Let's Play Grinch ... You Know You Want To.

The holiday season is reaching its apex, and while there is plenty of joy and cheer to be had, sometimes it can all be a little taxing.  We've all seen (and I'm sure a few of us have had) holiday meltdowns.  You know what I'm talking about.  Like when the person in front of you at the grocery store completely destroys a teenage checker for not asking for their preferred bag-type.  (Paper?  Plastic?  Or holiday death-wish?)  Or when someone starts ramming cars in the Starbucks drive thru in some kind of caffeine depleted rage.

(True story alert!)  I was at the post office last week and saw a 75 year old man hurl his post office box keys at the clerk because they wouldn't open his box.  And to all a good frigging night!  This got me to thinking, a dangerous pastime I know.  We need a safe way for people to vent their holiday frustrations before someone goes to prison.  This is me paying it forward.  Here are the five things I hate the most about the holidays, feel free to create your own lists in the comments.  Consider it an open forum to rant about what really ticks you off.  And remember: If you don't share, I'll hunt you down and make you eat mistletoe (it's poisonous you know).

Be sure to stick around until the end to read about how you can win a Nook Color eReader simply by following a pretty awesome blog!

5. Traffic

While some of you may not live in large cities and not know the joys of a 45 minute car ride to go 1 mile, let me just tell you that even Santa would be ready to punch someone in the giblets if he had sat at the same stoplight for half-an-hour watching only three cars make it through each green light.

4. Work Parties

Is there anything more exquisitely painful than being forced to celebrate a job that is the source of all evil in your life?  How about celebrating that job with 50 people you don't know AND having to act like it's the best time of your life?  Thought so ...

3. People that Hate the Holidays

Yeah, we know your kids are a pain in the rump, that you don't believe in XYZ, and that you'll be drinking martinis and skiing on Christmas Eve.  Some of us spend the rest of the year thinking about THIS time of year.  Don't ruin it for us, and most of all don't destroy it for the kids that are probably listening to you make fun of their parents.  NOTE FROM THE BLOGGIST - I don't hate the holidays, just the game.

2. Long Lines

"I just need a gallon of milk."  Famous last words this time of year.  You expect to wait at the post office, you expect to wait at the airport, and you most definitely expect to wait at the shopping mall.  But a cue at the gas station?  A two hour line at the Red Box machine?  Ouch.

1. Crappy Music

Let me preface this by saying that I love holiday music.  I'm the guy that has it blasting in October.  However, there is just so much wonderful music out there that it befuddles me as to why malls can only play the same 3 awful songs over and over.  My most hated?  Watch the video and curse me for getting it stuck in your head for the rest of the day.

Can someone explain to me how a Beatle churned out that crap?  Anywho, hope your holiday IS filled with cheer and awesomeness.  Remember to be polite, and always carry pepper spray.  


Trailer Talk - Book Trailer Reviews

Howdy all!  Tis the season for late blog entries, long lines, and overpriced shipping ... Hooray!  Seriously, I love just about everything about this time of year, but it can be a little taxing on the nerves.  So let me give you something to take your mind off of your burdens.  If only for a couple minutes--while you guzzle down your favorite hot (or cold) beverage and steady yourself for the 2nd to last weekend of shopping left before C-DAY--I welcome you to kick back and enjoy a couple of book trailers with me.

Together, we can play highbrow and scrutinize the work of others!  How could that not make you feel better about the day?  Leading us off this week is another referred trailer (You rock, Claire!), and it's one you can't miss.

TRAILER # 1:  The Absolute Value of - 1 by Steve Brezenoff

What's It About? (Via Booklist)  "Lily, Noah, and Simon survived middle school together, thanks mostly to times spent together smoking pot and ditching class. Now in high school, Noah has a crush on Lily that goes unnoticed because she only has eyes for Simon. Making matters even more complicated is that Simon’s father is dying of cancer, straining Simon’s unusual relationship with his sister Suzanne. Framed by the funeral of Simon’s dad, this novel gives readers firsthand perspectives of all three characters regarding a series of events leading up to the funeral. At times raw with emotion (“Why didn’t anyone say, ‘Your dad is going to die’?”), the story compellingly explores how teens connect with one another and how they view themselves. Many readers will relate to the feelings of isolation and lack of hope portrayed here. Edgy and gritty, Brezenoff’s YA debut reads like a cross between the screenplay for Cruel Intentions and some of Robert Cormier’s novels. Grades 9-12. --Melissa Moore"

Why It's Full of Win: Woo doggies!  This is a good one!  You know I'm a sucker for the crafty animated trailers, and the Sharpie-style and grainy camera treatment on this one is pitch perfect.  From the opening lines of, "I'm not as dark as I seem,"  you really get a feel for the tone of this book.  It's going to be snarky, insightful, and edgy.  I also loved the soundtrack.  It really gave a nice rhythm to the video.  There is also a powerful lesson to all trailer makers hidden in this gem: You don't have to lead off the trailer with the best hook line from your story.  By placing the "absolute value ..." (the hook) thing at the end, this trailer really finished me off.  Furthermore, it makes me think the author knows how to finish a story and make you think.

Why It's Not: Very few quibbles with this one, but I didn't think the review towards the middle of the trailer was necessary, and may have even detracted from its edge/vibe.  I loved the trailer so much that it kind of seemed like putting an advertisement on the Mona Lisa.  The trailer was probably a touch long, but would have been spot-on had they simply left out the review.

I've Seen the Trailer, Would I Read the Book?  Heck yes.  This one wins on every level.

TRAILER # 2: The Indigo King by James A. Owen

What's It About?  (Amazon book description) "John and Jack are mystified when they discover a cryptic warning on a medieval manuscript—a warning that is not only addressed to them, but seems to have been written by their friend, Hugo Dyson. But before they can discover the origins of the book, Hugo walks through a door in time—and vanishes into the past.

In that moment, the world begins to change. Now, the Archipelago of Dreams and our world both suffer under the reign of the cruel and terrible Winter King. Dark beasts roam the countryside, and terror rules the land.

John and Jack must travel back in time—from the Bronze Age to the library in ancient Alexandria to the founding of the Silver Throne—to find the only thing that can save their friend and restore both words. The solution lies in the answer to a 2,000-year-old mystery: Who is the Cartographer?"

What I Liked: I like the setup.  Someone disappearing into a door in time instantly gets the imagination going, and the music sets us up for what promises to be a frantic, action-packed journey.  Really liked how the art, etc. was juxtaposed onto the maps, which echos the 'journey' theme.  Plus, I thought the use of the old ink drawings gave everything the historical feel of reading a textbook, while the narrative promises to  give us much more than a lesson in the past.

What I Didn't: We learn a ton about the story premise, but very little about the characters.  If you're a fan of character driven fiction, this trailer might not give you much to look forward to.  I would have also liked to have seen some specific historical references--like, 'John must convince Genghis Kahn to love puppies!'--to give us a feel for the author's ability to weave fiction and reality.  It also could have been shortened by 20-30 seconds and not lost much in the translation.

I've Seen the Trailer, Would I Read the Book?  If you're a fan of Percy Jackson, and some of the other action-packed books for younger readers out there, I see no reason why this trailer wouldn't inspire you to give the book a shot.  In other words, I think it is well done, and does a solid job of pitching to its targeted readers.

So what say you, viewers great and small?  Do these trailers get the thumbs up or do we send them back the abyss?  :)

As always, have a great/safe weekend!


When is it time to put your story down?

It's hard to say goodbye to an old friend.  You've been through so much together, after all.

Remember that time when you were so tired you couldn't even think about eating, yet somehow your best friend, Story, kept you up half the night anyway?  Then there was the time you were so sad that somehow even the birds outside had gotten the message and gone silent.  There was Story, offering you an escape that would eventually bring a smile back to your face and a little confidence back to your step.

Things haven't always been great between the two of you.  Like all dynamic relationships, you've had rough patches too.  You've given each other the silent treatment over minor quibbles in plot and character development.  You haven't always had time for one another, going long stretches without any real progress.  Still, at the end of the day you've always had each other.

Sadly, for everything there is a season and it seems that Story is not doing so well.  She doesn't respond to your calls.  She refuses to change no matter how much time and effort you put into the relationship.  Worst of all, it seems that the energy that once ignited the spark between you has gone away leaving a canvas devoid of anything but a flashing cursor.   It's the writing equivalent of a flatline.

Maybe it's time to part ways with Story.  Set her free, and maybe she'll come back to you.  Right?

I've been slogging through my WIP edits for what seems like forever now.  Like most writers, I have good days and bad days.  There are times that I get very excited about the possibilities of my story, and other times that I just want to do bad things to it.  Very. Bad. Things.  In truth, most days I really hate that story.  It sucks my creative energy while I'd rather be working on other projects.  It's a dangling ball of FAIL in my everyday life.  Still, I feel like I've invested too much to let it go.

BTW, it has gone through umpteen critiques, etc. so it isn't for lack of outside perspective that I'm stymied.

I've been planning on doing a post on this for a few days, but hadn't really come up with any real answers.  Maybe there is a point you should give up on your story and move on?  Maybe you should NEVER GIVE UP!  (It is Pearl Harbor Day, after all.)  I've seen both types of advice from writers and agents of all kinds.

Well, sometimes when you ask you receive.  Super Lit Agent Rachelle Gardner had an awesome post on just this very topic today!  I read it.  It hit home to the point that I thought I had to share it with the rest of you.  The subject of her post is what to do when you hate your book, and her advice is simple:  It's normal, just keep going.  Here's the link.  I'm taping it to the wall above my writing desk.

So what say you, readers great and small?  Have you ever hated a story?  Have you ever given up on a story?  Good results?  Bad results?


Trailer Talk - Book Trailer Reviews

Good Friday All!  Has everyone got their holiday shopping wrapped up?  (See what I did there?)  Only a couple of more weekends left!  Just in case you're waiting until the last minute (like I am), let me give you something to help you procrastinate.

The first of this weeks trailer offerings comes via follower recommendation (thanks, Nomes!).  Yes, I do requests here on the OV, and no I don't take any kind of payment or offerings for doing the reviews.  Wether I like them or not is purely my own prerogative.

Now for the dirty!  

TRAILER # 1: The Rosie Black Chronicles by Lara Morgan

The Skinny: (From website)

"Five hundred years into the future, the world is a different place. The Melt has sunk most of the coastal cities and Newperth is divided into the haves, the “Centrals”; the have-nots, the “Bankers”; and the fringe dwellers, the “Ferals”.
Rosie Black is a Banker. When Rosie finds an unusual box, she has no idea of the grave consequences of her discovery. A mysterious organisation wants it – and will kill to get it.
Forced to rely on two strangers, Rosie is on the run. But who can she trust? Pip, the too attractive Feral, or the secretive man he calls boss?
From Earth to Mars, Rosie must learn the secrets of the box – before it’s too late."

What Worked: 
I was drawn in by the stark black & white imagery straight away.  This is clearly a dystopian, and the lack of color paints a bleak setting and tone that would support that style of book/reader.  I really, really loved how the city and girl are drawn in, and then slowly 'un-drawn' as the video progresses.  It creates a visual urgency that fits with the "Time is running out, etc." narrative.

What Didn't: 
Really wasn't feeling the music/soundtrack.  It was so wordy and over the top that I had to watch the video a second time on mute, focusing on the written narrative, to figure out what the story was about.  Also not a huge fan of rhetorical question openings (What would you do?, etc.) and this trailer lead off with no less than 3!  Which leads me to my final nitpick: it was a little long (1:18 ... granted the last 10 seconds are outro).  I'd have started with the "it's 500 years in the future..."

I've seen the trailer, would I read the book?
Maybe.  If I were a dystopian fan, it would be a definite yes.  However, as someone who neither hates nor loves the genre, I didn't see much to indicate what was going on in the story outside of conventions.  Although, the trailer is cool enough that a couple of friend endorsements would be all it would take to push me into the read category.

Trailer # 2: Clockwork Angel (Infernal Devices - book 1) by Cassandra Clare

The Skinny:  (Amazon Review)
"Magic is dangerous--but love is more dangerous still.
When sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray crosses the ocean to find her brother, her destination is England, the time is the reign of Queen Victoria, and something terrifying is waiting for her in London's Downworld, where vampires, warlocks and other supernatural folk stalk the gaslit streets. Only the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the world of demons, keep order amidst the chaos.

Kidnapped by the mysterious Dark Sisters, members of a secret organization called The Pandemonium Club, Tessa soon learns that she herself is a Downworlder with a rare ability: the power to transform, at will, into another person. What's more, the Magister, the shadowy figure who runs the Club, will stop at nothing to claim Tessa's power for his own.

Friendless and hunted, Tessa takes refuge with the Shadowhunters of the London Institute, who swear to find her brother if she will use her power to help them. She soon finds herself fascinated by--and torn between--two best friends: James, whose fragile beauty hides a deadly secret, and blue-eyed Will, whose caustic wit and volatile moods keep everyone in his life at arm's length...everyone, that is, but Tessa. As their search draws them deep into the heart of an arcane plot that threatens to destroy the Shadowhunters, Tessa realizes that she may need to choose between saving her brother and helping her new friends save the world...and that love may be the most dangerous magic of all."

What Worked:
This is clearly a big-time trailer from a mega-popular book that has been professionally done.  The effects are topnotch, the music is Hollywood intense, and there is enough story detail to let you know this is a steampunk/paranormal blending of the highest drama.  I particularly loved the opening vintage film reel vibe.  The trailer has the perfect blend of artistic relevance and commercial appeal.

What Didn't:  
Frankly, there just isn't much wrong with this one.  It's a little long, and the visual tone of the trailer might be a little steampunk heavy for non-fans of the genre.  That being said, if you hated steampunk, I'm not sure this would be a good read for you anyway.

I've seen the trailer, would I read the book?
Absolutely!  I'm not even a diehard fan of either genre (steampunk/paranormal), and this story still sounds amazing.  That's called great advertising.

That's it for this time, check back next week for some more TT, and let me know if there are any trailers you'd like to see reviewed.  Have a great weekend!



How do you rate success?

Howdy all!  Ever have those days when you wished that life had a skip ahead button like your favorite MP3 player?  Yeah, I'm having one of those.  Sadly, there isn't anything specifically bad.  Just a BLAH! kind of day, if you follow me.

To be honest, I've not really been feeling the best about my writing goals and such as of late, and I think that has something to do with it.  I've been 'working' at this writing stuff for awhile--not forever, but long enough to know that I've attempted something.  And lately, I'm not really feeling any closer to what I set out to accomplish a few years ago.

As a goal oriented person I don't mind telling you that kind of freaking drives me crazy.

I have family and friends that know this is what I dream of doing, and that it's what I squirrel away hours of my life working at.  I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel at least a little pressure from that.  That's part of the reason I made it known in the first place.  To create pressure.  To create urgency.  After all, we've all known those people who write and no one even knows it, and they never work at it because they don't REALLY have anything at stake.  Right?  Still, it's a little deflating when they ask me when I'll have something in print that they can read.

I take that as code for: What exactly have you been doing with your time?

Anywho, I'm not writing this as a boohoo, or a "I'm giving up".  I've got perspective.  This isn't a race, it's a marathon. etc., etc., etc.  :0)  I've got tough skin.  I'll read something inspiring in the form of an old favorite book, or perhaps one of your blog posts *wink* *nudge*, and I'll be right back on the crazy train of writerly aspirations.  However, it has got me to thinking about my vision of success.  Maybe that's what is out of whack.

Maybe I'm so focused on what I THINK writing success means to me that it has taken some of the joy out of it all.

So I ask you, readers great and small, what are your terms for writerly success?  Does it ever run away from you?  If so, how do you reign it in?  How do you get your mind off of the big picture and back on the page?


Join me for Vanity Monday! OV Greatest Hits Addition

Hello all!  Hope everyone had a safe, restful, and fun holiday.  I spent the week cooking, eating, and hanging out with friends as we weren't able to get back home to be with family.  The military does that from time-to-time.  Overall, it was a great week.

Unfortunately, due to the long layoff (and certainly the pounds of turkey and various carbohydrates I've consumed have contributed as well), I'm finding it hard getting back into the swing of things.  Consequently, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on the past.  Specifically, I decided today would be a good day to post a few of my own favorite blog posts.

Is it the height of vanity?  Sure.  However, I also thought it would be a good thing because I've gotten several new followers over the last couple of months who may or may-not have had the chance to read these gems.  (Seriously, if I pat myself on the back any harder I may leave a mark ...)  ALSO, I wanted to extend this opportunity to the followers of this blog to share THEIR favorite blog posts.

I'm not sure if you all know each other, but now would be as good a time as any to get acquainted.  So please feel free to provide links to your own favorite blog posts in the comments section.  If nothing else, this should be a good exercise in nostalgia (or hubris).  Can't wait to read what y'all come up with!

Here are my 3 OV (Open Vein) favorites:

3. "George Washington 'Werewolf Poacher'" 

Every now and then I drag out the soapbox, and on this occasion I was scrutinizing the bastardization of classic literature and history courtesy of the book, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

2.  The Future of Publishing 

As most of you know, I'm fairly opinionated when it comes to electronic publishing.  This is the OV post that started it all!  It's totally a spoof by the way ...

1. Battle of the Sexes: Can't We Just Hug-it-Out?

I don't play the dude card very often, but this was the one time I felt obliged.  Re-reading it all these months later, I still stand by every word.  Please don't trip on the soapbox on your way out ...

Again, what are your own favorite blog posts?  Pick a few and stick the links in the comments, or if you're really awesome, do a blog post about it. (But be sure to come share the link with the rest of us!)  After all, if you can't brag on yourself, who can?  :)


Friday Favorites

Hello all!  Hope you're doing well on this fine Friday.  Here on the Open Vein I occasionally like to share some of the tons of great writing advice, news, etc. that I read on a daily basis with my followers, just in case (like me) you get slammed and can't keep up with it on your own.

It's by no means a complete list of what's out there, but these are some of the things I wouldn't want the rest of you to miss.  Here we go!


Recently, Michael Hyatt posted a comprehensive how-to on using Google Reader to keep up with all of your favorite blogs and web content.  I use Google Reader, and I'd be lost without it.  I'd also never be able to explain it half as well as Michael.  There's even a swell video tutorial complete an eyeball-gouge-inducing perky narrator.  If you're not using GR, you should check it out.  Here's the link.


Following an event at a conference she'd recently attended, fellow blogger Margo Kelly posted some useful tips for interacting with agents.  Specifically, Margo was able to have dinner with an agent.  For many, this is a situation made for disaster.  However, I think her tips are perfectly doable and will have you hobnobbing like a pro.  EJ's tip?  Never order the ribs.  You just can't eat them in front of someone and not look like a wolverine munching on a carcass.  Just. Don't. Do. It. People.  Here's the link to Margo's post.


On her blog, WRITE ME, author Erin Jade discusses the ever elusive DO EVERYTHING book.  You know, the book that manages to have all the essential elements of an awesome story like great pacing, dynamic characters, voice, etc., etc.

Funny thing is, as Erin so wonderfully points out, not many stories (even the classics) truly manage to accomplish this.  Her point?  It's okay to have strengths and weaknesses as a writer.  So, if you've ever felt that your story or writing wasn't hitting on all cylinders, you should definitely check out what EJ (she's got groovy initials, right?) has to say, and quit worrying so dang much.  Here's the link.


I'm guessing I'm not the only one, right?  To help us out, super-agent Rachelle Gardner posted an awesome outline of some of the key points of a publishing contract.  Ever wonder what a Unit Break is?  Neither had I, but now we'll know!  Here's the link.


I know many of you have followed lit agent Nathan Bransford's blog over the years.  He's by all accounts one of the real nice guys in the business and a true author advocate.  He's also as sharp as two-year-old cheddar when it comes to writing tips and advice.  Sadly, Nathan announced that he is getting out of the agenting business.  He's still posting on his blog, however, and vows to keep connected.  In a farewell to Nathan, I wanted to share what might be my favorite post of his, which ironically came this week.

We all love Harry Potter here, right?  (If you don't, just nod and slowly walk away ... that's right, just keep walking.)  Nathan shared five things we, as writers, can learn from the series.  You have to check them out, even if you're not a fan.  Here's the link.

it's ... so ... SHINY!

Barnes and Noble is releasing the newest addition to its Nook eReader series in the next few weeks.  It's called the Nook Color, and it's actually a tablet computer (think iPad) with a full touch screen.  It's also about half the price of an iPad.  I have a Nook and will never be parted from it, and this one looks even more amazing as it will allow users to read full color magazines, comics, etc.  Take a look and tell me if you think this is another nail in the traditional book coffin, or just more nerd gravy.  Here's the link.


That's it for this week.   Have a great weekend, and to all of you NaNo folks out there, finish strong!


Did you rock the vote or vote to rock? AND NaNoMonth Poll

So, judging by the election results, I think it's safe to say a chunk of Americans are dissatisfied with the political atmosphere in my country.  What's new?  We change politicians like underwear (regularly ... I hope) around this place.  As always, I'll simply wish the winners the best of luck, because regardless of their agendas, political affiliation, etc. in general the math seems pretty simple:  If they fail, we all lose.  I want my President, congressperson, mayor, etc. to be the best they can be, even if I didn't vote for them.  Too much heaping on and acting as if we're not all in this together, if you ask me.   I digress ...

Being an election week, I thought it would be a good time to poll the audience.  I'm N.O.T. participating in the NaNoMonth madness this year.  I'm too bogged down in revisions (hopefully the last round, but it's best not to jinx these things) to even think about turning my attention to something new.  However, I'd love to know how many of you A.R.E. participating, and what you're working on.

Do you have a name for your NaNo project?  Genre?  Hoped-for word count other than the 50 K?

I'd really love to hear all about it.  And if you're not participating, you can tell me that too, and we can grumble about the people going crazy over it together.

I'm a mean one, Mr. Grinch.  :)


P.S. I always vote to ROCK!

3 Things I'd Change - Harry Potter Edition

Occasionally I get a hankering to try something new here on the old blog, and today is one of those occasions.  I've been trying to read more critically of late, hoping that some of my observation of other writers will rub off on my own writing.  Consequently, I started thinking about my favorite stories and what changes I might have made had they been mine.

For some, it's really a challenge to find anything that could make the story better, the writing tighter, etc.  In the end, this is all just fanciful jealousy aimed at having some fun.  I'm by no means seriously critiquing any  of the stories I feature.  It's just a way to stimulate some debate and thought.

So if it's for fun, why not start with the Holy Grail?  It's the story and author that I have placed on the highest pedestal in terms of YA.  For the sake of our examination, I'll be looking at the series as a whole.

3 Things I'd Change - Harry Potter (There may be spoilers, but let's face it, if you haven't read them by now I'm not sure I can care about you.)

3. Headmaster Snape?  Dumbledore was the ultimate headmaster of Hogwarts.  He was fair, even-tempered, brilliant, and beyond wise.  He was perfect.  Too perfect.

I know, I know.  He didn't always make the best decisions when it came to Harry, but his heart was always in the right place.  Furthermore, the Dumbledore we get to know in book 7 was a very flawed person.  However, that was all after the fact.  When he was alive and kicking he was a goody-goody.

Great conflict = great fiction.  Consequently, I'd have loved to see the potions prof we love to hate, Severus Snape, take over the head spot in book 3 (or so).  Here's my thinking: Why not have Dumbledore run afoul of the Ministry way earlier and leave Snape in charge?  He (Snape) is still obliged to protect/hate Harry, but has much more power.  Dumbledore was at his most badass when he was making the Ministry look like fools and operating outside the "law".  In the end, I think it would have added some depth to both characters.

2. More Ginny?  Yes, please!  Okay, I'm of the camp that kind of thought Harry and Hermione should've become an item.  There was just too much that made sense.  Yet, I do understand the sort of sibling love they had for each other, and frankly Ron and Hermione hooking up was one of the more humorous side plots in the series.  All that being said, I LOVE Ginny Weasley.  She is spunky, powerful, and all the things Ron isn't.  She also revealed (by about the 6th book) that she and Harry fit together quite nicely.  SO WHY THE HECK DIDN'T WE GET TO KNOW HER BETTER?

It took a major character biting the dust 6 books in for the bond between Harry and Ginny to fully manifest.  Sure, he saved her life way back in book 2, but I think the main squeeze of the Boy That Freaking Lived deserves a bit more spotlight.  Having her 'sit out' most of the adventures of the 7th book due to Harry's fear of her getting hurt felt a little like a copout for an underused character that suddenly found herself in the spotlight.  JK is a masterful writer, and she could have easily made the Fabulous 3 (Ron, Harry, & Hermione) a foursome from book 2 on.

1. R.I.P. Harry Potter  This is a story setup for martyrdom from the beginning.  In large part, Harry Potter is an allegory for the cycle of life.  Harry's life/destiny really begins with the death of his parents, and in the end only the sacrifice of his life can allow life for everyone else.  BUT, through the magic of words, Harry finds a way around all that.  He dies, but not really.

Not killing him off was fan/author service.  I realize that.  However, I felt it weakened the overall impact of the story.  JK did such an expert job of weaving themes into her work, and by not killing Harry, I think one of the major themes was left a little tarnished.  Harry made so many sacrifices to defeat Voldemort, but never the ultimate one.  If it were mine, I'd have killed Harry and left Dumbledore alive.    


So tell me I'm crazy!  What do you all think?  Would you have made any changes to the most popular books of our time?  We can all debate this while JK swims in her money bin ...

Let me know what you think about the 3 things.  Should I continue to nitpick timeless works or let them be?  Maybe next week I'll tackle the Bible or some other hack-job like To Kill a Mockingbird.  :)


A Halloween Ode to the Master

I credit Stephen King with many things:

- Making me afraid to go to sleep between the ages of 13 and 21.

- Creating some of the all time scariest, coolest, and absolutely horrible made-for-TV movies ever.

- Masterful exploitation of phobias.  Clowns, dogs, politicians, disease, children ... If you're afraid of it, King will find it and twist it into something even more terrifying.

- Proving that a genre writer can not only achieve popular success, but critical acclaim as well.

- Setting the productivity bar unattainably high.  Seriously, what human can write 4 novels in a year?  Maybe he's not human?

- Not only getting a reluctant teenage boy to read, but to love it, and one day aspire to be an author.

As you can see from the list, I hold the Master of Horror in quite high esteem.  As such, I thought it fitting that I dedicate my first ever Halloween blog post to him by listing my top 5 King novels of all time.

5) Desperation 


I think this is probably the scariest of all of his stories.  It has it all - a small town, religious overtones, an out of control killer cop, possessed animals, and so much more.  Although King had never been afraid to kill off main characters, this is the story that taught me not to get attached to anyone.     

4) Cycle of the Werewolf

The first werewolf story that I'd ever read, and still the standard all these years later.  I was fascinated by the idea of the town's religious leader becoming evil incarnate.  It was also one of the first books I read where the kids were saving the adults.  In that way, I consider it to be one of my first young adult books. The excellent movie, Silver Bullet, was based off of this novella.  There's also some fantastic artwork.  

3) The Eyes of the Dragon

This isn't a horror novel, it's fantasy.  However, it was the first non-school related novel I ever read start-to-finish.  I devoured it.  It's the story of a troubled king, his 2 sons, and a maniacal wizard bent on ruling the realm.  I look back on it now, and see that it was King's ability to create dynamic characters that really made the story shine.  This story was the first that took me out of reality and made me truly empathize with a fictional character. 

2) The Green Mile


Another non-horror novel, or novella, or series ... I digress.  He originally released this story as a series of novellas on a (I think) twice monthly basis.  I remember asking begging my mother to drive me to the store the day the new book would come out (the date of the next installment was printed in the back of each book).  King did it as sort of an homage to the old Western and Crime serial novels.  They were sort of like long comic books without pictures, if that makes sense.  At any rate, The Green Mile solidified (in my mind) his status as not just a great horror writer, but as a great writer.  I wept when John Coffee died, and I wasn't at an age that crying over books was considered cool.  This story contained mystical elements, but the characters were so expertly handled that it seemed entirely plausible.  This story taught me that even the most fantastical tales could contain very real lessons about life and morality.    

1) The Stand

I think this book would be in any true King fan's top 5, and probably tops in most of them.  It was the first 1,000 + page story I ever tackled, and it could have been another 1,000 pages long and I wouldn't have put it down.  To say it's epic would somehow be selling it short.  This story has so many characters, and each of them are as vivid as the memories of your childhood best friends.  From the first pages you really feel like the world is hanging in the balance.  It's the greatest tale of Good Vs Evil outside of the Bible.  

So that's my list!  I know many of you are King fans, what's your favorite?  How about the movies?  Hope you all have a safe/happy Halloween.


TRAILER TALK - Book Trailer Reviews

Two book trailers enter, only one will leave!  Okay, so they might both leave, but I'll tell you what I think nonetheless.

The Skinny: (Amazon product description) "Sixteen-year-old Maddie Dunn is special, but she needs to figure out how to use her new abilities before somebody else gets hurt. Ganzfield is a secret training facility full of people like her, but it's not exactly a nurturing place. Every social interaction carries the threat of mind-control. A stray thought can burn a building to the ground. And people's nightmares don't always stay in their own heads. But it's still better than New Jersey--especially once she meets the man of her dreams..."

Why the trailer is full of win: I love how they keep the narration short and sweet. It opens the trailer to grab your attention, and then they let the written words, music, and pictures do the rest. The art style is cool and teen-friendly. The soundtrack is spot-on to the content.

Why the trailer isn't, as the kids would say, 'beast': It's a little long (it lost my attention around the 1:00 mark, and I had to restart). While I loved the artwork, the story seems like an action-packed superhero kind of thing, and I'm not sure the art supports that theme.

I've seen the trailer, would I read the book? Absolutely. I think the opening hook (teen kills people by accident), and setup are conveyed well. This seems like X-Men, and I'm all over that.

Trailer # 2: Healer by Linda Windsor

The Skinny: (Amazon product description) "Sixth-century Scotland—in the time of Arthur….  "The Gowrys’ seed shall divide your mighty house and bring a peace beyond the ken of your wicked soul.”
Her mother’s dying prophecy to the chieftain Tarlach O’Byrne sentenced Brenna of Gowrys to twenty years of hiding. Twenty years of being hunted—by the O’Byrnes, who fear the prophecy, and by her kinsmen, who expect her to lead them against their oppressors. But Brenna is a trained and gifted healer, not a warrior queen. So she lives alone in the wilderness with only her pet wolf for company. When she rescues a man badly wounded from an ambush, she believes he may be the answer to her deep loneliness. Healing him comes as easy as loving him. But can their love overcome years of bitterness and greed…and bring peace and renewed faith to the shattered kingdom?"

Why the trailer rocks the block: The Etch-A-Sketch art style and music really draw you in.  It feels like something magical from the start.  I also like the lack of a voice over.  Unless it's done well, using real actors and voices can really cheapen a trailer.  This one feels professionally done.

Why the trailer isn't a hit: It takes a little too long to get into the story premise.  Despite being so immersive, the music almost lulls you to sleep.  I'm a fan of dynamic scores in trailers (start slow, end in something sweeping, etc.), because I think they keep the viewers attention better.  I also think the trailer paints the story as more of a romance, and I'm not certain (based upon the description) that is entirely accurate.

I've seen the trailer, would I read the book?  I think I'd give it a shot.  I'm not so much into the romance, but as long as there was some kind of balance I think the story idea has promise.   

Teen Suicide

I'm forgoing my usual blog schedule to discuss something that has been on my mind lately.  It seems like every time I turn around I'm seeing videos, reading stories, and hearing news of another teen suicide.


Most of you who have followed my blog for any amount of time know that I have a background in mental health.  Consequently, I'd like to say right off the bat that the fact that I have a master's degree in counseling does not make me an expert, nor do I claim to have any special insight into the why and how of these tragedies.  I'm not giving out advice or analysis.  Now, let me get right to it.

I work with teenagers, and have for a long time.  I have teenaged nieces and nephews that I love like sisters and brothers.  I was, at one point, a teenager.  It's a hard age.  There are so many things pulling at you.  Love.  Sexuality.  Education.  Family.  Expectations.  Identity.  On and on it goes.  I think what makes it so hard is that, at such a young age, you feel like you have little to no control over any of it.


Ask any adult, and you'll know that we feel the same things.  The difference?  As adults, we've lived long enough to have perspective.  All of the bad stuff will pass.  You understand that what looks like a dead end today can be a wide open road tomorrow.  As you live, you see that some of your best moments have come from some of your darkest hours.

While this all sounds fine and good, here's the reality:


A typical approach to preventing teen suicide is to appeal to the demographic.  In the end, it is a personal choice.  However, I'm going to take a different approach.  I know that most of the people who follow this blog work with teens, are interested in writing for teens, or otherwise have a vested interest in the lives of young people.  So, I'm going to ask, challenge, and beg you to take a stand.  You can make a difference.

The next time you see bullying, intervene and stop it.  The next time you see a quiet teen, ask them how their day has been.  When you see the awkward kid at the mall wearing too much black, smile at them instead of shaking of  your head in disbelief.  Instead of assuming that you have nothing in common with a teen, take a few minutes to find out.


I'm certain that we can every one of us make a difference.  The thing that should keep us all up at night is knowing that you can never be certain when you'll make that difference.  After all, if we could easily identify teens that are likely to harm themselves, we wouldn't be having this discussion.

So I challenge you readers to go to your own blogs, your own schools, your own community, and your own homes and become an activist.  Let teens know that it's not okay, that they will be missed, that there are alternatives, and that there is hope.  Let adults know that it's okay to speak up, and that it's okay to approach teens.

I didn't write this to make anyone feel bad, or to place blame.  I just finished reading a post from a fellow blogger/follower who is trying to cope with a suicide at her school.  (Please stop by her blog to offer your support.)  Not 3 days ago did I watch the video I've posted below.  Teen suicide is an epidemic, and sadly I think it's one we can prevent.

The following video absolutely broke my heart.  It addresses one aspect of teen suicide, bullying, but I think the message needs to be heard by everyone.

Return of the Redeye

I've returned from Europe a wiser, heavier (seriously, who could eat that much pasta and gelato and not gain a little weight?), sleepier (still getting up at 3 AM wide awake ...), and creatively charged individual.

From the glitz of Paris to the rolling hills of Tuscany, I've seen, heard, and experienced so many beautiful things over the last couple of weeks.  I could probably fill this blog for a year with accounts of doing/seeing things that I'd previously only been able to dream or read about.  I won't do that, but here are a few highlights.

I heard the water lapping at the sides of a gondola in Venice ...

 I studied timeless works of art at the Louvre ...

I had dinner in front of the Eiffel Tower as it sparkled ...

View from the top

I walked amongst the early marvels of modern civilization in Rome ...

I spent time in perhaps the most resplendent manifestation of faith to ever be constructed, St. Peter's Basilica ...

I heard the church bells of Notre Dame ...


I drank wine in a 1,000 year old castle/vineyard ...

I strolled the gardens at Versailles ...

I stood in the shadow of Michelangelo's David ... 

Sadly, they didn't allow photos in the museum.   :(   Incidentally, a guy collapsed right in front of me while I was admiring the statue.  My wife had to do her doctor thing, but that's a story for another time ...

There is just so much to share.  The above are a few of the hundreds of photos I took on our trip (excluding David in cutoffs ...).  I'll post more in the next few weeks.  I was so inspired by all of the art and ancient beauty that I wanted to share a little of that with all of you creative folks.

Speaking of which, I'd like to say one BIG thank you for all of the comments on my automated posts while I was away.  I'm just now starting to catch up on all of your blog posts, and I have to say that you've all been very busy.  I'm reading some great stuff!

Truly hope you've all been well.


Giving Up

We've all faced a moment when giving up seemed to be the only option.  To continue to struggle would yield too much pain, too much embarrassment, or too much compromise.  A moment, when defeat seemed the only end to our suffering.

"Death is nothing, but to live defeated and inglorious is to die daily."  - Napoleon

Have you ever asked, "Why am I doing this?"  I do.  I have.  I will continue to.  I constantly consider (and reconsider) my ambitions to be a published writer.  I read so many wonderful things on a daily basis, and never once do I not stop to consider, albeit fleetingly: Am I good enough to do this?  I marvel at all of the talented people in the world, and wonder if I could ever create on that level. 

“If you can accept losing, you can't win.” - Vince Lombardi

That's when things get interesting.  It's in those moments when I'm most convinced that I'm waisting my time that I suddenly get some clarity.  When I'm convinced that I'm not using my other abilities and education to the fullest, instead choosing to toil away at something I may only be average at, it suddenly makes sense.  

I keep at it, because I understand that failure is a symptom of success.

“Victory is sweetest when you've known defeat.” - Malcom Forbes

Part of what enables me to keep going are the things I read from each and every one of you all.  Every writer has struggled with fears of failure, not being taken seriously, and the futility of working alone for days (weeks, years, etc.) without affirmation.  Blogging has been great, because it has allowed me to get to know lots of people who face similar challenges.  Although I've never met any of you personally, we share something very important: A shared enthusiasm for, and love of, literature and the burning need to put to paper the craziness that proliferates our minds.  Just know that there are others fighting the same fight gives me courage.

“But there is suffering in life, and there are defeats. No one can avoid them. But it's better to lose some of the battles in the struggles for your dreams than to be defeated without ever knowing what you're fighting for.” - Paulo Coelho

So I ask you, what do you do when you face defeat?  If giving up has ever crossed your mind, where did you turn?  Better still, what do you plan to do the next time doubt creeps up on you?



Here's another knowledge bomb, coming to you via author Elana Johnson (she also follows this blog, so show her the love!).

Elana is something of a query letter ninja, and she has even published a book all about it.  In a recent post on her blog, Elana discusses basically why you need to write your cover copy (that chunk of print you read on the back of a book to see if it's any good) as your query letter.  Elana did, and her query letter ended up as her cover copy!  Here's a snippet of what she had to say:

"every single word in the query letter is crucial. You never know which ones are going to make it all the way through to the book. "   

Elana's point is that your query must be beyond awesome, or BEAWESOME!  Go check out the entire post, you won't want to miss it.



I do a weekly recap of 5 great web-things that relate to writing called the Fab-Five Friday, but oftentimes I find way more than 5 useful things.  So, I've decided to periodically drop a knowledge bomb full of writerly goodness in hopes of sharing even more of the things I come across that inspire.

Todays bomb is courtesy of author Gail Carson Levine, who discusses what to do when you are asked to perform re-writes and/or edits.  Gail's thoughts are profound and encouraging.  Here's an excerpt of what she had to say:

"Just listening works well under any circumstance.  If we explain or defend, the criticism doesn’t penetrate.  We need to sit with it before we understand its value - or worthlessness."

So head over to her blog to check out her entire message, it's one I wouldn't want any writer to miss.  

A Different Take on Censorship

First off, I was blown away by all of the great responses to the 'goals' post.  You're a dedicated and driven bunch of folks, and I'm proud to be associated with all of you.  I was inspired by your motivations, and it gave me a much needed kick in the pants.  So for that I say ...

Now, let's get down to business.  I know that most of you are very active bloggers (both readers and authors) in the writing world, so you've undoubtedly been following the latest dustup in the free speech war.  September happens to be Banned Book Month in which we celebrate condemned literature, so great timing!  Right?   

Here are the details.  It seems some fella in Missouri decided to encourage parents, school, etc. to ban the YA book Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson.  I'll not go into great detail regarding his complaints, nor will I use the name of the person on this blog, chiefly for the reasons I'm about to discuss.


Wait a second, EJ.  Don't you mean it's a horrible thing?  Did you intend to say that it sets our culture back thousands of years, and it creates a repressive environment for artists?  Surely you meant to say that book banning is BAD, BAD, BAD!

NOPE.  I think it's tremendous news for the author, for readers, and for the lasting appeal of the book.  Notoriety and outrage are often two-sides of the same coin.  Infamy is sometimes the precursor to greatness.  L.H. Anderson couldn't pay for this kind of publicity.  

When the spotlight shines, people pay attention.  People who would otherwise not care will line up to see what the fuss is about.  Furthermore, if you've ever spent 10 minutes with a teenager, you know that the best way to get them to do something is to tell them not to.  

Let's take a look at some notable banned books.  The Bible.  Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.  The Da Vinci Code.  The Grapes of Wrath.  Uncle Tom's Cabin.  Catcher in the Rye.  Animal Farm. And many, many more.  


Here's the ironic part.  The outraged parties who fear the message of these books, those who are terrified of conflicting world views, and those who would go to any length to not have their POV challenged have no one to blame for the success of these books but themselves.     

The bottom line is this:  More people will read Speak because of what this yahoo said, not less.  

Now I'm not supporting the attitude behind censorship, and I'd encourage all of you to fight this kind of stuff, particularly at the local level and in your own homes.  However, I do hope that poorly informed, misguided, and outright ignorant people continue to throw a fit when they read something that scares them.  That's the only way to guaranty that these works will live on.  


NOTE FROM THE BLOGGIST:  Several of you have referenced this topic on your own blogs, and the responses I've read are wonderfully written.  I'd encourage you to put your link in the comments section of this post to continue to spread the word.  Plus, you can go to Laurie's website/blog and lend your support.   


Photo via Fastsigns blog - Click for website
I'm trying to get back into the blogging groove, and the last post was a big help.  A big thanks to all of you who've wished my dad a speedy recovery, and supported him/me with the blog-love.  I believe in positive vibes, and dad should be River Dancing by Christmas with all of the well-wishes you folks have been sending.

While I was away from the blog, with sketchy internet and very little time to do much else, I was able to step back and consider just exactly what this blog is about, and where it is headed.  In short, it has always been about sharing the passion I have for writing and reading with others who enjoy the same things.  It's also about building a network of peers.  Almost all of my followers are writers at various stages in their careers.  Some are agented, some published, some toiling away in the dark, like me, and some who are hobbyist who simply enjoy reading and/or writing.

Writing is a typically solitary activity, and unlike other jobs where you show up and mingle at the office, the only way you're going to meet people in this business (pre-publication) is to go to a conference or get active in the vast (and growing) online community.  That's why I started this, and that's why I'll continue to do it.

So, as much as I do love seeing a new follower (yes, I dance, sing, and then follow/read your blogs while singing and dancing!), when it's all stripped down I recognize this isn't about self-promotion.  This isn't even about building some kind of pre-fanbase to jumpstart my writing career.  If it were, at the rate I'm going my internet presence would merit publication interest in 2089, and by then I'm certain the machines will have won.

All of that being said, I also believe in goal setting. I've already stated a my motivation: fun and networking.  How about a specific tangible goal?  When I started back in February/March of this year, I thought, Man, I'd love to get to 20 followers!  Now I'm up to 37, and I'm starting to think, Wouldn't it be cool to be to 50 by the holidays?  Again, this isn't about the number.  I "know" almost every single person who follows this blog, and by know I mean I read their blogs, interact with them on various writing sites, and/or comment regularly on their blogs.  These aren't nameless internet folks, nor are they my real family members.  The way I see it, these are friends and co-workers.  

How do I reach those goals?

First, I need to provide information or content that is worthy of your time.  I really try to pay attention to the posts that draw the most interest and feedback, but I'm not certain I've done a good enough job of building on those types of things.  So I'll do more of that.  Second, I have to continue to find new people with similar interests online, comment on their blogs, and get involved with what they're trying to do.  It sounds counterintuitive, but spending time getting to know other people via their content, etc. is the fastest way to build your own network.  So many of you who follow this blog have done so because I've stumbled across your blogs and commented, or because I've got to know you via a message board.  Pay it forward, and your network will grow.

What are your goals and ambitions?

Despite appearances, the reason of this post is not to reveal some new blog direction or come clean about my abilities (or lack there of).  I wrote this to challenge all of you to think about your blogs, dreams, goals, and ambitions.   Furthermore, I'd like to draw some inspiration.  I'd love to know (in the comments, etc.) where you started, how far you've come, and where you hope to go.

Hope you all have a tremendous weekend!


P.S. - There is an awesome contest going on at the Bookshelf Muse blog.  There are query and page critiques, PLUS a chance to be mentored by an up-and-coming author!  It's one of the cooler, more unique opportunities I've seen.  Plus the blog is great, so go check it out.

P.S.S. - New look.  Like it?  Hate it?  Meh?