Thursday, October 1, 2015

Bad Moon On The Rise

Author and blogger Teri Polen has a great feature on her blog entitled Bad Moon On The Rise. Each day during the month of October, a different author and book will be featured. I'm proud to lead off the month with an interview about The Epitaph of Jonas Barloff, how I developed the book, and a few other interesting questions. Check it out at TERI'S BLOG.


Sunday, June 7, 2015

Character Development 101

Creating characters for your novel or short story and assigning personality traits is a no-brainer, right? All an author has to do is give his or her little darlings individuality, place them in awkward situations or force them into conflicts with other characters, and then slip out for a cappuccino while our fictional friends write the story. The writing process is so easy, even an illiterate can do it. Right?

Not so fast. Character creation may seem obvious to Charles Dickens, but for someone like me who woke up one morning and decided to write the next “Tale of Two Cities” in a single day, the fine art of creating characters was a frustrating, evolutionary experience—a process that needed serious refining. Let me explain.

About seven years ago, I started writing my first novel, The Epitaph of Jonas Barloff. The basic premise sprang from a ninth grade writing assignment doled-out by my English teacher who instructed the class to write a short story. I don’t remember her stipulating any parameters: genre, moral, etc.—just write a short story. That’s it. I returned to class with three whole pages of paranormal prose worthy of an old Twilight Zone episode on television. (The teacher falsely accused me of plagiarism and slapped me with an F, but I’ll save that story for another day.)

That was over forty years ago. In 2007, I started turning that old short story into a full-length novel. The tale had a beginning and an ending, but the middle section became a muddled nightmare. Not exactly what I had in mind. All I can say is this: I wish I had known then what I know now. You see, I developed my characters: Daniel, Marc, Angela, Jonas and others on the fly. I let them evolve over time, which meant previous chapters required constant rewrites to match the characters’ ever changing personality traits…or subject them to inevitable psychiatric evaluations by readers and reviewers.

Letting characters evolve isn’t a bad thing. In fact, character development makes for scintillating reading. As human beings, we all evolve (I’m not talking about Uncle Ape and Aunt Baboon, so hold those nasty emails). Events in our lives, especially conflicts, can have profound consequences, or at least they should. Hopefully, for the better. If not, we’re not growing as well rounded people. Shouldn’t that be true for our fictional friends as well? In literature, character flaws may take the story in a different, unpredictable, and therefore, more interesting direction.

When I first started writing fiction, my characters were flat. Undefined. Lifeless. But over the course of writing three-hundred pages, I came to grips with the fact that Marc needed acceptance and moral support. Though well adjusted due to his intact family, he needed peer affirmation. Meanwhile, the beautiful, intelligent, but fatherless Angela longed for paternal affection, and naturally gravitated to the elderly Jonas Barloff against Marc’s better judgment.

While the evolution of my characters came naturally, I didn’t plan their development or take advantage of their storytelling abilities during the first draft of my novel. I simply gave them space and let nature take its course. A few drafts later, I realized my characters were pushing me away from the keyboard and writing the novel for me. Thanks, Marc and Angela.

Five long years and eleven drafts (count them, eleven) passed during the writing of "The Epitaph of Jonas Barloff". This insufferable writing process taught me so many lessons that my next book, "A Door Unlocked", sailed from beginning to end in four or five months. Talk about the college of hard knocks!

Here’s the takeaway: beginning authors should create lifelike, 3D characters by giving them strong, recognizable attributes. Place them in unusual situations and give them space to grow and mature (or not). I’m telling you this so you’ll avoid the painful mistakes I made. By defining your characters at the beginning of your story and plotting their evolutionary process as humans, you’ll find that your writing process is much more efficient. Therefore, the returns are not only pleasant, they’re gratifying, and your little darlings will reward you in ways only Charles Dickens could imagine. 

                                                                                     -- Calvin Dean

Monday, June 1, 2015

Collierville, TN Library Event

I'm excited that the Collierville, TN library invited me to speak on Tuesday, June 2, 2015. I'll read from my YA novel, "The Epitaph of Jonas Barloff" and discuss character development. The event starts at 1 pm and should last about a hour. Hope to see you there.

Lucius E. & Elsie C. Burch, Jr. Library
501 Poplar View Pkwy.
Collierville, TN

Friday, April 17, 2015

Nasty Computer Virus

I've been away from the favorite desktop computer for about a week thanks to a nasty computer virus. This bugger was really, really bad news. Unknown to me, the thing struck my hard drive on Tuesday, April 7. By the next day, the virus infected my entire hard drive. Every folder: Word Docs, photos, video files...everything was wiped out...including the sequel to my latest novella. Ouch!

My virus expert in Florida called it "Decryption". The virus encrypts files and renders them useless. I couldn't open anything. What's worse, I use a USB "thumb" drive for back-up. Unfortunately, I left the stick plugged-in. Guess what. The virus infected my USB drive also rendering every back-up file unreadable. He also said the virus would have infected any remote back-up system too...anything connected to my PC.

I was sick. In fact, I'm still not over it. I had to completely wipe my hard drives...all four of them. Count 'em. Four! The USB drive too.

After spending a day or more re-installing software including a lot of downloads from the internet, I'm finally back up and running. Many thanks to my son for allowing me to use his laptop during this ordeal.

That sequel I mentioned? The one I lost forever? Yeah, that one. The Word Doc was approximately 7500 words when the virus hit. After a day of mourning, I got to work recreating the story. I'm up to about 5000 words right now. Amazingly, the story is coming back to me without the benefit of an outline, which was also destroyed.

Lesson learned. Back-up your work regularly...and don't leave your USB connected.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

New Author Facebook Page

I've been active on Twitter for a few years now. Today, I finally got around to creating my Facebook author page. I'm a decade behind. Feel free to click on over and hit Like. I'll try to make it worth your while.

Calvin's Facebook Author Page

Calvin's Twitter Page

Monday, April 6, 2015

Odds & Ends

Well, it's finally here. This past Sunday night marked the first pitch of the 2015 Major League Baseball season. Big doings for those of us here in America who love our national pastime. To celebrate, I published a free short story on Wattpad entitled The Rookie Umpire. Check it out here. I'll publish a second short story in the coming weeks. Both are true stories.

Speaking of baseball, this spring and summer, I'll be umpiring youth league baseball games at Snowden Grove Park, home of the Dizzy Dean World Series. Last year, I accepted an invitation to umpire four Dizzy Dean World Series games. I'm hoping for more games this year.

Changing the subject - I also added a couple of new videos to my YouTube Channel recently. One is a brief author interview in which I address the premise and main characters of the first novel, The Epitaph of Jonas Barloff. Today, I added a brief author introductory video. Go here to view them.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Rookie Umpire

The Rookie Umpire is based on a true story that happened
to me, the author, many years ago. Was I scared? You better
believe it. Afterwards, I said I never umpire another baseball
game as long as I lived. For decades I didn't. But something
changed. Last year I started umpiring local league games at
Snowden Grove Park. By the end of the season, I was asked to
umpire four Dizzy Dean World Series Games. I accepted.
Without hesitation.  

In this story, I created a main character, Elliot Mathews, and
gave him more athletic ability than I possess, but the story is
real. Only 1800 words, The Rookie Umpire is for people who
love the game...from the sandlot...to little league...to the professionals. Click the link
below that will take you to Wattpad where the story resides. Then relax and let
this story take you back to the baseball diamond of your youth. Baseball. Truly
America's pastime. Enjoy.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Progress on Sequel to Stone's Curse

Now that "Stone's Curse" is in the editing and proofreading stage, I'm moving forward on a sequel. The sequel's working title is "Gallagher's Curse". So far, the work-in-progress is 4300 words. Like "Stone's Curse", I expect "Gallagher's Curse" to top out at 20,000 to 30,000 words. ("Stone's Curse" is 29,800.) Eventually, the two novellas will be combined to form a book called "Curses". Will there be additional sequels? A trilogy, perhaps? Maybe. I don't know. I never planned a sequel in the first place. Stay tuned.

Many thanks to my editor, Nikki Busch. Nikki is skilled with Chicago Manual of Style and has an extraordinary command of English grammar. She claims to "devour books" and I know this to be true. Follow her on Twitter at @NikkiBuschEdit.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Download Nook, Get $5 Credit

Last fall, I downloaded Kindle for Android. Honestly, I didn't think I would like it...thought the screen size would be too small on my Galaxy phone. Turns out, I love it! Besides, I like carrying books with me everywhere. You never know when you'll have time on your hands: the doctors office, getting the oil changed, etc. - so you can spend time in a good book and avoid the stale magazines in the doctor's office.

Now Barnes & Nobel is offering a free download of their popular Nook for iPhone, iPad and Android. With that free download, you get a $5 credit toward the purchase of an ebook.

I downloaded Nook to my personal computer a few years ago mainly to check the formatting of my books. The app works great, so give it a try. Go here for the free app:  http://bit.ly/1Ofd0uO

Saturday, March 21, 2015

On to Editing - Round 2

Yesterday, Nikki Busch, editor extraordinaire, finished editing the manuscript for my forthcoming novella, Stone's Curse. Here's what she said on Twitter:

Just 's great new . Refreshing to work with an who knows his stuff!

Thanks, Nikki. Yeah, I'm blushing. 

I'll be going over her markups in the coming days and incorporate them into the story. I gotta tell you, she is one fantastic editor. Catches everything. More info to come.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

YouTube Interview

My first novel,  The Epitaph of Jonas Barloff, published in 2013, is set in the mythical town of Sycamore Grove, MS. In the linked video below, I introduce the main characters in the book and share a few scenes from the small town (Senatobia, MS) that inspired the story.

I'm often asked about the dilapidated antebellum mansion that is central to the plot. That home doesn't exist. It's is a figment of my imagination. Enjoy the video:


Sunday, March 15, 2015

New Novella In Editing Stage

This is an exciting week for me. My new novella, Stone's Curse, goes under the knife of famed editor Nikki Busch. Nikki has my full confidence. In fact, I have already pointed out one flaw that we'll have to mend. I'm sure she will find many more. That's what the editing process is all about. It can be hectic and challenging, but in the end, the editing process makes for a more enjoyable read. I'm ready. The manuscript is ready. I know Nikki is more than capable.

While Nikki is busy at work, I'll be revving up the sequel to Stone's Curse...and finishing two short stories about my favorite sport: baseball, which will be coming soon to this blog and WattPad. More about that in late March or early April.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Review: What the Night Knows

After reading Darkness Under the Sun by Dean Koontz, the next logical book is What the Night Knows. In this novel, Koontz picks up where ‘Darkness’ leaves off. It’s been twenty years since 14-year-old John Calvino killed mass murderer Alton Blackwood in self defense. Now Calvino is a detective investigating another 14-year-old who killed his family for no apparent reason, and Calvino cannot ignore the similarities between the two murders, so what if they’re 20 years removed from one another. The real giveaway is the statement the 14-year-old utters during an informal interrogation. How could anyone know what Blackwood said to young Calvino 20 years ago? Calvino revealed these words to no one—kept it locked up inside all these years.

Now Calvino has a family of his own and fears the ghost of Blackwood is coming after his family. After all, he promised he would. It takes over 400 pages to sort it all out, and trust me, the pages fly by…up until the final chapter or two. Oh, don’t get me wrong, they still fly by, but in an effort to bring the story to a crescendo, Koontz delivers too much too fast. Sometimes less is more. At least that’s my impression. The story ends satisfactorily, but perhaps the ride became a little bumpier than necessary. What the Night Knows is still a fantastic read, but the ending prompts me to award 4-Stars instead of the 5 I felt it deserved…right up until that overreaching crescendo.

(I read What the Night Knows on my Kindle for Android during Spring Break 2015.)

Friday, February 27, 2015

Review: Darkness Under the Sun

Eleven-year-old Howie apparently likes exploring abandoned buildings. Once inside the old emporium, he climbs to the roof and stumbles upon Alton Blackwood. Howie and Alton share one characteristic: disfigurement, and they become fast friends. Howie doesn't understand why the entirety of a grown man's existence consists of moving from shadow to shadow. Youthful innocence prompts Howie to invite Alton to rent a room at his parent's house. That's when Howie runs home to prepare sandwiches and grab a few photos of his family to share, but upon his return to the roof, Alton is absent. Left behind is a backpack containing incriminating evidence. Is it too late? Can Howie return home in time to warn his parents and sister? Can he save others who might fall into Alton's path?

Darkness Under the Sun is short story that set's up Dean Koontz novel entitled "What the Night Knows." I gave "Darkness" 4-stars, but 4.5-Stars is a more accurate rating. It's very good if you like dark suspense.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Book Reviews

I don't always review the books I read, but recently, for some unexplained reason, I decided to chime-in on a few. These reviews are also posted at Goodreads and Amazon.com.

ODD THOMAS - YOU ARE DESTINED TO BE TOGETHER FOREVER by DEAN KOONTZ  ***** This was my first Kindle Short download. I've read several, though not all, of the Odd Thomas series, so this prequel was a nice reminder of Oddie's paranormal abilities. I especially like the cameo appearances by Elvis Presley. Most of all, I like the way Koontz mixes humor and catastrophe. I've always felt that horror and the paranormal do not have to be all blood and guts. Glad to know that Koontz agrees. 


BLOOD MEMORY By GREG ILES  **** Catherine “Cat” Ferry has a lot on her plate. New Orleans police and the FBI need her special skills to catch a serial killer. Unfortunately, she’s addicted to vodka and suffering mental and emotional breakdowns at the crime scene. But there’s much more to Cat’s problems. Returning home to Natchez, MS (the author’s hometown), a chance discovery puts Cat in touch with excruciating childhood memories. She recounts the murder of her father twenty years ago and the abuse suffered at his hands – or at least that’s what she has been led to believe. Recalling the trauma is as difficult as solving the New Orleans murders.

Over the course of 800 pages, Greg Iles takes us back and forth between the two cities: to murder scenes, repressed dreams, visits with Cat’s Grandpapa (a pillar of the community), an eccentric psychiatrist who knows Cat more intimately than anyone should, and a list of savory and unsavory locals. Is there a connection between Cat’s abuse and the murders? Is Cat involved?

I expected a lot of red herrings, dead ends and filler in these 800 pages. I was pleasantly surprised that the novel held my interest throughout. Greg Iles is a master storyteller. Though Blood Memory is not my favorite book by the author, I give it a solid 4-stars.


THE NEIGHBOR by DEAN KOONTZ  ***** The Neighbor is a short story by Dean Koontz. The house next door sits vacant. Mr. Clockenwall died of a massive heart attack a month earlier. Twelve-year-old, Malcolm, viewed the old man, a retired English teacher, as quiet, one who kept to himself. But one night, an unusual sound drew Malcolm and his older sister, Amalia, into the vacant home. Amalia confides that Mr. Clockenwall gave her the creeps, and for good reason. She admonished Malcolm never to set foot in his home alone. Malcolm can’t resist. Forces working beyond Malcolm’s control draw him into home. He finds scrapbooks, pictures and newspaper clippings. In the basement, he finds more evidence of a man with problems. Will the force overcome him? And his sister?


Sunday, February 22, 2015

Review: Last Second Chance - 5-Stars

Last Second Chance is a novel by my friend and fellow author, Kristi Cramer:

Tim Reardon has paid his debt to society — five years in prison. Now it’s time to pick up the pieces and start a new life, but jobs for ex-cons are scarce. A phone call to his sister, first met with skepticism, lands Tim his Last Second Chance. He’ll have to make the most of it or crash land back in prison. A bus ride later, Tim finds himself learning the ropes as a ranch hand in Kansas, far removed from the only life he’d known: meth runner in Denver for a well-stocked drug lord who just happens to be his ex-girlfriend. Five years removed, she is not ready to let go. And while adjusting to life on the prairie is paying off, a few ranch hands don’t take too kindly to Tim and his new-found love interest, Janie. Jealousy? Revenge? Perhaps, but it cuts a little deeper. Regardless, Tim is up against multiple forces that want to knock him down a few rungs on the ladder to say the least.

Last Second Chance is a cowboy romance that reads like a Louis L’Amour suspense novel. It’s sagebrush, trail dust and hard rides in the saddle set against a modern Kansas wilderness. And if you think you know how the story ends, prepare to be thrown from the saddle. Make no bones about it, author Kristi Cramer’s story meanders and flows like a Rocky Mountain stream. One minute you’re riding the current, the next you’re shooting the rapids, and by the time you catch your breath, you’re turning the pages of the final chapter. Don’t miss out on this one, partner. My recommendation is to take the reins and head on over to Amazon right now. Just try to put this book down. I dare you. No regrets on this 5-star read.

Calvin Dean

Coming in April

The Rookie Umpire is based on a true story. I'll post this 1800-word short story on WattPad, here and possibly other venues. Look for it at the start of the 2015 Major League Baseball season.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

When Life Gets In The Way

Last week I finished the first few drafts of, Stone's Curse, a novella I starting working on last autumn. As my editor suggested, I'll set the manuscript aside for a month, and then give it one more review with fresh eyes in late February. And then off to my editor. In the meantime, I started working on an unplanned sequel.

But something happened. Life got in the way. In a good sort of way.

An old friend, Warren Honeycutt, asked me to produce a series of videos for him about fitness, nutrition and weight loss management. Warren is the ultimate guru on this subject. He is a six time finalist (count 'em, six) at the NPC Nationals - a.k.a. Mr. America. At age 61 (he turns 62 in a week or two), the man is in far better shape than most twenty- or thirty-somethings. Companies like LiveStrong and Life Extension rely on his expertise. He's on various television programs showing us regular Joe's how to stay fit too. He's a motivational speaker, author, trainer, and basically, an all around nice guy.

I'm currently in the process of editing seven DVDs that will eventually become part of a course entitled "Get Lean For Life." In this series, Warren teaches you how to put your fitness and nutritional goals on autopilot - something he has been doing since age 16. Amazing!

Well, the diversion from authoring books has been a treat, but soon I'll return to the editing process of "Stone's Curse", and then back to work on its sequel - which was never planned, by the way. Sometimes things just happen. In a good sort of way.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Update On Novel #3

I'm making good progress on novel #3. Yet unnamed, I am growing comfortable with a title I devised in the last day or so. I'm also happy to report that I've retained the services of professional editor, Nicole Busch. Here's a brief synopsis and a few quotes from the book.
Confirmed bachelor, Martin Gallagher, sold his condo and moved to a house in the country. No one told him the property is haunted until a local psychic divulges a curse placed on the house 100 years ago.

"The house needed spiritual purification and Madam Zelda appointed me chief exorcist. Oh, joy."

While courting his attractive new neighbor, Martin must convince the spirit of a previous owner to help lift the curse. Not even the medium is prepared for the aftermath.

"I recalled Madam Z’s advice—avoid Agnes…have nothing to do with her. Yet here I was, drool on my chin, tangled in her wicked web. What was I to do?"
Get ready for an outrageously funny and wicked romance as Martin falls prey to a spell of his own devices.
"She walked in as if she owned the joint. A hundred years ago, she did."
I hope to finish the first draft by the end of January, 2015. I'll let it percolate for a month, give it another going over with a pair of fresh eyes, and then send the manuscript off to Nicole in March. With luck, perhaps the final product will be available sometime this summer. I'll keep you posted.