Coming Spring 2017!
The newly revised 2nd edition of my novella, SHADOWS REMAIN…
Coming Spring 2017!
The newly revised 2nd edition of my novella, SHADOWS REMAIN…
Being asked how long I’ve been writing has always been a trick question. The easy answer? Technically, my first published pieces were a couple of poems I’d written in 7th grade that the teacher printed and bound with string. Cool? Sure, but the entire class had poems in the book. It’s not that mine were all that special. I also have a couple of notebooks full of really bad song lyrics that I wrote in HS in the late 80s. Let me tell you, Faster Pussycat had nothing on me.
But if they want to know how long I’ve been writing SERIOUSLY, then that’s another story altogether. That didn’t start until I went back to college at the age of thirty-five…
(Cue the harp and flashback waves.)
When it comes to getting a college degree, there are core classes that must be taken despite your course of study: basic sciences, math, history, humanities and English. And that’s how I met the first of several people who have guided me on this path of becoming an author: Ms. Beki Test.
Thinking it might be fun, I elected what would become (unbeknownst to me at the time) the first of many composition and writing classes. Up to that point, I’d written four or five fairly rough short stories. And by rough I mean bad. Really bad. At least in my eyes, and that’s all that mattered because I hadn’t really shown them to anyone.
That was about to change.
One of the class assignments was to keep a weekly composition journal. Ms. Test would collect them every four or five weeks, grade the entries and hand them back, occasionally with comments written on the pages. Now, similar to my struggle to come up with blog post ideas, I could never think of anything to write about. Once I had a topic, I was fine, but getting to that point usually left me with a dented forehead from beating it against the wall.
As the semester wound down, I found myself in need of two last entries. For one, I expounded on how cool it would be to be a writer. The romance of it all, being published and having your name on the spines of books gracing the shelves of bookstores and libraries all over the world. Because to me, that’s what being a writer was. A dream so far out of reach for a regular guy in Ohio, that the very idea of being a writer never occurred to me, despite my lifelong love of books.
Still, I needed one more entry. As time ran out, I sucked it up and simply included one of my shorter stories for my final journal entry. The very thought of sharing it with someone made my stomach hurt, but I needed to cover my ass and complete the assignment so as not to tarnish my grade. (I was, after all, on the Dean’s List. Can you believe that? Yeah, me neither.)
Our journals were returned on the last day of class. Initially, I didn’t even bother opening it. I knew the story was bad, and the last thing I needed was some uppity English professor ripping it to shreds. (She wasn’t really uppity at all. It was just my insecurities building up their defenses. It happens.) But, a couple days later, my curiosity got the better of me and I finally broke down and flipped through the journal. You know how it is, no matter how bad you think you’ve done on a job, there’s still that small part of you that hopes for praise. Even a simple, ‘that’s actually not so bad.’
Surprisingly, the feedback I got proved more beneficial than that, and more than I’m sure Ms. Test was aware. Her feedback changed my outlook on what the essence of a ‘writer’ truly was. There, on the bottom of the last page of the story, right after the entry about how cool it would be to be a writer, were four little, yet significant words written in purple ink:
‘You are a writer.’
It sounds so simple now. Of course I was. I wrote, didn’t I? But it never dawned on me exactly what a writer was. I’d glamorized the talents of King, Hemingway, Puzo and all of the other authors I grew up on. Put them on such a pedestal that, skill and talent notwithstanding, a regular guy from Ohio could never attain such a position. But here I was with a very intelligent and respected English professor calling me (gasp) a writer.
Now, the story still sucked. But suddenly, that wasn’t the point anymore. The point was that you have to start somewhere, no matter where, and work up from there. The important thing is just to do it. Is my name gracing the spines of books in bookstores all over the world? Not just yet, but we’re getting there. The real question is, am I a writer? And my answer to that question is, hell yeah, I am. Not because of some status or position I’ve reached, but because that’s what I do. I write. So when someone asks me how long I’ve been doing it, I now simply say, ‘all my life.’
Till next time, my friends…
Well, it’s that time of year again: the holiday season. The time of year for spreading joy, showing love, and if you’re a writer, being asked by all of your relatives when your next book is going to be out. Over Thanksgiving weekend, it would have been easier to have passed out ready made cards that offered a status update to all of my well-meaning (and very supportive) relatives. I felt like a broken record repeating the same story over and over. But, I truly appreciate the support, and having fans of your work is hardly the worst problem to have. So I figured I’d take a moment to let all of you know what I’ve been working on lately. (I know, it sounds a bit pompous to me as well, assuming that you even care. But if you didn’t, then you probably wouldn’t be on my site reading this anyway…)
The Winding Down Hours, my completed mainstream novel about the screwed up Taylor family and their fractured relationships, has been submitted to a host of publishers in the hopes that one of them will bite. It’s a long and frustrating process, but that’s life in the literary world, I guess, and welcome to it. Nothing good comes easy, right? The worst part is the waiting. Especially since I am a VERY impatient person by nature. I do have a timeframe in mind, however, where I will call off the search and pursue other options if no publishers show interest. If something happens with one of them, I’ll keep you posted. If not, look for this one to be released in time for Christmas 2017.
Horror fans, I haven’t forgotten you. The novel I’m currently working on revolves around an old, presumedly haunted theater. Or is it? Could there be something even more sinister going on? You’ll have to wait and see. For now, I’m keeping the title to myself, but look for this one Summer 2017. If everything goes right…fingers crossed…yadda, yadda, yadda.
So there you have it, my friends. Those are the main two irons I have in the fire. There may be other announcements in the coming months, but those will come in time. Thanks for all of your support, and don’t forget that books make great gifts this holiday season!
Til next time, my friends…
As a lifelong Cubs fan, obviously I’d love to see a win tonight. It would be history-making. 108 years. That’s a long damn time. But because I’m a lifelong Cubs fan, having never seen my team in the World Series much less win it, I have to say that, win or lose tonight, this experience has been amazing. When it looked like it was almost over in Wrigley and they were about to lay down, that’s when the team started fighting the hardest. I love this young team. I love every player on it. And I’m proud to carry on the tradition of being a Die-Hard Cubs Fan!
From the time I learned to read until my early thirties, I read books from various genres of fiction. Mainstream best-sellers, mysteries, thrillers, adventures, a few classics here and there. Pretty much everything except romance and Sci-Fi. When it came to horror, I was a King, Saul, Koontz kind of guy. Once the 90s were over, however, and I’d blazed my way through most of their stuff, I got bored and went through a dry spell where I didn’t read much horror at all. So around 2008 or so, when the horror bug bit me again, I turned to that all too helpful tool called Amazon, searching for what everyone else was reading in the horror world. Eventually, I ended up purchasing three paperbacks to get me started: Brian Keene’s Dark Hollow, Bryan Smith’s Depraved and Wrath James White’s The Resurrectionist. And let me assure you, my life would never be the same.
I read Keene’s Dark Hollow first and thought, ‘Holy crap! Is this what I’ve been missing out on?’ It was so much different from King’s sometimes slogging prose. It was fast-paced, concise, thrilling. Then I read Smith’s Depraved and thought, ‘Holy crap! This is what I’ve been missing out on!’ More of the same. A modern take on horror. Finally, I read White’s The Resurrectionist and thought, ‘Holy shit! What was that???” (Let me just say that, while Mr. White is a very talented writer, he’s not for everyone, folks.) So for the next year or so, I went back and forth reading everything of Keene’s and Smith’s I could get my hands on. And that, my friends, is when I decided to take a break from writing heartfelt stories of everyday life and dip my pen in blood and start writing the horror. And I haven’t stopped since.
Fast forward to July of this year, where I had the surreal experience of attending a convention with these two horror masters. While I ended up in the same room with both Keene and Smith numerous times over the weekend, passed them both in the halls here and there, I never once spoke up and said hey, much less introduced myself. No fear of me embarrassing myself by being a fanboy, because, well, I’m just too shy for that nonsense. Besides, I’d convinced myself that the last thing they wanted that weekend was one more nobody kissing their ass. Especially an aspiring horror author. But, it was still cool spending a weekend in the company of these two, not to mention numerous other masters of the horrific that I have discovered and befriended over the years.
So why am I telling you all this? Jump ahead to next weekend. Imaginarium. Louisville, Kentucky. I’ve attended this con every year since its inception. And this year, I’m looking forward to it more than ever. Why, you ask? Well, because this year’s guest of honor is none other than Mr. Brian Keene. While I recently found out that we will not be sharing any panels that weekend (probably a good thing considering I’d undoubtedly get too nervous and make myself look like a wannabe amateur), I will, in fact, be doing a signing with Mr. Keene on Saturday afternoon. Though I’m sure he’s not nearly as excited about it as I am, I think I can handle it without embarrassing myself. Hell, I might even say hello to the man. But blabbering on and on about how his books not only brought me back to horror, but ultimately influenced me to start writing horror myself? Not a @#$% chance. Baby steps, people. Baby steps.
Until next time, my friends…
Yes, you read that right. I’m temporarily putting down my bone-handled pen that writes in blood for a softer, more gentle one. A pen that actually writes instead of scribbles and scratches. I’m sure you’re probably asking yourself, ‘why the hell would he do that right now?’ I know I’m asking myself that question. Especially at a time when things are really taking off for me as a horror author and my reach is continuing to expand internationally. (Love you too, Canada!) And the answer is very simple, if not a little cliché. The heart wants what the heart wants. Here, let me explain…
My current project, which at this time is still homeless, is an absolute labor of love. It’s a story I originally told way back in 2008 while in college. Back then it was in the form of a screenplay. As the years have come and gone, the plight of the Taylor family has stayed with me, periodically tugging at my shirt lest I forget about them. The problem with a screenplay is that, if no one actually takes it to the screen, then nobody hears the story. It’s like that proverbial tree that falls in the woods. So last year I decided to tell their story a different way. Through a novel. Which at this point in time, is about 90% ready for submission. (unless one of my remaining beta readers blows it up)
Now dramatic (dare I say, literary) writing is nothing new to me. It’s what I used to write almost exclusively. Love, loss and this sometimes screwed up thing we call life. Especially when my sky was much darker and complicated. Almost all of the stories in my Swallowing the Worm collection are this type. Plus, I actually have another similar novel about halfway done. It tells an equally ‘close to my heart’ story that I truly hope sees the light of day at some point. So although it is a labor of love, The Winding Down Hours is not a one-shot deal. I would actually like to pursue two lines of alternating genre releases. As much as I enjoy scaring people and raising their heart rates, I also like to tug at those heartstrings and make them feel as well. (Some might say that my desire to make people cry can be attributed to the same mental deficiency that urges me to scare them.)
But have no fear, my readers of the dark and macabre. I am also currently hard at work on my next horror novel as well. And I think you’re gonna like it. So those of you who choose to voraciously devour your books alone, at night, with the lights off, during a thunderstorm, be patient. It’s still coming. And those of you who have always supported this endeavor of mine, but value your sleep too much to pick up one of my books, I’ll have something for you to try out real soon.
Till next time, my friends…
Waking up on a Monday morning (@#$%!) after a con is kind of like waking from an intense dream. Or, a nightmare if it was a horror con. Only a good type of nightmare. The kind where you fight real monsters and kick their ass. Which is what we did at the Scares That Care Weekend in Williamsburg, VA last week. First and foremost, the convention is a charitable one, put on by Scares That Care, a charitable organization that raises money for those who fight childhood illness, burns and breast cancer every day of their lives. Check out their website for more info… www.scaresthatcare.org. Do it. Do it now. (or after you read the rest of this. That would be fine.)
Waking up the Monday after a Scares That Care Weekend is not much different than waking up after any other con. You’re just a little more groggy and have a little less comprehension on whether or not it was all real. I mean did I actually see Oderus Urungus from Gwar singing 4 Non Blondes karaoke? The cannibalistic Pluto (Michael Berryman) from The Hills Have Eyes sitting at a bar sipping mixed drinks and chatting with people over a plate of wings? WWE’s The Boogeyman (dude is scary!) lifting up an elderly woman like he’s about to perform a BoogeySlam, only to set her back down with a hug and a kiss after the photo’s been snapped? (I’m not even getting into Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) and his insistence on not knowing whose head Negan bashed in on The Walking Dead’s season finale. I have my doubts.) Like I said, it all seems unreal. But my wife assures me that it was, so I’ll go with it. She hasn’t steered me wrong yet.
One thing I know that positively happened was that I did a reading for three people. Yes, three. And technically one of them was my wife, Julie, so I did a reading for two people. Yes, two. And technically one of them was my publisher. So yes, I did a reading for one very interested and enthusiastic listener. ONE! The room was so empty it created an echo, but the show must go on, so it did. My last reading drew about fifteen listeners, so apparently I’m heading in the wrong direction. But, I will say the doors had just recently opened to kick off the festivities, and everyone was still excitedly rushing around to take photo ops with their favorite authors/actors/cosplayers. So let’s chalk the lack of audience up to that, shall we? Anyway, the one audience member is an aspiring author who listened intently and asked her questions enthusiastically. We still took up almost the entire allotment of time, so she didn’t complain.
Speaking of authors, there were many great ones at this event, including one of my all-time favorites, Mr. Joe R. Lansdale. (why we don’t celebrate this guy’s birthday as a national holiday is beyond me.) He was incredibly down to earth and very cool to talk to. A natural storyteller of both fiction and non. As much as I love his books, I could sit and listen to him talk for hours. And I told him so as I thanked him for still doing these types of events and sharing his experiences even though he doesn’t need to at this point in his career. But no, I didn’t fanboy. I kept it in check and had a very short, cordial conversation with the man. I also met and shook hands with a few other authors I read, follow and respect in the business…Jonathan Janz, David Bernstein, Kristopher Rufty, Ronald Malfi among a handful of others. All authors you should be reading if you like contemporary horror. I, myself picked up a crap ton of books. At one point it was almost an even swap…sell one, buy one. Which is why I rarely make money at these things and will probably always need a day job.
Speaking of the business end of things, overall, sales were pretty good considering we were located upstairs and quite a few people we spoke to downstairs didn’t even know there was upstairs vending. Probably did as well as most cons I’ve attended where I was right in the middle of things. (It’s amazing how much interest is piqued at a horror convention when you mention one of your books came in at #11 on Horror Underground’s Top Twenty list for 2015.) As well as we did, my goal for next year is to be in the thick of things. (note to self…it will mean getting over your damn insecurities and finally introducing yourself to Brian Keene!)
Anyway, it was a great weekend filled with charity, good will and all things horrific. And if you’re into that sort of thing, they’re doing it again next year. But you’ll have to book your room early, because the host hotel fills up quick. (And then it doesn’t. And then it does again. And then it doesn’t. But I digress.) A HUGE thank you to my publisher, PlotForge Ltd. Been trying to get to this con the past two years and it took their help to make it happen. I am grateful beyond words. Thanks also to fellow authors C. Bryan Brown and Terri-Lynn Smiles for hanging with me all weekend. I couldn’t ask for two better people to share table space with.
Now, back to work on the next book so I can keep attending these things!
So I’m hanging out at this gathering of semi-local authors a couple months ago and what to my wandering eyes should appear? But a room full of creative types who like to drink beer. And rum. And bourbon. And wine. But I digress.
One of those creative types (whose drink of choice I completely endorse) has just released a new book titled, On A White Horse. Author of 20(!) books in all, I am joined today by the prolific, the talented, Ms. Monica Corwin.
Welcome Monica! Please tell us a little about yourself, your books and what we can expect when we pick one up.
Well I’m a twenty-nine-year-old single mother. I started writing seriously during my time in the military and have never really stopped almost 10 years later. I have a three-year-old daughter, twenty typewriters, and more books about King Arthur than my local library.
I mainly write paranormal romance, but occasionally I dabble in contemporary erotica if I need a change. When you pick up one of my books you should expect an NC-17 rating and a kick-ass female character. Other than that it’s a free for all. I love the paranormal genre because I can go anywhere, do anything, put my characters in limitless situations. I think this is something my readers value in my books.
You’ve just released the second book in the Revelations Series, On a White Horse, with plans for two more. Can you tell us about that series specifically?
This series is a fun one. Basically the four horsemen of the apocalypse (who are actually women) decide they don’t want to end the world and start trying to live human lives. But, as usual when immortals dabble with humans, things happen and plans go awry. The first book, On a Red Horse, featured War. On a White Horse features Conquest. The third will focus on Famine and then the fourth on Death.
Paranormal romance is a growing and very popular genre these days. Can you tell us what it is about the genre that interests you?
As I mentioned before it’s limitless. I try to go outside the box. In my books readers will find sci-fi elements (like in my futuristic paranormal series The Soul Program) and I’ve even been known to do some time-travel (King Takes Queen). Paranormal romance isn’t just the vampires and werewolves everyone assumes. It can be so much more.
Now when you curl up with a glass of wine and a good book on those cold winter nights (and there are a lot of them in Northern Ohio), do you primarily pull from the paranormal romance bookshelf? And if not, what other genres do you pull from?
Well I do read a lot of PNR because I believe strongly that to write in your genre you should know what’s out there (and I enjoy it). I also love fantasy novels (Anne Bishop, Jacqueline Carey, Terry Brooks), YA novels (Julie Kagawa, Maria V. Snyder, Kelly Creagh, Maggie Stiefvater), travel memoirs, beat novels, non-fiction biographies. I pretty much reach anything that looks interesting to me. That’s how you find the best stuff.
Have you ever dabbled in fantasy or YA as a writer?
I’ve not ventured much outside PNR. It’s easy to write what you know, however, I do plan on maybe trying my hand at a mystery or spy thriller one day. When I get more courageous.
I have numerous writers in my audience, Monica, and if they’re anything like me, they’re probably interested in hearing how other writers operate. So what is your writing routine, and are there certain atmospheres or objects that help bring out your muse? A certain type of music in the background, a special mug with a special something in it, etc.
Oh man. I was just talking about writers and their routines the other day! I don’t really have a set routine. I find I work better at night so usually I will sit down and write at 9pm or so. I also write better outside my home (if during the day) so a jaunt to the local coffee shop is usually in order when I’m trying to crack down on my word count. Other than that I usually like to have a beverage (usually coke) but nothing really necessarily specific.
Now, before I let you go, I’ve learned that besides reading and writing, you have a couple of very intriguing interests, one of them being pencils. The other, which I find very cool, is your passion for antique typewriters. Tell me how you were first drawn to this hobby and a little about your collection.
Well, it fits right in with this interview! I was smack in the middle of the worst case of writers block I’d ever been in. I hadn’t written anything for months and for you writers you know how awful that can be. One of my friends suggested I try something new…write a different way. I thought about it and found a dirty pre-war (that’s WWII) on CL for $20. I cleaned her up and that was one my best writing days ever. I now have WAY more than I have room for but they all have different typefaces, different key strike feel, I can’t have just one. I do love pencils as well. I like to handwrite sometimes too when I’m not feeling words. Sometimes you just sit down at the computer and think ‘nope, not gonna happen’. That’s when I like to hand write. It sort of connects you physically with the paper and the words.
Finally, what’s coming up next for Monica Corwin, and where can we learn more about you and your books?
Well I’m currently working on a stand alone paranormal romance called In My Blood because I need a little break from my two main series. After that my next book will be the second installment of The Soul Program called Sins and Lies. This one is fun because it’s a futuristic take on Dante’s Inferno with a reaper and a sin eater. If you want to keep an eye on what I’m working on check my Pinterest. I always story board there when I begin a new project.
My links are as follows:
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages…today I have for you a very special treat. I have commenced with beating my controlling personality into submission and handed over the keys to the blog to fellow writer, Todd Skaggs. He wants you to know that his blog, Cooking For One, is not a cooking blog and that this collection of thoughts, photos, rantings, music and other assorted crap that amuses him can be found at http://randomtzp.blogspot.com/. Show him some love, won’t you? And without further ado…
The concept of a muse has prevailed among creative types since they first graced the text and lore of the ancient Greek. Later adopted by the Romans, the Muses, still considered goddesses in the Pantheon, solidified their place in the collective unconscious of any one sitting in front of a keyboard at 12:01AM when they have to be up in five short hours to report to their “day job.”
The Muses–sometimes three, sometimes nine depending on which dead poet you consult–are the source and blame in most cases of inspiration or lack thereof.
But what is inspiration? That’s a good question.
Duh, Todd. That’s why you’re writing this post, isn’t it? To tell us what inspiration is and how to bottle it?
Maybe. The problem with that is, what inspires me may completely turn you off from doing anything creative in the least. None the less, as writers and wordsmiths, I think it only helps us in the long run to delve a little deeper in to this topic. If only to have a backup plan for when the Muses decide to pile in to a VW microbus and follow Phish around the Pacific Northwest on their tenth “farewell we mean it this time” tour.
I don’t think the type of writer you are matters in this conversation either. The planner with their spreadsheets and pages of notes and outlines or the pantser with their freshly cracked knuckles huddled expectantly over the keyboard will find the same sort of spark. Oh sure, the source is different for everyone. But that spark…that spark is unmistakable.
You know it when it hits–at least I hope you do. For me, as a consummate panster, the inspiration usually comes in the form of a movie. Not some reconstituted bilge water from Hollywood. No, the movies I’m talking about are the ones in my mind. The ones that threaten to take over my waking life so completely that some of the basic societal norms are overlooked. In the midst of working on a piece, I once showed up for work fully dressed, minus the shirt I had neglected to put on under my winter coat. For me it’s a movie that plays out. And when that movie starts, I know I have a limited window to capture the essence of that movie or it’s gone.
But Todd, you haven’t really told us what inspires you or how you know you’re being inspired.
I can’t tell you what inspires me. I don’t know where the stories, or blog posts, or poems actually come from. And if you’re being honest, you probably didn’t really expect me to.
I can tell you, though, what makes me receptive to the inspiration.
Being still. When I am in a place where I can be still, I find that ideas start flowing more freely through the theater of my mind. I see snippets of a scene, like a movie trailer. I write them down or describe them to the tape recorder. If I am awake, I very rarely find myself without a tool upon which to preserve those initial sketches–whether a notebook, recorder, or the voice memo app on my phone, I am seldom without a means to capture some facet of the story. It may be the barest of shells of the story. An outline which threatens to make me a planner. It may be the first and last paragraph of a piece. It could just be a title and a plot point.
The key is, it doesn’t matter what we’re fed. As authors true to ourselves, we have to have some way of recording even that faintest spark of inspiration.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret. I wrote everything above that came before this paragraph over two weeks ago. And it’s probably bullshit. That’s not to say that it might not resonate with you. I hope that it does. One of the things that inspires me as a writer is the hope that something I write will inspire some kind of creativity in others.
But I don’t have a muse. I find inspiration in the things that take my breath away. Like this:
This picture is from my family’s farm in Kentucky. It’s not nearly as breathtaking as the real thing–trust me on that. When something takes my breath away, it causes me to remember something very simple–living in the now. When I live in the now, I see beauty all around me and things fall in to place. That story arc….the remnant of an idea that I was fighting with as I was getting ready for work–all of it clicks in to one glorious place.
When that happens, I have to write. As much as I need to have that breathing start back up again, I have to expel those creative energies.
The inspiration is there. Inside me. It always was. I just have to stop long enough, be still long enough, to listen. And act.
And I guess, looking back over this, that whole bit near the middle about being still was pretty on point. Looks like I just needed to get out of my own way and let the words fall where they may. Full contact writing is never an easy thing to get used to. And if you’re going to heed the call of the Muses and actively seek your source of inspiration, you should take up your shield an armor. The battle you will fight to get those words to page is not without peril.
But the reward…that’s the good stuff. It’s why we do what we do and court the Muses in the first place.
I have this interest that very few people are aware of. It’s a bit different, but then all the great ones always have been. Here goes…(deep breath…exhale)…I like to take photographs of nature. Ah, you say, so does everyone else. And you would be correct. But my interest goes beyond the everyday photos of a duck on a pond or the purple of Spring’s first rhododendron bloom. What I enjoy is taking photos of treetops. From the ground up. Here, let me show you…
Utilizing the sky as a canvas, the treetops add a splash of color against it. To me, they resemble abstract paintings, each one beautiful and different. Mother Nature’s own Jackson Pollocks. Just like any other photos, the results are altered by the amount of light and shadow…
Every season offers a different canvas, a different palette of colors to choose from. Autumn presents a very broad palette…
While Winter can be stark, yet just as remarkable…
(and no, this is not a B&W photo)
Now, I could go on and on about why I enjoy photographing treetops, (it’s like painting the sky)but I’m not an art instructor. And as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. So for me, these speak volumes…
(I seemed to have misplaced most of my Spring and Summer treetop photos. They’re stunning and probably on my old laptop. When I come across them, I will post them at a later date.)