Monday, December 18, 2017

What Christmas Songs Can Teach a Writer

"You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch."  The only character more interesting than a villain is a villain who is redeemed.

"Oh, Holy Night"  A powerful story is often best told simply.

"I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus"  Sometimes, something innocent can become creepy.

"The Twelve Days of Christmas"  A one-sided romantic relationship is boring.

"Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer"  The underdog with a reviled talent makes a great hero.  

"Frosty the Snowman"  A great character often deserves a sequel.  ("I'll be back again, some day." ) 

"Carol of the Bells"  Driving rhythm can pull the reader forward.  

"Do You Hear What I Hear?"  You can tell a story through dialogue.

"Silent Night"  A few simple images can create powerful emotions.

“Let It Snow, Let It Snow”  The quiet, homey moments are often filled with the greatest emotions and memory.

"The Christmas Song"  ("Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…." )  Setting alone can show strong emotion and story.

“I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas.”  A fantasy plot makes much more sense with lots of details.  (“There's lots of room for him in our two-car garage.  I'd feed him there and wash him there and give him his massage.”)  NOTE: Best Christmas novelty song ever!

"Good King Wenceslas"  Sometimes, a character is remembered more for kindness than power or glory.

"I'll Be Home For Christmas"  Home and family are two of the most powerful goals within the human heart.  

"Baby, It's Cold Outside."  "This is for your good, not mine" is a great seduction.

“Is that You, Santa Claus?”  Every good thing may disguise a bad thing.

"Jingle Bells" and "Jingle Bell Rock"  The times and tempo may change, but the story remains the same.  

"Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"  Sometimes, the character's emotions and the message aren't the same.  

"Santa Baby"  With the right voice, even Santa and a chimney can be made into a double entendre.  

“All I Want for Christmas Is You.”  Love is the greatest gift.  

SCHEDULE NOTE:  I’ll be spending next Monday, Christmas Day, with my family so there won’t be an article. 

Monday, December 11, 2017

Dealing with the Haters

QUESTION:  When I tell people my first novel is being published by an epublisher, they make fun of me and ask me why I'm not with a "real" publisher.  Ouch!  This really hurts me.  How can I handle the put downs? 

I've been at this business for over thirty years, and I am an ebook pioneer so I've seen it all.  The first thing you need to know is that whatever you write whatever publisher you choose whatever media you write for will have someone making fun of you.  

From your fellow writers and publishing professionals, you will face sneers and contempt.  If you are e-published, if you are self-published, if you write for Kensington rather than Pocket, or paperback rather than hardcover, or if you write romance or erotica or mystery or science fiction or any other sort of fiction, you are looked down upon by someone, and that person has no trouble telling you so.  

From the real world of family, friends, readers, and strangers, people will sneer at you for all the above reasons as well as a few more. Most people think Kobe Bryant works hard for his craft and has a natural born skill, but writers just put words on paper and anyone can do it.  

Over half the people who learn you are a writer tell you that they are going to write a book someday, and they think it will be published instantly.  People believe that most celebrities actually write their own books, and, therefore, if that idiot can write a book, anyone can. 

The most important thing to know is that THEY don't define you. YOU define you.  

I've discovered that my enthusiasm can win over those blank stares. The trick is to believe in what you are doing and who you are. If you give those people with sneers or blank stares the power to define who you are, then you've lost, and you are nothing. 

Instead, believe in yourself and what you are doing. Writing is one of the hardest jobs in the world, and if you succeed, then you are a success. Glow with it, and no one can belittle you. 

Monday, December 4, 2017

Time Travel and the Never-Mind Factor

"I hate temporal mechanics!"  --Chief Engineer Miles O'Brien, STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE

Lately, it seems every time I start flipping through TV channels, I come across some old TV episode that involves time travel.  STAR TREK, in all its permutations, travels through time, the CHARMED witches travel through time, some poor fool on THE TWILIGHT ZONE travels through time, etc., etc.   It’s also playing a large part of this season of AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.

Time travel also seems to be one of the new spices added to different paranormal book series to spice them up a bit.  

The biggest problem with time travel, beyond the mind-numbing paradoxes, is the “never mind” factor when the author uses time travel to fix things.

Something really horrible happens to the main characters, more than a few die, evil starts taking over the world, and life as we know it is about over, then one of the good guys uses time travel to go back before it starts and stops whatever the original cause of the whole mess was.  Everything returns to exactly the way it was before the story started.

In other words, nothing really happened because nothing changes.  I always say “never mind” then something rude about the writing, and decide to find another TV show to watch the next time the writers pull out the time travel plot.

That “never mind” moment means you are cheating the reader of genuine experience.  If unhappiness, danger, and death no longer can be trusted to have meaning, the reader may stop caring when permanent changing moments happen.

The reader can also feel cheated to the point she no longer trusts anything you write, and may very well say “never mind” when your next book is out.