Tuesday, May 6, 2014

#Mywritingprocess Blog Tour


My friend Dan Koboldt asked me to answer four questions as a part of the #Mywritingprocess Blog Tour.  You can check out his answers on his site at dankoboldt.com  Dan writes fantasy and science fiction, he works as a research scientist in the field of human genetics and genomics, and he shoots things with a giant bow Katniss style.  Obviously, I said yes right away. 

So here are my answers.  They will rock your world. 

What Am I Working On?
I’m in a super awkward place at the moment.  I feel disconnected from my most recently finished work but not yet connected with my next project.  I’ve started a few stories, gotten a few thousand words into each and stopped.  For me, I have to be really seduced by a story idea before I can fully commit to writing an entire book.  The characters become friends or extensions of myself.  Without that passion for telling their stories, it’s easy to lose interest.  The concept I’m exploring currently is what I like to call Pretty Woman if Gillian Flynn wrote it.  It feels like an idea I could get into, but I’m still gut checking all the themes I want to explore in it to be sure it’s a fully realized concept and not just a lark.

How Does My Work Differ from Others of Its Genre?
Sometimes I worry it differs a little too much at times.  I’ve written YA novels to date.  My first one was pure indulgence on my part, pulling inspiration from some of my favorite stories, books, and movies.  Ultimately, it may have been too many genres at once.  I want to read and write stories that have a little of everything I love in them.  I try to find humor in situations and don’t let my characters take themselves too seriously all the time.  Some YA stories tend to skew toward the melodramatic.  I want the drama in my writing to feel natural, not manufactured.  That usually comes from nurturing a connection between the reader and the characters.

Why Do I Write What I Do?
I find myself having the best time writing when I’m exploring a side of myself that doesn’t get much free rein in the real world.  I think we all have multiple facets to our personalities and only a few of those sides ever get to see the light of day.  It’s also cathartic to research something you wouldn’t necessarily do yourself but that you need to write intelligently about one of your characters doing.  I love to write as an outlet for my creative side.  Writing is a great way to create and share and invent and hopefully inspire.  It can be lonely work at times, but ultimately, the idea is for my work to connect with others.  That’s when I know I’ve written something worthwhile.

How Does My Writing Process Work?
I’ve experimented with different techniques and I think the story I’m writing dictates what method I use.  It starts with an idea, obviously: Some concept you want to inflict on a fictional character to find out what happens to them.  That usually requires some unconscious inspiration.  Once I have that, I work on deciding what kind of story could best explore that concept.  Where would it take place, who would be involved, and most importantly, why do I care about it?  After fleshing out the basic mechanics of the story, I look for opportunities for little twists.  I love something unexpected in the stories I read.  A balance of “I never saw that coming!” and “Of course that had to happen!”  I usually do a chapter outline and try to get the basic pacing laid out, but that is heavily altered as the story is written, and then completely butchered once it’s edited.  Typically, the best parts of my stories are never in the outline, they come about naturally as I discover my characters and understand what they would do in a given situation.     

Tune back in later this week when I'll post the authors I'm passing the baton to in the tour.  This is no way a stalling tactic and was planned all along.  This is to build suspense, not buy me time because I'm way behind on ... well, everything.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

New Contest for Writers

Check out Chuck Sambuchino's (of Guide to Literary Agents fame) latest contest for authors at This one's for YA manuscripts.  All the dets are there.  Great way to get your work seen!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

January Giveaway Almost Over!

Elementary, my dear blogger!
Don't forget to follow this blog and me on twitter to take this fine British gent home with you tonight.  (Technically, he'll be shipped to you).  Follow @ShawnPKeenan and errantauthor.blogpot.com and leave a comment in the posts.  That's it, you're entered!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

It's Errant Author's First Giveaway!

All that's missing is a little button you push to hear his voice.
It's amazing to think how long I've had this blog going without doing a giveaway.  Everybody knows you buy friends, happiness, and followers with bribes.  Well, our first contest is custom tailored for fans of pasty-white British thespians with sophisticated, baritone voices.

This giveaway's prize is a one-of-a-kind charcoal rendition of everybody's favorite Sherlock Holmes, as recently featured on Entertainment Magazine's January 24th cover.  Here's how you win:

Become a Twitter and blog follower before the end of January.  The Twitter handle to follow is @ShawnPKeenan and the blog is errantauthor.blogspot.com.  Once you're following both, just comment on this post and you're entered to win.  What if I'm already following you on Twitter and on this lovely blog, Shawn?  Great!  Just post!  And feel free to mention who you might like to see drawn for future contests.  The winner will be chosen randomly and contacted via Twitter.

Best of luck to all you Cumberbatch fans out there.  See you in the comments section!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

A Kirkus Review of my 2013 Workout Routine


An enthusiastic effort that yielded minimal results.

Keenan’s latest attempt to defy genetics, heredity, and history by weighing more than a wet Great Dane left this reviewer wondering the delusion necessary to make this repetitive effort year after year expecting different results.  The workouts started with a blind optimism only expressed by the most naive of hearts or by those recovering poorly from sun stroke.  The sentiment imbuing the entire effort that “things will be different this time” left me wondering if Keenan knew something he wasn’t sharing, or if perhaps that much needed steroids were finally involved.

A few short months into the routine, it was clear that performance enhancing drugs had not been utilized and that the aforementioned optimism was already giving way to a more natural and reasonable acceptance of ultimate failure.  For every pound of muscle gained, an inexplicable two pounds of some other bodily matter escaped his frame, disproving the Law of Conservation of Matter as well as promises made on the wrappers of protein power bars.

By Fall, with only a statistically insignificant amount of gains made, it appeared Keenan could still achieve his goal by either wearing thicker clothes or ingesting non-lethal heavy metals.  Unwilling to compromise his principles, Keenan continued on his path undeterred, insistent that he fail on his own terms, in his own way, the way he always did and always would.

Frustratingly relatable, unforgettably devastating, and completely predictable, this effort by Keenan checked all the boxes you want checked in a yearlong workout goal.  Coming within a pound of his objective with a week to go was a thrilling end to the journey, but it was his unexpected throwing in of towel at the eleventh hour that left this reviewer wondering, “Will he even bother to try this again?”  Only if he learned nothing.  And I think it’s clear he never does.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Trying to Get An Agent has Turned Me Into the Joker

It's not about the foreign rights, it's about ... sending a message.




Have you ever wanted something to happen and dreaded it happening all within the same moment?  It’s not easy to do.  It involves two disparate emotions flowing through your uh … internal feeling tunnels … simultaneously, and it’s a weird sensation.  I imagine it’s a bit like driving up the Holland Tunnel in the wrong lane.  In a bathtub.  Nude.

That’s how I feel about hearing back from an agent with my novel UNSEND.  Every few days (fine every hour) I go to my inbox to see if I’ve gotten an email from that stranger onto whom I’ve pinned almost five years of hopes and dreams.  Now, keep in mind, said person didn’t ask for this responsibility.  This is still a very one-sided relationship and she is undoubtedly considering many, many works to represent.  If she is the sun of my publishing universe right now, I’m at best, a Pluto.  And that’s Pluto the demoted dwarf planet, not even Pluto the furthest, coldest, smallest planet on the fringe of everything.      

So I really want to hear back from her and learn if she’s going to invite me to the dance.  Another possibility is an “It’s Not Me, It’s You” letter.  There really is no in between at this point.  I’ve sent a revised version of my book that I believe addresses the concerns she expressed with my first submission.  This rewrite will either appeal to her or it won’t.  It’s like brie, or blue cheese dressing.  (Hopefully it's like ranch.  Everybody loves ranch).  It wouldn’t make sense for her to suggest more rewrites at this stage without an offer of representation, so this will be an all-or-nothing response.  There is, undoubtedly, a line of wonderful submissions waiting their turn behind mine.  If I didn’t accomplish what I set out to do with this rewrite, there is somebody else waiting in the wings who can and will, or did and has with theirs.  And I truly wish them the best. 

Remember that scene in The Dark Knight when the Joker is standing in the street watching the Batcycle scream toward him?  In his deranged (and typical) state, the Joker was mumbling to himself.  “Come on.  I want you to hit me!  I want you to do it, I want you to do it.”  He was twitchy, he was agitated.  And he was excited.

That’s me checking my email.  “Come on.  I want you to email me!  I want you to do it, I want you to do it.”  Do I really?  I don’t actually want to be rejected.  In theory, I only want that email to show up if it’s a positive response.  But I also want to make progress, and that requires accepting that there are two ways forward from here.  So with nothing but lint and knives in my purple, hand sewn suit, I stare down my inbox and invite that moment.  I feel the emotions.  Excitement, dread, anticipation, apprehension.

It’s time for a breakthrough or a breakdown.  They'll probably feel about the same at this point.

Come on.  Email me!

      

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Great Expectation Movie Review

Subtitle : The Harry Potter Reunion
My lovely wife took me out to the movies last night.  And guess what she went to see with me?  Great Expectations.  This was after I dragged her to see Jane Eyre at the same little independent movie theater a few years back, so, yes, I'm the woman in the relationship when it comes to period piece movies.

I truly don't have the time to reread so many of the classics that I love every few years as I'd like to do, so when a well reviewed movie version comes out, I love to catch it and refresh my memory of all the indelible characters and timeless themes that make a classic, well, a classic.  This adaptation is very true to the source material, not one of those contemporary re-imaginings where the whole thing is done in rap verse or the guy is in the girl role or the girl is in the role of the dog or whatever.  This is crazy Miss (funny I almost put Mrs., and wouldn't she just hate that) Havisham, pitiable Pip, and ruined Estella just as you remember them from the novel.  I love Helena Bonham Carter as a crazy anything, and her portrayal of Miss Havisham was no exception.

Seeing the movie as a dad, I now felt especially sentimental about Pip and Joe's relationship and even Pip and Magwitch's.  They portrayed Estella in a more favorable light in this one than I remember her from the book, and for those who know the book, the movie follows the altered ending that I, personally, appreciate given all that Pip has to go through in life in getting to that point.   

Great Expectations is a sobering reminder of what a master storyteller can accomplish with multidimensional characters, rich atmosphere, true drama, and meaningful plot twists.  It's wonderful to realize that many of the same trials and tribulations that affected people over one hundred and fifty years ago still resonate today in how we feel about family, how we fall in love, and how we strive to become someone valuable in our own life and the lives of others. 

I had great expectations for Mike Newell's take on one of my favorite novels and I was not let down.