Interview with Author Jeremy C. Shipp

Jeremy C. Shipp is the Bram Stoker Award-nominated author of Cursed, Vacation, and Sheep and Wolves. His shorter tales have appeared or are forthcoming in over 60 publications, the likes of Cemetery Dance, ChiZine, Apex Magazine, Withersin, and Shroud Magazine. Jeremy enjoys living in Southern California in a moderately haunted Victorian farmhouse called Rose Cottage. He lives there with a couple of pygmy tigers and a legion of yard gnomes. The gnomes like him. The clowns living in his attic–not so much. His twitter handle is @JeremyCShipp.

www.jeremycshipp.com


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

Jer: Thank you for having me! I’m a writer, a geek, a yard gnome whisperer, and an attic clown wrangler. I live in a moderately-haunted Victorian farmhouse. I enjoy short walks on the beach and candle-lit dinners in spooky caves.

Bec: What first got you interested in writing?

Jer: My dad would read to me and my brothers all the time when we were kids. That’s when I fell in love with books. And then in 4th grade I wrote my first short story. That’s when I fell in love with writing.

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

Jer: I enjoy all my struggles, so I’d have a hard time saying what’s worst. I suppose the most difficult thing is that accomplishing your dreams requires a lot of hard work and a lot of luck. The hard work isn’t so bad, but it can be difficult to create luck.

Bec: Tell us about your book/s –

Jer: My books are weird, surreal, dark and funny. My newest books are called Attic Clowns and Attic Toys, because, in my mind, the world needs more books about attics.

Bec: Are you working on a sequel/s?

Jer: I would love to write a sequel to Cursed, because those characters are so fun to be around, but so far I haven’t thought of an idea that would work. I would want the sequel to be better than the original. Otherwise I won’t write it. I’m also considering writing a comic book series about Globcow from Attic Clowns. He’s my favorite little monster.

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

Jer: I’m working on a new short story collection about monsters, a comic book, a new anthology that I’m editing. I might even create a web series in the near future. More details will be available on all these projects at jeremycshipp.com.

Bec: What’s your favorite color?

Jer: I love the color of a chupacabra’s spleen.

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

Jer: Every once in a while, I’ll listen to some Cranberries, but most of the time I prefer silence. And by silence I mean the meowing of cats mixed with the chortling of attic clowns and the yodeling of yard gnomes.

Bec: What’s your favorite writing snack?

Jer: More often than not, I forget to eat or drink while I’m writing. In general though, I like potato chips and fried Smurf brains.

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

Jer: I like fantasy, classic literature, horror. I try to read a little bit of everything. When I’m writing, I don’t think about genre. But my books and stories usually end up getting classified as some combination of horror/fantasy/sci-fi/literature/bizarro.

Bec: Sticky or slimy?

Jer: Slimy. I love the feel of ectoplasm squishing between my fingers. And there’s nothing slimier than ectoplasm.

Bec: Do you find writing a lonely profession?

Jer: I don’t think writers feel lonely while we’re writing, since we’re too busy playing with our imaginary friends to notice that we’re taking part in a solitary activity. But of course, it’s important to socialize with real people as well.

Bec: If you could design your own army of killer Smurfs, what would it be like?

Jer: I would create a horde of zombie Smurfs that would use little pick axes to break into my enemies’ skulls. Then the Smurfs would eat their way inside. I’d also make tiny suits of armor for my zombies, so they would be pretty much unstoppable.

Bec: Country or city?

Jer: I would prefer to live in the country, not far from a big city that I could visit from time to time. I want to make my own cheese, but I also want to visit museums when the mood strikes me.

Bec: What would you share with a beginning writer?

Jer: Write, write, and write some more. Try to write every day, even if you only write a paragraph or a sentence. Don’t let anyone’s negativity discourage you, including your own.

Bec: If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

Jer: I would want to change my arms into dragons, so that I could have dragon arms.

Bec: There is a city of trolls living in your sink drain. Once you’ve made contact with them, how do you convince them that you’re a friend and not an enemy?

Jer: I would dump mead and grog into the drain until the trolls were drunk. And as we all know, a drunken troll will believe anything.

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

Jer: Everything’s gonna be alright, buddy. Just chill out and enjoy the ride. Oh, and here are some peanut butter chip cookies I made for you. I know they’re your favorite.

Bec: Date night: Going out to eat and drinking? Or meal at home and having your woman all to yourself?

Jer: I like to switch things up. Out to eat one night. Meal at home the next night. Then, another night, we’ll eat inside a cave and paint antelope on the walls.

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

Jer: More experienced writers can definitely teach new writers a lot about how to survive and succeed. And, of course, if you have a writer friend you respect who gives you feedback about your work, this can help you grow.

Bec: What’s your favorite book? Why?

Jer: One of my favorites is The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. I love the creative use of language in the book. Every sentence feels like magic.

Bec: Zombie hookers or zombie clowns?

Jer: Zombie clowns, because they might eat some of the clowns in my attic. And there are WAY too many clowns in my attic. Five million is too many in my book, anyway.

Bec: Who’s your favorite author? Why?

Jer: Kurt Vonnegut is one of my favorites. He wrote so many brilliant books. He was able to express complex ideas and emotions in simple and graspable ways.

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

Jer: I’d like to share my opinion about juggling babies. Personally, I believe that juggling babies is almost always wrong.

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

Jer: Thank you kindly! May the yard gnome and attic clown gods smile upon you.

 

©Rebecca Besser & Jeremy C. Shipp, 2012. All rights reserved.

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Interview with Author Murphy Edwards

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

Murph: I’m from a small town in Southern Indiana, a lover of dogs, books, firearms, knives, Indian cusine and people with bold, bombastic attitudes. I was the drummer for Sidecar Prophets, Dante’, OFB, the Mystic Prisoners and a long string of bar bands. Over the years I’ve worked as a delivery driver, farmer, foundry worker, X-ray technician, carpenter, bar tender, busker, weapons inspector and a ton of Joe jobs.

Bec: What first got you interested in writing?

Murph: Three things. First and foremost would be my oldest brother. From an early age he was engrossed in literature. He would often read entire books in one sitting. On my thirteenth birthday he gave me a boxed set of “Lord of The Rings” and began feeding me the classics like “Catcher in the Rye”, “David Copperfield”, “Sherlock Holmes”, Poe and H.P. Lovecraft. Sadly. I lost him to cancer eleven years ago and I’m still struggling to come to grips with that. The second major influence comes from both my brother and my grandfather. Being of Irish descent comes with a few advantages, one of which is the beautiful and often brutal skills they both had for telling a story. They could sit at a table or gather around a campfire and weave a tale out of thin air that would have you hanging on every word. The stories always involved quirky characters or oddball locales that pulled you into the story. Some of it was fact, some of it was fiction, but all of it was entertaining. With each telling, the stories would take on something new—an additional character, a new twist, a different ending—anything to keep it fresh. I think my good fortune of being exposed to this over the years got me interested in seeking out unusual people and places for my own stories and then finding unique ways to tell them. The third significant influence was Ms. Nancy Hamilton, my high school English Literature teacher. She was a stickler for accuracy in all things writing—not just the basics like punctuation, spelling and grammar, but theme, substance, voice and detail. She always told me: “If you choose to write fiction, write it BIG.”

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

Murph: I think many writers, including me, have struggled with rejection. When I first began submitting to editors, publishers and agents I quickly became disheartened by the responses I received. I had prepared myself for negative responses, so that wasn’t really an issue. What I found discouraging were the number of “form letter” replies which provided no detail into why the submissions were being rejected. All writers crave input, even when it comes in the form of criticism. Sadly, like most authors, I’ve also received a few very unprofessional rejections which bordered on a personal attack. Eventually, you learn to filter those out. On the flip side of the coin, are the editors and publishers who take time to provide you with extraordinarily professional and precise input to your work. They usually center around weak points in the story, rough transitions or lack of detail. These are the ones I focus on because they give valuable insight into ways of strengthening my work.

With marketing, I think most authors tend to find themselves in a constant state of playing “catch-up.” With the advent of social media and the ever changing world of electronic publishing, an author can quickly become discouraged and feel like they are not making much headway. I think it’s something we all have to deal with, but not to the point of becoming overwhelmed. Several things work for me to help me remain focused. First, I am learning to think more like a publisher. How do they market? How do they promote? How do they reach consumers? Once I’ve done that, I put an “Indie” spin on it by realizing I have as much, or more skin in the game simply by having my name on a given project. From there, it becomes: How do I market? How do I promote? How do I reach consumers? And finally, as an author, I realized I had to seek out and research trusted information on marketing, social media, platform development, promotion and valid support groups. To avoid being overwhelmed I decided to divide all of this into manageable chunks that could be easily developed and added to my marketing plan a step at a time. It’s a long process and each author tackles it in a different way. The important thing is to not give up.

Bec: Tell us about your book/s –

Murph: I have been fortunate enough to be featured in all three of the Dead Bait series of books alongside such greats as Tim Curran and Ramsey Campbell. Dead Bait included my story “Noodlers”, DB2 included my story “Heavy Weather” and Dead Bait 3 features the crime / horror smash-up “Sinkers”. The series is published by Severed Press and they do some outstanding work. Coming out later this year will be my first release of an eBook, titled Deadly Detours. It will feature seven of my short stories of crime, horror and debauchery. As Editor, I have been extremely pleased with the response to Indiana Crime 2012, which I co-edited with friend and fellow writer James Ward Kirk.

Bec: Are you working on a sequel/s?

Murph: There are plans for another book in the Dead Bait series and the editors at Severed Press has approached me to write a full length novel centered around the briney deep. There are also plans for Indiana Crime 2013 and James Ward Kirk and I hope to open for submissions in early 2013.

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

Murph: Perhaps the one I’m most proud of to date is Indiana Crime 2012, which I co-edited with James Ward Kirk. I pitched the idea to James shortly after he accepted my story “Bumper Music “ for his anthology Indiana Horror 2011 and he was very enthusiastic. He followed up with an e-Mail and after ironing out some details he asked if I would like to edit the book with him. We worked through a massive amount of responses and ended up with Indiana Crime 2012, which is full of short fiction, poetry, artwork and photos all centered around Indiana Crimes and Indiana authors. I’m very proud of the finished work and we plan to do another for 2013. Amazingly, James and I never met in person until long after the finished book went to print. We did everything electronically and it just clicked. James is also working on some projects for Static Movement and my stories will be featured in two of those volumes, “Ace of Spades” will be included in Graverobbers and “Identity Theft” will be in Serial Killers 2. My short story collection Deadly Detours has just passed muster with my editor and is scheduled for release through Amazon Kindle in November. My short story “Devices” is set to appear in Indiana Science Fiction 2012 and Early 2013 will see another of my short story collections published through Amazon Kindle. I plan to follow that up with my recently completed novella “Pain” and a full-length novel which is nearing completion.
I will also be working with fellow writer and editor, Elisha Murphy on her Halloween anthology, tentatively titled Haunted Highways. If all goes as planned, it will be opening for submissions around March 2013 and released in paperback in September 2013. This will be a collection of all things horror, including fiction, poetry, art, photos, the works. Elisha has some awesome ideas for this collection, including stunning cover art, some old school lithographs, modern art, photography, poetry and a boat load of opportunities for both new and experienced authors to strut their stuff.

Bec: What’s your favorite color?

Murph: Black and Blue, baby. Black and Blue.

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

Murph: Music. As a drummer I’ve always loved music. I’m a big Prog fan, so if you throw on a little Spock’s Beard, Porcupine Tree, Yes, Tool, Marillion Coheed and Cambria or Dream Theatre, I’m down with it. Also got my stand-by’s like Foo Fighters, Led Zepplin, Rammstein, Bad Company, Iron Maiden, Motorhead and Whitesnake just to keep the old feet tapping. If I’m writing in flow, the music helps keep me pumped. When editing difficult sections I have to have minimum distractions and complete silence.

Bec: Walking or riding a bike?

Murph: Walking. It gives me a chance to think, which in turn helps me develop characters, scenes, plots and those dark and deadly details. I know they say once you learn to ride a bike you’ll never forget, but I don’t want to take that chance. And nobody wants to clean a mess like that up!

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

Murph: Reading, it has to be crime, noir, horror and pulp fiction in all of its forms, although I also dig a good western and the odd sci-fi when well written.

Writing, it’s pretty much the same. I love mixing genres in my writing. I’ll usually have elements of crime/horror/ and noir all in the same piece. I have written everything from westerns to romance, but my pen always seems to swerve over to the dark side of fiction.

Bec: What’s your favorite type of bird?

Murph: Gotta be the hummingbird. They fascinate me simply from the “mechanics of flight” perspective. I mean, your eyes are taking it all in, but your brain is saying “There’s no way a bird should be doing that.” I’ve seen them fly up-side-down, backwards, sideways and those incredible wings never stop buzzing. There’s a lesson to be learned there—even when you’re in a crash dive, keep on flapping those wings.

Bec: Do you find writing a lonely profession?

Murph: I do. Fortunately, I have all these bizarre characters in my head to keep me company. Seriously, though, I think as a writer you quickly learn to become your own best friend. Once you enjoy yourself and become comfortable in your writing skin, you can seek out others you can trust and rely on.

Bec: Water or soda?

Murph: Water. I worked in a soda bottling plant when I was young and I gotta say, I despise the stuff.

Bec: What would you share with a beginning writer?

Murph: Believe in yourself, read as much as you write and never, ever give up. There will be times when it feels as if you are moving backwards and nothing is going your way. Ride it out. It will get better. And always seek out other writers. Talk to them, ask questions, seek wise counsel because most will give it freely. When you have achieved any level of success, no matter how small, take time to thank those who helped you get there. Above all, pay it forward. You will be repaid sevenfold.

Bec: What was your most memorable birthday? Why?

Murph: The one I’m celebrating this October 31st, cause it means I’m still alive and still writing.

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

Murph: To always make time in your life for your passion, be it writing, music, painting, gardening, auto mechanics, or bowling, you owe it to yourself to pursue it with all the gusto you can muster. Take risks, be bold, seek out mentors and follow your dreams, even when everyone around you tries to discourage you. Don’t ever look back and say ‘what if’ or ‘if only’.

Bec: What’s your favorite number?

Murph: .357—cause there’s just something about a magnum.

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

Murph: Absolutely. I find creative people in general to be very supportive, and writers especially so. The vast majority of writers I’ve encountered have given me awesome support, often in unbelievable ways. Writers carry a spirit of generosity that I seldom encounter anywhere else in my life. This has helped me grow and take chances I might not otherwise have taken.

Bec: What’s your favorite book? Why?

Murph: This is always a tough one because I enjoy so many. I’ll try to narrow it down to a few, knowing I’ll be forgetting someone. Anything by Ken Bruen, but especially “Once Were Cops” anything by Elmore Leonard, Ray Banks’, “Saturday’s Child” and Brian Keene’s “Ghoul” are all top of the list, followed closely by all of Raymond Chandler and Robert B. Parker’s Spenser series. All of them have several things in common which draw me in as a reader: The techniques they use for dialog, scene, atmosphere, language and tension are what entertain me as a reader and inspire me as a writer.

Bec: Who’s your favorite author? Why?

Murph: Another toughie. Again, I have to say, I’m drawn to several. Ken Bruen, for his excellent crime voice and the Irish atmosphere, Ray Banks, Anthony Neil Smith, Seth Harwood and Victor Gischler for their down-in-the dirt crime writing, Elmore Leonard, Robert B. Parker and Raymond Chandler for outstanding and quick witted dialog, Brian Keene, cause, hell he’s Brian Keene! And I’m way into Jeff Somers and his Electric Church series. Jeff mixes the sci-fi, crime and horror genres seamlessly. On a more local front, I love the work being produced by Paula D. Ashe, Matt Cowin, David Bain, James Ward Kirk, Marianne Halbert, Paul DeThroe, Todd Card, Jeffrey Ashby and David Scott Pointer.

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

Murph: Yes, I had an interesting writing experience that I think would benefit a lot of writers. This one, again started out as just a quick idea batted around on e-Mails and coincidentally, also involved my friend James Ward Kirk. One of us, I forget which one, asked the question: Have you ever thought of writing a story together? We decided to toss it out there and see what would happen. James fired the opening salvo with a first paragraph which was e-Mailed to me. I then added the second paragraph and fired it back. We followed this method all the way through till the end. The only rule we established was that there were no rules. Neither of us knew where the other would wind up taking the story. We decided to call it a ‘deadly duo’ and it soon turned into ‘writer’s roulette’. We didn’t even consider editing, changing or altering anything till the story was through the first draft. We had a ball. The resulting story, “Me and Sister Mercy” was shopped out and eventually picked up by Criminal Class Review. They will be publishing it in the next volume of their excellent journal. The piece has elements of crime, horror, sci-fi and hardboiled fiction. I encourage others to try their hand at this. It’s a challenge, but quite rewarding as both a writing and learning tool.

The only other thing I can think of to share it this: “Never insult seven men when all you’re packin’ is a sixgun!”

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

Murph: The pleasure was all mine, dear lady. I’ll have you over to the Murphy Edwards Dungeon real soon.

About Murphy Edwards:

Murphy Edwards is the award winning author of “Serious Money”, “Bumper Music”, “Heavy Weather”, “Noodlers”, and “The Last Days of Maxwell Sweet”. His work has appeared in Dimensions Magazine, The East Side Edition, Black October, Horizons, MidAtlantic Monthly, Modern Drummer, The Nor’Easter, Walking Bones,Escaping Elsewhere, Trail of Indiscretion, Hardboiled Magazine, Barbaric Yawp, Samsara, The Magazine of Suffering, The Nocturnal Lyric, Night Chills, Big Pulp Magazine, Criminal Class Review and in the anthologies Dead Bait (Severed Press), Assassin’s Canon (Utility Fog Press), Abaculus II (Leucrota Press), Night Terrors (Blood Bound Books), Unspeakable (Blood Bound Books), Bloody Carnival (Pill Hill Press), Dead Bait II (Severed Press), Indiana Horror 2011, Indiana Horror 2012 (Indiana Horror Writer’s Association), Dead Bait III (Severed Press), Grave Robbers (Static Movement), Serial Killers 2 (Static Movement) andIndiana Science Fiction 2012 . His short story, “Mister Checkers”, was chosen to be among the best in science fiction, fantasy and horror of 2009 for the Leucrota Press Anthology, Abaculus III. Edwards is a 2011 recipient of The Midwest Writers Workshop Writers Retreat Fellowship Award for Fiction and is the Co-Editor ofIndiana Crime 2012. In addition to the United States, Edwards has been published in Ireland, Australia, South Africa, and the U.K. He resides in Indiana and on the web at:

http://murphyedwards.wordpress.com

www.facebook.com/murphy.edwards.96

 

©Rebecca Besser & Murphy Edwards, 2012. All rights reserved.

Interview with Author Brady Allen

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

Brady: I’m a dad and a writer. A rural, southern Ohio boy who is stuck in the suburbs for a while. I also love Reds baseball and horror films and Waylon Jennings and AC/DC.

Bec: What first got you interested in writing?

Brady: My folks were both big readers. Mama always read to me and took me to the library. Pop would tell me these “make-up” stories at bedtime, where I’d have to fill in the blanks and help him.

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

Brady: With writing, I’m not sure. I guess some folks get writer’s block, but I’ve never had that issue (knock on wood). Maybe reading too many “how to” books and not just reading fiction and writing. Marketing? Decisions! There are too many to make. Agent, big publisher, small press, indie press . . . ? How do you know where your writing fits? None of us have time to explore every angle and avenue. Researching markets and all takes up a lot of time, writing time!

Bec: Tell us about your book:

Brady: Back Roads & Frontal Lobes is a short story collection. I love short stories. There’s a lot of horror, but much more, too. This is what the description on the book says: These 23 short tales take you along dark, unlined roads and into dark minds less traveled. Held together by themes of isolation and loneliness, existentialism and hope, and choice versus fate, and at turns both disturbing and darkly comical (while often tinged with sadness), this collection of stories explores both speculative fiction and realism: horror and dark fantasy, road stories and crime, dark drama and soft sci-fi, and surrealism and magical realism.

Bec: Are you working on a sequel/s?

Brady: I have a lot of other short stories set in Stairway Falls, Ohio, my fictional town (many in the collection are set there), but not a sequel, really. Some familiar characters, maybe. Or places.

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

Brady: Several short story deadlines. I can never seem to stop writing them. I’m doing a ghost story, a sword & sorcery tale, another horror story—man, a bunch of them. Plus, I’m working on rewrites for a novel called The Disharmony of Frogs, and—and I’m excited about this—I’m part of a new group organized by friend and author D.A. Adams called “The Outlaws of Fiction.” D.A. Adams, James R. Tuck, Steven Shrewsbury and I are each writing a weird Western novella for a book we’re gonna pitch.

Bec: If glitter was made out of ground up unicorn bones, what would glue be made of?

Brady: No comment. (My mind went immediately to X-rated monsters and sticky, uh, substances.)

Bec: What’s your favorite color?

Brady: Blue.

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

Brady: I can go either way. I listen to Waylon and AC/DC a lot, but when I get into the work, I lose track of the music. I love this CD called Tango Ballet, this crazy-ass classical music. Horror writer Rain Graves turned me on to it.

Bec: If a dinosaur offered to trade you a six pack of beer and a dozen tacos for a meal, who would you feed to it?

Brady: Yadier Molina of the St. Louis Cardinals (hey, I’m a Reds fan!), an ex-landlord, an ex-sister-in-law, or . . . Naw, I’ll be good. Any of them.

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

Brady: Horror holds a special place, but I’ll read about anything but straight-up romance. A lot of speculative fiction. Literary and classics, too. I like dark stuff, weird stuff, character-driven stuff, stories about real folks, blue-collar folks . . .

Bec: If you had a fairy in your pocket that provided you with limitless money, where would you go and why?

Brady: Well, what you don’t know is that that is a fairy in my pocket.

Bec: Do you find writing a lonely profession?

Brady: Not anymore. I’ve made so many friends on Facebook and at conventions. I can’t say enough about attending workshops, book fairs, and conventions. We’re all in this together, writers.

Bec: What would you share with a beginning writer?

Brady: A shot of whiskey. Seriously. But, also seriously, anything they wanted to ask. I teach fiction writing, have for 13 years, and I’m proud to have a great number of published former students who get back with me and thank me for writing and publishing tips. I guess that’s what I’d share—that there is no golden ticket or key or condom that helps you get all up in publishing. If you write well, write a lot, and research markets diligently and carefully, so you can submit appropriately, it can very well happen for you. There are more opportunities to publish now than ever. And I’m not talking about vanity presses.

Bec: If you were stuck in a car with an angry mountain lion, what would you do?

Brady: Is it angry with me?

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

Brady: “Get your ass in gear and get serious.” And the piece of advice I got years ago but have only started adhering to in the last couple of years was, “Write what you need to write. Stop apologizing for your subject matter.”

Bec: A two-year-old holds your fate in his little hands. What would you tell him in an attempt to convince him to let you live?

Brady: “Look. I do great armpit farts!”

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

Brady: There is no doubt in my mind. None.

Bec: What’s your favorite book? Why?

Brady: Just one? One? Can’t do it. I love short stories, so I treasure collections by Charles L. Grant, Robert McCammon, Ray Bradbury, Elizabeth Massie, Stephen King, Kelly Link . . . and on and on. How about any “best-of” horror anthology?

Bec: If you could be one female character you’ve seen in a movie, who would you be?

Brady: Be? Or be with? ‘Cause I’d have fun with Sheri Moon Zombie’s character, Baby, in House of 1,000 Corpses. What is it she says? “We like to get fucked up and do fucked-up shit.” I own the T-shirt.

Bec: Who’s your favorite author? Why?

Brady: Robert McCammon. He made me love reading so much that he made want to try writing.

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

Brady: I love fruit pie. It’s a weakness.

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

Brady: Thanks, Becca! To you, too.

 

©Rebecca Besser & Brady Allen, 2012. All rights reserved.

A Writer’s Moods – Adrenaline and The Low Road

Writers are a moody lot, and there are reasons for that. Most people – non-writers – don’t get why we are the way were are, so I’m going to give you an inside look at what it really means to live a writer’s life. I’m also going to give you some insight into why we feel the way we do; it goes hand-in-hand.

It is said that artists – of all varieties – put something of themselves into their work, and this is true. Our voices, or angle, comes from our perspective of life and life experiences. Therefore, they are somehow, on some level, emotionally attached to their work.

Writers spend hours writing a story and then agonizing over every word in the editing process, second guessing themselves on punctuation and content. Then they have to make a decision: Is it good enough to share with other people? Or will they laugh, make fun of me, or point out my flaws? It’s basically like the first day of school every single time you write something. Eventually you swallow the fear of rejection bullet, and submit your story somewhere or post it on your blog to share with the world; it’s your very own masterpiece.

Now brace yourself for the bad news. Writers get more rejections than they ever do acceptances. They get more negative feedback than they ever do positive. That fear of rejection is a real and living beast inside a writer’s heart because it bites hard, and often. And that’s not the only fear a writer has – they’re always concerned (like all artists without inflated egos) that they aren’t good enough. This is constantly reinforced with critiques that shred your story down to nothing, and/or a rejection from a publication you really wanted to make it into. The only ones that make it in this business are the thick-skinned writers who have more of the ‘watch me succeed” attitude than anything else.

It’s really depressing to put so much time, effort, and self into something only to have someone tear you apart. It’s not over there though… Then come the reviews once you have been published. Reviews from people who don’t know you but think they can personally attack you and your writing. There can be fifty great reviews and two bad ones and a writer will still feel like everyone hates them.

Why would anyone ever put themselves through all that, you might ask… Well, it’s because writers love to write, and they love to share their stories with the world. When that one acceptance out of thirty rejections finally comes to them, it’s like someone just handed them the world on a platter. It’s an adrenaline rush and validation that they aren’t crazy and are good enough for someone to back them and want to publish them!

The sad part? This shiny adrenaline feeling doesn’t last long, but it’s now addictive. Writers will keep writing and sending out submissions in hopes of getting this feeling back. They fall to the low road of depression very easily and need that upswing again; they’ll go through the multiple rejections to achieve that one moment of bliss. The best part about that though, is the more a writer writes the better they get at writing and the more acceptances they receive!

After the blessed acceptance, and going to print, and past the positive and negative reviews, we then get to sales and royalties.

A writer feels amazing when their book comes out. They think the entire world will want to read the greatness they’ve put into this work. It’s brilliant and a genre changer, after all. Then the book doesn’t sell. No one wants it, and that evil demon who sits on your shoulder and whispers “You aren’t good enough!” comes back with a cynical laugh to add salt to the wound you thought was healing.

When people do actually buy your book, you don’t get paid for three to six months and you’re lucky if you make $10 after the press gets their cut (you only get a percentage, after all). The writer has spent hours, days, weeks, and sometimes years on one project and then they see almost nothing for their efforts. Their family doesn’t see a point to it, because all that time they saw the writer spend on something to get so little back doesn’t seem worth it. So, now, the writer is not only getting bashed on by the world, but their own family doesn’t see a point or a worth to what they’re doing because no money is coming in. Sure, they’re proud to know apublished author, but it doesn’t really mean much to everyday life. There’s still dishes, and laundry, and every other little mundane thing life has to offer, and that grabs an author by the throat and chokes them sometimes, because they aren’t understood even by the people closest to them.

This is the reality of writing. Those of us that do it all the time to even have a mere glimpse of success in any way have gone through all of this multiple times. We swing from the highs to the lows. We don’t think we’re good enough and doubt ourselves. We press forward and beg for more punishment just to make our dreams come true – telling our stories.

I hope this has given you something of an insight into what it’s like to be a writer. A glimpse at why we have our highs and lows, and what causes them. The best thing you can do to encourage a writer is read their stories – that’s what they’re there for. Oh, and leave a review… Not a mean one, but a nice one that’s honest, stating what you liked and what you didn’t like about what you read. A writer needs the feedback to make sure they’re on the right path to increase their chances of acceptance.

 

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©Rebecca Besser, 2012. All rights reserved.

The Truth Behind The Article – A Bibliography

I’m sure most of you – like me – have read articles at some point in your life. Sometimes people question the truth behind what they’ve read because they either don’t believe it or they’ve read another article that contradicts it. If you’ve ever written an article though, you know there has to be some truth there or it wouldn’t have been published.

There’s a list of facts (where you got your information – the sources of your research) required with an article submission. This is called a Bibliography.

In a bibliography you list all your sources for the facts in your article. If you submit your article to a publication, they have someone check your sources to make sure they’re true (if it’s a legit and professional publication). If the facts aren’t true or your bibliography or sources don’t pan out, they will refuse to publish the article. Publishing something that’s not true can do harm to the professionalism of the publication and/or the author of the article. So, even if some people think so, they don’t just throw BS at the world in an attempt of making you believe it, at least, not of the publication is credible.

One of the problems today is that anyone can put their opinions or views up on their blog and people believe it. And I’m sure there are not so professional online publications that love to publish articles of more ‘conspiracy theory‘ than actual fact or truth. This can cause a lot of confusion when you’re reading articles that contradict each other. If you read something from a credible publication, but also read something from a not so credible publication that can lead to a lot of confusion.

I tend to have a stronger belief that what I’m being told is the truth if there are links to sources in the online article that supports the article I’m reading. To me, that means there’s truth and basis for what the author is telling me.

Something else that makes articles complicated is angle. I can take a subject and give it to two different authors, telling one to support an idea and one to debunk it. Both can do research and come up with good, strong articles. This is because most times, there are facts to support both. Nothing will ever be completely positive or negative. What happens is that you only use the research that supports what you want to say with your article. You aren’t going to list five sources in your bibliography that undermine what you’re trying to get across, are you? No! You’re going to list all the sources that uphold your argument. This doesn’t mean that it’s true…or false.

That’s where things get even more complicated. You can read articles on the same subject that don’t agree and they could both be right. When that happens, you need to do your own research and find out what the truth really is. Chances are, both are right to some degree.

Really good articles will list some pros and cons on the subject. But that sometimes becomes limited when the author is restricted to a very small word allowance, etc. Then you just express your point and hope you do it well.

Keep in mind that people aren’t really trying to trick you – at least most of them aren’t anyhow – all they’re doing is expressing their views and beliefs based on the facts they believe to be the most important. Everyone has their own feelings on various subjects; it’s what makes the human race beautiful.

This gets very apparent in political articles. They’ll tell you only what they want you to know or believe to get you to support them or dislike someone else. This is the strongest example of ‘angle‘ articles you can get. Usually this is because parties or candidates are looking for the support of certain like-minded people. They believe certain things are more important than others and will twist things to their advantage. Like before though, often both the good and bad are true. With politics small things are blown out of proportion or dramatized for the effect it will have on the listener, or things will be taken out of context. We see it all the time. This just re-enforces the need for people to do their own research on things they don’t believe or understand.

Then there’s something called ‘live news.’ This is most of what you get from news stations as current events unfold. At that point, most reporters only know what they’ve been told and sometimes they aren’t allowed to tell you certain things because it hasn’t been verified or cleared for one reason or another. They have to be very careful, because their job is supposedto bring the truth to the people; if they make a mistake they could cause an unnecessary panic or cause people harm by not telling them if danger is on its way. So, even if the story changes, it’s not because they were lying or trying to fool you, they were going on what they knew to be true at the time.

The truth is: Articles are based on facts, and it’s your responsibility to do more research if you think what you’ve read isn’t true. No one is lying to you – they’re expressin their truth.

Never believe anything blindly, especially if it seems to be off in some way. Chances are, you’ll learn something you didn’t know.

 

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©Rebecca Besser, 2012. All rights reserved.

Character Mapping – Do What?!

After reading the title of this post, are you sitting there, scratching your head, wondering what the hell character mapping is? Well, don’t fret because you’re going to find out in this post!

People love characters that seem real. They don’t want some lame-ass, half-defined, limp page dwellers. They want real breathing characters that will become their mental friends, enemies, or even sometimes, lovers. Some people have the ability to make their characters breathe the real of life naturally, while other don’t have a snowball’s chance in Hell.

I’m here to give you a few tips on how you can make it happen without straining your brain and pulling your hair out.

Character mapping is like an outline of a specific character. (Yes, I said outline. DON’T PANIC!) It’s really easy. Basically, you want to see your character as a real person so you can write them to seem like a real person in your stories – this includes silly quirks or repeated OCD actions. What do I mean by that? Make them a nail biter when they’re nervous, or a fidgeter, something!

Then come other physical aspects: hair color, eye color, height, build, etc. These are all things you might want to know and remember about your character before you slap them willy-nilly into your imaginative world.

What about the character’s past? What has shaped them into who they are? What makes them tick? What makes them react in certain ways in different circumstances?

Did you just say to yourself ‘But s/he’s not real!‘ and think they don’t have a past? KILL THAT CHARACTER, because s/he’s not going to involve your reader in the story. No, I’m not joking. Do it now! Draw him/her on a piece of paper (even if it’s just a stick figure with a name written in crayon above his/her head or under his/her feet) and tear that paper to shreds. S/he’s a story virus! A murder of all things that tug at the heart strings. Done? Good. Let’s move on.

Your character should have a past and a personality all their own. They should have their own voice, and even their own speech mannerisms that are striking to the reader. They should stand out for the others in the story so that if you don’t use a dialogue tag, everyone knows who’s speaking!

Does all this sound complicated yet? I promised simple…didn’t I?

Here’s where it gets really simple: You map each character out. Still scratching your head?

Okay, I’ll break it down for you. Get a piece of paper and a writing utensil: pen, pencil, stub of a crayon. I’ll wait…

Back yet?

Okay. At the top or the paper, write down a character’s name. Anything you want. Oh, make sure to give them a middle name – this adds to the fun. Next, write if they’re male or female, and how old they are. After that, write their hair color, eye color, height, build, etc.

Now…give that character a trait. It can be something like, oh, I don’t know: constantly rubs their nose because they have allergies, or twirls their hair around their finger when bored or thinking. Write that down.

Next, write down the family history of the character. Maybe they were raised by a single parent in a city, or by random creatures of the forest in an alternate universe. Maybe their middle name (especially if it’s weird) is one used often in the family. Write it down.

Once you have most of that planned out, you’re starting to get a feel for your character. Now, here’s a fun part… Have a conversation with your character (aloud or in your head, whichever you’d like). Ask them a question and wait for an answer. No, I’m not crazy – they’ll talk to you. You’ve just painted the picture of them in your head, DUH! Write down the questions and the answers.

Don’t know what to ask? Here’s a couple ‘simple’ ideas… How about: What’s your fav color? What foods absolutely disgust you? Do you like to wear jeans or dress pants? Candy or bubble gum? Do you lose your temper often, or have a cool demeanor?

Ask questions until, or even beyond, the point where that character is no longer just writing on a page, but a real, living, pulsing person.

What are you going to do with this character once they start breathing on their own? Why write them a story of course! Now that you have a clear view of who and what they are, you can make them dance on the pages and they’ll be more real to your readers. I suggest mapping a bunch of characters (you might want to get a notebook just for this, or make a file just for your characters) and keep them on record for future use. Just keep in mind, you don’t have to use all the information you’ve gleaned on your character in the stories you write about them, but you’ll have a clearer picture in your head of who they are, which will allow you to define how they’ll act in certain situations, etc.

I hope you have fun with this process, because it can be a blast to pull a living, breathing person out of thin air and give them a life in your stories.  Happy mapping and writing.

 

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©Rebecca Besser, 2012. All rights reserved.

Creatures of Habit – We Limit Ourselves

I’ve often watched movies or read books of an apocalyptic nature and thought the people in them were rather dumb. Mostly, I think this because they are unable to let go of a loved one who has died or turned into a zombie, or they’re forced to leave their home in search of a safer place. To me it’s pretty cut and dry what needs to be done, and the characters just aren’t doing it. Yesterday, I think I finally figured out what their problem was… They’re creatures of habit like we all are.

Whether we realize it or not, we all have our little routines and daily lives that make us feel comfortable and safe. For a lot of us, if something happens to throw our plans out of whack, we get very upset – angry even. I know I’m one of those people because I like to keep certain things in my schedule organized so things go smoothly. I’m not saying I can’t handle things if plans change, because I can and have many times, but a schedule of sorts helps overall.

The safety and sanity (mental peace) thing doesn’t only come from routines though. It can also come from familiar places, smells, people…just feeling like you’re in the ‘normal’ place for you in life. Each person’s sensory delight is different, and we build on that to make our world. When something or someone that has always been close to us is removed, our minds panic. I think this is why we grieve so strongly for people we love who have been taken from us. Instantly, we lose one of the main structures in our tower of life and we have to readjust everything so it works for us again.

Having been married for 11 years now, I know how one person can mean so much to you. You know their sounds, their smells, their thoughts, and the comfort of having them close. One touch can mean so much when you’re close to someone. If all that is taken away, we freak out inside.

Where we live – our homes – is another major part of who we are and our sanity. We make our homes our place of sanctuary against a world we don’t like or understand. Or maybe we do like and understand it, but have to get away from everything occasionally. If most people would have to leave that safety, I believe it would break them mentally. They aren’t prepared to go out into the unknown and start again with God knows what! I believe this is also what holds people in unhappy marriages or relationships – even though they suck, there’s that security of known verses the unknown. Many people aren’t capable of making the changes that will improve or save their lives. The fact is, most people lack the skills to even know where and/or how to begin to do things they’ve never done before; they don’t have the ability to learn a new pattern for their lives.

With all that being said… I can see why people – usually characters in stories – have some of the issues they have with leaving behind what they know and letting go of those they love. These traits make them more human. The problem for me though, is that I’m a practically minded person and often suppress my emotions to do what my brain tells me is the logical course of action. Of course, this is an ability I’ve built over the years and not everyone has it. I’m more of the ‘do what needs to be done no matter how you feel about it‘ type, but as you can tell from my ramblings above, I can see how people would act otherwise.

All the metaphors in apocalyptic fiction teach us valuable lessons. Because, realistically (cutting out all the emotional turmoil stuff), if humanity is to survive anything of an apocalyptic nature, or just the hardships of a regular life and relationships, people are going to have to learn to adapt to new situations. They’re going to have to step, or even leap, out of their safe, comfortable places to start training themselves for the hardships life can throw at them. Then maybe we’ll grow as people and not be stuck in the same-old-same-old of the comfort zones of life, because they can be very deadly when you need to move on for your own safety.

 

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©Rebecca Besser, 2012. All rights reserved.

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