Being a Method Writer

Many of you who have been following this blog know that I, much like a method actor, often inject personal experiences into my writing. The opening scene of Blood in the Past, where Jillian and Mel are mugged, was based on my own mugging (I was the muggee, not the mugger, of course). A colorful gym-rat nicknamed Sonny Short Shorts is based on a guy that frequented my own gym. And let’s not forget that one of Lyla’s targets was based on a regular at the restaurant where I tended bar. He became a bit of a stalker, so he had to go, even if only in the pages of my book.

So it should come as no surprise that I find myself here, freshly arrived in Georgia (we just moved here from New Jersey a couple of weeks ago), staying at a motel (until we find a house), observing all the little things that will surely make it into the next installment of my Blood for Blood Series, my pet project, The Word and the Way, or even a short story or two. For example, my hubby-pants and I are staying at an extended stay motel and, last we left Officer Brighthouse, he was also taking up residence in a motel. Since I’m a method writer, here are a few of the things I’ve noticed that might be used to describe his stay:

  1. Because of the economic downturn, there are quite a few long-term residents. A school bus even makes an official stop at one of the locations. Sadly, their situation is understandable. The same reasons why hubby-pants and I are staying here (weekly rent + utilities included = less money than an apartment), surely apply to those hit hardest by the economy and in need of a place to stay that doesn’t require a credit check. One tenant has even been here seven years. SEVEN YEARS.
  2. The toilet runs. Seriously, it runs like someone or something is f**king chasing it. It often sounds like the faucet has been left on. This little issue irks my hubby more than anything and I’ve decided it will bug Officer Brighthouse as well. I might even have him drunkenly wonder if he’s left a faucet running.
  3. The temperature dials on the air conditioner and the two-burner stove are worn away from years of cleaning. It’s difficult to regulate the temperature of the room, and equally difficult to make a grilled cheese. Officer Brighthouse doesn’t exactly know his way around a kitchen (motel or otherwise), but I foresee him waking up freezing one morning and sweating the next.
  4. The walls are extremely thin. I suppose I should feel lucky that I can’t hear the exact dialogue of our neighbors’ TV sets, or their own dialogue for that matter, but I can hear when they flush their toilets, their muffled movements and conversations, and…how springy their beds are…
  5. The kitchen sink is smaller than even the bathroom sink, and pots and pans often have to be cleaned in the shower. Again, Brighthouse probably isn’t going to be doing a lot of cooking, but I have to find a way to sneak this detail in there because it makes for a hilarious visual.

Okay, now that you all know just how rough we have it down here in Georgia (a bit of TMI in this post, huh?), don’t worry at all. It’s only temporary. And it’s giving me fodder for future writing, which is the shiniest silver lining on the cloud of life. And speaking of experiences mined for story plots, I have a short story in a nostalgic, pulp-fiction-feeling anthology entitled Amazing Adventures. It’s available now on Amazon in paperback (and will soon be available in e-book), and my particular story is told from the point of view of a sentient handgun tossed in a dumpster following an armed robbery, and later sold to a small child. I got the idea from a Facebook prompt about telling a story from the POV of a weapon, plus a fuzzy memory of seeing someone toss a gun into a dumpster when I was a child living in the Bronx. I also remember my grandmother hurrying me along and understandably shushing my questions. Of course, I didn’t  later go on to buy the gun off the street, but the thug who sells it in my story, Mettle on Metal, is also based on a real-life person, whom I met much later. I hope you pick up a copy of the collection and if you do, please let me know what you think!

Who Likes Unlikable Characters?

TheSopranos

My husband and I just finished watching the entire Sopranos series. I’m probably one of the last people on Earth to see The Sopranos, I know, but after James Gandolfini passed away, I wanted to see the show that made him a star. I wanted to see his legacy. So about a year ago, hubby-pants and I fired up HBO Go and went to town. Now, he had seen most of the series (he stopped watching for whatever reason around the fourth season), and then tuned in for the finale. As you may have figured out, I was a Sopranos virgin.

Fast forward to a few days ago when the screen went black at the end of that infamous series finale, and I had a few things to say…

First of all, I didn’t see what all the fuss was about. Hubby-pants tried to explain the groundbreaking nature of the show: mafia-centric, from the perspective of the criminals, big-picture that includes home and family life, etc. I’ve decided to give him this defense, especially since I’ve strived to be equally as groundbreaking with my own Blood for Blood Series (partially told from the perspective of a female serial killer while exploring her psyche). However, I do have to take issue with the number of unlikable, can’t-standable characters constantly on-screen during The Sopranos.

Tony Soprano is a pig. His infidelity is repulsive. The way he speaks to his wife, his kids, his family, and his friends is disgusting. Eww.

Carmela Soprano should be a sympathetic character because Tony cheats on her and treats her like shit, but she’s not. Why? Because all Tony has to do is buy her a fur coat, a new car, or a shiny bauble and she turns a blind eye to the mistresses, the abuse, and the overall inexcusable behavior of her husband.

Meadow and A.J. Soprano are so fake. They both straddle the line between being spoiled mob prince/princess and pretending to care about the problems and injustices of the world. Both can be silenced with the perks of being a Soprano, same as their mother.

Everybody else? Sucked. Paulie, Chris, Adriana, Janice, Junior, Livia. I could go on and on. They were all horrible people. No one had actual friends. I mean, actual, REAL friendships. Going “way back”, smiling in each other’s faces, and telling old stories while inwardly wishing each other dead or wondering if the others wish you dead is NOT a relationship.

And don’t even get me started on Tony’s shrink, Dr. Melfi, and her merry little circle of friends/fellow psychiatrists. Good grief.

But…

My darling husband brought up a good point: if the characters conjure up such hatred, but viewers continue to tune in, hat’s off to the writers, right? I fell quiet when he said this. Why? Because I can’t count how many times I’ve said this in book reviews. If I hate a character it’s most likely because the writer did their job and portrayed the individual in such a light on purpose.

As a matter of fact, when I submitted the first draft of Blood in the Past to an editor, they returned the manuscript, complaining that Jillian Atford’s character was too unlikable because of her affair with a married cop. I refused to change the character because her actions were integral to the overall story, but I added things to make her tolerable. Her foster home childhood, for example, allows readers to see that Jillian never had anything of her own, that things were always taken from her, and that she felt she deserved to be happy, regardless of the situation.

In a lot of ways, I think the writers of The Sopranos did the same with their characters. Tony Soprano was very protective of his family. Janice wouldn’t stand for a man who physically abused her. Uncle Junior slowly succumbed to Alzheimer’s. Again, I can go on and on.

In the end, I stand by my internal 3-star rating of The Sopranos for other reasons, but maybe I should lay off them for being so unlikable. Thoughts?

 

DP Lyle on Investigation Discovery’s Deadly Affairs

journeyofjordannaeast:

DP Lyle is one of my forensic heroes, and if that makes me a nerd, so be it! He even personally answered a couple of questions of mine when I was conducting background research for the Blood for Blood Series. This isn’t the first time he’s been on TV, but I make sure I tune in every time (and you should too!).

Originally posted on The Writer's Forensics Blog:

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Set your DVRs for the ID Channel show Deadly Affairs Saturday night 8-23-14 at 9 p.m. EDT. I was asked to discuss this horrible crime that took place in Irvine, CA, a very few miles from my home. A chilling crime story.

Watch the promo trailer at the link below—-after an annoying commercial of course.

Details:

Program: Deadly Affairs

Episode Title: Swan Song

Air Date: August 23, 2014

Air Time: 9pm EDT/8pm CDT

Channel: Investigation Discovery (ID) 

Link to ID Show Schedule: http://www.investigationdiscovery.com/tv-shows/deadly-affairs/tv-schedule.htm

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Masterful Storytellers

Even though I haven’t been writing recently–this move is proving to be both stressful and time-consuming–that doesn’t mean I won’t have anything new out for you to read!

First up is an anthology being compiled and edited by the esteemed author/screenwriter Joel Mark Harris. Myself and twelve other authors have come together to write a dozen gritty mystery and adventure tales, all with a heavy, pulp fiction feel. Look for the Amazing Adventures Anthology next Tuesday, August 19th!

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Isn’t that a beautiful hand-drawn cover? (And as a contributor, I’m considered a “masterful storyteller! Hot damn!) We have the very talented Elyse Bruce (she’s also one of the authors) to thank for that. And if you like the cover, you’re gonna love the customized, hand-drawn illustrations she created to accompany each story! Can you guess which one is mine?

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Georgia on a Fast Train

It’s official: Hubby-pants and I are moving from New Jersey to Atlanta, Georgia the first week of September. I’m both excited and utterly terrified. I know what you’re thinking though: What does this mean for Jordanna East? What’s next for Jordanna East? Well, I’ll tell you what’s next! This:

  • The next installment of the Blood for Blood Series, Blood in the Paper, is going to take a little bit longer to write/publish. Placate your craving for my writing by checking out two anthologies featuring short stories of mine in the upcoming months.
  • My appearances/book signings in New Jersey/Pennsylvania are going to be few and far between. As in, only happening when the stars align and a multi-author event takes place during one of our family visits up north. But you aren’t afraid of flying, are you? That’s okay, you guys love long drives/train rides, right?
  • I’m going to have to find some Atlanta area writing groups. STAT. Suggestions?
  • Oh good grief, I’m going to have to update my bio on my books and pretty much every writing website where my books are listed. That sounds irksome…
  • Speaking of irksome situations, I can resurrect my Jerks & Irks blog series that you all miss so much. Hooray!
  • I get to scare/annoy a whole new group of professionals when I inappropriately conduct research. The police stations and hospitals don’t know what they’re in for!
  • I can find new places to write. New cafes. New bars. New parks. I might even have my own office, fingers crossed!
  • I can expand my blogging to complaining about new things, like purchasing a home, home improvement projects, and neighborhood shenanigans. I know how much you guys like when I complain about stuff.
  • I can (hopefully) schedule some events in a new area, introducing my books to a new audience. This should probably be higher on the list, but I’m socially awkward, so we’re lucky it made the list at all.
  • And last, but certainly not least, I can meet some of you people! My blogger friends that live in the south! So speak up in the comments section below if you’re within driving distance of Atlanta!

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Insecurities Abound!

I’ve been pretty down in the dumps, guys. A real sophomore slump. Let me explain. My prelude novella, Blood in the Past (released this time last year), did pretty well. No one really had a bad word to say about it. I was proud of myself…and then terror set in.

Last year, as I was editing and revising the full-length follow-up to Past, Blood in the Paint, I began to worry that it wouldn’t measure up, that my creative prowess had a quota and I had used up everything in my reserve to write Blood in the Past. As a result, I hit the Publish button on Blood in the Paint a few months ago with closed eyes. I dragged my feet with the paperback edition. I haven’t sent out many review copies, and I haven’t done much promotion. I’m subconsciously forcing myself, and my Blood for Blood series, to fade into oblivion. I’m making my own nightmare, of my sophomore release not measuring up, a reality. Or am I?

When the news of Blood in the Paint’s release broke, I had an immediate spike in sales. I might have been able to capitalize on those numbers had I done some promoting. After I ordered my first shipment of Blood in the Paint paperbacks, I almost sold out of them…and I still have two events to do this week. And the reviews? The reviews have been pretty awesome. There are only nine so far (actually, as I’m writing this, a TENTH popped up!), none of which were written by me or hubby-pants, but they are all FIVE-STAR. Every single one of them. My mother-in-law, who awarded Blood in the Past with a three-star review, is raving about Paint. As is my father-in-law, who keeps asking how the next book will unfold. My niece even forgot about her “ghetto reality shows” (her words, not mine), because she’d been so caught-up in reading it. You guys don’t know my niece, but that’s probably the best compliment I could have received, short of something from Gillian Flynn herself.

So what’s the problem? Why haven’t I really written anything since April, when I went on a writing retreat, where there was nothing to do BUT write? I still feel unworthy, I still feel talentless, I still feel like everyone’s compliments are a fluke. Then I read a recent review of Blood in the Paint written by Ileandra Young. You can read the full review here, but the part I want to point out is when she mentioned a Facebook status where she posted, “Soooooooooo that feeling of inadequacy you feel while reading a fellow indie author’s novel then returning to your own WIP.” Guys, I actually remembered that status, I even Liked it because I knew the feeling. Turns out, she was talking about Blood in the Paint. Words cannot thank her enough for sharing that with her followers and blog readers and, most importantly, me. Between that and the pep talk hubby-pants gave me recently (more on that in another post, I think), I might be ready to write again. At the very least, I might be ready to begin my medico-legal research to make sure my next book, Blood in the Paper, is on the right track.

In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy this week, which happens to be the one-year anniversary of Blood in the Past’s publication. To celebrate (and get back into promoting for the love of everything sacred and holy), Blood in the Past will be FREE on Wednesday, June 18th, and Blood in the Paint will be dropped to $1.99 today through Friday, June 20th. If you haven’t read them yet, now is the time to do so. Because, I’ve been down in the dumps and sales will make me feel better. ;-)

One of My Biggest Literary Pet Peeves Done Right

Those of you who know me in person, or know me a little better than just reading my blog from time to time, know that I’m pretty picky. This goes for books too. For example, I really love mystery/suspense/thrillers, but I really HATE (with the flames of a thousand campfires) when the main character/investigator is a civilian/layperson without even the tiniest bit of tangential experience. I’m talking about major crimes and conspiracies that are solved by bike messengers and cab drivers and grocery store cashiers. And it’s not like the bike messengers and cab drivers and grocery store cashiers are taking evening or online classes in law or criminology. No, they go home and watch The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones like the rest of us.

So, to sum up, I hate those novels.

However…I just finished reading Sister by Rosamund Lupton. And it was amazing. It was definitely the second best book I’ve read this year and probably one of the best books I’ve ever read. Period. And guess what? The main character, Beatrice, “investigates” her sister’s disappearance/murder and she isn’t a detective, a lawyer, or even one of those plucky reporters. In fact, she worked for a business design company, creating logos and ad copy. Why didn’t throw my Kindle across the room and take a long walk to calm my rage? Well, for one the Kindle was a gift from Hubby-pants a few years ago, but I mostly didn’t rage out because I LOVED the way the book was written. It was Beatrice’s love for and intimate knowledge of her sister that propelled her and kept her from accepting the police’s version of events. The characterization was done so well that I never questioned her lack of experience. I mean, she suspected everyone in the whole book! She looked crazy in the process! She never gave up though. And that’s what made it believable. Add in the fact that it’s formatted as though Beatrice is writing a letter to her lost sister, recapping the events that led to her finding the killer, and there’s so much to love about this story. I highly recommend you give it a read. I stumbled across it when my local library suggested it because I’d enjoyed Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and they were spot on.

So, readers, do you have any literary pet peeves with exceptions? Any novels that, though they exhibit something you normally hate in a book, you ended up enjoying the novel anyway? I’d love to hear about them!