Thursday, August 30, 2007

Absolute Write Blogchain #10

This also is my first time in a blogchain. It reminds me of the game we used to play as kids where someone would whisper a sentence or two in someone else's ear and so on. Ten people later, the end result would be hysterical. (I know ... I'm stating the obvious.)

I'm going to stick mostly with the food theme. Several years ago, my wife and I adopted three girls from Cambodia. Both of us are fresh-vegetable fanatics, and we've passed that along to our children, though I suppose they already had inherited it from their native country, where rice and fresh vegetables were staples of their diet.

Not everything is great about living in South Carolina, but there are plenty of places to get excellent organic vegetables. We are members of a Clemson University co-op, and once a week we pick up whatever is in season. My personal favorite is fresh tomatoes, but our family loves pretty much everything grown in the ground.

My kids will eat as much as you put in front of them: mountains of rice and plates full of healthy stir-fries. I make what our family calls shrimp stew: shrimp, tomatoes, carrots, corn, broccoli, greens, yellow squash, zucchini, mushrooms, garlic, and onions stir-fried with tamari and served with crusty bread.

We also frequent a farmer's market held every Thursday in a quaint little town square surrounded by ancient oaks. The vegetables are excellent, as well as the crafts, and the tomato-eating contests are hysterical. Once you've eaten fresh-grown tomatoes, the ones from the grocery story taste like wet cardboard.

I'm glad that my daughters aren't picky eaters. Picky eaters annoy me more than they should. How can people consider themselves truly rounded if they don't eat a variety of healthy foods? It's like saying you're well-read when all you read is the Sunday comics. Maybe picky eating is inherited? If so, I apologize. Regardless, you're missing out big-time if you don't like fresh vegetables.

That's not to say that I always eat well. When you live in the deep south, it's almost impossible for a meat-eater to resist barbecue, fried chicken, etc. And I'm the type who has to eat pizza at least once a week. For some reason, though, a large percentage of South Carolinians live amazingly long lives. My wife's mom is 91 and still living comfortably on her own. Heck, I'd take 80 in a heartbeat!

Up next, appropriately, is a food expert!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Turning points

I turned 50 years old today, and also today I just finished looking over the final proof for Book One. The funny thing is, I consider the latter a more monumental occurrence in my life.

As a teenager and then a man in my 20s, I always looked younger than I was. When I was 16 years old and had just gotten my driver's license, I was pulled over by a disbelieving police officer convinced that some 12-year-old had sped off in his parents' car. Even into my early 30s, I was continually carded whenever I purchased a six-pack of beer. So in some regards, aging has been a blessing to me. About the only thing I don't like about being 50 is that my hair has thinned considerably, which annoys me to no end. Otherwise, being a mature person both in personality and appearance has benefits that I enjoy.

Being so close to the publication of Book One of my series is huge to me. If all goes as planned, printing of The Pit will begin this Tuesday, and it will become available for purchase the first week of September. I'm also within two weeks of finishing the final revisions of Book Five, which will leave just Book Six (currently a finished first draft) to go.

A lifelong dream ... so close.

It only took me 50 years to achieve it.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Friday's Feast 157

Say there’s a book written about your life. Who would you want to narrate the audio version?

I'd go with Anthony Hopkins. He is cool beyond cool.

Take the letters from your favorite kind of nut and write a sentence. (Example: Perhaps every avenue needs understanding today.)

Paint everything crimson and navy.

If you could go back in time and spend one week in another decade, which decade would you choose?

Without question, the '60s. You could have wild sex with just about anyone of the opposite sex without any fear of catching a disease that penicillin wouldn't cure.

Main course:
Name a song that brings back memories for you.

Our House, by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young (from my teenage years).
Too Early for the Sun by Kenny Loggins (from my adults years).

Do you prefer to wash your hands in cold water or warm water?

Warm, absolutely. Make that hot.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Playing god

I own two houses -- not by choice. My family and I recently moved from a country home (on 20 wooded acres) to a new home (on one acre) to be closer to my wife's work. In the meantime, the housing market went berserk, and now the first home, though gorgeous, won't sell.

Today, I went to my first home to do a bunch of yardwork. At 8 a.m., it already was at least 90 degrees, and by the time I finished it was past 100.

While I was picking up some debris in the front yard, I almost walked into a monster spiderweb that had been cast between the branches of a magnolia tree. Trapped within the web was a Monarch butterfly, still alive and struggling to escape. But a hideous spider, half as large as my fist, had the beautiful insect in its jaws. There was nothing I could do.

Or was there? As I reflect on it now, I'm not certain.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Who is my audience?

Harry Potter has redefined the fantasy audience. J.K. Rowling proved that it's possible to write novels that appeal as much to 12-year-olds as 72-year-olds. Though her subject matter became grittier as she progressed deeper into her series, it remained pretty tame when compared to darker, more violent fantasies. Yet, it outsold them all by an absurd margin.

If my only goal had been to sell books, I would have written a series appropriate for young adults. Certainly there is a massive built-in audience for YA fantasy. That doesn't mean, of course, that anything YA is a guaranteed success, but it's a big step forward.

My series is not for young adults. As I've said several times in this blog, if The DW Chronicles were made into a series of movies, they would be R-rated. To be honest, my series contains violence and sex inappropriate for young adults. Some 15-year-olds are more mature than 25-year-olds, but I tell people that my series is for people 18 and above.

So where does this leave me? Well, my hope is that there is a large segment of fantasy readers out there that think like me. They are the types that enjoy Stephen King more than J.K. Rowling. They are the types that aren't offended by a John Updike sex scene. They are the types who throw out an F-bomb or two when they accidentally smash their thumbs with a hammer. They are the types who enjoy books appropriate for adults, not children. They are the types whose religious preferences don't get in the way of their artistic preferences.

And yes, a novel or series of novels can contain graphic descriptions of fantastical wars and supernatural sex and still be artistic. Believe me, The DW Chronicles has plenty going on between the lines. In fact, that is what truly makes it a read worthy of your time and expense.

Are there people/readers out there like me? If not, maybe I've screwed up.

Then again, being the person I am, maybe I didn't have a choice.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Drawing parallels

In my backyard is a half-acre of woods filled with vines, brambles, poison oak and poison ivy. It has become my goal to eradicate these nuisances, so for the past several months I have been dousing them with weed-killer. This morning I spent two hours in 100-plus-degree heat spraying the nocuous liquid all over the place. By dusk, the leaves already were sagging. It's brutal work, but the end result will be a worth it.

Also for the past several months, I've been knee-deep in the revision process of the last four books of my series. I'm improving phrasing, weeding out extraneous words, polishing and beautifying sentence after sentence. It's brutal work, but the end result will be worth it.

See how a writer's mind operates?

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Looking good!

I've seen my cover and back page and am very pleased with both. They are simple yet elegant (kind of like me ... cough, cough!) -- and in my opinion, very effective. The designer at Rain did a nice job.

The cover illustration is the same one you see on my blog. It was drawn by Don Morris, a longtime friend of mine who is an ultra-talented and highly successful artist, both for the St. Petersburg Times and as a freelancer. Thanks Don, so much, for your very generous contribution to my series. You're one of the good people in this world.

Next comes one final look at the proof copy, then The Death Wizard Chronicles are off to the printer.

Fun times!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Standalones vs. series

Recently I've had a couple of people ask me: Which is more difficult to write? Six standalone novels or a six-book series?

To be honest, I've only written one standalone novel in my life (a horror story back in the early 1980s that wasn't published), so I'm not the best person to ask. But it seems to me there are two ways to look at it.

When you write a standalone novel, you have to create its own world and its own peculiar set of characters, so doing so six times would seem more difficult that doing it one time for a series. In other words, once your world and characters are created in a series, then all you have to is riff off them like Carlos Santana (okay, so I like Santana). You're using the same world in Book Six that you used in Book One. This argument would indicate that writing a series is easier than the standalones.

There is, however, at least one way I can think of that a series is more difficult. The need to finish things is inherent in the human species. We don't sweep one corner of the kitchen floor and then stop. We sweep it all, and then mop it, and then dry it, and then put everything back in its place. When you're 250 pages or so into a standalone, the light at the end of the tunnel already is in sight. But when you're 250 pages into a series that will surpass 2,500, well ... you get the picture.

Currently, I'm revising Book 5 of the series. Though I continue to adore my story and characters, there's a part of me that's saying, "Man, just how long is this frickin' tunnel?!"

Anyone care to riff off this one?

Also, please check out my online interview at Thanks again, Allie! It's a great service you're providing for other writers.


The Death Wizard Chronicles is a sexy, action-packed six-book epic fantasy series: Book One (Forged by Death), Book Two (Chained by Fear), Book Three (Eve of War), Book Four (World on Fire), Book Five (Sun God), Book Six (Death-Know).

The DW Chronicles is not for children and teenagers -- or the faint of heart. But if you like graphic fantasy that is bursting with excitement yet still has a lot going on between the lines, I think you'll love my series.

In a groundbreaking paradox, the Death Wizard, a champion of good, derives his power from a source traditionally seen as negative -- death. His nemesis, an evil sorcerer, derives his power from the sun, the benevolent source of all life. Their struggle to control the fate of the planet Triken will take your breath away.

In an original twist never before seen in this genre, the Death Wizard is able to enter the realm of death during a "temporary suicide." Through intense concentration, he stops his heartbeat and feeds on death energy, which provides him with an array of magical powers.

The series also is a love triangle involving two desperate characters attempting to come together despite the machinations of an all-powerful psychopath with incestuous cravings.

Graphic and action-packed, spanning a millennium of turmoil, The DW Chronicles carries readers on a journey they will never forget.

Do you fear death? The Death Wizard does not. Find out why.

-- Please go to for more details.

About Me

My photo
Clemson, SC, United States
I was born in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., but grew up in St. Petersburg, Fla. I graduated from the University of South Florida (Tampa) in 1979 with a B.A. in Journalism. I now live in South Carolina near the Blue Ridge Mountains, a pleasant setting for writing, to say the least. I was an award-winning journalist at the St. Petersburg Times for twenty-five years and I currently work at the Charlotte Observer. I am married with five daughters.

The author

The author
Jim Melvin, a veteran journalist, debuts as novelist.