Category Archives: Writing

First Draft Tuesdays

Tuesdays are always the worst. Mondays are bad, but at least you just had the weekend. Tuesdays, though…the whole week is still ahead of you. It drags and drags and drags like that goddamn Lynyrd Skynyrd song (great song, though–seriously)

Alright, maybe it’s not so bad. Happy Gilmore started out with that song after all, right?

One thing that days like today are good for are writing. Meet Me at the Falls – Part 3 is out and in the world. I feel good about it, but the journey is FAR from over. During the editing process a big chunk of my part was left on the editing room floor. The material needs to be in the story–just not yet. Today, my task has been picking up the pieces and seeing what I can salvage. As with all good writing, most of it will change as I mold the next chapter.

I did find myself re-inspired to find my way to Part 5, though. Through a series of coincidences and merely saying “Yes” to an opportunity at work, I found myself at a bar with a woman from Amazon.com who was from Snoqualmie Falls. She quickly made me realize that our vision of the Falls may be slightly different than reality. I learned of Snoqualmie Pass, which is what happens during the winter up at the campgrounds and the ski-resort on the other side of the mountain…what the terrain is like up there…and that there should probably be some sort of avalance–er ash-a-lanch? What a terrible word. It’s a good thing our characters aren’t QUITE there yet (spoiler alert).

Part 5 is scheduled to be finished by July as of right now. The pressure is on. I should get back into Scrivener and finish my first draft of part 4 now that the Skynyrd song finished playing on YouTube.

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Meet Me At The Falls Part 3, Pre-Order!

The wait is over. You can now pre-order your copy of Meet Me at the Falls, Part 3 (Submersion) before it’s released to the public on Amazon.com. By ordering now, Amazon will deliver the story to your Kindle or other reading device at midnight. It’ll be like Christmas, enjoying good reading hot off the press with your morning cup of coffee.

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PRE-ORDER NOW!

The story picks up right where Part Two left off. If you need to catch up, grab yourself a copy today here. The Murphy family continue their hard journey to the Falls, but each of them couldn’t be further away. All the set-up from parts one and two are exploding into action, starting with The Kids, caught up in the middle of a blood-bath on the freeways outside of Seattle. Alan finds himself lured by the questionably mad Doctor Belmond, the Mother faces the bitter cold of the wild and the harder decisions she faces, and Wiley waits for his family–already at the Falls, but ensnared by a Native American dreamcatcher.

Curious to see where Alan is running in the stunning new cover? Or what he may be running from? Find out now!

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The Year of the Pyre!

Now that I’m about 10 pounds heavier full of candy canes and egg nog, it’s time to start dropping some weight. Figure I’ll start with what I’ve been working on these past few months.

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COSMOS: 

2014 saw the rise of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey which has gone on to win more awards than I can list here, but I will mention that it won 4 Emmy’s and earned a place in the world’s hearts. It was an incredible honor to be so involved on a project of that scale that touched so many people and will inspire generations to come.

HAMSTERS WITH MUSTACHES:

DreamWorks TV contracted this series out to us at my studio and I once again took the helm of this … tiny little hamster wheel. I’m actually really proud of what we did in such a short amount of time. I had a great team of artists working under me, and it was my first experience using Toon Boom’s Harmony animation software. Flash is dead to me now. The difference in quality and ease of control is night and day. Check it out for yourself. Episode 2 and 3 to come soon … the Hamster Trilogy.

And finally, announcing:

 MEET ME AT THE FALLS – PART THREE!

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The journey to the Falls has been the beloved side-project for myself, Zack Keller and Ben Tuller, but it’s truly the closest to my heart.

Now, in part Three, the Murphy family travels deeper into the wild of the post-apocalyptic world, still pressing on toward Snoqualmie Falls, where they hope everyone will be waiting. But much still stands in their way. Part 3 will be released in the next few weeks.

Parts 4 and 5 will be completed before the end of the year, and finally printed as one, complete volume. We plan to approach agents about publishing and TV mini-series rights when all is said and done.

It’s been nothing short of inspiring to see draft after draft of this story unfold and discover what the rest of my “family” has been up to on their own journey to the Falls. With Zack and Ben miles away in real life, Meet Me at the Falls has truly reflected my own life.

Much more to come in 2015:

  • Involvement with a yet-to-be-disclosed Animated Feature Film
  • Turner of the Century with the Keller Boys
  • Two New Novels poised to drop
  • … and much more animation!

The road ahead is long and filled with adventure, but I came prepared, with Pen, Pint and Pyre in hand.

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Meet Me at the Falls – Part Two!

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The wait is over! “Meet Me at the Falls – Part 2” is now for sale on Amazon. We have boldly taken the next step in our dystopian adventure together. Each of us wrote our sections separate from each other, Zack in San Francisco, myself in Los Angeles, and Ben … wherever he is around the globe. In that way we are just like the Murphy’s, separated by hundreds of miles yet all striving to reach the Falls.

Part 1 – The End” found the Murphy family separated, lost and struggling to survive in a post-apocalyptic America after a global cataclysm. They hoped the other family members were heading toward their old campsite at Snoqualmie Falls near Seattle, but don’t realize everyone has been derailed. The Father, Alan, encountered a cult who tried to use him in some ritual surrounding the supernatural phenomenon in the sky. The Kids, Edwin and Tricia, ran for their lives from “The Roar,” a relentless black swarm—something between monster and machine. The Mother, Charlotte, met a helpless young man who sacrificed himself to save her from the lethal cold. The Son, Wiley, accidentally killed a bear, only to arrive at the Falls with no sign of his family. Either he is just the first to arrive…or the only one to survive.

Now… “Part 2 – Reclamation” finds the world crumbling beneath the Murphy family’s feet as the mystery surrounding what caused the apocalypse deepens. Each member of the family encounters new survivors attempting to recover what they’ve lost—or kill each other trying. As the Murphys continue their trek toward the Falls, everyone and everything stands in their way.

I’m proud to say that ‘Part 2’ is officially a novella, weighing in at 22,320 words (81 pages)! It’s been quite the adventure for we three writers as it has the Murphy family, still struggling to meet up at the Falls. Zack Keller, Ben Tuller and I are very excited for you to see what happens next!

Click here to read “Meet Me At The Falls (Part 2 – Reclamation).”

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The Best Lecture on Story Structure Ever

Probably the best lecture I’ve ever seen on story, Kurt Vonnegut lays out the arc of the Hero’s Journey in it’s most elegant form (see video for the joke). In truth, Vonnegut is a hilarious man who knows the craft so well he’s able to entertain and enlighten the audience by poking fun at how obvious stories are. Good story structure doesn’t need much explanation. Stories are simple.

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A wise man once told me that a story is never complex. No matter how deep and complex something may seem, 99 times out of 100 it’s just a series of simple points you’ve experienced since the start of the tale. The art of the craft is making those points tie together in such a way that your story seems complex. And it is, in a way, but not by making each story beat circuitous.

All the rules I’ve ever heard from Vonnegut are pure and simple. Take his eight tips on how to write a good short story:

  1. Use a time of a total stranger in such a way that he/she will not feel the time was wasted.
  2. Give the reader at least one character they can root for.
  3. Every character should want something, even if it only a glass of water.
  4. Every sentence must do one of two things: reveal character, or advance the action.
  5. Start as close to the end as possible.
  6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading character is, make awful things happen to them in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
  7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
  8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense! Readers should have as such complete understand of what is going on, where and why, that they should be able to complete the story themselves should cockroaches eat the last few pages.
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Every Line, a Roller Coaster

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Shrunk and White published a little book that is regarded as the ultimate guide for mastery over the written word. The Elements of Style. Authors around the globe swear by it, and while some of the techniques don’t mesh perfectly with the way modern literature is going, I swear by it too. Certain rules about grammar and construction are more fundamental than passing styles or what is considered “fresh.” Every writer should pick up a copy and study its pages well.

Among the most important is how to structure your sentence.

Basically, put the “new” part of the sentence at the end for greatest impact.* I’ve found this to be true of the sentence as much as even the paragraph itself–and on to the page, chapter and entirety of the book. It goes both ways, too, even stretching down to lines of dialogue. Cross media, cross genre, it’s a universal rule that’s rarely better when broken.

Let’s look at some examples:

When Ellen Ripley confronts the Queen Xenomorph in “Aliens”, she boldly steps in front of her and says,

“You, bitch! Get away from her!” … wait that’s not right. See how when we reverse it, it just loses it’s power? “Bitch” is the MEAT of that line. Save it to the last possible moment for most impact.

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“Get away from her, you BITCH!”

Those writers knew what they were doing. It’s bold and commanding. But, it doesn’t always have to be some exclamation. It works even in description.

“Fifteen years past, when they had ridden forth to win a throne, the Lord of Storm’s End had been clean-shaven, clear-eyed, and muscled like a maiden’s fantasy. Six and a half feet tall, he towered over lesser men, and when he donned the armor and the great antlered helmet of his house, he became a veritable giant.” –George R. R. Martin, A Game of Thrones.

Maiden’s fantasy” defines the rest of the sentence. Everything builds to that point and puts the line in context. The next sentence does this as well with “veritable giant,” And the two even work together. We get a sense of The Lord of Storm’s End. He’s a veritable giant out of a maiden’s fantasy. Those are the parts that really stick.

This especially works for the mundane.

“Horses were always her favorite of all the animals.”

works much better as…

“Out of all the animals, her favorite was always the horse.”

Careful ordering of words creates a roller-coaster-like experience when reading. Remove what’s being said and focus on the cadence of the sentence. You want the reader to be thinking: “What is this? What are they getting at? I think I might know. Oh, It’s coming. We’re getting closer. Wow, there’s the punch! … Okay, what’s next?”

It doesn’t have to be the subject of the sentence, but it should be the word or words that sell the idea; the part that’s really defining. The part that’s new. Different. The Oomph!

By putting this part last, it gives each line a sense of satisfaction. They’ve accomplished a TINY journey by reading it and want to know more.

Story theory dictates that the plot will rise to a climax, then drop down slightly, rising to an even higher climax at the end, until it fades off to the FADE OUT or last page. The Hero’s Journey.

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I would argue that should we zoom into any one section of that line, we would see lots smaller rises and falls. Each Act would have a climax then fall down again just before the end. So would each scene. And further each section of the scene. Each line delivery. It makes the story dynamic. The ending never drops as far as it started, keeping the plot moving along, but it definitely drops. That last bit of impact changes something and propels the story forward.

*If this really isn’t working in your text, Shrunk and White point out that “the other prominent position in the sentence is the beginning. Any element in the sentence other than the subject becomes emphatic when placed first:

Deceit or treachery she could never forgive.

Yet, even there, the sentence builds to what about deceit and treachery she could never _____.

The most powerful tool a storyteller has in their arsenal is withholding information.

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Duke of Fancy Free Drawing!

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Got DUKE OF FANCY swag? Submit a photo of yourself wearing some from the Official RUGBURN store and we’ll send you a personalized sketch from the show’s creators! Tag @DukeofFancy on Facebook, or tweet (@dukeoffancyRB or @JohnDusenberry / @zfkeller) so we know who to contact for your prize.

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Duke of Fancy Update

Over the past few weeks there has been a growing response from fans loving Duke of Fancy! I’d like to thank all of you for your support and as a way of showing thanks, we’re holding a special discount on t-shirts.

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Appropriately named GoldLabel offers shirt, hats, mugs and other apparel at the Duke of Fancy store. Send your money to the world’s richest man in exchange for Duke of Fancy tees, now 15%-off with promo code SWEETTEEZ15 – shop here: http://goldla.be/1bXqmrg

And in case you missed them, don’t forget to watch the latest few episodes of the show:

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“Meet Me at the Falls” on Indie Author Land

Screen shot 2013-10-23 at 11.58.15 AMThe good folks over at Indie Author Land have created a dedicated hub for self-published authors, geared toward you: the reader. It’s a great place to find new up and coming talent and honestly just great and daring fiction. The whole site is run by a lovely couple, a journalist covering the arts and a computer programmer; both avid readers with a passion to help spread the word about good fiction. Plain and simple. Their slogan says it all: Great Books. No Middleman.

As they mention, their ‘site is growing, and that’s what they want. The idea is for their growth to be organic and fluid, growing to fill whatever void it may come across.’ Sounds like what it feels to look at a blank page with a pencil in your hand.

Admittedly, their site is also a selfish means to find their next favorite book. Their latest favorite pick comes from the self-publishing trio at Pen, Pint & Pyre: “Meet Me at the Falls“, the Sci-Fi Thriller by authors Ben Tuller, Zack Keller and myself.

Check out the interview with the authors, and the rest of their site here: http://www.indieauthorland.com/archives/5903

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Duke of Fancy – Top Hats & Sugar Canes

Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. Unless you’re diabetic. Let’s see if Duke kills a bunch of innocent children shall we?

This episode is chocked full of hidden references and gags that inspired us to create Duke in the first place.  Fun facts about this episode:

  • This was originally the pilot episode Zack and I made to sell the show to Rugburn.
  • There’s the clandestine group of scoundrels from Zack’s novel The Success of Suexliegh (part of the inspiration for Duke)
  • There’s character from the beloved Monty Python series–pulling inspiration from their humor and of course Terry Gilliam.
  • Roald Dahl references
  • Several in-Duke references about the origins of his Butler, Chauncey, the multi-functional pipe and monocle, and the reason why Duke’s hat is so magical.

See if you can spot more – There are plenty more.

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