I saved the file "Nightwalk2 Rough Draft.docx" to Dropbox last night. I have a whole laundry list of fixes that need to be incorporated, and a good bit of polishing before its even ready for proofreaders, but I now have a story.
That's just a placeholder cover until something better occurs.
I have never written a sequel before, but I have had sequel requests for each novel I have written. Since the world of Nightwalk was freshest in my mind, I thought I would do some writing on ideas for that while I outlined another original novel project and prepared to get serious on that.
But a funny thing happened during the outlining. The writing on the sequel started to take off and get more of my attention each day. And since I had been fighting a season long case of writer's block all autumn, instinct told me to start going with where the action was happening.
So it appears we may all be going back to Coventry Woods.
I'm still early in the project, but the proofreaders are liking what they see so far and I put a lot of stock in their opinions. I've had a late start on it, so the odds of having a rough draft by the time the kids get out of school for the summer are minimal. Then there is the fact the CMT in my hands has gotten more pronounced so I'm typing slower than ever. That's why I'm predicting a winter release this time. I prefer early autumn, but I just don't see it.
Still, I have settled on a project and getting on with it.
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.
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.
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.
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!
...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...
(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.
D. Nathan Hilliard lives in Spring, Texas with his veterinarian wife, two children, and two cats. He draws his inspiration from a childhood living in different small Texas towns, accented by teen years spent in western New Mexico. He has experienced life through a diverse collection of jobs ranging from meter reading and being an assistant manager at a convenience store, to working at cotton gins, window factories, and uranium mills. After coming down with Charcot Marie Tooth (CMT) at the turn of the century, Mr. Hilliard now happily settles for tending house, raising his kids, and exploring the field of writing.