Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Moustache: The Short Story

"Movember" is into its third great week. The 'stache is in full swing, and there is no mistaking my face's devotion to the cause.

I didn't have a concrete monetary goal when I started out the month. I thought, "I'll grow it, talk about it, and see what happens." Here in week three, (and note for next year - plan this ahead). I've decided it would be outstanding if I could raise $500 for the cause of Prostate Cancer research.

Now, I've thrown out the social media "call", as well as some direct e-mail appeals. What I haven't done to help this cause along is what I do every day - write.

So - here's the deal. For every donation I receive over $5 from now until the end of the month, as a personal thank you, I'll send along an exclusive new, never-been-published story entitled, naturally, "The Moustache". (I'll even sign the PDF with a personal note of thanks.)

To those that have already donated, I haven't forgotten your generosity, and will be sending you the story as soon as it's complete. As of this moment, it's 90% done, but I'm putting my word behind it, that the story will be finished, edited, and all copies sent out by Friday, December 2.

Click here to donate.

(And thanks!)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

What's My Motivation?

It's a phrase that borders on trite. So much so, that this question has become shorthand in movies and t.v., indicating that the actor is a pretentious primadonna. What a shame.

Sure, there's some folks out there who are so high on their own talent that when they ask the question, it's more about why they can't just do the thing their way. But, the actors who are genuinely asking for assistance ask because they understand something very important: if you don't have a "why", your "what" is going to suck. I'm going to pick on a movie I saw recently, "In time".

This is a big budget action movie starring Justin Timberlake. The concept is exceptional. In the future, everyone stops aging at 25. After that, your body receives one extra year, on a built in electronic "clock." This year can be bought and sold as currency, and the more time you have, the longer you live. Cool, cool concept, right?

However- none of the characters in this movie have any real motivation for what they're doing. There are "reasons" given for their behaviour, but nothing deeper to explain why that character is behaving this way. Ultimately, I left unsatisfied, and bewildered that I didn't enjoy it more, until the lack of motivation dawned on me.

Motivations also change as characters change. In the US re-release of "A Clockwork Orange", Anthony Burgess, in his new introduction, disowns the first American release of the novel, and the movie that was based on it, because both of these left off the final chapter in which Alex has been seen to finally change. "If characters in a novel don't change," says Burgess, "Then it's not a novel. It's a puppet show."

So - the question is, how do we know what our characters want, and why do they want it? That, folks, is part of the "game" of writing. You've got to be listening to those characters as you move them around, or you've got your own variation of a puppet show. (Nothing against puppet shows, mind you.)

One thing that may help, going back to the world of "theatre" (which is where I first heard this) is that human desire and need can be summed up into "the four f's":

Fight, Feed, Flee, and Reproduction (get it?).

E.g. Why does Character A buy a new car?

a) he just wants it

b) he needs to have this car because later the Ant. is going to steal it.

c) he's got a new job, and everyone at the office drives high priced cars. If he wants to move up, he needs to fit in.

d) there's an incredibly beautiful woman who's just moved in next door, and Char. A has heard her gushing about beautiful cars.
Two of these are weak, and two of these are strong(er). Taking things back to that level, you can start to get an idea for who your characters really are, and what they want out of this world you've plunked them into.

Lesson over - time for games:

There's a million great exercises out there to work on motivation, but I've been playing around with one of my own, that has been sort of fun. By taking one of the primal "f's", you can help yourself "warm up" to doing a writing session by trying this. I've been referring to it as a "Writer's Scale", because you're not going to be using any of this text. You're specifically just doing this to get your brain going, like a pianist would use scales to warm up their fingers before really practicing/playing:

The Writer's Scale

A) write the numbers 1-10 down one side of the page.

B) at the top, pick a primal "f"

C) on the line marked "1" - you have one word to use that embodies that need.

D) on line two, you have two words to work with. Important - you are not continuing on a thought from the previous line. You now have only two words to convey the whole "story."

E) and so on with three, four etc.

F) If you're still having fun after you get to "10" you might try going backward from 10-1.

G) Your top word can be anything, but I've had the most fun so far using this as a motivation study.

Here's one of mine. I tried to think of different sorts of "fear" as well:


1. Inoperable.
2. It's yours.
3. What was that?

4. We need to talk.

5. Please don't hurt me anymore.

6. There is someone in the house.

7. What the fuck are you looking at?

8. You'd better get down here, she's almost gone.

9. I can't hold on anymore, my fingers are slipping!

10.Quinn walked into the enveloping darkness that filled the barn.

There you go. If you're humming along with your project, then you may not need much exercise right now, but I've started to appreciate having a few in my pocket, especially if I miss a day or two from doing writing.

If you're inspired, I would love to see what you guys come up with in the comments below for your "10".

Good luck with what you're working on!


Sunday, November 6, 2011

Raising the funds. Putting on the "Mo."

I have joined the "Movember" movement.

For the month of November (which traditionally is my least favourite month) I am donating the space on my upper lip to help raise awareness for Men's Health in general, and Prostate Cancer specifically.

When I was in my mid-teens, I went through a span of three years where I lost three grandparents, and an extremely close friend. Cancer has taken far too many people out of this world, far too soon. If participating in this month's world-wide moustachioed festivities helps raise even a few dollars more to help make cancer go away, then I'm going to do it.

One of the things "Movember" is about, besides gnarly looking lip fur, is helping men get a very special message: take your damned health seriously. Get your checkup.No matter what else is going on in your head - you don't want to ever hear the words "it's too late to do anything. If only you'd-"

Here's the end of the "serious" part. If you've got a few bucks to spare, I'd love it if you'd sponsor me here. If not - not to worry - I won't think the worse of anyone, but there is this, and only this - take care of yourselves. I think far too highly of far too many of you to see someone getting awful news because they couldn't be bothered to take an afternoon off.

Now - the other side of the coin is that the "before" pic which I have just added as my new profile, will be proudly replaced by a "during" and an "after" as Movember continues. Get ready for the Used Car special!

Note for those of you in the UK: Steven Chapman is also "growing the ribbon." If you do  your commerce in pounds and not dollars, and would prefer to support a local boy, I'm sure he'd appreciate the support! 

All the best.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Hands off the Tinsel!!

Halloween proper is now two days behind us. I was at a drugstore last night, and they were preparing their Christmas display.  Really? Do we honestly require more than a month and a half to get ready for the "Holiday Rush?" Can't everyone just pick up gift cards at the gas station like I do???*

*Speaking only for those who celebrate Christmas. Other traditions, that begin and end in one month, like sensible holidays, are starting to look better and better. I actually do get very excited and giddy around the Holidays - in December*

Why can't we let the Halloween vibes carry us through one more week at least? Coming from a writer of more or less grotesque short stories, you can see that I'd have a vested interest, but come on. In general, the "Changing of the Merchandise" is happening sooner and sooner every year.

Now that I've got everyone feeling festive... here's where I plug my new story.

As I mentioned earlier this week, Thrillers, Killers n' Chillers is making the macabre last, with a whole week of "Hellacious Halloween" stories, and cheers to them for it! Not only are they prolonging the Halloween fun, but they're also helping keep the "November Funk" at bay for one more week.

Today's offerings include "Monkey Tree", by Sean Patrick Reardon, a sublime tale that is practically guaranteed to move you in the oddest ways. Also, there's one more story from yours truly. This is my last piece online for the next little bit, as I retreat back into the woodwork and get back to jamming words together like Mega Blocks® and try to make them stick.

"Pick Your Own Pumpkin" is a story I'm very happy to have written. For the past year or so, I've been toying around with two recurring characters in a series of Drabble (100 wd) shorts, and they refuse to go away. "PYOP" will probably be most people's first introduction to homicide detectives John Blackwood and Albert Milton. The two are "regular" homicide cops who seem to always be getting stuck with the "weird" cases, and as such, they've become experts in Paranormal Homicidal Occurances. I've had a lot of fun writing these two, and I feel like this piece is leading the way to something even longer for the duo.

Scan here for a bonus story featuring
Milton & Blackwood!
 I hope you'll check out their "full length" debut, as well as all the other amazing tales that TKn'C has lined up to keep Halloween rockin' and stop Santa Clause from knockin' (for one more week.)


"Eight Days of Madness", my free e-Book Anthology, featuring Laurita Miller, Benjamin Sobieck, Sean Patrick Reardon, Angel Zapata, Richard Godwin, Erin Cole, Lily Childs has hit 300 downloads! Congratulations writers - that's a HIT. If you've not yet embraced the Madness - click the cover at the right side of this page to get it at Smashwords.