My New Short Story

As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, I have written a short story and published it through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing.

The story is called The Last Stop, and it is about six strangers on the last train of the evening back to the suburbs. These strangers soon discover they are trapped on the train, which isn’t making any stops. Tensions rise as they try to figure out the nature of their predicament, and how, if possible, to get off the train before it’s too late.

The idea for The Last Stop came to me in a dream I had over a year ago. I rarely remember my dreams, but this one stuck. From this dream I saw potential for a compelling short story based on the idea of strangers stuck on subway in an infinite loop. Subway commuters typically keep to themselves (especially late at night) and I couldn’t help wondering what would happen when an inexplicable problem arises that affects all the passengers.

I never expected I would ever write a story with any supernatural or paranormal elements to it, but the more I thought about the idea the more fascinated I became with where I could potentially take it. Still, at its core, it’s a story about a bunch of strangers in a high stress situation who are forced to deal with that situation as a group.

The Last Stop is available on Amazon as an eBook download for only 99 cents.

My New Short Story

As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, I have written a short story and published it through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing.
The story is called The Last Stop, and it is about six strangers on the last train of the evening back to the suburbs. These strangers soon discover they are trapped on the train, which isn’t making any stops. Tensions rise as they try to figure out the nature of their predicament, and how, if possible, to get off the train before it’s too late.

The idea for The Last Stop came to me in a dream I had over a year ago. I rarely remember my dreams, but this one stuck. From this dream I saw potential for a compelling short story based on the idea of strangers stuck on subway in an infinite loop. Subway commuters typically keep to themselves (especially late at night) and I couldn’t help wondering what would happen when an inexplicable problem arises that affects all the passengers.

I never expected I would ever write a story with any supernatural or paranormal elements to it, but the more I thought about the idea the more fascinated I became with where I could potentially take it. Still, at its core, it’s a story about a bunch of strangers in a high stress situation who are forced to deal with that situation as a group.

The Last Stop is available on Amazon as an eBook download for only 99 cents.

Novel Update #3

It’s embarrassing how little I’ve managed to work on my novel since my previous update two months ago.

That said, the urge to get it done is coming back, and I am definitely feeling like I can get back into it like I’ve been previously hoping to.

Of course, the undeniable truth is that my first draft won’t be done by my original target date. On the plus side, I’ve started taking steps to get my first short story published through Kindle Direct Publishing. My short story, “The Last Stop” is nothing like my novel. It’s based on a dream I had, and leans more towards the supernatural/paranormal — not my usual genre. It’s probably a risk putting it out there before my novel, since doing so might alter any expectation as to what kind of writer I really am. As I’ve mentioned before, if I wanted to compare myself to any authors (in terms of genre, anyways) I’d say Nick Hornby and Jonathan Tropper. “The Last Stop” is about a late night train ride. The story is something you’d expect from a Twilight Zone episode.

Anyway, my hope is have it up by the end of next week.

Back to the novel.

When I can’t get myself in the right state of mind to write, I think about the novel’s cover. I’ve been thinking and rethinking and designing and redesigning my novels cover for at least a year and a half now. It seems silly to do that, before novel is even done, but since I don’t have the money to hire a designer, I have to do it myself, and the last thing I need is to put off the novel’s publication because I can’t settle on the cover’s design. And I think I’ve finally come up with something I am happy with. I will unveil it when the first draft is done.

7 Comedy Actors Who Should Start Taking More Serious Roles

Actors hate to be typecast by playing the same role (or the same type of role) for too long or too often. Yet, there are some actors who have (or run the risk of) typecasting themselves into a genre that severely limits their talents as actors. We all know plenty of actors who are extremely talented and have a good run of high quality flicks in their filmography… only to eventually have miss after miss after miss.

Goofy comedies may be proven box office gold with the right leading actor, but it seems like there are a lot of actors appearing in movies that make you think “I can’t believe he accepted this role.” Enough of these movies will force you to lose respect for once highly praised actors.

One remedy for this could that these actors who typically appear in comedies to take more dark or dramatic roles. All of the actors listed here have done darker, more dramatic roles, and have shined doing so. There’s nothing wrong with comedy, but these are actors who have demonstrated their talent that should be accepting better roles in more serious films.

Continue reading “7 Comedy Actors Who Should Start Taking More Serious Roles”

Novel Update #2

This update is long overdue. But, the truth of the matter is that I have not been able to put as much time into finishing this novel as I would have hoped. I have done some minor edits, thought of some new scene, and considered retooling some. A lot has been going on in my head about the novel, but not enough has been written. With any luck, I’ll be fixing that problem soon.

In other news, a short story idea that I’ve had for a long while now popped back in my head recently and I started writing it down. I’m liking where it is going, and hope to finish it up in a couple weeks and use Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing to make it available to the world to read. The story is not quite the same genre as my novel. I don’t want to say too much about it, yet. But it feels like a good, short and intense read I think many will enjoy.

Yes, I have to admit, writing the short story derailed working on the novel, but sometimes, if you think the idea is good enough, you just have to write it before it goes away. So, once it’s written and editted, the novel will have more of my attention.

Originality in Writing

My latest piece for What Culture lists 8 examples of television sitcoms that had an episode where a baby was born on an elevator. Truth be told, it has happened more than eight times. I did the research.

The heart of the issue here is not silliness of the circumstances that lead pregnant women in TV world to get stuck on elevators moment before birth, but the complete lack of originality of writing in the entertainment industry. I say the entertainment industry, and not just television because it happens in movies, too… the recycling of old ideas. How many reboots and sequels are being produced right now? I have no idea, but it seems like a lot. Sam Raimi’s Spiderman trilogy made have ended poorly, but who really wanted a reboot so soon? Chris Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy became the definitive Batman for at least a generation, but there’s still talks of another reboot.

I can’t think of any examples at the moment, but I don’t doubt that the same thing happens in fiction writing. Given the explosion of self-publishing—and even without it—the market is supersaturated with content. Even if everyone’s ideas were conceived individually, and without prior literary influence, there will be storylines that are similar.

When I conceived the idea of my novel, I actually made an attempt to determine if the idea had been done before. I’m fairly confident that it has not. If the plot idea had been done before, in largely the same way, I’d have likely scrapped the whole thing and come up with a new idea. I want to tell my own story and not rely on old, overused plotlines and gags in an attempt to gain interest. I wonder why television writers don’t feel the same way?

My First Piece for What Culture

I’m excited to report that I was recently accepted as a contributor to What Culture! I applied last week, citing my recent blog entry on dystopian movies worthy of remakes as an example of the kind of pieces I’d be contributing.

My first piece is titled “5 Seinfeld Spin-Offs You Wish Had Happened”, here is a snippet:

Sitcom spin-offs are so common we often don’t realize that some of most beloved sitcoms are spin-offs. The Simpsons is a spin-off of The Tracy Ullman Show. Of course not all spin-offs enjoy the same kind of success, like the Friends spin-off Joey, or M*A*S*H spinoff AfterMASH. There have been many over the years.

But one show that never got a spin off that many of us with had, was Seinfeld. It’s hard to believe that Seinfeld, now a staple of comedy syndication, is still earning Jerry Seinfeld loads of money. His show about nothing went off the air 15 years ago—feel old?—and is still funnier than most of what passes for comedy these days.

So what were the spin-offs on my list? You have to click here to find out!. Be sure to share it on Twitter and Facebook!

On The Lad-Lit Genre

If I were asked what genre my novel-in-progress could be described as, my instinct would be to say “lad-lit.”

It sort of fits, according to this definition:

n. A literary genre that features books written by men and focusing on young, male characters, particularly those who are selfish, insensitive, and afraid of commitment.

This may fit my novel to an extent. Mostly because I am a man and my novel is narrated by a young male character. But the main character hardly resembles the aforementioned stereotypes of being selfish, insensitive and being afraid of committment. This preconception of what lad-lit is makes me hesitant to put myself in the lad-lit category.

Some of the best lad-lit there is comes from Nick Hornby (often called the King of Lad-lit) and Jonathan Tropper. Do they fit the above the description? Perhaps some of these elements are found in their novels, but I’m inclined to say no. Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity centers around Rob Fleming’s desire to get back together with his girlfriend who left him. Rob is insecure, and does temporarily find advantages to being single, and yes, when his girlfriend Laura says she wants to get back together with him, he does have a moments of relishing the possibilities of remaining single, and is tempted by another woman… the character of Rob Fleming is far more complex than what can be boiled down in the definition cited above.

What about chick-lit? It is defined as such:

n. A literary genre that features books written by women and focusing on young, quirky, female protagonists.

That probably makes sense, but it avoids tagging the genre with absurd stereotypes, such as “likes to shop,” and “loves shoes,” or “works in the fashion or publishing industry,” that latter example being ridiculously common from what I’ve seen. I’m not knocking chick-lit, don’t get me wrong, I’m just saying… but, there’s aren’t many books classified as chick-lit that clearly aren’t written or marketed in a way to appeal to men.  This, in my opinion, is the real reason behind a perceived problem of author Jennifer Weiner, who has spoken out about how male and female writers are allegedly treated differently:

I don’t write literary fiction – I write books that are entertaining, but are also, I hope, well-constructed and thoughtful and funny and have things to say about men and women and families and children and life in America today. Do I think I should be getting all of the attention that Jonathan “Genius” Franzen gets? Nope. Would I like to be taken at least as seriously as a Jonathan Tropper or a Nick Hornby? Absolutely.

I personally don’t believe that women authors are slighted the way she suggests in the interview linked and quoted above. But, I’ve read one of her books, and felt, as a male, that the story didn’t speak to male readers. That’s not to say that other women authors haven’t.

Perhaps the real issue is the splicing of the fiction genre into categories that tell readers “These books are for women, and these books are for men.” The limiting of a book’s audience by gender is further exasperated by the book cover designs. When you look at the book covers of novels by Jennifer Weiner, Jodi Picoult,  Sophie Kinsella etc. etc.. they look like books that men wouldn’t want to be caught reading. The book covers of novels by Nick Hornby, Jonathan Tropper, etc. etc. they often feel less gender specific in design. Maybe I just see it that way being a man, but that’s just the impression I get.

Truth be told, not all “lad-lit” is created equal. Some of it is more than willing to exaggerate stereotypes for comedy. There have been some lad-lit novels I’ve not been able to finish. One lad-lit author I have recently become a fan of is Nick Spalding. I started reading his stuff a few weeks ago. I’m enjoying it. Though I should note, he plays up the male stereotypes in his “Love…” novels… but it’s done well, and finishing one book makes me want to read the next. But, in terms of lad-lit style, his writting is very different from the novel I’m working on.

I’d like to believe my premise is unique, plausible, and entertaining… a generally serious story that uses occasional humor when appropriate, but not a situational comedy full of self-deprecation, where everything goes wrong all the time.

So, in many respects, I don’t want my novel to be looked at as a novel for men to read, and women to ignore. Honestly, the main female character in my novel is the most compelling character in the book, and I’ve spent far more time thinking about her backstory and how that impacts her behavior and lifestyle than with any other character. The story is narrated by the lead male character, but the story is about her. So, while it might make sense to market my book as lad-lit, and put it in the same category as the authors I most admire, I’d still sooner refer to it as contemporary fiction.

On J.K. Rowling

It’s been an interesting few days since it was revealed that J.K. Rowling wrote a crime novel (that was published a few months ago) under a pseudonym.

Well, you don’t get breaking book news like this very often, but The Independent reported last night that J.K. Rowling revealed The Cuckoo’s Calling, a crime novel published this April, was written by her under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith.

Rowling indicated that part of the reason for keeping her authorship a secret was freedom from the expectation of her name, The Independent reported: “It has been wonderful to publish without hype or expectation and pure pleasure to get feedback under a different name.”

The Cuckoo’s Calling currently has a 4.01 star rating on Goodreads, with only 25 reviews. (I heard some estimates Saturday night that the book had only sold a few thousand copies to this point.) Generally, readers seem to find the book satisfying and entertaining, with special praise for the main character, Cormoran Strike (that name does seem like a Rowling character, doesn’t it?).

Things have changed significantly since the news broke. The book became a bestselling almost instantly. It is currently backordered on Amazon (for those who don’t have e-book readers, or listen to audiobooks) and won’t ship for 1 – 3 weeks. An overnight sensation because of a name, not the story contained in its pages.

I can totally understand Rowling’s desire to publish under a pseudonym. The success of the Harry Potter series is both a blessing and a curse for her. Harry Potter was a worldwide phenomenon… everything she does now will always be compared to it. So, how does an author give themselves the chance to have their follow up work given a fair shake? Write under a pseudonym. It’s not that uncommon. I applaud Rowling for trying (for as long as she could) to see how her work would be received without her name on it. It’s a fascinating look at the psychology of the publishing industry—the producers and the consumers. There are so many interesting things we can take from this event that would take me forever to talk about… like the terrifying reality of how hard it is for an unknown author to get reviewed and sell books… oye

See, I’ve read the Harry Potter books. Loved them. Absolutely loved them. But, I haven’t read A Casual Vacancy, her first adult novel after Harry Potter, and I don’t see myself reading The Cuckoo’s Calling either. No offense to Rowling, I’m sure both are well written, but the description of the former didn’t inspire me to read it, and this new one… well, crime novels just aren’t my thing. Hey, maybe one day I’ll want to give it a shot… but I’m gonna wait a while. For now, I’m picking my books based on whether the story strikes me as one I want to read.

Thoughts on Writing: Movies About Novelists

As an aspiring novelist, I recently couldn’t help thinking about movies about novelists. There are a lot, as you might have guessed. And I can safely say I haven’t seen a vast majority of them. That said, there are quite a few that I have seen, and I’ve picked my favorites of them, and added some thoughts on writing that each movie got me thinking about.

The Shining

I totally get the idea that a few months of isolation would be fantastic for a novelist to be able to work without distractions and interruptions. But an empty hotel miles away from civilization might not be the best idea. Still I love this classic Kubrick film and enjoyed it more than the novel it was based on.

I recently came back from a short camping trip. Not completely isolated but definitively away from the hubbub of normal life. I honestly didn’t get much writing done (okay, zero) but I got some important reading in. In retrospect, seeing as life inspires writing I think total isolation takes you away from your greatest source of material.

Misery

Another movie based on a Stephen King novel. The novel is better, I must say, but this movie does terrify me. As much as it be nice to have devoted fans one day who anxiously await my next novel, there are limits. This movie is well done, and brilliantly cast. I own the DVD, but have only watched it once in full and that is enough.

Is writing just about ones desire to tell a story, or to have it read? I go back and forth on this. It would be the best job ever to be able to live off of your own writing, but would that stop me if I couldn’t make a few bucks off of a novel I wrote? Probably not. If I have a story to tell, I’ll tell it and hope people read it. I won’t stop of no one buys my first novel. So having readers would be great, but is not a requirement for writer who just wants to write.

Still, I think having hardcore fans would be a great motivator, even if there are only a few and not thousands. I’ve read some crappy books from authors who used to be good but got terrible after commercial success. Yes, James Patterson, I am talking about you.

Throw Mama From The Train

I need to watch this movie again because it has been a few years since I have see it. I first saw it when I was much younger and probably didn’t appreciate it during my previous viewing as an adult since I hadn’t yet started writing my own novel. This movie has all sorts of elements that writers can appreciate.

I don’t necessarily think that for a novel to be good it has to follow a formula. Plot twists are great when the story needs it, but as M. Night Shamalayan has proven, they don’t always enhance the story if the story was weak to begin with.

Little Women

I guess this counts since the main character, Jo March, writes an autobiographical novel. I’m not one for using my own life as source material for my novel. I can’t see how even a fictionalization of my own life would be remotely interesting to anyone. My novel’s plot has absolutely no resemblance to my own life. I know that somewhat contradicts something I worte earlier, but let me explain. Bits and pieces maybe have been inspired by incidents or people I know, but there’s nothing autobiographical about it. In fact, the main character’s family make up bears zero resemblance to my own. I am the youngest of three kids, the main character is the oldest of two. My parents are still married, but my character’s mother is divorced from his dad, and widowed by her second husband, who is the father of his younger sister. Nothing like my family a all. It makes for an interesting problem but one that I think forces me to explore things beyond my realm of familiarity, which I feel is good for my creativity.

Finding Forrester

A true favorite movie of mine. Not only does it have a reclusive Pulitzer Prize winning author, but a young aspiring author who is taken under his wing. Who wouldn’t want such tutelage? While I can’t think of any Pulitzer winners I would love to learn from directly I’ll love the opportunity for some one-on-one writing instruction and guidance from Nick Hornby, Jonathan Tropper, or Rex Pickett (who incidentally has given out some great writing advice on Twitter).

Sideways

Speaking of Rex Pickett… the last movie on my list os based on his novel. This may be a movie about wine, but it is also about a struggling writer hoping to see his novel picked up by a publisher. I first saw this movie about five years ago, and since read the novel it is based on, as well as the sequel (which has yet to be adapted for big screen) and is probably in my top five movies and novels.

I anticipate self-publishing my novel when it is complete, so I won’t go through the hell that Miles Raymond does as he awaits word from his agent about whether his novel will be picked up by a publisher, but at least the depiction of what the process is actually like is based on reality. It’s no secret that there are more books being written than publishing houses actually publish. Today, things have changed on that there are more opportunities for authors to bypass traditional publishing routes and self-publish—and succeed.