Story characters

April 10th, 2013

It’s sometimes tempting, or easy, to make a character in a story almost perfect. It makes the story move along smoothly and doesn’t require a complex plot to keep the character plodding along nicely. However, characters in stories should reflect real people, with a few flaws in looks and temperament.

A few years ago I wrote a short story called the Wizard of Mars that became part of anthology called Christmas Collectibles. In my story I had two main characters. Ryan was tall, smart and handsome. Good qualities for a guy, but he was also a nerd and shy with women. Ellie is the party girl. Good looking but irresponsible. When she runs out money, she turns to her parents for help. Unfortunately for her, it was the last straw. They would help her, providing she agrees to do something she never had to do before, make a work commitment. Ellie has to sign a contract with a firm doing work on Mars, and off she goes to the fourth planet. When she meets Ryan, she’s attracted to him, but she’s also attracted to a lot of men. She goes out with Ryan, teasing him and is only after having a good time. Unfortunately he’s smitten by her, although he knows his love isn’t returned.

So we have two flawed characters. They meet and the fun begins. Well, more fun for her than him.

When I write, it’s those character flaws that help drive the story forward. It’s one thing to establish the settings, whether it be a spaceship or a farm, but how the characters react is what makes the story interesting.

I hope you don’t think too badly of Ellie, she does start to understand that there are consequences to behaviour.

By the way, in Christmas Collectables, there are several other great stories written by other authors. I’ve attached a link to the book.

Christmas Collectables  For a review of the book  by You Gotta Read

 

The Beer Fairy

April 10th, 2013

My son seems to take for granted the different fairies that inhabit our home. Admittedly, he does seem to appreciate the beer fairy that refills the beer fridge after he and his friends empty it. However he never makes mention of the dishwasher fairy that silently moves his dirty dishes from the sink into the dishwasher and later into the cupboard. The garbage fairy and shoveling of snow fairy rarely get a mention either. He is a bit perplexed by the Nintendo fairy, which put his games in the wrong place, and the controls hidden under the couch. Stuff like that occasionally happens with the best of fairies.

I don’t know if you have any favourite fairy folk that inhabit your home, but it’s wise to be kind to them. They can bring gifts, or hide what you do have. I don’t worry too much about the fairy folk, other than the editor fairy that magically fixes my grammar and spelling errors in my books.

Dell Gets a Charge Out of Canada

January 29th, 2013

My blog is a bit different this time. I decided get on the soap box and talk about something close to my heart. Money.

I use my laptop a lot, especially on my frequent road trips. There’s writing to do, plus business reports and the ever popular emails. Thus my laptop battery, after a couple of hundred charges, is nearing the end of its life.

So I did a search for a replacement battery, starting with Dell, the maker of my laptop. I contacted Dell via a chat line.

The lady was polite, but I expressed a bit of a surprise at the $120.00 price tag. She checked again and came up with a new price for me. $165.00! The reason for this new and improved price was because I live in Canada. This is despite the Canadian dollar (at the time) was higher than the US dollar. The batteries aren’t made in the US; likely China or maybe Korea, so shipping isn’t likely the cause. Maybe greed is.

Let’s see what the profit is. The batteries cost about $40.00 if you were to buy it from a wholesaler (obviously even less for a corporation like Dell).  The formula for Profit Margin is rather simple:  Price – Cost/ Price = Margin x 100%

For the US this is: 120 – 40/120 = 67%    (Or a markup of P-C/C = 200 %)

For Canada this is: 165 – 40/165 = 76%   (Or a markup of P-C/C = 312 %)

What does this tell me? That I should buy stock in Dell Parts Division? Possibly. But definitely that Dell thinks Canada as a place to pad their profits. Although not from me- I bought my replacement battery from a third party. $68.00 Canadian and that included shipping.

So, a pox on companies that cranks up their prices just for Canada.

Not all goods are priced different from the USA to Canada. I was at The Viewpoint, a great bookstore at Lake Louise Village, and their American and Canadian prices are matched. Maybe Dell could learn something from a retailer that does understand what their customers want, and not make it so obvious they want to rip you off.

Okay, off the soap box and back to writing.

Merlot with Science Fiction

January 4th, 2013

It looks like I have a new date to do a book signing. I initially had one on January 26- a Saturday- at Chapters in West Edmonton Mall.
However, unknown to me, evil forces were at work to disrupt my plans. I was also scheduled to do a wine tasting in Jasper on the same weekend. Wine in Winter is being held in Jasper on January 25. I have to say spending a weekend in the mountains, pouring and sampling wine is a bit more appealing than sitting at a table (dry) in a book store.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Chapters, and buy a lot of books there. In fact I was in there yesterday snooping around at some books. But pouring wine is actually my job, and writing is only something I want to do. Work usually triumphs wants.
Anyway, Kate, the lady responsible for scheduling book signings and host of other duties, was kind enough to give me an alternate date. February 9th is my new book signing date. Make sure you circle it your calendar and come by to say hello. We can talk about my books, writing or even about wine. By the way, I recommend a nice Merlot with science fiction.

Halloween parties

October 30th, 2012

Halloween is a great time to express one’s inner self. Of course, sometimes it isn’t practical to wear a costume other than the one that’s been stored for the past year in the basement. My costume was dug out of the garage and worked well enough. It wasn’t really original, Indiana Jones, but gave me excuse to walk around with a gun and a whip. Plus the cool hat.

The party I went to was at the Old Timer’s Cabin, a fairly large venue with a lot of photographs from the 1900’s. Wood floors and logs used for the walls gave the place some character. When the decorations were put up and the fog machine running, I would not have been surprised to see a few ghosts.

I admired some of the costumes that were put together. There was Dogbert, from the comic strip Dilbert, a few superhero’s- or superheroines, monsters of various descriptions and assorted other personalities. As usual there were few men dressed up as women- fairly ugly women- and I was concerned how well these guys were able to walk in high heels. Maybe they did a bit too much practicing during the weeks previous to Halloween.

One of the short stories I wrote a few years back told of a Halloween party where one of the costumed characters was perhaps not really in disguise. I suppose that theme may have been done before. We could have a story where an alien, perhaps one of Grays, decides to join a Halloween party. Maybe the alien gets a little too drunk and starts shooting people with his laser gun.

Anyway, if you want to read my Halloween story, Fallen Angel, here is the link:

http://www.jhwear.com/freereads.html

Writing on a road trip

October 4th, 2012

Sometimes I enjoy going on road trips. Generally speaking the destination isn’t always great. Jasper is pretty nice with the mountains and the town itself, but I’ve done to trips to Lloydminster, Grande Prairie and Red Deer. They’re not bad as far as cities go, but not really a tourist hotspot. However, going on the road to these places does have an advantage for me as a writer.

In theory, staying a hotel by yourself gives you solitude, quiet, and in the case of some of these cities, nothing else to do but write. True, there is TV. But most of the good channels are beyond what the hotel establishment deems necessary for the guests. So there, with my trusty laptop, I attempt to write the next great Canadian novel. I trust I can do this, as being a wine agent, I have a good supply of wine that helps me believe I can do anything.

So it was with hope I headed to Red Deer, assuming I would be able to spend time writing. The first night didn’t go so well. I drove most of the day, stopping at Ponoka, Lacombe and Blackfalds (yeah, those are real names of towns) before reaching Red Deer. I talked to customers at a dozen liquor stores and restaurants, before finally reaching the hotel. I unpacked and headed back out to have dinner. By the time I returned it was late. A glass of wine later, and it was all I could do was to figure out how to use the TV remote control.

The second day wasn’t any better. Calls during the day, an appointment at a restaurant in the evening in the town of Sylvan Lake – see the attach photo, the highlight of my trip- left me too tired to write after my return to the hotel. I did do some writing, but I hardly call a business report great reading. Well, maybe my boss will like it.

So my writing didn’t go so well. I did sell some wine, and had a few glasses myself, but the great Canadian novel will have to wait a bit longer. On a more positive note, I did actually find a football game on TV, a lot better than the usual reruns. Now that I’m home, I shall try to find time to put together a few paragraphs each day that will eventually become a story.

I’m going to kill someone

July 4th, 2012

To kill or not to kill? I’ve given it some thought, and the answer is yes. How to do the deed is still a bit of a question. One can try to make it look like an accident, but the more complicated the murder, the better the chance the crime points to perpetrator.

So I’ve look at other simpler methods, such as poison. Since I don’t know a lot about chemistry, I did try to do some research on that. My pharmacist wasn’t very forthcoming with information, and frankly, was a bit suspicious why I was asking which drugs were effective for inducing a heart attack. Maybe I should have told her I was researching the information for a murder mystery.

Anyway, my character is probably going to have to kill the old fashioned way, either a gun or a knife. I’m still sketching out the plot, and haven’t restricted the number of murders yet, so there may be an opportunity to kill more than one way. More fun.

The other thing is deciding who the victim(s) may be. There’re a few people who’ve annoyed me, and I just might write their character into the story. I guess I could make up a new character, but I think it’s more fun to knock off someone who’s done you wrong. Or I could take bribes to murder someone you don’t like. Send me some money and information on the person you don’t like, and I’ll have them done in, all safely done within the story. Remember, sending me the money is the most important part.

I’ve read quite a few mysteries, and have a general idea how to write one. For example, don’t reveal who the killer is in the story blurb. Another, is to develop a detective that has some peculiar characteristics, such as Columbo with his crumbled raincoat. The detective has to be likable and annoying at the same time. A bit like a pretty girl with a squeaky voice.

Alright, it’s time to get busy and write the story. Any suggestions on a suitable poisons will be appreciated.

Jack Wear- mystery writer

 

 

Doing the impossible

May 22nd, 2012

I did a book signing a few weeks back at Chapters in West Edmonton Mall, and there are a few advantages to do a book signing at that location. First, it’s close to where I live. Second, the mall, and thus the store, has good traffic and lots of potential buyers. Finally, there’s a Starbucks located in the bookstore, and coffee is absolute necessity for me to be spending hours at one spot. I would like to thank those who took pity on me sitting at the table and bought me coffee.

I actually had four books with me that day. Besides the Castle trilogy, I also had my first book Talnut, which I thought I’d talk about.

Talnut is a science fiction story of a young man, Carl, who was abducted by aliens and dropped in a zoo. Not an ordinary zoo, as there weren’t any cages or vendors selling hotdogs to visitors. However, he was placed on a peninsula, bounded by a sea and an impassable desert, which effectively locked him in. Besides Carl, there was a village of people who, for the most part, were descendents of others abducted by the aliens.

So Carl figures that the only way to get home to Earth is to get off the peninsula and to the mainland, where he suspects the aliens are. If they can take him away from Earth, they can also return him. I know he’s naive in thinking that, but he’s young and doesn’t know the word impossible. He also refuses to believe the witchdoctor’s daughter (Tanya) won’t agree to marry him, despite her statement she’s not allowed to marry and doesn’t even like him.

So Carl can’t get to the mainland by sea, or by land, and his love life is stalled by Tanya’s refusal to see his point of view. What can he do? At this point I’d like to bring in the famous Kobayashi Maru situation in Star Trek. Captain James T. Kirk manages to beat the no-win situation. Of course he cheated, but he did find a way to win.

If you want to know what Carl did to try to accomplish what he wanted, you’ll have to read the book. But also if you ever feel stymied on solving a problem, remember there’s always another option. If Captain Kirk can do the impossible, surely we can manage the improbable.

Jack Wear   Talnut link: http://store.samhainpublishing.com/talnut-p-2854.html

 

It Must be Spring

April 25th, 2012

It must be spring. We have our patio furniture out, and people in the neighbourhood are getting their lawns power raked, aerated and fertilized, just so they can mow it every week during summer. The other sign of spring is we had a few people drop by on the weekend. I didn’t even have to call them. Something more like a natural instinct built in, like ducks returning on a
migration.

Gary and Doug were the first fly in, but not the last. My neighbours jumped over the fence later, but we also received a visit
from Dave and Alex. Everyone headed to the backyard, where it’s harder for the police to spot suspicious activities.

The events became a bit hazy, but apparently there was a game of tossing a wine cork into a bowl of tequila. Regardless, besides
drinking, there was fun and laughter, and the official beginning of living outside weather.

In the morning there were few empties around the table. Dave left his truck behind, a wise move, and one of my neighbour left her wine glass. Not so smart, Astra. I’ll add it to my collection mismatch set of stemware.

I hope you weren’t expecting an inspirational blog on writing this time. Some weekends are just not meant for prose. I promise a
better blog next time.

What’s in a name?

April 10th, 2012

One of my writers’ groups a couple of weeks back talked about giving names for characters. Some writers named characters after people they knew, such as family members. There were few other interesting suggestions, such as naming a character after a street or neighbourhood. Of course where I live there are a lot of numbered streets. Naming a character 109 Street may not be the best thing to do.

I’m currently writing a medieval world fantasy story, one that has witches in it. So trying to give them names provides a bit of challenge. Jane, Tom or Martha just doesn’t seem to have the right ring to it. I actually turned to a latin dictionary and dug up information on names used in the middle ages. I have now come up with a good sized list of names to use in the story. As far as I know, none of the names
are in the most popular list of baby names. Mind you, not many people want to name their baby after a witch.

Science fiction names are a bit easier to make up. For example, usually you can take one letter of a name and substitute in a different one or simple add an extra letter. I find the letter X works well in many cases. Jane becomes Janx, which sound interesting and exotic. Tom becomes Tomx. Martha changes to Marthax, which sounds like a type of insect. I guess it isn’t a perfect system. The next time you read a book, especially one of mine, try to remember the author may have put a lot of effort into developing the right names.

By the way, I’m doing a book signing at Chapters in West Edmonton Mall on Saturday, April 21. I hope you can drop by. If you tell me your name, I might be able to use in my next book.