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.

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Writing Is A Journey, Not A Process

My friend Victoria Adams recently asked us, What IS a writing process?

A loaded question, for there are many meanings of the word “process.” Most all of which imply the rational and the mechanical, as opposed to human creativity.

Do we say “I’ll process that information,” or “I’ll think about it”?

One of the few phrases using the word “process” which implies human involvement is, of course, the editorial process. The second novel of my Vampire Syndrome saga, “Vampire Conspiracy”, will soon be ‘processed’ in this manner. Most of you would think my use of the word “processed” in the previous sentence to be a misnomer, and in spirit you are right. The fearless editors at PDMI will dig their fangs into Vampire Conspiracy, in a ceaseless search for the tiniest of continuity errors and the like. Professional editing arguably has the most intimate human involvement of anything referred to as a “process.”

So where does that leave writing?

Inspiration, and the act of first creation, are the antithesis of the finite, physical world we live in. The act of writing fiction literally creates new worlds that our minds could never visit otherwise. Worlds which lived only in the mind of one author before they were published have gone on to capture the imaginations of millions. The words written by fiction authors have opened readers’ minds to essential truths they never would have realized from any other way.

Can a computer’s processor accomplish any of that?

Actually, yes, when it is used as a conduit for the words humans create. Most published authors now begin their creative works when they enter their precious words onto computer hard drives. Words can now exist as nothing but digital bits and bytes as they navigate their path between the author’s typing and the readers’ devices. Processed at both ends, for the mutual enjoyment of humanity.

So, yes, our words are processed. But the creative impetus behind their creation is anything but a mechanical, rational, logical process. Fiction, our dreams and aspirations in print, is the essence of what makes us human, and a driving force of change in the world’s culture.

When I recollect the twists and turns my life has taken since I conceived the Vampire Syndrome saga back in 2009, the cold, hard, mechanical associations of the word “process” are not what I recall. I think of the friends I have made, the readers I have touched, the work I do with PDMI behind the scenes. I have found my calling on this journey, and my soul. And that is what my writing means to me.

The worlds we authors create live not just in our heads, but within all who are privileged enough to read them. I would like to introduce to you three other authors whose worlds I have been privileged to visit, through the power of their pages.

J.D. Brown knows that vampires exist because she’s dating one and no, he doesn’t sparkle. Unfortunately, he’s not immortal either (or maybe her standards are too low). A magnet for subcultures and weirdness, J.D. was that socially awkward girl with more fictional friends than real ones. As a child battling a hearing loss and a medical condition with no name, J.D. found comfort in books where strong women always saved the day and got the guy. An obsession with Charmed, Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Buffy the Vampire Slayer lead J.D. to believe that her mutated chromosome made her something more, not something less. Thus her stubborn flare to persevere was born. A lover of fine cuisine, coffee, and shoes. She resides in Wisconsin were she writes urban fantasy—aka vampires for adults—and has political debates with her dogs. She loves to hear from fans and is active on Facebook.com/AuthorJDBrown and on Twitter @AuthorJDBrown.

One day, Emily Guido conceived an idea of two characters who needed to have their story told. Not ever dreaming a week later, she would have over 100,000 words written. Emily’s creation became “Charmeine,” the first novel in “The Light-Bearer Series”, featuring an ill-fated hero, Tabbruis, and the heroine, Charmeine. A couple who would literally go through Heaven and Hell to be together. Their story is a star-crossed relationship where love conquers all, with some paranormal thrown in for spice.
When Emily writes, it is similar to you or I watching a movie. She pictures the characters in her head going through vivid descriptions of each scene. There are so many nuances going through her mind that she cannot type fast enough.
In August of 2012, Emily accepted a publishing contract with PDMI Publishing. She is very excited to see her books flourishing under their direction.
Visit Emily at http://www.emilyguido.com and her Facebook Author Page. Follow her on Twitter at @Emily__Guido.

Clay Gilbert has been hearing the voices of aliens, vampires, and people from the future since about the age of four. It wasn’t long before he started to think taking notes on what they said might be a good idea. This has led him many places—through the halls and classrooms of many schools, where he’s been both in front of the teacher’s desk and behind it, himself—to presenter’s podiums at conventions, and, most often, to the comfortable chair behind his writing desk at home, where he uses his Dell computer as both a beacon and a translator for the voices that still find their way through from countless worlds and planes of existence. These days, the place he calls home is Knoxville, Tennessee, where his cat, Bella, and his ball python, Andy, keep him company between visits from a teenaged alien named Annah, an undead, blood-drinking English professor named Martin Cabot, and a boy from the future named Eternity. And it’s a good thing, too—life is busy. And Clay’s still taking notes.
Read Clay Gilbert’s musings on life at http://portalsandpathways.wordpress.com/, and Annah’s musings on life at http://childrenofevohe.com/.
Follow Clay on Twitter @ClayGilbert1 (he loves new followers!)

The blog posts which inspired this:

Rhonda Little (who started this blog loop!):
http://www.rodalena.com/2014/05/31/on-the-writing-process/

Andrea Zug (who tagged me!):
http://andizugatlancersinc.wordpress.com/2014/06/16/the-writing-process/

Cindy Koepp:
http://cindykoepp.wordpress.com/2014/06/16/writing-about-writing/

Elizabeth Mueller:
http://elizabethmueller.blogspot.com/2014/06/method-to-my-madness-in-writing-er-i.html

Victoria Adams:
http://victoriasreadingalcove.wordpress.com/2014/06/10/second-time-around-the-block-what-is-a-writing-process/

This Blog Sucks (and so does my re-blog, LoL)

I disagree that your blog “sucks,” Brian McKinley! It’s very well done. I must agree, however, that “author” is a much different skill set than “blogger”, and only a relative few authors such as Kristen Lamb have truly mastered the art of “pro-level” blogging. The best strategy for the rest of us is to concentrate on quality over quantity. Blogging at the Kristen Lamb level requires a mastery of various social skills that are NOT necessary for writing great novels (just ask J.D. Salinger!). Even most #1 NYT best-selling authors’ blogs lack the social engagement of Kristen Lamb’s Warrior Writers blog (and many of them have less followers than Lamb does!)

The Ravings of a Sick Mind

I’m going to be brutally honest here: I don’t really get blogs.

1245227615_colin_farrel

I’m only doing this because I want to sell you books. According to popular wisdom, blogs create a platform, which supposedly translates into sales. I’m not quite sure I buy that. Most of my friends and family who really know me and care about me don’t buy my books, so why should I expect you to just because I wrote some snappy article and posted it on a blog?

Blogs are supposed to let readers get to know you and feel a connection, but that doesn’t always make sense to me either. I read Stephen King, Jim Butcher, P.N. Elrod and others because I love their stories and characters. I don’t give a shit what Stephen King bought at the grocery store today or any of the other random garbage that pops up in blogs. I’ve never understood…

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Writing Prompt’s Greatest Hits

Theme Songs Writing_Prompt_353
Jack:

Damien:

Zetania:

Lilith:

Daily Writing Prompt

Belfast, 1703, the O’Muiredaigh household.

“Aye, she’s a cheeky one, me babby. ‘Tis why I named her Lilith. Her eyes of green stare deep into me soul. She’ll be so much more than I, the peasant. She has the soul of greatness, but I so worry about me poor little snapper. Could turn a scrubber if she wanted to. What can I do but teach ‘er the faith the best I can? With our Heavenly Father Clement XI to guide her, me fair Lilith will be blessed by the angels.”

IS0311JM454C

Daily Writing Prompt

Writers Write Daily Prompt 2-21-14

Why I Started Writing

In 1983, a young auto-shop student named Daven Anderson was reading Stephen King’s new novel “Christine.” Daven loved the story, but he found the factual errors King made describing its 1958 Plymouth “protagonist” to be as distracting as they were amusing. Daven swore then that if he ever wrote a novel, it would have no errors in its car descriptions.

Twenty-six years later, Daven borrowed the four Twilight saga novels. Upon reading the ending of “Breaking Dawn,” he thought “I could write something better.” That same day, he laid the foundations for the Vampire Syndrome saga.

Daven started with a brainstorming exercise: “Imagine all your co-workers as vampires.” Daven’s twenty years of working retail offered him a cornucopia of choices, but the most intriguing possibilities for characters were his co-workers with special needs.

Thus was born Jack Wendell, a Special Olympics champion sprinter who becomes a vampire. Since Daven would not settle for writing just a vampire version of Forrest Gump, he needed an antagonistic vampire world that would challenge Jack’s life right from the moment of his transformation.

Enter Lilith, the President of the Vampires; and her husband Damien, the Chief Venator (law enforcer). A couple that challenge each other’s existence, not just Jack’s. Trapped in a 253-year train-wreck of a marriage, which was inspired by the gleeful nihilism of “The War Of The Roses” and “Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry.”

Jack also needed a friend to guide him through the first steps of his new life. Enter Zetania Vinescu, Chief Venator of Romania. Damien orders Zetania to kill Jack. Lilith over-rides her husband and orders Zetania to protect Jack. Zetania forced to play a cat-and-mouse game to save Jack from her fellow Venators.

By the time Daven went to bed that fateful night, he had created the four main characters and several key story elements, all of which are present in the published novels.

The next day, Daven accepted the challenge of reconciling science with the world’s vampire folklore. This ultimately led him to add a race of alien vampires, the Pures, and ascribe certain folkloric attributes (ie: harmed by sunlight and garlic) exclusively to this species.

The Vampire Syndrome saga is the culmination of years of Daven’s meticulous research and story crafting, expertly weaving truth and fiction into a seamless whole as never before. At last, a vampire saga where everything makes sense. And yes, even the cars are accurate, fulfilling the decades-old promise Daven made to himself.

A million people said they could write something “better.” Daven Anderson bought his version of “better” to life, and thanks to PDMI Publishing LLC, you too can read the “better” vampire saga.

Write Naked

One of the most fun things about attending a writer’s conference is taking a class with an instructor who approaches writing in the exact opposite way that you do.

Sunday, 8 am. There I was in Anne Randolph’s “Write Naked” class.
My mere presence in her class was the opposite of my usual method.
Those who write paranormal stories usually favor writing at night.
(who would have thought?)

The reason why she wanted us there in the morning is because our “filters” are off.
Her approach: Put a pen to paper, and off you go. Write something. Don’t think, don’t plan, just write.

I’m one of the most methodical, analytical writers you will ever meet.
I plan out my course of action before I type a word.
Hell, I even “edit” myself when I talk to people. I’m not disposed to brief snips of chit-chat (or I’d be on Twitter!)
When I say something, it’s deliberate. And I’ll use more than 140 characters to do it. 😈

The prime motivation of Anne’s class is to motivate those writers who are stuck in their progress. Free your mind. Get going. Write something. Every day.

I’m not one who is “stuck”, mind you. One day, I write. The other, I don’t. And I must say I somewhat disagree with one of her key points, that you should write every day, just to stay fresh. Yes, you have to learn the art of writing. By doing. But when you learn skills, the point is to retain them. Writing is like riding a bicycle. Once you get to a certain skill level, you are changed on a fundamental level.

Like work. I know my job so well, I can take a month off, then go back to work as if I’d never left. Hell, I could take a year off, and jump right back in. I kid you not.

So why in the world was I in her class?
To challenge my usual modus operandi (method of operation).
Could I just go in there, early Sunday morning, and bang out something straight from the dark recesses of my mind?

I came up with a tale about a suicidal Twilight fan touring Forks, who wants to die in the upstairs bedroom of the “Cullen house” (with all the attendant “Edward watching in the window” fantasies), and the tour bus driver is trying to talk her out of it.

I challenged myself, and succeeded. The above story is an intriguing and unique premise. Yes, I could invert my regular M.O. and still create.

Thank you, Anne Randolph, for allowing me to see the creative process from the “opposite side” of my usual method.