The Advice Most Often Given to Writers: Write What You Know

The trouble with that advice is that a lot of thrillers, supernatural suspense novels and tales of horror would never be written if we followed it. I’ve written about killers, genetic experiments, financial empires, supernatural powers, espionage, the Middle East and other topics of which I have no personal experience. If I only wrote about what I know, the list would include idiots, self-absorbed and spineless jerks, nutcases, liars, and false friends.

Okay, so I could write political novels. As we all know, Washington is full of all of those type of characters.

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My friend and fellow author, Shelly Arkon, has lately been writing a  great deal about matters of faith on her blog. Shelly has spent the past few years studying both the Bible and the Torah and has learned a great deal. While bloggers are often warned about writing about matters of faith in a cheesy manner, Shelly’s posts are honest, from the heart and thought-provoking. I’ve done a lot of thinking myself. I’m a Christian, and I’ve experienced a great deal in my life that has confirmed my faith–but I still have more questions than answers. I’m by no means an expert, but still I want to write things that make people think and hopefully find a door opened to them that they haven’t seen before. So how to do it?

Fiction, mostly. In Chasing the Wind, I write about characters who also have more questions than answers: cynical FBI agents, an agnostic photojournalist, a Biblical archaeologist who has faith but challenges it, and an atheist who is called to be a prophet but still can’t believe what’s happening to him. I put them in situations where they get pushed to their limits and their faith (or lack of it) is tested. They witness miracles. They deal with loss and rise above it. And they face many of the same questions I’ve faced.

I always believed in God–but as the Bible says, even demons believe in God. They know He exists. Believing is not the same as putting one’s faith in God. I wasn’t able to do that completely for a long time. That door opened for me twenty-two years ago, on a dark night in which I felt more hopeless than I ever had. I went to bed that night, facing a situation for which there seemed to be no resolution. I prayed, more than I ever had before, and was still praying when I finally fell asleep. I was awakened the next morning by what first seemed to be just a ringing telephone, but in fact was God’s answer to my urgent prayers–the miracle I needed.

That miracle has led me to write my first work of nonfiction–a memoir that’s (finally) almost finished, Riding Out the Storm. It’s not easy to lay bare one’s soul for all to see, as my close friend William Kendall discovered with his most recent blog post. But sometimes, we need to write about the things that make us most vulnerable. Sometimes, as in William’s case, it’s a way to exorcise our personal demons in order to be free of them. It took tremendous courage for William to share the things he’d kept so private for so many years. For some, like Shelly, it’s a way to share our discoveries of faith…and to provide a warning of what’s ahead. For me, it’s hopefully a means to testify, to show others that anyone can–and will–change. And that it really is darkest just before dawn.

 

Spotlight on Creativity: William Kendall

Those of you who know us well know that William and I have been partners in crime for over five years now. We met in the summer of 2009 on an IMDb message board for the movie Angels & Demons. A few months later, we started communicating via email. From IMDb, we moved on to the now-defunct Writers Digest online community, where a round robin experiment I initiated proved to be a train wreck–but became the basis for our as yet unfinished collaborative novel, Same Time Tomorrow.

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William is also working solo on a novel, Heaven & Hell. Anyone who’s read any part of this work in progress knows how talented he is. He’s also a popular blogger (Speak of the Devil) and photoblogger (Ottawa Daily Photo). The latter is a showcase for his photography, while the former is home to his popular “A Day in the Life of a Cat/Dog” and of course, the legendary Mountie, Inspector Lars Ulrich.

Today we’ll focus on his blogs.

William, as you know, Lars is my favorite of your creations. How did you ever come up with the idea of a cranky, entertainment reporter-hating Mountie?

Lars Ulrich first came to life (let’s call him Lars 1.0) at IMDb as a response to a clueless twit using multiple fake names to try to drum up support for him being cast as Captain America (google Douchebag Quadbike to learn why half the internet was laughing at Ben Ryan Metzger a few years back). I wrote a fake news article, long since gone, and needed a European lawman with a vaguely Germanic name. The name came to me pretty quickly- but when I wrote that first piece, I had no idea who Lars Ulrich was in the real world. So people in reply asked what the Metallica drummer would think of his name being borrowed. When I moved him into his current status in my blogs, as a Mountie, the name stayed, and that angle of constantly being mistaken for the drummer from Metallica came with him. I think Lars is cranky for two reasons: it’s in his nature (if Tommy Lee Jones was thirty years younger, he’d be perfect for the role), and he gets mistaken for this half deaf guy who looks nothing like him over and over and over again. Lars pretty much writes himself at times.

Lars the Mountie

Any chance Lars will ever get his own book–a novel, or maybe a compilation of your blog posts in which he’s featured?

I would have to dial down the cartoonish aspects of the character to write him into a novel. I mean, a Mountie who goes out and picks fights with thousands of Rush Limbaugh supporters, makes Godzilla cry, and deals with even more cartoonish supervillains on a regular basis is a bit cartoonish. That said, I love writing him. The cranky attitude, the totally fearless, resourceful, kick ass and take names Mountie who’s not that polite- contradicting the national stereotype- Lars is a pleasure to bring out from time to time. I do have an idea to incorporate him into a future book with my Stryker and Devon characters- with the preceding caution by one of his men not to ask if he’s related to the drummer from that metal band. I imagine a compilation of blog posts would be problematic from a copyright point of view. I mean, I’m sure Sesame Street wouldn’t appreciate having one of their minor Muppets exposed as a ruthless supervillain. That said though, I could see him in a standalone novel. With a love interest who shares the same name as a famous singer and finds it particularly annoying when she’s asked if she’s that singer by dimwitted reporters. Celine Dion, Sarah McLachlan, Anne Murray, or Joan Mitchell, just to keep it all Canadian.

What about your cat and dog posts? Where did that idea come from?

When I started blogging, some early posts were just me finding my feet, figuring out where to take this whole thing, so it took time to find focus. I did the odd cat and dog post or two, but there wasn’t a cohesiveness to it until I realized writing from their point of view could be fun. It took off from there. It was awhile before I gave the dog a name, Loki, which seemed ideal. The cat has a name given by her staff and a title she regards as her own, but I’ve never really designated her with a name she would call her own. It doesn’t help that it’s been quite awhile since I’ve written the cat’s name and title into a blog! They’re both fun to write. The dog’s a goofball, and the cat has attitude and sass. There’s no shortage of cat and dog pics around on the internet to draw from, and when one needs to, it’s easy to make one.

Grumpy Cat ApocalypseMuddy-Dog

You’ve taken more than a few shots at certain elected officials in Canada. Have there been any repercussions to your outspokenness?

Not yet, but every once in awhile, I wonder. I’ve tweeted stuff about politicians, using their names in hashtags, and it has ended up getting picked up by others I wouldn’t have known that way. I have tweeted in a running argument with a real prick of a politician here, a libertarian member of provincial parliament who seems to think that if a constituent doesn’t agree with him, he can just completely ignore and block them on social media. It’s a childish response- you represent all of your constituents, not just the ones who agree with you, and I called him out on it. Anyway, I assume it’s possible that my tweets, and by extension some of my posts, given that they get retweeted along, have fallen under the eyes of people who would find them annoying.

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To which I can only say: Prime Minister Stephen Harper (or Dark Lord as I like to call you with contempt): you’re a disgrace to this country, and it’ll take decades to repair the damage you’ve done, you hyper-partisan control freak tyrant. Middle finger right at you, you prat. And to the Ford family, and this is assuming there actually is a cancer diagnosis (given the family’s history of lying about everything, I’m dubious) in that repugnant crack smoking dolt who used to be the mayor of Toronto: Rob, I’m rooting for the tumour.

Toronto sign

Another favorite target of yours is the Toronto Maple Leafs. Now that the regular hockey season is over and once again, the Leafs have failed to make it into the playoffs, will you be doing an encore of your hilarious blog post from last year, in which angry Leafs fans stole the Stanley Cup?

Plenty of time left in the playoffs for that sort of thing. I’ve done variations on A Day In The Life with Leafs fans, and Chicago Cubs fans, which reminds me, I should do a Cubs fan post again. I could quite easily play around with that concept of my resident Leaf fan nitwits stealing the Cup next month, for instance. The Leafs, to me, are a joke, and those fans who refuse to see them for the joke that they are happen to be beyond stupid. It’s been my experience that it is next to impossible to reason with stupid people (thanks very much, Ford Nation), so why not make fun of them instead? Writing their perspective can be fun- the sheer desperation and obliviousness to reality, followed by the endless excuses they make, are common traits for your average not so bright Leafs or Cubs fan.

Leafs fans

You also do some excellent movie reviews. Ever thought of doing them on a professional level?

On occasion, yes. I post reviews from time to time. Sometimes they’re new films out in theatres. Other times they’re classics. And in other cases, it’s a film I might like (or not like, such as might be the case with Battleship or The Lone Ranger). Often some of these films might be obscure or forgotten, but I might feel it’s worthwhile to write up a review. I love movies, and I love talking about them, so featuring them from time to time made sense.

You’ve done some impressive work on your photoblog. How long have you been into photography?

I’ve been photographing for years. There are few pics of me out there because I was always the one with the camera. Nature is what drew me first, and still does. Landscapes, buildings, that sort of thing appeal to me more than people watching. Obviously I started out with film- and I got dragged into digital, but I find I vastly prefer using digital (you can say you told me so).

Sens Mile

If you could photograph anything, anywhere in the world, what would it be and why?

Oh boy, that would be a long list! I’ll narrow it down to three places. First, the British isles (which brings in a lot of places, incidentally). There is so much history, culture, and natural beauty all over Britain and Ireland, and I would be happy to wander there for a few months, hike, photograph, take it all in. Second, one place I have not been to: the Grand Canyon, for its indescribable beauty. And third, my being Canadian, I would also have to choose a place that I haven’t been to- the Nahanni region in the Far North. Every photo I have ever seen of the place entrances me.

I hope if there’s anyone reading this post who hasn’t already checked out William’s blogs, do so now. You won’t be disappointed!

From the Pages of the International Intruder: Facebook Felon Freed!

Good news! As of last night, my partner in crime is out of Facebook Jail and back to wreaking havoc across the internet! I couldn’t resist penning a story for our faux Facebook tabloid, The International Intruder, incorporating comments from some of our fellow authors as we welcomed him back to the asylum while plotting the release of another friend and Facebook felon, Shelly Arkon….

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FACEBOOK JAILBIRD FREED!!!

Exclusive to the Intruder: There were celebrations everywhere on the internet last night, from Facebook to Twitter to Google + to personal blogs as wrongly accused Facebook writer and blogging scoundrel William Kendall was finallly freed from Facebook Jail. When asked for comment, Kendall responded, “I’m back. Big as life and twice as ugly.”

Fellow Writers Mayhem group member/author Alan Jankowski had this to say to Kendall of his release: “There were some people here who seemed to think you were never coming back….”

His other Facebook peers had much more to say about the situation that kept him off the pages for two long weeks. Notorious Writers Digest lifer Lin Robinson was in a surly mood. “I demand to be suspended so people don’t think I’m a wimp. I’m not suspicious and dickish enough for them? This hurts, really.”

This reporter echoes Robinson’s feelings on the subject. I’m really starting to feel like a total failure. I’m the resident troublemaker! Why are the powers that be leaving me alone? Am I not trying hard enough?

Facebook sucks

Author Eve Gaal: “Je Suis William…just because there’s no one home at the asylum doesn’t mean you guys can get all naughty and scandalous….”

Author Lisa Taylor: “Well, I plan to write something horribly scandalous as soon as I can think of it.”

Author Mark R. Hunter: “This should get at least ONE of us banned, and then I can write a column about it.”

Before we resume the celebration, let me remind you that the fight for justice is not over. Author Shelly Arkon is still confined to Facebook Jail and in need of help in obtaining her release.

Author Michael Kizzia had this to say of Arkon’s suspension: “Shelly is suspicious? What? Glowstick and Hairball hacked into something?”

Author Timothy Hurley: “You can get suspended for scrolling past a cat video….

Anyone up for storming the Bastille?