Tag Archives: Zombies

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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Writing Process (8 of 9)

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DEADLINE

… continued from part 7: Final Revisions

One might think my last step would be that final polished pass (and obviously it is, to a certain degree) but more important than that is giving yourself a real deadline.

Working under a deadline allows me to be more creative than I’d be if allowed to noodle with something ad infinitum. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that limitations and deadlines spawn creativity. Mulling over something too long destroys that fresh, new feeling; that spark of life. Creating those rules and regulations allows me to fight against something trying to control what I do. I rebel and enter areas of my mind I never dreamed of stepping foot into before.

The pressure of finishing on time after procrastinating and hitting road blocks forces me to flex my creative muscles. If I allow myself to work on something too long, I’ll ruin it. I promise you.

And on that note, I have a story to finish!

To Be Concluded.

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Campfire Language

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Despite the fancy phrasing and tickled sentences, all massaged and beefed up till they’re practically poetry, most of the language in some of the greatest books is ordinary and plain. And it should be. Why?

Clarity

Complex sentences can be beautiful, but hard to digest and it’s exhausting if the entire novel is written that way. For a select few authors born with a gilded tongue, they can create a feast for the eyes of the reader. But most of the time readers want clarity. It’s easy to overwork a sentence until it’s the best thing you’ve ever written. But is it really serving its purpose? The story is what should be engaging — the characters and how they interact and react with each other and the problems they face. And the funny thing is, you’ll remember a book as having been much more elaborate and painted than it actually was.

Tell your stories aloud to a friend, to yourself, to your dog. If it starts sounding verbose and awkward to spit out … if you can hear yourself getting bored, eyes glassing over at the detailed descriptions … STOP. Re-write it like you were standing around a campfire, keeping everyone engaged. Your friend’s grandfather should be as interested as your ten-year-old nephew.

Walt Disney had a rule when he would pitch ideas around the studio. The moment someone looked away when he was telling them a story he knew he had lost them. He would often start over, changing the story on the fly for the next person he told, or finding a better way to say the same thing. Pitch your ideas to someone. Part of it, of course, has to do with how engaging your material is — but a lot of it is just the language. The simple way that you speak/write. It’s important to discover what keeps people engaged. Suck up your pride and experiment with that.

The Power of 2+2 in Description

Stories build on each other. What’s true for film should remain true for a novel. There are really never too many “complex” moments in stories. Any complexity comes from many little–but meaningful–instances peppered throughout the story. 

Whenever I start a new project, or if I’m stuck on some phrasing I’m not totally pleased with, I’ll turn to my dozen or so favorite novels for some re-inspiration. I was working on my latest book Wonderful World of Zombies and really felt that this one description was lacking that vivid detail I remembered from books like Crichton’s Jurassic Park. There’s a part that they cut from the movie (though, Spielberg added it in to the second film) where the kids are hiding behind a waterfall from the T-Rex. I remember the scene vividly in my mind.

“Timmy and Lex were shivering with fear behind the roar of the waterfall when suddenly, the Rex let out a bellowing roar as his giant head came crashing through the thundering veil of falling water with tremendous force in hot pursuit of the children.”

I’m sure some of you might remember this too, right? Wrong. Here’s how the text actually went:

“And then, with a roar, the tyrannosaur’s head burst through the waterfall toward them.”

That … that was it?! I thumbed through the rest of the book at random, just to see if my mind was playing tricks on me. Surely this was an isolated event.

Nope. All over the book, I found nothing but short, simple and concise phrasing with one or two very select descriptors attached to very plain language. At first I was so disappointed.

“The room was filled with yellow stones.” … ” It scurried into the underbrush, dragging a fat tail. ” … “The raptor snarled in frustration, twenty feet above him on the catwalk” … “Tim felt rain”

You’ve gotta be kidding me. It was so plain. So ordinary. And it wasn’t just Crichton. I found instances in Hemingway, Tolkien, J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, Dan Brown and more. 

Then, I realized why. When an author allows the reader to digest the story so quickly without getting caught up on how beautiful the words are, the result is 2+2=4. Just as John Hammond used frog DNA, the reader fills in the gaps in their mind and takes away the lasting memory of how the scene felt. In the end that’s all that matters. I remember one instance in particular in Brown’s The Lost Symbol, where the room was described as having “an impressive array of technology.” That’s really all you need. The right, simple adjective and the subject. People tell their friends about a book because “Oh man, it’s so scary. You have to read it!”

The phrase “Tim felt rain,” has become a staple among my fellow authors and writing partners. It’s a reminder to both go easy on the verbiage, but also to remember to let the story happen to your characters. But, we’ll save that topic for another discussion.

Everyday Language

I was also shocked at how many sentences started off with “and”, “but”, “so”, and any number of other conjunctions we were taught to be grammatically incorrect at the start of a sentence. I remember so much red on my homework. It was bad writing. It wasn’t proper English. It was wrong! Yet in so many highly regarded novels … there it was. How did they get away with that? Surely they flunked out of Creative Writing.

But no, when you talk to someone in person you don’t speak that way at all. And often times you’ll continue a thought in the next sentence, tacking it on to what would be considered a grammatically finished statement. So don’t be afraid of writing it the same way on the page …. See? Screw proper English!

It can be pretentious to speak so god damned properly all the time. Most of the time, you’re not going to impress your audience with overly-descriptive language and incredibly witty phrasing. There’s certainly a time and place to do that, and one should strive to say things in a fresh and unique fashion — but you’re not Faulkner. In response to such criticism, Hemingway once noted:

“Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words? He thinks I don’t know the ten-dollar words. I know them all right. But there are older and simpler and better words, and those are the ones I use.” —Ernest Hemingway, Quoted in: A.E. Hotchner, Papa Hemingway

It’s not to say the sentences like, “The raptors were snarling at Arnold when the animal on the left simply exploded, the upper part of the torso flying into the air, blood spattering like a burst tomato on the walls of the building,” shouldn’t be included. Because they should. And they are great. But they are few. Authors should remember to include language people understand and are used to hearing spoken out loud. Among friends. At a lecture. As if you’re sitting around a campfire with friends, family and strangers who all want to hear the tale you have to tell.

Some of the most memorable lines in history are some of the simplest and direct, deriving great meaning from their implication, and no more than three letters long.

“To be or not to be…”

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A Tale of Zombies (from Twitter to Novel)

What if you were stuck at Disneyland when the Zombie Apocalypse broke out? I am pleased to announce that my first novel will be released in late 2013, titled Wonderful World of Zombies.

To the best of my knowledge, we were the first people to create a popular, real-time story using Twitter as a public venue. Though it didn’t go viral, while it was being written in real-time two years ago, I had nothing but positive feedback from several hundred subscribers to @HiddenMickey33 — an idea conceived late one night with my brother James.

We’ve both always had a great love for the theme park and it made complete sense to take the story and novelize it as my first published work. I’ve been working on several short stories and a more serious novel called Book of Paige’s for the past two years — but this will be the first one published through Pen, Pint & Pyre Publishing. It’s a great adventure and I really think you’ll like it.

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