Most people who make the decision to write creatively do so for the same reason, they feel a need to tell a story. Many clichés have been used to describe such an uncontrollable drive; the first couple that come to mind concern musicians. Who hasn’t heard about a performer that had “music pumping through their veins” or “rhythm in their blood”? I think that writers can often be looked at in the same way and like music the need for storytellers goes WAY back throughout the annals of human history.

Of course, writing tools and techniques came long after the creation of story. Early cultures did not have the ability to record important lessons and enriching stories, so these sacred tales were preserved in the oral tradition, often times spoken by a recognized wise man/woman or shaman around a camp fire. The problem with oral tradition is that like the children’s game of telephone, things change as they pass from one story teller to another.

In a way this same transference occurs when modern writers commit to telling their own stories. Sometimes a writer knows the exact direction they want to go with a story or at least have a few milestones or a finish line that they plan to cross. Other times writers sit down in front of their computer or scribble in their notebooks in hopes that the muse will guide them in the direction that their story needs to go. Both of these techniques are fantastic and without them the world would not be blessed with the enriching power that is story.

The journey a writer must endure to reach the glorious “fade out” or “the end” is always long and is always different. Every story I have written has offered its own challenges, some went quickly and there were some that I thought that I would never complete. Anyone who has read any literature on the craft of writing has certainly heard the phrase “writing is re-writing” and the phrase is very true in most cases. Whether a story is being translated from storyteller to storyteller as it was in ancient times, or simply being transferred from the magic place in a person’s brain (or heart) that story comes from to the page or computer screen, it is inevitable that things get lost in translation or changed altogether.

It is because of this anomaly that re-writing is so important. Re-writing is not simply going through a manuscript or word doc with a red pen or the highlight tool, it is a running analysis on the soul of a story. Sure grammar and spelling are important when re-writing, but one of the most important (and often hardest) things to do is to make sure that every single word either moves story or character forward. The analysis itself may always not be that difficult, but what happens when a beloved scene doesn’t make the cut? It’s got to go and that’s all there is to it. I personally like to keep these “misunderstood children” in a separate writing file and have on more than one occasion found that they fit into another story or constituted one of their very own. So don’t think of cutting scenes as “killing your babies” but more of “finding them the right home.”

Likening the editing process to the creation and retelling of ancient stories may seem like a stretch to some, but both require great insight and fortitude. The soul of a story is a special and unique thing and it is the responsibility of its creator to nurture and protect it. I hope you all have enjoyed this broad look into the heart of the editing process; I plan to get into more of the mechanics of the process in the near future and will have to practice what I preach in the very near future as the draft of my current novel is nearing its conclusion.

Until next time!

So… Here we go again

Posted: December 7, 2014 in Uncategorized

I don’t even know what to say. What a terrible way for a writer to start his first blog in over a year, right? I chose this opening statement not because I have nothing, but because my hiatus is inexcusable (well, almost). I just recently completed an accelerate MBA program and was able to end with an almost perfect 3.97 GPA, unfortunately my writing time had been consumed by statistics, analytics, and other things that were not quite as much fun. As a married man with two wonderful children, you could imagine where all of my “spare” time went when I wasn’t busting my hump at work or making the grade in school.

A few things I wanted to discuss in my “welcome back” blog was some of the truths and misconceptions that can be found in business school myths. It would be an understatement to say that I was an oddball in my MBA program; most of my peers were salty mid-career professionals with undergrad degrees in business, accounting, or marketing. I was the ONLY English major in all of my classes and from what I heard from my teachers, it sounded like they did not see many (or any). One of the most commonly asked questions from teachers and peers was: why would you want an MBA if your dream is to become a writer?

My answer: Because I wanted to be prepared to represent myself in contract negotiations and have the knowledge and the ability to market myself like any other entrepreneur. I used the word entrepreneur after great deliberation; I feel that writing for the promise of monetary reward would detract from the craft itself and have vowed to never write for the money. I write for the same reason that many writers do: I have a story to tell and it is my job to make my prose (or screenplays) interesting enough for people to want to read it.

The response that I got from a few of my instructors was a bit demoralizing.

“Business school is also known as the creativity killer,” they said.

To which I replied, “we will see.”

It turns out that they were right; they did succeed in suppressing all of my passion for creative writing (save for 1 screenplay outline and 30 pages of a novel) for the duration of the 18-month program. I was so burnt out on writing ANYTHING after I completed the 10-30 pages of required writing per week. I was getting worried and thought on more than one occasion that I should have stuck with English and hope to land a teaching or editing job down the road.

Like I mentioned above, I graduated with honors earlier this year. I was eager to prove that the program did not leech all of my creative energy and I was determined to hit the ground running.

Wait a minute…

I graduated October 17th

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is November…

The solution was obvious, I was going to write a goddamned novel in one month! For those of you not familiar with NaNoWriMo, the objective is to produce 50,000 original words in 30 days. This works out to be about 1500 words a day on average, but as we all know, some days are better than others! I stuck pretty close to quota, but I have to admit, I had a few 3000+ word days on the weekends to make up for the weekday short-comings.

So, is the novel done?

No, but I did achieve almost 60,000 words in 30 days and hope to wrap the first draft at between 85,000 and 90,000 words before the end of the year.

I will post more soon on my progress, but if I want that last 25,000 words or so to happen I will have to get to work!

Thanks for hanging in there and I hope to post more soon…

Hey there horror fans,

Another short excerpt from “The Poet” this week. I feel obligated that to let you all know that this section has some foul language and a nasty rape scene, so make sure the eyes of all tiny horror fans are re-directed to something awesome like Gremlins, Ghostbusters, or one of my boyhood favorites Monster Squad!  

I hope you all enjoy. I wrote this piece a while back and have always remembered it fondly. It is not perfect, but I feel that due to its content it does have some thread of relevance here at HOTHB.

Best,

Jim

 

When the smoke stopped rising John took a moment to savor the clean air. Curiosity got the best of him and against his better judgment he dared to peek over the thick branch. His visitors, whom he had identified as a man and a woman based on their occasional coughing were oblivious to his presence. After peering over the ledge he saw a man that he did not recognize. The man stood bundled in a heavy black overcoat that appeared to have a liner made from a plastic trash bag his face was hardened and sculpted by the elements but his deep set eyes shown with the vulnerability and constant fear of a captive animal. The woman was someone he had seen before in the park, John was pretty sure her name was Charlotte. What he was sure of was that she was one of the few unfortunate women indigenous to this park and that because of the terrible ratio of men to women she always had to be on guard, ready to fend off unwanted sexual advances.

“Can you light me up?” she said to her companion as she put a crumpled cigarette in her mouth.

The man dug in his jacket pocket. Emerged with a lighter and lit Charlotte’s cigarette.  

“Give me some of that?” He asked.

“Fair enough,” Charlotte smiled, took one last drag, and offered it to the man. “Thanks again for the buzz. I had fun.”

The man shoved his hand in his pocket and leaned against the tree. He sucked a few greedy hits off of the cigarette then thrust his hand out, offering it back to Charlotte.

“Here ya’ go,” the man said as heavy tentacles of smoke crept from his mouth and framed his face.

John watched from his branch as Charlotte smiled and leaned in to take the cigarette with her mouth. The man placed it gently between her lips. As she took it the man grabbed a fistful of wispy hair, and pulled her down. She screamed instinctively and the half smoked cigarette fell to the grass. The man pulled a folding knife from his pocket and opened it with a flick of his wrist.

The man held the blade to Charlotte’s face. She was crying now. He traced her jawline with the point, dropped it to her neck, and then to the swell of her breast.

“Give me some of that too,” he said through a grin like acid.

Charlotte looked up and desperately searched for the night sky through the dense tree canopy, she remembered how she used to look up at it as a promise of openness, a promise of freedom. She looked up at the stars that used to re-confirm to her that God was watching her from above. She focused on one, solitary star and prayed that God couldn’t see her as she was now. Charlotte the defiled one. The dirty one.

The animal sound of rape wrapped around John twice as heavy as the crack smoke ever had. A tiny part of John wanted to explode. To intervene. To save. John pushed this tiny part back, he knew that it would just bring him pain or death. He gripped his belt tight as if to hold this courageous spark inside. Closed his eyes and took deep calming breaths in time with Charlotte’s sobs. As his consciousness began to break under the immense weight of his exhaustion his hand fell near the edge of the branch.

Charlotte focused on the branch above as her rapist thrust into her over and over and over again. Movement caught her eye as John’s hand fell limply over the branch.

 “Hel–“, she choked as her rapist’s dirty hand fell over her mouth. He pulled her roughly to face him.

“You do just what the Sergeant tells you, and I just might make you my bitch,” the Sergeant pulled her hair as thick globs of spit escaped between his rasped words and flung across her face. “You do want to live, don’t you?”

She nodded after a bit of hesitation, and felt disgusted that she didn’t have the guts to tell the truth. She had hoped for death for some time now. After all that has happened to her, Charlotte lowered her head, and prayed that somehow, someway, her wish would come true.

Hey there horror fans!

I hope you enjoy the opening paragraphs of a piece of my short fiction. It may not be horror in the classic sense, but what is more horrific than being the only sane homeless person in a park full of degenerates? That is where John Kaplan, the protagonist of “The Poet” finds himself.

Hope you all enjoy! If you do tell all of your friends as I am hoping to publish the complete work to iTunes or amazon as a cheap or free enovela!

John Kaplin pulled his tattered jacket around him as he looked at the city skyline. The light shown through line after line of tiny windows, they looked like zippers of fire against the night sky. He thought about what it was like to be warm and safe like the people in the far off buildings and how long it had been since he had been like them. He couldn’t quite recall how events had played out to land him in a city park late at night with only a dirty jacket and a tree canopy to shield him from the frigid probing fingers of the November night.

The wind whispered through the branches of his ‘arbor retreat’ and the cold beat into his reddened and chapped face. The name ‘arbor retreat’ made the idea of vagrancy a little easier to accept for John, much better than simply, “I live in the park.” Or, “I’m homeless, but don’t like the shelter.” The ‘arbor retreat’ made him think of a condo development set back from a university or suburban area with a nice dividing wall of lush, mature trees. The type of development that when residents were asked where they lived by a friend or co-worker they would simply smile, puff up their chest and say, “The Arbor Retreat,” with an unequivocal amount of pride.

John’s ‘arbor retreat’ was none of the things he imagined and he knew it. Facts as they were, John lived in a tree located in the city park downtown that people like the man he used to be would avoid having to pass at all costs, especially at night. They would avoid it because it was full of people like the man John was now. The broken, the desperate, and the hopeless. These people were John’s new neighbors and the branch ten feet off the ground that John belted himself to every night was like the divider of lush, mature trees in his imagined ‘arbor retreat’. Every night he would wait for sleep and prey that the deviants of the night would pass under him, oblivious.

Sometimes John would awaken to the flicking of cheap lighters as a vagrant or group of vagrants huddled beneath his tree to escape from the wind. Tonight was no exception, John heard the grind of a lighter wheel against flint. Seconds later he was greeted by the acrid smoke of a crack pipe. The smoke sat suspended for an instant, then began to coil around his branch and claw into his nostrils. He took shallow, quiet breaths. The burnt popcorn smell made him want to vomit. Just as he thought he couldn’t hold back the bile burning his esophagus a gust of wind expelled the white cloud into the inky night. This was the only time John was ever thankful for the wind.

I was checking out my google search results and found this post from my old blogger account! Not too horror related, but I think you all might find it interesting. If you are one of the five people that visited my old blog and read it earlier this year I apologize:)
 
 
***
The world of publishing has changed drastically in the last century. The printed word is becoming more of a thing of the past as e-books and audio recordings become more of an everyday alternative. As a result the marketing procedures and promotional mediums have changed just as dramatically. The science fiction genre is no exception as the technologies prophesized in the infancy of science fiction become a reality. Writers must take the current publishing environment into consideration when constructing a marketing plan for their works.
            Throughout the 1940’s science fiction legend, Issac Asimov published his short stories in pulp serials like Astounding Science Fiction. Some of his most popular works were the stories that would later be collected to become the novel I, Robot.  The stories were compiled and published in the early 1950’s and were advertised in the same science fiction magazines in which the short stories originally appeared (randomhouse.com). According to the author, the science fiction community was tight knit and the returns expected by these authors were less than lucrative until the 1970’s. This can be attributed to the limited print run of the magazines and their eventual demise due to advances in technology, specifically the television in the 1960’s (wiredforbooks.org). Despite the rough start science fiction has grown to be one of the most popular genres in modern literature; people like Issac Asimov and Robert A. Heinline have become renowned for their innovation and unique visions of the future.
            In 2006 Daniel Suarez, a systems analyst in the Los Angeles area had realized much of the technological visions of early science fiction and was inspired to present the current reach of existing technologies in his novel, Daemon.  Initially the novel was marketed under the pen name Leinad Zeraus due to the fact that the author was concerned about how his existing clients would react to the content of Daemon. Suarez was unable to find a publisher for his work so he turned to self-publishing and his vast knowledge of the internet (bookbanter.net). His marketing approach was unique to say the least, Suarez promoted the book to technology websites and into the blogosphere. As a result his debut novel received endorsements from Craig’s List founder Craig Newmark, Google’s Rick Klau and the white house cyber security chief Billy O’Brien. After receiving rave reviews on the limitedly distributed novel Suarez was given a two book contract with a major publishing house and has had the film rights optioned by Paramount studios (Memmott).
            The change in the industry as a whole can be seen in the processes that authors must take to make themselves and their works marketable. Many of the most common approaches to modern marketing were not available to the pioneers of the industry and most of the original advertising and promotion mediums were made obsolete by the advent of the internet. Technology seems to have complicated the publishing process, but these complications are a small price to pay for the increased content available to consumers. However, regardless of time period quality works always seem to rise to the top, becoming part of our beloved lexicon.
 
 
 
 
 
Works Cited
Memmott, Carol. “Tech Thriller ‘Daemon’ Rises from the Underground – USATODAY.com.” USA Today. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Jan. 2013. <http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/life/books/news/2009-01-05-daemon_N.htm&gt;.
“BookBanter Interview with Daniel Suarez.” BookBanter. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Jan. 2013. <http://www.bookbanter.net/episodes.html&gt;.
“I, Robot by Isaac Asimov.” Random House, Inc. Academic Resources | I, Robot by Isaac Asimov. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Jan. 2013. <http://www.randomhouse.com/acmart/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780553382563&gt;.
“Isaac Asimov Interview with Don Swaim.” Wired for Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Jan. 2013. <http://www.wiredforbooks.org/isaacasimov/index.html&gt;.

Those crazy kids!

Posted: July 18, 2013 in Uncategorized

As I sit here watching Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 masterpiece, Psycho I find myself entertained. In fact I find myself transported back to a time when I was eight or nine years old and up way past my bedtime with a blue and white “fuzzy cat” blanket pulled up to my chin. I remember seeing the black life’s blood of Vera Miles coiling down the drain like an oily black serpent and thinking, “what the hell is wrong with that guy? Why would he just kill her?” I can’t say that it kept me up that night or the next, but I know that I didn’t want to take a shower for a month or two, the point is that the visuals stuck with me and the possibilities of my own personal version of Norman Bates were always lurking.  Flash forward to 1975 and the terror has moved from the shower to the unstoppable force from below the sea, Jaws was even more terrifying to me, I couldn’t even swim in a pool without the light on in fear of having my tiny body ripped in two. I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Jaws as it was one of the first “scary” movies that I got to experience with my oldest daughter. I remember her eyes, big and focused on the screen. I couldn’t wait to ask her if she was scared when the credits started to roll and she gave me a wise-ass smile and said that she just wanted to see what happened. She wasn’t even scared, not even a little bit! Given, she is a few years older than I was when I first saw the film, but I have to admit I was expecting a little more of a reaction.

My thoughts immediately went to some of the new wave horror that has been pooping up…oh sorry Freudian slip… popping up over the last ten or so years. By this I am talking mostly about the shock and awe inspired movies in the style of the Saw and Hostel franchises, that in my opinion are a small step above pornography for vampires. The point is that things have changed and the definition of horror has changed along with it.

Don’t get me wrong, of course I think that gore has a place in scary movies, but when it drives the story more than the characters and the plot combined I have to take a pass on that film.

I do pose a question to all of you horror fans out there; are modern viewers going to have to settle for this new flat-plotted status quo or are we ready for a renaissance in the horror business?   

Hello everyone,

I was terrified to realize that it had been nearly two months since I last posted to Horrors of the Horror Business (HOTHB). I wish I could say that I was far away, without computer access, or that Stephen King and Neil Gaiman invited me to a secret writing camp deep in the heart of Transylvania. Of course, none of these things were the cause of my absence; in fact I was barely aware of my being absent. With a re-write of my most recent screenplay, the busy season at my day-job, as well of the constant blessing and obligation of family and friends I was living my life in a blur.

Many great artists have their own take on writer’s block, some think it can be debilitating, others think that it is no more than a myth. I have to say that I fall into the later category; but somehow I allowed my HOTHB content to be blocked! I have been putting words on the page but my poor wordpress account has been left alone in the cold.

Included are a couple of links for overcoming writer’s block in all of its devious forms. http://grammar.about.com/od/yourwriting/a/wblockquotes.htm

http://www.stevenpressfield.com/the-war-of-art/

And of course some advice from Neil Gaiman!

Until next time Horror Fans!

Jim