‘A Face Without A Heart’ by Rick R. Reed

I have a confession. Although this story is set in modern times, I kept picturing it set in the late nineteenth century. This is, after all, a retelling of an Oscar Wilde classic. When a modern prop like a g-string was mentioned my mind re-adjusted, but just as quickly all the characters were back in steam-era clothing.

Rick’s updated version has Gary as the doomed man who discovers his own fountain of youth. His early naive then  hedonistic exploits drive the story, as drag queen, Henrietta, becomes the closest person to understand what makes Gary tick.

The darker chapters of the tale, especially in the second half of the book, worked for me. Details of debauched parties, of Gary submitting to his darker side and of Henrietta’s observations of what’s going on were, to me, this book’s highlights. Liam’s immature yearnings for Gary made me cringe as I knew someone like him long ago — old enough to know better but somehow not wiser with age. He quickly became the lesser important wheel to this story.

Rick R. Reed

As I know the original story well, it was the second half that felt more fresh. I was in no hurry to keep reading until I reached half way. Also, Gary seemed like an odd name for a main character who’s charismatic. Liam, who is the reserved artist, has the more exotic name. As the tale is told first person by several characters, I had to keep reminding myself that Gary was not the artist and Liam was not the man losing his soul. But this tells you more about me as a reader than it does about the book.

An aspect I particularly liked was the way the writer ended the book. I’m trying not to give a spoiler but at the same time I’m trying to shed light on a certain style. Several days ago a millennial friend told me she was reading H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds. I asked her to discuss the ending with me once she finishes. To me, Wells’ novel ends perfectly with the second last chapter. Maybe, as this was originally serialised in a sci-fi magazine, there was a reason to summarise key thoughts in one extra instalment. Why am I rambling on about another novel entirely? Because Rick’s book has the opposite approach. You know the book is finished but the story definitely isn’t. There’s lingering confusion and heartache. I was both satisfied and intrigued.

So in the end, Face Without A Heart reeled me in. I liked the characters from the start but as the years moved forward the story found its own momentum.

The Multimedia Author

Three things happened in the past weeks.

One involved film making, the others involved the challenges of social media. After much badgering from my younger work colleagues I finally joined Instagram. The odd thing is, I’m enjoying it more than I thought.

My high school teacher friend groans about how we have several social platforms that do exactly the same thing. I don’t agree. I already knew the difference between a Facebook and a Twitter audience, but I couldn’t see much variation between sharing photos on FB and Insta. As I’m a visual person I now know finding creative artists and photographers on Instagram is the trick.

Image by Kellipics, courtesy of Pixabay

I’ve already unfollowed a few that treat this photographic platform for selfies, or for sharing, well, Facebook-style posts. 

Instead, I’m exploring the imagery of those who are sharing the offbeat, or a wider world that’s bigger than themselves. Why would I want my Twitter, Instagram and Facebook feeds to all look the same?

Last Tuesday I was part of a Facebook promotion day with my colleagues at NineStar Press.  

It was for the release of a new anthology, Once Upon a Rainbow, and, although I’m not in it, I welcomed the chance to go live for an hour as did the authors before and after me. I’d done this once before, sharing quizzes and games with whomever turned up online. This time I had Facebook Live on my side.

I’ll be honest. I only prepared for my part in the forty-five minutes leading up to my slot in the schedule. I practised some readings and quickly found the old graphics I used that last time. And I learnt that my wrap around phone case is perfect for hanging my mobile over the laptop screen. I can still type on my keyboard while using the decent camera on my smartphone to telecast with.

Image by Geralt, courtesy of Pixabay

The same team of authors is thinking about a scheduled author live event once a month, or quarterly. This could catch on. As I found out recently, a Facebook Live video is four times more likely to show up in a person’s news feed after the broadcast than an uploaded video. It’s worth considering for any author who needs more exposure.

Finally, I shot and edited my next book trailer.

I used three topless men and a femme fatale to promote my novel, Social Media Central. Oddly, this book won’t be out until March 2018, but it feels good to know I’m well ahead in my marketing.

Anyone whose followed my blog knows that this was an effort. I had every cast member locked in since August except for my redheaded female. I didn’t find her until October, but at the eleventh hour she had to work on our shoot day. I had to rethink the storyboard and add an extra location just for her. We shot her special appearance the following day.

I’m really excited with the way the trailer turned out but know I have to keep it under wraps until next year. It’s not easy. I’m dying to share even though there is no final product shot (as the cover won’t be designed for a while). As my partner always says to me – I have to learn patience.

Image by Methodshop, courtesy of Pixabay

But tomorrow I’m looking forward to a whole day of getting lost in my current work in progress – ironic considering that in the end, all of the above is to help get my name out as a writer.

‘London Triptych’ by Jonathan Kemp

I don’t rave about books on my blog, yet there’s been quite a few I’ve loved. So I decided I’m long overdue in sharing what I’ve been reading.

Several books ago I picked up a copy of Jonathan Kemp’s London Triptych. I’d read some reviews in the past, so when the novel was begging me to pick it up and buy it, I headed its call. It’s probably the last book I’ve read that I couldn’t put down.

Arsenal Pulp Press

This is a slow burn tale, or more to the point, three slow burning tales. But each carries the same dramatic arc as each chapter flicks back and forth between three characters in three timelines.

We first meet overly sensitive Colin, trapped in fear in the 1950’s. He’s a man who has suppressed his homosexuality, even though he grew up aware it was there. His backstory, as he carefully shares it with us, is heart breaking. A marriage of convenience and a lack of any type of sex life lead him close to breaking point when he finds a young nude model to paint.

Colin’s misplaced sexual exploitative years come to the surface as this middle aged man tries to make sense of his desires, without the help of gay friends or life experience. He is equally aroused and repulsed by his own thoughts toward the younger man he desires, as he is about his own sexuality.

Next we meet David, a man in jail in 1998, recalling his life during London’s punk/new wave/new romantic period. He lives in a time when being gay wasn’t easy, but it is definitely easier for him than it is for the other two characters in this book. So why is David in jail?

As I said, these are slow, yet captivating, stories, and as David tells his tale over the course of the novel, we find that love led him to his fate. How, why and whom are gradually and satisfyingly exposed.

Then we have Jack, the sassy rent boy from the 1890’s. Out of all these characters, Jack is blessed with a network that enforces his identity without guilt. He is a young man with the world, or London at least, at his feet. He lives in decadent times, as long as he has someone like Oscar Wilde to foot the bill. But like the others, Jack too falls from grace.

Jonathan Kemp

Colin, David and Jack are three distinct gay men, all at a different age and all shaped by the times they live in. Yet all of us can relate to their social influences and their inner turmoil, even when their own pain is hard for them to pinpoint. At one point in our lives, we too have been equally broken.

Ideas, and where to find them.

I’ve been travelling.

I took some time off to realign my life. Before this trip my day job got very hectic, taking over both my time and my thoughts, and forcing my current writing project to feel abandoned. Yet, in a way, this has turned out to be a good thing.

The work in progress, titled The Midnight Man, is about Stanley, a middle aged guy in an unhappy relationship who finally meets the man of his dreams. The only problem is this man is literally in his dreams. He doesn’t exist in the real world.

Image by Stux, courtesy of Pixabay

It’s still an undernourished first draft.

It’s not even that. This draft is not completed. I’ve already had to print it out twice and re-read it, as there were several gaps of time between working on it. In short, I rediscovered my own novel. Met the characters again. Reconnected to what it was about.

But while I was away, finding time to just be me, the story became much clearer. As a rule, I generally plot my novels and before leaving home I rearranged several scenes to heighten the drama. Away from home, more interesting plot twists came to mind.

I found a dream-catcher in a gift store in San Diego.

It’s not like I’d never seen one before, but it struck me odd that I didn’t come up with the idea to use one in my story. It makes perfect sense that Stanley would try any means to bring his lover into the real world.

I continued to note various life philosophies as I travelled. These thoughts began to link with the themes in the book, but more importantly I decided to make the dream sequences more vivid. I think that’s an offshoot of travel. Life becomes more vivid. Travel allows you to dream and let’s face it, those dreams aren’t dreary.

Image by Lysons-editions, courtesy of Pixabay

So now to work.

Once more I have to print out the manuscript and rediscover it, making notes to add more depth to Stanley’s night time rendezvous with his lover. And to work in my travel-fuelled musings on life.

If filmmakers made our book trailers.

I love relaxing with the staff picks on Vimeo.

My first love was cinema so having the best short films curated saves you from searching for these gems. Thought-provoking documentaries, whimsical animations and off-beat drama is usually what’s chosen for you, and enjoying a short film festival at home through the television and hifi is a real weekend treat.

Image by Composita, courtesy of Pixabay

I’m also someone who loves casting actors for my book trailers and am possibly searching for someone to play famous fashion blogger, Madeline Q, from my novel, Social Media Central. This book will be the next one released by my publisher and although I know of someone keen to play her, we’ve only emailed each other. She’s overseas for a while and I’m not sure of her return date.

I’ve had trouble casting.

Many actors I contacted online who were suitable either didn’t get in touch, or when they did, they fell silent when I tried to arrange a meeting. A small number did meet me, though, and I have all my cast, I think. It all depends on how committed my mysterious woman is in being part of the shoot.

Image by Karen Nadine, coutesy of Pixabay

This is also the first time I’ve found it difficult to find people. I’ve shot trailers for both Drama Queens with Love Scenes and Drama Queens and Adult Themes, and discovered many who wanted to audition. It’s probably a question for another blog but I wonder what’s changed since I first shot my trailers.

Image by Comfreak courtesy of Pixabay

Wouldn’t it be nice to have up and coming filmmakers shoot your trailers?

As authors we’ve all done it, pictured our novel as a film. I often imagined a trailer for Nate and the New Yorker with scenes shot in New York, Sydney and Tokyo. Snappy one liners delivered by Cameron’s cross-dressing butler in quickly edited shots as you often see in Rom Com trailers. Nathan and Cameron staring lovingly at each other over the table of a fancy New York restaurant, or Elliot’s wild dialogue captured briefly in snippets.

Is this the type of thing you can ask for in a fund-me campaign? Flights to landmarks around the world with actors from both Australia and the United States? We can dream.

Image courtesy of Annca through Pixabay

And surely a filmmaker would love playing with the devil?

For Drama Queens and Devilish Schemes I wanted to use the same actors I had for the previous book in the series. The older guy playing Adam would be in a library speaking to camera explaining all the different types of devils there are. You know, devils that seduce you. Devils disguised as bosses. Devils that break your heart.

Between shots of Adam delivering his lines would be cut in shots of the silhouette of a guy trying on different clothes until he was finally revealed dressed in top hat and pearls as the devil character in my book wears. Then the product shot – the cover which also features a top hat and Satan’s tail.

So with all the collaborations online, why not?

One web marketing seminar I went to explained that an author making a video of themselves reading from their book is a better way to sell your stuff than producing a trailer. I’ve done both. Can’t say if it’s true.

Image by kellypics, courtesy of Pixabay

But in an increasingly ‘do it yourself’ online world wouldn’t it be great if a filmmaker offered to produce your trailer. Anime for dystopia or steam-punk. Mood lighting for thrillers. Clever lines revealed for the contemporary novels.

It would be the perfect way to connect with the creatives in your online community.

For the love of pens!

Last Friday I encouraged my workmates to try writing with the fountain pen on display in a gift shop we entered.

I had one as a teenager and loved the way it glided on paper. I wanted others to experience this. After a few attempts they got it.

Image courtesy of The3cats via Pixabay

In a world where most of us cramp when we overuse a manual writing implement because our fingers drive today’s communication tools, it’s refreshing to reacquaint ourselves with feeling like we have a more direct way of spilling ourselves onto the page.

It’s more organic when we need to write on a post it or leave a message for someone on scrap paper. There’s one instrument between ourselves and the final product, not a digital reconstruction with choice of font. Our penmanship is ours. It’s our style, and on the rare occasions we see it, it reflects something back to us.

Image courtesy of StockSnap via Pixabay

Yet even now I use my phone for dictating plot twists rather than using my notebook. I have even been gifted two beautiful engraved pens, one from a friend and one from my mum. But at least I used one of them to take notes at a social media marketing seminar the other night and it felt natural.

Having a good pen in your hand is a treat worth rediscovering. The ink flows through craftsmanship. It’s tactile and alive. It’s you. A life story told in the handwriting itself.

Nate and Cameron

The Nate and Cameron Collection has been released in paperback. This book is made up of two previously released ebooks, Nate and the New Yorker and Nate’s Last Tango.

I’m writing this blog several weeks before its release because something has already fascinated me as reviews of the second story started coming in. Readers are both wanting Nathan and Cameron to sort out their differences or simply break up. I’m pleased with this reaction.

When the first story was initially released by the now defunct Wilde City Press, the blurb promoted it as a Romance Novella. I thought this strategy would appeal to more readers. Half were pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t while the other half were furious that it didn’t stick to the promise.

The original first edition Wilde City Press cover.

Yes there’s a rich dude who’s a dreamer trying to court a realist, but the realist, Nate, hasn’t let go of his last relationship because his ex was his soul mate.

The reviews of the second ebook, Nate’s Last Tango, have said that Nathan and Cameron need to learn the art of communication rather than using travel to elongate a kind of honeymoon. But the reviewers have conceded this is the point. Several have mentioned this makes the negotiation of their lives reflect a real relationship.

Warren and I, years and years ago

When my partner and I first got together twenty-seven years ago we too would have arguments that kept us from talking for days, yet it was important for us to work on our relationship. We both knew this one mattered.

Today we burst into laughter rather than fight. This is how I see Nate and Cam. If another tale gets written I’d like to take it from a point where they’ve worked a lot of things out, but that doesn’t make a good story.

Regardless, the two tales of Nate and Cameron have made it from ebooks to an old fashioned paperback. Thank you NineStar Press.

Having no time to write.

My current work in progress is suffering.

Well, maybe I’m being melodramatic but this has been a year of less time to write. First off I had to step into a new role at work meaning my luxurious three day working week changed to four sometime during March.

Monday is currently my only day to write because try as I might, I can’t sit at the keyboard and simultaneously daydream while my partner’s home on weekends. I need complete silence to hear my own thoughts.

Image courtesy of Start Up Stock Photos

But Mondays weren’t always my own.

I was blessed with a new publisher who re-released my existing work and brought out three newbies. So some Mondays meant going through my editor’s, line editor’s or proof reader’s notes. I can’t be cross about that. It’s one of the advantages of having a good publisher.

The problem is, you start losing the plot.

Earlier this year I had to re-read my first several chapters to re-engage with my own manuscript. In recent weeks when I’ve written a few chapters I’ve wondered if certain characters still spoke the same way they did at the start of the book.  I feel like this is the roughest first draft I’ve done in a while.

Image by Edar, courtesy of Pixelbay

There has been an advantage, though.

This tale, The Midnight Man, is about a middle aged man who meets an enchanting younger guy in his dreams, causing him to reevaluate his own life. When I started I only had half the book plotted. With time away I’ve been able to cement the story-line from random thoughts and real life experiences. The chapter by chapter breakdown is now complete, although I have a few new ideas to add to the tale.

Usually these additions are conceived between drafts. When complete, probably very late in the year, this first draft will have all elements in place so that in the next draft I can expand on some of the twists.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

The irony is that I wanted to start this novel last year but other works demanded to be completed. In hindsight this was my instinct telling me that I’d need those new books this year for my new publisher.

In October I start a new position.

Same place, better working hours. I’ll be back to three days with some extra shifts from time to time to teach. I’m relieved. The Midnight Man can get the time it deserves.

Plus they’ll be edits and marketing for Social Media Central, my newest contracted novel.

My writing life returns to normal and I can’t wait. I’ve worked years toward that goal. Life is for dreaming.

Film adaptations

One of my favourite books is Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey, and incidentally it is also one of my partner, Warren’s, favourite books. But the recent film adaptation left us cold.

One of the problems with the movie is that it only uses the pivotal scenes of the book to make up its story line. By doing this the scenes that lead to these major moments aren’t there. Thus the movie loses the impact of the novel.

In the book the main character, Charlie, a teenage boy, gets to know one of his female classmates. They often fantasise about moving to New York because of their love of the book Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and having a magical life together once they’re in this iconic US city. In the movie none of these gorgeous conversations are there. It lessens their courtship.

The story is set in a small 1960s Australian town where one of Charlie’s Asian friends, Jeffrey Lu, and his family are constantly exposed to racism by the locals. There’s a beautiful scene where Jeffrey is finally accepted by his peers through his talent at playing cricket, but the impact is lost because the smaller subtle moments are missing. Other scenes where the family are vilified are in the movie, but the underlying racism in the book that help these major scenes have better context, aren’t. We’re just hit with these outbursts and the menacing undercurrent is missing, yet so important to the main theme of the book.

My partner said that the film version of To Kill a Mockingbird is the perfect example of how to make a movie out of a book, so I accepted the challenge and read the book.

I loved the novel and then sat down for a viewing of the film. Again, sadly, it was the same story, or lack thereof. The pivotal scenes were there, but they seemed out of context.

One important character, Scout’s teacher, should have been in the film to make Scout’s view of the world, and her confusion of it, much more relevant to the pivotal scenes we saw in the film. If the classroom scenes that were in the book were included, other characters would have had more relevance.

At the end of the film, Scout is dressed as a ham so she can perform on stage at the county fair along with other classmates. In the book she rehearses for her family giving relevance to why she’s dressed as a ham. In the scene where she is supposed to perform, she falls asleep backstage and misses her cue. Her teacher is not impressed.

In the film we see her and her brother walk to the town hall through the woods. Then we see them walk home much later in the dark for the next crucial but ‘out of context’ scene. Although they discuss why it’s so late, relevance is lost because we never saw her and the comical ‘fall asleep backstage’ scene. One moment it’s daytime. The next, it’s late. Something lighthearted and relevant is missing.

In one of the classroom scenes in the book, Scout’s teacher tells about the genocide of the Jews yet later, while leaving the courtroom where an African American man is on trial, makes a racist comment about the accused to her friend. Again, these are small moments that paint the whole picture.

I know many feel this is a movie classic, but trust me, read the book. You’ll see what I mean. And also add Jasper Jones to your reading list.

Perhaps this is why a television miniseries works better when adapting a book. Or maybe we should just leave novellas for screen adaptations.

Adventures in Self Publishing – Part 3

So, since my last blog on this topic, three things have happened.

One, I’ve gone through my edits. Two, I’m a millimetre closer to casting my book trailer. And the third, well, I’ll get to that.

The editor I chose I worked with twice before.  He edited the first edition of Nate and the New Yorker and a short story of mine that he chose for an anthology. One of my writing issues is passive voice and it was interesting to see how he rewrote my text. It’s so straight forward now. But he also did something else I wasn’t expecting. Most of my dialogue tags were changed to ‘said’.

Long ago I learnt that this is the norm and I stick to this rule, but he changed words like ‘asked’ and ‘replied’. Apparently this is a trend now set by J.K. Rowling. The thinking behind it is that if there is a question mark at the end of the sentence, then why overstate it with ‘asked’ or ‘inquired’? Perhaps I’m a traditionalist. I changed these all back. Other than that, I was more than pleased with his edit.

Characters in my notebook.

My second task has been casting the book trailer and I’ve found many time wasters.

I initially targeted the actors I wanted, contacting them directly. Sadly, even the ones that responded stopped communicating when it came to the next step – organising to meet.

So I changed tact. I put out a casting call and have received about seven replies. I’ll be meeting several of these actors in the coming weeks, but I’m still in search of my femme fatale. Plus, I might also rope in a couple of friends who suit the roles. Time will tell.

The futuristic city depicted in the manuscript.

Last but not least, my own publisher sent me a contract for this book.

This is going to sound odd, considering I was putting effort into self-publishing this work. You see, my last publisher was only interested in books with a gay male protagonist, so long ago I confirmed that they didn’t want this novel.

When they folded, I was courted by my current publisher through one of the editors I previously worked with, so I never went to their site and read their submission guidelines. On top of that I’ve had a busy year with my day job, so my writing life has taken a back seat, which is a nice way of saying I wasn’t on top of things.

Several weeks ago I was on social media and stumbled across a forum talking about my publisher and what type of books they’re interested in. A light came on. They accept characters from all the colours of the rainbow. So I enquired, thinking that Social Media Central was still not a book they’d want as its focus is not sexuality. I was wrong.

I signed the contract on Friday. That’s what I like about NineStar Press, the variety of genres on their list.