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Writing Tips

'Cause Every Writer Has an Opinion

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Write Everyday ... The Right Way

Sitting down to the page is often personal. A solitary thing. Just you versus your ability to transcribe your thoughts. It's sometimes elating, sometimes depressing, and sometimes, well, you start to forget why you wanted to do it in the first place.

Around the time I started questioning my own faith, so to speak, I saw that horror master Jack Ketchum was teaching a workshop. I figured what the heck, I'd give it a shot.

Turns out, it was exactly the kick in the butt I needed to get back on track.

This month's Hellnotes article talks a little about the redemptive powers of workshops. More than that, it talks about how writing everyday alone does not help you improve your craft.

You can check it out here: Write Everyday ... The Right Way

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The road to hell is paved with form rejections

This month's Hellnotes article is all about rejection. Sadly, I've become something of an expert in this area, and I'd like to share with you some of my own experiences on what has worked for me over the years.

So grab a cup of coffee, make sure the boss isn't lurking around the corner and enjoy THE ROAD TO HELL IS PAVED WITH FORM REJECTIONS.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

All Hallow's Read

Neil Gaiman has been promoting the idea of giving a scary book to friends and loved ones this Halloween. He's calling it All Hallow's Read.  It's a good idea.

My family and I started this tradition several years ago (though ours has remained nameless until now.) The idea came about because my wife and I wanted our children to read more, and we decided Halloween would be a fun day to celebrate books. In our version any book is acceptable, not just scary stories, though because I have a love for the unquiet coffin, I usually ask for something with an extra helping of blood in it.

If you're looking for some ideas, I'll let you know how we've been doing it:

After we finish decorating for Halloween, we each write our name and a list of five books we want on a piece of paper. Then we fold up our lists and drop them into a cauldron (and here I'd suggest you be as creative as possible. Think HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE.)

Each of us picks a name from the cauldron (without knowing who has who) and buys three of the five books.

We wrap the books up in some fun Halloween paper and place them under a Halloween tree (a poor little dead thing.) Keep in mind: The books also make great decorations while you're waiting to open them.

On All Hallow's Eve we light some pumpkin scented candles, turn off the lights and turn on some creepy music. Then we commence to opening our books (usually with a Dunkin' Donuts Pumpkin Spice coffee in hand.)

What started as a let's-try-it-out sort of thing has turned into a mandatory tradition in my house, and I guarantee your family will love it too.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Give the gift of Garbage this Halloween

For a limited time--or to be more precise, until Halloween--you can get a free copy of GARBAGE, INC. Just click here and use the promo code LU44B to download to your favorite e-thingy.

And while I'm in full salesman mode--excuse me whilst I's adjust my tie--I noticed on B&N's ereader blog they are running an awesome Halloween deal. For just $2.99 each, you can get Brian Keene's DARK HALLOW, Richard Laymon's AFTER MIDNIGHT and John Everson's SIREN.

So there you go, horror fans--three novels and a short story for 10 bucks. That should keep you busy until All Hallow's Eve.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Paying It Forward

While most of my Hellnotes articles provide the individual writer with some fundamental rules for crafting a story, this month's article goes in a different direction by focusing on the horror genre as a community.

With all that doom and gloom thrashing around the publishing world, it's important to remember that the burden is not yours alone. So this month I thought I'd bring attention to how we can help each other in a little article I threw together called Paying it Forward.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Horrorfind Weekend Wrap-Up

Let me start by saying if you're a fan of horror, then you need to attend Horrorfind Weekend. I have never had more fun at a convention of any kind. The celebrities were fantastic--which of course can be said of a lot of conventions--but this one was so laid-back it was surreal.

I knew it was going to be that way once I got on the elevator and standing next to me was George Romero.

Or perhaps it was when I went into the lounge and saw Jack Ketchum.

Oh, now I remember. It was when I went to get a bite to eat, and sitting next to me was Brian Keene.

And every single one of them was so nice and approachable.

There were far too many highlights to single out one, but I did enjoy the authors' panel: I Will Not Apologize For Art. The veterans offered great insight into the craft of writing and the business--the hell with horror stories, just have one of these guys talk to you about the publishing industry and you won't be able to sleep for a week.

Once I fed my inner geek, and I remembered I was actually there to do a reading, I was amazed at how organized and accommodating everything was for the authors. Brian Keene and the staff at Horrorfind went above and beyond to make sure we were treated just as well as the other celebrities.

Thank you guys for all your hard work.

Then came my reading. Let me tell you, I'm usually a puddle of panic when it comes to public speaking of any kind. My thinking was, Well, I'm at a horror convention, so if I puke during my reading, maybe everyone will think it's part of the act. But the audience was wonderful and very supportive, and to be honest, I don't think I completely sucked. If I get the opportunity, I'll try to upload the audio file for anyone who wants it.

I want to give a special thanks to those of you who came to my reading. There were a lot of better things to do at Horrorfind, and for you to take time to listen to little-old me ... Thank You!

I would like to submit one complaint, however. It was near impossible to get a drink with Freddy and Jason slicing up all the bartenders....

Monday, August 30, 2010

Horrorfind Weekend Update; New Short Story Now Available

Horrorfind Weekend is almost upon us. So if you live near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, or you got a hankerin' for a road trip, come check it out. It'll be going on Sept 3-5. My reading is scheduled for somewhere between 1:00pm and 2:00pm on the 5th.

This year I'll be reading Garbage, Inc., a heart-warming tale about a man, his dead prostitute and a mysterious garbage man. If you'd like to check out the story now, it's available for just one dollar at these fine locations--

Looking forward to seeing you all there....

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Horrorfind Weekend Update

I've been busy lately preparing for my reading at Horrorfind Weekend (now only 22 days away), trying to get my story all neat and tidy, which includes, among other things:
  • Compacting the story I'll be reading, so it doesn't go over my allotted 15 minutes
  • Practicing voices in the mirror (which I should record and post; it is a rather comical sight)
  • Rewriting entire chunks that worked okay on paper, but really suck when read aloud
So what story will I be reading? Here's a hint. One of the links to your right no longer works.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

For those who need a break from it all

April 2010: A time when the weather was cool and comfortable, when the barrage of snow finally seemed to be drawing to a close, when the BP oil disaster was still in its infancy... And when I originally published Replenishing Your Creative Well.

I'd like to bring us back to those simpler, less oily times once again ... Enter cheesy time-warp effects here.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Another one of those pesky articles

Another month goes by, another Hellnotes article goes up. Need a refresher on those five narrative parts that make up a story? You can get your learn on here:

The Five Narrative Modes of Fiction

And don't forget: Horrorfind Weekend is creeping up, now only 39 days away. Do you have your tickets yet? I've heard the first hotel is sold out, but there are still rooms available at the sister hotel next door ... at least for now.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy J4

Monday, June 28, 2010

Dead Ends & Unearthing Resonance: The Return

This month I thought I'd bring another how-to article back from the dead. Well, it's not actually dead, and it never really lived ... And what the hell am I talking about?

Anyways, here for your eyeballing pleasure is Dead Ends & Unearthing Resonance, a touching romantic comedy that is sure to lighten the heart.

And as always, I'd like to thank the folks at Hellnotes for letting me push my drivel on them first. The original article is still available there, along with more great horror news and reviews.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Time to get edumacated

My latest article, which is all about pacing yourself, is now available on Hellnotes.

You can check it out here:

On Pacing

Friday, June 11, 2010

Just living the dream ...

What three days of writing in a hotel room in Minneapolis looks like ...

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Horrorfind Weekend ... It's Official

You probably thought this year's Horrorfind Weekend couldn't get any bigger. With horror icons like George Romero, Bruce Campbell and Doug Bradley lurking about; and authors like Clive Barker, Jack Ketchum, Joe R. Lansdale and Brian Keene* feeding sweet madness into the recesses of the mind, what more could you possibly ask for ...?

Well, ME!

Yup, this year I get put on the chopping block. I'll be performing a reading on Sunday, September 5, from 1pm to 2pm, so if you're in the area, stop on by and check it out.

Here's the full schedule:


5:30pm – 6:30pm: Greg Lamberson and Jason Gehlert
6:30pm – 7:30pm: Mark Justice and Brian J. Hatcher
7:30pm – 8:30pm: Norman Prentiss and Kelli Owen
8:30pm – 10:00pm: Panel: “Vampires Don’t Sparkle” – Joe Garden, Janet Ginsburg, J. F. Gonzalez, Monica J. O’Rourke.


10:30am – 11:30am William Carl, Amy Grech and Lesley Conner
11:30am – 12:30pm Thomas F. Monteleone and Matthew Warner
12:30pm – 1:30pm: Brian Keene and Bryan Smith
1:30pm – 2:30pm Joe R. Lansdale and Chet Williamson
2:30pm – 3:30pm Jack Ketchum and Monica J. O’Rourke
3:30pm – 4:30pm Ronald Malfi, Gord Rollo and Kim Paffenroth
4:30pm – 5:30pm The Bizarro Power Hour: Andersen Prunty, Jordan Krall, Eric Mays and D. Harlan Wilson.
5:30pm – 7:00pm Black Bed Sheets Meet & Greet: Meet the publisher, editor and authors of Black Bed Sheets Books.

*5:30pm – 7:00pm Panel: “I Will Not Apologize For Art” – Clive Barker, Joe R. Lansdale, Jack Ketchum, Brian Keene, Bryan Smith, J.F. Gonzalez, Chet Williamson, Thomas F. Monteleone.


11pm – Noon: Robert Ford, Kevin Lucia and Sheldon S. Higdon
Noon – 1:00pm: The Dru and Lu Show
1:00pm – 2:00pm: Jacob Haddon, Robert Gray and Nathan Rosen
2:00pm – 3:00pm Lisa Manetti and Charles Colyott

*A very special thanks to Brian Keene for putting this schedule together.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

13 Tips for Writing Horror Fiction

It's that time of the month again.  Of course, I'm talking about my latest Hellnotes article, which is now available for your reading pleasure. Check it out.

13 Tips for Writing Horror Fiction

This blog entry is in no way affiliated with the movie poster for Friday the 13 or Paramount or Jason Voorhees. I simply needed the number 13 and it was just too easy to take ... Like stealing candy from a homicidal maniac.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Those things that refuse to remain dead and buried

While Hellnotes will continue to receive all of my how-to articles first (in fact my latest should be available tomorrow), I'll be putting some of the older ones on Scribd.

The first one, The Three Requirements of Dialogue, is available now.

The Three Requirements of Dialogue

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Replenishing Your Creative Well

This month's how-to article is now available on Hellnotes. It's all about how to keep your creative gas tank full, so you don't get stranded in that wrong part of town known as writer's block.

As always, if you have a suggestion on why you like the article, or why you think I have no idea what I'm talking about, please drop me a comment here or on Hellnotes.

Replenishing Your Creative Well

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A Brief Interlude

Last week I got the chance to see the Grand Canyon. It was my first visit, and though I've seen it at least a hundred times in pictures--and I had a good idea of what to expect--I was still completely and totally amazed. It was like I had been transported to Ray Bradbury's Mars or Frank Herbert's Arrakis.

Anyways, here's some more pics...

Even more amazing than the canyon was this dinosaur made of giant steel chains, which would fall into the category of Huh? Where'd that come from?

The Latest Results Are In ... FORM REJECTION

I've been spending a lot of time lately submitting out various works to agents and small presses, and I've been gathering an impressive amount of rejections. (Hell, I think I even sent my wife a query on what's for dinner, and that one got rejected, too.) Of all the rejections, though, the malodorous form rejection is the one that really stinks up my inbox. It is a reminder that you're just bothering someone and they need to swat you away with a generic letter that has all the charm of slap in the face.

For anyone trying to be a writer, rejections are an all too dismal reminder that a very small percentage of us succeed, and an even smaller percentage of us can sustain a career.

One look at this month's submissions, and part of me starts thinking about that minuscule percentage of writers that succeed, while another part of me thinks about all those writers that managed to beat the curve. Eventually I forgot about that small percentage and focus on those curve beaters. I like to think of myself as one day being a curve beater, and maybe that's why I keep on keepin' on.

Or maybe it's because I have short-term memory, and I forget about all those rejections.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Dead Ends & Unearthing Resonance

My latest article is available on Hellnotes. This month's topic is on how to make your endings resonate with your readers. So pop on over and check it out:

Dead Ends & Unearthing Resonance

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Some Gum under the Desk

Over the weekend, I saw Tim Burton's updated version of Alice in IMAX 3D, and I was sadly disappointed. Visually the movie was stunning; the actors performed well enough; and through a good part of the beginning, I thought for sure Burton hit this one out of the park. Unfortunately, it was just a long foul ball. By the middle of the movie, the plot had become hardly serviceable, and the characters were losing their luster. By the end, I felt cheated and annoyed.

I have to wonder, though, if it was even Burton's idea to have a third-act battle. It seemed so pointless to the story that it reeked of some uncreative think tank crying out, "We have to have a war scene! People love a good war scene! Think of the children, man! Look at Lord of the Rings ... at Avatar!"

I did, however, enjoy the trailer for Tron Legacy, which surprised me because I didn't care for the original movie or the game. It was the soundtrack and the lightcycle scene at the end that left the biggest impression on me ... I amuse easily that way.

Here's the trailer if you haven't seen it.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Scribd Goes Mobile

Scribd has started a new service that allows you to send any of their more than 10 million documents directly to your choice e-reader or smartphone.

Here's the details from Publishers Weekly:

Scribd's Going Mobile, Moves to Open Content

And lookey here ... I have some free short stories that are available on Scribd for you to try:

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Three Requirements of Dialogue

My latest how-to article is now available on Hellnotes. This month's topic is all about dialogue, which I cover in more detail than a normal person really should.

Check it out, and let me know what you think:

The Three Requirements of Dialogue

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Some Stuff

I spent the past weekend in Manhattan, visiting family and enjoying the sights. I had the pleasure of taking my daughter to see Neil Gaiman perform with the Knickerbocker Chamber Orchestra. They did a rendition of Sergei Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf. It was a wonderful production, and my daughter and I enjoyed it very much.

After dropping the kiddies off, we headed over to Keat's on 2nd Ave for some cocktails and karaoke. If you missed my butchering of Empire State of Mind, then you missed a real treat. Oddly enough, I've frequented Keat's plenty of times, but this was the first time I realized that right next store is the steak house Palm Too. Haven't heard of it? It's the restaurant Stephen King refers to in On Writing when he discusses description. What a weird and smallish world.


Happy 201st Birthday, Edgar Allan Poe. Some articles of interest regarding His birthday.

Nevermore? Mystery birthday visitor to Poe grave is no-show, breaking tradition

Poe and the Philadelphia Gothic: An Interview with Ed "Philly Poe Guy" Pettit

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A New Gig

It's official. Meet the newest writer for the Bram Stoker Award-winning newsletter Hellnotes. The title of my monthly column is Gray Matter, and it will focus on the craft of writing horror fiction, a subject I absolutely love to discuss. I've recently submitted my first article, and it may be available as soon as tomorrow for your viewing pleasure. I'll post it on the right under a section called Gray Matter when it becomes available.

If there are some particular subjects you would like me to focus on, please let me know.

I suggest you include Hellnotes into whatever your choice RSS reader is, but I'll also be posting the articles on this blog, as they become available of course.


During the Great Blog Shift, I forgot to put back those free short stories available on Scribd. They're back.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Typewriters vs. Computers

I imagine you're all busy sticking to your resolutions, Dear Readers, so I'll keep this post short and with a sugar substitute.

I've managed to plow through the first draft of my apocalypse novel, and though there's some good stuff there, most of it won't make the second draft. Better stated: My first draft is Crap. That's okay though. It's how I write. Some writers can put down a first draft that is almost complete. Look at Kurt Vonnegut. Guy would only write a page or two a day, but when the manuscript was finished, the book was finished. And while Vonnegut is an exception, I sometimes wonder if his discipline, at least in part, comes from a typewritten mindset. My first two drafts, sometimes even the third, are complete rewrites. By about the third cut I got something I can work with. I can't say for sure why that is, but I suspect it has to do with the ease in which manuscripts can be edited on a computer versus a typewriter. Maybe the seduction of the keystrokes, like some writers suggest. Or perhaps a computer is like a thruway, and a typewriter is like a horse & buggy. You can drive the same thruway a hundred times before you realize you pass an airport. On horse and buggy you know the color of every stone you pass.

So what do you think, Dear Reader?

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