Monday, January 4, 2016

A Few Thoughts On My First Four Novels





After spending the autumn promoting Nightwalk, and dithering between different future stories, I have finally settled on a project and have started writing it. The process of choosing inevitibly led to me taking stock of what I’ve written so far. Having done that, I thought I would pass along a few thoughts and observations on my previous novels for those who care.

1.      The Ways of Khrem was my first foray into writing. It is arguable whether it counts as a true novel since it consists of three intertwining parts that each stand on their own. The publisher chose to list it as an anthology, but I was never really comfortable with that. It’s intended as one piece and only has full impact that way. It was  my one novel ever done through a publisher, and the things I learned from that helped me become an indie. It’s also my only fantasy novel. Even as a fantasy it already shows the elements that made me realize I would be more comfortable as a horror writer instead. Yet the things I learned about world building, scene crafting, and character interaction have stayed with me from that project.

2.      Dead Stop was my first true novel, and my second indie project. (Shades was my first). I had been having trouble writing Spiderstalk, and despaired over my lack of progress. I needed something finished to get the old confidence up. I decided the best thing to do would be to shelve Spiderstalk and create a novel project with a straightforward scenario and ideas so that I would have a greater chance of finishing it. So Dead Stop was created on the premise of “Write the B-movie that you always wanted to see.” It evolved into more than that as I wrote, but that premise helped me formulate the ideas, character, and structures that became Dead Stop. I wanted zombies that actually made sense, so I researched like crazy until I came up with a model I liked. I wanted the creepy Night of the Living Dead feel instead of the action movie feel so many zombie projects devolve into these days. The important thing was I knew what I wanted to write, thus never doubted the project would get finished. The characters were based on real people I had met hanging out at truck stops over the years, so it felt like I already knew them.

3.      Spiderstalk is sort of my grand opus, at least so far. It was conceived to contain a number of genre elements, but to also deal with a lot of issues and themes that resonated with me. For instance, I wear the exact same braces Adam Sellars wore in the novel, and many of his tribulations with carpets, slanted surfaces, and uneven ground are based on my own experiences. Other personal trivia about Spiderstalk include the fact that Karen Sellars childhood encounter with a corn spider is based on a childhood experience of my own. I know they are allegedly harmless but since then I’ve had many meetings with them in my nightmares. So you might say I was also trying to exorcise an old ghost writing that novel. Spiderstalk is also my first novel to take place in Cole County, where many of my short stories are set. Cole County is part of a larger universe I intend to visit again from time to time.

4.      Nightwalk came about in a similar way as Dead Stop. After Spiderstalk, I was exhausted and used the opportunity afforded to me by getting the rights back to a bunch of my short stories to take a break while I compiled Ghosts, Monsters and Madmen from them. Once I was done with that, I still didn’t feel up to tackling another Spiderstalk sized project. Instead, I went back to my plan with Dead Stop and chose to develop a project based on my confidence in being able to finish it. This time the idea was to write a Lovecraft style novel that could be enjoyed by people who had never read him. There would be clues and creatures to alert attentive fans of HP Lovecraft what kind of book it really was, yet to the average reader it would be accessible as a straightforward monster story with the characters trying to escape. Followers of Lovecraft should recognize a shoggoth, a flying polyp, ghouls, a Man of Leng, and of course, Nyarlathotep himself. There are also Cats of Saturn but since Lovecraft never described those I did my best to flesh them into something he would appreciate. The rest of the monsters were completely of my own manufacture.  Like Dead Stop, Nightwalk evolved as I wrote it and became more than its original premise.

5.      A last note… I have not written any sequels yet mainly because none of the above novels were written with sequels specifically in mind. Some are open ended to a degree, but all were intended to stand as stories of their own. That doesn’t mean there won’t be a sequel to any of them, but I have a firm rule about not writing a sequel until I have a story worthy of its predecessor. To do less would be to sell that story and its characters short.

Monday, December 14, 2015

The World Has Changed



One of the ways I try to improve myself as both a writer and a horror writer is to read the works of the greats. Poe, Lovecraft, and Machen can be found in my kindle along with King, Straub, Bradbury, and Crichton. Throw in some Raymond Chandler and Ernest Hemingway and you get an idea how my writing is influenced.

But reading all the great old horror stories has become an exercise of looking back into a different world. It was a world where humans were more alone, and operated far more as independent actors. If separated from the crowd, they were more vulnerable in many ways…although in others I fear they may have been more resourceful.

But the event that truly led from that world to this one, was the introduction of the cell phone.
And believe me when I say it was only when I started writing horror that I discovered how fundamentally the cell phone changed things. The eighties are over and almost any kid running from the killer at Camp Bloodbath can now have the cavalry on the way in short order. This means the potential victim of the 21st century comes with a link to the rest of humanity that has to be believably and reasonably accounted for in every scenario.  And it behooves the writer to be careful and not keep using the same plot devices to neutralize the device.

As a matter of fact in some scenarios it may be better to find some way to use the phone to the plots advantage. But this is not always easy without being repetitive. And as cell phones become more sophisticated it’s the writer’s job to keep up with its capabilities, for they are out there and the reader is not going to be forgiving if the writer dispatches a victim who could have easily resolved the situation with the device on his belt. Not to mention, many phones can be tracked by authorities and used to located the person, meaning many of your 20th century slasher types would be leading the cops right to their lair.

So in that way alone, if you are attempting to write a hack’n’slash novel in the style of Friday the 13th, you are going to need a more sophisticated killer if you want the results to be believable.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. If you are writing a monster story and your monster does not have human intelligence and understands these things the problem is even worse. In today’s world his pic could be on Facebook before he knows what happened. Which brings us to the other game changer.

The internet.

Go back and look at many of the great horror novels of the past forty years, and then imagine them with cell phones and internet. How many would be radically altered? How many would have their protagonists and victims acting in entirely different ways?

It’s a different world. And it's the writer's job to meet the challenge of writing for that world.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Big October Giveaway Schedule



This year I've decided to make October fun, so I'm going to have free giveaways on all my kindle books at Amazon. To make it easy, here is a schedule of those giveaways so people will know when they can pick up the book they want for free.

Shades: Eight Tales of Terror is free Oct 10 thru Oct 16
Dead Stop is free Oct 14 thru Oct 16
Ways of Khrem is free Oct 19 thru Oct 23
Spiderstalk is free Oct 21 thru Oct 23
Ghosts, Monsters and Madmen is free Oct 26 thru Oct 30
Nighwalk is free October 29 and Oct 30

Oh, and check Goodreads for a couple of signed paperback versions of Nightwalk I'll be giving away free too.

I hope everybody has an awesome October and a Happy Halloween!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Nightwalk



Welcome to Coventry Woods...

...a tranquil, middle class neighborhood where trees turn the streets into shady tunnels, soccer moms jog on secluded paths, and backyard barbecues are weekend staples. It's a quiet, urban example of the American dream. Here businessmen are neighbors with radio DJs, young doctors buy their first houses, and author Mark Garrett has been settling in with his lovely new wife and stepdaughter.

But tonight Mark's new neighborhood is going to come with something he never bargained on.

The pits of Hell have yawned wide and poured their contents into the midnight streets and homes of Coventry Woods. Everything has gone insane. Shots and screams ring out in the night, while death stalks the darkness in forms this earth has never before seen. Even worse, the only hope of escape is by foot.

Now Mark, along with his stepdaughter and his back-fence neighbor, must flee the neighborhood while attempting to help anybody they meet. And it won't be easy. They will be walking a gauntlet of unearthly predators, as they strive toward a goal they aren't even sure still exists...

...the outside world

Available on Amazon.com on September 1st.


Sunday, August 9, 2015

Why Nate Doesn't Do Politics (a rant from Facebook)



(this was a minor rant of mine from Facebook but I figured it deserved a post here)

A long time ago, when the internet was young, I was a true political junkie. I spent hours on The Drudge Report, CNN, BBC, Gaurdian, Free Republic, etc. That’s not counting the time spent in front of the new 24 hour news channels. Over time it became a world of its own. I cursed at politicians I hated, followed debates with obsessive zeal, stayed up to date on the latest breaking news, and had in depth knowledge on all the latest outrages. And not just from one political point of view.

I’ve spent different parts of my life on both ends of the political spectrum. I have bemoaned the existence of Neanderthals and Dirty Hippies alike.

And then one day I started to realize how much it was taking over my life. First of all, it seemed like I was always angry about something “going on out there” or whatever the outrage de jour was. I would catch myself clenching my jaw to the point it hurt while watching TV or reading the internet. And then it finally hit me.

There are people who make money on that. Very intelligent, very driven people who understood that keeping me in a perpetual state of outrage is what kept me coming back.

And it worked.

The news no longer informs…it peddles emotion. It addicts. There are political/economic/social factions out there whose very survival depends on keeping a certain amount of people at various levels of angst and anger over their issues. Furthermore, they have absolutely no concern over the consequences that might have for the people they do that to. It’s not their problem. And it took me a long time to truly appreciate the effect it had on me.

First of all, I was always angry about something. Wasting emotion on things that had absolutely nothing to do with my day to day life. My mind was not on where I was, or where I was going…it was on those dirty Neanderthals/Hippies and what they were doing now. It was on people I would never meet. And worse...it was stealing my stories.

I’ve always been something of a story teller. Even when not telling them, I was living them in my head…drawn from my interactions with the world, people, animals, and events. But now I found myself thinking in other stories…stories that read like news reports, and wasted emotion in fruitless ways. It spoke with the voice of commentators and radio personalities, and sometimes I swear I could see the TV style scan lines in my mental pictures of the actors. I was losing who I was in agenda driven stories from people who saw me as nothing more than a number to add to their ratings/click count/followers list.

It had to stop. It still has to stop.

I stopped watching TV. No more CNN/FOX/MSNBC. (my TV is now exclusively used for watching important stuff like football, cartoons and documentaries for the kids) Even more importantly, I stopped hanging out at political forums. No FreeRepublic, DailyKos, Eschaton, or Red State. No more correcting somebody who was wrong on the internet. And then even harder, I steered clear when those topics would follow me to gaming forums, sports forums, and worst of all…Facebook.

I’ve watched friendships crumble over issues that will never affect either of the friends arguing over them. Seriously! If you’re going to throw away a friend, at least do it over something he or she did to YOU. It should at least be over something that happened in YOUR STORY. And I realized in many of those situations it could just as easily have been me.

And just as scary, some friends over time seem to only post on those things instead of anything to do with themselves. If you were going by their Facebook timeline, you would think that’s who they’ve become…an advertisement for a cause/position/party. They’ve flattened into a two dimensional agenda, where there used to be a living person.

I may be an introvert and a bit of a hermit, but I prefer people.

(switches to 3rd person perspective for the big finish)
So Nate’s opinions on the big debates are exclusively his business. He does not come to Facebook to validate or deny your opinion on abortion/gun control/religion or lack thereof/Obama/climate change/ or…God help us all…the Kardashians. He is not here to take sides. He values all his friends, from all parts of the political/social spectrum. On the other hand, he does pay attention to YOUR stories…pictures of your vacations, tales of your kids, reports of your triumphs, sagas of your failures, and photos of your projects.

These matter. Life is a personal thing.

Carry on.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Coming this Autumn


(interior cover artwork)


The rough draft is done, and the first copies are back from the proofreaders. Now I start working toward that first draft. Then the line editing shall begin!


Saturday, January 24, 2015

Here It Comes!



Now available for pre-order at Amazon.com

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Things Progress and Art Takes Shape




Despite my recent blog inactivity, things have been moving along (albiet slowly)

As evidenced above, the cover for my upcoming re-release of The Ways of Khrem has evolved. The sky is now more natural and striking, and the added element of the tarantula hiding behind the title is sort of symbolic of the way Talanturos lurks in the background of the story's events. Even though he is only an active character in the first part of the book, he's always in the background...lurking.

At the moment, I'm sort of jumping back and forth between two projects. The first is trying to get The Ways of Khrem reformatted and the cover art finished so it can be released early next year. And the other is trying to move forward on my current novel project, Nightwalk, in hopes of having a first draft ready to edit by the time the kid's get out for summer break. I'm about 43,000 words into it so far.




This is the story of a man trying to get his stepdaughter to safety as his upper middle-class neighborhood goes dark and transforms into a monster-infested nightmare around him. The cover art above is "candidate one" although there were actually other ideas tried. This is just the first one I could actually live with. I'm sure I will try other variations after the manuscript is actually finished. But since this is a horror novel, the cover is formatted more in line with my other horror novels as opposed to the fantasy novel above.

I've learned that the real trick to making cover art is not to get to eager and go with my first idea. Sometimes it's better to set it aside and let things evolve a little.  But always hang on to your unused artwork because you never know when it might provide an element you can use later.

Ah well,...as I said, things progress. Due to it being Christmas, there are plenty of other things that demand my attention but I am moving forward.

So here's hoping you all have a Merry Christmas/Happy Hanukkah out there! See you next year!

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Monster in the Shadows





Last night, in a rite of passage of sorts, I celebrated the Halloween season by sitting down with my son and watching a horror movie.  After carefully weeding through the possibilities to eliminate the ones with nudity and other sexual content that us parents object to, I finally settled on John Carpenter’s, The Thing.

It’s an unusual movie in that it is actually scary, yet doesn’t contain a single female character (which means none of that aforementioned nudity). There’s blood and gore, but most young buys are more than capable of dealing with that. The language is a little rough, but if you’re going to watch a horror movie with your kid you have to make some concessions at some point. This ain’t Disney, after all.
Anyway, we both enjoyed the film and had a high old time pointing things out and eating popcorn.

But while I watched the film, I also found myself comparing it to the “prequel” that had been made only a year or two ago. That one hadn’t been too bad, (actually, it was better than I expected it to be) but this one was so much better. And as I realized that, I watched the film closer and tried to work out why.

Both movies were competently acted. And I will give the prequel credit for doing things to set up what was found in Carpenter’s movie with only a couple of objectionable exceptions.  Personally, I think if you are going to go that direction then it’s the writer’s duty to go ahead and nail it without leaving ANY big things that don’t fit. It wouldn’t have been that hard. But that was a personal quibble on my part and I don’t think it’s what made the “prequel” an inferior movie.

In the end, I think it all came back to the CGI. Now (full disclosure) I’m not a fan of CGI in most horror movies in the first place, but I’m not totally sure the CGI itself was the total problem here. The only VISUAL drawback I noticed with the CGI was that in comparison with the monster in Carpenter’s movie, the one in the prequel simply wasn’t as wet and slimy. There was also that feeling of “not really there” that I sometimes get with CGI as well, even when it is seamlessly done.

But the real problem wasn’t so much the CGI as the decisions it led the movie makers into making. CGI allowed them to have the monster rampaging through hallways and stalking people through rooms…therefore that’s what they did, and I think that was their mistake.

There are two types of monsters in monster movies. There are “monsters of the shadows,” that only appear from time to time out of the darkness or from offscreen (or in this case out of a person) and then do their thing and vanish…and then there are rampaging monsters who once they appear throw mystery to wind and go howling after their victims. (like the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park, for instance).

So when the makers of The Thing chose to use their newfound ability to release the monster and have it storm through the station, they changed its very nature. Sure, it was still grisly and doing disgusting acts of morphology with the human body, but now it was a monster of the shadows that was out of its element. Now it was out in the open and having to keep topping its last act of being scary and disgusting, while being cast in role of a velociraptor hunting prey.

The end result were scenes that weren't a total failure because they had at least been competently done, but were nowhere near as effective as the scenes in Carpenter’s move simply because they had the monster doing something it was never really intended to do. It was acting against type.

And I think that matters, not with just movies, but with books as well. I think when we as authors write a monster book, we need to be very clear with ourselves what type of monster we are creating. That way we can be careful to use them to their best effect. Because as authors, we are faced with the same quandary that has been the downfall of many horror movies that have discovered the shiny new toy of CGI...

…just because we can do it, doesn’t necessarily mean we should.