Fellow Minnesota Author Michael Merriam asked if I’d participate in a virtual blog tour about writing process. Actually, he told me if I didn’t do it, “terrible misfortune was certain to come my way! Very soon!”
Fortunately, I know Michael is a liar. The man makes up stuff all the time. Good stuff. Check out Michael Merriam on Goodreads if you don’t believe me.
But it sounds like fun to participate. (And why take a chance, right? I mean “terrible misfortune”? Yikes!) So here is some info about my current work and writing process:
What am I working on?
The Invisible Flying Pony Series
Those familiar with my horror-comedy short story, Pinky The Invisible Flying Pony Vs The Giant, Carnivorous, Poisonous, Exploding Spider-Leeches will be thrilled to learn that there are more adventures of Payton and her B.I.F.F. (Best Invisible Flying Friend) coming soon! Their adventures with the Spider-Leeches kick off a series of stories that ramp up the monster-factor till even H.P. Lovecraft himself would be proud.
Each of the short stories will stand alone, but the overarching series involves a global battle between The Shadow Government of the United States (complete with a Shadow President voted in by Shadow Constituents, natch) and a sinister occult group (is there another kind?) Alien Robot Zombie Dinosaurs! Ghostly Demonic Were-Vampires! Superpowers! Classic Rock! Squeezy Cheese! And more! Did I mention illustrations? Shhhh….
Join the Cult of Zero mailing list to be notified about the horrific fun. http://conradzero.com/cult-of-zero/
Lure is a short story that haunts me. I mean, it keeps me up at night. Not because it’s about a spooky lake-town called Hill City, MN. Not because the town really exists. Not because it’s about a fish that catches people. It haunts me because the damned story isn’t finished yet. The genre and tone are very similar to my first published story, Big Game.
The story starts with our hero, Shannon – a sports reporter who uses a cane to walk due to a spinal injury. Shannon is called to Hill City to manage the affairs of her father who has gone missing. When his fishing boat turns up covered in blood, Shannon puts her journalistic investigation skills to use. What she discovers will change herself and Hill City in ways too terrible to mention…
…but what fun is that? So I’m gonna mention it, and you’re gonna read it. Um, when it’s finished, that is.
Evil Looks Good
I’m also working on a novel called Evil Looks Good. The story starts with your standard-issue good vs evil in the form of modern-day demons (the people-possessing kind) and the modern-day demonslayers who fight them in the modern-day shadows. But a new power is rising. Something so terrible that the demons actually turn to the demonslayers for help! What could be so bad that it makes demons and demonslayers consider working together? Is the enemy of my enemy my friend? You’ll be surprised.
More than just a novel of dark fiction, This story is outgrowing the confines of a novel, and it’s quickly becoming a multi-media event that I can’t wait to share with you.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
A Bachelor’s of Philosophy Degree gives one a… compelling perspective on life, the universe and everything. Cross that with a dry sense of humor (thanks, Dad) and a lust for the gothic (thanks Mom) and I think my story ideas and storytelling style are distinctive .
I try to write on the edge of genres where things are more interesting than the norm. I call my work Dark Fiction and not Horror. Horror is easy. It’s harder to write stories that can still scare without the excess gore and violence. It can be difficult to ride that line between brooding and bloody, but I enjoy reading things that frighten you much more once you realize what’s really going on, than those that hand you fear on a silver platter. The unique flavor is worth the extra effort to me as both as a reader and a writer.
Oh and Abra Staffin-Wiebe once called my writing as “coy as a virginal village maiden.” So there.
Why do I write what I do?
I previously answered the question Why Do Authors Auth? but the short version is that writing is my happy place. It probably sounds absurd that anyone would consider impossible monsters, imminent death and the inevitable end of the world to be a happy place. But there you are. At least, that explains why I write, but why do I write what I do?
I’ve always had an interest in the paranormal. In middle school, I decided I was going to be a parapsychologist and read all I could on the subject. I distinctly remember the disturbed look I got from the county librarian when I checked out the entire 133.x section of the library. All thirteen books at once (both the limit of what one could check out at one time, and what would fit in my backpack.) ESP, psychokinesis, astral/ethereal travel, vision questing, the afterlife, ghosts, demons, possession, exorcism, etc… All of which make for great storytelling fuel.
How does my writing process work?
I read a lot of authors claiming to have THE ONE AND ONLY BEST WRITING PROCESS EV-AR. Yawn. I believe their process works for them, but none of their processes worked for me. It took me a long time before I finally realized that each author has to find a way that works best for themselves. So I constantly analyze and dissect other writers’ processes. I try. I see. Through trial and error, I take what works for me, and throw out what doesn’t. My current process goes more or less like this:
- Ideas – I have more story ideas than I’ll ever be able to write. As ideas come to me (mostly while in the car) they tend to gestate in my brain, sometimes for years. I don’t usually write them down. If they are good ideas, they will stick around. If they keep coming back to me, and if they expand beyond a core concept, I’ll make a note in Evernote under Story Ideas. Sometimes the idea expands into something more. I might actually open a word doc file and start writing a scene or two. When I actually decide to ‘work’ on a story, it graduates out of the idea process and this is the general iteration:
- Chase the Muse – Most of the time I don’t know what I’m going to write (or even which story I’m going to work on) till I get there. I don’t have a goal, and I don’t count words. Some evenings are unproductive, but sometimes I’m up till 4AM and write a few thousand words, so it all averages out. At this level, I’m living with the characters, grammers n’ spellng be damned.
- Check the Structure – I spend a lot of time at the 20,000 foot view, looking at the big picture/plot/structure to see how things are laying into place. I might shift around or even delete large sections as the story takes shape. Sometimes I adjust the structure of the story to better fit what’s happening with the writing, and sometimes I adjust the writing to fit the structure of the story. I tend to use the Document Map feature of MS Word to keep an eye on this general outlining. I might actually work in Evernote or scratch paper for this part of the process. In the case of a novel, where there are lots of plot threads, I’ll import the project to y-writer and perform this “structure check” by printing out and reviewing/editing the actual story outline.
- Tighten the Writing – As the sections ‘gel’ into place, I get more meticulous with word choice, voice, surroundings, transitions, etc. I’ll tighten sections of writing that are too long, or too loose, or add details to areas that are too plain, or break up dialog with narrative, etc. Show don’t tell, active not passive, etc. This is also where I lose entire evening writing sessions to research of the strangest subjects. Author Tip: Delete that browser cache…
- Repeat– I keep going over these last three steps, writing content, checking that the structure holds, and cut, cut, cut till the story bleeds.
When I think I’m actually finished, I’ll turn it over to crit group and peers for review/feedback. Then revise to what I call a rough draft. If I’m self-publishing I’ll start working with an editor towards a final draft. Or if I’m seeking traditional publication, I’ll start on the querying process.
Tag! You’re It!
Here are some fine, fellow authors I’m tagging to perpetuate this virtual blog tour. Check out their posts next week!
Lyda Morehouse leads a double-life. By day, she’s a mild-mannered, award-winning science fiction writer and major otaku, but at night she dons a slinky nightie and writes best selling romance novels as Tate Hallaway. Lyda has written five published novels in her AngeLINK universe: Archangel Protocol (winner of the Shamus award for best new paperback of 2001), Fallen Host, Messiah Node, Apocalypse (winner of the second place Philip K. Dick) and Resurrection Code.
Tate, meanwhile, is far more prolific having written nine novels five in her Garnet Lacey Series (Tall, Dark & Dead, Dead Sexy, Romancing the Dead, Dead If I Do, and Honeymoon of the Dead), three in the Vampire Princess series (Almost to Die For, Almost Everything, and Almost Final Curtain), and Precinct 13.
Jamie Schultz is an author of dark fantasy and horror. He has worked as a rocket engine test engineer, an environmental consultant, a technical writer, and a construction worker, among other things. He lives in Dallas, Texas, having long since departed the frozen arctic tundra of Wisconsin where he grew up. His first trade published novel, Premonitions, is due out in July from Roc.
Carole Lanham is the author of twenty-four short stories and three books, The Whisper Jar (Morrigan Books, Oct 2011), Cleopatra’s Needle (Black Daisy Press, coming in 2014), and The Reading Lessons (Immortal Ink Publishing, Jan 2014). Her work has twice appeared on the preliminary ballot for a Bram Stoker award, she was short listed for The
Million Writers Prize, and she has won two national writing contests.