My apologies to any who follow this blogsite as I haven’t updated it for some time. I’ve been sick this past week, so my brain has been all but non-functional :/ But now that I am recovered, I should be able to get back into the swing of things:)

First off, I’ve been contemplating the merits of book trailers. With the pending completion of my next novel and the continuing marketing struggle with my current one, I’ve been thinking of more/alternate ways to “get the word out” as it were. One option that is becoming somewhat popular, is the ‘book trailer’. Basically it is a audio/video preview of your book, using either live actors, animation, or often simple slideshows. I’ve done this with Warped & Wired using video game machinima techniques. I’ve thought about doing it again for my next book, but am curious about the actual impact.

Do you like when books have video previews or does it just seem pointless because it’s a book? Do you like more action-oriented videos or a more text-based, descriptive slideshow?

I accept any and all feedback so please sound off in the comments.

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Today I’d like to present you with an interesting writing style that has no doubt been done before but one I’ve never seen: The Present-Past tense hybrid.

I’m sure most everyone is aware of the different tenses that we write and speak, present and past being the most common; “he runs to car” or “he ran to the car”. The one I’ve used most in my writing is of course, past-tense. While technically relating to events that have already happened, it conveys a surprising amount of immediacy within the novel.

But of course, I like to experiment with new, bizarre ways of writing so I came up with this idea of writing a novel and switching between tenses. Not will-nilly of course, but when the action intensifies, the tense changes to present while the normal narrative stayed past-tense. (see how I just did that?:)

Here’s a sample of what I’m talking about: (it’s an early prototype so the style/grammar will be buggy) Tell me what you think. Is it too jarring? Does present tense still carry the same immediacy? Let me know in the comments.

 

Sometime, in the not too distant past, there lived in the heart of California, four children by the name of Eagleana.

Now by all outside appearances, they would seem to be perfectly normal and happy children. But in fact, this was quite the contrary. Of course they all had their fears, like most children do. Jay, the oldest, was afraid of failure; particularly failing to protect his siblings. Joy, the next oldest, was afraid of change, or anything new. Jason, the next-to youngest, was always afraid of being rejected or turned down. And Jamie, the youngest, was afraid of heights, but not much else.

But all of these fears were overshadowed by a much greater fear. A fear that tormented them day and night. A fear of shadows in the darkness; a fear of any sudden movements behind them in the daylight; and a fear of strangers that came within two feet a distance of them.

Now this may sound a bit silly for a group of children, the oldest of whom is sixteen and the youngest twelve. But, if your father was a renowned police detective, a profession that doesn’t exactly bring a large repertoire of friends and whose enemies usually try to exact their revenge by threatening their antagonist’s family, you wouldn’t find these fears quite unfounded.

Now this story starts during the heat of a California summer. It was dusk and their mother was at her night job and the sitter (or, more accurately, the bodyguard.) hadn’t arrived just yet. So they all were passing the time in the enclosed swimming pool room. Jay was reading The Art of War, Joy was busy painting butterflies on her easel, Jason was working with some gadget he had invented, and Jamie was swimming laps.

It was then that they heard a noise.

Joy jerked her head up. “Say, did you hear that?” Joy asked standing up. She was often the one who frightened easiest.

“Sounded like the front door knob.” Jason responded his head still bent.

“It must be the sitter then.” Jay said, laying his book down.

“Then why is the knob still rattling?” Joy asked moving closer to the glass door that separated the pool from the rest of the house.

“Maybe she forgot her key.” Jay reasoned. But he also got up and moved closer to the door and looked down the hall toward the front entry.

“Then she would’ve rang the doorbell, or called.” Joy countered.

“Maybe she’s having trouble with her key? If the key isn’t inserted at the correct angle or the lock mechanism is off, it can cause a minor jam.” Jason replied, he too moving toward the door.

“What’s wrong?” Jamie asked emerging from the water. They all gave a start.

“Someone’s rattling the door knob.” Joy replied.

“Then shouldn’t someone go see who it is?” Jamie asked. They all looked at each other.

“The lights are off, Joy, you have the darkest clothes, you go check.” Jay said. Joy, after looking at everyone, slowly crept down the hall toward the door. Approaching the door, she pressed herself against the nearby wall and carefully pulled the cyan colored curtain back and peeked outside.

With a muffled shriek, she dashes back to the pool.

“What? What’s wrong?” Jay grabs Joy to keep her from falling forward into the pool. Gasping for breath, Joy tries to speak.

“There’s……there’s……men…….outside,” Joy gasps. As if on cue, the front door bursts open.

“Hide!” Jay commands. They all dive down the different hallways. Joy dashes into her room and leaps into the closet. Jay runs upstairs to the open loft overlooking the entryway. Jason disappears into his room filled with a plethora of finished and unfinished contraptions and inventions. Jamie sprints for cover in the master bedroom.

They all waited in their hiding places, not daring to breath. They listened intently for any signs that the men were near their concealment. With every bump or noise that they made, they were sure the men would discover them.

At last they heard noises coming from the entry as the men began their search. Now I will only mention the names of the men, since they only appear once in the story.

“All right.” Bach, the toughest one says. “Chips disabled the security, but only for fifteen minutes, so let’s grab the kids and get out.” They all split up and start rummaging through the house. Bob dashes into Joy’s bedroom. He searches through the room, finally coming upon the closet. Opening the door he looks inside to see jeans and shirts hanging up in neat pairs. He notices a pair of shoes sitting underneath one pair of jeans as he closes the door. Shrugging, he leaves the room.

Bill and Bash creep into the master bedroom flashing their light around the room. One of their lights hit upon shiny wet hair in a corner. They both turn their lights onto Jamie huddled in the corner, sitting in a puddle of water. Her eyes widen as they approach

“Hey, what do we have here?” says Bill.

“Why don’t you come with us, were good friends of your father.” says Bash holding out his hand. Jamie stares at them, her eyes wide. Then her eyes narrow and she charges forward socking Bash in the stomach. He keels over, howling in pain.

“Hey!” Bill grabs Jamie. She twists around and kicks him in the shin. Howling, he lets go and falls against the wall as Jamie dashes out into the hall.

On the other side of the house, Beckle opens the door into Jason’s room. He steps inside onto a lever in front of the door. He hears a click and a whir, then a sproing and a bucket of blocks dump onto his head. Stumbling backward, a board swings down and smacks him in the face sending him sprawling back into the hall.

“What happened?” Bach asks approaching him. “Was anyone in there?”

“Uhhhh…..No.” Beckle quickly replies as the door swings closed. Bach turns, walking into the living room just as Jamie dashes in, pursued by Bash and Bill.

“Hey!” Bach grabs Jamie arm just Bill grabs her other arm. “All right, let’s just go. One’s enough.” They start dragging Jamie toward the door. Jay looks over the balcony above, quickly surveying the scene. Then, picking up a decorative figure from a table he hurls it at a floor lamp in the family room below. It falls to the ground causing the men to turn toward the sound. Then Jay leaps over the railing and swoops down upon the group. He lands on Bach, taking Bill and Bash down with him to the carpet. Jay rolls off them and scrambles to his feet. The door bangs open as several more men rush in.

“Get the girl!” Bach shouts. Bash grabs Jamie and starts dragging her toward the door. Jay leaps forward and tackles Jamie, freeing her from Bash. Bash turns to grab her again but a rope snaps in his face. With a cry of pain, he clutches his face. Jay looks to see Jason standing some distance away with a length of rope around another contraption. Two men start for Jason. He tries to fight them off, but they grab him and start dragging him to the door. Joy stands helplessly off to the side.

“Jay!” she cries. From the pile of men on the floor Jay looks up.

“What?” he asks struggling to keep the men off Jamie.

“They’re getting Jason!”

“So do something!” Jay shouts. Joy looks bewildered. She timidly starts toward the fray when sirens begin to blare outside. Everyone freezes.

“Perfect,” Bach says. “Now we got hostages.” Seizing the moment, Jay and Jason pull back and shove the men forward. As they stumble forward, Jay pulls Jamie down to the floor further tripping the men out the door. Jason leaps forward and slams the door, bolting it.

 

 

I recently had an interesting idea that I wanted to bounce off my fans/followers and the world in general: would you watch me write my next novel, live via Ustream, with an open google doc to read and a chatroom to comment/question in? I know people will watch almost anything, I just wanted to know how many would actually want to watch. For me it could be a great way to connect with current/potential fans as well as provide motivation(for myself:) and a sounding board for any ideas.
So, would you like to watch/help me write my next novel? Let me know in the comments or on twitter @JoshuaCaleb75

Dialogue. The primary means of communication for human beings. Even your novel characters must you this to converse with each other. So, it should be easy, right? We all know how to talk, so writing dialogue should be a snap. Welllll…… It’s not quite that simple. Let’s say you did transpose a conversation from real-life, into your story, (adding the proper denotations to signal who is speaking of course) it might look something like this:

John walked up to the coffee machine. Frank was already filling his mug. “Hey Frank,” John said.

“Hey John,” Frank said. “How are you?”

“Doing okay,” John said. “How about you?”

“All right,” Frank said. “The kid broke his arm trying to climb our old tree.”

“Oh, that’s too bad,” John said.

“Yeah,” Frank said. “Kids sometimes do the stupidest things.”

“Yeah, but ya gotta love em,” John said.

I don’t know about you, but I’m on the edge of my seat. (insert sarcasm) Okay, I’m being very extreme with this example, but you get the idea. Turns out, a lot of the conversations we have with other people can be downright boring. Not to worry though, we can spice, slice and dice up character dialogue so your readers hang on each word spok–er–written.

First step, get rid of those darn saids. ‘Said’ is an empty word. All it does is denote who is talking, and often is unnecessary. An alternate route would be to use said-isms: “He shouted. He sighed. He growled. He whispered” The problem is, if overused, it can become worse than just using ‘said’. Since ‘said’ is an empty word, it often fades into the background, becoming invisible to most readers. But it’s still there, taking up space.

Of course, an even better alternative is to use action to denote who is talking: “What’d you do that for?” Frank ran to the base of the tree.

Another alternative, similar to the action tags, would be no speech tags whatsoever. This only works in some instances, usually when only two people are talking and it’s obvious who said what:

“Hey Frank, how are you?” John asked.

“Good, how about you?”

“Doing okay, how about those Red Socks?”

It basically comes down to using everything in moderation. A couple said-isms here, some action tags there, no tags over there, maybe an occasional adjective here for good measure. And of course we need something interesting to talk about as well. Let’s try it:

John walked up to the coffee machine where Frank was already filling his mug. “Hey Frank,” John greeted his friend.

“Hey John.” Frank plunked the coffee pot down. “How are you?”

“Doing great. How about you?”

Frank sighed. “All right. Jimmy broke his arm trying to climb our old tree.”

“Oh, that’s not good. Is he okay? Are you okay?” John put his arm on Frank’s shoulder. Frank was having money trouble and the last thing he needed was a big medical bill. Not to mention what the poor kid was going through.

“Yeah, I’m fine.” Frank shook his head despite his positive answer. “Kids. Sometimes I wonder where their brain is at.”

“Yeah, but ya gotta love em.” John said reassuringly.

See what we did? Took out nearly all the saids, replaced them with some said-isms, threw in some action tags or just left the speech tag empty. Plus we needed to give them something interesting to talk about, so I increased the conflict about the boy breaking his arm and how it was affecting the father. Pretty neat, huh?

This is a very basic example of what you can do to improve your dialog. For more inspiration, try reading some of your favorite authors and see how they write dialog. Find one that suits your style and implement it in your story. Your readers will swear they’re listening to a real conversation.

Just a quick update on the status of the Warped & Wired sequel. I’m currently about halfway done with the second draft. After that it should just need some polish and trimming before publication:D I’m trying to work extra hard to get it out by/before the end of the year, so here’s hoping everything goes according to plan:) I should be able to post a few sample chapters in the near future to whet your appetite for the exciting adventure to come.
In the meantime, be sure to read the first book in the series, Warped & Wired or explore this site and learn all about the exciting world within my novels.

Read all about it! I’ve started uploading various short story betas I have lying around my hard drive. These are short stories that never made public release and are available to read in the “Extras” section on the top nav bar. Be warned though, these stories are still in beta so there may be grammar glitches, plot holes, and spelling bugs. Read at your own risk;)

Enjoy!

Ah, details. Description. Setting. An aspect of writing that requires about as much balance as a tight-rope walker in an earthquake. Do we describe every last detail, down to the brand of lipstick a character is wearing or the length and shade of fresh-cut grass? Or do we simply say “she was very well made up” or “the grass was short from its recent trimming”? And then there’s the type of description. Should it be: “The gun sparkled in the hot, mid-morning sun.” or “The burning light from the afternoon sun glared harshly off the pistol.”? This topic is my Achilles Heel in writing; but I will cover it (and figure it out) along with you from what I have learned so far.

First, the amount of description. This is where the tightrope walk comes in. If you use too much description, you’ll bore your reader to tears and he will forget what it was that supposed to be happening in your story. On the other hand, if you use too little, your reader will be confused and wonder what the heck is going on, where he’s supposed to be and how he’s supposed to differentiate various characters and places. Granted, some writers can get away with lots of elegant and flowing description and detail (as is the case with many classics) but it requires a tremendous amount of skill and discipline. Often these writers manage to infuse action or even plot development into the description, so it doesn’t just sound like you’re rambling on about all the beautiful colors in the rainbow. It’s a delicate balance that is tough to achieve, and even then the result can be completely subjective. A rule I like to follow is to only describe things/people that are important to the story or character. Everything else can either get a passing mention or merely assumed and blend seamlessly into the overarching description you’ve already set. Everyone has an imagination and when they read, they should be given a chance to flex that imagination a little. (Otherwise they’d be watching a movie instead:)

Now onto the next aspect: type of description. This part is a little trickier (if that’s possible) and ties into the characterization aspect a bit. Each character or point-of-view, should have their own unique take on things. They should see the world through different eyes, thus describing it differently and within their personality. A slick New Yorker shouldn’t describe a shiny name plaque “as shiny as a spankin’ new milk pail” and a country bumpkin shouldn’t think something like “the hog’s skin was like a fresh Louis Vuitton handbag”. The description needs to be in line with what the character is like. Then there’s also the matter of the descriptive vocabulary fitting the character age. A three year old won’t use words like: subtle, or fragrant just like a polished thirty-something business woman wouldn’t be caught dead thinking words like: stinky, gross, or smushy. Oh, of course all of this may be rendered moot if your story uses a more omniscient point-of-view, a subject I may tackle in a later post. But for now, these are some good guidelines I’ve found.

So for now, break out those thesauruses and start finding some neat words, but be sure you use them wisely.

Characters. These fictional beings are the very life and soul of your novel. They are one of, if not the, most important element of a story. If not for characters, your book would be nothing more than a travel log full of desolate, empty, ghost towns. Given their supreme importance, it’s no surprise then that creating solid characters would also be one of the hardest parts of writing.

But that’s not the half of it.

You see, once you create and start using a character in your story, chances are they may start doing some unexpected things. In fact, you may create a character with a specific personality in mind only to find that, half-way through the story, he’s doing things completely contradictory to your original idea.

This is all because, your characters are…..Alliiiiiivvvee!!!!

Congratulations, you have “created” bona-fide sentient life! That’s the way I see it anyway. You’ve given them unique personalities; they all have names, friends, enemies, rivals, histories, wants, fears, aspirations, quirks, flaws, idiosyncrasies. By definition, your characters are living, breathing,  people. That’s what can really make your story engaging.

Okay, sooo….Next problem: What are you suppose to do with these fictional people with minds of their own? Well, it’s almost like raising a kid: you guide them. Give them instructions, point them in the right direction; but don’t be afraid to alter those instructions if they start going in a different direction. You can’t force them to do anything they don’t want to do. It won’t feel natural. Granted, there have to be boundaries and guidelines; an everyday housewife can’t suddenly develop the ability to fly just because she wants to escape the doldrums:) There must be limits, but don’t be afraid to bend those limits if the characters or story calls for it. But it must always be natural.

If you’re a parent, this should be relatively easy to grasp. If not, think of it as trying to train someone on the job, or teach a student at school, or programming an advanced AI. You can give them directions, guidelines, even boundaries; but ultimately, they will do what they think is natural and you’ll just have to go along, fixing or changing things along the way. Ironically, it’s like reading someone else’s story or going on an adventure; you never know what will happen next so you have to be prepared for anything.

Many writers have lots of different ways they come up with ideas and turn them into stories. Today I thought I’d share mine just for fun and to help refine it for myself.

-First step: Obviously you need an idea. Something that intrigues you, catches your fancy, makes you shiver with excitement when you think about it. But if you can’t come up with an original idea, here is where my secret comes in: Duplicate. Copy. Plagiarize. Rip off someone else’s great idea completely.

-Step two: Obliterate. That’s right. Take that great idea you just stole from Spielberg or King and tear it to pieces. Blow it apart. Leave nothing left but the bare semblance of a plot.

-Step three: Recreate. Rebuild that stolen story you smashed to smithereens; only this time, replace key details, characters, events, plot threads…anything. By this time, you should’ve stewed over the story long enough to start seeing places where you could improve upon or change the original. When you’re done, you should have the makings of a great story that only slightly resembles its inspiration.

Oh, and of course you should be writing and making notes throughout this whole process. After all, that’s what we writers do:)

Well, I hope this helps any first time writers with an idea on how to come up with ideas/start writing; as well as give curious readers an insight on how my pen ticks (or keyboard in my case:) Of course you may have heard all this before, (there’s nothing new under the sun, just new paint jobs) if so, you needn’t bother reading this. Oh wait…..

 

Magic and Technology don’t mix. At least until now. Portia Greyleesah, a member of an ancient and magical race of beings called Wryters, and Mitchellina Cruise, a normal human island girl living in the pacific, are each content with their respective lives. But when each discovers the dark secrets of their true parentage, they both reluctantly leave their very different lives in search of the truth. They are forced to join together, much to their dismay, in order to uncover the secrets and truths, eventually working together to bring down the dark villain that threatens the lives of the entire world.

Read it Here.

 

 

 

 

Sales/Low Prices:

Warped & Wired Kindle Edition only $.99!

Warped & Wired paperback available here for $7.38 (with code: ZTVN6L3Q)

Warped & Wired paperback only $14.65 on BN.com & $14.75 on Amazon.com

(If you buy the paperback, let me know and I’ll hook you up with a free ebook;)

Remember, if you like Warped & Wired, tell your friends; if you don’t, tell me:) I welcome any feedback.