Thursday, December 16, 2010

Give them something to TALK about!

When you write, give your readers something to talk about. That goes for books, posts, poems, stories, songs, and anything you can dig up from your creative innards.

Heck, it even goes for painting and sculptures.

The person enjoying your piece, whatever it may be, needs something to talk about.

For instance, Star Wars is nothing -- NOTHING -- without Light Sabers and Jedi. It is otherwise a cut-n-paste cowboy-space saga. It's all right, don't get me wrong, and it's a fun movie and a great story, but the things we talk about are Jedi and Light Sabers, yes?

The things that make it Star Wars are the things we talk about.

Same for any book you read or movie you see.

We repeat great quotes from As Good as it Gets and Caddyshack.

We discuss what Heinlein and Salinger meant with their rebellious books Stranger in a Strange Land and Catcher in the Rye.

We discuss spooky King, JK Rawlings's Quidditch.

We talk about that Korn song that moved us, the one called Yall Want a Single.

We ~talk~ about the good stories, the great songs, the incredible movies.

Give them something to talk about, Dear Authors.

For my part, I give you a blue-faced God, disgruntled angels without wings, and a boy in the woods with two dogs named Whiskey and Scotch. I give you androgynous test-tube warriors and drug-addict galactic leaders. I give you a chance to name anyone for death and see them die.

I want to give you things to ~talk~ about.

What do you give me to talk about? Do you write with repeatability of your story in mind?

- Eric

Thursday, December 9, 2010

LOST in my own words

Isn't it funny how you get lost in your own work? I haven't written on my WIP since December 2. That's the date of my last save-point. That's a week from today.

Now I've forgotten where I was and how I got there. I'm 22kw into my piece, well into the middle-point (which I personally find the BEST part of writing!), have plenty of steam, I just can't remember what track I was on.

Now I have to re-read parts, skim a little, reset my mind to the book and rediscover my groove. I read a scene, the first few paragraphs of the second chapter, and all of the first chapter, and realized I had completely forgotten I wrote that!

It's like waking up headspun after a drunk blackout in the back of your Tahoe in someplace Louisiana and your cousin is in the front seat, somehow driving, laughing when you moan, and saying, Dude, you didn't get kicked out of the bar, you got kicked out of the TOWN!

He showed me pictures later of me pissing on the side of my Tahoe and laughing and flipping him off.

It was a biker town, I remember that much, something right out of Sons of Anarchy. He said we almost died because I popped off at some guy and hit on his old lady and we bowed up all of them against stupid-ass me and some college kids trying to get out of the way, none of which surprises me. He said he lost me in the commotion and found me on the curb outside with a bouncer standing guard and the bouncer said, Is this fucker with you? You'd better get his ass out of here.

But it was like it never happened except in that story of his. I remember none of it, not even the curb part.

Jack Daniels, man. He's a mean sumbitch, especially if you're going through a divorce.

For you coonasses out there, and I know there are a few (I am one), the town is Mamou, where the windows are painted black and they sell rum as a hangover cure.

You ever have those moments when you write? Complete surprise at a scene you had forgotten, or a story you wrote and shelved and re-read and you can't believe you wrote that, can't even recall it?

You ever woke up in the back of a car hauling ass out of a biker town?

- Eric

Monday, December 6, 2010

Writer ENVY: Have you ever suffered from it?

I envy talented writers. Talent in anything -- from dancing to singing to sports to writing to math -- cannot be learned, or taught, but is innate as a singer's voice, or a mathematician's knack for numerical visualization.

Either you got it, or you don't got it.

This weekend I saw a fellow writer, who I will not point out other than to say he is not associated with me on the blogosphere, received a special recognition. It wasn't much, but it reminded me of him, and I re-read one of his pieces and looked him up online and wow... he's not a commercial success (and really, what is commercial success anyway?), but he is wildly talented, and is enjoying some small fruits of that talent.

It's amazing how his mind twists the words into a mangled mess that somehow makes sense. It's like watching a crunk dancer perform ballet, and somehow it ~works~.

I read his stuff and think: I'll never write anything like that. I can't. It's not doable. Not that I even want to try, but still, try as I might, I couldn't write like that.

And I envy him for that talent. I get a little bit jealous that he's out there at all, that there are writers with that amount of talent seeking representation from the same agents, the same publishers, going after the same readers and hanging out in the same bookshops. I get a little bit scared that I have to compete with this guy.

I envy his recognition and want my share of it. I feel stingy and childish for that emotion, but there it is, plain and inexplicable and embarrassing as the nipples on my chest. I don't wish him ill, and I believe his recognition is reasonable and well-garnered, but still...

I know I'm not the only one who suffers from this. You don't have to point them out, or acknowledge them, but don't you have authors you're jealous of, that you envy? I don't mean Stephen King or JK Rawlings, I'm talking about your fellow inmates in pre-pub and small-pub lockup, the ones in the trenches with you right now, today.

I mean, don't you ever read something in a blogfest or on a post and think, Wow, I sure don't want to go head-to-head with that author!

- Eric

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Final Wordcount

I say this with absolute genuine praise: If you met your November wordcount goals, if you got your badge, CONGRATULATIONS! I don't care if you got to 50kw or 220kw (as did my publisher, all written from the madhouse here in Dallas). If you set goals and met goals, writing, editing, reviewing, blogging, whatever, I offer you a congratulations for doing what you said you'd do.

Despite the disruptions this month -- and yes, I just called the birth of my son a "disruption" -- I managed to hack out about 20kw on my current WIP.

I have daily goals of 1000-2500 wpd (words per day), and I average 1500 wpd most days. I met those goals on the days I wrote, which tells you I wrote approx 15 days out of 30 this month. The only day I recall starting and not meeting that goal was the day my wife was induced for labor. I managed to get 500 words while we waited for the oxytocin to kick in and I kept getting distracted by the television in the delivery room (I hate television, but my wife loves it).


Don't stop writing just because November passed, and don't spend the next 11 months on your NaNo book. Rest a little if you need it. Write a few shorts just for fun, or some poetry. Edit a couple of months on your NaNo and send it off.

And then ON TO THE NEXT! Don't wait for NaNo 2011 to write your next masterpiece!

If you ask me, May should be the other NaNoWriMo month, but nobody asked me.

- Eric

Monday, November 29, 2010

Write Forward, Not Backward

First: Thank you all for the well-wishes! We had our baby boy November 17, and mom and baby are and have been nothing but perfect all year, and they are continuing this trend moving into Christmas. I also have managed to write 19kw this month -- not too shabby! -- and am determined to finish my WIP by January.

In the picture are my daughter, son, and son. It's the right baby and his name is Trant, despite the Howey on the baby-tub. That's his momma's last name, which will be changed in 2011.

Now, on with the show...

What the heck do I mean by writing forward?

Hell, it's what NaNoWriMo is all about, isn't it. Don't stop to rewrite. Don't pause or stall or drown your muse in an endless edit-reedit-rereedit-rerereedit cycle.

Write ~FORWARD~! Onward, ho! Move along. If your train derails and you find yourself writing in the desert, on a horse, with no name, write from the desert on your nameless horse and forget the train derailing, because that may be the most wonderful thing you ever write.

Now why did I get to thinking on this topic? I'll tell you why, thanks for asking.

It's because I'm reading a lot of write-forward authors. I've always been attracted to them the most, and with few exceptions, I'd argue it is the write-forward author who writes the most imaginative, creative, beautiful pieces.

For instance, I'm reading Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land. He wrote that book forward. I guaran-damned-tee you he didn't stop to edit along the way. Even his character-author Jubal Harshaw said this about his writing, which he dictated to his secretary (and I paraphrase): For God's sake, Anne, don't show it to me! Type it up and mail it off! It's hardly worth reading, much less writing, and if I read it, I'll destroy it. Now off with you! FRONT!

You see what he's saying, don't you? That's Heinlein giving you one of his methods. He wrote, refused to re-write, and in Stranger I hit any number of plot-kinks (if there ever was a plot) that would have stalled me, had I been writing the book. I probably would have put it down and burned it around page 150.

But Heinlein didn't stop. He didn't burn it, and there's a good chance he didn't do much editing before he submitted the piece. Hell, his first release required a 60kw cut!

And it's considered one of the greatest Sci-Fi pieces of all time.

Anyway, we call these people pantsers in this blogosphere. It's what NaNo is all about, writing forward not backward, move along, keep it up and keep moving and get from here to the end.

It's the way we dream. We don't stop and edit our dreams as we go. We dream through to the end. We live life the same way, no do-overs.

In some ways, I believe the computer and the word processor are the WORST thing to happen to writing. It makes editing too easy. Used to be you wrote it with your quill, or in later years typed it.

You wrote forward. That's the way it's always been. WRITE FORWARD!

I say this about editing, and you can quote me on this: Revision can take a good rough draft, pound out the lumps, roll the kinks smooth, straighten the curves, round the edges, and untangle all the thoughtless knots—until there's nothing left but a bunch of flat, balmy words. Blech!

Keep some of the kinks. Let us see the author in you, the writer, the YOU in your words! Write it forward and let the editor sort it out, should it come to that.

It's how I write my blog posts, and when I finally get going on a freaking novel, it's how I write my novels. When I forget this, and begin editing, I kill the piece, just like Jubal Harshaw aka Heinlein said I would.


Assuming that works for you. It's funny how authors give conflicting advice. Who was it who said, All first drafts are shit! (Hemingway)

And, I don't write. I rewrite. (??)

But I digress.

- Eric

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Update: Yep, I'm failing NaNo

As expected, I am failing NaNo.

Someone, please, ask me if I give a shit. Please ask.

There you are, thanks for asking. No, I don't give a shit.

And before anyone goes to bragging, my publisher was at 60k words on day 5. So shut yo mouf.

We all write at our own pace. I won't try to write at your pace, don't try to write at mine.

Me, I am right at 10kw for the month. That's not too shabby, but it's a 30kw/mo pace, short 20kw for a NaNo badge.

Where's that gal who asked me that question a second ago. There you are. You're a cutie, by the way, thanks for asking, and no, I still don't give a shit.

I've modified my workout -- I mean writing -- routine to accommodate a little more writing time.

I put more thought into my story and dove into it, hard.

I also am getting back to my ~method~.

You do have a ~method~ don't you? Here's mine.

I have to think on what I write, before I write it, for about an hour. At least an hour. I ponderize the scene until it's ripe and then I sit down and bang it out!

I used to use my drive into work to do this. I have a 45min to 1hr drive. Turn off the radio, turn on the ponderizer, and for an hour or two peck it out when I get to work.

I got back to that method and it feels wonderful! I write more at home (I use a pre-sleep method to think on my story for morning sessions). I worked in some writing time at my job (that's not an easy thing to do, you know).

And I gave myself permission to skip a little -- not much, but a little -- on the workout routine, in order to catch a few more scenes before they vape on me.

Anyway. That's my NaNo update 10days in.

Oh, and my baby is due any day now! Doc said she'd be surprised if my wife makes it through this weekend with that little baby still in her belly.

More on that later...

GLUCK on NaNo. I would say I'll get to your blogs soon, but that's optimistic at best. I will say this: I'll try.

How is your NaNo going? Are you failing as expected? Have you surpassed 80kw yet (as my publisher has done)? Did you forsake your medication for one month and let the voices take over (as my publisher has done)? Do you have a ~method~?


- Eric

Monday, November 1, 2010

Eric's Writing Desk

All right you knuckers, you asked for it. Here's my writing area for Summer's Lazy Fest.

I took a picture with me in it but I cut that one because I look fat and I am NOT fat, dammit.

If you read the numbers, here are what they mean.

1) Smithwick's + Guinness = (what)? Bonus if you know the proper terms for this mix. For inspiration. This is inarguably the most important thing in writing, thus the #1 in my list.

2) Current WIP. Ongoing, soon to be deleted and completely re-written, again, as is my modis operandi.

3) Wife's skivvies, for inspiration, enhanced by the effects of #1. Lots of inspiration in those things, often more than I can handle.

4) Bills I hope to pay when I hit the BS (best-seller's) list. Total of about $4k, which is far more than most writers make.

5) Cable box. Because this is the closet, and they put cable boxes in the closet.

6) Shorts. I hang my shorts. Don't ask. My wife started that crap.

7) Fan, because the closet gets hot.

8) Desk I hate. I will eventually destroy it with a 3lb sledge and burn it down to the nails.

9) Speakers, blasting She Fucking HATES ME! by Puddle of Mudd, which is my theme song.

10) Current read, Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land, because my WIP is a Sci-Fi and I read only the best during my writing-slash-drinking binges.

Now you have the 10 variables for the genius equation. Don't abuse them, or if you do, at least give proper credit to Eric W. Trant at Digging with the Worms...

- Eric

What do you use for inspiration? Does Guinness inspire you? Have you ever had Shiner Bock? Why is beer known as The Great Motivator? Can I see your (or your wife's) skivvies?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Something Spooky from Eric

Happy Halloween!

Here's an unedited ditty from my early days, back in the early 2000s. I sent this story out to a few ezines, never heard anything back.

Then my sister-in-law Googles my name and finds it on some guy's emag-site! So I guess this is ~officially~ my first publication.

It's sexual in nature, a sex-horror. All my horrors are sexual, now that I think about it.


Funny that I've always lumped sexuality and horror together. My first novel is a horror, and one of my current wips is a horror, and both have deep, deep sexual undertones, with women who use their sexuality to manipulate and control men.

Oh, the HORROR!

This is mostly unedited from the original draft. I knocked out a few semicolons (isn't it funny how that is such a common newbie habit!), and cleaned up a couple of confusing sentences, but otherwise left this intact.

Go ahead and pick it apart if you want. There's a ton to pick!

Letters From the Dead

Waking that evening, Lionel reached out and expected to find her there, beside him in the bunk. How he hated her beside him. How he loved not finding her there. She'd swayed beneath him when they'd left port, and Lionel had begrudged her that, taking little pleasure in the appalling acts with Hillary, the thing he called his wife. For years she'd hexed Lionel with her seductions, her smooth words, her touch that melted him; now she swayed beneath him in another way, lurid, part of the endless sea, groaning in the sails and the wind.

Eleven years Lionel had opened his eyes and seen Hillary. This evening Lionel opened his eyes and found an envelope on the pillow next to his head. Outside the sun sank low on the horizon, and the cabin was too dark to be sure of it, but the white object looked like a letter.

Reaching for the light next to the bed, Lionel remembered it was broken, shattered. Last night, he'd swept up the glass after Hillary broke the lamp. Lionel touched his temple. There. That was where Hillary hit him with the lamp, ripped it free from it's bolts and struck him in her final desperate act.

Lionel stood. Naked, he felt his way to the aft light, next to the head, and lit the cabin. Seeing hurt his eyes. The sailboat creaked in the light. In the daylight, the ship's planks blanched in the sun and complained and refused to hiss against the water. But the night was a comfort to both Lionel and his boat. Cool darkness, like closed eyelids on a burning pair of eyes. In the light there was too much to see.

It was a letter, the white object, creased as if it had been hurriedly folded, or as if a child had done the folding, awkward; the letter lay half-open on his dead wife's pillow. On Hillary's pillow.

The letter gaped at Lionel like Hillary's mouth after she'd swallowed too much salty water, open, looking for air, finding none. Lionel hadn't seen the end of her when she'd gone under. Hillary drifted down into the dark water and simply disappeared. She was alive when he'd last seen her, Lionel was sure of that. She kicked against the rope, but an anchor is a heavy burden. Around your neck, how heavy is that? Can you support it as you swim? Resist its iron weight as it tugs you under, hundreds of feet to the bottom? It seemed oddly humorous last night, watching Hillary fight the weight of the small anchor, the fifty-pounder Lionel rarely used but kept on the deck anyway. He'd used the anchor last night, all right; and when he'd pulled it onto the boat this morning, the anchor hung alone on the rope. Nothing left of Hillary. Spread like forgotten ashes unto the sea.

But there rested a letter on his pillow. And Lionel knew what it said. He didn't have to open it. Hillary was a wicked woman. Evil. From the depths of the ocean Hillary reached up and stroked Lionel with her seductive dead fingers.

She'd looked up at Lionel as she sank, gaping for air, her panicked face wavy beneath the water, her hair wild and alive and reaching, the long auburn strands probably still alive, reaching now from the ocean floor like spines from an urchin. Lionel could see her eyes, bulging and blue. And her unsmiling teeth. Hillary had such perfect and wicked teeth, white and straight as they soaked in their salty grave.

Her teeth seemed to Lionel the most important part of his dead wife. When she'd otherwise wasted away, bored with her own condescending abuse, when she'd become a skull with a pointed tongue, all bones and ribs and sharp angled hips, Hillary's cheeks drew back and exposed more of her teeth. You're too fat, she said to Lionel. Then she flashed her teeth, snarled, and tore away at Lionel, ripped apart his self-respect with her perfect teeth.

Hillary wrote a letter once and put it in Lionel's pocket:

You belong to me

Keep that, Hillary said. It's true, you know.

Hillary made love to him that night, after she folded the letter and tucked it into his jeans, made love as if the letter represented a bonding, a covenant. She consecrated her vow—if that's what it was—on top of Lionel with her eyes closed. She couldn't look at him when they made love, she said. It ruins the mood.

Lionel kept the letter tucked beneath his pillow, where Hillary could see it when she wanted. Hillary asked about the letter regularly. Show it to me.

That was her foreplay. Lionel showed her the letter and then she took him.

And now, where they'd made love two days before, was another letter, folded as roughly as had been the first.

You belong to me.

Lionel could read it on Hillary's lips as she sank into the ocean. She hadn't been gasping, she'd been speaking, reminding Lionel of his place. She'd asked to see the letter. From a hundred feet below the world, Hillary gave Lionel her ultimatum. Show me the letter, and then I'll take you.

"No," Lionel said. He spoke to the letter as if it might answer back. It seemed a living thing, breathing as the sailboat shifted back and forth on the evening wind.

There was nothing left to do. Nothing else but to walk to the bunk and touch the pillow that still smelled like Hillary's hair. So Lionel stepped to the bunk and sat on the sheets. The sheets were wet, either from his sweat, or from the thought of being soaked in saltwater poured from a dead woman's eyes. She's coming. Hillary's coming to take me.

Lionel picked up the letter and examined the creases. The boat creaked, and Lionel thought he heard footsteps, a flutter that might be the sail, or that might be a loose-knit skirt flapping on a skeletal woman.

Surprising how calm a man can be at the end. That was Lionel's thought when he saw how steady his thumbs held the letter. He unfolded the paper.

The words didn't make sense. They were jumbled letters, nothing but scrawling lines:

You belong to the sea

Not what he expected, Lionel read the words again. He realized the handwriting was his, not Hillary's. He must have written the letter last night, in the calm aftermath of killing Hillary, after he watched her face disappear beneath the sea, written the words and forgotten about them. Easy to forget. There were so many things to think about, now.

He needed air. Lionel folded the letter and placed it under his pillow, where Hillary once kept her letter. Then he went up to the deck and stood looking over the stern of the boat. It was almost night. Lionel felt more at home in the darkness.

Lionel checked the rudder. He looked into the water, and below the rudder Lionel saw Hillary there, gnashing her teeth, wild-haired beneath the ocean. But it would be dark soon. And in the darkness, what dead things are there to see?

circa 2001, Eric W. Trant

- Eric

Friday, October 29, 2010

NaNo: It's OKAY to Fail!

NaNo's all over the blogo, and I'd like to weigh in on this, if I may.

First, let me say: It's all right to fail!

Odds are you will NOT reach 50kw in one month.

Odds are you will NOT have a readable or editable manuscript.

Odds are you will NOT be able to edit and revise that (unreadable) manuscript into something saleable.

Folks, I'm a pragmatist and overly honest. I call it like I see it. I don't believe in false confidence or unrealistic expectations, and I'm telling you right now, NaNo is chock full of unrealistic expectations.

Let me tell you the reality of NaNo.

NaNo IS...

... a way to kick off your writing habit, if you do not already have one.
... a means of re-establishing your routine, if you've lost it.
... a fine excuse for dealing with your Writer's Guilt (see my previous posts on this).

NaNo is NOT...

... a good or easy way to write a novel (this is debatable, but is true for my writing style).
... the only way to write a novel.
... the only time of the year you should be writing.

So with that said, let me suggest this to you, my writer friends:

Use November to...

... establish (or re-establish) a consistent writing habit.
... write something legible and healthy.
... educate those around you that writing is ~important~ to you!

The point is, folks, be healthy during NaNo. Set realistic expectations. Don't give in to the peer pressure to set random goals you ~cannot~ achieve.

Be honest with yourself. Keep your balance -- there is no sense neglecting other parts of your life to hit a random word count of 50k words. You'll only frustrate yourself and those around you.

Do your best, and so long as you make forward progress, you are a success. 12k words, success. 5k words, success. Polished revision, success.

Do you see? Please say you see.

My fear is that NaNo discourages writers who "fail" to get the badge. It's a fine idea, folks, but don't be upset if you miss that arbitrary mark, and don't get all flippant if you do.

Because hey, I hit 50k words a long fucking time ago and I wasn't the first. Good job, now sit down and keep writing.

- Eric

Thursday, October 28, 2010

I Got Fired

So I lost my missionary position, but that's all right, it was entry-level anyway and kinda boring.

I found an ad in the paper for a boob job, went and applied, they said I didn't meet their minimum applicant requirements, so I went next door, where they had a new blow job opening. That one fit me, and they sent me back next door to help with the boob job, but I didn't last long and had trouble getting up the second day and I wound up getting laid off.

After that I went downtown to the government offices to apply for a hand job.

"You can do this at home," she said, "but the pay's not that high."

I told her I didn't mind the low pay -- something beats nothing, right -- and since I can set my own hours and work at my own pace, I've managed to squeeze out a lot more than she probably thought I could.

I'm an over-achiever like that.

- Eric

Monday, October 25, 2010

Submission deadline: Short Stories for An Honest Lie

Ping YOU et al:

Submissions open NOVEMBER 1 through MARCH 15 for short story submissions for An Honest Lie Vol 3: Justifiable Hypocrisy

Open Heart Publishing Submissions

This is the anthology I'm in twice -- see sidebar for Vol 1 and 2 -- so you know they'll accept just about anybody.

Debrin Case, the publisher (see his interview here) is looking for well-edited, clean stories with a creative twist.

Here's a hint: Debrin loves urban fantasy, especially Charles DeLint, and he likes the story to appeal to general audiences.

For instance, in Vol 2 he made me take out the hell words from my story, including the hell I had tucked in the title and the last line. Those lines were the same, actually, and he said I ruined the punchline, change the title, and so I did. My story is now entitled One Small Step. The last line is the same, though, and he let me keep that one hell in the story.

So take out the curse words and obscenities and add a little fantasy and change the title.

I'd be happy to look over anyone's submission, so long as I don't get swamped.

Please feel free to reference this on your blog, as Debrin is looking for ~GOOD~ submissions, and I know you all have some creative stories about hypocrisy tucked in your vault, and you have friends who can cook up something gritty for Vol 3.

NOTE: This is a paid publication, no entry fee (not a contest, see my blog on which way the money flows), includes professional editing, and you may be required to read your publication aloud, on camera, in a room full of staring people.

Then again, we may meet in a pub for a get-to-know-you. We did that too, see this post.

Also, whomsoever sells the most books (out of approx 13 authors) wins a book deal! That's how I got my book deal, if you were wondering. I sold an order of magnitude more books than most of the other authors, because that's how I roll, and publishers like authors who get out and hump it.

Any idea what Justifiable Hypocrisy is? Have you done this in real life? Do you have a book deal? Do you want one?

- Eric

Saturday, October 23, 2010

One simple rule to avoid SCAMS

Here's one simple rule I follow that allows me to avoid scams, not just in writing, but in general life.

See, as a writer, we are bombarded with scams. I can't and won't list them all out, and not all of them are scams as such -- they are unscrupulous, but they are legal -- but I'll mention a couple.

Many writing contests charge an entry fee. While some writing contests are considered legitimate, and offer respected prizes, I lump most of them in the not-to-do list. There are a few I might consider entering, but not many, and to date I have entered none at all that charged a reading fee.

I won't say that vanity press is a scam, but I'll say be careful who you choose, if you choose to go vanity press. Do your homework and make a smart business decision.

Both contests and vanity presses are legal ways to get published, but they're both often listed in the scam category, and that brings me to how I came about my one rule for avoiding scams of all sorts.

Let's go back to Eric when he was in college. I grew up in a small Southeast Texas town on the Gulf Coast. In 1989, I drove to Austin, Texas, to attend The University of Texas, and unloaded my stuff into a dormitory that housed three times more people than my hometown, (2.78 times more people, to be precise).

I ordered pizza like they did in the movies. That was neat and I did this a lot afterwards.

I ordered Chinese food, which I never believed came in that little white box that opened on the top -- Chinese food boxes with chopsticks were a myth to me as much as trolls and fairies are to you.

I rode in a taxicab, and on a city bus, and hit those buttons at the crosswalk that changed the stoplight, and saw my first beggar right there on campus. He chased me into the dollar theater when I wouldn't give him money, and for a minute I thought I was going to have to fight him and his buddy to get them off me.

Come on, Captain, you got some money, he kept saying, his buddy hobbling behind him and both reeking of the street and beer, me all alone because I was the only person I knew. Come on, Captain.

A cop took my hunting knife, said I couldn't carry that in my truck (she didn't take the machete or hatchet I had behind the seat, God help me if she'd found that or the other shit I had tucked here-and-there), and the officer laughed at my girlfriend (I met her after the bum-thing) when she told the officers that I was from a small town and didn't know any better.

What's this knife for? the cop says. She shows it to the other officers and almost hits me when I reach for it.

I was gonna show her what I use it for.

Cutting rope, I said. I had rope in the back of the truck -- I always had rope, don't you always have rope?

She said I could claim it at the station, but she took it home and I never did get that knife back, dangit, and I loved that knife. It was a bone-handled full-tang Kabar my brother gave me for my sixteenth birthday, and the high school principle back home once saw it in the parking lot, opened the truck door and took it out and called me to the office and said that I should put it under the seat so nobody would steal it.

Anyway. I guess he was right.

One evening I'm in my dorm room and the phone rings. You've won one thousand dollars in prizes! the guy says.

What the hell are you talking about? I say.

He goes on, and I don't believe him, but he says he is right outside with my prizes, all I have to do is come down to the lobby, pick em up, and that would be it, and I said, All right, then.

Just bring forty-five dollars, he says, and I'll give you a thousand dollars in prizes! Congratulations!

I'm expecting him to have a dolly and maybe a truck full of shit to offload, and I'm wondering where I'm going to put it all.

In walks this pothead in frayed khaki shorts. He says something. I say something. He takes the money and hands me a book of Austin City Limit Coupons and is gone like a fart in a hurricane.

It wasn't illegal what he did, not really. I later discovered that the local whack-heads sold coupon books to the freshmen each fall, that it was a regular deal and about as illegal as selling those roses on 6th street, but that night cemented into my mind the one simple to avoid scams, and it is this:

Money only flows one way!

This applies to jobs, businesses, sales, and yes, to publication in writing.

Let's go through the logic here.

If someone says you are working for them -- or that they are giving you money in the form of a prize (spare me) or inheritance from a distant relative -- then the money flows from them to you, right? That's how my paycheck works at my day job. I never pay them unless I receive a specific service (such as gym membership or health care or some such).

Otherwise, I provide a service and my company pays me for the service. The money is flowing from them to me.

Now, if the money is flowing from you to them, you are NOT working for them, nor are you receiving money from them. NO! You are paying them.

Do you see what I'm saying, about the direction of the flow of money?

So if someone offers to publish your book for you, or hires you as an author, or says they will represent you, and in turn asks for money from you, then the money is flowing in the wrong damned direction, and boys and girls, what is Eric's one rule to avoid scams?

Say it together:

Money only flows one way!

I'm not saying don't pay someone to professionally edit your book, nor am I saying you shouldn't submit your work to publishers who charge a reading fee.

I'm just saying that if you choose to pay someone to look at your work, do so knowingly and with some common sense.

Oh, which brings up another rule of mine, which is this:

Don't call me, I'll call you.

I'm immediately suspicious of anyone who calls me offering money or ways to make money. In other words, be wary of any agent or publisher who contacts you without your solicitation. I'm even wary of headhunters in my day job who solicit me for engineering positions.

Do you have any rules to avoid scams? Have you ever been scammed? Did you learn anything from your scam? Has a cop ever laughed at you, or taken your favorite knife, or have you ever been attacked by zombie-bums?

- Eric

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Writer's GUILT

Writer's Guilt is that feeling you have for holing up in your writing space -- and I guarantee you it's a hole or a cave, because if it wasn't, you'd never get anything written.

You hide and for a few hours you write.

Even if you're published, even if you're a famous author, you know that what you write will probably never be read. It's not wasted, but it's a first draft, something that may resemble the final story, but it's not the final story.

Or you revise. God, I hate revision. So if you're like me, you sit cursing in your Writing Cave (creating new curse words like shitballs and hellfuck and madre de mutherfucking dios), hack-hack-hacking until the words are right and you can move off that page and never, never, NEVER look at that piece of dingleshit again (unless an editor asks you to look, in which case it must not have been that bad, eh).

You embrace the art of writing and in doing so you neglect your family. You could be playing with your kids or taking them frog-hunting around the neighborhood. It's frog season, you know, the tadpoles are grown, and last year, around this time, we bagged nineteen -- count em, NINETEEN -- toads a-hopping around the neighborhood.

You neglect little Fluffy, or in my case, Princess Daisy, our Pomeranian who sits in my lap as I write. Let's not mention Nicki the ball-crazy Corgi. He's too nuts to sit in my cave with me.

You neglect your chores, dinner, put off getting dressed or showered or nibbling your sweetie pie. (I don't put off that last part. Hell, yesterday I stopped mid-sentence to nibble on her.)

You delay all these things in lieu of WRITING.

And if you're like me -- and I bet you are -- you feel guilty.

You feel like you should be doing all those other things, that your family is more important, that the Corgi deserves a good ball-throw in the yard, and wouldn't that be more fun than banging out another 750 words on this goat-fucking story that SUCKS, and you hate the voice, the tone, the main character, and... well, your mind bends back to the keyboard and you peck out another 750 words and 200 to grow on, because you didn't want to stop in an awkward place.

I'm giving you all permission, so here it is: Stop feeling guilty.

I'm lucky because my wife supports my writing. She pokes her head into the cave, kisses me, says, How's it going?

Good. This sucks, so I'm doing it right.

This is the story you're going to publish in the spring, the one with me in it?

Yep, if I can get it fixed. It sucks donkey balls. I hate my life.

I made you a plate.

She hands me the plate she made, the food she cooked, sets down an open beer and says, How much longer?

An hour or so. Thanks for the food and beer. Pick out a movie and we'll watch when I'm done.


Then she picks out a horror blood-fest action flick, and puts her head in my lap while we watch and I drink another beer, and now you all know why I love her so much.

Anyway. The point of all this is that you should NOT feel guilty. Find some balance. Write and be PROUD that you write, no matter what or whose balls it sucks.

Talk to your loved ones about it, help them understand that writing is important to you, and if it's important to you, it will be important to them, no less than would ballet for your daughter or soccer for your son or soccer for your daughter and ballet for your son. If that was what they loved and enjoyed and said, Daddy/Mommy, please, can I do it, I LOVE it!

You'd do it, and you'd be happy for them, especially when they succeed at something they worked so hard to achieve.

Don't feel guilty.

Don't feel guilty.

As they say about good workouts, we can say about good writing: EMBRACE THE SUCK!

And embrace it without the guilt.

Do you feel guilty? Does your family support your writing? Do you have any curse words I can add to my arsenal?

- Eric

PS: Speaking of WRITING CAVES, have you entered Summer's LAZY BLOGFEST, where you post a picture of your writing area Nov 1. I'll be exposing my cave then, so be prepared.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Balance: Note to Self

This here post is a note to myself. If nobody else reads it, so be it, the post served its purpose.

But if you want to read on, have at. It's about balance.

My life has become unbalanced.

I got busy at work. I usually post during my downtime at work. Now you know my secret, why I've been so quiet, both here and on your blogs.

Late nights kept me from getting the sleep I need to get up and write each morning -- I write at 4:30AM, when it's quiet, which means I need an early bedtime to hit my writing mark.

My wife and I are expecting a baby son between today and Thanksgiving, and we're in that final throe where I'm in a total panic and she's saying, Honey, calm down, it'll be all right, and I'm saying, But formula's gonna be $700 a month! Holy shitballs, woman, how are we gonna feed that little baby boy! And quit looking at that $700 rocking chair! Holy shitballs, woman, you have expensive taste. She blinks and we get the rocking chair anyway, because she's beautiful like that and I love her way more than money, and she's right, it'll be okay.

I coach soccer for my son, and we're having a tough season. I try not to worry much on this, but I need to run practices, check schedules, send emails, and wash those penny jerseys and the goalie jersey.

I work two jobs, one my own business, one the job that pays the bills. Both got busy at the same time. My day job -- I already mentioned that one -- hit a hotspot, and at the same time my night job picked up and badabing badaboom, I'm off my balance beam, on the mat, floored and gassed and no idea how to get back up and go at it again.

Plus I write. Like you all. Did I mention that one, yet?

But enough about me and my busy-ness. I'm busy. You get the picture.

There's this one thing I haven't mentioned, though, and it's my gym-time. I work out every day at lunch. It's a religion for me. I don't miss workouts unless there's a damned good reason, and I don't miss more than one or two per week, ever. I get at least three per week, usually four or five, and only allow myself to take off on weekends, but on weekends, I stay off my ass and do stuff that requires physical labor, like putting up a fence last week.

Did I mention I had to put up a fence, too? Forgot about that one. Don't forget putting out Halloween decorations, too, while I was putting up the fence with the kids and the wife asking me to haul this and that down from the attic.

Anyway. I love my family, and I did it (mostly) without complaint.

Back to working out. I didn't skip, because working out is important to me. It keeps me sane, healthy, keeps my stress in check, and if I manage to peak (which I am trying to peak this fall), I feel sexy as hell. Not that it'll do much good with a new baby, and not that peaking when you're almost 40 is all that impressive, but still, it means something to me.

The point is I made time for the workouts.

Even when life was unbalanced.

Even when I was so busy I could barely find time to check my emails, ate at my desk, and all that other blah-blah I don't have to tell you about, because you, my fellow modernites, know exactly what I mean.

Oh, and my alternator went out. Let's not forget about that alternator, holy shitballs woman, I just had to spend $700 on an alternator, how are we gonna afford this baby!

I want to find that balance again. I want to juggle my balls without getting racked, if you get me.

I need to get back on the writing, my blogging, keep my head in this literature game.

I need to stay on top of my side-business.

I need to keep up with my day-job.

My family needs me, my wife and my kids and my soon-to-be-born son.

Stick with my workout routine.

Find balance. Find solitude. Relax.

Make time for what is important. Leave out those things that don't matter, and remember how to say, No.

Remember it'll be all right. It always is.

(Writing this out, helped, see! I figured exactly what was needling me, and it's that combination of nerves you only get before weddings, Christmas when you're ten, and baby-baby-babies...)

Holy shitballs, eh! He's almost here!

- Eric

Saturday, October 2, 2010

I landed a BOOK DEAL!

And the Winner Is... Eric Trant!

I landed a book deal!

This morning I got a call from Debrin Case over at Open Heart Publishing letting me know I had received the book deal he was offering to one of his short story authors.

"Yes, I have some books," I told him, when he asked.

"Good," he said. "Have one to me by December first."

Now I have to edit those pieces -- again -- and figure out which is the best one to put out for publication.

Do I keep working on my current piece, which is about 12kw along, add some sections to that novella I wrote in the spring, re-write that horror from a few years back, hit that trilogy I got bogged down in, or finish that fantasy novel I stopped working on a while back? Or maybe go with that lit-fic-fantasy I wrote last year, the one my wife likes because I based one of my characters on her.

Or maybe take the easy way out and do a short story compilation... (not my first choice).

I think, instead of thinking on this too much, I'll relax today and think on it tonight while I sleep and have an answer by morning. My brain works like that, by osmosis. All my good stuff occurs while I sleep and I forget it all the next morning, except for the really, really good stuff, which somehow floats close enough to the surface for me to scoop out and keep.

I would like to thank a couple of my fellow bloggers, though, for reviewing and promoting An Honest Lie Vol 1: Encouraging the Delinquency of Your Inner Child.

Mesmerix over at Scribbler to Scribe wrote a solid review. She's one of those people who gives more than she takes, which is especially a good thing if you're a boxer, except she's a writer and editor and legal advisor in foreclosure and bankruptcy. She inspired that Pay It Forward post I put up a while back, owing to her generous nature, and I hope some of her generosity rubs off on me.

I also hope to learn, via osmosis, some of her editing tricks.

Donna Hole, whose punchiness is always a welcome respite from the more timid bloggers we read and love. Donna is unapologetic in her opinions and her critiques and that deep-throaty voice that keeps its tongue bit back one or two words short of one-word-too-far. I do believe that the very first post I received from Donna mentioned how I had head-skipped POV in a scene I posted up for a blogfest, and she caught the fact that I lied to the reader. "Lie to the characters but not the reader," she wrote.

And she's right, you know.

In any case, there it is and here you go. I have a book deal.

Coming in Spring of 2011...

- Eric

Monday, September 27, 2010

Nicknames: Why they are important

Remember your nicknames, folks. Everyone has a nick, most of us have many, and we nickname everything from our kids to our dogs to our guns and cars, to our lovers and best friends and favorite beers and the favorite parts of our lovers that we only find after drinking a few of those favorite beers we call Black Syrup.

I drive a Tahoe. Its nickname is The Tahoe.

So we're in The Tahoe, and the kids are watching Lady & the Tramp over and over. They do that, watch the same movie over and over, and I get to hear it, over and over, and that movie is what got me to thinking about nicknames.

See, the man and woman in Lady & the Tramp have names, but their dog, Lady, only knows them by their nicknames: Jim-Dear and Darling.

Then later, when Tramp meets Lady, he immediately nicks her with Pigeon, which is nicked even further to Pidge.

Do you see the art there? Nicknames dig deep. That nick is the private name, the one whispered and never written -- except when we, as writers, write them!

I nick my kids, my wife, both the dogs, my brother and my pop, and in fact my dad never calls me Eric, I'm known only as Boog, short for Booger.

My brother is Tigger. His wife is Bear. Mine is Sweetie Pie.

Nicknames, people. Don't forget your characters have nicknames.

What is your nickname? What about your characters, do you nick them?

- Boog, E, ET, Baby, Bro, Daddy, Mr. Eric, Coach, Saul, Saul Goode...

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Paying it Forward

Pay it forward, you jerkies!

I'd like to thank Mesmerix over at Scribbler to Scribe not only for reviewing some of my work, but also for inspiring me to Pay it Forward.

See, she and I emailed a bit and I thanked her for the review and offered to read some of her work and return the favor and thanked her again for "wanting to read my gunk." (That's a direct quote.)

Know what she wrote back? She said, and I quote: "I'm all about supporting my neighborhood blogger-writers. Pay it forward and all."

So I'm paying it forward and heading off to buy one of my fellow blogger's books.

It's a book I've been eyeing for a little while. I like her excerpts. It sounds good and manly (so many of my fellow bloggers are either YA or romance).

In other words, it sounds like my gig.

A book I might actually enjoy reading.

I don't patronize or buy out of obligation, nor do I guilt or push my work onto anyone else. I read because I enjoy reading. I critique writers I like to critique.

Likewise, I expect the same from my readers and critters and betas. I'm not an obligation, dadgummit.

So I'm not asking you to buy a book you'll hate, out of guilt or obligation.

Nope. Instead, I'm suggesting you buy that book that you've been thinking about buying. Get the electronic version, if you must, it's sure a lot cheaper.

Buy that self-published book that sounds decent.

Buy that romance, or even that YA that sounds nifty.

Maybe they're self-published, or working with a micro-pub, or it's their first book with Penguin or Harper.

Go support your local blogger!

Pay it forward and all.

Whose book do you want to buy? Post a link to it in the comments! See my old post on how to insert a link into the comments: HTML for Bloggers!

Here's my choice: Mary McDonald's No Good Deed

- Eric

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Book Review: An Honest Lie Vol 1

There's a fine book review at Mesmerix on an anthology containing one of my short stories. Special thanks for the awesome review!

You'll note in her comment that purchases made through my portal go toward a vote that earns the leading author a book deal. Last I checked I was the leading author and am working hard to keep it that way! Wish me luck, and I'll know for sure in October...

Again, M, thank you for the review. Hopefully next year it'll be a full-on novel to shred up.

- Eric

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Shaved heads and other setbacks

We all face little setbacks. Life doesn't hit the pause button when you're ready to write. To be successful in writing -- and in anything you do -- you need to be ready for those setbacks and you must employ two of my favorite all-time quotes:

Improvise. Adapt. Overcome. Paraphrased and reversed, spoken by Clint Eastwood, written by Jim Carabatsos (the actual quote was cumbersome and backward)

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. Teddy Roosevelt, spoken in perfect order and brevity

I'm a believer that obstacles are not problems, they are opportunities. I say this at work all the time. "Send me into the fire," I tell em. "Because that's where the opportunities are."

And the bigger the problem, the bigger the opportunity. The harder you have to work at writing -- and I'll stick to writing as the goal here, but really this applies to any goal in your life -- the bigger the payoff.

I don't know why that is, but there's a Divine Law somewhere that says just that: Payoff is directly proportional to effort.

Rarely is it the casual writer who la-lahs into a bestseller with ho-hum effort who then laments that it was too easy.

Instead, it's the struggling artist, the Clancy writing with his kid on his knee, the King locking himself in his office away from his family, the McCarthy writing in squalor, the Grisham going from store-to-store hocking his books and begging for shelf space, the Rawlings writing it out on napkins after a dozen publishing houses rejected her story.

It's the hard-earned EFFORT of the writer that pays off. If it's easy, you're probably doing it wrong. If you quit when it gets tough, then you're not doing it at all, are you.

Which brings me to a shaved head.

I asked my wife this weekend to help me shave my head. I keep it short since there ain't much left to keep anyway. "The guard's not hitting it," she said.

"That's all right," I said.

So she does something behind me and hair starts falling away and I say, "What'd you do?"

"Took off the guard."

Crap. I didn't want to get peeled, just clippered. Now I'm bald as Bruce Willis.

So it's a setback, albeit it a minor one, but I still looked at it as an opportunity.

Namely, I guilted my Sweet Thing into some very nice nibbling.

That's how it works, folks. It's not a setback or a problem.

It's an opportunity.

Even when it's the hair on your head.

- Eric

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

My Publisher's Interview

And now, here's the interview from my publisher. He's done two of my short stories, and I like to think we'll continue doing business together, so long as the worms keep digging and he keeps being able to pay his rent.

Purchase the book here, with my first-ever short story Apple Tree:
 Click to Buy


OHP: Do you have any advice for aspiring publishers {writers} out there?

D.C.: Keep to your deadlines. Nothing else matters above your word and keeping to your deadlines.

Is your life in shambles, can’t pay the rent, need a new car… tough shit, keep to your deadlines.

The world is doomed, the wrong political candidate won the election, there is a race of mutant rats overthrowing your city… ah well, stick to your deadlines.

An author needs an extension on their piece, an artist is having issues, your printer is going away on holiday, who cares… Keep your deadlines.

Remember those words, my fellow wannabes and gonnabes and are-nows and has-beens and ceaseless lifelong dreamers.

It's all about the deadline.

Go figger.

- Eric

Thursday, August 26, 2010

My Author Interview

Here's my author interview with Open Heart Publishing and their forthcoming anthology. They're publishing another of my shorts, entitled One Small Step. Feel free to visit and comment!

Here's a snippet:

OHP: In your opinion, which is the more important discovery of humankind… plumbing or the written word?

E.T.: A combination of both, actually. One gives you the means to accomplish your personal business in private. The other gives you something with which to wipe.

- Eric

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Rainy Night Blog Fest

Rainy Night Blogfest for Christine over at The Writer's Hole

From my unpublished novella, Dark Woods. Henry is about 10 years old.

The rain began late that night, a quiet shower dripping from the treetops. No lightning or thunder interrupted the steady patter of droplets against the leaves and Henry's blue tarp. The rain fell straight down in the stagnant air. Water sizzled in the fire and on the burning summer ground, hard and hot as pavement.

Henry huddled beneath the tarp with the dogs on either side of him. He sat cross-legged and used the Army shovel to hack a deeper water trench around his sleeping area. Despite its calm nature, the rain was actually a downpour, and puddles accumulated around Henry and filled up his fire pit.

Henry wished he'd brought some fire wood under his tarp. He wished he'd set up a fire pit closer to the tarp, or better yet, beneath the tarp. But the tarp barely covered him and the dogs. He wished he had a larger tarp. He wished he had a flashlight that worked, or even a lantern he could light.

He wished he had matches to light the lantern.

Satisfied with the water trench around him and the dogs, Henry watched the fire die down and the fire pit fill with water. Two charred crawfish shells floated to the edge of the fire pit and crept toward the trees atop a flowing puddle of gray ash. The ping-sizzle of the raindrops died off into a muddy slap, taking with it the last remaining light. Darkness wrapped around Henry so thick he could barely tell his eyes were open.


Henry couldn't see much, but he could hear. The rain ebbed and flowed, and after a while began to let up, and that's when he heard the squealing. The dogs had perked their ears long moments before, hearing the things only dogs can hear, and Whiskey raised his head and issued a few warning growls, but the rain had masked the sounds Henry now could hear.

Henry heard a raucous screech followed by a few deep thumps that he could feel in the ground below him. The screams of pain, heavy grunts of anger. Nothing in the darkness moved, and Henry could barely see to the edge of his camp.

Henry wrapped his hands around the .30-30 rifle, flicking the safety on and off as he waited to see if it would come nearer.

Whiskey stood and shook his coat, splattering Henry's cheek and arm with flicks of mud. The dog growled deep in his chest. Henry saw the spiked outline of the dog's rustled hair standing on end along his spine, his tail low but not between his legs, just out of the way, his flanks wound tight and ready to spring. Scotch stood and wagged his tail and barked once and then licked the splatter marks off Henry's cheek.

The rain drizzled through the treetops in an unsteady buzz. Henry heard clumping footsteps that became wet and sloshy as they grew nearer to Henry's camp. They were hooves, he could tell from the clopping sound they made against the roots, and large, more than one set of hooves, two or three maybe, overlapping as they navigated the dark woods. He felt the hooves pound against the forest floor. Sharp cries of pain issued forth from the underbrush, something crashing through the briars and thorns and cracking limbs beneath its feet.

- Eric

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Writing Tips I Learned From My Kids

So I'm watching X-Men with my son, and he says, "Daddy, who's this movie about?"

And I say, "Well, the first character you see is usually the main character. For this movie, who's the first character?"


"So that's it. Magneto's the main character."

"But I thought it was about Wolverine."

"Was Wolverine the first character?"


"Was Wolverine the guy at the end of the movie?"


"That's right. The first scene was Magneto. The last scene was Magneto. Everything about the plot was Magneto. Magneto was the Main Character. See how that works?"

"Yeah, I guess. I still like Wolverine better. He's way cooler than Magneto."

And my daughter, we're watching The Day the Earth Stood Still, and they're standing in front of the alien spacecraft and Jennifer Connelly is walking toward the alien, holding out her hand toward this unknown being who just a few seconds earlier about leveled NYC, and my daughter says, "It's always a smart person who walks up to the alien to shake hands. Then some stupid person with a gun shoots them."

Then somebody shot the alien.

"See!" she said.

Stupid somebody!

So remember these lessons my write buddies and baddies: The Main Character is always the first person -- not the most interesting -- smart people stick their hands into the blender, and stupid people shoot things they don't understand.

Everything you ever needed to know about writing, courtesy of my childrenses.

You're welcome.

- Eric

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

When do you ~CREATE~?

We've all posted about when we write and how we inspire the muses, but I want to discuss the creation process deeper this time, and why understanding when you create your stories is one of the most important timeslots in your day.

I wrote a story about a blue-faced God whose expressionless features never answered a damned thing. My character asked over and over for God to answer, and God stared back at him with that blue-faced mask, still as a sculpture.

The reason that scene came alive for me is that I tripped inside of my head this fuse that allowed the worms to dig and excavate and root around anytime my mind fell idle.

I fell asleep praying to my blue-faced God. In my dreams I stood beside God and asked Him to solve my problems, show me the way, bless those I care for, and He stared through and above me and never said a damned thing.

You know how sometimes when your kid asks you a question, and you pause for a second to let their wheels click, and after a few beats the kid says, "Oh, I see. Nevermind."

You never said a word. You stared and let them figure it out for themselves.

That was how it was with my blue-faced God. He let me figure it out for myself, and I in turn passed that on to my character and let him figure it out for himself.

How's that relate to the overall topic of when you create? Let me tell you. I created that story at night, falling asleep in my insomnianic manner, rolling for a couple of hours in bed and in my head. I didn't write that story at the computer, or mowing the yard, or working out, or sitting around with pad and paper and an outline.

I wrote it in my dreams, and when I woke the next morning, I hammered out the scene that had cleaved itself from the hard-packed earth and puked up a blue-faced flower.

I nurtured that time at night. I let my mind drift to the story.

I allowed myself to ~create~ the story, and then, later, when the lights were on, I simply wrote down what I'd seen the night before.

King created Misery in his dreams on an airplane flight. Dante created Inferno in his dreams. Who the hell knows where Poe created his stuff, but it wasn't at the pen-and-ink table with the candle flickering. Then, later, they wrote it down, see.

The point here is to understand when it is that your stories come to life and nurture that time. Humor it. Make that time part of your daily routine. It may be different for every story, but find that creative time when your story is born and make time for it. Nothing is created at the keyboard or the outline tablet.

Your stories are recorded when you write, that's all.

- Eric

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Detox for Writers

When you're stressed out, everyone and everything suffers. You neglect your family, forget to clean the fish tank, let the yard grow out, piss off your boss with your latest raging case of The Fuckits, irk your loving wife because you'd rather sleep on the couch (because, probably owing to the PTSD associated with your divorce and all those years bedding down the cushions, when you're stressed, the couch feels safer), and above all other things, you impose a magnificent injustice on your writing.

It's this latterest point I'd like to address specifically, and the others tangentially, if at all.

Writing is important to me. It quiets the voices. I release an energy inside me that opens up a whole new level of creativity that I can apply to anything else in my life. Writing helps me coach soccer. Writing helps me analyze engineering problems at work. Writing helps me communicate with my wife and children.

Writing is a huge part of who I am, and what I do. When I stress out, and can't write, I need to find ways to detoxify the stress levels and unleash the worms.

First, I believe you need balance in all four areas of your life: Head, Heart, Spirit, Body.

That sounds a little Buddhist or Taoist or Maoist or some such, but there it is. I add a fifth on there sometimes, Financial, but I'll leave out that sucker since most of us don't have nearly the control over our finances that we like to think we have.

Anyway, here are some things that detoxify me when I get cluttered up.

I hole up and read. That, friends, is a huge escape for me, and a fine way to prime the writer's pump.

I work out. I've done globogym work since college, but did martial arts and burst training in high school. I recently went back to burst training (doing CrossFit) and some light martial arts, and it has reinvigorated a youthful side of me I had forgotten I still had. In fact, it's inspiring my latest story.

I attend church or pray. Pick your religious poison, but having some sort of spiritual relationship will put you back on keel. Like the burst training, a good religious experience will awaken that inner kid, the one who let Mommy and Daddy worry about everything, and who believed Dad when he said it would be all right and that he was the meanest mutherfucker in the woods, ain't nobody gonna hurt you, ever.

I cuddle up with my wife and watch a movie. I let her pick the flick, and God love her, she picks guy-movies every last time. I don't know if she actually likes the movies. She says she does, and then we rent the latest Resident Evil. How can I not love that woman?

I think I'll buy her flowers tonight, just for the hell of it, and cuddle up with her, even though I should be working and mowing that yard.

Man, screw the yard.

How do you detox? How do you stay in-the-game during stressful times?

- Eric

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Why do you read?

Why do you ~read~? How does that apply to writing? And if you don't understand why you read, how the hell are you going to understand why you write!

Collectively, writers say they write, "... because I must."

Collectively, readers say they read, "... to escape."

I have no idea what those mean. I've said both, sure, so have you, but I invested some mental capital into the topic and came up with this:

I ~write~ because I want to be heard. I want to connect with and capture an audience.

I ~read~ because I want to be captured. I want to sit with an author and listen to a voice I'll never hear, meet a person I'll never know.

There's no must in wanting to be heard. There's damned sure no escape in wanting to be captured.

It's a speak-listen relationship between the author and reader. I want to speak, they want to listen. I want to listen, they want to speak.

Simple, really, when you think about it.

Why do you read? Does your writing style serve the purpose you, as a reader, would demand of an author?

- Eric

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Death Scene Blogfest

For Tessa, a death scene:

Mandy screamed, "Stop it!" to the brothers and their hecklers. For some reason, Mandy threw her book at Luke and Lionel, but she missed and hit Hector in the thigh. Hector kept chanting without looking up at Mandy.

Lionel hit Luke in a steady cadence of fleshy smacks. Smack. Smack. Lionel's boots kicked over desks as he fought for footing, forcing Hector and the other boys to step back, out of the way as they chanted, "Fight! Fight!"

Constance and Locos stuck their heads into the room, and behind them a throng of other kids formed from the emptiness of the hallway, coalesced by the chanting. Ms. Kennedy, Mandy saw, was behind the crowd, standing like a shocked student and not at all like a teacher.

There was blood on Luke's face and Lionel's fist. The smacks sounded wetter as the boys huffed and grunted on the floor.

Mandy turned to the teacher behind her. "Mr. Beaks!"

He didn't look up. Mr. Beaks's mouth moved as he read to himself. He licked his lips. The top of his scalp looked wet.

Suddenly the screaming stopped and Mandy turned back to the fight. Huffing, Luke stood and leaned on the front of Hector's desk for balance. Luke's face was torn from cheek to lip, and his eye already looked swollen. His nose was either bleeding or bloody from the other cuts on his face. Breathing hard, Luke hunched above his brother dripping blood on Hector's desk.

Lionel lay on his back, having let Luke out of the headlock, looking up at his older brother. Though he hadn't been hit, Lionel's face was a deep bruised purple. He was crying. "I'm sorry," Lionel said.

Then Luke lifted Hector's desk by the front. Pencils and a notebook slid off as Luke raised the desk above his head. Luke yelled, "You fucker!" and dropped the desk onto Lionel, hammering the metal leg of the desk through Lionel's sternum like a two-inch spike.

- Eric

(PS: This is based on an actual fight between me and my little brother. He beat the hell out of me. So I threw a stereo on his head and then hit him with the top drawer of my dresser.)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

What is it they want?

What do publishers and agents want most?

Anyone? Anyone?

Let me enlighten you: They want professionals.

They want a mystery writer who will bust his ass selling books.

They want a YA author who can rip out a full trilological book series with each book stronger than the last.

They want a romance or a literary woman who knows her target audience and is willing to sit down and bang out two novels a year, steadfast, from A to Z, starting with A is for Alibi.

Let us face reality, my pre-published friends and neighbors: Agents are business people. Publishers are businesses. Editors don't work for free.

So when you ask, "What does an editor/agent/publisher want from poor little unpublished me?"

The answer is simple, and they respond, "We want you to make us some money, you dumb knucker!"

Don't forget that.

Be professional. Show them a strong work ethic. Demonstrate the ability to bust your ass in sales and marketing.

You might be surprised at their response.

- Eric

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Some Random Thoughts

All right, knuckers, there are some posts I skip entirely on your blogs, because it is mostly a rant and I usually don't read rants.

Unless I feel like a-ranting myself.

So if you skip this blog, more power to you. Knuckle-tap and Wonder Twins unite, I would've skipped this one, too.

If you made it this far, here's my rant. I hope you're ready.

I've been writing on my current piece now for a few months. I plotted, re-characterized, re-plotted, wrote some concept scenes, so on ad nauseum ad infinitum pro bono bona fide veni vidi vici.

Only sans the veni vidi vici part. I came. I saw. I got my ass whupped Texas style.

Actually, I kicked my own ass. I've been a-ranting these past few weeks on the rules. Now, that's not a random occurrence. I didn't accidentally rant on that stuff.

I also didn't listen to my own little voices well enough. I ducked back into my cave -- that's where I can be alone, without the spotlight, no blogs, no editors, no betas and no worries -- and I wrote myself some personal notes. It's my way of digging up the worms and hearing them speak.

They're soft creatures, worms. You pot em, they die. Squeeze em, they die. Over-water, they bubble up to the surface and the birds get em. Under-water, and they dry into crunchy little twigs.

But cut em in half and you get more worms. You can't hardly kill em with a knife. Go figure. Sometimes God doesn't make a bit of fucking sense, does He?

Anyway, my personal notes-to-self, the ones I'd never publish online or anywhere else for that matter, are the ones that mean the most to me, and the ones that do their speaking in a voice so loud I can't help but not ignore it.

How's that for some triple negatives stacked ad nauseum?

I heard it, the voice, and here's what it said:

Swing on the coattails of your characters. Grab hold and hold on tight. That's a Bradbury quote. It was more along the lines of unleash your characters and hold onto their coattails. Something like that.

I realized what I already knew, and it is this: I cannot re-write. I cannot plot. I cannot think ahead and expect to write something brilliant and well-planned.

I am not a pantser, nor am I a plotter. I am something in-between.

My mind prefers a vague concept, a cool scene, something fun to begin with, and then a follow-on scene, something fun to write, interesting characters, and I'm turning the page of my own work and each morning reading for the first time a story that ~I~ wrote.

I've re-written my current piece seventeen times, now. That's a fact. I am on cut #18.

And you know what? I looked back at the first cut, and it wasn't that bad. I should've kept going, but now I'm afraid I may have killed it.

I over-watered and it drowned. I might be able to suck off the excess and keep going, but I have other bodies in my trunk besides this one, dead stories, the almost-concepts, the ones who didn't make it off the operating table. I have so many of them I bet there isn't enough lime and formaldehyde in Dallas to cover the stench.

Anyway. That's the worms a-talking. That's my rant. That's why I've been boogering so hard on the rules these past few weeks, because they've been fidgeting so much with my worms that I can't write!

I must write from the cave, from inside my own self, for myself, by myself, to myself, holding nothing back.

Embrace the rules for your own protection. You get that, don't you? Like how you might tackle a growling dog and then rub its belly.

You have any rants you'd like to share?

- Eric

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Education Kills Creativity

Now here's a great lecture on the art of killing the worms. I call it education, book-learning, following the rules and doing and believing and parroting what you're told.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: The more you learn, the less you know.

So very true. I see it at work. I see it at home. I see it everywhere I go. The innovators are the rule-breakers, the ones who don't shackle themselves with the process and insist everyone else wear these chains with em.

They're the Brazilians in soccer, constantly inventing new moves on the field.

They're Einstein at his clerk desk ponderizing physics without the anchor-weight of a professor telling him he was wrong wrong WRONG!

They're Hemingway and Vonnegut with total disregard to accepted literary practices.

These people are educated, smart, and in their own right they are learned and stand on top of what others have learned.

But they don't repeat in rote droves what they learned as gospel and unquestionable truth. They understand ~why~ the rules are in place, and why breaking them might improve the process.

They question the rules. They question the process. They challenge and prod the limits of what is acceptable practice.

Many fail -- and don't be afraid of failure -- but the ones who don't fail, the ones who manage to get off the ground, God how they soar!

- Eric

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Why Plot?

Do you, as a writer, know ~why~ you need a plot? Have you ever asked yourself this question?

I have. I ask that question quite a lot, actually: Why plot?

Hemingway never had a plot. Angela's Ashes didn't have a plot. Most Cormac McCarthy books lack a plot, as do many of Stephen King's works.

Short stories have no plot. They don't have the protagonist-antagonist interaction, or a character arc, or a three-scene conformity. Many of the chapters and scenes in your favorite books -- Harry Potter for instance -- have nothing to do with the plot.

It is inarguable -- so please do not try -- to state that plot is necessary for a piece to be readable, publishable, or recognizable as a great work. There are simply too many exceptions that violate this rule.

So why plot? What is its function? Why do genre publishers insist on the dang thing?

I'll tell you why: To drive Dear Reader to the end.

That's it.

The only reason you need the plot is to provide thrust and rhythm to the reader. Dear Reader rides the ups and downs of the plot, pacing fast, then slow, and finally, at the end, in a mad rush, they climax and THE END, thanks for playing, what was this author's name again, and who cares because I got mine, where's my next book.

But aren't there other ways to please the reader? Look at Life of Pi. No plot there. The little guy floats in a boat with a tiger and lands in Mexico. No protagonist. No antagonist. Just a boy and a tiger and some turtle blood, which apparently you can drink.

Rather than using a plot or a pro/antagonist conflict as thrust, the author used a story promise, a big question that I've stated before as the only question you need inspire in the reader: What's next? He also used prose, imagery, and scene-driven conflict to sail the reader through to the end.

He kept you turning the page until Pi landed in Mexico and that was a good stopping point and so he stopped writing. The end. Was it good for you, honey?

Using the plot as the only means of reader thrust is severely limiting yourself! Flip over Dear Reader and use good prose. Stand em up and use a story question. Hold em upside-down and use imagery to woo them into the next chapter.

Use plot, sure, but understand why you are using plot. Understand that it is not the only way to satisfy the reader, nor is it a steadfast rule in literature. It may be the most common means of thrust, but there are many more ways you can entice a reader to complete book.

What other ways can you inspire Dear Reader to read to THE END? What methods can you combine with plot to give Dear Reader added incentive to finish your book?

- Eric

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Supporting Roles: Write with Character

If you don't believe supporting roles are key to great stories, let me ask you something:

What is Star Wars without Vader?

What is Pirates of the Caribbean without Jack Sparrow?

Would Dorothy be so interesting if not for her companions?

How about Mr. Potter? The most interesting character isn't Potter or even his friends -- it's that big dude who befriends spiders and unicorns, Hagrid.

What about Lord of the Rings, you ask? It would hardly be LOTR if not for Gandolf and Gollum.

You get what I'm saying, don't you? Every story has one character -- and often multiple characters -- who pull the story along. These characters are the interesting ones, the memorable characters who draw us into the story and keep us reading along.

Here's the ruse, though: Often they are ~supporting roles~!

The Main Character (MC) has to worry about the plot, the conflict, the one-two-three of the chapterizing, manage the wordcount, and drive from beginning to end. This can be agonizing, boring, painful, not to mention rote. Your MC is all business and no play.

So in stomp these supporting players to tear up the stage. They tickle the plot and move it forward, but really, most of them can be removed or replaced or edited down to minor bits. It's only the MC who is irreplaceable. If that's not true, you have the wrong MC!

For instance, let's look at Gollum in LOTR. He serves the MC as a guide, a foil, and an antagonist, and serves the author to enhances the backstory. None of these things were ~necessary~ to the plot. Frodo could have found his own trail into Mordor and never met Gollum. Heck, he didn't even need his good buddy Sam to tag along, did he?

But the trip itself was awfully boring. One-two-three. Describe the mountains. Four-five-six. Kill a spider. Seven-eight-nine. Burn a ring, ten you're done, let's go home.

Instead of moving linearly, though, JRRT introduces Gollum, a sidebar character who is, above all things, interesting and memorable. The story, if not the plot, just got better.

I could go on, but I think you get the picture. Along with your MC -- who should be interesting in their own rite, but may not be the ~most~ interesting character in the book -- you need to include sidebar characters who not only enhance the plot, but also draw the reader into the story.

Make these sidebar guys and gals and monsters interesting. Let them steal the show. Let them trip up and push along your MC.

Let them enrich your world and your story, so your MC can trudge along the plotted path and get done with it already.

Oh, and what does the monkey flipping you the bird have to do with this post? Absolutely nothing. He's simply there to demonstrate my point: He's interesting. My friend took this picture recently.

What are your thoughts? How important are supporting roles in the reader's experience?

- Eric

Monday, June 21, 2010

Me on Writing, circa 2000

I stuck my finger in my annals this weekend and managed to dig this out, from circa 2000. This was me in the cave, speaking to myself, writing on the wall in blood and wondering if anyone a thousand years from now would read it, and not really caring either way. I'm still not sure being inside that cave isn't the best thing for my writing.

See, when you're alone, you can blasphemize and butcherize yourself and your story and not worry about a dadgum thing but the story itself.

I am absolutely certain, for instance, that at the moment of conception, when that spark of thought first hits us, and before it we are tainted with language and learning and bombarded with extrasensory movement and perception, that in our fetal state we know God and God knows us and we get it.

It's only after we pop into the light that we begin to unlearn everything we already knew. That's the power of the cave. Even bloggerville is noisy and blinding compared to the darkness of the cave.

My wife's pregnant. Can you tell?

And I still agree with this, ten years later.

Here you go, world. See if the light blanches my words.

Begin Cave Thoughts, ~2000
Seems every writer’s got something to say about writing. Well, I’m not a writer. (I’ll settle for being published, though).

But I’ve read quite a bit on the subject of writing (big eff-ing deal, right?). And muddled through the first draft of a novel, a horror-fiction, packed from first to last with mediocre verbiage (and absolutely no horror). So, in the tradition of pumping out a ton of mediocre verbiage—like so many authors today—here are some words on writing. We’ll see how long I agree with what I write.

It’s simple—just unravel the story like a ball of string and you have it. Every person has it; you don’t need to be a Dr. Crichton or a lawyer Grisham or—gasp—an insurance-man Clancy to pull a story out of your ass. And that’s just where it came from. If you need help, eat some paint; that’s what King did (I bet).

First, start with the ball. It’s a tangled mass, and can be anywhere from the car-sized Gone With the Wind to Jack London’s rat’s nest To Build a Fire; your choice. Okay, so you have the ball, either in the palm of your hand or parked pacing your garage like an un-caged lion. Somewhere in between lies ninety percent of your (wannabe) authors.

Second, look at the string. Decide what it is. Is it a horror string? Romance? Fantasy? Don’t even think about porn—your wife’ll kill ya, and if it’s a husband you’re worrying about, well, he’ll probably wonder why you know so many ways to stroke a man’s thingie. All that aside, though, figure out your string. If you get to the cork in the middle and find out it ain’t what you thought it was, you probably need to start over.

Third, find an ending. And a beginning. You need both ends. Now realize the beginning may not be exactly the beginning you eventually go with, and neither is the ending, but you must must must start with these ends. If you’ve ever tried to unwind a mass of fishing line, you know what I mean.

Fourth, I’m getting tired of counting; if I keep going, we’ll get to tenthly and seventeenthly. So, onward sans counting. Good. That’s settled.

Tug some on the string. Unwind it from beginning to end as best you can. Don’t worry about the knots along they way—those’ll come out later. Keep going. Get to the end.

When you reach a spot—and you will—where you have your knife out, ready to cut, don’t. Don’t do it. Skip the knot. Screw the knot. Let the knot stay right where it is. Keep going. Find the next smooth spot in your string and go from there. Forget the knot.

And don’t fret the bigger knots, either. Let them be. They’ll look like frazzled old ladies waiting in the salon, tapping you to do them next, they aren’t getting any younger. Resist the urge. Move on. Forward. To the blasphemous end.

You’ll get there. To the end. Finally. And guess what?—it sucks. The whole book. Full of these twists and holes and God am I ever going to get a book published? Hemingway said, “All first drafts are shit.” Remember those words.

So here you are, sitting at the end of a mangled script, bent, frayed, creased, tangled. And, yep, it’s shit. Get out your working gloves, ‘cuz it’s re-write time.



- Eric

Friday, June 18, 2010

Word Verification Challenge

Just for fun, I am turning on WORD VERIFICATION (WV) for this post only. In the comments section, make a sentence or paragraph or story using your WV word. It must make sense.

For instance:

o In Latin, the plural for theater is theati.
o Furuq that noise!

Unleash the muse...

- Eric

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Know your VOICE

My editor tore apart my latest piece. I paraphrase our discussion, but it went something like this...

Editor: "Nice voice. It seems to have changed between your last story and this one. This one is more frenetic."

Eric: "I've been experimenting with a less detailed voice, getting to the point without the meandering. I tend to over-describe and I wanted to challenge that habit with this piece."

Editor: "The Beatles were famous not for writing the same song over and over, but for writing a different song on every track. No such thing as a new story. At this point in literature, it's all been said. The only difference is voice. Nurture that thought."

That, folks, is straight from the horse's mouth. She's not an actual horse, but she can kick like one.

Know your voice. Make it unique. Don't be afraid to stretch those vocal cords and challenge your method.

Just as voice and not the song makes the singer, voice and not the words makes the writer.

- Eric

Saturday, June 12, 2010

What are you ~really~ afraid of?

Last night we camped about 11 miles north of all the flooding in Arkansas, and about twelve hours behind it.

The ranger stopped us coming into Ouachita. She'd had a hard night evacuating, she said. "I'm not telling you not to go in, but I will say be careful." She looked behind me to the back seat. "I see you got little ones. Yall be real careful, okay. They lost eleven people on down river."

We crossed a few washed-out bridges and found a horse camp that looked dry. We stretched out in the Tahoe, didn't backpack, didn't set up a tent. A horse camp is a clearing near the road but away from the main park, dry enough that you can back in horse trailers, but isolated enough that you can enjoy the solitude. We were all alone, but there were fresh droppings and hay that said someone had left that morning.

Another ranger pulled into the camp, this one a younger guy. "What time did yall leave this morning?"

"Why's that?" I said.

"I guess yall didn't hear the news yet. They're pulling bodies out of the water down at Albert Pike. I won't ask yall to leave, but be real careful. You should be okay up here, but further down the mountain, they got hit real hard. I'd keep them kids out of the creek."

It was me and my two kids, nine and ten, boy and girl respectively. The creek was still screaming from the night before. Yes, we swam in it, but in a shallow wash about two feet deep. My son found about a hundred baby salamanders, and my daughter was the only one brave enough to do push-ups in that freezing mountain gush.

"I keep feeling like someone's watching us." That was my son. Near dusk, we had to shoot his pellet gun into a stump crouched in the treeline like bigfoot. I had to walk them over to prove it was just a stump and not some mountain monster.

In their defense, it did look like a crouching monster. The frosted sugar side of me half expected the stump to jump up and charge when I shot it.

That night, my daughter said, "I'm getting freaked out," when she heard what sounded like a coyote. I don't know the Arkansas sounds, but it wasn't a coyote. Sounded small, though, and I had my .410, so no worries.

I stood outside the Tahoe listening to the kids watch Hotel for Dogs. I kept stoking that wet fire wood until it caught -- wet wood will burn if you get it hot enough -- and watched it burn down. I don't normally get wigged-out on campouts, but last night I couldn't let go of that little single-shot .410. It's the gun I had growing up, a kid's gun, and if animals have souls, I'm gonna be royally fucked because of that shotgun.

It gets so dark out there you can't see your feet when you piss. I can't speak for women, but I figure squatting down in that sort of dark is borderline insane. I'm glad I didn't have to squat.

Something kept nagging at me. And I'm not the sort who gets nagged, not by bullfrogs and fireflies and a creek in the background. I grew up on a lake, on a creek, catching bullfrogs and fireflies and murdering things with that .410.

I called my wife today when we got back into cell phone range. She was as wigged-out as her daughter, glad to hear from us. "I saw this thing about this lady," she said, "whose daughter got swept off into the current. They could hear her screaming, and they heard other kids screaming, too. They said most of the dead will probably be kids."

"It's so dark out here, baby, that if the kids got swept off, there's nothing I could've done about it. I wouldn't be able to see them, or the shore, or anything else. With all the clouds last night and the lack of moon, I couldn't see the ground at my feet."

And that's when it hit me. That's what I was afraid of all night: Me not seeing a thing, and hearing that scream fading off down river.

- Eric