Posts tagged Writing

On Reading

I was an actor long before I started writing. I worked – unsuccessfully – to make it on the Chicago scene.  I’d abandoned that dream, but lately I’ve signed up with a program called “Get Lit(erary),” bringing readings of fiction, drama and music to local establishments. I’ve been able to watch the most common mistakes of novice readers, and would like to address them here.

Reading is a very public performance for people who often work privately. Below are some basic tips for making the most of your readings.

1.       Speak Up and Slow Down. Most people on stage feel that they’re speaking much more slowly than they actually are. You should aim for a measured pace that keeps the audience with you, not stuck behind and straining to understand. By the same token, the person you want to hear your words is the one in the back of the house. If that means raising your voice in a large venue – within reason – then be sure to do so.

2.       Breathe. Allow yourself to take space to breathe between sentences, unless your scene’s at a breakneck pace. Breathe through your nose if you can (especially if you’re on a microphone), and breathe into your diaphragm, not just your chest. This is where speech originates – just above the navel.

3.       Engage the Audience. There’s nothing worse than a reader who keeps their nose stuck in the book they’re reading from. You know the lines, so make a point of delivering them to the crowd. Make eye contact. Look up from the script as often as you can. The audience is here to see you, to connect with you, not just to hear what you wrote. Engaging with the crowd is the biggest thing you can do to keep them entertained, involved – and more likely to buy your book.

4.       Use your Voice. When you come to a tense section of the reading, slow down and lower your voice – or speed up slightly, and raise the pitch. Which you do is a function of the scene (a lurking killer in the house vs. a race through the Ardennes), but by modifying the way you speak, you present the audience with a chance to be caught up in the action. Coming to a romantic scene? Soften your tone and draw the words out. Speak as if you were reading to a crush, or to a committed partner. Again, you know the scene – use a voice that enhances your words.

5.       Always a Full House. It doesn’t matter if the hall is packed or the bookstore has only three chairs filled with the manager, a cashier and a cat. These people are here to see you. You owe them your best. It can be hard to smile through disappointment; but hey – you’re acting now, and this is all part of the act.


Have you had reading experiences, bad or good? Trade a tip in the comments section and you’ll be entered into a drawing to win a signed copy of FAMISHED: THE FARM on its October release!


Talking FAMISHED at Apocalypse Ink

Apocalypse Ink Productions sat down with me over the weekend to ask a few questions about FAMISHED: THE FARM. We went into the amount of research necessary, what drove me to write about such a disturbing topic, the most difficult scenes to write and more.

Read the entire interview at their site.

Leigh Kimmel Reviews Human Tales

Leigh Kimmel over at the Billion Light-Year Bookshelf has a very in-depth review of HUMAN TALES up as of July 24.

The review points out the anti-Semitism which I tried to weave into Bloody Spindle, the retelling of Rumplestiltskin. Like Leigh, I’ve read very compelling studies pointing out this overt thread in the original fairy tale, and that was part of the reason I chose this story when approached for an anthology in which the humans were made to be the villains.

It’s a difficult balance to strike – I wanted to acknowledge a great deal of the injustice that was perpetrated against “the Other” in medieval times and today, without actually writing a polemic. A good deal of the polish for this story was tweaking, removing, or reworking sections that could have come across as either too filled with modern-day sensibilities of equal rights and courtesy, or as outright racist screeds that could have reflected poorly both on yours truly and the anthology as a whole.

So thank you, Leigh! I’m pleased to see that it came through, presumably without harm to anyone.

How about you? What tips can you offer around striking that balance between what you believe, and what the story demands?

Book Launch – ramping up

We’re expecting to launch FAMISHED: THE FARM in October 2012 through Apocalypse Ink Productions. I’m just now starting to understand how much has to go into the prep work for something like this! Fortunately, I’m surrounded by smart, savvy and creative people.

For those who find themselve in similar situations, I’ve put together the short-list of what I expect to need to do leading up to October. Buckle up, kids.

  1. Get a Post Office box. I’m not expecting a huge amount of reader mail, at least the printed kind; but it’s probably a good idea regardless.
  2. Establish a tagline for what I write. This was advice garnered from the Lauren Ruth, the wise woman behind SlushPile Tales.
  3. Complete and order business cards. My background in graphic design’s helping out here.
  4. Update the website. This website. I’ve got a number of tips in my hip pocket already from publisher Jennifer Brozek, and am stealing getting inspiration from other bloggers. Of course, this means stepping outside my RSS feed and actually going to their sites for a while …
  5. Establish a routine for blogging. Hey look, first post of that routine. Whaddayaknow?
  6. Press Releases. I’m lucky to count two media professionals among my gaming / friendship circles, who are eager to help here. As an author in a small town, that has a good chance of making a big splash locally.
  7. Library outreach. Again, I’m lucky to know several librarians around the country, to whom I’ll be putting questions. In addition, I’ve sat on the local library board in a volunteer position in the past; and hope to be able to work with them to set up an order for the book and possibly a speaking engagement.
  8. Readings. Local bookstores are sadly dead in my neck of the woods – it’s the Barnes & Noble or nothing. But I do work with the local theatre, and for a number of small businesses such as coffeeshops and wine bars. In addition, I’ve already had a few Chicago bookstores pointed out to me as being friendly to local authors and readings.
  9. Launch party. A dear group of friends are already working on this one. See “wine bar” above. Dawn Gerth and our circle of friends will see to this for the locals, while I’ll need to tap into some city folk to see who wants to open a living room or patio for a wider, if potentially less raucous, party.
  10. Conventions. That’s going to be the rub – finding and financing trips to at least one post-October Con. I’ve not typically gone to them in the past, and that’s clearly going to have to change.
  11. Finally: Keep writing. Keep writing new stuff, keep planning new stuff, keep scribbling down ideas in the dark of night. 1-10 are important, but if nothing new comes out of my head, the work of my hands will be short-lived.

What am I missing? Overstating or understating? Let me know at

Rough — A Deadly Stretch of Spring

Four bodies lie within the space of four breaths, between Rue Chamonix and Rue Jardin along the country boundary line. A raccoon, a squirrel, a possum and a rabbit.

The raccoon is ungainly in death as in life, a hulking mass curled in upon itself, an end-quote mark to its shambling existence. The hobos of the forest, no gentlemen robbers despite the masks, he lies like a hillock at the roadside. No members of his tribe lie alongside him, as is too often the case; mates and young coming to pay their respects struck down in their weeping-weed furs, but this one lies alone, unknown, never to return.

The squirrel is an afterthought, cast flat by a Fiat or Ford, all but unnoticed – as common as leaves in the autumn, the color of bark and asphalt, splayed like a skydiver miles above the mulching ground. This is the tiniest of bodies and the least striking, but still, the second along the stretch that I drive.

The possum bares his delicate diamond-teeth to the sky, defiant to the last, snapping at the sun as it passes overhead. They seem so small, so pointless; and yet I know they’d tear the world to shreds given half a chance, tear time and light to tiny pieces and scatter them across the road.

The rabbit’s a surprise, bright white fur against the dirty snow-remnants, along a ditch-side the warmth and sun have yet to discover. He lies at full length, leaping, kicking his heels to escape the oncoming inevitable end.

It’s he who surprises me, who makes me realize just how much death I’ve seen on this little stretch of road, how little attention people have paid to the world around them behind the wheels of their red-rimmed machines. It’s he who makes me switch off the telephones, turn down the music, put both hands in their proper place and ease off the gas. Each little body is a prayer flag to caution and care, fur fluttering against the deadly breeze of spring.

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