Friday, November 29, 2013

Some Holiday themed pics

The Turkey turned out perfect!

Our Suess inspired tree



The Red Tree

The Thanksgiving Table. 

This is such a festive and fun setting, don't you think?

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Pimping a book: Wired for Story by Lisa Cron

Wired for Story: The Writer's Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First SentenceWired for Story: The Writer's Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence by Lisa Cron
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Every writer should read this book. It has great insight into how the brain and the written word interface and the avenue is via story. Fantastic learning tool for writers of all ability levels.

I was turned on to Wired for Story through an interview Chuck Wendig did with Lisa Cron in July 2012 for his blog Terribleminds. She gave us her views on developing story. Lisa has a very fresh take on the importance of STORY and how it relates to the human brain. She is a producer for Showtime and Court TV, a writer, and also teaches a writing course at UCLA, but spent the last ten years researching the connection between neuroscience and how the brain relates to stories. It’s quite fascinating and illuminating, allowing us to learn techniques that will make our story click with the reader. They can’t help themselves, the brain is hard wired for receiving stories and if we can strike the right chord it will resonate within the readers mind.

On Lisa's blog she touched on why books that get panned by critiques can still sell at amazing rates. It answers the question as to why books like 50 Shades of Gray can sell millions of books. I remember picking up The Hunger Games, because my wife and daughter love it, and reading the first couple of pages and saying to myself, the prose just aren’t all that, but next thing I knew I was 100 pages in and couldn’t put it down. Stephanie Myers' Twilight books have been criticized for not having elaborate prose also, but the one thing all of these books have in common is they tell a great story and in a way that touches those chords in the mind.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Reflections on my first Writer's Convention

I just got back from my first convention for writers. It was Context 26 in Worthington, OH, just north of Columbus. The Con is supposed to be focused on science fiction writing, but there was just as much fantasy content, which was fine. It's a relatively small Con, but they have a reputation for getting some fairly renowned authors and artists to attend. This year it was Jack McDevitt, Mike Resnick, Elizabeth Bear and Scott Lynch. All novelists that I'd at least heard of, if not read. I'm actually a huge fan of Scott Lynch, and he was funny and warm.

It's a tricky thing being an unpublished novelist attending one of these things. As a writer you want to meet other writers as a peer, but you really feel like a pretender. A fan pretending to be a writer, just so you can get close to them and talk about what you loved about their writing, instead of just being a normal person. Of course writers love to talk about writing, especially what they're working on. The whole enterprise now is so focused on marketing yourself that it has really taken over the lives of some writers. This can make for some awkward conversations. How do you get past all of that, and have an actual conversation with your "peer?" Can we ever bridge the gap from fan to peer once we've met them as a fan? Alcohol helps a lot apparently.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Running and Writing

Chuck Wendig posted yesterday about his effort to start running, and it got me thinking about my own love/hate relationship with running. When I was a young man I loved to run and had speed, but I suffered from the same ailment as Chuck, Osgood Schlatter's disease.  I had to quit playing soccer and football, which was a real bummer for me, as my life was centered on sports back then. My focus switched to academics, and it proved to be auspicious. If that hadn't happened I likely wouldn't have gone to the Air Force Academy or became a pilot. Sports wouldn't have done that for me.

I did, however, start running again a few years after the onset of the disease, for therapy, once the pain stopped crippling me every time I ran. I had some bad days, where I could barely walk the following day, but eventually, I was able to run several miles without pain or any after effects. By the time I was a senior in high school I was running on the cross country team. I wasn't fast, like I was before the Osgood Schlatter's disease, but I was able to compete.

Fast forward through college and running fell out of my routine, becoming a time waster and an annoyance. I was too busy playing video games. If I gained a few pounds, enough to notice, I would run a few days in a row and loose the weight. I weighed all of 142 pounds back then. I abused my body with lack of sleep, smoking at least a pack a day, and drinking moderate to heavy amounts of alcohol through my 20s. At 27, I quit smoking (first kid,) and gained 20 pounds almost overnight. I was not running, or doing hardly any regular exercise, but I was still in the active Air Force and had to maintain a minimum level of fitness. So I would ramp it up a few weeks prior to testing. Since then, I think I put on a little more than a pound a year until I hit 195 (I'm 5' 8"), and inevitably failed a fitness test.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Pimping a book: Lexicon by Max Barry

UK / Aus / NZ / SA


I just finished the audiobook version of Lexicon by Max Barry. It made my drive to Pennsylvania for the next residency in my MFA program a riveting adventure instead of drudgery.

I've been a Max Barry fan since he was Maxx Barry. I loved Jennifer Government, and I've made it a point to read every book he's written. Max's infectious, dark humor has always been a hallmark of his work, but the tone of Lexicon surprised me. It feels like an older, more mature brother of his other works. It's a blisteringly brilliant book. I was a fan before this novel came out but this new book puts Max into a different tier.

Be careful...reading Lexicon will compromise you, turning you into one of his proselytes for this heart-stopping thriller. It's a profoundly intelligent tale that covers a global conspiracy to use words as keys to unlock the human mind. 

The novel follows a young street hustler drafted into a secret organization, made into a weapon by careless inattention, and a seemingly innocent bystander, the only survivor of a horrific disaster. Usually his barb filled prose are more than enough for me but he goes for a different approach in this book. The normal tongue-firmly-planted-in-cheek style is set aside for a more serious tone, elevating Max Barry into the upper echelons of science fiction writers. He has obviously done a lot of historical research to ratchet this story up several notches and combined with the philosophical undertones, it really messed with my head.  Barry jumps back and forth through the timestream, which serves to maintain a blistering pace and keeps you guessing who is one whose side and what's going to happen next.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Amy Acosta Hosts me on her Book Den

Amy Acosta was nice enough to host me on her website this weekend!
Check it out here: Amy's Book Den







I also have a new Author Page up on Facebook:
Todd R. Moody


Thanks for visiting both!

Clear Ether!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

I Love It When a Devious Plan Comes Together

The idea for my new novel was birthed back in November. It started out as an idea that I was noodling around with and I'd put it on the back burner until January, when I decided to use the idea to craft my thesis novel. After a false start, I retooled and decided to try my hand at turning it into a Sci Fi Mystery novel. I'd never attempted anything remotely like a mystery before, so I did a little research on how the genre is approached and did my best to stay within those bounds. It was hard for me. First of all there is no dead body at the beginning. Bad stuff happens, but it doesn't start with a murder. I still thought I had enough to get there, but the further along I got the more it seemed to veer away from the mystery tropes. It was confounding me, but now I have clarity. I am writing a Thriller, not a Who Dunnit?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Plot Devices and Literary Terminology

Just a little fun with some terms:

Chekhov's gun
"One must not put a loaded rifle on the stage if no one is thinking of firing it." – Anton Chekhov, letter to Aleksandr Semenovich Lazarev (pseudonym of A. S. Gruzinsky), 1 November 1889.
It is a metaphor for a plot device or foreshadowing, which if shown or discussed should be used later.

Red herring
A false clue that leads the characters toward an inaccurate conclusion within the plot of a story, considered to be the opposite of Chekhov’s Gun.
The Chewbacca Defense is starting to come into the lexicon as a famous Red Herring It refers to a South Park episode and refers to using something so patently absurd that it makes no sense and creates confusion.

MacGuffin
"[We] have a name in the studio, and we call it the 'MacGuffin'. It is the mechanical element that usually crops up in any story. In crook stories it is almost always the necklace and in spy stories it is most always the papers". 
-- Alfred Hitchcock
A plot device that provides the initial motivation for a character, and it may or may not end up coming back into the story at the end.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Dog Butts!

We like to put things in our house that make us smile. Couldn't resist!


Saturday, June 8, 2013

Flowers Are All Tucked in Bed

This is how my wife and I spent the morning on Saturday at our new house. Don't look at the lack of grass (we are working on it!).



Thursday, June 6, 2013

How to Make Your Story Richer Through Characters

http://pedlag.deviantart.com/gallery/?q=secondary
Original Artwork by pedlag
Your protagonist can’t be all things. She can’t be the antagonist for sure, she can’t be a foil for herself, hmmm… maybe I’m on to something here, a story with one character playing all roles. ::Laughs:: Nah..sounds either too hard or just plain boring.

So what does that leave you with? Support characters! Everyone else the protagonist meets or interacts with. Some secondary characters are going to do some heavy duty, like Watson to Holmes. He is not only the foil and partner to Holmes, but the narrator as well. Some are not even going to be named. Ever looked at the credits to a movie? Guy with knife, 3rd girl screaming, 5th dude that gets blown up. They are on screen as filler. What I’m shooting for here is somewhere in between.

Monday, June 3, 2013

How to Build a Novel

CC attributed to Boston Public Library
I haven’t really talked about what I’ve been working on for my thesis. Of course it’s science fiction but it’s very different from my first novel, which is securely trunked for now. I had a different story in mind when I went into residency, but I felt like the story I decided to use was much more timely and relevant. Also I had a much better grip on how it would end, and I wanted something I knew I could finish to complete my degree.
I’ve been writing with a purpose to publish for about four years now and still have nothing to show for it, but I know I’m a much better writer now than I was when I started this process, and it is a process. The more I learn the more I understand that the learning will never end and it should be a constant improvement as I get more words under my belt.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Yes...I'm still here

I’ve successfully completed the first semester of my Master of Fine Arts in Writing Popular Fiction program. Lots of reading and lots of writing. I enjoy reading, and try to make time for it normally but for the Writings in Genre class we were forced to make time to read. This past semester was all about fantasy, which I enjoy, but it’s not really my bread and butter. The next semester is focused on science fiction, which is in my wheelhouse.  I’m looking forward to it and having experienced one semester I feel more confident knowing what to expect.
I’ve also been developing a new novel. I have a new support system for this in my assigned writing partners and mentor. It’s going well, and I’m going to go into more detail in another post.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

My First Guest Blogger - Victoria Thompson

I'm happy to give the podium to one of Seton Hill's finest. The prolific Victoria Thompson is an instructor and Mentor in the Writing Popular Fiction Master's program at Seton Hill University, in Greensburg, PA. Vicky also happens to be an Edgar nominated mystery writer, specializing in Historical Mysteries. Her Gaslight Mystery Series are centered around New York City at the turn of the Twentieth Century. Her first book, Murder on Astor Place was released in 2009, and the latest book for that series (number 15) is about to be released on May 7th. It's called Murder in Chelsea. Vicky has published thirty-five novels so far and I don't see her slowing down.

Today, she is going to give writers a few tips on what to do when we feel like we don't know where to take the story...

WRITER TO THE RESCUE

So what does an author do when she’s written herself into a corner and can’t for the life of her figure out how to get out of it—all while thousands of fans are clamoring for her blood?  That’s the situation in which I found myself last year at this time.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Why this MFA?

Photograph by Sean McGowan
I know I haven’t posted much since I started my MFA program. I’ve been busy reading a lot of Fantasy books for one of my classes and doing a lot of writing and revising on my new story, which I’m very excited about. There are so many good things about the Seton Hill Writing Popular Fiction Masters in Fine Arts program. I want to share some of them with you.
First thing is in the title. It’s focused on genre fiction. Most programs at this level are centered on literary fiction, which to me seems pretentious and self-serving. There is still a strong faction within the academic community that looks down on genre fiction, but I think the writing in genre fiction is much more active and vibrant. The editing is tighter and the plot…there actually has to be a plot, moves faster and has purpose. We are taught that every scene should have a purpose and to focus on story and strong characters. There are lots of ways to write a book and the way the program is designed it’s flexible and demanding at the same time. They have a large (and growing) stable of mentors that work with students to offer advice on not just the writing but the larger career and business aspects.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Ants in the Pants Syndrome

Original image URL:
Title: Street Tap
Are any of you what I call kinetic writers? I find that I have trouble sitting still for more than ten or fifteen minutes at a stretch, then as soon as I finish a particular passage I have to get up and walk around.  I’ll go down the hall and use the bathroom or look out the window for a minute or just get up and walk around the room for a minute before I sit back down and jump back into the writing. I haven’t figured out yet whether this is slowing me down or helping the neurons to fire. Obviously there is time lost in all this moving about, but it’s like sitting and writing builds up a static charge and I have to get up and release it. I don’t have a choice.  The charge builds faster if I am doing a more intense part of the story, like somehow the prose are loaded with their own electrical potential and it courses back through the keyboard and into my body as the words flow out...conservation of energy or something.  It causes me to have to get up more frequently when the story is really hopping or getting more spirited. The Ants-in-the-Pants syndrome.  It’s a good sign for me though, that I am doing impassioned work. Something is clicking in the story and I am on a roll, so I really don’t mind, and the interruption is brief, just a quick burst of energy blown off, like letting your gun barrel cool off after firing several magazine loads. I don’t know any other way, if I am in a place where I can’t get up frequently the charge builds up and creates a buffer of sorts that slows down the words coming out. I have to stop and do something else for a few minutes until the buffer clears.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Got Conflict?

Photo Credit: Shiny Things, Creative Commons
The thing to keep in mind when we are writing is that the core of a story is conflict.  I know I have caught myself going easy on my protagonist.  Sometimes I just miss opportunities to heap a little extra conflict on because I start thinking  how I might react in a situation and then write my way out of it instead of letting it unfold in a way that will actually increase the drama, and the stakes for the character, making the story a little richer in the process.  Without conflict there is no story.  And even though we have sympathy for our creations, maybe even love, we still have to punish them for the sake of the story.  Conflict is the engine of our story and if we keep finding an easy path out of trouble it just makes for a lot of prose without a whole lot actually going on.  The fiction becomes lifeless.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Reflections on Residency One


Last week I was at Seton Hill University for my first week of Residency for my Master of Fine Arts in Writing Popular Fiction.  Thanks to my classmate Jenni Spoon for letting my use this picture she took last week. Check out her blog!

I spent the weeks prior getting ready by reading a book that was assigned and doing critiques of ten other writer's work. I also prepared and sent in a ten page piece to be critiqued.  I thought I was going to do my thesis on the work I had already done for Revelation Void, and that was what I edited for submission, but I'd been working on a new piece and during the course of the first few days I realized that piece was going to work out a lot better for me.

I have Clear Ether out to be critiqued, but I realize now that it is far from being ready for submission.  It's going to require a major overhaul to be in any kind of shape that I would be satisfied with.  So Clear Ether is going on the shelf for a bit, along with Revelation Void.  I'm cool with it. I have some good ideas to explore for both of these books, but I am switching my focus to my new story.  I have just over 15k words so far, but they need to be polished.  I am going about this novel in a completely new way for me.  I'm actually outlining it first.  I actually know how it ends already.  I'm also trying something new with the type of story. It is firmly grounded in SF, but this one will be a mystery. The working title is Requiem for Memory, but I'm not completely sold on it and it may change at some point.

Monday, January 14, 2013

NINJABREAD COOKIES!!!!!


I just finished a plate of NINJABREAD cookies...or did I? Perhaps they finished me...perhaps they are still there...

Friday, January 11, 2013

Sprechen Sie Writer?


I've been at this writing thing for several years in earnest, but every now and then it becomes painfully obvious to me that I should've paid more attention to my college English class or read more about certain genres or pop culture references.  I’m actively compiling this list to benefit writers of varying levels of emersion in the waters of authordom, to help us look less stupid or simply to help you navigate the world of writing a little more confidently.

I am taking suggestions to add to this list, it's not complete by any stretch.  I am particularly interested in ‘writer-culture’ words. Or, perhaps you disagree with my definition. I’d like to hear about that as well.

I’ve broken it down by categories.

General Terms

Active Voice                           Writing where the subject of the sentence is carrying out action

ARC                                       Advanced Reader Copy, printed before the actual print run on a new book

Auxiliary or Helping verb         A verb that goes with another verb (have or do)

Back Matter                            Back pages of a book that have appendixes, indexes and endnotes