“How Does A Funny Guy Like You Write Horror?”

15 08 2018

I get this a lot when I tell people what I do. The path doesn’t seem obvious unless you’ve been on it.

Were your parents Monty Python fans? Mine were, and fans of Steve Martin, and Spike Jones, and that old Bloopers record, and Alan Sherman, and Mork and Mindy.

At the same time, I had a still-inexplicable attraction to the morbid. The teen next door collected “Creepy” and “Eerie” magazines, which I read. Sundays would be days of chest-tightening anxiety with the strange, dark color pallet of the ABC morning cartoons, the mind-bending appropriation of The Groovie Ghoulies, the creepy-ass music of the NBC Sunday Night Mysteries followed by Night Gallery.

I used my library card for Alfred Hitchcock anthologies, tales of the Strange But True, and through them discovered Fritz Leiber and sword-and sorcery.

The possibilities of the the supernatural being true mixed with my desire make life as funny as TV. I chased laughs and avoided free-floating dread all the way up into my 20s.

When you think about it, ’70s Humor is pretty unsettling. Drugs were a laugh riot. Pointing fingers or thumbs caused magic if you were alien enough or cool enough. Men skeeved on women on the regular. Everyone had compulsive catch phrases. Giant feet stamped on everything. All social institutions were corrupt. Giant hedgehogs persecute British criminals who nail people’s heads to the floor.

I had wanted to be a stand-up comedian.  A sketch comedy group later, I decided prose was less nerve wracking.

But in the ’80s, there were only “Spy” and “Mad” magazines. I wasn’t sophisticated enough for “Spy” or sharp enough for “Mad”. I tried dark-humored horror at “Weird Tales”.

So it went for nine years. Eventually I realized I was trying to write horror through a humor lens, which is different than writing dark humor. I was writing The Groovie Ghoulies when I wanted to write Terry Southern or Roald Dahl.

Then I sold a story about energy drinks and dance crazes merging people into carnivorous new lifeforms. I’ve been chasing that high ever since.

Nowadays, there’s McSweeny’s and all sorts of boutique pubs for humor, but I dunno. McSweeny’s has a repetitive formula and the other markets are so niche, I’d have to derail to learn their culture.

How did you get here? How did you get where you are?

Here’s a guy dealing with these questions.

How to Alienate People By Telling Them You Write Horror — Drew Chial

I get around, wheeling and dealing in my hip bohemian community. I’m a man about town, getting recognized in my seasonally inappropriate dark t-shirt and jeans. 1,091 more words

via How to Alienate People By Telling Them You Write Horror — Drew Chial





Stephen King’s Top Ten Rules For Success

23 06 2018





Writers: Get This Book!

18 06 2018

“The best selling character eats, nods, opens, closes, says, sleeps, types, watches, turns, runs, shoots, kisses, and dies….The most important thing to note is that in the best selling novel someone is doing something as dramatic as surviving or dying, and they are not, as their less-selling friends prefer, yawning.”

This is a quantitative analysis of best sellers. What best-selling characters are most prone to do. How the plots are structured. How men and women write differently. How the novels are titled. Down to percentages of “the” in best-selling text.

The book reinforces everything you may have seen in other writing books: active characters, dynamic plots, use of  arcs, etc. But for me, this book gives a concrete foundation for all of the advice.

I’m already adapting my plots accordingly. What I have taken away so far: my characters need to express “need” in detail. I tend to underwrite. I tend to think things do not need explanations. I thought I was being economical, but I’m realizing that I’m just not committing to my characters.

Writing an action pulp series is helping me to realize I need to be bolder in my choices. This book is helping me to see that this boldness will produce results.

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Lessons From The 2018 Nebula Conference With Links To Resources

21 05 2018

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I went to Pittsburgh last Thursday to watch my good friend Dr. Lawrence Schoen get his chance at a Nebula. This is his nominated book.

Being twice nominated, he had a lot of meetings about editorial and collaborative opportunities. This is what conventions are all about for professionals.

Meanwhile, I as an aspiring professional and Growing Concern went to panels to learn about the biz. Here are my notes:

From a panel about Facebook ads, from experienced Facebook advertisers:

  • Cover images! Spaceships or dragons, period. When possible, use food related images for your cover. Food provokes better click rate. I know, right?
  • On the flip side of that, use vampires where possible. Okay, working on that right now.
  • Start small with FB ads and increase where successful. How small? $5 SMALL. This is a relief because my savings took a beating this weekend.
  • As in all things, There Is A BOOK:  “Help! My Facebook Ads Suck!” by Michael Cooper. This book was recommended by Lindsay Buroker on her podcast, too. I’ll be getting this one.

 

From a panel on e-publishing:

  • When publishing your e-book, put in a link for readers to subscribe to your mailing list and receive free material related to that book. Put in that link at the beginning at at the end of the book. Cool! Can do!
  • When readers click the link, they will land on a page asking something like “Would you like to receive materials from me?” There will be a check box. That check box MUST BE AN OPT-IN. They have to click to receive. This is part of those new European internet regulations.

Do you know about Draft2Digital? They are a publishing and promotion platform. Check them out. I’m intrigued.

Have you used Beatsheetcalculator.com? I was developing calculations on where plot beats should fall based on page percentages. Of course, someone else has done it first. It even incorporates the Dent Pulp Formula and the Hero’s Journey.

Last, when writing a series, make all books stand alone. No cliffhangers. I knew this, but it was good go have this reinforced by a panel including series maven Laura Anne Gilman.

Sadly, Lawrence did not win. However, his competition were all from Big Five publishers. My small publisher Noble Fusion Press got Lawrence onto the ballot TWICE. Good work supported by promotion gets results.

Was the convention worth it for me? I had some good moments. A series I’ve begun was well received at a Kickstarter Seminar. Did you know Kickstarter provides guidance on optimizing your campaign? This response did warm my enthusiasm.

The cost, though! I spent enough to set up a book. I was in the middle of a slump, though, and now I’ve got new wind. Maybe I could have gotten that new wind at the upcoming local Balticon at about 10% of the cost.

Anyway, if I remember anything else, I’ll let you know.

Keep writing!

 





What I Learned On This Draft

22 02 2018

Hi guys,

I’ve finished the Beta draft of Lampreyhead: Blood Summoning.

I laughed, I cried, I learned oh so much.

First and foremost, I had always heard about writers having total existential meltdowns during redrafts. Not me. I’ve struggled with writing since 1989, sure, and I thought I’d run in the worst the writing experience had to offer.

Au Contraire! I had run into little baby struggles. In my first novel, I had spread the pain out over six years of writing. “The Flesh Sutra” started as published short stories. In my other short stories, the obstacles could be easily surmounted or shelved.

Lampreyhead’s Beta had a deadline, and man-oh-mannikin did I suffer! A day-long panic attack. Cold regret over every life decision since 8th grade. The veil of satisfaction torn away, revealing Death Himself exhaling putrid breath in my face, corpse hands raised to snatch me to a lonely pauper’s grave.

I put up a post on Facebook in this state, and got a couple of responses. One was from a guy from high school who has done remarkable things with his life, who essentially nudged me and said “I’m here, but knock off the whining.”

I took down the post within an hour of putting it up. The next day, a scene was moved to a different chapter and slowly my momentum returned.

So yeah, I learned I will provoke a panic attack to avoid working. I am not proud of this, but The More I Know.

Also, I was reminded that Tone Will Choose Itself. I can attempt to make the story like Clive Barker or King or some dark whimsical guy, but it won’t work. Stay true to the story and the feeling of the story will develop consistency and moral.

“Moral” developed through finding the recurring notes and realizing how I felt about them. What responsibility does a creator have toward a creation? What responsibility to have to your past? As it turns out, these will be recurring issues in the upcoming series.

I had thought I wanted something dark and funny that touched on these issues, and I thought of Monty Python. I re-read my Monty Python books (Big Red Book, Papperbak Book) and discovered they have not aged well. The movies now seem closer to the old “Carry On” films of the ’50s, but with better transitions. So I was flying blind. I’ll course correct as I go on.

The last item I learned was just that: “as I go on.” This is a series, and just as Terry Pratchett’s Discworld has weak titles, as does every series, nothing is going to appeal to everyone.

What did I fix? All characters have arcs with distinct points noted throughout the work, including the villain and the villain’s revealed flunky. All the characters have cause and effect which flow through the entire plot.

Descriptions are more lush. The setting is obvious at the first paragraph. Three sensory points per page. All words presenting action.

I am particularly proud of the character voices.

So. Now I begin outlining the two others in the series. Book Two will take place at a major electronic chain store, Book Three will take place at a comic book store on South Street in Philly.

You’ve read this far. Would you like to Beta read this 30K work? I’ll put you in the acknowledgements. I guarantee you that you’ll laugh. I guarantee you that you’ll be creeped out.

Send me word at Tim_W_Burke at H   O   T   M   A   I   L.

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Is Your First Draft Any Good?

17 01 2018

www.pinterest.co.uk

My writer’s group Noble Fusion met and critiqued the first draft of “Lampreyhead”. I have met professional authors. Noble Fusion itself has professional authors and editors. It does not matter how many words you’ve ever published. First drafts always suck. How do you know when you’re on to writing a decent book?

While writing the draft, an author can tell where that draft is weak. Usually the draft is a sequence of set pieces where the characters lack agency. The author will know where the plot’s been fudged, or that the magic system isn’t quite right, or that emotional beats aren’t given enough room to breathe.

The book is on the right track when: 1) your group is enthused, and 2) the critiques hold no surprises.

I knew this draft was rushed and lacked detail. I suspected the characters needed more depth. But I did not panic.

Again, as fellow Noble Fusion member Dr. Lawrence Schoen told me:

“I’ve done novel breaks at Taos Toolbox with Walter Jon Williams. Professional authors have presented drafts that were utterly unworkable. This draft is workable.”

On to the critique! Sally Wiener Grotta said of this draft: “The sentence structure is repetitive. It needs to vary structure to build tension. There is a lot of passive voice. Use active verbs.”

Barbara E. Hill was pretty thorough with comments like “We just don’t understand this universe” and “How do the characters feel about each other”, which…yeah. Lots more detail needed.

So I’d have preferred to have written something brilliant right off, but that’s not how reality works.

Today and tomorrow I am working with the cover artist to tweak the fonts. I am waiting for the marketing copy from CreateSpace. I am revising the draft with the goal of sending a draft to beta readers by the end of January.

Would you like to be a beta reader?

What problems do you run into on your first draft? Who does your proofreading?

 





The Winning Cover of “Lampreyhead Book One”

16 01 2018

The font layout will change, but this is the winning image chosen by both the voters and my writing group.

(sorry I didn’t get back to you sooner with this. Day job is tiring.)

My farcical abs! abs! abs! formula didn’t go over so well and I understand why: the eyes here arrest your attention. Women voters especially went for this design.

My writing group Noble Fusion East Coast (represent!) read my draft and declared the novel to be innovative, not in the spirit of Monty Python, and sliding close to grimdark.

Next step is to integrate the ad copy I purchased from CreateSpace. For $200, they research five keywords, write taglines and a punchy summary, and polish up the other little text bits I’ll need to advertise. The fee comes out to about 20 hours at my job and taps into the CS expertise, and so is worth the money at least as a starting draft.

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