Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Writing Help - Dialogue Tags, Part 2

So, now you know what a dialogue tag is and how problems can occur in the text. But what can you do to limit the number of tags when you have a dialogue-heavy story/novel?

First, look at the scene where the dialogue tag occurs. How have you structured your paragraphs? Do you have your characters talk back and forth every time they speak, or are there more scenes where one character or the other is doing most of the talking?

One of the things you can do to eliminate dialogue tags is to group larger passages together where one character is speaking at length. For example, let's say Character 1 is explaining how a machine works. Character 2 is the listener. Character 2 doesn't necessarily have to interrupt to add dialogue---and therefore require a new tag. Instead, Character 2 can shrug or nod (which can still be shown in the same paragraph group with Character 1's dialogue).

Next, movement is much better than adjectives to reveal emotions. Think about movies. If a character says, "I'm angry!" but doesn't move, it's hard to believe. But a character who slams doors and kicks shoes across the room or throws a plate is obviously angry without him saying it. The same works in text!

Instead of "I've had it!" Bob said angrily.

How about: "I've had it!" Bob slammed the cabinet door so hard the window rattled.

Which has more impact as a reader?

Tomorrow, we'll include the use of the 5 senses to replace dialogue tags and discuss how to deal with multiple characters in a conversation!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Writing help - dialogue tags

I get a lot of questions from aspiring authors about dialogue tags. Some of the questions I hear are:

"Is it true you can't use anything except 'said' as a tag?"

"Is it true you can't use ANY tags?"

"What in the heck IS a dialogue tag and why should I care?"

"How can I remove tags and still have readers understand who's talking?"

Over the course of this week's blogs (because a single entry would be loooong), I'm going to explore the concept and use of dialogue tags and we'll go through some exercises to help you remove those that are redundant and add in those that will make the dialogue pop!

First, what IS a "dialogue tag?" Well, in its simplest form, it's a statement to the reader telling them who is speaking in the text. For example, "I'll go to the store," Jane said.

Okay, so why is it enough of a big deal that people bother to discuss it? This is where it starts to get tricky, because the use of dialogue tags is very subjective. You'll find plenty of writers on the shelf today, whether debut or established, who use tags. Some editors have no problem with having a tag with every entry of dialogue. Other editors see the use of them in any places other than where the speaker could be confused to be too many instances. Usually the issue of tags isn't from the use of the tag itself, but the words used. Other than "Jane said," some of the dialogue tags you might see are "Jane exclaimed," "Jane sobbed," "Jane screamed," etc. You can see how the simple statement, "I'll go to the store." changes drastically with the use of each different tag. The reader is suddenly thrust into a completely mindset of the character.

Is that a bad thing? Well, it can be a confusing thing for the reader if the rest of the text doesn't match the tag. If Jane is sitting quietly on the sofa and then suddenly sobs out the words, the reader will scratch his/her head and wonder what they missed. Some editors also consider it "cheating" to use tags in place of descriptive narrative of movement and emotions. It's also a place where new writers add adjectives as shorthand to emotions. "Jane frowned" or "Jane sighed" or "Jane mumbled." The problem with a lot of the adjectives is that you can't SIGH a line of dialogue. You also can't frown one.

Emotional shorthand comes across as inexperience and poor writing to an editor or agent. It can wind up in the 'reject' bin without the editor/agent finishing reading the pages. Why? Because if it's pervasive through the text, it takes a LOOONG time to ferret out and correct before it goes to print. In an age where contract-to-shelf is shortening, editors often don't have the time or patience to take the time to teach the writer how to write. And agents know this so often they won't take the time either.


How to identify when you're struggling with dialogue tags.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Friday Short - Part 2 of story

Last Friday, you got the first half of a Christmas short featuring our favorite werewolf hitman, Tony Giodone. What happens next? Read on...

I wish we could be together tonight. Church bells filled the air again, and I stumbled as I was suddenly in a different place, thinking different thoughts than my own. I was looking out of a hotel window, staring up at the brightly lit Eiffel tower. The image my “eyes” were seeing was from a different angle and closer than the one a moment ago. I knew Sue was in Paris, but hadn’t known exactly where. She was also working for the police now, doing bookkeeping. The new chief of the agency known as Wolven, Lucas Santiago, must have put her up at the Hilton Paris, considering the opulence of the room when we turned away from the window. She didn’t know we were connected . . . not yet. That happens sometimes near the full moon. One of us is just suddenly inside the other and we have to struggle to free ourselves. I pulled out and pushed shut an imaginary door to separate us. I’m still learning that trick, so it wasn’t easy.

A bird in a gilded cage. It was the last thought to slip across my mind as I separated us, and I realized that she wasn’t having much fun here. Initially, the thought of traveling to France and doing useful things had appealed to her, but now reality had set in. She didn’t know anyone, didn’t speak the language, and those who lived here would be with friends and family today and tomorrow. I’d been in Paris during the holidays often enough in my career to know that it’s not very tourist friendly. The events are mostly religious in nature, with a few scattered concerts and parties . . . if you know where to go, and have an invitation. There was probably something going on in the hotel for the guests, but Sue’s not exactly outgoing. She’s getting better, but it hasn’t been that long since she was constantly depressed. In fact, we met because she wanted to commit suicide.

A car pulled up at the curb near the store where Ramsey was just exiting. I moved as close as I dared to watch. An excited child’s voice shouted, “Papa! Papa! Happy Christmas!” The small girl, not more than five or six, raced toward him laughing, smelling of citrus happiness and melon shampoo. Ramsey was forced to lift up the packages so she didn’t collide face first with the largest bag. She wrapped arms tightly around his thigh and he lifted it as well, balancing nicely on one leg. She squealed happily, releasing a puff of steam that smelled of bubble gum before sliding around to the back of the leg. She dropped off to land on the sidewalk on her tush. It apparently was a frequent game by his chuckle. He stepped over her and she stood and ran back around to face him, white knit beret askew.

“Happy Christmas to you too, poppet.” It was the first time I’d heard Ramsey speak. I’d expected a more eastern European accent, considering where the murders were committed. But his voice was pure upper crust British, with a slightly Scottish rolling of the ‘r’s. “I was just on my way home to drop off these packages before leaving.”

The girl’s face fell and her disappointment was so thick it rode over the mist. “Oh, must you go, Papa? Can’t you please stay for Christmas morning? Mama’s making crepes—the ones you like, with strawberries.” She motioned to the car and I noticed a slim blonde driving that was obviously the mother of the girl.

“—and complimentary strawberries, mais ouis. May I bring you anything else, Madame Giodone?” I nearly dropped to my knees from the force of the space shift to Sue’s head inside the hotel. I heard—and felt—her weighty sigh as she accepted the tiny magnum of champagne and bowl of strawberries dipped in thick dark chocolate from the uniformed French waiter.

“No. No, that’s fine. Nothing else.” She shut the door after passing across a hefty tip and I felt a heavy sensation in my chest as she sighed and took a bite of strawberry. The need to be there with her, feeding her that strawberry, was so intense I could barely stop myself from racing into the darkness.

It’s a mating thing. Sazis can’t seem to stand their mates being in pain. Me, I have a hard time when she’s depressed. I do better with things like wounds. A knife cut or bullet hole—that’s a pure, clean sort of pain and unless it’s life threatening to her, I have no problem with Sue hurting. But sorrow, anguish, sadness . . . those I struggle with. It’s better than it was when we first mated, but I don’t like to feel her hurting.

Ramsey abruptly dropped the packages and reached for the girl, lifting her into his arms to hold her tight. The jaw-tightening worchestershire sauce scent of fear made an odd combination with the sugar cookie scent of love. “I wish I could, Beatrice. I truly do. But I don’t dare risk it . . . don’t dare risk you and Mama.”

So, he knew he was being hunted and worried that I’d take out his family. No, even in the old days, working for the Mob, I wouldn’t take down a man’s family. Innocents got a free pass unless they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Technically speaking, Beatrice and her mom were in the wrong place at the wrong time, but geez . . . it’s Christmas Eve.

I was probably going to wind up spending the next week working for free and have a strip of skin ripped off my body by Lucas for failing to finish the job when I had the chance. But call me a softy. I stepped out from the shadows and walked toward Ramsey and his daughter. His nose lifted into the air and he turned suddenly, clutching the girl to his chest with such fierce intensity that she began to struggle.

My shrug and non-threatening scent must have taken him by surprise, because his brow furrowed. As I walked toward him on the sidewalk, I deliberately spun the cylinder on the Taurus, knowing his ears would pick it up. “Seventy-two hours, Ramsey.” I said quietly enough that his daughter probably wouldn’t hear, and kept talking as I passed him by. “Have your crepes and play with your kid. But then I’m coming after you. I have no choice. The Sazi council’s signed your death sentence.”

The shock of surprised scent turned to lemon and oranges delight. He suddenly hugged Beatrice even tighter and spun around while she laughed. “Very well then, little scamp. If you insist, I will stay home for crepes with you and Mama. But make no mistake. I must leave on Friday. Yes?”

My head turned to watch as I crossed the street. The girl was jumping up and down on the sidewalk while shouting her joy, and the young woman ran around the car to hug Ramsey. I nearly couldn’t make out the few quietly said words over the bells of Notre Dame. “Happy Christmas then, Wolven. And thank you.”

I turned up the collar of my jacket and started making my way toward the Hilton. Maybe I could pick up a present in the hotel gift shop, or maybe I’d settle for feeding my wife chocolate strawberries and strolling hand in hand under the Christmas lights . And maybe I’d stay in the hotel longer than three days. We’d see. But either way, it was going to be happy Christmas indeed.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Thursday banter - Digital Book World 2012

So today, I think I'm just going to do a book banter. The Digital Book World expo 2012 just ended. Digital Book World's Twitter description is: "Digital Book World focuses on publishing strategies, not tools; solutions, not theories; practicality, not punditry". The Twitter handle is: @DigiBookWorld, if you want to visit.

Very interesting concept, and there were a lot of really interesting discussion points raised. Some of the leaders of the book industry attended and gave a blow-by-blow on Twitter (and probably FaceBook, but I'm not over there.) Some of the tweets that grabbed me the most were:

1. It was announced that $70-120 MILLION dollars is being lost on ebook sales by publishers due to self-publishing. So...something you didn't used to even HAVE is now somehow being lost? Interesting. I wonder if it occurs to anyone in the publishing hierarchy that if more publishing deals were offered to aspiring authors, they might not feel the need to self-publish? Self-publishing is sort of a pain. It's not hard, per se, but if choice a) is to hand the book to someone and they hand you back a check for thousands of dollars, and then market it worldwide without the author's effort; versus choice b) where the author self-publishes and has to wade through the process, market it, and take in small checks over a longer time, which do you suppose they'd pick?

Along those same lines, bookstores and secondary markets aren't helping themselves, either. Midlist books are disappearing from shelves faster than you can say 'boo', with only NYT bestsellers appearing in their place. Yes, they're guaranteed sales to fans of THOSE AUTHORS, but midlist authors are the future bestseller, but if you don't shelve them, they will never reach that plateau.

2. 40 MILLION people already own an e-reader and 61 MILLION will have a tablet by the end of 2012. Hmmm... think maybe ebooks have some viability after all? With Amazon offering placement to self-pubs, publishers really need to revisit direct marketing to readers.

3. NBC broke the news that they are launching a publishing arm of the company, NBC Publishing. What will that mean? I can foresee a lot of television stars getting book deals, and TV tie-in novels getting a new home. Will they become a monopoly (and will other networks follow suit)? Only time will tell.

Have any of you been following the #dbw12 hashtag on Twitter? Or better, did you attend the con? Go visit and tell me what you found most interesting!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

So you're attending your first writing convention!

It's quickly becoming what in the industry is known as "conference season." Oh, sure---conferences and conventions occur year round, but it's really in the spring and summer when they're at their peak. You can find a convention nearly anywhere in the country (or world). Some are big, others small. Some are genre specific, some are multi-discipline. Some have agents and editors, others are geared just to readers. They're terrific places to not only meet your favorite authors, but to meet other people who love the same books as you!

At a convention you're allowed to be serious or silly, to learn and grow as a writer and hopefully to meet that special person who will put your book (and you) on the map!

For the purpose of today’s blog, we’re going to assume that you’re attending your first convention in the hope of finding an agent or publisher to look at your book. What are some of the do’s and don’ts of taking your book idea to a convention to interest someone?

Of course, every writers conference is a bit different, so a lot depends on whether you're going to a general conference that would have all sorts of different kinds and styles of writing, or a more specific genre (mystery, romance, horror) conference. They are quite often a lot of fun and very informative. The larger conferences are much more grand -- with lots of different topics, speakers and events. Smaller conferences can be a good place to start, because they're not so fast-paced and confusing. But there are a few tips:

1. DO NOT take copies of your books. This has been the bane of many an editor/agent and you will be remembered for doing it, just not in a good way. Do take along a short synopsis of each book in case you get the opportunity to meet with an agent/editor. If you are lucky enough to meet an editor or agent you should have two things memorized in your head.

First is the "elevator pitch." The premise is that you get in an elevator on the ground floor of the hotel and the only other person in the elevator happens to be a major publishing house editor or your "dreamed-of" agent. You have five minutes to get to the top floor and nobody is going to interrupt you. The agent/editor turns to you as the doors close and says, "Oh! You're a writer? So, what is your book about?" You should have a brief speech already in your head so that by the time the doors open at the end of the time, the editor is nodding, handing you a business card and saying, "Sounds interesting. Why don't you send me a synopsis and a couple of chapters? Nice meeting you!" Make the effort to actually TIME your speech, so that it's no longer than five minutes. This can also work if you meet someone in the bar or get placed at the same lunch table. The elevator pitch is a terrific thing to have with you.

Second is the "formal pitch." This should be a bit more involved (but you can always fall back on the elevator pitch if need be.) The editor/agent will want to know: 1) the GENRE of the book; 2) the TITLE of the book; 3) the PLOT of the book (not the subplots, not the prologue, just the general plot. Try to sum it up in a half page pitch); 4) the CHARACTERS of the book (basic information like names, nationality/species, basic description, basic background). You normally have ten minutes, which is why I'd consider the five minute pitch. You can use the other five minutes for a Q&A session. Don't be afraid to actually READ the information from 3x5 notecards or a notebook. The editor doesn't expect you to be a polished speaker. They just want to know about the book.

2. Take the classes that actually seem interesting and, if possible, ALWAYS attend publisher spotlights. A publisher "spotlight" has an editor of a particular publishing house tell the audience about the various lines at their house and what sort of books they're looking for in the next couple of seasons. You'll learn the names of the various editors, and quite possibly can ask questions about things in their guidelines which confuse you. NEVER be afraid to ask questions, but honor any request to not duplicate if someone else asks something similar, or if they don't want to be interrupted during their presentation.

3. ALWAYS attend any free breakfasts/lunches that are part of the price, or if not, then try to budget for at least one of the scheduled lunches. Steel yourself at the door and then sit down at a table with a bunch of strangers. You never know who you'll meet and sometimes you'll wind up meeting your next critique partner or future best friend. You might also wind up meeting your next agent or sell your book on the spot. Really. It's THAT important for you be brave and outgoing. The best ice-breaker that I've found is: "So, what do YOU write?" Just ask any person at random, and then really listen to the answer. Ask questions and you'll get asked in return about yours usually. You might not like the genre they write, but you never know until you ask.

4. Ask for business cards when you meet new people, and then make sure to drop them an e-mail or handwritten note when you get home. Writing is a very close community, and knowing just the right person can sometimes make the world of difference.

5. Attend any book signings that are part of the package. You don't have to buy anything if you can't afford to, but watch how the authors interact with the fans and think what you would do the same or different when you're behind the table signing someday.

6. Wear comfortable shoes! I can't stress that enough. Fashion is nice, but those conferences are often HUGE and spread far apart (sometimes in different towers or in different BUILDINGS.) Get blisters on the first day, and the next one or two will be miserable.

7. If you can take a friend with you, more the better, but don't forget to meet new people. That's the whole point of the gathering.

Hope this helps a bit, and have fun at your first conference!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Writing help - Believability (suspension of disbelief)

One of the most interesting things about writing paranormal romance is that you get to make up stuff. However, one of the most frustrating things to readers is making up TOO MUCH stuff. Ultimately, there’s one rule that cannot be broken:


But how does an author make the reader believe that here there be dragons (or vampires, werewolves, aliens and the like)? That’s where research comes in! For example, in our Sazi shapeshifter world, we created moon-based shifters that hide in plain sight in the real world. Naturally, they’d have to have magic that would allow them to create illusions. Likewise, a good bit of magic would be some sort of aversion ability that would make humans not want to come closer. The research involved natural cycles of the moon, existing legends/lore about werewolves and such to see what would work or what we should change, psychology texts that gave us ideas about the ways magic could augment “fight or flight” fears, plus a certain amount of physics (could we change the mass of a 200 lb. human into a wolf the size of a normal wolf, or would the resulting wolf have to be the size of a Shetland pony?)

For this sort of nebulous research (not really knowing what you’re looking for—just a random idea) I like either Google (http://www.google.com ) or MetaCrawler (http://www.metacrawler.com —a search engine that looks on OTHER search engines.) Since there’s no one solid source of information, it’s like playing hangman. You remember that game, right? Pick letters of the alphabet to fill in blank lines before you get all the body parts to fill the noose. Sometimes, a full day of searching will result in a single idea that creates believability . . . causes that momentary lull that allows the reader to sink further into the story.

Likewise, when you’re crafting a paranormal adventure with crimes involved, you have to let the reader believe that cops have smarts. Just like your reader, THEY’RE NOT STUPID! The cop on the scene will NOT ignore wounds and evidence just because it’s inconvenient to your plot. They will NOT let the parties wander off to attend to their crisis (with a variety of deadly weapons) if they have a hint the characters are involved in the crime. The more realistic you are in getting your characters out of trouble, the more likely the reader is to empathize with the plot. So what would a cop do when faced with a paranormal situation? Well, how about asking them? There's usually a "Media Relations" official with most major police departments, or you can even post on loops or groups to see if there are writers out there who are also officers. It's surprising just how many people in law enforcement become authors!

See, one of the things I find most useful in research isn’t the written word. It’s the spoken word. There’s no substitute for real life experience in creating a fake life experience. I belong to a number of author forums where the authors have real life experience in a variety of things. One site where I’m a member took this idea one step further and asked the members to post their specialties in various fields. From firefighters to medieval linguistic experts, opera center directors to cryptanalysts, there’s quite possibly everything under the sun in places you already know! Here are some of my favorite sites to get cool real life research information:

The Absolute Write Story Research Room (you can read without joining, but have to be a member to post a question. It’s free, though.)

The Romance Divas Think Tank (you’ll have to join this forum to read or post, but there’s no fee.)

Writers.net (you can read without joining, but have to be a member to post a question. It’s free, though.)

Writers BBS (you’ll have to join this forum to read or post, but there’s no fee.)

Since the devil is in the details, finding people who have DONE the details can really give your book that authentic touch. It was through a forum that I learned the address of a website with instructors who taught pysanky (Ukrainian egg art.) Once I visited the site, I found an instructor who was only two hours away and (joy O joy!) was giving a demonstration at a charity event just a few days later. I visited, we talked and I got to watch an egg being created. Without that visual data of watching, I wouldn’t have known to create a subplot about making the dyes, or adding tiny tidbits about how old dye can develop a scummy surface (but still work fine.) I wouldn’t have known that my heroine’s fingers will cramp up after hours of holding the kiska (hot wax applicators.) That sort of thing doesn’t show up in books. I learned what element of the creation process would be easiest to turn into a magical event.

Of course, sex in paranormal is a whole different ball game! The sky is the limit so long as the body is capable. One of the best sites I’ve found for the history of sex and pregnancy in science fiction and fantasy is Enpsychlopedia, which contains an awesome list of what’s been done to date: ( http://enpsychlopedia.org/psypsych/Pregnancy_in_science_fiction ) I’ve gotten some terrific ideas from “them that came before.” :)

So, that’s my list of tips for the paranormal writers among you. Good luck, and good researching!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Writing help - Show vs. Tell

I spend a lot of time visiting forums and websites, helping aspiring authors make their book the best it can be—getting it ready for publication one day. One of the things I get told a lot is that writers are getting rejections that say something like, “I really wanted to love this book, but there was too much telling,” or “Show me your character. I just couldn’t get invested in him/her.”

Huh? What in the world does that mean?

One of the better discussions I’ve seen on this lately was in a blog entry written by fellow Tor author Carrie Vaughn. In it, she discussed how to take a scene that was mostly “tell” and turn it into a “show.”

In part two of the blog, she explained how in some cases, “showing” needn’t necessarily increase the size of a scene (which is an argument I often hear against showing.) They’re definitely worth a read.

What I want to discuss here isn’t so much HOW to change a telling scene to a showing one (because Carrie’s blog does such a good job at that), but why it impacts the writing so much. What is it about showing that is so critical to agents and editors? Why does telling make the person judging the book (again, an agent or editor) step away and say, “Nope. The problems are more than I can fix. I must reject it.”?

When you write a book, you’re breathing life into a paper construct. One of the most critical things about creating a character is making the reader BELIEVE that before the book opened, that person was alive. They had parents, a childhood, pets, friends, did chores, went through the pain of school, and the joy of love (this is true even of a child character.) Even a tragic character had some joy. Even the happiest optimist experienced some pain.

If you give your character a pet, there’s a story behind it. They picked that pet for a reason. They feed it, care for it, bend their life to fit around that living being. There are emotions tied to the ownership of the pet. So to give that paper character a being to care for imbues it with the emotions that go with the interaction.

Telling robs the emotion from the character. If you say, “Bob walked the dog before he raced off into the night.” you've told the reader nothing. The reader simply shrugs and says, "Okay. Why bother to even mention the dog if there’s no joy or fear in the interaction." Dogs are smart. He’s going to know something’s wrong with Bob. He’s going to sense fear or happiness or a thousand other emotions . . . and react to it. A one line throw-away doesn’t do Bob or his dog (or the plot) any justice.

A few moments, a simple paragraph, is all it takes for the reader to BELIEVE that Bob loves his dog (or hates it, or is indifferent to it). How he treats his dog will be how your reader reacts to Bob. Does he put aside his pain so his dog has fun on the walk? Is he impatient that the dog finish his business outside? You can paint a few simple lines between Bob and his dog and turn a “tell” into a brilliant, throat-catching “show” that will leave the readers believing nearly everything Bob later does.

So, if you’ve been told there’s too much “tell” going on in your book, you need to look to the throwaway lines. Look for those things that you’ve given to your character to make them flesh and bone and see where no flesh was ever added.

Bare bones won’t sell a book. Only flesh and blood will get under the readers’ skin and make the character come alive.

Take a second to comment and tell me YOUR show vs. tell story. Is there a point where someone pointed out the tell or do you struggle every day with trying to figure out where you’ve gone wrong? Let’s get some dialogue going and see if we can help everyone out there discover the difference in their own WIP.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Friday Shorts - new story

So, I've decided that on Fridays, I'm going to start posting short stories. It'll be in pieces, from Friday to Friday, and then will be put together at the end for your reading pleasure. Since Christmas just happened, I figured the first story should be one about the holiday time of year. This is a story that first appeared in Affaire de Coeuer magazine a number of years ago. For Sazi lovers, it's a Tony Giodone story called:


Working on Christmas Eve sucks . . . even if you like your job. I was keeping to the shadows of the Paris alleys following the mark, because the City of Lights is even more so during the holidays. He’d suspected he was being chased in London a week ago, but probably thought he’d lost me in Lille after he hightailed it off the Eurostar with a stolen BMW.

He was wrong.

The near constant ringing of Notre Dame’s bells to signal the nativity mass had allowed me to get closer. Staying downwind made sure that his preternatural nose wouldn’t put him on guard. I find it interesting that even though was turned into a Sazi, a shapeshifting wolf, after an attack, not all that much has changed in my business as a professional assassin—with the exception that now I’m working for the good guys. It’s still weird introducing myself as Tony Giodone, lawman.

I slid a gloved hand inside my pocket to make sure my Taurus .38, complete with silver bullets, was ready to draw at a moment’s notice. Serial killer Dauren Ramsey was known for his viciousness and with him being a massive grizzly bear to my lesser werewolf on the full moon, I was at a distinct disadvantage.

Just the way I like it.

While I’d been following Ramsey, a thick cloud cover had blanketed the area, smothering the scents of balsam, cinnamon and the raft of human emotions under a wet mist that reminded me so much of the scent of sorrow that it was no wonder locals referred to winter as Gray Paree. Twinkling lights along the Champs Élysée diffused, taking on the appearance of a watercolor mural—all cool and blue, instead of stark white and festive.

I realized that the blue sorrow wasn’t just what I was seeing, it was inside my head too. The psychic connection I share with my wife is still sort of new to me. I’d closed myself off from Sue as I often do during jobs. While she liked a little better that I was now working for the shapeshifter police force instead of the Mafia—the job is still the same. I kill people for money. I just happen to kill seriously demented murderers now, those who are too physically and magically powerful to ever be held behind bars. Sazi are like any other predators. Once they get a taste for human flesh, there’s no way to rehabilitate them.

Unfortunately, Sue has a hard time with my job in the best times, and it’s harder for her when we’re mind-linked as I pull the trigger. It shouldn’t even be possible that we are connected, or so say the experts. She’s full human with no magic in her blood. But we are, and I am . . . so we do the best we can.

La poesie, ca ne vaut pas un sandwich?” I’d heard the beggar approach me from behind but I ignored him at first, intent on my prey. A moment later, a hand touched my jacket and I turned narrowed eyes as he repeated the words. They sounded better in French than the English translation of, “isn’t poetry worth a sandwich?” The old man’s smell was rank with unwashed sweat, but there was no malice intended. He smelled beaten down by life, and afraid of me, but desperate. Being able to smell a person’s emotions is also new for me but it’s sure handy for spotting lies.

Normally, I’d just brush him off but my goal was to blend in. I reached in my pants pocket and handed him some bills while putting a finger to my lips—the universal request for silence. I still haven’t gotten used to the Euro conversions, so I had no idea how much I’d given him. But from the way his eyes lit up and he nodded mutely, I presume it was more than enough for a sandwich. Probably closer to a bottle of bubbly.

Another wave of depression slapped at my mind as I moved from shadow to shadow watching Ramsey gather an impressive number of shopping bags. I found it hard to imagine he was shopping for loved ones, since he’d been on the run for years. He’d disappeared into the European underworld after slaughtering and eating a dozen people in Imljani, Bosnia around the turn of the century . . . the nineteenth century, that is. But even in the supernatural world, there’s no statute of limitations for murder. So here I was in Paris of the twenty-first century, bringing down a convicted killer who, from the eyewitness accounts, made Jack the Ripper look like Jack and the Beanstalk...

(to be continued)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Starting anew...

Today is the first day of . . . well, of everything 2012 for me. I'm officially re-launching this blog with all new stuff. All old posts on this site are gone. This year will mark a change in what I do, writing-wise. I'm going to produce more books, more stories and interact with all of YOU more! It'll take time and I'm sure there will be stumbles along the way, but I want to get more involved with helping all of you enjoy writing and reading and lots of stuff.

We'll talk about topics of the day that involve writing and I'll give some hints and tips about stuff to do. I'm hoping to start posting some original stories that are languishing in file folders where nobody can see them, and have people you might know and like drop by to chat too!

Today's topic is an extension of something I've been chatting about on Twitter today.

Today Wikipedia has shuttered to protest #SOPA and a comment was made that a user wished there was an alternative to Wiki, because so many libraries are closed. I hadn't heard that apparently, the austerity measures in the UK have resulted in slashing of funding for libraries in the United Kingdom and they're closing left and right. In Ireland, the Library Council has been disbanded and their libraries are threatened too. The (to me, ridiculous) reason is that "we have the internet, we don't need libraries."

Not need libraries!? Say that again? Libraries should be the heart and soul of a town or city. They should be partners with the internet, inseparable and yet unique.

I think one of the problems is that they're often underfunded (so antiquated as far as technology) and people seem to forget they're there in the rush of today's busy life. Even for myself, I know I don't visit as often as I'd like. But they can and should be vital. They can and should be useful.

But it takes wanting it. Authors, readers, general citizens, have to be interested enough to take a stand. Even if you only buy books, or only write books, libraries keep you in touch with things not in the book store. Classics, reference material, magazines. All are fodder for future books. All are valuable.

What do YOU think? Are libraries part of the past, or tickets to the future? Let me know!