2014 Writing Process Blog Tour

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 MuseMost 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!

Author Lyda Morehouse

Author Lyda Morehouse

Lyda Morehouse

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.

Lyda Morehouse on Goodreads

Tate Hallaway at Goodreads


Author Jamie Schultz

Author Jamie Schultz

Jamie Schultz

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.

Jamie Schultz on Goodreads


Carole Lanham

Author Carole Lanham

Author Carole Lanham

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.

Carole Lanham on Goodreads


Is That All? 2013 in review

2013_The_Year_In_Review_1040x4002013 was an altogether odd year. Keep in mind that we weren’t even supposed to HAVE a 2013. The world was supposed to end on 21 Dec 2012, and… well, it didn’t.  Kinda like that old roommate of yours from college who dropped by to stay “for a couple days” and now he’s been living with you for several months…. Yeah, it’s kinda like that. No one really knew what to do with this bonus year, and I can safely say that few people made the most of it.

So what exactly did we do with our bonus year? [Read more...]

2013 Minnesota Speculative Fiction Writers’ Showcase

2013_MNSpec_Writers_ShowcaseDo You Like Fiction?

Then you’ll want to mark this event on your calendar:

On Sunday, November 17th, members of the Minnesota Speculative Fiction Writers’ Group (aka: MNSpec) will be reading stories at Acadia Cafe in Minneapolis.

Come and enjoy Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, Steampunk, Paranormal Romance, and much more. All Fiction. All Speculative.

The fun starts at 12PM, and each writer will have approximately ten minutes to read from their current material.

Fiction Fans, this is your opportunity to experience a large number of local writers in a short period of time. Find a new local author to add to your “must read” list!

Here’s just some of the talented folks who will be entertaining us with tales of the un-real:

  • Joel Arnold
  • Kelly Barnhill
  • Rob Callahan
  • Eli Effinger-Weintraub
  • Terry Faust
  • Catherine Lundoff
  • Michael Merriam
  • Margaret Taylor
  • …and more!

All hosted by yours darkly.

How, you may ask, did I ever get such talented folks to volunteer to read their works?  Let’s just say I know people who know people who run S&M clubs, and leave it at that.

Why, you may ask, did I ever agree to host an event like this? Let’s just say I paid a lot for my cool steampunk hat and goggles, and if there’s an event where I can wear them… then I’m wearing them.

Hope to see you there! And if you want to help share this event with others, feel free to download the jpg graphic above, or here is a link to the pdf version of the event flyer:

2013_MNSpec_Showcase Flyer

Dark Fiction Review – Ghoulish Song by William Alexander


Ghoulish Song is a companion book to Goblin Secrets, the national book award winning story by Minnesota author, William Alexander. (Read my review of Goblin Secrets.)

This is not a “Part 2″ to Goblin Secrets, as some reviewers are saying. (Since William Alexander told me this himself, I’m inclined to believe him.) Ghoulish Song is a “companion” to Goblin Secrets. Both books are set in the same world at the same time. The city of Zombay, its magic, witches, Goblin-acting-troops, squidskin coats, and clockwork guards are revealed through both novels. The two books can be read in either order, and you can read either story without reading the other, but reading them both offers synergy and depth to the stories.

William Alexander’s writing is “Neil Gaiman Good” which is about the highest praise I can give to writing. The words on the page are simply a pleasure to read. Pacing never lags, and the story is fantasy with a refreshing splash of steampunk. I praised William before for balancing his fantasy with realism, and once again, he delivers. [Read more...]

Neil Gaiman Live!

Neil Gaiman 2013 Book Signing In MinnesotaNeil Gaiman has been a writing inspiration to me for years. But he isn’t just a good writer. He’s smart. He’s humble. He’s well-spoken.  He is grateful and respectful to his audience.

And he wears black.

He’s become more than just a writing inspiration for me. He’s someone to look up to in many different ways.  I gave Neil Gaiman the Ubercool Seal Of Approval back in 2007, so you can imagine my excitement when…

I met Neil Gaiman for the first time today. [Read more...]

Dark Fiction Review – Northwoods Deep by Joel Arnold


Review Disclaimer

A few disclaimers about this review before I get started:

  • I know Joel Arnold personally. He is a fellow member of the Minnesota Speculative Fiction Writer’s Group.
  • I purchased Northwoods Deep from Joel directly.
  • I do not owe Joel money from an old gambling debt involving Jagermeister, a Trampoline and a Super-Soaker. No matter what he says.
  • I was not compensated for this review. (But I do get some love if you follow my links to Amazon, which helps offset my webhosting fees and various addictions which may involve Jagermeister, Trampolines, and Super-Soakers…)

File Under Horror

With that out of the way, I can tell you it’s been a while since I’ve read real Horror like this. It was refreshing to read something that was not chilling, dark, or edgy, but actually horrifying.

If Twilight read Northwoods Deep, it would die of fright. [Read more...]

One Year Lived – Get a Free Signed Copy From Author Adam Shepard!

If anyone ever asked me how I got started writing, I’d tell them, “Well, I had this idea for a story, and I decided to write it.” That first part is easy. The second part, not so much. Lots of people have great ideas, but they don’t decide to…you know, like Nike says – Just Do It.

Adam Shepard…

…has great ideas. For example: [Read more...]

Review of the 2013 Bloomington Writers Festival and Book Fair

Conrad Zero and Author Friends at 2013 Bloomington Writers Festival

From Left To Right: Terry Faust, Michael Merriam, Jason D Wittman, Conrad Zero

Last Saturday I attended the 2013 Bloomington Writers Festival and Book Fair  along with fellow Minnesota Speculative Fiction Writers Group members: Terry Faust, Michael Merriam, Jason D Wittman and Joel Arnold.

We attended the writers festival last year, and we learned that this is not a large event, nor an awesome event for sales of spec fic. “Low maintenance, Low payoff,” is how I reported it to the other MNSpec group organizers. We decided to get a table anyway, and use this event as a practice for developing our marketing/promotional clout for larger events coming this summer.

Some numbers: [Read more...]

2013 Bloomington Writers Festival and Book Fair

This Saturday, 23 March 2013, myself and many other authors from the Minnesota Speculative Fiction Writers Group are attending the  Bloomington Writers Festival and Book Fair. We’ll be celebrating stories, the authors who write them, and the readers who enjoy them.

This event is FREE and open to the public, although the seminars and workshops require registration. There will be plenty of freebees handed out. You’ll be able to buy books directly from the authors and have them signed.

See below for more details. I hope to see you there! [Read more...]

Conrad Zero On KFAI Radio This Sunday!

radio_wavesNo seriously. My voice will be riding the radio waves this Sunday!

Sunday, March 3rd, 2013 at 10 a.m. –  KFAI’s Wave Project will host the Writers Reject Sack with guests: Abra Staffin Wiebe, Joel Arnold, Dana Baird, and myself.

Not sure which I like less: the word “reject” or the word “sack”. Nevertheless, I’ll be there.  We’ll be talking about writer stuff, traditional publishing, self-publishing, podcasting and the Minnesota Speculative Fiction Writers’ Group.

Tune in to:

  • 90.3 FM Minneapolis, MN
  • 106.7 FM West St. Paul, MN

The show should be recorded and listed on the KFAI website, I’ll be sure to link back to it when the recording is posted!