Saturday, November 2, 2013

So you want to write a book, huh? Some suggestions on how to get started.

Several people have asked me how I write books and my answer is always the same - I write the movie I see running in my mind.

Now upon reflection that answer helps absolutely no one, because not everyone has that gift or ability to just start writing from scratch. I studied music for fifteen years and when I attended Berklee College of Music, I couldn't write a song or arrange music to save my life. ( Still can't and when I try it's like staring into a giant void of nothingness. No words, no music and no ideas.)

So how did I get to a point where I write books? Well I started with screenplays.

Back in 2004 I had an idea for a great screenplay that was a cool concept, fit the Hollywood "tentpole" model - which means a screenplay that would fit into a blockbuster category like The Avengers or any movie released with a $100+ million  budget . So based on that, I bought a bunch of screenwriting books, ordered a small mountain of scripts from proven  movie successes because they are a great resource for plot development and sat down at my computer with my new copy of Final Draft in front of me.

It took me about three months but in the end I had an okay script that I promptly started pitching at Hollywood pitch festivals like The Great American Pitch Festival and FadeIn Magazine ( my favorite one). Two things came out of that experience - it is bloody hard to pitch and that year absolutely no one was interested in a big budget Sci Fi Adventure.

One thing that was obvious is that writing screenplays comes easy to me because after plot and structure a script is primarily dialogue and action. How can I put characters into impossible situations and see how they triumph or fall? How can I take a two dimensional stereotype and turn him into a fresh and interesting character?

Writing a novel is a different animal. Yes, the dialogue and action are still there but unlike a script where you can hand it over to an army of people who will decide what the setting looks like, how the characters are dressed, how they will act and what their back story will be, it is up to the author to create and convey all of this himself.
 One line of description in a script that says: EXT: Bridge at night, to a writer has to become:

Wrought iron moorings with concrete that had seen better days. John stepped across the foot path, his fingers lightly testing the metal to see if it would hold. Looking up he saw the thick expanse of cable that could hold the weight of a thousand men but in his mind he knew that a single word from her would bring the whole thing crashing down.

Or something like get the idea and I just made that up, so it needs a little work.

So what have I learned on how to write a book?

  1. Come up with an idea for a story that you like. Try to keep it simple at first. Start with two or three characters and test the water. Write them having a conversation with just dialogue. Try to stick with only two or three people because it becomes tricky trying to keep track of everyone and who is saying what. Don't believe me? Next time you are watching a TV show, look at the number of times that two people are having a conversation, then when a third person comes along, they use them as a way to end the conversation and excuse themselves. For a writer, it is easier to write a dialogue between two people, than three. 
  2. When it comes to writing, what comes easiest to you? For me it is dialog, then action and finally the dreaded description of the character's surroundings. Here's another interesting observation. I absolutely loved the Twilight books and think Stephanie Meyer is a fantastic writer. One thing I did notice as a fellow author is that she tends to shy away from writing action scenes. When I was reading her final book, Breaking Dawn, I bet a friend that she would not end it with a big action scene because she tended to stick with her characters "talking out" rather than the physical act of fighting their way out of a situation. Was I right or wrong?
  3. Write an outline, or notes on your book or even character names. Depends on what works for you and more importantly what interests you. I personally hate doing an outline because I like to keep my writing fresh to me. Sometimes I will be writing and a character will say something that totally surprises me. In my latest book Showdown at Evil High, my character Michael Sullivan states that he wants to see his dead wife as payment for helping Heaven fight Hell. When I wrote that, at the time I was surprised that he would say that and debated whether to keep it in or not. As it turns out, my character was right, because the request becomes an important part at the end of the story. Writing notes will help you to remember character names, places and events that you want them to experience. Don't feel that you have to know the ending of the story at the beginning. Part of the fun of writing is to see where you end up and more importantly how you got there.
  4. Take a writing course.... ah yes the dreaded writing course. You want to write a book? Sign up for a Continuing Education course somewhere in your hometown that will teach you about writing. Does it suck going back to school? Yes, no or maybe depending on how you feel. Will it benefit your writing? Absolutely! How you ask? Let's face it, when I wrote my first book- which was based on my first screenplay because I needed to spend more time with my characters - it sucked. Boy did it suck!!! The dialogue was okay, the action shaky and the description was terrible. I spent more time in "Tell" land than "Showing" what the characters were doing. A writing course will give you the basics to build your book, you will meet some great people and perhaps join a writing group or two that will be good enough to give you honest feedback about your writing.
Writing is a skill and like any skill must be practiced in order to be good. If I take up skating today will I be a figure skater tomorrow? Not without hours and hours of practice. If I want to be a professional singer can I expect to land a record deal tomorrow? Not likely and I spent fifteen years in singing classes, performing Opera, Musical Theater and getting a degree in acting. It takes practice honing those skills and writing is no different. 

And finally :  READ

Start with the genres that interest you the most. Enjoy the book for the story then go back and look at it from a writer's point of view. Every author has certain styles that you can learn from. J.K. Rowling loves incorporating minute details into every scene that place you into fully into that Harry Potter Universe. Stephanie Meyer is very dialogue driven yet within the dialogue we see amazing character development. Tom Clancy's books are full of technical detail needed to ground us into a world of military espionage. Choose a favorite author, then expand your pallet and try something that you would not normally read. 

Most importantly, start doing something. Jot down those ideas, read a book or just start writing. You are about to start an amazing journey but as they say, every journey starts with a single step. 

What will your first step be?

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Release Day! My first YA Paranormal - Showdown at Evil High

Hi Everyone,
Am super excited that my newest book and first YA has been released! It is through Black Opal Books and I am very proud of it.
It's about a young Australian American named Killara Jones who lives in a small town in North Dakota. He meets a fallen angel named Sullivan and discovers that his town has a pact with the Devil that goes back one hundred and fifty years. With his friends he must try and break the pact and save his classmates while preventing a Showdown at Evil High.

Check out a few of the reviews:

And here is a quick excerpt:

He wanted to run, but he knew he had to stay and fight. If he didn’t, they would all die…

Killara closed his eyes and thrust his sword forward. He felt the blade pierce the priest’s chest. The man let out a loud bellow and fire erupted from his mouth. Killara scrambled back in horror, his injuries forgotten for the moment.

He looked toward the open rectory door and then back at Adam who had begun to fight the first of the townspeople, the chief of police, or what used to be him. This version was dripping blood and had spikes coming out of his arms. If Killara ran for the door, he would be leaving Adam at the mercy of the demons. If he didn’t do it now, his only chance would quickly slip away.

“Adam,” he yelled. “We can’t win this one. You have to retreat!”

Judging by the fury with which he waved his sword, Adam had made peace with trying to take out as many of them as possible. He seemed impervious to the throng of people surrounding him. Killara grimaced and ran to help his friend. They could still beat a retreat if he could lure the townspeople away.

Killara raised his arm and started slicing his way through the crowd. Everyone around him seemed to die in a different way. Some exploded in a flash of fire while others oozed to the ground as if their bones had dissolved and only flesh was left behind. He looked around for Adam, but could only see more Khalija residents—the owner of the liquor store to the right of him and his sixth grade teacher to the left. He was in the center of the mob now with everyone focusing their attack on him.

From all angles he could feel the blows. He smelled blood and knew that it was his own. The smells and sights nauseated him, making him feel claustrophobic and alone. All he could think about was getting away. He had to see what was behind that door. What was this town hiding and why was it so important that he find it?

I actually posted part of the first chapter on Goodreads, a few years ago, hoping I would find a publisher and now it is published and available in print and as an ebook.

Another example of the Law of Attraction at work...and all in the world is good!

If you like what you see it can be found on

and UK, as well as Barnes and Noble and my publishers website:
Thanks for taking the time to read my blog!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Keep Moving Forward

                   "Around here, however, we don't look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we're curious...and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths."
                                                                                    ~ Walt Disney

For those of you who know me, are aware of my fondness for the Law of Attraction. I firmly believe that if we keep our eyes open, try to live in the present and stay vigilant the Universe will send us signs showing how to follow the best path. 
For months I have been struggling with what I would call was writers block. If dodging my laptop, finding excuses to watch television for hours on end or starting and stopping alternate stories is writers block, then I had it bad. Key phrase here: had. There is nothing wrong with the current book I am writing. I love the stories and the characters. I started it last Christmas on a lark and found it soon began to write itself. A grand adventure with a dashing hero and a fiery heroine that must unite to save the world hopefully fall in love in the process....
Then as life does it throws other things in our paths and what was once important falls to the wayside. For those of us that are grand starters but not great finishers we find reasons to embark on new adventures, try new things and conveniently look the other way when someone asks "So hows that( fill in the blank) going?"
( cue the cartoon character with his hands behind his back, glancing up at the sky and whistling as he tries to dodge the question)
Then two nights ago I was flipping channels when one of my favorite and least favorite movies came across my screen. Disney's Meet the Robinson's was on TV.
Favorite because I love the message and the charm of Lewis, its main character. Least favorite because it's message becomes muddled in the shenanigans of the futuristic family that Lewis visits to a point where it starts to grate on my nerves. 
Released in 2007, I don't think it was one of  Disney's more popular movies and doesn't rank in the top fifty of top grossing animated movies but none of that matters to me.
I love the message of the movie! For all of us who have struggled with self confidence,failure and some belief that we are not good enough, Meet the Robinsons tells us that we are wrong. It celebrates our failures and reminds us that without failure there is no success.
When we feel like we are alone, believe that we can't possibly see our way though a situation or feel that we are the biggest loser in the world, this movie challenges that belief and reminds us that we are all special, unique and here for a purpose.
Not unlike Walt Disney, who was turned down by over fifty banks when trying to finance Disneyland, the movie reminds us that if we keep trying, keep working through the failure of today, we will definitely succeed tomorrow.
To the actor who failed an audition - keep moving forward. To the author who's manuscript has been rejected...again - keep moving forward.  To the student who lost out on a scholarship - keep moving forward. To the professional turned down for a promotion or a raise - keep moving forward!
Only by standing still and allowing circumstance to win do we fail. 
So take a page from Disney and Lewis and learn from your mistakes and failures. Get off that couch and get back out there. Resubmit, reapply or reinvent yourself if you need to. 
Two nights ago the universe visited me through this wonderful movie and reminded me of what was important in my life... to finish books that I start and keep moving forward.