Blood Splatter/Brain Matter – The Patterns of a Twisted Mind

Since I was wondering what my readers wanted to know/read, I asked for blog post ideas on my Facebook profile the other day. One of the people who replied asked me how I came up with story ideas, etc, and since I write horror, I assumed they wanted to explored the dark, damp, cold, twisted paths of my brain that come up with all the sick, twisted, carnage I sometimes write.

When I write I try to make the characters as real as possible, and then I sit there and think – once I’ve gotten to know the character – about what would really freak them out, or at least cause the reader to cringe. I consider it an extra bonus if I can make my myself cringe while writing. I did so when I wrote the end of chapter 13 in my Nurse Blood series. Hell, I still cringe, just thinking about it…

To truly write something horrific, you have to be able to tap into that part of yourself that’s willing to see the horrors in life for what they are and where they stem from. What wouldn’t you want someone to do to you or your body while you’re still awake and alive? What is really in the mind of a serial killer? Do they know they’re wrong, or does their thought process make sense to them? What if monsters were real? What would they look like? Would they hunt you down until they caught and killed you? Would you be strong enough to save yourself?

Horror is also a search through the weakened human condition. Once you realize that most fear comes from a weakness we see or perceive in ourselves, that someone else might find out about and capitalize on, you’ve opened up a world of possibilities.
Our bodies – one of the greatest weaknesses we have – are often ripped to shreds or tortured in horror. We, as human beings, fear what we can’t control when it comes to our bodies, whether it’s disease, or someone doing things to us to hurt or damage us. Everyone wants to be, and stay, in good health; the very idea of someone violating or torturing us will send us into a frenzy of panic. Being unable to prevent bad things from happening to us is horrifying. How would you like to be injected with or exposed to a disease that will kill you and there’s nothing that can be done about it? How would you like to be kidnapped, tied down, and tortured for someone’s sick pleasure? The helpless, you just got screwed over and there’s nothing you can do about it feeling is the biggest bitch in the world, and she likes to hunt you down in horror.

There’s also the psychological trappings that can just go off the charts. What’s it like to be inside a crazy person’s head? Is it happy in there? Is it filled with twisted thoughts? Or is it misunderstood and filled with pain? There are so many ways a writer can go with this to make the reader think: What if?

Like… What if the crazy person shows up at your door? What if the crazy person has targeted your children, or someone else in your family? What if they think you’re in love with them?

I just wrote a story entitled, “Bubble Bath of Blood,” where a man who has escaped from a mental hospital is fixated on a woman who doesn’t know he exists. In his mind, they have a real relationship and are in love. The only thing standing in way of them being together – in his mind – is her husband, and he plans to take that obstacle away.

Can you even imagine being in that situation? How would you deal with the out of control chaos focused on destroying your life for the soul purpose of bringing about the happiness that only exists in one person’s mind?

Unfortunately, it happens all too often in real life, and that brings another level of fear into it. There’s a layer of ‘real‘ in the idea that would have you checking to make sure your doors and windows are always locked.

Fear is horror – horror is fear.

You may be wondering at this point if exploring these dark places of one’s mind is a good idea. The truth is…not everyone can do it and still stay sane. Most of us who do, are either strong enough or have a rift in our soul that lets the darkness in every now and again to play. Some do this with alcohol, etc. But it’s not true only with horror. The truth of the matter is that all artists who can make you feel something (even if it’s a bad something) delve deep within themselves; there’s a reason why artists of all varieties are deep and moody. We dance with the demons in our souls that others lock away and hide from.

I hope my rambling has given you some insight into where horror comes from and how I find fear to write about.

Stay sane, or insane.  Whatever you’re comfortable with.



©Rebecca Besser, 2012. All rights reserved.


Interview with Author Joe McKinney

Bec: Welcome to my blog, please start out by sharing a little bit about yourself:

Joe McKinney:  Thanks!  Okay, well, I’m a husband, a father, an author, and a police officer.  All of those things have come together to form my public persona as a horror writer.  They also define the directions I’ve chosen to pursue in my stories.  I draw on each to shape the stuff I write.  Those four sides of my personality form the nucleus of my themes, my characters, even the stories themselves.  I guess that pretty much describes me in a nutshell.

Bec: What first got you interested in writing?

JM:  I’ve been writing since I was twelve or thirteen.  I don’t really remember what made me decide to start writing stories, but once I did I found I loved it.  After that, writing became something I did every chance I got.  It’s an addiction, you know?  There’s a thrill that comes from completing a story, and especially a novel, that is unlike any other.

Bec: What are the worst struggles you think writers face, writing and marketing?

JM:  Marketing, by far.  Marketing, in fact, sucks.  There’s nothing I hate worse than getting on Facebook and reading yet another post from writers who sound like used car salesmen trying to put me in a lemon.  I cringe, then I get angry – or rather, resentful – because I know that, to a certain extent, marketing is necessary.  The trouble is that so many people are unable to do it tastefully.

Bec: Tell us about your book/s –

JM:  I’ve written quite a bit, though my most popular by far have been the four books that make up my Dead World series.  Zombies are hot right now, and of course the Dead World books are all about our undead du jour.  Dead CityApocalypse of the DeadFlesh Eaters, and the soon to be released Mutated, have all been very kind to me, and I’m grateful for the success they’ve brought me.  They are, in fact, putting my kids through college.  But they represent a very small part of my professional interests and endeavors.  I’ve worked in crime fiction, for example, turning out a novel, Dodging Bullets, and several dozen short stories.  I’ve also worked in fantasy and science fiction, such as with my novel Quarantined.  The fact is that I have a lot of paths still to try, and my future novels will hopefully showcase that.

Bec: Are you working on a sequel/s?

JM:  My next full length novel release is going to be the final book in the Dead World series.  It’s called Mutated.  It takes place eight years after the events described inApocalypse of the Dead and should tie up a lot of the loose ends left by earlier books in the series.  Of course, not all the loose ends will go away.  A writer has to keep a few cards close to the vest, just in case, but I think readers will feel rewarded for sticking with the series as long as they have.  And who knows, maybe, just maybe, I could do another Dead World novel after Mutated.  Like I said, I haven’t played all my cards.

Bec: What other projects are you working on or involved with?

JM:  For this year, my major products include a police procedural ghost story novel called The Charge, a zombie novella for Creeping Hemlock Press, a haunted house novella called Crooked House for Dark Regions Press, a werewolf novella that hasn’t found a home yet, and a zombie novel called Midnight Buffet.  In between I have several short stories, articles, blurbs and introductions to write, but those are the major fiction projects.  It should be a great, if not incredibly busy, year.

Bec: What’s your favorite color?

JM:  Green.  A deep forest green.

Bec: It’s midnight, and you’re starving! What would be your snack of choice?

JM:  A tomato and goat cheese omelet.  I make a damn good omelet.

Bec: Do you like to listen to music while you write or have complete silence?

JM:  Complete silence.  I’ve tried listening to music, but it just doesn’t work for me.  I have to have the house completely quiet, otherwise I find it hard to concentrate.

Bec: What genres do you most like to read/write?

JM:  My favorite genres to write are horror and crime.  To read?  Well, I read just about everything that catches my eye, though I love biographies and the anthropology of food most of all.

Bec: If you had the choice of riding a camel, elephant, or ostrich around town, which would it be?

JM:  Hmm, probably the elephant.  It’d be a bitch to park, but something tells me people would do their best to get out of your way.  Besides, camels spit and ostriches are a bit peckish.

Bec: Do you find writing a lonely profession?

JM:  Not at all.  My world has grown considerably since I started writing professionally.  I’m grateful for that.

Bec: If something was going to suck your brains out, which orifice would you prefer the procedure be done through?

JM:  My urethra, definitely.

Bec: What would you share with a beginning writer?

JM:  Treat writing like a business, because that’s what it is.  If you want to do this “for the love,” then go ahead and do whatever.  But if you want to make a living at writing, you need to treat it like a job.  You need to show up for work everyday.  You need to put in a solid day’s work.  You need to turn out a professional product with an eye on the fact that you’re only as good as the last thing you wrote.  The public has a short memory, and if you don’t bring your A game every time, chances are you won’t get a second chance.

Bec: Snot, blood, or vomit?

JM:  Blood is always nice, for a horror writer, but a good thriller has to have all three.  If you’re writing action the way it needs to be written, you really do need all three.

Bec: What do you wish someone would have told you when you first started your writing journey?

JM:  To be mindful of career architecture.  In many respects, our writing careers are beyond our control.  At least from a commercial standpoint.  Consider the dedicated short story writer whose first novel turns into a bestseller.  That writer will feel the pressure to turn out more novels along the same vein…perhaps even a sequel.  When I started out, that was me, the dedicated short story writer.  I had no intention of writing more novels.  I was happy cranking out stories that never went much further than the corner of my desk.  But when Dead City hit it big, I found myself suddenly branded as a zombie writer.  I didn’t, and still don’t, regret that.  I love zombies, and I’m both thrilled by, and imminently pleased with, the success I’ve had in that direction.  But I wish somebody had been there at the beginning to tell me how to space out short stories, novels, and articles.  The trick, for the commercial writer, at least, is to something out on a more or less regular basis.  And, if you want to know the truth, that something really should be a novel.  Novels do far better commercially than short stories.  Don’t get bogged down in all the offers to do short stories for anthologies.  Short stories are great, they keep you fresh, and interesting, but they won’t do anything to get your name out there.  That’s where novels really pay.

Bec: Do you think having other writers as friend is a good thing for your growth as a writer?

JM:  Absolutely, as long as they are also readers.  I don’t think much of people who don’t love books.  The key ingredient to good writing is good reading, and nothing promotes good reading like having other writers around you.  Trust me, if you don’t read, you won’t ever write anything worth reading.  Sorry.  That’s just the way it is.  Surround yourself with readers, and you will find your writing improving by leaps and bounds.

Bec: What’s your favorite book? Why?

JM:  This is one of those questions that I will answer differently on Tuesday than I do on Wednesday.  Or Thursday.  Or…but you get the idea.  I’m protean on this subject.  However, I can point to the two books that have had the most influence on me as a writer.  They are Nightshift, by Stephen King, and The October Country, by Ray Bradbury.  It’s perhaps no accident that both are short story collections.  I was attracted early to the short story, and when I started writing, it was natural for me to turn to that genre.  Even today, after I’ve written a number of novels and gotten to the point that I can support myself and my family on the sales of those novels, I still gravitate to the short story.  There is a magic there that I first encountered in Nightshift and The October Country, and that I keep trying to recapture.  I think that is why those books deserve my nod for absolute favorites.

Bec: Who’s your favorite author? Why?

JM:  There’s a famous saying – and forgive me, I don’t know who said it – that there are two types of horror writers working today: those who were influenced by Stephen King, and those who are lying when they say they weren’t influenced by Stephen King.  It’s certainly true of me that Stephen King was my biggest influence…but is he my favorite writer?  Hardly.  My favorite, by a long country mile, is Charles Dickens.  I would also put John McPhee, Philip K. Dick, Cordwainer Smith, Algernon Blackwood, and others up there pretty close to the top, but Dickens owns the top rung on my ladder.

Bec: Is there anything you would like to share that I haven’t asked you about?

JM:  Yes: I love cheese, good booze, and a huge grilled ribeye steak slathered in melted butter and sprinkled lightly with chopped parsley.

Bec: Thank you for stopping by and sharing! Best of luck with your book and future projects!

JM:  Thanks, Bec!  I had fun.


©Rebecca Besser & Joe McKinney, 2012. All rights reserved.

Interview with Author Gregory L. Norris

Bec: Welcome to my blog, please start out by sharing a little bit about yourself –

Hello Rebecca (and Rebecca’s readers). My name is Gregory L. Norris and when I was little, I promised my grandmother, the late, great Lovey Norris, that I would discover the secret for immortality so that she would live forever. My grandmother was a brilliant, gifted woman. In a way, I kept my promise because I frequently write about her, and dedicate books like my The Q Guide to Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Alyson Books, 2008) to her. So as long as my work stays in print, she has been immortalized, after a fashion.

I am a professional writer, with work published in a wide range of venues. For many years, I wrote feature articles and columns for national magazines, mostly sports and celebrity stuff. I’ve had many short stories and over a dozen novels published, the odd nonfiction book, even a TV episode or two. Now, I am solely focused on my fiction writing, in its various formats – the short story, novella, novel, and screenplay. Writing is all that I’ve wanted to do since I was fifteen years old. And pretty much all that I have done, even when the world has tossed up roadblocks and distractions. Now, in my mid-40s, I’m blessed to be able to write full-time without much in the way of distraction.

Bec: What first got you interested in writing?

I grew up in a beautiful small town called Windham, New Hampshire, surrounded by tall, dense pine trees, a lake, meadows.  I had a best friend.  We watched Lost in Space, the original Star Trek, and the most-awesome Creature Double-Features on WLVI Channel 56 out of Boston – on rabbit ears.  When he moved away, my only close friend was my imagination.  The year I turned ten, Gerry Anderson’s brilliant series Space:1999premiered on an early September Tuesday night.  I was so blown away, so challenged by the pilot episode in which the moon is blasted out of Earth’s orbit, taking the men and women of Moonbase Alpha deep into unexplored and often hostile space, that I picked up a pen and began to write my own episodes.  Those juvenile stories still lurk in the top drawer of one of my lateral filing cabinets.  I’m approaching my 1000th completed fiction project, and #1000 will be a Space:1999 novel called Metamorphosis.  I plan to finish it in Los Angeles in September of 2012 – at the 1999 fan convention, where actors from the show will be in attendance, which I think is fitting.

Bec: What are the worst struggles you think writers face, writing and marketing?

From experience, I know the biggest and worst of them is the wolf at the door that threatens a writer’s survival.  I worked very long hours, often with disappointing results, to keep a roof over my head, food on the table, the bills paid, and my pets fed.  I’ve had many experiences in the past where I worked like a madman to deliver articles, books, etc., on time, only to have paychecks show up later than promised, if at all.  One national publication folded leaving me owed more than $5,000.00 for work that was contracted for and published – at a time when that kind of money would have made all the difference in the world.  The worry about staying afloat is a terrible thing for a writer to face and keep writing – and even great writers like Lovecraft struggled to keep that wolf away.  But it can also motivate, and has lit a match under my theso (as my Lebanese grandmother would have said) to produce, to complete, to edit, and to submit to ever larger markets.

As for marketing, I’ve learned that one truly has to network through social media, a decent blog, and by constantly submitting only the best, most polished work.  One must and should be vigilant to get the right sort of notice.  I don’t believe in the writer’s block, which I think is a convenient excuse for not writing daily.  I choose to believe in the Muse, instead.  The passionate relationship I’ve earned with mine has led to incredible output.  One of the best obstacles I’ve overcome is learning to get out of my own way.  Once I did that, the amount of joy for writing in every phase of the creative process has been constant.

Bec: Tell us about your book/s –

My short stories routinely appear in anthologies.  In the summer of 2011, I was approached about doing a single-author collection of original stories by the editorial powers-that-be at Evil Jester Press, who recently published the brilliant Help! Wanted anthology.  The stories could be anything I wanted, so long as they were engaging, creepy, and page-turners.  I think I accomplished that with The Fierce and Unforgiving Muse: Twenty-Six Tales from the Terrifying Mind of Gregory L. Norris, which is being launched in March at World Horror Con in Salt Lake City, Utah.

As a note, I turned in the manuscript last November, as it was then-envisioned at a very healthy 100,000 words.  Senior Editor Peter Giglio came back to me with an offer to bulk up the book to twice that length, to include a number of the stories I sold to various anthologies at The Library of Horror, who cancelled most of their anthology projects this past October – I had some two dozen stories and novellas accepted for those books.  This also gave me the opportunity to add to the variety of the collection, so I penned five original stories to enhance what already existed, four of those five novella-length.  Muse is a tip of the hat to those old Creature Double-Features, and explores all the things that have terrified me over the years, like homelessness, spiders, haunted houses, snake-infested swamps, giant monsters, alien abduction, dolls, my father.  In one of the stories, a brooding castle high on a hill can only be seen when the wind is blowing just right – as a kid growing up, our town had such a castle, and you could see it at certain times of the year if the weather conditions were correct.  I had many dreams about trying to cross the woods to reach the castle, and my story “Alms of the Dead” plays off one such dream.  There is also a horror novella with romance elements that I hope surprises readers.  The whole collection, I hope, is surprising.  One story is set in ancient Abydos, Egypt; another, 1960s London.  I take readers to Tora Bora in Afghanistan, the Everglades in 1946, Rwanda in 1994, and to the L-shaped room at the back of my home.

I am the author of numerous novels, both as Gregory L. Norris and my Rom-de-plume, Jo Atkinson.  A decent selection of my titles can be found at Ravenous Romance ( or by doing a Google.  My novella “The Mushrooms” was one of five contained in the recent Grand Mal Press release, MalContents.  I’m particularly fond of that tale, which pits a celebrity chef in a kind of kitchen competition she never imagined after a jealous wannabe convinced the chef has stolen a family recipe corners her, intent on revenge.

Presently, I am wrapping up new manuscripts for my publishers, including a novel for GMP, two for Ravenous Romance, and a boxing-themed novel for another publisher who has graciously invited me to be one of his regular novel writers.

Bec: Are you working on a sequel/s?

I am – a novella, “Windtryst,” which is a sequel to a swashbuckling future romance I penned last year called “The Winter Waltz.”  I am also wrapping up a sequel to my shapeshifter romance novel, The Wolfpact 1: Endangered Love (Ravenous Romance), which was republished as a special edition by Home Shopping Network for their “Escape With Romance” collection in 2009 and 2010.

Bec: If the world came to an end, which restaurant would you raid for food first?

Though I have a fondness for Panera Bread’s asiago bagels, it would have to be a Chinese restaurant, one with a great hot-and-sour soup, boneless spare ribs, and a decent egg foo yong, with lots of brown sauce.

Bec: What other projects are you working on or involved with?

I have a screenplay in draft form that I’m pretty excited about called “Bully” and a bunch of stories of varying length and format that I’m eager to tackle.  I was invited by three different editors to contribute to anthologies they’re publishing, so I’m also working on half a dozen short stories.  One, “Mason’s Murder,” is a surreal mystery set at a private beach and is really challenging me, which I love the work to do.  Since I was fifteen, I’ve kept all of my ideas on note cards stored in a metal recipe box, which sits on my desk.  For three decades, I’ve gone to sleep, hearing them call to me in the night.  Eventually, I hope to listen to every last one.  Empty out that idea box.  The most recent headcount was 132 unwritten ideas, which sounds a lot, but six years ago, the number surpassed 260, which was a bit overwhelming.

Bec: What’s your favorite color?

Cobalt blue.  My wardrobe is peppered with it – shirts and even my new black cross-trainers have cobalt blue laces and soles.  We have cobalt blue glass lamps, plates, goblets, bowls, and other decorative pieces all around the house.  Seafoam-green pulled a close second for a long while.  I find builder beige and eggshell repellent.

Bec: If a bridge troll told you that you had to give them one of your limbs to cross the bridge and get back to your family, which would you give him?

Hmmm…I like my legs, I love both arms right where they are.  I’d probably try to trick him with that fake limb I keep in the closet, behind my Christmas decorations.

Bec: Do you like to listen to music while you write or have complete silence?

I love to listen to the right music.  Nothing that screams at me.  I also love to write to the television.  When I first started writing, I would write in front of the tube, lying on my stomach, with root beer and pretzels at my side – a favorite writing snack to this day.  In the summer, I write with baseball in the background.  In the autumn on Sundays, I love to write in my living room with the football game on our flatscreen TV.  And when there’s aStargate Atlantis or Project Runway marathon on the tube, I’m in there all day, tearing fresh pages off, one after another.  I’ve written in cafés, in hotel rooms, at the MFA in Boston in front of original van Gogh paintings, on trains, buses, and airplanes…though the cabin pressure tends to force the ink out of my fountain pens in big blots.  Messy business when I’m traveling to Los Angeles.

Bec: What genres do you most like to read/write?

I love Paranormal Romance – to read and to write.  I love good, spooky horror, preferably light on the gore.  I’m a sucker for a mystery, an epic science fiction tale, anything, really, even the literary genre.  I used to say that I hated Westerns because growing up, that’s what they showed on TV for the rest of the weekend when the cool stuff, the Creature Double-Features, weren’t on.  Then I wrote a romantic Western and have been in love with the genre since, to read and to write.

Bec: If you came face to face with the REAL Santa, what would you say to him?

How the hell did you get in and out of the heating system in the house where I grew up?  We had no chimney.

Bec: Do you find writing a lonely profession?

I did, once, a very long time ago, but even then the payoff for devoting my time to so worthwhile an effort far outweighed anything else I might have gained by walking away from the desk.  Today, and for the past six years, I don’t feel alone.  In the late spring of 2006, I gave my Muse a face, and he’s been a constant companion, equal parts taskmaster and lover.  So I certainly don’t feel lonely or alone, and if I don’t spend copious amounts of time with the Muse, the writing, I get very cranky.  So does he!

Bec: Which do you think is more valuable to a writer: Toilet paper or printer paper?

I live in the country, where we have plenty of trees and, as such, leaves, so I’m going with the printer paper.

Bec: What would you share with a beginning writer?

To write often, every day in fact.  You can always find some time to put fingers to keyboard or pen to paper.  A true writer will generally do this anyway; it’s impossible to resist the Muse.  To write when no one else believes in you. To edit fiercely and submit only your best effort, every time.  When an editor passes on a manuscript but asks to see your next, thank the editor and send along your next.  More than anything, to embrace one’s writing like the gift that it is, which is a second heartbeat, as important as blood and oxygen.

Bec: What do you wish someone would have told you when you first started your writing journey?

Demand ‘Notice of Tentative Credits’ upfront and early – a screenwriting term I learned the importance of too late while working on my two episodes of Paramount Television’s Star Trek: Voyager series.  ‘Notice’ entitles you to see how the writing credits will appear at the start of your episode and to challenge them if your name isn’t spelled correctly (or even there!).

Bec: If there was only one kind of cheese in the world, which would you like it to be?

Muenster.  Because it’s really yummy and it sounds like “Monster.”  We love our Monster Cheese in this house, with rosemary and olive oil crackers, summer sausage, and big bunches of red seedless grapes.

Bec: Do you think having other writers as friends is a good thing for your growth as a writer?

I think having the right writer friends can be tremendously helpful.  Throughout high school, my friendship with a poet named Tina proved invaluable.  We read our work to one another, wrote together, talked shop and shared our very big dreams.  For the past nineteen years, I’ve split my time between three different writing groups, with mixed results.  I’ve met and made some great friends, but also seen the absolute worst that can result from rubbing elbows with your fellow creatives, such as jealous writers seeking any entrance into the publishing realm; individuals who would leave deep divots in your spine from walking over you.  So again, the friendships that result can be wonderful and supportive, and those are the ones you want.  The people who knife you in the shoulders are to be avoided, and will make great villains in your stories.

Bec: What’s your favorite book? Why?

I would have to say On Writing by Stephen King.  That book gave me a sort of permission slip that I needed at the time when I first read it.  I usually read that book twice yearly as a bit of a refresher.  It’s also a fun read.  On my recent trip to New York City, I cracked open the latest issue of The Writer and read it cover to cover.  I enjoy upbeat trade publications.

Bec: What’s your favorite kind of jello?

Black raspberry or blackberry.  This question conjured an image I haven’t thought about in a very long time: seeing the plastic rings of jello parfait at the grocery store when I was a kid, all those bright and dreamy colors, and salivating in response.  To this day, I’d take jello with fruit over chocolate cake any night of the week.

Bec: Who’s your favorite author? Why?

Edgar Allen Poe.  When my first book Ghost Kisses was published in 1994, I would travel to my writers group a few hours early on Thursday nights with a fresh contributor copy and a beat-up paperback of Poe’s stories and poems in my backpack and camp out in a remote grotto outside the campus library where that group used to meet.  There, I would read Poe aloud, and memorized my favorite of all poems, his or otherwise, “Lenore.”  My book was a collection of Gothic gay romance tales, so we established a kind of literary kinship.  I love Poe.  Years later, I still have “Lenore” memorized, line for line.

Bec: Is there anything you would like to share that I haven’t asked you about?

Only that I truly appreciate your interest in me and my work.  Being a writer isn’t the easiest thing in the world, all the time.  But I daresay it’s the most rewarding.  I hope that shows in the writing of mine you’ll read – that I loved the creative process and, as a result, your emotions, too, were stirred.

Bec: Thank you for stopping by and sharing! Best of luck with your book and future projects!


©Rebecca Besser & Gregory L. Norris, 2012. All rights reserved.

Writer’s Blind Spot – The Value Of A Reader’s Feedback

You – as a writer – have the challenge of putting you visions and ideas down on paper with words.

Most of the time you can clearly see everything in your head, and sometimes you forget the reader can’t. This is what I’m calling a ‘Writer’s Blind Spot’. There’s a slight gap in what you know and what needs to be conveyed to the reader, and it’s very important for you to make everything clear for those who will read your work.

You have a perspective on the story that no one else can have, because it’s in your brain as your own creation. When you type (or write) it out sometimes little details that you know aren’t communicated to the reader. This can cause confusion.

A good way for you to make sure that everything is coming across clear and makes sense (and that you haven’t left out important details), is to have someone read your work and give you feedback.

The feedback most specific to the issue of a ‘Writer’s Blind Spot’ would be confusing wording, or lack of information that’s somehow integral to the story.

If a reader (for any reason) finds a part of your story confusing, or says it doesn’t make sense, you should at least take that into consideration and go through the scene again to see if you can make it more clear.

If something is confusing for the reader, it’s not their fault!

As a writer it’s your job to make sure that what you’re trying to get across is getting across, otherwise you’re failing the reader.

I know that the first reaction of a writer is sometimes, “What? Are they stupid? I couldn’t make it more clear!” But, if that was the case, the reader wouldn’t be having issues, now would they? (And I’m sure some of you are cursing me right now for saying all this! LOL) As it happens most times with critiques, once you calm down, you start to see the merit behind such comments and realize your mistake. Make sure you don’t lash out at your reader, because again, it isn’t their fault!

You have to keep in mind that every time a reader stops to question anything, they’re being taken out of the story. If they have to go back two pages to see if something makes sense or if they just read something wrong, it takes them out of the story.

You never want your reader to be out of the story!

That’s why I say its a failure on the part of the writer. If your reader can’t ‘enjoy the ride‘ of your story/book, then what’s the point of them reading it? You aren’t going to get fans or loyal, repeat readers of your work if they have to re-read everything to understand it!

Take the time to get reader’s feedback, and when they give it to you… Listen! Because the readers aren’t stupid — they’ve noticed that you’ve failed them.



©Rebecca Besser, 2012. All rights reserved.

Interview with Author Nikolas Robinson

Bec: Welcome to my blog, please start out by sharing a little bit about yourself –

I’m no good at talking about myself…I always hate this part of anything…filling out a profile on a social network site or anything else. I can’t help but wonder why anyone would care to hear about me…I find myself to be really quite boring. If I have direction, I can manage to talk about myself, so I think I’d prefer to just answer direct questions and see where those lead me…good lord, I hope that I don’t end up making a total ass of myself.

Bec: What first got you interested in writing?

I don’t know…I’ve been reading since I knew the alphabet…and I actually started writing little illustrated stories back in 1st or 2nd grade…I actually recently rediscovered some of those insipid stories not altogether that long ago in a box of photographs and newspaper clippings that my mother passed my way. If I’m being totally honest, I feel like it was always what I was meant to be doing…the only thing that ever really made me feel complete…and somewhere along the way, in my 20’s, I lost sight of that…and lost my drive…my motivation…my mojo…whatever the hell you want to call it.

Thankfully I extracted my cranium from my anus and started writing again…and with greater focus than I had before.

Bec: What are the worst struggles you think writers face, writing and marketing?

Honestly, I think the biggest hurdle would be in obtaining representation of a literary agent. I made half-assed attempts to query agents with my first novel as I was approaching what I (stupidly, mind you) considered to be the final draft…and though I even happened to receive some rejections that included small amounts of praise for the sample material that was submitted along with the query letter, I did only meet with rejection.

The problem is in saturation, I think…literary agents and publishers receive so many queries and manuscripts on a daily basis that they simply can’t take the time necessary to really fall in love with someone’s material. And some of us aren’t altogether too good when it actually comes to hooking someone or adequately promoting the work. It’s hopelessly naïve, and I’m aware of that fact, to believe that the work should speak for itself (in writing and in everything else)…but I can’t get past that childish perspective for myself. I’m not equipped to shamelessly promote myself…I can’t properly cobble together treatments and summaries of what I’ve written…I already wrote the whole damn novel.

It’s that whole process between completion and sale that I think, at least personally, has to be the worst struggle…well, that and the fact that literacy isn’t exactly a high priority these days.

Bec: Tell us about your book/s –

Well, since self-publishing was decided upon as my outlet for my first novel, I decided to cobble together a collection of various poetry and the like that I had accumulated over a handful of years and use that as a way to test out the process of formatting and assembling a work for digital publication through Amazon’s Kindle store. Thus we end up with A Wreck In Progress: Assorted Poetry.

A few months later I felt like I had adequately formatted and self-edited my first complete novel, Unspoken. Of course, it isn’t perfect, being without the benefit of having a real editor and whatnot. I do believe that it turned out fairly well, all things considered, especially for a first novel. As imperfect as it might be, the final product is still something that I am proud of.

At present those are my only two completed works, but I do have plenty of additional material that is working its way through the ridiculous, convoluted pipe that is my creative process.

Bec: Are you working on a sequel/s?

I actually have entertained the thought of revisiting the protagonist from Unspoken in short fiction at some point, seeing where he is and how his situation might have changed for the worse (since I sincerely can’t even conceive of how his situation might have improved).

Bec: Rain drops or snowflakes?

Rain drops are preferable…snowflakes are what I get.

Bec: What other projects are you working on or involved with?

I have a couple of short stories that I’m polishing up for submission to a couple of different anthologies.

There’s a particular short story that I’m in the process of expanding to somewhere between novella and novel-length because it feels too skeletal to me in the current state.

In addition to the smaller scale material, there are four novels that I have in progress (in varying states of completion), and I’d like to pretend that I know which will be finished first, but there is a lot of fluctuation involved and I literally have no idea.

Of those four novels in progress, two are horror (zombie-related, though totally unrelated and coming at the theme from totally different directions), one is a sort of postmodern urban fantasy, and the other is a sort of horror/science fiction oriented project.

I would more than likely be finished with one or more of these projects were it not for having my children to take care of as well as needing to continue working a full-time job in healthcare (though said job does provide me with adequate downtime with which I am frequently able to get more writing out of the way).

The kids are some of my biggest supporters though, and I couldn’t be luckier, I don’t think…and I’m just glad that I can provide them with at least a half-assed example of someone who refuses to quit and continues to pursue their dreams…even when failure is a real possibility.

On top of the actual writing, I occasionally entertain the thought of working on music again, though that rarely ever grows beyond an embryonic state, which is too bad, because I have matured as a musician a great deal since my previous project was dismantled. Maybe someday I will actually begin recording again, who knows?

I’m including a link to the artist profile for my old material on though, just in case anyone is interested in seeing just how much of a goth kid I was back in the day.

(…Alter%20Idem?ac=Alter Noctvm)

Bec: If you could create a planet for the human race to live on, what would it be like?

I don’t know…but I would want to name it Bob, like in Titan A.E. I suppose, if I am being honest, I would make it a nightmare of an environment, something terribly inhospitable where human survival is concerned…I think that the best we’re capable of being tends to arise from that sort of thing…what was it that Hitler said about privation being our strength? Wait…paraphrasing Hitler probably isn’t the best thing…well, it’s said already, and even a total nutcase like that man could say things that make sense. I hope that I haven’t offended anyone.

Bec: What’s your favorite color?

I don’t know…I like rich, deep shades of blue, green, red, and purple…how’s that for a specific answer? I guess that I have a problem committing.

Bec: What’s your favorite animal? Why?

I want a lemur…I don’t know if that makes it my favorite animal, but I want one…almost desperately. I also want a wallaby. I think that I just want something that jumps and hops around absurdly…I have no idea.

Bec: Do you like to listen to music while you write or have complete silence?

There is no binary, yes/no answer to this question for me, and it seems like a larger issue than just music. There are a number of times when I need the television on or music playing simply for the purpose of providing background noise. Occasionally I can only seem to write if I happen to go so far as to remove myself to a location where ample background noise exists independent of my producing it.

With respect to music itself though, there is one particular thing that I have in progress for which I have put together a playlist on my iPod and within iTunes so as to listen to specific tracks that seem to set the right tone for what I’m working on…songs with a particular theme, sound, or more nebulous quality to them which suits the material in question…maybe sort of a soundtrack to the movie taking place in my mind.

Bec: What genres do you most like to read/write?

I have what qualifies as almost an obsession with hard-science fiction, which is probably what I read more than any other genre. Beyond that I happen to very much love horror, fantasy (urban and epic), postmodern literature, and (strange as it might seem) westerns.

Bec: If you could make up a game show for television, what would it be like?

I would like to see something incorporating masturbation…violence…and viscous fluids of an unknown nature…not separately, but used in conjunction with one another. There would be questions, obscure questions without any right/wrong answers…and the host would arbitrarily determine whether the provided answers were valid based upon whatever biases they happen to exhibit…maybe they happen to find the particular contestant attractive in some way or they dislike the sound of their voice? That seems like a fun game show to me…where there’s really no way of knowing whether you have won or lost until you are informed of the outcome. I’d like an atmosphere of tension that borders on terror…maybe go so far as to have the contestants pulled off the street after signing a waiver for something else entirely…but with small print that allows for them to be pulled into the game show without any warning…draw from that pool of people who are so desperate to experience their 15 minutes that they will sign anything if they think it might get them onto television somehow?

Bec: Do you find writing a lonely profession?

My initial impulse is to be a smartass and claim that any profession that I participate in would be a lonely one by default…but not really, not writing…I have plenty of company all the time (fictional or not). There are always my children and other loved ones in the picture as well, even when I desperately strive to find isolation.

Bec: If you could have any super power you wanted for a week, what would it be?

I don’t want a super power per se…but, if you’ve seen the movie Limitless, well…that is what I want…I want that drug more than I’ve probably ever wanted anything…what I wouldn’t give to have even a year of my life with that sort of preternatural clarity and focus.

Bec: What would you share with a beginning writer?

Being essentially a beginning writer myself, at least as far as making a career of it is concerned, I really don’t feel like I am in much of a position to offer advice or anything of the sort. I can say, without any hesitation, that they shouldn’t do what I did, which is to essentially cut off that aspect of my life and stop writing altogether for a number of years. I regret that more than damn near anything…and I have plenty to regret.

Bec: Giraffe or elephant?

Elephants never forget…but I am 6’ 4”, so maybe giraffe is more appropriate? Hell, I don’t know…you decide!

Bec: What do you wish someone would have told you when you first started your writing journey?

I wish that someone had told me that I was more than likely wasting my time and setting myself up for almost inevitable failure…not for any real reason, just because.

Bec: Reptile or fuzzy critter?

Since all I happen to have are fuzzy critters, I’ll have to go with that option.

Bec: Do you think having other writers as friends is a good thing for your growth as a writer?

I don’t know how much it aids in growth as a writer…but it is nice to be able to discuss the topic with other people who have been where I am (even if they were there a long time ago and have long since established something more of themselves)…to just talk with people with the same passion is actually quite nice, even if the nuts and bolts of writing isn’t part of the dialogue.

Bec: Pen or pencil?


Bec: What’s your favorite book? Why?

Dune by Frank Herbert would have to be my favorite book for a number of reasons…the exploration of human potential to a totally fantastic degree…the assumption that humanity would still be around so far down the road, spread out through the galaxy and thriving while still suffering from the same ludicrous and petty power struggles that we presently experience…there’s a sort of optimism in Herbert’s work that I always loved.

Bec: Who’s your favorite author? Why?

Alastair Reynolds, a physicist and hard-science fiction writer. The man has a skill when it comes to extrapolation and speculation that is unparalleled in my opinion, and the scope of his writing is almost awe inspiring to me.

Bec: Is there anything you would like to share that I haven’t asked you about?

I could probably manage to get my hands(?) on a VD that I could share? I don’t imagine that you, or anyone else reading this, would be even remotely interested in something like that though.

Seriously though, I just want to thank you for the opportunity to be put on the spot and forced to think about these questions in such a way as to force me to put answers together…as incoherent and ridiculous as some of those answers might actually have been.


©Rebecca Besser & Nikolas Robinson, 2012. All rights reserved.

Small Presses – Warning Signs

I’ve been disgusted lately with how some small presses are conducting themselves — basically tricking people who they’ve pissed off in the past into submitting to them under a different imprint. So, I’ve decided to talk about some things you should watch for when you’re considering submitting to a small press you aren’t familiar with or that seems suspicious.

Things to check and/or watch for:

1) If a press doesn’t have a website or forum, or somewhere else that’s established for you to learn what they’re about and openly provides a way to contact them, then they’re probably not real. A real business should want to be recognized as one. (Presses that are LLCs, etc, are good presses because they’re a registered business. Nothing is a 100% guarantee, though, so don’t go by that alone.)

2) The press has multiple imprints that are publishing the same types of books.

NOTE: Having various imprints is okay, especially if they’re for different types of books or genres, but if they’re all exactly the same, that means someone is having trouble somewhere and trying to salvage themselves by pretending to be someone/something else.

3) You hear bad things from other writers you know.

NOTE: If you hear something minor from one or two people, you shouldn’t worry. Not everyone is going to have a good experience with every press they sub to. But, if you hear there have been issues from a lot of people, or there are any websites dedicated to hating the press or the owner, beware!

4) Check the Preditors & Editors site, and others like it to see if there have been reported problems.

5) Check online retailers to see if the books the press has put out have any reviews. If there are low numbers (or no) reviews for books that have been out for a long time, they aren’t marketing them, and they won’t market you. Also, the quality of the reviews should be taken into account. If you have five people giving bad reviews for poor editing, etc, then you’ll probably want to steer clear of them.

6) If their are a lot of canceled projects, or if there is a big, fast turnover in projects.

If they’re cancelling projects all the time, then you don’t want to waste your time with them because you never know when something might be dropped.

Also, if there is a big turn over in projects, then they’re not giving each one the time it deserves. It takes time to edit and format, and make sure that everything is the best quality it can be.

NOTE: Project delays are to be expected once in a while. Editors and press owners are human beings and have families and lives too, so sometimes things might get delayed for a couple weeks to a month if there are minor issues. This is not something to panic over, especially if the press has a good track record.

7) Editors being snotty or not responding to submission with acceptances or rejections. Unless it’s stated in the press’ submission guidelines that no response within a certain time period is a ‘no’, then they should get back to you. If they haven’t, it’s okay to query and see if they’ve received your submission (Email submissions sometimes don’t make it through, and even paper ones can get lost.). This is usually best done when they’ve announced that they’ve made a TOC or accepted all stories they will be using, or before. Don’t bug an editor — I can even get snippy with people that do that. I don’t mind an occasional email asking about the project though, if it has been a while since I’ve contacted everyone.

These are just a few things to look for before you submit. Keep in mind you might have success with presses others didn’t, and that you’re eventually going to have a bad experience with a press; it’s inevitable. How you choose to deal with that when it happens is up to you.

When I get disappointed or have a break with a press that I’ve previously worked well with, I move on and warn people I know privately if I know they’re thinking of submitting there. It looks very unprofessional when you’re on Facebook or Twitter ranting about things. Mostly, I think it makes the people reading the comments think: “If they acted like that with the publisher, that explains why they had issues.” In essence, you’re often times drawing more negative attention to yourself than you are to the press that you’re pissed at.

Personally, I choose not to give things more importance than they have. It’s like with writing… You don’t drag someone’s attention to something unless it’s important and will play a part in the later parts of the tale. Otherwise it’s worthless info that makes you look bad.

Besides, they say all publicity is good publicity. Don’t give them your time when you can spend it wisely elsewhere, and don’t be their angry billboard!

Find out some things for yourself before you submit your work anywhere. Ultimately it’s up to you what you do with your writing and where you want it to be published. Just watch for warning signs and go in with your eyes open so you have less of a chance of getting burned in the long run.



©Rebecca Besser, 2012. All rights reserved.

Interview with Author Jeffrey Kosh

Bec: Welcome to my blog, please start out by sharing a little bit about yourself –

Jeff: Hi, Rebecca, first thing first let me say it’s a great honor being interviewed by one of my favorite authors, and a pretty lady, too.
Me? I’m nobody; I’m the guy you notice seating alone in a corner at the great party. He’s sharp dressed, reserved, and alone. Come closer and you find a different guy. He never shuts up, is full of weird stories to tell, likes to share everything he knows, and has a good sense of humor.
Have you figured that guy? Come on there’s one at every event.

Bec: What first got you interested in writing?

Jeff: I was blessed and cursed with a bright imagination from birth. I’m a creative person; my studies were in the Arts, and I practiced drawing, painting, and writing. I wrote many stories, but was too afraid to publish them. Some were good, some … well, they were just awful, but the ugly truth is that I grew up in a family which didn’t believe in me. I was never encouraged in anything which I cared for. So, ended doing an odd job or the other, before finding my own way, and finally find some peace. However, five years ago there was a steer of direction in my life and I decided to believe in myself, by applying for everything I loved. Writing was one of those things.

Bec: What are the worst struggles you think writers face, writing and marketing?

Jeff: First: lack of patience. Hurrying up, creating stories on the fads of the moment because that will surely bring attainment in the earnest, leads to nothing. Success, if it ever shows up, is something you achieve only with dedication and love for what you are writing.
Write a story because you want to read it; do not write it because it will be the next Harry Potter or Twilight, but you don’t like either.
Second: Marketing. Today’s writers need good marketing skills or someone else who can do that for them. Self-promotion sells more than potential best-sellers, sadly.
And editing, editing, editing. Never underestimate editing.

Bec: Tell us about your book/s –

Jeff: ‘Feeding the Urge’ is a complex story. The main character, Axel J. Hyde, is a weird individual, a big boy with the soul of a ten-year-old kid. Pacific in appearance, Axel hides a second personality; that of an impulsive serial murderer. Yet, it’s easy to sympathize with him once you discover he slices and dices only pedophiles, rapists, and stalkers. Apparently, he has an obsession for wiping out those he feels responsible for his traumatized infancy. Nonetheless he’s not Batman, he kills people because he feels an urge to do it. In fact, he believes that a spirit of murder and revenge rides him as Voodoo’s Loas do with their hosts, feeding from the ‘Essence’ of their pain. To better understand this concept I should reveal many parts of my novel, so better leave the rest for the reader to discover.

Bec: Are you working on a sequel/s?

Jeff: Not now. It took seven months to pen down ‘Feeding’, with a lot of revision and changes in the middle.
A 90,000 words novel can be tiresome. From start I decided that it would be a self-contained story with no possibility for a sequel, but the thing had its own plans in the final draft, so with this new ending I devised there’s clearly space for eventual sequels. The fate of Axel hangs in the hands of the readers; if there will be enough enthusiasm over this character I’ll surely extend his life.

Bec: What other projects are you working on or involved with?

Jeff: I just finished and submitted to a publisher a short story set in the Golden Age of Piracy. It is a zombie story in an alternate timeline, yet I can’t disclose more. Can just say it is based on the legend of the Black Freighter. One year ago I novelized a graphic novel to test my writing skills. Obviously, to avoid any copyright infringement I offered it for free to my Facebook fans and friends. I called it a serial chiller, because I released it one chapter a week as a parting gift before leaving for Thailand. It was very successful, but it even resulted in one of my followers to delete friendship as she judged my writing too graphic and ‘ghoulish’.
I’m also working on an anthology of tales set in my fictional town of Prosperity Glades and another one based on Urban Legends from Thailand.

Bec: Shower or bath?

Jeff: Bath, absolutely! Pleasure is something which is best achieved slowly.

Bec: What’s your favorite color?

Jeff: Black. I love dark nights, bats, panthers, and black clothes. Besides, in my teen years I was a headbanging Heavy Metal fan, and later went into Goth culture.

Bec: Dance or sing?

Jeff: None of the above. Yet, would you believe I was selected at 8 to sing in a kid’s chorus. I hated it and did all my best to be thrown out. As for dancing … I have two concrete shoes at my feet.

Bec: Do you like to listen to music while you write or have complete silence?

Jeff: I’d love to have complete silence, but here in Ao Nang it’s almost impossible. There’s no privacy, and Thai are active 24/24. Add to that the hundred of tourists who come here to enjoy a good time, and you get the picture. Excuse me a minute … I have to get out and chainsaw that darn German who keeps talking loudly at his cell phone under my porch.

Bec: What’s your favorite food?

Jeff: You should ask the contrary. There’s only one thing I can’t stand and that’s melon. The rest goes into my stomach.

Bec: What genres do you most like to read/write?

Jeff: Horror for writing. As for reading, anything I find interesting, paying special attention to science fiction.

Bec: What time of day do you like to write?

Jeff: Night. My wife sleeps, that German guy SHOULD sleep, and those pesky Thai are out jumping from bar to bar.

Bec: Do you find writing a lonely profession?

Jeff: No. It depends by your character. I know writers who are quite extroverted, and others who are shy. In itself, the act of writing is, and must be, an inner working; however once you close your laptop you can share your experience with other people for suggestions and criticism.

Bec: Clowns or mimes?

Jeff: Do not even mention them. Clowns are scary to me and mimes … I do not want to offend anyone, so let’s just say I do not have sympathy for both, as you can see in the first chapter of my novel. Kamp Koko is a clown-themed summer camp.

Bec: What would you share with a beginning writer?

Jeff: Anything. I have no secrets. I strongly believe in sharing, that’s one of the things which make our life worth living. My best suggestion is to believe in what you do. Perseverance and faith.

Bec: Loud or quiet?

Jeff: Usually quiet. Yet surrounded by LOUD people.

Bec: What do you wish someone would have told you when you first started your writing journey?

Jeff: Four words: I believe in you.

Bec: Chocolate or strawberry?

Jeff: What about strawberries covered by hot chocolate while having a hot bath?

Bec: Do you think having other writers as friend is a good thing for your growth as a writer?

Jeff: Absolutely. I like to get criticism from fellow writers, and their praises, too.

Bec: What’s your favorite book? Why?

Jeff: ‘Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus’. I’ve felt like Frankenstein’s monster for much of my life. Lately, during the creation of ‘Feeding the Urge’ I’ve felt some sympathy for Victor, too.

Bec: Who’s your favorite author? Why?

Jeff: Mary Shelly. She wrote that unreachable book and was a courageous woman. Next come Michael Slade, even if that is just a collective pen name of various Canadian writers. I was heavily influenced by their writing style: lot of details, passion for history and some morbid stuff.
Also, loved Michael Crichton and Stephen King.

Bec: Is there anything you would like to share that I haven’t asked you about?

Jeff: Yes. I host a blog where I try to post interesting issues on Horror and writing by me, other authors, editors, and readers. I even interviewed an Esperanto aficionado once, nothing to do with horror, but I felt it was a fascinating topic. I like offering space to people who want to share something.
Here goes the link, if you care:
You can also follow my tweets at:!/JeffreyKosh or add me to your circles on Google + and visit my novel’s fan page at:
If you want to know more about Prosperity Glades, Dr. Axel Hyde will be your host at:

Bec: Thank you for stopping by and sharing! Best of luck with your book and future project!

Jeff: Thanks Rebecca, and keep on writing. We need to know what’s going on in California.


©Rebecca Besser & Jeffrey Kosh, 2012. All rights reserved.

Author Rebecca Besser's Blog