Villains and Why We Love Them

Peter Capaldi as Cardinal Richelieu in the BBC's The Musketeers.Last night, I was watching The Musketeers, the new BBC series featuring Peter Capaldi rocking the Van Dyke and redefining diabolical as Cardinal Richelieu. He’s pretty badass in The Musketeers, but not chewing the scenery or twirling his mustache (which I would imagine is hard to resist because dat stache!) kind of way. Capaldi is working the dialogue like a boss and creating a foil against our heroes that makes you sit up and take notice. There’s a mind and a motivation you connect with on a visceral level, and sometimes it’s difficult to take a side against Richelieu as he makes villainy look really, really good.

That and the wardrobe. And did I mention DAT STACHE?

Watching Capaldi in this role has me of late considering villains, what makes them compelling versus comical characters, and why they are so important in writing.

Your villains—or antagonists, if you want to use the fancier term for “bad guys”— are as high a priority to develop as your heroes. They need to resonate with you, lest they reduce themselves to nothing more than set dressing hell bent on destroying said set along with any major players that happen to be in the vicinity. Continue reading

Stranger on a Train XXIX

Four days of Photoshop. Eight lessons with a few bonus skills added into the mix. I have to work a bit on Day One of Level 2; but once I took a lesson from Kacy Catanzaro and took a steadier pace, Day Two more than made up for my stumble.

Did you see this woman rock the American Ninja course? #MightyKacy indeed.

I’m digging Photoshop CC a lot. Good program. Now I need to take a serious look at Lightroom. I’d like to see if we (that’s Mike Witherall and I) can turn it into a class. I don’t see why not.
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So the people behind Snowpiercer‘s Facebook page put that image online this morning. It’s a stitch, especially when you consider the film. Lot of “in” jokes here, so kudos to the fan who created it. Inspired works like that just remind me of how incredibly talented people are everywhere, and I’m lucky enough to get to share my stories. I’m gearing up to do it again, too. The edits for The Diamond Conspiracy arrived today, so it’s time to level up and work on the next adventure of Books & Braun. We are dealing with a lot in this one, so I look forward to returning to that world…

…Monday.

First, I need a nap. A really big one. Photoshop is a demanding mistress.

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My Writing Process: A Blog Meme for 2014

iStock_000021621315XLargeAs you all know, I’m always game for something new online, and last week I got an invite for something new—a blog meme. The concept is I go on and share with you all what’s happening in my writing life. I then introduce two people where, next week, they post their own answers to these questions. Hence the blog meme—from my answers, you jump to two new authors who will take you along on their journey.

While our intern-of-awesome K.T. Byski had a hand in making this happen, the invitation come from author Emily Swartz, a recent graduate from USM’s Stonecoast MFA program in Creative Writing. She has a work-in-progress called The Midnight Thief, a drama set in Appalachian Kentucky, but a freelance writer’s life is peppered with experience and it is that experience she brings to her work.

Thanks, Emily, for this invitation. This should be fun.  Continue reading

Much Ado About Nothing: The Brouhaha over #AmtrakResidency’s Terms of Service

bildeYou may have heard, if you’re friends with writers, that Amtrak, inspired by an exchange on Twitter, has come up with a really cool program called #AmtrakResidency where writers can catch a cross-country train (with Amtrak picking up the fare) and trek across the states while working on their next big novel. Truth be told, there is something very cool about writing while on a train. The world is your television, and seeing the country rush by you—given the atmosphere of riding the train across our majestic landscape—is nothing short of inspiring.

No, “rush by” is not the right description. From the window of your Amtrak observation desk or sleeper car, a cross-country odyssey unfolds all around you.

It all sound very poetic, which is why some crusaders of truth, justice, and “Your Content is YOURS” did a massive deep-dive into the terms of the #AmtrakResidency Program and  speculate there is trouble at mill when it comes to your content. Nuzzled within the terms of giving you, the author, free train fare in exchange for this opportunity to write, Amtrak reserves “the absolute, worldwide, and irrevocable right to use, modify, publish, publicly display, distribute, and copy the name, image, and/or likeness of Applicant and the names of any such persons identified in the Application for any purpose, including, but not limited to, advertising and marketing. (taken from #6. Grant of Rights of #AmtrakResidency Program)”

This sent some in the writing community into a right tizzy. New York Times Bestseller Diane Duanne warns on her blog “Never sell anyone world rights to any of your writing. Ever. Ever. Because who knows if that one piece of writing is the one that would have made you famous worldwide and rich beyond the dreams of avarice? Or more to the point, what if they later do something with your writing that is absolutely opposite to your intentions and which you find harmful or offensive? You’d have no recourse there either.”

She used bold AND italics. Wow. This must be serious. Continue reading

Paying Attention: A Secret Behind Inspiration

iStock_000006201684XLarge “How do you get all those ideas?”

I rank this question up along with “How do you learn all those lines?” when I was the actor. It was a question actors dreaded, but I rarely think we were asked it when we had a “Meet & Greet” with the audience. It’s a fair enough question, though; and since I never got it when I was an actor, I’ll answer it here. “Rehearsal and repetition.” That’s the key in learning your lines, be it for a play, a presentation, or for a very important one-on-one you have on your books.

Now, as a writer, the ideas question tends to be the one that earns an eye-roll, but I don’t think it’s fair. People are genuinely curious how authors come up with what they put down on paper. Maybe it’s because they wonder how someone can think up Victorian secret agents investigating the unknown, or a dwarf-detective solving crimes in the Prohibition Era; and it’s a sincere question. I know that when I’ve read books I love, or enjoyed an episode of Almost Human or True Detective, I marvel at the air tight dialogue or incredible situations these talented writers come up with and wonder what drives them. It’s good to know where ideas come from and what makes them happen because inspiration keep you busy as a writer.

If there was a magic bullet in finding great ideas, it actually ties back to a trick I had with acting: Pay attention. The world around you is teeming with ideas, and inspiration can happen at any time. With technology, jotting ideas down has been made insanely easy, so now instead of carrying around the writer’s notebook, journal—or ledger as The Taxman does—you can whip out the smartphone and take notes. What’s key though in finding inspiration is paying attention to what’s around you. Many times, that’s all you need to get an idea going. 

Case in point, today the third season of Tales from the Archives launched; and I’m particularly proud of this story that Pip and I put together as it came from the unlikeliest of places: church. Now church is probably not the place where I should be in “Writer’s Mode” but Trinity Episcopal of Manassas prides itself on being a different kind of church. This particular day, Dennis Reid, was giving a sermon on Judas Iscariot; but not the kind of sermon you would think. He said something that struck me hard: Continue reading

Endless Possibilities 2014 Blog Tour: An Introduction

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Yes, the blog has been quiet, just like the podcast. I hate it when things like that happen, and this time it was for reasons good and bad.

Instead of delving into the bad (which was all the chatter on my Facebook, if you were curious), I want to hold on to the good. Oh now, don’t you worry — I will always have room for a good, old-fashioned rant here, but this blogpost is more about rising to challenges and keeping a hold of what works…

This blogpost is also to welcome those of you new to my side of the blogosphere. S’up?

Yes, I’m on board at the opening of this new year with a blog tour aimed to introduce myself to new reader, be they readers of my blog or readers of my works. And what a day to introduce myself to people — on the ninth anniversary of the MOREVI podcast going live. Where did the time go?

But I digress. Let me start from the beginning. Introductions? By all means…

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MINISTRY PROTOCOL: The Cover Reveal (and other stuff that I’ve been up to…)

IMG_0450So yeah…I do this on-the-edge post about OSC, get the traffic, get the comments, and then…I disappear.

All right, let me explain…

No, is too much. Lemme sum up…

Shortly after that post, the Kickstarter for the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences’ anthology and role playing game launched. Pretty much, that was my life. It was a new world of stress, of statistics, and of sensational results, the sum of it all that we made 152% of our goal. We did it! Yay us!

Oh crap, we did it — better get cracking on that anthology.

So I hunkered down with new steampunk from Delilah S. DawsonLeanna Renee HieberAlex WhiteJared AxelrodTiffany TrentPeter WoodworthJack ManganJR BlackwellDan RabartsLauren HarrisKarina Cooper, and Glenn Freund from The League of S.T.E.A.M.

How’s that for a line-up?

Ministry Protocol: Thrilling Tales from the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences promises to take readers across the Empire and around the world, introducing new agents and delving deeper into the organization’s history. I’m not only thrilled with this collection, but I’m excited to present it to everyone.

So hold on, it’s coming. Soon.

Until then, allow me to tease you with its cover from the far-too-talented-for-his-own-good renaissance man, Alex White… Continue reading

A Fiddle for My Funk: My Night with Lindsey Stirling

meet_greetYou might have caught the Instagram from Monday but it has been one of those weeks.

I’m going to side-step the details because I want to focus on the positive. I want to focus on tomorrow. I want to focus on a lesson I got from someone who hit a few brick walls in her time (and she’s all of 26, you know…) and now she’s pwning the world one sold out venue at a time.

This week, I got served by Lindsey Stirling.

Before the events of the week hit, I paid for a V.I.P. evening with Lindsey Stirling. Now if you don’t know this performer, you really should take a look at her videos on YouTube. Here’s a favorite of mine…

When she went on tour and offered V.I.P. tickets which included a meet-and-greet, I immediately whipped out the credit card. A chance to meet Lindsey Stirling and maybe enjoy a little bit of V.I.P. treatment? Absolutely! Little did I know how well-timed this indulgence would be.

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STEAMPUNK GOES MAINSTREAM…and other things for geeks to panic about. Again.

First off, I’m sorry everybody. It has been far too long. Where in the name of clocks, gears, and cogs have I been?

Let me drop a few quick teasers as to what has been going on in my life:

  • Got a new job. Social Media Coordinator. And the best part, it’s very close to home with telecommuting thrown in as a bonus.
  • After a month, got a promotion at the new job.
  • Then, conducted interviews for the job that I was originally hired to do. (Being on the other end of the interview table? Woah…)
  • Got a new car. I’m driving a Nissan LEAF right now. LOVE IT!
  • Jumped back on to the Medifast train. My weight was out of control again.
  • Christmas.

Some of these things I intend to talk about later on this blog. (Stop laughing. Seriously. I am!) I also have to keep in mind, though, I have a novel to finish. I’m still on board with a steampunk reboot of MOREVI, so Rafe Rafton will be returning to the oceans this year.

It is this very subject — something that, I’ll admit, people are coming to me more and more about for an opinion which feels pretty good — from where this rant finds its core. So let’s turn back the clock to January 15, Tuesday, 10 a.m. At my new day job, a friend sends me a link to AdAge about IBM’s fascination with steampunk. I ran the article on my Facebook page as this truly was the convergence between my day job and my writing career. IBM is tracking “steampunk” in order to find patterns between trends and fads. I also posted it on the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Facebook page and between the two, I got a whopping 6 shares. So maybe it wasn’t as cool as I thought.

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Lightning Strikes Twice: THE JANUS AFFAIR on Goodreads’ 2012 Choice Awards

As you have probably caught on TwitterFacebook, and the official website of the Ministry, our repeat appearance in the book readers’ social network, Goodreads, has been the subject of conversation. The first round was comprised of selections from title activity and reviews, and the second round included write-in nominations with the original nominees. This is not new territory for Pip and me as Phoenix Rising landed the eighth top slot for Best Science Fiction of 2011, but still…

We asked for your votes.

We watched the deadlines come and go.

And this week, you all made it official — The Janus Affair is a Finalist for Best Science Fiction of 2012.

Goodreads and its community of readers have spoken and here is (by author, in alphabetical order) their Top Ten Best Science Fiction of 2012: Continue reading