Tag Archive: writing


Power, Pages, and Politics

When you think about comparisons for the life of a fiction writer, a political drama isn’t the first thing that springs to mind. We don’t wear suits and ties, we don’t live in luxurious houses, we don’t attend galas and benefits, and we don’t try to get laws passed for the betterment of the state or country.

But there’s still all of the intrigue, mystery, power plays, and sometimes even backstabbing that you’d expect from a political drama.

For some reason I’ve been watching a lot of political dramas. I expect it’s because of my anticipation for the second season of House of CardsWhile I usually make my way to the other side of the room or make like Batman when talk of politics comes up, I still find the political world fascinating. The lengths that a politician will go to to get elected or make political waves in their favor astounds me. It’s almost like watching a post-apocalyptic drama where all humanity and sense has gone astray…except for the fact that the body count is much lower in politics…usually.

And then I started thinking. Isn’t a fiction writer’s life, or nearly any writer’s life for that matter, almost like a political drama? We see from our predecessors how high we can go, how much we have to gain and lose, how much influence we can have through our works and the life that we can live as a best-selling author or a prestigious journalist or blogger. Our mouths start to water, our thoughts start to churn, and our fingers start to flick over the keyboard.

Writers and politicians both start at the bottom. In both cases, the people you know can play a part in how quickly you ascend and the future connections that you make. In both cases, you have to play your cards right and strategize in order to get exactly where you want to go. There are sacrifices that must be made, hands both physical and digital that you have to shake, deals to make, and hard times that must be endured.

As the stakes are raised, politicians and writers have to be careful of what they say and the image that they project. Politicians rely on their constituents just as writers rely on their readers as well as their publishers in some cases. Write the wrong book, say the wrong thing, associate yourself with the wrong person and you sacrifice your position in the royal court.

If we’re honest with ourselves, we realize that writers want power, even if it’s just a little. Just like politicians. We want the power to create change in the writing and physical world. The power to change our lives. The power to impact the lives of others. The power to fulfill our potential. There’s an undeniable rush that comes with seeing how far we can go, how far we’re willing to go, and what we’re willing to do and sacrifice in order to reach best-seller or presidential status.

Not all writers and politicians have the best of reputations. Some politicians are seen as nothing more than lying, power-hungry crooks just as some writers are considered little more than layabout dream chasers who need to get a “real job.” At the end of the day, both groups are ambitious and willing to see their ambitions through no matter what. Writers give themselves to their writing and their readers just as politicians give themselves to their constituents and their country.

Who’s searching for fool’s gold? Who’s doing it for the wrong reasons? Who’s truly and fully committed to their cause?

Hm.

In a way, I guess I really am a politician—a politician trying to literally write his own ticket into the Writing White House.

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I know that it can be hard to be a woman in this day and age, and it can be just as hard for male authors to write female characters. I’m not saying that as a gay and black male writer I’ve got it just as hard as my female friends who also know what it’s like to be treated like a second-class citizen who has no rights, but I always proceed with the utmost level of caution with my female characters.

Take my Furious character Bisset Torres. Bisset is a modern-day black woman who has wings, the ability to heal, and wields a sword that can cut through anything, but she’s only this person during the day. As soon as night falls, Bisset’s other personality, The Dragoness, takes over. The Dragoness believes that there is wisdom to be gained in mental/physical/emotional suffering, can withstand being hit with a missile, breathes emerald fire, and is an all-around bad mammajamma…at least I think so. Even though Bisset is the only female member of The Furies, she’s actually three characters: Bisset, Seraph, and The Dragoness. Through her I get to explore three different female perspectives. Bisset feels a bit like a teenaged girl for the second time who is adjusting to the mental and physical changes she’s experiencing, Seraph is the nurturing mother, and The Dragoness is…well, you’d probably think that she’s just a super-powered bitch until you get to know her.

I don’t set out to make all of my female characters badasses, nor do I set out to make my female characters victims, sex objects, powerless, nurturing, nerdy, gamers, geeks, powerful, angry or anything else. What I do try to make my female characters is genuine. I don’t want my reader to feel as though I’m forcing certain traits on my female characters, nor do I feel that I have to write a female character a certain way just because it’s popular and something that moves books off of the shelves.

Rape and abortion are very much hot button issues right now. I don’t like to shy away from any kind of subject matter as long as it’s relevant to the story, but I don’t want to include a rape or an abortion strictly for the shock value. Readers can tell when writers are going for the throat, and a writer’s female audience might become deeply offended if the attempt isn’t particularly well done. Not to lump all women into one category, but when a woman doesn’t like something, she’ll most definitely find a way to let you and everyone else (like the rest of your readers) know. This isn’t to say that writers (both men and women) shouldn’t let the story have its say, just that the story should have its say in the most conscious and cautious way possible. While there’s nothing wrong with having an opinion, a writer who hopes to become successful has to always keep their audience in mind.

I don’t ask my female friends to tell me what they think of my female characters and if their actions are what a real woman would do. Since I’ve always had more female friends than male friends and I’m in touch with my feminine side (yeah, I said it), I feel like it’s no problem for me to put myself into my female character’s high-heels, combat boots, bare feet or whatever other kind of footwear she might be wearing. Even though it’s easy for me to write female characters, I’m still quite careful to make sure that I’m not subconsciously using my female characters as a response to or a representation of current events. At the end of the story, I feel that what’s most important is that I write human characters.

Have you ever struggled to write characters of the opposite sex? Why or why not?

Next post: The Shock Factor: Does it sell books?

The Writing Dead

I know it’s been months since I’ve updated this blog, and I honestly don’t have any reason other than I haven’t really been writing anything new lately. I wanted this blog to be about my personal perspective on writing, so I didn’t want to bore you with details about my life that are unrelated to writing. But I will say that I’ve been doing more freelance writing to keep up with my lavish lifestyle, a.k.a. pay my taxes and try to handle my finances like the adult that I’m reluctantly becoming.

That’s it, now back to writing.

Since I posted last, I’ve been doing a final revision of Fury Us: Thus Spoke which is coming along quite well. I’ve also recently joined Critique Circle so that I can get some actual feedback on my novel and strengthen my revisions and overall writing. It’s also nice to critique the writing of others because it will help me to read my writing with a more focused eye.

I’ve also made the decision to start off as a self-published writer. While I haven’t been posting on my own blog, I have been reading the blogs of other writers. Mainly Joe Konrath (who often includes insights from bestselling author Barry Eisler), Rachelle Gardner and Anne R. Allen. It’s mainly my man Joe who has opened my eyes to the reality of traditional publishing and how much power authors give up for so little in return. While I’m not saying that I never want to be traditionally published, I am saying that I’d like to have more control over the first few years of my writing career and learn what works for me personally. I want to do a lot with my career, and I might not have the freedom to do everything that I want to do if I’m tied up through a contract.

You can now find me here on Tumblr. I’ll mainly be using it as a place to share some of the creative things I’m into, such as singing, music and of course writing. This blog is more of the professional (at least I hope it’s professional) side of me while Tumblr is more for the creative  side of me. If you use Tumblr I’d love to hear your input about how to get more use out of it as a writer. I don’t know if I’m going overboard with social media, but I figure there’s no harm in testing everything out to see how it fits.

Next up on the writing agenda is to enter more contests and try to get published in magazines and e-zines more in an effort to continue building an audience and my personal brand while also polishing my professional chops. I heard about a website called Readwave where authors share short stories. I figure this is a good place to get feedback while getting a feel for what it will be like for me as a self-published author. I’m actually quite excited about it!

So that’s where I’ve been and where I’m heading. I’ll honestly try to do better about posting more, I think right now I’m just figuring things out about the future of my career, myself and trying to find the balance between it all. Hope you all have been doing well!

Take care out there

Some authors can write the beginning of a book, short story or chapter off of the cuff. They like to see where the story goes without drawing a map to the final destination. I’ve done this myself a time or two, but I find that my work comes out best if I write my ideas out, look at them and arrange them into a story. No matter what school of thought you subscribe to, sitting down to write a map of where you intend to go with your story does have its advantages.

I like to write my stories a bit like TV shows, where each chapter is an episode and each book can be considered a season. In TV shows, the writers always get together and have a writers meeting to discuss where they are in the season, what the next episode is going to be about, which characters and what story lines will be included in the episode and how the episode they’re currently writing will impact the future of the show. I like to do the same thing whenever I outline the next chapter of a novel or a short story.

I’m currently working on finishing up my second novel. My first attempt at writing a novel is actually going to be the third novel in the series. I was halfway through when I realized that my characters have a backstory that I had yet to fully explore in order to do the novel and the series justice. At first I thought I could do that with just one novel, but it turned out that I actually needed two. In order to figure out the backstories of my characters, I had to get to know them. In order to do that, I had to sit down and “interview” them, see who they were before I met them, what they liked, who their family was, what clothes they liked to wear and what kind of music they listened to. Outlining is a great way to not only discover every facet of your story, but to also figure out who your characters are.

I admit that there is a thrill to simply diving into a story to see where it will take me. The act of raw creation brings a certain sense of urgency and an unpolished refinement that you just can’t get when you outline. Rather than sitting down and interviewing your characters, you allow them to possess you and tell the story purely from their point of view. It’s a bit like listening to the elegance of orchestral music versus the unbridled ferocity of heavy metal. One is very structured, very outlined and the other is undiluted and restrained. Yet both have their target audiences.

So when it comes to the question of outlining, I think it’s best to try your hand at both. If you’re used to outlining, you might want to try writing a poem to exercise those creative mental muscles. Poetry is another one of those raw forms of creation. Rarely do you hear of a poet, rapper, MC, musician or singer who outlines their material. Often they have the music, the verse or the song inside of them and they simply sit down and let it out, allowing it to write itself as they go. After the muse has passed, they go back and clean it up, much like a writer edits their work. If you’re more used to writing off of the cuff and would like to outline more, a suggestion to make the transition is to write out character histories or make up a character and write out their backstory. This will allow your mind to focus, discover and think before putting pen to pad or finger to key.

Take care out there.

Which do you prefer? Outlining or writing off of the cuff? Any particular reason why?  

Taken Over By The Fear

In honor of Halloween, I thought I’d talk about fear and how it can both help us and hinder us.

As writers, there’s plenty for us to be afraid of. We can be rejected by agents, have our work completely shredded by a critique group, make a grave mistake in a novel and not realize it until after it’s been published or we could suffer a horrible accident that leaves us unable to write. No matter how sensible or far-fetched our fears may be, the point is that we’ll have them. But when you push away those looming mountains of fear, the truth is that we’ll always have fear. If you write a great novel that sells well and is well-received, who’s to say that your next novel will be as magnificent? You may be able to scribble out several novels a year, but what happens if no one buys them or likes them? What if what happened to Robert Jordan happens to you and you die before finishing your latest book?

What if? What if? What if?

Fear can cripple us if we allow it. Or we can look at that fear as a motivator to help us become better writers. Afraid of being rejected by agents? Then do your research before you send off that query letter to make sure you’ve written the best novel and best query letter that you can. Just make sure that you don’t let fear keep you from sending it off when you know it’s ready. Afraid your critique group won’t like your submission? Then go through it forwards, backwards and make sure you don’t make the same mistakes your group has mentioned in the past. The same applies to avoiding massive mistakes in your novel.

Don’t try to keep fear out of your head. It’s what makes you human and it’s what makes you cautious. Instead, I think it’s better that we try to find the root of that fear and ask ourselves why we have that particular fear in the first place. It’s easy to get caught up in life, but every now and then it really helps to sit down with yourself and sort out what’s going on in your head. For me, I find that cleaning is when I do my best thinking. When I need to step away or analyze a problem, I like to clean. Either that or I go for a walk. I think it’s the scrubbing away at a sink, dish or bathtub that symbolizes scrubbing away a problem or scrubbing to reveal the truth beneath the grit and grime.

Some of my fears are that I’ll run out of story ideas, that I’ll lose my writing ability/style, that what I write won’t match the ideas that I have in my head, that my writing career won’t go as I’ve planned and that I’ll find that one of my story ideas has already been written (I know this is common concern, but I always strive to be original).  The best that all of us can do is to just forge on and realize that the fear will follow us throughout our lives. Fear, like taxes, is something that occurs no matter who we are or what we do, so we might as well deal with it and move on with our lives. Besides, how different would like be if we didn’t have fear? Would it be better or worse?

Take care out there, and be safe tonight!

What are some of your fears about writing and how do you deal with them?

 

Forging My Own Path

First off, I want to apologize for my lack of updates and for not keeping to my posting schedule. I’m sure you all know how life has a way of getting in the way of things. Part of my funk is that I’ve been having trouble coming up with things to post about, and the other is that I’ve just been lazy. Thankfully, I can be quite hard on myself and won’t allow myself to stray too far from my path for too long.

Now, on to this week’s post.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about where I see myself in five years, ten years, twenty years. I’d like to think that I’ll be a successfully published author who also writes comic book scripts on the side and maybe help with screenplays and the occasional video game script. I have no idea how or when all of that will come to pass, but there’s one word in that sentence that really sticks out in my mind.

Successfully

What is a successful writer? One who is on the NYT bestseller list, goes on book tours, has several novels published and is well-known in the writing community? Or is a successful writer one who takes comfort and pride in the choices and progress that they’ve made no matter how meager they might be?

It’s easy to get our definition of success tangled up with the general idea of success. And that’s especially true when we’re constantly bombarded with images and headlines about authors who make millions of dollars and can churn out multiple novels in a year. We think of that as a success even though we don’t know what those authors had to give up or what they had to do to get where they are. I’m not saying that every successful person has had to give up a part of themselves to get where they are, but I am saying that we have to look past the dollars and glossy book covers to see what truly makes an author a success.

Even more importantly, we have to discover our very own, very personal definition of success. And that’s something that I’m slowly but surely doing every day. As my dad always says, “all we can do is take it one day at a time.” Taking it one day at a time is hard for me since I meticulously plan things out and analyze past events. I’m either too focused on the future or scrutinizing the past that I forget to simply be in the present moment. And that’s probably another reason that I haven’t been keeping to a writing schedule.

I want to be a writer. I want to be a happy writer. I want to be a successful writer. But more importantly than all of those things are that I want to be me. Not John Grisham, Stephen King, Alexandre Dumas, Charlie Huston or Jim Butcher. Just O’Brian Gunn. All of them are great examples of what can be accomplished with words and ideas, but none of them can tell my story just as I can’t tell theirs.

So what’s my definition of success?

Being the best me that I can possibly be. I hope you’ll do the same.

What’s your definition of success and how do you plan on making that definition manifest?

Take care out there.

P.S. You can now check out some of my superhero themed flash fiction at Super Flash Fiction! “In-xperienced” and “Lies My Heroes Told Me”

Back to Basics

 

Writers not only have to be writers, but business people as well if we’re serious about making  a career out of our passion. We spend time learning about the publishing industry, how to market ourselves, where to find the best critique group for our level of skill, finding agents and more. All of this can be very exciting and fresh, but it can also make us forget why we set out to become a published author in the first place.

I’ll be honest, I’ve been slacking in my writing. I’ve still been working on my writing career, I just haven’t been working on the very thing that will support that career: my writing. I’ve been reading articles, trying to find software to create my own cover for my JukePop Serials story (any suggestions would be welcome) and writing to pay the bills.

Last night I had a small mental breakdown. I was reading an article about how poor publishing is worse than not being published at all. I realize that we need to know what we may be getting in to it before we get in to it and I appreciate the knowledge. But one thing I didn’t appreciate was the way it made me feel, like attempting to become a published author is one of the most risky and foolish decisions a person could choose to do with their life. In the time it takes to write a novel, find an agent, find a publisher, get a book deal and finally see your book on shelves is roughly the same amount of time it takes to finish medical school or earn a PhD. I realize that becoming a medical doctor takes time and money where becoming a published author only takes time and luck. But sometimes it seems as though it’s smarter and less painful to simply follow a different passion, a more sensible passion.

So why do writers do it? Why do we put ourselves through the rejection, pain, setbacks and pitfalls of the journey to authorhood?  Why do we keep faith in our hearts that one day we’ll join the ranks of other successful authors even though we know what’s waiting for us out there? Why?

I asked myself all of these questions last night, wondering if maybe I should focus on another career goal and put writing on the back burner for a few years. At 27 I feel as if I should stop dreaming and wake up and join the real world. But then I remembered how blessed I am. I remembered when I first discovered that I loved to write. I remembered how there is nothing more in this world I’d rather do then tell stories, explore, examine and imagine.

I remembered the magic of writing.    

I don’t want to look at my life ten years from now and wish that I’d kept pursing my first passion. Something could happen tomorrow, next week, next month or next year. But I won’t be there to experience that something if I don’t keep going and keep believing that whatever or Whoever brought me this far isn’t done with me yet, that my journey could be nothing like the horror stories I’ve read. Times are different, my path is different and my circumstances may not be the same.

Almost anyone can be a doctor, graphic designer, business owner or any other practical job. And I’m not demeaning those occupations whatsoever. But not everyone can be a writer, world weaver, yarn spinner, storyteller. Or journey is a different one, with different obstacles and frustrations. And there’s also a different joy and satisfaction associated with what we do. I believe that writing is  the closest I’ll come to finding out what it’s like to bring life into this world.

So not only will I stay in the game, I’ll do my damndest to change the game and win the game. And I hope to see you at the finish line.

Take care out there.

“Dark on the Rock” is alive and kicking on JukePop Serials! If you’re a fan of superheroes, sci-fi, super soldiers and young adult stories, I’ve got your fix!  You can check out the first part of Episode/Chapter/Chapisode One here. If you like it, please vote at the bottom of the page! The more votes I get the more chances I have of appearing in the monthly Top 30 Serials, basically the equivalent of a bestseller list. You can also check out the 111 other serials they have through their home page to see if anything else tickles your literary fancy. Feel free to comment and leave your ideas for future installments. I just might include them! And give you credit, of course.

I plan on updating twice a month with 2,500-3,000 word installments. The story will be similar to a TV show with recaps, previews and seasons. It really does feel like having the pilot of a TV show picked up. I’m overjoyed, but there’s also that feeling of, “Oh, crap, now I actually have to go through with the thing!” But I really am looking forward to this journey, and I hope it’s one you’ll take with me.

Thank you in advance, guys.

Take care out there.

P.S. Look for a regular blog post tomorrow. I apologize for not posting one earlier this week, but I was tied up with work. If anyone would like to support me financially for a few months/years/rest of my life, I shan’t gainsay you.      

Progress Report

 

I think now is a good time to update you on what’s going on with my writing…that and I don’t have an insightful idea for a blog. Hopefully I’ll get a few ideas in the coming days.

I just found out today that two of my flash fiction submissions were accepted by Super Flash Fiction. While I had submitted three, only two were accepted due to the fact that one was hard to follow. Their decision was perfectly understandable and one that was shared by my writers group. I wanted to show the direct aftermath of a superhero slug fest since that’s something I feel we rarely get to see in comic book. They always cut to a few days or a few hours after and gloss over the smoking rubble, sustained injuries and the immediate psychological effects the battle may have had on the characters. I think I’ll post it up here so you guys can read over it. Feel free to comment!

I’m supremely excited about “Dark on the Rock” being accepted to JukePop Serials. I’ve always loved the serial format of a TV show, and it’s one that I’ve blended into my writing style, so I’m eager to see how this new project turns out. With this and my superhero flash fiction, I may be getting calls or e-mails from Marvel, DC, BOOM! or another comic book company…or maybe even Joss Whedon himself to co-write The Avengers sequel!

I’m almost done with my query letter and I’ve got a list of agents to ship it off to. This is something that I’ve been dragging my feet on for a while. I’ve been doing a lot of reading about the publishing business and I’m not sure if I still want to pursue traditional publishing. On the other hand, I’m not sure if I have a strong enough platform and enough insider knowledge to make a go at self-publishing. There’s just a deluge of self-published work out there, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to really stand out from the good authors and the not-so-good authors. But I think that if I express these concerns with an agent I’ll be fine. At the very least I can be content with the knowledge that  someone, or several someones, feel that I’m qualified enough to represent. Not that I need anyone’s approval, but still, publishing is a business and a business that requires a certain skill.

Still working on wrapping up my second novel. I’ve got a bit of the next to last chapter to finish up and a rough idea of how I want the final chapter/episode to be. Unbelievable to think that I’ve written one novel let alone that I’m about to finish another…and have mostly written the third seeing as I originally started with that one a few years ago. Ah, life.

So, as you can see, I’ve got a lot going on. I’ve come a long way, and know that I’m not ready to lay down in contentment yet, I don’t think I ever will be. I believe there’s always another step to take, another mile to go. It’s strange to think that I’m actually becoming a published writer with a query letter and almost two complete novels under my belt. We spend our lives dreaming, and when those dreams start to become reality it’s like they weren’t really dreams at all, just a skill we didn’t know we possessed. Can’t wait to see what else is in store for me…and for you, too.

Take care out there.

Krav Maga is an Israeli self-defense system, and in it there’s a concept known as “retzev.” Retzev basically means keeping up a continuous flurry of attacks and never leaving a gap to allow your opponent to escape or launch a counterattack. While I’m no Krav Maga master, I do think that the concept of continuous motion can and most definitely should be applied to writing.

 

I really enjoy variety and keeping things fresh and new even if it’s something that I’ve done several times. When it comes to writing, I try to keep up a continuous chain of “attacks” with writing, editing, blogging, re-writing, outlining, brainstorming and even reading. This allows me to constantly be working on something and have something to work on. With my second novel, I’m slightly changing up the format of my writing with some chapters. My latest chapter is comprised of nothing but training missions and an earlier chapter took a short break from the main cast of characters to focus on two other characters that inhabited the same world, just to flesh out the universe of the book.

As writers, it’s easy to be hard on ourselves and feel that we’re doing something monumentally wrong, or will never become a professional. What if a professional is nothing more than a person who never stops feeding and exploring their passions and making an honest attempt at fulfilling a goal? If a boxer does nothing but work on perfecting their left hook, they may have a mean punch, but they won’t know how to defend themselves or throw a combination to knock their opponent off guard. If you keep working on perfecting your dialogue writing skills, you may find yourself lost when it comes to character development or describing the setting your chatty characters inhabit.

One of the best ways to work on your writing style isn’t to constantly write, but to constantly read. Work on your editing skills by going back to the basics with the rules of punctuation and grammar. If you’re having trouble with pacing, watch a TV show or movie. In these formats you have to cut your material down to a certain amount of pages so it fits within a certain time frame. Attack your writing from different and unexpected angles. Are you better at defense or offense? Outlining or freewriting? Is there a way to transfer the principals of one to the other? Try out and examine different methods, even if you don’t think they’re a good fit for you.

This post is a little all over the place, and I think I like it that way. While I probably won’t make it a habit, I do enjoy the change. Keep the spice going in your writing relationship by switching things up. I’ve heard that it’s a good idea to stop writing before you get to the end of a chapter so you’ll have a great jumping point for next time. Edit snippets of conversations you hear while at the grocery store (I’ve done this before). This will give you a feel for how people really talk and how you should properly punctuate “real talk.” Read a sci-fi novel and a western novel at the same time. You never know how the mixed reading experience may help you. Keep things off balance and organize the chaos.

Take care out there, and keep those hits comin’ from every angle.

What are some ways you like to keep your writing life fresh?