Wasn’t really expecting to be doing a new article this morning, but the opportunity showed itself and I had to take it. My latest article from Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors is about KDP’s new age and grade range features. These are new tools that KDP Amazon says will help people market their books using age ranges. I go over the possibilities of these new features in the article.

If you get a chance, you should check it out. Might be helpful. And if you’re a self-published author, you should consider checking out the rest of the site. Self-Pub Authors is by indie authors, for indie authors and is all about doing articles on writing, editing, publishing and marketing efficiently and cost-effectively. There’s an article on almost everything, and you can find plenty of great information for your own writing. I highly recommend it.

Well, that’s all for now. I’ve got to get going, so I’ll write to you guys later. Have a good one, my Followers of Fear!

I’ve two short stories, one that has had two drafts already and another that I’m trying to get through the last act of. Both stories involve the supernatural, and both focus on two characters, a man and a girl (though in each story the relationship dynamic is quite different). As I’m thinking of the different things I could do with each story in order to improve it, one thing comes to mind for both of them and it’s really got me thinking about the possibilities.

One story is State Fair, which I’ve mentioned here before and is about fairgrounds haunted by ghosts. The other is called Streghe (that’s Italian for “Witches”) and is based off a witch mythology I learned about in my History of Witchcraft (that class is already pretty useful). At their current stages, both short stories are told mostly from the male character’s point of view. So I’m thinking to myself, one of the ways to improve them might be to tell part of the story from the female character’s point of view.

Two narrators in a single story isn’t unusual. I’ve read a couple of well-known short stories that were told in this manner, one of which immediately comes to mind is The Falls by George Saunders (boy, is that one a trip). And the Bartimaeus books, which I loved as a kid, often had two to four narrators, depending on which book you were reading. And most of my novels are told from multiple points of views (and people tend to like those). So I’m wondering why I haven’t tried that with my short stories. Heck, I’m wondering why I haven’t tried it with either of these short stories. I mean, State Fair‘s main character spends most of the story following a girl named Lizzy around the park, so why did I not get her POV on being followed around? And the events of Streghe happen as much as to my young female protagonist Sarah as it does to my nasty male antagonist Tom. Not sure why I’m saving her POV to the end.

Well, it’s something I’ll definitely try. Since I’m still working on the first draft of Streghe, I’ll see about getting Sarah’s POV in this thing, maybe heighten the mystery element of the story by including her. When I get around to another edit of State Fair, I’ll see where where I can put Lizzy’s point of view. It’d be interesting to see how she reacts to a ghost following her around.

But what do you guys think? Am I onto something? Do you use multiple narrators in your short stories? And if so, how does it usually work out for you? Let me know, I’d love to discuss.

The main fear of every fiction writer is whether or not they’re telling a good story, usually meaning they hope they have an interesting story or they’re telling it in the best way possible. After that those, there’s another fear that is just as important and just as scary: you fear your characters aren’t relatable, that they don’t feel real to the reader. The last thing any author wants to read in a review is that the characters seemed “artificial” or “their actions and words felt forced” or instead of seeming like real people, they were “more like robots.”

Unless all or most of your characters are actually robots, of course. Then those reviews might actually be compliments.

But in most other situations, you want to avoid getting these sort of reviews, and there are a number of ways to do that. One is to fill out a full character bio for each of your characters, even if you don’t plan on using everything on that bio in the story. I’m talking full educational history, childhood experiences and traumas, hobbies, likes and dislikes, dirty little secrets, all that good stuff. Having a full picture of your character can help you bring them to life. You can tell a lot about a person just by knowing the full story about them, and you can do the same by knowing everything about your characters, getting in their heads and figuring out everything from reactions to certain situations to their decision-making processes.

Some of these involve writing, which I think adds to the fun.

One of the best parts of some of these is you get to write them out. If you’re one of those types who write a certain amount of words a day, this may help fill it out on a bad day.

Another thing you can do, if you’re wondering if something your character says or does seems believable or not, is to do what I call split-mind writing. I forget where I got this (it might have been a Stephen King novel), but it’s a pretty interesting way to work out problems, if rather schizophrenic. What you do is take a piece of paper, and pretend to have a conversation with someone on that piece of paper. Basically it’s a game of question-and-answer where you bounce ideas off of the person you’re writing to, see if you can work out what’s bothering you about your character and find a solution through this process.

There’s also acting it out, which is as the name implies (and with the perfect partner, is as fun as it sounds). If you have someone to act it out with, fill the in on a scenario in the story and act it out. If you or your partner’s reactions and words are different than what you’d expect or thought might happen, examine why. There might be something in that difference that can help you in your work.

A fourth one, and one that I feel is always worth a try, is to look at your favorite characters in literature. Examine them and ask yourself why those characters feel so real to you, or what about these characters that you identified with. Often we’re inspired by these sort of characters and the stories they’re in. We want to write stories that are just as inspirational as those ones that inspired us. Going back and figuring out why can be very helpful with putting those same qualities into your stories.

And of course, there’s my favorite option: would I do that in the same situation? I find asking myself this sort of question of myself actually helps. Often our characters have a bit of ourselves in them (as they should, seeing as we created them). Asking if we would do the same thing as them, and then exploring the answer, may help you make these characters seem real. After all, if you consider yourself at least fifty-percent normal and your reactions too, then maybe those thoughts and reactions should apply to your characters as well.

Sometimes it’s just a matter of thinking and puzzling it out.

Sometimes it’s just a matter of thinking and puzzling it out.

While making characters seem real to your audience can seem daunting, it’s not impossible to do. We all start out having trouble making our characters seem real, but with time we improve, make them real not just to us, but to our readers. And part of that is just asking a question: why or why does this character not work? The answers you get can be the key to writing something–and maybe even someone–truly awesome.

Let me preface this review by pointing out that I usually enjoy the movies that Jason Blum and his company Blumhouse Productions put out. Sinister, Insidious and Insidious 2, The Conjuring and Annabelle. Those are freaky movies. Which is why I’m saddened to say that this latest venture does not live up to expectations. In fact, Unfriended is more a time waster than a terror coaster.

Unfriended follows Blaire Lily, played by Shelley Hennig of Teen Wolf fame and somehow playing a much blander character than the one she played in Ouija. And for most of that film she’s dead (see my review of that one here)! Anyway, the film is told by watching Blaire’s laptop’s desktop and the multitude of programs she’s got going at once. All of her friends and her boyfriend log in for a Skype call and are joined by a mysterious, faceless person who seems to be stalking them. The person claims to be Laura Barns, a friend of theirs who committed suicide a year previously after an embarrassing video of her was uploaded onto the Internet. Whoever it is, they threaten anyone who signs off, uploads embarrassing information about each person, and then kills them. As the number of friends wind down, we get closer to the heart of the mystery: who filmed and uploaded the video that started it all.

I kind of knew before I even saw the movie that it would be difficult to make an impressive film told entirely from a Mac desktop. If they’d kept the tension and terror going through the whole film, then it might not be a problem. However, there are several minutes where nothing happens, where Blaire is chatting on Facebook or through IMs or looking things up or where Laura is typing to the living. During those parts, the tension doesn’t just mellow out, it disappears. Even during a sequence where Laura is forcing her friends to admit they’ve said or done horrific things, it’s not scary. Tragic or sad, but not scary.

Even sadder is that I don’t get to know these characters enough to build any sympathy for these characters. They’re all pretty much stereotypes or archetypes and not much beyond that. Blaire’s the supposedly sweet and innocent virgin, a horror staple, her boyfriend’s the sweet, lovesick puppy teenager from next door. The others are a bitchy drama queen, an overly-entitled rich kid, a geeky hacker, and a blonde (yeah, she’s just a blonde. Nothing beyond that. As a blonde, I’m kind of insulted). Beyond all that, there’s not a thing to say about these people.

And Laura Barns? Don’t know what to make of her. Some say she was just a sweet girl with some family troubles that are briefly hinted at, others see her as an awful bitch. All we see is the villain manipulating them and their computers. I’d have loved to see a flashback of this girl, rather than just some videos and recollections.

That said, Unfriended does have its points. The film looks like it has been filmed in one continuous shot and any cuts in film (of which I’m sure there are) are so hard to catch it looks seamless. The characters do show how unstable teen relationships can be, how you can be a friend and still call someone a bitch at the same time. And there’s that underlying theme of bullying and cyberbullying throughout. They do that well.

Still, I wouldn’t waste money on Unfriended if I were you. Wait until it’s on DVD. It’s an interesting concept, not something previously done in film, but it might have been better told as a short story than as a movie. I’m giving it a 2.6 out of 5. I’m sad that they’re already considering a sequel to this movie, or maybe even a line of sequels. God, I hope they don’t waste the money making more of these! That cash could go to so many better things.

Well, that’s all for now. I’m–wait. What’s this chat box? I–Oh damn. Ghost on my computer. Gotta go, my Followers of Fear. I think I need an exorcist.

So today was the day. The day I’ve kind of been working towards since Fall Semester started back in August. My thesis discussion, where I would discuss with my advisor and one or two other people about the finished product of the novel I’ve been working on.

Well, finished product is a bit of a misnomer. But you get the idea.

Early this morning I met in my advisor Manny’s office for the big meeting. My second reader for the discussion was Maura, a teacher I’ve taken classes with, whose company I enjoy, and who is a huge sci-fi enthusiast (can you see why I asked her to join us?). For about an hour and a half we sat and discussed Rose, how I got the idea for it (actually in one of Maura’s classes), how it grew in my head and became the novel I wanted to write for my thesis, and how all that went (you know the process of that from my many posts on the subject). We also discussed changes I could make for the third draft (which I will do, in time) and what they liked and disliked about the story.

I won’t do a transcript of the entire hour and a half, but I will go over the salient points. As you probably already know, Rose is about a young woman brought back from the dead by a man claiming to be her boyfriend and begins to turn into a plant-like creature (when Manny told the subject of my thesis to some of his writing friends, they were rather impressed by the originality of the idea). It’s about forty-nine thousand words as of the second draft, and still needs some work.

Maura and Manny definitely enjoyed the symbolism and thematic elements of the story, as well as how Rose’s character developed over the course of the story. However, there were some things that could be changed. The first third of the book or so could stand to have quite a few things changed around, including the portrayal of Rose’s amnesia and how she first interacts with Akira, the man who brought her back. They also thought that how certain revelations of both characters could be spaced out a bit more evenly and maybe change how Akira’s dad is characterized or used. There were some other elements that they touched upon, but I can’t mention them here because they would reveal too much. In any case, they’ve got my brain churning in all the best ways and when they’ve emailed me their notes I’ll take down some notes of my own and put the story away for the third draft.

In between this draft and the next though, I plan to finish a couple of short stories and then dive right back into editing Video Rage, the sequel to Reborn City. Yes, I know I’m overdo for that one and it might take a little while longer to get it ready, but I promise you, I’ll get it done as fast as I can. And after that…well, I don’t know. Maybe I’ll work on the third draft of Rose. Maybe I’ll have enough material to do that rewrite of Laura Horn I’ve been meaning to work on. Or I’ll work on some short stories and maybe an entirely new project. Anything’s possible.

You know, it’s been quite the crazy journey for this story. It’s gone through so many changes, more than most of the stories I’ve had the pleasure of writing. And it’s journey is not over yet. No, it’s just at rest, waiting for the next transformation, the next polish. And what a polish it will be when it happens. I think that when the third draft is done, even if it’s not the final draft, Rose will definitely be much closer to publication than it is now.

In the meantime, I’ve got a paper to research and a few other things to do, so I’m going to get on that. You have a great rest of your day, my Followers of Fear. I know I will.

I just published my latest post on Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors. This one is “Hey, That’s My Idea!”: When Works of Fiction are so Similar You Want to Sue. It’s about what happens when you find a work that’s so similar to yours that you fear someone’s stolen your idea, infringed on your copyright. The post was inspired by a story I read this morning, how Joss Whedon–yes, that Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy and director of both Avengers movies–has been hit by a lawsuit by an author who claims Cabin in the Woods is taken directly from his own 2006 novel. It’s interesting, and I wanted to explore the issue a bit more deeply.

If you get the chance, please check out the article. And if you like what you read, please check out and subscribe to the blog. Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors is written by authors, for authors, and to authors so that they can write, edit, market, and publish not only cost-efficiently, but produce the best work they can while they do it. It’s worth a read.

That’s all for now. I’ve got a lot to do, so I’m going to get it done. Have a good one, my Followers of Fear.

Running for President in 2016. Glory Hallelujah!

Or maybe I should title this post #HillaryClinton2016. That might get more people to read this. Oh well. Let’s just go simple with it.

This morning, Former Secretary of State and US Senator Hillary Clinton announced her candidacy for President of the United States. And I fully support her. Not because of her husband, that doesn’t even factor into it. Shouldn’t even factor into it (2015 after all). It’s not because she’ got a political dynasty behind her. And it’s certainly not because she has or doesn’t have style (even if I had a good grasp of that sort of thing, I wouldn’t use it to judge whether she should be President. After all, some of the people we elect every year are ugly as hell and yet we think they’re competent for office).

She’s experienced. She’s skilled. She’s respected across the country and around the world. She’s been a lawyer, an advocate for children, an advisor on education, a corporate executive, a US Senator, and Secretary of State, all in addition to being a wife and mother to one of the most famous men of our age. Secretary Clinton knows about domestic policies and she’s traveled and dueled on the world stage more than any other US Secretary in history. She’s pro-gay rights, pro-choice and pro-women. She’s stood up for minorities, and she’s stood up for those without voices, whether it be the poor or children who no one else will listen to.

Plus, she’d be the first female President of the United States. It’s not my main reason, but it’s definitely a draw.

All that and more is why I’m supporting her in this election. I even sent in an application to be a staff member on the campaign, preferably in media or communications but a few other fields as well. Heck, most of this country has basically peer-pressured her into running for President, so the least I can do is at least apply for a job and do my best to help her if I can. And how cool would it be to have a part in electing the first female United States President?

Nice logo.

Well, I’ll probably be writing more about the campaign every now and then (and if I’m somehow lucky enough to get on the campaign staff, much more frequently). You know me, I’m a bit of a political junkie. No, that’s not right. I’m a junkie for watching this messed up world and finding my own ways to fix it. And as a presidential election in this country effects that in so many ways, I’ll be paying attention to it.

Anyway, here’s to the future. To Hillary Clinton. To America. And to making a difference.

Oh, and on an unrelated note, I set up my loan repayment plan and purchased my cap and gown, specially colored tassel for my college included (and I mean purchased. I don’t think you can return these things. Maybe I’ll take it out every now and then, and try it on like a woman with her wedding dress and remembering all that had been promised on that day. God, I hope I don’t get that stuck in the past!). Graduation is less than a month away. Everything’s coming to an end. I hope it doesn’t without a job though! Wish me luck. I’ll let you know if anything else comes up of significance. I’m sure there will be.