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What’s My Age Again?

Have you ever been in public and heard a young person talking in the manner of someone much older than them? Or the reverse situation in which an older person is speaking in a manner that you’d expect from someone younger? It takes you by surprise for a moment, because it’s not the norm. And that happens to me when I’m reading about characters who do the same thing.

I’ve only started noticing this more and more in recent years. Having grown up on fantasy, everyone talks pretty formally, young and old alike. But I’ve been opening up to less fantastical writing, with characters in more familiar settings. These characters, mired in either in our world or worlds similar to ours, should speak in a manner consistent with the way people around us speak. But it doesn’t always happen that way.

A good example was one I gave in a book review a while back of Dean Koontz’s Odd Thomas. The character of Odd was supposed to be a twenty-something young man, but he (and his girlfriend, who was the same age) spoke in a way that didn’t mesh well with the description of him that was given. More recently, I’ve been reading a trade paperback from Marvel collecting stories from the “Runaways” series, written by Joss Whedon. Now, I like Whedon’s writing, but I’ve never been one to laud him with praise. He’s good, very good, but many people put him on a pedestal that is much too high in my opinion. And in this TPB it’s reaffirmed for me. One of the big things that’s been killing me is Whedon’s typical attempts at writing witty dialogue, but using it in an inappropriate manner for the age of the characters. These are kids; there is a way that kids talk that is believable, but this is something that Whedon, in his attempt at writing his infamous Whedonesque dialogue, seems to forget. It takes me right out of the story, which is a shame, because it’s an interesting one.

I think the problem writers have in this regard is that they are writing in a way that they think children talk. Oftentimes when a writer has to write something that they don’t have a whole lot of experience in, they fudge it, and sometimes it works. But with writing dialogue for younger characters, you need to know. You need to spend some time listening in on conversations, just like you’d do with observing adults. You don’t have to learn and know all the slang terms, but you need to know the general manner in which younger people talk and what they talk about.

And if you’re going to have them speak in a more adult way and/or make references to things that most people their age wouldn’t know the first thing about, explain it. Use that as a springboard for giving more depth to the character. But at the same time, don’t just do it for the sake of letting yourself talk through the character, because then you’re making the dangerous journey into Mary Sue territory.

In short, this is a case where you don’t write what you know – write what they know.

New Year, New Energy

I’ve been a bad writer.

By “bad” I mean that I haven’t done much writing at all in months. In addition to life events, I’ve gone from one update a week to two for my webcomic, I had a Kickstarter campaign that I was running (which ultimately failed), and a general lack of creative spark that hits all of us creative types from time to time.

I’m hoping New Years will kick me into gear. Some writer friends (including my wife) and I typically do a writers retreat once a season. Unfortunately, we’ve all been dealing with many things in our lives, so it’s been a while since we did one. Last year we rang in the new year in with a get-together and retreat, so we decided to do it again this year, and for a few days more.

If you’ve never done a writers retreat, it’s amazing. I don’t know how others do theirs, but what we do is we get together at my aunt’s cottage on Lake Ontario and we write. That’s it. Well, okay, we talk a lot, too, but it’s generally focused on our writing, the business of self-publishing, and things related to those topics. This year there’ll be a lot of talk about Doctor Who, but I’m sure the main focus will still be on writing. Maybe.

In any case, it’s a great experience to put yourself into a comfortable environment with an inspiring atmosphere, and to share it with people who are like-minded and as passionate about the craft as you are. It’s all fuel for the fire, the fire being your writing. All of us get so much done, and we walk away from the time fully charged up and ready to continue on our own.

I’m hoping to use the time to finish compiling and editing the Mystery, Murder, and Magic omnibus. I had stalled out on it, trying to complete a short story to add into the collection, but the story ended up not going as well as planned. And rather than let it gum up the works, I’m just forgetting about it for now. But, yes, I hope to finish that up, and to get a good chunk of work done on my Bardsworth novel. And I may, God willing, start in on my notes for the next Godblood Chronicles book. Don’t hold me to that, though.

Hopefully your New Years will be as inspiring and as creativity-filled as mine will be. If not, at least raise a glass with me at midnight.

Happy Holidays, all.

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Who Wants a Free Ebook?

In the spirit of the holidays, from now until the end of December my first novella, Dark City, Dark Magic, is free on Smashwords! You can download it in multiple file formats, including Kindle, Epub, PDF, and even plain text (or you can read it at the site itself)!

If you haven’t read this first book in my Mystery, Murder, and Magic series, jump on board now!

Here’s the description:

Henry Billingsly, brother of millionaire Frederick Billingsly, is found dead with a gun in his hand. The police are convinced it was suicide, but Frederick is unconvinced and has evidence that points to magic-assisted murder. Desperate for help, he turns to someone who specializes in cases involving magic – private investigator Rick Walker.

An indulging lover of Scotch and women, the smooth-talking Rick is also a darn good private eye. With the reluctant help of the foul-mouthed demon Beluosis, Rick searches for the pieces of the puzzle regarding Henry’s death. Was it murder? Is Rick’s life now at stake? And will he solve the case in time to pay his overdue rent?

The novella Dark City, Dark Magic is the first installment of Mystery, Murder, and Magic, a three-part story chronicling the continuing adventures of Rick Walker.

Dark City, Dark Magic

You can download it here!

I don’t like that my last post was made in August.  I don’t want you folks forgetting about me.  But here’s why I haven’t posted in a while…

Some of you know that besides my fiction writing, I also write and draw a webcomic called Bardsworth.  In 2008 I released the first printed collection of strips, and that was my first foray into self-publishing.  Since then I’ve been trying desperately to get the second book released, but because of a list of obstacles it’s been in development hell… or whatever the writer’s equivalent of development hell is.

kickstarter1So, in order to expedite the wrapping up of the book’s production and to fund a print run of it, I launched  a Kickstarter campaign.  You can read all of the details about the book’s production and my goals over at the project page.

For those of you unfamiliar with Kickstarter, it’s a platform for creative types and/or entrepreneurs to crowd fund money for a particular project.  I first became aware of Kickstarter years ago when other webcomic artists started using it to fund print collections of their comics.  It’s taken me a long time to get around to doing my own, but here I am.

If you’re interested, please check out not only the project, but my webcomic.  If you think it’s something that should be funded, I hope you’ll consider being a backer.  If you don’t want to or if you can’t, please share the information with others.  The more eyes I have on the project, the better of a chance it has to be successful.

What about my fiction writing?  It’s taken a back seat at the moment, but I haven’t been sitting on my laurels.  I will have news and updates on that soon.  Maybe a post or two about writing in general.  Things have just been rather crazy, as you might imagine.  For now, back to craziness.

Still Kickin’

Been a long while since I posted anything here.  We’ve been through a whirlwind of activity in the past few months.  We moved to a new city, I’ve been working outdoor festivals (long story), and we’ve been trying to settle back into a creative routine.  Needless to say, my writing has suffered, but I’m slowly building steam to get back into the game.

I’m currently juggling the short story that will be added into the collected “Mystery, Murder, and Magic” omnibus, as well as the first Bardsworth novel.  Until I’ve done more work on either/both, I won’t have much to report.  I do, however, have several rants ready to write out one of these days in regards to writing.  So you have those to  look forward to.

Otherwise, stay tuned.  Or, better yet, read my books in the meantime.

I received a bit of a disappointment recently when I woke up one morning and saw a tweet by Lauren Faust from six hours earlier saying that she was doing a Q&A on one of the My Little Pony boards I frequent. I’m a fan of Lauren’s work, including her non-MLP stuff (Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends is one of my favorite cartoons). I went and read through the thread, and while I missed my opportunity to ask any questions, I did get an idea for a blog post.

For those of you who don’t know, Lauren was the creator and driving force behind My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, the newest iteration of the decades-old franchise. However, in season two she stepped down as an executive producer and only had a little bit of a hand (or hoof, if you will) in the show, and in season three (and beyond) she has had nothing to do with it. Unless I’m misinterpreting the clues, it seems to have to do with Hasbro making things difficult because it’s primary function is to make money, and in taking steps towards that money-making it made things difficult for Lauren to maintain her vision of the show.

It’s a typical, and depressing, scenario – commerce overshadowing creativity. And it’s one of the reasons that I maintain my independence as an artist and a writer. I joke about being a control freak, but in reality I want to keep my works close to my chest in order to protect them. And because of tools and services that pop up more and more frequently, things have become easier and more efficient in regards to self-publishing and being a creative entrepreneur.

Sure, by having the backing of a large company you can make more money and reach more people. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t occasionally wish for that. But I would hate for a company to step in and tell me what to do with Bardsworth in order to sell toys of it. Or to have a publisher cut out important pieces of one of my stories to make it fit into a particular demographic. Or to give up the movie rights to one of my properties only to see the finished product become a mockery of my original vision. I’d rather work my butt off getting my name out there and maintain 100% ownership over my creative works.

And that’s not to say that I’m being independent because I’m too stubborn to take any advice on my works. I constantly ask for honest and thorough feedback on the things I do. I’m confident, not arrogant. It’s a fine line, to be sure, but it’s a line that I don’t cross.

I’m not suggesting that Lauren Faust should go independent (although if she ever started a Kickstarter for an independent project, I’d be one of the first to contribute). She’s made it in the industry and that’s what she’s comfortable with. And honestly, we need more people like her out there. But I know I’d never be able to survive in that environment (which is funny because that’s what I went to school for originally).

Heck, I can barely survive working in an office and having bosses tell me what to do.

Yesterday I headed on over to my Goodreads account to check on things. I’m not an active participant there, partly because I can’t dedicate a whole lot of time to it, but mostly because I hate their user interface (completely not user-friendly, but that’s another rant for another time). When I opened the page, I got excited because “Angle in the Shadows” had finally received a review after being out for two months. Imagine my disappointment when I went to read it and it was a two-star review. And from a fan of the previous books, no less.

I’m not here today to agree or disagree with the review. Every reader has the right to express his or her opinion on a published work, and I stand by that. What I do want to talk about, however, is how to react when faced with a negative review.

I feel that the age-old thought that writers (or any type of creative person) should be “thick-skinned” is, in spirit, correct. However, taking it at face value can be a bit detrimental. It’s implying that you should let the negative things bounce off of you, leaving you unaffected, and I can’t agree with that one bit. A writer needs to have many experiences in his or her mental reference library to draw upon, wouldn’t you agree? And that includes the bad with the good. By being “thick-skinned” and not allowing yourself to feel the human emotions of sadness, frustration, melancholy, and even anger when faced with a negative review, how you can hope to understand any of those emotions any better? How can you write those emotions into your stories if you don’t understand them to the best of your ability? And on a more personal note, how can you hope to cope with those emotions if you don’t accept them and deal with them?

It hurts, I know. I was in a funk last night, and I snowballed a bit into some darker territory. The fallout is still in the air around me today, but I’m dealing with it. I’m thinking about the experience and working through it the best that I can.

Bottom line – emotions are part of being a person. Let yourself live through those emotions so that the next time you’re writing for a character that has to deal with those emotions, you can put your experience to words.

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