Friday, 30 August 2013

Punching a Zombie Pig

A few weeks ago, while in a supermarket, my son asked me: "Would you punch a pig?" I then asked: "Why would I want to?" and he replied: "Coz he was attacking you."

As I was on automatic pilot, busy with my weekly shop and engrossed in choosing which brand of washing detergent to buy, I instantly said: "Only if it was a zombie pig."

Somewhere at the back of my mind this would make it alright and supermarkets always lull me into some kind of stupor anyway. I then had a battle on my hands, to get my wobbly trolley through a group of people just idly standing around and chatting in the middle of an aisle.

My son went a step further. "But Zombies don't stop and keep coming at you so you'd have to keep punching it."  We got some strange looks at this point but again, I had an answer: "Zombies always walk really slow so there's no problem." Then, for some reason the thought grabbed me: "The best thing to do would be to guide it to a treadmill and then you'd be safe to punch it any time you pleased." (This isn't my everyday sort of supermarket conversation and I feel sorry for people who are not tried and tested by teens who thrive on that sort of stuff).

Having just returned from an interesting but exhausting vacation, separated by time and distance from the big bad world, media, routines and everyday concerns, I was surprised at how negative and downright depressing Press, TV and Internet news is. Sensationalism sells, wise cracks have reached all-time dangerous levels and everyone is an expert. It struck me that people are gradually being de-sensitised to a general shift in collective perspective. Statistics say crime is down but yet acts of violence and terror are commonplace.

I had to look hard for a light this week; a flicker of good news, inspiration, illumination to the end of my summer. I was worried that, as an adult, I could soak up all the negativity being shoved in our faces but how does it affect kids, teens who flick through the Internet, YouTube, respond to the hundreds of mobile shares they and their friends ping to each other by phone?

It was then that I remembered the Zombie Pig on his treadmill and how my son's initial question had been a bolt from the blue. It's too easy to make sweeping statements and worry unnecessarily where all worldly bad vibes are taking us to. As long as we have a moment of madness, the understanding that kids these days do have more social pressures because of the way people's perspective has changed and that they rise above it often through the genius of imagination, then I doubt we have anything to worry about.
Looking for a light to guide you



Friday, 16 August 2013

The Authors Sheep Trail

The first writers workshop I attended was held in a dark, dismal basement of a London Soho nightclub.

I rushed from the underground thinking I'd be late but I was the second member of the audience to arrive. In the loo, I shared a mirror with the first member, a 6ft 4" transvestite who had impeccable dress sense and a gorgeous blond wig but a voice so deep it would have impressed Barry White. We both touched-up our lip gloss.

Once inside the main room I was dismayed to see rows of dated red velvet-seated chairs squashed to capacity, dusty wooden floorboards and a tiny stage at one end. Behind the table on the stage I could see a very amateur-looking pirate ship obviously meant for some cheap theatre production.

My second dip of dismay was to see people arrive armed to the teeth with notebooks, paperback novels and business cards. The room soon filled and then the panel arrived - an agent who didn't once look directly at the audience, an old ex-actor who waxed lyrical about all the 'luvvies' he'd met and was very, very boring, a young illustrator with little to say, a traditional publisher who was part of the "Yah" brigade and an ePublisher who looked as though he had just stepped from a building site.

The next 2 hours was an excruciating experience. The panel began to paint a picture of struggle, despair and shattered dreams. During question time they were besieged. I could taste desperation in the air and realised that I was probably one of the few would-be writers in the room as I listened to tales of being bitten by sharks, hopes trampled underfoot and some writers had been hard at it for a number of years.

I came out into daylight feeling totally deflated and headed for the nearest pub. However, during the long train journey home I realised something had changed. It had been most probably the best workshop I could have attended. I may not have known what to expect or what I wanted but I came out of it knowing the worst and what I definitely didn't want to happen. I also knew the type of people involved in the industry.

The next day I listed a lot of new questions and knew I would have to learn a hell of a lot more before I even considered pitching my work to anyone. 

Books about the publishing industry and advice are a great help but there's a huge difference between reading about it and then sitting with other authors and publishing professionals and soaking up the atmosphere with the lows and highs of what it is to write a book and then get it out there.

I dread to think what would have happened to my life's ambition if I hadn't sat in that miserable Soho basement on that fateful day and in hindsight, I met some of the bravest people I have ever met. They put themselves out there and believed in their work even if others did not and most impressive of all is that they persisted, picked themselves up after each knock and then re-invented their wheels.


Sunday, 11 August 2013

Genre Bashing

My love of film began at an early age during the days of local cinema flea-pits, mine was The Esoldo. Children could spend a Saturday morning enjoying a variety of cartoons and Famous Five-type adventures, that is if possible to hear above the din of excited screeches or see through a fog of penny-sweet wrappers.

It progressed to the MGM movie. Glorious technicolour fantasies that drew me in and then spat me out after every tear of excitement, sadness and laughter had been wrung from me.

During my late teens, Mad Max reignited the excitement again and I returned to a different type of cinema: huge with chandeliers and red plush seats but the odours were the same. Often, after long evenings of pure blockbuster spectacular, I would emerge from the cinema rotating doors having unintentionally taken on the mantle of one of the characters. It was only much later when I watched Woody Allen's 'Zelig' did I laugh at how easy it is to morph inwardly, although Woody did take things to extremes!

I love film, all genres. The one I choose to peruse during each viewing session depends entirely upon mood and not necessarily whats 'in.' It is the same with books. I can dip in and out of genres with no particular favourite.

Then, there's my own books, described as contemporary drama with humour and they too, often dip in and out of genres much like the day in the life of just about anybody. How many times do you morph during a typical day and don't realise it? How often are events only seen as humorous when time has distanced them enough to be able to look back at otherwise weird and disturbing memories and then see the ludicrous side?

My genre is evolving into something much darker and maybe, like those MGM movies, all the humour is being squeezed dry. BUT, after re-reading the first chapter of my third book (still in editing) I laughed out loud at the first experiences of a serial killer - weird or what?

So many films...


Friday, 2 August 2013

A compelling glimpse into the world of Daniel Wetta

I've always said that life is stranger than fiction and my recent interview with Daniel Wetta is no exception although Daniel has successfully channelled the 'strangeness' into his books...

Interview with Daniel Wetta
Author of “The Z Redemption”
Daniel in Mexico
"I retired too young from a career as hospital CEO in a for profit hospital chain at the age of 54. Feeling like I no longer had an identity, I hop-scotched through several temporary jobs. Finally, I went to live in Monterrey, Mexico, for over a year in 2009 so I could immerse myself in the culture and improve my Spanish. Monterrey is a city of four million people, and it is Mexico’s most affluent and educated city. I had no idea when I went there what a dynamic and beautiful city it is.

I rented a condominium and made several close friends, most of them young. One was Israel, a great guy, a law student who also sold Volvos at a neighborhood dealership. He was 26. We worked out in the gym together, discussed investments, and enjoyed an occasional dinner out with his roommates. He met a beautiful young girl at a party and fell in love. She didn’t tell him that she was the estranged wife of a drug cartel leader in Monterrey. A couple weeks after they were together, the cartel kidnapped him from his work. They tortured him, shot him, and left his body in a vacant field. The young wife disappeared and is presumably murdered as well.

There was no justice after this for Israel. I decided that when I wrote my novel, I would let people hear his screams. However, I did it through voices of the living, in particular through the voice of his roommate in the novel, Enrique Santos. When people are murdered, the living victims are the people left behind who loved them."

What is the title of your book and could you tell readers what it’s about?

“The Z Redemption” tells the story of ordinary people and world leaders who deal with a crisis in Mexico, a military coup that occurs because of the ineffectiveness of the corrupt federal government and police forces. Public safety breaks down. Ana Valdez, a Mexican housewife who through blogs and social media had become a national leader of victims’ rights and peace movements, finds herself in a passionate affair with a much older man, David James, a gringo who is a retired CIA operative. He had a history with Mexico and loves the Mexican people. Together, Ana and David form the “Zs,” a public safety guardian force that trains in martial arts, free running, and urban gymnastics. They try to protect citizens by confronting the warring factions, but without the use of weapons."

Does your work fall into a genre or a crossover of two or more?

"I might call it an international narco-thriller. It is a complex novel full of passionate people, and it is full of plot twists, double identities, politics, and the steamy erotica of true lovers."

Are you working on a new book at the moment and do you have a target date for completion?

"Although “The Z Redemption” stands alone as an emotionally satisfying novel, I spent time with character development so that I could write a prequel and a sequel to the novel. Currently, I am writing a sequel called “Corvette Nightfire,” which I hope to have published by Christmas. Whereas “The Z Redemption” took place largely in Monterrey, Mexico City, and Houston, “Corvette Nightfire” sets its scenes in Las Vegas, Monterrey, and Barbados. Ana Valdez, David James, and Enrique Santos return in the second novel along with one of the bad guys from the first.  

After that, I am co-authoring the prequel with Bob Selfe, the extraordinary editor of my books. We will start that the first of next year. That novel will trace the adventures of David James in Latin America when he was younger, in the times of Pablo Escobar."

Would you say that you are still experimenting with different styles of writing, or have you settled into one that feels uniquely suited to you?

"I want to know what is in the hearts of people and why they do what they do. My writing style reflects that. I spend time letting the inner voices of characters speak out loud, so the reader can hear them. As a person, I am fast paced. I love literary fiction and language. So I believe I have developed a writing style that derives from my personality and interests."

Which comes first to you, story or characters?

"What comes first is the message. I think about who the readers might be and then try to think of ways in which the story will grab them so that they will pay attention to the message. My characters tend to be exaggerations of real life people. How do I form them so that they will be believable in the story line? This is what I consider: The characters have to have some faults, and they need to have a degree of unpredictability. For example, for a character who is set in her ways, I might introduce a circumstance that forces her to change. I try to do it in a way to surprise the reader, while making this have credibility."

How do you approach character development?

"One way I do this is to let the reader know something about the characters’ childhoods or life events that made them be the kind of persons that they are. In real life, I dig deep into the backgrounds of anyone I find interesting by asking them a million questions about their past. I am a thief of lives. A woman I met in Mexico told me, “What Mexico needs is heroes, Daniel.” I stole her life, elaborated it with fictitious happenings, and made her into a genuine heroine. Then I took what she told me and made it a motto that is on all my business cards for The Z Redemption: “We need more than heroes. We need heroes who lead!”

For Ana Valdez, who is a heroine in the novel and its sequel, I also wrote a supplementary short story about her childhood in Mazatlan, Mexico. The story is not in the novel. It is called, “Awakening from the Golden Sleep.”

At what age did you decide writing would become your method of creative expression?

"I was an imaginative kid, and I used to write short stories even when I was about 12 years old. I started several novels when I was young. However, I ended up in a business world and career and did marketing and business writing as part of my jobs. My experience in Mexico transformed me. When Israel was murdered, I decided to write fiction again."

Outside of your family, who has been your greatest supporter in this endeavour?

"Without hesitation, I can answer Bob Selfe. He is an incredible editor. I am so fortunate, because we have been best friends since Kindergarten. He taught English and grammar for thirty years. As an editor, he is grueling. As a friend who offered encouragement…well, I needed him. It is going to be so much fun and hard work to write the third book in the series with him."

In terms of writing, what do you see yourself doing in five years? Is there a specific goal in mind?

"I would like to write one book a year for the next 20 years. My objective is to entertain people and give them adrenalin rushes."

What has been the biggest surprise about your success?

"That I could write the kind of novel that I have enjoyed all my life."

If you had one piece of advice to share with someone starting his or her first novel, what would that be?

"As you write, keep asking yourself, “Is this believable? Is it consistent with the characters? Would I want to read what I have written?” In addition to this, please be sure that your writing has clarity. Among other things, this means that the rules of grammar need to be applied. No matter how good you think you may be as a writer, or how expert you think you might be in grammar, do not fail to have an editor examine your work before you publish it."


Daniel's website