Tyson Adams

Putting the 'ill' back in thriller

Archive for the tag “Author”

My art is better

Things you can only do whilst drunk

This week everyone was so pleased to have another chance to stick the boot into Britney Spears after the release of a recording of her singing rather terribly, allowing us to compare it to the auto-tuned album version. Britney is one of the celebrities people love to hate (South Park parodied this beautifully), and this “proof” that she is undeserving of her success is just the ammunition needed.

Now I’m not exactly the sort of person that would normally try to defend a pop star, because that would require me to listen to some of said pop star’s music, which would count as self-induced torture. But some of the comments that have been made are so intellectually lazy that I’ve felt the need to say something.

The common theme of the comments is that Britney lacks any actual singing talent, that she got where she is by being pretty or that she was manufactured as a pop star, and is undeserving of her success. Which is all utter crap. Spears has been in the entertainment industry since she was referred to a New York talent agent at age 8. Then she got her break after beating out hundreds of other hopefuls to become a Mouseketeer (along with Christina Aguilera, Justin Timberlake, and Ryan Gosling). Spears’ move into the recording industry again required impressing people with her talent, and was noted for her vocal styling and ability.

The producer who recorded Britney’s crappy singing has already addressed the singing and auto-tune issue. I’m not a fan of auto-tune, but I understand its use. While the warming up suggestion could be true, I’d bet money that Spears hasn’t worked on her singing in a decade, thus between not being a teenager anymore, not singing regularly (dancing and singing is not something you can do easily night after night, so miming makes sense), and having had kids, her voice is probably nothing like it was. So it is perfectly understandable that Spears sounded terrible and needs auto-tuning, but that doesn’t mean she has never been able to sing, and as I’ve already pointed out that is a ridiculous claim/insult (see this analysis of her vocals for more).

Essentially, you don’t rise to the top of the heap without some modicum of talent, because there are lots of other hopefuls wanting that same shot at stardom. As for whether Spears’ resulting success is deserved is really subjective, depending upon how much you actually like the music she sings, and how you feel about the “hit factory” style of music creation.

This really shows just how lazy people are with their attacks on successful people. It is very satisfying to pretend that someone’s success is undeserved, that they were just lucky, or pretty, or shagged the right people, or whatever other excuse. Nothing makes you feel more superior than knowing you could have been just as successful, if only you’d been willing to shag that agent, or if you had bigger boobs. Meanwhile those we deem to be deserving artists, suffer in obscurity. But success takes more than being pretty, or lucky; it takes talent, perseverance, motivation, hard work, perseverance, and lots of hard work. For every successful artist (or any other field for that matter) there are hundreds of wannabes that fell at the first, second, third, fourth, or twentieth hurdle. Maybe they didn’t want to put in the vocal practice, maybe they didn’t make the right connections because they pissed people off, maybe they swapped the dream for a day job, maybe they never took their shot (watch Henry Rollins discuss taking his shot), or maybe the artist is too niche for whatever reason.

We all have that favourite band, singer, author, actor, painter, etc, that we feel is under-appreciated in their field. It is easy to wish that they had the success of the artists we see as unworthy. I doubt I have an artist in my music collection that has been as successful as Britney Spears, and I’d argue that most of them have more talent and write better songs. But the very reason I don’t enjoy Spears’ music is also the reason I love the music I do, which means that my favourite artists aren’t going to be as popular.

Which brings me to the argument I’ve raised before about worthiness (here on literature, here on genre vs literature, and here on good vs popular). It is perfectly okay for you to like what you like, there is no “guilty pleasure”. We should also stop pretending that our subjective taste is better than someone else’s. And as this latest furore about Britney shows, we should stop pretending that successful artists got where they are without talent, or hard work, or that their work is somehow inferior to something we prefer.

curious-male-fifty-shades-meme-good-writing

Exercise articles by non-exercisers

I’ve lifted weights for a couple of decades now. The challenge of lifting heavy stuff is cool and the added side effects of being stronger, fitter, healthier and sexier are awesome.

Fitness is sexy

Fitness is sexy

After being around gyms and fellow fitness junkies this long you start to realise that articles on how to get in shape are as numerous as new programs claiming to be the best program ever. There is nothing wrong with different programs with different ideals, they allow you to have some variety, or at least someone to laugh at.
functional-stupidThe biggest belly laughs come from the articles that are written by people who clearly don’t lift. They make statements that are naïve or ridiculous, they don’t understand what fit or strong are, and they don’t really remember past the last hot fitness fad. One article that caught my eye recently was this one on the “new” and “better than Crossfit” program that is all the rage. By all the rage, I’m sure it will be after enough of these promotional articles are paid for written.

The first thing that struck me about this exercise article written by a non-exerciser was just how many times this particular wheel has been reinvented. In the few decades I’ve been going to gyms I can’t remember a time when there wasn’t a circuit class on offer, well, except for the powerlifting gyms whose idea of cardio is walking from the car to the gym. I don’t know what is so revolutionary about another circuit class, which is essentially what this new program is. Circuit classes just have you move from one exercise to the next at timed intervals with little rest in between, so variations on this are not new, so they can’t be revolutionary. But you have to love a good celebrity endorsement!

Okay, I’ll admit that the article is a promotional piece on a new exercise program, so I shouldn’t hate on it too much. Instead I’ll get to the statements that I wish would disappear from fitness articles, preferably by having authors who know something about exercise write the articles.

Derp 1: “This isn’t about lifting 90kg weights…..” You mean, a warm-up?
Many fitness articles, especially those with a female audience in mind, pick an arbitrary number and decide that this weight is heavy. In this article it is 90kg, which is not actually that heavy depending on which exercise that weight is being used with. This just shows how little lifting experience the author has, or how lame they are at it.

Derp 2: “New scientific research…..HIIT…..” 2005 is calling, they want to tell you about this new thing called Facebook.
The article is trying to lend some credibility to the new program by citing science and by pretending this is all brand new. The problem is that HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) has been around as a method since the 1970s and modern science since the 1990s. So unless you are a time displaced quantum physicist, you can’t call this stuff new.

Derp 3: “Holistic, functional fitness….” So doing more than one exercise?
Advertising slogans are always funny. Holistic is all new-age-y and sounds comprehensive-y. Functional fitness is straight out of the Crossfit advertising material, so somebody thinks this term is meaningful. What the statement actually means is doing a bunch of things, but that isn’t as sexy or likely to impress the marketing department.

Derp 4: “We focus on strength, respiratory and flexibility….” By focus we mean unfocussed.
This sort of meaningless nonsense is rife in an industry represented by people who failed high school; you know, athletes. You either focus on one thing, or you aren’t focussing at all. The fact that using the term focus at the same time as holistic and functional fitness just shows how little the author understands exercise or writing a logical article.

Derp 5: “Chiropractors warn about…..” How chiropractic is pretty much a scam?
The fitness industry isn’t just filled with nonsense, it also likes to promote medical nonsense. Many of these fitness articles lend credence to quack medicine or use quack medicine to support their claims. The advantage of using quack claims is that it doesn’t require real evidence, which makes it easy to sell people on the new fitness fad.

Essentially there is nothing amazing or new about how you can get in shape, get stronger, or become sexier. Exercising in a progressive way (i.e. getting better) and eating healthily in amounts that match your energy needs/expenditure is how its done. So be wary of these marketing claims and articles written by non-exercisers.

My Top 10 Reading Peeves

comics-Cyanide-and-Happiness-books-626554

1) Canned laughs
Either a joke is funny or it isn’t. Having the author or characters pointing out that someone has just told a joke – he laughed in response to the hilarious joke – is like beating the reader over the head with the complete Get Smart box set. (insert laughs here) Laugh tracks ruin everything.

2) Street directions
I have a map book and Google Maps works pretty well, I don’t need them included in my novel.

3) Prologues
If it doesn’t fit in chapter one it shouldn’t be there. If chapter one isn’t exciting enough then the book has failed to start at the correct spot.

4) Epilogues
I will forgive this if it adds to the story, just as long as it is not just a chapter tying up loose ends. I really don’t care about the hero receiving medals from someone very important. The final chapter should be the end of the story, not a post script of lazy story telling.

5) Purple prose
There are few authors that can get away with flowery language and overly descriptive phrases. I wish authors would stop pretending that they are one of those few authors.

6) That wise old guy character
Why don’t authors just start naming this wise old guy Obi-Wan and be done with it. Sure, there is bound to be a need for a teacher, mentor, or knowledgable character in some stories. But so often the character may as well have been a cardboard cutout, just like Obi-Wan in Star Wars episodes I, II and III.

7) Getting the details wrong
Since when does a Glock have an external safety?* Cordite smell? Racking the slide? Why am I only listing gun mistakes?

8) Including the details
This is similar to the street directions of #2. The excruciating detail that the author has researched is great….. for the author. The reader just wants a story. Accuracy is nice, but overkill is tedious.

9) Using overly common or overly obscure names for characters
Overly common names just blend into the background for me. Overly obscure names might as well be written as @#$%.

10) Having an author name that is very similar to a big name author
I’m looking at you Dale Brown. It really feels like the author has let the marketing department try to rip readers off with the mistaken identity.

See also:

http://kjcharleswriter.wordpress.com/tag/things-i-hate-about-books/

http://101books.net/2013/01/11/9-things-to-do-with-thick-novels-you-hate/

* I actually understand why this one occurs. Often at some stage in editing the types of gun are changed around and ‘Glock’ has become synonymous with ‘gun’. Thus it is quite common for someone to decide that the type of gun originally referenced needs to be changed to a Glock/gun and the details around this aren’t changed to suit.

Rules of thriller writing

archer-gun

1) If in doubt kill a character.

2) Plot holes can be filled with dead bodies.

3) Nothing screams thriller more than characters screaming for their lives.

4) Car chases and shootouts are mandatory.

5) The hero can’t die, unless you really, really want them to.

6) The bad-guy must die horribly, unless you want them for the sequel. Even then, the sequel could be a zombie thriller.

7) Beloved minor characters must die the most gruesome and pointless of deaths.

8) Minor bad-guys must follow the inverse ninja law.

9) The only reason a gun should ever run out of bullets is if it puts the hero in even more danger.

10) The rules of physics and biology do not apply to the hero, unless it puts them in even more danger.

11) Deus ex machina can only be used once in the story, so use it wisely.

12) If your story hasn’t given your readers a heart attack, rewrite it so that it does.

See also:

http://davidmorrell.net/on-writing/writing-advice/

http://www.creative-writing-now.com/how-to-write-a-thriller.html

http://www.writerscentre.com.au/sydney/thrillerwriting.htm

Kids these days

wifiWifi

Okay, just to be serious for a moment: Do you see a difference between these two cartoons?

Some of you may have seen the awesomeness displayed on The Oatmeal in response to people stealing his cartoons and taking his authorship off of the picture. Well, here is another example. The second cartoon was the one I was going to post, but I realised that it didn’t have the creator’s signature on it and it would be good to make sure that they were able to be tracked down. Ideally I’d link to the original, but that isn’t always possible, especially when someone has decided to edit out the part that would help us all identify the author. It is clear that the author isn’t even asking for money, the cartoon is freely published on the web, yet someone has decided to remove the content creator as though they aren’t important.

Free content is great, so many people with great ideas are creating stuff to entertain others just because they enjoy it. I’m going to try and make sure the authors (content creators) are acknowledged when possible, I hope everyone else does too.

Good News Everyone!

A while ago I had my short story, Hard Wood, accepted into the second Pulse Pounding Tales compilation by Matt Hilton. I’ve held off on making this announcement until the submissions were officially closed. For those unfamiliar with volume one of Pulse Pounding Tales, buy it now. You’ll thank me later. Volume 2 is due out later this month.

Cover for the second edition.

Cover for the second edition.

The first edition included short stories from many renowned and upcoming thriller authors, including: Matt Hilton (duh!), Zoë Sharp, Stephen Leather, Adrian Magson and Steven Savile. If the previous edition and my submission (Hey! I’m allowed to think I’m awesome) are anything to go by, this second installment should be just as awesome. For more on whose stories you will get to read, see here.

Hard Wood is about Steve: disabled in the war in outer Desert-stan, he now makes sure containers at a shipping yard aren’t lonely at night. Steve stumbles across some heavily armed smugglers and decides that he is the only one who can stop them escaping before the police can arrive. Pity that Steve is not heavily armed and is missing a leg. For a little background to the underlying topic of the short, read this little non-fiction synopsis about illegal logging.

I’d like to thank Matt for the opportunity to publish my story with him. I’d also like to congratulate my fellow authors who I will be sharing pages in the compilation with.

Update:

Here’s the final line-up to ACTION: Pulse Pounding Tales Vol 2 everyone:

CONTENTS
Introduction by Matt Hilton
Dirk Ramm: Unsheathed by Matt Hilton
Sins of Omission by Ian Graham
See Saw by James Oliver Hilton
Uninvited Guests by Rod Glenn
The Missionary by Paul D Brazill
Hard Wood by Tyson Adams
Black Tuesday by Alex Shaw
.50 Contingency Plan by Jochem Vandersteen
Cold Redemption By Les Morris
Kokoro by Andrew Scorah
Get Cutter! By James Hopwood
Jardine Rides Again by Ian McAdam
Jack Be Nimble by Gavin Hunt
Exit Wound by Steve Christie
As Heroes Fall By Frank Sonderborg
Goofy Brings The House Down by Richard Godwin
Grand Central: Terminal by Terrence P. McCauley
The Fixer by Dean Breckenridge
Soup Sandwich by Christopher L. Irvin
Pasnuta Means Arena of Death! by Richard Prosch
Mududa’s Revenge by Graham Smith
97 Ways To Die In Istanbul by Paul Grzegorzek
It’s Noir or Never by Absolutely*Kate
Push by Kevin Michaels
You Only Die Once by Rhesa Sealy
Man About Town by Alan Griffiths
Hanoi Heat by Iain Purdie
Hammertime by Asher Wismer
When The Devil Catches Up by Lee Hughes

Bonus Tale
Suited and Booted by Matt Hilton

How to submit to a publisher

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NB: thanks to Zoe Sharp for sending this one to me.

Advice for authors and their promo photos

Author photo

Short stories now on Amazon

That’s right. I decided that there was no better way to learn how to publish my novellas than to practice with two of my short stories. I’m now prepared for the task of crossing the threshold into “professional author” territory, letting my creations escape the confines of my head and harddrive. I’ve priced both short stories at the Amazon standard $0.99, which is about what I think short stories should go for – novellas $2.99, novels somewhere between $7 and $10.

Running-the-Cross Rum-and-Roses

So if you would like to read some short stories, may I suggest you download mine from Amazon. Running the Cross is “A test of mind and body, running the cross is the ultimate test. A dozen rail lines, thousands of tonnes of freight trains travelling at high speed, a race across the tracks to prove yourself. Will you survive?” Rum and Roses “The police don’t like ‘Skinny’ McAfree, but they do like him for the disappearance and possible murder of his next door neighbour.”

I really enjoyed writing both of these, especially Running the Cross, and hope you enjoy reading them.
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00B3WP0OK – Running the Cross

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00B3XTKFO – Rum and Roses

Skill vs. Fame

You can always trust a guy in a lab coat, they know stuff. This relationship of skill required versus fame really does show that I have really decided to limit my levels of fame. Scientists aren’t really cool enough to be famous, authors are similarly nerdy, just better with words. Maybe it is time for scientists and authors to start making sex tapes.

You think you’re a good writer?

Setting my priorities

Fiction Writer

Yeah, it has done the rounds, but this picture really does sum up a few of the conversations I’ve had lately.

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