Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Write Scared

Do you write scared?

What do I mean by that? Does it mean you should be writing in the horror genre? Nope.

Write Scared.

This is the absolute best advice I have ever received. And the person who gave me this golden rule makes it a point to pass this knowledge on, and so I'd like to pass it on to my fellow writers.

Many writers border on psychosis. In fact, at least half of the writers I know have struggled with depression or even mental illness. The other forty-eight person have dealt with some pretty heavy stuff in their lives. Life is hard. And it's full of adversity.

When you're writing, don't be afraid to go THERE. Don't be afraid to make your writing go to the very edge, and then give it a nice shove over the cliff.

Write Scared.

Go to the very depths of hell. Of despair. Of fury. Of darkness. Push your characters to the very limits, and then push it more.

Damnit, cross that line.

Was it American playwright Augustus Thomas that said you should get your hero up a tree and throw stones at him? That's great advice. But go further than that. What does that kind of bullying do to our helpless hero...eventually?

I want you to read a short, but profound poem by Langston Hughes. A Dream Deferred:

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?

Share that hero's rage and desperation with each stone that hits him in the face, or the gut, or the balls.  Let him wallow in fear and frustration. Then let it churn...and become something else. Let it fester like an infected sore. Let the blood and the puss spew from that wound. Let it build and build and build...

Write Scared.

Maybe the hero gets sick of being picked on. He jumps down from the tree and bashes the stone thrower's head in with a hammer. Oh snap. Did that just happen? Allow yourself to be possessed while you write, and let the characters come to life. And if they go beyond what you planned or expected, let them go. For Godssakes, let them go. Let them show you the depths of wherever it is they're going. Let them surprise the hell out of you.

This is what engages your readers. This is what makes your characters real and meaningful. This is what makes us give a damn about your story and the people in it. Your writing will enter another dimension if you do one thing...

Write Scared.

Footnote: I received this advice from a fellow writer and blogger, Riann Colton. We've been visiting each others's blogs for going on eight years now. I constantly wrote with restraint, and some of my post pivotal moments in my books lacked weight and impact...until she told me to write scared. And I had an epiphany.

I saw the face of Elvis in the desert kind of epiphany.

So now when I feel my logical and protective side trying to interfere with my writing (because damnit, I love my characters), I "let slip the dogs of war." And I write scared.

Thanks Riann. You know I love ya.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Best/Worst Movie Remakes Blogfest - and Jewel of Shaylar

When Hollywood runs out of ideas, they remake older films. Sometimes this works, and sometimes it fails miserably. 

Coming up with my favorite and least favorite remakes was tough for me. There's so many to choose from. Here we go!

BEST Hollywood Remake: True Grit

The 2010 version is a much better film than the 1969 one. The only thing going for the original is John Wayne. There is NO replacing John Wayne. However, Jeff Bridges as the aging and grumpy US Marshal Reuben Cogburn is a better actor. The Cohen Brothers did an amazing job, especially with capturing the historical time period.

For me, the biggest difference is the actress portraying 14 year old Mattie. The 1969 version was okay. I can't remember the name of the girl that played her. But in the 2010 version, Hailee Steinfeld does an extraordinary job as the desperate teenager who hired Cogburn to avenge her father's death. Matt Damon and Josh Brolin also shine in this great remake.

WORST Holly wood Remake: The Karate Kid
I am a child of the 80s, as you all know. And despite the notion that remaking such a classic was blasphemy, I gave the remake an honest try. In fact, I watched it again last week with the kids just to make sure I hated it. Result:

I freaking HATE this damn remake.

The title is : KARATE Kid. But the remake takes place in China. And it's all about Kung Fu. As a martial artist, it's appalling to mush karate and kung fu. Please. That's like saying Irish stout and German lager is the same. They're not. In the original, Mr. Miyagi taught Daniel Okinawan karate. Hence the title.

In the remake, Dre (played by Jaden Smith), moves to China. And he's a tweener. And his mom lets his 12/13 yr old son walk the streets of China by himself? Yeah right. Daniel moved from NY to Reseda, California - and man, he just seemed so out of his element. Crazy, right? The original did a much better job of making the main character feel out of place in a strange new environment.

Dre is doing all kinds of crazy flips and stunts. Look - these look cool in movies, but if you ever pull a flip in the air, I'm going to roundhouse kick your balls off. Stupid. In the original, you KNEW Daniel would get his ass kicked by any of the dudes he beat in the tournament. He had that vulnerability. They made Dre a kung fu master after a couple months of training.

Finally, Johnny was a much better bully than that little Chinese boy who just glowered and frowned all the time.

BONUS: Best/Worst Song Remake!
Best: Whitney Houston covering Dolly Parton's, "I Will Always Love You." Song still gives me goosebumps.

Worst: George Michael covering Bonnie Raitt's, "I Can't Make You Love me." Why or why???

* * * * * *

Laura Eno's Jewel of Shaynar is available NOW! I have a special place for Ms. Eno, as one of her books was the VERY first ebook download I ever made on my Kindle. 

Archaeologist David Alexander investigates the cave where his father disappeared and hurtles into another world, one filled with magic and bizarre creatures. The mad ravings in his father's journals of icemen and dragons may not be fantasies after all.
Convinced his father may still be alive, David begins a treacherous journey to find him and discover a way home. Along the way, he encounters a few unlikely friends. A Dreean warrior, a beautiful thief and a satyr join him as he searches.
David's arrival into this new world sets off an explosive chain reaction of events. Faced with powerful adversaries and few clues, he may not get the chance to rescue his father before disaster strikes, condemning both of them to death. Or worse.

Purchase at:

Monday, May 13, 2013

So What Has Shaped You?

We are all the result of our past. Our experiences mold the person we are today. I was talking with another writer, and we were discussing all the things that have inspired us in one way or another. Then we focused on our writing. What has shaped us as writers?

Here's what's shaped me:

Childhood Book: I discussed the children's book, Ma Liang and the Magic Paintbrush, on here before. It's a wonderful Chinese mythology picture book. I still have it. I must have read it (at least looked at the pictures) hundreds of times. This book fostered my love for reading, especially world mythology.

Childhood Movie: This one's easy. Star Wars. I was 5 years old. I saw it in the Philippines, actually. King Arthur, Beowulf, old Flash Gordon and Buck Rodgers, and the Japanese samurai film, The Hidden Fortress. These are all the things I still love today.
And then when I came back to the States, we saw it again in a drive-in theater. This movie has everything a kid could want: cool battle scenes, spaceships, and an awesome villain. Star Wars draws from

Hobbies: Martial arts. Maybe it's because it's in my family, but I loved learning how to fight. I studied Escrima/Kali, Chinese Kenpo, and Kom Da Kwon. I got in a few scraps as a kid (and young adult), but I stopped training when my first child came along. Martial arts has helped me with writing my fight scenes. Not many writers know what it's like to get roundhouse kicked to the head, or to smash your knee into some one's solar plexus. I draw from experience when writing fight scenes, because using movies are your guide is so inaccurate.

Bruce Lee WITH Escrima sticks!
Bruce Lee: Apart from the cool martial arts and the good vs evil storylines, Bruce Lee made a huge impact in my life. Asian men aren't often depicted as the hero in films. We're either weak nerdy losers or deadly villains. And the Hollywood white-washing makes me sick (i.e. The Last Airbender). Bruce Lee showed me that Asians can be the good guys. We can be the heroes. And nothing illustrates this better than Bruce Lee giving Chuck Norris a beat-down in Return of the Dragon.

Great Teachers: I was lucky to have a bunch of them. In college, Dr. Hirschfield was "My Captain." He was controversial as hell, and got in big time trouble with the University. He was a published poet who wrote about escaping Nazi Germany with his mom and little brother. In creative writing class, I showed him a big binder of my work, and he encouraged me to read them out loud in class. He told me that I was a novelist (and a horrible poet, which I knew), and that I needed to pursue it. Or else he'd kick my ass. I believe he eventually was fired.

The Classics: With my degree in English, I read a lot of the classics. Beowulf, Moby Dick, The Odyssey, The Count of Monte Cristo, and everything by H.G. Wells and Jules Verne of course. But I am heavily influenced by all of Shakespeare's works. I remember reading and studying all of his plays: Hamlet, Julius Caesar, Macbeth, King Lear, and Romeo and Juliet. I love the drama and the witty dialogue. Shakespeare was the king of dramatic irony. When the reader knows more than the characters, it really increases the tension.

Robert Cormier
Robert Cormier: I didn't read a whole lot of YA Lit in middle school and high school. I liked the grown up stuff. So when I took a YA class in college in pursuit of my English teaching degree, I felt like I had missed an entire universe of books. Robert Cormier's works spoke to me the most. The Chocolate War, After the First Death, I am the Cheese...all of his books were so damn edgy. That's why his books are always banned by schools. Cormier was the first YA author to give readers unhappy endings. The world isn't always fair, and bad things happen to good people. But in his books, the main characters are ordinary people put in extraordinary circumstances.

In his book, I am the Cheese, there's a phone number on one of the pages. It was Cormier's actual home phone number! I was a high school English teacher, and we were reading After the First Death, so I decided to call him and ask him about the ambiguous ending. His wife answered, and she handed the phone to him. He was so gracious, and we spent a good 15 minutes talking about his book. Then we got to talking about writing. He told me to keep plugging away, no matter what. He even told me to call him next year, but he passed away a year later.

I continue to plug away. Every day.

What has inspired YOU?

Monday, May 6, 2013

A to Z Reflections...And Beyond

This was my second year participating in the A to Z Challenge. At first, I wasn't sure how I was going to top my Steampunk posts last year, so I decided to do something fun and non-writing related. I'm a child of the 80s, so I thought it'd be fun to post everything 80s from A-Z.

I hope you all enjoyed it - even if you didn't get some of my cultural references. For my fellow Gen Xers, we sure grew up in a weird and fun time, huh?

Speaking of reflections, I've been reflecting about my own writing the last couple of weeks. I've been up to my nose in edits. My novel, Dragonfly Warrior, has been fortunate to have two editors working on it. I didn't plan it, and I have my publisher to thank. What's really cool is that they're both very different editors.

One is good at look at my writing from a reader's perspective, and she's pointed out areas that need reworking to help clarify things for my readers.

The other is helping me get rid of some of my wordiness. I love descriptive and highly detailed writing, but sometimes, it can get in the way. Yes, I'm an over-writer. This editor is trimming the fat and getting rid of the adjectives that weigh my book down.

As a writer (and a human), I have a lot of bad habits. Over-writing is definitely one of them.

How about you? Do you have any bad habits that never fail to rear their ugly heads in your early drafts?