About Russ Colchamiro


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Behold, the Power of Writing – Tagteam Style

For about the last six months writer buddy Jim Chambers and I have been getting together about once a month to grab a burger and beer and talk about writing. He tells me what he’s up to, I tell him what I’m up to. We kick around ideas, we commiserate on the writing process, we kick each other in the ass when we need it ….

During one of our pow-wow’s a while back I asked Jim to read FINDERS KEEPERS and give me his feedback. Last week was go time.

As I’ve developed as a writer, dialFor about the last six months writer buddy Jim Chambers and I have been getting together about once a month to grab a burger and beer and talk about writing. He tells me what he’s up to, I tell him what I’m up to. We kick around ideas, we commiserate on the writing process, we kick each other in the ass when we need it ….

During one of our pow-wow’s a while back I asked Jim to read FINDERS KEEPERS and give me his feedback. Last week was go time.

As I’ve developed as a writer, dialogue has been my strong suit, while I’ve struggled at times with structure. Well … just so happens that Jim has laser vision when it comes to story structure and plotting, so bingo, bango, bongo …

Jim’s input was so useful–so on point–that with his help I’m getting FINDERS KEEPERS tighter and more rip-roaring than ever! Not a lot of work to be done–a nip here, a tuck there–but in all it’s going to take my book from being [i]thisclose[/i] to being [i]Kick Ass[/i].

I haven’t been this jazzed about FINDERS KEEPERS in ages. In fact, our pow-wow was so charged with creativity that Jim blogged about it himself. (I’ve included his post below).

And this brings me to another point, one that I’d sorta forgotten, and am glad to be reminded …

Asking for feedback about writing is actually a tricky proposition for both parties. As the writer, you have certain expectations about the type and depth of feedback you’re asking for, which potentially sets you up to be disappointed. Did you hear too much, not enough? Was the reviewer being too soft? Too mean? Too vague? Too snarky? Just not helpful at all? Did the reviewer just completely not get your story? Or did your work just blow chunks and the reviewer didn’t have the heart–or vocabulary–to explain how and why?

All of the above happens. A lot. It can actually be quite difficult to get the exact kind of feedback–and in the right way–that really helps.

Then there’s the reviewer’s point of view. As the reviewer, you typically don’t want to hurt the writer’s feelings (unless you’ve got it in for him or her), so it’s natural to veer to the soft side. But then, by not being as honest as you mean to be, you run the risk of disappointing the writer, who really is looking for help. Then again, as the reviewer, you also run the risk of being too harsh with your assessments, even if they’re on point, and then the writer might really hate your guts, even if you’re right. And then some people are actually so blood thirsty they look for ways to rip you and your work to shreds. (I try to avoid those people ….)

Good gravy. The combinations are endless.

So when Jim started to list his points about FINDERS KEEPERS, I could see that he genuinely wanted to help me, that he had something significant to say, but that he was hesitant, perhaps worried that I’d get upset if I heard something I didn’t like or agree with. He almost literally hid behind his beer after each point, as if I was going to break out a can of whoopass either verbally or otherwise. (I can assure you, none came).

Believe me when I say that I’ve had my work ripped to shreds, whether the comments were valid or not. First, Jim was quite generous with his praise, and when he had issues with the plot or structure, he offered them fairly. I agreed with his points almost entirely, and as the night went on, he became more confident with his explanations, realizing (I think) that I genuinely wanted to hear what he had to say, and that, not only was I not offended, I was genuinely grateful to hear it.

As I was reminded by this exchange, asking for feedback may seem simple on the surface, but underneath, it’s anything but. Writers are people too (believe it or not), sometimes with extremely fragile egos. I like to think that I can take it just so long as the feedback is offered in a manner that is respectful and intended to help me, whether I agree with the comments or not.

At one point Jim offered a comment about the end of my book, which he suggested I change. I disagreed. I didn’t get upset, I just explained why I did what I did, and after thinking about it again, Jim liked the way I handled the plot. But he did have another point about the end that he still thought was missing, and after thinking about, I wound up agreeing with [i]him[/i].

This is the writing exchange at it’s best. When two writers can kick around ideas, let them flow, argue, agree, disagree …and ultimately come away the better for it.

As Peter Griffin would say: It was friggin sweet.

——

Jim’s Blog:

Monday, April 27, 2009

Behold, the Power of Writing!

Last week was a rough week. Nothing spectacularly awful, but one of those weeks when not enough goes right, too much goes wrong, and way too much simply doesn’t go at all. Annoying. Frustrating. And, to some extent, demoralizing. A real beat down of a week.

But these things have a way of turning around in the most unexpected ways.

Awhile back my friend Russ asked me to read his novel Finders Keepers. He’s been working on it for a long time, gone through at least a few drafts I know of, and has had some very promising interest from some good-sized publishers. He’s also got a website dedicated to it. When he asked me to read it, he was closing in on finishing the first draft of his second novel and planning to polish FK afterwards. Lately Russ and I have gotten into the habit of hanging out to talk about writing about once a month, and he thought I might give him some feedback before he tackled what he plans to be his final draft.

As long as I’ve known Russ, this was actually the first of his writing I was going to read. I get nervous when people ask for my feedback. I like doing it, but too often over the years I’ve found myself in the uncomfortable position of telling people things they obviously didn’t want to hear. Not that I’m some wunderkind. It’s only ever my opinion as a reader and writer and I take pains to be tactful, but a lot of writers, it turns out, are rather…well, thin skinned.

Shocking. I know.

Thing is, Russ ain’t one of them. As I soon learned, Russ is a genuine journeyman who knows the devil isn’t in the details, it’s in editing and rewriting the details. So when we got together for a beer last week, Finders Keepers came up. After I finished telling him how wonderful, deep, and engaging his characters are, how crisp and lively his dialogue is, and how flat-out cool and original some of his ideas are, I got around to a few…structural items…that had bothered me as a reader. Then, somewhere along the line (Don’t ask me exactly when, because we were drinking; writers are always drinking, it seems. Shocking. I know.)… but at some point, I blurted out that I thought he might want to cut the first, oh, 150 pages or so of his novel and start it much later than he had.

Then I hid behind my pint of Guinness and held my breath. And waited.

That’s when Russ said, "You know, I was sort of thinking that, too." Or words to that affect. (Again, drinking.)

After I decided he wasn’t trying to lure me out from behind my Guiness for a quick ninja blow to my larynx (trade secret: all writers have ninja powers), I cautiously set my glass down. We then spent about an hour and a half hashing through what he’d written, what he’d intended, how it had read to me, how he’d edited it in the past, and what he might do with it for the final draft.

The whole evening left me really energized about writing. We writers work alone too much. Sometimes we really need that little push from someone who reminds us to listen to our instincts. And sometimes we need to be reminded that writing is about going out on a limb even if that only means being honest when someone asks for feedback.

So, two days later Russ sent me a rough draft of his new first chapter. And it rocks.

Then the same day my Domino Lady author copies showed up in the mail and Jason Whitley sent me the last piece of art for my upcoming story collection, Resurrection House. And it creeped the hell out of me. Jason is that good.

And that downtrodden, sickly feeling that’d been nagging me all week simply… went away. Behold, the power of writing!

Post edited by: rcolchamiro, at: 2009/04/29 05:38

Post edited by: rcolchamiro, at: 2009/04/29 05:41

Green Thumb? Well … Greenish.

Last year was the first time I ever tried to keep a garden of any sort. And when I say garden, let me be clear that I have a balcony, so it’s not so much a garden as however many plants I can keep alive.

All in all I think I did pretty well in 2008, managing to keep three flowered pots going for the entire season. Naturally, I wound up killing them all by the time fall came around, I’m focusing on the positives …

So today Liz and I are off to Home Depot to select this year’s crop of Last year was the first time I ever tried to keep a garden of any sort. And when I say garden, let me be clear that I have a balcony, so it’s not so much a garden as however many plants I can keep alive.

All in all I think I did pretty well in 2008, managing to keep three flowered pots going for the entire season. Naturally, I wound up killing them all by the time fall came around, I’m focusing on the positives …

So today Liz and I are off to Home Depot to select this year’s crop of potted plants and flowers, and see if I can do a slightly better job this year. And the way I’m defining "success" is if I a) keep all the plants we bring home alive all season and b) bring at least one living plant indoors before the cooler weather wipes them out.

Granted, these may not be the highest standards imaginable, but I’m pacing myself.

If all goes well we’ll come back with at least three plants today, but who knows? My green thumb hasn’t exactly been certified yet …

Post edited by: rcolchamiro, at: 2009/04/26 11:08

Post edited by: rcolchamiro, at: 2009/05/19 13:45

Simon’s a Ball Stomper!

We’ve only had Simon a few days, so of course we’re still learning as much about him as he is about us. So far I can say that he’s fun, he’s funny, he’s good tempered and seems to really like being with us.

And of yeah, he’s a ball stomper!

$#@!

Simon is on the smaller side–only about 25 pounds–so he’s just the right height that when he jumps up on his hind legs to play, it’s the exact position where his paws line up perfectly with my balls.

Seriously.

In just thWe’ve only had Simon a few days, so of course we’re still learning as much about him as he is about us. So far I can say that he’s fun, he’s funny, he’s good tempered and seems to really like being with us.

And of yeah, he’s a ball stomper!

$#@!

Simon is on the smaller side–only about 25 pounds–so he’s just the right height that when he jumps up on his hind legs to play, it’s the exact position where his paws line up perfectly with my balls.

Seriously.

In just three days he’s nailed my junk at least a half dozen times, either when he gets on his hind legs, or he just jumps on the couch to get some attention. And it’s not that he gets me a half inch to the side of either of my balls. He finds them dead on, like he’s got some infrared ball tracking system and locks in.

Just a little to the left … a little more … a little more …. whamo!

So now I’ve taken to sitting on the couch, and walking around the apartment, with my hand over my crotch so the darn dog doesn’t crush ole lefty.

Thing is … it gets worse.

Sunday afternoon I took Simon out for a walk. We exited the elevator on the first floor, and came upon our next door neighbor, coming in from outside, with one of his dogs, Virginia. Virginia’s a fairly big dog, and pretty aggressive at that. Still, we let the two dogs say hello–they’d met once before–and all in al they did quite well. Virginia sniffed Simon’s place, Simon sniffed hers, and all was well with the world.

Too well.

Apparently deciding that Simon is a good dude, Virginia let her guard down, and in what I’m assuming was a playful mood, jumped up at me for attention. And where did her big paws land? You guessed it. Right smack on my balls!!!! She doubled me right over.

I’m buying a cup!

Why the Universe Strikes at Your Weakest Point

Have you ever had someone in your life who really gave you a hard time, really made things difficult for you, but you just couldn’t get out their grip?

I know I have.

One comes to mind, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

In [i]Zen and the Art of Happiness[/i], author Chris Prentiss write that [i]the Universe always strikes at your weakest point because that’s what most needs strengthening[/i].

He goes on to say that, your challenges are, in effect, hand delivered by a loviHave you ever had someone in your life who really gave you a hard time, really made things difficult for you, but you just couldn’t get out their grip?

I know I have.

One comes to mind, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

In [i]Zen and the Art of Happiness[/i], author Chris Prentiss write that [i]the Universe always strikes at your weakest point because that’s what most needs strengthening[/i].

He goes on to say that, your challenges are, in effect, hand delivered by a loving Universe to make you stronger. In order to get the benefit from the obstacles, face and overcome them rather than turning away from them and giving up.

Ah. Easier said then done.

Almost 15 years ago, when I first started working in Manhattan, I shared a common space with about ten other people, most of them who worked only part time. As part of this office set up, my desk was face-to-face with another desk, occupied by a woman we’ll call Marla.

Marla was 60-ish, with white hair and a gravelly smoker’s voice. She was sort of the queen of the room, having been with the company for several years. She was also an ex-stage actress–and from what I hear a fairly decent one–who had grown old, bitter and nasty as the years went on.

On almost a daily basis she ranted about throwing people out of office building windows, running them over with her car, and the like. And this wasn’t in the [i]I can relate ha-ha-ha[/i] kind of way. This was in the [i]I HATE you and everything around you and hope you seriously die[/i] kind of way.

Well, one day I needed to sharpen my pencil. Thing is, there was only one pencil sharpener in our little space. But since it was an electronic pencil sharpener, it required an outlet. So look and look I did, searching for any open outlet to plug this thing in just so I could sharpen my pencil. Well, after exhausting my search, it turned out that the only open outlet in the entire office happened to be on the power strip under my desk. Thinking nothing of it at the time, I plugged it in, placed the sharpener on my desk, and, as I had hoped to do, sharpened my pencil.

That was clearly my mistake.

Marla went on to rant about how rude and unprofessional I was because how dare I assume to place the pencil sharpener on [i]my [/i]desk, when the pencil sharpener was for everybody.

No joke. True story.

Needless to say, Marla was not exactly a joy to be around. I’ll go one step further, and say that I had a really tough time dealing with her. It wasn’t easy.

A few months later she finally retired, a welcome relief to us all, including me.

But my troubles didn’t end there. At my next job I wound up having to work with yet another older, annoying, miserable woman who took to making my work life unbearable. For about four months everybody said how mean I was because I wasn’t nicer to this old kook (when, in fact, I just wanted to do my job without being harassed by a bitter lunatic). It was only after several months when I finally just ignored this old nutball–I literally acted as if she didn’t exist–when she moved on to other people, who then wound up complaining about how rude and crazy she was.

And then, in my job after that, I had to deal with yet another bitter, old woman who tried to make me miserable, and, for a while at least, she succeeded.

See a pattern here? It took me a while, but I sure did.

It wasn’t until I learned how to deal with these older angry women that they stopped bothering me. Once I figured it out, they went away. I’ve had no such troubles since. I doubt that’s a coincidence.

Like Prentiss says, [i]the Universe always strikes at your weakest point because that’s what most needs strengthening[/i].

I’m not sure why these women bothered me as much as they did, but because they did, the Universe kept putting them in front of me. Of course, at the time, I didn’t see this as an opportunity to grow, as I do now. Back then I was incredibly angry and annoyed. They upset me to a considerable degree. More to the point, I let them upset me, blaming them for being who they were instead of learning how to make the best of it.

Since then I’ve tried to accept that situations and people who trouble me are actually these great opportunities to grow. Now, let me emphasize that I try to accept this. I try. And sometimes it works well. Other times … not so much. It ain’t always easy in the moment. But the more that I allow myself to take these frustrations as the Universe’s way of trying to help me, the better my attitude gets and the quicker I’m able to resolve whatever’s bugging me.

It’s a work in progress for sure, with plenty of ups and downs, although I will say that, overall, handle these problems better than I did in the past. I just wonder what the Universe will throw in front of me next…

RUFF! We Got a New Dog. Meet Simon

It took us a little longer than we thought, but this weekend Liz and I adopted a new dog. He’s a two-year-old Shelte mix, who’s cute as all get-out. He’s friendly, fun, good with people and other dogs. We named him Simon.

And by the way … he’s nuts!

I’m guessing (praying is more like it) that he’ll calm down as he gets used to his new home, but any time Liz or I even stand up from the couch, he pops up, and heaven forbid we walk toward the kitchen (and the front door), he’s trippedIt took us a little longer than we thought, but this weekend Liz and I adopted a new dog. He’s a two-year-old Shelte mix, who’s cute as all get-out. He’s friendly, fun, good with people and other dogs. We named him Simon.

And by the way … he’s nuts!

I’m guessing (praying is more like it) that he’ll calm down as he gets used to his new home, but any time Liz or I even stand up from the couch, he pops up, and heaven forbid we walk toward the kitchen (and the front door), he’s tripped out like he just guzzled ten cans of Red Bull.

Good gravy …

But he’s just got one of those goofy hyper ways about him that makes it impossible to get mad. I just start cracking up.

He’s already met a handful of the dogs in the building, and so far good meetings all around. Simon is good in that he let’s the other dogs do their thing, and doesn’t get all worked up, so it keeps them calm, which is nice.

And in one of the stranger elements of this adoption, when we saw him posted online through a New Jersey pet adoption agency online, his name was–and I’m not joking–Scooby.

Well, I’m not saying it’s the worst name ever, but we quickly decided to go another way. I suggested Simon, and Liz gave the thumbs up. So Simon it is.

I’ll have pics soon, but I’m sure in the days ahead (and weeks and months and years), I’ll have lots of stories to tell. In fact, I’ve already got one in particular, but I’ll save that til next time …

How is the New Yankee Stadium?

It’s early yet, but I haven’t gotten to the New Yankee Stadium.

I’m dying to check it out.

Anybody been there yet?It’s early yet, but I haven’t gotten to the New Yankee Stadium.

I’m dying to check it out.

Anybody been there yet?

My Newsletter: Is Crossline Complete?

Hey Gang,

Spring is in the air and the activity level is kicking back into overdrive:

* Closer and closer we get. Things slowed down for a while as the economy took a big pinch, but now another publisher has emerged for FINDERS KEEPERS. Is a deal coming? We’ll see. But between this new suitor and three or four others who are reading the manuscript, 2009 is looking brighter every day for FINDERS KEEPERS …

* April has been another major milestone for me. After more than a year Hey Gang,

Spring is in the air and the activity level is kicking back into overdrive:

* Closer and closer we get. Things slowed down for a while as the economy took a big pinch, but now another publisher has emerged for FINDERS KEEPERS. Is a deal coming? We’ll see. But between this new suitor and three or four others who are reading the manuscript, 2009 is looking brighter every day for FINDERS KEEPERS …

* April has been another major milestone for me. After more than a year in the works, I finally finished the first draft on my second book–CROSSLINE! I’m now in the editing stages, and once I’m finished shaping, rejiggering and applying all the writerly things that us writers do, I’ll pass the manuscript onto my writer dudes inner circle for feedback. After that I’ll work with their comments and make necessary changes, and then off to my agent it goes.

So indeed, this was a [b]VERY [/b]big month.

* With the summer not too far off, that can mean only one thing. The San Diego Comic-Con 2009 is coming! I booked my flight last week, and the hotel accommodations are all set. I’ll have more updates as we get closer to the convention, but this is going to be a really big year for pitching FINDERS KEEPERS to the Hollywood crowd. Speaking of comic conventions, if you haven’t already, check out pictures from the 2009 NY Comic-Con in the PHOTOS section of my site, and read my blogs from February to check out all the action.

* I may be a little late to the party on this one, but for you Facebookers out there, be sure to join the FINDERS KEEPERS group on Facebook. It’s just another way to get all your FINDERS KEEPERS and CROSSLINE news that’s fit to print.

* And as part of the ongoing coverage of DRAWING WITH CHALK (www.drawkingwithchalk.com), please give a shout out to Todd and Chris, as their movie received nomination in the American Feature category at the Heart of England International Film Festival. Great job guys!

That’s all she wrote for this edition. I’ll be back as June approaches with a new updates on FINDERS KEEPERS and CROSSLINE, and the latest on the 2009 San Diego Comic-Con.

Thanks!

Russ

Russ’s Newsletter: Vol. 3, Issue 4 – DWC – Award-Winning Movie!

Hey Gang,

 

I hope everybody is feeling groovy now that summer is almost upon us. As usual I’ve been busy, busy on the writing front, and have oodles of news to report …

 

* With the San Diego Comic-Con next month, I want to have FINDERS KEEPERS in the best shape possible for pitching to Hollywood. Well … about two months ago good buddy and fellow writer Jim Chambers did me a major solid and read FINDERS KEEPERS, and gave me some much needed feedback that has put this novel over the top!

 

I’m still working on a few nips and tucks, but thanks to Jim FINDERS KEEPERS is hitting its max excitement potential. So to Jim Chambers … you the man! Couldn’t have done it without you! In fact, we both blogged about the exchange, which I encourage you to read on my web site (see April 28 blog), or Jim’s take on his site ( http://jameschambers.blogspot.com/).

 

* Speaking of FINDERS KEEPERS, yet another publisher has asked to read this wacky tale of cosmic lunacy. So you bet your booty they got pages of the newly enhanced version, FINDERS KEEPERS 2.0, if you will. Just goes to show that the longer I keep plugging away the more interest I get …

 

* And speaking of Comic-Con … holy crow it’s next month! Once again I’ll be heading out to San Diego with partners-in-crime Rich Henn (www.timespell.com) and Rich Koslowski (www.richkoslowski.com), and will be armed with copies of the FINDERS KEEPERS video trailer, which, if you haven’t seen yet, can be viewed on the home page of my Web site. Just scroll down to the bottom, press the big red button and crank up the volume …

 

* So … with all this FINDERS KEEPERS activity, what’s up with CROSSLINE? Well … I’m glad you asked. Once FINDERS KEEPERS 2.0 is fully locked and loaded, I’ll be getting back to editing CROSSLINE full time. If all goes as planned, I should have a finished draft to send around to my writer buddy inner sanctum soon enough …

 

* And for this month’s spotlight … I know you’ve been hearing me talk a lot about this gem of a movie called DRAWING WITH CHALK … well … please join me in giving a HUGE shout-out to Todd Giglio and Chris Springer, who just won the BEST AMERICAN FEATURE award at the Heart of England Film Festival. AMAZING! If you want to know more about the movie, go to www.drawingwithchalk.com.

 

Good gravy that was a lot of info! That’s all for this time around. But stay tuned and I’ll be back soon with all the highlights from the San Diego Comic-Con you can handle! Until then … get away from your darn computers and go outside. It’s almost summer fer cryin’ out loud.

 

Thanks!

Russ

www.findersk.com

Subway Stories: Toxic Cloud of Poison Gas

The other day was on Fifth Avenue near the Empire State Building, out to get some lunch. There was a red light at the corner, so I had to wait. No big deal, except for what happened next.

As I stepped into the street, I passed a sewer grating. Well, up from that sewer, down by the subway, which I could hear rumbling underneath, a toxic cloud of gas emerged. Hot, skanky gas that was so awful, so horrendously vile that I almost vomited right there on the street.

Every once in a while yThe other day was on Fifth Avenue near the Empire State Building, out to get some lunch. There was a red light at the corner, so I had to wait. No big deal, except for what happened next.

As I stepped into the street, I passed a sewer grating. Well, up from that sewer, down by the subway, which I could hear rumbling underneath, a toxic cloud of gas emerged. Hot, skanky gas that was so awful, so horrendously vile that I almost vomited right there on the street.

Every once in a while you get a blast like that from underground, the fumes from decaying rats and boiling sewage, and the impact is so disturbing it haunts me to this day. If there’s a word that describes the desire to rip your own stomach out through your throat rather than gag up that regurgitate poison gas, then that’s the word I would I use to describe just how truly toxic that experience was.

I shudder just thinking about it ..

A Weekend with My Girl

The weekends so often seem to just come and go, but this one was really quite nice. I spent it with my girl.

Because last Friday was Good Friday, I got out of work early. The weather was lousy–and stayed lousy–through late afternoon Saturday. Liz and I didn’t do all that much, but we hunkered down and caught up on crazy amounts of TV we had piling up on the DVR. The Office, House, CSI and 24 were among the highlights. And though we stopped watching regularly years ago, we took in the ER The weekends so often seem to just come and go, but this one was really quite nice. I spent it with my girl.

Because last Friday was Good Friday, I got out of work early. The weather was lousy–and stayed lousy–through late afternoon Saturday. Liz and I didn’t do all that much, but we hunkered down and caught up on crazy amounts of TV we had piling up on the DVR. The Office, House, CSI and 24 were among the highlights. And though we stopped watching regularly years ago, we took in the ER series finale and retrospective, which were just sort of okay, but at least we put that puppy to bed once and for all.

On DVD we’ve also been watching Brotherhood–a Sopranos-type show on Showtime–which is totally addictive, plus we’ve been running through Sports Night, one of our all-time favorites.

We went out for burgers. We caught a movie–Adventureland–which was pretty good. We took a nap. We caught a few innings of the Yankee game. We made plans for the coming month. We looked online for a new dog.

Nothing spectacular until itself, but you add it all together and we had ourselves a really nice weekend. Just me and my girl.

I’ll take a weekend like that every time.

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