As most of you know, I consider myself a professional writer. Yes, I am compensated for my work and I do offer this blog as a freebie for people to get an idea of my style and thoughts. Today I’m going to have a little bit of fun and share with you some little-known things about me from a writing standpoint. You may be rather surprised, or not at all.
I actually hated writing as a boy.
This can be directly attributed to the fact I preferred drawing, as well my teachers using writing as a punishment rather than a tool for creativity. The “gulag” mentality within the Hazleton Area School District was rather strong in the 1980s. Thank goodness the current generation of teachers eschew the “old ways” of writing 100 sentences as punishment. True story: I once was so quietly defiant about not finishing my homework, I had to write “I will not forget to do my homework” almost 700 times! Yes, I still “forgot” afterwards. I got into creative writing in high school because of a junior-year creative writing assignment in my English class which whet my appetite. Of course, that would be the week we studied Thoreau, who seemed obsessed with death. Go figure.
Cartoons and comics were more than just entertainment for me.
Like any child, I watched my share of cartoons and read my share of comics. I loved a good episode Superman or Bugs Bunny, and fell in love with Transformers and other science fiction cartoons and comics. I was always the first one geabbing the New York Daily News, which had one of Americas biggest Sunday funnies sections, and made sure to buy The Atlanta Constitution on Sunday while in college, without fail. However, I rarely laughed at the comics and cartoons I took in, and the question on my mind was “why.” That’s when it hit me; I wasn’t reading and watching for entertainment value, I was studying the work. The storylines, the artwork, the flow, the voice acting, the errors and glitches were things I picked up on. They became a quasi-fellowship in art as entertainment for me. Where other kids laughed at the Flintstones and went “wow” at Voltron slicing an enemy in half, I marveled at the imagination, took in the stories of the origins of Superman, Batman and Spider-Man, and sat in amazement at the animation quality of GI Joe and Ducktales. I was astonished at the fluidity of the Jetsons and raw, unpolished appeal of Yogi Bear. What was entertainment for others was a classroom for me.
My first novel, A 38 Day Education, almost DIDN’T happen.
After writing a “memoir” of my days running my college newspaper, I shared it with some friends. One strongly advised me to rework it to avoid any appearance of attacking anyone I knew. My father, however, was the most instrumental person in getting this project off the ground, but rather indirectly. It was my first foray into storytelling on a professional level which launched me down this path. I had been mulling an “unauthorized story” of my career in circulation at the Tampa Bay Times following my departure from there when he had recommended I write an allegory instead of an actual account. So I reworked it and loved it. I loved creating the world of the Sun-Courier, molding the character of James Allister, making publisher Alan Phelps into the nasty uber-CEO type so reviled today. After Paper Losses was finished and I received some genuine feedback from two close friends, that emboldened me to create universe of The Scope.
I write in a rather unusual fashion.
Every writer has their “quirk,” whether it is writing while doing the wash, dictating notes and listening to them over and over, or writing something out of left field to get the juices flowing, we each have our “thing.” For me, I “talk” out the scenes and lay out each novel like a season of a television series. I also write scenes as they come to me, rather than go strictly from an outline, and “stitch” the scenes together with transitional passages like a patchwork quilt. It makes the process more fun and relaxing, and the end result are stories which tend to be very dialogue driven, fast paced, and meticulous in their details.
I have three more unpublished Scope manuscripts in the pipeline, but purchases of Change Rising dictate their future for now.
Change Rising, the second book of the Scope series, is contracted to Sarah Book Publishing. They also hold the option for the next three novels afterwards. This means that the survival of the Scope series in the near term is mostly dependent on sales of Change Rising. Of course right now the book world is hypercompetitive and there are scores of “celebrity” novels which get far better marketing backing than “indie” authors such as myself. This requires small authors to be more innovative and nimble. The upshot, however, is immense creative control. Long story short, I call the shots on my stories, and that’s how I like it.
While I fully support anyone’s dream to write, I also recognize many aspiring writers just don’t have the novel chops.
I will never tell someone to give up on a dream, but I encourage them to be realistic. Novel writing is a passion, but many novelists are unsuccessful at translating that to a full-time career. There are a ton of popular writers whose work is mediocre at best in terms of language and plot quality, but are still entertaining stories nonetheless and, thus, sell quite well. There are many more authors whose books are phenomenal stories but, for whatever reason, languish in obscurity. Hard work is only a small part of it, though an important part. The single biggest factor in terms of being a successful novelist is one many aspiring writers just can’t face: blind luck. I encourage a budding young writer to chase their dream, but I also implore them to find an interest which can serve as a “backup plan” in case that dream can only be lived as a hobby.
Which leads me to my last little known fact about me.
I was once called a “lazy writer” by a college professor.
In fairness, that professor was, at that time, quite right. I gave up on a story too easily. Rather than follow through, I found the easiest, laziest plot device to get myself out of a jam. When he wrote that comment on an assignment I thought was actually really good, I was quite irritated and decided that I would, one day, show him I was not lazy. While I consider myself far from lazy today, there are moments I want to break out some tried-and-true lazy plot devices, such as depressed girls huddled up eating ice cream from a carton, or an angry young boy smashing mailboxes. This is mainly when I can’t solve a plot problem and I avoid it like the plague.
So there you are, with a little more knowledge about me as a writer. Please take the time to check out the rest of this site and try not to throw any foam bricks at me when you see me. Real bricks are far more effective messengers.