Tuesday Takeover: How to be uncanny in your writing by John Hancock

Mimics. You know what I mean, those people that can do amazing impersonations. The one I’m most recently impressed by is Ross Marquand, an actor on The Walking Dead. His takes on Kevin Spacey and Michael Caine are uncanny. Uncanny — remember that word. In a discussion with a coworker, I put forth my favorite theory on why some people can be accomplished mimics, and some can’t. Oh, for sure, you grew up knowing that guy who could act like the gym teacher and make everyone laugh. But I’m not really talking about that guy. That guy has a light quiver. His only arrow might be the gym teacher and maybe a really mediocre Christopher Walken.  One that makes you cringe but you go along with it because, well, its bad form to point out someone trying that hard is pathetically failing.

These are the average schmoes, guys and gals like you and me that might have only one impersonation. And none of us are uncanny. There’s that word — uncanny. Ok, so back to my theory, and here it is. Or actually I’m going to creep up on my theory by first making an observation. Have you ever seen yourself filmed or recorded and thought “OMG, is THAT my voice? I don’t sound like that at all!”

But of course, yes you do. Because everyone else in the shot sounds like everyone else sounds. But that means you DO sound that. How far is it off for you? For me, my recorded voice sounds more tinny, more sibilant and less masculine than what I hear in my own ears when I talk. Yes, it’s a bit of a blow to my ego. But we’re not talking about me now, are we?

So my theory: Our voices sound differently to ourselves because it has to travel through a different medium. Other people hear us directly through the air. We hear ourselves through the distracting interference of our bones and flesh as it reaches our inner ear. We can’t hear ourselves correctly. Well, most of us. And that brings us back to mimics.

I believe people that are actually uncanny in their ability to mimic a wide ranges of celebrities can do this because they’ve either learned to ignore the distracting interference of their own skull and work around it, OR their interference simply doesn’t exist. They hear themselves exactly as the rest of us do. Either way, this allows them to actively modulate their voice to become the voice of their target of impersonation. So, what does this have to do writing? You’ve probably figure out I’m an author, I could tell you about myself yadda yadda yadda who cares?  I want to talk about when writing actually works, when it comes together like a perfect storm of fate, coincidence or sheer effort to produce a compelling believable piece of writing. I’m suggesting it best happens when we learn to sabotage the distracting interference of our own lives and begin to actually hear and speak what the characters want to say. We become better mimics of them, we follow their speech patterns, their thoughts, their desires, their goals, everything about them. But if we let our own thoughts, our own distractions, our own goals get in the way, then we become that guy who did the gym teacher’s voice, badly. 

It’s a Zen, thing. I love it when it happens. I can plan and plot and intend almost anything, but as I’m writing, the voice of the character tells me “no, John, I’m not saying that. Why would I say that? Don’t you know this scene scares the crap out of me? Don’t you know this guy reminds me of my father, who beat me? I would never politely tell this guy to shove off, I’d do it with a sledgehammer.” The trick, you see, is to let your characters write the story.  Honestly, they’re better at it. It’s their life story, after all. If you MUST look me up as an author, for some reason, I’ve got a few books out. Science Fiction, Horror, Fantasy, Dystopia, short stories. If you’re a fan of Sarah Noffke’s, and you’d be an idiot not to be, the book you’d likely be most interested in would be ROOF.  You can find it or me on Amazon.

Thanks for listening… through the bones in your skull.

John Gregory Hancock

————————————————————————–

John Hancock

Bio: John Gregory Hancock is a storyteller.

A graphic professional for many years (which is one way to tell a story), his graphic journalism garnered international awards, and was nominated for a Pulitzer. He incorporates his visual sense in his ability to spin compelling yarns.

Currently, he has seven books of his own, and has written for The Future Chronicles anthology series, whose titles have hit the overall Amazon Top 10 Bestsellers list. The Immortality Chronicles – a Top 5 SF Anthology and Hot New Release – featured his story ‘The Antares Cigar Shoppe’, which was also nominated for Best American Science Fiction. The collection won best anthology from Preditors and Editors

His work has appeared in other anthologies, including; Prep For Doom, Bite-Sized Offerings: Tales & Legends of the Zombie Apocalypse, Flying Toasters – The DeadPixel Tales, and Off the Kuf.

Check out John here: http://www.johngregoryhancock.com/

May 10, 2016 | Posted by in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Tuesday Takeover: How to be uncanny in your writing by John Hancock

Tuesday Takeover: Inspiration for the Darracia series by Michael Phillip Cash

Cash - Article

Well, the baby’s shoelace is tied in a knot so tight we should just cut it off. Then her endearingly beat up sneakers, (tennis shoes to the rest of the world outside of Long Island) will be all dirty with brand, spanking new white laces. That won’t do. An hour later, Daddy vs. the knot, Daddy wins. She’s crying though, “What….What?  You’re in the laundry? Okay…I’ll give her a bottle.”  Nothing better than Daddy and baby time with a lukewarm bottle, milky bubbles drooling from her pursed lips. I check Amazon, relief that Stillwell is ranked, worried the number is lower than before. I look at the computer, my keyboard stares blankly back at me, but I hear my wife call,”Get Alex off the bus.” “Sure, no problem,” I respond, happy to help. The corner is freezing, my hands numb, my mind blank. The air is sucked from my lungs as if I stepped into a vacuum. Other parents sidle up next to me, as we stand in a circle searching for warmth. We smile at each other, our eyes streaming from the cold. The bus arrives and the kids bounce off, scarves unbound, mittens flopping, so we all take a minute to rebundle our bundles of joy. The walk back to the house is filled with stories about Jaden, Aiden, and Evan. The house smells of sausage and peppers, rice boiling over, and my daughter is screaming with delight that her older brother is home.

“Help with homework?” No problem, a pleasure, let me check Amazon first. Stillwell is up, a higher number, relief expands in my chest.  Listen to my son reading his new book, the words forming first silently as his mouth tries them out. He is triumphant, thrilled with the freedom of being able to read for himself. We proudly reread the book for the entire family.

Dinner is noisy, my daughter loves to squish her food and I can’t take my eyes off the ooze squeezed through her tight fist. It’s delicious, tart and sweet, like my family life. The golden light from our kitchen fixture bathes us in homey warmth. Beds, bath, more books, this time Daddy and Mommy do the reading. Then the sound of the house settling down, heat clanking in the old pipes, hiss of radiators, the kids yawns of satisfaction of a day jammed with activities.

It’s quiet, the computer screen lights the room, a beacon of judgment. It dares me to look up Stillwell one more time, accusing me of procrastination. The house is dark, my mind like a wax tablet waiting for impression. Nothing comes, not even interruptions. Please wake up, I urge my little girl. Call for me so I can walk away again. I can’t end this story, my characters have gone as silent as a tomb and won’t tell me what to do! What was I thinking? A full time writer? Who does that? Should I check Stillwell again? How can I end this book to get on with the next? I am drowning! The water is closing over my head and I can’t breath! Wait…can’t breath? I pause holding my breath. That’s it…I turn to the closing chapter of my next book in the Darracia series. I think I got it.

Michael Phillip Cash is an award-winning screenwriter and novelist. He’s written eleven books including the best-selling Brood X, Stillwell, The Flip, The After House, The Hanging Tree, Witches Protection Program, Pokergeist, Monsterland and Battle for Darracia series. Learn more about Cash here: http://www.michaelphillipcash.com/

Cash photo

Feb 29, 2016 | Posted by in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Tuesday Takeover: Inspiration for the Darracia series by Michael Phillip Cash

Tuesday Takeover: What Ever Happened to Happy Science Fiction? by J.N. Chaney

JN photo - blog

Anyone who goes to the movies or reads any science fiction is probably familiar with at least one dark dystopian story. Whether or not your selection includes The Hunger Games, I Am Legend, or Wool is besides the point. You’ve probably been exposed to the genre, which means you’re at least partially familiar with the state of modern sci-fi.

I say “modern” because the truth is that science fiction hasn’t always been this depressing. Seventy years ago you’d be hard pressed to find anything as dark or engrossing as Ender’s Game, Dune, or Old Man’s War. That’s not to say that those types of books didn’t exist, but they were extremely rare. Many science fiction stories chose to focus on the science rather than the fiction, putting aside the characterizations and story elements in favor of a single idea. War of the Worlds (1989) focused entirely on an invasion from Mars, but it didn’t even bother to name its characters, including its narrator. We never know anyone’s backstory, who they are, or anything truly significant about them. If the Tom Cruise adaptation had actually been faithful to the original book, Cruise would’ve only appeared for a handful of scenes. But that’s how it was back then–science fiction was a different kind of beast.

In other words, the science and the idea were the real characters, not Joe Whatshisname, who was really only there to give exposition like a walking wikipedia article and press the imaginary buttons on the big “what if” machine. Those aren’t necessarily bad things to do, but they don’t exactly make for accessible character literature. The Time Machine was great, but when your protagonist doesn’t even have a name, it can be a little difficult for modern audiences to relate to him.

Science fiction has changed, but only because it started trying to balance both the characters and the “big idea”. To understand this change, you have to remember where our society was and where it is today. Ever since the bombs fell on Japan, most people have come to appreciate the potential horrors of technology. When scientific discovery can lead to an entire metropolitan city getting wiped off the face of the Earth in a single heartbeat, suddenly everyone’s optimism goes down the drain. Don’t even get me started on the perpetual state of fear and anxiety that arose because of the Cold War. Throughout the last several decades, our culture has become obsessed with the apocalypse. Every other day there’s some religious figure telling us the end is near. Our global media has allowed us to hear and know about every little skirmish taking place on the other side of the globe, in regions we previously would never have heard about. We look on with utter fascination, absorbing it all. It’s only natural for our culture’s literature to reflect this newfound obsession. We just can’t help ourselves.

This isn’t exactly new. People have been predicting the end of the world for thousands of years. The difference is that now we actually have a reason to talk about it, because we have the means with which to make it happen. Look at what famed dark satirist and science fiction writer Kurt Vonnegut said back in 1970:

“I thought scientists were going to find out exactly how everything worked, and then make it work better. I fully expected that by the time I was twenty-one, some scientist, maybe my brother, would have taken a color photograph of God Almighty — and sold it to Popular Mechanics magazine. Scientific truth was going to make us so happy and comfortable. What actually happened when I was twenty-one was that we dropped scientific truth on Hiroshima.”

Why is it like this? Why would we rather hear about the world blowing up than about a utopia where people are so happy they piss glitter? It all boils down to how we feel in the moment. Science fiction is a reflection of today, not tomorrow. It’s about how our culture is right now and how the person writing that story views it. If the world looks like it sucks and everything’s gone to shit, you aren’t going to see as many happy stories of Captain Spaceheart running through the cosmos saving space princesses and battling space monkeys. These people are writing stories about the future, but that future is only an extension of today, and if today isn’t turning out so well, then neither will tomorrow.

J. N. Chaney has a Master’s of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and is the author of the Amber Project. You can get J.N. Chaney’s very own dystopian science fiction novel absolutely free by going to the following link: http://jnchaney.com/stay-up-to-date/

JN Chaney

Feb 9, 2016 | Posted by in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Tuesday Takeover: What Ever Happened to Happy Science Fiction? by J.N. Chaney

Tuesday Takeover: What Does It Mean To Be A Hero? by Derek Borne

Derek graphic

What does it mean to be a hero? It’s a question that’s been asked many times.

 Do you need super powers? A utility belt? The earnest want to seek justice on whoever stole the last slice of pizza?

 To delve deeper into the subject, you’ll find that the answer is something that can be answered with a simple question.

 “Have you changed someone’s life?”

 Whether big or small, we can all find ways to bring change to this world. They say it takes fewer muscles to smile than to frown, and something so small can have a big impact on someone’s day.

 Now let’s up the ante.

 Perhaps you come across a total stranger in need of assistance of some sort, and you have the ability to be the help they need. Would you simply walk by and say “Hey, good luck with that” or even remain silent? Sure, it’s easy enough to give a lost driver directions to where they need to go. Most likely because we know we’ll never have to see that person again because they’re from out of town.

 So why is it so hard to be the change that’s needed? Are we afraid to be someone’s hero?

 For us authors, we always hope that our written words will change and inspire. I can guarantee you that writing and describing things for a living becomes very hard to do when we receive amazing reviews and messages from you, our loyal fans.

 But even though we’ve written a book that may have “changed” your life, we’ll never feel like the heroes that we write about in our stories. We simply do what we do because we love doing it. We don’t have to, but we do it anyways.

 And isn’t that something we should all live by? Say it with me: “I don’t have to, but I have the ability to do it anyways.”

You don’t have to be like Roya Stark from the sci-fi Lucidite series, or Wynter Reeves from the new dystopian “Ultraxenopia” by M.A. Phipps, or Devon Bertrand from the upcoming “Ultimate Agent” series by yours truly. The way I see it, we all have the ability to show what it means to be a true hero.

 You don’t have to, but will you do it anyways? Why not be someone’s hero today?

Derek Borne is the author of the “Ultimate Agent” series, due to be released later this year. Discover his world of superheroes and espionage at www.derekborne.weebly.com

 

 

Derek

Artwork provided by Choolee.

Jan 26, 2016 | Posted by in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Tuesday Takeover: What Does It Mean To Be A Hero? by Derek Borne