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Confession Time: Ike Was an Accident

While preparing for our weekly radio show, Friday Night Writes (Friday night from 8-10 EST on FlaglerBeachRadio.com) Armand and I were throwing around some potential discussion topics when Armand suggested Creating your biggest character and giving it the playful subtitle The Ike Syndrome – as a nod to my biggest character.

I started thinking about the origins of Ike and I quickly realized that I would have no great insight to share as to how my larger-than-life protector-of-Flagler-Beach came into being…because I never had any designs on creating a character of such mythical proportions.

Okay – maybe mythical is a bit much, but you get the point.

Here’s the story behind the story…

…cue flashback effects and eerie music…

When I began writing my first novel, Living the Dream, I never intended it to be released.

Living the Dream

I’ve told the story about how I had a crazy dream which became the jumping-off point for the book, and that much is true…but what I haven’t told too many people is that I was really writing it as a way to pass time.

I had been living in Florida for only 5 or 6 months at the time. My social life was non-existent and there were many hours to kill, so I filled them with writing as opposed to watching TV. I assumed that when I got to the end, the story would spend the rest of time collecting virtual dust as a file on my computer’s hard drive.

Since I had no plans for my hobby/project to ever see the light of day, I decided to have some fun with it by naming characters after my friends and family. It was fun seeing how many I could squeeze in.

When Jimmy, the antagonist, needed a forged passport and credit cards I had to introduce a person with some black-market connections (Ralph – local bookie and mob type). Since Jimmy was not the type to associate with the criminal element I needed a go-between…so I threw in Ralph’s right-hand-man Ike.

Ike was named after one of my closest friends and barely had any significant role in the story (which is why I never bothered giving him a full name).

Eventually I convinced myself that Living the Dream was worthy of being published, so I started the process to make it happen – and in the meantime began working on book number 2 – Water Hazard.

The plot for Water Hazard came about from reading an incredibly insightful and somewhat scary non-fiction book called Water Follies, which dealt with the damage we are doing to the planet by over-pumping ground water.

Water Hazard

I had a good lead-in to the story where the protagonist, Steve, is inadvertently tasked with rescuing a kidnapped teenage boy. A mission that subsequently lands him in hot water with a crooked land developer, putting his life, as well as the life of the boy and his mother, in grave danger (is there another kind?).

My problem was that Steve needed help.

That’s when I remembered the enigmatic Ike character.

I decided that Ike would prove very useful to Steve since he had access (via his boss Ralph) to all sorts of resources…not all of them legal.

This is where the legend of Ike really began to grow.

My next book, Pump It Up also included Ike and his bag-of-tricks, as did No Good Deed and Backseat to Justice.

Suddenly I had written 5 books in 3 years and in so doing created a bit of a legend.

tee shirt front

I have actually had women ask me to introduce them to Ike. (I haven’t figured out a good reply to that one yet!)

So when it comes time to discuss the topic of creating your biggest character on the radio with Armand…I guess I’ll have to come clean about how Ike was not so much a creation as a happy accident, sort of like the wheel or Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

For all I know that’s the way it happens.

Maybe Robert B. Parker had no idea what he was setting up when he wrote the first Spenser book. Did Tim Dorsey envision Serge A. Storms as almost being a household name? How about Janet Evanovich? Do you think she knew that Stephanie Plum would take on a life of her own?

Want to read more about Ike? click here

surf 17Tune in Friday night at 8:00 EST to hear our discussion – and if you’re an author…leave some feedback below about your biggest character and how they came about. You can also interact with us live while we are on the air through our facebook page.

As always – thank you for reading

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So You Want to be a Writer…Say Goodbye to Your Spare Time

Last Sunday my family (at least the portion of it here in Florida) held a birthday party for my great-niece, who turned 3.

3I didn’t go.

Hold on…before you tell me what a horrible great-uncle (clever word-play there, huh?) I am, let me explain. Believe it or not, I have a valid reason.

What could have kept me away from a reasonably significant family gathering? (I know my brother, nephew and sister were asking the same question).

The thing is – I had to check my e-mail.

I can practically hear your reaction to that…and by the way, that’s not a very nice thing to say.

Truth be told, it’s not quite that simple. Yes I had dozens of emails to go through, but I had a few other chores to do as well.

I have 3 facebook pages to monitor (4 if you count my personal page). There is my Blindogg Books page…there is the page for The Castaways (a weekly radio show I host along with friends Armand and Becky) and there is the page for my solo radio show Tim Baker’s B-Sides and Deep Cuts.

Then there are the two Twitter accounts (@blindoggbooks and @djcastaways).

Not ready to cut me any slack yet?

Well, for some reason, my LinkedIn account went crazy this week…I must have gotten more than two-hundred new contacts – and for each one there is an email to look at and decide whether to accept said contact. That process alone took me more than 2 hours.

What else did I do this weekend?

Well – I was doing some research for my B-Sides show, coming up with good songs to play and the stories behind them. (contrary to what Armand says – I do my research).

I was also preparing questions for this week’s guest on The Castaways Three Hour Tour.

I spent some time getting books ready to ship out to readers…not extremely time-consuming, but if I don’t do it – nobody else does.

dpiral time

I exchanged several emails with a Louisiana Police Detective (retired) learning about certain aspects of police work and the witness protection program for my next book, tentatively titled Protect This (more research – take that Armand!)

Speaking of Armand, he and I are working on the sequel to our co-authored zombie novella Dying Days – The Siege of European Village and he wanted to get together to write this weekend. Unfortunately, I had to decline that invitation as well (we’re doing it next weekend – so don’t expect me at any parties then either).

Oh and last – but certainly not least – I spent several hours actually writing Protect This. (although not nearly enough, I am not as far along as I’d hoped to be)

Aside from the 2 hour motorcycle ride I took Sunday morning I didn’t leave my house from the time I got home from work Friday evening until it was time to go back to work Monday morning. Oh, in case I didn’t mention it…I also have a full time job, so accomplishing all of these things must be done in my spare time.

I know what you’re thinking…did he just say ‘2 hour motorcycle ride’?

What’s up with that? Surely I could have foregone the motorcycle ride to spend time with my family…

Let me tell you about the motorcycle ride…

Tim at Putnam

I do a lot of work for a charity called Christmas Come True. On October 26 we are having our 4th annual Poker Run to raise money for the cause. I am in charge of the run, so it is my responsibility to map it, time it and coordinate the cooperation of the venues along the route. So my brother and I did that Sunday morning – and while it was extremely enjoyable – it was not a joyride. Not entirely anyway.

So there you have it.

Depending on how you look at it, this was either an apology or an excuse…but either way – it’s the truth.

Many people think writing is a spare time thing…a hobby-like alternative to TV that requires nothing more than sitting in front of a keyboard and clicking away. After all, you know what they say about a roomful of monkeys…

Take it from me – if it were that easy I wouldn’t have missed the party.

Happy Birthday Alexis! Hopefully I’ll make the next one.

As always – thank you for reading

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Here’s How I Write…(Your Methods May Vary)

First and foremost – this post is not intended, in any way, shape or form, to be a “How To” on writing.

Mainly because I do not consider myself qualified to teach anybody how to write. Also because I believe that writers—like painters, musicians, tattooists, etc.—are all unique in their approach. Sure, there are basic concepts and principals all writers should be aware of—along with a decent grasp of grammar, usage, punctuation, etc.—but those things are tools. The way each writer uses his or her tools is a matter of preference.

I was asked by a reader about my process recently…we ended up having quite a lengthy conversation about it, so I thought maybe others might be curious too.

So this is how I do it…

How I Did It

Naturally, the first thing I need is an idea for a story. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate, or have lots of detail…it just needs to be a place to start.

I call it the “What If” thought.

Let me use one of my recent novels as an example. The book is called Backseat to Justice.

One time, at band camp…oops sorry – habit…

BTJ cover

One time, I was watching a documentary about identity theft. The story talked mostly about the victims, but before I knew it my mind was going in another direction. Naturally, these days, identity theft is more difficult than it was thirty years ago…and I thought…What If somebody stole somebody’s identity thirty years ago and it all of a sudden comes back to haunt them?

That was it. That was the initial thought that got me started. From there I just kept adding on to it with more “What Ifs”. Eventually I had enough to start writing.

Now here’s where my methods probably vary from most writers. At this point, many writers would start an outline to map out their whole story.

Not me – I just started writing.

I knew the core concept of the story and I knew I wanted it to be about a Private Investigator. The rest I pretty much make up as I go along.

The writing progressed nicely, the story took shape and any time I got stuck I just asked myself some more “What If” questions. During this time I focus mainly on putting words on paper. Naturally I try to use the best words and combinations of words possible in order to make the story the best that it can be…but when it comes to my first draft I am more concerned with getting the story written and not so much with the exact wording.

I also don’t agonize over spelling, punctuation and such. (although auto-spellcheck helps with this). Again, the primary concern here is writing the story.

Once the first draft is written, I give copies to my beta readers. I have a group of people who graciously volunteer to read the manuscript (MS) and give me feedback (this is where my most recent work Unfinished Business is right now).

They ask “What kind of feedback do you want?” and I tell them “Whatever you want to tell me.”

If they see spelling mistakes, circle them. If they see punctuation errors, tag them. If they don’t understand a sentence, highlight it and ask me what it means. If they find inconsistencies (you said in the first chapter that so-and-so was a vegetarian – but in chapter sixteen he eats prime rib?) point them out to me.

But the biggest one of all – If something about the story bothers you – tell me.

This could be anything…were the characters believable…did the story hold your attention…was there too much action…not enough action…do you like the way it ended…it’s ALL important, because I’d rather hear it from you than from somebody who bought the book. Or worse…not hear it from somebody who bought the book and lose them as a reader.

This process usually takes a couple of weeks before all of the readers give me their feedback…in the meantime, I don’t touch the MS. I literally ignore it…I don’t put it on the back burner – I take it off the stove and put it in the refrigerator. Sometimes I’ll even start working on the next book, if I have an idea (which I usually do).

So – once I get the beta readers’ comments back I go through them all, seeing what they have to say (the MS is still in the fridge). I toss their comments around a bit, consider them, and think about which ones will help the most.

Then I take the MS out of the refrigerator and put it back on the stove.

I start from page one and go through the entire story again—this time putting much more thought into the details I took lightly in the first draft. Since, at this point, I know the whole story; I can now focus on making sure everything flows well. I can add to, or take away from it as I see fit to better enhance the narrative. I can also throw in some foreshadowing and such.

I also keep the comments from the beta readers handy to consult during the process as well.

This process can be very time consuming, because it’s mostly detail oriented. At this point I’m painting with a much finer brush than during the MS phase, when I was using a big, fat one.

Once I’ve gone through and cleaned it all up it is now ready to be sent to the editor.

I know – sounds silly…sort of like cleaning the house before the maids comes over…but there it is.

I’ve been working with the same editor since Water Hazard (my second novel) and we work very well together. She goes through the book three times, sending me her comments chapter by chapter during each phase.

The first phase is for general punctuation, grammar, spelling, sentence structure and all the stuff I should have been paying more attention to in high school.

The second pass is for story structure. More analysis of the details; Does everything fit? Is the timeline correct? Did I use a wrong name somewhere (it’s happened)?  Are there any gaping holes in the plot? You’d be surprised how many things we find during this phase.

The final pass is what I call – The Fine Tuning.

This is where she (the editor) will ask me things like; Are you sure you want to have this character do this? It seems to me that this character would /should act this way in this situation? Why did this character do that? Maybe you should give a little more background on this character.

During each of these three phases, I am going through the MS from start to finish incorporating her notes (as I see fit) and reapplying my own eyes to the story yet again. By the time I’m finished, I’ve probably read the book 6-8 times.

And we are almost done.

Now it will go to two more beta readers (ones that were not in the first group) for more feedback. When their comments come back I will sift through them and use what I think helps the most.

And that – as they say – is that.

Now (if I haven’t done it already) I commission a cover, write a synopsis and a back cover blurb and then it is off to the printer.

Let me tell you…there is no feeling in the world like getting the printed version and holding it in your hands…fanning the pages and stopping at a random point to read your work…and seeing a spelling mistake!!!

It seems impossible, but believe me…it happens.

As usual – thank you for reading.

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Guest Blog – Zombie Author Mark Tufo

Today it is my pleasure to participate in the Haunted Halloween Blog Tour 2012. Please join me in welcoming Zombie Author Mark Tufo. I hope you enjoy his post.

 

Hi my name is Mark Tufo, I’m the author of the Zombie Fallout series (look away from the shameless self-plug), Zombie Fallout 6 ‘Til Death Do Us Part, has been released as of October 1st you should really check it out!

Why zombies? Why not?

I’ve been asked by family, friends and readers why I chose to write about zombies, like maybe they are the red headed step children of the horror world. I’ve noticed that the largest writers in the horror genre have for the most part completely ignored them, some might say Stephen King’s Cell was based on them but I’d say that was a stretch. Some think the genre is played out, I mean how many ways can you portray a slow-walking, ambling shuffler that likes to eat brains?

I honestly don’t care what any of the detractors say, I love to read a good zombie book or watch a good movie. Ever since I was seven and my cousin, who was babysitting, decided that watching the Dawn of the Dead movie was a good way to pass time, I have been hooked. I remember as a kid my heart was hammering in my chest as those zombies slowly descended on that house in the middle of nowhere. When those hands started crashing through the boards in the windows and the door was shaking in its frame I damn near wet myself.

I’m sure someone will eventually conduct a study and tell us about our innate fear of the undead, but all I know is if I want to be thoroughly entertained I just need to find something zombie related. And then we get back to my sister-in-law who can’t decide if I am completely off my rocker or a decent person just trying to tell a story. (She won’t read my books by the way). I’ve told her that the relationships of the survivors in my books are as important as the zombies themselves. There has to be some good to balance out all that is horrific. But she can’t get past the word ‘zombie’—like it is somehow a dirty word.  It’s funny I truly think there are folks out there that won’t buy a zombie book just because they consider themselves ‘slumming’ if they do. I think they’re missing out on some really good new talent and some pulse pounding action. A good story is a good story plain and simple.

Zombies really hit their stride with George Romero’s brilliant take and they have waxed and waned over the years. Obviously right now we are riding a crest, there’s barely a set of commercials that go by that don’t reference them, plus The Walking Dead, and Max Brooks’ World War Z hitting theaters with an uber A-lister playing the lead so yeah it’s a hot genre. But even when it goes into its lull there will still be those amongst us that will always love to read someone else’s take on a zombie apocalypse, so whereas I think the chances of an actual end of the world scenario involving zombies is fairly unlikely, I still can’t help myself as I prepare diligently for just such an event, because I don’t want to be on the inside of a house leaning up against flimsy boards when zombie arms pull me outside where I have my brains munched on. No thank you!

Thank you for allowing me to spend some time on your blog!

*   *   *   *   *

All five of us – Tonia Brown, James N Cook, John O’ Brien, Armand Rosamilia and Mark Tufo – hope you have been following along on the Haunted Halloween Blog Tour 2012. We love to see comments after the posts, and we also love to pick a random commenter and give away a free eBook or even a signed print book, so maybe you’ll get lucky!

We have centralized all the upcoming dates and blog posts on a Facebook event page. Feel free to join us there and see what is coming up next!

https://www.facebook.com/events/211796112284317/

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Is your dog really blind?

My favorite part of book signings and other events is answering people’s questions. I’m basically a shy person and not very good at initiating conversation, so questions open the door nicely for me.

One of the questions I am often asked is “Where does the name Blindogg Books come from?” which is usually followed closely by “Why is it spelled wrong?”

The story begins in 1992, or maybe 1993 (cue the flashback music)…

 At that time I was raising and socializing puppies for Guiding Eyes for the Blind. It was a volunteer thing and I really loved it.Image

Part of socializing potential Guide Dogs is taking them to public places to give them exposure to “real-life” situations.

Many employees at local business became accustomed to seeing me with my puppies, but on one occasion a girl at the register of a local hardware store didn’t know the drill and told me I couldn’t bring my dog into the store. The girl at the next register recognized me and told the new girl “It’s okay, that’s the blind dog guy.”

The blind dog guy—I liked it and decided to shorten it to blind dog for use as my screen name on AOL (remember it was the early 90s) as an homage to my involvement with GEB and, as a bonus, it sounded like a cool blues-guy name (I love the blues).

Of course AOL wouldn’t let me use blind dog because of the space between the words, I tried blinddog, but it was also rejected because (believe it or not) somebody was already using it. My third attempt – blindogg – was available so I took it.

Since then I’ve used blindogg as my official “computer name” and when I released my first novel I decided to use it as my brand name – incorrect spelling and all.

Probably not the most riveting story you’ve ever heard, but it’s all I got. So if you see me at a book signing you won’t have to ask, but please ask something else—it’ll help keep the conversation moving!

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