Category Archives: Charles O’Keefe

Star Wars: Return of the Love

Happy Holidays everyone!

Let me be the first to wish you all the best in 2016. I know it’s been a long time (well longer than usual). I’ve been busy editing, working, visiting with friends and family (more so the past week than the previous month) and of course obsessing over all thing Star Wars!

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I’ve also been smothered with a Christmas cold 🙁 But I’ve got medicine (and booze) so I’ll be fine. In case you’re wondering I have the shirt above and when you press the hat on the left it lights up! Lovely early Xmas gift from my wife =) Before I get too deep into Star Wars and how it’s affected my writing (and of course a few thoughts on the new movie) I wanted to let you know I did just send the latest version of third vampire novel “The Newfoundland Vampire book 3: The Gathering Dark” over to my editor (I’ll do a post on editing next month) so that means the great folks (which includes me, yay!) at Distinguished Press will hopefully make it available to you sometime in first the six month of 2016.

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Now back to Star Wars 😉 Seriously I have loved both Star Wars and Star Trek since I was little (Trek a little longer I’ll admit) and while my heart was broken and my faith shaken by those travesties called “the prequels”, once I learned George Lucas was out and Disney had taken over, I was ready to fall in love again. I got back into the Star Wars comics, read some of the novels (some are okay), played the video games (some of the new Star Wars app are a lot of fun) and even found myself writing a Star Wars novel (spoiler, I never finished it and I don’t even know what happened to it). Who didn’t imagine wielding a lightsaber and using the force?

When I was writing my first book my previous editor said (I’m paraphrasing of course) “how many times have you seen Star Wars? People don’t always need to have their hands chopped off during a fight!” While I write vampire books (and some short stories) I put in a lot of geeky references and Star Wars was no exception. In fact while my vampires fight with swords, I often imagine what the melee would be light with lightsabers. I also based one of my vampires powers on Star Wars, just as Luke can sense Vader’s presence on Endor (and Vader senses his old master on the Death Star), my vampires can sense each other from miles away.

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Perhaps more importantly though I have always been fascinated with the difference between good and evil, I’ve always wanted to explore what makes a person do terrible acts and I often like to explore the idea that no one is completely without hope or in other words “I know there is good in you. The Emperor hasn’t driven from you fully.” Star Wars presents a fascinating idea, no matter how far you have fallen there is always the chance for redemption, the chance to make it right. While Vader or Emperor Palpatine are extreme examples (as are several characters in my books) there are others that have a taste of the dark side, ones that are tempted by evil or even straddle the line on more than one occasion.

I think for me Star Wars gave the important idea that characters (and stories) can have an arc, things can take an unexpected twist and ultimately end up in places (or acting in ways) you never imagined initially. I’ve always admired Star Wars for having the guys to develop a character like Darth Vader who (for over half of Episodes I-VI) is a villain and yet still be the main character. Vader often wins and ultimately is the hero once more by the end of Episode VI.

While Lucas (I believe) got caught up with technology and special effects far too much in Episodes I-III, he is still a great storyteller that presented a rich world full of interesting characters and ideas that continue to capture the imagination of audiences/readers all over the world.

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So about two weeks ago it happened (You knew I was getting to this) Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens finally came out. I won’t get into my whole review (if you’re seen the movie my review is here, it has SPOILERS! You’ve been warned) but I’m back in love with Star Wars. The movie showed what good writing, action and directing in the right hands can do. Fans new and old alike (and yeah I’m getting old, whatever that means) can enjoy it once more, the arc is growing and the story goes on.

So does Star Wars inspire you? Do you love it? Hate it? Do you reference other materials in your writing? And more important, have you seen the Force Awakens? And if not, GO SEE IT! 😉 Seriously I hope you all continue to enjoy the holidays season and if you’ve ready this a little late, happy 2016!

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Words turn into pictures, when does it work?

Greetings again faithful readers,

(What can I say? I like old-fashioned phrases) I thought about what to say this month for a while. There are some big changes coming here at Distinguished Press but I ultimately decided this is neither the time nor the place. As for me, like everyone else I’m working on Xmas shopping (I buy what I can online), hoping snow doesn’t show up for a while (I lie, we’ve already had some here but thankfully it melted) and of course anxiously awaiting the new Star Wars movie (which I’ve had tickets for since October). Aside from all that I’m editing, doing blog posts, interviews and of course writing to you now.

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Which brings me back on point. With all the comic-book movies and TV shows I got to thinking, what is the successful formula for turning a book/comic book into a movie/TV show? I’ve seen hundreds of movies, my wife and I usually go at least 2 a month (often more) and I watch lots more on Netflix. If there’s a book I love, I often check to see if it was or will be made into a movie or TV show. I’m also a huge comic book fan, so the past 14 years it’s been a steady flow of comic book movie/TV shows/novelization movies, so I’ve had plenty of opportunities to compare, admire and contrast.

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There are so many I can’t go through them all but I think I have to start with Lord of the Rings. This is perhaps the most well known fantasy novel series ever, they have been around for almost 80 years and have inspired countless writers, other stories, toys, authors and also an enduring (and immensely fun) game called Dungeons and Dragons. I’ve read and loved them since I was a child and studied them in high school and university. Suffice it to say I was very pleased to see them turned into movies.

When I watched them I knew I couldn’t help but compare them to the books, there were differences and changes I didn’t like. Overall though Peter Jackson did a marvelous job, I fell in love with the story all over again as I saw the people, creatures and stories I loved so much brought to life. Then there came the plan that the Hobbit (the prequel to the Lord of the Rings trilogy) would be made into not one, not two but three movies!?!? For those that don’t know the Hobbit was written for Tolkien’s children, it was the shortest of the novels and certainly did not have enough material for three films.

Of course they said they would invent new material, take stuff from other Tolkien material and the appendices at the back the Hobbit, but really I knew the truth, 3 movies means a hell of a lot more money than 1. Don’t get me wrong I watched all three of them and I enjoyed them but I knew the truth, Jackson wanted get paid to do 3 movies and forced the story to fit. Sure the story of the Hobbit is there but it could have be easily told in 3-3.5 hours, not 8.

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Let’s take a different example where (at least so far) it wasn’t stretched out and an obvious example of Hollywood greed. I dearly love Batman (as you may know if you’re read my books The Newfoundland Vampire and Killer on the Road, both are on sale now for 99 cents!) and I was thrilled when my favorite comic-book story of his (well Frank Miller but you know what I mean) The Dark Knight Returns, would be made into an animated movie (I’m also very excited for the upcoming Batman VS Superman movie, which is also supposed to be loosely based on the comic). I loved this comic, I’ve read it many times and I think the movie (which was split into two parts as the comic is that long) was a masterpiece. I wouldn’t dare spoil the story if you’re unfamiliar with it, if you want to see story converted right into film, this animated movie is the one to see.

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I had a big discussion on this with a friend of mine. What’s the best thing for a director/producer/movie company to do? Be extremely faithful to the source material or due your own interpretation? I think being too slavish to the book/comic can be a determent (though as a fan I love it when that actually happens). Some things are just not able to be filmed and I know that a movie is supposed to make money, in many cases the general public hasn’t read the book/comic and they don’t care how faithful it is. Then there are the big fans who will scrutinize the movie for not being close enough to the source (and I know I do that sometimes).  I think ultimately it’s a compromise between what is in the source material and what will work/be successful on screen.

To bring it home, what do you think about movies based on your favorite stories? Do you clamor for more or think enough is enough? I’m always willing to give them a chance and always want more. And I can dream, I know it would be a dream come true if one of my books was ever made into a movie/TV show/play. I know there would be changes but as long as the important parts stayed I’d be happy, well that is as long as I was getting paid…kidding! The struggle between creativity/integrity/money is a topic for another time, until then I’ll eagerly await Batman and catch up on a really good show based on a comic called Jessica Jones (which is on Netflix now, don’t let your young children see it though!). Until then I bid you all good night.

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“Advice is a form of nostalgia…

…dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.” That’s a quote from one of my all my favorite songs, “The speech song” by Baz Luhrmann. I’ve been listening to it since it came out in 1999 (and was even played on the radio a bit), if you ever get a chance, give it a spin. I’ve lived my life almost completely by that song (and I think I’ve done okay so far).

Hi everyone,

It’s  a cold, windy day here (there were flurries here this morning and it’s only October!). Halloween, Xmas shopping, Xmas and of course winter are fast approaching. People love the fall, not me, sure the leaves are pretty but I like hot, sunny weather anything else gets me down a little. But you’re not here to listen to me pontificate, today I’m going to talk about writers and advice, both giving and receiving.

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I’ve done lots of conventions, given plenty of talks, been part of panels, book signings, book launches and book readings. I’d say the most common question I get is, “what advice would you have for a young/new writer?” (ok they didn’t say /new but I’m too OCD not to be complete). Say what you want about his writing, I think he gives great advice. He wrote a book just called “On Writing: A Memoir of the craft” and I highly recommend it. I would, however, also tell writers to, however, not get caught up in style books and writing handbooks and classes. If you want to do English in University then do it but there’s no substitute for writing and reading every day.

Writing doesn’t happen in a vacuum, the idea of a writer holed up in a dark corner spending years of his or her life working on a story with no input from others is (I hope) over with. Get to know other writers, I’d say in particular local ones. Local ones have the most time and interest (usually) to talk with you and are often very nice people. One of the best pieces of advice/encouragement I ever got was from a local author, one I had contacted when I finally got serious about writing.

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I know that picture above is a little blurry. What Hemingway (someone else who gives good advice on writing) is saying is that you can’t just use your imagination. You have to experience life, I think some of the best writing I’ve done is based on places I’ve been and experiences I’ve had. The world is full of wondrous people, nature can be inspiring, a place, even just seeing how people live in other parts of the world does so much to broaden your mind. Sometimes I feel that not becoming a serious writer until I was 34 was a good thing, I was lucky enough to have a lot of experience to draw on.  Even now I find when I get back from a vacation I have an idea for a story or chapter, a place that needs mentioning or a person that would be fun to incorporate. Don’t get me wrong, you still need to use your imagination, spice up the world, exaggerate events, or just plain kill people (in your stories of course! That’s not illegal.)

What other advice do I give? I tell people to work hard, write what you love (and don’t write unless you love it), be patient and get plenty of feedback (among lots of other things.) I also say that for 99% of writers (probably more like 100) you have to have an editor. King talks about how you need you to have an ideal reader, the person you really write for (besides yourself). For me that is my editor, I eagerly await her reaction (I’ve had 4 female editors and 1 male). I’ve learned plenty from my editors (currently the wonderful Kathy, who did a wonderful job getting “Killer on the Road” in re-release, ship-shape, available in November!) about grammar, writing style and lots of other important author lessons.

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To finish up, the quote above is true. People who give you advice usually mean well, they’re trying to help. I’ve found though that often times people are limited by experience or simply don’t understand what kind of writer/person you are. So be careful taking any advice, don’t act rashly. Think out any big decision, I once had someone tell me I should get rid of my editor because she wanted me to change parts of the story. That guy had no clue how writing works and I ignored his advice. Writing, like anything in life, is a learning process. Learn what you can from others and pass it on. I’ll end with this, nothing you write is ever perfect. If you have the chance (and the interest) to improve on someone you wrote do it, you’ll be glad you did.

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Why do you write?

Greetings all,

I’m back from a wonderful holiday around BC (Canada) and a cruise to Alaska. If anyone is thinking about a trip to either of those places I’d highly recommend it (though maybe for Alaska to go in July or August) and tomorrow I’m off to a convention (about 6 hours away from where I live), so busy times! For this month, getting back on topic, I’d like to talk about why I write, it was something that came up at a convention and in Stephen King book I read (and is an important question for any writer I think.)

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If you’re curious the book by Stephen King is called “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft“, I’d highly recommend any writer (or aspiring writer) check it out, if you don’t like King. Back on topic, I’ve always had a love of literature. It started (like lots of people I’m sure) with comic books (Archie and then superhero titles) and then novels (and some Hardy Boys and Choose your Adventure stuff). I love to be creative, at first I just wrote a journal but soon moved into short stories, poems and later novels.

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The above reasons are (mostly) true but there are more. You write any story you’re in control, the characters, the plot, the setting, it’s a great feeling to write something exactly the way you want (well if you want to be published it might be a little different but close enough). To see your ideas come to life (even just on the page or screen) is a wonderful feeling and fills you with excitement. I do also hope that my writing has an affect on at least a few readers, I have strong ideas about the world and how it could be better and if other people feel the same, then maybe the world can be a little better. I wrote my first book The Newfoundland Vampire ( the sequel, Killer on the Road,  soon to re-released by my most excellent publisher, Distinguished Press, what? You knew I always put in a plug!)  because I had a story to tell and something to say and I’ll keep writing as long as that’s the case.

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I’ll admit there’s another reason, I’m needy, in particular I need feedback, comments (hopefully praise) and even constructive criticism (please don’t come up and just say you suck, I’ve had that happen and it stings). I think most writers are needy and crave attention, it’s a big reason of you why get stories publish (or self-publish). I am thrilled when I get a new review of a book (especially if it’s a good one and goes on for a more than a few sentences).  I had a book launch party and having everyone show up because they care about your writing (I did a reading there) is also an incredible feeling, I’m looking forward to having at least one more.

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Overall though, I write because I love do to it. I’d tell anyone that writing for the money is  bad idea, sure it’s nice to be rewarded but the money should never be the goal. I’ve read about that writing brings you joy, healing your mind and body and make you a better person. I don’t know if all those things are true but I know that if writing is a chore or all you see is dollar signs, you probably shouldn’t be doing it.

What about you? Why do you write?

 

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My writing habits

Greetings once again all,

Summer is coming to close (for me in NL we’ve had maybe 4 weeks of summer weather but such is life here) and like when any season ends I get a little reflective. This month I thought I’d talk about my writing habits/process. Every writer has their own way of being creative, here’s my story (and details.)

For me writing is a time to relax, to dream, to fantasize about mythical creatures and imagine how my life could have turned differently if I had made different choices. I know some people can write in public places with all sorts of noise and people around but for me I need quiet, solitude and something to look at. I also find that generally I am at my most creative in the morning. My best writing occurs when I’ve had a good night’s sleep, get up at 6 or 6:30 and start writing by 7 or 7:30 AM. (Unless I’m on vacation, then it could certainly be later.)

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I also find that I need an outline. I like to have a clear idea of where I’m headed in a story so I always plan a novel at least two or three chapters ahead of time. (For book 3 “The Gathering Dark” it was the whole book, now for book 4 “War of the Fangs” about 12 chapters). Before I write I have a look at my outline (especially if I’m at the end of a chapter). Also at least once a month I look over the tips my esteemed editor, Kathy, gave me from book 2 ( and I try to keep in mind all I’ve learned from Karyn as well). I find that generally I only write in short bursts, 30-45 minutes tops then I’ll look out the window, possibly check my e-mail or pet one of my cats if they happen to be on the table with me. Generally I do most of my writing at home but sometimes I use my iPad for on the go. As I mentioned above if I have the time (and my laptop) I have also been known to write on vacation, in airports, at conventions and on weekend trips around the province (I live in Newfoundland, if you want to visit somewhere different, you should come . . .  in August or September only!).

LaptopWriting

With my first book published (by the wonderful people at Distinguished Press), I also find it useful to keep a copy of “The Newfoundland Vampire” nearby, it serves as both an inspiration and a guide as I work on further installments (there will be at least 4, after that, we’ll see). For me I try to write about places that I’ve been (or wish I’d been) and either way I like to look at pictures of that place before I write the scene, sometimes I read histories of a building or a town (for me info about my research methods for writing go here). As the main character, Joseph, is about 90% me, it is always a lot of fun to revisit these places in my mind and see how I would act differently in my imaginary world. For some scenes I try to imagine the whole thing in my head and then get it down on the screen as accurately as possible.

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When it comes to personal preference, I find I enjoy writing the sex, action and humor scenes the most. Action scenes in particular get me excited and then they writing comes faster. A friend of mine gave me a tip to just set a simple goal, write one page a day every day. I found this very helpful as even one page, single spaced, means a chapter done in a week and of course some days I get inspired and do more Thumbs up.

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The best scenes for me just fly out of my brain and I worry about cleaning up dialogue, punctuation and grammar at later time. While I’m certain writing could be taken with a scientific approach for me its artistic expression and the best way I have to communicate my ideas and feelings to the world. I read once you should write drunk and edit sober, I’m certainly not going to encourage drinking but writing drunk can be fun 😉  I hope you do something creative today and let me know you thoughts. What writing habits do you have? What scenes are the most fun to do? Do write better at certain times of the day? Inquiring minds want to know! Have a good one all, talk to you next month.

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