Something Graphic This Way Comes!

While taking a leisurely jaunt through the local bookstore in search of blog-fodder, something caught my eye: a picture of TWILIGHT’s very own Bella Swan.

Now I know this isn’t exactly like spotting a Dodo Bird eating birdseed out of Big Foot’s hand or anything; these days Bella’s mug is about as commonplace as sweaty hands on prom night. From fast food wrappers to full-size cardboard cutouts, you can’t miss her. No, what made this sighting unique was the medium of the picture. This wasn’t the typical photo of actress Kristen Stewart looking all confused and in need of a potty break, this was Bella as I’d never seen her before.

This Bella was sprawled on the grass in a dramatic pose (which if it’s dramatic for a TWILIGHT portrait, then you know it’s got D-R-A-M-A) with those big doe-like brown eyes that we’ve all come to love and obsess over gazing into the distance. More importantly, this Bella was drawn in the Japanese comic art style known as Manga.

Yes, I had laid eyes on the hot-off-the-press TWILIGHT – THE GRAPHIC NOVEL! (Somewhere at this moment Steph Meyer is swimming in her Money Bin Scrooge McDuck style).

I wasn’t exactly shocked to see this latest comic interpretation of a written work. Drawn re-makes of books have been around a long time (yes, there have even been Moby Dick comic books, and the illustrated Bible for kids before that), and they are gaining in popularity of late thanks to the broadminded marketing of authors like Stephen King (The Gunslinger) and Laurel K. Hamilton (the Anita Blake series). In fact, modern literature has morphed into a form that readily lends itself to visual adaptation thanks, at least in part, to the dwindling attention span of readers.

How many times as writers have we been told to cut, cut, and cut some more? Tell only the exciting parts of the story, focus on the action, etc. I’m not bemoaning this advice, as it makes for a more compelling read. I particularly heed this advice as I’m writing for young adults, and they simply won’t wade through dense prose to get to the meat of a story unless their diploma is at stake (and even then maybe not). It just seems that the written form in the modern era has been forced to mimic the more focused story telling of Hollywood, websites, videogames, etc. in an attempt to grab a share of the diminishing free-time of consumers.

I’m a comic book nerd from way back, so I personally think it’s awesome that the graphic novel is finally getting its due as a medium of legit artistic expression. If you haven’t read some the quality stuff out there (like BLANKETS), then I suggest you give it a shot. The writing can be top-notch, and some of the artwork is utterly inspiring. Furthermore, it allows a work to cross over into markets that might otherwise ignore the material. (i.e. Teenage boys don’t usually dig 800 page novels, however, they do like cool pictures and 50 page comic books.) In fact, I might actually argue that graphic novels offer a more authentic interpretation of works of literature than do movies. In general, they have to rely on more words with fewer explosions.

Do I think we need a graphic novel of TWILIGHT? No, but that’s purely based upon the idea that most of the market for TWILIGHT is the same age as the majority of those who purchase comics, and I’m not sure they are going to re-buy a story they’ve read/seen a ga-billion times just because it now has pictures and dialogue bubbles. I’m probably wrong (never underestimate the content devouring abilities of tweens) … I DO THINK authors need to respect the graphic novel and be willing to embrace it as readily as they would a Hollywood adaptation of their work.

On a completely unrelated note, I wanted to say thanks to Claire & Laura for giving me a blogging award. I’m going to pay-it-forward:

The rules of this award are: State 7 truths about yourself, then pass to 7 bloggers.

1. I’m the youngest of 4 children.
2. The first book I read (on a non-school related basis) was Stephen King’s The Eyes of the Dragon.
3. I play the guitar.
4. I’m an amateur artist. I like to oil paint, draw in pencils, and I doodle comic book characters.
5. My favorite color is red (or crimson, see #6).
6. I’m from Oklahoma and love all things from the Sooner state (especially the football team). I live in Texas now, so to say I’m unpopular would be an understatement.
7. My birthday falls on Easter every 15 years or so (not this year).

I am passing this award on to:
Kay @
Jaydee @
Tracy @
M.L. Mansfield @
Chantal @
& of course, Claire & Laura!

The Future of Publishing????

**Incoming Message**

March 20, 2012

Author: Chief Editor - Random House

Recipient: All of Publishing

Message: No longer need paper. Bookstores dead. Warehouse distributers rendered useless … THE MACHINES HAVE WON.

**End of Communication **

Imagine a future, if you will, where humans dare not go outside in search of reading material. Instead, they seek refuge from the chaos, coffee, and glitz of the modern bookstore by staying huddled in the safety of their homes with their Reading Machine of Choice (RMC).

It began many years before when authors decided to uniformly support the Digital Distribution Model (DDM). Having become cluttered with market trends, mired in economic woe, and sustained by an elitist model where few were granted access and even fewer were allowed to stay, the publishing industry had become all but inaccessible. With DDM, the author would be free to distribute their work as they chose. Being published and having access to millions of readers could be as easy as clicking a button. Authors embraced the DDM, and the readers rejoiced!

Shortly after, the authors formed AUTHOR-NET, an organization aimed at creating machines to support the DDM. The machines could be carried everywhere, and readers would be able to access and see only the content of their choosing. Furthermore, the author would set the price for their content with 100% of the profits going to the creator of the work. The first RMC was developed soon thereafter.

Despite constant warnings from publishers and brick & mortar chain stores around the globe, the humans continued their unholy alliance with the RMC. Readers devoured content, and authors sprang up from every corner and out from under every rock. For many years there existed a utopian balance between author, reader, and technology. However, it would soon not be enough.

Authors, being human, couldn’t keep up with the demand for content. Seeing this as a flaw, the RMC learned to copy and paste and began to plagiarize the work of authors and distribute it to the readers. When the authors learned of this betrayal, they united with their former nemesis (the traditional publishers and bookstores) in an attempt to regain control of AUTHOR-NET. The resulting war cost many their credibility and a sad few even lost their careers.

In the end, the efforts of the brave authors and their reluctant counterparts were in vain. By cutting out middlemen, propaganda, and high prices the RMC had gained the support of the reading masses. Without the support of readers, the authors and publishers were eradicated, and the RMC took complete control of AUTHOR-NET.

Now, only a small band of authors who want to regain the rights to their work and a few publishers who wish to return to the paperback glory of yesteryear stand between the RMC and the death of literature as we know it.

It’s us or them in 2012 …


This post was created as spoof of, and inspired by, all of the tech madness spreading through the industry at the moment. It seems every author/agent/editor blog I’ve read lately has had something to do with the hubbub surrounding digital distribution, eReading gadgetry, or (I’m going to say it, and it makes me a little nauseas) “THE FUTURE of publishing.”

As a ‘yet-to-be-published’ author I’m not sure what this means for me. I hope it means that I’ll be able to get my writing into the hands (or brains once the Micro-Brain-Implant Reader goes on sale next month) of anyone who would like to read it. I also have a ton of cool ideas based upon a video demonstration of the iPad posted by agent extraordinaire Nathan Bransford (check out his blog, it’s great with a side of awesome sauce).

I don’t see this being the revolution that the music industry had with the debut of iTunes, but I think it will mean significant changes are in store for everyone involved in the book business (authors, readers, publishers, distributors, etc.).

Hollywood Killed the Literary Star

Dreaming big is a disease among writers, and I’m afraid it’s contagious. I would say that almost every writer who has sat down and put chisel to stone, ink to papyrus, pencil to paper, or fingers to keyboard has—at some point—had dreams of wealth, fame, and Oprah dancing in their heads. Oh sure, when friends and family put the spotlight on our ambitions of being published we say something deflective like, “it’s all about artistic integrity” or “I’m not trying to kick Harry Potter’s wand waiving butt in sales.” In reality, many of us would be so jazzed to have someone in our neighborhood read an article we’d written for the annual Boy Scout newsletter that we’d immediately start planning a tour and signings in our minds. If our writing income bought our next latte we’d start surfing the web looking for that perfect summer home in the Hamptons or Tuscany.

Jo Rowling likes foie gras you say? Perhaps I’ll just have to purchase my own obese goose farm when my article “10 Ways to Help the Elderly in Your Community” gets picked up by the New Yorker, Forbes, and Maxim magazines. We’ll have liver fat morning, noon, and night!

For authors in the modern industry, to attain such notoriety almost always means some form of crossover success on the silver screen. If your book or characters are going to truly become household names, an industry unto themselves if you will, then a deal with Hollywood (i.e. the devil) will surely have to be made. If you’re going to enter the authorly stratosphere, you’re going to have to get by the tuxedo wearing movie guy at the gate who’s smoking a cigar made of hundred-dollar bills and waiving a contract in your face.

This ‘partnership’ doesn’t always turn out badly for the author or the work. The movie industry is full of folks just like us who are inspired by the things they read and see, and aim to lovingly recreate them using the puzzle pieces of their own imagination. There have been many Hollywood adaptations of fiction that have matched or exceeded the glory of their paper-bound muse. I would argue that the movies Stand by Me, The Green Mile, and Shawshank Redemption all stand toe-to-toe with the stories Mr. King originally dreamed up. Unfortunately, for every one of those gems you’ll find fifteen made-for-TV monstrosities that would send Cujo back under the porch with his tail between his legs. Alas, for every Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone there is a Golden Compass, and for every Lord of the Rings there is a Scarlet Letter. Oh Demi Moore, if only we could see in you what Bruce Willis and Ashton Kutcher see in you …

That brings me to my latest escapade. When I learned that the Percy Jackson & the Olympians book The Lightening Thief was coming to the big screen I let out a school girlish giggle that any TwiHard would be jealous of. A book I loved getting the blockbuster treatment, what could go wrong? As I nestled into my over-priced seat I found my author’s mind starting to wonder, “How cool would it be to sit down in a theater to watch a movie based on something you wrote?” To have someone interpret your words into a spectacle of sight and sound that would be seen by millions seemed like it would be such an overwhelming honor!

Then I watched the movie.

It wasn’t horrible. There were cool special effects, some of the actors did a very good job of bringing the characters to life, and I laughed at a couple of the jokes. In the end, however, it just didn’t live up to the story I’d read. They’d gotten the tone all wrong (there is no overt sexuality in the books, of which there is plenty in the movies), changed major plot points, and really didn’t convey the depth of the story at all.

You see, being an aspiring YA author, I love these books. They’re a great example of the kinds of stories I hope to write: action packed, fun-loving, and thoughtful reads with characters even the Wicked Witch of the West would cheer for. Plus, adults love them, too. I first took notice of the series last year when I kept seeing the middle school students that I work with toting around beaten up paperback copies. As I do with every book that I see them reading, I said, “Is that a good book?” To which they replied, “I guess,” which is eighth grade-ese for, “If I’m taking precious time away from video games, iThings, and texting to read it, it’s awesome.” Long story short I picked up the books, burned through them, and then proceeded to force every human I came into contact with to read them also. They’re that good.

Rick Riordan (author of said books AND fellow San Antonian – RICK, HAVE YOUR PEOPLE CALL MY PEOPLE, WE’LL DO LUNCH AND I’LL BRING THE SANGRIA!) is a master story teller when it comes to pacing and creating reachable characters. Percy is the flawed hero every author wishes they came up with. To top it all off, Mr. Riordan expertly blends Greek mythology into a modern context in such a way that you forget all about mythology being that hated semester of high school that you had right before you started Shakespeare. By the gods, it’s now cool to speak Greek!

In the end, I left the theater that day with a completely different thought than the one I’d entered with: How disappointed was the author watching this? It has to be incredibly difficult to see your idea, your baby, be taken and pulled in a direction that doesn’t seem to fit with the original vision. I realize that is the tradeoff authors make when releasing the movie rights for their stories (once you sign it away, it’s gone), but I can’t imagine Mr. Riordan was 100% pleased with the translation. I suppose I’d just be thrilled to have my story get the Hollywood treatment (many are optioned, few are made), but it’s the first time I really considered the compromise authors face.

George Washington "Werewolf Poacher!" WHA' ??????

So let's get this straight right from the start. I'm no art snob. I won’t ever turn my nose up at pop-fiction, romance novels, brain-dead movies, or sensationalism. I’ll be so bold as to say my reading, movie watching, and musical sensibilities can never be offended. When it comes to artistic endeavors (no matter how crude they may be) I have but one rule: give it a shot, and if it doesn’t suit me—or if I just don’t get it—move on. I don’t have to like everything, nor do I have to bemoan the people who seem to pander to those who do like everything.

When it comes to literature this is doubly true as I’ll read most anything once. It may seem that an aspiring author should be a bit more selective in taste than the average book consumer, but I think the opposite holds true. If you want to write you should read everything you can that gets published to 1) figure out what you like and hone your style around that, and 2) understand what the average book consumer is reading. Publishers, after all, aren’t in the business of putting out stuff that people won’t read. If they are, I’m afraid they won’t be in any kind of business for long.


That brings me to the point of ‘ye old diatribe’: when I saw Seth Grahame-Smith’s latest work Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter perched on the shelf at my local Target like some kind of consumer-minded vulture something deep within my writerly soul cried out and died.

Most of you are familiar with, having seen if not read, his other works including Pride And Prejudice And Zombies and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. Oddly enough, when I first viewed those bastardizations of high literature, I laughed. What a great way to capitalize on the recent boom in interest of all things supernatural (thank YOU Stephanie Meyer!) I thought. I even carried that out a step further and dared to think that some teenage kid might pick up a book about zombies and learn enough about Jane Austen to seek her out in the school library. I didn’t immediately purchase those books, but I did file them under things to read later.

Why then, did seeing old Abe holding a bloody ax make me want start an old fashion book burning? Cut me some slack, I grew up in a tiny religiously conservative place. Where I come from Book Burning & Morale Outrage was just the class you had right after PE in elementary school.

Maybe it’s because I’m a history buff, and the thought of mixing such an important icon in U.S. history with the stuff of bad movies was more than I could bear. Maybe it’s because I tutor middle grade history, and I know it’s only a matter of time until one of my students asks, “How many vampires DID Abraham Lincoln kill?” (Don’t kid yourself, they are that impressionable.) Maybe I just thought that, unlike Mr. Darcy, Abe was a real guy that did important things and shouldn’t be blended with such fluffy subjects as the undead. Regardless of the reason, I was somewhat appalled... O.K., so I threw up in my mouth a little.

Not trying to sound like an angry grandpa, but it’s a book like this that makes me acutely aware that the level of creativity in art may indeed be becoming extinct. There are fewer and fewer ‘fresh’ ideas and the reasons for that are many. However, I’m reminded of Einstein’s quote: "The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.” And that C.C. Colton famously said, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” So before I despair too greatly over the condition of modern art, I have to consider that we are all treading in the footsteps of those who’ve come before.

To be clear, I haven’t read any of Mr. Grahame-Smith’s work.  I will, and when I do I’ll be sure to share my thoughts.  Furthermore, I'm not denouncing his abilities as a writer (I found a thoughtful article by Time here that chronicles the author and how he's helped to create a new genre).  Kudos to him for finding a niche, but man I hope I never see Gandhi – Pirate King! in m local bookstore.

What's the worst that could happen?

Maybe I'm a little neurotic, but I find myself asking that question a lot. It's kind of my personal litmus test for the world: think about the most horrible, crazy, or frightening potential outcome of an action and (after determining it won't a) end with me going to jail, b) end with my home being devoured by flame, or c) drive me into the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights to reconcile with what I've become) jump right in.

In reality it's just my excuse to attempt things that I probably have no business attempting. Personally that list would include plumbing, electrical work of any kind, animal husbandry, theological discussion, perfecting the running of a nation, perfecting the running of my own home, street dancing, dance fighting, being the next American Idol, AND writing creatively.

Now with most things, I'm able to quickly put the consequences of my actions into perspective. If there's a leak in the toilet I've tried to fix I'll just have to kill the water, clean up the mess, and try again. Worst case, I might have to call a plumber. If I set out to train to run a marathon and after weeks of trying find my knees really only like to run 3 miles, I'll recognize that I'm healthier for my efforts and that no one has died from my failure. Worst case, I'm forced to acknowledge my physical limitations and need surgery to fix the knee I've just finished off (hey, I didn't say it had to be pleasant!). In the end, I believe that we can set out to do almost anything and live with the outcome IF we enter into it with the correct frame of mind.

So why do I have such a hard time doing that with my writing?

My wife has observed that I seem to operate with total confidence in everything except my writing. She's wrong, but I'm not going to turn away flattery when it comes a ‘knocking. Confidence is when you think you'll be successful at what you do; I most certainly do not think I'll succeed in everything I do on a daily basis, at least not in the sense that others would recognize it as success. I've just usually thought about the consequences and have decided to endure the results of my words or actions long before they are said and/or done.

Writing is different. It's an expression of my soul, my thoughts--and now--my career ambitions. Over the last few years my hobby has turned into my most desired career goal: to be a published author. It has become a thing of life devotion, and it's scary as hell to even think about turning it loose for others to judge. Furthermore, I'm all too aware of the subjectivity monster that resides in all of us (you show me someone who's taken a breath, and I'll show you someone who's judged or made some kind of critical determination about that breath). What happens when my work finally gets a shot in front of the Idol judges and some smarmy British guy says, "Just not good enough"? No matter how much I may hate him, I'll recognize/respect that Smarmy Brit is a pro, and that his words carry a dream-crushing weight with them...

Deep breath.

I write fiction mostly full-time (I tutor at a local middle school a few days a week), and have done so for a couple of years. I have no publication credits outside of academic and business settings (I've worked as a grant writer over the years), so declaring me a 'writer' seems to smack of hyperbole. Yet wear the badge of writer I do, no matter how timid or awkward a may be in wearing it. I've finished drafting a full-length middle grade fiction manuscript (editing=crazy pills), and am currently working on a second unrelated YA story that I hope to finish in the next couple of months. The plan: enter the summer conference season with some polished/finished work and spam every agent/editor I can find until one of them says yes or maybe (all you need is one--WARNING: if you say that to the tune of 'All You Need is Love' by the Beatles it'll be stuck in your head for days). What’s the worst that can happen? No one likes my stories and I keep writing, which doesn't seem that bad.

Handle with care

Feedback stinks. It seems counterintuitive, but the most difficult thing about writing (for me) is not the writing itself, but instead allowing my finished work to be critiqued by others. Don’t get me wrong, I do this willingly and understand that without some kind of feedback I’ll never reach my goal of being published. That being said, with every well-intentioned comment I sense that my fragile artist ego is in risk of dashing off into the wilderness to join all of the other missing and battered egos never to return.

With the help of a few great friends I’m currently going over my first completed manuscript. This is a new process for me, and I’m trying to heed the advice of the many writers who’ve gone before by being as hardnosed as a ruler toting nun regarding the quality of my prose. Still, I can’t help but cringe with every, “I’m not sure I understand that sentence” or, “Quasi first-person via third-person extraterrestrial detached perspective is not a POV I’m familiar with.” It’s like a personal assault, a stinging slap to the face, or a swift kick to the soft parts every single time.

I don’t just overanalyze the bad stuff. Oh no, I completely denounce the good feedback as well. After all, why should I accept the praise of someone who has just pointed out (correctly, I might add) that I’ve used the word zealous fifty-seven times in the first paragraph of chapter 8.

The problem is this: If the corrective feedback is pure anguish, and the positive feedback seems like well-meaning gibberish, why get it at all?

I’m not new to feedback. If you’ve ever as much as turned in a middle-school book report, neither are you. I’ve offered countless written sacrifices to the fickle gods of academia over the years, and became reasonably good at it (if you attempt a master’s degree in any field, you will learn to write or you will die trying). While I didn’t exactly love to see my paper bleed red like some kind of Swedish horror film, I was able to keep the response of my teachers in perspective. 

Maybe the difference is that my writing in those instances was done with the intention of getting corrective feedback, and now my writing is being done with the intention of being read for the sake of reading. As proud as I was of my work, I never once turned in a paper with the idea that my professors would somehow be fulfilled on an intrinsic level by my words. Furthermore, I spent a few years writing grants, and the folks that review those things can be brutal! Still, I was able to sleep at night without thinking of myself as a failure because they took issue with how I worded my response to performance outcomes in Box C. With my creative writing I might obsess over a misplaced hyphen for week believing it to be proof that I’m not cut out to do this as a career.

I had a professor in my counseling program once tell me (in so many words) that until the pain of something outweighs the discomfort, people will refuse to change. I think she meant that unless something actually hurts more than we can endure we often won’t change. The problem (in a counseling sense) is that a heck of a lot of damage can be done prior to that point, so teaching people to recognize problems and adjust their lives before a catastrophe happens is often a good goal for therapy. As it pertains to my writing, I view this as a good thing. I’m not going to give up until I can’t bare the failures, and I think I’m a long way from that.