This long overdue post is just a little note to keep everyone up to date on what I've been up to. As noted in my previous post, back in April I put the finishing touches on my new novel. It was written in two months and change, and when it was all said and done I was really happy with how it had turned out. I feel, with all modesty, that it's a far superior book to my first effort (which, to date, has yet to be picked up by a publisher, though I'm still shopping it around). So, first draft completed. That was step one.
The time since then has been devoted to the first round of edits after my ruthless editor set upon it with tooth and claw and handed it back, thoroughly dissected and rendered. I have to admit that when I opened up the newly edited document, I scanned through and saw an inordinate amount of work ahead of me and my first instinct was to close it again and forget for a while that I'd written it. I actually did do that, for a week or two. But then I cracked it open again, with a break to work on other things under my belt, and took a look with fresh eyes. And then, I went to work on fixing everything.
Yesterday I put the finishing touches on round two. I have to say, it felt nearly as nice as finishing the first draft had. Writing the novel gave me a huge sense of accomplishment, but working through extensive edits and coming out the far side with something even better was just so cool.
At this point, anyone who's written before is rolling their eyes and silently telling me to suck it up, welcome to the club, this is how it goes. I know this, of course. Nobody ever gets it right on the first pass, and obviously I'm no different. And truth be told, the editing process isn't over yet. Now that I've fixed and tweaked and polished, it goes back and falls under the editor's scrutiny once more, undoubtedly to reveal numerous (ideally fewer, and less grievous) errors. My plan is to bust my tail on getting the final product ready to begin submitting by August. I've got my eye on a publisher that i like, and feel this is a good fit for. I'll keep you posted on the process as it continues to roll along!
Today's entry is a follow-up to my last post, in which I described some of the process of writing my current project. In that post I mentioned the differences between working on this project and the last one, notably the difference in timelines between the two.
Today is two days short of the ten week point from which I began. And as of today I have put the finishing touches on my second novel: The Man, The Myth, The Legend.
This one is a pretty stark departure from my first offering, The Shadow Realm, which was more of a paranormal horror/thriller. For this novel I branched out and went in a totally different direction with a horror/western hybrid. Set in 1830s Texas, a tiny frontier town is overtaken by a small band of otherworldly outlaws. Their only hope for survival is a legendary gunslinger whom nobody is certain even exists.
So, today the first draft is done. Ten short weeks brought me from start to finish. The fun part is over. Now come the edits, fixes, tweaks, rewrites and that dreary stage during which you start to get really sick of your work and just want it over with.
And then, on to the next thing. Which is what, exactly? In my case, final edits on a novella I wrote several years ago and put aside until recently, entitled Putting Down Roots. The Cassels family purchased an old Victorian house in the suburbs of Greenville, South Carolina that has an ancient tree in the back yard with a taste for flesh.
I'm also back in the classroom soon. Two weeks from Monday, on April 24th, is the first class of Crafting the Short Story. There are still spaces available for anyone who wants to learn more about story writing, character development and more. Feel free to share with anyone you think might be interested.
Thanks for reading. Until next time!
Why haven't you posted anything in nearly two months, I've been asked. This is a space for keeping people up to speed on what you're doing, after all. Well, here's a little glimpse into where I've been hiding this winter.
I don't know what came over me.
Just after Christmas - December 29th, according to my notes - I scribbled down the first inklings of a story idea that came to me. I had been, I should point out, in the process of outlining a novel at that time, and had been for a month or so. That's sort of how I work: I get an idea, let it germinate for a while, then start taking notes to see if it makes sense to carry on with it or not. This idea made me scrap the other novel and focus entirely on the new one.
I did this for about a month. I'd add notes or the outlines of some key scenes. I started seeing some of the characters in my head, and I gave them names. I saw my setting - a dusty little town named High Water, Texas and the bleak surrounding landscape. Everything was falling into place nicely, to the point where I decided it was time to compile everything and see what I had so far. My better half transcribed all my hand-written scrawls and hieroglyphics into word documents, saving me countless agonizing days' worth of work.
The results were, to say the least, disheartening. My month of plotting and scheming had amounted to 7,700 words, about the length of some of my longer short stories. It felt like an awful lot of effort for that little to show for it. But I couldn't stop; I was too immersed in this story, and now it was time to go to work. It was January 29th, a month later to the day.
I rarely write on the weekends, since those days are reserved for doing stuff with friends or watching movies or just hanging out with Sheryl and the animal kingdom that lives here with us. That adds up to 29 actual writing days from then until today.
Today is March 9, not quite a month and a half later. I'm to the point where I take all of my individual chapter documents and paste them into one large manuscript. Today's word count? 45, 413 words. Take away the 7,700 from the kick-off point and we have an average of 1,300 words a day.
For some, that's not a huge amount. For some others, it's many times more than their normal daily average. There are no right or wrong approaches, but suffice it to say I normally fall into the latter category. My first novel, The Shadow Realm, took roughly 13 months to write, and another three to edit. This time, I've got roughly two thirds of the first draft done in a month and a half. It's hard to say exactly how long a novel will end up being, but I'm basing this estimate on how the story is unfolding and how much I think I have left to tell.
Stephen King famously once said "I believe the first draft of a book - even a long one - should take no longer than three months, the length of a season." I would read that quote and chuckle to myself. Yeah right, I'd say. But my approach to this novel is a lot different from the first one, which I guess in hindsight I could call a learning experience. While I'm proud of that one, I was thoroughly sick and tired of every aspect of it by the time I'd finished it. Well over a year into the process I just wanted to be done with it.
This time around I'm less preoccupied with polish and perfection, and more interested in getting the story out. There will be ample time later to fix and patch the holes, and buff out the rough spots. This time around, I think I understand far better what I need to do in order to churn out a quality piece. And at the risk of being immodest, this novel is a killer. I'll drop some hints and teasers in this space as the process winds down and we approach completion. For now, it's back to the grindstone.
First things first: a very Happy New Year to all my family and friends, real or imagined, electronic and otherwise. And congrats to everyone reading this for dodging the 2016 curse that claimed so many, famous and lesser known.
Just a couple of items to touch on today, starting with the latest entry in the Twisted Tails series. Twisted Tails IX: Wunderkind is in the running for the best anthology category in the Preditors & Editors Readers' Poll. As of this evening we were in 4th place, with just eleven days remaining in the voting process. I've been a part of the past three editions, and the series has a special place in my heart. And yet, it's a largely unheralded series that deserves more attention than it receives. So in case you've enjoyed one or more of the Twisted chronicles, or just would like to see 'the little anthology that could' get some well-deserved recognition, why not head on over and cast your vote?
Next on the docket, the second edition of my horror writing course looms on the horizon. The last couple of months have flown by, and we're less than three weeks away from starting back up for another go-around. Last time was a lot of fun, and the participants seemed to enjoy themselves while learning a thing or two in the process. For anyone living in the area who has a love of the genre and a desire to write, come on out and join me on the next dark journey. Classes start January 23rd, sign up here. I'll drop a reminder or two in the coming weeks.
Until next time,
It's been a while since I posted any sort of update in this space, so here are just a few quick notes to catch everyone up on what's been going on in my little slice of the world.
The first session of my horror writing class has come to a close. I can't claim it went off without a hitch - to be honest, it was a bit of a learning experience for me too, as I worked some of the kinks out of the curriculum and my style - but overall I felt it went quite well. The College apparently thought so too, since they offered me a contract extension through the spring session. Anyone interested in coming out for the Winter session, the start date is January 23rd. You can register here. Thanks to everyone who came out last time, I hope you enjoyed yourselves!
Also, last month the good folks at Digital Fiction Publishing Corp saw fit to print one of my stories, a haunting little tale called Lead Us Not Into Temptation. It was my first new appearance in a while - though not exactly, since it's a reprint market, and this one was originally released last year. But for those who may have missed it the first time around, or just loved it so much you needed a second go-around, you can read it here for free! But be warned: this is one of my more intense pieces. It's not for the squeamish, a sentiment even the publisher echoed as he winced and tiptoed his way to the end.
That's all for now, but hopefully soon I'll have news on the novel I finished up this spring and a few other projects that have been drifting around the edges of the back burner for a while. As always, as soon as I know, you'll know!
September's here - and over halfway gone already! The kids are back in school, the leaves are threatening to change color at any moment, and Halloween is just around the corner. And for the budding writers, there's just over a week to go until my "Horror, Mystery & Noir" writing course kicks off.
I've got some cool stuff planned, and there are still spots available. So if you're in the area and have an interest in learning about some of the ins and outs of creative fiction writing, there's still time to pop on over to the UNB website and register. Classes kick off Monday, September 26th. Or, if there's just too much going on right now and you haven't got the time, I'm also offering a second run starting in January. Getting excited to get started, hope to see some of you there!
We're at the mid-point of August, which means we have about six weeks to go before the world premiere of Joe Powers, Writing Instructor. The fact that I can even say such a thing still feels kind of surreal to me, but there it is.
For those who may have missed it before, starting in September I will be offering a writing class through the University of New Brunswick. The primary focus will be on horror, but I will spend some time on mystery and noir as well.
I feel I should state at this point that I am fully aware I don’t know everything there is to know about writing. Nobody does, and there are surely plenty who have been around and know as much as or more than I do. I still write and submit work to editors, and frequently get shot down just like everyone not named King or Koontz. And I'm certainly not above - or opposed to - learning more myself!
I don’t profess to have all the answers. Only some of them. For beginners, I can help with getting started, establishing rituals and practices that will serve you daily. For those more advanced writers, I can share some insights on the submission and publishing aspects, dealing with editors, and such. For anyone with a desire to write and a tendency toward the darker side of fiction, I can share some of what I’ve learned about what does and doesn’t work, and what’s most likely to catch the eye of a prospective editor or publisher.
Again, this is by no means a comprehensive and exhaustive how-to; such a course would be impossible to offer. There are a million variables in the writing game, and some of the specifics that work for me might not for someone else and vice versa. And even if such a course were possible to teach, I'm pretty sure I'm not the guy to teach it. I can, however, cover many of the basics that are more or less universal and will help writers to improve their craft.
The first round starts on September 26th, and space is limited. For anyone in or around the greater Fredericton area interested in taking the course, or if you know someone who might be interested, here’s a link to the course website. To sign up just click the “register now” button at the bottom. Hope to see some of you there!
We're all in this together, all the writers and authors and dabblers and up-and-comers. Unlike in most other industries, where it's every man or woman for him/herself, writers are a different breed with a different approach - by supporting and promoting each other, the craft itself is placed atop the priority list, exposure is increased, and everybody benefits.
I have been invited - and happily agreed - to get involved in yet another cool event. Over the course of this weekend I will be participating in the book launch of Ice Burns, the newest release by Charity Ayres, fantasy author.
Charity and I go back well over a decade together, but even if we didn't I would still freely and happily share with you what a skilled and talented author she is. During that time she's gone from book lover and fledgling writer to English teacher and honest-to-goodness novelist. She is passionate about her craft and immerses her readers in carefully crafted characters and stunning worlds. Ice Burns is her fourth novel, a fantasy epic not to be missed.
The four-day event takes place online through Facebook from Friday, August 12 through Monday, August 15 on a special page established for the release party. Along with myself guests include fellow authors Jim McDonald, Krista Walsh, Kate Sparkes, DL Wainright, Jenna Wood, Toi Thomas, Diana Pharaoh Francis, Adrian Smith and, of course, the lady of the hour herself.
For anyone interested in stopping in, here's what my participation schedule looks like:
Saturday 10:30 - 11PM: Panel discussion: "SciFi/Fantasy Novels and Short Stories"
Sunday 8:00 - 8:30PM: Q&A Session: "What it takes to be a writer"
9:00 - 9:30PM: Panel discussion: "Fiction that turns dark: Horror, Dark Fantasy, Strange Tales"
10:00 - 10:30PM: Panel discussion: "What have movies/television done for Fantasy/SciFi?"
10:30 - 11:00PM: Author Spotlight
Of course there are numerous other scheduled events and giveaways throughout the weekend. Feel free to drop by the Facebook page Release Party: Ice Burns, and visit Charity's author page as well.
This writing gig ("Dis t'ing of ours," as the movie mobsters say) is an interesting path, never dull and often full of surprises.
When I dove back into the craft some years ago following a lengthy hiatus I had no idea where it would take me or how far I would go. All I knew was that it was something I was born to do, and that I couldn't be away from it any longer. Most of the history can be found in this space, or
I wrote a few stories, got some of them published. Had more than a few rejected more than a few times. Wrote about the Islanders for a while. Appeared in a gallery showing. Did some other off-the-wall stuff I never saw coming. Had a blast most of the way, and kept going. And the list of accomplishments kept growing.
This past week, following a bunch of behind-the-scenes shenanigans and in keeping with my habit of leaping when opportunity knocks, a new door has opened. Incredibly (and improbably), starting this fall I will be teaching at UNB's College of Extended Learning. Teaching what, you ask? Why, horror writing, of course.
That's right, yours truly has entered into the world of academia. From the other side of the desk this time, no less. And honestly, I'm just as surprised as you are. But I'm also excited at the opportunity, eager to pass along what knowledge I've accumulated and that might be helpful to other writing hopefuls. I received some nice encouragement from some folks I've worked with in the past, who were kind enough to offer their professional recommendations for the position.
I'll post more info in this space between now and September as details are hammered out and I have promotional info to share. You know, just in case any of my local friends are interested in seeing the creative process up close and personal. It should be a learning experience for all involved, myself included.
In honor of the #TBT phenomenon, today I thought I'd dust off an article I wrote almost exactly seven years ago. It reads a lot clunkier than it might if I were to write it today, but such is the evolution of style and skill, and I've left it intact as it appeared then. Some of you might recognize it from my old blog - most of you probably won't, which is good. Hopefully more people see it this time around. But either way, whether you're coming at this with fresh eyes or completely new ones, I hope it stirs something inside you the way it did for me when I wrote it.
Tiny Perfect Moments
It's not all bad. I suspect at least some of my readers assume I think it is, the way I tend to carry on and cling to things that sometimes may seem insignificant to some. I do that, no question. When it comes to exposing and spreading the word about something I'm passionate about, I can be rather tenacious. And make no mistake, I have no intention of changing the things I'm too old and set in my ways to change. Nor do I think most of the things I take a closer look at on here are insignificant. But you know what they say about one man's treasure, so to those who think they are, I won't disagree. I'm pessimistic about a lot of things, and find a lot of things that most people seem to take in stride depressing to no end, but again, it's not all bad.
Even in the middle of the biggest problems, at our lowest points, we can still see thin cracks of light trying to seep through if we take the time to look for them. If you look back through time, and even in present day here and there, you will inevitably find stored away what I like to call tiny perfect moments. They don't happen often, which I suppose is part of what makes them so special. As often as not they are meaningless to everyone other than yourself, also contributing to the special factor. But for you, the perfect, unscripted, unexpected combination of things that stimulate the proper senses come together in just the right mix, creating forever a snapshot of a moment in time that makes you feel... nice. I know after all that buildup to call them simply "nice" doesn't quite seem to do them justice, but just let your mind settle one one of yours and I think you'll agree that to go any further with it than nice both tarnishes and falls short of describing the spirit of the moment.
The biggest problem with these small slices of happiness is the 'tiny' part. Invariably they are over almost before they occur, like a wonderful dream you can't quite get your head all the way back around when you wake from it. As such they tend to leave an unfinished, unsatisfying feeling when they're gone if you're not careful to keep them in context. They aren't intended to bring everlasting happiness; that's another kind of thing which not all of us ever encounter. In truth, to some extent it's the tiny part which makes them perfect in the first place. And herein lies the rub: to let them run their course and capture the essence in a sliver of time or to pursue them, potentially extending them beyond the moment but also risk doing irreparable damage? This too contributes to the rarity of these moments, because I think many of us don't recognize them for what they are at the time and in our eternal pursuit of happiness we stomp on them en route to an extended version that isn't there.
The ironic thing about this phenomenon is that they almost always involve another person who has no idea anything out of the ordinary is taking place. Yet other times, that someone else shares your moment while countless others around you are oblivious, either unable or unwilling (or maybe just disinterested) to grasp what's right under their noses. This is where the perfect part really comes into play. Neither of you saw it coming, and minutes after it occurs it's back to business as usual, but at that perfect time of day, with something special in the air, maybe partly because you know nobody else is paying any attention to you, with just the right amount of contact, subtle, light but firm, you see fireworks as your moment unfolds. Then the semi-dazed sense of slight disbelief as the exhiliration gradually dissipates and you think maybe something you won't soon forget has just taken place.
Hopefully while reading that last paragraph you were momentarily swept away to a time and place where only you have ever been allowed access, whether or not you were there alone. My advice, coming from someone a large portion of whose life has been a lot of self-inflicted headache and heartache sprinkled lightly with tiny perfect moments, is to endeavor to recognize and savor them when they happen to you. Keep them close, because during those aforementioned dark times such a pinpoint of light can be a pretty dazzling beacon.
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