Thursday, December 30, 2010

Why do we read?

"There's no mistaking a photograph.
It has the clearest, cleanest memory."
- "On The Gathering Storm"

Given the prolific availability and now low cost of producing and distributing photos and video, plus the ubiquitous nature of high-speed Internet access in the last four or five years, why do individuals continue to read text?  Why do people still read books when they could just watch movies and forget how to read? offers a lot of their stories in video format but much remains as printed words with sidebars of photos and movies.  The local and national news websites that I visit still offer most of their content in written format, too  Much of the web is still driven by text-based stories with video and photos only for added depth and nuance.  Why do we still look at words if we don't have to?

Part of it is because there is still a larger cost associated with photos and video.  They are larger to download, use more server space, and still, not everyone knows how to shoot a good photo or produce a meaningful video of an event.  There is a lot more (and I mean a LOT more) video available for consumption than there was just three years ago.

But I believe it's more than simple cost and ease which keeps the words flowing.  I believe there is an innate need in the human mind to be fed ideas and meaning differently than our peers.  There's a bit of gray matter somewhere deep in us that says we need some level of creativity and ambiguity when processing information so that we can filter it through our own experiences and belief systems, good and bad.  Video and photos are not subjective.  They are an unblinking record of what has transpired.  Unless we're examining a well-made, highly produced art film or Hollywood blockbuster, there is little room for interpretation when it comes to photos and video.  What you see is what it is.  And what it is is what it means.

Words on the other hand, can be as rich and diverse in their portrayal of another's thoughts as we would like them to be.  There can be so much layered truth in a given sentence, paragraph, or entire story that such written prose, whether it be a fiction book or hard news story, can still offer us as humans a wide meadow of our own selves to frolic in.  That's why there will always be room for the printed word.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Finding That Perfect Moment

Every so often, I hope to post short anecdotes about the impetus behind some of the characters, backdrops or ideas expressed in my writing. Right now, a short note about the "happy accidents" that can occur when combining two ore more notions into something meaningful.

A lot of writing is about choosing the correct details to share about a scene, a character, or a moment in the story.  It's really the same for a lot of different creative mediums.  Just have a look at this set of "perfect moment" photographs to get a sense of what I mean.

Here's a moment from my novel, "On The Gathering Storm" that involves a car crash. It's based on a traffic accident that I was involved in but in re-telling it, I focused more on the feelings one would have in such a catastrophe and less on the choreography of the vehicles. In the end, I stumbled across the final bit of dialogue from an anecdote a friend once told me, and the two bits came together quite well, I think.

Crack. Crunch. Spin. 
And then things come to rest. Like whirling tops on kitchen linoleum, finally exhausted, finally seeing the pointlessness in their childish play.
Hannah is a wakeful corpse, witness to the event, yet unable to see. Unable to move. When she finally does move and gets out of her car, it’s dreamy and far off—-like watching the events on television instead of living through them. Later she’ll remember the bloodied foreheads in the other car. They are both moving, moaning, incoherent when she asks them if they are okay. And then, dreamlike, wafting as smoke from a firearm on a breeze, she’s moving to the ditch where D.’s Prelude has been flung.
He’s under a thick blanket of glass and blood. His eyes are tightly closed. He only hears Hannah. Doesn’t see her. Then his eyes open. They try to focus. Just when she thinks he can’t move he reaches through the open space of his driver’s window and clutches her arm. It’s a painful pinch, like forceps. She grimaces, still in her trance. He says, over and over, again and again, “The light was green, Hannah. Remember. The light was green. Green Hannah. The light was green. Remember. The light was—”

In telling a story, finding those ideal spots or details is not much different than a similar moment in photography when patience, timing and the gut feeling you have when you find those great shots all converge. Sure, you need to have inspiration strike, be in the right place at the right time, but you also need to have some idea of what you're doing with your f-stops and your flash bulb.

Monday, December 20, 2010


(To catch up on previous installments of this serial: THALO BLUE)

II. The Default Color for Pain
A crow used to visit Sebastion by his bedroom window, used to perch on a bare tree branch where the boy could see it as he lay in bed, under his blue bedspread.  Black and shiny, it would cock its head this way and that, and it would stay there for a while, as Sebastion looked on.  When he was younger, he would speak to it, “CawCAWCawCAW—C—A—W—Caw.”  But as he grew older, he just lay in silence and watched it.  Inevitably, as he became tired and as his eyes sagged with the day’s fatigue, the crow would flutter away, suddenly and without warning, leaving a dark branch to bob slightly against a backdrop of night.  He named that bird, called it Oliver.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


Instructions from the dispatcher via the 911 operator had told Officer William Sheers and his partner, Owen Lipnicki, that a forced entry would be necessary.  “Suspect is possibly armed.  Victim is potentially injured.  Location: front-facing east bedroom.  End of the hall.  Last door on the right.  Hurry.
After careening through a ridge of packed powder and across an icy street gutter the cruiser’s tires stuck to a halt on the front lawn, the officers unstrapped a two-man battering ram from inside the trunk and carried it to the front door across the snow-covered yard of scattered evergreens.  Their black boots crunched and squeaked in the blue-white snow.  In the distance, more sirens blared.  Three more cruisers would appear in less than four minutes.  In less than two it would all be over.

Monday, December 13, 2010


The sirens grew.  Sebastion, in his cubby-spot, heard them too, became red in the face with the renewed hope they brought.  And here, this intruder, this stranger, heard them rise.  Perhaps this was at an end.  They were close and he had nothing, no way out this time.  But they didn’t know he was here, didn’t know he was sitting on this sofa, in this room, in this house.  They didn’t know that because there was no way they could have.  The other homes on this street were too far off to have heard that window break, too far off and too hidden by thick stands of trees, to have seen him in the yard trying the handle on the back door then climbing up on that box of firewood.  No one would have called anyone.  And besides, this house was empty.
He had stood on the bricks of the flower enclosure in front of the only window with a light, pressed his fingers against the sill, and peeked through the dim glass and beyond it.  Nothing.  No one.  Not a figure to behold.

Thursday, December 9, 2010


The stranger bashed the base of a small sculpture—an opulent copy of the Bust of Nefertiti—through the television screen in the living room as images of a car commercial flashed across it for the last time.  His hand held Nefertiti by the throat, long and slender it was, and the follow-through gouged his skin all the way up to his wrist in dozens of places.  Sparks and a brief shot of smoke blew from the tube and the glass of the screen burst outwards with a loud pop.  The volume, that terrible squawk of voices and music, stopped immediately.  But the static, that steady squall which brought metal grinding on metal to his brain, was not finished.  He saw the blinking orange numerals of a digital display in the blackness.  He reached for them and ended up yanking a stereo receiver from its spot on the shelf.  Trailing cables pulled taut until they snapped from their connectors and the stereo unit was pitched to the carpeted floor.  The room plunged into loud silence; the noise was at an end.  It had become unbearable in his head, that static buzz, had strained inside his temples from that first moment, when he had landed across the bluish bedspread.  He simply couldn’t take it any longer.
He turned—quiet was again his ally—and then collapsed onto a plush sofa-couch under the white sheer drapes of the living room window.  Smearing tacky blood across the fabric of the couch, he brought a shaky hand to his head, leaned it against his palm, tried to steady it.  And then, with his other hand—his left—he removed a .45 caliber derringer from the waistband of his wrinkled pants.

Monday, December 6, 2010



Long Drawn Out Silences

Listening to the silence is as important
as deciphering the noise.
-Drawing Lines in the Sand:
A Way of Life,
This life just goes on and on;
Will it end?  And when?
September 21
I. Fade Away Divine
Sebastion Redfield awoke to the squeak-crunch of footsteps in snow outside his father’s bedroom window.  Alone, he lay there unmoving, as before, and his mind fluttered, caught in that dreamy world somewhere between sleep and this reality.  But his eyes remained closed.  In his mind, past the protection of the room’s fogged window, only the icy eaves existed.  The early morning cold was unbreakable, and behind the fa├žade of it, all the house fronts on this street sat back behind canopies of crisp dark foliage and branches which shielded them from prying eyes.  Evergreens were dusted in white.  Tangles of leafless trees were coated with clinging hoar frost.  There was a fresh layer of new fallen snow on absolutely everything, and the world was still.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

THALO BLUE // Web Serial Starts MONDAY!

I've been hard at work prepping my next novel to become a web serial.

That's right. You read it correctly.

THALO BLUE, Book One is going to begin rolling out here on THIS page on MONDAY as a web serial.  Please check back to see when it lands. I want to share this one with everyone and get as much traction as I can with it. Dare I say, it's the best thing I've written?

So, what's it about?

A young man on the brink of true adulthood experiences the trauma of his life when a trespasser breaks into his home. Sebastion Redfield and the psychiatrist assigned to help him recover from the break-in begin to unravel a more disturbing truth about his ordeal: that someone or some thing has been hunting him.

Bit by bit, we'll learn about Sebastion Redfield and his personal curse, his burning need to become what he considers a 'real' artist and whether the thief in the night will finally be able to possess what he's been after for so long.

That's right, readers, it all begins this MONDAY! Check it out. 9:00 AM sharp. Hope you enjoy the read!

Coming SO soon, it's scary. And I mean that in more ways that one... ;)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Tids of Bit

The Indie Books Holiday Giveaway Event begins NOW! All through the month of December, Darcia Helle at Quiet Fury Books is hosting the giveaway and everyone is free to enter.

I'm sponsoring 25 prizes of my book, On The Gathering Storm, but much more importantly are the prizes being donated by loads of other authors -- all of them so fantastic in their genres.

Seriously. If you like reading and want to discover some intriguing new talent, check out this giveaway!

(Hurry! The giveaway event ends on December 31!)

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Joel Blaine Kirkpatrick is not only senior to me in years (and not by many of them, truth be told) but he is also senior to me in a great many earthly pursuits. One of them is knowing people. He's gotten to know me very well over the last weeks, through my tweets and blog posts and a few email exchanges. He has read my novel, On The Gathering Storm, and liked it. His review is one of the trippiest (and best) I've ever received. The man known as JBK out there in the nethers of the web was, for all intents, inside my novel. And he, like few others, have been able to describe the essence of being there.

Joel interviewed me recently and the result, along with many of his simultaneously verbose and concise (?!) thoughts are encapsulated in his current Featured Author article. I invite you to check it out, leave a comment for Joel, and tell him what a service he's doing for indie authors of all shapes and sizes. The man needs applause. (He craves it.)

But he also deserves it.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Still a Student

"The key thing to remember about me is that I'm still a student. I'm still in boot camp. If anyone is reading any of my thoughts, I'd keep that in mind. Don't take it all too seriously. If you want to live your life in a creative way, as an artist, you have to not look back too much. You have to be willing to take whatever you've done and whoever you were and throw them away. What are we, anyway? Most of what we think we are is just a collection of likes and dislikes, habits, patterns. At the core of what we are is our values, and what decisions and actions we make reflect those values. That is why it's hard ... being visible: As you are growing and changing, the more the outside world tries to reinforce an image of you that it thinks you are, the harder it is to continue to be an artist, which is why a lot of times, artists have to go, "Bye. I have to go. I'm going crazy and I'm getting out of here." And they go and hibernate somewhere. Maybe later they re-emerge a little differently."

- Steve Jobs,
February 1, 1985

Thursday, November 18, 2010

What's in an eBook Cover?

The cover for THALO BLUE, Book One
of a novel trilogy - Coming Soon!

Despite there being a lot of text on this
cover, there are only three different fonts
on here. However, colour and treatment
vary, giving it all a lot of visual interest.
I'm a writer but I'm also a graphic designer. I've been doing professional graphic design for about twelve years and have worked on everything: magazine layouts, websites, package designs, jewelry, video and advertising.

Lately, I've been doing quite a few book covers.

Huh. Go figure.

I've gotten some compliments on the book covers I've made for my own novels and short stories and have been asked to provide advice to other authors and publishers. I'm not an expert in designing covers but I believe a good cover goes a long way to help improve an author's chances of being read. There are so many great books on the web sitting behind ugly covers and for me, that does the book a disservice.  In this age, you need to either work hard on your cover or hire it to someone who can make it an effective attention grabber. Like it or lump it, we're a visual species and we may click away if the cover isn't appealing or professional looking.

Sadly, I see a lot of covers that were designed by firms or individuals calling themselves 'pro' and they still aren't very good.  If you're paying 25 dollars for a cover design, you'll probably get 25 dollars worth of work, effort and expertise. I don't say this to step on anyone's toes or to reduce the project load for anyone designing book covers for a song. There are many, many designers out there that totally know what they're doing and could run rings around lil ol' me.

Nonetheless, I thought I might take a moment to share with you some of my ideas about what makes a powerful and memorable book cover.

A cover that my readers mention.

Uses one font but the colour and
spacing vary so there's some
visual appeal.
1. Clarity // In this age of ebooks, you want a cover with very stark clarity that will look equally good when it's a teeny-tiny square on some ebook store like Amazon, but also blown up to full colour like it may be seen on an Apple iPad.

2. Colour // Bright colours but not ones that clash (unless that's what you're going for). I also like to see only one or two colours used on the text. The last thing you want to do is distract someone who might click through to the story.

3. Contrast // Related to the two above and bridging into the next item, contrast basically means having a strong difference between the background and the text in the foreground. It's nice to have a cool picture or design, but not at the expensive of readability.

3. Clear text // I don't like script-y fonts unless they are unleashed with the precision of a very experienced designer. They tend to be a little harder to read. You sometimes have only a fraction of a second to catch a reader's attention so my advice is to make your text simple. As with colour, above, I don't recommend using too many fonts on your cover unless several of them are from the same family.  My cover for THALO BLUE uses several fonts but they don't fight with each other because they each have a different purpose.

4. Design and Layout // Graphical covers that show only text and artwork are all the rage right now. These can be a good showcase for symbolism taken right out of your story (i.e. The Hunger Games covers are a good one). This is kind of a broad topic but touches on a few things.

You want to have appropriate spacing between lines of text, the author's name and the book title, but you'd probably like it to be interesting to look at. Play with different justifications of the text. Right, left, center, something that mixes it up.

Careful where you run your text -- not too close to the edges because a lot of ebook stores are now placing artwork over the outside edges of the book covers. I see that B & N is adding there "Nook Book" moniker and Amazon adds their "Kindle" artwork to the bottoms of the book covers. You don't want those to cover your name or other important info.

An alternate cover for my novel
when it had just been released.

This one's still floating around out
there and I don't mind because I
really like it.
If you have text that runs across an image, make sure it is a suitable colour or has some separation (like a shadow) to bring it out in front of it's backer. Readability is your foremost concern.

Other considerations. Don't have distracting or unusual things on your cover like borders or big chunks of white space (i.e. the cover is smaller than the image.) Some books are showing an interesting 3-D treatment where you see the book cover as though it's a real book standing there with the spine and the pages. It's a neat look and useful for other collateral (like websites and such) but not very useful for either a printed book or when submitting to one of the stores.

Another idea. You probably have beta readers to read over and edit your manuscript, right? Why not share your cover and get feedback on it before calling it the "official" cover?

Lastly. Once you've created something you're happy with, I would recommend NOT compressing your cover image using Photoshop or other design software. The ebook websites will do that all on their own and two compressions on the same image will end up making it look pixelated and choppy. Most sites have a maximum file size they'll allow. Stay under that and you're good. No need to go way under.

Anybody have a design horror story? Or a design angel story? What do you like in a book cover?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Brenda Sedore, Author of "A Snake In Paradise"

My guest today is author Brenda Sedore, whose book, A Snake in Paradise, was released this week. It's the story of Aja, a twenty-something woman who goes on an Italian adventure after a media frenzy engulfs her family. Why does the media storm her family's castle? Because Aja just had a run-in with her boyfriend resulting in a near catastrophe with said boyfriend's man parts and a sharp, gleaming knife.

It's a striking premise for a women's lit book and one that drew me in right away. I count myself as a friend of Ms. Sedore's because, for one thing, this busy writer always has time for her readers, other authors and me.  Despite the pressures and committments of her launch week, Brenda was gracious enough to find a moment and we chatted about, well, everything. Take a look:

Jason: A Snake in Paradise shows off some interesting, ahem, scenery in Italy. Clearly, you've been. Can you tell us about your travels there?

Brenda: It's interesting you would think I'd been there after reading the book. In fact, I've never been to Italy. It's been a life-long dream and I hope to go soon (we have plans to visit in 2011), but nope, never been. I used my friend, Google Earth and read extensively.

That's surprising! Is there another intriguing story about how you came upon the idea of igniting your novel with the near-castration of your antagonist?

There's no really crazy reason I decided to write a novel about my main character nearly castrating her boyfriend. Maybe it was just that I was in the middle of leaving my ex-husband...nah, just kidding.

The idea came to me as I was considering what to write for NaNoWriMo 2007. I wanted to write something different and fun as I had just finished writing a deep heart-wrenching literary novel. I wanted to try my hand at humour. Who would have known that it was my natural voice? I enjoyed the process of writing A Snake in Paradise and discovered my genre or "voice" at the same time.

Following you and getting to know you over the last half year, plus from reading about wineries in the novel, I know that you enjoy a good glass (bottle?) of wine every now and again. What should I serve with a meal of Chicken Marsala with Pancatta and cream? Kidding. Well, sort of. What would be your favourite red and white wines at present?

Definitely a white would go with the Marsala (although I'm usually a red drinker). My wine of choice would be Latitude 50 from the Gray Monk winery here in Kelowna. Yummy! Or Hardy's Reisling would be another great choice. Those two are my favourite whites. My favourite red, well, that's like asking me what my favourite book is, or my favourite child! Some of my favourites are The Prisoner from California, and Black, an Australian Shiraz.

Does your author husband, Daryl Sedore, also share a love of the grape?

Daryl's favourite saying is that he's a drinker with a writing problem. So, yah, he definitely shares my love of the grape.

I know that this is not likely the last we've seen of Aja and her troop. Did you set out to write a sequel? Or did you get to the end of "Snake" and discover you had more worlds for your characters to discover?

The second one. The cast of characters in A Snake in Paradise ended up being such a fun lot that I couldn’t bear to say goodbye. The sequel, however, will not be Marco and Aja as the main characters. I think there’s another pair who’d like to take the stage this time.

Interesting tease, I wonder which pair you have in mind!

In another interview, I read that you greatly admire Diana Gabaldon. My first exposure to her work was a book called Dragonfly in Amber. It was highly commercial and a great read. What would you do if sales of your novels spiked like hers and you were suddenly wealthy enough to quit your day job and focus on travel, writing and your other interests? Do you think not having to work and struggle to get your voice out there would help your creative muse or hinder it?

Yes, Gabaldon is one of my favourite authors. I believe that it would take a little time to adjust of course, but I spent 2008 – 09 not working, so I’m fairly used to it. Travel would greatly help my creativity as one of my next books is a travel book. I’m looking forward to working on that one.

Your son is a musician and music is certainly a very big part of my life. Do you listen to music while you write or do you have more success in absolute silence?

Yes, my son is Dan Oig, a talented young musician. I usually listen to classical or instrumental jazz while I write. I find it nearly impossible to write in silence, probably years of conditioning. I started writing when my kids were quite young and noisy. As there were four of them, I learned to write despite noise. I quite enjoy the quiet of our home now.

More about the creative process: you've mentioned that you let your story carry you and have little idea where it will go when you begin. However, have you ever gotten to a point in writing a tale and been genuinely disappointed in what you've discovered? Maybe a character has turned out to be less endearing. Maybe the twist you had planned wasn't as thrilling as you wanted it to be. Do you scrap it and begin again or try to work with it and discover the gems or hidden positives it may have on the overall landscape?

That’s a good question. I’ve had a few stories I started and abandoned, but not because I was disappointed in them. More because I discovered my voice was moving in a different direction. They were more serious and some were historical. I have such eclectic taste in books that it took me a while to figure out what I was going to enjoy writing. I’m still trying to figure out how to make those characters and stories work with my current style.

Are you an early riser? Do you like mornings? Or are you like me, a night owl with no interest
in 'getting to it' right away come first light?

No, no and yes. I don’t dislike mornings, but they aren’t my best time to work. I prefer to move slowly into the day and work best in the evenings. It probably doesn’t help that I have to get up at 4:30 to get ready for work and I’m usually in bed by 9:30. Not the best schedule for a night owl like me. Happily I’m very adaptable.

Imagine this. It's your day off. You don't have any dishes to wash, no blog post to write and your
latest novel is in the hands of beta readers so all you have to do is wait for some feedback. (I
know this is a ludicrous fantasy as there's alway more to be done, but go with me for a sec).
What's your ideal way to spend this free moment in time?

Sitting with Daryl, both of us reading a book with a couple of bottles glasses of wine beside us. We have spent many happy hours this way. I know, it’s sappy, but sometimes we look up at each other and smile, finding such pleasure in such moments. We’re very compatible that way.

Sappy, sure, but I like a good dose of sap. Can you think of one major thing you've learned about self-publishing since you started on this journey?

Yes. It’s hard work, but there are a lot, and I mean a lot, of rewards. One unexpected pleasure has been in meeting so many other Indie authors such as you.

Nice of you to say! If you could have a do-over in the process, what might that be?

I honestly don’t think there’s anything I would do over. I believe in the importance of learning from every experience. If I hadn’t gone through this, I wouldn’t have learned as much as I have. It has been challenging, but fun. I’m looking forward to all the new experiences and each new milestone as an author. The reviews have been one of the greatest parts so far. There’s nothing more rewarding for an author than when a reader gets excited about your book.

Brenda, I completely agree and on behalf of your readers, I want to thank you for talking with me!

You can connect with Brenda at her website,  A Snake In Paradise is Brenda Sedore's debut novel and you can pick it up everywhere including Amazon.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

What the %$#! is 'genre' anyway?

I'm taking part in a fun writing exercise with independent author and all round fantastic woman, Maria Savva. She's the author of Second Chances and, clearly, from our project, she's one prolific writer.

We're over at and getting a number of hits from people following along as we build a story together. It's been a blast: on a whim, Darcia Helle (another talented scribe) suggested we write a story about a nasty book reviewer who gets what's coming to him by way of the authors tarnished by his powerful, widely-read reviews.

Maria and I took up the challenge and have been writing for a little over a week. An interesting point to note is that we have had only had a handful of conversations via email and none of them are about the story. We didn't make a pact or anything but I think we're both having fun just getting out of the way when the other gets a turn.

The story has come through some interesting twists to where it is today. The pattern emerged that Maria would write a chapter and leave it open and then I would return when I had some time and write the next chapter. Sometimes we try to stump the other but, so far, no one has dropped the ball on any of the twists or surprises.  Visitors and members seem to be enjoying it and that's a great feeling for anyone who produces anything meant to be shared.

Another interesting thing (among many) comes from the fact that Maria and I are much different writers. You can tell from the different way we approach this story that we probably read different kinds of books and, therefore, are pulled to different characters, events and styles. One of us might write a very exciting scene where the characters are doing all kinds of scheming and then the other might change gears entirely and throw some sad and poignant backstory at the reader to mix it up. It's not unlike the manic right-and-left brain battles one writer will have on his own project, but it's so extreme here because there's more than one mind doing the heavy lifting.

I think one of the most telling things is if you look at our story in terms of genre. There's some romance, some noir, doses of black comedy, crime drama, some interesting dramatic tension, some harsh reality, and (lately!) some almost bizarro comic stuff.

What surfaces is an interesting melting pot. We move from genre to genre in what appears to be a smooth fashion, but really, it's likely that only our subconscious writing instincts are guiding us -- it should be noted that we are not editing as we go. This is entirely first draft stuff. I've headed back in to change two or three glaring type-os but other than that we are not skating backwards. Only forwards, towards the net.

It starts me thinking that the idea of genre really is getting blurred, particularly among the independent e-book authors out there. Why would any of us strive to have our stories in one genre when it is so accessible to borrow from everything?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Behind the Words

The Story of "Mr. Mean Man"

Every so often, I hope to post short anecdotes about the impetus behind some of the characters, backdrops or ideas expressed in my writing.  Today, it's a spark from my real life which ignited into the character known in the opening chapters of "On The Gathering Storm" simply as Mr. Mean Man.

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I was living on Vancouver Island and had headed out to catch the summer blockbuster in Colwood, at the same theater, in fact where Hannah heads off to see a flick in the opening chapter of the book.  So I was standing in line next to this older, rather twitchy looking man who had a bald crown and a long greasy mullet hanging down past the nape of his neck.  He was wearing torn and paint-spattered jeans and eyeing the teen girls hovering around the concession stand with a kind of leer that is not uncommon among middle-aged men but is still creepy.

For some reason, he decided to strike up a conversation with me and I learned that he had already seen a movie that day and had been in the men's room for the last forty-five minutes until he snuck out and hopped into the waiting spot to see a showing of one of the Spider Man movies.  That's when our paths crossed and I guess I wasn't appalled enough at his confession so he continued talking to me, with a snorting laugh, the kind that reminded me of that crazed, raspy one of Elmo Blatch's, Tommy's cellmate from The Shawshank Redemption.

He kept looking the girls up and down as he asked me where I was from and told me a bit of his story.  He grew up on the island and now had a place he shared with his elderly mother, a large, treed lot out by Thetis Lake, overlooking the water.  He was building a house by himself, from scraps he found and some he bought, and in the meantime, he was living in an RV trailer parked in the tall grass, off the road.

When he learned that I was at the theater alone, the same as he was, he invited me out to his "Place by the Lake," he called it.  I was relieved when the usher opened the doors to the auditorium and let us in.  I used the opportunity to head to the men's room myself, then pretended to get lost in the shuffle of kids and teens and their parents all bustling through the double doors with their popcorn bags and cokes.  After a cool splash of water on my face, I headed back to the auditorium and managed to find a seat away from the man in the paint-spattered jeans, in the last row of the theater.  I could see that he found a chair off to the side, a little further down to the front, where he wouldn't have to stand up to let anyone pass, but could continue to study the girls as they chatted and giggled.

There was something amiss about this strange fellow.  Though I doubt he had anything on his resume as nasty as Mr. Mean Man from my novel did, to this day, I still have a rigid formula whenever I go to a movie theatre.  I head straight for the very last row and I sit with my back to the wall...and a clear path to the exit.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

"He didn't get out a the cocka-doodee car!"

So I'm watching "Dexter" the other night, a show I really enjoy. The writing is killer.

Without ruining it, I'll say that there's a scene in this particular episode where Dexter is chasing after someone he has locked in a room. He goes inside and the captive manages to get past him, darts through the door and gets the upper hand by now locking him inside the same room where she's been locked up.

And she's off.

We think Dexter's doomed. How's he going to get out of this predicament?

Boom. No warning. No build up. He blasts through the door with the hard shove of a shoulder.

What? If it was that easy, don't we think for a second that the captive would have summoned the strength to do the same before all this went down. After all, she's fighting for survival and freedom. If anyone would have more incentive to break down a door, it would probably be her.

Like Kathy Bates does in the movie version of "Misery" I call it a cheat.  You may remember this rather fun scene:

Now, I won't hold it against the writers of Dexter. It's a good show and rarely has holes this big. I can suspend for a moment my disbelief and go with it because, after all, it's not a plot breakage, just a lock breakage. Nothing else hinges on this locked door. How's that for a pun?

Now, in literature, I see cheats all the time. A bestseller cheat that comes to mind is Jodi Picoult's book,  "My Sister's Keeper". She deliberately leads us astray by messing with the narrative. She teaches us the language of her story by speaking from the point of view of several characters. However, in the beginning we get a chunk of narrative that is not labeled and it leads us to believe that someone is dead by the end.  La-dee-da, we read a gut-wrenching, tear-inducing story and by the end, we aren't sure which sister will actually meet her maker. I would argue it's not sleight of hand here because the author deliberately broke the rules of her own narrative universe by not indicating who is the narrator for a key section. Again, for those of you who may want to read it, I won't go into great detail here but if you've read this book with scrutiny in your eye like I have, you may have felt the same.

Another big seller and big cheater made it to the big screen with Martin Scorcese at the helm. The director of the movie adaptation used Dennis Lehane's original book as source material and they both cheat in "Shutter Island". Yes, it's a turnabout story: what we think we're seeing turns out to as something different entirely. I would argue, however, that both the movie and the book lead us by deliberately showing items and scenery that aren't really there. By the end, when the narrative leads us back to the explanation of how we were duped, both writer and filmmaker neglect to cover the ground where items  were completely fabricated. You can turn things around like this but you can't fabricate out of thin air.

Now, in discussions with other readers and viewers, I've come across dissension, mostly from the folks who ascert, "Come on, J, it's just a book!" or "It's just a movie! You need to just enjoy it!" I lean towards agreement, but there's a part of me that can't let these things go, especially when crafting my own stories.

When most astute viewers or readers find a "plot hole" and move on, I simply can't drive on by. I need to stop, get my shovel and fill it in. It needs to make sense for me to keep driving down the path the storyteller is trying to build. Without that crucial connectivity of all moving parts, I just can't be wholly invested in a story. Not for long, anyway.

And if this storyteller has neglected to fill in their holes, I may just get up in the theatre like Annie Wilkes and shout, "He didn't get out a the cocka-doodee car!"

Friday, October 22, 2010

The One Lovely Blog Award

I was granted the award by Maria Savva author of Second Chances and a whole pile of other novels. Her Goodreads blog is a well-oiled machine with many frequent visitors.

Thank you, Maria!

The way the award works is that you accept the award, post it on your blog with the name of the person who has granted the award and his or her blog link.

Pass it to 15 other blogs you've recently discovered, and contact the bloggers to let them know they've been chosen.

It's a great way to introduce people to new blogs which they may find interesting.

I am able to share 5 and, in no particular order, they are as follows:

Writer Unboxed: A whole whack of talented folks

Brenda Sedore

Stacey Graham

Sean Patrick Reardon

Thursday, October 14, 2010

New Interview at Smashwords Reviewed

Author of the anthology Believable Lies and the upcoming comic thriller Rooster, reviewer and blogger Neil Crabtree has interviewed me for his popular website, Smashwords Reviewed.  We talk about getting no sleep, strategies for making ebook sales and how cold it gets in my studio, among a myriad of other topics. It's always a bit disconcerting for me to yak about myself but I do my best and Neil is a kind interviewer. Hopefully, readers will get some enjoyment out of our exchange and learn a bit about my writing and marketing processes.

Please check out the interview here and feel free to share it with folks you know who may be interested.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Write What Challenges You

In his essay, 13 Writing Tips, Chuck Palahniuk says to confront things in your writing:

Number Twelve: Write about the issues that really upset you. Those are the only things worth writing about. Life is too precious to spend it writing tame, conventional stories to which you have no personal attachment.

Well, do I confront things in my writing?

When I set about to write the beginnings of a novel which eventually became my current Smashwords bestseller, "On The Gathering Storm", I decided that I didn't want to address any real issues. I wanted to write something that avoided anything as serious as sexual assault, women's issues or the fundamentals of our contemporary capitalist society. What did I end up with? A book that looks at all of those things while spinning wildly through the fevered events of a young woman's violent abduction, mingled with troubling memories of her past -- all of it splashed with traces of these very same issues.

Is it a topical book? Yes, I think so. And will it challenge readers? To a degree, yes. And is it, in part, because the writing of it was such a challenge for me? It was bloody hard. I pulled hair and threw punches at myself. I stressed. I ranted and raved. Every single day of two thousand or so words in my initial draft, plus every excruciating day of editing and editing again was agony. I had loud conversations with myself: take it out! No! People won't like it! I don't care! It stays! You'll get roasted! It's part of the deal to get roasted! Argh!

I must admit: the writing of this story did challenge me, did force me to look at tough issues, ones that I wasn't necessarily familiar with, ones that I had no firm opinion on in some instances. And I needed to discover how I felt about them to write about them more effectively. This self-discovery was some of the hardest back and forth I've done on any writing project to date.

Was I scared tackling some of these things, looking at them through the eyes of my female protagonist even though I could have garnered serious criticism for the effort? Absolutely. Would I do it again? I say I wouldn't because the act of putting the words down was at times so incredibly difficult. But in my current writing, I'm doing it all over again: tackling two more big issues, gun violence and religion, even though I have a strong aversion to these topics. I wouldn't sit down with a stranger at a dinner party and discuss my feelings on some of these topics, so why do I feel the need to break ground on them in my fiction?

I think, for me, it goes back to the same sentiment expressed by Palahniuk. A book is an infinitely better read because it tackles hard ideas. And if I'm not being challenged, as the writer, I grow bored. And a bored writer is a material component for a disastrous final book.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What creates suspense?

Years ago, a film-maker friend of mine told me he wanted to try something radically different with his next project: he wanted to shoot a story that had absolutely no conflict.

He told me he didn't want to have a boy-meets-girl-then-loses-girl-love-story or a man-robs-bank-to-provide-for-his-family morality play or anything else that showed person A coming up against person B or obstacle C or life-changing circumstance D.

I thought about it for a bit, concluding that it definitely would have been unique among popular films at the time, but also would have been maddeningly boring. It might have made a somewhat interesting, avant garde music video done the right way, but it most assuredly wouldn't be a story. Conflict, and by association, suspense, is the very core of a good story. Without it, there is nothing to read, view or listen to that has any real narrative value.

And, it doesn't really matter whether your medium is film, music or literature, holding the audience in your hand and doling out to them enough to keep them glued to your tale, but not so much that they're walking away, is the true test of a good bit of storytelling…and my definition of suspense.

You can write in a horror or suspense genre or you can be entrenched in serious drama, but if you're doing it right, there will always be some level of suspension. Your words are the bridge from the beginning of the story to the other side of a great chasm. How you use them keeps the bridge from falling and the reader held aloft, far above the churning waters, but close enough to feel the spray when its white waters crash on the rocks. The danger of falling needs to always be present, even if it's not a dangerous kind of story -- even if it's only a story about two lovers who are twenty years apart in age.

There, that's suspense. It might not be huge, or life-threatening, but everyone in the room can put up their hand and say that they could foresee some difficulty in that: a man in his twenties, a woman in her forties, the two of them still mad with passion for each other. Roll cameras. And. Action!

I look at suspense in fiction and I say it's well-done if it meets two criteria.

First, has the author created an expectation that something is very wrong?

And, if not very wrong, then maybe it is currently sitting at "not quite right" and he is presently building-building-building with each major "moment" in the story to that spot of being very wrong. If so, tighten the straps and release the button on the drip bag next to your gurney. Things will get pulled out of proportion. And they should.

Good authors do "wrong" very well and the tricks employed come across as natural, so, basically, not as tricks at all. The concept of "building" is also key here. You want to see something amiss right out of the gate, but you also want room to grow the feelings of unease in the opening forty pages of a story. It should rise like the crescendo of a classical piece of music, and, contrary to what some may say, it should build at a predictable rate.

A solid current example of this in pop fiction is the readily available excerpt from Stephen King's new story collection, Full Dark, No Stars. The story is "A Good Marriage" and the snippet is here.

Now, I won't ruin it for you if you haven't read it. Go ahead, if you're curious. I'll wait. There. Neat, huh? Obviously I don't know where this story is going. And I don't want to. But what he's done is a very solid, very suspenseful piece. King is obviously very good at this. I don't need to remind any of you that he's one of the reigning masters, but I don't know if this story will wind up being good in the end. Who knows, right? Not until the final sentence. But at this moment, it illustrates my point very nicely. No one is clinging to the edge of a cliff in a thunderstorm. No one is holding a knife to my throat and threatening to cut. But I'm suspended, nonetheless. I want to keep reading and find out what the bloody hell this wife has found in the garage she shares with her husband.

Second, does the author create a world where we, the readers, do the opposite of "suspending our disbelief?"

The reader needs to believe that what is happening could happen, may have happened, will happen, or, in fact, happens every single day in the world that he calls home. This is done through impeccable research and staying true to what most reasonable people would believe they would do in a similar situation, given the same facts. Even if it's science fiction or dark horror with strange things making scheduled visits in the dark of the night (read my free short novel, Shed, for more of this kind of weirdness), the world should be recognizable, either by its physical make-up or by its characters.

The above example by King gives a good dose of what I mean here, too. Anyone who's ever been, married--even for five minutes--will "get" what King is saying about these two people, their habits, their foibles, there angst and their love. Colliding and sparking and retreating over the course of time, these two people are married. Plain. Simple. Married. And the "realness" of it shows in every sentence. With a set up like this, how can we not believe whatever is about to come next, even if it is at once off the wall and, well, unbelievable?

So my bottom line for feeling appropriately suspended while I read a book (in any genre, not just the suspense genre) or while I watch a tv show, a flick or the top of the pizza box are these two ideas: Is something itching that spot behind my eyes, making me think twice about whether this should be happening? And. Do I truly believe I'm reading or seeing something in the real world as I've come to know it?

Could this really be happening?

And, if it could, then I will immediately be freaked out when the bed moves under me, even if it's only an inch.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Where can you download my work?

My full-length debut novel, "On The Gathering Storm" -- along with the rest of my currently published catalogue -- is now available directly from a number of online stores.  If you find my stories at any other websites than these, they're not legal and I'd love it if you let me know about it!  Below is a listing of certified sellers followed by the number of ratings at that particular location.

Kobo Books 5 stars out of 5 (12)

Amazon 5 stars out of 5 (5)

Barnes & Noble 5 stars out of 5 (15)

Smashwords 5 stars out of 5 (45+)

If anybody has a buying experience to share (good or bad!) from any of these ebook stores, or would like to rat out a website who is selling an unauthorized or stolen copy of one of my stories, I'd love to be in the know.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Morgan Freeman Should Narrate My Life

Not that he needs the help, but I have a genius idea for Morgan Freeman's publicist.

Since the actor has narrated nearly every piece of film since The Shawshank Redemption, and he has played everything from a convict to God himself, I figure he should hold a contest to cement his status as the world's most popular go-to guy for voiceovers. How should the contest roll? That's a detail I'll let some young, eager intern figure out.

But the winner gets a small film crew to follow him around for a week. Some hollywood editor-types shrink it down to a manageable hour or hour and a half suitable for the web. I write the copy. Morgan narrates.


A couple of excerpts from my example pitch (in Mr. Freeman's world-famous tone, of course):

"Jason woke to the screams of a toddler. It was five past five. A full hour and forty minutes before his alarm clock should have woken him. He rolled over and slammed his fist on the clock for spite, rolled out of bed and stepped barefoot onto the large peg of a wooden train car..."
"Now, when Jason was a boy, he dreamed of writing. Of waking up eager to get his thoughts down on paper and share his insight with the world.  Not drinking himself to sleep with a cheap box of wine after an evening of not writing a single word. That's right. Not. One. Word."

The name for the contest? "MorganMe". Double boom.

You can thank me with cash, Mr. Freeman's Publicist.

Write a blurb that Mr. Freeman could narrate about YOUR life and post it in the comments below. Everyone with a solid effort gets a copy of my ebook, "On The Gathering Storm".

Friday, September 3, 2010

Honesty, It's Such a Lonely Word

As I see it, there are three kinds of truth-telling when it comes to writing.

1. There's narrative truth-telling. I'll come back to this in another post, but this is essentially the insides of the story. How much of what you're being told as a reader is true or bent or completely fabricated. Is your narrator trustworthy? Or does he have an agenda all his own? Are you--as a writer now--intentionally misdirecting your audience for a greater gain? To a lesser degree, this area can address whether the writing is good. For example, do you have anachronisms present in the story? Are there hover cars flying around 18th century England? And, is this intentional for a purpose that will be revealed? There's some interesting stuff here so I shall return to it another day here on the Farthest Reaches.

2. There's a character truth-telling, in which we may, as writers, define characters that do not know their own truth or are, unintentionally lying to themselves. There may be a man who thinks he is a stand-up husband and father, but in reality he's a liar, a cheat and not very comfortable in his own skin. He may falsify records at his job or see hookers on his lunch break but, outwardly, and in the script of the story, he holds his head high and acts as if he is a pillar of the community. There is some trickery here because an audience may disagree with the author's judgement call, or miss the disconnect entirely if not done well. Now, whether the author should be judge and jury, that's another matter up for debate, isn't it?

3. Lastly, and this is the one I'll address in more depth today, is the matter of authorship truth-telling.

How much of my story reveals something about me? And am I comfortable with that? I've been writing fiction for over a dozen years now and I still struggle with this. Not because I worry about being honest, but because there's a temptation to pull in the reigns a bit or sanitize things for the protection of the reader. Some of you are undoubtedly saying, "No! You must let the story be what it is!" And this is true. I have uttered the words, "Story is king" on a number of occasions and I believe that it is a truth of the highest order.


There's a bit of creeping doubt, isn't there? It's more than tidying things up for a reader, it's about the closeness of the material to the writer himself, to his life, to the lives of his loved ones. If I write a story about a pedophile who lusts after young boys and the writing of this character is so sharp and believable, will my readers wonder, even subconsiously, if their dear author has the same affliction? What would this do to me if eyebrows were raised and how much scrutiny might come about from it?

Plus there's this: A main character in a novel has a really bad drinking problem and, as a plot device, it pushes him to make a major mistake. He climbs into a car and hits a toddler on a winding suburban road. Ack! What if I wake up one day and realize the plot device was a fake, but I have the problem with alcohol which I was ascribing to Joe Character? Would I fly into a rage? Would I be embarrassed? Would I be forced to look at a character flaw in my*self* that I didn't want to see?

If I write a fight scene between a husband and wife that is so razor-thin with the emotions of such a compressed moment, will readers wonder if my own marriage is on the chopping block? Especially if the fight was taken from my real life?

Now readers are an astute bunch. You've got to assume they are smart, smart, smart. And all of my readers have proven to be incredibly on-the-ball when it comes to "getting" what I'm putting out there. Any one who's married for any length of time will know that husbands and wives fight. And they fight hard sometimes. Through it, of course, they learn how to fight but sometimes they learn how to cut. The bone comes exposed and the nerves are tingling and it can feel like life or death. But it doesn't necessarily point to bigger problems. And it doesn't have to be the end of the world.  Our genetics makes us mad with vulgarity and hateful things to spit out, but it doesn't mean we are packing the car in the next instant and driving two hours in the rain to get away.

But there's still that niggling bit of doubt? You read some writers' stuff and you sit back and say, Hmmm. What neuroses is this madball writer sharing with me today?

<>   <>   <>

In another post, I will delve into some specific examples from my writing that you may have read, anecdotes from "On the Gathering Storm", my current novel, "Shed", another novella that is turning out to be rather endeared by the people who've read it, and a couple glimpses into my forthcoming novel, "Thalo Blue" where I'll talk about my aversion to guns. Yes. GUNS!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Avoiding the Time Suck™ (And Other Philosophies For Life)

As some of you may recall, I've been enjoying (!) the throes of home improvement this summer. While trying to get readers to "discover" my stories that are out there on the web, plus working full time, I've also been finishing the entire basement level of our house (and doing much of the work myself).  It's been a nearly ten month fiasco of ups and downs, hiring some good people to help, hiring some bad people to help, discovering problems, working around them, getting frustrated, starting over a few times.

What has this meant?

Well, for starters, it's been hell on my efforts to read, write and market my books. And for seconds, it's meant little time for the things I value even more than that: time with the family.

I thought there might be some value in me talking a bit about the scales of importance in my life. Obviously, my little one and my lovely wife are at the forefront of importance. Immediately following that is my desire to get my writing in front of as many people as possible without sacrificing the next tier on my ladder, which is: the basic necessities of life. Shelter, food, safety. You know the drill. It's all those things we need for survival for ourselves and the people we love.

And none of that comes without spending time on a job or career. I value my career beyond its intrinsic value to provide the necessities of life. I'm very good at what I do and I'm getting better at it all the time, but it is, as you know, part of a much larger balancing act.

This is where commitments trade off positions on the Ladder of Life momentarily to get the hard stuff out of the way and into a more comfortable state of Being Taken Care Of.

Let's look at the example from my life: finishing the Basement Ordeal.  How important are the home improvements when you look at them relative to everything else? They are third in line, right?  Way behind family, writing and the job. So they are the least important in the big big picture. Right. Right?! But why then, do they trump writing, reading and marketing of me as an author right now?

Home improvements move around on the scale because the rewards are so high.  At least, that's how I view it.  Finishing a previously unused basement into fresh, new living space offers a multitude of things to me.  The improved organization of all our space will help me relax and reduce stress, thus giving my mind freedom to wander and come up with fanciful worlds to write about, time to decompress and truly think about things.  Of course, there will be increased functionality or usefulness of the space: I have built a new studio space down there to allow me room to roam, write, work on painting and music. Plus these are enhancements that make the home a more appealing space, like flower beds, clean, well-managed lawn, decks and fences. Sale value of my home, should I need to move, just went way up based on the calibre of work here. And I save a lot (and I mean a LOT) of cash doing much of the work myself. I know every square inch of that renovated space and feel much stronger in my abilities and comfort level with tools.

But the Time Suck associated with home improvements is high because I own very few of the pricey niche tools necessary to do complex projects so I had to research techniques and tool rentals. Plus, my inexperience or newness to a particular task meant it would take me a lot longer to complete a task than it would a professional. Finding a professional can take a huge chunk of time because of researching their skills, scheduling, coordinating the arrival of materials, dealing with bad work, dealing with poor delivery (like the time a load of doors meant patches to walls and ceilings when the "professional" delivery people bashed into things more than the bumper cars at the local fair.)

Near the end of such a major project (thankfully, I am very near the end --phew!), I can't help but step back and look at the value-for-time relationship of such an undertaking. Ultimately, was it worth it for me? I would say yes, but with some regrets. My son is young and I've missed too many weekends at home with him when his mother took him to the park or the pool or the lake and I couldn't join because I needed to wait on a delivery of trim or get down on my hands and knees to install flooring. I have not been able to savour some of his childhood moments and those are the regrets that such a thing carry.

Essentially, when looking at my Ladder of Life, I have decided on three main statements which will help me determine the importance of things...and how much time I wish to spend on them.
1. For me, being rich in time has more value than being rich in money.
2. Finding/Making time to do the things I enjoy is tantamount: being with my boy, writing.
3. Avoiding things that offer few rewards: too much work at the expense of anything I cherish.

What's on your Ladder of Life?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Now Available on Amazon Kindle

"On The Gathering Storm" is now available for purchase and download onto your Amazon Kindle reading device. See it or get it here!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

J Goes To The Movies: 127 Hours

I follow film in the same way I follow literature -- tagging along with writers and directors who do good work.  Well, the new film by Danny Boyle who brought us "Slumdog Millionaire" and "28 Days" and "The Beach" looks, from the trailer at least, as if it's going to be well worth the price of admission when it opens in November. Only thing is, I can't wait that long.  Seriously, you should check out the trailer. If the movie is half as well-made and interesting as this thing, it will be a really good flick.

It's the first trailer I've seen in several months that literally begs me to see it. It's now on my must see list.

Others that have piqued my interest are "Black Swan" from Darren Aronofsky and "Never Let Me Go" from Mark Romanek and Alex Garland, both set for the fall.  What are y'all wanting to see at the theatre?

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Book Teaser: Long or Short?

You readers out there: when you come across the description of a new book, either on the web, on your e-reader, or standing in the store and reading a book jacket, how long and detailed do you like it to be?

Do you want to know all the major plot details or would you rather have a teaser and discover the details as you read?

I have heard many movie-goers complain about movie trailers which show spoilers or major plot details about the movie itself. As we all know, sometimes the ads for a movie can contain all the funny or dramatic moments and the movie may only serve as joiner between those big moments. 

Years ago I remember attending a pre-release screening of a horror movie called "The Relic" starring Penelope Ann Miller and Tom Sizemore. Because it was not in wide-release I hadn't seen a poster, an ad or even a short teaser about the movie. I didn't know if it was a horror flick or an Indiana Jones-type action movie (with a title like "The Relic" it could have been Angelina Jolie on an archaeological dig with robots, for all I knew). What I do remember is the sheer joy in NOT KNOWING A THING about where the story was headed.  I had no residual memory from a trailer which allowed me to say, "Oh, that critter is going to jump out at us. And that train car is going to explode." It was pure bliss for me, but I do know that many (most?) people would rather know a good lot about a movie or a book before they A) pay for it and B) spend their time on it.

Here's an example of a synopsis for a friend's novel, Vincent Zandri's popular suspense story, "The Remains" which is currently available just about everywhere.  It's a successful book, currently a Kindle bestseller at and the outline below appears to give a clear picture of what's in store for the reader.

Thirty years ago, teenager Rebecca Underhill and her twin sister Molly were abducted by a man who lived in a house in the woods behind their upstate New York farm. They were held inside that house for three horrifying hours, until making their daring escape. Vowing to keep their terrifying experience a secret in order to protect their mother and father, the girls tried to put the past behind them. And when their attacker was hunted down by police and sent to prison, they believed he was as good as dead. Now, it s 30 years later, and with Molly having passed away from cancer, Rebecca, a painter and art teacher, is left alone to bear the burden of a secret that has only gotten heavier and more painful with each passing year. But when Rebecca begins receiving some strange anonymous text messages, she begins to realize that the monster who attacked her all those years ago is not dead after all. He s back, and this time, he wants to do more than just haunt her. He wants her dead.

And here's the synopsis for my own book, "On The Gathering Storm" which is available in all the major e-formats. I think we can agree that this one is shorter, by about a third, and that it displays less specific information about the plot.

Hannah Garretty is snatched from her bohemian life on the island and vanishes into a forest lair where unspeakable things have happened…and will continue to happen. We catch visceral glimpses from before the abduction, when she last came face to face with her own mortality. But can Hannah find a scrap of light in the absolute darkness of her ordeal?

I don't know that one is particularly stronger than the other but I do believe that story teasers are an art form, much like movie trailers demand their own set of unique skills. What do you think? Does one make you want to read the story more than the other? Is length a big factor or is it more about what is said in the synopsis and less about how much is said? Sound off!
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