Research – The Devil of Details

1930 Cadillac V-16 Roadster

Research is one of the most unheralded tasks a proper author must do. It can take several hours of research to get a single sentence to be correct.

In Chapter One of “Vampire Invasion” (book three of the Vampire Syndrome Saga), Lilith’s inner monologue says:

“I stride over to my 1930 Cadillac V-16 roadster, kneel down to unlock the battery compartment door, and then remove the charger cables.”

This sentence alone took me several hours of research. I was already well aware (from my personal experience at car shows and museums) that the battery in a 1930’s Cadillac V-16 is NOT under the car’s hood, as the giant sixteen-cylinder engine occupies virtually all of the underhood area. So any author who would write “I open the hood and remove the charger cables” would commit a major detail error, right off the *bat*. 😉

1930 Cadillac V-16 Underhood View

1930 Cadillac V-16 Underhood View

Since I am not Clive Cussler and do not have his classic auto collection at my disposal, I downloaded and read the 1930 Cadillac Service Manual. Even an oil change would be costly for this million-dollar ride, as the giant engine holds five gallons of motor oil. 3:)

So now that Lilith is removing the battery charger cables in the proper manner, it is fair to ask why. The human Vampires have been aware for centuries that the beings from planet Sek’Met have “black lightning” guns. When the mothership lands on the Human Vampires’ compound, Lilith (and others) instantly realize that the “black lightning” gun is an EMPD (electro-magnetic pulse discharge) weapon (a concept the Vampires didn’t fully grasp several centuries ago).

Such weapons will disable cars with electronic ignitions or computers, so any car from the 1970’s to date will be vulnerable. Hence, my characters are fleeing/attempting to flee the scene in older cars. An astute reader who read “Vampire Syndrome” (book one) might ask why Lilith didn’t try to flee in her 1967 Corvette, or for Damien, his 1960 Plymouth. My answer: Those cars are retrofitted with electronic ignitions (a common upgrade for 1950’s and 60’s cars). When you are in the process of fleeing your compound due to an alien invasion, you would not have the time to convert the cars back to their original mechanical points-and-condenser ignition systems.

And if you think this car research is exhausting, try reconciling your vampire backstory with thousands of years of worldwide folklore, and have your story make sense in both folkloric and scientific terms… 😈

PS: Note that the TV Series “Jericho” showed characters driving older vehicles after a large electro-magnetic pulse discharge cuts off their “restored” power.

Writer versus Author

A good writer is skilled in the technical art or crafting verse and prose.

An author is the person with the vision to craft a compelling story, an involving saga.

A person can be a great writer and a mediocre author. I’ve read many a novel that was perfect in technical terms, but dull as watching paint dry and unable to summon even one true emotion from the reader.

And I’ve read the polar opposite. The stories written with average skill that touched the hearts of millions.

You can always teach an author to be a better writer, but there are no guarantees that a skilled writer will ever be able to germinate the idea that can move mountains (of readers).

As any author can show you, the story comes first. If a great story comes to you, start writing, no matter your skill level. Get your great story out there.

Fresh Blood

An outstanding collection of seriously wicked vampire tales by the authors of Vampire Writers Support Group. (and a cute little satire of Twilight titled “Mary Sue Wants To Die Forever”, by yours truly) 😈

Fresh Blood Cover

Fresh Blood, and I’m in it…

The Vampire Writers Support Group proudly presents “Fresh Blood”, an eclectic collection of short stories set in a dark, blood-soaked world full of vampires.

The authors gracing its pages are Daven Anderson, Matthew E. Banks, Lucy Blue, Jessica Cage, Danielle DeVor, Drusiana, Donna Fernstrom, Donald L. Pitsiladis, Karen Plaisance, Selene MacLeod, Brian Patrick McKinley, Dan Shaurette, Tabitha Grace Smith, Emma Rawlin, and Jay Wilburn.

Amazon Kindle: “Fresh Blood” (Vampire Writers Support Group Anthology Volume 1)

Includes Daven Anderson’s short story “Mary Sue Wants To Die Forever.”

A tour bus driver in Forked River, Washington gives young paranormal romance fan Mary Sue Blake the (bus) ride of her life. 😈

Where do you get your ideas?

RMFW Your Ideas

RIP Roger Ebert

Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls

Vampire’s Confession: Free Short Story on Smashwords

I try to get through to you, in my own special way

My short story The Vampire’s Confession: Truth Or Con Sequences is free on Smashwords.

😈
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Writer vs. YouTube: Spin Spin Sugar

Writer Versus YouTube: Spin Spin Sugar
©June 02, 2011 by Daven Anderson

In the far corner of the ring is “Spin Spin Sugar,” a rock music video by the Sneaker Pimps.

My story is written from the point of view of the young man first seen attempting to change TV channels with the remote.

Dammit. This old piece of junk TV isn’t getting any channels. I give up. Lord, I never should have answered that personal ad. My date’s acting like a total drug addict. She’s in the bathroom. Fully clothed, sitting on the john, yelling out disjointed words.

I glance into the bathroom. My date stares lasciviously as she moans, “I’m everyone, I feel used.” What is she on? I’m the one who’s feeling used here. When a girl invites you to her motel room, you expect it to be just the two of you. Instead, her weirdo 1980′s retro-freak male friend is in the bathtub, wearing day-glow fluorescent clothes, sipping a strawberry milkshake.

She smiles at me and says, “I need you.” Oh, god.

Eighties freak boy stares at me for a second, then throws his milkshake on the bathroom mirror. Jealous, are you? Don’t be. This is the worst date I’ve ever been on in my life.

Great. Now sicko fluorescent retro-boy is licking his spilled milkshake off the mirror.

“Twist for me,” my date yells.

Uh oh. Now I get it. I think they want me for a threesome. Why didn’t she put her ad in Casual Encounters? As if these two weren’t bad enough, someone’s banging on a big African drum in the next room. This is the sleaziest hotel I’ve ever been in. I think she’s a hooker. This must be the place she takes her tricks to.

I bet glow-boy put a roofie in that milkshake. Now that freak’s dropping to the floor in agony, gripping the back of his mohawked head. I’ll be lucky if I get out of here alive and unmolested. Wonder if anyone’s hiding under the bed? I duck down and take a look. Hmm, no bodies, but a bunch of worms are crawling around under there. Gross.

“I want perfection,” my date says as she writhes on the other bed.
Honey, you’re the furthest thing from perfection.

I get up from under the bed and bang on the wall.
“Quit playing that fracking drum,” I yell.
The incessant drumming pauses for a second. I think they heard me.

What else is going on in this hell-hole? And why would some sleazebag hotel like this have a picture of Pope John Paul II on the wall? Must be covering something up. I chuck the photo aside. Aha, a peephole. I kneel down. A girl drinking wine and dancing in black light. Wish I was in that room with her.

Great. Now my date’s crawling across the floor, toward me. Leave me alone, I’d rather look at the other girl.

I gotta get out of this place.

The “Mary Sue” Litmus Test

Here’s a post for everyone who writes fiction.

It’s time to put your characters through The “Mary Sue” Litmus Test.

TV Tropes.org – Mary Sue

My newly-turned 18-year-old vampire protagonist J scored a whopping “3” .
0-10 points: The Anti-Sue. Your character is the very antithesis of a Mary-Sue. Why are you even taking this test?

My character D who owns a black 1960 Plymouth Fury coupe (as pictured above) is easily the most “Mary Sue” of my characters, scoring “30” .
21-35 points: Borderline-Sue. Your character is cutting it close, and you may want to work on the details a bit, but you’re well on your way to having a lovely original character. Good work.

Even better is when you test other writers’ characters. Such as Bella Swan and Edward Cullen.

Bella got a “41” on a test taken from my “outside” perspective (and she may have scored a few points higher if Stephenie Meyer had taken the test herself and and answered honestly).
36-55 points: Mary-Sue. Your character needs some work in order to be believable. But despair not; you should still be able to salvage her with a little effort. Don’t give up.

And then there’s Edward Cullen. “71” , with the test answered from my point of view.
71 points or more: Irredeemable-Sue. You’re going to have to start over, my friend. I know you want to keep writing, but no. Just no.

If my ambition was to create an “anti-Twilight”, my character’s scores (relative to the main “Twilight” characters) are in line with my goals.

Why is the “Twilight” saga such a huge success, then? The answer: Bella Swan became the “Mary Sue” for several million adolescent females, not just the author.

Cracked: Five reasons why Pop Culture is run by Fan Fiction

Cracked: Five Authors More Badass Than The Badass Character They Created

The Social Network Kool-Aid Acid Test

Last night, I was perusing posts and comments on a website featuring authors’ essays.
I encountered a reply that I found disturbing, on several levels.
“I don’t see Facebook, Twitter or a friend follow anywhere here. Another reason to close this (website)…”

Not that I have objections to sites that feature such links. Far from it. Such links widen their reach. I had initially chosen not to install Like buttons for Faceplant/Tweezer on my site, knowing full well that I might have missed reaching a few eyeballs for whom Faceplant/Tweezer are “the Internet”. 😈

Back to the reply cited above. The truly disturbing thing about the reply is that it implies that the website (or any other website, really) is “worthless”, worthy of closure, and not worthy of your active participation, simply because “Like” and “Follow” social networking links are not present.

Writers, like me, are inquisitive people. Or at least we should be. We should be perusing the deepest, darkest corners of the Internet for the seeds of original story ideas, much as the writers before us sought out dust-covered tomes hidden in the neglected corners of libraries. Conducting “The Great Search” for gems of “forgotten” insight and wisdom to awaken our creative skills.

Having all of your information spoon-fed to you by the “social network du jour” is the antithesis of “The Great Search”.

Almost all of the web pages I perused in the research of my book did not have “Like” or “Follow” social network links. I researched over three novels+ worth of material using these “invisible”, “worthless”, “should be closed” web pages.

The reply’s casual dismissal of such sites is troubling for two reasons. Either the poster has not bothered to read our authors’ many posts about the craft of writing, or worse the poster has read them and decided that any information they can’t “Like” or “Follow” is irrelevant.

People drinking too much of the social network Kool-Aid love to repeat their mantra, “Facebook has 800 million users.” Guess what? Facebook has already hit its peak. Their new user growth in the U.S. is virtually nil. Everyone who wants to be on Facebook already is. And millions do not.

Update September 2012: Check Faceplant’s stock price progression. Need I say more? 😈

Social networking pages don’t reach the millions of readers who don’t participate in any social networks. Fans of these networks tend to take a myopic view. If it’s not on their chosen network, it “doesn’t matter”. To which I can only reply:

“If you cannot see it, you think it’s not there. It doesn’t work that way.”
Devo, “Peek-A-Boo”, lyrics ©1982 Casale/Mothersbaugh

Remember MySpace and Friendster? Did anyone become a best-selling author simply because they were on either of those networks in 2005? Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, because someone out there is working on the next big “basket” even as we speak.
(and if they go public, cash out fast!) 😈

If the social networks were truly “all that”, private-party websites would not even need to exist. But they do. For that, I am grateful. I can go there and peruse quality websites, dedicated to the craft of writing, without the distractions imposed by social networks.

Cracked: Six things everyone wants to share, nobody wants to read

Reuters: Tweeting celebrities risk boring fans

Cracked – Six Scientific Reasons Why Social Networks Are Bad For Society

Buzz, Balls & Hype – The Writer as Willy Loman

Murder She Writes: Money Can’t Buy Love

Buy Facebook Fans
Can anyone out there lend me $2400, so I can buy 100,000 Facebook fans? 😛 And they’re even guaranteed to be “Real fans, not Farmville/Mafia Wars players” 😆