Friday, October 26, 2012

Tinker's War Giveaway

Just a quick note to inform TTD fans that I'm doing a Goodreads giveaway for 3 signed copies of T2 (Tinker's War). Entrance is easy. If you already have an account, just click on the "Enter to Win" button above. If you don't have an account, you can follow the same link and then set up your account in seconds!

As always, I will be more than happy to personalize a signature message. If this is desired, just contact me ASAP  so I can do it before the books go out.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

My '73 Dodge Charger (Burn Notice) Project

From this blog's inception it has always been my intent to have a different focus. What I mean by different is that I don't spend a lot of time talking about the business and writing side of my life, instead trying to focus on other aspects that some readers may find more interesting. I think -as a general rule- that adjectives, three-act plot formulas, and character backgrounds are best left to the final draft. Nobody wants to read about those things unless they happen to be a writer, and blogs on the subject of writing and publishing are so prolific that you can't turn around without tripping over one. So in my effort to reveal other parts of my life that you may find interesting, I sometimes blog about some of my other projects. Today, I want to show you my 1973 Dodge Charger.

I bought the car in 2004. It wasn't as big of a project as the '66 impala that I restored with my son, but I had my work cut out for me, especially because of the modifications I wanted to make on this car. Here's my confession: I have a dream car, a white unicorn as the characters in Gone in 60 Seconds described the '67 Mustang Eleanor (she was a '73 Mach 1 in the original flick). My white unicorn is a 1968 Dodge Charger. I think it's one of the coolest cars ever made, and if I ever get my hands on one, I'll probably keep it for the rest of my life. Obviously, the '73 was something of a runner-up. It wasn't nearly as desirable, but it was in my price range and I saw the muscle car's potential.

I had it shipped from southern California. It arrived on a flatbed  truck. The body damage was more extensive than I had been led to believe by the seller. It also had bad ball joints and tie rod ends and about a dozen different electrical gremlins. I just barely managed to keep it running long enough to get it in my driveway. As you can see from the stain on the driveway in the picture below, it also had transmission problems. Oh, and it was also covered in purple and silver flames. Yeah, purple.

I didn't snap a picture right away, but this photo shows the state it was in after a couple weekends of work. You can see the original paint that hadn't been stripped yet on the front fender:

Yeah, pretty hideous. But I had plans... 

I had an idea for this car, something I hadn't seen done before. I wanted to make it more like the quintessential Dodge Charger that I'd fallen in love with, and less like the luxury sedan they tried to turn it into in the 70's. I spent the next two years acquiring the parts to convert this vinyl topped SE into a coup. I searched junkyards all over the country trying to find the roller windows, trim, moldings and other parts. I had lots of work to do, both mechanical and body.

When I had finished with the repair work and conversion, I found some mag rims I liked from that era. I ordered new tires, and added my final touch, the air scoop:

Of course, a project like this is nothing without the right paint:

Ok, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking "Hey, it's cool but he just copied the Charger from Burn Notice on TV." Well you're wrong. The thing is, I bought this car in January of 2004. I had it finished and on the road more than a year and a half before the Burn Notice show even started. And since I don't have cable TV, I didn't even see Burn Notice until a few weeks after I sold this Charger in 2008. Ironically, the guy who bought the car from me told me all about the show. Naturally he was a big fan, and insisted that I must watch it. So I looked it up on a Hulu and there it was... my car... almost. And the show's pretty good, too.

Sadly, I did sell the car so I no longer have the joy of driving that beautiful machine. I do miss it, but life is full of opportunities and I'm always keeping an eye out for the next project. Who knows, maybe that '68 Charger I've been waiting for will pop up when I least expect it. I know some purists out there might be upset that I changed my '73 from a vinyl top SE into a coup, but I think it was a major improvement. And frankly, SEs aren't exactly in demand. They're not that great looking, IMHO. So what do you guys think?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Just Proof It!

This is just a quick post to point out the new link on the right side of this blog (the colors aren't working right now but trust me, a link is there!). Mark is someone I met on the Kindleboards a few years back. He was one of the first people outside my circle of readers who offered critical constructive feedback and editorial advice. Back then, Mark didn't charge for his services, but I quickly learned he had something of value to offer. Since then, Mark's been so busy editing manuscripts that he's had to make a business of it. I can fully endorse Mark as a fantastic line editor, but he does more than that. He can tell if your pacing is off, if your story arc needs work, and a dozen other things that you may not have noticed in the rush to hammer out your final draft.

Here's the thing about writing: Everybody thinks they can.

We've all read a book and thought to ourselves, "Hey I can do this." Or we wrote a two-page essay in middle-school that met a glowing review from Mrs. Soandso, and we thought: Yeah, I truly am gifted!

We're all naive at first. Then we learn how hard it is to finish a draft, how difficult it is to follow the various character arcs through the acts of the story, and how challenging it is to refine all of those scenes. We know we must have tension on every page. We must have dialogue that's believable and characters that have depth and emotion. And darn it, all of those rules on grammar that we learned back in elementary school don't even apply to half the stuff we write. What the heck?

Writing gets confusing. It might be trouble with usage and grammar, it might be that forgotten character we had such big plans for in Chapter 3, but who disappeared somewhere in the next 100,000 words. It might also be that we're just tired. We crank out these books as fast as we can type. We edit and revise and then move on hoping that we can come back with a fresh perspective, but that doesn't always work. And the built-in dictionary doesn't always catch our mistakes... okay, it rarely catches our mistakes. That's why we have beta readers. And that's also why, sometimes, we fork out some cash to a pro. Because in doing so, he can help us look like professionals, too.