Authors are constantly evolving. Even late in their careers, they’re never not learning new tricks or trying some experiment with their latest story. Check out Anne Rice’s latest stories, introducing scientific elements into what are normally supernatural stories, or JK Rowling going from fantasy coming-of-age series into literary and crime. Heck, His Royal Highness Stephen King is doing hard-crime and has introduced more alien and sci-fi elements into a lot of his recent stories.

Back in January I wrote a post about how I wanted to create the same images in my stories but with less words. As my word counts are still often very high, measuring whether or not I’m actually succeeding based on that. So while I’ve been editing one of my short stories for an anthology I wanted to get published in, I looked at specific paragraphs, looked at how they were pre-editing, and then what they looked like post-editing. What I got looked pretty promising.

Here’s one paragraph prior to editing:

One of the cheerleaders opened a door and Lizzy was thrown in, falling down a set of stairs. As she landed on hard concrete floor, she heard the girls laughing up above. They thought this was funny? She’d be lucky if she came away from this with just bruised ribs!

And here’s the same paragraph after it’s been edited:

One of the cheerleaders opened a door and Lizzy was thrown in, falling down a set of stairs, landing hard on concrete floor, the other girls laughing up above. They thought this was funny? She’d be lucky if she came away with only bruised ribs!

There’s a five-word difference, two sentences have been merged into one, and I changed “just” for “only” in the last sentence. There’s a more noticeable difference in the second example I have:

Suddenly Eric stood up, turning around in a circle to face the cheerleaders with an angry look on his face. Some of the cheerleaders actually shrank away from him, which Lizzy thought was extraordinary: she’d never thought anything but pimples scared these narcissistic twats.

And the edited version:

Eric stood up, glaring at each and every cheerleader in turn. Some of them actually shrank away from him, which Lizzy thought was extraordinary: she’d thought nothing but pimples actually scared these narcissistic twats.

Ten word difference, and if you ask me it creates the same basic image while being less wordy. In fact, I thin it’s written better than the first example, creating much more compelling images than before. And along with these examples, I’ve noticed a few more differences in how I write. For instance, I’m using less words involving the suffix “ing” (otherwise known as a gerund*). I would often write a sentence like this, “Getting up and heading to the cabinet, Lizzy slid back the secret panel and got out the scotch”. Now I prefer writing “Lizzy got up, went to the cabinet, slid back the secret panel, and got out the scotch.” To me, this seems not necessarily smoother, but it sounds better to me. It’s four succinct actions, one after another. Boom, boom, boom, boom, forming images in your head that run in fluid succession, like a scene on a Blu-Ray disc. Plus one word shorter, that’s not bad.

In any case, I feel like this is real good progress for me. Like I’ve said before, I’ve stopped worrying about word count because that sort of worry makes it difficult for me to tell the story as it needs to be told. But if finding ways to tell the same good story with less words can make for a better story, then yes I will pay attention to word count. And as you know, I’m all about telling a great story, so I’ll keep working on trying to tell a good story with less words, see where it gets me.

Hopefully many more stories, a few more published works and a lot of scared readers. Am I right?

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll see you next time, which I swear will be before I leave Germany. Have a good one!

*Funny story I can’t resist telling you, when I was in high school at Columbus Torah Academy, I was taking an English class and we were going over the different parts of grammar. When we came upon gerunds, I commented that the word sounded British (and they kind of do). My English teacher then, for whatever reason, told me to speak British. So I put on my terrible British accent, and start saying all these British phrases: “Pip pip, cheerio.” “Spot of tea and crumpets.” “God save the Queen.” And then randomly the head of the Judaic Studies department at the time, Rabbi Elbaz, a short Moroccan rabbi with this really thick accent, walks into our classroom. I say, “God save Rabbi Elbaz too.” The class laughs, and then Rabbi Elbaz says, “Oy Rami, now God will look into my records and see all the bad things I’ve done.” I swear, the whole class was laughing hysterically until he left! I wish I knew what he thought of it.

As many of you know, I got a job with the US Army Civilian Corps working in their Equal Employment Opportunity office in Wiesbaden, Germany (about a stone’s throw near Frankfurt, in case you were wondering). I was supposed to leave at the beginning of the month, but there was a miscommunication at some point and I’ve been sorting through paperwork since. But as of today, that’s all over. I’ve got my orders, so I’ll be leaving July 5th from Columbus, arriving in Frankfurt on the 6th, and starting work on the 7th. I’ve already ordered my tickets.

I’m very excited that this is finally happening. I’ll be staying there on base through September, with the possibility of staying longer depending on how circumstances shape out. In addition to working on an Army base in another country, I plan to do as much exploring and learning as much as possible and exploring as much as possible. I’d like to see some museums, go to castles and other historical places, head into the Jewish neighborhoods to pray, get kosher food, and socialize with people sharing my heritage, and trying good ol’ fashioned German food and drink (provided it’s kosher or vegetarian, of course). And of course I’m looking forward to getting all sorts of inspiration for my stories. When I was in Europe last year I had 40 ideas for stories and articles in a period of three weeks. Imagine what three months will lead to!

Of course, I’ve got a lot of prep to do. I leave in six days, so I have to pack, practice my German (which is coming along great, thanks to the program I’m using and the phrasebook I’ve been writing), ask my supervisor a thousand questions so I get there prepared, reroute my mail to my new address once I get it (I’ll be living on the base), and a hundred other things. Plus I’ll be writing or editing when I have time, I can’t give that up. No really, I can’t give that up: I actually get stressed out if I’m unable to write or edit or blog or publish. And nobody needs unnecessary stress. Am I right?

So wish me luck and a safe trip (in German: Ich wunsche dir eine gute Reise!) as I start the next chapter in my life. Until next time, my Followers of Fear! Auf Weidersehen!

 

Bit late in the day, but it’s Friday, so it’s #FirstLineFriday! On this day, I post the first or first two lines of a published work, work-in-progress, or potential story. Today’s selection comes from my first published novel, Reborn City. I hope you like it.

Zahara and her family had decided to eat out at a restaurant in North Reborn that served kosher meat, the closest they could get to halāl.

Thoughts? Comments? Grammatical problems? Let me know. Have a good weekend!

 

Today, the Supreme Court declared gay marriage bans unconstitutional in a 5-4 decision, making the United States of America the 25th nation or territory to legalize same-sex marriage.The atmosphere has been jubilant all over the country. Today I was running errands downtown and I saw people getting married in a lovely plaza next to a fountain, couples coming together to be wed in holy matrimony. It was all sponsored by one of the pro-gay rights groups, with pastors and cakes and photographers all on stand by. It was so beautiful.

And why shouldn’t it be? Today, like suffragettes at the beginning of the 20th century and like African-Americans in the 1960s, LGBT community and their allies have reached an important and historic milestone, one that affirms all LGBT individuals who’ve ever felt less than good enough or unwanted from the country or society or from the world that we are human, that we are worthy of being full individuals under the law. This is a great moment for all LGBT Americans.

Of course, this is nowhere near the final victory, just as the Nineteenth Amendment wasn’t the final victory in the cause for women’s rights, nor were the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965 the final victories for African Americans. We as a nation still have a long way to go as a country before we can say there is any final victory. There is much that still needs to be done. In the short term, we have to ensure that those who are free to marry now can marry. Some state legislatures will try to make it difficult by including religious exemptions for clerks, or putting the whole business of marriage solely in the hands of clergy, or even saying the state can resist laws or rulings from the federal government that the state finds immoral or against the state’s best interest, whatever that means. The LGBT community and their allies will have to make sure that these sort of extreme measures don’t come to pass, and if they do, that they’re fought with the ferocity of tigers.

Celebrations over the Supreme Court decision today. Oh, what a wonderful day it is.

As for the long term, we need to create and foster a more inclusive atmosphere and culture nationwide. In many states it is still legal to fire someone if they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. In some places being LGBT or perceived as such can lead to harassment, assault, stalking, discrimination, persecution, and even death. Teens in junior high and high schools all over the nation are bullied every day for the way they were born or suffer in silence, afraid that if they allow themselves to be who they are, they will they will suffer more. Some lose everyone they love when they come out. Others will be forced to go to camps or some other form of “therapy” to make them “normal”.

This has to stop. As a nation that calls itself a land of opportunity and prosperity, we need to make it so that LGBT individuals within our borders can live in happiness and safety, to feel comfortable in their own skins and to go down the street without fear of being targeted for how they were born. That is what, in the long term, the LGBT community will pursue in this nation.

For now though, it is Friday. It is the weekend. And it’s still June, the month considered lucky for weddings (though in Ohio it’s also famous for rain and humidity). This weekend there will be celebrations of love, joy, matrimony. Couples will be legally wed in the eyes of the law, families will be brought together in happiness and health. Let us celebrate and love.

On Monday, as we usually do, we will get to work. But we will go to work with renewed purpose.

For what i would like to say to the naysayers and haters on this historic day, see my new post at From The Voice Of Common Sense.

I’m getting very naughty. First I’m swearing in Facebook posts, now I’m swearing in the titles of my blog posts.

Recently I had my five-hundredth idea for a short story or novelette since I started keeping a list. It was actually last night as I was getting ready for bed. I was thinking of an SVU rerun I’d watched earlier in the day and I thought of a minor character in the episode and what might’ve happened if he’d done some things differently in that episode. That birthed an idea (ah, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. One of these days I will do a post about how you’ve gotten in my head and given me so many ideas for stories). Anyway, it occurred to me that this would be my five-hundredth idea. And then I asked myself how many I’d actually at least gotten a first draft of. And today I counted.

The total count: 17. Yeah, only 17 out of 500 have at least made it past the first draft (what state they are afterwards varies). This was about the amount I expected, though I’m not happy about how little I’ve written. When I was thinking about this last night, I thought to myself, Time’s a quick bastard. It moves by so fast, and between school, the hurdles of getting a job, practicing German, the Netflix binges I keep getting myself drawn into, and everything else going on, you can’t keep up. Too bad. Some of these story ideas are really awesome.

That’s the sad part about being the author. You want to be able to write all the time, to not have to sleep or eat and the only distractions are ones you want to get distracted by and that don’t take up a lot of time. Sadly, reality is not always so pleasant, and we’ve got to deal with it how we can. As much as I would like to write more, as much as I would like to get a few more items on that list crossed off, I know that I don’t always have the time for it.

And I would like more time, definitely. I would. And maybe someday I will have more time. I know friends who’ve gotten publishing contracts or have gotten enough sales through self-publishing and they find more time to write and edit and publish and market. True, this often comes after many years of writing, when they’ve had careers, built up portfolios, had other stuff work for them. It’s something involving luck, ambition, hard work, dedication, and of course time.

Funny, time’s like money. You have to spend it to make it. Time’s not just a quick bastard, time’s a hard one to work with. And of course sometimes you don’t get the time you look for. Or you do but there’s family concerns or people want you to devote your time to other stuff because suddenly you have more of it. It’s a tough life to live, knowing that the time doesn’t always work with you in your writing career.

Still, I’m not letting time–what time I have–get away from me. After so much time, Video Rage is finally getting edited. I’ watched a documentary tonight over dinner that’ll help me with a story I’ve been struggling with for over a year. I’ve even figured out what short stories I might work on after I’ve finished with Video Rage, and what I’ll do after those are done. What little time I have, I’ll make work for me until I have more.

Time’s a quick and tricky bastard to work with. But I’m not going to let time get the best of me. Eventually, I’ll get time to work for me, so I’ll be the most prolific author I can be.

Until then, I keep doing what I’ve done since I first started my goal of writing to become published: just one word at a time, until the story comes together.

2015: 10-6
2014: 10-6, 5-1
2013: 10-6, 5-1

Well, it’s time for the Top 5 Villains of 2015. These are the baddest of the bad, the freakiest of the freaky, the ones you have to watch out for. Are you ready to take on this list? Then let’s dive in!

A reminder that these villains are fictional and none of them were created by me. Otherwise it’s me taking a swing at politicians I don’t like or plugging me own books.

5. Mary Wells/The Weeping Lady (Sleepy Hollow)

People had some differing opinions on Season 2 of Sleepy Hollow, but honestly I think we can all agree this is one of its best episodes, and one of its most memorable villains. Mary Wells was Ichabod Crane’s fiancee, their marriage arranged for them as children. However while Mary was infatuated and obsessed with Ichabod, the latter only felt brotherly feelings for her. When she died in an accident involving Ichabod’s future wife Katrina, she became a ghost forever weeping for her lost love. When she is raised by Henry, the Horseman of War, to cause chaos, she goes after every woman close to Ichabod, including Katrina and Lieutenant Abby Mills. When she reveals Katrina’s role in her death, it is the wedge that begins the end of the Cranes’ marriage. Sad and spooky, we love this woman, feel for her and can’t get her out of our heads. Her spot on the Top 5 is well-deserved.

4. Annabelle (Annabelle)

I love creepy dolls, but even I would hesitate to have this one in my house. Originally from The Conjuring and based on a real haunted doll, Annabelle was popular enough to get her own prequel movie exploring how she was a woman in a satanic cult who died and possessed a rare collectible doll along with her demon master. The result was that she got the chance to cause chaos for a young family, with the intent to take an innocent soul and send it to Hell. And she nearly succeeds too. Creepy to look at and dangerous to have in your house, Annabelle will inhabit your nightmares for years, which is why she’s Number 4 on this list.

Oh, fun fact: the real Annabelle doll is actually a large Raggedy Ann doll. However the makers of Raggedy Ann (or whoever owns the copyright these days) would never consent to have one of their dolls portrayed in a horror movie like that, so the filmmakers designed a creepy looking doll for the part. And that doll has been creeping us out ever since. Yikes!

3. Ultron (Avengers: Age of Ultron)

Actually more like Couple Days of Ultron, but that’s another story. No matter how long he was around though, Ultron is still a terrifying force to be reckoned with. He seems genial and funny at times, but his humor and reasoning, along with his fascination for religious philosophy, are only a cover for his true sinister nature and his plan to cause an extinction event that will wipe out humanity and allow his clones to take over the Earth. With a silky smooth voice provided by James Spader, you won’t want to be anywhere near him when he starts singing classic Disney songs. Definitely deserving of the Number 3 spot.

2. Isaac Heller/The Author (Once Upon a Time)

Now, if you watch the show you may not think he’s much of a villain. But in actuality he’s definitely real villain material. A wannabe F. Scott Fitzgerald who is chosen to become the chronicler of great adventures through out the many different worlds, he abuses his power and starts directing events, earning himself the punishment of being sealed in his own book. When he escapes, he uses his weak attitude and his power to weasel his way out of any situation, not caring who gets hurt or what has to happen in order for him to receive his fifteen minutes of fame. And the crazy thing is, he still considers himself one of the good guys! Yeah, he does. Even when he traps the residents of Storybrooke in a fiction novel and tries to kill the one guy who escaped, he still thinks he’s a good guy. This sleazy character will justify his actions no matter what, and his spot at Number 2 is perfect for him.

1. Meredith Walker/The Benefactor (Teen Wolf)

Sometimes the greatest villain is someone who is sweet and innocent, but has been influenced by the wrong people. Meredith Walker is a banshee, one who predicts death. Years ago she overheard the thoughts of Peter Hale, one of the show’s recurring villains, where he had an insane plan to kill off the weaker members of Beacon Hills’ supernatural community and remake it in his own image. Meredith, who is already a little unhinged but normally very nice, carries out his plan, paying assassins and hunters to go after the supernatural community. Even worse is she doesn’t think this is wrong, she just thinks she’s doing what she’s supposed to do because Peter implanted the idea in her brain. Only when she realized that she’s caused the deaths of many innocent people and that Peter was more unhinged than her does she regret her actions. Kind and afflicted, Meredith’s turn as a villain was terrifying and stunning and I’m seriously hoping she has a role in Season 5. Bravo Meredith, you’ve earned the top spot.

What are your thoughts on my Top 5 villains this year? Do you agree or disagree? Let me know in the comments below. Tune in next summer for 2016’s Top 10 villains. By then we might have a few new entries or maybe some old ones will resurface. One can only hope.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear!

2014: 10-6, 5-1
2013: 10-6, 5-1

It’s that time of year again! When I list the top villains who have scared and/or impressed me over the past year. And this time around we’ve got some pretty interesting and unexpected entries on this list. So let’s dive into the first half of the list and see who was the baddest of bad guys this year! Remember, these villains must be fictional and they can’t be any of mine (otherwise it’d just be me plugging my books, and this isn’t where I want to do that).

Honorable mention goes to Dandy Mott from American Horror Story: Freak Show. That guy was a psychotic man-child with a love for attention and a greater love of killing. I’m looking forward to what his actor will be up to next season.

10. The Mummy/The Boneless (Doctor Who)

Yes we have a tie for entry #10! And both from the same show, well done. Appearing in the episodes Mummy on the Orient Express and Flatline, these creatures are scary and mysterious and their spots are well deserved. First, let’s start with The Mummy: an ancient warrior from a long-ago war, the Mummy has since become a legend, a moving skeleton wrapped in bandages who can only be seen by those it targets. They then have 66 seconds to live, during which the Mummy will get them. And kill them. It is a very creepy creature, and the Doctor was only just able to stop it, making Mummy on the Orient Express my favorite episode of that season.

The Boneless, as the Doctor names the species, is a 2-D alien species from another dimension who invade our world with the intention of taking over and becoming three-dimensional as well. The moment they or their energies touches anything, it’s as good as two-dimensional and (if it’s living) it’s dead. Heck, the Doctor nearly dies facing them, which goes to show how much of a force they are to be reckoned with. These unfathomable monsters are simply amazing and terrifying to watch, which is why they go alongside the Mummy to earn the Number 10 spot.

9. Missy/The Mistress (Doctor Who)

Another DW villain, and definitely one of the most lovably bad! If you’re unfamiliar with the show, Missy is the female version of the Master, one of the Doctor’s oldest and greatest enemies (yeah, characters on this show can change their genders). Watching from the shadows, she only reveals herself at the end with a plan to convert the world’s dead into Cybermen and then give the Army to the Doctor. Why? Because she wants to see if she can make him as bad as her! I know, crazy right? But that’s Missy’s charm: she’s playfully mad and wants nothing more than to rope her best friend into some crazy fun scheme, and will do anything bad to get her way. Plus she has an awesome theme song, which makes her spot at Number 9 well deserved.

Okay, I said something nice Missy, please don’t kill me, okay?!

8. Kim Jung-Un (The Interview)

I know, I said fictional villains, but this is a fictional version of the character, so I think I can make an exception. Plus he’s just so funny! In this controversial and provocative movie, Kim Jung-un at firsts comes off as a shy and sweet guy who had a lot of responsibility thrust upon him at a young age and occasionally just wants to rock out to some Katy Perry in a Russian tank. However as you get to know him, you realize that he’s about as nice as sulfuric acid, and that he’s actually quite the sociopathic tyrant. Seeing him go from a crying wreck to having a tantrum to trying to murder the world and then get blown up is well worth watching, and secures his place at Number 8 on the list. So North Korea, please don’t hack me, okay? There are some things the world is not ready to learn about me!

7. The Babadook (The Babadook)

If it’s in a word it’s in a look, you can’t get rid of the Babadook. Thus starts the picture book out of Hell, as depicted in this creepy Australian indie. The Babadook is a terrifying reimagining of the boogeyman, a creature that wears a top hat and sticks to the shadow, stalking its victims until it drives them mad and kills them dead. When it sets its eyes on struggling single mom Amelia and her behaviorally-challenged son Samuel, you’ll experience ninety-four minutes of pure terror! And the freakiest part of it is, you can’t tell if the Babadook is a real monster or if it’s all in the heads of the characters! Even all this time later I still can’t tell! Yikes!

6. The Creature (It Follows)

The writer/director of this creepy gem said he based the story on nightmares he had as a child. Indeed, the Creature is nightmarish. Only seen by those affected by the curse and able to take any form, the Creature delivers a promise: that no matter how long it takes, no matter how far you go, it’ll follow you. It will find you. And it will kill you, one way or another. And this promise is delivered to everyone affected by the curse, going from the latest victim and heading down the line to the beginning of the curse. We don’t know why, but to say the least, the how of it is enough to make us all stay away from one night stands forever.

 

Like the list? Have any thoughts? Let me know in the comments! And join me for the Top 5 later on, when we’ll see who 2015’s Baddest of the Bad are! Until next time!