Monday, March 31, 2014

"My Writing Process" Blog Tour

The Excellent Horror Writer and generally good guy, Brian Fatah Steele, hooked me up with the “My Writing Process” Blog Tour.  Thank you, sir!  He's got a bunch of stellar horror books out, just check his Amazon Author page and pick one or two or a half dozen to read. He knows how to wield some wicked words.  

I like what Brian wrote at the beginning of his post and will borrow it here:
"Blog Tours like this are simple. It allows authors to network, and more importantly, allows readers a glimpse behind the curtain. Not only does it give us a chance to discuss what we’re working on but how we’re doing it. No two authors create in the same manner, nor should they ever think they’re supposed to. So, jumping into the four questions…"

So, let’s get to the questions and see where it all leads, eh?  Also, these answers are where I am right now.  Over time, even a few days from now, if I was to think it out even more, my answers might be quite different. 

Shall we…?

What am I working on?

Is this a trick question? I am a writer who just released my second collection, Autumn in the Abyss.  Part of what I am working on is the marketing for that book.  But…that’s not what you are asking, is it?  What new writing am I working on?  I am in flux, yet focused within that mindset, wrapping up a story for one anthology request while doing some research for another anthology request.  There’s also the novel in progress that has William S. Burroughs as inspiration, though the writing veers more toward whatever mad conglomeration of influences that make up my writing.  Three perspectives, right now I am doing revisions—or will be, when officially back to it later this week—so I’ve split up the three perspectives into three files to make sure there’s consistency within the separate character chapters, then I will shuffle it all back together and deal with the finale.  Definitely the hardest thing I have ever attempted, at least where words are involved.  Add to that a bit of ad copy for the masterful dark ambient band, Inade, and mapping out the next collection—a counterpoint to the all male protags in Autumn, as females take the reins--and I would say I’m busy.  But busy is good and writing keeps me sane, so I’ll deal with it.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Clive Barker once said, “I forbid my mind nothing.” That is a starting point for most of my fiction.  Like his writing and the writing that most works for my mindset by others, and what I incorporate into my own writing, there’s a sense of being fearless with words.  I don’t flinch when what’s needed to be explored, no matter how visceral or psychologically dark, rises up and demands attention.  My writer’s mind caters to this type of thing as opposed to the same old, same old horror tropes, though I have on occasion utilized those tropes.  I also like to incorporate what I think of as the J.G. Ballard School of Observation (okay, I just coined it with this title, but that works, hehe…) into my stories, in that while most writers might look at a situation from the same angle, I like to approach it, as Ballard always did, from a completely different angle.  Uncover something unexpected.  These elements as well as the unique elements of my voice—we all bring our own voice, perspectives, observations, experiences, and obsessions into play with our words—make my writing distinctly my writing.        

Why do I write what I do?

Write the book you want to read.  Who said that?  Toni Morrison, perhaps; and many others, in a way.  That’s what I do with my stories.  I enjoy dealing with darkness, dread, and situations most dire.  And love.  And relationships.  And whatever it means to be human.  I write to learn more about myself with the possibility some of what I have discovered might work for somebody else and their journey in this thing we call life.  That’s the gist. 

How does my writing process work?

It is primarily organic and specs depend on whatever else is going on in my life.  I prefer early morning, fresh brain time, yet don’t get that much when the Real World intrudes and I need to deal with work.  Therefore, I take it when I can get it, an hour or two in the evenings, usually, and try to stay focused while doing that amidst a world of distractions.  Focus is key.  When I find myself slipping, I schedule writing time to make sure I stick to it.  It’s not a matter of Wanting to do it, that’s always, but writers know how even at that, we tend to wander.  Yet most of the time, I’m good to go on a regular basis. I believe in consistency more than waiting on the Muse.  Waiting gets nothing accomplished.  At least Being With The Words garners the possibility the Muse might say, hey, that’s good, let Me in on this fun.  The path for each story is different.  Some flow, some stutter-step.  Novels tend to flow because the word count does not matter and I let it all pour out.  Though, again, with the novel in progress, I have discovered a different approach is needed just to keep things somewhat aligned.  As in, I map out a few chapters, write a couple, trash the rest, re-map, and take it from there.  Some direction was needed at times, since the first draft without the finale is over 70,000 words.  Short fiction blossoms from a thought, an idea, an image, and the story takes hold as it needs. Since I write mostly organically, I’m often not sure where it’s all going, yet within the process, the story reveals its soul and I can add whatever’s necessary to make sure it makes some kind of sense to me.  And perhaps to the reader as well.

So, there, that’s it.  I don’t know how long this Blog Tour is going on, yet if you want to follow-up with something similar, by all means, do…and let me know when you have so I can check it out.

Upcoming blogs will feature info on the Axes of Evil anthology that includes my story, “Louder, Faster…” as well as that H.P. Lovecraft/Hunter S. Thompson mash-up I’ve mentioned I would post a couple times recently, aaaaaas well as much more on the new collection, Autumn in the Abyss.   (Of note, check the page: Amazon Finally got the Editorial Reviews updated, so now you can see what S.P.Miskowski, John Langan, and Joe Mynhardt have to say about the book.) (And purchase your own copy.) (Yeah, yeah, are we all salesmen now?)


Here's a somewhat appropriate photo to accompany this piece, Blood-Stained Words by, it says, Andy Asylum.  




Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Autumn in the Abyss: Teaser #5: The Wrong Place, the Wrong Time: "Where the Light Won't Find You."

My son says to me, "I have a title you can use for a story."  I glance at him, then back to the road and say, "Yes."  He says, "Where the Light Won't Find You."  I glance back at him and say, "Hey, I like that."

And we're off.

Later I am told that title is a line from a song by Tears for Fears.  No matter where he found it, it triggered something in me that blossomed at mega-warp speed.  I sat down on the Monday after he told me this, January 2013, and in one day burned through over 5,000 words.  The best word count writing day I'd ever had, though I am not a stickler for word counts. I believe when I am locked in the words flow, that's what matters.  But this one, it demanded to be told NOW!  Over the week that followed I rounded it into shape and it was done. 

It was also another story with an appearance by the curious Mr. Liu.  I don't use him as a crutch, his appearance, though often on the fly, is essential to what the story is trying to convey. This story is from a completely different angle then the two previous stories in which he appeared.  We've got our regular Joe, or in this case a regular Derek, headed to a movie theater after having an argument with his girlfriend.  We've got him being warned off of a specific movie by an Asian gentleman who does not seem to belong, yet he sneaks into that theater, to see that specific movie, and runs into all sorts of Chaos.  Wrong place, wrong time, pure descriptive madness. 

This was also a good story for exploring a more pure definition of what it means to be alien (I thinki I touched on this in the blog post for "Broken Teacup," too; excuuuuse me) (If not then, at some point. When? Doesn't matter.  It's my blueprint for writing aliens, though).  My take is direct and does not comply to any 'rules' one might deem necessary.  I mean, alien can be anything.  Anything.  The rules we use to define what life as we know it is like, what it takes and what is required NEED to be tossed out the window, shattering glass and expectations.  There's a moment in this story where something that is alien is described as a box-like creature.  There are elements that make that box-like Thang alive.  I remember my editor saying something to the effect...let me see.  She said:

"In Derek's position, I would be more worried about the monster that just finished with the big man or the herd of monsters hiding in the dark. The box doesn't seem like much of a danger." 

My response, in line with my thinking on what it means to be purely alien: 

My take is at this point, it is obvious the square-shaped thing is the one running the show here and if it seems angry, by the loud chattering, that would perhaps make me more fearful of it than the other monster.  The other monster may appear more gruesome to us, but since we are dealing with creatures outside of the norm--yes, that is a reason I made the square-shaped creature seem just odd, not scary--at least Derek gets that vibe here. " 

And now my font has gone all alien as well, besides bold for the point being made.  Point being, alien should be Alien, not subject to our rules, regulations, patented perceptions or Anything of that nature because it quite simply does not follow any of these.  Or it/they might, but that's the point. There are no limits. 

"I forbid my mind nothing."--Clive Barker.
Just felt like tossing that into the mix.   One of my rules for writing and thinking.

Anyway, here's a touch of our poor schlub in love as he sits in the movie theater with only one other person there and things kind of...tilt.

He tries to focus on the movie and not think about the guy behind him. After a couple minutes tamping down his agitation, he coughs and hears a tiny snicker echo in response. He catches his breath and again tries to focus on the movie.

On the screen, the guy with the professionally tousled, brown hair and the too perfectly trimmed twenty-four hour shadow is reading with a flashlight the last lines from something scribbled on the wall in too-runny movie blood. The plucky blonde who has uncharacteristically— for a horror flick of this meager ilk— not removed her skimpy baby doll tee hangs on his arm and every word. He says, “The dread is in knowing you will have to forever live where the light won’t find you.” The flashlight goes out.

The screen goes dark. Too dark.

After twenty seconds or so— twenty seconds that feel like twenty minutes to Derek— there’s a thump on the back of his seat. His heartbeat picks up its pace, attaining a strong gallop.

Another ten, perhaps fifteen seconds pass before the big guy sitting behind Derek, that mountain of a jerk, makes some hacking, gurgling sounds, as if he is pulling up a mouthful and is planning to decorate the back of Derek’s head with the green slime.

The silence heightens these strange, throaty sounds.

Seconds tick by; soldiers on a mission.

Then, the friggin’ jerk kicks the back of Derek’s seat. Tap, tap, tapping, as if those soldiers have picked up the pace to a jog, trying to catch up to Derek’s rapid fire, double-bass drum heartbeat.

Derek shoots straight up from his seat, turns to say something, anything, to this major fuckwad, no matter he is big as Godzilla, when he sees what is really responsible for the sounds.

Perched on the big man’s chest is
Well, if you want to know what's there as well as more about Mr. Liu, Derek, and That Which Lurks In The Shadows, including something shaped like a harmless box, well...
Here's the Amazon US link, my friends.  Also available via Amazon UK as well as the Barnes & Noble link, too!  It's only letting me put the hyperlink to & Noble, hope that works.  Oy!
As Clive has always reminded us, it's not just a harmless box...
Here's some Phenomenal art by Hector Pineda, a truly talented artist.  

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Autumn in the Abyss: Teaser #4: A Serial Killer Tale Gone Sideways: "Becoming Human."

"This is the best serial killer conceit I've ever heard of!!!"  Yes, with three exclamation points.  In the track changes notes by my editor/publisher, Kate Jonez. 

If you think you know where a story I am writing is going, think again. 

I rarely write fiction dealing with familiar horror tropes.  I've dabbled, but even at that, the story is usually about something else.  That something else is the focus, the tropes are littered in the path, nothing more.  As "Becoming Human" opens, we are introduced to Detective Roberto "Bobby" Vera, locked into a cat and mouse chase with a copycat killer.  A copycat killer mocking Vera's most famous case.   But then, at the point where the comment above was made, everything you think you've been reading goes sideways, crashing to the floor.

As a writer, I work hard at learning how to better convey the stories filling my head.  I am never satisfied as much as understand when a story works.  There's always better, yet with a handful of stories, I know I've gotten as close as I can Right Now--perhaps later, as I grow as a writer and learn more, I will get even closer, but perfection is never a part of the deal. And I don't mind. I also don't mind working hard to improve what I do.  Always.  Anyway, the point is, with "Becoming Human," I feel I've gotten close.  Solid wood on the baseball, that is a home run, perhaps it's tape measure.  Oy, sorry, that analogy has been floating around in my head for the last few days in many formations, I've just stripped it to the bare bones, haha...

This one is not for the light-hearted, either. There are a couple of truly nasty scenes meant to evoke a response from the reader; one scene in particular.  Why?  Because if I'm going to go dark, it's going to be pitch black, so when we rise out and into the light again, it's euphoric.  I remember a response from an early reader of this story who said she really enjoyed hardcore fiction...and how this one almost turned her stomach.  I swear, after the mess of what Detective Vera goes through in this story, when I read the final sequence, I cannot help but tear up.  Such an emotional ride.  

I'm not here to tuck you into bed with a kiss on your forehead and wishing you Sweet Dreams.  I am here to shake things up, to make you think, to let you know you are alive and breathing... Because when it goes dark in this one, when Evil shows its face...then when that something else shows Its face, well--

All bets are off.

Here's a clip from the beginning.  Get the feel, the tone, then remember, you have no idea where this one is going.  You'll appreciate that when you get there.


Detective Roberto “Bobby” Vera clenched his large, gnarled fists, then opened them wide and took the bottle of whiskey in one hand, the shot glass in the other. He set the glass down and tipped the bottle against his eager lips.  He needed the burn. He needed to have his insides cauterized by the harsh liquid. He set the bottle down, head swimming in dismal thoughts, drowning in the knowledge of what came next. Moving the mouse, he clicked on the arrow to the video clip sent to him by a copycat killer, rapist, and worse— a strange statement, but Vera understood the vile contingencies of “worse;” it crippled his every thought— and cursed God, cursed his mere existence, and cursed the deranged déjà vu mockery playing out before him on the monitor.

He set out on his path to the abandoned factory in northern California immediately after watching the clip. He had done this before. Done exactly this before. It may have been a different factory the first time, but the gist of what was in motion was a perfect reproduction. What he’d just watched looked like the work of the fiend from that other time.

His primary thought was that, despite the spot-on similarities, he could not let it reach a similar finality. This time there would be no questions asked, no chance for this bleak acolyte to weave his heinous philosophy into Vera’s now broken mind. He would unload the whole magazine into the madman and walk away. Though he’d been working with the FBI once the copycat crimes had commenced, and he was contacted by this unoriginal yet still quite lethal perpetrator for the finale, he needed no interference. Now… now he had to be alone to deal with this as he knew he must. He saw no other way, having spent the last three months on a condensed, accelerated reliving of the fourteen-year case that defined his reputation, yet tainted his life thereafter.

The case of Corbin Andrew Krell: Krell the Destroyer, Krell the Creator.


This, from Krell, a taste of his aforementioned heinous philosophy:


“Evil should not be, Detective Vera. Truly never can be. But in defining it as such, an inherent human bond with negativity confirms its very existence. Its mere acknowledgement cancels its credibility. Evil is nothing—the lack of anything of substance— made concrete as a balance to everything else. Evil is not, yet it is a part of each human, because humans welcome its participation in their lives. They speak of it in anger or disgust, fear or even wonder— the most appropriate response— giving it a stronger foundation with every passing thought it distorts. Though within their pliable minds, they welcome it with the glee of the ignorant, nurturing the unthinkable, thinking the unimaginable, imagining the most horrid, abysmal designs, embellishing them with an insidious veracity until evil is as substantial a reality as their next breath. I strive for something else, beyond evil’s claustrophobic clutches. I strive to transcend evil by becoming pure nothing. I strive as my followers strived.” He paused, his ideology a cancer, spreading… “I am, yet I strive to not be. Do you understand, comrade?” His tone suggested fellowship, disciples of the same obscene religion. Vera did not believe evil and madness required mutual participation, yet with the latest developments from Krell in The Pit, he was not sure anymore. Because this latest stage moved beyond logic he could fathom. Krell hadn’t even touched on the questions of his copycat follower, besides a curt, “My footsteps are deep. Many shall follow my path.”

This one goes even deeper than pitch black, if that's possible...

Autumn in the Abyss will be published 3/3/14, which is tomorrow.  You ready?  Here's the link for the Amazon page.  Pre-orders for the paperback are available.  The Kindle version will be ready to purchase sometime Monday.

Please check it out, purchase it, love it, fear it, immerse yourself in it and let it shake things up for you in a good way.  One more blog post on the stories within the collection, that will probably be up Tuesday or Wednesday. 

Here's not just one, but many copycats. Meow.

[shakes head]