Likely A Too-Long Post About My Writing Style

I was catching up on some episodes of the Three Guys with Beards podcast (hosted by Jonathan Maberry, Christopher Golden, and James A. Moore – all great storytellers that you should be checking out) when they got onto the topic of writing styles. Or maybe how they approach their writing is a more apt description. Which then got me to think about the manners and methods of how I write.

Look, every writer has their own style. There’s no right way, and there’s no wrong way. Anyone who tells you different is talking out of their ass. If you’re a writer, find a method that works for you, but don’t be afraid to try new things. If that new thing doesn’t work for you, pitch it out the window and do something else. Simple, right?

In the episode, the bearded ones mentioned a couple different styles they’ve employed, from running straight through beginning to end, writing the climax first, or playing hopscotch through the manuscripts and going back and forth.

For me, I’m a straight-up beginning to end kind of writer. I wouldn’t say I outline, but I have the barest of bones of a structure in my mind, usually supported by at least three story beats that get fleshed out as the story progresses. Once an idea locks in, I typically know the three big beats – beginning, middle, and end – at least in general terms of action. Not always, but usually. This breaks down to having an inciting event, a significant action set piece at the half-way mark, and a (hopefully!) strong resolution. These constitute certain narrative tent-poles that I work toward in a linear fashion, letting the beats in between build naturally from the story as I go. When I’m first starting out, I rarely have any kind of in-depth plan starting in Chapter One as to what will happen in Chapter Thirty, but I do have a general idea of where the plot is leading. I mostly just let the characters and story figure out how to get from Point A to Point B to Point C.

The book I’m working on now, a sci-fi thriller set in a post-climate change Earth, has been working slightly different, but still following a similar road map. I knew the inciting event, which occurs (in this first draft) around chapter three. Last night, I figured out what chapter four needs to be and will be writing that today. This is all building toward a mid-story event that puts everything into upheaval and will change the dynamics of the story a bit as the plot expands around a new threat that I have been slowly teasing in an off-handed way. Now what happens from chapter four to Point B, I don’t really know yet, but am confident I’ll discover it along the way. I have a few rough ideas, but the story will let me know what it wants to do, and I trust in that.

I recently completed a short story called Let Go, which is slowly getting prepped for release (it’s off to my editor now, and a cover designer is on tap, so stay tuned!), and which is a zombie horror title. My horror works differ only a little bit from my sci-fi stuff in terms of work flow, and tend to be much shorter. Even though they tend toward short story-to-novella end of the spectrum, I’m still teasing through that three-act structure of beginning, middle, and end, only at an accelerated (for lack of a better term) rate. However, I tend to go back and feed in a bit more information throughout the story in future drafts after it’s all been written.

This is true of Let Go, and was perhaps at its most serious extent with another recently finished short horror story that I wrote for an upcoming anthology (more on that soon!). This short story is tentatively titled Black Site and is a sci-fi horror, and required extensive amounts of revision both as I went along and through subsequent drafts. After I had the first draft written, I had a much better understanding of what needed to change, altered, deleted, and added. Especially what needed to be added. For only being around 10,000 words, I think it may be the most heavily re-worked 10,000 words I’ve written yet and it hasn’t even been put in front of the editor yet.

This brings me to another point in terms of figuring out a writing style or methodology, and why nobody can tell you what works for certain – nobody else knows your freaking story like you do. And so nobody can tell you how to write it. Sometimes you just have to learn how to write it as you go along, or after you’ve beaten yourself through that first draft. With Black Site, I had an idea of how that story would go and what I needed to do with it. When I hit THE END, I found myself deeply unsatisfied and knew that certain elements were missing. That’s what a second draft is for! But, I had to get through the finale in order to figure out how to work through the earlier segments to take corrective measures and get it back on track. Could I have avoided this by writing the ending first? Well, maybe – but only if I had known for sure what that ending was going to be. While I knew what the ultimate fate of the characters would be in terms of the story’s resolution, I didn’t quite know the circumstances surrounding the climax until the characters figured it out and told me how it was gonna be.

I like to let the story speak to me. I’m comfortable with that, and often find myself enjoying the surprises the story hurtles at me. Others need to have a rigid outline with every detail mapped out. That’s just not my bag. What about you, fellow writers?

Likely A Too-Long Post About My Writing Style

CONSUMPTION Is A Kindle Countdown Deal – Only 99c!

Quick heads-up for your Tuesday morning, folks – my short horror story, Consumption, is currently on sale for only 99c for the next few days. Did I mention it’s also a 2015 Independent eBook Awards nominee for Best Short Story and Best Horror?

If you’ve been debating checking this one out over its usual $2.99 price-tag, now’s the time act and go buy yourself a copy (and maybe gift one for a friend, too!).

Here’s the skinny on this Lovecraftian Food TV story:

consumption-completeYou Are

Reclusive chef Heinrich Schauer has invited six guests to a blind twelve-course tasting menu.

What You Eat

While snow blankets the isolated Swiss valley surrounding his estate, the guests feast eagerly, challenging one another to guess at the secret tastes plated before them.

This Meat Is Murder

As they eat, each guest is overtaken by carnal appetites, unaware of their host’s savage plans…or of the creature lurking below.

One thing is clear: There is more on the menu than any of them have bargained for.

Consumption is a 12,000 word (approx.) short story. It contains graphic depictions of sex and violence, and is intended for mature audiences.

CONSUMPTION Is A Kindle Countdown Deal – Only 99c!

eBook Sci-Fi Sale (But It Won’t Last Long!)

Hey there, readers!

I’m happy to announce that, for a limited time (i.e. today and tomorrow), you can grab some great sci-fi reads for cheap, including my book, CONVERGENCE, over at Amazon. Just click the links below to buy, but act fast because this won’t last for very long.

Convergence-800 Cover reveal and Promotional99 cents!

| Kindle | Nook | Kobo |


hereticFree!


whatitmeanstosurviveFree!


defiance99 cents!


And, as always, my short horror story CONSUMPTION is only 99 cents as well. Just don’t read this one on a full stomach…

consumption-complete99 cents!

| Amazon | Kobo | Nook |

eBook Sci-Fi Sale (But It Won’t Last Long!)

A Sweet Meat Halloween Treat – CONSUMPTION, Only 99 cents!

consumption-complete

| Amazon | Kobo | Nook |

| iBookstore | Google Play |

| Smashwords |

As you may be aware, today is Halloween. You owe yourself a treat, and a bit of a fright. If you haven’t done so already, might I suggest a read-through of my latest work, Consumption. It’s available on a bunch of different platforms, and only 99 cents.

This short story is a nasty bit of work, a grisly, bloody affair. According to some of the reviewers over at Goodreads, it’s maybe the kind of story you might not want to read too closely before or after dinner….

Here’s the description:

You Are

Reclusive chef Heinrich Schauer has invited six guests to a blind twelve-course tasting menu.

What You Eat

While snow blankets the isolated Swiss valley surrounding his estate, the guests feast eagerly, challenging one another to guess at the secret tastes plated before them.

Meat Is Murder

As they eat, each guest is overtaken by carnal appetites, unaware of their host’s savage plans…or of the creature lurking below.

One thing is clear: There is more on the menu than any of them have bargained for.

Consumption is a 12,000 word (approx.) short story. It contains graphic depictions of sex and violence, and is intended for mature audiences.

| Amazon | Kobo | Nook |

| iBookstore | Google Play |

| Smashwords |

A Sweet Meat Halloween Treat – CONSUMPTION, Only 99 cents!

New Story Coming Soon!

IMG_2420

All right, kids, that’s a wrap on the first draft of a new short story that will be out soon.

I cannot tell you much about this work yet, as it’s all very top secret, hush-hush, and on the QT. I can offer a few nuggets of information though:

  • The story is called REVOLVER
  • REVOLVER is a dark, dystopian sci-fi piece set in the near-future.
  • I wrote this story for inclusion in a forthcoming sci-fi anthology, which is expected to release in early 2015. I don’t think I can spill the beans on who all else is included, but rest assured it’s a great group of authors and I couldn’t be happier to be working with them on this project. This will be a top-notch effort from all of us involved, though, and not just on the story side of things. We’ve got a terrific cover artist on the hook, and some fine editorial strong-hands helping each of us shine brightly.

Keep an eye out for the real details soon. Once I can release more information, I will. This is a bit of a hard project for me to keep quiet about because I  really, really, really want to tell you everything about all of this. It’s very exciting, and I’m beyond thrilled with the way things have been shaping up, and with how well REVOLVER turned out.

Next step is editing, and that’s always a doozy. I’ll be working on the next draft in conjunction with moving ahead on editing EMERGENCE, so I’ll certainly be keeping busy and distracted, which should help keep me from revealing more than I should.

By the way, and without giving away too much more about this project, now might be a good time for you to sign up to my newsletter. I won’t spam you, but I will send you updates on new releases. When this anthology comes out, there may even be a few surprises in store for subscribers.

New Story Coming Soon!

CONSUMPTION: Behind The Scenes

CONSUMPTION COMPLETE

At the tail end of May, my wife and I were watching a few episodes of Food Network’s CHOPPED. It had been a while since we’d last seen the show, and the opening credits had gotten a bit of a makeover in our absence. As the sequence ended, the camera flashed on a weird, tentacly creature that surprised us, and we weren’t sure if it was a squid or octopus, or what. I made a joke, something like, “In tonight’s basket: Cthulhu!”

It was one of those stupid off-handed comments, but for whatever reason an idea took root. It must have been a Thursday, and by that weekend I was off to the races, writing more than three thousands words each day. By Monday, after a feverish writing sprint, the first draft of the story was finished.

I hadn’t written anything quite like it in a while. When I explained the premise to my wife, her first reaction was “Isn’t that a bit out of your range?” I’ve only dabbled in horror, long ago, and my last serious effort was a bit of a non-starter, one that aborted early on. In fact, for a look at my first and only published horror story to date (until CONSUMPTION releases on Oct. 14, that is!), you’d have to go back a whole decade, to June 2004, when my short story CATECHISM was published in the magazine REVELATION by Fourth Horseman Press. Since then, I’ve been much more on the side of consumer than producer in the realm of horror.  This story, though, was an ugly little baby, and I couldn’t turn away from it.

The initial concept was a bit of extreme cuisine by way of H.P. Lovecraft, a sort of satirical look at foodporn culture and Instagram dinners by way of a splatter-gore creature feature. Granted, I’m guilty of indulging in foodporn culture myself. I love food, and if it’s presented well enough I have no problem commemorating such a dish. The Food Network is my go-to station; CHOPPED, IRON CHEF AMERICA, even some of their home-cook turned celebrity shows are entertaining. I am an unabashed fan of Anthony Bourdain. And I think that NBC’s HANNIBAL is one of the best damn shows on television and is the perfect representation of culinary horror.

So naturally, I wanted to take this stuff to the point of excess and linger over some of the more disturbing intonations of it all. Originally, I was going to call the story YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT but that was a bit too on the nose for my tastes, and felt like more of a parody title than what I was going for. CONSUMPTION was more evocative to me, more mysterious, darker, and captured the sort of predatory feel of the piece itself.

My wife is right, though. It is a bit out of my wheelhouse. It’s more experimental that my previous science fiction novel, CONVERGENCE, but experimentation is one of the joys of writing and self-publishing. I can try whatever the hell I want and let readers decide how worthwhile it really is. There’s certainly a part of me that prefers being a writer as a whole, rather than pigeon-holed into a single category or type of writer. I want to dabble. I want to play with all kinds of ingredients and different flavors, if you will. On the other hand, I fully embrace the category of speculative fiction, which is broad and murky in its definition. All you need is a ‘what if.’ And CONSUMPTION began with one hell of a what if, one that, quite literally, consumed me for days on end.

Almost as soon as I finished writing it, I began editing. I carved away quite a bit, added new stuff, fleshed out the characters a little bit more, and amped up the gore. If the first draft was about just carving loose a horror story, then the second draft was a very deliberate attempt to make readers feel dirty by the end of it. By the end of the second draft, I felt that I had a tighter, better written piece, and that it was ready to go to a professional editor (and author herself) for the next round of work, and Carol Davis did a bang-up job fixing my mistakes.

For the cover design, I turned to Debbie at The Cover Collection for a custom job. While I was writing, I was also thinking about what sort of image would best represent CONSUMPTION. I very much wanted to see a kind of old-fashioned butcher’s chart, and came across this vintage diagram:

Photo by Lisa Michelle, Twisted Orchid Designs, 2013.

Instead of a pig, cow, or chicken, I wanted a nasty looking beastie. Debbie sent me a terrific stock image, and I asked for some specific alterations to bring it more in line with the creature of CONSUMPTION. The end result is a pretty close, neatly dissected representation, that was then grunged up a bit, and which focuses on the culinary themes of the story.

Hopefully you’re ready and willing to join me on this little adventure of food-gore. I hope you’re well fed, perhaps full of long pig, and well-satiated, yet ready for one more small morsel as the night deepens.

You can pre-order CONSUMPTION at Amazon, or check here for links to other fine eBook retailers where the book is available.

CONSUMPTION: Behind The Scenes