Edward Owen – Author

Monthly Archives: May 2013

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Blank Page-itis

Greetings from the 10 freeway in Los Angeles. It’s Thursday morning once again and my self imposed Friday morning blog deadline looms on the (darkened) horizon. That’s OK, it’s a nice segue into today’s topic. Thanks to my friend and fellow horror author Elizabyth Burtis for inspiring this post.

The Blank Page. Every writer faces it on a regular basis. We have to start somewhere, no matter the subject matter, genre or writing style. Empty notebook paper, plain white page staring back from the carriage of the typewriter (yep, some people still write that way) or, more commonly, the illuminated word processor screen, devoid of life; they all demand our attention as writers and often mock our attempts at our craft. So what’s a writer to do? If we are to complete our stories, we must certainly begin them, but there are days when the muse is uncooperative. Mine gets cranky without her morning coffee and is prone to pouting, hence the day job in the City of Angels (note to self: blog post on famous misnomers). There is an ongoing discussion on this topic on our writing group’s Facebook page. Hey, I take inspiration where I can get it.

Personally, I rarely have this problem…. (excuse me while I sing along to American Pie on the radio) … OK, I’m back. Oh yes, blank page. I have a file with about twenty story ideas in it, everything from short stories to entire novel series. Getting started isn’t that difficult. Staying on one project and finishing, that is a different matter. Current WIPs: Editing the final short story for a collection of six coming out in October, screenplay for a web series, managing editor for an ezine also launching in October (more on that in future blogs) and critiquing an anthology of horror stories. Oh, and this weekly blog post. It might sound like a lot to those who don’t write, but I know writers who blog every day. In fairness, few of them have full time jobs outside the home, but it is still an admirable work ethic. Some of them also finish three or four novels a year. And every one of them starts with a huge, blank space before the first thought is put down in black and white.

The process is different for every writer. Sometimes I get one small idea and just start writing about it and see where is goes. For me, dreams are a great source of inspiration. The Chronicles of Alcamene series will be five books eventually. The entire series story arc sort of popped into my head as I was waking up one morning. The first book, Gunn Sight, was finished in about six months. Admittedly, I did not have that one edited and I have no plans to do so. It is what it is. I’ve lost some momentum on that series, but it will be there if and when I get back to writing it. Book Two is started, so there is always hope. I have another novel idea that is a steam punk/supernatural/murder mystery/romance. I just wanted to see if I could combine all those genres into one story. I really like the idea and it might very well be my next project. Or maybe the idea that the sasquatches of the Pacific Northwest are a race of aliens that crash landed on Earth thousands of years ago. I never know where my mind is going next. I’ve been told that it’s far too small to be out running around on its own, but that doesn’t stop the ideas from flowing.

No, the blank page holds no fear for me. I will never live long enough to write all of the stories that I have bouncing around in my head. More arrive every day. I try to make sure I make a note of the good ones and file them away. The well may run dry one day and I want to be sure I have something about which to write. Until next week, Dear Reader, scary, inspiring dreams.

The Trouble with Zombies

As far as I can tell, zombies are the new reigning royalty of the horror world. Step aside vampires, move over werewolves, your fifteen minutes is up. You’ve had a good run and I’m sure your day will come again, but for now the moaning, groaning, dermally challenged, speech deprived rotting hordes are the stars of the moment. The best part is, they are unlikely to be part of some teen-angst love triangle made into a long, heinous series of crappy movies. Yeah!

But there are some inherent problems with our undead friends and I just have to address this. First, every story (well, most of them, exception noted below) that involves zombies starts with the cause. What made patient zero into a zombie? Rouge virus? Government experiment? A curse? Zombies are actually related to vampires in this respect, being corpses reanimated by voodoo magic or some other supernatural power. How about a strange meteor that strikes planet Earth and releases a noxious green cloud? Nature, science and the supernatural have all had their turns at creating zombies. And then we have The Walking Dead, where no one is really sure where the virus started, but now everyone has it and death brings zombification without the necessity of a bite. Bummer. I prefer to blame the Government; those boys in the underground bunkers are always tempting Mother Nature to rise up and smack the crap out of the Human Race. Maybe that’s what zombies are, a huge bitch slap from the universe. “Got your attention yet?” the universe would seem to be saying. Go ahead, I’m paying attention now.

zombies

“Hi, we’re hungry and you’re lunch!”

 OK, I’ll concede the means of creating the first zombie. Let’s say that the Government was experimenting with a drug to make soldiers more resilient on the battlefield and it got away from them. The opening chapter of Stephen King’s “The Stand” is a good example of this type of problem. So we have zombie #1, or patient zero in terms of an epidemic. Maybe we even have several dozen at once. Here’s where I start to have a problem with the storyline. In almost every movie, zombies are slow moving hordes that overpower the still-living with their sheer numbers. But what if there were only twenty zombies in a group? C’mon, really? Darryl, Rick and Carl (Walking Dead reference) could clean up that mess without breaking a sweat. They’d be back in time for lunch. At some point, there were only a few zombies and why didn’t the military just come in and shoot them all? Or blow up the section of town they infested? Now, grant you, if there were some kind of space spores that floated down through the atmosphere and infected most of the population at once, then we would be overrun in no time. But that’s usually not how it happens. Zombie #1 bites human and human turns into zombie #2 and so on. Sort of like Amway without the laundry soap. If a pro football receiver got bitten, he would go from being a lightening fast, physically superior human to a stumbling, drooling, moaning animated corpse. I could outrun him with my bad fifty year old knees. So how, exactly to these slow moving, non thinking creatures get the better of humanity? I mean, we’ve shown that we can kill anything and everything, including blue whales, the largest creature that ever lived… in the ocean. We can’t take out zombies? You can walk right up to them and blow their heads off with a shotgun. Hell, you can kill a zombie with a shovel or a crowbar (usually). They’re just not that hard to kill, they’re not smart and they don’t move fast. How the hell do they take over the world? This is problem one.

Problem two. Zombies are always hungry. They eat anything alive, all the time. That’s why they are such a threat to us. We’re lunch to them. After a while, when zombies have taken over the world, there are fewer and fewer humans, dogs, cows, whatever, left to eat. So how do we end up with so many zombies in the first place? Why don’t they eat the people they bite? I mean, eat them up completely, leaving nothing but bones, if that. Skeletons cannot be zombies, they don’t have any muscles. So if the zombies eat people, who turns into the other zombies? Only the people who get bitten and then get away. If you’re fast enough to get away, how do you get bitten in the first place? So now I have problem #2, why don’t zombies eat everyone they bite and not make more zombies? Let’s add to that, why don’t zombies eat each other? I can’t imagine they’re all that picky about what they stick in their mouth. The movies always show them chowing down after they’ve killed their victims. You’d think zombies would go for each other; slow moving prey, doesn’t have weapons. Just have to make sure your lunch doesn’t eat you first. I don’t get it.

The Walking Dead is one of the best shows ever put on television. Ever. (See my post here about why I don’t watch it anymore.) The zombies play second fiddle to the normal humans, but they are very well done. The only thing better is the inventive ways Darryl & Co. take them out. My personal favorite is cutting their head in half with a machete… or removing it with a katana. My personal feeling about the suspension of disbelief aside, the animated undead will be with us for some time to come, probably forever. I strongly suggest we all work on our cardio, just in case. And watch Zombieland a few times. And take notes. Until next week Dear Reader, scary zombie dreams.

Why NOT Meeting Readers’ Expectations is Sometimes Necessary

As authors, we have a unique relationship with you, Dear Reader. While the choice of words, plot, character and everything between the pages is ours to make, you have the ultimate vote on whether or not our work meets your standards. Given that word of mouth can make or break the success of our books, you would think we would give you everything your heart desires. The guy gets the girl (or the girl gets the girl), the bad guys gets dispatched or at the very least arrested and they all live happily ever after (except the bad guys). We know that’s one of the reasons you read. Your fantasy world, your escape is subject to our the mood of our muse. (Mine is rather cranky before she’s had her morning coffee.) So why on Earth would we ever choose to kill off main characters and give you anything but the picture perfect happy ending? Because that’s our job. Bear with me while I explain.

As the father of three boys, the word “No” has come out of my mouth more than any other word in the English language, at least any I would put into print. When they were little, it was every other word. It was my job to guide them, nurture them and keep them alive. ‘No’ becomes a necessity. As a writer, my job is to elicit a reaction from you, Dear Readers. The stronger and more visceral the reaction, the better. The path to that reaction is not always a pretty one, especially in the horror genre. Even happy endings tend to leave a mark on our characters and sometimes the reader as well. Example: In Stephen King’s “The Shining”, the end of the story finds Wendy Torrance enjoying a sunny climate with her son Danny and Dick Hollarann (no, he does NOT die, they changed it for the crappy movie). They have been through Hell and back. They are alive but the experience has left scars, both mental and physical. And poor Jack, Wendy’s husband, overwhelmed by the spirits of the Overlook Hotel, did not make it. Yes, you breathe a sigh of relief that she is safe, but you share in her loss of her husband and probably a sizeable chunk of her sanity. Not pretty.

Novels are a self contained world. There is a beginning, a conflict and a resolution. At the end of the book, the characters go their separate ways and are no longer our concern. Unless they are part of a series. Now the stakes are much higher. Book series are almost the norm these days. They’re good for the writer; create characters once, reuse them, develop a following, sell more books. They are good for readers too. You get involved in the lives of the characters, get to know and like (or despise them, as the case may be), share in their triumphs and tragedies. As the dashing hero continues his adventures, writer and reader travel together on a journey of discovery. They become fantasy friends. And then we authors have the nerve to kill them off, or, at the very least, injure them in some horrific fashion. Tales of readers screaming in protest as our latest paperback goes flying across the room (an advantage of paper books over electronic ereaders) brings a smile to our face. Yes, we love you to death, Dear Reader, but sometimes we are going to do things you don’t like. Life is like that. We have a plan, so please be patient and hear us out. Our apologies to any pets or family members who may have been in the line of fire. Maybe the cover should include a warning label. Until next time, Dear Reader, scary dreams.

Terror and Texas Hold ‘Em

After writing, playing poker is one of my favorite pastimes. I even watch the games on TV. My wife can’t understand why I do this, but I find it fascinating. The gutsy bluffs, the heartbreaking suckouts and Lady Luck’s fickle moods keep me riveted to the screen. Considering my ADD, that’s quite an accomplishment. Admittedly, I’m often writing as I watch. This process led me to create “The GAME”, a novella about a terrifying game of Texas Hold Em.

The main character Edward Terraneau ends up in a game against the top pros in Vegas as well as the evil Darius Wellington. The stakes are life or death not for the players but for their loved ones whom Darius has kidnapped as well.

The idea just popped into my head one day while I was watching the World Series of Poker. I root for the players the way some people root for sports teams. I have been known to yell at the TV when I see a player making a move I know they’re going to regret.The GAME now available

The GAME now available

In sports, fans don’t know what the other team is going to do. Televised poker games show the cards the players are holding. Yeah, sometimes it’s like watching a train wreck happen in slow motion. I’m pretty good at predicting what players will do with a given hand, but I get surprised all the time. And that’s why I keep watching. A player may have the best hand, but he doesn’t know that for sure most of the time. Even when a player has ‘the nuts’ (best possible hand given the cards on the table) it’s still exciting to see how they try to lure the other players into betting more chips and getting the pot to grow.

The characters in The GAME are based loosely on the pros I’ve watched on TV. Daniel Negranu is one of my favorite players and he was the inspiration for the character of Edward Teraneau. If you watch poker very much, you will recognize other players in the in personalities of the characters. I tried to imagine how someone would behave in such an extreme situation. Poker pros by nature have to have a high tolerance for stress. The circumstances of The GAME push the players’ stress to a level none of them have dealt with before. Their abilities as poker players are strained and it causes them to make mistakes they would normally not make. Let’s face it, that’s about as close as I’m going to get to playing with players of that caliber. Thanks for tuning in; until next time, scary dreams, Dear Readers.

Saying Goodbye to ‘The Walking Dead’

It is with a heavy heart that I say goodbye to one of my favorite shows, AMC’s ‘The Walking Dead’. Farewell to Six Gun Rick and Darryl of the Killer Crossbow. Adieu, Ms. Michonne, Queen of the Katana and Kid Carl, youngest gun in the west. You have all stood by me from the beginning and it feels like I’m losing some of my best friends. It is unlikely now that I will ever find out what caused the most famous zombie apocalypse in pop culture history. Sigh. It was good while it lasted.

Darryl

Goodbye, Darryl

OK, before you hit the panic button and freak out (or send me a truckload of flame mail), AMC has not announced plans to cancel one of the top rated shows in cable television history, at least, not to my knowledge. Breathe, it’ll be OK. Darryl and the zombies should be around for a long time. What I’m referring to is the fact that I have stopped watching the show. Trust me, it wasn’t easy. I LOVE The Walking Dead, totally addicted. But I had to stop for a couple of reasons. First, my wife never got into the show. I told her she would have liked it. The human drama is right up her alley and let’s face it, that’s what has made this show great. The zombies are just window dressing, the catalyst that pushes the characters into action. So every week I would have to carve forty-five minutes out of my weekend to watch TV by myself. That brings me to the second reason I had to kick the zombies to the curb; I don’t have time. If I’m going to take a break and watch TV, I want to do it with my wife. The rest of the time I’m working on one of three projects. I have a collection of short stories I’m revising with the help of my editor, Arial Burnz (shameless plug, she reads my blog). Nightmares and Body Parts is scheduled for fall release so I have a few months to finish it up. Project 2: digital comic and live web series called Black Rabbit. Action/adventure/drama with my partner Dave King. You can see his artwork at DefiantArtistry(dot)com. Stay tuned, more on this as it develops. (There will be a crowdfunding campaign for this and it will have some very cool rewards). Project 3: online media with Arial and her partner AJ. Can’t say any more, but it is something totally different, trust me. And I have made an effort to keep my blog up every week. One month down so far. Of course, I also have my family and the house and the car, etc. Balance, not one of my strong suits. ADD does NOT make it any easier…squirrel! See what I mean?

With all of these demands on my time… oh, yeah, I’m still commuting to L.A. and back every day, 4:00 am to 3:00 pm. Writing in the vanpool as we speak. (Note to Caltrans: can you PLEASE smooth out the 10 freeway? All the shaking makes it hard to type.) Where was I? Oh, yeah… busy, busy. When I weigh the rewards of the successful completion of these projects against watching the fruits of another writer’s labor, it really is a no brainer. Something had to give and the zombies and the rest of my favorite shows got the axe… the machete…. the crossbow… I’m really going to miss that show.

Anyone who has had any modicum of success has had to make similar hard choices. There are 168 hours in the week, no one gets more or less. We have to choose how to spend those hours. For those of us who have chosen to write, every hour is critical. I’ll have this blog post done by the time I get to work which is why it will be up on time this week. Trust me, catching a little cat nap at 4:00 am is something I enjoy, but it doesn’t help get any of my projects completed. I know many writers who have notebook/laptop/smartphone at hand every minute of the day. They never miss a chance to work on their craft. You will find me in the lunchroom every day, hammering out something. That’s 60 minutes I can’t just let slip by. Explains the crumbs in the keyboard. Oh, don’t give me ‘gross’, there are several of you reading this that are just as guilty of having a crummy computer or worse if there are little ones in your house. (Jelly is a real challenge to clean out of the keys from what I hear.) It goes part and parcel with the occupation of ‘writer’. Yes, I have been paid to write, I’ve sold books, I am a professional writer. No, I don’t support my family with my words, yet, but that’s the goal. So I have to make the best possible use of my time. One great thing about writing in the vanpool; no interenet connection, no distractions, other than the washboard effect of the tires on the freeway. I’m getting used to it. And I’m just about over my motion sickness, too. I don’t have time for it.

I still watch Castle religiously, so Nathan and Stana, no worries, I’m still a loyal fan. I’m a writer, and that implies a certain level of crazy, but I’m not totally insane. Besides, it’s a show about a writer and a hot detective; I consider it research. And therapy.

Until next week, Dear Readers.