Monthly Archives: August 2013

Podcast 02 – Author Jeff Strand

Jeff Strand, author of over 20 novels, including the highly successful Andrew Mayhem Series and A Bad Day for VooDoo shares his approach to his comedy-horror novels, the changes to distribution and his latest release, Dead Clown Barbecue.

JeffStrand-Podcast

Many thanks to Jeff who suffered through a cold while recording the podcast.  He’s a trooper.

Enjoy the Show!

(Running Time 38:24)

Links Mentioned in the Show:

Jeff Strand

Lynne Hansen Design

Books:

Conventions:

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A Theory

I have a theory.

This theory started when I was in college.  Back before DVDs and online streaming, it was nearly impossible to watch a movie that was no longer in the theaters and movie classics could rarely be seen outside of film festivals.  So, it was a special treat to see Hitchcock’s classic Rear Window in college as part of a film class I was taking .

rearwindow

They got the film from Universal Studios and showed it at the student union in the middle of campus.  The theater was packed with film class students and those who heard about the screening.  After the lights dimmed and Grace Kelly’s magical entrance onto the screen, the suspense started in earnest.  As the plot unfolded and the tension mounted, you could sense the crowd growing anxious.  When a major event occurred on screen it was the first time I heard an audience scream out loud in the theater.

It was awesome.

That film experience was so memorable and inspirational for me that I wanted to try and recreate that for others.  Even though I was drawn to film as a child, that showing of Rear Window changed my direction and my focus.

And that’s where my theory comes in.

I think that creative people have all had that one moment that redefined their path.  And they spend the rest of their lives trying to recreate that feeling for others.  For me that path has evolved from film to novels, but the goal is still the same.

I don’t know if my theory is true.  I haven’t collected enough stories as to what inspired stand-ups to stand-up, or Stephen King to scare the crap out of us, or why Scorcese creates films about the mob, but I figure there’s got to be something tangible, definitive and tied to the creative collective.

I could be wrong.  Maybe stand-ups stand-up because their childhoods were so miserable, or Stephen King writes scary stories because it helped him pick up chicks or Scorcese makes mob movies because he likes the way they dress.  I don’t know.

But I hope it’s more than that.  I hope it’s part of an on-going cycle of inspiration/reaction/recreation/inspiration.  That would be cool.

I may be proven otherwise, but, until then, that’s my theory and I’m sticking to it.

If you’d care to share your moment of creative inspiration, I’d love to hear it.  Let us know in the comments section.

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A Pius Man – Book Review

A Pius Man: A Holy Thriller, by Declan Finn, is equal parts intriguing and frustrating.  As a self-published novel, it is one or two professional edits away from being a top-notch thriller.

pius-manA Pius Man is the first in a trilogy of books and deals with the threats against a newly elected Jesuit Pope and his attempts to canonize Pope Pius XII, who served as the head of the Catholic Church during World War II.  The complex and compelling story involves representatives from nearly every branch of international enforcement agencies, from Vatican police to Mossad to Secret Service to Egyptian police, ex-Special Forces, Interpol, to free lance mercenaries, spies and a Hollywood stuntman to boot.

These forces work together and against each other in an attempt to uncover the connection and ultimate goal of a series of murders involving al-qaeda operatives, scholastics, and priests, all of whom were involved in investigating Pope Pius XII.  Each team member comes in with suspicions and preconceived ideas about the others and through their deep and intertwining investigations learn the true agendas behind their reasons for being there.

Finn has obviously done a tremendous amount of research, both about the Vatican and Pope Pius XII.  As the book examines, in the sixties and seventies there was a lot of new claims that Pius XII was in bed with the Nazi’s and did nothing to help the Jews from the slaughter that awaited them. These claims were mostly based on suspicious sources (some of which were forged) while proven documents contradicting these claims were mostly ignored.  It is this tension between Pius XII’s real actions during one of the world’s darkest moments and these false claims that Finn uses as a catalyst for the story.

More often than not, Finn does a good job of weaving into the story corrections about inaccuracies of Catholic belief and history.  Most of these morsels of information are related directly to the investigation, while others are bit clunky in the text.  However, as a Catholic who has had to defend the church’s beliefs and stances from the ignorance of others, I appreciate Finn’s attempts to clear the air.

There are a few things that stand out and get in the way of this book reaching its full potential, simple things that a professional editor would have fixed quite easily.  For example, there are eight main characters in this book, many with appropriately middle-eastern names, and yet Finn rarely calls them by the same name twice in a row.

There is one character, for example, whose name is Sean Ryan.  Within a single chapter he can be called Sean, Ryan, Sean Ryan, Sean A. P. Ryan or Sean Aloysius Patricus Ryan.  Multiply that by eight characters and put that in the middle of two vans under a hail of gunfire and rocket propelled grenades and you quickly lose track of who is doing what.  The simple standard of introducing a character once and, thereafter, using a single version of their name outside of dialogue would have eliminated this confusing and completely unnecessary obstacle for enjoying the story.

Even though it was recently published, I’m not sure when the book was written, because it feels like it has been sitting around for a while.  For example, when characters talk about picking up disposable cameras at the airport, it screams “ten years ago.”  This, too, was a distraction.

Another very odd choice had me stumped.  Although a small part of me appreciated his thinking outside of the box, I was more than confused by Finn’s choice to, at the end of multiple chapters, suggest the reader go online to a website and type in a key phrase to learn more about a character or subject.

I have never heard of an author promoting the idea of having the reader put the book down to do something else.

Finally, I think Declan Finn is the one of the best names for an author I’ve ever heard.  It just screams political thriller.  I don’t know if its a real name or a pen name, but either way, it rocks.

I hope Finn invests a few dollars to revisit this book, updates it and gives it fresh edit.  If he does, he could have something really special here.

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Out of Sight, Out of Mind

When working on a project, I need my must-have information staring me in the face or I’ll never remember all of it.  It’s just the way I’m wired.

Years ago, during training for my day job, I learned that people organize their workspace in a variety of different ways, depending on how their minds manage information.

messydesk  emptydesk

Messy Desk & Empty Desk

  • Organized:  Some people store all of their documents in clearly labelled file folders or place their digital versions in computer files on their laptop or cloud.  Their desk is clear and only used for the work they will focus on that day.
  • Messy: Some people have their information in piles across their desk, making their working environment look as if it was the victim of a very localized tornado.  Somehow, they know where everything is.
  • Empty: Some people’s desk are barren, except for a few odd papers here and there.  No family pictures.  No calendars on the wall.  No schedules of favorite sports teams.  Nothing. You’d barely know someone was working in the desk at all.
  • Visual: And some people, like myself, need their most important items in the open, in front of them, where they can scan and find what they are looking for.

I not only employ this visual method at work, but also when writing.  On one of the walls of my office are 3×5 cards that encompass the entirety of the third novel in our Gabby Wells series.

  • The green cards have the major plot points that get us from one important step to another.
  • Underneath those are white cards where I’ve noted all of the detail that will encompass that green card.
  • The written page will expound that even further, taking those white cards and turning them into actual pages in the book.

There are some software options out there that help you do the same thing.  One I particularly like is Scrivener, which allows you to recreate a 3×5 wall of thoughts and notes into virtual form.

3x5s    Scrivner-Planning

The Wall vs. Scrivener

Though using Scrivener’s 3×5 card display does help me in some ways, especially when writing away from home, I still prefer looking at the wall and seeing it all in front of me.  That just works for me.

I know it seems old school, even archaic to people who’ve grown up with the computer technology their whole lives, but as someone who has bridged the gap between typewriters and personal computers, from the dewey decimal system to online search engines, I can’t help but rely on the method from which I have had the most creative success.

For me, if it’s out of sight, it is truly out of mind.

How do you organize your workspace?

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A Healthy Faith Journey

The primary reason I am attracted to creating faith-based entertainment for young adults is because they have virtually no viable options that promote a healthy faith journey.

Whether it be our Nikki & Babs DVD or our upcoming Gabby Wells novel series, I feel there is a growing need for young adult characters that are faced with the same moral challenges of the readers and who have incorporated their faith journey as an important part of their lives.

Gabby-Header

Nearly all entertainment geared at young adults promote decisions and life styles that are in complete opposition to church teachings. They confuse lust for love and focus on the lustful stages of a relationship, but quickly abandon it when the “heat” wears off.  They promote indulgence and self-gratification.  They promote materialism and pettiness.  They promote deceit and vanity.

I’m no fool.  All of those things exist.  And all of those things will be faced by a young adult today. But, instead of pushing them to embrace their own selfishness, I create characters that openly struggle with trying to overcome those tendencies, to try and live a holy life in a corrupt and fallen world.

Like the reader, these characters will not always make the right decisions.  They will struggle with selective morality when their faith calling gets too difficult or inconvenient or in the way of their immediate goals.

However, unlike TV and films and most books, our characters brush off their sinfulness and try again, never losing sight of the end goal, entry into Heaven.

Unlike angels, we were not created complete.  We were created to learn and grown, which means we will try and fail.  A faith journey is a life-long process that requires dedication, consistency and filling your life with people and things that help you grow in a healthy way.

We hope the Gabby Wells novel series can be one of those things that help you in your own faith journey.

What other forms of entertainment have helped you in your faith journey?  Let us know in the comments section.

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Typecasting Tuesday – Ribbon Resurrection

Pete-Typecast02

Want to turn your typewriter into your computer keyboard?  Go here:  http://www.usbtypewriter.com/

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Marketing Plans

Creating an effective marketing campaign means you have to work backwards.

Checklist

For our first book, Gabby Wells: Water & Blood, Dorothea and I met and had a brainstorming session over lunch, discussing all of the things that have to happen between now and the release of the book.  As you can imagine, such a list can be both extensive and daunting.

Items in the list include things such as:

  • complete final edit
  • design and complete book cover
  • research strategic marketing opportunities in more detail
  • update websites
  • create publishing company LLC, if necessary.
  • develop posters and advertisements
  • acquire pre-release reviews
  • determine give-aways
  • research bookseller organizations that would support our product

That’s not the complete list by far.  And many of the items on the list require multiple tasks to complete.  Our To Do list can quickly become unmanageable.

So, we categorized the list into three basic categories:  Immediate, Near Term and Long Term. This will, at least, prioritize our immediate workload into those items that are required before subsequent tasks can be initiated.

However, no marketing plan is complete without a due date.  So, we formulated a prospective release date and worked backward from there to see if all that we have to do can be completed when we want to release the book.  Our current goal date is about a year from now and, though, that may seem like a long time, it isn’t.

With the mountain of tasks that lay in front of us, I can assure you that not a day will pass without working toward checking off something on our list.  But, we’re excited.  There is a light at the end of the tunnel and we’re confident it’s sunlight and not an oncoming train.

Part of the plan will be timed release of marketing material and websites.  Timing is everything. Latest research, for example, shows that a post on Facebook has a three hour window of effectiveness before it is lost in the maelstrom of other updates.  Three hours!

We’ve done a lot of the marketing work already and I’m itching to get it out there, but, with attention spans shortening, increasing marketing noise and a dwindling timeframe by which to grab your customer’s attention, the release plan of all of the marketing material has to be very precise, otherwise the work is wasted.

So, be patient with us.  We have a LOT of things planned.  Getting them all done… well, that’s the hard part, isn’t it?

If you’ve had any experiences with marketing that you’d like to share, please do so in the comments section.  We’d love to hear from you!

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Typecasting Tuesday – Intro

Pete-Typecast01

Wow.  I have to do better next time.  Incomplete thoughts, misspellings, etc.  Practice makes perfect.  Here are some pics of my typewriter and my fix to get it working again.

typewriter01

typewriter02

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