Every writer has likely asked him or herself what they should write about next. Early writers of modern fiction had a much broader realm of uncharted subject matter and unexplored topics. By contrast, it can seem near impossible to think of a story idea that has not been done before at this point in the world’s literary evolution. It is the writer’s responsibility to both themselves and their readers to tell their story in the most entertaining style while staying true to their own writer’s voice. So let us say that a writer has made the conscious decision to create another novel, screenplay, stage play, short story, poem, etc… Where do they start to look for ideas? And perhaps more importantly, to whom do they strive to appeal?

Several tools are available to aspiring writers, musicians, and filmmakers to give them insight as to what subjects are trending or what the most popular internet search terms are. These tools include the wide spanning Google Analytics ( http://www.google.com/analytics/ ) and many blog sites and social media sites also offer a more limited insight into the same trends on their own respective sites. This can be seen in the freshly pressed section of WordPress or the worldwide trend section on Twitter. So should writers feel obligated to appeal to readers by writing a book on “#NOCHILLPHILLIPINES” (whatever that means) or should they be more inclined to indulge their own selfish desires?

Anyone who has had the luxury (or misfortune, depending on the professor) of attending a college level psychology class is likely familiar with Sigmund Freud and his school of thought. Freud theorized that every person was composed of a selfish inner component known as the ‘Id’, a reasonable idea of self known as the ‘ego’, and an ideal sense of self known as the ‘super ego’ that takes societal expectations and things like religion into consideration. The selfishness represented by the Id is a gnawing feeling that many writers have learned to either embrace or to consciously avoid. This constant battle between writing something that is socially relevant and marketable and writing something that they actually want to write can be frustrating for a writer.

In the case of choosing subject matter, an author may want to consider what is popular if they want to sell more copies of their work or be seen as more marketable by the companies to which they pitch to. But one thing that a writer should NEVER do is write something that they are not interested in writing. It troubles me to think of how many would be writers wrote a ‘supernatural romance’ to ride the Twilight coat tails just to try to exploit that segment of the fiction market. Don’t get me wrong here; if they genuinely wanted to write a story in that genre then more power to them. The truth is that the reader will know if the author’s heart was in their work and if it isn’t, the reader will be very reluctant to commit to reading the author’s future work.

With all that being said, I’m off to write my new novel, NOCHILLPHILLIPINES: a Vampire Love Story.

Until next time!

Image result for harvester combine

Like many things in life, the first piece of creative work that a writer produces will always hold a special place in their heart. Sure, there were countless short stories, poems, and ditties that preceded it, but Red Reaper, Burn was my first serious piece of work; I think that it holds up well and may very well be the first spec script that I sell. It was the hardest one for me to pull together and I think that the amount of effort I put into it shines through on every page.

The story originated from a very lucid dream that I had years ago; a seemingly ancient black farmer talking in a sincere and patriarchal tone about “sustaining the farm land that sustains the very life of the family”.  After months of grueling research I had the bones of the story: an epic about generations of an African American farming family that must fulfill a dark and terrible commitment to the farm that they call home. The research took me to subjects that I had little to no familiarity with, these included the world of professional baseball (which I have been disconnected with since my childhood) and the economics of the Tuskegee land grants in Macon County Alabama.

 I thought I would share the logline and the beginning of the summary with you all. I hope that you enjoy, while simultaneously remembering that sometimes the best stories do not come easily and can reveal themselves in the least expected places: a dream, a memory, or a look from a stranger in the grocery store that lasts for just one beat too long.

 

Logline

After suffering a devastating injury, a star athlete returns to his family’s farm only to find terrible memories and ghostly apparitions that suggest that something dark has overtaken the innocent place he remembers from his youth.

Beginning of Summary

Lawrence Prichard is a star baseball player with a beautiful wife and a 12 year old son that is full of potential. Things are going great for the Prichard family and Lawrence is at the top of his game in all aspects of life. That is until a wild throw lands him in the hospital with severe head trauma. Their lives are devastated; Lawrence, normally the rock-solid foundation of the family struggles to regain his composure especially after seeing visions of his father’s gruesome death in the jaws of a harvester combine known as the Red Reaper. Lawrence’s dreams continue, causing him trouble in discerning reality from his nightmarish visions. When his physician refuses to clear him to play baseball, Lawrence decides that he and his family must return to the farm he was raised on to recover from his injury while trying to come to terms with his father’s tragic death.

For those of you that have stuck with me, I would like to say THANK YOU! I have been a terrible content provider and I want things to be different. Your parents always said I would not make you happy, but you believed in me, if only for an instant. You may think we are growing apart, but in reality, I am bringing us closer together by working on more content and not… Procastinating.

I understand that you may feel alone and neglected; I understand. Those of you that read my blog will likely understand the power of the muse and the relentlessness of the urge to create. I just finished my NaNoWriMo novel today, and I feel great about it! Sure, it turned out to be three times the length of the November goal, but it got me writing in this medium; for that, I say thank you.

http://nanowrimo.org

I can’t say that you will be happy if you continue to follow me, but I can say that the probability of your continued happiness will increase at a rate of 94.8%* if you continue to follow me. This percentage will likely increase if you refer your friends to my facebook, twitter, or blog page by an additional 85%*.

* Percentages may vary

* Percentages may be completely fictitious

#thankyou, #writershelpingwriters, #statistics, #kindle, #kindlefree, #freeebook

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 Writing Craft

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.