Sunday, April 6, 2014

I've moved - Please go to http://jthorn.net

If you’re seeing this post it means you’ve either bookmarked the wrong address for my blog or you’ll need to update your RSS feed. I recently moved to a new site at http://jthorn.net. The old content here will remain indefinitely. Thanks for stopping by and don’t forget to update your bookmark or feed.

Monday, March 31, 2014

I kill people.

I kill people. Not real people, but I do kill lots of imaginary ones. I have a relentless need for bodies to sacrifice to Gaki and the Reversion as well as several more monsters in my head that will appear in my new novels.

Do you want to show your friends your name in a horror novel? Of course you do! It’s simple. You agree to read a FREE advanced review copy of one of my novels (that means you get it for FREE before it’s even on sale) and post a review on Amazon within the first week it’s on sale and I’ll make you a character in one of my future titles. Whether it’s a short story or novel, you’ll be forever immortalized on Amazon and in print. In addition, I’ll list your name in the acknowledgements. I’m calling this the K.I.L.L. club (Killing In Literature with Love).

I’m currently revising the third and final book in the Portal Arcane trilogy and that will be the first novel up for entry into the K.I.L.L. club. Read and review it to get a spot on the killing floor of a future release. Use the contact form or shoot me an email (jthorn DOT writer AT gmail DOT com). Feel free to include anything about your appearance or personality that I can use for your character. It’ll help you prove to your friends that it’s really you. I do not use last names and you have to agree to be represented in the story.

I have to thank my crew in The Keepers for the idea. I offered to kill them in a horrific manner and they could not have been more pleased with the results.

Join the K.I.L.L. club. You’ve got nothing to lose except your life.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Katy is battling cancer. Rally the troops.

Katy has stage IV cancer. She is a young woman in her forties, a reader, a blogger, my editor and my friend. I’m not trying to bring you down and Katy isn’t wallowing in self-pity. She is fighting with a dignity and sense of humor that is beyond imaginable. Katy is a beautiful warrior and we connected as kindred spirits a couple of years ago.

Right now Katy needs your help. I need your help. I don’t take your readership lightly. I know you’re here to be entertained or informed so I won't drone on about fighting cancer. I won’t use a cat video to tug at your emotions and I’m not going to ask you to shave your balls or run a naked marathon to raise donations.

You all know Katy. She’s your wife, your mother, your aunt, your sister, your daughter. We’ve all had someone close to us attacked by cancer or we will. I got Katy’s back. I hope you do too.

Help Katy directly by going to her Wishlist on Amazon. The items on it will help strengthen her during the chemo treatments and take her mind off the fight going on inside of her body.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00IWD1C22
You can also fight cancer by contributing to the V Foundation for Cancer Research. Every year May December Publications (run by my friend and fellow horror writer TW Brown) compiles a charity anthology. The 2014 version just happens to be called, Let's Scare Cancer to Death. 100% of the proceeds from this book go directly to the V Foundation. Nobody makes a penny from this sale. The authors have not accepted anything for contributing to it. We wanted to keep costs low and get as many checks to the V Foundation as possible.

My contribution to Let's Scare Cancer to Death is called Tunnel. It is dedicated to Katy. She edited it. You’ll love it. Trust me. The anthology has a cast of incredible writers such as, Eli Constant, Alyn Day, Heath Stallcup, Gregory Carrico, T. Fox Dunham, Claire C. Riley, Armand Rosamilia, Catie Rhodes, Chantal Boudureau, Mark Tufo, Michael James McFarland, Julianne Snow, Blaze McRob, TW Brown, and Rhonda Hopkins.

Grab your copy here and leave a review with your own reason for fighting cancer so others will be inspired to do the same. Tell us the name of your Katy.

Monday, March 17, 2014

May the luck of the Irish be with you.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I am getting ready to head out this morning to the parade here in Cleveland, Ohio and so I don’t have my usual post. If you missed my ramblings on St. Patrick’s Day 2012, go read that. I both make fun of and represent the Irish-American stereotype.

May the luck of the Irish be with you and here’s some Drop Kick Murphys to get you started.


Now go read this. You can thank us later.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B003I8VBF4/

May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
May the rains fall soft upon your fields,
And, until we meet again,
May God hold you in the hollow of His hand.
And may you be drunk enough to take a punch in the nose.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Time to let the myth of the rugged individualist die.

Americans take pride in being rugged individualists, leveraging personal gain in order to survive. In nature it’s the “survival of the fittest” and business must “crush the competition.” Those are old ideas and they’re dying a horrific, violent, slow death.

While it may seem as though events occurring at a distance have no direct impact on us (Fukushima), we’ve also seen that the entire globe is connected and those events happening to “other people” do in fact affect us (Fukushima). This connection is more profound and mysterious than the overused “Butterfly Effect,” where a bug’s wings in South America supposedly triggers a hurricane on the East Coast. However, we live in a closed environment and everything we do effects everybody else. Entire books have been written about the cooperative versus competitive nature of the universe and I’m oversimplifying the concept to introduce one example of it: Selling books.

Several authors made the headlines a few months back for using sock puppets (fake accounts) to write terrible reviews of other author’s books. They believed that discouraging sales of titles (using poor reviews) in the same genre would result in more sales of their title. Readers spend about 2.3 seconds deciding whether or not to purchase a book and most of that has to do with (1) cover and (2) title. To be clear, reviews matter. Not in relation to other titles, but mostly in relation to the reader’s own internal belief system about what constitutes quality.

A wise Greek once said, “In union there is strength.” I don’t think Aesop meant strength in a multi-author box set, but he would have if he had access to Amazon when he was trying to peddle those stupid fables.

I’ve declared 2014 my Year of Collaboration. I’m reaching out, up, and down to find authors that also believe a sale of one novel is a sale for all novelists. I’m not interested in competing against my fellow authors because working with them is much more effective. Whether it’s with collections (warning: soft sales pitch below) or co-writing, I’m open to what others can bring and what I can share with them.

My most recent collection contains Preta's Realm: The Haunting (Book 1 of The Hidden Evil Trilogy) along with seven other phenomenal books. We’re selling the ENTIRE collection for only $0.99. Some of the best horror writers in the world are part of this anthology including Scott Nicholson, Kealan Patrick Burke, Glynn James, Mainak Dhar, Michaelbrent Collings, TW Brown and Brian James Freeman. The collection will be available only for a limited time.

Offer your services, knowledge or muscle and the universe will return it to you. Our collective spirit will always outshine the individual one.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00IPUNKQI?tag=jth0e-20

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Walking Dead and Generation X: Why?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daryl_Dixon
The prison fell and the survivors are now scattered throughout the world of The Walking Dead. The second half of the season began with snippets of the story, a fractured group trying to hold on to what’s left. Darryl seems to be grappling with the biggest question of them all: Why? Even during the zombie face smashing and constant running, the question is part of the show’s subtext. I’ve been asking myself the same question: Why?

If you were born between 1960 and 1980, you are one of 84 million Americans loosely labeled, “Generation X.” I was born in 1971. I grew up with MTV, a tolerance for other races and sexual orientations and a lack of faith in the establishment. All of these ideas are represented in the video for "Cult of Personality" by Living Color—a black heavy metal band singing about abuse of power. I don’t know if anyone in the band is gay, not that there’s anything wrong with that (Seinfeld; another Gen X reference). I was in college when alternative music evolved into mainstream music. I had Bleach before Nirvana was cool and I ditched The Smashing Pumpkins before they lost theirs (Siamese Dream is the last great Pumpkins record). I saw myself in Singles and I identified with the dark, self-deprecating humor of Clerks.




I turn 43 in 2014. The millions of Americans that can remember when MTV was truly music television are part of Generation X and we’re all heading into middle age. I’ll spare you the details of my hypochondria. According to a WebMD symptom search I have 1,467 diseases. I’m going through both puberty and menopause right now. I’m trying to wean myself from the nostalgic thoughts of attending Monsters of Rock in 1988 and my Facebook searches for members of the class of 1989. Something frightening and profound is happening inside of my head and it’s scarier than any monster I can create in a horror novel. I keep asking myself one question: Why?

http://denizandkennycollection.blogspot.com
Like Darryl, I don’t have the answer. He buries arrows in the faces of walkers and then pulls them back out again, knowing there are probably millions more out there. He’s protecting Beth and he wants to find Rick and the rest of the group, but why? What’s the end game? Would Darryl really be happy if he made it to Terminus? And then what? Does he sit on the perimeter and use his crossbow to take down zombies for the next forty years? The group struggles to find a safe haven, they get entrenched, it all goes to hell and they have to start over. Why?

Whether it takes us forty years or a zombie apocalypse, we all have to eventually grapple with that question. When you find the answer, would you let me know?

Monday, February 24, 2014

"You can make a character do something that makes the reader want to punch you in the mouth." A conversation with Sean Platt

Many writers know Sean Platt as a host on the Self Publishing Podcast along with Johnny Truant and David Wright. I first met Sean when I came on the podcast in early 2013 to discuss ebook formatting. Since then, I’ve read several of his titles including season one of Yesterday’s Gone. It is a stellar dystopian series and I’m desperately trying to catch up with them. Platt and Wright have published four seasons and I’ve finished the first. I was both thrilled and honored to collaborate with Sean on Lost Track, a short story in the world of The Beam. The Beam is serialized sci-fi that Sean and co-writer Johnny B. Truant call their best fiction.

Besides being a great writer Sean is a great human. He is compassionate and always willing to share his successes and failures so that others can learn from them. I don’t know many artists that are as transparent as Sean Platt. If you want to know more about his journey in self publishing, Write. Publish. Repeat. is now available and is getting rave reviews.

I Google Hungout (past tense of Google Hangout?) with Sean on a cold day in January. We talked about writing, reading, blogging and what makes a reader want to punch you in the mouth.

How did you get started in the business?

I started out assuming I couldn’t write. I didn’t go to school to write. My wife nagged me into writing, because I talk too much. [laughing] So I did and I thought I was better than I was. I didn’t know how much I had to learn and I didn’t realize one of the things that always stopped me from starting was thinking, “I didn’t go to school. I don’t know where the commas go.” And that was the wrong thing to worry about. It was the wrong place to put my attention. What I should have been thinking about was, “How do I tell this story? What do the readers actually care about?” The first couple of years that I wrote, I wrote a lot. I had a blog and it blew up pretty fast. I figured I’d start a blog because it was teaching myself how to write. I figured there was no better way to learn how to write than to write for a live audience. They would tell me if I sucked or not and I didn’t really know. I never thought I was a good writer. In fact, I thought I wasn’t a good writer. What I thought I was good at was getting better at something and I could do things quickly. I believed you could build a blog and blow it up and then leverage the attention. I got plenty of attention but I didn’t know how to alchemize that into currency. And so, I had a very hard time. I wasn’t making any money. I took a lot of ghost writing jobs and I learned how to write well and fast. But when I was writing it was still about how everything sounded instead of what it did. I didn’t get to be the writer I am now until I started to write copy, sales letters and stuff--I’d be happy if I never have to write another sales letter again in my life. But I’m very grateful for the time that I wrote them because it taught me so much about how to hold and capture the reader’s attention and how to make sure that they read all the way to the bottom of the page. If someone clicks away from a sales letter, you don’t eat. There are certain rhythms that I learned and I’m really grateful that I did learn. Once I did that, writing just became easier. The Kindle revolution happened, this was 2011, and I’m just like, “Yeah, it’s time to play ball.” We floundered a couple of times. I was writing with David Wright, in fact I still write with David every day. If I wasn’t doing this interview I’d be doing what I’m supposed to be doing which is writing episode one of the last season of Z. We wrote something called The Veil of Darkness and I wrote something myself called Four Seasons and a book called Writing Online, all in 2011, before we really figured out a new way of doing things, which is a serialized fiction. Yesterday’s Gone came out on October 3rd, 2011. That title was a game changer for us. It gave us an audience and a platform and allowed us to do a lot of the things that we’re doing today.  Since then, I’ve had the Guy Incognito pen name for children which just launched a couple months ago. We’re on Realm and Sands with Johnny B Truant. We’ve been work horses in the last ten months. We’ve put out Unicorn Western, The Beam, Robot Proletariat, Namaste, Cursed

Just a couple of things. [laughing]

Yeah, a lot of stuff there. We’re a great team and we go very fast.

I will unofficially credit you with the serialized approach for ebooks. I love it. I think it’s engaging and the pace of the story is really in synch with what’s happening in popular media right now. I was wondering if you could explain what it means to write serialized fiction the way you do it.

When we first started no one was doing it, at least not with any scale. I’d like to say we were the first but maybe there was somebody who did it before us. We’re certainly not the first people to do serialized fiction. Dickens did it a long time before we did. Steven King did it in the 90s with The Green Mile. It’s been done. What we did that was different was we used pop culture language from TV episodes and seasons and translated that into books. There was a rather loud cry at the time that we couldn’t do this because readers don’t want their books chopped into pieces. And that’s very true. Readers don’t want their books chopped into pieces but that’s not what we were doing. That was never our intent. We were really trying to craft a new experience. We were trying to give readers the thing that they got on TV whenever they watched their favorite shows, and translate that to Kindle or to an ereader. Doing that requires a different kind of thought, a different kind of architecture. You can’t just break a story into component parts because that’s not a story. People feel ripped off. The worst thing you can make a reader feel is ripped off. You can piss them off because your ending was too incendiary. You can make a character do something that makes the reader want to punch you in the mouth. There is so much you can do. But the wrong thing to do is make them feel like they didn’t get what they paid for or they somehow got a different experience that they weren’t expecting because that makes readers upset. It makes them mad. When we design our serials it’s from the ground up. We never treat them like a story broken apart. They have the same rhythm of a TV show. If you watch Breaking Bad, it’s not like it just starts in the middle of something and ends in the middle of something. There’s a whole narrative there and if you follow the flow they’re pretty predictable, not in what happens in the episode but in the structure of the narrative. That’s really important because you can have anything happen between the borders, but between here and here, there’s a certain flow it has to have. A good serial has a strong opening that surprises you in some way and establishes the tone of that episode. The rest of the fifty minutes is spent building character, making you care about things, and then the last couple of minutes punch you in the face really hard. That’s kind of what we try to do. We were totally making things up with the first season of Yesterday’s Gone and it’s evident as you read later seasons. We learned from one season to the next because in the first season we were really shooting from the hip, making it up as we went along. By the time we got to the second season we knew what we had and by the time we moved to a new series with White Space, we were building it like a television serial and thinking about it in production terms. What I mean by that is, for example, White Space is set on a small island. It’s a made-up island called Hamilton Island in Puget Sound, in Washington. That island is important because it’s the setting but it’s localized. Yesterday’s Gone isn’t especially filmable. It’s exciting but the set pieces are huge. You’ve got Times Square emptied and stacked with bodies. That’s a really hard thing to shoot. It makes it a really, really expensive show. White Space has a smaller cast of characters in a single location and it makes it easier. I hesitate here because I say things and people want to do what I’m saying because it worked for me. But you have to take it in the context of what works for you. I’m very visual. I love TV so I tend to think like a producer. Now that may not work for somebody else and something that works for them may not work for me. I like to think of my stuff as TV. I cast the characters in my head so I have a very solid frame of reference as I’m writing the stories.

What do you think about the reader experience? It’s becoming very popular to blast through a season of television on Netflix or Hulu where you can sit down immerse yourself in the whole season. Or you can parcel it out and watch it in real time, one week at a time. Do your readers show a preference in your serialized fiction?

Most of our readers like to get the whole thing at once. The infrastructure is broken so the way we would sell serials is really clunky. There’s not a good solution. The only good solution is the one Amazon has with their actual serials program. But it’s invite-only and traditionally published so guys like us lose all our control, we lose all our ability to market the stuff. But the structure of the system itself is fantastic because you’re only buying one book and then it auto-updates. That’s fantastic because for a season of Yesterday’s Gone I don’t want a reader to have to juggle six files. That sucks. As a consumer, that’s unwieldy and it’s not cool. Now all of the sudden I’m asking the reader for six reviews? No. I need one title so I can get one set of reviews. Our reviews sucked under the other paradigm, badly. We don’t even release episodes anymore. The last time we did it was for Yesterday’s Gone Season 4. When season 5 comes out this spring it’ll just be Season Five. That’s the only way you can buy it. Because, season 4 has like 200 reviews but 100 on the season and the others spread out on stuff that’s going to be retired. That’s hard because we have social proof that will disappear after we retire the titles. You want all of reviews in one place, and perhaps more importantly, you want to validate your readers. If they took the time to leave you a review it’s kind of balls to take away that review later because you don’t need it anymore. But the truth is, it’s not that you don’t need it anymore, it’s that it becomes a hindrance at some point. For example, Dave and I have retired a lot of titles. We’ve had three seasons of Yesterday’s Gone individual episodes retired, two seasons of White Space, two seasons of Available Darkness, and a season of ForNevermore. That’s almost 50 individual titles that we’ve retired and a thousand reviews. The alternative is to have them totally cluttering our author pages so when a new reader finds us they just see these random episodes and they’ll never be able to find The Beam, because they’ve got to go through nine pages of ForNevermore episodes. That sucks. There’s not really a good solution. The fact that we only get 30% royalty on a 99 cent title--that is balls too.  I don’t want to rip the reader off because like I said, the worst thing you can do is make them feel like they didn’t get a good deal. 99 cents is absolutely the right price for a single episode of one of our series. That’s what I want to charge. I want to charge 99 cents for an episode and $6 for the season. But I’m heavily penalized for a 99 cent episode. I either have to be penalized or my reader has to be penalized and both of those alternatives suck. We don’t release episodes anymore. However, we still write episodically because that doesn’t change. There’s no difference in the way we architect or execute our stories, just a difference in the way they’re published now.

What’s on your Kindle right now?

I really hate to admit this but it’s my own stuff. That’s all I read these days. It’s not because I think I’m that awesome. I don’t have time to read other stuff. My list of things that I want read is really long. It’s pretty substantial. Dave gets me a new Clive Barker book for Christmas every year and I’ve got nine of them now and I haven’t read any of them yet. With the volume that I write, I would be doing a disservice to my readers if I didn’t familiarize myself with the story before I started again. I’ll be starting Z after this call which means I had to read this much [holding up massive book] before starting again so that I could be deep into the story world. That’s 650 pages that I have to read as research before I can start something new. With every new project I’m basically just re-familiarizing myself with my stuff. At some point I will move past that. It’s definitely one of my New Year’s goals, to read more outside authors, because I don’t want to get incestuous. I’m bored with my own voice. [laughing] I need some other stimulus. But right now it’s just a necessary evil.

I know you and the guys on the podcast [The Self Publishing Podcast] outlined your collective goals for 2014. A big part of that was slowing down the writing machine a little bit and developing more of the promotions behind your existing cannon of work.

Absolutely. That’s a really, really big deal. It’s a really big part of what we’re doing. I’d gotten to the point where I hated blogging and said I’d never do it again--I’m really hyped on blogging right now and super excited about it. We’ve had two posts that have already gone live and a third one that’s going live this Thursday. It’s boss. It’s called, “What Controls You?” It’s about how we’re all addicted to our shit. [holding up phone] These things controls us…I love writing fiction and I think before we even started I was talking about how I’m very grateful for Write. Publish. Repeat. and how well it’s done, but I really want fiction to blow up in that same way because I get more creative writing. I write every day and writing is looking in the mirror. I don’t know how I really think about something until I’m forced to untangle that knot and that’s what I do for a living. I’m lucky to be doing that for a living. So taking that one step further and writing these big, epic blog posts that explore the themes of our books in greater detail is lot of fun.

I’ve always disagreed with the notion that writers of fiction shouldn’t blog. I think there’s a lot of value to having your voice come out in a relevant and contextual way if you write fiction. I think that’s an asset, not a liability.

I totally agree. I think it’s a hard thing to pull off because there are a lot of people online saying very little and using a lot of words to do it. You don’t want to be that guy. You want to say something substantial, something that is easy for people to share and that’s not always an easy line to walk. In fact, sometimes it can be very, very difficult. But when you nail it it’s rewarding. I’m lucky because I don’t have to do it in a vacuum. If I was trying to write epic posts by myself I wouldn’t have as much fun. I would feel really frustrated.

Right.

I could never have done this by myself. [holding up another massive book] Unicorn Western is a quarter of a million words and yet it went pretty fast because I have a writing partner. Yesterday’s Gone has almost half a million words at the end of the fourth season and it wasn’t that hard to do because I have a partner. That makes all the difference in the world. Blogging is the same way. Johnny and I are handling the blogging and our books. It really is a case of one plus one equals six.

Contact:

Official Page
Facebook
Twitter
Self Publishing Podcast
Realm and Sands
Collective Inkwell
Guy Incognito

Monday, February 17, 2014

I love weird, twisted, horror stories. Do you?


http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00I9E5G3U?tag=jth0e-20

As I continue on this crazy journey called life I imagine I’m driving a huge party bus with all of you on it. Every so often we stop and pick up a few more people, a bag of ice and a lighter. Don’t ask me where we’re going because I don’t know. It doesn’t really matter anyways because anyone that’s taken a road trip with a bunch of friends knows that getting there is more than half the fun. It’s at least 76.7% of the fun depending on who gets arrested along the way.

Using that poor metaphor, I feel as though I need to pause every now and then and introduce myself to those getting on the bus. People reading my blog and my books (i.e., those getting on the bus, but you already figured that out) don’t know me that well yet but they’re intrigued by the party.

Those of you in the back–quitting throwing stuff out the windows. Nobody is allowed to use the john unless it’s an extreme emergency. And flush, would ya?

Now that you’ve all settled in, please allow me to reintroduce myself and tell you what you’re in for on this road trip:

I love horror–the kind where the fear comes from inside your own head. I’ve enjoyed my share of gory slasher stories but I don’t write too many of those. Yes, my creatures do some heinous things but not for the sake of the violence. I’m enamored with the evil that’s inside all of us and why some people can keep it contained while others can’t. My books are an escape from reality. They’re odd, esoteric and thoughtful with an economy of language. I front a heavy band in Cleveland, Ohio (Threefold Law) and so my style is very lyrical as well. Being a writer and a musician, I feel as though I have a perspective on storytelling that others might not. My new partnership with Rebecca T. Dickson (interviewed her last week, fyi) means that the updated versions of my books along with the new ones I’m writing will withhold NOTHING from you. I’ve been criticized for not explaining enough and I can promise you that won’t be the case anymore.

If you want to get a sense of the kind of stories I tell, grab this collection. My book, Reversion: The Inevitable Horror (The Portal Arcane Series - Book I) is included along with 6 other phenomenal books and the ENTIRE collection is only $0.99. Some of the best writers in the genre are part of this anthology including Bobby Adair, Craig DiLouie, Glynn James, Stephen Knight, Joe McKinney, T.W. Piperbrook and L.T. Ryan. This is a helluva bargain. The collection will be available only for a limited time.


http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00I9E5G3U?tag=jth0e-20


Now get on the bus and stop holding up the line.

Monday, February 10, 2014

"Don’t let anybody ever tell you that you can’t, including yourself." A conversation with Rebecca T. Dickson

Rebecca T. Dickson kicks ass. There’s no other way of saying it. She’s a strong, passionate person with a flair for uncovering the best writers have to offer. I hired Dickson to edit two short stories for me (Tunnel and Lost Track) and immediately hired her again to go through my Portal Arcane series. She forced me to abandon bad habits and made me tell the reader everything. It’s a humbling experience and Rebecca will be the first to admit that she’s not everybody’s editor. But don’t take my word for it. Sign up for my mailing list and you’ll get Reversion: The Inevitable Horror (The Portal Arcane Series - Book I) for free.

I asked Dickson to be interviewed for my blog because I believe she has taken my writing to the next level. Rebecca became my partner and refused to let me settle for anything but the best. You may not be a writer but that doesn’t matter. Dickson’s approach works for life as well as for writing. Read on and you’ll understand…

Tell us how you came to where you are right now.

It’s been a long road. I was in high school with absolutely no idea what I was going to do. I knew I would go to college because that’s what was expected of me. I’m also the first person in my family to go to college. I didn’t know what that meant or what would happen or what I would do. My English teacher and I forged this relationship. She was a real asshole but it worked out great because I needed that and she thought I was good at writing. And I thought, “Really? I’m good at something? Well, cool.” And it started there.

How did you transition from writing to making a living as an editor?

It’s an easy transition, back and forth. I was blessed to be taught by some of the best editors in the business as far as I’m concerned. They’re smart. They’re savvy. They’ve been around the block fifteen times and there’s nothing they haven’t encountered. They treated me the way I needed to be treated. And sometimes that meant kid gloves and sometimes it meant I needed to be kicked in the ass. But they were very adept at reading that. When I formed the business those were the people I wanted to be like.

I know exactly what you mean. I think what you’re describing is the “tough love” approach.

Sometimes. Sometimes you need tough love. Sometimes people need permission to be nice to themselves. You’d be amazed how many coaching clients I have that are absolutely beating the shit out of themselves every living second of every day and then they wonder why they can’t get creative and produce.

Is that a challenge that a lot of your clients face, writer’s block or lack of productivity?

We are always expecting more of ourselves. No matter if it’s 500 words a day or 5,000. It’s just the nature of the beast. We’re human. We want more, more, more. Bigger, better, faster, now. I understand that and when it comes to writing it just doesn’t work that way. And beating yourself over the head does not make you more creative. Sometimes you just have to be kind to yourself. I’d like to think I’ve set up the system where writers learn it’s okay to experience whatever they are experiencing, and if they allow that feeling instead of fighting it, they will pass right through it and get back to writing in a much more orderly and quick fashion.

I know you’ve said you’re not a big fan of daily word targets or word counts.

No. I’m not.

I saw that you put up a blog post this morning about productivity and word count-- Stephen King-like output. Can you talk about the difference between staying productive versus holding yourself to a fixed target?

When you start talking numbers – and this is just my opinion, obviously. But when you start talking numbers you’re using a very different section of your brain than when you’re being creative. You’re also putting an enormous amount of pressure on yourself. When you’re creative, like Danielle LaPorte always says, the white space, the blank page, those things inspire creativity, you can go anywhere with them. You don’t think about somebody breathing down your neck or behind you with a gun to your head saying, “Get it done or you’re dead.” Those things are not going to help you create words. It’s a different mentality. I equate word counts and having a number goal with having the guy behind me with a gun to my head. Because there are some days when I’m going to exceed that goal and there are some days when I’m just not going to get there. Either way it’s okay because it’s all progress. You have to wade through whatever it is that’s in your way in order to get to your story. People get very caught up in, “I spent four hours in front of the computer today and I only have a hundred words to show for it, but I have all this free writing and I had to do it to clear my head. I just wish that it was 4,000 words toward my manuscript.” Well, whether or not you’re using it for your manuscript, you’re moving ahead. You’re doing the work you had to do to get your words.

Everybody’s creative process is different but you can’t equate it to numbers. It just doesn’t work that way.

What is the role of the deadline in the creative process? Does that come later? Does it have a place at all?

Good question. I work with a lot of writers who’ve had tremendous success after their first book and they come to me saying, “I’ve lost that loving feeling. I can’t do this anymore. I’m fried. I have all these expectations and pressure. I’ve got three books due by the fall. I can’t get the words out. This sucks. It’s not fun anymore. I feel like I’m stuck all the time. I have writer’s block…” This comes back to the idea that creativity does not come to you when you are under tremendous pressure. So when I’m working with writers of that nature, my goal is to have them make a decision. Do you want to write quality or quantity?

Is there a typical response to that question? I would imagine there would be people who would say, “I’m just interested in quantity.”

Yeah. I’m not interested in working with those writers. That’s the bottom line. I’m not going to rush a craft or an art--and this is an art, for a paycheck.

Right.

There are plenty of people out there that want to do that and you know what? Kudos to you. I respect that. That’s your thing but it’s not mine.



It seems like valuing quantity over quality is more of a short-term approach.

It’s a short-term approach that you use to cash-in and it doesn’t usually work, but they have to figure that out on their own. I had an author last spring, a tremendously talented author with twenty books out who was totally burned out. She came to me with the next installment and said, “This is all wrong. I don’t know what to do. I’m in a panic. I have a deadline. I hate doing this. Writing has become drudgery. Help me.” I took a look at it and we went through it page by page, without rushing. I told her, “You’re telling here. You’re not showing because telling is much easier than showing. It’s much faster. Throw a cliché in there instead of coming up with something original and you’ll speed through the pages. There were all kinds of bad habits like that. When we eliminated them it became one of her best-selling books ever.

Interesting.

I would rather see a Harper Lee, who only published one book, in this case, To Kill A Mocking Bird, than put out fifty that are shit.

I hope that those are the writer’s that are out there. I believe they are and that’s who I want to work with.

We’ve been talking about writing. Let’s talk about reading. What are the current trends in reading, whether it’s genre, or style, and what are you into right now?

I read everything. And by everything, I mean everything. My boys are eleven and almost fourteen. They are avid readers, a novel every couple of days. I read what they’re going to read before I give it to them. Imagine anything a little boy wants to read. I read that first. [laughter] For my own pleasure reading, I’m finishing the last installment of Game of Thrones right now. I very rarely watch TV. I’m all about books. Trends in reading? I don’t know. I’ve never been one for trends. I do what I want and I read what I feel like reading. My kids had turned me onto Game of Thrones in the beginning and now we’re all waiting two years for George Martin to finish book number six. Other than that, I’m big on professional development. I always want to continue to strive to learn editing tips and tricks, ways to help writers get past their stumbling blocks, new ways to explain bad habits. There are the core bad habits that every writer has, but you’ve gotta come up with something different every now and then to explain to them why it’s not working.

I think your kids are probably a little bit older than mine but I’m guessing if they have the same sort of taste, it’s a lot of sword and sorcery, magic.

Yes, yes.

Which is okay. It’s fun, it’s creative, it’s different… You’re really basing your livelihood on helping authors. As a client of yours (full disclosure) I find that you’ve been one of the most helpful people I’ve come across in my short time in the industry.

Well that’s awesome. Thank you.

I read a lot on the craft of writing and I’m pretty observant but I don’t think anyone has had the direct impact on my style and my voice in a positive way that you’ve had in the short amount of time that we’ve gotten to know each other.

Woo-hoo.

I wanted to get that on record… I’m curious as to what your hopes and dreams are for yourself. I know you want to help other writers but what are you hoping to accomplish?

I know there are a million other people out there who are in the exact place I was in when I started this business. Which is, for the record, panic-stricken, terrified, had something to say but unable to write it. It took me ten years to figure it out and put it on paper. What the process was, identify it, label it, use it and get past it. I still have to follow the steps. It’s not something you do once and you’re free. Fear is a bitch that way. But I knew that there were other people out there just like me and my goal was to help them, show them there is a way past it. Because writers, true writers, when they’re not writing they don’t feel good. You know? They feel like shit and they don’t know what’s wrong and they’ve got something to say and they can’t get it out and they torture themselves at the keyboard.

I did it. I got past it. I don’t want anybody else to have to do suffer because there is a way. For the people who are beyond that point, who are getting words on the page like yourself, who are damn good writers, who can improve--everybody can improve--as an editor, my job is to take good and make it great, to take great and make it utterly fantastic. It’s not easy to do that without stomping on the writer’s voice. It’s a craft that you have to be very careful about. I like to think that that’s what I do. Hopefully my writers think I’m good at it. Their success is my success. It’s huge. Every time you guys put a new book out, I’m doing a dance. It’s awesome. Writing a book has always been something that people talk about. “You know, I wish I could write a book,” or “Someday I’m going to publish a book.” Millions and millions of people talk about it and very few do it. So when it gets done, it’s a party.

I think you provide a service to writers but you’re also providing life guidance to people. I’m sure you think of it that way. I think of it that way. If I’m reading this interview and I’m someone that wants to do something with my creativity, what would be one piece of advice you would give that person? Whether it’s writing, music, poetry or pottery what would you say?

Do it. And don’t let anybody ever tell you that you can’t, including yourself. As a matter of fact, the louder your subconscious screams that you can’t do it, the more you better fucking do it. [laughter]

Awesome.

No, really. If that’s a calling that you have, you have to respect that.

I think it goes back to what you said about getting my writing done for the day. Until I do it, I feel like shit. I’m thinking about it, it’s nagging at me and once I’m done I feel like I can go on with the rest of my day.

Yes. That is very common.

If you feel like there is something you need to do and it keeps nagging at you, you probably need to do it.

Absolutely. Don’t let it go. Don’t box that in or it’ll make you sick.


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Monday, February 3, 2014

TSA introduces Flights Universally Cleared of Terror initiative in response to ex-agent allegations.

“We’re here to keep Americans safe in the air.”

Posted: Feb 03, 2014 7:00 AM EST

CLEVELAND, Oh. (JT) - The Transportation Safety Administration announced a new program to be implemented at airports nationwide beginning April 1st, 2014. The “Flights Universally Cleared of Terror” initiative will provide passengers with the safest airline travel experience in the history of aviation. TSA spokeswoman Ophelia Titees says the safety measures are in response to an article by ex-TSA agent Jason Edward Harrington called “Dear America, I Saw You Naked” posted on politico.com on January 30th, 2014.

“We’re here to keep Americans safe in the air,” says Titees. “If airline passengers can’t bend over and give up a little modesty in the name of safety then the terrorists have already won.”

Harrington’s revelation is another in a series of scandals and negative publicity incurred by the Transportation Safety Administration since it implemented more stringent safety procedures at the nation’s airports, including the full body scanner in November of 2010. Travelers could opt for a sensual pat down or a full body scan. The policy change came as a result of the bombing attempt by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, also known as the “underwear bomber.” With the millimeter wave scanners, TSA agents could photograph, analyze and Instagram the genitals and breasts of passengers thereby confirming the absence of dirty bombs. The agency has since removed the millimeter wave scanners from most domestic airport terminals.

Titees admits that the TSA has had problems in the past but she’s convinced passengers will find the new program more pleasurable than scanners or pat downs. The government is utilizing a new technology for “Flights Universally Cleared of Terror,” shortened into the acronym, F.U.C.T. A high-grade, platinum sensor is rhythmically and repeatedly inserted into a passenger’s rectum and/or vagina. The micro-camera on the end makes a visual check of the passenger’s internal cavities pre-flight to verify there are no weapons rammed inside.

“I think when travelers see how well it works everyone is going to want to get F.U.C.T. by TSA agents. I was F.U.C.T. twice on my connection through Seattle and I’ve never been more relaxed in the air.”

But some frequent flyers are skeptical. Dick Hertz of Minneapolis flies to New York City four times a week for rehabilitative penis therapy. “Sure,” said Hertz. “I know some older, married women might enjoy getting F.U.C.T. at the airport. Won’t someone think of the children? I have a teenage son and I don’t think he needs to be F.U.C.T. until he’s in college and bi-curious.”

In a May 2013 issue of Time Magazine, Richard Barrett, coordinator of the United Nations al Qaeda/Taliban Monitoring Team said the statistical odds of dying in a terrorist attack is 1 in 20 million.

“If given the choice, they will choose safety over privacy,” said Titees. “Americans would rather be F.U.C.T. in the rectum by the government than take a 1 in 20 million chance of being killed by a terrorist.”

Monday, January 27, 2014

This is why perfection sucks.

Photo by Zach Chisholm
Perfection sucks because it’s not human. Machines are perfect. Humans are flawed. Accept it.

A few years ago Angus Khan and I played to a drum machine because we were without a drummer for our band, Threefold Law. We needed a steady tempo and that is exactly what the drum machine provided. It never wavers. Set that sucker to 75 beats per minute and that’s what you get. Like clockwork. The problem, and the reason why most bands opt for the flawed drummer as opposed to the perfect drum machine, is that it doesn’t sound real. Making music is organic and the “swing” or “groove” makes it human, pleasant, real. Slight variations in tempo are dynamic and attractive to the listener. Your body can detect a perfect tempo and it doesn’t like it. Your heartbeat is far from perfect. Drum machines sound “fake” because they are. Drummers are always broke, ugly, and late to the show but never perfect – the way it should be.

In life, perfection can be downright paralyzing. The quest for it reduces the willingness to take risks. It fosters complacency and patience. The world has never been changed by complacent or patient people. Yes, it is far easier to aim for perfection and therefore never do something out of fear of failure and live a mind-numbing, bland existence. Zombies live a mind-numbing, bland existence. Except for that “eating brains” thing. That sounds exciting, so I’ve heard.

Take a chance and embrace your flaws. They make you who you are. Be human and leave the perfection to the machines. They’re going to take over the world soon anyways. According to Angus Khan, it’ll be cyborgs or monkeys that will eventually enslave the human race. I’m hoping its monkeys.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Devil Baby Attack!

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few days, you’ve probably heard about Devil Baby Attack. Devil’s Due opened this weekend and the crew’s prank on unsuspecting New Yorkers went viral with over 35 million YouTube views and counting. They built an animatronic devil baby in a remote-control carriage and set it loose in Manhattan complete with red eyes, a satanic growl and projectile vomit. It is juvenile, gross and irresistibly funny. And that brings me to another question.

If the prank was meant to promote a found footage horror movie, did it work?

The folks at Variety believe it gave the movie a nice bump based on metrics taken from the big social media platforms. As of January 17th, the Devil’s Due trailer was viewed 15 million more times than Ride Along and almost 29 million more times than Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. Eh. That doesn’t necessarily translate into box office sales but it does generate a buzz and that’s why mega corps use social media. They’re not aiming to promote on social media, they’re using it to generate buzz via word of mouth which is much more effective promotion. Projections put Devil’s Due at around 11.4 million in the first weekend but we’ll have to wait for the hard numbers.

I write horror, I know. But I’m not blogging about Ride Along or Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, am I? In fact, I didn’t even watch the movie trailers for those other movies because movie trailers are like movie theater popcorn. You get a ton before the movie and no matter what you’re always hungry for more.

For the record, I love anything that promotes horror and I love hidden video of people getting the shit scared out of them. As long as it isn’t me.

Excuse me. I need to watch Devil Baby Attack just one more time.


Monday, January 13, 2014

Free novel + 100 reviews = free novel

On January 8th 2013, almost a year to the day, Yvan SCHEITLE wrote this 1-star review on Amazon for Reversion: The Inevitable Horror (The Portal Arcane Series - Book I):

“I normally don't write reviews on my readings, but this book was such an horror that I felt I HAD to warn future readers. I had to force myself to read until the end so boring and annoying it was (cause you know, you always have that weird hope that the last pages are going to explain it all and make some sense out of the first couple of hundred ones). The writing is OK, but the Story... OMG. I don't understand how it is possible every single other comment is with 5 stars when you still have no bloody clue what this book is about after having read the last page. Come on, the guy could be dreaming, he could be the guinea pig of some sort of experiment, or basically ANYTHING any reader's imagination could come up with. The world he lands in answers no rules, the wolves are telepaths, you meet an undead guy that is actually a "good guy" so to speak... All in all a mess that definitely set my mind : I'll never ever buy another book of this series (might not even give a second chance to the author, this book having been such a bad experience).”

She was right. I was too vague and hid too much from the reader. I did a total overhaul of this book and Rebecca T. Dickson helped me dish out EVERYTHING about the story and the characters. I laid it bare, naked and waiting for you to feast your eyes on the improved story.

Last week I made a deal with the multiverse. Here is my attempt at being cute with it. I hope you’ll give me full credit for redoing the assignment.

*Sign up, get Reversion for free and review if you wanna.

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Monday, January 6, 2014

What if you end up in an alternate universe? You'd better hope its not in reversion.

The Principle movie comes out this spring. If you’re a fanboy of Dr. Michio Kaku (and I know you are) this is great news. From the website:

The Principle, destined to become one of the most controversial films of our time, brings before the public eye astonishing results from recent large-scale surveys of our universe--surveys which disclose unexpected evidence of a preferred direction in the cosmos, aligned with our supposedly insignificant Earth.

It’s no surprise that Kaku is involved with this film given his expertise in theoretical physics. Over a year ago I blogged about Dr. Kaku and his theories. In that post I asked questions like: Could you exist somewhere else? An exact copy of you, but the “you” that had a bagel for breakfast this morning instead of a shot of Jack Daniels. What if every time “you” made a decision, another universe was created so that “you” lived in both places at the same time, forever?

I heard Dr. Michio Kaku speak at a convention and then I read Parallel Worlds. I became enamored with the idea of a multiverse (an infinite number of universes) and that inspired Reversion: The Inevitable Horror (The Portal Arcane Series - Book I) . It’s a story about these people who find themselves trapped in an alternate universe, revisiting worlds that are breaking down while trying to figure out how to escape.

Sound interesting? Of course it is. Rebecca T. Dickson helped me rewrite the original book and it’ll blow your mind it’s so damn good. So check this out. If you sign up for my mailing list before February 1st, 2014, you’ll get an electronic copy of Reversion: The Inevitable Horror for free. And if Reversion hits 100 reviews on Amazon before the third and final book of the trilogy is published sometime in 2014, everyone on the mailing list will get a FREE electronic copy of THAT book too before its available to purchase.

Let’s recap. Join my mailing list (upper right corner of the page) and get Reversion: The Inevitable Horror (an incredible story) for free. If reviews on Amazon hit 100 prior to the third book releasing, everyone on the mailing list gets that one for free too. It doesn’t matter if you review Reversion or not. You don’t have to send me proof of a review or promise to do anything. As long as the multiverse racks up 100 reviews, everyone wins. Get book 1 of the trilogy for free, reviews hit 100, get book 3 of the trilogy for free.

The “you” in that other universe has already done it and said to tell you that you’ll love Reversion: The Inevitable Horror.