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.