Monday, April 19th, 2010

I’m Guest Blogging Today…

I’m guest blogging today at two different blogs!

A.F. Stewart is hosting me and I’m discussing, “Letting Go of Writing Crutches.” I think that might stir up some debate.

I’m also talking about Just Doing It: The Art of Un-Procrastination over at WordWranglers.

Saturday, April 17th, 2010

Cover Art for Bad Ass Fairies 3!

Bad Ass Fairies 3: In All Their Glory Book Cover

Yay! Editors have finalized the cover for the latest installment of the Bad Ass Fairies series: Bad Ass Fairies 3: In All Their Glory. My story “Selk-Skin Deep” is included.

I’ll be at the book-launch party at Balticon in May. Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

What Would Alice Do?

Alice CooperEvery writer does it: bases a character’s persona on the attributes of friends, neighbors and relatives. They steal their sister’s eyes, a co-workers meticulous habit, and a teacher’s grating personality to create a character. These little pieces make up the whole of someone new.

Yet, it’s not enough. An example:

If you know me, then you know I’m a fan of Alice Cooper. I’ve been with Alice through the good, the bad and the WTF?

Through it all, he’s an interesting character, clever and witty, and sometimes very surprising in lyrics and attitude.

I often think about Alice when I need a really creepy character. He’d make an awesome mad scientist – or evil sorcerer. No haircut necessary. He could even keep the make up.

As a writer, I could stop there and consider only the most hyped facets of his stage persona, just the parts that people see:

  • He keeps boa constrictors for pets.
  • His most-used stage props are: an electric chair, a guillotine, a straight-jacket, and
  • (well, there’s no getting around it) a corpse named Cold Ethyl. Alice keeps Ethyl in the refrigerator until he’s feeling particularly amorous.

I’ve got enough material right there to write a trilogy about the Mad Scientist Alice.

This is the easy part: I know what my character looks like, his mannerisms, maybe even what he sounds like. I can see that he’s got an abnormal (perhaps) fixation on death…and that he’s so hard up he keeps his woman handy in the Frigidaire: always ready for a date. (Not much conversation there, but at least Alice doesn’t have to set himself up for failure and heartache at every turn.)
Alice Cooper
It’s not too hard to see where this story could go. But, oh, how cardboard!

This two-dimensional embodiment might only resonate with other mad scientists. Are you feeling anything for him?

I’m not.

Even if Alice is the antagonist in this story, we need him to be more than black and white to be interesting. In fact, if he were more white than black, if we could understand him, relate to him…even, sympathize with him, the story will be more satisfying.

If you learn anything about Alice Cooper here (and that’s not a requirement), know that he’s an eternal ephemeral: reinventing himself for each album. It keeps the music fresh, allows him to try some new things, and yet, at the core, remain Alice. Despite his darkness, he’s ever-evolving: learning, changing and growing. Just like almost everyone else you meet.

And if you dig deeper into his experiences, you might find that one facet that shaped him into the man he is.

Was it the time he spent in the hospital where he nearly died?

I was gone for fourteen days, I coulda been gone for more
Held up in the intensive care ward, lyin’ on the floor

Or was it all that time he spent in the looney-bin, drying out from alcoholism?

Paint on my cruel or happy face and hide me behind it
It takes me inside another place where no one can find it
Escape: I get out when I can. I escape anytime I can
It’s all escape, I’m crying in my beer. Come on, let’s escape. Just get me out of here

Was it high school, when he didn’t live up to his teacher’s expectations?

Hey Mrs. Cranston, where are you takin’ me?
I feel like a lifer in the state penitentiary
She wanted an Einstein, but she got a Frankenstein…

Was it the time he got raped?

Finally got a ride, some old broad down from Santa Fe, she was a real go-getter
She drawled so sweetly, “I think, child, that things’ll get better.”
“Yes, I read the Bible”, she said, “I wanna know of you.”
We pulled off the highway… I opened the back door, she was greedy
I ran through the desert…alone raped and freezing, alone down in Mexico

(Now, this next example is a total over-simplification of the lyrics and the entire concept album, but work with me, okay?)

Was it about the death of a child Alice knew very well?

I don’t want to see you go, I don’t even want to be there
I will cover up my eyes and pray it goes away
You’ve only lived a minute of your life
I must be dreaming please stop screaming
I don’t like to hear you cry– you just don’t know how deep that cuts me
I don’t want to feel you die

Maybe it’s a simple “love gone wrong” story, we can all relate to that:

Somebody saw you at the station
You had your suitcase in your hand
You didn’t give no information, You walked off with another man
I’m always standing in the shadows, baby,
I watched you give yourself away
You take them home into your bedroom
You had another busy day

Experience after experience sees Alice sucking it up and moving on:

If there is a tear on my face, It makes me shiver to the bones
It shakes me, Babe, It’s just a heartache that got in my eye
And you know I never cry ,I never cry

Through it all, Alice seems to remain a man who walks on the dark side: a bit demented, a lot sick-o.

But underneath, Alice is vulnerable: he nearly died after spending weeks in the hospital, he couldn’t live up to a teacher’s expectations, he was raped by an older woman. He spent weeks in an insane asylum trying to dry out. He’s experienced the death of a child. His woman sleeps with other men. He keeps it all bottled up inside.

I’m stuck analyzing Alice Cooper’s lyrics to determine what shaped him.

You can use the everyday experiences of the people you meet on the subway, in bars, where you work (be careful with this one!). Listen to them talk and jot down their feelings about things that have happened.

Or, use my old stand-by: the newspaper and the evening news. Those quotes or sound-bytes the reporters pull out to emphasize the story can reveal a lot about what people are thinking when the event happened.

Experiences shape people. Thoughts and feelings of that experience becomes the meat of a character. They shape a person’s motivations and impel them to act in certain ways. They make a character real.

Reveal these experiences to your reader, build on them, show how they affect your character, and you’ve got something someone will relate to. If we show the reader just how bad Alice’s personal baggage is, Alice the Mad Scientist might actually be the person they root for in the story.

Write your characters real and your readers will keep coming back for more.

Monday, April 12th, 2010

Blog Tour April 12 – May 7!

Cover of Blood SoupOver the next few weeks I’ll be doing guest posts and interviews on various blogs around the ‘net to promote my book, Blood Soup, which is now available in Kindle.

Please drop by and leave a comment. One lucky commenter will win a $25 gift card for, B&N or another book store of their choice.

Every comment you leave is another chance to win.

Today I’m blogging about the “Two Secrets of Productive Writers” over at Rowena Cherry’s Blog, Space Snark. Please stop by and leave me a message.

Saturday, April 10th, 2010

I Have a Serious Book Problem

Word Finder by J.I. Rodale
The Word Finder by J.I. Rodale. Pictured with a pile of other books in my eclectic collection.

There’s nothing like finishing your taxes and realizing how many books you’ve gotten rid of in the past year (149) and seeing all the books still piled up around you to hammer that thought home.

And yet, I bought six books the other day. (Please don’t tell my husband.)

Today, I bought two. (He knows about these two.)

Granted, one of the books I bought today was a copy of “The Word Finder” — compiled and edited by J.I. Rodale. (Thirteenth edition, 1957. Still, in nearly mint condition it was a steal at a yard sale for 25¢. Could you pass that up?)

But the fact is, I’ve been trying to rid myself of books since I moved into this house. (A painful purging, I assure you. There’s nothing worse than asking a writer to give up a beloved book.)

Nonetheless, I’ve been trying.

This year so far, I’ve donated 59 books from my collection. (I don’t know how many I’ve given away to family and fellow writers. Not nearly as many, but more than I can remember.) In the last few years, I’ve given away over 500 books.

And still, they’re piled up all over the place. (And, I’ll let you in on a secret: I’ve got LOTS of books stashed in dresser drawers in my bedroom. I learned this trick from my Mom. [Hi, Mom!] She only kept a few books in her nightstand, but I have entire drawers packed with paperbacks. I have to admit…it’s really convenient to have hundreds of books at your fingertips. When you need to do some late-night reading…you don’t even have to get out of bed…)

But I digress.

When the Husband of Awesome and I moved out of our apartment into our first home, we moved with 26 boxes of books. We remember that number, not so much with fondness, as irritation. There’s nothing like moving 26 large  boxes of books out of a third-floor walk-up.

I managed to unload the encyclopedias on Ebay before we moved into this house (what a waste they were, but what can I say? I’m a sucker for books. And the deal included so many more  books than just the encyclopedias.)

The old house was a town home: lots of walls, few windows. It was the ideal situation for a library. This house, detached, is larger…but the sheer number of windows precludes all the bookshelves we need. We’ve been here a few years now…and I’ve still got books in boxes that were never unpacked.

Really, they’ve got to go. This is the year (it’s part of the plan).

So…how do you cull your collection? Other than the obvious wall-bangers, how do you decide which books make the grade and which ones don’t?

Please tell me. I really need to know.

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

I Received My Balticon Schedule!

Balticon LogoI received my Balticon schedule today. This is tentative, but I think it will be pretty close:

Friday, May 28, 10:00 p.m. – Broad Universe Reading with Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Roxanne Bland and Gail Martin.

Saturday, May 29 – Free all day! Wanna have coffee?

Sunday, May 30, 10:00 a.m. – V: The Old Series vs. The New

Sunday, May 30 7 – 9 p.m. – Bad-Ass Faeries 3: In All Their Glory Book Launch

I’m looking forward to ALL of these events. I’m especially intrigued by the “V” one… (I can picture my high school buddies all shaking their heads right now…my locker used to be wall-papered with “V” stuff back in the day!)

Of course, reading with the other Broads is also a great gig, as is being part of a book launch. My story “Selk-Skin Deep” debuts in Bad Ass Fairies 3: In All Their Glory.

Balticon takes place over Memorial Day Weekend, May 28-31, 2010. Hope to see you there!

Sunday, April 4th, 2010

Happy Easter!

Easter EggsI hope the Easter Bunny brought you something chocolate, or chocolate and peanut butter, or chocolate and coconut, or…you get the picture!

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

A 5-Star Review for The Dragon’s Clause!

I’m not joking.

Once again, I’m walking on air!

(This follows very closely on the heels of the 5-star review I received on Amazon for my novella, Blood Soup. I’m very  excited.)

Cover of The Dragon's Clause by Kelly A. Harmon This is the story of a man who violates the terms of a contract, and the “party of the second part” decides to execute the enforcement clause. Only this time, the contract has been in place for hundreds of years, and is between a town and a dragon.

The terms—pay the dragon annual tribute, and he doesn’t destroy the town—are quite simple. Not the sort of agreement you’d want to break, even for a good cause.

A lesser author would have given readers a simple revenge tale, with the moral being, “keep your word.” But Kelly A. Harmon gives her readers much more. Her characters—both human and dragon—are complex and subtle, with nobilities and strengths that might just outweigh their instincts and weaknesses.

Perhaps The Dragon’s Clause should be required reading for all lawyers…and for you!

You can check out the review on Amazon, if you want. While you’re there, check out my Amazon author page.


Note: The Dragon’s Clause was originally published in the Ricasso Press anthology, Black Dragon, White Dragon.