Clancy

I remember the first time I ever tried reading a Tom Clancy novel. I was twenty, and I was buying up as many books as I could get my hands on. One of his novels, Executive Orders was there; it seemed like a pretty hefty read, and I picked it up, unsure exactly what to expect. I knew the name Tom Clancy, as a child of the movies I was a fan of the successful film adaptation of The Hunt For Red October. What I was not expecting was a book so rich, so detailed and multi-faceted that it would take me years to comprehend the meat of it.

Sadly, I never became a huge fan of Tom Clancy’s writing. Not that it was bad… it was simply too good. He was a man that wrote technically, provocatively, ahead of his time. Where his characters could bombard through the story with ease, I was left with a clipboard of names, dates, scenarios and military information that educated me while it entertained. I felt like my head was about to explode at times from all the swelling it was doing after reading a few chapters.

This is a true testament to his abilities. Tom Clancy was a writer that married espionage and military together in the way that a science writer would merge technology and chaos. The works of Tom Clancy are more than the sum of video game spin-offs, board games and TV spots. No… his works are tomes of literature that chronicle the human condition, the drive, and force of civil service, and epics of mechanical and conventional ingenuity.

Today is a sad day for us all. His book is now closed, his story is over; the world has released another of its masters back into the greatness of eternity. God bless you Tom Clancy; you gave us so much. May the grace of God be on your loved ones, your family, friends, and those whose lives have been touched and uplifted by your endeavors.

Nothing is as real as a dream. The world can change around you, but your dream will not. Responsibilities need not erase it. Duties need not obscure it. Because the dream is within you, no one can take it away.

~ Tom Clancy

The Semicolon and Me

Like any good reader I have my joys and saddenings at some things that I read. One of the things that gives me much joy, is the often use of the “semicolon.” It isn’t the dastardly deviant of literature that some people would have you believe, and it isn’t a progeny of the twisted minds of classicist writings where hard pauses required a new comma.

No, in fact the semicolon is the most underused punctuation in the English language, save for the colon. To which I say, bad writers are quite familiar with, as their manuscripts must pass through their colon with relative ease.

Most new writers are so terrified of the semicolon that they create long-winded and verbose complex sentences, instead of simply tying them together, abandoning some conjunctions, and placing a well spotted semicolon. Not only does it tighten up the rhetoric, the narrative, but sometimes it gives the eyes a nice miniscule reprieve from the endless assembly line of nouns and verbs and adjectives.

I find it very refreshing when a writer challenges themselves to include a semicolon in their work. It means that they are not only rubbing against the grain of the near established trend of modern literature, but they are wanting to break free from the bondage and grammatical chains of the punctuationalists.

Do More Reading

For the past few weeks, I’ve been polishing up on some of my reading. Not a bad idea, really. I mean, I do write crime fiction, suspense fiction, and on occasion scary stuff. So why let the old wheels get rusty?

I was once talking to a fellow about being a writer, and that writers needed to be well read; something we both agree on. This is a common fundamental with almost all writers the world over, and not just writers do this; carpenters, painters, engineers and architects spend huge amounts of time studying their craft. They see what others have done, they see how others have done it, and they gain insight, inspiration and confidence. Guitarists listen to songs and music that feature strong guitar parts, learning under the masters, while strumming out a three chord progression in their basement to keep from waking the house, and listening to Clapton, Hendrix, and Page.

Writers should be the most starving people in the world for books to read. I mean it. We should be so ravenous for literature that we’ll read the fucking phone book out of necessity, but when it comes right down to it, we don’t put in as much effort into the other half of our craft as we try to do with the scribble part of it.

One of the books currently on my reading list is called, What’s A Ghoul To Do? It is written by Victoria Laurie, and it’s the first in a series of Ghost Hunter Mysteries. Since most of my novels involve murder or death in some way, then I gravitate toward the crime novel genre; books by James Patterson, Mo Hayder and Stuart MacBride, just to name a few. This book, What’s A Ghoul To Do? is a good example of a staple novel. By staple, I mean, a novel that is intended to provide entertainment to the masses. You aren’t going to find overly elaborate and exhaustive narrative, no compelling dialogue and character interchange. You will find a few of my pet beefs grammatically, but as a writer, this is where we are to spend our time.

Video games have become such a back burner thing that I probably spend less than four hours a week on my console, and that’s probably way too generous an amount.

Now this next part will probably step on a few toes, but then I’m more or less repeating the resounding echo of many great writers and authors over the past several decades. No matter what you learn in school or college, there is no better framework for a good writer than to be a great reader.

“But, Mr Devere, does that include fan-fiction? There’s this really great writer that’s written this two hundred thousand word fic about Will Robinson and Luna!”

Sorry. That’s not really what I mean. Granted there are some immaculate fan-fiction stories out there, and they are upper-tier English literature, for the most part I’d have to shake my head and tell you, “No. Don’t do that.” Reading a lot of fan-fiction as a substitution for a book is a big gamble, and can end up like two apprentices teaching each other. Unless you know for sure that the person you are reading is very good at the craft, you are only going to be as good as the people that instruct you. And, each book that you read is one more small layer of instruction. If you want to gorge on fan-fiction and I can’t talk you out of it; then go for the writers that remind you of those kids that were top in your class at school. Those smart kids that everyone would go to at the end of the period and beg to help with homework. Don’t go for the popularity, that’ll get you no where.

“What about the classics?”

Go for it. I must’ve read two hundred books that predate 1900s era literature before I ever started writing. Not because I was trying to go for some record breaking feat, but because I lived in a rural area with no cable TV, and I learned that a book was a more lengthy and rewarding form of entertainment. So if the classics are what you are into. Then hot-damn jump up high, and slap someone’s momma, you are on the right track. Famous author Dean Koontz mainly sticks to reading classics for reasons that involve character creation. He’s commented that modern characters are and I paraphrase like method actors. The writers are trying too hard sometimes, and it comes off as having no realized depth. “No Freudean villains.”

There is nothing wrong with reading a cheap book. Take for example the Ghost Hunter Mystery. It smacks of romance, endless amounts of wit; comes complete with almost every cliche, including a token homosexual for the hot chick, and introduces some silly escapist scenarios. Is this sort of book beneath me? Certainly not. If you are under the belief that only masterpieces should be worth your perusing, then you will be waiting a long time for the next one to be judged such. Also, it doesn’t hurt to take your editor glasses off, and take your scrutiny and put it in the bottom drawer. When you read a book, be a reader; absorb this shit. Don’t let typos fuck with your head, because that’s not the writer; I know… it’s the copy editors. Grrr! Learn to relax, chillax, and enjoy your craft.

Why So Much Talking?

There are several things that I have been criticized for in the course of my writing. Some things I can help, others, I choose not to do anything about. Not because I’m stubborn, but because it all comes down to a matter of creative license. I for one am a strong advocate of a person being able to write the way that they want; and if I want to write excessive dialogue into my stories, then I will. I’m not one for massive descriptions in my stories. If you want to get right down to the nitty gritty of what everything in the hotel room looks like, or what the ratty tattered curtains smell like, then don’t waste your time waiting on me to describe it.

I move my stories in three ways. Character, action, and dialogue. The most important of those tools for me is the dialogue. You can learn things about a story in character conversation—in exposition—a lot easier than you can in page upon page of mindless narrative. Swooping in and out of a character’s brain is annoying, and I don’t enjoy what I call “Splitting Skulls” in literature.

If you take some of the best narrative stories and examine them, you will find that they include great dialogue. Citizen Kane, Pulp Fiction, or authors Jean Rhys and Douglas Adams. Dialogue is a natural occurrence in life, and when it can be tapped into and placed as convincingly in a book, it then becomes quintessential to the narrative, and doesn’t come off as sounding like authoresque inserted exposition that is used to force the flow of the novel.

I strictly and firmly believe that a good story has well developed characters; not just devised characters, but characters that are expressive and seem to stroll with a casual grace through the story that the writer has created. A great story, is a story that has characters that move the flow of the story along with them, because of the characterization—their way of speaking and their mannerisms. I like to imagine that I am not writing my story, I am writing their story; and to make that happen, I must listen to what the characters are saying, when they say it, and how they say it.

“Mr God” – Discussing My New Novel

Well, it’s time to hype up the new novel. I hope you all don’t mind too much. I mean, if you’re following me, then you know what I do, and hopefully this is why you are here. So let’s start with the title.

Mr God came about actually when I was neck deep in trying to write a follow-up book to Murdered by Midnight. I wanted to do something off the beaten path, and a little dark, scary, and definitely supernatural. I started out with the first chapter of a book that was to take place in early settlement days of Gettysburg, and then somewhere in there I had the idea about a man walking into a bar, sitting down and ordering a drink, and declaring that he was God. Then giving the person at the bar the chance to personally confront him over all the wrongs in this world that he (God) has been accused of over the course of time.

The idea was so intriguing that I abandoned my historical thriller in favor of this one. Of course, when I actually sat down to write it, I didn’t go the route of God walking into a bar. As per my usual norm, the story very quickly took on a life all its own, and I began to follow the path the characters set down for me to dictate where the story would go.
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Writing Tools

There are a number of things that are probably going through your head right about now, just from looking at the title of this blog. One of them, is probably concerning some up-start like me attempting to give people writing advice and tips, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. What I’m wanting to discuss is the actual tools that I use when composing my novels.

When I started out wanting to publish in the digital world of self-publications, I realized very quickly that the old school methods of sitting down and typing out a novel, then handing it off to another person were gone. Today, as a writer we all have the tools ready-made and waiting for us to start tapping into them. The problem is that we have to stop thinking in terms of old school, and start embracing the new wave of writing standard.

There are many of us these days that are self-published; it’s a new medium that has allowed countless hundreds of thousands of people to present their art to the world without having to feel as if they are passing their creation through the grinding mill, and the critical loop jumping… but.

Some of these people are more keen on the tools that are being used. The formatting of the digital book, and how to make that paperback on places like Createspace look as professional as the real deal, and not the amateur printjob of a novice.
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Too Many Cooks In the Stew

Two things that greatly disturb me about the Internet age, is that people have the ability to mass communicate their opinions, and they can behave presumptively without consequence. Granted, if I wanted to write a novel two decades ago, the potential for popularity would have been nill. The same with wanting to independently publish. What I’m saying it that, before, I would not have had the opportunity to reach very many people outside of a “word of mouth” scenario. Today, the potential of such information spreading has increased, and with it, the potential for many, many people to assist with helping me do things right.

There is an old saying that I grew up hearing. “If I wanted your help, I would have asked for it.”

That’s a fantastic phrase. And today, it seems all but lost on the masses that browse the superhighway of the world wide web, looking to unload their well intentions and good will onto others. Let me give you all a little example of a scenario that may or may not have happened to you.

You are scrubbing a lasagna pan, and the burnt on pasta and cheese and sauce has sat in for almost three days, while everyone in the house took their time to eat the left overs. Eventually, the pan makes its way into the sink, and there is sits for several hours. While the pan is sitting there, you have a family member or neighbor come by for something mundane and trivial, and while they are there, you begin to tackle that pan. Not because you are embarrassed about having a dirty dish in the sink, but because you want that person to see that you are busy, and they should come back later.

While scrubbing on this pan, the person offers their advise on how best to scrub that pan. Ah-hah! They reveal some ancient long forgotten secret from civilizations past about how the ancient Egyptians removed lasagna burn-on with sand, or sharpened rocks, and instead of actually helping you; they frustrate you to no end.

Maybe this person actually took a cooking class, and their “professor” showed them some basic domestic cleaning skills, and now because they have a few hours of home economics, they are an expert, and want to either demonstrate their superiority by “helping” or “imparting” their wisdom.

I’m all for people sharing their opinions, so long as they understand that I am under no obligation to use it. And that by asking for their opinion, I usually mean to say that, “I’m still going to do it my way.”

On the road to creating a novel, there have been several instances when I have encountered people that want to “help” or “assist” me with my creation. Sometimes, many times in fact, I gain more creative inspiration from simply talking the idea out. Not from their suggestions or opinions; and that isn’t to say that people’s opinions can’t be valuable. I place the opinions of my friends and family paramount to almost anyone else’s.

What annoys me the most are the grammarians that have suddenly sprung from the woodwork. Every time I turn around there they are pointing at something, or “helping.”

Here’s the juicy gossip, the big slice, the skinny, the whole hog.

I don’t take advice on writing from anyone. Not because I think I’m better than a horde of grammar scholars. But because academia isn’t my calling, story telling is. I may not win the hand every time; but I promise my near two decades of writing will give your seven years of scholarly opinion a dedicated run for its money.

Now, if you’ll all excuse me, I need to get back to writing, and avoid more helpful advice.