Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Listen, a new review

I had another really nice review, so I thought I’d share it. I’m not sure how many others care besides my self and my publisher. Still, one can listen to this piece, and that makes it more special. There’s nothing like hearing your name when it’s not preceded by the words “down with” or being shouted over the crackling of a paper mache version of yourself set ablaze.

Review as podcast or the kind you can read.

Monday, December 20, 2010

My conversation with Anne Michaud

Anne Michaud writes Livy Parker's Journal. She's published several short stories, but the unique blog serves as an entry point for her novel, Rebel.

MJM: I actually have a honest to goodness question: Why dystopian fiction? What made you want to write this kind of story?

AM: Hmmmm... because dystopian books are the stuff made of nightmares! I was 12 when I read 1984 and it traumatized me - in a good way. There's something very satisfying to create a really f*cked up world where everything goes wrong, where everything is worse than now. You're allowed to think the darkest of future, the worst of mankind... I never could write about rainbows and princesses, anyway :)

Plus, Rebel's story called for it: not as apparent on the blog as in the book, the plot could never work in a contemporary setting. The story itself is about what becomes of the US in the future, and what Livy Parker has to do to save it.

But YOU, what made you chose sci/fi/thriller/YA? Which books had a impact on you?

MJM: The idea for Cinco de Mayo - pairs of people across the world sharing complete memories - grew from a story about two people into a global event. So I didn't really set out to write for any genre in particular and, well, I succeeded. I pretty much don't have a particular genre, which is good and bad. The book is tough to classify, but it's got a big span of fun.

Oddly enough, 1984 had a big impact on me, as well: Here is our world, only different. I read it about the same time I read Dune (a very different world) and Catcher in the Rye (out world seen from a different perspective). Not what you would call three of a kind. But those were the cards I was dealt. Started writing novels with that hand.

AM: And now you're a writer.

I don't know about you, but when I started, I tried ALL genres - back then it was in the screenplay form, after my Master's in screenwriting for feature films; talk about a waste of good money - we're talking about 6 years ago (when I still had a life). Since then, I've been writing every second of my free-time, enjoying it much more than parties and anything social.

If I was a man, I'm pretty sure I'd have a long beard and a goat, because that's what recluses do, don't they? They have facial hair (not yet in my case, thank whatever god!) and weird pets (two cats for me).

How about you, have you become an hermit? How did you start writing?

MJM: That's awesome. A goat. Ha. Screenwriting is like playing tennis with yourself. Exhausting, frustrating, accomplishing little besides building your skills at something that's exhausting and frustrating. Still, it's very cool to have your Masters. They can't take that away.

All my free time used to be spent writing. Actually having a book come out means promoting. Which is writing's arch enemy. It sucks your time and energy like some kind of wraith. (There might be a good story in there - public relations firm run by succubi. Hmmm.) Luckily I have a wife and two kids who forcing me into normal suburban situations on a daily basis. Were I alone . . . shudder. I'd probably don a pith helmet, chair smoke cigars and obsess about that succubi story.

I have no idea how I started writing. I did my first comic books when I was around seven and never stopped. My wife, back when she was my girlfriend, said "why don't you write?" She was young and naive and thought that was going to be really neat, living with a writer. Ha. She would've been better off with a goat.

I end up hating the time I take with my writing. I want more, quality and quantity. I'd love to slow the whole process down. How 'bout you? What do you wish for?

AM: Screenwriting has such little rewards - it's always the director, the actors and the frigging producers who get all the praises, forgetting what started the whole process was THE SCRIPT! At least with books, people remember who wrote it... well, most of the time.

Wasn't it Saint-Exupéry who said 'a goal without a plan is just a wish?'

So I don't have a wish (well, I do: I want to live in London, but I don't have plans for that), I have a goal: my novel Rebel has to be published. It has to. Or I. Will. Die.

I've got a dozen short stories/novelettes published in magazines and anthologies. Is that enough? Nope. I want to hold a hardcover with only my name on it. Well, and the title of the book. REBEL. I close my eyes and I actually see it. So pretty...

So tell me: how does it feel to touch it for the first time? Your book, I mean.

MJM: A published novel is a bit of a landmark. Like completing a marathon or receiving your degree. I certainly felt it when that first cardboard box arrived. I savored the moment, but only for a moment. Books are a little like babies, in that they arrive with so many jobs and tasks and commitments and all you really want to do is make another. And that's when the analogy collapses. You can put a book on a shelf for a while and it won't scream. Or shouldn't, at least.

How has your screenwriting background shaped your novel?

AM: In every shape and form. I've always been quite a visual person, so making films came naturally since I loved to tell a story with images. I do the same with writing prose - it all comes down to creating atmosphere with what we see as a reader. And I always think it doesn't take much (yes, mom: less IS more) to grasp us; a few key words, subtle, effective.

I've spend most of my life studying films, learning how to make them, and even if I do prefer writing prose, nothing got wasted. Filmmaking made me the writer I am today - might not be much, but I'm darn proud of those stories!

Tell me a story: what are you writing now?

MJM: I'm working on a new novel, as yet unnamed, set in a world with no governments. Everyone works for one of three corporations. A world that moved so far to the right, it ended up on the left. The writing's been slow, fun and scary.

How 'bout you?

AM: Interesting, mr. Martineck – I love a good dystopia!

I'm turning a script into a novella - horror, gore-ish with ghosts, can't wait to see how it'll turn out! - and the sequel to Rebel, Unwanted, and then I've got my mind set on turning a novel into two shorter pieces... so I'm recycling, basically.

This has been fun - should we catch up in six months?? Like a sequel to this chatty-chat?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Stuck in my hat

I got stuck in my hat. I have this hat a friend of my father’s brought back from Moscow back in the 60s. He was in the State Department, during the most frigid parts of the Cold War and I love the hat, though it’s really only appropriate to wear if you are A) brandishing a sword on horseback or B) using the snow blower at six in the morning. Post later, I re-entered my home, scraping off a plaster-coating of ice. I’d tied the hat under my chin and it wouldn’t come undone. Tugged, yanked, tried to bend it off my head, but I’d done too good a job. It refused to let go. I had to strip off all my wet clothes and go wake the sleeping wife.

“Sarah,” I said. “I’m stuck in my hat.” She turned on the reading light next to the bed, reached up, nicked open the knot and let the ties drop.

“Leave it on,” she said.

I stared at her.

“The light, you moron.”

Yes. That made more sense.

Monday, December 13, 2010

I need your vote

If you have a Goodreads account, scoot over to the choice awards and vote for Cinco de Mayo, fiction, science fiction, new author. I fit all kinds of categories. If you do, I will some day do you a big favor. I don’t know what. Maybe you don’t even know right now, because you don’t have to. You can save it for the next time you need a couch moved or can’t find a babysitter. I also make a good Alfredo sauce and play 90 minutes of standards if you have a piano and a cocktail party. As they say in the First Ward, vote as often as they’ll let you. (I'm a write in.)

Vote for this book!

Saturday, December 11, 2010


Very glad to report a nice review of Cinco de Mayo by Mike Griffiths at Innsmouth Free Press. It’s so rewarding when someone actually gets the meat of the book. Writing is incomplete until someone else reads it. You sit, guess, craft, guess some more and hope that the message hits its target, kind of like throwing knives blindfolded. So you’re naturally thrilled when you don’t chuck the literary equivalent of a blade to the gut.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Writers are the real undead

The enduring popularity of vampires, and the resurgent popularity of zombies, doesn’t surprise me. The writers cranking these stories out are vampires and zombies. Write what you know, you know?

I’ve been asked on several occasions where I get my characters. I never have a good answer, because there’s never a single person to which the questioner can easily relate. I bite off a piece of this guy or that girl and create something new from the parts (Frankenstein’s monster-like, but I digress.) All writers, fiction or non, feed on others. Especially the brains. Mmmm brains.

The term ‘picking your brain’ is gross, illustrative and invented by a zombie writer planning to do just that. (The origin of the term is unclear, but it was a writer. We know that for sure. Somebody put the phrase together, which is the very act of writing.) All writers pick other people’s brains because, contrary to the impression we’re be trying to leave at the cocktail party, we don’t know everything. The best sniper rifle? Can you give mouth-to-mouth to a ferret? Would the doorman let up a woman wearing just a Burberry trench?

Plot, theme and story dynamic can also come from the lives of your acquaintances. I’ve seen people react to things in unexpected ways, done things based on motivations I never imagined or acted out of character, until I realized my understand of their character fell far from complete. I suck up all these moments. They’re delicious. And I’m careful never to drain the source.

It is all quite necessary. Believable writing has to draw from real life. A reader’s identification with a piece, how much he or she understands and what kind of connection forms is largely determined by accessibility. When readers see people they know, or, better yet, themselves, the in a work, the work works better. To achieve that, writers take a sip here or a nibble there and craft writing that’s alive. Well, unalive really. Good writing can’t grow or reproduce on its own. It should just seem alive. Like a zombie or a vampire. Not a werewolf. There’s no excuse for werewolves.