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Posts Tagged ‘horror’

29
Nov

Making a Difference in 10 (Easy?) Steps

   Posted by: admin    in Musings

Many may find the life of an indie author very tedious. Trying to break into the business is a long process of dedication and hard work. You have to absolutely love storytelling. Remember your senior year English term paper? It’s like that, but on steroids. It goes like this:

  1. Draft your novel. This can take anywhere from a few days to a few months to a few years.
  2. Sit on it for a while and start another novel, novella, or short story. This gets you away from the first story so you can return to it with a fresh set of eyes.
  3. Return to it. Read it. Revise it. It’s not reading for pleasure or to pat yourself on the back. It’s a slow, laborious task of finding flaws in grammar, spelling, and the fact that maybe one of your characters put a rifle in the trunk of his car on page 57 but it’s never mentioned again. So, you fix those problems to help the story ring true.
  4. Revise it again because you know that there’s always something to improve upon.
  5. Again! There’s a scene or two that still doesn’t ring true, and you know it. But it’s getting harder to find the mistakes because you’re now so familiar with the words that you’re not sure you’re even reading them anymore.
  6. Send it to a few trusted friends for their feedback. These have to be people that love you enough to tell you when you’re wrong. Even then, they are your friends, so you have to take what they say with a grain of salt.
  7. Consider what you were told to fix, understanding that some of the feedback may go against your vision but is also coming from a subset of your market, so maybe there’s more validity in the criticism than you’d like. Revise again.
  8. Send the manuscript to an editor to find all the mistakes you and your loved ones didn’t notice. There will be some, I promise.
  9. Search for a publisher. Or you may self-publish like many new authors these days. Whatever avenue you’re comfortable with that gets your words to prospective fans.
  10. Wait, wait, wait for sales so that you can finally quit your day job and only write, write, write.

I’m being a little over-disparaging here on purpose. I’m not complaining or looking for sympathy. Nor am I trying to speak for other authors. But I do want to illustrate what goes into writing a novel so that I can talk about a specific author and the sacrifices he’s made in the midst of all that hard work.

If you purchase an R.S. Guthrie book, he’ll donate at least 50% to the tuition of a young man with autism and Down Syndrome. Special needs schools like The Joshua School are expensive, and Rob Guthrie has found a way to help his friends and their son. If you purchase from his website, he’ll also send you a signed copy of the book and the donation percentage increases! This is a man who loves storytelling. If he could, I believe that Rob would sit all day in his Colorado home and type, type, type, until he had a bookshelf full of stories to offer.

He loves writing and the process. He has a blog about it. He’d make a living at it if he could. But he has willingly put a clamp on his ability to earn money from his work. He does this because helping others is more important to him.

He also started Read a Book, Make a Difference to encourage fellow authors to give back. Each author chooses a charity, whatever pulls at his or her heartstrings, and gives a portion of sales to those who need it. As of this writing, I count 38 authors that are part of RABMAD. That’s 37 additional donations around the world that are larger than they might have been because R.S. Guthrie decided that giving back is important, and inspiring others to give back is almost as important as giving back yourself.

RABMAD isn’t an organization with accountants and receptionists and web designers. It’s one man taking the time to pull it all together. You want to be on the list of authors—he does it. You want a new profile pic—he does it. You need to update the links—he does it. He’s writing new novels. He’s keeping up with his blog. He’s tweeting. And he’s finding time to help others.

Being an inspiration while doing what you love—I can’t think of anything better. Rob Guthrie is an amazing man.

I believe that there will come a day when you’ll hear the name R.S. Guthrie again. Good things happen to good people, and when those people are also dedicated to hard work, they succeed at what they do. So, don’t be surprised if you’re be on the phone with a family member and at that inevitable lull in the conversation when you ask, “So, whatcha reading?” the excited answer comes back that the new Clan MacAulay novel came out last week and it’s the best one yet.

I won’t repeat all his information here, but I urge you to visit the R.S. Guthrie website. I think you’ll be glad you did. I was.

You can find R.S. Guthrie’s website, with links to his first novel and two shorter works, here.
His blog, Rob on Writing, can be found here.
Click here for information about The Joshua School, where Rob is helping pay tuition for Ben F.

After you purchase an R.S. Guthrie book, please consider helping other authors participating in RABMAD here.

And when you’re done reading those, check out my RABMAD books, Good Deeds and The Evolution of Mortality.

 

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18
Oct

A Kid Goes (Chris) Baty

   Posted by: admin    in Musings

I wrote my first book when I was 10 years old.  Sure, it was only five hand-written pages long, but I added a few illustrations, bound it in poster board, and spent a few hours with my colored pencil set to create the cover art.  As far as I’m concerned, that’s officially a book.  I had writer’s block for a couple years, but in the summer between 7th and 8th grade, I wrote another story.  This one was fifty or so hand-written pages.  I bound it, illustrated it, and also considered it a book—the first in a series, with the second written near the end of the school year.  More writer’s block (or maybe it was that I started to notice girls) but I finally wrote a third book my junior year of high school.

Those stories were all mysteries.  I love reading mysteries but I found that I don’t love writing them, and so I now write horror and dark fantasy.  I wrote about that transition in a previous post.  What I need to talk about here is my process for writing those early books.

Each youthful day I spent writing one of those books, I set a goal for myself of one page per day.  Many days saw two or three pages, but no matter what else was happening, I absolutely refused to stop before at least one page was turned over onto the stack.  I was sometimes a few minutes late to the dinner table, and I missed the beginning of The Dukes of Hazard and The Incredible Hulk once or twice.  These were the sacrifices I had to make if I was to finish my books.

Adolescent and adult life happened.  Girlfriends.  The track team.  College.  Perhaps, a party or three.  Career.  Volunteer work.  More college.  A new career.  And on and on.  I let the writing goals slide.  Then I purchased a book, and those goals were brought back to me by Chris Baty and National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).  There’s a lot behind Chris Baty’s plan for pounding out a novel in November, but at the center is a simple truth: if you don’t set goals and a deadline, then it won’t get done.  Writing a novel is no different than weeding the garden or painting the upstairs bedrooms—you need to set aside the time to finish the task.  Nothing against a periodic sit-down in front of the television, but if you’re watching celebrities learn to ballroom dance, you’re not spending that time behind the keyboard, with the trowel, or on a ladder.  (For me, it was attractive police officers catching murderers with questionable science that took up my time.)

What I’d known instinctively in my youth, I’d forgotten as the years passed.  So, with Chris Baty’s blessing, I set aside some time each day and I wrote a novel.  It took me more than that single month, I must admit, but I did finish Good Deeds.  Putting the last word on the page gave me the same excitement I’d found finishing those little mysteries.  I was giddy!  (Of course, I had champagne to give my giddiness a boost this time, but that’s almost as good as Pop Rocks and Mr. Pibb.)

NaNoWriMo has grown over the years and gained quite a following.  It has spawned a script writing sister program and the Young Authors Program to help kids get excited about reading and writing.  Chris Baty has decided that NaNoWriMo can sustain itself now, and he’s stepped down to pursue his own writing career.  It’s sad to see him go (and I’m sure I’m not the first blogger to say so—Google him and you’ll probably find numerous praises).  He’s helped hundreds of thousands realize a life-long dream.  But after spending over a decade inspiring others, he deserves a break and the chance to pursue his own dreams.

The support of my friends and family helps more than they know.  I’m forever in their debt.  But if it wasn’t for Chris Baty reminding me of a simple truth, my first novel might still be a jumble of images only available inside my head.  If you’ve always wanted to write a novel—or need a jumpstart on your next novel—and you want all the details of how to make November incredibly hectic for you and your family, I encourage you to check out NaNoWriMo.  I don’t want to speak for Chris Baty and the NaNoWriMo staff, but I have no doubt that they will welcome you with open arms.

Maybe, like me, you’ll feel like a kid again.

You can find more information about NaNoWriMo at their website.
Seriously, Google Chris Baty. People really love that guy! Here, I’ll help you…

With November looming, I’m about to start working on another NaNoWriMo novel, Hell Bent, but in the meantime, you can check out my first one, Good Deeds.

 

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2
Aug

Mickey Spillane Did It Better

   Posted by: admin    in Musings

I’m asked the same question over and over: Why horror?

I’ve been creating stories for as long as I can remember.  I wrote my first story in the 4th grade for a sort of yearbook of creative writing.  My own story!  Using my own idea!  And in print!  I was thrilled!  A huge fan of Scooby-Doo at 9 years old, I knew right away that I’d be crafting the very best man-in-a-monster-suit mystery ever written.

The crime was solved after two pages of action, humor, and suspense, and my love of storytelling was born.  My next story took five pages to unmask the killer at the local Seven Eleven.  I’d set the scene, dropped the clues, and even thrown in a little bit of character development.  I bound it in a cardboard cover and drew a few illustrations.  I was a published author once more!  Mysteries were my ticket.

Middle school saw two more puzzlers, with a trio of pals for my detectives.  These were significantly longer at 50 pages or so.  Then high school brought a hard-boiled murder mystery influenced by the works of Mickey Spillane (my favorite author at the time, and still a fun read when I’m in the mood for some good booze, broads, and bullets.)  The cross-over to grownup fiction pushed my junior detectives aside.  I was now working toward a new detective series.  But the follow-up stories would get penciled cover art and nothing more.  Freshman year of college would take my writing in a new direction, and my tough-guy gumshoe would be forgotten.  Which is probably for the best.  Mickey Spillane did it better, anyway.

One Saturday night, some friends and I were driving aimlessly, as teenagers will often do, when someone mentioned the local legend of a glowing tombstone.  I’d never heard the tale, but according to our friend, a small cemetery stood on a secluded hill off one of the back roads just outside town.  If you stood on the road and looked up the hill, you would see one of the headstones glowing an eerie blue.  But when wandering between the graves, the glow disappeared, luring the curious to the graveyard but keeping the trickster hidden.

I was skeptical, but the calendar was nearing Halloween and we were 18 years old.  Any excuse to traipse through a cemetery in the dark of night sounded like a good idea.  We drove to the back of the old graveyard and damn if he wasn’t right!  A blue glow hovered at the top of the hill like a summoning beacon, but by the time we’d trudged up the long slope, the light had faded.

We thought we could figure out which stone was haunted by playing “warmer/colder,” but this was before everyone had a cell phone tucked into a pocket, and we couldn’t hear or see clearly enough from the bottom of the hill.  We never did figure out which of the dead was calling out to us.  But, of course, that was what made it a legend.

That night left me with the seed of a thought.  The seed grew over the next few days and became an idea: I could write a story about a glowing tombstone.  The action would start with a group of kids seeking out the local legend, except their search would uncover the proper stone…because this stone wanted to be found.  I sat down and wrote the first chapter.  Then another the next day.  And a third.  Soon I had nearly 50 pages of what would certainly become my first full-length novel.

That’s when it struck me.  I was more excited writing this story than I had been writing any of the mysteries.  I love reading mysteries and have a great respect for those who write them, but the plotting, the suspects, the placement of clues and red herrings…it was all so tedious.  I’d already had all the fun creating the story with my notes.  Not this time, though.  This time I didn’t know exactly where the story was headed.  I didn’t have a set cast of characters and I didn’t know who might live or die.  This story could take any turn I wanted.

Sure, it needed to follow some rules.  I couldn’t have demons pop out of cinnamon buns at the church bake sale.  But you see where I’m going with this, right?  I’d stumbled upon a different way of storytelling where I could have the excitement of inventing the story while I was writing it instead of before I wrote it.  The only limit was my imagination, and I’m a fairly odd duck so that wasn’t an issue.  For me, discovering the story is where the fun lies.  Mystery was out and horror was in.

That moonlit drive down a country road literally changed my life.  If I’d never made the switch from mysteries, the truth is I may not have continued to write.  The pages of that first unfinished novel are long gone, and I’m okay with that.  I was just finding my style.  The characters were clichéd, the prose was simplistic, the dialogue was laughable, and the setting was trite.

But the story is still a part of me.  And while I’m curious to see just what is buried in that grave, I don’t know that I’ll ever attempt to put the words back on paper.

When you find something and it’s flawed, but it shapes you for the better, should you go back and fix it?

 

If you also dig the occasional booze, broads, and bullets story, I invite you to check out Mickey Spillane if you haven’t already.

Or, you prefer a creepier tale, check out my new novel Good Deeds.

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