Oct 3, 2014

Soon: Four Chilling Tales ~ horror stories

If you're in the mood for Halloween, I'd love to get reviews on this anthology, which includes four authors and my illustrations.

Ghosts, cannibals, perverts, freaks ... they might be in your neighborhood. Even under your own roof. They're definitely in this collection of four tales of contemporary horror by acclaimed authors James Maxey, Abby Goldsmith, Rebecca Roland, and Sarah Kelderman. Learn what horrors lurk just beyond your field of vision.  Horrors that will reveal themselves ... Soon. 

SOON: Four Chilling Tales

On Amazon
On Goodreads

Sep 30, 2014

Under the Dome season 2 finale

I don't watch a lot of TV, and lazy writing on series is half the reason why.  I was laughing in agreement with this review on TV.com about the season finale of Under the Dome.  This show is like a dumbed down version of Lost.  Not that Lost was all that brilliant, but at least it took itself somewhat seriously for the first three seasons.  The characters remained consistent that long.

As I watched the season finale of season 2 of Under the Dome, I couldn't help but reflect on how many characters have become a) murderers, b) melodramatic jerks, or c) murderous melodramatic jerks.

In the finale episode:  The high school science teacher (murderous melodramatic jerk) went ahead and murdered/euthanized the prophet-artist (melodramatic somewhat nice person), then got murdered by the used car salesman sheriff (murderous melodramatic jerk), who also punched his hermit brother (murderer), then went on to shoot a nice hoarder in an attempt to murder the lead female (melodramatic jerk), and then got shot by his sometimes-evil-sometimes-sweet son (murderous melodramatic jerk).  Got all that straight?  It's like some kind of weird nonsensical soap opera.

And then there are random monarch butterflies, glowing purple rocks, random dome weirdness, tunnels that lead to mysterious cliffs, some kind of evil corporation/government with an unknown agenda, a suck-hole in the woods, and a time traveling dead teenage girl (melodramatic jerk) who beckons people towards mysterious light.

The show is falling apart under the strain of not making any sense.

I don't know if they'll renew it for a third season, but I can't see how the writers (assuming the show has writers) can possibly salvage any hint of a coherent story.  If this was a novel, I would have stopped reading.  The show bears very little resemblance to the Stephen King novel.
And yet I kept watching.  Some of the characters have good chemistry together.  Some of the actors are really great at hamming it up, despite their role's lack of consistency.  Big Jim and Junior are fun.  Their characters have so much potential.

Aug 29, 2014

Treating the Book 1 Beginning Problem

I thought I was finally ready to submit Book 1.  It turns out I wasn't.

The good news is, I finally understand why the beginning of Book 1 has been such a problem.  It's not the prose.  It's not the main character, per se.  It's not bad luck, or a hatred of telepaths, or anything arcane.  It's jaded reader expectations.  Jaded readers see a child-genius-orphan-telepath-wheelchair-user, and expect a bland character who cruises through life with ease and saves the day.  They're expecting him to turn into Artemis Fowl + Professor X.  Or, as another writer put it:  How do you imply that there's more to a character than there seems at first, without giving the whole game away?

I've written myself into a corner on this one.  The character doesn't follow the tropes, but if I tell you that, it gives the whole game away.  His trope attributes are all vital to the story.  There's simply no way to change this character without ruining the story--and no way to introduce him without turning off jaded literary agents.  He is what he is.

But knowing is half the battle.

I spent the last decade wondering why I couldn't get the beginning right, no matter what I did.  Now I'm able to zero in on the root of the problem.  I might never be able to fully 'fix' it, or make it palatable to a jaded reader who expects the worst ... but I can treat the symptoms.  I finally have the correct diagnosis.  After so many years of wondering why the first chapters never worked magic on readers while the rest of the book did, this is a huge relief.

I wanted to start querying agents in March.  Now it looks like it will be September or later.  I wish it hadn't taken me a decade of start+stop frustration to figure out the root of this problem.  But, as the slaves in my series say, knowledge is worth a bit of pain.

My treatment plan is as follows:

1) Add a prologue from the point of view of the only person on Earth who knows that the main character is not what he appears to be.  Prologues are out of vogue and this is a minor antagonist, but it seems necessary, given the problem.  Her POV can explain quite a lot.

I wanted to let the reader discover the main character's true nature along with him ... but a jaded reader assumes they already know the main character's true nature.  This prologue will give them a more accurate estimation.

2) Have a character comment on one of the tropes.  This proves that I didn't include the trait subconsciously or out of ignorance.

3) Make everything else in the first chapters as un-trope-like as possible.  I'm focusing on having other characters act in unexpected-yet-still-believable ways.

4) Re-purpose my query letter to emphasize the main character's failure to save the day.  This is extremely tricky, since query letters are supposed to making the main character sound heroic.  I need to make him sound heroic, yet emphasize the fact that he's not the hero they expect.  Urrrrgh.

Here's my August 2014 query pitch:
Thomas never lets anyone take advantage of him.  As a 12-year-old with spinal muscular atrophy, he relies on caretakers ... yet dominates adults because he knows their secrets.  No one else has his powers.  Or so it seems.  
When other telepaths invade Thomas's mind, ripping into his embarrassing secrets and peering through his eyes, he's amazed that his powers are commonplace.  Trillions of telepaths like him rule the galaxy.  They transport Thomas to an alien metropolis where his most indulgent fantasies are actualized through advanced technology.  Here Thomas is normal--but everyone who isn't a telepath gets brutally enslaved.  Elite telepaths will kill Thomas in a nanosecond if he aids slaves such as his foster family and friends.  Or if he reverts to 'savage' emotions, such as compassion.  Unable to outwit or deceive his brethren, Thomas begins to suppress his emotions and give up.  
His desperate friends must prove that slaves are superior to the master race of telepaths.  They must convince Thomas to challenge his own conceits ... before he becomes just another brilliant, depraved slave-master.  The freedom of the universe is at stake.