williamallenpepper

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Archive for the tag “Wendig”

WHAT TWITTER MEANS TO THIS WRITER

Twitter is a time killer.

Facebook too.

Total productivity suck.

Yeah. Only losers spend time on social media.

Several hundred million losers, to be a bit more precise. Though, with numbers that large, it’s kind of hard to be.

Anyone who has a social media account – or two or seven – has heard all those from their Luddite-ish friends. (If you have any kind of current technology – tablet, computer, cell phone, whatever – it’s hard to call yourself a full-on Luddite.) But here’s the thing.

It’s not a waste at all.

Yes, you can kill time waiting for the train scrolling through cat videos and posting witty comments about the dorky barista at the coffee shop. But there are benefits to be had if you follow the right people, “right” being a relative term. The right people for you to follow may or may not be the right people for me. But whoever those people are, they are the ones who give you the entertaining, inspirational, or professional support you need. Social media conect you with old friends and acquitances you want in your life, but for reasons of geography or circumstance have drifted away. They can expose you to news of the world, to other believe systems and to information you need to do your job better.

For example, writers. Writers love Twitter. For one thing, we’re stuck alone in our rooms a lot of the time making up stuff so the chance to even vicariously leave the house and interact with another living person, even indirectly via 140 characters posted on a screen, is magical.

There are also professional writing benefits. Links to articles with helpful writing tips. Information about agents and editors. Opinions and news from the publishing industry. A chance to mingle with other writers, in a sense; to learn from them, laugh with them, make them laugh and share whatever it is you know.

I’ve gained from this as a writer, but I’ve also gained as a reader. There are two authors I read now that, frankly, I’d never heard of until their names came up in someone else’s Twitter feed – John Scalzi and Chuck Wendig. And a third author, Neil Gaiman, I’d heard of, but never read until after I saw what a kind, funny, inventive person he was even on Twitter. Scalzi, of course, recently wrote the hilarious Redshirts, which somehow both pushes the boundaries of traditional sci-fi and hilariously skewers Star Trek. Wendig wrote, among others, Blackbirds, about hard-living Miriam Black who knows how you’re going to die. Gaiman is the legendary author of many things including The Graveyard Book, about a small boy raised by a family (of sorts) of ghosts in a graveyard.

And I never would have read any of these guys if it wasn’t for Twitter. I started following them. They were funny, smart and even willing occasionally to trade witty banter with me, a dude they had never and probably will never hear of. Gaiman even took time – a few minutes at most, but still… – to find an answer for me, a complete stranger, to a question I had about one of my characters in a book I’ve been writing.

Those who care about book marketing debate heavily the value of promoting your book or your brand on social media. I probably wouldn’t have bought Blackbirds or the others just from a Tweet that was nothing more than an ad, but I can tell you that it was the impression these guys made on me of who they are, their brand is it were, that made me a loyal customer, at least for that first book. And in reading those first books, I’m now hooked and will buy more.

Everybody wins. Thanks, Twitter.

Now find me some porn.

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MY DINNER WITH WALT AND J.R.

An awesome writer named Chuck Wendig recently wrote a blog post on his site, terribleminds, about how the best antagonists are the ones you love to hate, or hate to love. Check it out. Be aware, however, Chuck works in profanity the way some artists work in oils (Thank you, Ralphie “Christmas Story” Parker.). But his advice about the writing craft is spot on. And his books are even better.

Anyway, the blog post got me thinking about characters you love to hate/hate to love. TV drama has produced two legendary poster children for these antagonists: J.R. Ewing from the legendary seventies/eighties nighttime soap “Dallas” (and the reboot airing on TNT this summer), and Walter White from “Breaking Bad”, a show many have called the best drama on TV. Ever.

J.R. Ewing was an unscrupulous, Texas oil baron who would do anything – lie, cheat, blackmail, screw over his own family – to protect his oil company. Walter White was a brilliant chemist stuck in an underpaid high school teaching job diagnosed with cancer. Desperate to provide for his family, he embarks on a new career; meth manufacturing. Over four seasons of lying, dealing, manipulating, and killing, Walt has degenerated into an unrepentent criminal.

J.R. was the original character “we love to hate,” yet, when he was shot, the question “Who Shot J.R.?” consumed American culture in a way that “Misfits of Science” could only dream of. Walt debuted as a fifty-year-old doormat and last season declared, “I am the danger.”

I wanted to get inside the heads of these two men. Imagine my luck when both happened to be in town last week and accepted my invitation to dinner. What follows is some of our conversation.

ME: Once again, guys, thanks for sitting down with me. I’m a big fan of both your shows. Why don’t we order and then we can get to the heart of the matter. What’ll you have J.R.?

EWING: Steak, my boy. T-bone. Rare.

ME: And you, Walt?

WHITE: Well, I’ll just go with a PB & J. Crusts cut off please.

ME: OK, then. Wine, anyone?

J.R.: Fill ‘er up.

WHITE (squinting, slight nod): Fine.

ME: Gentlemen, you’re both very busy, I know…

J.R.: Well, you got that right. That oil’s not going to pump itself.

WHITE: I’m in no rush.

ME: So you don’t mind answering some questions, Mr. White?

WHITE: I didn’t say that…but Walt is fine.

ME: Right, then. I’ll get right to the point. You’re both classic “characters we love to hate.”

WHITE: I’m not sure I agree with that premise…

J.R.: It’s all just business, son…

ME: Mr. Ewing, you enabled your wife Sue Ellen to become a drunk, had her committed and even once had yourself committed for a business deal. You’ve blackmailed your associates, consorted with shady thugs, and sold out your family in the name of Ewing oil. You’ve set your own son up to fail and have tried to steal your family home out from under your brother.

J.R.: Well, when you put it that way…

WHITE: Family first. Business second.

J.R.: Steady, Heisenberg. Cancer faker.

WHITE (angry, but controlled): I did not fake my cancer. If you’ve ever been close to death, you’d know that’s not something to take lightly.

J.R.: I’ve been shot like, what is it? Five times already. But I always come back.

ME: You haven’t been shot, have you, Walt?

WHITE: No. I’m careful. No unnecessary risks. No putting the family in harm’s way.

J.R.: So, that makes you dad of the year.

ME: That’s a good point, Walt. You didn’t like to your wife and son about the cancer, but you’ve lied about everything else. The drugs. The murder. Everything. You once stripped down in a grocery store and claimed to have been in a “fugue state” to cover having disappeared for two days because of a problem with a rival drug dealer.

J.R.: Can’t believe I’m having dinner with a small time drug pusher.

WHITE (calmly): I made $7 million last year. Last I heard, you lost your oil company to your greatest lifelong rival Cliff Barnes and were living off you brother who despises you.

J.R.: Well, my son…

WHITE: Hates you too.

J.R.: He’s still got some maturing to do.

ME:  What about Walter Jr., Walt? And baby Holly?

WHITE (smiles a little): My son, he goes by Flynn, by the way. He’s wonderful. Holly is an angel.

ME: Think you’ll ever take them into the “family business”, so to speak, like J.R. has with John Ross?

J.R.: The whole point of being in business, after all is to build up a legacy for the family.

WHITE: No. Next question.

J.R.: So why do what you do then?

WHITE: Because I can.

ME: You’re not afraid?

WHITE (shrugs): I’m the one who knocks.

J.R. (raising his glass to toast): Now THAT, I understand. The world is littered with the bodies of people that tried to stick it to ole J.R. Ewing.

ME: So, then, is all this just about…power?

(J.R. and Walt toast each other.)

J.R.: Now you’re gettin’ it, son.

DINOCALYPSE NOW by Chuck Wendig – My Review

For my first book review on the blog, I really wanted to write something profound about the state of modern literature, the power of the written word. I chose for my first review DINOCALYPSE NOW by Chuck Wendig. Here’s my sophisticated review:

This book is fun.

F-U-N

DINOCALYPSE NOW is written in the style of a 1930’s pulp novel. Inspired by the Spirit of the Century role-playing game from Evil Hat Productions, the book features the heroes of the Century Club defending FDR, and ultimately all of time and space, from extinction at the hands of dinosaurs, psychic dinosaurs, and warrior apes.

Here’s what I like most about this book. I’ve never played the game on which it is based (though it sounds awesome), but I still totally get the appeal. It feels like my childhood toy box full of action figures splayed out on the page of a book. I was a HUGE action figure kid: Star Wars, Star Trek, Batman, Superman, GI Joe, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Zorro, Indiana Jones, Dukes of Hazard, The Love Boat. (Yes, Love Boat action figures really existed. And I had some. Don’t judge me.)

Did I mention the book has psychic dinosaurs?

What does a kid with a box full of action figures do? Dump them all out and make them battle it out for supremacy over the whole family room/yard/backyard pool/bench seat in the back of the conversion van on family vacations. I even staged a battle once while on a fishing boat in Canada.

The cast list could have been drawn directly from my childhood favorites. Consider:

Flyboy Mack Silver = Han Solo

Fix-it queen Sally Slick = Kaylee from “Firefly” (not from my childhood, but the best comparison I can think of)

Amelia Stone = Princess Leia

Benjamin Hu = Zorro

Professor Khan = Ape from “George of the Jungle”

Jet Black = Luke Skywalker

And not just the Centurions. This book has an army of evil apes. Time travel. An old wizard dude who controls all of that time. Marauding neanderthals. And, oh what the hell, the Lost City of Atlantis shows up too.

So as I read about Mack Silver piloting his plane “Lucy” through a flock of soaring dinosaurs, I imagined The Love Boat’s Yeoman Purser Burl “Gopher” Smith piloting Bobba Fett’s ship through a long ago battle for supremacy over my living room. I’m right there again, an eight-year-old Centurion grappling with my own dinocalypse.

Thanks for the memories, Chuck.

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