Author Archives: Joshua McCune

About Joshua McCune

Author of the Talker 25 trilogy (Greenwillow). Dragons, war, romance (though not with dragons - I don't do bestiality). First one drops in early 2014.

What Happened to Texas Tommy?

Beautiful, complex, and honest, Lindsey Lane’s EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN interweaves storylines full of intrigue, emotion, and murder with fundamental matters of the not seen (faith and science blended subtly and masterfully).

Releasing Today!

Releasing Today!

I’m here to talk about some of that science.

Pop quiz!

What's In The Box

Remember that scene in Se7en when Brad Pitt had Kevin Spacey at gunpoint? If you haven’t seen the movie, there’s a spoiler below. If you have seen the movie, you think you probably know the answer.


If you’re like Tommy Smythe, the centerpiece in Lindesy Lane’s marvelous debut, EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN, you know the answer is…. Continue reading


Filed under Celebrations, Launch

Flumbling Toward the Wild Air


verb \ fləm-bəl\

: To fly and stumble or stumble and fly. In no particular order

This EMU is sprouting his dragon wings and flumbling off to the evacuated territories. I go slowly, glow low, with many a look back. On my back are the cookie monster and big lady doubt, constant companions in my struggle to stay afloat. Behind me is a trail of smoke that shall fade to invisible but will forever be connected to those who have helped me fly.

In TALKER 25, I didn’t have an acknowledgments section, that place where you get to thank agents, editors, other authors, the men and women of the armed forces, and those people out there who taught you about the wild air and how to drink it…

Ultimately, it’s a chance to thank the community of people that have in some form or fashion helped you be part of a community.

Until EMU’s Debuts, I never really had a community. I have been a lone dragon my entire life, sometimes an outcast (hello, junior high & high school), sometimes a hermit (hello, everything after). Smaug laying low in my gloom cave with my invisible mates, Mr. Cookie and BLD.  I had never been to a writer’s conference, never interacted with critique groups, and other than some online interactions across the ether, had walled myself in. Built the stone thick and high to show my strength and hide my weakness.

But writers, they have a way of seeing through walls, of knowing what lies on the other side, because, well, they bleed in many of the same ways. More importantly, they know how to stem the bleeding, whether it be through empathy, insight, or just through sheer force of parallel perseverance.

And that’s what the writers here at ED have done. Viagra for the soul. Your heartstrings have helped tug my heartstrings onward, even when I’ve felt like slipping behind and putting my head in the ground. But we aren’t damn ostriches. We’re EMUs!

So I flumble onward, knowing that I’ve got you at my backs. Always there, squawking at our special frequency.

Thank you.

Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can't Lose. Thank You

Flumbling toward that wild air. Thank you!

How about a graph? (Note: when no convenient segue will fit, why not go for the non-sequitur?) My left brain insists that I include some statistical metrics in here to catalog my wobbly flight path from chick to dragon:

Revision Metrics

What does it all mean?!

So I did a basic search for certain helper words and adverbs and graphed them against word count to see how much they changed with edits. The variation was comparable to word count variation. What does this tell you? Don’t sweat the small stuff? That those rules about ‘justs’ and adverbs might be overblown? Not sure.

One thing that went against the trend was my use of curse words. Not sure what that means, either, but fuck, yeah!

(Note: when I first joined the EMU’s, that was one of my questions. Can I curse? I was told that I couldn’t go beyond pg-13. Well I finally shot my wad ;))

Lastly, I want to thank you, reader, because without you, well, this whole insane journey of seemingly quixotic flumbling would be ten powers of crazier. I know that many of you are writers, too, flumbling up, down, and around the mountain along heartstring pulleys, and I wanted to offer a bulleted writing guide I condensed from Robert McKee’s STORY as a token of my appreciation.


  • Seek truth
    • Below the surface, inside the character
    • Not directly observed (Joshua’s note: the visual truth vs. the emotional truth)
  • Turn every scene
    • Down -> up
    • Up -> down
    • Down -> farther down
  • Make climax absolute/irreversible
  • Know your world
    • Not knowing your world/characters invites cliché
  • Put characters under pressure (conflict)
    • This will let you SHOW their true nature (visual truth vs. emotional truth)
  • Never explain -> Dramatize (show don’t tell)
  • Draw idea from action, not reverse
    • Don’t write the action to conform to the idea, let the action organically generate truth.
  • Make your protagonist willful
    • They should have a conscious desire
      • Maybe give them a self-contradictory subconscious desire.
    • Make your protagonist empathetic (not necessarily sympathetic) – (Joshua’s note: G.R.R. Martin’s characters)
    • Make the world act differently than expected – realism/avoids cliché.
    • Act the role (reading dialog can do this, to some extent, but actually act out elements for authenticity)
    • Introduce coincidence early, then dramatize so it’s no longer a plot point, but a critical element.
    • Find visual expression for inner conflict (not dialog. Joshua’s note: limit introspection)


  • Lack progression
    • Causes bland/boring text
  • Employ false motivation
    • Causes bland/boring text (Joshua’s note: pisses off reader)
  • Have redundant characters
  • Use empty subtext
    • The more dialogue you write, the less effect it has.
  • Have holes
    • Plot or character
  • Write how somebody should act
    • Leads to cliché.
    • (Do): get inside, draw on your own emotion/experience.
  • Overstuff ideas
    • Leads to overcomplexity, holes, confusion, skepticism.
  • Proliferate characters
    • Minimizes effect/authenticity/importance
  • Multiply locations
    • The larger the world, the more diluted the writer’s knowledge, the more prone to cliché
  • Use coincidence beyond the mid-point of the story.
  • Overly specify motivations
    • Diminishes authenticity (we often don’t know our exact motivations, and we often don’t consider them in the moment)


  • To live life meaningfully is to be at perpetual risk.
  • Bit parts should be flat, but not dull.
    • Too interesting leads to false anticipation.
  • Melodrama is not a result of overexpression, but under-motivation.
  • Multiplication of acts invites cliché, reduces the impact of climaxes, and results in redundancy.
  • Repetition of experience reduces emotional impact
  • The choice between good/evil, right/wrong is no choice at all.
  • Dimension means contradiction.
    • Humans are by nature contradictory (Joshua’s note: emotions and/or conscious vs. subconscious desire).
      • Contradiction should be consistent (Joshua’s note: GRRM characters).
    • Choices made when nothing is at risk mean little.
    • 3-act design is the MINIMUM.
    • Meaning produces emotion.
    • Characterization = the sum of the observable (the person outside the mask).
    • Character = the person behind the mask.


  • Why is this scene in the story?
    • Show character & advance plot &…
  • Do the protag’s stakes change?
    • Down -> up
    • Up -> down
    • Down -> farther down
  • What is the risk?
    • The higher the value, the higher the risk (Joshua’s note: no death battles over the last chocolate chip cookie, unless that cookie saves the world).

Take risks. Live life meaningfully. Or, as Emerson put it, infinitely better: Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air’s salubrity.


JM AP Close_Straight

Joshua McCune is the author of the Talker 25 trilogy (Greenwillow). Dragons, war, romance (though not with  dragons – I don’t do bestiality). The first book is now available. For more info, visit or


Filed under Advice, Farewell, Writing

The Quandary of Subtext

To tell or not to tell, that is the question. Tell? What is that? We are writers, we only show… so says rule 1 of intro to writing. Bollocks! (here, I am showing that I disagree with this rule; the use of a British term is employed to make me seem cleverer than I actually am).

There’s this thing called introspection. It’s employed a lot in first person narratives. A lot in YA. It lets you get closer to the character, gives you insight into the character. Ideally, very good things. It’s telling dressed up in the fancy clothes of voice.

I like introspection. You can make things very clear for the reader with introspection. We want things to be clear for the reader. We do not want them to be confused.

We also do not want them to be bored… already, these few sentences are drying my eyes and tempting me to pull up some internet uselessness to distract myself.

So you cut introspection. You rely on action, dialogue, maybe a tad bit of internal pondering. This amplifies pace. YAY! Always be pacing!

But now you’ve got confusion. I don’t understand this character’s reactions, motivations. BOO!

For TALKER 25, some of the reviews have thought that my MC’s reactions are overly dramatic. Early on, she has an argument with her father (getting fairly volatile on her part) and humiliates her brother in public (and immediately breaks down afterward)… yes, very dramatic. But over dramatic?

*MINOR SPOILER ALERT* In context, MC has just discovered that she can talk to dragons and is under investigation by the dragon version of the FBI for being associated with an insurgency group that decapitates soldiers. She’s also thinking more about her dead mother, who loved dragons despite being killed by one. MC is on edge.

As a writer, I could tell you she’s on edge. I could introspect the hell out of her emotions (and I did to some extent in earlier versions), but that would slow pacing… and here’s the bigger thing, the trickier thing that I sometimes fail to realize (but my editor never does, thank her critical eye):

We, as humans, are not as self-aware as we’d like to think we are. Our emotions ebb and flow with the world around us. Normally that world is calm, but when it’s agitated, we become agitated. We can’t pinpoint the reason(s) why… if we can meditate on it, we may introspect and pinpoint it, but usually we’re bustling around, not thinking about why we’re feeling agitated. We got shit to do, so we just react. We agitate. Usually we agitate and settle back to the norm, but in stories, writers like to amplify, hit resonance, and throw their characters toward hell, if not all the way into it.

But take out too many threads of introspection and your readers might be confused. They might not empathize/sympathize with your MC. And that’s hella bad. Figuring out the balance of information, pace, and truth is a lifelong quest. On that quest, you’ve gotta come to grips with the truth that what you write will be read differently by everybody (I’m currently grappling with this snarly dragon).

Personally, I think my MC is a very real character exposed to extraordinary circumstances, a damaged character who wants to do the right thing but doesn’t always know what that is… but that’s me telling…

Whether I showed it, whether my characters are overdramatic or dull, whether my backstory’s too little or just right, that’s up to the reader. That’s the quandary of subtext.


JM AP Close_Straight

Joshua McCune is the author of the Talker 25 trilogy (Greenwillow). Dragons, war, romance (though not with  dragons – I don’t do bestiality). Now available. For more info, visit or


Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise

Name that Dragon Contest Winners!

There were so many great names! Unfortunately, I could only pick one… well… two… arghhh!!! so many great names! I ended up choosing four (and I wanted to choose all of them! So awesome! Thank you all for participating!) Here are the four winners of signed T25 hardcovers:

Leandra J Wallace (Scorchana Lava of Brimstone Mountain)
Mike Jung (La Serpiente Satánica, who lives in ancient squalor beneath the ruins of Tikál in northern Guatemala)
gmstne3 (Char the Aggressor)
Horsenkat Kat (Choronzon the Raving Red)

I will be in touch soon… Thank you everybody for participating!


Filed under Uncategorized

Strange Sweet Song: The Opera!

Happy birthday to you… happy birthday to you…  happy birthday STRANGE SWEET SONG – screw this, we’re shoving aside cakes and candles to venture into a dark forest, where something stranger, something sweeter, something furrier lurks. And we’re singing something different. An opera. With costumes and interpretive dance and one cute killer kitty! Behold!

The Strange Sweet Song party will continue all week. Check back every day! Don’t miss a moment of the fun!

Comment on any post this week to be entered in the giveaway!


Filed under Launch

Making a Book Trailer

A couple months back, I made my first book trailer. This was a lot of fun, in part because it tapped the artistic side of my brain that wasn’t dealing with editing. For some, creating a book trailer can be intimidating. Some are worried about the expense, others are worried about the tech side of things.  As TALKER 25 nears its glowing birth into the world, I thought I’d show you how I created mine and provide tips to hopefully make it easier to create yours.

STEP 1: Script

You gotta plot your trailer before anything else. It’s a query in A/V form. You want to give a sense of your book without giving too much away. You don’t want to make your trailer too long because unless you’ve got some great connections, your trailer’s gonna rely on visuals and sounds that just don’t compare to movie trailers.

What you have that movie trailers don’t (or at least don’t usually have well) are your words. Your words are your weapons. Employ them. Sparingly though. Like in a query, you can’t explore everything. KISS it. Keep It Short & Stimulating.

My script:

15 years ago dragons came to our world. Reds. Greens. And the wingless Blues.

They attacked without warning… Entire cities were wiped off the map.

Millions were buried beneath the rubble… or incinerated.

The end of humanity seemed imminent.

But then humans discovered the dragons’ weakness and it was the dragons’ turn to die.

The war between monster and man finally seems over. Most of the dragons have been killed or imprisoned on reservations and there hasn’t been a major attack in North America in three years [Note: this particular line is almost word for word the one I used in my query]

But the real war is just about to begin.

And at the center of it… is a girl they call…


Choose a Side. April 22, 2014

STEP 2: Make it more exciting

The words above are not words I’d write in a book. They may or may not be interesting alone. Thankfully, we’re not just limited to words. We can frame them with pictures, sounds, etc. We can add pauses and beats for effect. Yay!

But, oh shit, now we’ve actually gotta figure out how to make that razzle-dazzle of media make sense with our words. Do we want lots of pictures? Do we want just a few, where we fade in or out on them to create mood/texture? Are we illustrators who have the time to create our own imagery? What about sounds? Do we want ambient noises? Music?…

This is where most of the work usually comes. It’s storyboarding on a micro-level with additional aspects.

If you want pictures, there are plenty of websites to get them. I got mine from Shutterstock. But that costs money (since I needed pics for my T25 tie-in website, I decided to shell out the coin). If you don’t want to spend money and you’re not a digital artist or brilliant photographer, I’d recommend 

When using media, make sure that you don't infringe on copyright, and attribute it if necessary.

When using media, make sure that you don’t infringe on copyright, and attribute it if necessary.

If you want to spruce up your trailer with sound, Creative Commons is a great place to start as well. I also found a ton of great clips at The caveat here is that there are different licenses for these sounds, some which require attribution, and some which are noncommercial (which you should not use).

For my trailer, I wanted to add in some music tracks… sci-fi type/war-type stuff to help further generate the mood I wanted (mystery with a dark edge). An excellent website I found for this is, where you can pay for individual clips (most run from $1 – $5).

Odds are, until you actually start creating your trailer, you’re not gonna know exactly which sounds/pics/media are gonna fit best. You’re drafting here, so give yourself some wiggle room.


Now we’ve got to put it all together. If you’ve got a tech background, this can be kind of fun. If not, this can be quite paralyzing. There’s plenty of free editing software out there. The easier ones to use (e.g., Windows Movie Maker, iMovie) are somewhat limited, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing (particularly if you’re not too fond of computers). Others are pretty powerful, but require lots of pre-learning, which in my mind isn’t worth it.

I wanted something that was somewhat easy to use, but also pretty powerful. And since I like to do video-editing on the side for myself, I purchased and downloaded CyberLink PowerDirector12.

Given my kitchen sink tendencies, I wanted to get a little fancy with my sounds (layering, fading, etc.) so I downloaded Audacity, an impressive and fairly easy to use audio mixing program. Best of all, it’s free. I also did some image manipulation using GIMP, kind of like Photoshop, but free.

STEP 4: Putting it together.

Once you’ve figured out your software, figured out which pics, sounds, etc, you’re gonna use, you’ve got to put your puzzle together. Getting all the pieces to line up usually isn’t too hard, but making them fit just so can be tricky. You’ve got to play around with timing, leading-in and leading-out, transitions, etc. A different form of revision.

To me, this looks like fun! It's not everybody's cup o' Joe though.

To me, this looks like fun! It’s not everybody’s cup o’ Joe though.

NOTE: If the software side of things is beyond the pale for you, you can always skip steps 2 – 4 and outsource your trailer to professionals, like those at WaveCloud.

A trio of book trailers:

  • Adi purchased one image, but otherwise made her amazing trailer entirely for free.
  • The second trailer was one made via WaveCloud (and cost at least $299 to make according to current pricing).
  • Not including the cost of a month’s subscription to Shutterstock, the overall cost of making my trailer (software+sounds) was roughly $100. I’m going to make a trailer for my Kissing Dragons website, too, at some point, but that won’t cost me anything since I’ve already got the pics, software, and sounds I need.

Ultimately, before making a book trailer, you should ask yourself: Is it worth it? If you don’t have a big platform (e.g., high-profile author, lots of twitter followers, etc.), the answer could very well be no. A few people might see your trailer on your website, YouTube, Goodreads, etc., but will that translate to sales? Is the time expenditure and potential cost worth an extra book or two sold?

For me, the answer was yes. I enjoy the visual medium. It was a nice break from the written one. Also, along with my tie-in website, my trailer allowed me to provide some backstory that was either not included in my book or was nixed from it. This makes a kitchen-sinker like me very happy.


JM AP Close_Straight

Joshua McCune is the author of the Talker 25 trilogy (Greenwillow). Dragons, war, romance (though not with  dragons – I don’t do bestiality). First one drops April 22, 2014. For more info, visit or


Filed under Uncategorized

Cover Reveal: TALKER 25


About a year ago, I went to New York and met my editor. She surprised me by showing me my cover… I didn’t even realize we were that far along in the process. Talk about a smile on my face. And not just because I had a cover – which made the whole author thing feel spine-tingling real for me – but a cover I thought kind of kicked some major ass.

Before I saw the cover, I spoke with Paul Zakris, Greenwillow’s amazing art director, who told me they went through like 30 or so variations of the cover that they shared with marketing. He explained to me that some had characters on it, some had dragons, etc, but for one reason or another, they decided against those options (e.g., a girl on the cover might dissuade boy buyers, a dragon might dissuade girls).  The coolest bit of kismet for me was when he told me that he rendered the girl on the cover in a Sarah Connor-esque light. Just earlier that day I’d been thinking about how my character’s arc was very Sarah Connor-esque… from innocent bystander to BAMF.

Anyhoo, I was a little sad about no Sarah Connor and no dragons, until I actually saw the mock-up. Holy hell! But I had to keep a lid on it. Wasn’t finalized yet… might change down the road. Tagline, coloration, etc.

But it didn’t… well, maybe a little bit. Kind of seems like the wings are on fire a bit more and the color contrast pops almost perfectly, but that could just be because I’m in love with this cover. And, yeah, I’d say don’t judge a book by it’s cover, but screw that!

Without further ado….

Holy Hell!

Holy Hell!

Add it to Goodreads:

TALKER 25 (TALKER 25, #1)


JM AP Close_Straight

Joshua McCune is the author of the Talker 25 trilogy (Greenwillow). Dragons, war, romance (though not with  dragons – I don’t do bestiality). First one drops April 22, 2014. For more info, visit

 TALKER 25 (TALKER 25, #1)


Filed under cover art

What I’ve learned, relearned, and inferred from my editor.

Got a deadline in a week, then off to copyedits. Now that I’ve made my first pass through the wringer, I wanted to share four major things I’ve gathered along the way. Things y’all probably already know, but if you’re like me, never hurts to be reminded. In mathematical terms:

  • Action > Dialogue > Introspection

Have confidence in your subtext and confidence in your reader. Most people don’t speak directly. They say one thing while thinking another. If you can show/imply their internalization without saying it, with less dialogue, that’s the best course of action. Trust your reader to infer.

A very straightforward example:

He lifts the pilot’s head by the scruff and turns him so I can see the carnage. “Well done, Twenty-five. You have helped us deal with a dangerous security threat.”    

Bile rises in my throat. I swallow it back, breathe through my nose, force a smile. “Glad to be of service.”

  • Less > More

Have confidence in your readers. Have confidence in yourself. Kill introspection. Trust that you’re showing what you want to show. Let the reader infer your meaning. Readers might disagree on the meaning here and there, and that’s okay. That’s life. Open yourself to interpretation. This will also amp up your pace. (ABC: Always Be Pacing)

  • 1 > 2 > 3…

Kind of like less being more, eliminate repetition. SELF EDITING FOR FICTION WRITERS (Browne and King) has an excellent section on this. Repetition weakens effect. On a paragraph level, this is more obvious. For me, repetition occurred more at a scene level. The scenes were different, but the take home was similar. Not only does this weaken the effect, it    weakens the tempo (ABT as well).

  • More Dragons > Fewer Dragons

Not really my editor’s feedback. Just my personal belief =D




JM AP Close_StraightJoshua McCune is the author of the Talker 25 trilogy (Greenwillow). Dragons, war, romance (though not with dragons – I don’t do bestiality). First one drops in early 2014


Filed under Advice, Editing and Revising, Editor

The Mess in My Attic

Careful, Kemosabe

I’m nearing the end of edits (knock on every piece of wood available) and my mind’s completely frazzled. I’ve never felt this level of mental exhaustion or frustration. I’m at that point where I’m questioning every word, including those in this blog. Is the tempo correct? What about the subtext? What the hell do I want my subtext to be? Is that what it is?

I’m not sure how to process this frazzlement, though making up words helps. Taking a break sure seems like a good idea, but the brain doesn’t shut off. Watching a movie, reading a book, none of that seems to work.

That scene… THAT SCENE… THAT DAMN SCENE. Should I delete it? I should delete it. But wait, if I delete it, I’ll lose that critical elemental thread to the sequel. But is it really critical? Will anybody even remember the element once the sequel rolls around? Besides, is the subtext of that element even achieving what I think it’s achieving? But if I delete it, I’ll have to rearrange a bunch of scenes. Is that even possible?

Delete it, rewrite it, delete, rewrite, move it to a different spot, delete it, return it, swap it with another scene…. The house of cards inside my mushy noggin teeters with every keyboard stroke.

I’ve truncated and relayed the current clustermuck that is my current process not to evoke sympathy (though if you’ve got some cookies you want to send my way, I will be very thankful), nor to leap into some self-help list for how to deal with what Nathan Bransford calls the Am-I-Crazies, but for transparency, for truth in advertising, for commonality. I remember many times when I was in the trenches thinking that authors, those mystical people with book contracts, had everything figured out.


My inner architect is beckoning. I’ve got a house of cards to rearrange. Now go look at my smiling author photo and know that my book is perfect.    


JM AP Close_StraightJoshua McCune is the author of the Talker 25 trilogy (Greenwillow). Dragons, war, romance (though not with dragons – I don’t do bestiality). First one drops in early 2014


Filed under Editing and Revising

Be a Good Storyshow-er

I’ve spent the last few days in the hinterlands of Montana with several of my fellow EMUs at an agency retreat. I look forward to this all year long. It affords me the chance to connect in real life, to discuss successes, frustrations, doubts. To take off the professional mask and profess my insecurities without fear of condemnation. We are sympatico.

Every writer is somewhere on Christine’s long and winding road. A damn torturous thing at times. The wonderful thing though, the thing I sometimes forget, the thing this retreat always reminds me,  is that no matter how far we think we are from our horizon, how deep we believe the pothole to be in which we wallow, there’s always somebody ahead of us, somebody who’s been there, somebody to show us the way.

I’m in the midst of some edits that are kicking my ass…. Surely there must be something from this experience that I can share, something to help others avoid the pothole from which I’m currently extricating myself.

I was perusing old posts on my personal (now defunct) blog in search of a spark and found something painfully perfect:

I’ve realized that I’m a good teller. I can summarize a scene incorporating tension/drama pretty well… this is very bad, because good telling rarely beats good showing (yes, I said rarely b/c there are times I wholeheartedly believe good telling is needed to segue between more important showing).

 Good showing tends to be a bit harder for me not b/c I’m not a good show-er, but b/c I tend to be ADD in most things I do, including writing, and I’m always driving hard to get to the scene/chapter/section end in the fewest words possible (my agent might laugh at this since when she asked for a revision, hoping I could get down from 76k to 70k, I ended up sending her the MS at 87k… in the end, we ended up making it a bit longer before going on sub). But the final result is that sometimes I end up wasting time spending extra time rewriting b/c I realize that amping drama through proper, sometimes extended, showing is more critical than creating a fine economy of words.

This post was written a couple of weeks before TALKER 25 sold. I’m on my third round of edits. First round was ironing out world-building/plot issues. Second round was cutting away some needlessness. Third round? Yep, you guessed it. Converting those more tellish scenes to show scenes. They pretty much occur in the second half of the book. Why? Primarily because I was worried about word count.

Show the story first. Worry about everything else afterward. Most of you probably know this, but if you’re like me and sometimes become a little too obsessed with metrics, this a friendly reminder. Save yourself some time. Hide the word count.


JM AP Close_StraightJoshua McCune is the author of the Talker 25 trilogy (Greenwillow). Dragons, war, romance (though not with dragons – I don’t do bestiality). First one drops in early 2014.


Filed under Editing and Revising