Friday, April 30, 2010

Title Me Titular

Title. Think carefully.

Write your story, sure, and use a working title. That's what I do. But when you're finished and you polish up your story, sand it, put on a fine coat of stain, and get it ready to send out, find a great TITLE.

For instance: Jaws

What a great title! One word. One syllable. One fear.

Spielberg could've called it a number of things:

o Shark
o Great White
o Blood in the Water
o etc.

But he didn't! He put a ton of thought into that title, I promise ya.

How about this one: Shogun

Great title. One word. Want more? How about this one: It

That's gotta be some sort of record. The longest book with the shortest title. It.

Think of a GREAT title!

Here are a couple of rules I like to use:

1) Avoid "The" statements. They're okay in small doses, but avoid titles like:

o The Monkey House
o The Red Fern
o The Clash of the Titans
o The Road
o etc.

Start off punchy. Reword them to something like this:

o Welcome to the Monkey House
o Where the Red Fern Grows
o Clash of the Titans
o The Road (okay, that one won a fucking Pulitzer, let's keep it)

2) Make it thought-provoking. For instance:

o Child of God by Cormac McCarthy. It's about a serial killer. Get it? Any of McCarthy's titles are great. He understands this rule. Him and Vonnegut. Man I love those two guys. Add Bradbury and you'd have my fantasy crit-group.

o The Life of Pi. Okay, he broke my "The" rule, but that's okay, because somehow that title captures the feel of the book. It's a simple story with a straight-line plot, no curves, almost a YA read, but it's a thought-provoking look at being stranded and alone. And it's about what? It's about The Life of Pi. Get it?

o Slaughterhouse Five by Vonnegut. Tell me that title doesn't punch you in the face! WHAMMO!

3) Keep it simple. Stephen King is my favorite with this respect:

o It
o Carrie
o Christine
o Cujo
o Misery
o Firestarter
o Dreamcatcher
o The Stand (broke my "The" rule again, but note how few times he does it)
o The Shining (again...)
o The Dark Towers (again...)
o Bag of Bones

Here's a list of King titles. Look at them. See what I mean!

4) Write it big. If you give your work a great title, you'll inspire the reader to read your words. WRITE IT BIG! The title is your first hook.

Title title title. Never underestimate the power of a good title.

Title me titular. Get it?

- Eric

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Dear Knuckers: Write what SELLS!

Wiki's Best-Seller list from the 2000s, USA

Below is a list of best-selling authors for the first decade of the 21st century.

What's the point of this post? Lemme tell you:

Find your book, your genre, your competitor, in this list.

Who is he? Who is she?

Is your genre represented? Where would your name be located?

The only guys I'd go after would be King and Koontz, and of those, King. I still like the fantasy-horror genre.

That, or a straight-up fiction, though these don't make the best-seller's lists. I'm still looking for the Pulitzer book The Road on that list. Not on there. People do not read Pulitzer books!

Look at the researchers. Brown and Clancy and Crichton. People love to learn new things!

Look at the dreamers. People want to escape reality!

Look at the mystery-suspense writers. People love to read about lies and suffering and murder murder MURDER!

Look at the lack of TALENT. The James Patterson and... books are prime examples of poorly-written plot wrecks. People do not love great writing! See Pulitzer comment from earlier. Heck, I've never seen much of a correlation between writing well and selling well.

Furthermore, let's look at the voice used in these books. By and large, it is a strong third-person POV. Not first person. Not omni. People want to be inside your character's head!

Further-urthermore, most of the books are fast, impatient, and do not deal with deep life issues. Sure, some do, but for the most part, people do not, like, want to read heavy books and stuff, so don't sponge up my aura with your negative energy, man...

Fantasy. Action. Romance. Mystery. Suspense. Strong 3rd POV. No life-or-death issues.

THOSE are your top-sellers.

Now I gotta go change my dang plot on The Gladiator's Son. Again. Still not saleable. I need to wedge in some fantasy, more action, a little romance, a smidge of mystery and a ton of suspense, and really get inside the skull of Mr. Conrad Leroy Buckner.

And more research. Gotta do more research.

- Eric

List of best-sellers in America, 2000-2008


  1. The Brethren by John Grisham
  2. The Mark: The Beast Rules the World by Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye
  3. The Bear and the Dragon by Tom Clancy
  4. The Indwelling: The Beast Takes Possession by Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye
  5. The Last Precinct (novel) by Patricia Cornwell
  6. Journey by Danielle Steel
  7. The Rescue by Nicholas Sparks
  8. Roses Are Red by James Patterson
  9. Cradle and All by James Patterson
  10. The House on Hope Street by Danielle Steel

[edit] 2001

  1. Desecration by Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye
  2. Skipping Christmas by John Grisham
  3. A Painted House by John Grisham
  4. Dreamcatcher by Stephen King
  5. The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
  6. Black House by Stephen King and Peter Straub
  7. Last Man Standing by David Baldacci
  8. Valhalla Rising by Clive Cussler
  9. A Day Late and a Dollar Short by Terry McMillan
  10. Violets Are Blue by James Patterson
  11. Blindsighted by Karin Slaughter

[edit] 2002

  1. The Summons by John Grisham
  2. Red Rabbit by Tom Clancy
  3. The Remnant by Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye
  4. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
  5. Prey by Michael Crichton
  6. Skipping Christmas by John Grisham
  7. The Shelters of Stone by Jean M. Auel
  8. Four Blind Mice by James Patterson
  9. Everything's Eventual: 14 Dark Tales by Stephen King
  10. The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus

[edit] 2003

  1. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
  2. The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom
  3. The King of Torts by John Grisham
  4. Bleachers by John Grisham
  5. Armageddon by Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye
  6. The Teeth of the Tiger by Tom Clancy
  7. The Big Bad Wolf by James Patterson
  8. Blow Fly by Patricia Cornwell
  9. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
  10. The Wedding by Nicholas Sparks

[edit] 2004

  1. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
  2. The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom
  3. The Last Juror by John Grisham
  4. Glorious Appearing by Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye
  5. Angels & Demons by Dan Brown
  6. State of Fear by Michael Crichton
  7. London Bridges by James Patterson
  8. Trace by Patricia Cornwell
  9. The Rule of Four by Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason
  10. The Da Vinci Code: Special Illustrated Collector's Edition by Dan Brown

[edit] 2005

  1. The Broker by John Grisham
  2. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
  3. Mary, Mary by James Patterson
  4. At First Sight by Nicholas Sparks
  5. Predator by Patricia Cornwell
  6. True Believer by Nicholas Sparks
  7. Light from Heaven by Jan Karon
  8. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
  9. The Mermid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd
  10. Eleven on Top by Janet Evanovich

[edit] 2006

  1. For One More Day by Mitch Albom
  2. Cross by James Patterson
  3. Dear John by Nicholas Sparks
  4. Next by Michael Crichton
  5. Hannibal Rising by Thomas Harris
  6. Lisey's Story by Stephen King
  7. Twelve Sharp by Janet Evanovich
  8. Cell by Stephen King
  9. Beach Road by James Patterson and Peter De Jonge
  10. The 5th Horseman by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

[edit] 2007[3]

  1. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
  2. Playing for Pizza by John Grisham
  3. Double Cross by James Patterson
  4. The Choice by Nicholas Sparks
  5. Lean Mean Thirteen by Janet Evanovich
  6. Plum Lovin' by Janet Evanovich
  7. Book of the Dead by Patricia Cornwell
  8. The Quickie by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
  9. The 6th Target by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
  10. The Darkest Evening of the Year by Dean Koontz

[edit] 2008[4]

  1. The Appeal by John Grisham
  2. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
  3. The Host by Stephenie Meyer
  4. Cross Country by James Patterson
  5. The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks
  6. Fearless Fourteen by Janet Evanovich
  7. Christmas Sweater by Glenn Beck
  8. Scarpetta by Patricia Cornwell
  9. Your Heart Belongs to Me by Dean Koontz
  10. Plum Lucky by Janet Evanovich

Saturday, April 24, 2010

BODY LANGUAGE Blogfest: Scene from Walk With Me

Here's a snippet from my latest work entitled Walk With Me Into the Darkness for the BODY LANGUAGE BLOGFEST.

The book relies on body language and non-verbal cues to tell the story. See, it's story of isolation, and if the character is isolated, or in Henry's case, alone with his non-vocalizing dogs, the writer can't rely on dialogue to tell the story.

And I did NOT want to use the trick as seen in Cast Away, where the writer used a volleyball to introduce dialogue! CHEATER!

So to tell this story, I relied on body language, scenery, actions and movements, and visual cues. For much of the book, Henry doesn't speak.

Furthermore, internalizations bug me. I don't mind when they're done tastefully, but most of the time the internalization could be better demonstrated with an action or a decision (a choice: SHOW ME!). So, with that in mind, I avoided internalizations as well as dialogue.

- Eric

Body Language Blogfest from Eric Trant

Excerpt from Walk With Me Into the Darkness. Henry is in the East Texas Piney Woods, aka The Big Thicket. This is where I grew up, and in fact, I've lived scenes very much like the one below.

Henry is about 8 years old.

Yes, I have one line of dialogue.


The woodpecker stopped hammering. All Henry could hear was the sound of Whiskey whimpering and his own grunted breaths as he struggled against the creek mud.

Whiskey held off and wouldn't approach Henry. The dog paced back-and-forth and whined but wouldn't come near him. Every time the dog's paws sucked into the mud, Whiskey would back up and whine and pace and stare sideways at Henry.

Finally, responding to Henry's continued coos, Whiskey took one step, and then another, his tail and head level with his body as he stepped into something that smelled and looked of death. The dog's paws sunk in to his elbows but he yanked them free and pulled himself toward Henry, measuring each step of progress with long seconds of excursion. Henry pet the dog's head and let him lick his face and then he managed to turn Whiskey away from him. Henry took hold of the dog's tail with both hands.

Whiskey snapped at Henry and fired a machine-gun chant of high-pitched yelps. The dog couldn't turn enough to get his teeth into Henry, but he slapped his neck against his side trying to force Henry to release his tail.

Tugging the dog's tail, Henry pushed with his legs and pulled with his arms as Whiskey bellied himself out of the bog. The leaning over had released a bit of the suction and Henry felt himself coming free of the mud. The creek still had hold of his legs and so he shook himself side-to-side like a swimming fish until his waist and thighs broke free, and then his calves and feet came loose and he lay prone on top of the mud.

Whiskey's paws dug into drier ground the dog managed to get enough of a twist to slap his teeth into Henry's left hand. The dog twisted its tail out of Henry's hands and yelping with his tail tucked he ran a few meters away from Henry and crouched there licking his tail and showing Henry the whites of his eyes and teeth. The mud had blackened the white blaze on Whiskey's chest and the modest white socks on the dog's feet.

Henry belly-crawled until the ground felt firm enough to stand. Mud caked him from the chest down. Leaves sucked onto Henry like giant leaches. His right boot was gone and his pants had been pulled down to his ankles. He lifted his pants into place and sat beneath the tree until his woodpecker heart stopped banging against his chest.

He stood and unhitched the cleaned squirrel from the tree and patted his leg and smacked his lips at the dog. Whiskey shied away from him. Black but for the brown of his eyes and the white of his teeth and the pink of his tongue. Henry stood there patting his thigh and calling to the him until Whiskey finally came within arm's length of Henry.

"Here you go, boy. Good boy, good Whiskey."

Henry dropped the squirrel in front of Whiskey.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

What is your DREAM?

So tell me, what is your dream? If you're on my bloglist then you're a writer. I get that part, but that's only one part of the question.

"I want to be a writer!" you say. You're eight years old. We all started then, I know, because any writer who says they weren't a writer and a story-teller from the day the doctor spanked and severed em isn't being honest.

You loved books. You loved movies. You loved plays or musicals or music. From that young age you felt The Spark.

You sang in the mirror and tuned your voice and wrote your songs.

You dabbled in poetry, and did I just say dabble? No, you didn't dabble, did you. While all those other kiddos were filling up their notebooks with pictures of army men and ponies and airplanes and flowers, you were burning page after page of stanzas, releasing this strange voice obsessed with rhyme and haiku and tangential viewpoints on the world around you.

You wrote short stories that your teacher read to the class and everyone laughed when they were supposed to laugh.

You wrote a novel that didn't make one bit of sense but it was this 120k word beast, this thing, this living entity that still breathes in the lowest drawer of that old cabinet in your old house, never to be published but never to be forgotten.

Your practice novel. We all have one of those. You do have a practice novel, don't you?

And inside of all that, you have this dream-fantasy. It's a rattling thing, a kid's shake-toy, something so personal you won't even mention it to your therapist. Not your spouse, not your mom, not your dad, not your sibling.

Maybe your Golden Retriever. I used to tell her all my secrets, and she took em to her much-too-early grave. (God, please throw the ball for Lexi. Amen.)

Me, I had all these dreams. First, I wanted to be a doctor. Yep, a doctor. I worked like hell for it, too, placed 2nd in my HS, but didn't get the right grades in college. Homework and over-education dull the mind, and I'd take a 0% on that 10% homework, knowing I could get an A on the tests, and settle for easy Bs.

Lazybones. I guess I didn't want to go into medicine enough. Maybe that wasn't an honest dream after all.

And I wanted to be a writer.

I knew I could tell stories on the side. No money in writing, is there. You could hit the lottery, sure, but the odds are five-nines against you: 99.999% chance you're either unpublished, or your royalties are just enough to buy food for that Golden Retriever who shares your secrets.

So in high school, for my 17th birthday, my aunt -- and she was more a grandmother than an aunt, far older than my seventh-born mother -- she bought me this Brother word processor and asked for a story.

See, I'd shared that dream already. "I want to be a doctor," I'd say. They all nodded.

"And a writer," I'd add.

Boy, that got their attention! Pluck a living heart from a pig and sew it into a dying man and you'll raise some eyebrows, sure.

But pluck a silent heart from a soul long-dead and burned by life's wildfires, and will it to beat life with nothing more than a series of 27 letters in random order, and you'll gain something far beyond eyebrows.

Because anyone can cut open a pig, see.

I didn't dream of being published. When someone said, "That'd sell a million copies!"

I would shrug. "Maybe."

I guess now I've modified that dream to be published. Sure, I want to get some hardbacks out there. Sure, I'd like to see my name on a bookshelf.

But I look at those shelves and I see plenty of idiots up there. We all do. I hate to say that, but talent and a good story won't get you published. I think of my stories, my babies, my darlings, and I'm not sure I'm ready to put them on the shelf next to these books.

I review my novels and wonder if they're worthy of asking you to read em in the nightlight. Do I really want to put anything on the shelf that is not the most incredible story I can write?

Is that story good enough? Your time is precious to me.

I'm not all about that space, see. I'm not obsessed with my book's number in the Library of Congress. I don't care about the word count or the plot lines.

My dream, if I had to line it up and spit it out, is this: Write greatness. Touch the reader.

That'd be it, I guess. Being published is a form of greatness, I won't dispute that, but my goal is to write stories that not only entertain, but also inspire the reader, and leave a lingering after-taste in their mind.

Which brings up my point on Reader Arcs. Arc the READER, not the character, folks!

I don't dream of 500 followers on my blog, nor of huge lines at my book signing. I'm not dissing those dreams -- that's cool -- but it's like, not my bag, man.

I dream of that one reader who says she cried at the ending.

I dream of that guy who shakes my hand and says, "Man, I get that. I really get that. Good job."

After 9/11, on 9/12/2001, I sent an email to my wife and my cousin. That's it. I started getting email responses from people all over the world, even had a personal note from a powerful business man here in Dallas (my now ex-wife is a CPA). He said he cried when he read it, and thanked me for writing down his thoughts. I got responses from Navy guys all over the world because my cousin was in the Navy at the time. His father still has that email taped to his fridge.

I passed off a short story to my boss dealing with space. He's a space nut. He said the story took him back to his childhood. "They don't write stories like this anymore."

He handed it to his wife and children and they loved it. The story was about a guy named Percy Freebottom -- ironically, soon to be published!

My boss and his wife were at a baseball game and something reminded them of Percy, the stars and the moon.

"Sorta like Percy Freebottom," his wife said.

THAT is my dream folks: Touch the reader. Leave that after-taste!

For me, it's not about profit or word count or fame or anything else. I can get those things -- especially profit -- in easier ways than writing.

This post is a fine example. I'm not trying to write my weekly or daily word count.

I'm writing something personal, hoping it'll touch at least one fellow blogger. I'm writing it because the worms insist it must be written, because this is important, because my squigglies, my slimey loves, they only dig where the soil is feral.

Yes, feral soil. That's where I dig.

See how that works?

Thoughts? What is your dream? Your passion? Your goal wrt writing?

- Eric

PS, I want to be clear: In no way am I belittling other goals, such as obtaining blog followers, being published widespread, or writing strict genre books. Please don't think that.

It is not my intent to come across as one of those belittling ideologues who believe in art only for the sake of art, and consider those who seek profit to be sellouts. No no no. I simply want to state that this is more than profit to me.

I respect your passion, your job, your goal, whatever that may be, and would love to see that shared.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


What the heck is HTML and why do you need it? Because you're a blogger, and if you don't know a little HTML, you're selling your blog, your posts, and yourself short. Here are some pointers.

HTML stands for Hypertext Markup Language, and it's the formatting language used to build websites. In fact, http:// stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol.

See how that works!

You use HTML Tags in your editor to generate the HTML code. The browser then translates the HTML code into the visual representation you see on your screen.

Of course you can do the same things in the Compose editor on Blogger. You can even upload from word or another web editor and never worry about HTML tags.

And the readers respond: "What's your point, Eric? You just said I don't need to know HTML to compose my blogs."

You don't.

But what about comments on other blogs? No "Compose" tab there. What if you want to add a link-back to one of your blog posts!

What about adding flair to your sidebar menus. Take a look at my Required Reading and Links and Publications and Works to your right. See the italics? See the web links? See the image of my book? I did that with HTML. No editor there.

In fact, the Required Reading section is entirely composed of HTML, from an editor, because it's the HTML/Javascript Gadget you can add from blogger.

HTML is defined with TAGS. TAGS are enclosed within the less-than and greater-than signs on your keyboard. <open TAG> Your Text </close TAG>

Each tag requires an opening and a closing tag. Note that on the closing tag, a slash / is used.

For example, this is the tag for a hyperlink: <a>link</a>

Text between the tags is displayed on the browser according to industry standards.

In blogger, you can also swap between Compose and Edit HTML to see the markup text and get some ideas there. I do this all the time.


<hr> Forces a horizontal break point, as above. I didn't find this one in blogger's Compose editor.




Hyperlinks and Images require a reference inside the tag, href and src respectively.

<a href="">HYPERLINKS</a>

IMAGES: Height/Width in pixels, or leave blank. Note that this tag has no closing tag.

<img src="yourimage.jpg" width=250 height=200>
or to display without changing the size
<img src="yourimage.jpg">

You can sandwich your HTML tags by combining them together. For instance, you want an italicized web link:

<a href=""><i>HYPERLINKS</i></a>

gives you: HYPERLINKS

Going into more detail is beyond this scope. Google HTML Tags if you want more information. My intent is to show a few basic formatting tags that help with your posting and blog management.

For a great post on customizing your BLOG, check out Jon Paul: Sky Blogs


Add a BOLD HYPERLINK to your comment linking back to your website. Use your preview feature to ensure it is working properly before saving.

Hope this helps improve the look and feel and usefulness of your future posts!

- Eric

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Wordle of Walk With Me

From my latest work, inspired by Shelly's blog Stories in the Ordinary, here's my Wordle from my latest work!

Notice how Whiskey is one of my big words! Wanna guess why that is?

- Eric

Try your own here:

Baby-Making. Writing. Is there a difference, really?

Image by Anne Geddes. Emasculates the shit out of me, but it fits, eh.

So this is the morning of conception!

Yes! You read that right. I just conceived. Not a baby -- I'm a dude -- but a story, a novel, a concept I've been working on for a while but just this morning decided to formalize with its own folder. I now I have a file called The_Gladiators_Son.doc and a short concept scene.

And it got me to thinking: Isn't this a lot like sex and baby-making?

See, when you're making babies, there's this run-up where it's something you and your girl talk about, but not something you're actively engaged in on a for-realses basis. You might practice -- hopefully often -- but it's not for keeps, is it.

Sorta like blogging. Safe-writing, hope you're wearing protection.

Then one day, you decide you're gonna start swinging for the fence. That's the fun part. In writing, it'd be the pre-writing phase, where you dream about your story, maybe hash out a character or two in your thoughts. It's fun. It's giddy. You see scenes hodgepodged and smudged and kludged together. You share your Pulitzer and Oscar with your friends and family and thank your dear wife for being so supportive, and then you climb into your limo and head back to the mansion for some baby-making in one of your hot tubs.

It's wonderful!

So's that part of makin dem babies, eh.

But then it actually ~happens~. I mean, your girl takes a pee test, sees two pink lines, that plus sign, or if you're writing, it's that saved first draft with nothing more than a title, a couple of chapter headings, and some vague idea of whether it's going to be first person, third person, or in this case, God help us all, a fraternal twinning of first and third person scenes that hopefully won't be grotesquely joined at the head.

Then the work begins. Funtime's over, folks, pull up your pants and get cracking.

It's time to cut back on spending, think about baby cribs and which room you're going to paint, and oh God what are we gonna do with the carpets?

How many chapters? How many words? What's my target audience? My genre, if there is one, and by goddengolly there'd better be a genre for this baby, because it's a-coming out feet first and sideways if it has to!

Tone. Theme. Plot. Setting. Location. Winter or summer? Where are we? In the US? Planet Earth? Texas? Dallas? What're the timeline and daily-weekly goals?

You give it a name, a working title, and later on, when you see its face and spank its bottom, you'll know what to truly call it.

After nine months -- and funny how that gestation period applies so well to both literary and biological birthings -- you have this little critter, infantile, immature, helpless and beautiful even though you know damned well it looks pretty hideous, covered in afterbirth and wrinkled with pink-red swollen face.

It's up to you as parent, as writer, to clean up the shit, suck out the snot, wipe it and bathe it and tenderize it until that tiny concept, that pairing of single cells, that paragraph, that idea and dream and wishful thinking, is finally ready to pack up and send out into the world.

Then all you can do is wave goodbye, flaws and all, hope for the best, and decide if it's worth having another.

- Eric

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The ONE RULE of Writing: Two Magic Words

What's the ONE RULE every writer should know? Here's a hint: It's only two words.

It's not POV, or style, or plotting or grammar or sentence structure.

Sure, those things help, but they're not the ONE RULE.

Character arcs are background singers and bass guitars.

Tone is best supporting actor with only a line or two in our main feature.

Books on dialogue and scene building are assistant managers and vice presidents, all of them bowing and cowing to the ONE RULE that is too often unmentioned.

Forget about spell-checker. That's a tool, not a rule.

Descriptives. Character depth. Proof-reading and revision. They lay at her feet.

She's felt, the ONE RULE, but not heard.

So what's the ONE RULE? What are those two magic words?



Now why is that so hard?

 - Eric

Sunday, April 11, 2010

All right, how about a BAR SCENE!

Blogfest bar scene for Tara.

This one's from a book I'll probably never publish. It was my first novel, what I consider a practice work, but the bar scene is oddly prophetic. I've lived this scene too many times.

You'll notice the passives, cheesy scenery... lots of ugghishness, semicolons, all those hyphenated sentences.

But hell, you asked for it!


- Eric


The Keeper
A Bar Scene

O'Leary's was just around the corner. Harold was usually safe with the drinking and driving thing, but not with these shaking hands—he could barely light a cigarette. After a slow, fifteen minute stroll, Harold walked into the sports bar, his pack of Marlboro’s half spent.

O’Leary’s was lit dimly during the week. On the weekends, the lights were lowered even more to add additional social appeal to the bar. Tonight, its overhead lights cast a leathery-brown tinge.

Behind the oak bar, a pretty blonde in a T-shirt and apron poured drinks for the half-dozen people seated around her. Harold had never seen her; must be new.

That settles it, Harold thought. He'd considered playing pool in the game room—maybe some nine ball would calm his nerves—but nothing beats a pretty girl mixing up drinks.

Harold sat on a stool next to a television showing the Ranger's game. Interleague play was this week, so the Astros were in town beating the crap out of Texas' crummy pitchers. No relief in that bullpen, Harold thought. He flagged the bartender, who made her way over after pouring up two beers and a margarita for some folks near the middle of the bar.

"What can I get ya?" she said. Perky. The barmaids were always the hottest, and here was the proof. With innocent eyes and a topless dancer under that T-shirt, she made Harold's mind go blank for a second while he considered whether or not those things were real. He brought his eyes up before she noticed. Too late—and yes, they’re real—she seemed to smile back at him.

"How 'bout a Shiner Bock."

"Sixteen or twenty ounce?" She lifted two glasses.

"Bigger's better, make it twenty." Harold pulled the small bowl of peanuts at the edge of the bar to him. She poured up the dark beer and set it in front of him.

"Wanna start a tab?"

Harold replied with a credit card, which she ran through the machine and stashed behind the bar.

She comes… with the beer. God, I’m going fuckin’ crazy.

Harold tipped the first glass, held it until it stopped pouring down his throat. I miss ya, Pop, but this is nuts.

Harold was afraid to look in the mirror behind the bar, afraid he’d see his father reflected there, shimmering, creaking his lips. Tapping.

Harold hadn’t thought about the tapping. How long had his father been at the window, rapping? At least a week. Why?

Stop it! Stop it stop it stop it Goddammit that was a limb I fuckin' saw it! Order another beer. Don’t think about this shit, think about something else. I ain’t a fuckin’ voodoo nutcase like he was.

The Astros struck out the last Ranger in the bottom of the fourth and headed from the dugout. That deserves another drink. Harold popped another peanut open, threw the nuts to the back of his mouth, eyed the waitress for her attention.

Warm breath on his neck. Harold glanced over his shoulder; nobody there. Christ.

"That was fast. Shiner Bock?"

"Huh? Yeah... 'nuther biggun. Stat."

"'Kay." She wiped her pretty hands on her apron before picking up another chilled glass.

Harold glanced over his shoulder again, checked the door, the booths. When he looked back to the bar, his drink sat on a napkin between his hands. He picked it up and sauntered into the adjacent darts and billiards room; more light there.

Harold adjusted his cap before sitting at a small round table near a group of women playing darts. With pretty legs and nice dresses, they probably were some of the suits that worked in Addison doing indoor business stuff. The brunette hit the twenty and gave two quick happy hops, clapping like a thirty-something cheerleader. She and her partner raised their drinks, tallied their score, stepped back for the other two women to throw. Not bad, Harold thought; they were ahead by almost fifty points.

Harold's eyes drifted across the rest of the bar, but tended to linger on the brunette when they found her. No ring, that's good. Scantily clad biker chicks were obnoxiously losing pool to their wannabe Harley jocks against the far wall—some women were not meant to wear leather halter tops. The ballgame was still on, he saw. Then he turned back to his drink after noticing the brunette had absolutely no panty lines showing through her gray skirt. She drew his attention again when she shook off her matching jacket, threw it over the stool at their table, and blew on her darts for luck before throwing. That pucker made his spine tingle; he almost dropped his glass.

A finger tapped his shoulder. Oh fuck! Harold's glass slipped, hit the carpeted floor, bounced.

A waitress. "Sorry, let me get that for you. Would you like another drink?" the waitress asked, bending down. Barmaids are always the hottest, Harold thought again—she was one of the better looking women he'd seen, although she didn't look old enough to serve liquor.

Her smooth hips calmed his nerves a bit.

"Shiner Bock. I got a tab at the bar."

Harold checked the room again—still not enough light in here—then turned to the brunette in time to see another bunny hop and her small clap. She'd hit eighteen, and they were almost down to zero.

His eyes began burning as he downed his third glass of the thick beer. He pressed his palms, moist and cool from the beer, to his itching sockets.

Harold missed the days when smoking was allowed inside the bar rather than restricted to the alley behind the bar. What he wouldn't do for a cigarette right now. And he sure as hell wasn't going outside. Behind the bar? No fuckin' way.

The brunette and her partner beat the other couple. They ordered fresh drinks and sat down at the tall table where she had thrown her coat earlier. She faced sideways from Harold, enough for him to see her slip through the back of her white silk blouse, but not enough for him to see the front.

Harold's intention had been to drink, not chase skirt. He liked to drink. He was good at it. And drinking was the pastime of the gods—what was their nectar? Wine. Not water. Wine. Good enough for God, good enough for Harold.

But hey, God, she looks good. With each beer, the blouse looked thinner. Felt softer. Her ponytail whispered against her neck. The edge of Harold's nerves softened against the brunette's pinker parts.

Two more beers, then I'll be good. Harold stood, sat. Sobriety check still intact. Maybe three quick ones. Or four. Be the beer.

Although God had dealt Harold Glen Murphy a sum of errors, the result was a resemblance to the Marlboro Man's rugged—if dirty—good looks; all Harold needed was a saddle thrown over his shoulder.

But Harold knew the attractive woman had Mercedes taste; prim and proper, she probably preferred doctors to professional weed eaters.

Which was exactly why he needed help from the beer.

Harold's pace sped while he downed the extra beers. He let out a belch, looked into the last glass and drawled "Sexyyyy" into a long and powerful phrase.

The little hairs on the back of his neck jumped up while his nerve took hold. Harold picked up a fresh beer from the waitress and stood. The room took off beneath him, and he grabbed the table to steady himself. Much better. Now I'm good. He sipped the new beer down about a third.

Harold casually made his way to their table without falling or looking directly at them. The strawberry blonde facing saw him coming first; she smiled, tapped her friends with a nod.

"How're you ladies tonight?" His lips were numb.


"That's good. Me, I'm just hangin' out, watching the ballgame. Good game of darts there, I saw. You two won, right?"

Thank God he had that extra beer—this was getting ugly. He took a long cold sip. Couldn’t feel his scalp anymore.

"Awright then, so, um,"—he looked at the brunette—"we gonna have sex tonight or what?"

Her eyes went wide. "Um, yeah." Two sarcastic syllables. Rejected.

"Finally, a lady I can respect. How 'bout you let me buy you a drink and we discuss the finer points of a photonic relationship."

She considered what he’d said, corrected him. "Platonic.”


"Do you know what the word means?"

"What word?"

"Platonic. It means non-sexual."

"I know what the word means, I just used it, didn't I?"

"No, you said photronic or something. It's pla-ton-ic." She said it slow so he would understand. At least she was talking.

"Anyways, would you like me to buy you a drink?"

"I have a drink." The brunette held up a red frozen mix, probably a daiquiri.

"Mmm," Harold nodded. "Well, how 'bout you let me freshen yours up with a new one?"

"You ladies want another drink?" She looked to the table in desperation.

"Nope," was one reply.

"No, it's getting late, I need to get home," said another.

The strawberry blonde shook her head. "Sorry, this is our last round." She looked sincere, and Harold felt he might have had a chance if he'd picked her instead.

"Awright then," he huffed, beaten. But one last effort before he aborted. "Can I get your number at least, maybe take you out for drinks one night?"

The brunette tightened her lips and shook her professional ponytail.

"Awright then, y'all have a good night." Now his eyes felt like white-burning pokers jabbed into his skull. Harold turned, threw back the rest of the beer, set the glass on his table as he passed, and stumbled out the door and into the night.

No words were written on his patio door when Harold passed through the living room, not checking, and fell face-down on the bed in drunken coma.


One uh Dem Books: NT

It's still in concept, and has been for three years, so I'll just use its working initials: NT.

My brother and I began working on it together as a joint concept. We worked up plots, characters, I wrote some rough scenes, we talked about settings, where to take it, how to handle the storyline.

It's a futuristic space fantasy sci-fi, and from what we gather, while it's not a 100% original topic, it is a topic that hasn't been as deeply explored as we'd like, nor has it been explored to our satisfaction. Thus the little bit of secrecy on my part regarding the plot line.

A voice from the back: Hey Eric! Get to the fucking point!

All right, all right... fine.

NT is one of THOSE BOOKS!

If you write, and if you've written more than one or two novels (and I don't give a shit if it's published or not, just that you finished the book, and put all your effort into making it great), then you know what I mean. You probably have one of those books in your drawer.

See, I'm 100k words into the dang thing, and haven't even gotten started. I spun circles. Weightless. Battles. Over-blown dramatic scenes I can't stand to read. More corny kernels than Nebraska, more cheese than Wisconsin.

See, this post was supposed to be an EXCERPT from that book, but I can't find a good quote!

It's ~that bad~.

Yes. Truly. It's that bad.

But, I still believe the concept is sound, I just had the wrong voice, the wrong plot, the right characters, the right planet, the right setting, but the wrong storyteller.

My brother and I discussed it the other day at lunch, touched the topic.

You wanna get back to writing NT? I asked.


All right then.

But really, I'm still not sure I'm ready to get back into it. Not yet. Maybe later this summer, but not right this second.

It's just one uh dem books, eh, one uh dem books.

- Eric

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Some Random Murder Scene

For Anne Riley's Murder Blogfest: Click

All right you knuckers, I have some murder scenes, but they're not fit for public consumption. Since I write emotionally and without apology, I have a tough time toning down the profanity. Blame the worms. They don't always behave as good Christians, and they never, ever care what you think about em.


But I figured I'd practice a murder scene, and so, here it is. It's a take-off from a scene in a short story that's still a concept, maybe even a book, about a New Orleans hit man name Jugs. I probably won't use this scene at all. Or maybe I will. It's not too bad.

WARNING: Profanity and racial slurs, as this scene contains racial undertones. The bad words are not gratuitous, but are well-thought placements where I believe they are needed.


Waking Jonah LeRoux

"You hate your old man, don't you boy?" Jugs asked. He turned the Mercedes SUV onto a backroad, really just a big gap in the cypress trees, and was impressed by the way the shocks held up on the road. Not bad, but for 60k, they'd better be holding up, sure enough. He slowed down to thirty.

But Marty didn't answer. Marty hadn't said much the whole trip (never said much as a matter of course, unlike his old man who could talk like a bloody nose bled). He just sat there looking pale and scared.

Jugs put the wheels into a barely-visible rut and flipped on the high-beams. Should've done that a long time ago. "I understand you scared, boy, but I know you got some in you. You know what I mean by some, don't you?"

Quiet Marty didn't answer. Didn't even look at Jugs.

"I mean you got some balls in you." Jugs chuckled and tapped Marty's elbow. "I mean on you boy, not in you! You ever got balls in you then you got trouble if you know what I'm talking about. And you gonna need some balls tonight, my brother. You gonna needs some bigguns."

This road went into the woods exactly 3.3 miles, close enough to hear a big gunshot, but far enough to muffle the little guns, something small like a .38 (under the seat), or even a bigger gun like a 9mm (in Jugs's coat). It was a secluded road Jugs had found back in 1993, the first time he'd needed a quiet place, and he'd used it eight times since then, almost once a year, mostly work for Mr. Lancôme, Marty's old man, except for one job he'd done for his cousin, wasted a bad nigger who'd beat her up good. You don't hit no woman.

"We almost there." Jugs slowed down even more to twenty. "Them trees is getting close to the paint. They hitting me over there? I done got scratched up earlier when I was out here."

"How'd you do it, Jugs?" Marty said.

The sound of the boy's voice startled Jugs. For three hours, Jugs had heard nothing but his own voice and a CD repeating curse words and threats. But he didn't think the boy caught his mistake (earlier when I was out here). Jugs wringed his massive hands on the steering wheel. Didn't the boy understand? "You know I didn't really kill her. She got killed by your old man. He the one put a bullet in her."

Marty rubbed his eyes and looked out the window. "You're okay over here. Nothing's scratching your car."


"Now, boy, you get the boat in the water while I get her out the car. You ain't afraid of no snakes, is you?"

Quiet Marty trudged silent to the boat without looking back and without looking at his feet. Snakes were always out here, crawling around where you couldn't see them, those big black cotton mouths, meaner than Mama's boudin. Jugs paid his feet close attention as he walked around the Mercedes and opened the back hatch.

There she was. She'd been a pretty thing a few hours ago, a young mulatto wasted on the white boys and wasted in the end. What a brother could've done with a woman like that.

Even in the tarp Jugs could see the girl's figure. "You're a sick man," Jugs said, meaning not himself, but Mr. Lancôme. That's the one who'd killed the girl. Why didn't Marty get that?

Jugs threw the girl over his shoulder and trudged to where Marty was pushing the boat into the water. "We gonna push out a ways. I got a surprise for you, too, if you're a good boy. That's why I wanted you here, see?"

The boat was an old wooden pero. For a decade it had rotted while making the occasional trip to the middle of the swamp. This week, it had made two trips, one two days ago (and wouldn't Marty be surprised by what he'd brought out here), and another trip tonight. Too shallow to use paddles, Jugs instead used a push-stick to maneuver the boat around the cypress knees, pushing farther away from the still-burning Mercedes headlights, the light fading as the trees thickened up behind them. It'd be almost pitch black where they were going. But by then, their eyes would be adjusted.

Marty sat at the front of the boat, as far away from the girl as he could sit, looking away from Jugs and deeper into the swamp. She was stiffening up. The boy probably wanted to remember what she felt like soft and what she looked like sitting on top of him slapping them creamy thighs.

Jugs leaned on the pole and pushed the boat between two trees. "I tell you, boy, you know what I'd do if someone killed my girl?"

Quiet Marty.

"I'd done killed that mofo. Put a bullet in his head -- after I'd done skinned that boy. You know I did that once. Skinning a man ain't easy, not when he's flopping around all like a fish and shit. I know why doctors use that anesthetic, now, wish I'd had me some that night." Jugs pointed as if Marty were looking. "Dropped his skinned ass over by that tree out there, the one with the bark shaved off. I shaved the tree, too. That's poetry, boy, you get it?"

Marty looked back at Jugs. "I don't think I'd have to skin the guy. Dead's dead."

"You got that right. Now how would you do it? I mean, if you had a chance to kill the man that killed your woman here."

"To kill you?"

"No, boy, ain't you listening? I didn't kill your woman. I'm saying your daddy killed her, put the money in my hand that put the bullet in her head. Would you kill your sonuva bitch old man?"

"I'd kill the man that killed her, sure."

"Then I got you a surprise, right up here on the other side of that island." Jugs pointed to a small mushy island that spent the spring under the swamp, but this was the fall, and a good bit of the island poked up like a giant turtle's back. In the middle grew a cypress tree.

"What kind of surprise?"

"You'll see boy." Jugs reached in his coat. He was taking a chance giving the boy a loaded pistol. And Jugs didn't like taking chances.

He handed the pistol to Marty.

"What?" Marty said.

"There he is," Jugs said. "He on that tree, tied up good and tight the way Daddy taught me."

Jugs watched Marty's face change when he saw his father, known throughout New Orleans as Mr. Lancôme, leashed to the tree by a seven foot chain and a metal collar around his neck. Several years ago, Jugs had spent six hours in that very same spot with the chain wrapped around his own neck, the mosquitoes biting, the snakes swimming by, the alligators, testing the strength of the chain and the collar and looking for ways to get out of it. Not even his own giant arms could break it free, and he doubted if a little white man like Mr. Lancôme would have any chance of getting out.

"You're one dead nigger," Mr. Lancôme said.

His hands were either bloody or muddy, probably both. There was a pile of shit to one side of the tree. Guess he couldn't hold it.

"Nossir," Jugs answered. "I got your son here and I do believe he got something to say to you, don't you boy?"

Jugs pulled the hammer back and took the safety off, then handed the gun to Marty. "Go ahead, take it. It's live, boy."

Marty took the gun and looked at his father. Jugs had stripped him naked so the mosquitoes could get at his man regions better. Smearing mud on himself hadn't helped either. Jugs knew that from experience.

"Now you do what you said you'd do, boy," Jugs said. "What would you do to the man that killed your girl here?"

"I said I'd kill him."

"You said you'd put a bullet in his head. Now go ahead, there's his head. You know how to shoot, don't you?"

Apparently Marty did know how to shoot. He aimed the gun quick, right at Jugs's chest, and squeezed the trigger, flinching a little at the expected recoil but keeping the muzzle level. Not that Jugs's chest was a hard target.

And when the hammer fell, there was only the click of metal on metal. Jugs didn't take chances. He hadn't lived this long taking stupid chances.

"You think I'd give you a loaded pistol, boy? You think I'm just some dumb nigger?" Jugs pulled out the .38, the quiet gun though he didn't need to be quiet way out here (though it never hurt to be quiet). "You said you wanted to kill the man that killed your girl. You a liar."

And without flinching and with a steady bead on the white boy's head, Jugs shot Marty in the skull and watched him fall over the lip of the boat. It was shallow here, and Marty's back stuck out of the water, where already the mosquitoes had found a fresh source of blood.

"You son of a bitch," Mr. Lancôme said.

"No, you the son of a bitch. You killed this girl because she black and you're son's white and you don't like em mixing them body juices. Now you get to smell her and your son while they rot and mix it up real good like." Jugs tossed the girl into the swamp next to Marty's body. "Shouldn't take long. The swamp eats things up quick.

"I'll be back for you in a month. If you're still alive, I'll think about letting you out of here. If you're dead, there's still plenty of swamp left to swallow your ass."


Sample from The Keeper

Excerpt from The Keeper
c2000, Eric W. Trant

"Michelle's answering service," the man's deep voice answered into phone later that night.

Harold cursed his luck. "Is Michelle around?" he asked the voice.


"Yeah, is Michelle there?"

"How the heck are you? Haven't talked to you in like two weeks. How's the course looking? Get that new green put in over at, what was it, the ninth hole or something?"

"Seventh. Yeah, it's a little par three, finished soddin' it last week, no big deal. How's the sprinkler business?"

"Fine, fine. Just landed the new mall up on the tollway, big job. That'll keep my Mexicans busy planting flowers once we get the irrigation in. Hey, you wanna talk to your daughter?"

"Yeah, put her on, would ya. Thanks."

The voice boomed “Michelle!” on the other end. After a few moments an out of breath girl clunked onto the other end.

"Hello," she huffed.

"Hey, sweetie, how's it going?"

"Hi, Dad. What's up?"

"Um… nothing. Just wondering what you were doing tonight. Hanging out or what?"

"Actually, Ron's taking us out to eat, I think. Hold on." She yelled the question across the room, was answered with a deep “Yep”, then returned to her father. "Yeah, we're going to eat Chinese, I think. Wanna come?"

"Naw, uh uh, just seeing what you were up to. I already ordered a pizza, should be here in a little while. Still wanna get together this weekend?"

"Yeah—“ The voice in the background cut her off. "Yes, sir," she said without enthusiasm. “Whenever you want to come get me, I'm ready."

Bastard's correcting my daughter, Harold thought. The little hairs on the back of his neck erected as he continued. "Tell Mom I'll pick you up after school Friday."

"Okay," she replied—and got the same correction in the background. "Yes, sir."

Now the hairs on his arms woke up, too. "Pack for the lake, we'll go fishin’ and swimmin’."

"Yes, sir.” An edge of sarcasm. The voice in the background mumbled a small praise.

They said goodbye and hung up.

Harold’s heart hammered into his chest like a boxer into the bag. Ron’s face on the bag. Ron’s face on his fist. Broken nose, chipped teeth. Or at least when Harold got through mangling that pretty face of his. Oh that fuckin’ bastard!

Harold’s stomach knotted from the virtual gut shots the man had just dealt him; it quivered and briefly threatened to erupt. Ron had been around for less than six months, but had Michelle calling him "Dad".

Harold missed hearing his daughter call him Dad every day.

Harold sighed, dropped the receiver into his lap and threw an arm to each side over the back of the couch. His feet were propped on the coffee table, and he resembled a fat, crucified Jesus—which was exactly the way he felt. So much for taking her out in the middle of the week. Guess Fridays and Saturdays are all I get!

After he rubbed the burning rejection from his eyes, Harold jumped up and walked into the kitchen for the number to the pizza place. He pinched his thick belly and said to himself, "Pepperoni mushroom sounds gooood.” He walked back to the couch with a coupon and rang up the delivery person.

Harold Glen Murphy slept in comfortable silence, without tapping, without seeing his father’s face, for the next four nights.


Monday, April 5, 2010


I finished my latest book, working title Dark Woods, final working title Walk With Me Into the Darkness.

Excerpt here

I still need to re-write a bit of it, but my readers so far are giving it great reviews! One reader finished the entire book in one sitting, said she couldn't put it down.

Nice, eh. A grass-fire page-turner of a novel!

I admit that Cormac McCarthy's book The Road had some heavy influence on my novel. See, when I read The Road, I couldn't put it down. Had I not had work the next day, I would have read the book in a single sitting. I loved it.

I loved it.

I cared about his characters. I cared whether they lived or died. I read that book, watched the movie -- which is a dead-on adaptation of the novel -- and then said to my girl: I want to write a book like ~that~!

And so I did. I wrote Walk With Me.

Survival. Isolation. A morose view of right and wrong, although this is not as strong an undercurrent in my book as it is in McCarthy's.

Deadpan descriptives. A woman's point-of-view, which is absent from all of McCarthy's books to date.

And it's been a great learning experience. I believe I may have written my first publishable novel!

- Eric