Fun stuff! A writing process blog tour!

Hey folks!

Today’s post is a stop on a blog tour! I’ll be chatting about my writing process and sending you, dear readers, in a couple of directions to read about the writing processes of some other very incredible writers. Take a look back at Mackenzie Lucas’ blog and how she produces her paranormal and contemporary romance and then look forward to see how a few other writers manage theirs.

First up is my thank you to the talented Mackenzie Lucas. She writes titles like Essence, The Megiddo Mark, and one of my favorites, Pompeii Reawakened. PR_cover

If you enjoy steamy romance, either paranormal or contemporary, I promise you’ll love Mackenzie. Go read about how she manages her writing at her blog here.

On to the questions!

WHAT AM I WORKING ON?

I’m actually working on several projects right now.

My thesis needed rewrites before I could send it off to an agent, so I’ve been tackling that. It’s been much harder than I anticipated. It’s not horror, it’s more of a cozy-ish mystery, and my voice changed a lot in the time since I finished it. I’m finding it a challenge to go back and write something that is a lot less edgy and graphic than Habeas Corpse. It’s a quandary for me and I’m slogging through. An agent expressed interest in seeing it, so I have to get the rewrites finished and plan out five more books in the series. I will keep you all posted, naturally, if something comes of it.

I joined a Facebook group that challenges me to write 52 short stories this year, one per week. Some weeks I’ve written two, some one, some none, so I’m always playing catch-up with it, but I think it’s a great exercise in finding new ideas for stories and putting them into a story quickly. I often find an idea and let it simmer (procrastination at its best, really) before I start writing. The 52 in a Year has been a good way to get around that.

I’m also working on the sequel to my published novel, Habeas Corpse. In the tentatively titled Edas Corpse, the second book in the Corpse series, Theo is confronted with several problems. Detective Gavahan needs his help to uncover what is possibly a blackmarket for human flesh and the murders surrounding it. Should Theo work with his nemesis, or should he stay with his kind? If he agrees to work with the cranky detective, can he resist eating again? What is on Shelby’s newly undead mind?

To grab a copy of Habeas Corpse, published by Blood Bound Books, head to Amazon.

HOW DOES MY WORK DIFFER FROM OTHERS OF ITS GENRE?

It really depends on which piece of work we’re talking about. My short story, “Black Bird,” published in Dark Moon Books’ Mistresses of the Macabre, is a very atmospheric piece. It’s been described as semi-literary. Rather than going for the gross-out horrific in this piece, I went for the feel of brooding sorrow, anxiety, and paranoia. It’s subtle, and honestly, one of my favorite of my own works.

Habeas Corpse is different in that my protagonist is a zombie. Most zombie fiction is post-apocalyptic and centers around the survivors struggle against the undead. Theo is the undead. He’s also not a typical male protagonist, particularly for the post-apocalyptic fiction. Think of Rick Grimes of The Walking Dead or Tom Imura of the Rot and Ruin series. They’re strong males, kind of the silent, swarthy type. They know how to handle weapons and take care of their family. Theo? Not so much. He good with a game controller and in the next book he’ll ride a Vespa. He breaks the stereotype of the male in zombie fiction.

WHY DO I WRITE WHAT I DO?

I write what I do because I love it. I write in multiple genres: mystery, horror, and a smidge of fantasy. Each genre satisfies something for me. Mystery, something I believe is in every story, satisfies my love of puzzles. The classic “whodunit” will always be a favorite for me, and I love reading all mysteries from cozies to police procedural to true crime. It makes me think and gets my neurons firing. Horror touches the darker side for me, the side that loves the chill that runs up my spine when something truly frightens me. It makes me appreciate that I am alive and allows me to reconnect with the most primal of all emotions– fear. I’m also a fan of morbid and graphic writing, so describing how Theo feels when he eats is such a sensory experience. If I’m not grossing myself as I’m writing, it doesn’t work for me. Fantasy is an extension of horror, in a way. Both genres are often lumped together as speculative fiction. It’s writing about things that don’t exist as if they do. I have a short story about a wizard named Wendell. It’s based in a traveling carnival and Wendell has a troupe of sideshow freaks. It’s solidly a fantasy story, and I love it because it allows my brain to go places that I can’t in real life. Writing is a form of escapism for me. There’s nothing I love better than spending a day with my characters putting them in impossible situations.

HOW DOES YOUR WRITING PROCESS WORK?

Setting daily goals is integral to my writing process. My goals vary depending on what I’m working on and existing deadlines. If I’m producing new work, I have a word count goal for each day. I record my word counts in a calendar to track my output over the long term. If I’m editing, I usually have a page number goal or chapter number goal. I also have to account for marketing and social media so I can maintain (and hopefully increase) my community presence. I have a checklist of things I need to do over the course of a week to use social media. I will admit this is the first thing I allow to slide if I need time for my word or page counts.

I am a pantser (a writer who writes from the seat of their pants, just lets it flow without much planning) at heart, but because most of what I write has a mystery thread, I have to be a planner to some extent. My stories almost always begin with the characters. I will come up with the idea for a character or several characters, usually from something I read or see, and try to figure out where they fit in a story. Once I decide what their story is, I write a basic outline with plot points so I have a very rudimentary road map, and I start writing. Often during writing, those plot points change, but that’s fine. I usually know how the mystery element will play out and I have that pretty well figured out, but the characters can grow and develop however they’d like. I didn’t start Habeas Corpse with the intent to kill off an important character, but partway through the writing I knew I had to. I love how organic writing can be and that the characters really do sometimes dictate their own fates.

And now I’d like to invite you to visit these other authors to see how they view their work and learn more about their writing process.

Scott A. Johnson writes in several genres including nonfiction and horror. Visit his blog at Write Stranger.

Kerri-Leigh Grady is an editor and a writer of dark fiction. She blogs here.

Ann Laurel Kopchik writes fantasy, both of the elvish and bedroom kind. Go see her blog here.

Lyn Gala blogs about one writer’s journal through one version of reality. She writes some spicy, yummy, sexy goodness. Got check her out here.

Madeline Price writes dark and sexy fantasies. Find out more about her books and her writing process here.

Playing favorites… horror movie edition

Playing favorites is a new topic I’m going to try here. If you’re reading, please play along! Leave your favorites in the comments or drop by my Facebook page to let me know. I love to discover new books, movies, and ways of entertaining myself through sick and twisted storytelling!

So… here’s the horror movie edition of “playing favorites.”

You know those nights when you’re done with all the “stuff,” or you just make the decision to be done for now, and the kids are in bed, and the corgis are snoring… or however those evenings go in your house, and all of this has happened in anticipation of a tiny bit of down time and your favorite movie?

I love those nights. Often, though, I don’t use those nights to go back to my favorites, but rather watch something new, preferably obscure and maybe indie so I can review it and share it with everyone. I’ve got a few reviews in the queue I’m looking forward to sharing.

But sometimes I do relent, most often if I’m by myself and I can watch something to just chill. My husband is usually amused by my relaxing movies choices, because they’re something like Jaws, [Rec], Evil Dead (either version) or… my favorite… Saw.

The original movie is my favorite of the franchise. Cary Elwes is one of my favorite actors and he does a great job in the bathroom. Tobin Bell makes a creepy Jigsaw. The traps are clever and his motive is clear… appreciate what you’ve got or lose it. I’ve enjoyed all the movies in the franchise, but the first remains my personal favorite.

I’ve also enjoyed a few related movies, spin-offs like Panic Button.

What’s you favorite movie to relax with, horror or not?

I heart Jigsaw.

I heart Jigsaw.

Book Club for Horror Enthusiasts

Hey everyone!

For a last several months, I’ve been a member of the DarkFuse Book Club. For a flat fee, you receive many, many titles delivered to you for your ereader. If you enjoy horror, particularly horror that isn’t mainstream, and if you enjoy supporting a great publisher and its authors, please do check this out. This has been a really great bargain and I’ve received some titles I’ve truly enjoyed (I will be reviewing some of them in the coming weeks).

I am in no way affiliated with DarkFuse, nor did they ask me to write this. I’m just really pleased with what they’ve offered and I don’t want it to go away. If you love horror and want to support the community, check it out. It’s 100% worth it. I linked to it above, but here’s the link anyway: http://www.darkfuse.com/book_club/

Have a great weekend and happy reading!

Tropes, cliches, and stereotypes, oh my

I’ve seen this quote making the rounds lately…

“The three types of terror: The Gross-out: the sight of a severed head tumbling down a flight of stairs, it’s when the lights go out and something green and slimy splatters against your arm. The Horror: the unnatural, spiders the size of bears, the dead waking up and walking around, it’s when the lights go out and something with claws grabs you by the arm. And the last and worse one: Terror, when you come home and notice everything you own had been taken away and replaced by an exact substitute. It’s when the lights go out and you feel something behind you, you hear it, you feel its breath against your ear, but when you turn around, there’s nothing there …” — Stephen King

I like this quote very much and I agree with Mr. King. The issue for most horror writers is how to write those terrors without resorting to cliches and stereotypes. Tropes are too easy. The lazy writer uses tropes (unless it’s for camp, and that’s something entirely different and can be done exceedingly well).

Pennhurst Asylum

Pennhurst Asylum

There are many horror tropes… from settings (abandoned hospitals/mental hospitals/islands/houses) to characters (creepy kids, mad scientist, animated puppet/doll, clown) to character traits (ankle dragger, mouth stitched shut, evil hand THIS IS MY BOOMSTICK!! I digress) to manners of death (chainsaw, wood chipper, attack of the killer whatever LOOK AT THE FANGS! More digression).

Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog

Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog

See what I mean? I bet you can think of a novel or TV show or movie that relies too heavily on one or more of those tropes. I was unfortunate enough to watch Wrong Turn 3 last night. Dear god… tropes, tropes, boobs, tropes, cannibal incest West Virginia natives. More boobs. It was so bad it wasn’t even entertaining.

So what’s the best way for a writer to not fall into the trap of tropedom?

Know the tropes. Read your genre, watch your genre (but mostly read it). Recognize when an author is falling back on the tropes. If you’re writing and you find yourself using something because you know that the reader will understand the cue, don’t use it. Break out of that and keep the reader guessing. Even if you feel like you need a trope to explain something, don’t. Give your reader more credit than that, and surprise them.

What are your favorite genre tropes (all genres!)?

boomstick

Inspiration… Or “What Does my Character Look Like?”

Just imagine this guy a little grayer.

Just imagine this guy a little grayer.

I’m totally guilty of trolling the internet for images of my characters. I’ve written here before that James McAvoy is the inspiration for Theo Walker. I find inspiration for a lot of my characters this way and I find it helps me keep their features straight throughout the story. I have a basic image in my head of what this character looks like, maybe ethnicity or general features or hair and eye color, and I search the internet, most often stock image sites for a person who looks like what I’m imagining. I print the photo and stick it on my character card.

Hello, Detective Gavahan

Hello, Detective Gavahan

I’m also guilty of employing this little trick with settings. I keep cards for important places in my novels with information like business hours, addresses, cross streets, anything that might be important details to keep consistent throughout the story. In the mystery novel I’m rewriting, one shop acts as a character. I had a local shop in mind when I created the one in the novel, so I went to the website of the local place and found photos of the interior. I printed them and stuck them to my “character” card for the shop.

Sometimes when I’m writing, all I have to do is flip through these character and setting cards for inspiration to strike.

 

012814 blog cards pic

Theo… or Why I Love Zombies

I’ve had some fun questions from readers about Theo… where the idea came from and how I got the zombie thing under my skin. I’m a mystery writer at heart, really, so the crime fiction angle comes from my science roots and years of snitching my father’s true crime books. My love of zombies is something else, and relaying this requires a look at religion, at pop culture, and my very favorite of all subjects to study… DEVIANCE.

magic-island-photo-2bFirst and foremost, I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of zombies. I’m sure this comes from studying religions and the social implications of religion in general. It’s incredible to me that someone can be so immersed in a religious belief that the power of suggestion alone is enough to make them believe another human being has control of them. I’m planning another blog post on the Haitian zombie phenomena so I won’t go into detail about it, but to carry that kind of faith is both amazing and terrifying.

I took a class in college called “Deviance and Social Control.” We studied some subversive cultures like motorcycle gangs and religious cults, and the differences in how one defines deviance both within and without these subcultures. Fascinating stuff. In my own teaching module on deviance in popular fiction, I offer up the idea that in order to truly build a society in fiction, a writer has to study what their society considers deviant. When I took a look at the Haitian voodoo model, the zombie myth really stands out as deviant.

So within this subculture (Haitian, and to some extent, Creole, voodoo) we have another smaller section of believers who include zombies, botGilgameshCover420h the existence of and the act of transforming others into slaves. Western culture considers voodoo to be deviant (this definition of deviant does not necessarily mean wrong, but rather simply violating agreed-upon social norms), and the zombie is even a step further. So combine my love of religious study and deviance and BAM! There’s the zombie.

Popular culture has long been fascinated with zombies, and the first well-known Western example of this is obviously in George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. But there are references to flesh-eating dead as far back as in The Epic of Gilgamesh. Our fascination with zombies in one form or another has been around for centuries.

And while deviance can take many, many forms, is there really anything more deviant than the dead rising to consume the living? NO FREAKING WAY.

I love what pop culture has done with the zombie recently, with a few notable exceptions. I love The Walking Dead, both the TV show and the graphic novel. I love Zombieland and Shaun of the Dead. I love Joe McKinney’s Dead City and Jonathan Maberry’s Rot and Ruin. Wonderful stories with tension and danger. But I also love the Haitian zombie, the one under someone else’s control, used as a slave. Theo was born from my love of the zombies of Voudon. Theo’s under the strict control of societal expectations. He wants to be deviant, all the zombies in Habeas Corpse do, but society controls them as surely as the voudon master controls her minions.

Book review: Sacrifice Island

Happy New Year intrepid readers! I hope the holidays treated everyone well and you all began 2014 refreshed and ready to go!

No?

Me, neither. The holidays tend to drain me… so busy and too much food.

2013 was such a weird year… many good things happened for me (short story and novel release, conventions galore), some bad (I crashed my motorcycle), and it was difficult to watch a few close friends go through some really painful times. I can’t decide if it was a wonderful year or just one that will go down as a strange year. Either way, it’s one for the record books.

So onward and upward!

Let’s start this year right with a review and a recommendation. Sacrifice Island is a novella released last year by Kristin Dearborn.

sacrifice-island This novella takes a monster of myth from the Philippines and turns it into something new. A duo of paranormal investigators heads to a tropical island to write the next chapter in their book on haunted locations. They’re out to uncover a mystery left behind in the diary of a young woman driven to suicide. They get more than they expect.

Jemma’s character grabbed me first. The reader learns early in the story that something’s not quite right with Jemma, but I couldn’t tell exactly what or where it would lead. I was intrigued with Jemma… she’s very cold despite the friendliness of her companion, Alex.

Jemma certainly grabbed me, but it was the setting that kept me reading. Dearborn uses vivid descriptions and lots of detail to really make the island stand out. I know she visited the area, and her familiarity with the tropical setting shows.

Once the investigators reach the island, there’s a lovely slow burn to the climax. Dearborn builds the suspense subtly and the puzzle of what’s happening on the island is in the forefront. Can Jemma and Alex find out what happened to the writer of the diary before the island claims another victim?

I give Sacrifice Island five stars for the intriguing characters, the lush setting, and the awesome monster.