Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year!

No new post today.  I just wanted to wish everyone a happy new year.  May you find blessing in 2014.
(A new year dawns!)

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Here Today...Gone Tomorrow?

(How long will they be useful?)
I got the gift cards above for Christmas.  I love Barnes & Noble and have been known to spend all day in one.  In fact, I'm such a dork about books that if it wasn't for wanting to spend time with my family, I'd probably spend every Saturday in one and go home only to sleep(only because Barnes & Noble frowns on that practice in their stores).  I used to also do that with Borders, but they aren't around anymore.

It was my reflecting on the Borders debacle that I started wondering about this awesome and dorkish hobby of mine.  It's been no secret that brick and mortar bookstores are in trouble.  They roared into being about 25 or so years ago, and, for a while, they ruled the market.  They grew so dominant that they were castigated by many for putting the mom and pop bookstore industry on the ropes.

Well, Barnes & Noble is in trouble itself.  It has been swamped by Amazon, and it doesn't seem to know how to stem the flow of blood.  There's an emerging consensus that Barnes & Noble will be gone in a few years as Amazon pushes it out of the way.  I just wonder if that's a good thing.

Don't get me wrong - from a purely business point of view, I think Amazon is doing a great job.  It knows how to innovate and push authors many in the brick and mortar business aren't even aware of.  Barnes & Noble, like Borders before it, has no clue how to adapt to the times, relying instead on the same business model that worked for it for a long time, all while still failing to account for how the bookselling business has changed.

However, there's just something about being able to browse a large bookstore.  Looking around on Amazon just isn't the same.  I like picking up books and flipping through them, and I've bought many tomes this way.  I'm afraid that if trends continue, this method will become obsolete, and I worry what it'll do to my book-buying prowess.

Selfishly, I want Barnes & Noble to stick around.  I worry, though, that their own stubbornness will kill them.  I guess I should use my gift cards as soon as I can, lest they have no value soon.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

A Heavenly Christmas

Miloi put his hand on his young son's shoulder.  The boy gazed out of the viewport at the planet as their ship ascended.

"It can be a magnificent place, Father," Shandriel said.

"Yes, my son.  It can.  Beautiful, vivacious, dangerous.  But all in all, magnificent."

Earth began to grow smaller as the Jidian ship rose.  A brown land mass dominated the center of their vision, but a planet with so much water couldn't avoid a tinge of blue at the edges.  Once the pilots got them to about four orbital lengths past the small planet's moon, blue, along with white wisps of the clouds, would be all they'd be able to see.

Shandriel turned his narrow head towards his father, red and yellow eyes focused on the ridges of Miloi's face.  The boy's robe shimmered in the starlight, but it was his eyes that held the greatest wonder.

"Father, I do not understand these humans."

Miloi had to exert effort not to snort at such an understatement.  Scientists had been studying this species for several centuries without understanding them.  Entire careers were spent on this enigmatic race.  However, that was a matter for another time, a time in which his son was older and further along in his education.

"In what way do you not understand them?"

"They appear a passionate people, yet they can be incredibly cold to each other.  They seem to seek love above all other things, yet their capacity for violence is beyond measure."

Miloi's cranial ridges waved as he took pleasure in his son's curiosity.  "You are asking questions scholars have since we first discovered this people."

As if he didn't hear his father Shandriel continued, "Take this season of 'Christmas,' for example.  Many who celebrate it claim it is about peace and goodwill, yet they argue over how to celebrate or even express it.  A group will bless each other with their 'Merry Christmas' saying, and then they'll show anger towards another group who looks at it differently, even if that group ostensibly shares the same basic spiritual values."

"Heady talk, my son," Miloi replied.  The ship was now at the orbit of the moon and gaining speed.  "Along with several other festivals, it's this time on their calendar that intrigues us most of all.  The spirit of the season shows the mark of maturity and grace, but they appear unable to hold it even for the day, let alone extend the feeling across the whole year."

"Have we ever thought of pointing this out to them?  Perhaps they need but the realization."

"Some have tried, but the attempts have been half-hearted.  The humans of old did not understand who or what we and the other races were when we contacted them.  Names such as angels, demons, and monsters have been used towards us.  The fear some have been met with has discouraged other attempts."

"But they appear more developed now," Shandriel argued.  "We could try again - their growth in reason should allow them to know us for what we are.  We can help them channel their passion and kindness away from violence and towards greater empathy."

"But that would retard their growth as a species, and it could be dangerous as well."  When Shandriel's eyes blinked, a gesture of confusion, Miloi continued, "They are not far enough along to properly focus their passion as a people, although they are getting better.  We have sometimes appealed to gifted individuals, while others rose to prominence on their own.  These individuals, whether influenced by us and others or not, have given rise to their great philosophies.  However, it hasn't occurred in a vacuum.  These people have made an appearance only when the people around them have been ready.

"Mankind's potential for growth is enormous, but so is it's potential for violence.  If they grow too quickly, their passion might be turned against us, and we would be forced to annihilate this world to protect ourselves.  Think then of the loss in the Universe.  What they can show us once they reach maturity might be titanic, but if unleashed too soon, it could be catastrophic."

"What makes us think such a paradoxical world can ever show us anything?" Shandriel asked.

"Their race is young, as the stains of violence and greed upon it mark it so.  However, they show great promise, as with this Christmas business.  Once you peel back the layers, the well wishes and peace it can generate once they get past the pettiness is profound.  If they can channel their energy into such compassionate and peaceful endeavors, they could be of great benefit to the whole of creation."

"If they don't destroy each other first."  Shandriel's gaze returned to the viewport and a planet that was now little more than a blue ball of haze against the rest of the stars.

"A tragic but potential outcome, my son.  If they can find a way to extend the spirit of this season past but one day of their year, there's hope.  Let's pray they do, for it would be a shame to see a race of such vast potential fade from us because they couldn't get past their own nature.  Or perhaps it is the other side of that nature that draws us so.  Either way, the future of it is undetermined as of now, and it will likely remain so for the foreseeable future."

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas!

No post today due to the holidays.  I just wanted to wish all of you a very merry Christmas.  May the blessings of the season be with you and your loved ones.
(Seasons Greetings!)

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Starting Year #3

Just two short years ago, I began this tiny little blog.  Over the last 24 months, I've learned a great deal, most of it about where I still have to go.  It's been a great experience, and I plan to continue it for as long as I'm able to type.

Here are a few lessons learned:
1.  Controversial posts may spark page views, but that doesn't necessarily translate into comments.  I've written a number of posts that one could deem controversial.  From the burgeoning indie movement to literary agents who have a "do as I say and not as I do" motif, this blog has always tried to take on the sacred cows of publishing.  Much to my chagrin, however, some of these posts haven't sparked the discussion I'd hoped they would.  Most of them draw in lots of page views, but either I'm not asking the right questions, or folks are a bit hesitant to engage.  This is something I still need to figure out.

2.  The posts that draw the most views are the ones you least expect.  Yes, I've mentioned my novel Salvation Day a number of times, but when I looked back at the individual hits, I was blown away at how many views it has gotten.  That post is far and away the most viewed.  Looking back on it, maybe that shouldn't surprise me; after all, most of those who come to this site are likely other writers, as well as those who like to read, so descriptions of what I've written probably should garner the most interest.

3.  Opportunities to grow as a writer are always presenting themselves.  One of my favorite series on this blog are those about my Muse.  It began as a lark and has grown into one of my favorite features.  I use the technique to demonstrate not only my ideas on what constitutes a way to accomplish some writing feat(from dialogue to trying to properly set a mood), but also to explore my own psyche and how I write.  The Muse series has done me a world of good in figuring out my own style.

4.  Even when writing a novel, keep your blog updated.  I've written two novels in the past year, but I haven't allowed my blog to go by the wayside while doing so.  Yes, it would be easy to do so, especially when dog tired after both a full day of work and writing several thousand words, but I need to stay on track for two reasons - first, I believe that consistent posting schedule is critical to a successful blog.  Sure, some folks might say that too many posts get you lost in the mix, but I think readers discard you if you post too randomly since they won't know when to tune in.  Much like a favorite comic strip, posting consistently provides readers a bit of comfort in an otherwise chaotic world; second, since this blog is so dissimilar than the novels I write(from a style point of view), I get to stretch my legs as a writer and do something different.

5.  Get ahead of schedule if at all possible.  I don't know about any of you, but if I'm facing a blogging deadline, I start to get stressed.  I know that I've said you can't let missing a totally voluntary deadline get to you, but I don't like missing posts if I can help it.  However, meeting a consistent three times a week schedule can become draining if you wait until the night of each post to actually write.  Therefore, I usually write all of my weekly posts in one night(Sunday) and schedule them throughout the week.  Yes, I sometimes change that up if breaking news strikes, and I also don't always meet that goal of having a week's worth of posts done in advance, but I usually pull it off.  The amount of stress having it done relieves is immense.

I've still got such a long way to go, and I hope to incorporate future lessons next year.  Either way, it's gonna be a wild ride.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Blog Structuring

I've been consistently blogging for almost two years now.  Up to this point, I've just sort of gone with whatever came up.  If I had an idea that caught my fancy, I'd blog about it.  This usually worked well, but there were times I found myself without an idea and a blogging deadline fast approaching.  I thought out little in advance since I figured I was a writer, and I should just let things flow.

However, I decided recently that that needed to change.  In order to create a better blog, I need not just consistency in posting, but also in what topics appear.  The willy-nilly approach dances all over the place, leaving the reader to wonder if they'll get a post about interaction between my Muse and I, or whether I'll just put up a chapter from one of my novels.  It seemed a bit haphazard, which is why I've decided to alter things.

I post three times each week, and I'm going to try to make one post each week be about the business of writing, one post be about how to write, and one post be either a creative story of some kind or about blogging.  Yes, there will be a few variations as relevant news breaks, but I think the new structure will provide predictability so folks know what they're in for.  I'll start this new structure the week following New Year's, and I'll do it for the entire month.  At the end of the month, I'll evaluate it and see if it makes sense to continue.

(A purpose to each day)

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The End User

(Who gets the milk - the farmer, or the four year old?)
One of the things the indie movement has done is that it has helped us keep in mind who the book is for.  One of the things I hate about traditional publishing is that the system of gatekeepers hampers the way we write.  Writers are forced to tailor what they write to the agents and editors of the world rather than the reader.  This is ostensibly so that these gatekeepers can screen out the bad stuff and make sure we only get quality on the shelves.  Unfortunately, anyone who has ever browsed a Barnes & Noble knows that a great deal of garbage makes it through, throwing into doubt the quality control portion of the process.

So thanks to indie, we can write for who the work is really intended - the reader.  This means writing for the audience rather than an agent or editor(in reality, some unpaid intern hoping to score a job when he or she graduates with a degree in creative writing).  This helps in my own editing process by reminding me that although going over each word is important, I get to stay with the effect the word might have rather than whether an agent will consider it extraneous.  Don't get me wrong - there are lots of words in many books than can be unnecessary, but the extra words sometimes add to a story, and I've seen a number of editors say, "Well, I get what you're trying to say, but we need to keep this under 60,000 words, so cut out the parts here and here that convey the mood."

It's critical that we remember that what we write has to have wide appeal, but the readers' tastes can be vastly different than that of your high school English teacher.  I believe writing for the end user allows freedom and a more prosaic style.  If readers don't like your work, they won't buy your books, so you'll know quickly if you need to tweak.  If a faceless editor or agent somewhere doesn't like it, even though their tastes may be waaaaaayyyyy off the mark, your readers will never know what you did.

Whenever you sit down, keep in mind who your stuff is for.  The readers will appreciate it.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Searching For Ideas

I have a journal that I do a lot of writing related things in.  The biggest thing I put in it are the outlines for my novels.  However, I also put in blog ideas.  Every time I come up with a topic I think would be interesting to discuss, I grab my trusty notebook and jot it down.  I do this because I know if I just try to remember it for later, I'll forget.

Sometimes my ideas get low.  When that happens, I sit down with a glass of water and this journal, and I'll brainstorm so that I have several topics.  This way, I'm always a step ahead.

Unfortunately, I didn't do that this time.

I was on a business trip last week, so I didn't devote a lot of time to writing outside of an alternate history short story about the Trojans burning the Trojan Horse and winning their war with the Greeks.  That left me scrambling tonight as I wondered what to blog about.  To be honest, I forgot about blogging ideas until about two minutes prior to sitting down, so I had to search for what to write about.
(Any new ideas in there?)
Staring at a blank screen, it occurred to me that this was a topic in and of itself.  How many of you out there have hit this wall when trying to determine what to blog about?  For those that don't post on a regular schedule, it's probably not a big deal.  Such folks can wait until inspiration strikes them, but I've always said that consistency in your blog is important.  Aside from the fact that regular readers come to rely on its presence on schedule, it also keeps you writing and polishing your style.  Yes, I could hold off, and if things in my life were truly hectic, I'd do so, but being lazy doesn't count as a reasonable excuse.

It can be difficult to keep coming up with new ideas for blogs once you reach a certain number of posts.  Once I publish(likely in May 2016...once I've been back on the US mainland for about a year), I can post things about covers, sales, signings, etc.  However, until then, I have to maintain a broad array of topics, and it can be challenging.  Don't misunderstand me - I don't mean challenging from a whiny "this sucks" point of view, but rather from a "this helps keep me thinking" point of view.  It makes me stay on my toes so that I have to press forward.

Anybody else out there run into a wall on blog ideas?  If so, how do you solve it?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

A Napolean Complex

Short stories can be fun to write.  They offer a break from the work we do writing novels, and they force us to be more compact in our prose in order to convey a complete story the reader will understand.  The flip side, however, is that the short story format can be frustrating - there's so much to say and so little format to do it in that I often feel I'm trying to cram in too much stuff.
(How much stuff do you really need in one meal?)
For the longest time, I didn't understand the parameters of a short story.  Sure, I'd read my share - or maybe more than my share - but I didn't write one until July of 2011.  The only reason I figured out the length to use at that time was because I was entering it in a contest, and the magazine gave specific word counts beyond which my story couldn't go.

I've since entered several more, and although the parameters vary, the usual seems to be between 1,500 and 3,500 words.  Even the "longer" versions present challenges since I have to get a story I could use 25,000 words to flesh out in about an eighth of that size.  For that reason, I have to be careful to be complete without being too in-your-face.  A stark story that shoves too much shit down your throat turns off readers, and that doesn't garner an audience.  So what to do?

For starters, I've learned to simplify my story ideas.  Most of what pops out of my imagination is pretty complex, from a 2nd American Civil War to a story about a ghost trying to avenge himself on the person who killed him.  Unfortunately, there's no way to do these ideas justice in the constrained format of a short story, so I have to pare down what I want to talk about.  That usually means taking one aspect from a fantasy world I've created and presenting just that slice.  Even then, the idea has to be further simplified since it's easy to take certain story elements for granted.

Jumping between novels and short stories can be challenging, but it helps keep us nimble, the same way doing both sprints and long distance slow runs can keep our bodies guessing and help us get in shape.  I'm not a fan of being confined to the smaller format, but even short formats bring out skills we might otherwise never develop, and doesn't that make us better in the end?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Voices In Our Heads

(What does this face say to you?)
Each of us hears things differently.  Where I might think you're angry with the tone of voice you use, another person might simply think you're under stress.  Body language helps us figure it out, but even that's subject to interpretation.  However, it's still far easier to garner meaning when we can listen to someone than when we just read their words.

How many internet arguments have begun over a misinterpretation?  A while back, I sent out an email with a picture of a scantily clad woman in a bikini washing a car with her tits.  And yes, I used the word tits in the email.  A female friend of mine came back with a stark one line reply that simply read, "Mine are called breasts."  I thought I'd offended her and apologized profusely for being a Neanderthal.  It turns out she was quite surprised by the backtracking on my part since she thought she was adding a funny retort.

So how do we solve the problem?  We've heard countless times that we should show rather than tell, so coming right out and saying "this guy is diabolical" is frowned on.  We're supposed to show it through his actions, but how does one do that during dialogue?  Sure, the dialogue itself could do it, but don't even the most evil creatures sometimes just engage in conversation?  You may want something to evoke a feeling in the reader that the character speaking is god-like, but how do you do that through dialogue alone, especially if the person is making their first statement?
(I told you to blow the fucking whistle!)
The way I sometimes communicate tone of voice is through the use of different fonts.  Yes, it's trite, and it can also make me sound like a douche, but there are times it adds to the story.  In Salvation Day, there is a scene where the main character confronts his first angel.  The angel is yelling that there's no way the guy could possibly pull off his objective, which is to kill God.  The angel simply saying "You will never succeed!" didn't seem to bring out the tone of power I wanted to convey, so I decided to use Gaudy Stout.  The bold tone had just the right feel to give an "oh shit" factor.

Of course, this isn't a technique that you can use often, but done sparingly, I think it helps the reader get into the emotion of what's being said(despite a few "established" writers telling me they didn't approve).  Giving characters distinct tones of voice in critical situations can bring tension to a story, and it can suck the reader in even further.

You have to be willing to experiment where it makes sense if you want to stand out and draw in readers.  It doesn't work every time, but when it does, it makes the story that much more real.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Are Writers Posers?

The last couple of weeks were an interesting experience.  Having assumed some personalities I understood, and some I didn't, I felt challenged as a writer.  That doesn't mean I think I'm a master or something, as there were definitely times that I thought my stuff was flat.  That said, it got me thinking - are writers nothing more than posers?
(Something's just not right here)
I write stories I like to read.  Why do I do that?  Well, as a reader, I like to imagine myself in those roles.  I want to be Nate Caudell rushing across Rivington to stop the AWB.  I like to think that I could be Harry Potter and I'm off to destroy Voldemort's horcruxes.  We want to think that, in the right moment, we could be just as heroic, just as daring, as those characters we're reading about.  It therefore logically follows that we write about people we'd also like to be...even if sometimes those places aren't savory.  Stephen King famously admitted that one of the reasons he wrote The Shining was to get out the real feelings of antagonism he felt at times towards his own children.

So let's grant the premise - writers are posers.  We want to be other people sometimes, because those other people have far more exciting lives and higher ideals than we do.  To me, that makes the question not one of whether or not writers are posers, but whether or not that's a bad thing.

In my estimation, the answer is no.

We all fantasize and daydream.  I don't know a single person who hasn't imagined themselves playing the part of the hero - or even the villain at times - in a world much more exciting than their own.  Let's face it - real life isn't exciting most of the time.  Sure, it's stressful, like when you wonder if you're going to be fired, or just how bad the broken arm your kid got on the playground is, but it's not fantastical.  And that's what we yearn for.  Most of us feel like we were meant for greater things than stamping a bunch of invoices for new boxes of paper clips, so we dream about other possibilities.  The only difference for writers is that we put those thoughts on paper.

Through that, others can enjoy the same dreams.  Those that might not feel able to confess their deepest desires can follow our journey and feel part of an epic tale.  It's a release that lets us stay sane in a mundane yet insane world.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Breaking Up The Band

I've gotten through editing the first three acts of Schism.  This has been the easy part, insofar as any amount of editing is "easy."  I've knocked off about 8,000 words from the 110,000 that was in those three acts, which is less than I expected.  One of the reason is that I noticed I'm becoming a more efficient writer.  I've been able to subconsciously self edit as I wrote the first draft, so there isn't as much to do when I go back in.

That's not to say that things are perfect.  There are still stray adjectives and adverbs, as well as continuity errors that have required rewriting.  Editing remains a grueling process whereby the first two cracks at it aren't very fun since I'm scrubbing my novels rather than enjoying them.

However, it's about to get a lot harder.  Act Four in this book deals with the immediate aftermath of a military coup and how the republic rebuilds itself.  What I noticed, though, when I was writing it was that I didn't give this part of the story enough depth.  I rushed through the material and didn't allow the reader to get drawn into the world before pulling him or her out of it.  Months ago I figured out the only solution I could to do everything justice - I needed to expand on it and split it into two acts.

The new Act Four will be called "The New Order," and it will tell the (brief) story of an America living through a new military dictatorship.  At first, things will appear great - the Second Civil War will be over, crime will be down, and the partisan bickering that led to so much gridlock will be eliminated.  Stuff is getting done and life is getting better, so most folks don't notice or care that their basic freedoms are gone.  It'll only be gradually that they'll figure out what they've lost.

Retaking the country will be conveyed in Act Five, which will still be entitled "Restoration of the Republic," but it will go a little more in-depth on how the junta is forced from power.  I'm hoping to give a sense of realism, and even pride, to the reader.  I want them thinking that the country can come together when most needed, outside of the extremists that took us into the pit.

Of course, that means writing new material instead of editing a solo act(I can't consciously edit and write at the same time - it's too distracting).  This will also expand the novel from around 150,000 words(prior to editing) to around 175,000 words.  I don't see any other way to give the story the breadth it needs.

I hope to start this process next week.  I have a business trip that will involve multiple eight hour plane trips, and life is boring at 30,000 feet.  Why not use my time to bring this project back to life?  I first have to brainstorm more to get a good idea of how to split it and what to add.  I've never done this with a "finished" novel before, and I'm nervous about doing it right.  In the end, however, it'll only make for a better book that more people should enjoy.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Waiting For Godot

Writers like to write.  I guess that goes without saying, but it's still a key element in why writers fail.  Yes, you heard me correctly - writers fail because they like to write.

What kind of absurd mess is this, you might ask?  It's very simple - since writers love to write, they focus almost all of their energy on honing their craft.  They tweak dialogue and agonize over the right sentence structure, and that does indeed contribute to a better product.  Unfortunately, it also means that a large number never focus on finding their niche in the market and attracting an audience.

In the play Waiting For Godot, a pair of wanderers wait by a lonely tree for a man named Godot.  They chat and dream about how much better their lives will be once the legendary Godot shows up, similar to how a convenience store clerk might fantasize about what life will be like when he hits the Powerball Lottery.
(You might be lonely waiting for scraps that never appear)
Many writers are the same way.  When not writing, they'll daydream about what life will be like when they're (rightly) famous and everyone loves their work.  A book tour?  Why of course, but only if the publisher can put me in a proper hotel suite.  A book reading to my adoring fans?  You bet, but will The Forum be big enough to hold everyone without turning people away at the door?

We've all had these fantasies, and they can be fun as long as they don't rule our lives.  The problem with such thinking is that it often boils down to the writer waiting to be discovered rather than forcing discovery on an inundated public.  Of course your work is good, but there's a lot of good work out there, as well as a lot of bad work, and it's up to us to grab the public by the scruff of the neck and make them pay attention.  People - whether they be agents, publishers, or readers in general - don't scroll through the internet looking for that next big breakthrough except in the most rare of circumstances.  I know that many writers imagine some grey-haired publisher clicking on page after page, mumbling, "No, no, these simply won't do," until they happen to come across our blog or novel excerpt.  Then, upon realizing its brilliance, they exclaim, "This is it!  I simply must sign this writer."

How much time do you spend reaching out?  Are you going to book shows and writing conferences to meet people?  Do you make it a goal to sign up at least one new person to your email list each day?  Do you encourage your readers to share your work with strangers?  Have you planned out a marketing strategy that includes free giveaways?

These are the less sexy things that turn writing from a fun hobby into a profession that puts food on the table, and they require more than dreams.  You cannot wait for discovery - you have to take the bull by the horns and make it happen.  Otherwise, all your talk about fame will remain in the realm of talk.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Multiple Personality Disorder

For the past two weeks, I took on several different personas to see if I could write from that person's point of view.  I was everything from an evangelical preacher to an atheist, from a rightwing conservative to a leftwing liberal, as well as a serial killer and a pacifist.  I haven't bounced back and forth that much since I watched Wimbledon last year.

This exercise taught me several things.  First, it showed me just how hard it is to write from a point of view where I have nothing in common with the character.  Several of the personalities I assumed are so far removed from who I am that I had to spend considerably more time on them than others if I wanted credibility.  Even so, taking on a few of them was hard without resorting to clichés.

Clichés.  We all have them with regards to some groups of people.  They're the lazy way we make sense of the world when granting someone an individual personality is just too hard.  Yes, stereotypes exist for a reason, and sometimes people conform to them in a general way.  However, when that stereotype is all we rely on, we lose a lot in translation, and it makes it easier for us to write off the person on the other end.  Since as a writer I can't do that if I want to open up the fiction world to a whole new host of stories and characters, I need to try and understand viewpoints that are alien to me.

I'm still not completely comfortable doing that, although I'm much better at it now than I used to be.  As an example, when I first wrote Wrongful Death, I originally wanted to tell the story from the point of view of a high school girl.  However, I have even less understanding today of high school girls than I did when I was a clueless teenager, so any attempt I made to make that kind of character the focal point of a story would have been a disaster.  There's no way I could've made the point of view believable, and the resulting novel would have been atrocious.

Unfortunately, continuing in this vein severely limits my writing world.  It's one thing to accept one's limitations and know that you have no need to get better.  For example, I know nothing about cars.  When I open up the hood, I might as well be staring at the original equation for String Theory from Albert Einstein.  At the same time, I'm not going to be a mechanic or a race car driver, so I don't have any practical need to understand the internal combustion engine.  I do, on the other hand, have need to understand viewpoints foreign to me since doing so will help me write a better book.  That's what made the entire exercise both frustrating and necessary.

I also learned that people will glom onto anything you write as proof positive that that's who you are.  More than one liberal told me that they knew I was a tea-bagging nutjob, while a pair of atheists said they appreciated having a kindred spirit writing blog posts.  Folks, few, if any, of you have any real idea of what I believe - this was just an exercise, and the emotions aroused in some people were among the biggest compliments I could've gotten.  The only one that didn't draw comment was the one I most wanted to know what people thought - that of the serial killer.  Maybe some things are just better left in the realm of imagination.

I guess it's time to get back to writing.  It's also time for me...and for me.

Roses are red,
violets are blue,
I have multiple personality disorder,
and so do I!