Saturday, April 28, 2012

Writing CRAZY

Conjuring a serial killer is an interesting pastime. To make a killer real requires delving into parts of oneself that perhaps one doesn’t wish to examine. Then again…

Who hasn’t given over to a nasty flight of fancy when somebody out there really pissed them off? It isn’t something we necessarily share with others, these evil imaginings, but we’ve all engaged in it at least once and probably more than any of us would care to admit. When writing a killer, especially a seriously deranged killer, those flights of fancy are a mere stepping off point and pretty soon, take on a life of their own upon the page. 

My killer begins slowly, with a nasty little missive sent in the Christmas mail. The serial killer inside hasn’t yet been born, but it is gestating and has been gestating since age ten when my killer squeezed the family pet canary to death and then went to the kitchen for some milk and cookies. Jealousy is the fuel that fires the killer and as my protagonist, Emily Simonson, becomes more and more successful, the killer becomes more and more enraged. Taking the leap from killing a canary to torturing and killing women who look like Emily is a journey that I, as an author, had to imagine, construct and make plausible. So I had to get inside the head of my killer, and let the reader know what is going on inside that head.

For example:

    Let’s see, what kind of message would make a lasting impression on Little Miss I’m So Fucking Special? Or maybe I should amend that to Big Miss. A giggle there. God, she is so... so... large. Big bones, big frame, big fucking head, thinking she’s so much better than anyone else. Miss Look At Me I’m On Television. No, don’t go off on a tangent, just stick to what’s important, and what’s important here is to make her squirm. Like a worm. Squirm like a worm.
    Laughing again. Picking up the telephone and dialing the number and waiting. Waiting to hear that oh so perky greeting. But instead of her annoying voice there’s that chiming noise from the phone company and then a computer-generated message. “We’re sorry but the number you have dialed is no longer in service. Please check your directory and dial again.” Feverishly depressing the hang-up button and redialing only to hear the same message. Slamming down the phone, in a temper now. 
    She changed her number! The fucking bitch changed her number! Thinks she can escape that easy, huh? Well, we’ll just see about that!  But how? What can I do? 
    Pacing back and forth, twirling a lock of hair. Tighter and tighter until the pain comes. Like it’s being pulled out at the roots. Twisting it tighter yet. Trying to think but thought is so difficult under the circumstances. Feeling so all alone and misunderstood. 
    “We’ll have to make quite an impression on her this time.” The voice of the Guardian, so silky smooth and soft, whispering. “You have to let her know she’s dealing with someone who means business.”
    A feeling of relief. No longer alone. Now there’s someone who knows what to do, who can offer advice. Who can plan. Thank God there’s someone who knows.
    What should I do? How can I let her know that?
    “It’s all in the details.”
    What kind of details?
    A moaning sound, almost like an orgasm, an expression of sublime pleasure. “Oh, all sorts of details. Come, learn at the feet of the master.”
    “We are about to change Little Miss Emily’s life.”
    A wince as the hated name scrapes the eardrums much as fingernails drawn across a chalkboard.
   “Are you prepared?”
    “Then let us begin.”

I got about three quarters of the way through writing CRAZY when I thought perhaps I’d better see how my serial killer stood up to the real thing. It was eye opening. So many of the things I had my killer do were the hallmarks of some of the more famous serial killers of our time, even though I hadn’t been aware of their actions. It’s kind of scary in a way, but it’s also exhilarating because it tells me that my imagination is steering me right and ultimately, the story will have the ring of truth, albeit a strange and awful truth. Then it will be up to you, the reader, to decide whether my efforts make the grade.

You can check out my forthcoming novel and read a couple of chapters here:

Monday, April 16, 2012

Coming soon: CRAZY

I’m putting the final touches on my new novel, Crazy. It’s been a long time coming but I think you’ll find it was worth the wait. Once it’s up on Kindle, I’ll be doing a ONE DAY GIVEAWAY, so watch for it! Here’s a little bit about the book.

Someone is stalking star chef Emily Simonson. That someone wants her dead, but first, that someone wants her terrified. And that someone has figured out the perfect way to do it.

Aspiring actresses who bear a resemblance to Emily are being murdered and before each murder, a warning is sent. But those warnings don’t tell who, where or when. Who is next? And when will it be Emily’s turn to die?

CRAZY takes you into the mind of a fiendish killer who, fueled by Satanic fantasies and a mysterious Guardian, wreaks havoc in Hollywood. There’s a lunatic on the loose. Who will be the final victim?

Read two chapters here: CRAZY

Saturday, April 14, 2012

What's All This Fuss About Sex?

What is it about the subject of sex that makes people in this country so uncomfortable? I’ll admit I really didn’t have the faintest idea of how people would react when my daughter, Kimberley Johnson, and I started work on The Virgin Diaries. She had the idea, I thought it was great and the book was born.

Our aim was to create a book for virgins of all ages and, since virgins are generally young people living at home, for their parents to use as a tool for opening a dialogue with their teen about first time sex and the emotions associated with the experience. We had no agenda when putting together the accounts we gathered. There was no judgment or advice given regarding what a person should or shouldn’t do. It is a book that is simply meant to inform and allow the reader to come to his or her own conclusions and apply those conclusions to their lives.

Once we got the book finished and out on the market, we did what any author would do. We went looking for reviews. And that’s when we found out that people were actually “apprehensive” and “afraid” of what was between the covers. I don’t know what they expected to find. It’s not explicit. It’s not “dirty.” It’s not erotica, which to my mind is just another term for female porn (thank you to Joey on the TV show Friends for that observation, which I have just co-opted). It’s 72 stories from real people telling what it was like both emotionally and physically.

One woman said she thought it was a good idea but she didn’t think it was appropriate for teens under 18. To that I have only this to say: in most instances, the horse is out of the barn by then and Elvis has left the building! There were so many stories where the first time took place at an achingly young age: 12 and 13. The average age? Around 16. Why on earth would a parent want their teen to be uninformed or misinformed about something so important? In then end, our adult reviewers gave us rave reviews.

Teens shied away because we’re older – I could be Grandma and my daughter could be Mom, so who wanted to listen to us? So my daughter went out and sought teen book bloggers. Again, we were greeted with that apprehension. Surmounting it was pretty easy. Kimberley told them to just read it and if it makes you uncomfortable, put it down and forget about it. None of them put it down and all of them gave it a great review.

Studies show that in states where abstinence is the only thing taught, the teen pregnancy rate is higher than in states with a comprehensive sex education program. Even then, sex education deals more with the biology than with the emotional aspect. Again, my question is why do parents wish to stick their heads in the sand and deny the physical urges associated with puberty, the peer pressure and the pervasive sexual messages in advertising, movies and music throughout our society and the effect those factors exert on their children? Particularly when there is so much at stake? Knowledge is power and it is the duty of every parent to arm their children with every resource necessary to meet the challenges of modern society and sex is one of the biggest challenges faced during the teen years.

If this book had been around when I was a teen, I would have devoured it. The same goes for Kimberley. So many people who contributed their stories had the same thing to say. Our teen reviewers DID devour it and saw the value of the information and never once considered it to be titillating or embarrassing. They were grateful for the real input from real people. The Virgin Diaries is timeless and yet a book for our times.

Visit The Virgin Diaries Blog and join the conversation.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Why I Write What I Write

I love reading. Always have. The day I got my first book, a primer about David and Ann and their dog Spot, I was hooked. My heroes have always been the people, who like Calgon Bath Oil, could "take me away." There is something so amazing about the written word and its ability to transport a person to far off places, put them in situations they would otherwise never experience and give them sometimes visceral experiences. I recall an occasion when I was coming down with the flu and knew it. So on the way home from work, I stopped and picked up some paperbacks to read for the duration of my illness. One of them was The Exorcist. I was feeling pretty poorly and thought I’d get in a few pages before I fell into bed. At the time I was living in a one-bedroom apartment and had given the bedroom to my five-year-old daughter. I slept on a sofabed in the living room. I hadn’t yet pulled out the bed and was reading furiously when my little girl awakened and wandered into the living room to ask for a glass of water. I was so into the book that upon hearing her tiny voice calling “Mommy” my heart leapt into my throat, the book flew across the room and I landed with a thud on the floor. Now THAT was a visceral experience!

I like to read all kinds of things but I love writing thrillers and weird stuff. Like the song says: I don’t know why. I just do. I like going to odd and disturbing places in my head and finding out what sorts of things lurk there. Sometimes I’m surprised. Mostly it makes me laugh because the things I write are so unlike who I am. Well, the boring characters are sort of like me, but the villains, who are so much fun for me to write, are the polar opposite of me. I guess that’s why I like to write them. They let me bust out of my shell, so to speak.

The thing that’s so cool about writing, as opposed to acting, which was something I thought would feed that inner rebel, is that I get to be ALL the characters and I have ALL the control. So you now you know. I have control issues. So much of life is out of our control and I’m lucky to be able to have that one little corner where I can do and be anything and everything I can possibly imagine. It’s a powerful thing, even if it’s just an illusion.

Mostly I write what I write because it’s fun, pure and simple. It’s hard work but it’s enjoyable hard work and I love doing it. The MOST fun is when people like what I write. Then I feel like I really did something special. I got to take them away, transport them to a world created in my imagination and engaged them. What a feeling! And who knows, maybe someone will be inspired to write because of one of my books, just like I have been inspired by the authors who have engaged me.