Archive for the ‘Writing’ category

Enter: The Pizzathology!

May 20th, 2016

You guys! It can finally be announced: I’m part of a YA anthology of stories centered around pretty much my favorite food ever, pizza. (Make mine pepperoni and pineapple, please.) “A Pizza My Heart: An Anthology” was conceived by the awesome Jolene Haley, who went ahead and did all the work of bringing together writers and putting the thing together because she loves pizza that damn much.

The tagline is also one of my favorite things ever: “Sometimes spicy, sometimes cheesy, but always delicious, A Pizza My Heart invites you to explore life, happiness, and the pursuit of pizza.” No spoilers on whether my story is spicy or cheesy, but let’s just say I managed to work in both zombies and boys in love.

The book is out Nov. 12, and you’ll want to grab a slice right away. Check out this lineup:

A Slice of Adventure by Maria Carvalho

Between Slices by Andy Grieser

Fresh, Hot, and Deadly by Rena Olsen

KissingDancingPizzaMURDER by Darci Cole

Kneadful Things by Jenna Lehne

Love Pizza No. 9 by Vanessa Rodriguez

Madame Miraval’s Pizza Place by Kelly deVos

Password Is… by Jolene Haley

Pizza by Emily Simon

Pizza Buddy by Brian LeTendre

Pizzamergency by Brett Jonas

Survival Pizza by Rebecca Waddell

The Last Stop at the End of the World by Jamie Adams

The Pizza Guy by Jessi Shakarian

Where There’s Pizza by Jasmine Brown

No cover reveal yet, but this may tide you over:

Again, that release date is Nov. 12 of this Year of Our Baker 2016. Set your social media brainburrower of choice to #Pizzathology for updates.

I need

October 6th, 2015

I need to cut myself a break.

I need to take a deep breath and allow myself some peace.

I need to realize the book I’m querying might not be The One.

I need to stop being so rigid in my writing habits. I need to start working on new projects without waiting for everything to be just right.

I need to practice more with short fiction.

I need to be fine with the short fiction I am writing at this blog, and not look at it as a job.

I need to be okay with being middle-aged. Yes, missing a few days of running visibly shows. But getting back to running later visibly shows too. I need to have the patience for that.

I need to be okay.

The time I pissed off Wes Craven

August 31st, 2015

I was terribly saddened to read this morning that movie director Wes Craven passed. He was, and remains, one of my most memorable interviews.

When I mention having been an entertainment journalist, the usual cocktail-party response is, “Who have you met?” Meaning famous. Meaning gossip.

I tend not to remember many of the bigger names until much later: Oh yeah, I spent a good long time talking the environment with Midnight Oil and palled around backstage with Bjork and the Sugarcubes and was overwhelmed by the beautiful man Douglas Adams.

I have never forgotten and will never forget Wes Craven.

I interviewed Mr. Craven for Scream, the movie that would change the genre, catapult its cast to stardom, spawn sequels and now a TV series, et cetera et cetera et cetera. Then, though, it was a very clever horror movie that the paper’s lead movie reviewer Michael H. Price and I loved (both of us being horror fans) but worried would resonate.

So much did Price and I think Scream might slip past audiences that during my one-on-one interview with Mr. Craven, I asked the director why he’d cast has-beens.

Remember, Drew Barrymore had not yet discovered the second act of her career. Scream would do that. Neve Campbell was one of the more forgettable parts of the TV series Party of Five. Scream would make her a star.

Matthew Lillard? Skeet Ulrich? Jamie Kennedy? Unknowns — at least, mostly unknowns — before Scream.

Mr. Craven spluttered over the word: “Has-beens? HAS-BEENS? Is Drew Barrymore a has-been?”

Well, yes.

“Is Neve Campbell a has-been?”

She was an untested quantity on film whose television career was for the moment over.

Craven may have felt personally attacked. His monster success, A Nightmare on Elm Street, was 12 years past. His resume since had been notable really only to fans of the genre.

I don’t remember what I said. Placating things. Soothing noises. I’m sure I backed off. It wasn’t worth a fight. Mr. Craven calmed down. We resumed a pleasant discussion — I was a horror fan, after all, and so we changed topics and discussed the rapid-fire references to other horror films.

But that’s my cocktail story: Once upon a time, I pissed off Wes Craven.

Now he’s gone, and I want to say this: Wes Craven was never a has-been. Even in the lean years mentioned above, he directed New Nightmare (God, one of my all-time favorites, and a precursor to Scream’s self-aware feel), The Serpent and the Rainbow, The People Under the Stairs. He was vital and active and twisting horror, pushing it to new heights.

Never a has-been.

Blog Challenge: Why is blogging a chore?

July 27th, 2015

The topic, courtesy of Julie Hutchings: Why does blogging feel like a chore?

The short answer is that it’s exercise. I was, and am determined to be again, a runner. I would go daily when I could, and at least 4-5 times a week. Sometimes it’d be three miles, sometimes eight, sometimes 13.

No matter the length, that first mile was always the worst: painful and awkward and more draining than any of the miles after. Nothing helped. That first mile was just deadly.

Blogging is writing, but only the first mile. It’s painful and awkward and even if something feels pretty good, you want to revise and revise and revise and blogging isn’t made for all that revision.

It’s necessary, though. You gotta go the first mile to get to the second, and the even more comfortable third.

The long answer is specific to me. I was an awkward kid. I grew up sheltered, and gawky, and had big hands and a big nose and pointy-ish ears and a bowl haircut. I had zero grasp of pop culture or music.

I wasn’t the funny one until later. I wasn’t the hot one ever. I was the invisible one. And I was an introvert.

No matter how social I am now, I am still that boy. I am still invisible. I am not the person someone falls head over heels in love with. I’m the Duckie. I’m the guy whose company they enjoy and then wander off with that dreamy Blane.

For me, blogging reinforces that. I can throw words out there and hear nothing.

(I am drawing a line here between blogging, my personal thoughts, and reporting, which I did for years and years. That distinction is fuzzy now, but wasn’t when I was doing both.)

So blogging is a chore. It’s me moving out of my comfort zone and then being reminded that it simply doesn’t matter. (Or, as happened this past weekend, having my fears dismissed with a mocking laugh by family.)

I hate that that sounds like self-pity. It’s not. It’s just the way things are. Writing this is a chore. But I’m doing it. I’m going the first mile and hoping the second is better.


July 22nd, 2015

“What did you wish for?”

When I was a boy, I slipped on ice. The back of my head hit concrete, a shock of white and pressure ending at my eyes.

“If I tell you, that means it won’t come true. Right?”

She was fully there, fully mine for almost a year. Then she wasn’t. A flip of the switch — I have to figure things out — and gone.

I couldn’t breathe for days. I tried turning my feelings away. She’d done it, after all. There had to be some trick.

“Come on.” Her mouth twisted, a mischievous grin. “You can tell me.”

We’d only had months. Time for love to grow, but not so much that it got stale — I thought. Hers led the way. She was all in well before me. And then she wasn’t, just like that.

For months, every time I saw her name on Twitter, on Facebook, on World of Warcraft, I felt a punch at the back of my head. My vision went white. I’d quickly scroll on. I was certain the love was still there, and that she was afraid to admit it. I searched Missed Connections and message boards, hoping she would be wailing into the ether, heart as broken as mine.

I took a sip of whiskey. “I could tell you.”

I could tell her: I wished for you. I wished for the switch to flip again, for the love that had burned so hot to ignite, return to full flame.

I could tell her: I wished for me. I wished it hadn’t taken a supreme effort of will to accept her offer of birthday drinks. I wished I could be as cool and calm as I acted.

I wish you loved me.

I wish you loved me.

God, I wish you loved me.

“Maybe everybody got it wrong. Maybe if you tell me, your wish will come true.” The grin became a smile, a true smile, and my vision went white.

Out Today: ‘Running Away’

September 26th, 2014
Running AwayThink you have weekend plans?


Here’s why your weekend plans now involve Julie Hutchings’ “Running Away.”

Once upon a time, I was all about Charlaine Harris’ “True Blood” books. I’d seen Harris talk while covering Comic-Con, and she was funny and nice, so I read the first few of her books.

They were fun. I read a few books, and then I stopped, and that was it.

A while back, I got to know Julie Hutchings on Twitter, saw she’d written a supernatural action-romance along the same lines, “Running Home.” “Running Home” was fun, like Harris’ books, but Eliza Morgan affected me in a way Sookie Stackhouse didn’t.

Eliza is the girl I hung out with in college, the girl you always called because she brought the room to life. When the book ended, I wanted to spend more time not just finding out what happened to her, but *with* her.

I wanted more.

Well, now there’s more. And here’s what “Running Away” is all about.

Eliza Morgan is desperate to escape the horrors of her mortal life and understand why death follows her, leaving only one man, Nicholas French, in its wake. He’s the one she loves, the one she resents, and the one fated to make her legendary among the Shinigami– an ancient order of vampires with a “heroic” duty to kill. He’s also decaying before her eyes, and it’s her fault.

On the ghostlike mountaintop in Japan that the vampires consider home, Eliza will be guided by the all-powerful Master for her transition to Shinigami death god. When Eliza discovers that sacrificing her destiny will save Nicholas, she’s not afraid to defy fate and make it so—even when Nicholas’s salvation kills her slowly with torturous, puzzle-piece visions that beg her to solve them. Both Nicholas and his beloved Master fight her on veering from the path to immortality, but Eliza won’t be talked out of her plan, even if it drives the wedge between Nicholas and her deeper.

Allying with the fiery rebel, Kieran, who does what he wants and encourages her to do the same, and a mysterious deity that only she can see, Eliza must forge her own path through a maze of ancient traditions and rivalries, shameful secrets and dark betrayals to take back the choices denied her and the Shinigami who see her as their savior. To uncover the truth and save her loved ones, Eliza will stop at nothing, including war with fate itself.

Go get “Running Away” now. I command it.

The Best Editor I’ve Had

September 25th, 2014

Let’s talk for just a moment about editors.

I know my way around editors. I was an editor, after all, in the copy-editing sense and the story assignment sense and… well, in the newspaper senses. I was an editor, and dealt with editors as a writer.

I’m saying this so you have perspective when I say I’ve never had an editor like Julie Hutchings.

You all — many of you, anyway — know Julie as a writer, and in fact she’ll have some words for this space later this week. She is an excellent editor as well, and if you reread my summed bona fides above you’ll maybe agree I’m qualified to set that benchmark. Yes, she knows the words and the grammar and the hey-hey-hey semicolon, but really her skill at editing made one overwhelming impression on me: It made what I wrote something I wanted to read.

Not that I’m an awful writer, he said, pointing to the years and years of supporting myself doing just that. But I hate reading my writing. Hate. The editorial phase of journalism was always been something I gritted my teeth and endured. No, I don’t believe my words were handed down from on high, like some writers. I just want to tear up and totally rewrite everything ever because it’s never good enough for me.

Step back a bit: For reasons, I have a few completed novels sitting on my hard drive. Just… sitting. I queried a couple of them, back in the day, but that never really went anywhere and it’s a good thing. This work was not query-ready. It was the product of a writer having left the profession but still needed an outlet.

I don’t remember how I learned Julie works as an editor alongside her writing; let’s pretend it was a meet-cute where I spilled my Twitter all over her feed or… or something that sounds less salacious. After much consideration, I chose what I thought to be the most saleable of my finished manuscripts and sent it her way.

For weeks, Julie said cryptic but encouraging things on Twitter. I was surprised.

I will tell you I initially resisted reading the edited copy. But I did, and boy am I glad: She *got it*. She really *read* the book. She saw things in the characters I hoped readers would, and in turn became their advocate to make sure I went back and rewrote them to be true to who they were. She was, in short, the best editor I’d had in my career.

Will the book ever sell? I don’t know. All the great editing in the world isn’t a guarantee in this market. But will the book be the best it could be? A thousand times yes.

Tomorrow, I’m turning over part of this blog to Julie to help promote her new novel. I hope you’ll check in, both here and then anywhere RUNNING AWAY is sold. It is — and Julie is — well worth your time.

I miss it

January 11th, 2012

“Do you like writing?” A co-worker looked hard at me over the top of her laptop and mine.

“I love it. I miss it.” I didn’t have to think before answering, but I did after. I love it. I miss it. But why don’t I do it? Why do I update this blog monthly at best, when my goal was daily? Why do I have two manuscripts languishing, when I could at least be looking for agents? Why do I have so many ideas for new (even if unsold) stories that I won’t commit to paper?

It’s not lack of thought. I think about my stories when I get up, when I drive, during the day, when I fall asleep reading. I write blog posts in my head, letters to Evan that will never be sent, random thoughts that… well, okay, nobody will miss reading those. Even this post is being written in scraps of time, piece by piece, when I can.

So, I love it. I miss it. But I don’t do it. Why not?

I focus on what I don’t do. Why can’t I recognize what I do? That I work my butt off from before dawn until after dusk? That I spend a chunk of that home time playing with my beautiful little boy? Why can’t that be enough?

It just isn’t enough. I need to give myself credit for those things, but I’ve defined myself as a writer. And I’m not doing it.

Next steps: When a piece of writing doesn’t catch on

March 23rd, 2011

I spent the morning’s commute trying to think of my next step. Here’s why that’s difficult: Writing is so intensely personal, you don’t want to move forward. You want to stand pat at that last step, massage what’s there, find a way to salvage it.

I write “salvage” as if something was given up, but of course it wasn’t. Writing may be difficult, but its permanence is sometimes surprising. You write something; it’s yours. It doesn’t disappear. Even if you burn the copies, delete the backups, it’s still in your head. It can come out later.

In the heat of the moment that can be cold comfort, to mangle a metaphor. Writing isn’t exactly like parenthood, but it isn’t exactly unlike it. You’ve nurtured this thing, shaped it. Why wouldn’t it be perfect to the outside world as well?

But it isn’t. You’re too close. You’ve been molding the work in your image, but once set free the dialogue falls flat and the rhythm stutters.

So. Clap hands to knees, lean forward, maybe stand and stretch at the writing desk. “Next steps,” you mutter, the words tasting of ash. Maybe a corner of a manuscript looks pleadingly from under a stack of papers; maybe you skim your mouse across a filename and feel your heart skip, as if you’d met a former lover on the street. Betrayal is there, maybe a feeling of having given up too soon.

Send it to one more agent, a voice inside whispers. Run it past one more beta reader. Spend more time. Make it perfect. Admirably, that voice doesn’t want you to give up.

It’s the only way forward, though. Resolve to come back. The work is permanent. It’s there, in thought and word. Find something that works first, something that sells, something that opens the door. Take the next step, and the next.

Well, hey there, February

January 20th, 2011

I know. I know.

I should’ve resolved upon the New Year to post to this blog daily. Or at least weekly. Maybe that can be my February resolution? At any rate, I think about this place almost daily. I think about posting more letters to Evan, or updates on my novels, or no doubt fascinating dispatches from my amazing life.

I just don’t write any of that.

I want to tell Evan (and you) the story of how Laura and I became a couple, which is to me more interesting than the story of how we met. I want to post a chapter from my second (and, like the first, as yet unrepresented) novel. I want to finish my 2010 taxes, and I want to finish organizing the garage, and I want to sleep. None of that is happening right now.

For what it’s worth, I have an 8-pound, 2-ounce excuse, who is now more alert (and, so, demanding of attention) than ever. He hasn’t yet mastered the art of sleeping quietly for long periods of time, and for my part, I haven’t mastered the art of ignoring his more innocent chuffs and grunts and grumbles. Laura is fully capable of, while asleep, discerning what’s important from him and what’s not. I, on the other hand, grew up sleeping in the same room as a brother with often-violent night terrors, so apparently have reverted to that aware half-sleep during which every little sound sets off some sort of alarm.

I’m babbling. I do that a lot right now. My eyes feel constantly scratchy, and throb a little no matter how recently I got sleep.

That’ll pass, they tell me, and the Squish will sleep through the night. Until then, I hope you’ll be satisfied hearing from me in dribs and drabs.