might be more interesting people to talk to." Anna and the children laughed again, and Fredrick walked out towards the village; a chill ran down his spine. Anna called out, "We were just joking..." He didn't turn back.

Fredrick escaped towards his hut. It looked identical to every other hut in the village: a one room wooden structure with a simple thatched roof. Inside, he had a small bed with a straw mattress, a jar of nuts, and a book on a table. Tucked away in a corner, a small pile of dirty clothes sat, begging to be washed. Fredrick gathered them up and took them to the river.

"Evil...Destruction...Sacrifice." he muttered again to himself while he walked through the village. What did it mean? What were they trying to tell me?

Phillip and his wife, Karlie, one of oldest couples in the village, were already at the river. Phillip sat perched on the bank, washing their laundry, while Karlie whittled a small piece of wood. Fredrick knelt beside Phillip in the mud and placed his clothes on a boulder. With his head down, he took one of his shirts, dipped it into the river, and began rubbing it against a rock, avoiding eye-contact with Phillip.

Phillip asked, "How are you today?"

Fredrick grabbed another shirt, covered in dried mud from the fields, and dipped it into the river. The dirt mixed with the water, lifting out of the fabric, and floated away with the current. "I've been better. How about you?"

"Remarkable!" said Phillip. "It's great to finally have a voice, you know? I've waited almost sixty years to get a seat as an elder, and now that it's come, it just feels great."

"That's right." Fredrick's voice was flat. "I'm happy for you. Quite happy." He violently scrubbed his shirt against the rock. "What's Karlie doing?"

Phillip pulled a pair of her pants from the river. "Ha! My crazy old wife--I never quite understand anything she does anymore. And even when I do--why don't you just ask her?"

Fredrick removed his shirt from the water, but some dirt remained. He laid it across a nearby boulder to dry and walked over to Karlie. "What are you working on?"

She put down her knife. "I'm making a new voting stick for the elders. Actually, now I'm just working on the beads."

"It looks nice, but why?"

"Have you looked at the one we use now?"

Fredrick sat down next to her and picked up the knife, spinning it in his palm. "Yes, but why are you making a new one?"

"The old one is ugly, crude, old, and falling apart. It needs to be replaced."

He handed Karlie the knife then picked up one of the beads. "Why now? Because of Phillip?"

She shrugged. "I guess. When I saw him move his first bead on that was supposed to be one of the proudest moments in my life, but I kept looking at that stick, thinking that I could do better, that I should do something about it." She stuck the knife into the ground. "So I decided to make a new voting stick, something that me and everybody else in our village could really appreciate." She paused for a moment. "I consider this my offering to the gods this year."

Fredrick examined the bead in his hand. "What are you carving on this one?"

"Once I'm done, that one will show a woman working in the fields." She took the bead from Fredrick and looked at it herself. "I want to make the voting stick a true representation of our village. It's something sacred, so it should be beautiful. Not some old piece of scrap wood with a fading white paint, plain as an overcast sky." She tossed the bead back at Fredrick. "The day that we toss that old stick into the fire will be good day."

Fredrick placed the bead on the ground next to Karlie, and Phillip came over, holding a pile of clothes. "I'm done here. Let's go get ready for breakfast."

"They made acorn bread. It's delicious." said Fredrick.

Phillip stared at Fredrick. "How do you know? Did you have some already? You know that is not allowed."

"I..." Fredrick tried to say something, but nothing came to mind.

Phillip shook his head muttering to himself. Karlie gathered up her beads, placed them in a bag, and rose from the ground. Before she walked away, she stared towards a meadow across the river. "Look over there." She pointed. "There, do you see them, a family of deer?" Karlie bowed her head and kissed the back of her hand. "The gods have blessed this morning."

Fredrick backed away, and a weight dropped into his stomach. Phillip asked, "What's the matter? You look sick."

Fredrick took a couple steps away from the river. "I have to go." He kept backing up, watching the deer as the voices returned to his head. He turned around and ran towards the village, leaving his clothes on the bank.

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