Posts tagged writing

For Halloween – 10 Horror Stories I love and You Should Read

For Halloween… something I wanted to share.  Here are ten horror stories that I love, and that I believe everyone should read. They are diverse… but the one thing they have in common is that they stuck in my mind and would not let me go…  Without further ado:

“Smoothpicks” – Elizabeth Massie – one of the most intense short stories I have read… left a serious mark.

“Blind and Blue” – Wayne Allen Sallee – the first of many stories by Wayne that I have not been able to get out of my head.

“Orange is for Anguish, Blue for Insanity” – David Morrell – Befoer I knew he wrote Rambo, or read anything… I loved this.

“Scartaris, June 28th” – Harlan Ellison – I am not the huge fan of Ellison that most are, but I loved this.

“His Mouth Will Taste of Wormwood” – Poppy Z. Brite – one of the first things I read by Poppy… led to meeting her and selling a story to Love in Vein II

“The Encyclopedia for Boys” – Jeffrey Osier – a truly unforgettable story, and a beautiful example of tying horror to long-buried childhood memory.

“The Last Feast of Harlequin” – Thomas Ligotti – I had a hard time figuring out which of Ligotti’s stories to choose. This is one of my favorites.

“Fugue Devil” – Stephen Mark Rainey – I live in North Carolina. I will always have half my attention over my shoulder.

“The Alchemy of the Throat” – Brian Hodge – This is no sparkly vampire story. This is vampire fiction taken to a very deep level, emotionally and psychologically

“The Mangler” – by Stephen King – My absolute favorite example of suspension of disbelief. A story that works, scares, and then sounds ridiculous when you try to explain what it’s about.

 

The Cuckoo's Calling and Why J. K. Rowling is My Hero

0

adumbI’m listening to the audiobook of J. K. Rowling’s pseudonymous mystery / thriller, The Cuckoo’s Calling – narrated by Robert Glenister and attributed to the fictional author Robert Galbraith.  I will start by saying it’s a thoroughly enjoyable book, and that I’m very pleased to have been in on the secret prior to reading it, because there are hints of Hogwarts I might have missed otherwise, like the victim – Lula Landry – can’t help but remind one of Luna Lovegood, and the accented voice of Cormoran Strike, our erstwhile detective, when performed by Robert Glenister, resonates with hints of Hagrid.  This is not a review of the book; I have other things on my mind, but I have to say, I am loving the characters, the story, and the narration, as I would expect to, the work having been created by a favorite author.

That brings me to the crux of the matter, though.  I almost didn’t get the opportunity.  The book, first released as a novel by Robert Galbraith, would likely have slipped past me unnoticed.  It received what your average novel with a slight leg up might see – came out in hardcover and got a short bit of press, and then began to fade quietly into obscurity, despite solid, positive reviews.  All of this changed, of course, when people learned that it was J. K. Rowling behind the pen, and that she’d managed to put one over on the literary world.  There are now more reviews of the audiobook on Audible.com than I have sold of my last book…and considering the low percentage of listeners who take the time to rate, or review, the numbers become staggering pretty quickly.

A couple of things occur.  I am betting that Rowling’s agent and publisher were never as enthusiastic about this as she was.  I am guessing they tried to tell her how hard such a transition to another genre was going to be.  I am also guessing it was their idea for the book to come out under a pseudonym.  I’m of two minds on this.

For one thing, I am fairly certain that it is doing as well as it is partially BECAUSE of the revealed secret.  The sad fact is that the subject of my post here (which I promise to get to eventually) is as evident in readers as it is in publishers and editors.  If this book had come out as a mystery novel by J. K. Rowling, it would have done well, but it probably would not have been the phenomenon that it is.  Many people would have nodded and smiled, but waited in hopes she’d come back with more Potter.  It’s happened to others – John Grisham, and “The Painted House” which is one of his best books, and also slowest performing.  The truth is; the “branding” everyone is so hot to create for authors is a two-edged sword, because, by definition – you are branded.

I have mentioned this before, but never attacked it head on.  Limiting an author to what an editor, an agent, or even the public expects and wants to hear from them is a horrible, soul-sucking thing.  Only at the very top end of publishing, the Kings and Koontz’s of the world, can the bonds be broken, and in most cases it’s because the author’s name has grown so powerful it’s a genre unto itself.  Anyone mid-list and below with even moderate success who comes to their agent or editor with something completely different is probably going to be ignored, harangued, or at the very best, forced into a pseudonym – where the book will be treated like any first book and forgotten, and the editor / agent will say SEE?  Of all the evils and horrors of the world of publishing as it has grown over the years, bloating, shifting control to agents (who are supposed to work FOR writers) giving marketing control over content, when marketing as often as not wouldn’t know a book if it slapped them in the face but DOES know the lowest-common-sales denominator, and, of course that’s more important than quality, the forcing of authors into “molds” is the most insidious and has probably cost us the most in terms of wonderful, forgotten books.

Writers are artists.  They perform at their optimum capability when creating what they need to create, not what someone wants to sell.  The farther you stray from this truth, the more generic and cookie-cutter the work becomes.  I have not been categorized – not really – because I’ve yet to have one of my books take off.  I am certain that if one of them does, that is what I’ll be known for, and judged against, and shelved by… and I will have to fight against that because I simply enjoy writing what excites me too much to go back to writing what someone else thinks I ought to.

J. K. Rowling is my hero because she did what she wanted to do, and then, she made it powerful.  She put herself and her name behind it and said “This is what I wanted to write,” and it is GOOD – and I love her for that.  I only wish she had not needed to prove the worth of the book by hiding it under another name, and that publishing, the reading public, and life were not so caught up in the notion that you have to buy the known quantity.  The movie with the top actor.  The book with the biggest name-brand and associated with the history of that brand.  The car some idiot drove too fast in a movie that is (in fact) nothing like the one you can buy…

You should all go and read The Cuckoo’s Calling because it’s a wonderful book, and because a talented author wrote it.  You should not read it because she wrote Harry Potter… but because you recognize and appreciate her talent.  You should not have to make that choice, but the world has put it in front of you…  How many people read 50 shades of crap, just because there was a big hoopla over it, and in SPITE of the almost absolute agreement among critics, authors, and readers that the writing wasn’t good?  How many people – also despite all of that – will go and buy the book on writing written by this person who by all accounts writes poorly – because it has her name on it? How many of you – honestly – who read or are reading The Cuckoos Calling would have done so if J. K. Rowling had been on the cover originally, and there had never been a secret, or a big deal made of the revealing of that secret?

The question is, of course – can writers make their way writing what they want to write, and can readers learn to pick books – not because of advertising hype, or “branding”  – but because of quality?  Or will publishing, despite it’s changing face, always make buying books as much like buying cereal as it is like art?

 

-DNW

The Birth of a Novel, and Some Comments on Commitments

0

bulldogThe other day a blogger took me to task for being disappointed that one of the blogs that signed up for my tour didn’t post the guest post I gave them, or respond in any way to queries about it.  There was going to be a review at that tour stop too…something I’ve come to anticipate, as I’ve gotten only a moderate number so far on the book.  Here’s the thing.

There was a bare minimum of effort required for that blogger to meet their commitment.  I wrote the post, and I handed it in to them more than a month ahead of time.  I provided a free copy of my book and, while that blog does have a review policy that says reviews not guaranteed, they committed to the review when they chose it as an option on the blog tour AND their own policy states that if they just couldn’t finish, or whatever, that they will say so…  They said nothing.

Thankfully, the talented Michelle Lee let me borrow her blog space, and, albeit a day late, the Character Interview with LENORE is live (link below). Maybe I have unreasonable expectations, but these things have two-way commitments.  I met and exceeded mine, and it’s frustrating and off-putting to have that work ignored.  Enough on that.  I hope nothing horrible happened in the life of the blogger in question, and I wish them well, but as a cautionary note – if you set up a blog tour, vetting the blogs carefully is important, and one thing I would check is how long it’s been in operation (the blog) and how regularly it’s updated.  Also important?  Traffic, comments, and popularity.  If most of the traffic on a particular post is channeled through my own post about it on my blog, then I didn’t really need that other blog at all…the idea is to diversify and build the audience.  I hope I’m doing that.  On the up side, 287 people (or so) have signed up to win one of the prizes…

Today’s post is about the birth of Nevermore, A Novel of Love, Loss & Edgar Allan Poe.  It covers the pre-story in Kali’s Tale, and moves on to explain how the book came into being.  I hope you’ll enjoy it. Here’s a snippet:

“Eleven months ago, I wrote the following at the beginning of a post at my website and blog:

 “I’ve started (finally) working on the next Donovan DeChance book.  This book will follow directly on the tail of the events in Book IV, Kali’s Tale – still a stand-alone story, and still something you could read without having read the others, though I realize that as time goes on…and the series grows… this is less and less true.  It’s always best to start at the beginning.  It’s just not possible to rehash everything properly without detracting from the new story…”

THE TOUR SO FAR:

Read a Character interview with LENORE (My version) at Michelle Lee’s blog

Read my post about what influences my writing at Rinn Reads!

Read my guest post about Donovan DeChance at the Paranormal Book Club

Read the guest post about memorable characters, and Cletus J. Diggs and the review at Brooke Blogs. She liked it!

Read my post about romance in books over at Fierce Dolan’s Blog..

My post about why I’m glad Nevermore was not published traditionally – read it at the What Readers Want blog!

How personal and North Carolina history affect the novel – read at the FLYING HIGH blog!

Read about mining history for your fiction at Christine’s Words!

Read about the cover art by Lisa Snellings at Workaday Reads

Read the review of the book, and the guest post on keeping your series new

Read the interview at One More Chapter

Read my post about writers – and reading – at Janna Shay’s blog!

Read My post – Everybody Loves a Mystery – here in this blog!

Read my post “Let There be Magic” at the main Buy the Book Tour Site!

Read my post about “The Dark South” at The Open Book Society Blog…;

Read about Genres & Why I hate them : ==> AT THE AUTHOR’S CAFE

Listen to internet radio with BuyTheBookTours on BlogTalkRadio

READ THE Guest Post about History in fiction at MELISSA’S BLOG!

Listen to internet radio with BuyTheBookTours on BlogTalkRadio

Interview with me at the Blog of author Hywela Lin

Interview with Donovan DeChance at Laurie’s Thoughts and Reviews

Interview with Edgar Allan Poe at MJ Schiller’s Blog (join the discussion)

Get the details of the book tour – and the giveaways – at Buy the Book Tours…

BUY NEVERMORE! AT AMAZON.COM or BARNES & NOBLE or CROSSROAD PRESS

DOWNLOAD THE AUDIOBOOK FROM AUDIBLE.COM – NARRATED BY GIGI SHANE!

The Blog Tour Continues – even though I'm in Florida at a Con

0

blindWe are at a convention in Pensacola, trying to sell books and hunt ghosts…so today I’ll just post about the great review I got over at “Brook Blogs” and to tell you about my guest post there about Cletus J. Diggs, and about memorable characters that aren’t your average, run-of-the-mill heroes…Read the guest post and the review here. She liked it!

 

THE TOUR SO FAR:

Read my post about romance in books over at Fierce Dolan’s Blog..

My post about why I’m glad Nevermore was not published traditionally – read it at the What Readers Want blog!

How personal and North Carolina history affect the novel – read at the FLYING HIGH blog!

Read about mining history for your fiction at Christine’s Words!

Read about the cover art by Lisa Snellings at Workaday Reads

Read the review of the book, and the guest post on keeping your series new

Read the interview at One More Chapter

Read my post about writers – and reading – at Janna Shay’s blog!

Read My post – Everybody Loves a Mystery – here in this blog!

Read my post “Let There be Magic” at the main Buy the Book Tour Site!

Read my post about “The Dark South” at The Open Book Society Blog…;

Read about Genres & Why I hate them : ==> AT THE AUTHOR’S CAFE

Listen to internet radio with BuyTheBookTours on BlogTalkRadio

READ THE Guest Post about History in fiction at MELISSA’S BLOG!

Listen to internet radio with BuyTheBookTours on BlogTalkRadio

Interview with me at the Blog of author Hywela Lin

Interview with Donovan DeChance at Laurie’s Thoughts and Reviews

Interview with Edgar Allan Poe at MJ Schiller’s Blog (join the discussion)

Get the details of the book tour – and the giveaways – at Buy the Book Tours…

BUY NEVERMORE! AT AMAZON.COM or BARNES & NOBLE or CROSSROAD PRESS

DOWNLOAD THE AUDIOBOOK FROM AUDIBLE.COM – NARRATED BY GIGI SHANE!

Making History – Nevermore Blog Tour his Christine's Words

0

bbongI have a recurring theme in posts on my blog, that of history – whether an accurate version ever existed – how to mine it for fiction, how to research it – how to preserve it.  Today’s post on the Nevermore blog tour is over at Christine’s Words- where I wrote about history, in general, how it led to the creation of this particular novel – interesting stuff, to me, anyway.  I hope you will pop on over there and check it out.  While you’re there, you could comment, you know?  You could also sign up for the gift card and free book giveaway…  Here’s an excerpt from the post, and a link to the whole shebang:

“When you set out to write a story or a book that is set in the past, you have your work cut out for you.  On the one hand, you need to do your research.  How much research is enough varies wildly, dependent on the setting, and how the events and time period play into the story.  I generally do far more research than is necessary, immersing myself in the characters, or the events of the time period, and then use what I’ve learned sparingly to keep things authentic. It’s as important not to bore your readers with details as it is not to lose them by using some event, or technology inappropriate to your setting.

But that’s the easy part.  You can find a thousand articles on how to write historical fiction.  There are wonderful blogs and tutorials on research, organizing your background material.  I could write about those things, but I’d only be adding to a wealth of good information that’s already out there…” =>Read the Entire Post at Christine’s Words!

 

THE TOUR SO FAR:

Read about the cover art by Lisa Snellings at Workaday Reads

Read the review of the book, and the guest post on keeping your series new

Read the interview at One More Chapter

Read my post about writers – and reading – at Janna Shay’s blog!

Read My post – Everybody Loves a Mystery – here in this blog!

Read my post “Let There be Magic” at the main Buy the Book Tour Site!

Read my post about “The Dark South” at The Open Book Society Blog…;

Read about Genres & Why I hate them : ==> AT THE AUTHOR’S CAFE

Listen to internet radio with BuyTheBookTours on BlogTalkRadio

READ THE Guest Post about History in fiction at  MELISSA’S BLOG!

Listen to internet radio with BuyTheBookTours on BlogTalkRadio

Interview with me at the Blog of author Hywela Lin

Interview with Donovan DeChance at Laurie’s Thoughts and Reviews

Interview with Edgar Allan Poe at MJ Schiller’s Blog (join the discussion)

Get the details of the book tour – and the giveaways – at Buy the Book Tours…

BUY NEVERMORE!  AT AMAZON.COM  or BARNES & NOBLE or CROSSROAD PRESS

DOWNLOAD THE AUDIOBOOK FROM AUDIBLE.COM – NARRATED BY GIGI SHANE!

The Blog Tour Day Four – Guest Post – Genres & Why I Hate Them

0

cockerToday, I am being hosted on Blog Tour Day Four – at The Author’s Cafe.  I particularly enjoyed writing this guest post because it’s something I probably would have written here anyway.  Today’s post is about not allowing agents, editors, publishers, or – really – anyone tell you what you should write, or what you can’t.  It’s one of the biggest shames of the publishing industry, in my mind, that authors have become convinced they have to emulate the “big thing” to get ahead, that they have to write just one thing so as not to confuse fans, and that they have to do what their agent tells them.  Newsflash.  The agent works for the writer, and if that’s not true, it’s not really agenting – if your agent isn’t enthusiastic about what YOU DO and how you do it, you have the wrong agent.  Anyway, here’s a short excerpt from today’s guest post:

Genres and Why I Hate Them
By David Niall Wilson

All through my career I’ve been plagued by a couple of misconceptions and a string of bad advisors. The misconceptions are:

A: You should write what’s hot.

B: You should choose a genre and stick with it so fans don’t get confused.

I won’t get into the long string of bad advisors, except to say that at least two of my agents turned out to be crooks (one went to jail for it), one told me things were being submitted and I later found out – not so much. Still another advised me to pick a bestselling book and try to do something “like that” – which led to a string of outlines, with three chapters each, that said agent could not “get behind.” I had her get behind me, and it worked out better. I sold all of those books….”  ==> READ THE REST OF THE POST AT THE AUTHOR’S CAFE.

THE TOUR SO FAR:

Listen to internet radio with BuyTheBookTours on BlogTalkRadio

READ THE Guest Post about History in fiction at  MELISSA’S BLOG!

Listen to internet radio with BuyTheBookTours on BlogTalkRadio

Interview with me at the Blog of author Hywela Lin

Interview with Donovan DeChance at Laurie’s Thoughts and Reviews

Interview with Edgar Allan Poe at MJ Schiller’s Blog (join the discussion)

Get the details of the book tour – and the giveaways – at Buy the Book Tours…

BUY NEVERMORE!  AT AMAZON.COM  or BARNES & NOBLE or CROSSROAD PRESS

DOWNLOAD THE AUDIOBOOK FROM AUDIBLE.COM – NARRATED BY GIGI SHANE!

This is NOT a Review of Ocean at the End of the Lane

0

51aJWsQK3fL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_[1]I spend far too much time on trivialities in this blog, ignoring what it should truly be about. Words. Stories, creation and art – the ups and downs of the particular life behind my own stories. Some things matter more than others, and today, I have decided, is a very good day.

First, unrelated to any of the other topics involved, I went running for the first time in almost a year. I made it a mile and a half in the brand new Vivobarefoot Running shoes (more on those in another post). I came home, got the leash, and took Gizmo for a long cool walk, came home once again, fed the birds and closed their door so the rest of the family could continue sleeping…

Then, as I shook loose the final cobwebs, I opened up my Kindle Fire, turned on the Wi-Fi and began the download of the audiobook for Neil Gaiman’s newest – The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I knew nothing about this story. Well, that isn’t exactly true. I knew one thing. There are things you look forward to. There are movies coming out – concerts to see – television premiere’s – vacations. All of these things you hold inside and when things get rough, you turn to them and wonder about them a little, and forget the world.

For many years now, one of the things that has done this for me is the work of Neil Gaiman. It’s infectious, of course, and has spread somewhat to the rest of the family. I pre-ordered the book because I think Trish might want to read it, and that Katie most certainly will. (She loved Coraline and has The Graveyard Book and Fortunately, the Milk waiting on her Kindle). While I will sit and agonize over buying new books and paying bigger prices, I have cast this aside as unimportant in a very few cases, and this case – this new story waiting – has been a top-of-that-list case for some time now. I pre-ordered the audiobook the minute it came out, and purposefully timed the last book I listened to to end yesterday, so I’d be ready.

51HK7N5VRGL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-64,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_[1]So, I ran a mile and a half. I opened up my computer browser and went to check on my own story (written with the very talented author Steven Savile who – as it turns out – is also my very good friend) – Hallowed Ground, which has been enjoying a two day free promotion and has given away a (to me) staggering 18,200 copies or so. Currently, our little tale is #6 of all the free books available for the Kindle. If the gurus are right, well, this will continue on into sales when the promotion ends. If not – just maybe – some of those 18,000 people are settling into their day – perhaps with the Whispersync for Voice audio that is only $1.99 with the free book – but more likely with a Kindle – and dropping through time to the city of Rookwood, where magic, and crow-men, and even Lilith herself awaits them. That is what I hope, because here’s the thing.

I do not want to write like Neil Gaiman, though I count him among the three or four working authors I most admire. I do not want to write like Neil – but I want to “be” like Neil. I want to be seen for what my heart tells me I am – a teller of stories. Some of them are good, and others, probably not so much, but they are mine. I want to write like me, and be like Neil Gaiman, and -right this very moment – I want to be back on the bench, by the pond, where I left the protagonist of his new book staring at a pond and remembering. I want to listen for Monster, padding through the grass. I wonder what happened to Lettie. I will say nothing more about this book until I reach the other side…

But so far, this is a wonderful day. Thanks Neil.

-DNW

Dear World – Note From the Author in the Middle

0

2013-05-19 16.41.26There is a lot of timing involved in a writing career.  Anyone who does not believe this should pay attention.  Here’s a story for you…and a commentary on where I find myself these days.  This is not a complaint, or a call for, well, anything…just what I do.  When I write in this blog, I try to adhere to my own advice to write what hurts…

When I started writing back in the 80s, horror was in a boom.  Due to circumstances that could have gone other ways, I became a writer of horror and dark fantasy early on and I had a unique opportunity.  I either blew that opportunity, or avoided it.  The votes are still out on that.  I had an agent at one point who called while I was away at sea.  If I’d been there when that call came in, there was “a slot”.  What this meant, at the time, was that pretty much whatever I’d turned in (and I had books) would have been published in the raised-foil tsunami of horror.  That probably would have irrevocably changed my career. Maybe I’d still be riding the wave – maybe I’d be drowning in the aftermath of the big crash.  No way to tell, because I was out at sea, and missed it.

I set off on my own multi-directional path.  Star Trek, White Wolf, Vampires, horror, science fiction, fantasy – mystery and thrillers.  I’ve written them all.  Most of my books have gotten good to great reviews.  I’ve won awards.  People in some small circles know who I am.  I write a lot, and that will probably never change.

Along the way, though, something weird happened.  I never reached the heights of best-sellerdom, or even the upper middle-class of writing.  I just did okay.  I barely missed a lot of things that would have changed everything, and I kept writing.

Recently I started noticing that – despite the fact people know me and congratulate me when I finish a project, they don’t read them.  It’s not that no one likes the books – people who do read them like them – sometimes even love.  I don’t see any of those dreaded threads on message boards about how no one gets how I am still writing, or they couldn’t get through my books.  I also don’t see anyone starting threads about me in any positive way, or any excitement over whatever I’m working on.  What I get – mostly – is nothing.  Nothing at all.  Those who have always been famous remain famous.  Many newer authors, some awesome, others mediocre, and even a few I consider a long way from ready for prime time, get read.  People gather together and read their books in groups.  They line up to buy them before they are even published.  For my books, people are happy to enter a contest and maybe get the book for free, but buying seems to just never happen, and when people DO buy the books…well, if they ever read them I seldom hear about it.

I’m the author in the middle, currently.  I still believe I’ll find the way out – not sure what it will be. If I do make it out, I hope those who “discover” me also come back and read the older books – the ones I’ve spent a lifetime writing.  I hope they like/hate/talk about them.  Mostly, I hope they read them.

-DNW

Writing What Hurts – Part the Fourth – Words & Mountains

1

2.

When I started writing seriously, I attacked the challenge of the short story.  The first few times out the gate I remember how difficult it was to hit what I considered the minimum length for a serious story – 2500 words. I worked out characters ahead of time, almost like a role-playing game stat sheet for each one – not because I intended to use all of that information, but because if I knew it, it could inform the decisions and dialogue of the character.

I believed that there needed to be a set number of plot twists, and that there was a particular point in the story where you had to be working on the conclusion.  I was fond of twist endings, cliché as they usually turned out.  I read constantly through the pages of Writer’s Digest and The Writer, and I bought all the popular books on writing.  Oddly, what I don’t recall doing is sitting down and trying to emulate a particular formula or style.  Considering all the dissecting, prodding, poking and plotting that was going on, it’s an odd omission.

I don’t want to dwell on formulas just yet, though, I want to talk about the constant desire of authors I have known (myself included) to keep score on the words.  As I said, in the beginning, a 2500 word story seemed pretty long to me.  Over time, I started to stretch them out to 3, 4, and even 5000 words, but throughout that time I managed to hold onto the ability to be succinct.  To this day I can write flash fiction under a thousand words without much effort, and with pretty good results.

Unfortunately, in the world of short fiction, you are paid by the word.  In the world of novels, you often have guidelines you need to fall within – like 70-80k, or “about” 100k.  If you are winging your novel, writing from the seat of your pants, these sorts of guidelines can drive you crazy.  They are one reason that I took up the fine art of the outline a few years back.  I don’t need explicit instructions when I travel – in this world, or one I’ve made up – but I like to know where I’m going and about how far I expect to travel before I get there.

I remember clearly a cruise I took on board the USS Guadalcanal, one of the ships I served on in the US Navy.  I had two computers at the time – I took the older one with me to the ship.  It was an old 386 with Word Perfect 6.0 loaded and ready.  Along with that computer I had a Hewlett-Packard Deskjet 500 – the sturdiest, most reliable printer I have ever owned.  I took a drawer full of ink cartridges, and a case of paper.  I remember sitting down before I left and figuring out that, at 250 words per page, there would be half a million words printed if I used that entire case.  I came very close.

I was the Leading Petty Officer of the Electronics shop during that period.  I didn’t have an office of my own, but I had a UHF Transmitter room that I sort of took ownership of.  Most of the equipment in that room was mine to maintain, and there was a workbench that would hold my computer.  I also had a large “boom box” and a box of CDs.  Those became the soundtrack for several novels; not all written on that cruise, but at the very least revised and completed.  I had floppy disks with all my books and stories, and I worked constantly.  The ship served dinner between 4:00 and about 5:30.  After that, every night that I did not have duty, I was in that room, typing away, until around 11:00 PM – sometimes later.

Depeche Mode and Concrete Blonde were my friends.  I memorized the first two Crash Test Dummies CDs and learned to love a band called Ten Inch Men, whose album Pretty Vultures is still one of my all-time favorites.  The singer from that band, Dave Coutts, went on to sing for “Talk Show,” along with members of the Stone Temple Pilots.   I met Dave, and several other members of Ten Inch Men, when they found my review and comments on their music in my Live Journal online.  Again – another story.

The point is the words.  You just don’t see how they add up until you let yourself think about it.  Most professional writers I know claim about a 2,000 word per day output.  In those days on the Guadalcanal I averaged 3500-5000 a day and had days that topped 10k.  These days I fall in the 1500 -2000 word range, but here’s the thing.

One of my great pleasures every year is participating in the National Novel Writing Month challenge.  50,000 words in thirty days.  When you say it that way it seems like a horrifying challenge.  When you break it down to the reality – 1,667 words a day, you see that a lot of working writers write more than that every month.  If you add in what I do for the Crossroad Press site, and the blogs I write to promote my work, I’m sure I’m still doing the 5k a day shuffle myself.

So…in reality…if you concentrated, you should be able to churn out 3-6 novels a year with some regularity, although broken up by short stories, essays, reviews, etc.  Writers write, and though there are certainly times this is less true than at others, a steady stream of words produces a prodigious output over time.  I have been at this a very long time, and have determined that I do not – at this point – want to know how many words I have written.  In fact, I cringe at the thought of it and want to run away, pulling out what little hair remains to me and go screaming off into the night.  I’ve written so much, and yet, I feel as if there is so much still to accomplish.  There are so many stories waiting, and now they are piling up against the end gate as I plow into them, trying to fight my way through in the allotted space of a lifetime.

You can get buried in the words.  You can get lost in worrying over the numbers.  In the end, those that can’t be held back will escape your fingers, and your personal mountain of words will grow.  I’ve decided to make mine tall enough to touch the sky, beautiful enough to attract climbers and wildlife, and solid enough to withstand time.  Foolish, simple dreams that make me smile, and keep me working.  I have always loved the mountains.

Writing What Hurts – Part the Third – Influences

0

One of the most popular subjects among authors and those who study authors is that of influences.  It is a natural trait of those who teach writing, and those who study writing, to want to know cause and effect – to see if there is a combination of outside events and internal decisions behind the success, or lack of success, of a given writer’s work.  When I’m asked about my influences, it can send me into a tirade, or drop me back into reflective silence.  It all depends on context, and where my mind is at the moment the subject is breached.

It’s easy to get caught up in analysis.  Nobody works in a void.  Someone influenced every creative voice in history, and the two –pronged question is how much, and does it really matter?  If you ask the question directly you may get a pat answer filled with all the right names.  You may get a group of avante garde trailblazers, or a group of the most popular, financially successful authors working.  You might get movies and relatives and heroes and mentors, but what you will never get is the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

You can interpret the question more than one way.  Who influenced me?  Well, popular authors influence me all the time; some of them because I love and devour their work, like Stephen King and John Grisham.  Others because their phenomenal popularity has struck a chord with the world, and I want to be a chord-striker too – even if I can’t get interested in their writing.  Dan Brown is a good example for me.  I know that millions of people enjoy his fiction, but for me – if it’s an influence – it’s on the choice of subject matter; I don’t care for his writing style at all.

I think the question goes much deeper than what other writers have influenced you, though.  There are things that form you as a person, and when writing is at its best – as you might gather from the title of this work – I think it is very personal.  The writing and the writer are not far removed from one another, and so, whatever influenced the formation of the writer is what influenced the writing.  Religion – philosophy – experience – relationships – all of that, and so much more.  What music do you listen to?  Why?  When did you listen to that music, and what was happening in your life.  Do you like art? What artists – what types of art – why?  Who introduced you to them, and why do they stick with you.

There are too many influences in a writer’s life to categorize them all.  I think you can break them down into categories though – or periods.  I grew up in small-town Illinois.  I was a nerdy book reader, not great at sports but participated anyway, picked on by several different groups and types of other students and friends with some great kids.  From that period I brought Vonnegut, Bradbury, Lovecraft, and Tolkein with me.  I  left behind The Hardy Boys, Tom Swift, Abraham Lincoln and Kenneth Roberts, whose historical autobiographies kept me glued to the page for days at a time and taught me the truth behind history – that it’s rewritten again and again and really just a form of fiction.  The book that set me straight told the full story of Benedict Arnold, who was far from the traitor we are taught in school.  I also left behind a ton of comic books, and somehow never re-acquired the love of reading them I had as a boy.

What came next were my US Navy years.  I brought from those Stephen King, Salvador Dali, the music of Steeleye Span and a thousand rock groups, the ability to play guitar and the first few novels of my career.  I left behind mountains of fantasy trilogies, elves, goblins, and other such critters, even as I moved to and through Dean Koontz and on to Clive Barker.  I also left behind my first publishing venture – a magazine called The Tome – the editing of which was eye-opening and deeply influential on my career, as well as my writing.

I’m cutting each of these periods far short.  I visited countries and continents in the US Navy, lived in Spain, joined a Bike Club (Tiburon MC) – visited Masada and Jerusalem, Rome and Pisa and Florence, Greece and Crete.  I loved and lost and married and divorced.  In other words, I lived – a lot.  All of that is in my writing if you look for it, though it may not be easily discernible to anyone who didn’t share all of that experience (a person, in other words, who does not exist).

You can gain absolutely nothing from huge chunks of your life and be influenced forever by just a few moments.  What you take from a book might be a short quote you can’t shake, a style of getting a particular bit of plot or information across, a conversational tic.  Stephen King’s characters often say, “I had an idea that,” or “I had the idea that,” and that sticks with me.  I haven’t used it, but I recognize it in his work and smile when I see it.

Since we’re still in the introductory part of this book, I’m going to close the door on this influence thing for a while with the note that throughout the pages of this book, the things that have influenced me will become apparent.  I’ll tell you stories.  I’ll reference other writers and talk about thing I like or do not like in their work.  I’ll say repeatedly that all opinions are subjective, and that these are just mine…something I have learned to say through the influence of Mr. Richard Rowand, editor of the late and much missed STARSHORE MAGAZINE – who published my first major genre piece, “A Candle Lit in Sunlight,” which later became the novel “This is My Blood.”  He used to tell us – right before hacking our work to bits – that we should keep in mind that all reviews are subjective.

Before I continue, I’m going to sit back and listen to some Hank Williams Senior and follow that with Charlie Johnson’s Birdland – music picked up while being influenced by Poppy Z. Brite’s novel “Drawing Blood,” though ol’ Hank was with me since my childhood (and you can read about that in my novel Deep Blue).  Onward.

Go to Top