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Thursday, June 30, 2011

How Writing Code Can Help You Write Better Books

I have two confessions for you today:
1) I'm fascinated by computers
2) I often use computers to distract myself from things like...editing.
Case in point:

As it turns out, computers are not as complicated as you might think. The general public probably considers their computer to be somewhat of a black box, possibly with miniature elves inside that toil away at your every command. I can assure you, the inside of your computer is relatively simple and elf-free; even I was able to build one from scratch. Programs, or more specifically the programming language, can be completely insane.

Let me stress, I'm no expert in writing code...far from it. The extent of my skills barely goes past "Let me Google that for you." But like I said earlier, this stuff interests me. So the other day I was messing around with a basic tutorial for a programming language called Ruby. At the end of the walkthrough, they have you type in code for a rudimentary program that is essentially a number guessing game. I copied the code exactly. My program failed.

After going over the code again (thankfully it was only a few lines), I found the culprit: a missing space. That's all it takes to confuse your simple minded computer: a space out of place. (Remember this the next time your computer or other device isn't doing what you want it to. The order of blame usually goes: Yourself -> the programmer -> the device manufacturer.) So I fixed the errant space and voila! A number guessing game!

So what does all this have to do with writing better books? Well, I like to think of it this way. If you don't have quite the right phrasing, character or formatting in your code, your computer will just sit there with a dumb look on its monitor and flash you the message, "I don't get it." The program won't run until you get it just right. When you DO get it right, programmer and computer will have that "Aha!" moment.

Now, think about a particular scene or description from a story that really resonated with you. Chances are, that author picked that section of writing apart word by word to make sure they got the intended message across. Or they are just supremely talented and everything that flows from their fingertips is instant gold. More than likely, they had a few editors, fact checkers, assistants, spouses, friends, etc reading along to make sure everything was clear.

This is my new Zen moment when it comes to editing my novels. If I take the time to go through it line by line, my readers stand a better chance of actually understanding what I'm trying to say...unless I get distracted. Ooo, moar kittenz!


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

"Indigo" Goes to Turks & Caicos! "Crawl" Goes to the Beach (Again)!

You may remember a few short months ago when my friends, who we'll call Mr. and Mrs. Vacation, took a copy of "Crawl" with them to Cancun. Didn't you see this lovely picture?

Well as it turns out, Mr. and Mrs. Vacation are living up to their names! They recently returned from what I'm sure was a stressful and unenjoyable jaunt to Turks and Caicos. Luckily for me, they each took their very own copy of "Indigo" with them. Here's Mr. Vacation with the photographic evidence:

Just to clarify: a) that is NOT me and b) sorry ladies, he is taken.

And, not to be outdone, a copy of "Crawl" went on yet ANOTHER sandy beach vacation without me. This photo comes courtesy of another wonderful friend of mine and her new husband, so I will call them Mr. and Mrs. Honeymoon from here on out. Have a look!

Monday, June 27, 2011

My Review of David Moody's "Dog Blood"

Before reading my review, please keep two things in mind:

1) This is a sequel to the novel "Hater" so the review will obviously be filled with spoilers. You can check out my "Hater" review here or go to the customer reviews on Amazon's product page.

2) As this is the second part of a trilogy, I will reserve my final judgement of the series until I finish the third book, "Them or Us." On to the review!

"Dog Blood" picks up more or less where "Hater" left off. The world is in chaos, all semblance of life as we know it has been erased and the fighting continues between the Haters and the Unchanged. Danny McCoyne is still searching for his daughter, Ellis, who he believes is a Hater like himself. He vowed to find her at the end of "Hater" and the majority of "Dog Blood" revolves around this objective.

While "Hater" allowed McCoyne's character to develop into the Hater that we know and love, "Dog Blood" takes us through his transition from the old world to the new world. Along the way he must once again make difficult choices and decide whether to hold on to the past or embrace this new future. As it was one of Moody's writing strengths in "Hater," the ambiguity of right and wrong is paramount in the sequel. Needless to say, McCoyne's myopic quest to find his daughter anchors his old world role as a father and family man, though all the Haters around him urge him to let the past (and his daughter) go. As with his decisions in "Hater," McCoyne follows his instincts, but rarely makes the right choice in "Dog Blood." Or perhaps, he at least makes some choice in a no-win situation.

Though McCoyne's quest is the heart of "Dog Blood," there is a side story as well. As Moody introduced random scenes of violence throughout "Hater" to show the degrading state of society, in "Dog Blood" he shows us the living conditions of the common people in the days of the war. They live in squalor, stuffed into overcrowded shelters and given meager rations by the army who protects them. These side chapters conjure the negative aspects of socialism, overpopulation and militaristic internment camps. Things are not going well for the Unchanged and the Haters know it.

While the Unchanged rely on their military might to see them through the war, Moody introduces different specialized classes of Haters in "Dog Blood." There are the normal Haters, who I call the "grunts," the everyman soldiers. Then there are the "Brutes," who Moody calls by name. They are seen too rarely, in my opinion, but are unstoppable killing machines that may even mistakenly kill their own kind in their bloodlust. Then there are the upper echelon of the Haters, those who can "hold their Hate." I call these the "brains," like the enigmatic man known as Sahota and, eventually, McCoyne himself. Lastly, there are the children, who Moody stresses throughout the book as the key to the Haters' victory. It's not until the last few chapters that we see how ruthless and relentless young Haters can really be.

"Dog Blood" is a worthy sequel to "Hater," though it does falter a bit in the middle book slump. Unchanged characters are introduced to serve as a reveal for easily the book's best surprise, but there is no payoff for becoming invested in these characters (though that will hopefully come in the final installment).

In my opinion, there were a few missed opportunities that I hope to see explored in "Them or Us." A lot of attention was paid to the deteriorating condition of the common people under this new regime, but I would have liked to have seen a contrast with some well-off people managing to secure a few niceties for themselves. Also, an Unchanged "hero" (or at least a right nasty piece of work), be he citizen or soldier that was more than just a faceless militant, someone to hold a mirror up to McCoyne. Oh, and as I already mentioned, I could have used another scene or two with the Brutes.

Overall, I think "Dog Blood" is an excellent successor to "Hater." The payoff in the end may not be what you'd expect, but if you've invested yourself in Danny McCoyne's story then I think you will be interested to see where he ends up. I have high hopes for "Them or Us" and I'm waiting for all Hell to break loose!


Friday, June 24, 2011

Vincent Kale Is A Liar!

I know I promised my review of "Dog Blood" would post yesterday and I wholeheartedly apologize for lying to you. Life, as it so often does, has overwhelmed me this week. I had something fun in mind for today, too, but will have to postpone it until next week. (Can you say Mad Libs?)

Have a good weekend and I'll try to get this trainwreck back on track!


PS: Random observation, but two of the ads on this blog were for "Laser Hair Removal" and "50% Off Prom Dresses." So, I either have some very hairy teenage girls that read this site (weird) or some creepy old men who like to wear dresses (weirder...but probably more accurate)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

All Locke'd Up

Hey friends! Long time, no blog!

Lately, there has been so much time devoted to writerly-type things and it has left me with little other time for sleeping, eating, maintaining a general state of cleanliness. Recently, I had to take a micro-break from some writing stuff to take care of things around the house; the place was beginning to look like a bad Tolkien map. There was the Leaning Pillars of Unwashed Dishware, the Stagnant Swamp of Soiled Linens and the Overflowing Wastes of Catbox Canyon. Apparently, in my neglect of all things domestic, there grew the "thing that shall not be named" in the crisper drawer of my refrigerator and the Blind Beast became increasingly destructive due to my inattentiveness. (I've never seen a house cat turn feral so fast! Just kidding, he's rather spoiled.)

So now that my domicile has been restored to some semblance of livability, I can return to the task(s) at hand. I might be putting the kibosh on "Midnight Society" submissions for a few weeks since I'm trying to get my edits finished up, start a new project and really focus on shopping my past projects around. So much to do, so little access to a time machine!

However, while I was busy domesticating, the world decided it still wanted to churn out some pertinent writing news. Recently, Amanda Hocking was in the news for her wildly successful collection of books that she self-published and has sold over 1 million copies through Amazon alone and has a traditional book deal now OH GOD! Well, not to upstage her, but an author by the name of John Locke bumped Ms. Hocking from the self-pubbed headlines for a bit.

No, not this John Locke.

And not this one either.

But this one!

Mr. Locke made headlines for joining the ranks of 1,000,000+ sellers on Amazon! So, of course, I went through the various jealous, proud, desperate, happy and ambitious-wanna-be-like-that-guy reactions. Then I came across a non-fiction book of John Locke's called "How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months!" And I might be a sucker, but I bought it (and if P.T. Barnum is right, at least I'll have a lot of friends). I'm anxious to get into the book and see what advice he has, because, let's face it, he's DONE it already! From what I can tell by his book covers, one secret to his success is putting the bare legs of a lovely lady on the cover. How novel.

I'll post a review of Mr. Locke's advice once I get through it and start crushing my sales numbers. (Also, I'll have my review of David Moody's "Dog Blood" posted tomorrow! I'm very much looking forward to "Them or Us," the last segment in the "Hater" trilogy!)

Ok, more to the point. All this news of self-published authors selling over a million copies with nary an agent or publisher or fairy godmother has gotten me thinking strategy again. Do I go traditional and hope for the best, putting my fate into the hands of strangers? Do I go 100% self-pub and use my limited resources to get my work out there? Or do I do some combination of the two, hoping that my sales increase one way or the other?

I'm leaning towards this last option. But there are two ways (at least) to go about it: 1) Build a reader base through self-publication and hope that the big boys notice and then come looking for you (which is what happened to Ms. Hocking). Or, 2) Keep writing and sending queries and hoping for manuscript requests in the old fashioned model, but setting a time limit for responses to those requests before adding them to the virtual shelves for public consumption.

Again, leaning towards this last option, though I will see what Mr. Locke has to say about it. Perhaps my opinion on the matter will be swayed one way or another. We shall see!

Well thanks for stopping by! Be sure to check back tomorrow for my "Dog Blood" review and perhaps some hints of what I'm working on next. Oh and maybe we can discuss POTTERMORE!


Friday, June 10, 2011

Submitted for the Approval of the Midnight Society, I call this Tale...


Amy feels the urge hit her like a freight train. One minute she was having drinks with the girls, blowing off steam from a long week at the office; the next thing she knows, her whole body is flushed with heat and she has to press her knees together to keep her legs from shaking. She starts scanning the bar for potentials. She needs a man and she needs him now, but not just any man will do.

Mindy had been saying something a second ago, but as soon as Amy felt the change, all conversation had stopped. Rachel had felt it, too. Even without the tell-tale flushed cheeks and shortness of breath, Amy can tell they’re all experiencing the same need, the same hunger. She can see it in their eyes, the eyes that are searching the bar as eagerly as she is.

She’s felt this before, so it’s not unfamiliar to her. But the urge usually comes after a bottle of wine and a romantic dinner, or after a particularly bad break-up when she wants nothing but rough, uncomplicated sex. This feeling is the same, but different. There’s a reason behind it, a true need for it beyond desire.

It’s happening all through the bar, probably outside, too. The women have changed; some are already making their move. A petite brunette and a large black woman are practically wrestling on the ground, handfuls of each other’s hair in their grips. The black woman’s weave comes off in one piece, much to the surprise of the smaller girl. The bigger woman uses the moment of hesitation to slam the girl’s head against the floor, ending the fight.

She stands up and marches directly towards the bouncer, a large black man that was seconds away from stopping the fight. She grabs his crotch in one hand and whispers something in his ear. The poor, bewildered man is too shocked to put up a fight as she leads him outside.

Amy goes back to scanning the room. Comprehension is still absent on the faces of the men, though that works to the women’s advantage. She spies a tall, broad-shouldered hard-body with spiky blonde hair, casually refusing the advances of three middle-aged women around him. Amy makes her move. The man is obviously used to being hit on and doesn’t realize anything is amiss. Amy yanks one of the women by the hair and sends her to the ground. She digs a high heel into the back of another’s calf and watches the woman collapse to her knees. Amy shoves the last woman out of the way and presses her mouth hard against the confused man. Her tongue finds its way around his and makes her intentions known without pretense. He’s just starting to get the picture when Amy’s head is yanked back.

At first she thinks one of the women came back to steal her man, but instead of a middle-aged hag, Amy sees the barely clothed bartender standing before her. She’s taller than Amy, with well-toned arms and an ample figure. She’s got maybe thirty pounds on Amy and it’s in all the right places. Something inside Amy’s head tells her that the man is no longer hers; he belongs to this woman now and that’s the way it needs to be. Amy backs away as the bartender jumps into the blonde man’s arms and wraps her legs around his waist.

The bar is in total chaos now. Women fight women until dominance is established or the loser gets knocked unconscious. The men stand staring at the scene in shock. Some are egging the fights on, laughing and hollering until a woman comes by and shoves her tongue down his throat. Mindy, shy, bookish Mindy from accounting, is straddling a man top of a table. She tears his shirt open and buttons fly everywhere. Rachel is tied up with an Amazon of a blonde as they fight over a tanned and athletic looking specimen trapped in the corner behind them.

Amy is no threat to anyone at the moment, but she has already lost a fight and lost her man. The good ones are going quickly; the biggest frames with the strongest chins and the clearest eyes. The average men are staring to thin out; ones with a bit of age or a bit of belly or a bit of baldness to them. The rest cower in the corners; unwilling or unable to approach a woman during a normal night, they’re practically pissing their pants in this chaos.

She finds him. He emerges from the men’s room, blissfully hidden away from the other women once the chaos started. His look of bewilderment is somehow charming to Amy, arousing even. He has a strong jaw and sandy brown hair. He’s well-dressed and well built. Something in his eyes might even suggest a hint of intelligence. He’ll do.

Amy marches up to the handsome stranger before anyone else can. He starts to ask about what’s going on, but she grabs him by the hand and leads him out a side door into the alley. No one notices them leave. She has him all to herself.

Before he can start asking dumb questions again, Amy pins the man up against the alley wall. She silences his mouth with her own. Since his hands are too slow and fumbling, she starts to remove his pants herself. He starts to pull away, but his breath catches as she takes him in her hands. He’s not ready for her, and Amy starts to second-guess her selection of this supposed virile man. She presses herself against him and whispers Take me into his ear. Amy feels him stiffen and the urge within her pulses so strongly it makes her body shiver.

The man reaches awkwardly into his pants pocket and pulls out a small square of plastic. Amy would normally be glad for any sign of chivalry from a guy in this situation, but the thing that drives tells her it’s not the time for it. She slaps his hand away and the condom falls to the ground, lost in a pile of trash. The need is building to the breaking point. She needs him now.

Amy turns around and faces the opposite wall, hiking her skirt up around her hips. She says it again, louder this time, Take me now. Whatever reservations he had before have disappeared completely. She’s acting like a bitch in heat and he responds accordingly. After a few brief seconds lost in unfamiliar territory, he finds her. Amy thinks the urge should start to subside now, but it only grows stronger. She thrusts against him and moans the way she always did in her fantasies. Before long, his heavy breathing slows and his body’s rhythm matches its pace. She feels him soften inside of her and knows it’s done. The urge finally relaxes away.

As she turns to face him, a new emotion takes over. Raw, powerful, primal. More so even than the lust, or whatever it was, that took her and the other women earlier. The other women… This was Amy’s man, they couldn’t have him. No one could.

He smiles dumbly at her, not sure what just happened but happy enough that it did. Amy places her hands on either side of his face as if to kiss him most tenderly. A primitive strength surges through her. She twists his head as if it was no more resistant that a plastic doll. His body drops to the ground alongside the pile of trash; she drops his head on top of it. Suddenly feeling very tired, Amy straightens herself up and makes her way home.


Amy curls up on her couch with a glass of wine. It’s all over the news. Women everywhere are choosing male suitors to serve their most basic needs and then disposing of them afterwards. It makes Amy feel normal somehow to know she isn’t the only one who succumbed to the strange urges. Hell, when she turned the news on there was a live broadcast of the two co-anchors getting it on right on top of their desk. When it was all over, the woman ripped her co-worker’s head clean off and, without missing a beat, delivered the rest of the evening news.

Amy knows she shouldn’t be drinking, but hopes that one glass won’t do any damage this early. If the man in the alley’s seed doesn’t take, she’ll simply go out and try again. If it does take, what will she do then? Where has following these urges gotten her except possibly pregnant and still alone?

As the news continues to roll, footage from all around the world shows a similar sexual uprising. Amy’s fears about loneliness disappear. She finds solace in knowing that the world is full of sisters all ready to help each other raise a new generation of children.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Haters and Lovers

Since the past couple of weeks have been Hater-centric (and since I'm still reading Dog Blood), I've decided to do a little Hater homage as a submission to the Midnight Society this week.

For those of you who haven't read "Hater" or my review of it, it's about a man who experiences a change in society that is turning some people into savage, seemingly mindless killers. Well, for my short story, I went in another direction. What if, instead of giving into our penchant for violence, we succumbed to another primal instinct?

Curious? Check out the next post to find out!


Monday, June 6, 2011

All the News that's Fit to Review!

Perhaps you missed my review of David Moody's "Hater" last week or when I mentioned that I'd be reviewing Alexander S. Brown's short story collection "Traumatized." Well that's ok, cuz I just reminded you!

And while I consider myself pretty awful at reviewing other people's work in a concise and coherent manner, I do ever so love reading about what people think of my own work. Case in point, Theresa Derwin's review of "Crawl" over at Terror Tree. Check it out here!

To give you a taste, Ms. Derwin says, and I quote, "This is an unrelentingly dark novel that left me disturbed in a positive way but so much better for having read it. If you want something that goes deeper into the nightmare, then Crawl is the book for you."

I'm unrelenting! NICE!

I'd personally like to thank Ms. Derwin for the review and I encourage everyone to check out her own work at Terror Tree!


Friday, June 3, 2011

The "This Post is Postponed" Post

Sorry, friends; no Midnight Society submission today. My brain has the creativity and consistency of a bowl of runny eggs at the moment. I seriously considered whipping up a tale about a fruit fly infestation (because they are frickin everywhere in my office right now!), so in this case, no story > awful, awful story.

Til next time!


Thursday, June 2, 2011

Review: "Hater" by David Moody

As I mentioned last week, I'm currently neck deep in "Dog Blood" by David Moody. As it is the sequel to his novel "Hater," I felt that I should review that first and bring people up to speed. But don't take just my word for it! Check out a ton of other reviews here!

A quick reminder: make sure to tune in to the blog tomorrow morning for the latest installment in the Midnight Society! I think a Creature Feature is in order this week, don't you?

And now, without gilding the lily and with no more ado, my review of David Moody's "Hater":

Have you ever felt like there was something wrong with the people around you? Not anything you could put your finger on, but just And have you ever felt that these people, for whatever reason, didn't deserve to live anymore? If you have, you might be a Hater. If you haven't, then I'd suggest you find a safe place to hide, because the Haters are coming for you.

In his panic inducing lead-off hitter of the "Hater" trilogy, David Moody drops us into a world quietly nudging toward the brink of chaos. Through the eyes of Danny McCoyne, a well-meaning, blue-collar family man, we discover that all is not peaceful and serene in our civilized world. Old ladies are attacked for seemingly no reason, one schoolgirl bashes her best friend's head in with a rock without a moment of hesitation and perfect strangers become mortal enemies in an instant. As Danny McCoyne tries to hold his family together while navigating the perils of this new, unhinged society, it's slowly becoming apparent that there are two types of people out there: the Haters and the Hated. As to which side Danny comes out on, well you'll have to read the book to find out!

With expert pacing, Moody delivers fistfuls of gore alongside a gray moral ground fraught with impossible decisions. Should McCoyne risk his neck in the lawless streets to rescue his arrogant father-in-law? Should he beg, borrow and steal whatever is necessary to provide for his family? Can he trust his family at all or is it possible that one of them may be a Hater, locked in on the wrong side of the barricade?

McCoyne, as a character, is instantly relatable: he's an every-man with a bitch of a boss, a go-nowhere job and an unappreciative family that just won't give him two seconds of rest. He experiences equal moments of bravery and cowardice as he attempts to figure out what's going on in his city. The government is all but worthless and the tenuous truce among strangers soon degenerates into paranoia and suspicion. Only near the end of the novel does McCoyne finally find his clarity.

Though the narration from McCoyne's perspective is limited, Moody adds an "off stage" incident every few chapters, highlighting the brutal and arbitrary nature of the Haters. While this gives the reader a good overview as to what's going on in McCoyne's world, it can also become frustrating to the point that one wishes McCoyne would just hurry up and figure it out already! But frustration in this case is a good thing, as it keeps the pages turning faster and faster to find out what the Haters are all about. The sustained tension throughout the story is resolved with a satisfyingly chaotic ending. "Hater" ends, not on a cliffhanger, but on a moment of realization that would serve well for a standalone novel, but provides the perfect bridge for the sequel, "Dog Blood." The stage is set; will you be a Hater or the Hated?


PS: If I ever get the chance to be a Hater, I will most likely rage to this song: