Month: February 2014

Publication Announcement: SNAFU–An Anthology of Military Horror

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I am pleased to announce that my short story, COVERT GENESIS, will be published in the upcoming anthology from Cohesion Press, titled SNAFU: An Anthology of Military Horror. Much thanks to Mr. Geoff Brown for taking a chance on an a relatively unknown author.

Read the official announcement here: http://cohesionpress.com/news/

What is SNAFU? SNAFU is an unofficial military term–situation normal, all fucked up. Think of what happened in the film Aliens after their drip ship crashed, stranding Ripley, Hicks, Hudson, and the rest of the initial group of survivors with an army of aliens.

I can’t tell you how ecstatic I am to be included in an anthology with fantastic authors like Jonathan Maberry, Grieg Beck, James A. Moore, Weston Ochse, and Joseph Nassise. I hope my story mingles well at the SNAFU party.

It turns out Mr. Brown received over 1,100 submissions for this anthology. I was among the eleven unsolicited authors who made it in. Crazy, I know. I celebrated with a cupcake. Again, crazy, I know.

I’ll be sure to pass along more details about SNAFU as they become available. Stay tuned.

You can learn more about Cohesion Press here: http://cohesionpress.com/

You can learn more about SNAFU: An Anthology of Military Horror here: http://cohesionpress.com/books/snafu-anthology/

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Keeping Hope Alive–A Writing Pep Talk

As I approach the next phase of my journey toward publication, I’ve been thinking quite a bit how I got to where I am. There have been plenty of ups and downs. Like many other unpublished writers there was a point where I wondered if I should hide my manuscript away and write something else. Maybe I should give up writing altogether? I think we each succumb to those shadows of doubt at some point or another.

How long should we keep submitting a manuscript?

The answer will likely be different for each writer.

No two writers are the same–with the same skill level and experiences. Two years ago I thought I was ready for publication but later learned otherwise. Until we experience certain things firsthand, we won’t know how ready, or unready, our writing is. We have to dive in head first. All of the suggestions or advice, while helpful, may not work for everyone.

Someone who writes horror will have different submission experiences than someone who writes historical romance. Every writer’s experiences won’t be interchangeable.

And that’s the tricky part of the submission process. Each writer has to blindly forge their own path toward publication. When things get tough, they have to find the strength to press forward. No amount of advice can prepare an inexperienced writer for what they’ll face, until they’re neck deep in it. Sometimes we have to fall in order to see how bad we want to get up and continue forward.

How bad do we really want it?

It took me four years to understand the kind of writer I wanted to be. No amount of reading “how-to” books really helped. I had to learn by doing, and experiencing, things for myself. Eventually I found confidence in my writing skills. Four years seems like a long time but I’ve talked to other writers who have taken ten years to discover the same thing. Each of us learns differently, has a different motor. Don’t let it get you down.

Keep the faith.

As long as you’re surrounding yourself with people who genuinely want to help, and you continue to learn and grow as a writer, trust that you’re doing the right thing. I’ve gotten some of the best advice from the most unlikeliest places. I’ve also gotten plenty of horrible advice too. We have to be smart enough to recognize the people who know what they’re talking about from those who don’t. Personally, I would never advise someone to blindly follow what I had to say. All I can do is show them what worked for me and suggest they try it out for themselves. Don’t let someone else pressure you into following what worked for them. It may not work for anyone else.

We must believe in not only ourselves, but our writing skills, and manuscripts as well.

When you find the kind of writers who you click with, tell them how much you appreciate them. The really good writers should have no problem giving as well as taking. Ask yourself how your critique partner makes you feel? Do they make you feel like you’ve failed, or that greatness is within reach? In my opinion, the really good critique partners/friends will give it to you straight while making you feel like greatness is right around the corner. They won’t just highlight all the things they feel are flawed, but they’ll also show you why, and different ways to possibly fix them.

I’ve also been on the other side of the spectrum. I’ve had others tell me to forget BETWEEN SHADOWS AND DARKNESS because the publishing industry was done with vampires after only reading ten pages. A different writer suggested I lose the Japanese elements of my story. A freelance editor straight up cut me down three years ago and made me feel smaller than a speck of dust. Through it all I never gave up hope. My story never let me go and a gut instinct told me to keep going. All I needed was some fine tuning.

Never stop learning.

I could have let those comments get to me. I could have bitched and whined, but I didn’t. I set out to learn as much as I could about crafting quality fiction. Naturally, I focused on horror, fantasy, and thrillers. What made the stories I love work? How could I improve by analyzing the genres I love? I read books, watched movies, studied popular characters, and did anything I thought would help me understand how to be a better writer. I had to identify my weaknesses before I could learn how to overcome them. I don’t think I’ll ever stop learning.

Identify. Adapt. Overcome.

I’ve adopted a writing mantra over the years. Identify. Adapt. Overcome. We must identify what’s holding our writing back in order to adapt new strategies that will allow us to overcome any obstacles in our path. Will it be easy? No. Nothing rarely is. We must be willing to put our pride aside and do what’s best for our writing career. I see so many writers who seem content on “landing a literary agent.” But isn’t that merely a step amongst the stairs? Your work has only begun at that point. Ask yourself why you want to write? What are you hoping to accomplish? Once you identify those goals you can adapt a solid plan.

If we, as writers, can overcome our own doubts and keep learning, then we must trust that we’ll get to the end of the tunnel eventually. The subject of our manuscript shouldn’t matter as long as we can produce a quality manuscript. And that’s the key: quality. The best stories will always find a home.

I once asked a published writer I respect for a bit of advice. He responded with, “Always believe in yourself. And fuck anybody who doesn’t.” Those nine words have stuck with me. If we don’t believe in ourselves, why should anybody else?

What would I say to any writer doubting themselves: Never stop learning, and believing. If you can do those two things, you’ll make it. We all have bad days. Stay the course. Hold the line. Eventually you’ll look back and wonder why it took you so long. Because you were good enough all along.

Keep that chin up…and keep writing. Good things could be right around the corner…just like me. 😉

More to come…soon.

Should Unpublished Writers Review Books?

I’ve seen this question popping up all over the interwebs like doppelganger furballs from a wet Mogwai. To me it’s a no brainer. Let me explain.

First I feel I should mention that I am an unpublished writer who also reviews books. However, I won’t ever bash another author. If I read a book which I don’t care for, I’ll simply give it however many stars I deem appropriate and move along with my day. Certain books and I just won’t click. That’s perfectly fine. There’s no need for me to drag someone else’s good name through the mud. I’d rather save the actual review portion for books I love.

A better question should be why wouldn’t authors/writers review books? Most, if not all, authors/writers read. Those same authors are all entitled to their opinions. Hell, I just read Patrick Rothfuss give a scathing review and didn’t see anything wrong with it. Before we call ourselves authors/writers, we’re all consumers first. We buy books. We read books. We like/don’t like those same books. We like to tell our friends, neighbors, and anyone else how much we like/don’t like books.

Personally speaking, I’ve learned more about the kind of writer I want to be by critically reviewing books. If I can pick apart strengths and weaknesses from published authors, and books, I love, then I can do it with my own words. If I would have worried what other folks thought about me–being unpublished and reviewing books–I would have missed out on that.

As long as reviewers aren’t purposefully bashing other writers, I don’t see a problem with unpublished writers reviewing books. There will always be knuckleheads. We can’t let a few rotten apples spoil the whole bunch. Intelligent reviews will always stand out no matter who wrote them. It’s probably safe to assume imbecilic vitriol will stand out for obvious reasons too.

If we think unpublished authors shouldn’t be reviewing books, does that mean they shouldn’t review anything with writing involved at all? I’m talking about movies, television shows, comics, and video games. Who gets to decide what one person should, or shouldn’t, review? What gives them the right?

As for me, I’m going to keep reviewing the books I love. I like sharing the reasons why I love an author’s world, characters, and words with anyone willing to listen. Maybe someone else will read and fall in love with the same book. Maybe they won’t. It’s up to each of us to decide for ourselves.

And isn’t that what it’s all about anyway? Love, passion, and words.

I support anyone reviewing books. Just be careful not to spill anymore water on the Mogwai. I mean, nobody wants another Stripe running around ruining Corey Feldman’s Christmas again, do they?

Gremlins-Stripe

Notes From The Wordiverse: Writing Process Blog Hop

A friend of mine, Tonia Marie Harris, asked me to participate in a blog hop where each writer describes their writing process. It didn’t take long for me to agree. Tonia has been a great supporter of mine and I recommend you check out her blog. You can find her writing process post here: http://passionfind.wordpress.com/2014/02/03/notes-from-the-wordiverse/

I find it interesting to see how each different writer goes about creating their particular brand of fiction. In case you didn’t know, I’m a horror guy. My grandmother passed it along to my father, who in turn passed it along to me. Horror courses through my veins.

For me, horror is many things. Not only does horror force audiences to confront some kind of frightening scenario, but it’s gore, terror, monsters, and most importantly, the unknown. Anything is possible. Even though horror is sometimes looked upon like a red-headed step child, it isn’t going anywhere. The really good stories resonate and stay with audiences. Plus, I reference movies like The Evil Dead, 30 Days of Night, and The Descent so, you know, there may be a gif or two. 😉

Let’s tackle some questions like a Deadite on a fresh soul!

1) What are you currently working on?

Long time followers of this blog know I have a book on submission, called BETWEEN SHADOWS AND DARKNESS. What you may not know is I had originally planned on creating a trilogy set in that world. I even went so far as to outline major plot points for all three books before writing a single word of the first book. It’s fun knowing exactly how I envision the third, and completely unwritten, book ending. I know exactly who lives and who doesn’t. Anyway, the second book, titled THE BLACK GATE, is nearing thirty thousand words. That’s what I’m working on. It takes place four years after the events of the first book and follows familiar faces like Mitsuko, Julius, and Samael.

What is THE BLACK GATE? It tells the story of a Nephilim (half angel, half human), and heaven’s last seer, who races to prevent the extinction of the angelic race from a group of disgruntled fallen angels. Throw in a newly recognized group of vampire citizens fighting for their basic rights, ravenous feral vampires who live in dark places and come out at night to feed, and the human population fighting to keep their place in the world and you’ve got the recipe for my book. I wanted to take traditional religious beliefs and blend them with vampire lore to give readers something that is part historical and thriller, and wrapped up in a horror package. In the first book we get to see the beginnings of the world as it changes. With THE BLACK GATE, we’re thrust into the middle of an adapting world–where citizens don’t want vampires living next door, and they don’t want to share things like social security or anything else with them either. All the while angels and fallen angels are waging a war for heaven as their numbers dwindle dangerously low. The fate of heaven and earth hangs in the balance. Hopefully this book shoots first and asks questions later.

2) How does your work differ from others in its genre?

It would be conceited of me think my work differs completely from others in the horror genre. I think each writer is influenced by all of media they consume–whether it be comics, video games, television, movies, or books. My feral vampires are definitely influenced by Jeff Long’s Hadals from his book, THE DESCENT. While they aren’t identical, there are similar elements. Films like 30 Days of Night and The Descent also had an impact on me. With that being said, I paid careful attention to the science of these creatures. I wanted their existence to make sense and come across as genuine. Most of you may not know that I first had the idea for this book while I was still in the Air Force, sometime between 2003-04. I still have the original notes in a tattered notebook. This book came from the depths of my mind, so I guess that’s what makes it different.

3) Why do you write what you do?

That’s easy. The answer is my grandmother. She would come over most weekends before cancer took her and watch horror movies with my dad and me. She’d ask questions like, “What’s he doing that for?” “Why’s she going in there?” It was fun being a pre-teen and answering her questions. I didn’t realize it at the time, but those questions forced me to take a deeper look at character motivation and plot structure, my first critiques if you will. She’d give a thoughtful nod and move on to the next scene. I miss those weekends. My grandmother’s name was Barbara and she would laugh at the beginning of Night of the Living Dead when they used her name. We all did. One of her favorites was Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead. Mine too. I try to tell the kinds of stories I think she would have enjoyed. I know she would have loved them all.

4) How does your writing process work?

Believe it or not, this is an easy question to answer. Overall, I’m a huge plotter. It only took me four years to figure it out!

The first thing I need is an idea that won’t be ignored. Once an idea burrows into my grey matter, I’ll jot down the beginnings of a main plotline and various character bios. Depending on how clear these initial concepts are, I’ll let them marinate for about a week to see what else rises to the surface. Those concepts solidify and I’ll write out a more thorough outline of the entire book consisting of a few sentences for each planned chapter. It’s important for me to have a clear a vision as possible before typing a single word of the first draft. It saves me loads of time in the revision process. I’d rather take my time in the beginning to make sure I get things the way I want them. I also don’t believe in creating a shitty first draft. Why lower your expectations because it’s a first draft? I want everything I do to be as good as possible. This includes first drafts. I’m a big believer in setting the bar high for everything we do. You can’t do excellent work if you don’t expect excellence first.

I think it’s important to mention that I believe creating quality fiction takes as long as it takes. I don’t believe in rushing through. If I need to take a break and work out a plot hole in my head for a few days, I will. I won’t ever submit something I’m not completely satisfied with either. I’ve learned to trust my instincts. Keep in mind this is what works for me. Each writer should discover what works best for them and fine tune their writing process accordingly.

Hammering out a first draft comes next. I like to use my outline as a guide and be flexible when creating the first draft. Sometimes you have to try different things before things feel right. After the first draft is done, I go back through focusing on big picture things like character consistency, setting, pacing, and looking for plot holes. Some sections will need beefing up while other will need to be pared down. I’ll step away for a week before reading through again looking for typos, odd sounding phrases, and passive voice. After all that, my sister gets to read it. She’ll mark things with a red pen and I’ll go through her notes deciding what is valid and what isn’t. One more pass before sharing with critique partners. Rinse and repeat with the going through notes for what works for the story. Annnd…viola! My idea went from a plot baby to a full grown story. What, you were expecting something a little more sexy? Sorry to disappoint everyone.

I can’t forget music too. I constantly listen to music to help me hone in on certain moods. If I’m writing a fight scene, I turn up bands like Killswitch Engage, The Used, and and Cold. If I’m writing a romantic plotline, I’ll listen to bands like We Are The In Crowd, Marianas Trench, and Paradise Fears. Music just makes everything better!

Special Note: This post is dedicated to the loving memory of my grandmother, Barbara Jean Taylor. Without her, I wouldn’t have discovered a passion for horror. I hope I’m the kind of man, and writer, that would have made her proud. She is loved and missed.

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BJT

Song of the Week: There There, By The Wonder Years

The Wonder Years have always been known for their punk-pop stylings. What I love about them is the gritty, gut punching emotion they often convey through their lyrics. There There is no exception. Plus, you’ve got to love a song that starts off with, “You’re just trying to read. But I’m always standing in your light.” Check it out.