Thursday, June 28, 2012

I Just Want to Kill Him

Is that so wrong?
I’m working on a novel. It’s a follow up to my wildly successful first effort, “The Seeds”, (and by ‘wildly successful’, I mean ‘not really’ but I like it so I’m writing another one). I’ve finished the first draft of the first chapter, and I gotta tell you… I really want to kill this guy. Not because I don’t like him… I do, it’s just that... well…

It’s fun.

It’s a blast to kill off a character. In the world of “The Seeds”, where the characters are only a foot tall, there are lots of ways for people to die. In the first book, they died in droves. Bee stings, battles, war… the list is endless. I put together an unending stream of nameless people to get gobbled up by the environmental hazards they faced. Not to mention the damage they did to each other.

In the second book, the one I’m planning now, there is to be considerably less killing. The drama will come from the interactions, the subtle and not-so-subtle ways that the characters piss each other off, make each other happy and generally get through to the end, (in which I reserve the right to kill off somebody!). It’s ridiculously interesting to me to explore these characters and find out what makes them who they are.

Like Angus. Angus is the eyes of the reader. It is through him that the reader gets to experience this world. He’s a good guy, a bit conflicted, but generally a decent sort. I can’t kill him. He saw so much death and destruction in the first book, it’s a wonder that he hasn’t committed suicide, (Hey! There’s an idea!)

No. I tell myself. You can’t kill Angus.

As an author, the feeling of playing God over this world is intoxicating. With just a few key strokes, I can invent an insurmountable enemy, and wreak havoc at will. It’s almost like being an Olympian god, coming down to screw with the lives of the little people whenever I get bored or the mood strikes me. Then, after I’ve surveyed the carnage I’ve wrought, I can drift back up to the mountaintop and await my next whim. Maybe toss a few lightning bolts in the interim. It’s quite a kick for us mortals to engage our own minds in this way.

Logic dictates that there must be a story. A beginning, a middle, an end. That’s an amazing part of the craft as well. One in which an author can learn much about themselves and the world around them. This is how one engages a reader, draws them in and creates a fan of one’s work.

No one likes an incoherent rambling treatise of characters being bumped off at every turn. But, oh man… that would be fun to write!

What about you? Do you play God with your characters? Dangle a carrot and then pummel them with the stick? Tell me about it!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Crowd Funding

Sure, I could do porn, (shoot it or edit it. Not star in it… what were you thinking?), or some soul-sucking corporate job where I go to an office every day , (been there, done that). But what I really want to do is make something that helps people. I’ve produced a few short films aimed at a youth audience, highlighting the dangers of cyber-bullying, and bullying in general. I’ve done school related short videos on special needs & technology. I volunteer and have for a few years, both in schools and in youth related organizations. I like to help. I want to work on projects that are good for kids, good for humanity and good for my soul.

So, I’ve written a play.

I’m working on developing this project that will re-enforce the need for tolerance between peoples. It’s a stage play that I plan to film like a TV show, and make it available to every school district I can reach. Issues of racism, bigotry and ignorance will be explored in a kid-friendly, thought-provoking way. And, and this is the really cool part, the story will be told, in many ways, through different styles of dance. It’s a heady project and I’m equal parts excited and terrified.
Excited because I have rounded up some of the most talented people I know to be a part of it. Terrified because it’s going to be expensive to produce, and the returns could be great… or non-existent.

So, I’m looking to crowd fund it. But where to go? Kickstarter seems like the obvious choice, but there are others. IndieGoGo, GoFundMe and more. They all charge fees that seem fair and equitable. They all have pros and cons, and I’m hoping to get your expertise, in the form of comments below, to shed some light on it. seems like the right choice. There are lots of projects that get funding through this site, and there are some hugely creative things going on there. Since they limit their scope to creative projects, it seems like a non-brainer.
IndieGoGo is another site that focuses, a bit more broadly, on funding creativity. I like their option for a flexible vs. fixed campaign. is another that has risen to the top of my investigations. They offer ongoing funding opportunities and open-ended campaigns.

All of these ideas rely on my ability to get people that I already know to contribute and fund my project. Kickstarter and IndieGoGo seem to have more name recognition, which could conceivably bring me supporters and patrons that I don’t personally know.

It comes down to a few things:
Most of the people I know volunteer as well, in the same causes. Sure, they could contribute a few bucks here and there, but they don’t have more or less than I do. I’m going to run out of friends and family pretty quick.
The other aspect of all of this is that these sites seem to be too good to be true. I can raise how much? Really? Wow!

So, I ask you… do you have any experience with these sites? What pros and cons have you experienced? Share with me your knowledge, wise person!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Swinging Both Ways

Sexy covers sell books, right?
As I write this, I’m chuckling, thinking of the people who started reading this because of the sexual overtone in the headline. Not you, of course. You’re here for the literary value. But, you know… those people. They are here for the sleeze factor, right?
The truth is, we all, to some degree, love a good innuendo now and then. The double entendre, the classic, “I didn’t mean it that way” flub… it’s all in good fun, right?
Advertising agencies have pummeled our proclivities for such things into a writhing, pulpy mass. They hurl it at us in its various forms every day. That’s how stuff gets sold. Check out any literary blog where reviews of erotica are available, and you’ll see lots of it, (go ahead, I’ll wait).
See? Your eyeballs are awash in six-pack abs, drastically-curving butts and hands strategically placed to offer you just a taste of what you’ll find if you just Buy That Book!
It’s fun, it’s exciting, it’s a treat for the eyes. But, what if that’s not your thing? What if your novel is about someone or something that contains no sexual situations at all? Can you write that book and still draw in the viewers? Will anyone care?
Of course they will. Just like all of the media forms before this one, quality matters. However, faced every day with a constant barrage of messages that are clear in their efforts to tell you that you’re not young/toned/sexy enough for life without a given product, it’s only natural to let those tactics slip into your own marketing efforts. It’s hard sometimes, (see what I did there?) to avoid using salacious or risqué imagery when trying to get more eyes on your book.
It’s worth the effort. If you write erotica or books with sexual overtones, great! More power to you. Social mores and uptight-ness could use a good kick in the arse. But for those that don’t, I say resist! Don’t put images of large-breasted women or Fabio-like muscle guys on your covers just to sell books! If it pertains to the story, go for it. But, if it doesn’t, just don’t.
“But, JD”, you moan. “Sex sells! I want to sell books! I’d put a naked fireman with a huge hose on the cover if Amazon would let me! You can’t stop me!” True enough, but wait! There’s more.
If your story is about Bob, the incredibly well-endowed fireman and all of the hijinks that ensue, then, by all means, show it swinging. But, if that design covers a book about Bob the accountant and his many cats… well, be prepared to have a lot of pissed off people flaming your book in the reviews. They may not even realize why they feel let down by your tome. You had better have written a really heart-warming treatment of Bob’s life in accounting to win them back.
“Yeah, but,” you snarl. “You’ve only written one book. You’re no expert!” Okay. “You don’t know shit from shinola about marketing!” Fair enough. “Why should I take your advice over my agent/best friend/marketing person’s advice?”
I don’t know. All I can say is that, like every other writer out there, I’m a reader first. I learned to read around the age of three, and continue to read every day. The list of things I would rather do instead of reading a good book is very short. And, I would rather read a great book with a plain cover than to be ridden hard and put up wet, (I just can’t help myself), by a cover image that has nothing to do with what I’m reading. A decade ago, I would forgive an author for that, assuming that the publisher put that fireman on the cover over the author’s objection. Now, it’s all on you.
As the iconic Stan Lee wrote, “With great power comes great responsibility.” So, use those bare man- nipples sparingly.