Are Horror Writers Scary?

   I recently had a conversation with someone who had read my stories rough draft. I love taking criticism, but this particular comment was odd and made me wonder about non-writers perceptions on those who write. For fun I will refer to writers as Musers and non-writers as Normals for the rest of this post. This will add hopefully an X-Men vibe to the whole conversation. Please picture me in blue spandex and the Normal in a tweed suit. Here is that conversation

Normal: "I read it and it was pretty original, but I think that you are a very scary and disturbing person."

Muser: "Uh, Thank You?"

Muser: "Wait, please elaborate."

Normal: "Well I read some horror before and in your story there is (EDITED OUT REMOVING SPOILERS) and as far as I can tell no one has done that before. What would posses you to think of that? You are kind of sick and I worry you might give other sick people ideas and they might go out and do that."

Muser: "Its just a story. Like silence of the lambs is a story."

Normal: "Yeah but you follow the killer and get to see inside the killer's mind. That means you had to think like a killer and I think that's weird. You had to plan all that out and nobody in their right mind would do that."

Muser: "I also had to write as women and children. I used my imagination."

Normal: "Yeah but you made something disturbing and people might think its a good idea and do it for real."

Muser: "Well I haven't heard of any jigsaw killers running around from the ideas they got from the movie SAW. But I am seeing what you are throwing down here. You think my writing should be more socially responsible. With a great imagination comes great responsibility."

Normal: "I'm not stupid I can tell you aren't taking me seriously."

Muser: "I absorb all comments and appreciate the chat. I am taking you seriously, but I gotta go. Tnx."

Then I fly away on a giant pen made from the shin bone of Edgar Allen Poe.

So what are your thoughts on this Normals concerns? Are horror Musers scary? Should we not introduce Ideas into the world that could be used for real world evil? Are horror Musers truly sick in the head?


Writers, Be Brave Or Be Undone

"Someone ever tries to kill you, you try to kill 'em right back!"
    I have some experience with getting published though this is my first 100,000 word project. As any good writer I did my research on the please do and please don't of the quickly changing publishing world. I learned a lot and was in the right mindset to absorb the information that was coming to me, but as I looked through the oppressive piles of information on writing and publishing I considered what this might be like for someone who is new to it. There is a lot of contradictory information out there and to a hungry new writer who sees these contradictions they might get discouraged and put their manuscript in a drawer or worse the recycling bin.

    Writers are as diverse as nerds and though us nerds don't always agree on what we think is awesome to nerd on, we are all nerds together. You have your L.A.R.P. nerds, your Star Wars nerds, you have word-is-god writers you have historical steeped writers. You have Star Trek nerds and Anime nerds, you have Romance writers and Thriller writers.

    There may be some arguments, but one is not better than the other and the truth is we all have to find our own truth. Well Dragon Ball Z is stupid, but otherwise the above statement is true. What works for me as a writer won't necessarily work for you so try not to let the mountain of advice out there drive you insane. Try on some techniques and if they don't work for you then you are not a failure, it just wasn't your advice.

    Your truth is out there and please try not to let my advice or someone else's advice steer you from your goal. If you aren't familiar my favorite advice has been from Neil Gaiman's famous 8. Now this should work for you or maybe you aren't a writer.


Can I Say F**K A Bunch & Still Be Considered A Young Adult Title?

With my bottle of Jameson  (When I have had a few I like to say "I'm Getting My James On") at my side this post may just be a rant rather than anything informative. In this article I plan to say some very thought provoking things and then run off down the hill chasing rabbits until I find the one in the warren that is psychic and then kick him (metaphorically) into the water.

Subject of today's post? Writer's chasing trends. Zombies,  Werewolves, Vampires, Zombie Werewolf Vampires that sparkle. There is a horse over there and it is now rotting in the sun so you can stop beating it. We don't need any new twists on these topics listed above. What we need is something new.

The other thing (I toss back another shot) Yeah another thing, Young adult literature is hot as hell right now and everybody and his sister is trying to get in on the act. At my local Barnes & Noble the YA section is bigger than the fiction and nonfiction sections combined. There is a theory that suggests that people's reading level has declined and so YA titles are much more easy to digest. Now I'm not pissing on YA titles because one of my favorites (His Dark Materials) is branded as such. I was wondering if I could get in on that action too. My novel features a lot of dirty words and I was wondering if I can use the word Fuck about 178 times and still be a YA title? There are no vampires, werewolves, magic users, or zombies in my story, but I do have the consumption of long pig and endless miles of viscera. Can I join the YA club please? There are no brooding teenagers in my story, but I'm sure I left enough to the imagination when writing it that someone could picture all the characters as teenagers that glow and shit like that.

Maybe I should do a rewrite and plug in some brooding teens who are also vampires who are also werewolves and go to a magic academy where they find that they are actually witch gods. I like YA titles I swear its just I think there needs to be a few new concepts introduced.

 Here are some ideas:

  1. Teenage angel who falls in love with a teenage demon and their forbidden love only brings them closer together as heaven and hell try to tear them apart.
  2. Teenage plunger that falls in love with a teenage refrigerator and their journey of forbidden love carries them to the planet Neptune where they find that all life comes from the whisper from the butt of a flower. 
  3. A jaded teenage poop finds love within the butt of a teenager and when they are forced apart the poop makes an epic journey around the world to find itself made into rice and eaten by the teenager for whom it yearns.
Yes, bet you are sorry you decided to read this one. My hopes in my drunken rant is that maybe you can do something new in your story and I'm not talking about mermaids. They say there is nothing new under the sun and that fucker is just being lazy so don't follow trends and tell your own unique story to the world. Maybe in a thousand years they will write bland YA titles all about your inventive creation.


The Days I Forced Myself To Write

Me In My Favorite Wallowing Spot

    So now that I am in the trenches of my novel's first round of edits I am beginning to see a pattern emerging and I want to punch myself in the face, but should I? As a writer I have days when I just want to do nothing, but I forced myself instead to bang out a chapter instead. I was proud of myself for my dedication to my work, but looking at those chapters now I feel a bit idiotic for creating them.

    The forced chapters look and feel like the operating manual for a lawn mower and as I find them I remember my state of mind before writing them. No depth, no rich landscapes, no soul. Words plop out onto the screen like rabbit turds in a perfect row and are as deep as beige paint on a beige wall.

Should I have just waited to write until I was in the mood?

    The answer is HELL NO. I am disappointed that the crap I wrote during my lapses of passion, but even if I mucked it all up, the framework was still there. I edited one of these chapters and after I had finished I couldn't even see the poo smeared pages I had started with. I slapped enough clay over that chapter to sculpt something that looked like someone with a soul wrote it.

    I think it is dangerous to say to procrastinators and I'm only speaking for myself, but maybe editing is something I personally shouldn't do unless the porch light of my imagination is on and there is a nice cup of enthusiasm coffee brewing in my mind.


Good Morning, Mr. Shaw Introducing Dead Stir's Cover Artist

Good Morning, Mr. Shaw:
an interview with artist and designer 
Brian Shaw

     I recently met with the newest member of the Dead Stir team, Brian Shaw who has taken on the challenge of designing the cover for the upcoming series. On first glance Brian didn't look like what I would have expected an artist making a horror cover to look like. Clean Cut and polite Brian gives off a sense of professionalism and dedication that seemed to be lacking in the many other hopeful Graphic Designers I’d  met with recently. Before we sat down for this interview he smiled at me with an honest sincerity and held out his hand giving me a firm handshake.

 So Brian, how long have you been doing graphic design professionally?

 Well, my first professional project came to me my senior year of college at Kutztown University. I was given the opportunity to design a tour poster for the band Wilco. It sold at their show in Tampa during the summer of 2012. Wilco is one of my all time favorites so it was really a dream come true having that as my first project.  And it sold out which was really awesome to hear!

When did you first realize you had a passion for art?

I remember this like it was yesterday. I was 6 years old, drawing a baseball player in my little sketchbook. I had his whole upper body completed and needed some advice for his legs. So I asked my mom, “Mom, if a baseball player is throwing a ball, how would I draw the muscles in his calves?” What six year old is asking those kinds of questions?! Honestly I don’t even remember if she gave me an answer. I think she was too stunned. That’s when everyone, including myself, realized that art would be my passion.

 I've seen your work and I must say it’s great. When you're not working for a customer, what’s your favorite medium?

Thank you! Favorite medium?...hmm, I’d have to say spicy ketchup and mustard on canvas….has to be spicy ketchup though…..haha, absolutely not, but that could make for one crazy ass painting. I really enjoy watercolor with ink on top. Something about it really pops and is very visually appealing to me. Plus I love drawing and painting equally as much, so I get to do both! Win win.

So that being said what’s your favorite subject matter for personal art projects?

Animals have always been my favorite subjects to draw or paint. There is something very powerful in the expressions of their eyes. They are so mysterious and make me wonder about that particular animals’ story. I really enjoy striving to capture that particular expression.
(Poster series for the Smithsonian Institute's "The Art of Language" exhibit)

That seems vastly different than designing a cover for a dark thriller. What drew you to want to work with the Dead Stir team?

A: I was immediately intrigued by the title and before I knew anything about the book at all, my mind took over and started to conjure up all these images about what Dead Stir might possibly be. I knew that was a good sign if the creativity was flowing even before I read the thing. Plus,  I love branching out and tackling new design challenges. 

So I gather you are one of the thousands that read the online first draft of the novel. What are your thoughts on the book?

I am NOT a reader. Not at all. I struggle even with picture books. I READ this book. I found myself immersed the whole way through. It is clever, frightening, creative, emotional, and just awesome. I think that is what drew me to it…it has a little something for everyone. So if you haven’t read it, DO IT!! I am very fortunate to be designing the cover for such a powerful piece of literature.

Do you have any passions besides creating gorgeous pieces of art?

Music. There’s hardly a time when I don’t have it on. It just really helps to channel my creativity and just makes me feel good! I also play drums in my band The Flintstone Club so I love writing music as well. What started from some serious steering wheel drumming turned into the real deal! You should have seen some of the looks I got at red lights….

Well I have to tell you that you’re a pleasure to talk to and I look forward to seeing more of your work. Any big plans on the horizon or anything you are working on besides Dead Stir you want to share?

 Thank you! The pleasure is all mine! Currently I am working on illustrating a children’s book (unfortunately I can’t reveal the title) but when it comes out, I’ll be sure to let you know! I also have been contacted recently by Wilco for another tour poster so be on the lookout for that as well!

Best of luck then on all your future projects. In closing tell me one interesting thing that people generally don’t know about you.

 oh man…well, I’m pretty afraid of sharks. And I know that seems like a common fear, but I have a legit excuse. A few years ago, I went kayaking with my dad in California and a school of at least 300 Leopard sharks swam right under us 100 feet from shore. That would have been seriously cool if it weren’t for the massive wave that decided to tip our kayak and literally throw me right on top of this big guy just chillin’ below. I have never run so fast in my life. I might have walked on water. So yeah…I’m afraid of sharks. 

 Thanks again for taking the time for this interview and I hope to be hearing a lot more about your successes in the near future.

And Thank you for having me!!! I am very excited for people to start reading this book! I feel the urge to discuss it with everyone I know! I wish you much success with the release of Dead Stir.

If you would like to look at some more of Brian's work you can check it out here


Introspection Makes Better Characters #1


    Are the characters in your story flat and you don't know what to do? Writing can be a very lonely process and you are stuck in your own head for most of the time. The characters in your head are your only real companions on this adventure and because they are created by you they are in essence all a small piece of yourself built from your view in the world. What works for me is to get to know a bit about what makes me tick in the dark recesses of my past and this allows me to better understand my character's own motivations and drives.

    This journey can be dangerous, but also enlightening and may help you create deep rich back stories for your novel's characters. I decided I would share over the next few months some personal stories of what makes me tick and how I got a better Idea of characters through learning more about myself. Learning my own motivations helped me to step out of my programmed view and allowed me to craft some very interesting back stories for my characters. 

    This could be bad advice if you are now sitting on the edge of sanity, but I can say you will never know a better subject that your own self and learning your own motivations could be a huge asset for you as a writer. The story below is true though I have changed the names and I hope it helps you see what I'm talking about. 

How Dinosaurs Made Me Question Authority:

    I was 7 years old when I developed my distrust in authority. Like most young boys I loved dinosaurs. I believe my love of dinosaur books was the thing that turned me into a voracious reader. Despite being diagnosed with dyslexia, I could pronounce the genus and species of a plethora of dinosaurs perfectly, as well as tell you their diet and general mood.

    Every young boy who loved dinosaurs also had a favorite. I remember my classmates all agreed that the T-Rex was their favorite. Being always the odd one in the class, my favorite dinosaur was named Rhamphorhynchus. I loved that dinosaur so much. I would blabber on to my family about it endlessly, as well as fill up pages of drawings.

    I'm about to describe this dinosaur to you, and I want you to decide then if this fantastical creature is real or the imaginations of a boy. Put yourself in 1981, remember as an adult you can recognize the basic dinosaurs like T-Rex, Brontosaurus, Triceratops, and can easily recognize the shape of the flying dinosaur, the Terradactyl. Rhamphorhynchus was a flying dinosaurs about 4 feet long. It had a long beak filled with razor sharp crooked and criss-crossing needles. Unlike the Terradactyl, it had a very long tail with a diamond shaped tip. The common name for this peculiar looking creature amongst young boys who loved them was "Beak Snout".

    I would tell the family stories of the exploits in history of Beak Snout, and I assumed they were fascinated. One rare evening at the dinner table with both my mother and older sister, I began another tale about Beak Snout when my sister Dawn exclaimed, "We all know your stupid dinosaur is imaginary so you can stop pretending its real."

    I argued with Dawn that it was in fact real and eventually begging my mother to convince her to her error. The shock of those words from my mother’s lips, "It's not real" brought angry tears to my eyes. The horror was realizing that no one believes in the greatest dinosaur the world has ever known.

    I remember now a time before that night when I was spending a great afternoon talking with uncle Jon in his office. Jon seemed particularly interested in Beak Snout. He had me drawing pictures of it. Also he wanted me to draw self portraits. Jon was the coolest, I was an attention starved kid and Jon that day gave me all of his. At that age I didn't know Jon wasn't my uncle, but rather my aunt Sue's Boyfriend, who also happened to be a psychiatrist who worked for her. Kids don't know or care about psychoanalysis, just love and attention. I didn't put it together until my late teens what my afternoons with Jon were, in reality.

    Being exceptionally poor, the library at school was my only resource to dinosaur books. I couldn't find the book that taught me about Rhamphorhynchus when I searched it out. I had no way to prove I wasn't a liar, and at 7 years old, I felt the injustice deeply. I withdrew and I lost interest in dinosaurs. Maybe I was just getting older, I can't be sure.

    One of the greatest triumphs of my entire life came by way of a gift from my Grandmother, Lily, on my 8th birthday. I had an unusually large birthday party with over 30 people in attendance. It was held at a home for mentally disabled adults that my Mother's side of the family owned. Funded by the home, there was a huge cake, lots of food, and even party hats. Previous birthdays were never as extravagant, nor were any birthdays afterward as large. I have no clue why my 8th birthday was so huge. I suspect my aunt Sue was looking after me as she often tried to do. I had 5 presents that day, which was a pretty good haul. I got a Benji sleeping bag, a coloring book with 8 crayons, a stupid flannel long sleeve shirt, an equally stupid pair of shoes, and a Big Book of Dinosaurs.

    I flipped through the book and around the middle there was a full color illustration of a herd of Brontosaurus and a flight of strange long diamond-tailed dinosaurs circling them. The next page had a small picture a dinosaur's head, It had a long beak filled with razor sharp crooked and criss crossing needles for teeth. In bold type it read, "Rhamphorhynchus".

    Twenty minutes after the greatest "I told you so" joy-rant that has ever been, a patient got too excited and had a seizure which officially ended the party. I don't know were my mother was that day, but I remember showing her the book when she got home later that night. I remember we laughed and laughed about it.
Thus began my questioning of many things I'd been told from my betters. You authority that I have argued with, can thank Rhamphorhynchus for showing me that you have no clue what you are saying, even if sometimes you do. I took this attitude to the extreme for many years after my 8th birthday. I developed a technique of outing idiots of authority. It caused me more than a few problems that could have been avoided if I could have just shut up. I have learned to realize I too am the authority that is an idiot, and sometimes its unavoidable being the dumb ass who is wrong.

    There will always be a swooping Rhamphorhynchus in my mind, and its Rhamphorhynchus that makes you who you are. Maybe you are Rhamphorhynchus, the obscure little dinosaur just waiting for someone to
believe in them.


Dyslexic Hopeful Authors

    So you have a learning disability, but you always wanted to write a novel? I just finished my second draft of my 100,000 word Horror/Fantasy novel and I'm itching to write the second in the series. My whole life I've struggled with dyslexia but my imagination would not allow me to avoid at least some form of writing. I have published several papers including an article in Reader's Digest as well as publishing two children's books.  I never thought it would be possible for me to have accomplished my childhood dream of writing a novel, but here I am and I couldn't be happier traveling down this road.

How did I do it?

    When I set out to write a novel I knew that I wouldn't be able to just sit down and pound out a manuscript quickly so I went the route of writing the novel one paragraph at a time. I utilized a blog and made my story into a serial that unfolded slowly over real time posts. Almost every day I would tell a little more of the story and though some posts were a sentence or two long others were several pages as my readership grew and I gained more confidence. It took six months but at the end I had a 41,000 word novella online to work with. It was chalked full of grammatical errors and I made it clear to my audience that this was a rough draft. Even though it had errors that would make many people cringe the story was imaginative and I received a ton of support from my readers.

    Once the online posting was over I had given myself enough confidence to work on the novel adaptation. I found myself many day excited to write and this showed in my world building and character development. I was also comforted to know even the greatest authors out there got help from line editors and that they didn't just write a perfect novel in their first or second drafts. There was also some encouragement in learning that there are several very famous authors with similar learning disabilities.

Here is a short list and you should look up ones you don't recognize:

Caiseal Mór

Sherrilyn Kenyon

Octavia Estelle Butler

Linda La Plante

John Irving

Patricia Barber Polacco

William Butler Yeats

Jules Verne

Richard Ford

George Bernard Shaw

Dav Pilkey

JF Lawton

F. Scott Fitzgerald

Stephen J. Cannell

Agatha Christie

It isn't easy but with support and hard work why shouldn't you try and make your dreams come true 


The Critical Eye


    So my wife finished the novel and for months I was worried that she would be disappointed or hate it. They always say don't let your friends and family tell you if your book is good or not because they are usually looking through rose colored glasses, but this is a special situation and I can always trust her to be brutally honest. This is part of the reason I don't wear overalls in public.

The verdict? 

  1. The novel was good, but the fact that I wrote it and didn't self edit along the way is apparent. I wrote the first version of the story online and for six months wrote in a first person present tense narrative. The novel is third person past tense and I accidentally switched from present to past tense a lot.
  2. I need to expand some chapters and make a few things a bit more clear because I breezed over a few important details that were important to the following of the plot.
  3. While many of the characters were very well developed some of the small supporting characters were left with no real voice and I need to add depth to them. 
  4. My verb placement is wonky in places and needs to be closer to the subject. 
  5. I introduced a few characters towards the middle of the book and they got very little in the way of chapter development and so at the end of the novel they seemed out of place. I need to integrate them into the book earlier so the reader can follow the important part they play.
  6. Minor redundancies that can be fixed with the help of a thesaurus. 

    The story itself she enjoyed very much and that is high praise. I was happy to see the things I needed to fix were relatively minor. When this round of edits is finished Dead Stir will be beefed up quite a bit and will be a large novel that you will be able to digest very quickly and beg me for more, hopefully. 


Whack With Poo Brain


   I took a week off to finish my novel and I was thrilled to finish it on the second day of my 9 day vacation. With the book out of my hands and being scrutinized in its first rounds of edits I thought I could finally relax and do all the things I wanted to do that didn't involve Dead Stir.

  1. Sleep in: While writing I would get up at 5:30 AM every morning and work on Dead Stir. Now those days are over for now I can sleep in. I have been sleeping in till 5:45 AM and then wandering around the house with a feeling that I should be doing something. 
  2. Do some light reading: I have the book American Gods sitting on dresser and planned to lay around all day and read it. I find myself instead pouring over websites dedicated to promoting books and the day shoots by and all I have done is research.
  3. Watch some Netflix: I find myself reading the descriptions of the thriller/horror titles and watch some of the worst movies ever to try and trace any similarities that Dead Stir might have to these pieces of crap. I am studying plot lines and tracking character development now and cant enjoy my pastime of making fun of bad movies.
  4. Catch up with old friends: I find my self talking to my book cover designer and web page designer about strategies and blog integration. 

    So this morning I said screw it and decided to post this Dead Stir related story. I realize now I can't separate myself from my baby. I am whack with poo brain when I try to do anything else so I shouldn't fight it. 




   As my wife lays in bed and begins tearing through my novel for the first time I feel like a father pacing in wait for the birth of his first child. Does the baby have three arms? What if it's ugly? Will my baby be successful when it grows up?

    I slowly begin to change into something not human anymore. Black fur begins to grow in thick patches from my chest and I watch in horror as my nose elongates before me in the mirror. A primal aggressive calling beats its drum into my head and I soon realize that I am changing.

    I have become a badger and my teeth are sharp as I gnaw on the leg of my wife who is concentrating deeply on my novel.

"You switch from past to present in your narrative. You do it a lot." She hits the hard on the side of his head with her wicked club.

    I try to recover and I go in to nibble at her arm but the club comes quickly again to my skull. "Your sentence choice here just doesn't flow for me." The bludgeoning club draws blood and I skulk away to my hiding corner, miserably defeated.

    I have to tell you I love my wife, because if there is anyone I can trust to give me the awful truth it is her. The one I trust most in the world would never sugar coat a thing to save my ego. If this novel ever becomes a success I will have her to thank the most.

It Hits You In Staples

    So I finished the Novel Draft of Dead Stir this morning. I could have continued to play with chapters for weeks, but I felt it was ready for its first rounds of edits. I'm too close to it now and I need to hand it off to a fresh pair of eyes.

    I typed up the prologue, saved everything to my flash drive and drove myself down to the local Staples. I walked to the printing services and I told the young lady behind the counter "I'd like to have this manuscript printed please."

    As we were going through the details of what I wanted the thought hit me like a tone of bricks. I just wrote an entire novel. Holy Shit. As the employee's voice trailed off into some distant far away place  I was suddenly overwhelmed at the fact that I was doing something I never thought I had the attention span to do before. I thought about my second novel and how it is already mostly written in my head. I'm heading towards being 39 this year and only now are my childhood dreams beginning to come true.

    If this novel never takes off I will continue to write novels now and I know this for a fact. The experiences I have had working on this have been frustrating, but overwhelmingly fulfilling to some awakened part of myself I didn't suspect I had. I've always loved telling stories, but I couldn't imagine doing it on such an epic scale.

    As I'm picking up red pens and post it notes for the editing process I think to my wife and friends who have supported me so far. I think about the strangers who read the horrible rough draft and loved it. I realize its not only for me that I'm writing this, but it's for them and my desire to share with them something unique.

    As I lay the manuscript pages into the binder I selected to hold them, the pages feel warm from being pulled fresh from the mammoth printing machine. That warmth enters my blood and flows through my limbs making its way to my face and forcing a ridiculous smile. I think the employee thought I was insane, but what she didn't realize was that I am insane. This being because I wrote a novel and I couldn't be more excited to find out where this journey will take me next.


Pro-Feminist, but that's okay.

As a six foot three tattoo covered long haired heterosexual male I am often mistaken for a member of a motorcycle club when people first see me. As they get to know me they realize I am a whole other kind of scary and though they don't run away, I know they want to.

but I digress

I grew up in a broken home and was raised by my insane mother and my loving older sister. My sister and I had it hard like some people do and I'm not spinning a tale of woe, I'm just saying that my sister taught me a thing or two about gender equality. My big sister was the baddest mofo on the block and when I was little she would often save me from my own big mouth by beating up my enemies relentlessly.

When I got older I got in with some rough guys and I learned a thing or two about how to subjugate the opposite sex. With the image of my powerful and wickedly smart sister implanted on my brain I learned that the guys I hung out with were really scared little boys begging for a suckle that they could never know again. I dropped those freaks and I grew to appreciate the lessons my sister taught me about gender equality and have been an advocate for as long as I can remember.

How this translates to my novel?

Smart, sexy, powerful woman dominate the novel and this is not by accident or from some weird S and M fantasy place. Never once did I write a chapter and think "Oh what skimpy outfit can I put on this lady dominatrix today." My vision of women in the world goes back to my memories of my amazing sister who against all odds fought back at the forces against her and made a place for herself. I haven't spoken with her in years because when we see each other it only brings up bad memories of our upbringing , but we do love each other and she has always been my example of why there needs to be more equality of the sexes.

I'm not carrying any signs and men don't generally come out and say they are feminist, but I think more need to if we are to avoid more videos like the offensive radio shack ad linked below. (Bizarre out of nowhere attack on penis shaped listening devices to end blog post)



Novel Progress 7/17/2013: Ambivalence

Word Count: 75,752
Last Chapter Completed: 45
Days Writing: 128

    My desktop is nearly full now with virtual sticky notes. Half of the notes are on edits I will need to make on chapters when I finish with the ending. I desperately want to go back and make those edits now, but I promised myself I wouldn't look back until I was done.  I've been avoiding Chapter 46 due to its daunting subject matter and size. This will be the largest chapter of the entire book and the one that will stick with the reader for a while after reading it.

    I took a vacation from my paying job so that I could work on the novel and this vacation starts this Saturday. The goal is to finish the novel and then go back and fix all those sticky note edits during vacation. I am confident that I will be able to do this, because I have been averaging 4000 words a day when I write. It looks like the novel will be 95,000 words and maybe 54 chapter when complete which makes it a decent size for my first novel.

    I am in constant conflict with myself over this story and it has lead to many dreams involving the world that I have created. All of my plot lines and character's are solid, but I worry that I haven't written it in a way people can relate to. I am proud and sicked with what I have done so far. I think it will entertain and people will hate it. I try to be rational and I have never had a second thought on any writing I'd done before, but this one is special to me and writing it has been my greatest artistic adventure as well as my greatest creative stress.

    My proof reader who has been getting chapters as I finish them does a good job at settling my worries and fears, but not to the point that it doesn't still dig at me. I'm anxious to get this novel done and into the hands of my most valuable critic, my wife.


The Watch List

    Iv'e been working on this novel for over a year now and one thing that will be the most lasting of the experience is the fact that I am most probably on an FBI watch list now for it. Anyone who got the opportunity to read the rough draft knows there is some awful subjects covered within Dead Stir and the research on the internet and in libraries that I had to do to achieve some realism to this will undoubtedly cause me some issues if I choose to travel.

    Yes this could just be paranoia talking but I did some digging and learned that your searches are being monitored somewhat for persons who may be considering committing nefarious acts. I'm going to list some engine searches I have done in preparation of this novel. If you were looking for someone who was up to no good what would these searches tell you.

  • How to jam a lo-jack system
  • Blocking GPS and cell phone
  • Child abductions in America
  •  serial killers operating in the united states at the moment
  • Operating a bluebird school bus
  • Do school buses have lo-jack
  • How much blood can you take from someone without killing them
  • How to remove a human eye
  • Effects on the body from ingesting human flesh
  • deboning a human limb
  • getting around an ME for cause of death
  • FBI procedure for mass abductions
  • how to castrate without killing
  • giving children psychotropics

    These are just a few examples, but you get the idea. When I told my wife I was probably on a watch list now for Dead Stir I was in the doghouse for a little bit. I should have taken my own researches advice and searched for these things from my paying job or a library. If you don't believe that there is any kind of watch list, start typing in searches about bombs and landmarks and then wait a month and try to fly to DC. Why couldn't I have written another book about cats and poop?


My Evil Plan


   So when I set out to write Dead Stir there were many selfish reasons for doing so. Not money, not fame or even bragging rights, but I wanted the story that was missing from my nerdy life in front of the television. I wanted to have something that mixed all my favorite genres and did it in such a way that it wouldn't be some rehash of all the shit that keeps getting recycled today.

    My truly evil plan though is to trick strict thriller fans into liking epic fantasy. I've been writing my ass off to achieve this and have dedicated over a year of my life so far to make this a reality. I wrote the rough draft online and the blending of the genres was far too ham handed. Half the story trucks along in the frightening real world and then BLAMO you're reading a fantasy story. My minions and I have been sculpting the novel in such a way that the transition is seamless to the reader and I must say I am pleased (When I'm not cursing at it and calling it stupid)  with the result.

    The result for most I hope will be a compelling story filled with characters the reader will love or in some cases detest. When you make a good character the reader will follow them anywhere and I think I might have achieved that with Dead Stir. I've seemed to have even hooked myself and even though I am not yet finished with this book, I am looking forward to continuing the story in the years to come with the two outlines I have for Dead Stir (Working title) 2 and 3.

    So if you are a horror fan, but could care less about fantasy this is still the novel for you. If you love fantasy and horror then welcome to your home pal. If you like your stories full of fluffy kittens and macrame I wish you luck somewhere else unless you would like to come to a little book signing where I will draw you a kitten doing macrame on the inside cover.


Leaving Blanks: Writer's Gold

"The air was chilled from the moonlit room's open windows as the winter winds moved the curtains like tattered angry spirits. The ticking hands of the clock echoed in the midnight breeze leaving a dreadful sense of doom marching as the sound clicked like talons in Robert's skull."

Now I pulled that out of my ass as an example, but could you see the room when you read it?

Here is a more descriptive version

"The room was dark, but Robert could see everything clearly in the moonlight shining though the open windows. The room was large and there were four windows along the far wall. The old white curtains blew in the breeze and Robert could see they were rotting and stained. On the wall to Robert's left there was a clock that loudly ticked and somehow the noise made him feel uneasy. The clock hung on a wall covered in old peeling wallpaper with a design of grapes tied in little bouquets. The clock itself was plastic and covered in dust."

    So when you read a story your mind rushes to fill in the blanks. Even though each example was descriptive and not necessarily wrong, I prefer the top one. When you read a story and the narrator goes on for three paragraphs describing a bedside table it removes imagination from the  process and the reader will often get bored, or at least I do. Think about if the wallpaper in the room is that important for the telling of your story or if you can just let the reader paint their own room. Description is very important, but I feel that there are details that can be left in the capable hands of the reader. They can imagine a better room than you can describe in 1000 words if you give them the proper mood of description.

    I also apply this to character description as well. I will give them some basics and let the reader's imagination fill in the rest. Ever get pissed when a movie casts an actor to play your favorite book's character and they look nothing like they were described in the book? Well that's because the casting director couldn't read your mind. I hear when some people are reading they often cast their own movie stars in their heads to play the character in the book.

Everyone is different, but I think a key to a good story is not to get hung up on every single detail. A talented writer will find a way to paint you a picture in as few words as possible. When I get to long descriptive paragraphs I often just skip them and I would hate the thought that readers would do that to my novel.

Character Creation: Some Things To Consider

    When creating the characters for Dead Stir I decided early on that I would make them as deep and rich as I could. I focused on this so much in the novel and still I worried that my character's would be as flat and two dimensional as cardboard. I still worry about it, but less so lately as the novel is coming soon to the end of the draft. What calmed my fears slightly was recently when I submitted a chapter to one of my proof readers and I got a call back saying that the chapter made them cry. Being able to create a character that elicits such a strong emotion must mean I'm on the right track.

    How do you create a compelling character?  Cheating! Many of the characters in my books are based on real people who I have met or know. I use these personalities as a base and then start melting people together to create someone new. Then I fill in the gaps with rich  history that will drive them and allow the reader to relate to them. By the time I write a character I feel as if I know them and as they move through my world I constantly ask myself, what would they do? I think about how they would react or what they would say if put into such and such or made to witness some event.

    To be a decent writer you have to know and understand peoples motivations to do it well. Being a people watcher will aid you greatly in any story you may want to create. I'm not saying hide in their closet and watch their every move, because I think they call that stalking. When you interact with people or watch them interact use that and make notes to yourself on their behaviors. Try to understand why they feel the way they do about something. Write your own story on their lives even if you don't know the truth of what motivates them and try to put together the puzzle that makes this person who they are. 

    2D characters like the ones you see in movies and read sometimes in books can really take you out of a story. There should be a lot of grey area in your character, because just like in real life no one is that black and white in their thoughts or actions. Think about all the baggage that drives you to do the things you do and then look outside and judge others around you with this same consideration. Maryanne is a bitch, but it's not because she hates you, but maybe because of someone she loved treated her this way or her husband to be was struck dead by a lightning bolt or whatever would drive her to be so mean.  

    Make sure your character's reactions is fluid and realistic. How many times have you yelled at the idiot on the screen in a horror movie when they do something against character. A killer is after them and they are scared, but they heard a noise and decided to investigate instead of making asses and elbows away from the noise. I sure hate that bullshit and I assure you I'll never do it in one of my stories, because that's just lazy unimaginative writing. 


The Narrator: Cold, Empathetic, Invisible?

    When I wrote the first draft there was no narrator and all of the commentary came from the mind of whoever the reader was following. For the novel there needed to be narration for there to be any descriptive scenes. I am so pleased with my narrator for the novel and to me she is her own character.

    The Dead Stir narrator (let's call her Simone) is all knowing and pushes the story by letting the reader see into the thoughts and history of the character without imposing her own opinions. My proof readers insist that they don't even notice the narrator is there, but when I read it I do.

    Simone in the various chapters will sometimes take on the characteristics and nomenclature of the subject she is following which gives her a cold empathy for the character's plight. She flawlessly settles in the mind of an innocent eight year old and then in the next chapter will coldly witness the ripping apart a human body and describe the viscera in great detail.

    I love Simone and I'd have to say in this story she is my favorite character of all. Hopefully when (Yes I said when, not if) you read the first novel you won't notice her and this will mean I've done my job. These character's have a life of their own now that I have been writing them for so long and I am glad to have Simone there to help me translate their journeys.

Do you ever hear the narrator when your reading a book?


Writing In Public: How You Changed Things


   So I put Dead Stir online initially as I wrote the rough draft and the few readers I had in the beginning fueled me to keep writing. I asked for advice or suggestions after I was finished and some of those suggestions really helped me hone the novel into what I am sure will be enjoyable.

    You really have to have thick skin if you put something you made out there in the world and make sure you take criticism without letting it spoil your vision. Some people will hate everything, but it is important to hear from people outside your inner circle too.

Here is a few things I can share without giving things away that I changed due to suggestions and comments:

  • Closed a plot hole
  • Killed off a character
  • Changed certain aspects of the mythology
  • Way more world building
  • Melted two characters into one
  • Cut the fat from the story which kept the suspense up
  • Increased plausibility and removed any deus ex machina

    I really appreciated the support from the fans of the online rough draft and am a little sad to know that it is now deleted, but I needed to put it away to make room for the novel. I've been asked if I will be posting the 1st draft of the second book online and the answer is no. I learned many valuable lessons writing in public and I will not forget them so there is no need to do it again. I like to inspire however and this is why I am keeping this blog open and keeping record of the novels story about writing the story.

Obviously Insane Writer Interviews Himself (Interview 1)

    Recently I sat down with myself with the intention of getting to know what would possess me to write a horror novel. We sat in the living room and I enjoyed a nice cup of tea with myself as we got to know a little more about me as a writer.

So what made you decide to write this novel?

    "Well honestly I hadn't intended to write a novel at all. It started out as a one page short story that I called The Birds Of Chester County. The story was about a man who was sitting in his car watching the people going in and out of a Wawa. The man ran an inner dialog that spoke on how people were just ants to him and ended with the man killing a delinquent teenager with a knife in front of the store. The story like many thousand others things that I had written was filed away on my hard drive to be forgotten. The funny thing was that this particular story wouldn't let go of my head and though I didn't actively think about it, it seemed to think about me. Over a period of 7 months this story grew in my brain and became a sort of movie that I would watch within my closed eyelids before I fell asleep. As a screaming child it wouldn't let me sleep and so I decided or rather it decided that I would have to take this journey and write it all down."

What made you decide to write the first draft of the novel online?

    "Well I am an advocate for average people to create art and it has always been my mission to give confidence to those who might not have tried otherwise. I would do things like paint and publish the paintings online for the world to see even though they are truly bad. I once tried submitting some paintings to the Museum of Bad Art and they snottily replied that they don't accept works from people intentionally trying to make bad art. I was hurt, because it was my best and was too bad even for the bad art museum. Merchandise however with my paintings on it still five years later earn a few hundred dollars a year and that moderate success has hopefully inspired some people to create something. My children's book filled with my own illustrations makes over $500 a year and I'm sure that definitely inspired someone. My point is if I'm going to create something I first create it for me and second try to inspire and entertain with it. Novel writing is new for me and I wanted to share the process with as many people as I could."

What makes you think the novel will be a success?

    "I have no delusions of grandeur and I know it will be a long road with many hundred miles to go, but I have been eating, breathing, sleeping and shitting this story for over a year now and I refuse to let my baby die in obscurity. I have already written outlines for three more books in the series and the world I have created is rich enough that I could write about it for decades and not get sick of it. I've done a lot of research and there is a place is this world for The Dead Stir book series and I won't rest until it is at least a moderate success."

Have you gotten any criticism over the online draft and if so how do you deal with it?

    "Thar be Trolls in dim emails! Yes I have gotten some complaints, but mostly for punctuation and other grammatical inconsistencies. The ones about spelling and punctuation I ignore because I have made it clear the online story was slapped from my brain to the page and I didn't look back. I did get some good criticism as well which I applied when writing the novel. Some other criticisms I did nothing about because I still am primarily writing Dead Stir for me and I do have the final say."

What criticism did you get that you decided not to do anything about?

   "My use of religion in the story. Some of those complaining were just being narrow minded idiots, but others just confused. The novel will delve into religion even further and though none of it is designed to be anti-anything some will be offended I am sure about that."

What is your writing process like?

   "I have to be alone and the room needs to be silent for me to write. I have been getting up at 5 A.M. every morning and writing before work or before my wife gets up. Some people can write anywhere, but I need to drift into my world alone. When I'm not working and I'm alone I have written up to 4 chapters in a day and would forget to eat while typing away. If not for my wife I would have probably become a dried husk leaned over my desk. I used to have to stretch my back, but since I invested in a better office chair I can sit for hours without stopping. I'd also like to mention that when I'm at work I am writing scenes in my head and I do the same thing when I lay down for sleep."

What is your greatest writing success to date?

    "Well I judge success differently but I would have to say when I got an award for creative writing at my elementary school. I was probably 8 at the time and we were given a piece of paper with a cut out picture from a magazine glued onto it. We were asked to write a story about the picture and I got an eye looking through a hole in a white wall. I wrote a story about a woman who ultimately got trapped in a white room forever by the statues from Easter Island. I was probably the only kid in my class that read Stephen King and Edgar Allen Poe and so my stories were about more than puppies and french fries. I was so proud of that award that I think I slept with it until it fell apart."

What would you say your novel is most closely resembled to in popular culture?

    "It's like Lost, but only before the hatch opened and everything went stupid. It's a  deep character driven story with a lot of mystery. The novel doesn't answer all of the reader's questions, but you won't feel abused and confused at the end. There is violence, gore and other horrors in the story, but I didn't add anything for shock value and it is all necessary evil."

 Well this concludes the first interview with the creator of the Dead Stir and I had such a good time talking with such a personable me, that we will probably do this again. If you have any questions you would like to ask me feel free to email info@deadstir.com and I will ask myself your question in the next interview.