Saturday, December 15, 2012

Do you feel a deep connection to any of the characters in "inSyte"? If so who and why?

Hmmmm. Deep connection? Can’t say that I do.

Each of my characters is a work of fiction. Are there life experiences that worked their way into my novel? Most definitely.

At it’s core, inSyte is a character driven novel. Each character’s motivations are always clear so the plot is easy to follow without being predictable. I also strive for nicely understated humor to break up the intensity.

You always know who’s head you’re in, ie the point of view in any chapter is quickly apparent. The perceptions of the characters are different for the same circumstances, which adds depth.

And I have a lot of dialogue. Dialogue speeds up pacing and is an important element in making a book read quickly. Dialogue also helps to illustrate the characters.

My characters are multi-dimensional and interesting. Even the smaller characters are well-drawn.

My novel is a thriller and there’s plenty of action and tension. I paid a lot of attention to the dialogue to add tension by inter-cutting, avoiding having people speak in complete paragraphs and even sentences. Showing the impatience, projecting a more natural flow.

More than just dialogue, there are a number of physical conflicts. Otherwise known as fight scenes. The various fight scenes have been described by reviewers as horrifying and terrific. This is not a novel about fighting, by any stretch, but there is physical conflict. Great fun.

Anyway, back to the connection – no, I don’t feel a connection. They are all made up.

But my favorite is Cheslov. He was the most fun to write.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Do you feel your writing style differs from any other authors? Why or how?

Of course my writing style differs from many writers. Just as you can look at the top commercial novels of any decade and see differences in the writing styles.

It may be better to illustrate who my writing is similar to. Kirkus Reviews described my writing as equal parts Crichton, Clancy and King.

I could not ask for a better comparison ;). Pretty high company.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Will books become extinct?

Just a matter of time before books become obsolete. But not extinct.

Continuing from my answer above, there’s just no need for paper books. Oh sure, there will always be collectibles. It will always be fashionable and tasteful for homes to have books.

But in a decade or two, when broadband is truly ubiquitous and the computers and ipads and cell phones we use today are the size of a blood cell and you have access to every novel ever written for your virtual reading pleasure – well it becomes easy for one to imagine that physical books are obsolete.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Which do you think will gain the most profit e-books or print?

ebooks, definitely. They already have the most profit per item. Eventually they’ll overtake print books on total volume.

My mother is 80 years old and reads two or three paperbacks each week. I asked her recently if she would like to read ebooks. She could save a lot of money and I showed her how nice they look on an iPad.

Her response? No interest whatsoever. Of course she wasn’t raised on computers and displays the way people below the age of about 35 were.

Bad Reviews

Well, if you can’t handle bad reviews then you’re in the wrong business. I’ll want to understand specifics. Is this a good reviewer who has legitimate points? Or someone who, perhaps, this just is never going to be the kind of book they would like. Sort of like me reviewing a rom com –it’s just not something that’s going to really grab me, sorry.

If it’s the former, then I listen. And listen hard. Because that’s the thing about being the writer – you can never really read your book as an unbiased observer. Right? Impossible. Unless maybe you put it down for many, many years and then read it. No, probably not even then.

So I listen to ‘professionals’, what they think, and I have gone back after reviews and actually made edits based on input – particularly if I hear it from more than one reviewer.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Advice to new writers?

Don’t let ANYBODY read that initial draft. It will suck.

Oh – and don’t let ANYBODY read that initial draft. It will suck, indeed.

Also, be ready for criticism. You may think it’s the best novel, potentially, ever written. It’s not. You need direction from others to make your book be all that it can possibly be.

Finish your first draft and then refine, rewrite, make it real. Until you love it. I’d say a year or more. For me it took 3 years after the initial draft to get it where I wanted it to be.

And at least one year before it was ready for anyone else to read.

Because before that, it sucked. To be clear, I never thought it sucked when I finished writing sections. Only when I re-read them months later.

You see, here’s another bit of advice. Don’t spend too much time on the polishing when you first get the words down. You’re just building the foundation. The polishing and finishing comes later.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

What's my writing style?

Real. Direct. I spent many, many hours searching and deleting ‘had’. I rewrote to put as much as I could into present tense. I read through sentences and deleted words that were unnecessary. I read all the dialogue aloud to ensure I had contractions and cuss words but not too much of either because I wanted it to be real.


Saturday, September 1, 2012

If inSyte were a movie, describe your cast

What a great question! I’ve actually thought about that. Why not? It’s fun. Here goes:

Mitch: Ryan Gosling

Kate: Kristen Stewart

Cheslov: Daniel Craig

Woody: Sean William Scott

Mayor: Alec Baldwin

Phelps: Željko Ivanek

Monday, August 20, 2012

How much of your actual life gets written?

The best parts. Because that’s what gives it color, richness. There’s one scene where my protagonist and his love interest meet at his apartment. She’s looking at photographs on a book shelf and she sees one of him as a child with his family. The thoughts she has are directly related to thoughts I had looking at a picture of my young niece many years ago with her family.

It’s the little moments in life that must be woven into your book to make it real.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Are character names important?

Absolutely the names are important. Are the names to your children important? I named my female lead Kate. That’s sort of a popular name for leading ladies in movies and books and there’s a reason. Kate is a strong name, wholesome, all-American (and Irish, of course). Clean, has that long ‘a’ sound. Crisp, clear. Beautiful.

As opposed to, say, Bobbie. Bobbie happens to be one of my favorite names for a girl. I had an aunt named Bobbie and she was my favorite aunt when I was a kid. She was young and pretty and infinitely cool. But she also happened to be born in the country. I had no problem with that growing up, but I probably wouldn’t give my main character that name. Unless, of course, I wanted her to be a country girl. See?

My main antagonist, Cheslov – for that, I just needed a Russian name. I wanted to avoid the obvious names you see all the times – like Borlov or Boris or Vlad or Vasily. So I googled and googled and finally ran across Cheslov. As soon as I saw that name, I thought it was perfect.

For my protagonist – Mitch – I wanted a simple, single syllable, manly name.

Woody had to be sort of goofy. Molly had to be care free. Paxton had to be a little geekly. The Mayor is really just the Mayor. His name didn’t matter as much.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


My favorite character is Cheslov who is an antagonist… but not necessarily THE antagonist. I struggled at times with dialogue and scene creation for other characters. But for some reason, it just flowed with Cheslov.

My book takes place in 2020. Cheslov is Russian, born around the turn of the century. Around 1900, that is. Somehow he ends up in Tampa in 2020 as hired muscle for the Mayor. How did he survive to 2020 if he was born in 1900?

Something happened in the woods of Rostov.

It’s like that with Cheslov, he’s just naturally creepy. I think Kirkus reviews put it pretty well when they wrote the following in their review of inSyte:

Woven throughout a story with many finely crafted twists, turns and revelations is the charismatic, mysterious, murderous Cheslov Kirill. As a classic merciless political operator, Kirill is unforgettable and chillingly, complexly rendered, especially for a man who uses a school of sharks off the Florida coast for corpse disposal.”

But he’s also charming, likeable on some level. He is the character everyone who reads my novel seems to talk about. Some are darkly drawn to him. Most found him fascinating in his evilness. But he’s the one people remember. Me too.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Beatles or Monkees?

Well, they’re both very entertaining. But the Beatles, definitely. Because they wrote and played their own stuff. And they changed the world. As adorable as the Monkees were, you can hardly say that about them.

And we watched the Beatles grow up in real life, evolving and expanding their music. Listen to their early stuff – hits like ‘She Love You’ and ‘Love Me Do’. It was good, yeah. But they really hit their stride with ‘Yesterday’ – that’s when they brought the parents and grandparents into the tent, changed the world from crooners (Sinatra, Andy Williams) to rockers. Spawned it all.

Any serious person over the age of fifteen would have to say The Beatles.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Best Advice I received as a Writer

Never, ever use the word ‘suddenly’ in a novel. That advice came from an Elmore Leonard book on writing my wife gave me. There’s a lot in that simple mandate.

I take the point to be that you should show the reader what’s happening, draw them into the story so that they are surprised by an event, that an event seems to hit them ‘suddenly’ because their head is so totally in the story. Not because a narrator tells them that something is happening “suddenly”. It took me a while to understand that but I get it now. Keep it simple. Keep it direct. Keep it real.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Favorite inSyte Scene to Write

I always had this notion, even as a young child. What would I do if I were in a fight with someone (hey, I’m not a fighter, but as a little kid I thought of these things and just never let this particular one go) and they were wearing some kind of a mask, say a Halloween mask or whatever.

I was beating them, had them beat and then the mask fell off. And I realized I was actually fighting a werewolf.

Would I freeze? Knowing I was stronger and I had won, would fear get the better of me? Sort of a silly thought, but that stuck with me and I knew I wanted to put it into my novel. That actually comes out in one of the crucial conflicts, a fight scene between an ex-Navy SEAL and my antagonist who is part wolf, mostly man, named Cheslov.

So that’s my favorite scene. Yeah, that fight scene.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Writing Quirks

I hate to be boring. Especially to me! I’ll write a chapter and walk away. When I read it a month later I’m appalled. I find my mind wandering even while I’m reading my own words. Pretty bad, right?

So I rewrite. Spice up the action, change the verbs, more show – less tell, more realistic dialogue.

Sure, I do all that.

But the most important thing I do (ie, my quirk) is to delete. Words, sentences, paragraphs –anything that does not directly advance the story comes out. It’s like polishing to bring out the inner beauty. As Apple used to say, Simplicity is the Ultimate Sophistication.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Writing Tips: Conflict

OK – so you have the high concept. Now what? Well, you have to have conflict. For me, I created a moral dilemma between the protagonist, the ‘monster’ Cheslov, and a local politician who thinks he has a direct connect with God.

Next – ratchet up the tension at every opportunity. I made my protagonist an ex-Navy seal so he could pretty much deal with anything. Made Cheslov part wolf, paranormal. Then went into detail explaining how screwed up the politician is, he’s hooked on drugs due to his wife’s death, etc. Keep ratcheting up.

Then create an outline – and write, write, write to fill in the outline. Don’t worry about adjectives or effect or the best dialogue or even grammar/punctuation.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Writing Tips: Confidence is Key

Just know that if you get in front of the keyboard at the right time of day for you, then you’ll write. Think about your characters, where the story is going to go. You don’t have to have it all planned out. It doesn’t have to be the next Da Vinci Code in terms of plot development. It just has to flow, to take on a life of it’s own.

Don’t start off thinking about how the hell you’re going to write a 300 page novel. Just start off and let the journey occur. Think about it and make your characters come alive and write their thoughts and lives and then let the interactions occur and you’ll be amazed and surprised and hopefully delighted by the results.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Writing Tips: Character driven plot - rare gems

They make the best TV and movies too. Think about Breaking Bad – hell yes the story is outstanding. But the cast, the cast! Walter, Jessie – sure. But also Hank, Skylar, the various villains. So you don’t mind when they switch scenes because the cast is great so all of the subplots are intriguing.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Writing Tips: Characters make a great story

For me, anyway, it’s all about the characters. I’ll give a book 50 to 100 pages. By then if I haven’t connected with at least some of the characters then I generally won’t finish the book. Unless, maybe, the plot is just a killer, like The Da vinci Code, or something like that. Preferably, I’m looking for the protagonist to blow me away because most of the time you are reading from his/her point of view.

But occasionally it’s enough if the antagonist is blowing me away, such as the Hannibal series by Thomas Harris.

Now, you put together a novel that has two or three characters that I can identify with? Or more? That’s a novel I’m not going to put down.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Writing tips: Getting Started

Think of a high concept. For me, that’s the ability to tap into the internet with your mind. So you can surf the internet the way you peruse your own memory today.

Try to remember the lyrics to a song. Might take a few seconds, then you remember. You find that information in your brain, obviously. Sort of a local hard drive, to use computer terms.

Now imagine you’re transparently tapped into the Global internet 24x7. Try to remember the lyrics to a song. They’re there instantly. Feels like you found them in your brain, just like before. But you didn’t. You found the words on a server in Germany. Doesn’t matter, all transparent to you.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Even further back in time...

And what of the ten years before that? Now we’re talking twenty years. But I can conceive it, I can feel it. I can hold it in my mind.

And what of twenty years before that? I was around, walking and breathing and always looking up. It was the early sixties and my parents and all of their friends were at the top and then my brother and his friends were up there too and I was at the bottom. Looking up to the people in my life and also looking up to the culture, always looking up and observing and accepting everything as reality, my reality, the reality.

Now I’m holding forty years in my mind. I know what its like to live through that passage of time.

And what of forty years before that?

Now I know what it’s like to be in the nineteen thirties. I can feel it.

And what of 80 years before that?

Now I’m in the eighteen fifties. And it seems impossible, that’s so long ago. Everyone is dead. And everyone who knew them is dead and its all just distant names. I mean, how many of us even know any of our great, great, great, great grandparents names? I don’t. But they all lived. Way back then. Just like we live now. Days were long and twenty times a day something really pissed you off, something that seemed so important at the time but seems so trivial today. Beyond trivial. Less than trivial. Meaningless.

And what of one hundred a sixty years before that? And three hundred and sixty years before that?

In moments I’m back to ancient Rome and they had lives exactly like ours today. They thought they were in a post modern error with unbelievable technology capable of aqueducts and coliseums and cement and all the other conveniences of what seemed to be a modern life. It always seems modern. Until you look back.

I’ve probably lost you by now, I think I’ve lost myself. It’s tough to play this game with someone else. I’m not a writer, if I were a writer I could probably play the game better with you.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

10 years after

I like to play this little game in my mind. I think about something that happened, I don’t know, ten years ago. Something real. Vivid. I shut my eyes and there it is, there I am. Everything’s the same but different. It doesn’t have to be anything special. Maybe lying in a bed, looking at the paint on a window and thinking, realizing at that moment that time is just a weird bitch of a thing. You hold a worn black and white photo, turn it over and see a faded stamped date and it seems impossibly distant, unreal. A prop to support present reality but not something that actually happened, not people who actually lived and breathed and had twenty four hours in every day and considered their world, their reality to be an actual present. Merely a prelude to a future present that is all about the now.

Some say the world couldn’t possibly have been the same back then. Something’s been lost. I say the world couldn’t really have even existed, right? I mean, where was I?

But right then, right there, in my decade long memory I remember, I mean I was there and I remember everything was the same. The cool feel of the air on my skin, the softness of the flannel sheets against my back, my eyes resting on brush marks of paint on the window sill it was all the same and I knew in the future I question the reality so I stared, ten years ago, to indelibly imprint everything and it worked.

So ten years have gone by but I can connect the dots seamlessly from one present to another.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Writing Tips: First Draft

My initial draft took 3 months to write. Then finishing the novel took another 3 years.

Oh – and don’t let ANYBODY read that initial draft. It will suck, indeed.

I finished the first draft and put it down and thought – hey, this has got to be one of the best books EVER. The agents will be beating down my door when they get so much as a whiff of this manuscript! So I set it aside and took a little break. Felt like I was on top of the world.

A month later I opened the manuscript and started printing and reading (you must print and read to get the full effect. Not good enough to read a word doc directly from the computer. Better yet, print and read out loud to understand how the dialogue really sounds – helps avoid unrealistic speech. Example: “What is up with that” quickly becomes “What’s up with that” when you’re reading aloud).

Anyway, I started reading and was horrified at how bad it was. Thus started the 3 year polishing cycle.

Creating the initial draft is the hardest. The initial overall idea of what your book is going to be about. Who are the characters, what’s the high concept, where will the conflict come from.

Once you get past that and start writing, it gets easier.

And once you get that initial draft completed – then it’s fun. Truly. From that point forward, you only need to polish. Just pick you’re your gem every few days and polish for a few minutes. Hear someone say something funny at the mall, consider a tree limb in a park and how you might describe it, smell a familiar smell and let your mind run – all of these ‘experiences’ … feel them and bring them back into your novel as you polish and make it shine and breathe life into it. That’s the best part. Oh, it’s so hard to get that gem established at first. But once you do, it’s your gem. And it may never sell, it may never make millions of dollars – but it’s your gem and you can publish it and you can get it in print and you can show your friends and one day your children and one day, many years from now, you’ll read that work as a different person, as an older person. You’ll wonder who wrote that? You’ll be amazed all over again.

Monday, January 30, 2012

It's all good

All technology has a downside and people have been afraid of it all through the years, hand wringing about the potential abuse of the technology. Everything from Caller ID to Nuclear Power.

But overall, the upsides from these technologies far outweigh the downside and that will be the case with inSyte.

Friday, January 20, 2012

What other sorts of things could we do with inSyte? (3)

Of course, hacking happens today, every day. But it’s your computer or smart phone that’s getting hacked. Not your mind.

You have to have a way to turn it all off.

Skype with avatars – so now someone virtually flirts with you and they look like Marilyn Monroe and you look like Clint Eastwood. Who knows what you both really look like.

Who cares?

Think of a hydraulic suit, the kind used in the military. You slim it down so that being paralyzed is not something you would necessarily notice.

So man is melded with machine.

And inSyte does the same for the mind. Blindness? A thing of the past. People can see through a camera smaller than a button in resolution that exceeds natural sight because it includes infrared, a larger spectrum of light becomes visible.

So long flashlights.

This is all possible in 10 to 20 years. What about within 50 years? 100 years?

At what point does the machine take over?