Thursday, March 31, 2011

Here Today, Blog Tomorrow #31

So hear we are. We made it, people. It is now the end of March Madness. Granted, some of these posts were written after the fact, but still, I hope you've enjoyed them as much as I have writing them.

I guess the only thing left to do is to recap on the events that took place in the month:

  1. I've given you a 12 day peek into my life, diary style.
  2. I've talked about classic and current writers.
  3. I've given you tips and advice on what I've learned from writing fiction.
  4. In this month alone I've written close to 7,000 words and am that my closer to finishing my second short story collection.
  5. I've appeared on several blogs, including a call-in spot on Matthew Wayne Selznick's Light of The Outsider Video Blog.
  6. I've probably gained another ten ideas in my writing arsenal.
  7. Didn't receive a call from that agent, but that's okay. I'm sure I'll hear something soon. Until then: I have plans to release the second collection, when it's finished and seven other Novellas.

But now is the time for me to stop talking all together. I'm wiped out, tapped out, and all across the board exhausted.

So I figured on giving other authors a spot on this blog. A good group of them, point in fact. In the middle of the month, I stopped over on Kindleboards and sent a post saying that if you are a Kindle Author then I want to interview you. Within eight hours I had the selected 30 authors who wanted to guest post.

There are 46 replies in all but, for now, 30 will do for this month while next month I'll be adding the other interviews.

So, I now give my fingers some much deserved rest and prepare for next month's project:

April Advertising.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Here Today, Blog Tomorrow #30

I work for a great company. It's laid back, it's easy and it has taken it easy on my back. I'll never tell you where I work though. No offense but some things you have to keep private.

I will tell you, however, that when I work at this job I'm allowed to listen to my iPod. Lately I've been listening to a Hard-boiled series called Black Jack Justice, which is more of a radio show than an audiobook.

Info on Black Jack Justice:
All-new hardboiled mysteries in the pulp detective tradition! Tough-as-nails private eye Jack Justice and his long-suffering partner Trixie Dixon, girl detective do their part for law, order and thirty-five dollars a day. When it comes to detective work, Jack and Trixie agree on the facts. Clients cry, clients lie, clients dicker over the bill. But if they can cut to the happy ending without cutting each other's throats, it'll be a miracle!

I first stumbled across these episodes on

Now I can't find them on the site.

So, I decided to go to the source. Episodes of Black Jack Justice can be found at

They have such shows as The Red-Panda Adventure, Black Jack, and Fiction Showcase, just to name a few.

It feels good knowing that old time radio isn't's just been given a reboot.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Here Today, Blog Tomorrow #29

For the entire month of April I decided that I will read nothing but Kindle books. I've been slacking lately and there have been a stockpile of classics that are waiting for my eyes on that nifty little gizmo. Since I think it helps me read at a faster pace, I think I'll also do some well-needed reviews. I've just been away from it too long. Maybe I'll break and read a couple of paperbacks. But I'm only going to allow myself two: A Million Little Pieces and My Friend Leonard.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Here Today, Blog Tomorrow #28

Right now I'm reading Jodi Picoult's Handle With Care. She has me hooked. She definitely knows how to write a good yarn. Anybody looking for a good read should give this one a look. I'm about a hundred and fifty pages away from finishing it. After that comes Perfect Match. But I really want to read 19 minutes. We'll see how far I get.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Here Today, Blog Tomorrow #27

If you're a friend with me on Facebook, you'll know that my father, after a decade of requests, is re-opening his Pizzeria. It's in a great location, it's the best pizza ever. But some things have delayed the opening. I'm just hoping it's up and running soon.

I would like it to be open by April but we'll see. Also, if you show up there and sit at the counter or the tables, you might notice a little stand with a sign. That sign will show a brief bio and a stack of my books. Yes folks, you heard right. I may not have gotten my books into bookstores yet, but I think I'll be the first one to get them into a pizzeria.

If you're a fellow Chicagoan and in need for a good slice, then stop on by to

Pizza del sole
6 North (across the police station)
19th ave
Melrose Park, IL

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Here Today, Blog Tomorrow #26

Some people say that writing a book is the hardest part. Others say it's just the beginning. I would say that the ladder is true. Because the hardest part about writing, in my opinion, are the reviews. Yes, there are good reviews but there can also be bad reviews. I've heard of some books getting nothing but one star ratings while others just get demolished by criticism left and write. I have been no stranger to criticism. But now I learn from it. Why? Because as a writer, you have to give the people what they want.

A long time ago, I decided to do an audio book of Mr. Dead Eyes. There were no reviews for months. The first thing that people said was that they had a hard time downloading the episodes. But, after a while, they began showing their opinions.

Eventually, the book made it on to iTunes. I just wanted to share some of the bad reviews it has gotten and a bit of commentary on that, so that you, as an aspiring writer, know what to do in situations such as these: take it in stride.

Reviews for Mr. Dead Eyes -


I kept hoping this book was going
somewhere, it had potential but very disjointed plot if there even was one.

(Thanks. I'll try to make the plot more fluid in the future.)

It just kept getting worse . . .

Suffered through the first 24 episodes - who knows why? And then, Chapter 25 was messed up - like 2 different episodes playing at once. Pass over this one unless you like to be really aggravated.

(Sorry to hear that your experience was interrupted by whether or not the episodes would play. I can't control if the episode will load properly but I do hope this doesn't putt him off to my books in the future.)

Not that good

I just finished listening to this podcast novel. The characters are not consistent and there are some holes in the plot. It seemed like everyone's agenda and personality just kept changing to give it another "twist." Part way through you will realize that there is some religious propaganda at the root of the story as well. It's just not all the way there, the author needs to revise and do a few more drafts, nothing about this novel seemed complete.

(Well, I can't say that the twists weren't intended. They were. I like stories with lots of twists. It keeps it from being predictable. Oh well.)


Sound quality is annoying. Jumpy plot line. Couldn't get through 3 episodes.

Great story

I hope he comes out with the second book. I am looking forward to hearing more.

(That phrase is one I've been hearing a lot lately. That encourages me to write more.)

But this one I absolutely love:

Tedious is a good place to start-

By Mr. Dead Ears. Oct 2nd, 2010

I honestly gave it a shot. Then suffering through 12 chapters I finally had to pull the plug. Usually I don't bail after investing that much time in a story, waiting for it to get going, but this one showed no signs of life, so I finally called it off: Official time of death for Mr. Dead Eyes...Chapter 12. Should have been chapter 3. Where was Dr. Kavorkian when I needed him?

(Y'see, this is why I write. If you're gonna set a flame to my work, I would rather you did it in style with a certain amount of dry wit. When I first read this comment I started busting up laughing. Yes, I need to work on writing future projects but I just loved his take on it. This guy, whoever he is, I have a lot of respect for him. I'm being serious too. I only wish that he'll comment on more of my work in the future and that one of these days I will be able to write something he likes. Some readers may be tough nuts to crack but so was I when it came to liking the works of George Orwell.)

Friday, March 25, 2011

Here Today, Blog Tomorrow #25

Book Trivia

Things you may not have known about my books:

  • Mr. Dead Eyes was without a title for six months.
  • Wearing Donnie Torr was inspired by my brother's leather jacket.
  • I currently have seventy ideas for novels stashed in my writing desk.
  • While writing the short story Your Escape Plan Now I was lying on my stomach on the floor. It was written in one sitting.
  • Mr. Dead Eyes was originally published in 2006 but was pulled, by me, off the market. I put it back up exclusively for the Kindle on Jan. 2nd, 2010.
  • Both Derek Schillar, from Mr. Dead Eyes, and I have the same birthday. November 2nd - The day of the dead.
  • The short story 10 Days in the Extra Life was originally a screenplay.
  • One of the short stories in my second collection went from short story, to screenplay then back to short story again.
  • The short story The Subtle Teachings of Mr. Rifa was actually inspired by five separate real-life teachers.
  • Whenever I get writer's block, I often read The Ultimate Book of Top Ten Lists or The Mummy's Curse:101 of the World's Strangest Mysteries by Daniel Cohen.
  • As a boy, I collected all of the Goosebumps and Ghosts of Fear Street books.
  • I wrote a case file to further understand the character of Donnie Torr.
  • After three more stand-alone novels, I plan to write the second installments to both Mr. Dead Eyes and Wearing Donnie Torr.
  • In the current Novella I'm working on (Codename: Jungle), the villain had his first and last name changed four times before I was happy with it.
  • The novel I'm having the hardest time with is my third.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Here Today, Blog Tomorrow #24

Four Motives for writing by George Orwell, taken from Wikipedia:

Orwell lists "four great motives for writing" which he feels exist in every writer. He explains that all are present, but in different proportions, and also that these proportions vary from time to time. They are as follows:

  1. Sheer egoism- Orwell argues that many people write simply to feel clever, to "be talked about, to be remembered after death, to get your own back on grown-ups in childhood, etc." He says that this is a great motive, although most of humanity is not "acutely selfish", and that this motive exists mainly in younger writers. He also says that it exists more in serious writers than journalists, though serious writers are "less interested in money".
  2. Aesthetic enthusiasm- Orwell explains that present in writing is the desire to make one's writing look and sound good, having "pleasure in the impact of one sound on another, in the firmness of good prose or the rhythm of a good story." He says that this motive is "very feeble in a lot of writers" but still present in all works of writing.
  3. Historical impulse- He sums this up by simply stating this motive is the "desire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them up for the use of posterity."
  4. Political purpose- Orwell writes that "no book is genuinely free from political bias", and further explains that this motive is used very commonly in all forms of writing in the broadest sense, citing a "desire to push the world in a certain direction" in every person. He concludes by saying that "the opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude."

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Here Today, Blog Tomorrow #23

The Kindle is great, don't get me wrong, but I have one problem with it: Some classic authors cannot be found on the Kindle. For instance, Ray Bradbury is a very inspiring writer, yet none of his works are on the kindle. Now, I can imagine that maybe his publishers don't want to pursue ebooks for a specific legal reason but, in the long-run, I think a whole bunch of people are being deprived of a truly great writer.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Here Today, Blog Tomorrow #22

The importance of the first line.

I think Billy Crystal's Character, Mr. Donner, from Throw Mama From The Train said it best: "Y'see, Owen, this is what I'm talking about: it's writing. It's finding the perfect word, the perfect beginning, the perfect start. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Now is the winter of our discontent. See what I'm saying? Perfect beginnings. Perfect Words. Do you say the night was humid? Or do you say the night was moist? That's writing."

One thing I know, never start a book or story with "The night was..."

It will drive you crazy.

But, since we're talking about it, I got a chance to go over all of the first lines of my stories.

The sun was setting at the base of the woods, the endless woods from which nature howled.
~Mr. Dead Eyes

(I guess, for my first book, was trying to be wise beyond my years. Like Dickens or something. But this was the first line that cemented me as a writer. Wrote it one warm summer night in 1999.)

Delilah, the victim in this story's grim tale, was snuggled quite uncomfortably on her own hardwood floors.
~Wearing Donnie Torr

(The image of the woman was one of the first things I wanted you to see. I often like to begin right in the middle of the tense action so that there's no escape. You're trapped as well as the woman.)

As I walk in, I can already see "Tex" sitting at the concierge desk.
~Failing Upwards short story

(When I was little, I loved some good old fashioned Tom and Jerry. But my favorite were Tex Avery cartoons. This is a nod to him and all the laughter he gave me.)

Samuel hated this. He hated it all.
~The 75th Last Meal

Don't be alarmed, Allen! I know this may come as a shock but you have got to continue reading if you want to make it out of here.
~Your Escape Plan Now

(I wanted to have the entire plot be revealed in the letter. The first line here was REALLY important to me.)

Alex Dujima stood hovered over the phone, sweating.
~ Alex Dujima's Book Code

The first thing I truly realized was that I was in deep sh#t.
~ The Letters

Horace Grant was one ridiculously hot-headed son of a b#*%h.

Never in her life had she felt this kind of abandonment.
~Bring Him Back Again

It was the beginning of a nice, new spring day.
~The Graveyard-shifters

(I wanted to be opposite with the title, start with something delightful to throw you off.)

Taking the stairs two at a time was dangerous business. I had more sense than that.
~ The Nature of a Second Hand

If you had lived next to apartment 2B, in a rundown, seedy motel by the name of Buck's Getaway, you would have known the horror that became of Scott Hammond.

I'm left here standing alone and afraid in the heat.
~Me and Mine

How do you find your weapon of choice?

(Check out my new weapon, weapon of choice. You know you love that song.)

As a stay at home mom, nobody would have guessed that this particular human being was infinitely special.

In the time before Christ, man discovered fire.

On Glock Block, neighbors stayed in their homes, no matter what.
~Gun Control

It was the middle of July, hot as hell, and all four of them would be down in Ronnie's cool basement.
~10 Days in the Extra Life

It all began with a severed finger.

(Wanted to go Hitchcock.)

The word. The word is here. The word is now. Must go. Very dark. No sight.
~The Aches

(Don't you know that the bird is the word?)

I woke up, sun in my eyes, drowsy as hell, and see my wife sitting by the foot of my bed reading a magazine, the top of her curly red hair peeking over the spine of it.
~The Subtle Teachings of Mr. Rifa.

If you say you have no idea who I am, you're probably just lying to your buddies to save face. C'mon, you know you know me.
~My third novel

Monday, March 21, 2011

Here Today, Blog Tomorrow #21

Matthew Wayne Selznick is a guy with many hats. He's a musician, editor, podcaster, voice actor and independent creator. He also happens to be an author. I was first introduced to his work by way of a site where you can download FREE audio books. He was one of the first people, along with Scott Sigler and J.C. Hutchins, who put their book online with weekly podcast episodes.

I listened to Brave Men Run and I was completely blown away. Brave Men Run is the story of Nate Charters. Born different, unsure of his origins, he’s an outcast at Abbeque Valley High School, a self-proclaimed “boy freak” with few friends and low self-esteem. When the Sovereign Era dramatically dawns, Nate finds himself in a quest to discover the truth: is he more than he seems, a misfit in a miraculous and powerful new minority… or something else entirely?

Naturally, whenever I am blown away by a book, I research the author.

I was there when Matt decided to write further adventures called Hazy Days and Cloudy Nights, paying $1.99 to read each episode, which had some pretty cool side notes.

Right now he's doing a video blog chronicling his current writing endeavor; a fantasy-adventure novel called Light of The Outsider. This will be the second book he has written, which I'm told is the hardest to write. That hasn't been the case with me. Mr. Dead Eyes was 250 pages while Wearing Donnie Torr just zoomed by at 336 pages. My third novel, however, is stuck in the mud. It's stuck at 40 pages still...after all this time.

So watching these videos has been very informative for me. He offers tips, advice on the craft and what his daily word count amounts to. If all goes well, he has said that he will have an 80,000 word draft by the end of April.

So, in essence, there's a whole lot that Matthew has going for him. He's a cool guy, brilliant writer and, as I had learned, worked for ten years in Borders Books and Music. Anybody working that long must've read a lot. The more reading you do, the more knowledge you'll accumulate on what makes a good book.

Recently, I decided to call in to his Video Blog, after hearing that he's read a book called The Hero's Journey. I've been avoiding this book for quite some time, afraid it would suck all the originality out of my future characters, as it shows you the structure and similar paths all heroes take. Check it out.

You can also call into Matt's show by dialing 1-757-DIY-MATT.

And watch the other videos, there are 8 all totaled. Good luck with the writing Matt, and thanks for putting my fears to rest.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Here Today, Blog Tomorrow #20

What does a writer dream about?

That's a question I'm looking into at the moment. It is often said that dreams are a catalyst for good or intriguing ideas. I'm a firm believer in that, having written only when compelled to do so. As it turned out, if I never had the nightmare about a dark, shadowy doctor, then Mr. Dead Eyes would have never been born.

Also, quite a few of my short stories have been adapted from dreams. My current collection, For What It's Worth holds 19 short stories. These are the ones that were originally dreams:

Failing Upwards
The 75th Last Meal
The Graveyard-shifters
The Nature of a Second Hand

So, out of 19 stories, 7 were dreams. It helps to plot, yes, but sometimes a dream can give you structure. I Just had a dream last night that is quite complicated, but could make for a terrific creepy story. And somehow, it ties in with the movie The Day The Earth Stood Still. The classic, not the remake. I'm also compiling a dream book for the entire year of 2011, just to keep me busy. Dreams are perfect for stories.

Don't believe me? Nap a while and find out.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Here Today, Blog Tomorrow #19

What I would do if I were president...

Today, my wife and I had a funny conversation that I felt like sharing with all of you. First, I must tell you, that my wife has not only been the perfect friend but also my constant reader. I'm always looking to her for opinions, asking questions, bouncing ideas off of her. She not only listens but offers suggestions. But she also deals with the raw material that I work with. Every day I try to make her laugh at least once. So for every 20 times I made her laugh there were 4 or 5 failed jokes. But she's alright with it, she knows I'm experimenting on what to put in a book and what not to.

Sitting at the kitchen table I was sitting with her, drinking coffee. I then told her a funny little thought that popped into my mind.

"One day I want to be president."
"What?" she squints at me.
"Yeah, President of the United states."
"It wouldn't be for the reasons that you're thinking though. I'm sure different to do lists would pass my desk. A war, we'll get through it. A bill needs to be passed, I'll look it over. But what I really want, the whole reason I would persue this to set foot in that Presidential Kitchen..."

She starts to snicker.

"Seriously, wouldn't that be the greatest? Good evening mister president, please, partake and enjoy the First Burger. Would you like some First ceral. Perhaps a First T-bone steak with potatoes that will fill you for a day. Did we mention the juices of the meat cure cancer, emphysema, nausea, headache, inflamed appendix and lumbago?"

At this point she's starting to shake a little with laughter.

"But it wouldn't stop there. I'd just be in the kitchen all day, eating exquisite food while thumbing through the Secret President Book, looking at Roswell and the JFK stuff and going, 'Oh Man, I'm so hungry right now! Oh God, First food, I love it!"

That's when she cracks up.

In order to better understand this fascination, you must know this. Whenever I watch a show or movie where characters are being very technological, like finding fingerprints, blood, using machines to conduct tests or build robots, it always gets me hungry. I dunno what it is, but I always have my mouth watering when someone talks of Micro-chips or Micro-film or secret documents or a Super computer. Maybe I have a computer virus. Maybe even a Megabyte. Who knows?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Here Today, Blog Tomorrow #18

Writing while sick...

It's not fun...but it can be done...

Of course, typing while sneezing will never be mastered...also busting capillaries while blowing your nose takes away from the work at hand...but if you're really will write any condition...


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Here Today, Blog Tomorrow #17

My wife and I, as I've said before, are avid readers. Now, in our new apartment, we constantly trade book recommendations back and forth. My wife turned my eye to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Trilogy while I directed her towards the work of Richard Matheson. She's suggested David Sedaris while I've been praising A.J. Jacobs. I read both American on Purpose and Waiter Rant because of her. She introduced me to Johnathan Livingston Seagull which made me hunt for other works by Richard Bach. We discovered Mark Haddon together, reading his book The Curious case of the dog in the night-time as well as A Spot of Bother.

There seems to be no end to the constant chain.

So when she was off to work, she asked for something else to read. I, with a spring, jumped off the couch and started pointing to certain books on our bookshelf. I get excited whenever she asks me to get her a book. Being a full-time bibliophiliac is no easy task. In storage I currently hold fifteen large boxes full of books waiting to be read. I can sometimes be like a carnival barker when it comes to a good book. "Step right up here, step right up. Don't be shy! Witness the works of fancy the likes of which you have never seen or could possibly imagine!"

Quite often some of my suggestions hit the floor but she did pick up one that I pointed to: A Million Little Pieces by James Frey. When he hit the stores in 2003 I heard little, if anything about him. When I heard what a success he was I was impressed. When I heard he may have embellished some facts, I was angry. But that anger slowly faded over a period of time. Especially since witnessing the painful grilling of Frey on his second interview with Oprah. Love him or hate him, he's here to stay. When I was 23, the exact age of Frey when he wrote the book, I picked up the flimsy aqua green paperback at a local Goodwill shop. It sat in a box for years. I have a growing reading list and can't read fast enough. It is what it is.

But, when my wife unearthed it and took it to work, she couldn't put it down, devouring it the same way she did with the Girl with Dragon Tatto trilogy. She was hooked. Wasting no time, she asked if he'd written anything else. I was on the laptop at the time and said, "Fourth shelf, on the right, in between Umberto Eco and Joseph Heller's Good as Gold." I didn't even need to look up, that's how well I know of the books on my shelf. She found the little gray book, My Friend Leonard, and delightfully is devouring that one too. His latest book is ficton. It's called Bright Shiny Morning.

One day, today, she came to me with the request: "You've got to read this book."

I'm in the middle of Jodi Picoult's Handle With Care, with an eye for finishing Perfect Match as well. Then maybe Hornet's Nest, lord of flies, Lisey's story...

The list is never-ending.

So, we compromised. She pitched the idea of interactive reading. We'd each read a few chapters, out loud to each other and go back and forth, thereby finishing the book and enjoying the experience together. If you haven't tried something like this, you should. It's fantastic. I don't care who you are, at one point, you liked being read to. Even when I was at the hospital for food poisoning, my wife was good enough to read me Son of Groucho, a memoir I had been reading at the time. As I was being replenished with medicine, hearing her tell the story made me feel better, making me laugh as she'd deliver the punchlines groucho style.

It's a great experiment - Reading to each other. We've really gotten into the characters in A Million Little Pieces. I've adopted a gravely voice for Frey while she puts on a low voice for his friend Leonard. It's great, reading this stuff out loud. There are only a few problems. One being, who knows what chapter we are on, the headings are only squiggles. Second, I think our neighbors think we're crazy with us exclaiming, from the book, "I DON'T LOOK LIKE GENE HACKMAN! STOP LAUGHING!"

You'll just have to read the book to understand that last bit.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Here Today, Blog Tomorrow #16

For this post, I pose a question to any author, successful or starting, who writes a blog: Why do you suddenly stop writing the blog?

I've seen some author blogs where they ignore posting anything for months...sometimes years. Why? Well, there may be a reason as to their work load and if the blog is interfering. Some authors tackle multiple projects and give up blogs. But still, that doesn't seem to make their blog followers dip in the numbers. They're still patiently waiting the next post, if the blog is written well.

The longest I've seen a blog go without a post is three full years. I couldn't do that. A blog, to me, is like a writing workshop. Here you have the tools, the audience and the execution. David Wellington, author of titles 13 bullets, Monster Island and Frostbite, got his book contract by posting up chapters on his blog. People would comment, word of mouth would spread, boom, another writer is born. It just goes to show that if you have a following, even if it is just two people, you have a commitment.

The followers on this blog has just reached 28. Because of that, the pressure is on for new content and a lot more of it. I don't think I could ever go a month without blogging. Just thought you oughta know that.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Here Today, Blog Tomorrow #15

Not many people know it but, I'm partial to the classics. My first ever introduction to a classic was when a teacher made us read Animal Farm. I hated it. I remember I couldn't stop thinking how overdone it had become. And yet, when my wife and I were at a Borders, she recommended 1984; I sat down, read two chapters and automatically loved it. It just goes to show that you never know what a good classic can do for you.

Then there was The Time Machine and The Invisible Man, both very good H. G. Wells books. they weren't hard to understand and they introduced and produced many books and movies dedicated solely to the mad scientist and time travel genres. Yes sir, I'd have to say that Wells created the science fiction genre. A lot of people say that Poe was the one who introduced it but I still stand by Wells.

But both of those novels could not compare to War of The Worlds, my favorite of the bunch. The first three opening paragraphs set the scene perfectly. I still get chills whenever I read the line: Across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us.

God, I love that line. But it's not just the three paragraphs that caught me. Granted, now I use this as a basis for picking up a book to read, scanning the first three paragraphs to see if it will draw me in, but also, the rest of the book is so perfectly worded it's almost like poetry. I could imagine Wells, then a teacher in 1898, writing one perfect sentence a day.

In college, it was my rhetoric professor who introduced me to the textbook, The Story and It's Writer, a valuable compilation of short stories with some added essays and thoughts by the authors. He also introduced me to Joseph Heller with Catch-22. I remember I hated the book when I first started it, but he suggested, "Read past chapter five. It gets much better when you pass that chapter." He was right. It opened me up to the world of Heller and I found myself quickly on a hunt to devour his books, reading Portrait of an Artist as an Old Man, Catch as Catch Can: Stories, and No Laughing Matter. I own Something Happend, his second novel as well as Good as Gold and Closing Time, the sequel to Catch-22 but I'm waiting for a rainy day to tackle those.

At one point or another, I've been given suggestions on what to read next in the classic literature category. But, I have to say, the one I currently have my eye on next is Jane Eyre.

When my wife and I had a friend over, one that she studied with in France, she played a movie trailer on her laptop for us. Apparently, someone had made a recent adaptation of the book. After the trailer ended I was completely knocked off my socks. I mean, wow. And here I thought that it was nothing more than a snobby tale of a woman growing up in an orphanage. I was dead wrong. "I had no idea the story was that supernatural," I said to them both. "Oh yeah," my wife said. "It's very Gothic. You should read it."

I'm sure I will.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Here Today, Blog Tomorrow #14

Why do people need to put character flaws in stories? Because characters are more believable that way. If you don't believe me, take a look at this article on Wikipedia on the all-important Character Flaw. At one point or another I have borrowed a few of these character flaws so that people will relate to my heroes and villains. You don't need many. One or two should do.

Derek from Mr. Dead Eyes once had a fear of dead bodies, of death itself. His friend Kurt has Claustrophobia which plays a huge role in breaking his calm exterior.

Another one of my characters has a fear of heights, another a fear of guns.

Chances are, you've read about similar characters. They represent a common theme; if you're going to write have to first make them human.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Here Today, Blog Tomorrow #13

Today, I thought I'd talk about Tea Parties. I know, weird, right?

But this isn't a Boston Tea Party or even a Princess Tea Party. It's a Tea Party of the mind. What I'm basically getting at is advice for all writers. Make your work different. Make it shine, polish it, let it stand out among the rest. But, above all, please, please, make it believable. Give the characters flaws, give them a struggle, twists, turns and car chases. It all adds to the randomness of life. Think Murphy's Law times ten. Because the last thing you want to do is make the work into a Tea Party.

A Tea Party in my mind is when I read a novel and can actually picture the author writing it, taking breaks in between, saying to himself, "Yes. Yes, I would like that. Oooh, I rule!"

Case in point, I've brought up The Celestine Prophecy more than a few times, and I'm not knocking the book. But, mind you, I've made it about halfway until I saw some tea parties spring up.

What's it about?

A professor (gotcha) travels to Peru (cool) to uncover a series of scrolls which reveal nine (Digging it) insights to the world. Along the way he is saved by a stranger who is on a hunt for the scrolls as well. (Um, okay, well, that's convenient) The journey brings them to a place where they fine the insights (okay) in chronological order (what?) and they don't even have to work that hard to learn them. (excuse me, is this thing on?) There is also a Tenth insight. (Wha?) And an Eleventh. (Wait a minute) And a Twelfth, even though we said there were originally nine. (Now your yanking my chain.)

How can the characters ring true if they don't overcome big struggles? Struggle is a key factor in life. We cling to hope because of so many troubles, twists, turns.

So, you see, when you write, please don't write off the seat of your pants, making everything a little too easy or convenient. It will hurt you in the long run. Because in this case, you've created a tea party where you're the only on invited and you're the only one enjoying the party. Maybe some day I'll pick the book back up. But it would have to be on a plane...where there's no escape.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Here Today, Blog Tomorrow #12

Rather than bore you with the mundane tasks I've been writing about for the past two weeks, I figured I'd try something different. Fresh reading My Boring-Ass life by Kevin Smith, I was under the impression that everyone wants to read what people do in their daily lives. The only problem is, all the tasks I do, the movies I rent and the things I eat are all meaningless without something very important: Theme.

So, because there should by something you can take away from this, I've decided to focus each day on one central thought that I have. We don't have to take a trip through my day, you can just sit back and relax.

To start, I'd like to say that I think every author should have a Jumble Box.

Let me explain.

Today, while writing, I found two things I could put in my jumble box. The two things were an ending for a future novel and a code put in my third novel. The jumble box is a document I use to catalogue all the ideas that pop into my head. In the past, whenever something would strike me, say, a line of dialogue, an ending scene, a beginning scene; I would hurriedly write it on a scrap of paper. I'd collected the scraps of paper and shove them in a file and put them in my writing desk. The only problem is I get so many ideas that now I have fifteen folders instead of one. I've written on the backs of receipts, napkins, posters, flyers, my hand, my arms, pretty much anywhere. But those things are frail and sometimes unreadable.

Now I just created a document on my flash drive called The Jumble Box. Nothing's numbered or anything. It all just follows a very basic organization table, something like this:

Name of Book ( Novel, Collection or Novella) - A paragraph of description, dialogue or plot points and character names.

That's pretty much it.

And it has served me well.

So far, I've entered 12 ideas into it and hope to one day enter in all the data from all fifteen folders. I won't through them out but at least, with this, I can comb over the ideas with a more selective eye rather than picking, digging into piles of crumpled papers which are barley legible.

What's in your Jumble Box? Do you have one? If not, why not?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Here Today, Blog Tomorrow #11

Woke up at 5:50am and went to work. While at work I listened to Wait! Wait! Don't Tell Me, the popular news quiz show by NPR. This episode was not only one I liked but one in which I attended I was there in the audience with my in-laws and wife, before we were married. The show featured Drew Carrey as the celebrity guest. I remember it was at the Chase building in downtown chicago. It was an hour or so long but each minute was gut-bustingly funny. I really liked meeting Paula Poundstone. She's quite a character.

At 3:30 I booked it to my car and was on my way home. On the way, during the bright, sunny and surprisingly warm day, I had my window down and the radio on. I was listening to NPR, my favorite station. I guess I wanted a double dose seeing as how I listened to their forty minute show. A lot of really good bits got cut from that episode of Wait! Wait!

I noticed that NPR was asking for donations. The segment went on for twenty minutes. Now, I love NPR, but the whole segment reminded me something about publicity. I hate self-promoting myself. I feel ashamed and sometimes a tinge of what feels like narcissism hits me whenever I tell people to check out my blog or to buy my books. I've done it so much, I feel like I'm way past the point of begging but actually pleading with people. There's got to be a better way to market oneself.

On a positive note, I checked my kindle sales and found that 4 copies of Mr. Dead Eyes sold. 4 copies isn't a lot for two weeks, but its something. One of my friends revealed, on Facebook, that she bought my book on kindle. She actually owns a copy of my first print of the book, way back in 2006 when I thought I knew what I was doing but was still learning. Back then I was working with Iuniverse. Now I'm with Createspace. They feel like a better, sharper, well-qualified group and are affiliated with Amazon. Before, I designed the cover myself, stupidly making it too complicated. This time around, I found that a vast majority of books get their covers at IStockPhoto or Dreamstime. Which are pretty good companies when You're trying to find a cover that fist your story. With the kindle version of Mr. Dead Eyes, not only did I take it through another grinder wheel of edits but I also just let the picture do the work. I picked some fonts that I liked and that was pretty much it.

Just by comparing the covers you can see how far I've come in the way of sharpening the look of my novels.

Around 7:00pm, I was watching a movie called Fat Head on Netflix instant. This movie supposedly debunks Super Size Me by saying that fast food is good for you and can actually make you lose weight if you eat enough of it. Like a cow and some magic beans; I ain't buyin' it. Not only does the narrator of this documentary shove all this stuff in your face, but he does it with a snarky and somewhat self-satisfied smart-alec tone. I questions some of the doctors he visited and, if in fact, any of this rings true. But hey, it's America. He can make his film if he wants too but man, I doubt people are really digging deeper into this.

For dinner I had a double cheeseburger with fries and a Dr. Pepper. I'm really not trying to be hypocritically but, damn, that movie made me hungry as all hell.

I listened to some more Jodi Picoult Podcasts and then decided to read on my kindle, since I haven't done it in a while. After reading some more I decided to read the first chapter of Handle with Care by Jodi Picoult. She's good at painting a picture, I remember vivid details about her other book Perfect Match when my wife recommended that one as well.

Afterwards I called a friend from a previous job, called my in-laws and set up a movie night with my brother on Sunday. My brother's really funny. He loves this idea of a beard hat; a hat that protects your beard in the winter. He's planning on getting one in black. On Sunday, if all goes well, my wife will be watching Lethal Weapon for the first time with me and my brother.

The night ends with me combing over several of my writing projects. I can honestly say I have too many. I din't write much. 349 words. They weren't even that good. Wasn't the right time to dive in, I guess. I'll try again when the waves of words are more welcoming.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Here Today, Blog Tomorrow #10

A funny thing happened at work today. I was at my station, listening to my iPod when I ran out of movies and songs I wanted to listen to so I decided to breeze through some audiobooks. I came across one by Alex Damian. His book The Doomsday Club is a free podiobook. It's a very weird story where you are the main character. It drops you right in the middle of the action when a group of stoners accidentally kill a man threatening to take away their weed. The story happens at a breakneck pace, with all the close calls and twists that remind me of A Simple Plan, where every plan is just another deeper hole dug. Anyway, while I was listening, really digging it, there was a part in the story where a character tries to make a bomb using kidney beans and other household chemicals. Somewhere in there, I think when they call the guy Mr. Wizard, I heard a sound I wasn't too sure of. I turned the volume up and, to my surprise, heard what sounded like the author farting while he was speaking his book. It gave me a good laugh. But when I returned home, and turned it up for my wife to hear, she discovered that it was a glitch in the editing, not someone passing gas as I previously thought.

It wouldn't surprise me though. I've heard people clear their throats in Harry Potter books on Cd, I've heard someone fart on the audiobook Revolutionary Road and I've heard several authors, reading their own works, having their stomachs noisily groan for food. Neil Gaimen also complains that this new recording technology picks up that sort of thing every time, forcing him to repeat the take.

I head to the library before heading home to pick up Dinner for Schmucks. Also, I ask the reference desk how I can get my books in their library. The woman takes down my info and tells me to bring in two copies and, if they like them, they'll buy some stock and put it on the shelves.

When I come home my wife and I chill a bit, joke with each other and then eat some leftovers. I make myself a chocolate milkshake and we sit down to watch Dinner For Scmhucks. But before I dish on that, I just have to say that Vampire's Assistant was a complete letdown. I wasn't sure if John C. Reily could tackle the part and I still don't know. The story revolves around freaks living together in a traveling show, like the Ringling Brothers, only these freaks have a vampire named Crepsley. He takes on an assistant because a war is brewing and soon...gasp...the truce will be broken. Dum, dum, dum!

The story was confusing and melodramatic, the plot was washed in mystery, but not the good kind, with foreshadowing that really screams harry potter. I thought this movie would be a let down but, man, I had no idea how big. As far as changing the vampire mythos goes: in this movie the vampires have super spit (Really?) that heals their wounds, they have super speed which is called Flitting (Looks like a blur), are not overwhelmed with a compulsion to drink blood but do need it to replenish their strength and, oh, this is a kicker, there are another, crueler group of vampires, separated from the good ones because these guys have bloodlust and kill people. They are called Vampanese. Really?

But, oh well, I knew what I was getting into. Maybe I should've read the book.

As we tried to watch Dinner for Schmucks, our cat Bandit made himself known by continually meowing in our faces. We did everything we could. We played with him, made sure he was fed, cleaned his litter box but he would just not keep quiet. By the time the movie was nearing the end, we were getting an earful of Bandit. And yet, when I paused the movie, he did not say anything. The movie wasn't good. The first half was alright but it went downhill pretty fast. While watching Vampire's Assistant he also meowed repeatedly at that one. Which leads me to believe that he's trying to save us from bad movies.

The night ends with me calling my father, just having a chat about how well the restaurant's coming and what good western movies he reccomends. My wife and I talk some more than I head to bed. No writing. I figure I can save that for the weekend, when I have some free time.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Here Today, Blog Tomorrow #9

Today kicked off to a weird start, with a dream of me, my brother and my father play a game of Texas hold 'em in plastic suits in a meat locker with famous princess bride actor Mandy Patinkin.

Woke up at 5:50 am again and went to work. I love that we get the chance to listen to iPods while working. Makes the day go by a whole lot faster.

As promised, I leave work a 3:30pm to go visit my father. I pick up a Coffee coolata for me and a small black coffee for him. It's somewhat become a tradition. He always gets a small black coffee, it's his thing.

I wait in the car, reading Best American Short Stories 2008, when he shows up. I help him with the groceries inside the house. After that, my mom takes off to leave us boys alone. He starts preparing food and putting things away. While he does this, we talk.

I tell him about how married life is, how I'm not hungry (He keeps offering me food), and generally how we're doing. He still moves quick for his age, very light on his feet. But, I guess you have to be when you're cooking in the kitchen.

The talk leads to work. What I've been doing, how long I've been working, stuff like that. Eventually he talks about his work at Alberto Culver, the Shampoo warehouse. He tells me how he started from just being a janitor to doing every thing in the place. There was no one job he hadn't touched on. My father, an everyman. He was even a general manager at one point, with 35 people working under him. This impresses me to no and and raises my eyebrows high. To this day I'm still learning about my father. He's a quiet, yet wise, bear of a man. The characters I love the most in my stories (i.e. Thomas Wilker and Horace Grant) have the same physical description and personality of my father. My father is a deep well of thought. There's always been a bit of mystery to him. In the same way as I've scrambled for jobs in the past, so has he. Like father, like son. It wasn't until he found out the company wanted to hire someone and give them more money, but they also wanted my dad to train this guy, that he finally called it quits to their face after 15 years.

He asks me about the books and I tell him I'm making some headway. Every couple of days I make another ebook sale. I explain to him how the kindle royalty payments work and he's listening carefully. When I tell him that some of the royalty payment we used to buy food, he gives me a nod and says,"There you go." He smiles, I offer him a fist bump. It feels really good to have your father be proud of you for something he's encouraged for years.

As I'm about to leave, he tells me one day he'll get into my racket, writing books. I grab him by the shoulders and do a playful shake, "But when?" I ask. He's told me time and again how he has a good western story in him. He just has to write it down. He's told me details, but even from those little tidbits, I see the edges, almost the outline, of a larger, greater western story that's never been told. "I just have to get motivated." He says. "Something has to provoke me. I need to get good and fried up about it."

At 5:40 I decide to go home but not before I hug him about three times, shake his hand twice and tell him I love him twice. I've begun to miss my father the longer I don't talk to him so I'm going to try and call the his house more often, just so we can talk.

The grand re-opening of my father's pizzeria, I find out, is being delayed but, I swear, on the drive home, I can almost taste the pizza slices now.

My wife and I sit, talk, joke. We order Mexican food and watch a couple episodes of Burn Notice and Seinfeld. The night ends with me almost falling asleep in a book - a great american pass time: Snooze Reading.

I get up, type up this blog then finally go to bed.

Oh, and about that movie The Vampire's Assistant, it was dull. More details to follow tomorrow. For now, I need rest.

Tomorrow starts a new day of different market strategies to get my books in front of more people.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Here Today, Blog Tomorrow #8

Not much has happened today. Woke up at 5:50am this morning to go to work, came back around 4pm. Sat back and relaxed and finally made it to season four of Prison Break. My wife left to go get fish for dinner while I hung out at the apartment.

My back was pretty stiff from sitting all day so I laid out on the couch. When my wife came home, she prepared dinner while we talked, joked and somewhere into the equation I listened to a couple podcast episodes from bestselling author Jodi Picoult. Yes, if I haven't said it enough, as an author I eat, drink, sleep and bleed all things related to or in the direct vicinity of writing.

Din't write today. But then again, I didn't really need to. But there is one word I want to include in one of my stories: Sacrosanct. Man, I love that word. It just flows off the tongue.

Even though I haven't sold any stories, it seems that my blog is making some headway. Here and there I'm being approached, through email, of websites wanting to advertise on my blog. Guess I'm getting noticed now. It's exposure. That is always a good sign.

At the end of the night, the wife and I sit back and watch The Vampire's Assistant. I'll let you know how it all turns out.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Here Today, Blog Tomorrow #7

As crazy as it sounds, last night, believe it or not, I dreamt I was back in High school, playing bumper desks with some people I didn't know. The desk antics came to a halt when I knocked over some chemicals, spilling them to the floor and breaking some breakers in the process. The teacher was picking up the pieces, yelling at me for the mess I made and the supposed one hundred dollars damage I had caused. When the beareded man looked up at me, I realized that he was famous comedian Rob Riggle.

Then I woke up at 7:00am. I fixed myself a bagel and cup of joe and went to work.

Came back from work around 4:00pm. I dropped off The Town dvd at the library and picked up The Vampire's Assistant. The Town was alright, I guess. In terms of direction it was good. In terms of story, for me, it didn't do anything new or outstanding about heist movies. It actually felt like I was watching that movie Heat with Robert DeNiro.

I arrive home, chill on the couch and watch more Prison Break.

At 7pm I wrote 621 words to my second short story collection. This one story in particular strikes a cord with the old life that I led before I got married. It's bitter sweet. Maybe I'll be able to finish the second part of it later tonight.

At 9pm my missus was coming home so I decided to cook up some Jambalaya. Yep, you heard right. This writer can cook (a total of four dishes). But that's not to say that I don't put my heart into the things I do make, fiction included.

So, with the night dwindling to a close, we both eat some spicy Jambalaya and drink ginger ale. Today was a good day. Tomorrow looks even better. If only I could sell some more books...

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Here Today, Blog Tomorrow #6

Today I woke up at 10:30am. Man, what a night. I had this weird dream where I was in a warehouse sitting in a chair and I was getting a lecture from Jerry Lewis and Paul Newman on how to be a succesful con man. I'm sure there's a good story in there somewhere.

Last night I was under my quota. I only wrote 425 words. It felt like just getting those words out took forever.

But, at 1:00pm today I finally sat down and took a good hard look at my second short story collection. There are four or five that are really easy stories to write. So I write them. When I'm done, I've now got two finished short stories and I've written about 1,579 words. The good part is that even if the story doesn't flow well, at least now I have something to work with.

After that, I kick up my heels and relax, watching more season 3 of Prison Break.

I have some coffee and my missus returns home.

We clean the apartment and I call my brother. Here and there I go back to Crime City on Facebook to wreak havoc.

Later, I make my way to the bookshelf and pick up a copy of The Best American Short Stories 2008 with Salman Rushdie as the guest editor. This is one series you can't get on the kindle which is, yet again, another reason why I think the eBook will never replace the good-old-fashioned hardcovers and paperbacks. It's pretty good. It's getting me back into the rhythm of what a short story is supposed to feel like and what you are supposed to take away from it.

The night ends with the wife and I watching The Town on DVD.

Because I wrote close to 2,000 words today, I feel no need to write tonight. Plus, I have a job I have to get up for in the morning.

Y'know, back two weeks ago, when I had this job through this temp agency called Spherion, they set me up with one seemingly good job. Then, through a series of miscommunication and dimwitted phone calls, the full-time temp to perm job at Netflix turned into a on call 3am two days a week suckfest. Anyone looking for a job should avoid this Spherion Staffing at all costs. You will make pennies, while they promise you profit. It just isn't worth it.

Man, I remember when I showed up there at 3am one day. Me and some other guy were the only ones there. We chatted for a bit while it snowed about how annoying the unemployment office is, how hard it is to find work and just how some people like to string you along. I told him right then and there that I needed something better. Maybe this is it. Hope he's doing well.

Wherever that guy is, I wish him well.

As for me, I've got a job to do.