Saturday, March 19, 2016

Why So Many of My Friends Didn't Like Insomnia by Stephen King

Years ago while driving somewhere around Charleston, SC I was listening to a local sport talk program on the radio. The subject for the afternoon was sport movies – good, bad and why. Callers phoned in and shared their opinions as did the show’s hosts. Pretty much every film one might mention was: Rocky (all of them up to that day), Hoosiers, Slap Shot – you name it. Then someone called in and named Field of Dreams. The caller hated the movie as did one of the hosts. The other one didn’t really give an opinion. That’s when I pulled over to find a phone booth, so I could chime in. Note: This was pre-cell days.

I made the call and after being placed on hold (listening to the program while I waited) I finally got my chance to voice my opinion and in doing so I told all who were listening (paraphrased):

“Those who didn’t like the movie, Field of Dreams, don’t understand it. Although centered around the game of baseball, it is not a sport movie. It is not about the game. It is about relationships.”

I went on to explain (attempt) how both the movie and book, Shoeless Joe by W. P. Kinsella (Kevin Costner’s character in the film is Ray Kinsella) is about the main character’s relationship with his father and suggested that people with unresolved parental issues probably related to the story different than those who saw ghost ballplayers walking into a cornfield. After hanging up I was happy to hear two other call in and agree with me.

Of course this is my personal belief. I’ve never discussed the story with Mr. Kinsella (although I did meet him in Halifax years ago), but I’ll bet I’m at least partly right. A lot of people didn’t like the film, because they just didn’t get it and that brings us to Stephen King’s Insomnia.

I’m listening to the audio version of King’s story now. I love audiobooks, because I can strap on my fitbit, plug in the earbuds and listen while I walk. I did read the book about 15 years ago. It was my first taste of King, because I’m a late bloomer in horror. I never read it, until I started writing it. Anyway, for some reason when I mention the book on social media I always get at least one response from a friend who shares that he/she didn’t like it. I’m always amazed, because I must have loved it the first time (I read my second King book, It, immediately after finishing Insomnia). Still I’m once again forced to try to figure out reasons why so many didn’t like it.

Let’s make one thing clear: I don’t really know the reason(s). This is simply a guess. Also I’m not criticizing those who didn’t like it – we all have our tastes. Still I have to suggest a couple of reasons:

1.    Much of the story deals with the Pro Life/Pro Choice debate and some members of the first group are shown in less than approving light. Two of them are pretty damn nuts. To be fair, the other side of the argument is presented, but not as much.

2.    Most character(s) are older than we’re used to reading about in most books. The main character, Ralph, is 70 years old and others are near his age. I believe it’s difficult for some readers to relate to elderly protagonists. This I also understand. Most people under age 60 don’t have a clue what it is like to be senior citizen. It’s not something they really want to know about, because the next level beyond it is death.

Anyway – just something I was thinking about. We all have opinions and mine is that Field of Dreams is a damn good movie and the book (Shoeless Joe) is one of my favorites. Also Insomnia is pretty damn good as well. Of course even bad King is better than most everyone else. I’m probably partial, because I’m freakin’ old.


Sunday, March 6, 2016

Using Your Kindle to Edit

Did you know that you can use your Kindle to help you in your writing? I’ve been sending Word documents from my laptop to my device for years and it’s a great way to save paper see how your story looks on your reader. All you need is your Kindle email address – every reader has one. Just do the following:

Go to the Amazon website and put your cursor on Your Account (top right) then go down to Manage Your Content and Devices and click. Next click the Settings tab and when that opens scroll down to Personal Document Settings. That’s where you will see your email address.

Once you have the address you can send any Word document to your Kindle. This is a great way to see how it looks the way readers will see it. Also I find it an excellent tool for editing. I’ll write or edit a story, send it to my Kindle, grab a cup of coffee (or whatever) and go onto the porch to read it. If I see something I want to change, I’ll make a mental note and go back to the original document to make the edits. I then delete the document from my Kindle and send the new version to it when I’m ready.


Saturday, March 5, 2016

Story Ideas

It’s All Material…

What’s the number one question a writer is asked? Can I have a free book. That’s usually followed by how much do you make? Once we get past those eventually we’re going to hear, where do you get your ideas? My answer has always been the same: It’s all material. Story ideas are floating around everywhere. You just have to look at the situation and grab it. Most times it takes some twisting, but that’s what we do – take normal moments and make them more interesting. That said, I’m going to share the inspirations for my stories. Perhaps this will show you how easy it is to come up with stuff.

Gifted Trust: I’ve already covered this in my post Anatomy of a Novel: 1 – short version… it was inspired by the kidnapping and murder of Adam Walsh, son of John Walsh (America’s Most Wanted).

Weeping Mary: Inspired by an event and a person. Years before I got into this writing gig I was driving from Charleston, SC to Jacksonville, FL and I passed a bus with the words Church of the Weeping Mary written on the side of it. I thought it would make a great title for a story. Years later, while living near Houston I met a young lady who happened to be the girlfriend of my stepson. She told us about events she went through in the foster care system. She was the inspiration for the main character.

Hello Neighbor: Again two events helped me come up with this one. First – one Sunday morning a neighbor and his wife knocked on our door and told us that they thought they ran over our cat. We quickly learned they ran over someone else’s cat (ours was in our backyard at the time). They didn’t believe us and got mad, because they thought we weren’t going to take care of our pet. Second – the setting was inspired by the area near Atlanta where my publisher at the time lived.

House Guest: While living near Houston we rented a room to a guy who told me that he previously lived in his girlfriend’s bedroom in her parents’ home, without their knowledge. When she went off to college he had to find a new place to live.

Pit Stop at Hoo Hoo Hollow: The idea of a couple came from my publisher, but the characters are inspired by two people I knew once who conned me out of some money.

Prader-Willie: Again I was inspired by two ideas. The first, while married to my second wife she worked with mentally challenged adults. One of them suffered from prader-willie. The second event deals with childhood torture of a turtle I witnessed when I was a kid.

Little Miss: This one has a little Honey Boo Boo and JonBenét Ramsey in it. Also while still married to the same second wife we knew a woman who forced her daughter to take part in pageants.

Runs Like Rabbit: While with my third wife we vacationed at Angel Fire, New Mexico and visited the Native American village in nearby Taos. I was inspired by that.

Monkey Love: This started as a joke. After writing Gifted Trust people would ask me what I was working on next and if I had a couple beers in me I’d tell them I was working on a story where a woman’s husband dies and returns as a gorilla. I never planned on writing it, until my publisher told me he wanted it.

Marquee: This one is a bit different, because when it was first written I was inspired by my job at a Hampton Inn in Humble, Texas. The ending didn’t work so I put it away for about four years – until after the death of my 3rd wife. I changed the ending of the story and the last section was inspired by that relationship.

That’s it – nothing really too off the wall here, but that’s the point. Any event, if we put a little thought to it, can feed a story idea. All you have to do is look at a situation and add a what if to the moment. Do that and you’ll come up with some interesting ideas.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Anatomy of a Novel: 2

A Conversation:
A Friend: What are you working on?
Me: I’m rewriting Gifted Trust.
Friend: You can’t do that. It’s already published.
Me: It’s fiction and I wrote it. I can do any damn thing I want with it.

And Changes Were Made…
I did not invent the concept of changing a novel after it had already been released. FTR: Stephen King has done it several times. There are reasons and in the case of Gifted Trust – it needed it … all three times. As I progressed so did the story.

2002: 1st Book Library - Most who have read Gifted Trust don’t remember this one. The original version of GT was self-published and done so during a time when “real writers” didn’t do such things. Today doing so is looked upon in a different light, but back then I paid for what was considered a mistake. I would take copies to local bookstores and told that they wouldn’t put it on shelves with “real books”. I was made fun of and called names by “real writers”. My favorite was the label Mud Dweller by someone I won’t name now, because he apologized for it a few years later. Truth is – I deserved much of the negative output. I put out a good story that was terribly edited – some would say not edited at all. As much thought went into the writing as did the original cover (see below), which when one looks at it will get absolutely no clue what the story is about. This is one of the negatives of using a vanity press that offers covers designed by people who didn’t read the book.

2003: Biting Dog Publications – As bad as the above edition was, it drew a lot of attention including the eye of Dave Dinsmore of Biting Dog Press. At the time BDP specialized in beautifully designed handcrafted limited edition books by more popular writers. After he read GT he contacted me about releasing it with the request that I add a new ending. A few months prior to the request I wrote extended chapters, which I printed out and titled The Cat. This I gave away at a book signing at a Barnes and Noble in Pasadena, Texas. I easily adapted this as the new ending to the novel. Also it received some editing and a new cover by Alan M. Clark. Of all the GT covers, this was my favorite.

2014: Gifted Trust-Revised – People have asked if I’m planning on writing a sequel to GT and well… I wrote one. Problem is that it wasn’t very good. OK, it had some good stuff in it, but overall it sucked and Biting Dog didn’t like it. Still I didn’t want to let what they liked to go to waste. Back in 2010 I told Dave Dinsmore that I wanted to edit GT again and improve on it. He agreed, because he knew I would do it anyway. My reason – I was a different (hopefully better) writer. I cut over 10K words and added just as many with an entire new beginning and many changes in already written chapters. It was released as digital book and the tag Revised was added to the title as well as a new cover.

2016: Near the end of 2015 Biting Dog ended its ebook writers from the fold and I was free to release all my work again as an independent writer. Gifted Trust was once again edited and offered as an ebook both as a solo novel with the below cover I threw together in five minutes…

And it is also part of my collection Pretzel Logic: Tales of Love & Horror, which contains all of my work while with BDP.

So far that’s it – all the versions and covers that have bounced around (a couple still bouncing). Is that it? Well… probably not. I’m negotiating with another publisher to release GT and if it happens of course there will be one more cover to share.