Author Archives: KDAlex

Making My Puppets Dance…

My words exist in the twisted aether of the world we know. Where orcs sell potions to chem addicted elves focused only on getting the next fix. It’s a world where good guys sometimes have to do bad things and bad guys do things good for them.

It’s gray and rainy, but not the Seattle kind of rain. This is the kind of rain that melts flesh from bones.

This is the type of place where the guy waiting next to you in the subway wouldn’t think twice about slitting your throat because your coat is warmer than his.

How do you balance the macabre and the horrific with the action and frenetic pace of a spy thriller?

With careful balance.

It’s a technique I learned from Jim Butcher. For those of you unaware, you need to hunt down his writing process. It’s required reading. There will be a test.

I follow a steady, near constant rise and fall. For every action beat, we need to slow the pace down just long enough to consider the actions of what came before. Unless you’re a violent sociopath, you can’t go around slaughtering orcs or murlocs all day without a care in the world. At some point, you’re going to kill somebody’s baby.

And they’re going to be pissed. Or you’re going to go nuts.

At that point, you really need to exercise your writing muscles. For every action, there’s an equal and excruciating reaction. Since we write in fiction, emotions are sensationalized, maybe even sometimes heightened just to the point of dramatic effect.

I like to up the ante with each passing moment, increase the tension, increase the stakes. Make it look like things are spiraling out of control for our protagonist and then rein it in at the last possible minute.

It’s a roller coaster full of ups and downs and the highs and lows. My good guys who do bad things don’t always feel that the end justified the means. Sometimes what happens is a result of direct force applied upon him, almost to the breaking point. He might lash out and do something stupid. And then regret it for the rest of the book.

Or sometimes, that action is the defining moment of my character. Whether it appears on screen or off, if it happened, chances are it’s going to affect him in some way, shape, or form.

In Golden Hills, Jake Dollop wanders into a town when he’s so far down and out that there’s no where else to turn. In Chapter 2, he’s so damn miserable with his life that he briefly considers and tries to commit suicide.

Fortunately the gun doesn’t go off. And Jake is a changed man from that moment forward

In Beyond the Black, Sergeant Chase Montgomery is shot down while performing a rescue mission for a friend in the heart of World War III. He recovers and finds himself in a strange world. He misses his family back home, but they think he’s dead.

In Psychic, Detective Michael Wilfrey is still an emotional train wreck after a horrific mass casualty incident, it costs the man his wife, his career, and his life as he struggles with the slow poison of a scar too big to heal.

I write from inside the heads of my protagonists, sometimes the camera is so far in their head, it’s as if there’s no camera at all.

I prefer the tighter point of view because it allows me to delve much farther into the one or two characters that I follow throughout the book. You can experience their emotional highs and lows and live through their experiences.

And while all my books are almost thriller-esque with frenetic pacing, I still give the reader and the character time to think and recover.

Because without your lows, you can’t have your highs.

How do you juggle?

What I Learned from The Stand…a Blog in Two Parts, but Really One Big One.

I find it hard to believe that I haven’t talked to you guys since November. It feels like just yesterday we were strolling down Pumpkin-Head Lane counting all the piked up zombie heads.

My, but the year has flown. I haven’t made any New Year’s Resolutions to write more, or even write less. I haven’t made any false promises to myself. Truth be told, I never was any good at that sort of stuff.

Every promise I’ve ever made to myself I’ve broken. So, I’ve found it hard to write an advice column on writing when in all honesty, this is the first time I’ve put pen to paper or word to screen since my last blog.

But, I’ve found some minor successes inside of these past few months of barren word counts. It’s something I wish I did more of.

Not dishes, not chores, not even going outside to sing and dance and play in the rain…although, if we were to get some rain right now I’d probably do a cartwheel. Dry season sucks. Especially when you get the humidity of a mid-afternoon thunderstorm without the relief in the release of the pouring rain.

This is a little something that I’ve forgotten to do in the age of fancy whiz-bang toys and video games, in a world where entertainment value is measured by how much product we can place in a thirty second television spot.

That’s right. I picked up a book.

And then I picked up another book.

And another.

It all started with 11/22/63, I’d always much rather preferred my Koontz to King. For reasons I can’t even begin to explain. But, I picked it up on a promise to a friend. Stephen King was in town out in Hillsborough County where he’d been snowbirding since probably before I was born. Since he had a winter house on a private island out there, he decided to do a book signing at the local Barnes and Noble. It was my first book signing event for a big time author with a big time lead in.

I agreed to go with my friend, who was a much more devout fan than I. So, we piled into his trusty old Civic and drove the three plus hours over to the west coast of Florida. We got there reasonably early, considering we got up at like the butt-crack of dawn. I called the book store halfway there to make sure it wasn’t a waste of time, only to be told by a friendly book seller that people had been camping out all night.

All. Night. Long.

And that just blew my mind, especially considering we were there in the early days of November and there was holiday shopping and stuff still to come. I’d seen the crazy campers for concert tickets or Black Friday deals, but a book store? For a book signing? You’ve got to be kidding me. There won’t be a line.

I mean, don’t people just watch TV or play video games now? We saw all the video footage from the riots in London where electronic stores were smashed out and ransacked by looters. In that very same footage we saw the nearby Waterstones unscathed by the civil unrest.

Wow.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. And it was one of those little moments where the light bulb goes off and the heavenly choir sings. I felt good.

I felt home, even though I was three hundred plus miles away and standing in line for hours on end.

Truth be told, I had thought that humanity was lost and truly for a moment believed that arts were a dying life form.

When I got there though, it was amazing.

For those that have never gone to a book signing, don’t be afraid. This was my first too.

In the Superstars Seminar where I met my fellow Fictorians, I remember hearing a topic of discussion on the anatomy of a book signing from the author’s perspective. To see it from a reader’s perspective was a whole different game. I think I was able to appreciate it more for the event it was because I had not been one of those die hard fans.

But, the line was through the building and wrapped around the store twice. There were literally hundreds of people there.

And like three cops to keep the peace.

But, it was the most peaceful setting I think I had ever been in for a major shopping frenzy. I mean, people were jovial and on their best behavior. Neighbors in line were striking up conversations like old friends. And living here in South Florida, it was a rarity to see people actually get along.

In the midst of all the chaos and violence, hundreds of people had found their peace in a common interest. And it was like kumbaya campfire tales.

Seriously. For being herded like cattle through all the hot new best sellers and teenage vampire and angst lit, it was the best experience of my life. The two to three hour line really didn’t seem so long. People were reading on their kindles and nooks, sonys and hardbacks. And it was just this great…almost comic-con like atmosphere.

B&N get my respect for having it down to such a controlled science. Early people get one color, other people get another, line up here, stand there. Go this way, now go that way. Hand your book to a bookseller who runs the assembly line down to Mr. King to another bookseller then to you.

And Stephen King wasn’t doing a Q&A or interview or speech or anything. It was just a strict book signing. And halfway through, we found out the poor guy had the flu. And was there to keep his prior engagement to his fans. He didn’t cut the line short or end it at like 100 people. He swore he would stay until the last fan got their book signed.

And he sure did.

For that, I respected the man that much more. I gave him another look.

It was a truly inspiring event that I probably wouldn’t have even considered if my friend didn’t twist my arm and make me go.

But I read 11/22/63. And I enjoyed the hell out of it. As I was reading, characters and events from other books popped up randomly like King had woven this one giant tapestry of a world. And it made me curious for more. So I went back in and re-read The Dark Tower. And saw more references pop up.

The Dark Tower was a book I really hadn’t read in….wow. Close to fifteen years. All I remembered was it was a “weird, gothic western”….and when I envisioned Golden Hills, the memories of my childhood under an old sycamore came flooding back. And the first thing I thought of was The Dark Tower brand of weird western. And even though I hadn’t read the book in close to fifteen years and probably forgot more than I even knew in the first place, the atmosphere just kept creeping back to me.

And I wanted it. Bad.

So, when I finished The Dark Tower (No, I didn’t read the whole series. Come on! I still have to finish the Wheel of Time), I turned my attention to a book I had never read before, but had always been told to look into.

That book was a little novel called The Stand. You may have heard of it? Seriously. It’s little. Like, maybe only 100 pages. Go ahead, you can get through it in an hour.

And I did this weird stutter-stop when I read it. I’ve been slowly paging through, I think I made it to like 33% of the book and now I’m definitely hooked again.

The one thing that kept sticking out as I read it was how familiar it all SOUNDED.

That’s a key word, folks.

I’ve written the way I’ve written for close to six years. And every time I’d write something, I’d be told all sorts of nasty things about POV and how you SHOULD DO THINGS!

And if it’s not proper english with proper sentence structure and proper thoughts and proper this that and whatever…

Truth is, the only thing proper is what’s proper for your story.

Cormac McCarthy, one of the literary darlings of the 21st century absolutely despises punctuation and quotes.

But everyone loves his stream-of-conscious style writing.

And as I was reading The Stand I kept coming back to my own books.

I noticed a simple stylistic similarity that I never would have picked up if I didn’t read my own books fifteen times.

Me and Stephen, you see, we’re a lot alike.

When he writes a POV, he writes a POV. That’s all there is to it. You can’t get any farther into that character’s skull without worrying about how you’re going to get your head out of his nose.

And I loved it. Every moment.

I’ve always said that the reason I write is because these are the types of stories I want to read.

Had I known there was a multi-million dollar author out there doing the exact same thing.

Well then.

Maybe I wouldn’t have started writing!

It’s really amazing to look at the different styles of writing out there. Patrick Rothfuss has a very literary style. His words are like honeyed words on a lover’s lips. R.A. Salvatore has a nose for a good adventure yarn. Stephanie Meyer, vilified in the “circle” has a great knack for being able to connect to a teenage voice.

My advice to you this month is to read more. Stress less.

If you get lost in your own story, go pick up someone else’s. There’s plenty out there that just might light the fire in your pants. I can’t read books to study them. I hate that word, study. It’s nasty. Like eating mud pies. And not the good chocolate kind. I read to enjoy myself.

I write for the same reason.

You never know what you’re going to learn on the road less traveled.

And be careful about that guy sitting next to you hocking up a lung at work. He just might have Captain Tripps.

Seriously, for the first three weeks after reading the first part of The Stand, I was jumping at every sneeze and cough.

*Sneezes* Oh…er… Excuse me. It’s just allergies. ūüėČ

Happy Reading!

 

Failing with Grace

…Wow. Words I never thought I’d type. Ever.

“I Suck.”

We’ve all been there. You probably deleted something you spent hours on and replaced it with those two simple words.

Ugh.

So yeah. I failed NaNoWriMo for the first time in like five years. And that hurt worse than breaking bones, burned more than the fire in my hearth, and all around just made me feel like a total and incomplete waste.

But I shouldn’t feel this way. I know. You tried your best, you gave it your all. Better luck next time, champ.

Even in my failure though, I accomplished something that many people never thought they could do. And for 30 days I was a champ.

My total writing output for the month was a little over 60,000 words. But that’s winning, isn’t it? You’re supposed to write only 50,000!

My NaNo this year was to finish my novella and write the first half of a standalone novel all the while outlining and index carding two other books.

Way too much on my plate. In the end, I charted 37,258 on my standalone and mixed the rest up with my novella and a couple of index cards and a sample chapter or two for Night Watch. And redesigned my webpage. That was excruciating.

If writers are gluttons for punishment, and even a tad sadistic with what they do to these poor little characters on paper, than web designers are masochists. And my heart goes out to them.

Seriously. That stuff is hard.

But, now my grand total on the standalone is 25,111. Don’t ask. The pruning sheers were excellent. And justifiable.

Given all the freak accidents and bad luck that befell me this month, 25,111 is something to be proud of.

Then why don’t I feel like such a hero?

Because I don’t have anything to show for it.

Except for 25,111 words?! That’s more than most people write in their lifetime.

I think part of it stems from my reckless abandon as I chased the finish line and impulsively checked my word count every five minutes.

I wrote scenes that were 1,000 words long because they needed to be 1,000 words long. I didn’t force myself to stretch a paper thin premise for an extra 600 words that I knew it didn’t need.

Because what would that accomplish? A little check mark on my daily planner.

Big stinkin’ deal.

I can’t help but prune as I go along. Even when I turn spell check off, I still see that tiny little oopsie and I go crazy. Out, damned spot!

Were they distractions? Yup. Were the necessary distractions. You’re damn right.

I’ve never “not finished” a book because I got hemmed up on the distractions of the craft. I’m the type of person that would prefer to do something write (yes!) the first time rather than go about and redo it six times when it could have been perfect on the first.

I know this NaNo will get finished. It just won’t be done for the month of November.

Because you can’t microwave dinner and call it a gourmet meal, no matter what the pretty packaging will try to convince you of.

And even though I spent a good three hours designing a pretty cover that I hoped to have on a printed ARC for next week, it’s okay. Because I know something that pretty deserves to be on something that twisted.

But, when it’s done and I approve, I know it will go next to all my other books. If I’m going to put my little pile of dreck next to Stephen King and Jeff Abercrombie, then you can bet I’m going to do the best I can to make it FIT on that shelf.

You can’t dress up a rusted out Beetle to make it look like a brand new Benz.

And my little books keep company in high society on my shelf.

So, I won, even though I failed. But I won. I know, it doesn’t make sense, but it does. The point is, you don’t need one month out of the year to prove you can write. You can do that every month. And every day. Even if you failed, you still accomplished something.

And something is better than nothing.

So, did you guys win NaNo this year? What beat you down? Did you celebrate your success?

 

Zombie Fun!

The first appearance of the concept of the “zombi” was in 1916’s The Magic Island¬†by W.B. Seabrook.

In the Vault¬†published by¬†HP Lovecraft in 1925 has the first appearance of a character being bitten by a zombie. It was rejected by Weird Tales¬†for being too “gruesome”.

White Zombie, starring Bella Lugosi and directed by Victor Halperin is credited as being the first zombie film. It’s based on the same voodoo cult style zombies that appeared in Seabrook’s novel.

Things to Come¬†by H.G. Wells was made into a movie in 1936. It was the first appearance of the zombie plague, seen later in books like Jonathan Maberry’s Dead of Night and the Resident Evil movie and videogame series.

Night of the Living Dead, written/directed by George Romero is often credited as the creation of the modern zombie.

Thriller, Michael Jackson’s 1983 music video, is one of the most famous depictions of zombies. Seriously. Everyone knows Thriller.

Zombies Ate my Neighbors is the first zombie video-game I ever played.

Happy Halloween!