For Grandma, Or Why I’ll Always Write Horror

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As I slog through submissions, rejections, and trying to create something halfway decent to peddle, the process can make even the most positive person wither. After the death of my father a few months back, writing has been difficult. I see so many fake people on social media who will do anything to get whatever they’ve written noticed. The asskissers. The fake-it-till-you-make-its. The phonies. It gets me thinking how much I want to do it any more. Before anyone jumps on me, I know there are some good folks out there. I know some of them. It just seems like there are more and more of the not-so-good folks all the time. And damnit, they know how to trample on anything good faster than a kaiju in the big city!

Some days I’m very quiet. I introspect about what I’ve accomplished and where I’ve come from. There’s hard work. There’s regret. There’s accomplishment. There’s failure. But at the heart of it all are the stories.

I try and be the author who writes the kinds of stories they would enjoy reading. I’m a monster guy. I’ve always loved monsters in some way, shape, or form. Anything from vampires to giant, city smashing lizards. If there are monsters, there are usually people fighting them too. That’s who I wanted to be as a kid. Not an astronaut, or a policeman, or a doctor. No, I wanted to be Van Helsing with his wooden stakes, or Charley Brewster from Fright Night.

I mention this because the other night as I pondered why my books featuring vampires haven’t done so well even though I love the hell out of them, I remembered why I wrote them in the first place. They were for the kid in me. And the kid in me used to devour horror movies with his Grandma every chance he got. We would watch Evil Dead, Aliens, Cujo, or whatever else my Grandma wanted. I was happy just to be around her. The whole monster thing just sort of sunk in while we watched.

Years later Cancer took her and even though I still miss her, a piece of me still belongs with her and those movies. I know that if she were still alive, she’d love my books. She would love them for the monsters and the people who battle them. She’d love them for the same reasons I do.

My Grandma wasn’t the only one in my family who got me on the horror train. I also owe my father a tip of the cap. Early on in my life he introduced me to Bela Lugosi’s Dracula, The Creature From the Black Lagoon, The Wolfman, Salem’s Lot, and Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark. Even though my father and I never had the best of relationships, we always had movies. Whenever I wanted to watch something, no matter what it was, he always said yes. Raiders of the Lost Ark for the 100th time? Put it on. Predator for the 150th time? You bet. John Carpenter’s The Thing for the 1000th time? Absolutely. One of the first grown up books I ever picked up was Jaws and I took it from my father’s shelf. It’s also thanks to my father that I started reading horror too.

Cancer recently took my father too. And I know where ever he is, he’s rooting for my books. He’s a horror guy, and there can never be enough horror.

Like I said, I’ve been thinking a lot about why I keep putting my books with vampires out there in a market that wants nothing to do with them. The answer is pretty simple. It’s because I love those books just like I love my Grandma and father. Those books are so much more than vampires. They’re grand-in-scope stories where good people fight monsters on behalf of the rest of humanity, because there’s something worth fighting for. So even though agents and other literary professionals see the word “vampire” and run for the hills, I know there’s a lot more to those books than that. There’s a piece of my father, my Grandma, and the love we all shared for horror. And someday, someone else will recognize what i see in those books too.

The mind can be a funny thing. When something is clogging it up, we have to figure out why and how to unclog it. If we don’t, we won’t be able to move forward. I know my love for monsters and the people who fight them comes from abuse too, but that’s a story for another day. It’s also something my Grandma, father, and I all share too. Horror, like my family, is a part of me. It always will be.


Back To Business

Death can be a difficult thing. The recent death of a parent certainly had me wondering about many things. It made me appreciate a short story I wrote a while back called, Death Blossoms. The story explores a group of people’s greatest fears while in purgatory. One character in particular is afraid he’ll end up like his father, who was an abusive alcoholic. The character wonders if those traits are apart of him no matter what he does.

I’ve wondered the same things. That’s why I included that story line into that particular short story. (Which is available now in Paying the Ferryman, an anthology published by Charon Coin Press, for only $2.99!) While the story isn’t biographical, I did share some of my experiences, hopes and fears, with certain characters. That’s something I try to do with everything I create. If you look hard enough, you’ll find a piece of me in each story. Sometimes it’s something small. Sometimes it’s something more major. Hopefully it makes for a more realistic read.

This past year and a half has been difficult. My family watched as a loved one wasted away. For those of you who don’t know, Cancer is no joke. I watched two Grandparents succumb to it, and now a parent too. What all three had in common was cigarettes. Take that how you will. ‘Nuff said.

Anyway, this week I made myself open my WIP and get back to work. At first I didn’t know if I’d be ready. After I read through the first ten pages, I found that I missed writing more than I knew. Even if I was only re-familiarizing myself with the story and characters, it felt good to make some kind of progress. Finishing the book won’t be easy, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. My recent experiences should help make my characters more three dimensional. Death affects everyone differently. Something I got to see firsthand with my brother, sisters, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, and cousins.

In my latest book, one of the main characters believes his mother died twenty-five years ago. He later learns she’s alive. Recent experiences really got me thinking how that revelation would affect a person. How far would we go to see our loved ones again? What would we say to them if we could see them again? Those are some of the things I want to explore in my latest piece of fiction.

Lastly, I’d like to thank everyone who took the time email, comment, and/or offer their support. It meant a lot to me. I want you all to know I’m okay and back behind the keyboard doing what I love. I’m taking it slow, but making progress. I will hopefully have the first draft done and edited by the end of March. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a book to finish!

Permuted No More

Just a quick note of a post today.

In light of recent events surrounding Permuted Press (if you don’t know what I’m talking about try searching a few social media sites), I have decided to terminate my contract with them. While everything you’ll find isn’t true, neither is it all false. They offered authors a way out. I took it. As of today, the rights to The Black Gate Trilogy have returned back to me. I couldn’t stay locked into a contract and work for people I no longer believed in, or trusted. For me, the issue was about much more than Print On Demand. It was about business in general, the mishandling of day to day operations. I’m not going to get any more specific than that. Just know I did what I thought was best for my career, the same thing I would expect any author to do. I look forward to the challenge of finding Mitsuko a new home and making her an even bigger success than anyone thought possible. Here’s to a bigger, and better, future!


Almost There!

Despite breaking my thumb, I’m nearly finished with my second book. You can’t keep a determined author down!

Renovations are nearly complete. Some final painting is happening today and new furniture will arrive this weekend.

I have official release dates for all three of my Black Gate Trilogy books. More to come about that a little later.

I mentioned getting some bad news in my last post and wanted to touch on it simply as a way of getting it off my chest. Someone in my immediate family was recently diagnosed with cancer. Many of my family members freaked out, but not me. I prefer to wait until the doctors run all their tests and come up with a game plan before forming an opinion. I’m not really the freaking out type. I’m more of the let’s see what’s wrong and then do whatever we can do to make things better type of guy. My glass tends to be half full.

It’s been tough finding the motivation to write some days. In the back of my mind I know deadlines don’t care what’s going on in my life. So I write on. My hope is that I bring some of that real world darkness to my fictional world. Writing has been a good release. I’m grateful.

The second book in the Black Gate Trilogy is currently approaching 83,000 words. My plan is to finish the final, epic battle scene tonight and start editing tomorrow. I’m not going to lie, it’s taken me a little longer than I would have liked. I’d rather take a little longer and get things right rather than rush through. After that, I’ll send it along to my agent and a few trusted readers. Fine tuning will likely follow before I send it off to my publisher.

Then it’s on to the third book! I plan on finishing it by July of 2015. Rest assured, things are happening behind the scenes here in Slushland. Be patient my friends. Please? I knew you’d understand.

I can’t wait to share these books with all of you. Spoiler alert: Not everyone makes it to the third book. Read into that what you will.

Expect big things from me in 2016. We’re talking Kaiju running through the city big. Broken bones, cancer, and anything else be damned!

When darkness descends…will you run, or rise?

Taking a Break And Other News

I know I haven’t been blogging much the past couple of weeks. It’s not you, it’s me. Seriously.

Between renovations and some other personal, and bad news, I really haven’t had much time for anything. In order for me to make a bunch of deadlines, I’m unplugging the internet and staying up most nights so I can finish up a few projects (four short stories and my second book). If you don’t hear from me in a few weeks, I’m very busy.

SNAFU has been getting some great reviews. A few of those reviewers call out my story as one they particularly liked. That makes me a happy writer. Thanks to everyone who purchased a copy, and a big “thank you” to all the readers leaving reviews. You are made of awesome.

In other news, my publisher gave me a tentative release schedule for all three of my books. I don’t want to share just yet in case things change. Anyone anxious to get their hands on my first book will have to wait a while. We’ll just have to be patient. I can’t wait for you guys to read it!

Thanks for all the support. It means so much to me. I’ll be back in a few weeks when things settle down some. In the meantime. Here’s a picture of Buck. He wants you to keep reading and writing! 🙂



The Much Needed Thank You Post

Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you.”–Princess Diana

I saved this thank you post as a stand alone post because I didn’t want the previous post to be ten miles long. AND I wanted to give each of these people the shout out they deserve.

As I’m sure any writer can tell you, no success is a solitary endeavor. We each have supporters, cheerleaders, critique partners, and I’m sure there are more adjectives I’m not remembering right now. The point is no writer sits down and publishes anything on their own. I am no exception.

There are plenty of people I need to thank. Some have been with me since the beginning. Some have been along for most of the ride thus far. Others have been around recently, while some have faded away. Each has helped me in some way.

In no particular order, I’d like to thank some folks. I hope you don’t mind.

  • My sister. She’s been with me longer than anyone else on this fantastic, crazy journey. She’s the first person who reads my materials and she’s never afraid to ask the strangest questions. Sometimes she’s brilliant. Sometimes…not so much. But I love and cherish her support.
  • Jennie Vongvith. My first critique partner! I approached Jennie as a complete stranger over the scary void that is the internet. I was so worried she would think I was a creepy weirdo that I almost didn’t ask her anything. I’m glad I did.
  • The ladies of the Hugs and Chocolate blog. They welcomed me with open arms and put up with my ramblings. We’ve been on some adventures, ladies! Hopefully we’re just getting started!
  • Jae Dansie. Jae convinced me to keep going with an earlier version of what is now known as BETWEEN SHADOWS AND DARKNESS. Thank you, Jae.
  • Daphne Shadows. The more I got to know Daphne, the more I realized we were cut from the same cloth. There are a few people who get to read my materials after my sister. She’s one of them. I see big things for Daphne in the future.
  • Tonia Marie Harris. Tonia would be included in the group of people who read my materials after my sister. In fact, I think of her as a sister. She’s someone I can talk to about almost anything. I wouldn’t be where I am without her support. Yeah, I thanked you twice, Tonia! 🙂
  • Heather L. Reid. Whenever I needed publishing industry advice, I asked two people. Heather was one of those people. I seemed to be following her fine example and have come to cherish her advice.
  • Courtney Koschel. The other person I would ask about publishing, or if I needed to vent about something publishing, would be with Courtney. I can’t wait to read her book. Her last email to me arrived with this subject line: Ahhh! How awesome is that?
  • Jani Grey. Another H & C alumni, Jani challenged me to think in different ways, which I sometimes needed. She’s wicked smart. Don’t let her tell you otherwise. I imagine every time I see a South African flag in my stats that Jani has stopped by, whether it’s true or not.
  • Jeff Long. Jeff wrote a little book, titled THE DESCENT, which inspired me to pick up a pen and write my own stories. Even though we’ve never met, I wouldn’t be a writer without Jeff’s advice that we’re all storytellers.
  • Jay Kristoff. Jay advised me to believe in myself no matter what. True, that was over twitter, but sage advice is sage advice. I’ve never forgotten those nine words, Jay. Thanks!
  • Cat Scully. Cat is a bubbly, horror loving, ball of awesome who was kind enough to read my first chapter and query letter. I can’t think of anyone who can brighten up a day quite like Cat.
  • Jolene Haley. Jolene is one of my newer friends, and also one of the best. I know if I need anything, I can ask and she’ll do her best to make whatever it is happen. I hope she knows I’d do the same for her. New Found Glory all the way home, right, Jolene? And let’s not forget our Barbaras. 😉
  • Kristen Jett. I don’t know any other ladies who love MMA like KJ. I also don’t think I know anyone as driven as KJ either. It’s always a good day when KJ is around. Her zombie short story inspired me to write one of my own which was published in The Siren’s Call e-magazine. KJ is a real life muse, ya’ll. Yes, the ya’ll was for you. Bacon, anyone? 😉
  • Mystic Cooking! Heidi and Kati have graciously helped me with queries and have supported me through Pitch Wars once upon a few years ago. They may be the YA queens. Someone should check for crowns. I’m still waiting for my dragon cuisine.
  • Deb E. Howell. How would I describe Deb? A kiwi with a heart of gold. We both share a love of music and the fantasy genre. If I’m ever in New Zealand, I’m probably going to look Deb up, but don’t tell her that. 😉
  • Sarah Hawkins. The bookish Sarah is back! Sarah is more talented than she gives herself credit for. She’s a YA aficionado who fell in love with a punk rocker. Did I also mention she’s a great person? No? Well she is. Ask her about CURSES, and then MUSTACHES. And don’t forget your pearls.

I realize I’m leaving some folks off the list. You know who you are. I can’t name everyone. I mean, I didn’t even thank my mom…or dog. You guys know how much I love my dog. Thank you to every  person who has helped me along the way, no matter how big or small the gesture. You are all appreciated.

And, lastly, thanks to YOU for reading and hanging around my little corner of the internet. Hopefully you’ll stick around to see what happens next. See you next time.

A little thought and a little kindness are often worth more than a great deal of money.”–John Ruskin

How Serving In The Military Helped My Writing

I served six years in the United States Air Force. Before you ask, no, I wasn’t a pilot. For some reason most people assume everyone in the Air Force are pilots. I was a mechanic. A damn good mechanic. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Let’s go back to the beginning of my service.

What made me enlist? In a word, necessity.

I had been living with my sister who started seeing a new man. I won’t go into specifics but will say he wasn’t a good person and somehow led her astray. Sometimes I think growing up with my father messed my sisters up more than it did my brother and I. They never had a healthy male relationship, or male role model. Through the years I watched as each of them struggled with boyfriends and warped ideas of love. Anyway, she chose this new guy over me, her family. It’s a decision she regrets to this day. I know, she’s told me.

I’d be lying if I said it didn’t hurt. I felt completely alone in the world. I was a twenty four year old never was. I had potential, but had no idea what that potential should be used for. So I wandered through life trying to be the best person I could at whatever I was doing at the time. Every job I ever had was shit–supermarket cashier, video store shift supervisor, pizza shop assistant manager, factory worker. Yet, at each stop, I was always promoted and given more responsibility. Signing up for the military had always been in the back of my mind. My grandfather, father, and uncles had all served. Maybe one day I would too…

Having no where left to turn, I chose the best possible alternative: service.

Just like any other job I ever had, I excelled, even in Basic Training. Most of my fellow soldiers were in their teens. I was halfway to thirty, more experienced, more seasoned. Many of the guys in my flight would seek me out for advice. I’ve always tried to treat anyone like I would like to be treated, based on the merit of their actions. I think that attitude won me some respect. Our Training Instructors molded my body, but they didn’t need to mold my mind. I understood what I was getting myself into. Plus, I fired a gun for the first time. I fired plenty of pretend guns while playing video games. This was different. Surprisingly, I was pretty good…with an M-16. Give me a pistol and my accuracy goes out the window. I still haven’t figured out why. Agreeing to lay your life on the line was something I took very seriously.

The key to surviving Basic Training was discipline and mental toughness. Instructors could scream and yell all they wanted. Some trainees folded, others adapted. It was easy for me to see that giving your best every single minute, of every single day was important. Good thing I had been doing that since kindergarten to survive my father. The military wasn’t much different than growing up in a house with strict parents who weren’t afraid to beat you with a thick leather belt.

After Basic Training came Technical Training, or tech school. This is where I learned how to do my job, which I had never heard of before I got there. I had basic knowledge of tools, but real mechanical skills were foreign. Sitting in a classroom and talking can only offer students so much. It’s a good thing we also had a workshop with practice parts. Just like everywhere else, I excelled here too, receiving praise from each of my instructors.

I’d like to make something clear: at no point have I ever sought praise from anyone, at any time in my life. All I did was give my best to whatever task was set before me. Airplane messing up? Need that symptom diagnosed? I can do that. Need a part replaced? I can do that too. Need someone to pick up the parts? Need someone to sweep the floor? I’ve done all those things and more. No job was too big, or too small for me. It didn’t matter what the job, I gave it my all.

If I found there was something I wasn’t good at, I sought out ways to improve my skills, constantly growing, as a soldier, person, and mechanic.

These are all traits I bring to my writing process. I dove in head first and learned along the way. There was no fear. As soon as I identified what was holding me back, I immersed myself in those flaws, learning everything I could, anyway I could. It took time, but eventually I saw improvement. Soon after, my confidence bloomed. I no longer sought validation from other writers about my writing. My skills grew to the point where I know my writing is good. I don’t need anyone else to acknowledge it anymore.

My contribution for the SNAFU anthology was my first military themed story. People often suggest we write what we know. I think that’s only half of the equation. I believe we should also write what we’re passionate about.

I try to bring military sensibilities to whatever I’m writing. The Air Force has a set of core values which all soldiers must memorize and live up to. They are: integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do. As you can see, they’re pretty self explanatory. That last one seems like it’s been with me since birth, and it’ll probably be there until I die. I believe there are some things we’re born with. I’ll always give my best. It’s part of who I am.

My life hasn’t been easy. I’m sure many of us could echo that statement. If I’ve learned one thing in my thirty some odd years roaming the planet, it’s that achieving excellence is rarely easy. If it’s important, the determined among us will find a way.

Writing is no exception. Those of us who want to carve out a career doing it will find a way to make it happen. For me, discipline, mental toughness, and a commitment to excellence has seen me become a soon to be published author. I used to call myself an up and coming writer, refusing to use the term “author” until I earned it through publication. Even in the early days I was setting small goals for myself, giving myself something to work toward.

As I look back on my service it seems so far away. I’m grateful for the experience. Yes, even deploying half way around the world, working through 130 degree temperatures, and fourteen hour days in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. It was during my service that I discovered a love for writing when I penned a three page rebuttal to a superior’s accusation that I disobeyed a direct order. But that’s a story for another time. 😉

Basic Military Training days.

Basic Military Training days.

There’s actually a funny story behind this photo. Each trainee gets one of these photos taken during Basic Training. The woman snapping the picture told me to smile. I said I didn’t have any smiles in me at the time. She paused, as if thinking, but said nothing. After a long moment she snapped this picture. If you look close enough, you can see I’m exhausted and my face is raw from shaving every day. I’m still that kind of guy, one who wears his heart on his sleeve. For some reason that moment stuck with me throughout the years, the way she looked at me all perplexed. I wouldn’t change a thing.

Set the bar high. Surround yourselves with other, like minded writers who demand your very best. Eventually excellence won’t be a speck on the horizon, it’ll be something you grab a hold of each day. Expect great things and eventually they’ll happen. Write like your stories belong on the shelf with whichever authors you admire and respect. At some point they were in our shoes. They didn’t give up. We shouldn’t either.