Writing
Short Story: Buffalo Run
September 27, 2016
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buffalo-runFinally it is ready for release, my new short story titled “Buffalo Run.” It’s a story set in Yosemite Valley in a dystopian future (don’t worry, no teenagers!). The idea came while going through stream of consciousness exercises for my screenwriting class earlier in the year. The exercise started off by finding a picture in Pinterest and then setting a timer for ten minutes. At the start of the clock we were instructed to write using the picture as a starting point without stopping and without editing. It’s meant to develop the creative side of your brain. What flowed from a picture of half dome was a random story about two women running a marathon in Yosemite Valley amongst¬†genetically modified buffalo that craved human flesh. It was not quite something I usually write about but the story stuck with me after the class was over and I decided to write it as a short story. I had it edited by Elisabeth Kaufman over at Writing Refinery and proofread by Jessica Nelson at Rare Bird Editing. I had my daughter illustrate the cover as I wanted a vector art type of look for it. I put it up at Amazon for $0.99. As a gift to my readers, I wanted to put up a complimentary pdf version here on the web site. I hope you enjoy it. If the mood strikes you, perhaps you could leave a review on Amazon?

Book Review
Review: The Crown Tower
September 16, 2016
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The Crown Tower
The Crown Tower by Michael J. Sullivan

This has been the fantasy series I’ve been looking for. The characters are fun and well drawn out, the plot is not convoluted, and the writing flows easily. Having read a lot of epic fantasies lately, I really enjoyed reading a book that I could finish within a couple of weeks (and that’s mostly reading a chapter a night). But it’s length by no means counts against it’s quality or substance. Hadrian and Royce remind me of a middle-ages version of Redford and Newman. I understand that this is the first book in a prequel trilogy and the author explains the chronological order of his books in the forward. He basically said that you could read the original trilogy first and then come back to these books or just start in chronological order. I chose to start with the latter. I’m already almost halfway done with the second book in this series and I don’t anticipate stopping until I’ve read all six books. I highly recommend this novel for some serious fantasy fun.

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Writing
Writing Strong, Likable Female Characters is Tough
September 14, 2016
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David Mullin

I have grown up around strong women my entire life. My mother is and always was a firecracker, never afraid to speak her mind to any and all who got in her way. My sister was also strong but in a quieter way. She is one of the sweetest persons I’ve ever known but she still has strong convictions and stands up when pushed too far. My wife is also an incredibly strong, independent woman and we have raised my two daughters to never shy away from being themselves. So why is it when I write strong female protagonists that I can’t make them likable?

Earlier this year, I completed a screenplay with a strong female protagonist who lost her father and mother at birth and was raised by foster parents. It turned out her grandfather had declined to take custody of her and the story was about her journey to find her grandfather and the relationship that they then create. The universal feedback I received was that no one liked the main character. In the spring I wrote a short story about two women running for their lives from genetically modified killer buffalo (soon to be released on this site for free) and the feedback I received from beta readers was that they liked the story but didn’t like the main female character. WTF?

The answer is somewhat obvious but also is found in societal perceptions, in my opinion. The obvious part of the answer is that I’m a man, and no matter how many women I’ve been around my entire life, I’m still a male with a male ego and male perceptions of what’s strong and what’s weak. Another answer, separate from my two main points, is in the writing itself. In writing these strong female protagonists, I jumped right into them being aggressive, both verbally and physically, without showing the reason for the reader to be rooting for them in the first place. The societal point revolves around the often heard argument that a strong willed woman in the work place is called a bitch while a man exhibiting the exact same behavior is called aggressive. Man or woman, I think that perception is strongly ingrained in all of us. No matter how much we want there to be the same standard, I don’t think we’re quite there yet internally.

While I wrote my female protagonists to be swashbuckler types, having them act physically and verbally aggressive seems to put people off. When a male character is shown acting aggressively without any other information, most people just say, “Oh, what a typical guy.” But if I do the same with an aggressive female character, a lot of people would say, “Man, what a bitch.”

The problem with being male and writing a female is that we tend to think of strength in terms of fighting back in one way or another. We can overlook strength of fortitude or the greatest female strength, IMHO, of just pushing on through pain and sorrow without complaint. Those are types of strength stronger than any physical altercation and I need to remember that in my writing.

I’m not sure what the percentages are when it comes to which issue has the largest effect on the likability of my characters, be it the poor writing, the fact that I’m a man, or our society’s built-in gender perceptions, but something is wrong and I need to work on fixing it. Obviously, there have been great female protagonists written by men (i.e. Ripley in Aliens, Clarice Starling in Silence of the Lambs, etc.), they just happen to be way better writer’s than I am at the moment. It’s been a frustrating but fascinating struggle and it will only serve to make me a better writer. Still, I hope that I can get across the characters that I see in my head. Characters with empathy and compassion toward others but who also don’t take shit from anyone and can take care of themselves and those they love.

Book Review
Review: The Summer Dragon
September 2, 2016
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The Summer Dragon
The Summer Dragon by Todd Lockwood

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The first thing that stood out for me was the writing. One would think that someone who has spent their professional life illustrating books rather than writing them would be lacking in the prose department. Any assumption along those lines proved highly inaccurate in regards to this book. Todd Lockwood engages the reader from the first page with this lovely story of dragons and those who breed and raise them. The villains in this tale are down right nasty and every time they appear in the book I found myself wondering how the hell anyone was going to survive. It was this combination of prose, well thought out characters, and gripping story that kept me up late several nights. This is the first in a planned trilogy and I can’t wait for the next book to come out. I will be buying it the day of its release.

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Writing
Call for Short Story Beta Readers
August 19, 2016
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My short story is ready to send out to beta readers and I’m looking for a handful of people who might be interested. As a content warning, there is graphic violence and language used in the story, so if that’s not your cup of tea, this probably isn’t the story for you.

The story is about 7,800 words long and is set in a dystopian future (no teenagers though!). I’m looking for people to read the story and then perhaps connect via Skype or Phone for a thirty minute question and answer session.

If you’re interested in being a beta reader for this story, contact me and I will add you to the list.

Thanks!