I just started re-watching Veronica Mars, and I noticed something about the pilot.vmars1

It’s loaded with exposition, voice-over narration, and flashbacks — three things screenwriting experts say don’t do. And yet it works. It’s not the show’s greatest episode, but it succeeds in getting us interested in this world and situation (well, enough of us to make a movie possible several years later).

On the other hand, when the Green Lantern movie opened with voice-over exposition, I knew we were in trouble.

The lesson: Break rules skillfully, but do not break rules awkwardly. (And people say adverbs never amount to anything.)

That’s a Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman’s a tough character to get right, but Rainfall Films has produced an impressive short film starring the world’s most recognizable super-heroine:

I’d be interested in learning more about that Wonder Woman.

In any case, this film is a great of example of letting images tell the story. Presenting a clear picture often beats long passages of flowery prose discussing what the character is feeling. Sometimes introspection works great, but other times a character’s actions show us much more about the person.

Editing discount

Writers need editors. Even the best writers do. If you’re an author, you know this. You probably have a little voice in your head telling you to hire a professional editor to take your manuscript to the next level.

Another voice, however, is probably nagging you about how expensive editing services can run. So here’s a potential solution. For the next week, through Oct. 3, I’m dropping my editing fee down to $5 per 1,000 words. (It’s normally $6 per 1,000 — still relatively low.)

How will you know I’m the right person for the job? Just send me the first five pages, and I’ll edit them for free. You’ll see firsthand how I work. Even if your project isn’t quite ready for editing, I can do those five pages now and lock you in at the discounted rate.

As an indie author myself, I have a vested interest in helping improve the quality of all books, indie and traditional, so I’m already rooting for your book to be the best it can be. The book market isn’t a zero-sum game. The more good books that exist, the more books people will buy. And if more “unknown” authors are producing books of exceptional quality, then the probability of discovery increases for more “unknown” authors.

I want to help you.

You can read more about my editing services here.

Any questions? Please contact me at or my Facebook page.


Last week, I finally completed a full draft of the third novella in the Earths in Space series.

I had been struggling with it since January, and I took several lengthy breaks to work on other projects, primarily the RIP series (Volume 1: Choices After Death coming soon!). Each time I returned to the story, it never quite felt right. It had some good moments, yes — enough to motivate me to keep going with it.

The story needed to happen. I knew that, especially since I had already written drafts of the fourth and fifth novellas and most of the sixth. There were holes in character development that needed filling. The crew needed one more story before the events in Episode Four.

But I kept making mistakes in execution. The plot involves a zombie-like threat in a space ark that gets snagged in Pluto’s orbit. I didn’t want to do the usual zombies, though. The Walking Dead does great zombies, and I don’t have anything to add to that type of living dead, flesh-eating monster. I wanted a new type of living dead monster — one that eats energy. Continue reading

A benefit of writing and reading

I had a random thought last night:

A beneficial side-effect of creative writing and reading is getting into heads and points-of-view that aren’t your own.

Understanding other people’s perspectives is an essential life skill. It leads to empathy, compassion, and tolerance, and it reduces the number of times someone angrily says, “How can anyone in their right mind think X?!?!?”

Good writers allow their characters to express views the writers themselves don’t believe. This is vital. The good guys can’t all have identical worldviews. There can be some common ground, but distinctions need to be drawn. And would you want to read a book in which all the sympathetic characters appear to be mouthpieces for the author’s opinions? Continue reading

How not to write a bad review

Not everyone likes everything, and that’s fine. There is no such thing as a flawless work of entertainment, whether it’s a book, movie, play, or TV show.

The world is vast and complex, and we each perceive it from a different angle. We notice things others miss, and other people notice things we miss.

A movie’s flaws might grate on certain audience members, diminishing or eliminating their enjoyment. Someone else in the same theater might be willing to forgive those flaws, and other people might not even notice those flaws because other aspects of the film are dazzling enough to distract them. And others might still find those flaws grating, but they’ll put up with them because they enjoy other qualities within the movie.

This has nothing to do with intelligence. Everyone’s just looking at the movie differently based on their unique life experiences leading up to that point.

Some things appeal to larger numbers of people, but nothing appeals to everyone and it’s okay to express that opinion.

The key, however, is remembering that it’s just an opinion. Continue reading

“Doing great and getting better”

In one of my other lives, I help out at a martial arts school. Whenever we ask the kids how they’re doing, they know to respond, “Doing great and getting better, sir!”

It’s an attitude worth adopting, regardless of what we’re doing.

How’s that book coming along? Doing great and getting better!

How are you doing with your fitness goals? Doing great and getting better!

How are you adjusting to your new job? Doing great and getting better! Continue reading

Fun with titling

I previously announced my next title as RIP vol. 1: Choices. Today, while printing out free samples for tomorrow’s Hanover Book Festival, I decided the title needs to be RIP vol. 1: Choices After Death.

Two words. One prepositional phrase. And it feels like it makes all the difference.

“Choices” kept feeling too vague and generic to me. It certainly fit a theme of the book, as the earthbound ghosts in RIP are basically in purgatory and it’s up to each individual to decide whether to work toward Heaven or waste away until Hell calls. Plus, Rip himself has to choose to snap out of his funk and to embrace his mission to stop the wicked ghosts from haunting the living.

So I was definitely on the right track by including “choices” somewhere in the title. But it wasn’t enough. It didn’t distinguish the book, didn’t help it stand out. It didn’t spark the imagination in any way. Continue reading

Making paranormal rules is fun!

This article was originally written for C.J. Brightley’s blog during the Blogger Book Fair, and I’m re-posting here in case you missed it.

I’m writing a series about ghosts, but before I started, I had to figure something out: What on Earth can ghosts do?

If I was writing a series about police officers, I’d need to research and learn about the laws governing their behavior on the job. If I was writing about tigers, I’d need to learn everything I could about tigers. But there aren’t any concrete, factual accounts of ghosts. Tons of stories and legends are out there, but to what degree my stories conform to existing folklore is entirely up to me.

That means I got to make up my own rules, and I couldn’t get started on the first draft until I sorted out what some of those rules were. I was certainly free to change my mind along the way—and I did—but I needed a tentative rulebook to get started. Continue reading


RIP was originally planned as a television series, as I’ve previously mentioned.RIP-1-Touch.jpg

I had already written about four and a half TV episodes, some more polished than others. The first episode, “Hi, I Kill Dead People,” became the first e-book, “Touch.”

Having the TV scripts gave me a head-start, but plenty of work remained. When you write a script, you’re not supposed to try to direct it. Don’t choreograph every last little bit of action. Don’t tell the actors exactly what to do. Describe a setting in a sentence, not a paragraph and certainly not paragraphs. You also need to avoid figurative language. The action should only describe what we’ll see on the screen—don’t put some metaphorical image in the reader’s mind that makes them think of something else entirely. This does, however, give you more time to focus on getting the dialogue and story structure right. Continue reading