Saturday, March 1, 2008

New Name and Face!

Dear Readers,

Selling Words on a Page is moving! If you'd like to view new posts and check out what's going on, please visit Constructing Stories (

I hope you drop by to check it out! And let me know what you think!


Friday, February 29, 2008

Feb. 29 - A Season of Change

A Season of Change

I’ve been thinking a lot about this blog, it’s function in the overall world, and what I want it to accomplish. I struggled to find ways of making it interesting, enjoyable, and something that people want to read. It’s not just about me, it’s about creating a community of people that want to speak into things, discuss topics, and help each other learn.

So, I’m hear to announce that Selling Words on a Page is going to become more focused on home gardening.

Oh, wait…that’s my other blog, The Chlorophyll Times…but seriously…

A Brave New World

Selling Words on a Page is going to become more focused on things writers and readers care about and enjoy discussing. As I write new material, including an upcoming novel, I’m going to blog about it, invite discussion, and absorb all of your feedback to make my works better. In the process, I’ll be interviewing other authors, sharing interesting articles, and pointing to key areas where strategy plays a huge role in what you read on a page.

That doesn’t mean I won’t be writing reviews of movies, but I’ll be much more intentional about it. I want to focus in on the stories and how we all interact with them.

Upcoming Posts

For those who are accustomed to reading this blog, and to those who just started, here are some upcoming posts that you may enjoy:

  • The Messenger Chronicles (tentatively titled) – Exploratory Ideas: I’ll be talking about a novel I intend to start writing soon.
  • The Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff Interview: In the next couple months I’ll talking to fellow Infinite Space, Infinite God alum and successful writer (she's even listed in Wikipedia!).
  • The Messenger Chronicles – Characters: Help me develop exciting, Heroes-like characters for my new novel.
  • Ending, The Shadow Phase: It’s coming to a close, and it’d be great to talk about.

I can’t wait to get started. I hope you’re excited, too. Thanks for reading! I’ll be waiting to hear from you!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Moon is Cool

Sometimes, the best stories aren't fiction

I know, I know... I've been gone for the past couple weeks. First my laptop finally shorted out enough that I had to take it in for repairs (which took about a week). And then, when I got the laptop back, I got sick. But, enough with the excuses…

I saw a movie the other day that I loved. One of the best movies I’ve seen in a really long time. Big action sequences, extreme drama, heroism, and the characters were amazing.

And you know what? It all actually happened.

"In the Shadow of the Moon" is a documentary from Ron Howard that tells the amazing story of our Apollo Program. That’s right, the true American heroes who took our nation to the moon.

I sat in front of the TV, enraptured by the story of an extraordinary group of individuals pursuing the dreams of a nation. Imagine strapping yourself to a rocket and launching yourself into space. But don’t stop there. Travel 3 days to our closest celestial neighbor, don a space suit, and jump out into a crater.

I wish I could write a story that compelling. There’s a reason these guys have “The Right Stuff.” Our astronauts are true heroes, and yet they’re just men (and now women). And this documentary does an excellent job of capturing their thoughts, their emotions, and the story of one of our nation’s coolest accomplishments.

I encourage all the writers seeking to develop their talents and all the readers wanting to watch compelling, interesting storytelling to watch "In the Shadow of the Moon". Why? It’s great filmmaking. It’s great storytelling. And it reminds us why we do what we do.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Why Fight Naked?

Or…A Writer’s Review of Eastern Promises

Every once in a while you see a movie, read a book, or hear something on the radio and it reminds you that the world isn’t just Disneyland and ice cream sandwiches (which, by the way, I often think it is). A piece of work that makes you look at all the people you interact with on a daily basis in a much different way than you had the day before.

No, I’m not talking about Meet the Spartans (although, there’s probably an argument for looking at people funny after seeing that, which I haven’t, and probably won’t). I’m referring to Eastern Promises.

Is the Cold War Over?

Eastern Promises is one of those movies that you finish watching and go, “Wow, this is true.” And the realization of that fact suddenly makes you look around and say a little prayer of thanks. I won’t give away too much of the movie, but let me say that it’s set in modern day Britain and deals with the Russian mob. More specifically, it involves the Russian mob and the seedy underworld of the sex trade.

What does the movie do well? It gives us a glimpse of a world most of us will never see (the fortunate ones). Culture, heritage, desperation, and despair wrap themselves around a small group of people divided by right and wrong.

This movie does one thing extremely well, it shows us its characters and it engages us in their lives. The characters in Eastern Promises are memorable. They’re interesting. Most importantly…they change, and they grow. It’s expertly done, and it’s fun to watch. As each character’s multifaceted sides come forth we begin to see the bigger picture, and it’s not a Kodak moment.

The Conclusion

  • Characters.
  • Plot and pacing.
  • Performances (the actors do an amazing job here).
  • Nothing gets in the way of the two things listed above…well, almost nothing…
  • There’s a nude fight scene starring Viggo Mortensen (the lead actor). But why? What’s the point? Sure, they want to show off his…tattoos. But, they could have done that without showing off…(insert hilarious joke). Personally, I think it was to draw attention to the movie, and I think that’s pretty lame. It gets in the way of the storytelling rather than adding to it (at least it doesn't make you laugh like Beowulf did).
  • The movie is about the horrors of the Russian sex trade, and we get that, but I think some of that focus is lost as the movie focuses more onto Viggo’s character and his development. It’s not bad, but it does distract from the message just a little bit.

I highly recommend Eastern Promises. It’s always refreshing when a writer can view another writer’s work and appreciate it. Most of the time, we’re left going, “Ah, see, I would have done it way differently.” I didn’t feel that way about this movie.

Have you seen it? Any additional thoughts? Does Viggo deserve an Oscar nod, or just a loincloth?

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Writer's Identity

Live It Up, Brother

A couple weeks back I wrote about "writing strategy" and talked about brand identity. It sparked a good discussion about writers and the identities that they portray both in the public and in their works of art. It's an interesting thing to me because of the implications it has, not only for the purposes of selling the work, but also for the impact that it has on the writer's legacy and the reader's perception of the writer!

Jessica commented a couple weeks ago about Edgar Alan Poe and how he wrote seemingly morbid stories while dealing with fairly morbid things in his own life. That got me thinking.

Jack London. Mark Twain. Ernest Hemingway. Toni Morrison.

The writers we remember, and often times the writers that make the biggest impact on the world (not necessarily in monetary ways, but drastic social change or commentary) often live extreme lives that in almost all cases are vomited onto the page in the form of stories.

They wrote what they knew, wrapping words around personal experience coupled with a lively imagination. It just so happens that what they knew was extreme. These people didn't just sit in their living rooms putting pen to paper. They were out in the world taking in the experience.

What's my point? I don't have one. I just admire my fellow artists and consider them inspirational. And I'm not knocking the people who don't strap up a sled and have dogs pull them across the frozen Yukon (I've never done it, and it doesn't sound all that fun to me), but it is fun to see what a writer's experience can lead to.

It can build them a brand identity, and it can create a legacy. See you on the other side of the page.

Monday, January 14, 2008

I Am Legend...Will Smith Version

I Am Legend? Really?

I finally had a chance to see I Am Legend, the movie version, and I have to say I was really surprised (and, just so you're aware, as I write this post, I will be giving spoilers out for both the book and the movie). I think it's a very interesting comparison, but also one that's a little difficult. Why? Well, they're really different...

Virus...or bacteria? Either way, get to a doctor...

Since my last post about the book, I've read a couple more Richard Matheson short stories. He's a horror writer, for the most part, although I Am Legend does have elements of science fiction as well. The Will Smith movie based off the book (and of the same name) has elements of both as well, but let me try my hand at lead lines for both works of art:

Movie: Lone surviving doctor fights off blood-hungry "night seekers" while trying to find a cure for them after a cancer virus turns patients into monsters.

Book: Lone surviving man fights off loneliness as he tries to discover what has turned the rest of the world into vampires and how he can use science to discover how crosses, garlic, stakes, and mirrors have an effect on his new neighbors.

At the heart of the book, Robert Neville is a normal guy struggling not to lose his mind. Will Smith's Robert Neville is experiencing the same thing, but there are no mentions of vampires (only a couple "night seeker" comments). In the book, the entire plot revolves around vampires. It involves, in a way, a creative essay taking common vampire myths and applying science to them.

Plot, Pacing, and People

Both stories (book and movie) create an excellent, chilling atmosphere. The book takes place in Inglewood, CA.-the movie in New York, NY. Either way, the silence, as they say, is deafening. The world is a very creepy place. For the sake of the audience, Will is given a dog to befriend him (so that he doesn't have to talk to himself). How cool would it have been, though, had Will been silent the entire first half of the movie?

The cast of characters is very different. In the book, Mr. Neville is completely alone with the vampires. His breakdown is one of loneliness (which he fights the entire book), complicated by glimmers of hope (he befriends a dog that becomes a vampire as well) and ultimately ending in his deception. There are "living vampires" (people that have the germ but who aren't dead) and then there are the undead.

In the movie, Will Smith has some mannequins and eventually some real human counterparts. But, here the movie is entirely different from the book. In both, the "infected" trick Robert. In the book, their deception runs very cold, hitting at Neville's ultimate desire for companionship. So, when they pull one over on our hero, it's crushing.

Will is tricked once, but it's not nearly as bad. Plus, Will gets bailed out of his loneliness. In the book, Robert Neville never finds a cure for his fear.

The Endings

I love the ending to the book. No ending is better than the last sentence. It's excellent (I'm not even going to tell you what it is - read it!). The plausibility of the living vampires being able to trick Neville is a little shaky, but I'll take it. What's cool, though, is that the book never bails out on the premise that Robert Neville is utterly alone. There's no hope. Mankind, as we know it, does not exist anymore. Which is what makes the last sentence so powerful.

As for the movie, there is hope. A lot of it. There's hope to go around. There's a cure, there are still living's quite uplifting. Both Robert Nevilles (Smith and book) end up being heroes, but for entirely different reasons. Smith because of his resilience and the cure that he discovered. Book Neville just because he's the last survivor.

Final Thoughts

I liked the movie. It was good, but I have to admit that I was disappointed. The book was better. I was expecting the book, which would have been awesome, but we didn't quite get that. I would encourage everybody who has seen the movie to check out the book. I think it's worth it. It's not the best story I've ever read by any means, but it's pretty darn good.

Any other thoughts?

Monday, January 7, 2008

I Am Legend...or Robert Neville?

Will Smith Isn't in this One

I just finished reading I Am Legend (don't click that link if you're looking to avoid spoilers) by Richard Matheson. It's sort of a novelette - not quite short story, not quite novel (which is basically the definition of novelette...moving on). And it's good. Not great, but very good.

I haven't seen the movie yet, but thought that I'd write a short post about the prose side of the house. First off, the story provides a great example of what time does to works of art. I didn't know much about it before picking it up. Matheson wrote it in 1954. He staged it in 1976. That's good context to have. Why? Well, without giving too much away, we've seen this same story about a billion times since.

At the time, in 1954, this was ground breaking. The world hadn't seen anything like this yet (similar things, sure, but not quite the same). I'm sure this hit pretty hard. Since that time, though, we've seen a lot of what I Am Legend puts on the page. With that in mind, let me write up a quick assessment:

Pros and Cons


Hard core science fiction fans will love the story, because Matheson takes his time to back it up with scientific elements. I won't go into detail, but science does weave itself into the plot, and Matheson does it with excellence.

The tone and setting are great. Eerie, lonely, dramatic, and at times psychotic. As a reader you're engaged at the right level. It's cool.

The ending is brilliant. You have to read the last sentence to understand. It's interesting, and it fits perfectly with the rest of the storyline.


Will Smith isn't the hero. I know, how fair is that. Will Smith wasn't even born when the story came out, but I saw the previews before I read the story... I was expecting Will Smith (in fact, he's on the cover). The hero's name is Robert Neville. It actually fits the character, but it doesn't fit Will Smith. I was expecting Will Smith. I can't fault the writer, I'm just saying.

I think it could have used a bit more action. We hear a lot of what the main character is thinking, we see him interact with his house a lot, and sometimes he does get out and the conflict rises, but I could have used a bit more action.

Some of the "science" to me is a little far-fetched. Some of it (I don't want to give anything away) is great, but other things (I'm just going to say the word "crosses" for those who have read the story) are a little implausible.

I Am Will Smith

Should you read the story? Absolutely. It's a short read at 158 pages (small type), but it's pretty good. Should you see the movie? I don't know, but I'm anxious to compare the two. I'm guessing that I'll like the movie better, but that's because I'm an action-adventure writer, so I like things to move very quickly. We'll see, though, you never know...

Have you seen the movie or read the story? Let me know!