So, you just finished a short story. It might be a short story or a novel. Either way, it’s finished and you love it! You think it’s great, that it has potential, that it could even get published somewhere. Hell, you even dream of it getting awards and adaptation offers and so much more! With all that in mind, what do you do with this awesome story of yours?

If you said, “Rush to get it published,” I’m only going to say that that’s not the answer I was going for. If, however, you said “I’m going to get a beta reader or two to look at the story,” then congratulations! You got the answer I was going for.

As you likely already know, beta readers are readers who look at a story somewhere along the editing process and give critiques and feedback. They may also give help with the spelling/grammar/punctuation issues of the story, depending on what they can offer. And over the past year or two, I’ve made sure to use beta readers for every one of my short stories.

Let’s face it, authors can be our own worst critics, and our own worst editors. We can see a lot, but occasionally things slip by our notice. In fact, a lot of things can slip by our notice. Typos, plot holes, inconsistencies in character development or backstory, implausible situations or things that don’t jive with reality. Beta readers point out things authors miss, or don’t want to think of as problems because they love their stories too much (it happens).

Take my recently-completed short story Afternoon Tea, the one about the cursed silent film. I found two beta readers who were willing to read the story and give me feedback. Both of them got back to me really quickly, and they said the story had a lot of potential and that they liked it. They did, however, both notice something that made no sense to them. One actually wrote quite a bit in their notes about why that plot point made no sense or was confusing.

Seeing that they both mentioned it made me realize that they had a point. That single plot point did have its issues. I had to take it out, which made me realize I needed to rewrite that section of the story. Which I was able to do with a bit of brainstorming. And I think it makes for a much better story. One of those same beta readers has already gotten back to me about the second draft and said there’s a lot of improvement, so listening to them was a good decision.

Not only that, but sometimes beta readers bring their own life experiences to help improve a story. Earlier this year I wrote a short story called Primordial Nuclear Soup, which involved a number of military characters. My beta reader happened to be a veteran, so in addition to pointing out numerous flaws with the early draft, they gave me their military experience to help with those characters and scenes.

Without the strong eye of a beta reader, you can miss much. Photo by Wallace Chuck on Pexels.com

None of this stuff I would have known or spotted without the help of my beta readers.

Of course, you do meet the occasional beta reader who turns out to not be so helpful. They send back a lot of praise for the story, but they don’t point out that much that you don’t realize needs fixing. Which can be an issue further down the line when you’re trying to get the story published. What can I say? The majority of them are human (I’m an exception).

But after a while, you do figure out how to spot a helpful beta reader from an unhelpful one. It usually shows in the notes they send back. If that happens, keep looking for more beta readers. You eventually will find someone who can give you the feedback you’re looking for. And sometimes, you even create a circle of beta readers who will gladly look at your work when you need them to and provide the feedback you need. When you do that, you know you’re in good hands.

Suffice to say, beta readers are a great help in making sure your stories are the best they can be. It may not be easy seeing all the problems in a story you’ve poured sweat and tears into, but in the end, listening to them and fixing the story based on what they said helps out immensely.

“Mother of the King.” Available Dec. 1st

Getting the stories published afterwards, however….that’s another fight altogether.

What are your experiences with beta readers like? How have they been helpful with your storytelling endeavors? Let’s discuss.

And before I forget, my Arthurian fantasy story “Mother of the King” releases day-after-tomorrow! If you haven’t preordered a copy of the ebook yet, you can check it out with the links below! Believe me, both beta readers and eARC readers have been raving about this story, so why not check it out? And if you do, let me know what you think. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the story.

Mother of the King: Amazon US, Amazon CAN, Amazon UK

Audible company logo.

If you’re not familiar with Audible and Audiobook Creation Exchange (aka ACX), let me fill you in. Audible is Amazon’s audio book wing. They distribute thousands of audio books and have just as many subscribers (I’ve been one since 2015). ACX is part of Audible: it’s a places where authors and publishers can hook up with narrators, produce audio books, and then upload them to Audible.

With me so far?

Recently, Audible and ACX have been in a bit of hot water. It’s come to the attention of several authors that Audible has a rather questionable policy on the books. Audible Premium Plus subscribers have the option to exchange an audio book they’ve bought through their subscription within 365 days of purchase! And get this: if an audio book is exchanged within that time frame, the authors or publishers get their royalties deducted for it!

You read that right: somebody can exchange any audio book they buy within a year of purchasing, and the author gets punished for it.

Most people’s reactions to the exchange policy abuse. Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

And lately, this has become a huge problem. Many authors, mostly indie authors, have noticed an increase in exchanges and deducted royalties over the past several months, In fact, some have speculated that use of the exchange policy–or should I say abuse of the exchange policy?–has boomed because Audible’s been using the policy in some of their advertising to attract new members.

Spurred by reports of this, the Authors Guild, along with a whole bunch of other author organizations, have drafted a letter to Audible and ACX to get them to, among other things, change the policy and create a more reasonable exchange policy. At the time I’m writing this, the letter has over twelve thousand signatures, and it’s still growing. To quote the letter,

This policy is in clear breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing implied in the authors’ agreements with Audible and ACX as it allows books to be purchased and listened to without paying the authors and narrators their royalties.

Authors Guild Letter to Audible and ACX

Now, I have only have Rose‘s audio book on Audible, and so far as I know, it hasn’t suffered from this exchange policy much. However, I have heard from a couple of colleagues, including some I consider good friends, who are upset by the policy and are considering pulling their works from Audible and ACX because of the policy.

And even if I didn’t know anyone affected by this policy, once I learned about it, it was hard for me to sit still. This is a terrible policy that hurts authors and publishers alike! These are the people that Amazon needs to continue selling through Audible, and yet they treat them this way?

And why is the exchange window a year long to begin with? That’s a terrible business strategy. Can you imagine if a hardware store allowed you to exchange a tool within a year, even if it’s likely been used? Or a shoe store? Or a computer business? They’d be out of business within a year with a policy like that! What the hell, Amazon?

The letter I received from Audible about the change in the exchange policy. Feel free to enlarge and read it in full.

Thankfully, it seems that news of the abuse and the letter made Audible realize their mistake. While they’ve defended the policy, saying that they do monitor for abuse and that such abuse is rare, they are changing the policy effective January 1st. After that, the exchange window is limited to 7 days, and Audible will pay for any exchanges made after that timeframe. They later confirmed this in an email to ACX creators, which I got as well.

And that is good. That is a good change. It’s harder to abuse an exchange policy limited to only a week instead of a year. Still, some aren’t satisfied. In fact, the Authors Guild letter suggests shortening the window to 48 hours. And I like that idea: not only is it even harder to listen to multiple audio books over the course of two days than it is to do over a week, but it should be easier to spot abuse when an account is making multiple exchanges within a two day period.

So, what can you do? Well, you can sign the letter, which at the time of writing is only 440 signatures away from the Authors Guild’s goal. Even if Audible has changed the policy, every signature is a reminder to the company that this sort of malarkey won’t be tolerated by the very people the company needs for products if it continues.

You can also share with other authors and readers. The more people who are informed about the issue, the more people who will be weary and on the lookout for policies and abuse like this. People, and companies, are more likely to be better behaved if they know they’re being watched and kept under pressure.

And finally, if you have or plan on getting an Audible subscription, don’t be the kind of subscriber who does this sort of crap. I’ve only exchanged a book on Audible once, and that was because I thought it was one kind of story, and it turned out to be another. Otherwise, I would never rob another writer of royalties! Instead, keep the book once you buy it, and wait for your next credit. Don’t make someone else lose money just because you want more listening material!

And if Audible doesn’t address the problem, maybe consider giving up your membership. Yeah, it’ll suck to not get that credit for an audio book each month, but it’ll sure send a message to Audible.

And if you do enjoy an audio book purchased through Audible, make sure to review or at least rate it afterwards. Trust me, ratings and reviews left by readers help both new readers and the writers who put their books on the site. I speak from personal experience on that!

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Thank you for reading this far and giving a damn about this problem. I hope you’ll consider helping out authors and stopping abuse of Audible’s exchange policy.

Until next time, Happy Thanksgiving and pleasant nightmares!

Time is flying by, so I’m writing a reminder to you all. As you probably know, I’m releasing my fantasy novelette “Mother of the King” on December 1st as an ebook exclusive. Which, as you’re probably aware, is a week from today.

For those of you who don’t know, “Mother of the King” is a take on Arthurian legend. It talks about the fabled return of King Arthur, told from the point of view of Arthur’s mother. It’s the result of my months of diving into Arthurian legend and history in 2018, and I’m looking forward to seeing what people think of it.

And yeah, I know it’s not horror, but I like to jump outside the box every now and then.

And apparently it wasn’t a waste of time doing so. While I haven’t gotten any full reviews yet, I’ve heard back from some of the advanced readers and they’ve apparently loved the story. I look forward to hearing what their full feedback says, as well as how many of them learned something new about Arthurian legend (trust me, when you dive as deep as I did, you learn some things that make you look at it in a whole different light).

If you would like to check out “Mother of the King,” it’s available for pre-order now. I’ll include the links below. You can also take a look at my other available work–The Quite Game, Snake and Rose–if you like. I’ll include those links as well.

And if you do decide to read my work, I hope you’ll leave a review. Not only do reviews tell me how my audiences reacted to my story, but they help me out in the long run and let people know whether or not to check the story out themselves.

Anyway, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m sure I’ll be putting out another post soon. In the meantime though, I’m off to turn people into turkeys (I won’t say who, only that they deserve it).

Until next time, Happy Thanksgiving and pleasant nightmares!

Mother of the King: Amazon US, Amazon CAN, Amazon UK

The Quiet Game: Five Tales to Chill Your Bones: Amazon, Createspace, Barnes & Noble, iBooksSmashwords, and Kobo.

Snake: AmazonCreatespace, Barnes & Noble, iBooksSmashwords, and Kobo

Rose:  Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, Audible

Tell me, where would you put Godzilla in this classification system?

For a while now, I’ve been thinking of the different kinds of antagonists in horror stories. Not divided by type, but by level of threat. What do I mean by this? I mean, aren’t all antagonists in horror stories a threat? I mean, it is horror!

Well, yes. But how big that threat is can vary from story to story, and can even influence what kind of tropes and stakes we can expect in the stories. To further illustrate this, let me categorize the level of threats using Starbucks sizes: Tall, Grande, and Venti. Yes, I know they have a Short size and a Trenta size, but I don’t know anyone who uses them. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the cups for those sizes.

Also, Starbucks, please don’t sue me. I’m just using your sizes to help illustrate a point.

Getting sidetracked. Let’s start talking about the levels of threat, starting from biggest to smallest.

Venti: While all horror antagonists are a threat to the protagonist(s), the Venti-level threats are usually threats to many or all people. Cosmic entities like Cthulhu or the Devil in stories taking place during the Apocalypse usually rank this high. They’re a threat to all life or to all we hold dear, and the suffering they could induce if they succeed would be terrible.

This level can also apply to threats like Pennywise, aka IT. While he’s restricted to the town of Derry, Maine, he’s responsible for countless deaths since the 17th century. Even when he’s not active, his influence over the town of Derry is such that he controls it at all times, causes all sorts of horrors while sleeping. IT is Derry. Thank goodness his children didn’t get anywhere, am I right?

Bughuul from Sinister is a great example of a Grande-level villain

Grande: An antagonist of this size may be a threat to many people, but they’re not as all powerful or have such sweeping implications as a Venti-level threat. Still, you wouldn’t want to cross one of these guys if you ended up in their stories.

An example of a Grande-level threat would be Leland Gaunt from Needful Things. A demonic figure who looks at things from a business-like perspective, any town he comes to faces annihilation once he sets up shop. Half of Castle Rock either ended up dead or blown up because of him, after all.

Another example might be Bughuul from the movie Sinister, a Babylonian deity that eats children. Throughout the centuries, he’s manipulated children into killing their families so he could eat their souls. Anywhere he goes, you can expect blood and death to follow. He’s definitely no small potatoes, though he doesn’t warrant the same level of panic as a Venti-level threat might.

Tall: While they may be the on the lowest level of horror antagonist, that doesn’t mean you should relax. In fact, these villains tend to be much more personal than the likes of Bughuul or Cthulhu.

Tall-level villains may only be a threat to the protagonist and a few others, but they bring with them the power to destroy everything the protagonist holds dear. Demons seeking to possess a soul, vengeful ghosts, stalkers and serial killers focused on one particular victim, cursed objects, etc. They may not be seeking to end the world or blow up a town, but they will destroy the protagonist’s happiness and sanity for their own goals.

I would even include the Overlook Hotel in this category. It may be powerful and evil, but it’s only able to be so in the presence of someone with the shining, and then it only seeks to add the shining to its own power so it can be active more often. In the novel’s case, it breaks down Jack and terrorizes Danny to make them more vulnerable and ultimately to possess the former and kill the latter.

Like I said, what they’re missing in power or scope of threat, they make up for in how personal they are.


This, ladies and gentlemen, is a way to classify the threat level of horror villains.

Where does Jason fit on this scale? It’s not easy to tell.

That being said, it’s not perfect. What villains belong where is entirely dependent on who’s doing the categorizing. Is a slasher villain like Jason Voorhees a Grande because he has a particular hunting area and has killed many over the decades? Or is he a Tall because he’s only a threat if you step into his territory? And this doesn’t even cover stories like Gerald’s Game, where there is no antagonist but a pair of handcuffs and the protagonist’s own psyche. Even the Space Cowboy who visits her doesn’t really threaten her. He’s more of a reflection of her own terrors who turns out to be a real person than anything else.

So why do I write all this, if it’s not a flawed system? I do it because it’s not to categorize the villains themselves, but the stories they belong to. A story with a Tall villain is much more character-focused and can often lean into the character’s mindset. A story with a Venti-sized villain often requires the story to encompass a huge cast, lots of locations, and putting an entire population at risk. A Grande may straddle the line of the other categories, while also having varying kill counts depending on what the story requires.

In a way, The Starbucks Levels of Antagonism (copyright pending), are like the Bechdel or Mako Mori tests: exercises to examine stories, the decisions made while creating them, and how you can learn from them. And given the nature of fiction writing, as well as how difficult it is to categorize fiction like a scientific system, that’s probably for the best.

Thanks for giving me a chance to air some thoughts, Followers of Fear. I’m off to figure out where on this system I belong. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

Do any of you remember back in April, when an incident occurred near my building that the cops had to be called to take care of? And I got so inspired by it, I used it as the basis of a short story? One that I wrote in one whole evening without getting out of my chair till the story was done?

Don’t worry if you don’t. My memory has faded as well.

I bring it up because yesterday, something similar happened. No, there wasn’t an incident in my neighborhood that required the police (not that I know of, anyway). But I had a sudden flash of inspiration, and knew I had to write the story immediately. The result was six hours or so at the writing desk working on a new short story. I was done at three in the morning (I was a wreck at work today).

Anyway, onto the story, which I named Le The de l’apres-midi. Yes, I gave the story a French title. I am that pretentious. I was going to name it, “That Feeling You Can Only Say in French,” but Stephen King beat me to it, so I settled on Le The de l’apres-midi, which means “afternoon tea.”

Maybe I should just call it that.

Where was I? Oh right, the story is about a film society that gets its hands on the only extant copy of a surrealist silent short film, Le The de l’apres-midi. This film is infamous as it was considered so disturbing, its director was expelled from the surrealist movement of the 1920s. The members of the film society soon learn that not only is this reputation well-deserved, but the copy the society has may be something sinister in and of itself.

The story was inspired by Un Chien Andou, or The Andalusian Dog, a short surrealist film by Luis Burkel and Salvador Dali. A YouTuber I follow recommended it as a lesser-known disturbing piece of horror cinema, and while I didn’t find myself terrified by it, I did find some moments scary and slightly upsetting. It probably didn’t help that I was eating dinner while watching it.

Anyway, the film inspired the short story, and I started writing. At the end, it was just under thirty-eight hundred words. And next…well, I think I may give it a round of edits before I let a beta reader see it. Maybe it’s because I was up past midnight and rushing so I could get to bed, but I feel like the ending needs a few tweaks. Maybe a bit more fleshing out and a much more dramatic conclusion. We’ll see when I get to it.

Mother of the King. Releases December 1st, 2020.

For now though, I have a beer I’d like to pour, and a new project I need to get to work on. And then I’m getting some sleep so I’m not a wreck tomorrow at work. Wish me luck.

Oh, and before I forget, my fantasy story “Mother of the King,” about the woman who raises the returning King Arthur, will be released two weeks from today as an e-book exclusive. If you’re interested to check it out, click the link and you can place a preorder now. Or you can check out all my available stories on Amazon through my author page. Checking out my work not only helps me out, but it might make for a good read or for a relative/friend this holiday season. So why not?

Well, that’s all for now. Until next time, my Followers of Fear, pleasant nightmares!

I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz about this film. It’s from the same director as the Happy Death Day films and has a talented cast. Plus, the trailer looked great. Even my dad, who is never interested in horror that I haven’t personally written, was interested in it! So, while the theaters are still open, I went to go and see it.

A horror-comedy mashup of Freaky Friday and the Friday the 13th films, Freaky follows Millie Kessler, a quiet teenage girl whose life was already difficult. But then the Blissfield Butcher, a local serial killer, goes after her. What happens next causes Millie to magically switch bodies with the Butcher. So now, while stuck in the body of a middle-aged murderer, she must figure out a way to get her body back before the Butcher uses it to massacre everyone she knows and loves.

This film is bloody bonkers fun!

I think the film’s strongest point are its main players. Vince Vaughn has a history with comedies, and he does a great job pretending to be teenage girl stuck in the body of a serial killer. It’s crazy how believable he is! Kathryn Newton, who’s had roles in Supernatural and Detective Pikachu, is essentially playing three different girls: shy girl, serial killer pretending to be a shy girl, and badass girl. It’s really cool to see her with that range.

In fact, the whole cast is great. They all have a great chemistry and even the least developed characters are quite likable thanks to their actors. Though I enjoyed seeing some of the assholes get their just desserts.

And from that, let’s move onto the horror. Well, I wasn’t exactly terrified. There’s not much atmosphere, and most of the scares come from jumpscares. That being said, there are quite a few inventive kills that I liked, and the more slasher-y bits of the film were a lot of fun. And in the slasher genre, if you can’t be scary, then being fun is a good second.

As for the comedy, it was kind of hit-or-miss. Most of the misses came from swearing and dirty humor, which I’ve come to think of as scraping the bottom of the barrel. “Ooh, we’re saying bad words and making references to a natural part of the human experience that society gets really uptight about! We’re so funny and edgy!”

Moments like this, where Vaughn makes the most of the premise, are where the humor shines.

The really funny parts come from Vince Vaughn making the most of his character’s situation. The theater was in hysterics whenever Vaughn was commenting on the oddities of being a man, or getting into situations where, out of context, would look totally crazy. There’s a scene involving Vaughn and the love interest in the back of the car that had me laughing so hard, my glasses fogged up (I was wearing a mask)!

Of course, Freaky isn’t perfect. As I said, the film has some misses in the humor department. Also, the method by which the characters magically switch bodies is oddly specific and leaves a lot of questions. Maybe they’re planning on answering those in a theoretical sequel (because of course that’s always a consideration with movies these days), but with just one film, it makes me raise an eyebrow.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving Freaky a 4.5. It’s a fun slasher film that makes the most out of its concept and has some good laughs. Even those who don’t like horror-comedies or horror in general should enjoy themselves.

Speaking of which, Abba: if you go see this film, give me a call afterwards and let me know what you think. I’m very curious to hear what you think.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m off to sleep and then work on my various projects. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

The cover for Mother of the King. What do you think?

In my post yesterday, I announced that I would be releasing some of my shorter stories as e-book exclusives, and that I would hopefully have one out before the end of the year. Well, it happened quicker than expected, but I’m pleased to announce that “Mother of the King,” a novelette I wrote back in 2018, will be the first one released.

And guess what else? It’s already available for preorder!

But before we get into that, let’s discuss “Mother of the King.” For those of you who aren’t familiar, it’s about King Arthur. Specifically, it’s about his prophesied return, told from the point-of-view of the woman who gives birth to the once and future king.

So yeah, more fantasy than horror. And it has a dash of science fiction in there too. But who says I have to box myself in? Besides, it’s the most edited of my shorter stories, so I figured this would be a good one to start with.

Anyway, the story will be released December 1st, 2020 on Amazon, and it’s available for preorder. I’m hoping you’ll click on the link below and consider preordering it. And if you do read “Mother of the King,” I hope you’ll consider leaving a review. Not only will your downloads and reviews let me know what you think, but they’ll let me know if I should keep doing this throughout next year.

And it lets me know that people other than my parents and my Uncle Arthur are reading the story.

Anyway, I’ll post the link below and start up the marketing machine. I hope you’re as excited as I am for this release. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

Mother of the King’s Amazon page

One piece of writing advice I don’t often seen given is that you sometimes need to change what you’re doing. I don’t mean you need to abandon your projects to embrace a new genre or resort to crazy gimmicks like dancing in the middle of the road and passing flyers out to passing drivers about your book/website (though that does sound memorable). It’s just that sometimes, if a particular method for getting your work out there doesn’t work, it can be a good idea to examine what you’re doing and maybe make some changes.

I’ve been examining my own methods as of late, and given my own goals in the short-term and long-term, I’ve made a decision regarding my short(er) stories. While I’ll still attempt to get some of these stories published in magazines and anthologies, I’ll also be releasing some of those stories as e-book exclusives.

That’s right. There’s going to be a lot more stories of mine available now. In fact, I plan on releasing one before the end of the year, and then releasing two or three throughout 2021.

The reasons why I’m doing this are many, so I’m not going to bore you with the details. But the main reason is that I want more people to be exposed to my work, and the industry as it is now allows me to be a gatekeeper alongside publishers, so why not take advantage of that?

But wait, there’s more! I also plan to release print versions of the stories. These stories will be available as little booklets (or chapbooks, as they’re known in the industry, and I’ll have to write a blog post about those someday), and they’ll be available at events like conventions and book expos. This means anyone who has a physical copy of one of these stories will have a special, exclusive piece of fiction memorabilia!

And who knows? If these stories do well both as e-books and as booklets, then I might produce audio versions, or maybe put them out as collections. That might be fun to do. Especially if there’s a demand for it.

I hope to have an announcement out about which short story will be released first. I’ve already selected the story, but I want to give it another edit and create a cover first. So, that’s the big project today. Hopefully soon I’ll be able to post an announcement and a release date, as well as get the marketing machine up and running again.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll be back before too long, believe me. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

Also, a big thank you to our troops, both past and present, for their sacrifice and service. We here in the United States would not enjoy the freedom we do without you, and we can’t thank you enough for what you’ve done. May the memory of your great deeds live throughout time and remind us to never take what we have for granted.

Photo by Dmitry Demidov on Pexels.com

I know it feels weird to interrupt the partying and celebration with discussion of writing. But after today’s news, and after a hell of a week, I feel so energized to write. With that in mind, I finished the outline of my next story today, and I’m looking forward to starting it. So, I shall take a moment of your time to talk about writing.

As I said, I just finished an outline for a new story. And, as you can guess from the title of this post, it’s going to have two protagonists. Or, to be more specific, it’s going to be told from the points-of-views of two protagonists. One is a US Army major who has had his fair share of combat experiences. The other is a thirteen-year-old runaway who just happens to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. I can’t say more than that.

Now, plenty of stories are told from multiple points-of-view. All you have to do is look at the typical bookshelf full of fiction tomes and you’ll find at least three or four books where we see events from the perspectives of two or more characters. But then there are stories where you take for granted that the story is told that way. And then there are stories where you remember how perspectives differed from character to character. Where the multiple POVs is a main feature of the story.

It’s that sort of story I’m aiming to create.

The Bartimaeus books by Jonathan Stroud. Great example of this kind of distinctive-voice storytelling.

Thankfully, I’ve had plenty of teachers over the years with this sort of storytelling. From the (sadly underrated) dark fantasy series The Bartimaeus Trilogy to the literary satirical comedy that is The Falls by George Saunders (read that short story for two separate classes at OSU, and it’s still good), the strong voices of each narrator has a profound impact on the reader. By the time the story ends, you feel like you didn’t just read a story. You read a story and got to know these characters intimately.

That’s what I hope to do. I’m going to be switching between POVs nearly every chapter, and I have to make each protagonist’s voice as distinct as possible. It’s going to be a challenge. I’ve written several stories told from the POVs of multiple characters before. Every author has at least once. But often, it reads like variations of the author’s normal writing voice.

Take IT, for example. There are multiple characters in that story, and many of them get to tell things from their POV. Plus, King narrates things for a few chapters, especially in the early parts of the book when Georgie and the young gay couple are attacked. And it’s a great book with great and memorable characters. But you wouldn’t call every narrator/POV character distinctive from the rest, would you?

Well, that’s my challenge with this story.* With any luck, I can take what I’ve learned from the stories I’ve read and apply it to this next story. Thankfully, there’s only two protagonists, so that should help. (Actually, that might be an important ingredient, having only two leads. Keeps things simpler).

But all that starts tomorrow. For now though, I’m off to shower, pour some wine, watch a scary movie, and dance to “The Touch” by Stan Bush (great song from the 1980s to listen to right now). Until next time, my Followers of Fear, party hard and pleasant nightmares.

What are your tips for creating multiple, distinct narrators? What stories do you think of that do this well? Let’s discuss.

*That, and keeping this story from becoming the length of a novel, but one problem at a time.

My friend Kat Impossible over on Life and Other Disasters did her rendition of this tag, and it looked fun. So, let’s pretend it’s Halloween year-round and answer some spooky questions about a WIP (as well as general questions on writing)! And since last time I did Toyland, I think this time around I’ll talk about The Pure World Comes, my Victorian Gothic novel that I wrote earlier this year.

But I’m going to need a blurb first. Hmm…how about this:

Shirley Dobbins has very few wants in life: to be able to become the head housekeeper of a great house someday; to not think on her life before she started working; and to earn a reputation as a reliable maid. So when she is hired by the enigmatic baronet and scientist Sir Joseph Hunting to work at his estate after the sudden death of her employers, she can’t believe her luck.
However, things at the “Hunting Lodge,” as Sir Joseph’s home is known, are far from the ideal position she hoped for. Not only is there barely any staff at the crumbling mansion, but terrifying visions oppress those within at random moments. Those Shirley sees bear resemblances to her past. As she becomes more wrapped in the secrets of Hunting Lodge and Sir Joseph’s scientific work, she unearths a terrible threat not only after her life, but the lives of all those around her.

How’s that? Intriguing enough? Anyway, onto the questions.

GHOST: Have you ever originally put a character/scene/theme in the book and then later taken it out?

  • Character – Yes
  • Scene – kind of
  • Theme – No

I originally had this character, the eldest son of an up-and-coming merchant family, whom Shirley would have feelings for despite her practical, no-nonsense self. However, when I finally started plotting this story, I couldn’t find a place for him in the story, so I axed him out. His disappearance from the story led to some scenes that I’d originally had in mind being axed as well, but I wasn’t that fond of them to begin with, so it worked out.

BAT: Most misunderstood character in your WIP?

I had a bit of a debate on this, considering that we see things through Shirley’s eyes and once she sees someone a certain way, it can take a while for her to see them in a different light. But then I remembered that Sir Joseph Hunting is, without a doubt, the most misunderstood character. He’s not a fan of normal Victorian pastimes or conventions, and he’s squandered his family fortune in pursuit of his scientific research. And Victorians, particularly those of the noble and almost-noble classes, placed a lot of emphasis on appearances, so Sir Joseph’s anathema to them.
It doesn’t help that he’s a bit of a jerk.
That being said, once you get to know him a bit, he’s actually a very sympathetic character. You also see why he devotes himself to his research, and maybe even believe in what he’s doing. If that’s not misunderstood, I don’t know what is.

JACK-O-LANTERN: What is your most common source of inspiration to write?

Is it a law that writers get asked that question at least several times in their careers?
The obvious answer is everything. Stories I’ve read, places I’ve been, people I’ve met, conversations I’ve had, subjects I’ve researched. All these and more combine in my weird head to create stories for me. Some of them are even good and border on original. Those are the ones I try to write into something worth reading.

ZOMBIE: What is your preferred form of writerly fuel? Coffee, tea, etc.

Tea most of the time, though if it’s early in the day, I may have a diet soda. On weekends or certain occasions, I may have something alcoholic, but I’m not able to write as well as I would like when even a little buzzed, so I avoid it.

Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

VAMPIRE: Cheesiest trope that made it into your novel?

Okay, you know that trope where two people who don’t like each other spend more and more time together and then they fall in love? It was really popular in movies and a few TV shows back in the 1990s? I may have included that one in this story, though I tried to put an original spin on it.
I’ll leave it for the critics to tell me if I succeeded.

Yeah, the trope from 10 Things I Hate About You. I used a version of it. Hopefully I used it well.

SPIDER: What’s a character in your WIP that’s fine from afar, but you would NOT want to interact with if they ever got close?

I’ve mentioned before that I worked my theory of who Jack the Ripper really is into this story. Well, that’d be my answer. And I’m not saying any more on that until this book comes out!

Famous illustration of Jack the Ripper from Punch Magazine. He figures into my story, but not in a way you might expect.

FRANKENSTEIN’S MONSTER: Ever split one character into two/combine two characters into one?

Maybe? I can’t recall! I’ve written so many characters over the years, I’ve kind of lost track.

SKELETON: Best advice for adding character baggage without info-dumping?

Ooh, that’s a tough one, especially because it’s a tough subject. I try to spread my characters’ baggage and backstories throughout the story. Think of it like walking on a path, and you find puzzle pieces every now and then. Some are big, some are small, but they fit together perfectly. As you gather the pieces, a picture starts to form. And somewhere along the way, all the pieces come together to form a full picture. That’s how I try to spread character baggage and backstory.
That being said, sometimes I drop very big pieces sometimes if the story calls for it. Not ideal, but it’s necessary. And when that happens, if I’m able to, I at least try to just drop a big chunk here and there, rather than just a whole picture. That way, the information is palatable, rather than an info-dump.

CAT: What’s a polarizing writing/book-related opinion you have?

Why cats? Most of the writers I know are cat people! Often their cats are as sweet as their owners! I plan to get cats as soon as I have a bigger space. Preferably a three-bedroom house with a nice front and backyard and an attached garage.
Never mind. I don’t really have any opinions like that. At least, I don’t think I do. I could tell you about some books I didn’t care for, but they’re the kind of books either people like or they don’t. Sorry I don’t have a scandalous answer. You’d get a better answer with my controversial movie opinion, so I’ll tell you that: I enjoyed The Last Jedi, problems and all. There, I said it. What are you going to do about it?

DEMON: Most frequent writing distraction?

Anime and TV shows. Once I get started on a binge, it’s hard to stop. Either that or my cell phone.


Well, what did you think of my answers? Do you want to read The Pure World Comes now? Let’s discuss.

Now for this tag, tagging isn’t necessary. So if you want to do it, all the power to you. I hope you have fun and make sure to link back to me so I can read it.

That’s all for now. If anyone needs me, I’ll be casting magic to save this country. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!