Remember when I blogged about being on the autism spectrum back in late January? Well, that post got a lot of positive feedback, both on the blogospphere and on other social media, particularly Facebook. One of the people who responded well to the post was my college disabilities counselor, Enjie Hall, who I became Facebook friends with…I think after graduation? I can’t remember. It’s been a while. Anyway, she reached out to me after that post came out, and asked if I wouldn’t mind doing a short audio and/or video presentation for a much longer presentation she was doing at the university she works at now. The subject was “Living in and Past College with a Disability,” and since I’m doing so well in that subject, she’d thought I’d be a natural at it.

I agreed to the project, and produced a short YouTube video about my experiences. Okay, maybe “short” isn’t the best term: I was asked to do a five-minute video, and somehow I ended up making it thirteen minutes! But hey, can you really put down all that experience and advice into a five-minute video? I’m not so sure.

It only occurred to me after I made, edited, and uploaded the video that I realized I’d just done my first vlog! Yeah, a vlog. Blogs I’m used to. Vlogs are entirely something new to me. I don’t regularly watch them, unless they’re full of unconventional humor (holler at my boy Thomas Sanders!). But me vlog? I never thought that would be something I’d do. I mean, I’ve considered doing a video of me reading from selected sections of my books, but I’ve never actually done it. Not sure why, maybe just because I’ve only used YouTube a couple of times to make and post videos, and they haven’t exactly gotten a lot of views.

But I made a vlog, and it was actually very nice. And it made me feel good that I made it. I put a positive message into the video, and from what Enjie tells me (her presentation was this morning), the portion of the video she used was received very positively by the people at her presentation. Because of all that, I thought I’d share the video with you guys, and see if maybe you find it as uplifting as others found it at the presentation. Enjoy:

How was that? Do you have any thoughts on what I had to say? Let me know in the comments below.

And as for whether I’ll actually try to make more videos in the future…I don”t know. Anything’s possible. At least I know I can and they can turn out half-decent. We’ll see what the future holds.

Well, I got another post scheduled for Saturday, so keep an eye out for it, folks. Until next time, my Followers of Fear.

I recently came across a very fun article from the AV Club, which talked about how any opening in a story could be improved by replacing the second (or in some cases, the third) line with the phrase “And then the murders began.” This idea was formulated by author Marc Laidlaw, which has since become known as Laidlaw’s Rule, and is based on some of the advice of author Elmore Leonard, who said you should start your stories with more action-based openings rather than more quiet stuff like describing the weather or doing some sort of backstory.

As you can imagine, Laidlaw’s Rule can make for a rather fun parlor game. I shared the AV Club article in one of my writing groups on Facebook, and we had a ball with this. Here’s my contribution to the game:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. And then the murders began.

Charles Dickens has never been less boring.

And you find that this works with almost any story. Harry Potter, for example:

Mr. and Mrs. Dursley of Number 4, Privet Drive, were proud to say they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. And then the murders began.

Just as JK Rowling intended it, I’m sure. How about Alice in Wonderland?

Alice was beginning to get tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do. And then the murders began.

Well, in this LSD-inspired story, anything’s possible. What about Stephen King?

The terror, which would not end for another twenty-eight years–if it ever did end–began, so far as I can tell, with a boat made from a sheet of newspaper floating down a gutter swollen with rain. And then the murders began.

That’s Stephen King’s IT in a nutshell. New movie out September 8th! Check out the trailer that’ll be coming out some time tomorrow. Let’s see, what else? Oh, I know! How about Wuthering Heights?

1801 – I have just returned from a visit to my landlord – the solitary neighbour that I shall be troubled with. And then the murders began.

It’s already improved greatly. And even works on non-fiction works and speeches. For example, the Gettysburg Address:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. And then the murders began.

America in a nutshell, everybody! Our nation is dangerous to your health.

How about my work? Let’s try Reborn City:

Zahara and her family had decided to eat out at a restaurant in North Reborn that served kosher meat, the closest they could get to halāl. And then the murders began.

Well, there are a few murders in this book (spoilers!). What about Video Rage?

The sunbaked concrete and metal in the hundred-plus degree heat, the many cars and trucks reflected light off their chrome bodies like blinding beasts zooming down the highway. And then the murders began.

Ooh, chilling! How about Snake?

Paul Sanonia had been touched by a nightmare, an unbelievable disaster that had manifested in reality where it shouldn’t belong. And then the murders began.

This novel in a nutshell (more spoilers!).

And the best part is, Laidlaw’s Rule works with pretty much any story. Usually it works best with third-person omniscient narrators, though other narrating styles can work. Take a look at To Kill a Mockingbird:

When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow. And then the murders began.

Jeez, Atticus Finch’s job just got a lot tougher. I think he’s going to have to play detective as well as defense lawyer and dad.

Marc Laidlaw, the formulator of the Laidlaw Rule.

Yeah, Laidlaw’s Rule is a lot of fun. But it also could make for a fun writing exercise. How many stories have actually begun with “And then the murders began” as the second sentence? As a lot of these kinds of stories like a bit of mystery before you discover a body or two, I’d say not many. So it would be fun to start a story this way. Just come up with a random set up for the first sentence, do “And then the murders began” for the second, and see where it goes from there. We could call it the Laidlaw Exercise (coming to a high school or university writing class near you!). And if I wasn’t neck-deep in finishing a sci-fi trilogy, I might try this! God knows I could tell more than a few stories starting out this way.

Maybe I will when I have a bit of free time. Who knows? I might end up writing something totally awesome.

But what do you think of the Laidlaw Rule? And do you have any contributions you’d like to add? Author friends, I want to hear what your books sounds like when given the Laidlaw treatment! Let’s discuss in the comments below.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll have another post out later this week, so keep an eye out for it. Until next time!

…And then the murders began.

I normally don’t make New Year’s resolutions. When I do, they usually don’t last longer than a month or even a week.  But this year, I decided to break from tradition and actually make a resolution: to try new methods to get people interested in my writing. This decision was partially spurred by my earlier decision to try and find a literary agent, as well as from reading a book on marketing and realizing that I needed to change my approach to how I was getting people interested in my fiction.

It’s a hard market out there. If what you’re doing isn’t working, maybe you should try something new.

So if you’re still here and you’re not thinking, “Oh, this is just one of those posts where he blathers on about what’s going on with him and his life”, then you’re probably thinking “How is he doing with that resolution, then?” and “How did he change his approach?”Well, I like to think that so far, so good. This isn’t the sort of resolution that can be objectively measured, like losing so many pounds or bringing your academic scores up. I could measure it by new followers, but not all followers read posts frequently, and only a small fraction are willing to spend money on my books. Book sales can be an indication, as can reads on Wattpad, but to base my success solely on those factors doesn’t seem the wisest course to me. And finally, building an audience is a long and arduous process. This blog took five years to gain as many followers as it has, after all. An audience of readers interested in my books might take even longer.

It’s easier to talk about what I’m doing different. One thing I’ve done is that I’ve stopped doing ads through Facebook and Twitter. Unless you have of big budget like Coca-Cola’s advertising department, ads through those sites usually don’t translate into sales. At the very least, I’m saving money, and that’s never a bad thing.

Another thing I’ve been doing is related to my goal of trying the traditional route again and finding a publisher. That is focusing more on my niche, which is horror. I know, I’ve written and published a lot of sci-fi, but I prefer horror, and what I’m trying to do now is to write more horror stories and trying to get them published in magazines and anthologies. I’m still working on Full Circle, the final book in the Reborn City series, but I’m also devoting more time to horror. The hope is that I can produce enough work and get it published in magazines, building my name as all or a writer, thereby making myself a bit more attractive to horror fans and possibly literary agents and/or publishers.

As of yet, I’ve only submitted one short story, and I’m still waiting to hear back on it. But the next time I take a break from Full Circle, I plan to do some editing and writing, and see what happens. The goal here is to at least get a couple stories published by the end of the year (fingers crossed!).

A third method I’m trying, and this is already producing results, is I’ve started publishing through Wattpad again. Last month, I published my sci-fi novelette Gynoid on that website, and so far I’ve had a positive feedback. There’s been quite a few readers, a couple of votes (which is kind of like “Likes” for that platform), and even a comment or two. One of those comments was from someone who was very relieved to see a certain outcome for one of the characters. That particular comment made me feel very happy, because it showed that the story I wrote and the characters within had people invested.

Sure, Wattpad doesn’t make me any money, but it does give me an audience. And based on Gynoid’s success, I may publish more stories through the website in future, especially for stories that might have a hard time getting placed in magazines.

So that’s what I’m doing right now. It’s a multipronged approach, which is usually what is recommended for any big endeavor like this. Later this year, after I finished the first draft of Full Circle, I plan on editing Rose and shopping that around to agents. Rose really represents not only my growth as a writer, but it is a prime example of the niche I want to write for, so I feel that’s the best novel to shop around to agents and publishing companies. I’m also considering different social media platforms to try out, like Goodreads and Reddit (I know one person who is very active on one of those sites, so I may ask her for advice). If it can work, anything’s on the table.

For now though, I’m just focusing on focusing on my niche and finishing Full Circle. Any resolution that is to be successful takes time, proper planning, and patience. I want this to go well, so I’m not going to rush any of the steps I’m taking to further widen my audience. Will any of it work? Tough to say. But I’m an optimist at heart, and I like to think that this new approach will eventually yield results.

And if you are interested, I’ll give an update in a couple of months or at the end of the year, and let you know how I’m doing. In the meantime, if any of you have any tips on expanding my audience, or places I can look for an agent/publisher, or places that I could potentially publish my stories, let me know. If they work out, I’ll credit you in any post I write about it.

That’s all for now, Followers of Fear. I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me, so wish me luck. And thank you, as always, for supporting me as I work hard on becoming a great horror novelist.

Lately I’ve been pondering something. Well actually, I’ve been pondering a lot of things, including how kissing is treated in different genre fictions and if swallowing the prize in a cereal box makes you a specially marked package (I ponder a lot of things, some of which are strange and some of which may appear in future blog posts), but this one thing in particular I’d like to explore. In a YouTube video I watched recently, the host of the video pointed out that a lot of movies start out with a protagonist walking in on their spouse having an affair, and how that is supposed to start a journey of transformation. This actually caused me to have an epiphany: a lot of fiction–not just movies–revolve around, or start off with characters being in, being caught, or thinking about having an adulterous relationship.

Like, a lot. A whole lot. Like if it’s not a main focus, then there’s a good chance an adulterous relationship will show up in a story at some point or another. I can think of four Stephen King stories that involve affairs as major plot points. One of the most popular TV shows out right now has an affair as a major plot point (*cough* Scandal *cough*). The novel Gone Girl, one of the most compelling mystery/thrillers of the past decade, has an affair as its catalyst. Adultery is freaking everywhere you read/view/listen!

So this got me thinking on three points. First, why do affairs show up so much in fiction? Second, is this a good trope, or a trope that should be done less? Perhaps even phased out? And third, how often do adulterous relationships appear in my own fiction?

Well, that first point is rather obvious (unfortunately). Adulterous relationships show up so much in fiction because they happen so much in real life (unfortunately). Of course, affairs have happened since the beginning of monogamy, but I’m not so sure they were discussed as openly as they are these days. Affairs were considered vulgar things, so the only places they were really talked about were places where it was okay to discuss that sort of thing: bars, raunchy plays (William Shakespeare was actually considered a very dirty and lowbrow for his time), and the occasional dirty poem (yes, those did exist). In polite society, they were only quietly discussed, and that kind of reflected how often adultery was discussed in fiction, and how it was treated when it was brought up.

Scandal, which revolves around an adulterous relationship (still love you, Olivia).

Nowadays though, for whatever reason, we’re a lot more comfortable discussing adultery. In fact, rather than being something discussed in hushed whispers, adultery can be a major and accepted talking point. When a celebrity or a politician, especially one who preaches family values, is caught having an affair, it gets discussed ad nauseum in checkout lines and on national TV. Websites that facilitate adultery are at the center of major scandals, and advice columns around the world regularly feature letters from people who had discovered their lover has a side lover. There are even people who think that having an affair is healthy, natural, or no big deal. It’s a thing, and it’s pervasive (unfortunately).

And as fiction tends to reflect the real world up to a certain extent–last I checked, there aren’t any real exiled queens with dragons calling her “Mother”– it makes sense that adultery would show up in a lot of fiction.

So that answers the first question. What about the second question? Is the adultery trope a good one, or is it overused to the point that we might want to use it less?

Well, that’s a tricky one. Affairs are so common (unfortunately) that it would seem weird to take them out of all fiction. It’s like war or murder; they’ve happened, and they will continue to happen, so you might as well base a story or two around them. Like it or not, adultery is a part of everyday life, so it will show up in fiction.

I think the thing to keep in mind is just to avoid certain clichés with adultery. Any mystery writer will tell you that the lover killing the victim over jealousy or an affair has been done to death (pun intended), so perhaps one should avoid using that cliché, or find a way to use it so that it actually comes as a surprise rather than being expected, like in Gone Girl. Another cliché to avoid is how finding out your lover had an affair is a signal to go on a journey of self-discovery, or to try something new and exciting. Like I said above, the cliché has been done quite a bit, and it really doesn’t make sense. Affairs can change lives, but I don’t think they are one of those events that suddenly change how you look at life or at yourself. A near death experience, or the realization that you become everything you didn’t want to be, maybe. But walking in on your spouse? I think that’s a more likely to cause a shouting match. Maybe an alcohol binge or a murder, but probably not a journey of self-discovery.

And while we’re on the subject, nearly all the affairs in that cliché I mentioned involve the wife or the girlfriend doing the cheating, which is odd because most affairs involve the husband or boyfriend. That’s not some anti-male sexism, that’s just statistics. We could balance it out a little more.

I guess the answer I’ve come to is that if you’re going to have an affair in your story, and it’s going to be a major plot points, make sure it’s not subject to tiresome clichés we’ve seen a thousand times.

And now to my final point how much does adultery show up in my own fiction? And yes, I have to make this a major point of this post. This is my blog about my writing, and all authors who share their work with others are a little narcissistic, including me. Can you blame me?

Surprisingly, not that much. I’ve thought about a number of stories I’ve written since I was ten years old, and of those, adultery shows up in maybe three or four. Only to really come to mind. One was a vampire novel I wrote in high school that was really me exploring my own sexuality before I was aware of it (see this post for more details), and the other was a recent short story. In the latter example, I only spent about a paragraph on the affair. It serves as one of the reasons why another character commits a double murder, but it’s far from the main focus, which is actually the environment of the characters. I actually have plenty of story ideas that involve adultery, but I haven’t gotten around to writing them, and they are a minority among all the other stories I’ve come up with but have been written yet.

Whether we like it or not, adultery will continue to appear in fiction for a long time to come.

I think this might be because adultery is just not an issue I want to focus on. Outside of a few shows I watch, I’m not very interested in adultery. This might be because I’m not interested in romantic relationships in general, or because they’re just other tropes that I would prefer to work with. Not only that, but adultery is rarely that scary. I am all or a writer, I prefer to write about scary things. Monsters, ghosts, the horrors that mankind is capable of, the fear of things that could happen to us if things were just a little different. Unless you’re dating a psychopath or something, adultery is not really that scary. The biggest fear is getting caught, and in most fiction, that is what happens. Not much incentive for a horror writer to focus on adultery. Or at least not this horror writer.

But who knows? Adultery could show up in more stories in the future. My style is still evolving, so anything is possible.

Adultery is sadly very common, which means it will continue to show up in fiction for generations to come. However, the way we use adultery in our fiction can be highly a versatile, and that ensures that it won’t be a trope that will get tired anytime soon. Just avoid the clichés, and if you don’t care to use adultery in your stories, don’t. For every writer who isn’t comfortable running about such a subject, there is always one who is.

What’s your take on adultery in fiction?

Hey Followers of Fear. My latest article for Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors, Dragon Speech-to-Text Software: A Review, has just gone live on the site. Yeah, a review about something other than a horror story. Who’d have thought that would happen?

About a month or two ago, I ordered Dragon Naturally Speaking, which is a software where you speak to your computer and your computer records what you’re saying, on the recommendation of my boss and some writer friends in the hopes that I could improve my writing with it. Turns out, it works very well for me (maybe because I love the sound of my own voice). Anyway, I decided to publish a review on Self-Pub Authors because that gets a very wide audience, and I think a lot of authors there could benefit from knowing about the software.

Anyway, if you get a chance, please check out the article, as well as the rest of the website. Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors is a great resource for authors of all backgrounds on writing, editing, publishing, and marketing your works as effectively as possible. Believe me, I’ve found it very helpful in the past.

That’s all for now. I hope to have another article on this blog out later this week, so keep an eye out for it. Until next time, pleasant nightmares.

first-day-first-paragraph-tag

I think this might be the last time I do this particular tag for a while. I mean, it’s a great tag. It’s a fun tag. I created it with that in mind. But I’m running through my list of author friends very fast and I don’t want to run out of friends too soon. Besides, I think I’ve started a few good chains here. Perhaps this tag will continue on without me.

So if you get this tag, here’s what you have to do:

  1. Publish your own post on the first day of the month.
  2. Use the graphic above
  3. Thank and link back to the person who tagged you.
  4. Explain the rules like I’m doing now.
  5. Post the first paragraph of a story you’ve written, are writing, or plan to write someday.
  6. Ask your readers for feedback.
  7. Finally, tag someone to do the post next month (for example, if you do the tag on the first of August, the person you tag has to do it on the first of September), and comment on one of their posts to let them know the good news.

March 1st? Done. Graphic used? Correct. Thanked and linked back to…myself? Not necessary. Explained the rules? Done! Post the first paragraph of something I’ve written/writing/planning to write someday? Well, I really like Car Chasers, the short story I wrote back in October, so I’ll go with that. Enjoy:

There are many tales that come out of Shan Woods, and nearly all of them have to do with Chasers’ Run. One of those stories is the tragic tale of Asher Greenwich and Donnie Griggs, which has been retold and changed around so much that even those who were there when it happened aren’t sure what’s true and what’s not. This is the actual version of events, or the one least convoluted by soap opera embellishment. And it all started on Saturday, July 6th, during one of the hottest summers on record.

Thoughts? Let’s discuss in the comments below.

And finally, to tag someone. I pick…Dellani Oakes! Dellani, you’re up. Enjoy the tag, and have fun with it.

That’s all for now. It’s a new month, so I’m hoping to get plenty done. Fingers crossed. Until next time, my Followers of Fear.

gynoid-blogs

Well here it is. The final part of Gynoid is finally available. I hope you like it.

So if you’re new here or something, Gynoid is a science-fiction romance story I decided to publish, which is kind of like the YouTube for writers. I’ve been publishing it in parts since Valentine’s Day, and today I publish the final part. And in case you need a reminder, here’s the blurb I’ve been working with:

When Toby Crimson orders a gynoid, a robot designed to look and act like a human girl, he knows he shouldn’t be doing it in the first place. Gynoids are for perverts and losers, after all. But Toby has told a lie, and he needs the gynoid, named Ariel, to keep that lie up. What he never expects is to actually like Ariel being around. Or that Ariel is going to change his life. Whether he likes it or not.

I’m happy to say that so far, people have been reading and responding well to the story (though apparently some have tried the links through Facebook and have had trouble, which is sad to hear). I’m hoping that with the final part I’m able to deliver a satisfying ending to all readers. And with that in mind, I would like to once more thank Ruth Ann Nordin for helping me edit this, and to Joleene Naylor for helping me create the cover. I could not have done it without your help. Also, definitely check out their blogs. Plenty of good stuff there.

The links to read each part of the story are below, as usual. I hope you’ll take the time to read it, and let me know what you think. Positive or negative, I love feedback, and I would love to hear yours. Until next time, my Followers of Fear!

Part 1:  https://www.wattpad.com/372168643-gynoid-part-1

Part 2:  https://www.wattpad.com/375071150-gynoid-part-2

Part 3:  https://www.wattpad.com/378178810-gynoid-part-3