Between the Covers Part Fo’

Folks, let me tell ya: GET THAT FLU SHOT! There is nothing sexy about 5-days of fevers and coughing and sore throats and general funkiness the flu brings. I think I forgot. Seriously. I think the flu was easier as a kid or I got soft as an adult cuz it laid me out for 5 straight days. They talk about body aches: there was one point where my skin hurt. Just my skin. Had to take two showers and brush my teeth with a Brillo pad just to become approachable. Fun times, folks, fun times.

And that is my super-sexy–and wholly inappropriate–way of telling you “sorry for the delay” and that we’re back in business. And back in business means bringing you back into the intimacy of Christopher C. Starr and Terra Harmony Between the Covers. You guys remember Terra, right? My fellow writer, homegirl, author of the Akasha Series. Picking up where we left off on Terra’s blog, we join Part 4 of our conversation, already in progress:

Terra: My question to you: what is your editing process like? What works best for you?

Me: My editing process is brutal. I go through two rounds: after the first draft is done, I go back and re-read, find themes I didn’t explore, stuff I want to embellish, continuity I need to fix. I usually expand the book then—the goal for the first draft was to get the story down. Once I’ve done the second pass, I get really harsh. I cut as lean as possible. I want my stories to have forward energy, not bog down in the magnificent eloquence of my narrative capabilities (see, like that. I’d have cut that). The last pass after that is copyediting. I didn’t do that for the first book, not well at least. I’m hiring an editor this go round.

What She Said: For me, editing is a very tedious part of the process. I finally have a system down, that may or may not have to be tweaked. I aim for 90,000 word books, because in my first round of editing I always cut 5,000-10,000 words. Then, I send it off to a paid editor. She cuts another 2,000-5,000 words. After running through her corrections, I go through the entire book and read it again, out loud this time. Reading out loud reveals so much more. I guess it slows you down or something. Off the book goes to a couple beta readers (mother-in-law included) who make suggestions and catch grammar/spelling mistakes, etc. Then I format the book for print, order a proof, and read the hard copy version of the book. By this point, I’d like to think there are no mistakes, but I catch plenty of them. I’ll be the first to admit, the versions of each book out there right now probably do have mistakes. But at some point I just need to move on, and get started on the next book.

Then I Said: Knowing what you know now, what would you do differently with the Akasha series? Would you approach if differently?

So Terra Was Like: As for knowing what I do now, I probably would’ve delayed publishing the first book of the Akasha Series until I had a better proofed copy. I think I could’ve started out with higher ratings from the get go. But what’s done is done; and at least I’ve learned from it. I also constantly debate whether or not I should have made the Akasha Series a little more PG. I have some very adult themes as you know, including rape. As I’m finishing up the fourth and final book of the series, it is finally all coming together for me (as I hope it will for the readers). There is a reason the antagonist did what he did, and although it maybe won’t be justified in everyone’s mind, I try to make a meaningful link to the ‘rape of mother earth’, so to speak.

I Had To Ask This: Is your name legally Terra Harmony? Or is it a pseudonym?

She Says: Kind of. Terra is legally my first name, and Harmony is legally my middle name. Put together, they mean ‘peace on Earth’. Yep, my parents were hippies. I chose to use it as my pen name because it fits with my ‘eco’ themes. What about you? Is Christopher Starr your pen name? If not, have you ever thought about using one?

And I Said: Christopher Starr is my real name but Christopher only looks good on paper. I tend to associate being called Christopher to getting into trouble: I can still hear my mother yelling my name now…

With a name like Terra Harmony, how could you write anything else but something “eco”? I think you should have written a dark, brutal mystery or a corporate raiding tome—something contrary to the hippy thing. But I’m contrary like that.

And there’s more where that came from. Provided Terra doesn’t kill me for taking so long to post, check out the next installment on Terra’s blog. That’s my word!

Coming this October: Mayhem of the Mouse!

You might remember a year ago I was chomping on my nails, fretting about the coming October. For those of you who skip that lil Archive link on left, my wife LOVES horror movies. I do not. I do not like them Sam I Am. So every October I gird my loins for 31 days of blood and guts, ghosts and goblins, hack and slash supernatural nonsense.

Until this year.

This year, I got smart. See, in addition to horror movies, and the Lifetime Channel, my wife LOVES Disney. Disney movies, Disney parks, Disney body spray—you name it, if it has the Mouse on it, she’s all over it. So this year, I figured I’d balance the horror with some hilarity and Disney-up October with MAYHEM OF THE MOUSE (imagine that with booming echoes and stuff)!

What is Mayhem of the Mouse, you ask? Great question. We’ve spent the last 6 months looking at all kinds of villains, haven’t we? Supervillains, galactic terrors, giant monsters, soap opera baddies, Kardashians—okay, no Kardashians (yet) but you get it. Disney has an awesome array of bad guys waiting for the Crooked Letterz treatment—we’ve already had Scar, the Evil Queen, and Cruella DeVille grace these lovely pages. So for the 31 days in October, it’s all Disney villains.

But wait, there’s more! As an added bonus/incentive, hop on over to and join the giveaway. She’s got a BEAUTIFUL Limited Edition Maleficent statue and a Haunted Mansion Hitchhiking Ghost Figurine for you Disney lovers—all for the low, low cost of some Facebook Likes and some Twitter Follows. And if you book a vacation with her, you get some extra entries.

So swing by, join the giveaway, and hang out with me throughout the month of October to get my take on your favorite Disney villains. It’ll be a scream! (You know I am legally obligated to say that for any Halloween-related post, right?) It all starts Monday, October 1st!

Festival of Fiendishness – CATWOMAN

I’m no fan of cats. Aside from rampant allergies that make my eyes swell shut like I was popping shit to Clubber Lang, I think cats are assholes. They show love when they want, rip up your shit under the auspices of keeping their claws sharp, and they have no qualms about biting the hand that feeds them (literally). And they’re kinda nasty: “Fuck water,” says the cat, “my spit is juuussstt fine.” Ugh.

But there is one little kitty that I have a soft spot for—and she’s today’s dastardly diva: Catwoman.

Now, this post is not about the horror that was the Catwoman movie—Halle Berry in that outfit was the ONLY good part of that ridiculous piece of cinema (but it was a really good part). This is about Selina Kyle, cat burglar, Batman villain, and the Dark Knight’s friend with “benefits.”

There are a couple origin stories for the femme fatale in the skintight outfit: the Tim Burton/Halle Berry movies have her undergoing a transformation caused by cosmetics and chemicals; Christopher Nolan’s flick with Anne Hathaway doesn’t delve much into details but frames her as Rhianna-style good girl gone bad; the comics give her a much more hardscrabble upbringing: former prostitute who becomes a cat burglar (and a damn fine one at that) to escape that life and make a better one for her sister. One version of the story even has her killing her sister’s assailant and becoming a thief to maintain her freedom. My favorite version has Selina looking to Batman as her inspiration for her feline alter-ego.

Ladies, I don’t care what Cosmo or Vanity Fair or Teen Beat tells you: men like bad girls. And Catwoman is a bad, bad girl. Every time you see her she’s sashaying her sexy tail across the screen, leaving every male smitten with the “lap dance look,” taking what she wants, and, by the time guys snap out of it, she’s gone.

Whether it’s Eartha Kitt, Michelle Pfeiffer or Anne Hathway, what makes Catwoman special (besides the outfit) is that she’s her own person. Murky morality aside, she’s going to be who she’s going to be; she’s going to do what she’s going to do. And there is nothing anyone—not even the Bat—can do to change that. This character, more than any of the villains I’ve explored, focuses specifically on that one facet that makes all of us unique: none of us all wholly good or wholly evil. The dichotomy (yes, there’s that SAT word again) between Batman and Catwoman is interesting: they are more similar than different. No matter how you look at it, Batman is a good guy who does some questionable things; Catwoman is a bad girl who commits crimes for good reasons. They’re not so different.

More than her self-acceptance and comfort with her moral ambiguity, Catwoman is honest. She doesn’t pretend to be more than what she is: a woman using all her abilities and assets to reach her individual goals. There is no global domination, criminal empire aspiration here. She’s a grassroots, Robin Hood-esque style of anti-hero and her populist, self-serving approach is almost admirable. And this, this inspirational quality, makes her one of the most dangerous villains out there and one of the best villains ever.

Coming up, I’m going all Heroic on ya! Sylar (the villain from Heroes) is next on the Festival!

Get A Little Closer…

Don’t be shy…You can get a little closer–but this ain’t no Arid Extra Dry commercial! (Were you singing along?) This is a plug for the continuing conversation between your lovely host (that’s me) and our resident cool kid, Terra Harmony. The next installment of Between the Covers with Chris and Terra (or Terra and Chris–I can never remember) is up at Terra’s blog.

Check it out!

And then stay tuned! All kinds of new stuff coming this weekend!

Between the Covers with Terra and Chris PART TWO!!

That’s right boys and girls, there’s a sequel! A sequel to what, you say? Nice to know you’ve been paying attention. Fine, here’s the recap: last month I participated in the Orangeberry Summer Splash and came across a stunning author, Terra Harmony. I reviewed her book; she dropped a lovely post for all you wicked little readers. While all that was going on, I discovered that Terra’s a pretty cool chick and we had plenty to discuss about the writing process and writing series in particular. So we turned our conversations into a behind-the-scenes, DVD-extras-style set of posts and here we are.

You’re joining our conversation already in progress. If you missed Part One, you can check it out on Terra’s blog.

Lil Ol Me: Did you plan the entire series out before you wrote it?

Terra: No plans. No outlining – just free writing. I think this was good and bad in a way. I tend to let my characters lead the story. Sometimes they take a turn in the plot that I myself didn’t see coming. When I start a chapter, I have no idea where it will end. The pro is I never really seem to get stuck. I don’t get writers block because I am not bound to an outline. I don’t have to ‘make’ certain things happen. The con is I really have to work hard at pacing, character development, etc. It doesn’t seem to come naturally in my writing.

I hope to do it differently in my next series (I am planning a mermaid/werewolf series – w/ eco issues of course). I really would like to write the entire series, then release them a few months apart. Right now, I am getting hounded via e-mail, facebook, etc. from fans asking when the next book is out. Don’t get me wrong – this is great! But it creates pressure that takes away from my writing a little bit.

Back to Your Boy: I can feel you on the pressure to push the next one out: I hear the same things and, while it’s cool there’s interest, I’m concerned about not putting the best book out I possibly can, you know? Writing a story that resonates with people is magic; you don’t want to mess it up.

For me, I planned in broad strokes. Like I said, the Bible gives me some pretty clear plot points so I decided what major periods of time I wanted to cover and who’s point of view I wanted to write from. I know where things to end up and as I move through each book, I get a sense of the emotional milestones I want my primary characters to hit.

Terra: When do your best ideas come to you? What invokes your muse?

It’s Me!: My best ideas come when I’m not looking for them. When I’m doing mundane things like cutting the grass, folding laundry, taking a shower. In a meeting with people I don’t like on subjects I could care less about. I daydream, play out the scene or push it around in my head. How about you? When do your best ideas come?

Terra: Showers are my best source of ideas, too! I am really, really clean when I am in need of inspiration. I talked about this with my critique group a little, and for them it was the same – mundane tasks. For one his best ideas occur when he is shaving in the morning. I guess this is when our subconscious can be accessed. “The subconscious mind is never idle,” said someone, at some point – probably.

When I really have to work a problem through, connect pieces in the storyline or whatever, I’ll go for a walk. We live by a lake and I’ve discovered that twice around (about an hour) is usually enough time to come up with a solution. I have to work to stay focused, but I have learned to trust that I’ll eventually come up with an idea. Writer’s block isn’t a thing for me anymore.

And Back to Me: “I am really, really clean when I am in need of inspiration.” Yeah, I can get that. My grass looks immaculate too when I’m writing.

I’ve also learned taking the WonderDog for a walk is helpful. I doubt he really appreciate me asking him the intricacies of my plot, but he does like being outside. Win-win.

You can check out the next installment on Terra’s blog later this week. And, as always, there’s more villainy goodness on the way! See ya!

Festival of Fiendishness: VICTOR KIRIAKIS

You didn’t know I could go all soap opera on ya, didja? Didn’t think I had it in me, huh? Well, I was a latch-key kid in the summers in the 80s and one of the benefits/penalties of that was my sister LOVED Days Of Our Lives. That meant, for one hour every day, I was immersed in the “I thought you were dead” – who is that baby’s father? – I have cancer – what happened to my man’s eye? world of Bo and Hope and the Brady family. I can’t look away from a story (or a Lifetime movie for that matter) so I was hooked pretty quick. In that time, I watched the host from the Biggest Loser grow up, learned to give a shit about what happens to Deirdre Hall (and pick her out of a line up) and was introduced to the coldest dude named Victor ever, Victor Kiriakis.

Over the last 25 years or so, Victor’s been busy. He started out as kind of a small time thug, running a prostitution and porno ring (and this was the 80s, mind you). He graduated up to building an international crime syndicate, “buying” a former CIA operative so he could fool with his memories and taunt make the Brady family think their son was back, and evading child support for Bo by forging a legal document stating he was sterile at the time of conception. As an aside, how do you get that document? How do you fake a fertility test on the off chance someone’s gonna hit you up for child support 20-some years in the future?

Now, there is absolutely no way I can sum up a 20 year run on a daytime soap opera in 500-600 words but there are some highlights:

  • Remember that drug/porno/prostitution ring? Victor discovered another dude had killed a woman and blackmailed the killer into taking responsibility for the drug/porno/prostitution ring
  • He ordered a woman to be shot when she came into town and then blackmailed her into leaving town AFTER she got shot. Doesn’t say much for the shooter though, huh?
  • Ran a number of campaigns in stealing people’s money including a jail break and a false kidnapping
  • Drugged his nephew to make him impotent
  • He framed another chick for a murder his daughter committed
  • Helped his son bury a woman alive—and tried to kill that same son in an elevator accident
  • Kidnapped a dude and then wouldn’t give him insulin for his diabetes

Victor has done a litany of foul stuff, from the petty shit like drugs and prostitutes to real shit like blackmail, kidnapping, and murder. BUT HE LOOKS SO COOL DOING IT! My man always got a drink, a 3-piece suit, and that lovely mane of silver hair. Even when you think he’s doing good things, he’s got that “I’m a cobra and you are my prey” look.

Here’s what I love about Victor: he’s the Godfather in a tiny little town in Portland and we got to watch him in action for the last 30 years. And he has wonderful hair. And he’s Jennifer Aniston’s dad.

That’s my word! Next up, Catwoman is gonna purr her sexy tail across the Festival.

Wanna Know Where The Crazy Lives? It’s ‘Between the Covers’

As part of the Orangeberry Summer Splash, I came across a pretty amazing author, Terra Harmony. I reviewed her book; she graced my lil ol’ blog with a guest post. Then, we started to talk. I found out a couple things about Terra (she’s really, really funny) and about the writing process in general. We decided to share those conversations with all you in a little series called “Between the Covers” (not those covers–book covers–nasty…).

Session one is up over at Terra’s blog now. Part 2 will be back here on Friday. Check it out and tell us what you think!

Festival of Fiendishness: ANNIE WILKES

Writers are pretty much the top of the food chain: we have few natural predators. Our imaginations and Wikipedia keep us, for the most part, out of harms way. We spend the majority of our time in a seated position, scribbling on pads or tapping at keyboards. The most likely hazard of the writing profession is carpal tunnel. And severe caffeine withdrawal. And chairs with poor lumbar support.

And fame.

Fame changes everything. Sure you want people to read your stories, until they start leaving negative comments and reviews. Or pressuring you for the next release. Or taking your ass hostage and tying you to the bed until you resurrect their favorite character you killed in the last book.

Yes, my wicked little readers, today’s villain is the Queen of Literary Terror and the sexiest thing in denim cotton floral print frock, Annie Wilkes from Misery, played by Maxim 100 beauty, Kathy Bates.

Your girl is avid fan of the Misery Chastain romance series. When she finds out the author, Paul Sheldon, has killed off Misery herself, thus ending the series, Annie is hotter than Twilight fans finding out Kristen Stewart was stepping out on Robert Pattinson. So my man’s car accident that leaves him with two broken legs in the middle of a blizzard down the street from Annie’s house is “fortuitous.”

She does what anybody—and especially a “number one fan”—would do: she bundles Paul up, takes his raggedy ass to her house, and, rather than call the police or the paramedics or even the fucking WonderPets, Annie proceeds to torture the shit out of him until he agrees to write another Misery Chastain book bringing Misery back to life. And I’m talking about withholding care and pain meds or cutting off his thumb when he gets mad about a letter missing on the typewriter. This can’t end well, right?

So while he’s writing, Annie takes a couple trips into town. This gives Paul a little bit of time to go investigating, and he does, Shaggy and Scooby-style. Sneaking around on wobbly legs looking for clues, Paul finds out that Annie absolutely is getting coal in her stocking: your girl is a serial killer in a jumper and has been killing people for years. When Annie finds out about Paul’s little excursions into her private life, she decides to “limit” him. If you watched the movie, this is the part where she ties homey to the bed, places a wedge of wood between his feet, and BREAKS HIS ANKLES WITH A SLEDGEHAMMER! Annie ain’t 100 percent And this is tame compared to what she did to my man in the book: cuts off his foot and cauterizes it with a blowtorch. What kind of shit?

And she goes out like a G: she kills a cop by running him over with a lawnmower (read that again: she rain him over with a LAWNBOY!), takes a typewriter blow to the head, gets choked out and takes a header into a mantle. But she still won’t die! After going two rounds with Paul Sheldon Michael Meyers-style, Annie finally dies while trying to start her chainsaw. I think I heard 50 Cent singing “I don’t know what you heard about me” at the end of the movie.

Annie Wilkes is awesome because she’s a romance-novel reading, Country Living magazine dressed hot pocket of unmitigated crazy. Sports figures, celebrities, and rock stars have the corner on fruitcake fans; you don’t ever hear about authors becoming a victim of their fans. Annie Wilkes teaches us that fame is fame is fame is fame and there’s enough crazy to go around. For all my author friends, I bet you’ll take that one star review over the alternative, huh?

Next up, like sand in the hour glass, so are the days of our lives (yeah, I’ve seen a soap opera before. I’m man enough to admit it)—Victor Kiriakis comes to the Festival!

My Day With Real Life Angels

I write angels at night. I didn’t expect to meet them in broad daylight. And you always hear these stories but this is true:

Today was a big day for me (more on that later)–a REALLY BIG DAY. That big day had me up at 3am to be on a plane leaving at 5:45am. Because it was a quick turnaround on 2 different airlines (going was different than coming back) TSA flagged me and wouldn’t let me check in online or at the kiosk. Had to see a gate agent. That made me late. The 2000 people in the security line meant I was gonna miss my flight. Dammit, right? Til an agent comes down the line, pulls me out and says, “Hey brother, you look like you have somewhere to go. Come with me for ‘additional screening.'” He swabs my hands and BOOM – front of the line. That was an angel.

No question.

But wait, there’s more. I get out to find a cab. This guy flags me down, tells me he’ll take me wherever I need to go. I ask how much and he says we’ll figure it out. Okay, fine. I get in, we talk and I tell him why I’m there, what I’m trying to do. Why today is important. He sticks out his hand and says, “You got this, brother. This is yours.” He takes care of me–shows me where I need to be and, since I’m early, swings me by a coffee shop. “Good luck, brother,” he says, genuinely proud. I pay him, tip him. Another angel.

No question.

And then realize I left my credit card at home. I don’t have enough cash to take another cab. I have no idea how I’m gonna get back home.

But I can’t focus on that because I have a meeting and a presentation to do. Then I realize that I have a Mac–I’ve never done a presentation on it before and Apple doesn’t do what anybody else does: my computer has a video output that doesn’t FIT ANYTHING. Godammit! I go to my meeting, tell my primary contact that I don’t have the piece I need to present through my Mac. “No worries,” she says, “we’ll figure something out.” She asks the BIG WIG in the room, who has a PC, if he can help. He pulls out the Apple component I need simply because he happens to have it.

You know what I’m gonna say. And there’s no question about it.

And while I’m presenting, my angel at home, my wife, reaches out to a good friend of mine, who I haven’t seen in YEARS. She happens to be working RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER from where I am and would be happy to give me a ride back to the airport. What? What can I say? And she arrives as soon as I walk out.

Angel. No question about it.

Come Hell or High Water FIRST LOOK EXCLUSIVE!!

So you know I’ve working on the sequel to The Road to Hell a little bit, right? You did know, didn’t you? All the gang’s coming back: Lucifer’s up to his tricks, Michael still ain’t happy, Gabriel’s watching the store, and Raphael’s–well, Raphael has his own demons to contend with this time around.

And today, I am happy to announce the first look at Come Hell or High Water with an exclusive excerpt over at Seryniti’s blog.

Check it out, then swing back to the Facebook page and tell us what you think!