June 9, 2011
What if you were in your car, alone with your small child, and you came upon an emergency scene? Would you stop to help? What if, while you are trying to assist a victim of an accident or mugging, you leave your young child alone in the car, thinking he or she would be safe. What if, instead of help, the call to 911 brought a terrifying, sinister result? Who is the monster that, in the midst of the chaos and confusion of the scene, slips in and steals the innocent children leaving, behind no trace for authorities?
This is the premise of the new suspense novel, Cruelty to Innocents: The 911 Abductions
, by CK Webb and DJ Weaver, a mother-daughter writing team. The book is the first in a trilogy. I managed to catch up with the two during their blog tour in promotion of the book, and they were happy to answer the following questions.
Weldon Burge (WB)
: What inspired you to write Cruelty to Innocents (aside from the obvious wealth and fame)?
CK Webb (CK)
: LOL!!! Isn't wealth & fame enough? Actually writing has always been a big part of who I am, but I lost sight of that fact for a great many years—took a few, big kicks in the pants to get me straightened out.
DJ Weaver (DJ)
: CK came to me, told me about this idea she had for a movie, and then gave me the spill. She asked if I wanted to help her write it as a book. Knowing that she is a one-finger pecker, I figured, if I didn't help, she would wear her index finder to a nub. So, I agreed.
: Talk about your writing process. Do you discuss a chapter at a time, and then assign one of you to write it? How does this work?
: We sit down together and toss ideas around until we have a good outline.
: We always discuss a chapter before diving into it, where it is heading and exactly the outcome we would like to see. Then, I handwrite a few thousand words.
: When she finishes a chapter, she dictates to me while I type. I add things along the way and 'flesh' out the story. We both review the draft until we have a chapter that suits us both.
February 23, 2011
A common question writers are asked is, "So, where do your story ideas come from?" Stephen King, on his official Web site, answered the question in this way: "I get my ideas from everywhere. But what all of my ideas boil down to is seeing maybe one thing, but in a lot of cases it's seeing two things and having them come together in some new and interesting way, and then adding the question 'What if?' 'What if' is always the key question."
I totally agree. Ideas come winging at me like missiles from anywhere and everywhere--overheard snippets of conversations, newspaper items, TV commercials, even graffiti on a city wall! There are so many ideas that I couldn't possibly write all the stories that occur to me. I have notes everywhere, jotted in moments of hot inspiration. Writer's block? What's that? The trick is just being open to whatever occurs to you, and then asking that magic question, What if?
January 11, 2011
If you know any writers, you’ve probably heard something like the following: “I started to write a scene in my novel, pretty much following my outline. But then one of the characters went into a totally different direction. Before long, the characters ending up writing the scene for me, in a way I never expected. And it’s better because of it!”
Non-writers scratch their heads at this. Is this some form of magic? Is there really a muse that usurps the writer’s brain and writes the story? Is this something like the cobbler’s elves?
I was just working on a chapter in my police procedural novel, tentatively titled Harvester of Sorrow
. In the chapter, the body of a child is discovered in a remote area of a county park, and the murder may be related to similar murders in a nearby city. This brings up a case of jurisdiction (county vs. city police departments) that I hadn’t considered earlier, and this required that I create a new character, a detective from the county PD. The character was originally only a walk-on, but I quickly realized he was a more significant character, and he changed the chapter as I wrote it. He will appear in subsequent chapters.
The January 2011 issue of Writer’s Digest
includes an interview with Harlan Coben, best-selling author of numerous thrillers such as Tell No One
, Just One Look
, Long Lost
, Hold Tight
, and Caught
. During the interview, WD asked, “So do your characters ever surprise you—do they become real to you in that way?” He answered, “Oh, they surprise me all the time. … I don’t like it when people make it seem more magical. It’s not. It’s work. It can be wonderful, and it can be thrilling, but it’s not really magical.”
When I first read this, I honed in on Coben’s claim, “It’s work.” I know what he means. Characters may seem to take on lives of their own, but only after the writer has given great thought to those characters, has worked with them in the story, has fully developed them. Maybe, as a writer, you’ve learned something more about the character as a scene progresses, and the character moves into that new area as your broaden that character’s role in the story. Magic? I don’t think so. It comes from hard work, from the writer being intimate with the characters he/she has created.
Maybe, as the characters have matured in your mind, they no longer fit the outline you originally devised, simply because it forces them to act out of character. This may be a surprise, that a character may go through door B instead of door A as you originally envisioned. But, it’s really no surprise at all—you’re subliminal thoughts were headed in that direction as the character was being developed. No magic. Just hard work.
When characters take over a story, it’s almost always a good and desired turn of events. As a writer, go with the flow. Think of it as a reward for the work you’ve already put into your work-in-progress!
December 30, 2010
Across Stockholm, the power grid goes crazy and everyone in the city develops a blinding headache. When it all abruptly ends, the recently deceased—in hospitals, morgues and graveyards—suddenly awaken. So begins John Lindqvist’s superb, horror novel, Handling the Undead
The story follows three different families that must learn to “handle” their now “reliving” loved ones.
- David Zetterberg’s adoring wife, Eva, is killed in a horrendous accident and her mangled body comes back to life in the hospital. But is she still his wife and loving mother of his young son, or something else?
- Gustav Mahler, upon hearing the dead live again, digs up his grandson from his grave. He steals the child away and then goes on the run from the authorities with the boy’s mother (his daughter). Despite using autism training, the reliving child is slow to respond and clearly not quite human.
- Elvy’s dead husband, Tore, appears at her front door and immediately walks to their bedroom. He starts shuffling through papers on a desk, “pretending to be alive”. After the authorities take Tore away, Elvy has an epiphany and finds her religious calling. But it is not what she expects.
Like Lindqvist’s debut novel, Let the Right One In
, Handling the Undead
breaks many molds. If you’re expecting brain-munching zombies and fast-moving, bloody carnage, this book may not be for you. While there are plenty of gruesome, creepy scenes (and a particularly disturbing sequence involving a pet rabbit), the horror here is deeply emotional, often heart wrenching. In fact, the core theme of the novel is the love for family and what extreme measures we would take to preserve that love. This is sophisticated horror that takes the genre to new and exciting levels.
(This review was also published in the January 2011 issue of Suspense Magazine
. The magazine also includes my interview with Jeremy Schipp, which appeared earlier on my blog--check it out
August 9, 2010
I've always been a fan of themed anthologies, particularly collections of horror, suspense, and mystery stories. It's not surprising, then, that I enjoy writing short fiction in the same genres.
One of my stories, "Welcome to the Food Chain," was recently published by Static Movement in the anthology Don't Tread On Me: Tales of Revenge & Retribution
. The story is about a hit man, a particularly nasty couple, and crabs caught fresh from the Chesapeake Bay. The story has never been published anywhere else, so I was happy it finally found a home!
But mine is only one of 30 stories in this fine anthology. You'll also find:
- "A Small Sand Storm" by Kenneth Goldman—offers a different take on the bully-on-the-beach, kick-sand-in-your-face confrontation
- "Angela's Rising" by Kevin Brown—a rape victim who takes revenge a little too far
- "Inheritance" by Matt Carter—has a Saturday afternoon "Creature Feature" feel to it
- "The Impact" by Jim Bronyaur—a disturbing attempt at double revenge, involving adultery and speeding cars
- "The Shock Value of Bad Magic" by Mark Anthony Crittenden—a party magician's act goes horribly awry, leading to a bloodbath
- "Good Morning" by Jessy Marie Roberts—an especially sadistic breakfast
One of my favorite stories in the anthology is "Wood Smoke" by the editor, Greg Miller. Short and supremely subtle, the story is about an old man who is semi-swindled out of his farmland by a conniving grandson, and Grandpa's sweet revenge in the end. I saw it coming, but it brought a smile to my face nonetheless.
There are some formatting issues and grammatical errors in the book, but the overall content is superb. As one of the writers included in this anthology, I'm very proud to share the pages with such a wide range of talent. Some stories are subtle, some slam you in the face. There's something here for everyone looking for vicarious thrills!
If you enjoy "tales of revenge and retribution," you can't go wrong with this selection of wonderful stories!
March 25, 2010
I’m attending the Writers at the Beach conference at Rehoboth Beach, DE, held at the Atlantic Sands Hotel right on the boardwalk overlooking the ocean. The first thing I did after checking in and going to my fourth-floor room was to open wide the balcony door and gaze out over the waves. It’s chilly and certainly not “beach weather”—but, man, that fresh ocean air is welcome in the lungs! There is definitely something calming, refreshing, maybe even primal about looking out over the ocean, water as far as the eye can see. (I’m sure the locals would say, “Sure, whatever.”)
I came for early registration (the workshops actually start tomorrow) and met Maribeth Fischer, author of the novel The Life You Longed For
, founder of the Rehoboth Beach Writer’s Guild
, and organizer of this annual conference. Quite a herculean task, judging from what I’ve seen so far. Kudos and thanks to Maribeth for pulling this all together.
Tonight, there was a “meet & greet” in the hotel restaurant for conference attendees. Light food, drinks, live music, and plenty of conversation. There are quite a few people here already! I met a couple, the Hagartys, who make a living selling “virtual land” on the Internet. Long story, but a fascinating one—they actually met long distance online and developed the business. Amanda is writing a fantasy novel. This is her first conference, and I think she’ll learn a lot this weekend to help her along.
I’m pretty sure I will, too! I’m looking forward to a great weekend of workshops and networking with fellow writers, editors, publishers, and agents.
March 11, 2010
Let me tell you a story--a history, actually--of a story.
Back in 2004, I decided to write a short story about a hitman, from the hitman's POV, that takes place in the Chesapeake Bay area. I ended up with a nasty little story titled "Welcome to the Food Chain." I had just sold a story, "Another Highway Fatality," to the Futures Mysterious Anthology Magazine
, and the editor at the time was pulling together an anthology. I sent along "Welcome to the Food Chain" and, after a slight rewrite, the editor accepted the story.
Then, about four months later, Futures Mysterious
folded its tent; the anthology would never be published. My story was homeless!
I threw "Food Chain" in a drawer for about a year, letting it "ripen." I do this at times so that I can, at some point, resurrect the story and examine it with different eyes. On second perusal, I thought the story still had legs. So, I rewrote it a bit more, then sent the story back to market. (more…)
August 20, 2009
The September 2009 issue of Writer's Digest
contains an interview with science fiction writer Cory Doctorow (who is one of the key authors now pushing for Creative Commons licensing to allow posting of free online versions of authors' works--but that's a discussion for another blog entry). Doctorow claims that many writers are heavily into potchking
, a Yiddish word for fiddling around instead of getting the job done. Poseur writers tend to talk about and daydream about writing, but rarely place butt in chair to actually do it. Then there are bona fide writers who will find every excuse imaginable not to write.
I have to admit, I've done my fair share of potchking over the years, particularly when it comes to writing a novel. (more…)