Name: Oh, let's just call me "Mr King" for now, shall we? It's the most convenient one to use for the moment, at least.
Age: Now that's just rude. You should know better than to ask that of someone of my advanced years.
Occupation: I suppose you could call me a "professional gamer". I've been engaged in this one particular game for just about as long as I can remember.
Tell us a little about yourself:
Sigh. If you insist.
Let's keep it short, though, shall we? Information is, after all, a dangerous thing. Putting too much "out there" might result in my enemy getting the upper hand.
My enemy. Ms White, as she seems to be calling herself nowadays. Don't let me get started on her please.
Our little competition has been dragging on for quite some time now.
How long? Well. Just think of the longest stretch of time you can imagine. No, think bigger. Really long.
Yes. It's even longer than that.
I do feel that things are coming to a head now, though. Most of the boards have been swept, our strategies are converging. Things are going to happen in a big way soon, I can feel it.
No details. Yes, I know you're desperate for them. Tough luck there. But there's something in the air. "A vast image out of Spiritus Mundi troubles my sight", as someone once wrote.
Just a few more gambits and this game will be over - one way or another. My biggest problem now is going to be them.
Yes, those six kids of hers. Of Ms White's. Kaz, Andy, Meesha, Jason, Pegah, Samir. They were just another tool of hers that first day I saw them. Another set of worthless pawns.
But if I let them reach the other side of the board, then they become something else. Perhaps it's time I nip this in the bud. Stop them now before things get any worse.
The hospital, then. St Mercy's. I've already sent my disposables in. She must be sending hers, too.
This is my chance. If I win this, the game could be mine. And I can finally put that red cross in the "win" column.
The time has come.
Here it is: the book trailer for the Sleepwar Saga so far...
Enjoy - and please share it with everyone you know!
In preparation for Book 2 - Red Cross - releasing on Sep 25th, Book 1 will be on sale for a few days to give you time to catch up on the series!
Read up on the adventures of Kaz, Andy, Meesha, Jason, Pegah & Samir before they take their next steps on Sep 25th in the pages of Red Cross!
Yes, it's that time, folks!
Sep 25th is almost here - the day "Red Cross" is unleashed upon the world.
And to whet your appetite, here's the latest "Sleepwar Saga" cover:
I'm so excited to share this book with all of you, and I hope you'll enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it.
Haven't caught up with Book 1, though? No worries! Before it's released, I'm having a Kindle sale where "Straw Soldiers" will be a mere 99c for a few days. (Details in a later blog post.)
Thanks so much for your interest, guys, and don't forget to share this blog post everywhere!
Name: Andy Flashman
Occupation: High school senior, quarterback for the Cosby High Swordfish
Tell us a little about yourself, Andy:
So, uh, hey. I guess.
I'm supposed to fill out this bio for... something? They didn't tell me what.
You might have seen me on the field. Our team - the Swordfish - we're kind of awesome. A bunch of great guys (and Derek). A lot of them are going on to play football in college, which is cool.
I'm... Well, that kind of depends.
UNL is my dream college. Playing for the Huskers? I can't think of anything better. But the cost...
Scholarships are a thing. Just waiting to hear about all of them. Probably be any day now. A guy can dream, right?
Ugh. Dreams. Don't even talk to me about that right now. Less than a month ago (was it that long?) I had an... incident.
Yeah, let's call it an "incident".
It seems crazy. I know that. I can hear myself talk, read the words I'm writing. When I say that I went to sleep and - instead of lying in my own bed - found myself in some po-dunk Iowa town with five other high school kids more or less my own age, you'd think I was talking out of my ass.
And I haven't even gotten to the bit where walking scarecrows attacked us.
Five nights in a row this crap happened. Until we defeated the scarecrow army and that creepy dude in the red suit who was behind it all. Mr King. Then my sleep was normal again, just the usual dreams. No danger, no creepiness, no supernatural hocus-pocus.
In other words: boring. Yeah, I kinda miss it.
Will I ever see those guys again? Jason, Meesha, Samir, Pegah... Kaz? Kaz, with the flowing red hair and the--
No, Andy. You have a girlfriend. Stop that.
Anyways, so here I am. Waiting. Wondering what my life is going to be, because I sure as hell don't seem to have any say in it. Curious each time I close my eyes at night if my head will really hit the pillow, or if I'll be "there" again.
With them. Fighting evil.
Man, my life is weird.
What does this have to do with writing, you ask?
Good question: absolutely nothing.
With that out of the way, some folks have expressed interest in making Indian curry the JDB way. And who am I to deny them the knowledge of my years of wisdom?
What you need to know up front: I have very idiosyncratic tastes. I hate everything, and so I have to adjust my recipes accordingly. That is why you will find no onion in my curry - which may sound odd to... just about everybody.
Secondly: I don't measure. So this is not a recipe. It's just a vague description of my cooking process. So there.
I start by skinning a 1" piece of ginger root, and enough cloves of garlic to equal that volume (4 or 5 or so depending on their size) and grating those together with a smidge of water to make a paste.
Also, I like to use some fresh peppers - especially serrano peppers. Chop 'em up real small. This last time I forgot, so I used some dried ghost peppers which was still nice.
Then I dice some tomatoes (let's say 4) into small chunks, too. Or use a can of crushed tomatoes when I don't have money - which is always.
The cooking part of the cooking
So: heat a couple tablespoons of vegetable oil in a saucepan on medium heat. Dump in the chopped chilis and the ginger-garlic paste. Stir together for 1 minute or so. I also like to use a splash of soy sauce. (Yes: soy sauce!)
I'm weird. I know it.
Next, add in the tomatoes and keep 'em on the heat (stirring often and squishing them down) for, like, 6 or 7 minutes? Yeah, that sounds good.
Here's where you sprinkle in... stuff.
I put probably a couple teaspoons of coriander. Maybe 1/2 of turmeric? Ish? A couple teaspoons of chili powder and maybe some pepper flakes, too. A good sprinkling of salt (descriptive, no?) and a dash of cinnamon, tiny wee bit of ground cloves, some dried fenugreek leaves, and an eensy bit of asafoetida powder. Sometimes a splash of vinegar, too, if I feel like it. Oh, and a smidge of sugar, since I had no onions.
Is that everything? Maybe. I just put in what seems good. (Hope you're paying attention to these instructions...)
Stir it all up, then dump in chunks of whatever meat I found cheap that week. About a pound and half or so. Anywheres from one pound to two, really. Y'know.
Coat the meat in the sauce and spices, browning it, for a few minutes. Stir, stir, stir.
Then cover, turn the heat down low, and simmer for about an hour.
If you have some, chop a bit of cilantro to add when the curry comes off the stove. I serve it over basmati rice flavored with salt and turmeric.
The eating of the food
This "recipe" makes two very large servings, if I'm having no side dishes. More if I augment it with some kind of roti.
Save the leftovers (if any) in an airtight container in the fridge. Tastes even better the next day!
I've talked before about being a "Plotter". I don't write without knowing everything that's going to happen in the story (but leaving room for surprises to happen along the way).
So what does that look like? Well, for me, in many ways it's like putting together a jigsaw puzzle.
First, you have to decide what difficulty level you're going for, what length of project. Is it a 200-piece puzzle, or a 550-piece? Then: is it the picture of puppies, the sailboat, or the bridge of the Enterprise?
After that is the hardest part: starting. You see, it's not just a puzzle. It's a puzzle that has been knocked over.
Because you don't have any of the pieces to begin with. Here and there on the floor you can see a couple of puzzle pieces, but on their own you have no idea what they are or how they fit into the bigger picture. But following the trail of pieces leads you to more, and eventually you find the mother lode: the stash of all the puzzle pieces somewhere underneath the coach.
Of course, the work isn't over yet. Oh no. You have to sort through the pieces, find which goes where - tossing out any pieces that you think belong to another puzzle altogether.
It's hard work, this, but satisfying. You get to see the picture come together. And it's a fascinating experience, at times, to find that what you thought was a bird's eye is actually a black shirt button, and that edge piece is really an odd-shaped center-piece.
But once the picture is complete, you can start the actual writing, knowing in full what you're going for, what the actual story is. Because if a character isn't heading for a specific destination, they really aren't headed anywhere at all.
Right now, in planning Book 3 of The Sleepwar Saga, I'm at the early piece-collecting stage. I have a handful of disparate segments, but I'm just on the verge of them leading me to the main pile of spilled pieces.
And soon will begin the main planning of the book. And then, the writing. I just can't write about the basket of puppies without seeing what the completed jigsaw puzzle looks like in the first place - writing about a few loose puzzle pieces just leaves me with a mess of purposeless prose.
Could also be called:
Sky Captain and the Temple of Doom.
I love a good pulp novel - and a good pulp movie serial as well. Here I get something of both.
For while this book is a tribute to the old pulp works, to me it reads more as a pastiche of the cinematic pulp adventures than the written ones. Indeed, the author seems to say as much in the book itself.
Furthermore, I catch more than a hint of the modern tributes to the pulp classics. For example, it feels more like Sky Captain than it does Sky Raiders. More The Rocketeer than The King of the Rocket-Men.
And that's not a bad thing. A modern sensibility to the period-pastiche is a nice touch which I appreciate. And while it does a good job emulating a 1930s environment (I was able to picture the whole thing in black and white) I personally think it has elements of a more contemporary storytelling style that help it remain relevant to today's reader.
It's not too deep, I'll tell you that. Nor is it trying to be. What this book wants (and what it succeeds at) is to be a rollicking adventure drenched in the spirit of 1930s pulp sensibilities. It is pretty steadily-paced with a plethora of cliffhangers, and it never flags.
Some storytelling problems include very uneven chapter lengths (which disrupt the pacey flow a tad) and a very swift ending which follows a late plot revelation that could have fueled much more story beyond that point.
In addition (and this is the only thing that knocks the rating down a peg) there are frequent (and I mean ubiquitous) typos and punctuation errors. If these bug you too much (and they usually do for me) then prepare yourself because they are impossible to ignore. A lot of word repetition finds its way in as well, though this is a stylistic criticism rather than a technical one.
I don't want to seem down on this work as I enjoyed it a lot (and look forward to reading the sequels which this initial book leaves room to improve upon) but the flaws have to be noted. And they do detract - even if less than they might have.
"The Skyhook Pirates" is intentionally derivative. Don't expect much innovation here. The skill involved here was stitching together various elements to achieve a surprisingly cohesive whole. It ought not to be as good as it is with so many disparate ideas masquerading as one story, but it works dammit. The diversity helps make the plot seem fresh as the story unfolds - like each new chapter of the movie serial has its own character, but is telling one overarching story.
So, yeah. Get it if you like old pulp stories. Avoid it if you don't, because it makes no pretense to be anything other than what it is - and rightfully so.
My name is Doug, and I am an addict.
It's been four days since my last adverb. Already I find my fingers itchy, desperate to type that beautiful "-ly" at the end of of a word.
Adverbs are not inherently bad; I know this. Used in moderation they are descriptive and poetic. But I know I can never use just one.
Sure, it starts with a "softly" or a "wryly". But before you know it the adverbs are spilling off of the screen and I wake up in a pile of my own vomit, staring at the page I have written in my stupor:
"Hi there," said Fred breezily.
"Hello," Jennifer replied flatly.
Frowning, Fred delicately inquired, "Is everything okay?"
She sighed. "I guess," Jennifer answered despondently.
Friends don't let friends abuse adverbs. I need your help.
It's a struggle, but if I can get through today without an adverb, I know maybe I can do the same again tomorrow. And then the next day. And the next.
One sentence at a time, my friends. One sentence at a time...
You shouldn't choose because, of course, "Plotter" is the obviously correct selection.
I kid, but let me back up a bit: What are these terms?
Writers tend to use these words to describe the two basic types that make up their group. "Plotters" plan the story out in advance, and write to an outline. "Pantsers" make it all up on the fly.
So which is better? This is what I came here to explain: there is no choice. You don't decide which path to follow; you learn which group you are already in.
It's not about technique, it's about the way you naturally write.
Some will say that Plotters leave no room for inspiration to hit, or that Pantsers hit writer's block and give up too easily. Neither of these are necessarily (or even often) true.
Let me lay my cards on the table: I'm a Plotter. And how. I can't even start writing until I have every last beat of the story figured out. I just can't do it. (Or rather, I can't do it well, which is kind of the point.) If I try to write without a very sophisticated outline, the story just veers off into nowhere and I have to delete vast swathes of text and start again.
For me, a story needs to have a shape. I don't just put finger to keyboard and see what comes out. I know what comes out: nonsense. A story is about progression, about characters following their nature but encountering hiccups and overcoming them and developing in certain precise and entertaining ways. If you just let them bumble about doing whatever they feel like, it might be believable but it sure as hell won't be entertaining.
Ah, you may well cry, that is what rewriting is for. And this is true. Many writers find the story in the redraft stage and get everything into shape then. Me? I'd rather do all that pesky rewriting before the writing has actually started.
It's much easier to redraft a "beat sheet", or treatment, than a 90,000 word document.
But have I abandoned all artistic integrity by sticking to an outline? Have I hamstrung myself, leaving out all sense of inspiration and become a slave to a blueprint that I have bound myself to?
Not at all. In those cases where things start developing in ways that contradict my outline (and yet seem potentially more interesting than my outline) I see where that takes me and develop a new outline where necessary. (Or else realize I was right the first time and return to an earlier file which I conveniently saved when I began to deviate.)
Similarly, Pantsers are not necessarily more prone to giving up due to writer's block than Plotters. We Plotters have the same writer's block - we just experience it earlier (in the planning stages). Pantsers, in some ways, have a better reason to just plow ahead and see where the story takes them; if a plotter becomes stuck on how to implement his or her outline then it becomes harder to just power through the blockage.
So neither is necessarily beneficial. There is no reason to choose between the two, based on merit. What is important is to find out which of the two you are and do so quickly. The more time you waste following the wrong technique, the harder it will be to write anything half-way decent.
I legitimately do not understand Pantsers. How is it possible to craft a comprehensible and entertaining story without knowing where everything is leading? There are so many strands to a novel that I do not see how a writer can cause them to artistically convene and converge in any kind of believable and satisfying manner by doing it on the fly.
And yet it is done. Again and again, every single day, by artists whose talent is far above my own. I couldn't do it, that is for sure. It's not about choosing, it's about discovering. And I discovered very early in my life that I can only produce a satisfactory story by doing all the donkey work up front.
You may be the opposite. You may find that any outlining you do results in a mundane and predictable story that satisfies no-one, and the only way to create something of worth is to sit at the keyboard and figure it all out as you go.
It's not a choice; it's an identity.