Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A Humble Suggestion From A Horror Writer

Being a horror writer, I like to think I know a thing or two about the stuff of nightmares. It’s a conceit of mine that I believe that I have learned some things about the things that evoke terror and revulsion in my fellow man…and if I’m not truly an expert on such matters then at least I have a fair working ability to spot the truly horrific when I see it.

Which brings me to the Dallas Cowboys.

One of the primal dreads to be found in Western Civilization is the fear of damnation. While some hold a fiery view of that concept, the reality is that both history and Dante provided us with a much wider variety of fates to choose from. The ancient Greeks gave us Tartarus, where Sisyphus forever rolled his stone and Tantalus suffered from thirst  and hunger while standing in a pool under a fruit tree. And it’s in that vein of prolonged despair that fans of the Dallas Cowboys have found their home.

They can’t win a playoff game. Hell, they haven’t even been making it to the playoffs lately. They can’t crater…because that would at least create the chance that some much necessary soul-searching and self-scouting would be done. Instead they are consigned to this spirit crushing torment of unending mediocrity, forever wondering if the next season will be any different, only to find out it won’t. It’s a hellish absence of hope that any horror writer would love to capture and inspire in his situations.

And after careful study of this phenomenon, I can put my finger on the precise cause of this unchanging delimna.

It’s their Leader.

Every team has a Leader. I don’t mean a leader with a small “L”, because there are several of those in any team. I mean the Leader. Every team has one. And over time, every team starts to take on the characteristics of that Leader. Lombardi’s Packers were champions who had the heart of football and the right stuff to win, Landry’s old Cowboys were efficient with a ruthless focus on execution, and Chuck Noll’s hard-nosed Steelers dominated the seventies. These teams had Leaders walking the sideline, and that is who they looked to for their identity.

The problem with Dallas is that their Leader does not walk the sidelines. This fact is so widely accepted that journalists report things that Jerry says, while often ignoring the daily press meetings with the coach. The problem is that this Leader sits up in a climate controlled owners box and makes business decisions, and over time this is the personality that the team has absorbed. Jerry is a talented businessman and promoter, and you are constantly hearing about how “talented” the Cowboys are. 

 But it’s hard to have a team that rises to face adversity and harsh conditions when their Leader sits in remote comfort. And it’s hard to be inspired and follow a coach who is not the Leader. You do not look to him for direction…merely to see what play he will call next. His inspirational speeches are ultimately just noise.
So bearing all this in mind, I would like to offer the following solution to the team’s never-ending doldrums…

Jerry Jones needs to fire Jason Garret and assume the mantle of Head Coach of the Dallas Cowboys.

It’s the only hope left.

He will either rise to the challenge and learn the job well enough to lead the team to victory, or finally fail in such an utterly horrific fashion that not even he can continue on in denial. Either way, it will be the team following their true Leader to that destination. It will provide closure to this eternal limbo through which Dallas now wanders. That is something that just bringing in another coach who walks the sideline and hopes that the man upstairs is on the same page with him can never do.

So it’s all up to you, Jerry. It’s time to put on that coaches whistle and walk that sideline. Time to assume the responsibility of Leader that you already get the recognition for.

And if it ends up in a horror show that scars the psyches of football fans everywhere…that’s okay too. At least it’s an outcome. And that’s what Cowboys fans have been waiting for.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Coming in Early 2014

I am proud to announce the unveiling of my next project, "Ghosts, Monsters and Madmen."

The cover art is set, and the rough draft has been compiled. There is still much to do before I send it out to proofreaders, but the important thing is that a rough draft now exists. 

This anthology will contain a mix of stories previously published by Pill Hill Press, LL Dreamspell, Yours Truly on Amazon KDP, and a couple that are new. It is a blend I hope everybody finds to their liking.

Happy Holidays!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

November Blues

I woke up the other night, parched and needing a drink of water. Now common sense would dictate I put on my braces and then go get a drink, but since it was only a short walk to the kitchen and then I would be returning to bed, I decided it made more sense just to hobble there without my braces and not have to go to all the trouble of getting half dressed over a stupid drink. After all, it would be a mere fifty foot walk in the darkness on paralyzed feet and half paralyzed legs. 

What could go wrong?

Needless to say, I broke one foot and badly sprained another. The big toe on my sprained foot is a shiny shade of black, and my knee pops uncomfortably every third or fourth step. But that’s okay, I won’t know if I’ll need surgery until a specialist looks at later. Yippee!

So there’s that.

It’s also November, which means I probably won’t be able to write a word. Ever since I tried Nanowrimo one year, I seem to get the most obstinate cases of writer’s block in November. My muse can be a contrary little butt.

But this time all might not be lost.

I got the rights back to all my short stories published by LL Dreamspell, and if I were to combine those with the stories from Pill Hill Press and a couple I wrote as an indie….voila! Instant anthology! So guess what I’m gearing up to do.

Some of these stories were very early works of mine, which means I still had a lot to learn about writing, so they could definitely stand to be edited and revised again. I think it’s cool that they will get a second chance at life. So I’m going to let my muse vacation and work on improving those instead. Hopefully, by the end of the year I will have another anthology to turn loose on the world. 

I would really like to write one more story for it since I found a picture that would make an awesome cover, but I always try to have a story in my book match the cover. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

I guess I should just thank my lucky stars that I have a career that is done sitting down.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

A New Beginning, and a New Adversary


      Finally, after years of stopping and starting, and then months of editing, Spiderstalk was out the door and it was time to figure out what to do next. After giving it serious thought, I decided the only rational course of action was to buy a shiny new laptop.

      My previous laptop had served me well. It delivered two novels and an anthology of short stories, and that ain’t nothing to sneeze at. But the poor thing has been getting pretty long in the tooth. It has been getting slower to boot, slower to call up programs, and its Geek Squad warranty has expired. It wasn’t an easy decision, but I knew the time had come.

      So I gave the laptop to my wife and bought me a shiny new model with twice the power, memory, and a discreet video video card. Hey, I also do my own covers now so I need that video processing power. The fact it can also run all the cool 3D games out there is just a happy coincidence. Yep, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

      Anyway, I discovered my new laptop also came with a shiny new operating system called Windows 8.1. So it was with great enthusiasm that I fired it up and dove in to my new computing experience. And after about an hour of playing with my new toy, I formulated a helpful mental picture that conveys my impression of Microsoft’s new OS.

      Imagine that Bill Gates sticks his head out of your computer screen, sticks his thumbs in his ears, wiggles his fingers, and gives you a big wet raspberry right in the face.

      Yep, that pretty much sums it up. What kind of boneheaded company puts new “features” in an operating system and then doesn’t tell the customer how they work! I almost had to shut the machine down to exit a full screen app! Then I had to go to Youtube to figure out how to do it in the future. Why am I having to go to Youtube tofigure out how to run my operating system?! And what’s with the toobars that pop out of the side of the screen when my cursor gets to close? Seriously? How the hell is this an improvement over Windows 7?? The whole point of changing things is in order to improve them. Where is the improvement? And for God’s sake, explain the changes you made so we’ll know what the hell is going on! And what is this “app” nonsense anyway? Apps go on cell phones! On computers they are called PROGRAMS!


      Oh well, I’m sure in a year’s time I will be competent with it and couldn’t imagine using anything else. (yeah, right) But the important thing is finding the stories this new baby will crank out…and if a little 3D gaming gets done on the side, no harm done :)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Now Available! Spiderstalk!

    Life hasn't been kind to Adam Sellars lately...

   Over the past year he has broken up with his fiancee, barely survived a terrible car wreck, and had his brother's family vanish while he lay unconscious at the hospital. The only thing he has left of them is a frantic call in his cell phone's voice messages, along with the blurry photo of a spider.
 Since then he has been a crippled shell going through the motions of life with nothing but the search for his brother to keep him going.

   But Adam is about to discover things can still take a turn for the worse.

   Much worse.

   His quest for his lost brother has brushed up against a very dark corner of the world and something has come out of that darkness with an unholy vengeance. Something unbelievable. He can't fight it, he can't hide from it, and not even the police can protect him as his world descends into chaos.

   His only hope lies with a mysterious pair of strangers who have appeared out of nowhere with an offer of aid. But they have their own agenda, and his survival may not be their top priority. Now Adam must keep his wits about him and learn to believe in himself again as events send him on a collision course with a monster more horrific than he ever dreamed possible.

   Spiderstalk is now available at Amazon.com

Thursday, September 19, 2013

And It's HERE!

There was a package waiting for me on the porch when I got back from picking up the  kids from school today. I knew what it had to be the moment I saw it...my first authors proof of the new novel. With an excitement I know many writer's can relate to, I hustled my prize into the house and tore it open. And after a quick perusal of the results, I found myself startlingly pleased with the outcome.

The cover works. As a matter of fact it works well enough that I can pretty much accept it as is. That is a first for me. I had to tweak and re-upload the cover to Dead Stop four different times. But it gets even better.....

...I can now put graphics in the books from Createspace. This allows me to make a more stylized interior title page, and it also allows me to include a piece of art rendered by my niece Courtney. (it also reminds me I need to give her credit for that piece, so there is one small tweak to the interior documents there). The ability to include graphics opens up other possible avenues in future projects as well. It might be kind of cool to have my next anthology with one or two illustrations per story. Maybe even redo Shades. 

Oh, and it also allows me to do one more thing...

Yep! Advertise! Maybe in the future, as I get more proficient at this, I might figure out how to resize these things so I can include text on the page as well. But for now this is a big step forward for me so I'm very happy. 

I intended to start a last reading of it tonight, in order to give it one more proofing, but a slight complication arose. My son, snatched the book as soon as he got the chance and scurried off with it to read. Seeing his glee at holding a book that his Dad wrote only multiplied my own internal glow by a power of a hundred. Yeah, it's a book with gunfights and big giant spiders but I was into that kind of stuff as a ten-year-old too.

So I am heading towards the end of another long journey with the destination being another published novel. Unless I encounter something really awful, there is a very real chance that I may only need to make some minor tweaks to the manuscript and interior....which means I might not even need to order another proof. I'll just have to see how it reads once the boy goes off to school tomorrow and I can get the book back. If so, I might be able to turn to formatting the ebook on Monday.

So as things stand, a late September or early October launch still seems to be in the cards.

It won't be long now.

UPDATE: Leave it my ten-year-old son to spot a couple of cover flaws that need to be fixed. Oh well, a second proof was in the works anyway :P


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Let the Proofing Begin!

     Well, actually the proofing has been going on all summer but today the first author's proof of Spiderstalk has been ordered from Createspace. The files have all been uploaded, and in three or four days I should get to see how the manuscript and artwork translate into a physical book. I have already discovered a couple of tweaks that will most likely need to be made, but so far things are looking good.

     This is probably the funnest and yet most frustrating stage of the writing/publishing process. The fun part being getting that package and tearing it open to see what I have made....and the frustrating part being all the niggling little tweaks to formatting and image adjustment. As I learned last year, never trust what the website says your book will look like. The only thing to trust is that physical copy you hold in your hand. THAT is what the finished product will look like , and what the reader will be holding in his hand as well.

     You are not ready to publish until that physical copy meets your satisfaction.

     Still, it's pretty amazing how all the tools to make it possible to publish your own books are now readily available. Whether it's photo editing programs you can design your covers with, word processing programs you can write your manuscript with, or online publishing companies like Createspace or Amazon KDP you can bring your book to market with,...a writer now has the tools to bring his work to life from start to finish. And all from the comfort of his laptop.

     Oh well, we'll see how this first proof turns out in a few days.


Monday, September 2, 2013

Things Move Along

Still edting. Stillllllllll editing.

I have just reached the halfway point in editing Spiderstalk. It’s taken longer than I thought it would. I think it’s mainly due to it being a much larger work than I’ve worked on before combined with me not getting the free time I thought I would during the kid’s first week of school. Funny how that happens.

Oh well, we’ll see how next week goes.

A good friend of mine took me on a small tour of downtown Houston recently. We felt that since I have used Houston as a setting before...although only in a minor way...there was a reasonable chance I might do so again so it behooved me to have a better idea how the downtown looked. It was very educational and I got to go up to the sixtieth floor lobby of a skyscraper. Seeing the rooftop pool on an adjacent building was a surprise.

But such is the life of a writer. Research, research, research…

…and edit, edit, edit.


Sunday, August 25, 2013


There is still much to do, but it looks like I have a cover. Woohoo!

I'm still shooting for a September, or early October release. Lots of polishing yet to go, though.

But it's coming!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Progress is About to Pick Up

     Yes, it is that time again. In just a few short days that wondrous yellow vehicle will show up to transport my children to magical lands of education...and me to the wondrous realms of six hours of undisturbed peace and quiet. I love the little buggers dearly, but they are like two blond-headed little obstacles to progress when it comes to getting anything published.

    Now the serious work begins.

    Spiderstalk still moves forward. I'm doing some checks on a potential cover now. I still intend to do a little photography in that regard, but it may no longer be absolutely necessary; I'm also getting feedback from different proofreaders, and the effects have been very positive. Some scenes are now better than I originally envisioned them, and while the editing and revision this summer has been a long process, it has really borne fruit.

     Much of what needs to be done now is me actually implementing the fixes into the main manuscript. This is something that the aforementioned six hours of daily peace and quiet is going to be perfect for.

     The light at the end of the tunnel draws nearer

Thursday, August 15, 2013

So I'm Going On A Spider Hunt

One of the joys of being an indie writer is being responsible for absolutely everything. This includes book covers.

As an indie, you pretty much have two choices when it comes to those. You can either find an artist online to make a cover for you, or you can make your own. Both are reasonable paths, but the second is only reasonable if you have taken the time to learn what works in book covers, what's necessary graphically, and you have at least a passing grasp of some photo editing program.

Fortunately, (or unfortunately) I fall in that category so I do make my own book covers. But being responsible for that means this author ends up doing some pretty silly stuff that doesn't always have much to do with writing. For instance, I'm about to grab my new Fujifilm SL1000 and go hunting a bunch of the above pictured spider.

You can't just grab any old picture of a spider off the internet due to copyright issues, and there are very few pictures that would have worked for what I needed anyway.  The one above is the closest I have found to an acceptable subject that was public domain. I had found one that would have worked but unfortunately couldn't get commercial rights to it.

I need a large 12 or 16  megapixel positioned and posed pretty much like the one above.Yes, that would be a huge picture, but if you're intending to make a bookcover that's going to look professional at 300dpi you need one that size. I'll also be carrying a solid green or blue piece of construction paper to put behind the subject when I take my picture so it will be a lot easier to remove everything but the spider in the photoediting program later.

So if anybody out there knows where a bunch of these are near north Houston, feel free to let me know in the comments. I'm gonna be going on a "bug hunt" soon :P

The novel is still in the editing stage, and being gone over by proofreaders yet again, but it is still on target for an autumn launch. Woohoo!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Getting It Together

A long time ago, I was enjoying a Writer’s Night Out with my good friend and fellow author Cherri Galbiati. We were in the middle of discussing character creation when she pulled a spiral bound notebook from her bag and laid it on the table. I asked what it was, and she stated it contained lists of all the characters from all her stories and books.

She explained that she kept this book to prevent accidental reuse or overlap of names and characters. At the time I thought this was a very sensible idea, but at the same time I felt confident in my own ability to keep my characters straight in my head.

But now that I am in the middle of editing and polishing my latest novel, and had to rename two characters due to name reuse, I have become a believer in her system. So I spent today listing all the characters in Shades, Eight Tales of Terror, Dead Stop, and my upcoming novel tentatively titled Spiderstalk. It turned out to be a bigger chore than I thought…

…and it looks like it ain’t over yet.

Sadly, my first publisher LL Dreamspell is closing it’s doors. They were a great small press with a sterling reputation, and I learned a good deal about writing from the feedback for my short stories from their editor, Lisa Smith. Their closing is a true loss.

A side result of this closing is I suddenly have the rights back to eight other short stories of mine. Combine those with a few I have lying around that Pill Hill Press published, and a couple that I haven’t tried to publish yet, and I have an instant anthology. And here I was worried about my “shelf being bare.”

Putting together anthologies can be a bit of a pain, because each story will need to evaluated with how it fits with the others, and many of them could stand to be revised and re-edited. (back in the day, I leaned towards these big blocky paragraphs.) And, of course, I’ll also have to weed through this finished product and write down all the characters in these stories so I don’t get behind again.

Gotta stay organized!

Sigh…work, work, work.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Fixing Stuff

So it's July, and what's been going on?

I bought a new camera....courtesy of my eight-year-old drenching my old camera in lemonade. This time I bought a Fujifilm SL1000. So far I'm very pleased with it, and I think it has a lot of potential for making future book covers. It's not a true DSLR, but it's a fantastic bridge camera for the price. I'm very pleased with the picture quality, and the zoom is incredible.

On another front, I've been editing Spiderstalk and it's turning into quite a project. At 167,000 words, it's a much bigger task than I've done before. I have gotten the first draft back from my first tier of proofreaders, and I'm slowly implementing fixes. I had originally intended to get the second draft out to my next proofreaders today, but it simply isn't ready for that. So work continues.

Actually, I'm sorta nervous about finishing this one. I've had it on the shelf for years, so it's always been there when I didn't have another project going. Once I hit that publish button on this one, my shelf will be bare.


Saturday, June 22, 2013

Action Packed Contents

     I was conversing with another author over the internet recently and he bemoaned the fact that nowadays a book should be designed to grab the readers attention within the first page or two. Although I am a firm believer in grabbing it much earlier than that, I understood his point in missing some of the more old fashioned styles of writing where authors sometimes took chapters to draw the reader in. As he summed up the current state of writing, he made the somewhat facetious remark that before long people were going to want action packed Tables of Contents.

     It was that last line that stood out to me, because I realized I'm already there.

     I actually do believe in an "action packed" Table of Contents. Seriously, why not? If that is the first thing the reader sees, there is no reason the Table of Contents shouldn't be doing their part to grab the readers attention as well as the rest of the book. I think I've always unconsciously believed that, hence my propensity to give my chapters names. Now that I've thought about it consciously, I'm more convinced than ever it's the way to go.

     I named the initial chapters of Dead Stop after the times of day, then shifted over to a storm theme once the weather moved in. They also reflected the intensity and momentum of events in the chapters they depicted. In my upcoming novel, Spiderstalk, there will be no overarching theme to the chapter names, but once again I'll try to find chapter names that reflect the chapter while hopefully also whetting the readers curiosity. In today's reality of ebooks and Amazon allowing customers to read the first part of the book for free, it only makes sense to have a Table of Contents that does it's part to capture the customers attention in the rest of the book.

     So yes, I think we're already at the point of "action packed Tables of Contents" and it's a tool that I heartily recommend to other authors as well. There is no reason not to, and much to be gained.

Monday, June 10, 2013

It's Snowing in Hell

Today, a new rough draft has been brought forth into the world.

It still has a long way to go. I have a list over a page long of corrections, deletions, additions, insertions, clarifications, and enhancements that need to be implemented before it's even ready for the scrutiny of its first proofreaders. And that doesn't even count editing.

Heck it doesn't even have a real title yet.

But after starting this project over three years ago, and a 166,000 words later, there is now a rough draft.

Life is good :)

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Showdowns are Hard

     I have now reached 147,000 words, and I've just started the first sentences of the climactic battle in my latest novel. It has taken me three years to get to this point in this particular manuscript. But now the headaches really begin.

     In a fight scene like this, time slows down and things get very complex. The writer has to follow the actions of the character and the antagonist, their reactions to each other’s actions, and yet also maintain enough sense of the world around them so the reader can put the action into context. And this is if you only have two combatants.

     There are a lot of decisions to make on how as a writer you are going to approach  such a scene.

     First of all, you need to decide what point of view the scene will be witnessed from. A third person omniscient POV of the battle will be very different than a first person or limited third person. I prefer to sit down into the characters head to witness the battle, as this brings the reader right down into the action. The challenge to this is that the reader gets no more information than the character has, and in certain types of battles that can be limited, fragmentary, and confusing.

     One possible solution to this I have found is the presence of a witness character whose perspective I can jump into, to give the reader a little needed oversight of the situation. In Dead Stop I did this by having Rachel witness the beginning of Harley and Marisa’s run for the mechanic’s shop from the roof.  This still gives a believably limited POV but from a perspective that can give the reader a wider view of the “battlefield”. But also remember that a character brings their own "color" to the scene they witness as well. I originally planned to have Deke witness that run, before deciding that Rachel provided the better filter for that scene.

     Another solution is two have multiple combatants and switch between POVs during the battle. This has to be done with extreme care to avoid confusing the reader. I have found that you should always stay in the same POV, and not change unless you’re starting a new sub-chapter that is clearly separated from the previous. In Dead Stop, I even labeled the sub-chapters with the name of the character the POV was being experienced from. I just don’t think you can be too careful in that regard. I’m not sure if I will do the same with this novel, but it is under consideration.

     So POV is a big issue.

     The other is the mechanics of the battle itself. Sometimes as a writer you have a vague idea of a battle only to have the scene you had envisioned fall apart when you actually start writing it. It turns out that when you go into the step by step process of following the battle, you discover the scene you had envisioned was never really thought out and actually wouldn’t work. For instance, once you get into following the step by step actions and decisions a character makes, you realize he would never put himself in the position necessary for the scene you imagined to function. Then you have this conflict of character integrity vs this awesome scene you imagined. And this can happen multiple times in just one scene.

     This is actually what I’m dealing with at the moment, and the way I decided to handle it is to outline the scene itself. Since I'm dealing with more than ten different combatants in four different factions, I can see no other way to do it. This should hopefully allow me to encounter the problems with the scene ahead of time, and tweak them before simply writing that far and realizing I’ll need to back up and throw out several pages of writing so I can go in a different direction.  I hate it when that happens. I bet other writers hate it when that happens.

     Annnnd there are now less than two weeks left until the kiddos are home for the summer and my writing time evaporates. That’s another deadline I wonder how many writers out there contend with.

     Oh well, on with the big showdown…I hope!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Optimism Rising

I have now reached 135,000 words in Argiope (or Spider's Dance, or Dance of Spiders, etc)

The different forces have all been put in place and are about to start converging for the final showdown at a ramshackle little farm on a foggy, early morning. There are still details to hammer out, and a couple of minor characters to decide whether to include in this scene or not, but I'm almost there. There is light at the end of the tunnel.

The goal is to have that rough draft done by May. It's still on the outside edge of possibility, so there is hope.

Not much else to report right now. Just an update.

Friday, April 26, 2013

I'm a One Man Zombie Apocalypse


     I have gone and done something stupid. (like that’s a first or something)

     I have gotten my sleeping schedule completely messed up to the point that I’m sleeping in a three hour and four hour blocks of naps. The problem with that is that I’m grainy eyed and tired, and there is simply no way for me to write in this shape. I’ve got one month until the kids are out of school, so I need to have the rough draft of my novel finished by then. It’s gonna be close.

     That’s assuming I can get my sleeping back on track. The problem is that my body easily adopts these new silly schedules and wants to stick to them, even though they leave me stumbling around like a zombie. The last ten days have been pretty much a waste.

     And it’s all because I have stumbled onto something that is evil beyond human comprehension. Something so vile and insidious that I never had a chance. Something that snared my poor mind, and has me circling it’s irresistible flame like a deranged moth.

     That something is called Minecraft.

     So all you other writers take heed from my misery, and avoid this game like the plague. It will mess you  up.


     Need sleep. Must write. Error….error….error…

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Send in the Clowns ... errr... Victims!

     I loved eighties horror movies. Halloween, Friday the 13th, Sorority House Massacre 256 ½ , and any other rated R hack’n’slash that I could sneak out of the house to go watch. They were funny, scary, and a bit of a forbidden delight. And the surprising thing is, often the original movies in those franchises were pretty good.
But as the franchises wore on, what seemed to be a universal constant started to creep into them…a constant I call the Retarded Victim In Waiting. While in the original franchises the victims were often the “bad” girls due to the director trying to exploit some moralistic foible of the audience,  later on they chose to focus on the gratuitous which meant they needed a broader range of victims.

     So apparently they chose morons.

     You’ve seen them. The girl in her nightgown aimlessly wandering alone through the dark house wondering where all her friends disappeared too…the group of terrified teens splitting up to do different things AFTER they already know there is a killer on the loose (I call this the Scooby Doo effect)…the terrified idiot running OUT of the house once it’s been established the killer is not in there with them…etc.

     Now don’t get me wrong…people often do stupid things, but it seems these acts of idiocy have nothing whatsoever in common with the character presented to the audience until they commit them. They are presented as perfectly normal folks who suddenly decide “Hey! I want to die like an idiot!” Okay, actually that’s not right because they are often not presented to the audience as much of anything at all, other than an item on the carnage buffet. You could usually tell who was going to die simply over how much effort was put into their character development.

     And I really try to avoid that because it sucks all the fear and suspense right out of the scene when it happens. It’s when the character does the right thing, and it doesn’t do any good, that things get scary. I think one of the most effective scenes in the original Halloween was when Laurie Strode did the sensible thing and ran to her neighbors for help, only to have them turn off the porch light because they thought they were the victim of a Halloween prank. That’s when the things get scary.

     That doesn’t mean I haven’t had characters make mistakes or do suicidal things, but I try to do it within the context of their personality or circumstances. When Gerald runs for his car in Dead Stop, it’s because of his psychology…the monsters he sees inside the truck stop have become scarier to him than the ones outside. Holly follows him simply because that is who she has become, and she realizes that as she does it. In a way, it’s a liberating moment for her (at least internally) even as she is doing it. When Deke screws up and illuminates himself with the glow stick it’s because he isn’t thinking things through because he’s an insecure young man focused on proving himself to still be a valuable member of the group. So when he finds the purse, he acts out of triumph at his success before thinking. Nobody in Dead Stop dies due to simply acting stupid.

     And the main reason for that is that I think there is a symbiotic relationship between the monster and the victim. A monster is only as scary as the victim he threatens. And let’s face it, by the end of some of these horror franchises we were being given line-ups of victims that would have had a tough time surviving an episode of My Little Pony.

     So victims matter! They need to have back story. They need to not be idiots. The audience needs to be able to connect with them in some way before they meet their demise, or their death will fail to establish the monster/killer/threat as the fearsome entity you as a writer want it to be. 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Reviews, Covers, and Stuff

Another review on Dead Stop, this time from a site called Quirky Zombie.

She points out something that I consciously decided to do in Dead Stop. Like her, I had noticed that characters never seemed to get injured in zombie stories. They either got killed, or they were motoring along with nothing but maybe a scratch here or there. I thought it would be more realistic for characters to get hurt, and for a group of survivors to have a number of wounded to contend with.

On another front, I have crossed the 120,000 word mark on Argiope. There is still quite a ways to go, but at least I now have all the forces involved heading towards each other. At this point I have the main protagonist learning his new girl's tragic backstory. That kind of thing.

I have also tentatively changed the title to A Dance of Spiders, but that is nowhere near set in concrete. Yet at least I now have enough confidence that I may actually finish this book that I'm starting to consider covers. For instance...

It's a bit simple, and doesn't make the greatest thumbnail, but this is how things start. Such is the lot of being an indie author. You have to wear a bunch of different hats to get that book to the public. And one of your main goals is to end up with a product that DOESN'T look like the work of an indie author.

There is a lot of work ahead.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Fix it Later

One of my weak and strong points as a writer is that I constantly reread my work while I write, and when I find something wrong I tend to bring everything to a crashing halt while I fix it. The good side of this is that I tend to end up with a rough draft that is well on it's way to being a first draft.

The bad side is that things tend to get bogged down to the point where that rough draft is nothing more than a distant gleam on the horizon.

So, from now thru April I'm going to just try and focus on pushing forward and adding things I find wrong to a "fix-it list" to be implemented once I have rough draft in hand. This will be the third time I have attempted to write this novel, so I'm ready to try anything.

The list currently includes things like...

Timeline- the timeline is all out of sorts. The story needs to conclude in late winter or early spring. So adjust timeline accordingly.
Sonni – has no character. Remember, nobody characters make boring victims. Flesh out Sonni a little. Consider changing her name as well.
Remember, prologue is currently a placeholder. Will likely need to rewrite later.

Things like that. Things that tend to drive me crazy at night when laying in bed and thinking about the book. This way I can still the nagging "fix it" voice by claiming something has been done without bringing progress to a stop. Hooray!

I'm really hoping to have the rough draft finished and polished into first draft form by the time the kids get off from school. That way I can send it off to  proofreaders and polish it further over the summer. I'm still not counting on it, but an autumn release would be awesome.

I also still need to come up with a better title. "Argiope" is a tad to obscure, and the average reader won't even know what that means. I'm thinking something along the line of "Spider's Dance" or "A Tribe of Spiders."

Oh well, it will come. That's it for now.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Dead Stop Free March 9th thru 12th

The kindle version of Dead Stop is free for the period of March 9th thru 12th

And for those of you who want something to refer to when trying to visualize the action in the truckstop, this is a floorplan of the Textro.

Monday, February 18, 2013


Well, after an illness that lasted almost three weeks I seem to be on the road to recovery....although it might be best to think of it as a muddy, backwoods dirt road. I had been sleeping inordinate amounts of time for a period of about two weeks before the bug finally blossomed into full plague at the same time my inlaws were visiting from Ohio. (Sorry about that Carl and Lu) But now the crud seems to be on the wane, and life totters on.

Needless to say, I haven't been very productive. But I haven't been totally inactive either. I'm finally closing in on what I think are the last couple of thousand words on a novelette I've been struggling through. I hope to finish the rough draft in the next day or two. It's designed to stand on it's own, or be the prologue for a future novel I have an idea for. Once done, I'll let it sit a few days before editing.

Sometimes I think being unproductive can become self reinforcing. I originally stopped writing when I started editing Dead Stop for publication. Then I spent the autumn focused on promoting it any way I could. I knew I needed to get back to writing, but it seems like my brain can be in either promotion mode or writing mode...not both. Something I'm going to have to consider, and somehow deal with in the future. But the thing is, more and more time kept passing without me writing anything, and for some reason that made it even harder to get started again.

I'm hoping that finishing the rough draft of this novelette will get me back on the right track. When I say rough, I do mean rough...it definitely needs some serious going over and editing...but even the small victories matter. Currently it's slated for inclusion in a hazy future anthology that would sort of be a sequel to Shades. Only this one would be about monsters instead of exclusively ghosts. But nothing is set in concrete.

Oh well, that's my update and lesson for the time being....


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Writer's Block and Vanishing Publishers

Every writer has their own set of weaknesses. I think one of my greatest is my constant self monitoring when it comes to writing. I will sometimes get hung up on a scene, a line, or an idea and it brings the whole project to stop.

Now that’s not always a bad thing. It stopped the writing of Dead Stop until I backed up and went in a different and much better direction. On the other hand, it has held up one novel for about three years. And now it seems to even affect my short story writing. It just seems that when it comes to putting something down on paper that I don’t like, I seize up.

I wasn’t aware of that so much until I saw a quote by a famous TV writer who said that writers block was caused by the fear of bad writing. Apparently his approach is to go ahead and write the bad stuff too, then just don’t use it.

Hmmmm… That’s sort of alien to me, since I tend to edit and revise as I go along.

Oh well, things to think about.

On to sadder tidings….It seems that Pill Hill Press is closing up shop. That is a real shame because Jessy and Alva are good people who worked hard to do right  by their writers. PHP had writer friendly contracts, and they were very adaptable when dealing with the types of situations that can arise when publishing a novel. I wish both Jessy and Alva the very best in the future.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Dead Stop Extra

I spent a little free time using Paint to draw up a floorplan of the Textro Truckstop featured in Dead Stop. It's scale is off, but it's effectively free hand so it's not too bad. While I thought the layout as described in the book was fairly intuitive, that was as the writer which means I KNEW what it looked like before setting finger to keyboards. I noticed in a couple of reviews that some readers were a little confused, so I figured that made it my duty to draw up something to help.

I'm not sure how I will make it available. Maybe I'll create a Blogspot site for Dead Stop, just like I did for The Ways of Khrem, and put it there. I suppose I could always look into trying to figure out how to insert graphics into manuscripts again, although I still find that idea a little intimidating.

Oh well, just keeping busy.

Edit: Remember, this is a rough draft. The back door should be more in front of the closet, and the Men's restroom should be a little longer.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Building a Better Monster

Writing Dead Stop was a very involved project for me, in more ways than one. I knew when I started it that I would be writing for a sub genre that had become incredibly crowded as of late. Zombies were big…still are…and it was going to take some real doing to write a story that had a chance of standing out in that crowd.

And of all the different elements that went into that story, I think one of the most important things I did was rewriting the monster in order for it to make sense.

The problem with a lot of monster movies is that it seems they are written with the idea that the audience will just accept the existence of the monster…just because. There is often a little bit of origin involved in the story, but just as often it’s paper thin and doesn’t go to much effort to make sense, or have the monster behave in a manner logical to the nature that has been created for it.

So when I decided to write Dead Stop, I read a bunch of zombie books, watched some zombie flicks, and even checked out a couple of zombie websites. Then I sat back and gave it some real thought, and worked to rebuild the monster from the ground up. After careful consideration, and some research, I chose to go with the graveyard variety of zombie. Then I worked out the most likely (if still impossible) scenario that such a creature could actually come into existence…and more importantly, how it would perform and behave if such a thing really existed.

I have learned that is very important in writing monster stories in these days of more sophisticated readers. To be really frightening, a monster needs to feel…possible. It needs to be grounded in a plausible scenario that makes sense to the audience, and behave in a way that realistically adheres to the logic such a creature would follow. Make it feel real.

I find myself employing that strategy once again, with a current short story/novelette I’m writing. Taking a monster commonly understood to be one thing, then breaking it down and looking at how such a creature could make sense to a modern reader, while at the same time projecting how such a creature would act, react, and otherwise behave in the world. You can even do this with a supernatural creature, which is what I’m doing now. The creature in the story is a succubus, and now that I’ve researched and come up with a plausible angle for such an entity, the story that has formed around her is not what I thought it would be…it’s better. I love it when that happens.

So that’s my thoughts on writing monster stories at the moment. It’s something I didn’t start out knowing (you can tell by my early monster stories) but it’s a lesson well taken.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013


It's a new year, with all the challenges and opportunities that come with it.

2012 was kind to me, in that I  published one novel and one novel sized anthology of stories. The novel even turned out to be a moderate success. I learned how to time and target marketing a little bit, and I hope to apply some of those lessons with my next release. But that success also came with a "learning opportunity" as I ended up spending the entire autumn marketing, tracking sales, following reviews, etc...and not getting hardly any writing done.

So resolution number one for 2013 is that I will only check on that kind of stuff once a week. Friday will be my day for that. Other than that, my job is to try and put that stuff out of my mind so I can get back into the mindset needed for writing.

One of these days some enterprising small publisher may try adding a marketing branch for indie writers who already take care of the other stuff, but that's an idea for a future post.

But back to 2013.

Anyways. My resolutions this year amount to more reading, more writing, less internet. More proteins, about the same fats, less carbs, and hopefully less me. More kiddo time, more meditation time, getting back to cooking real food (start watching the food channel again) and getting out of the house a little more often..

That oughta about do it.