Posts Tagged ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’

I’m not so sure anymore.

Of course, it seems like gospel that the first sentence of a story is important. It’s your hook, isn’t it? It’s how you get the reader into the story. You should put as much thought into that first line as you would as asking your significant other to marry you!

But I’m not convinced anymore. That may be strange, considering how often I used to (and sometimes still do) the #FirstLineFriday meme on this blog. You know, that thing where I post the first line of a story and hope it gets you into the story? But then again, maybe that’s why I’m unconvinced. I’ve posted first lines so many times, I’ve recognized how little effect that they have on the total story.

And you know, if you look at some famous books, you kind of see that. Harry Potter‘s first line is “Mr. and Mrs. Dursley of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.” Most Muggle-ish opening you’ve ever read. It doesn’t really hint at what’s to come in the story, and I honestly would have cut it from the final product if I had edited the first book.

And Stephen King’s stories don’t usually have those sorts of openings. The first line of IT goes like this:

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

It’s a nice opening, but it doesn’t exactly scream…well, going to make you scream. It’s actually kind of mellow. And the opening for Needful Things is even more unassuming: “You’ve been here before.” Kid you not, my first time listening to that book on audio, I had to repeat it a few times because it was totally unexpected and confused me a bit. Only as you keep reading does the opening make sense with this story.

Maybe this is why some books have poems, excerpts from other famous stories, Bible verses, or even song lyrics at the beginning, before the story even starts. You read those little epigraphs (that’s what they’re called, I check) and keep reading to see how it relates to the story you’re taking in.

in any case, I’m starting to think that maybe it’s not the first sentence, or even the first paragraph, that’s responsible for making a story’s opening catchy. It’s maybe the first couple of paragraphs or the first page. When the author sets up the story, the characters, the setting, that you really get pulled into the story.

The opening of the story should be like opening a door to guests. Yes, that’s important, but what’s inside is even more important. Photo by Ron Lach on Pexels.com

That’s certainly the case with my current story, where I set up a nice, rural setting, something kind of idyllic…and then one of my main characters reveals that he’s a neo-Nazi. It’s a stark contrast from the first paragraph that takes the reader off-guard, and hopefully will get them reading further along. I’ll have to finish the story first to see if that’s the case, however.

Anyway, the first sentence is important, but it’s not the most important thing about a story. Rather, it’s just the opening of the door and allowing people to take a quick look before stepping inside. What’s beyond that is what’s truly important. You just have to make sure to open the door and open it well.

But what’s your take, Followers of Fear? Let’s discuss openings and if the first lines of a story really are as important as we make them out to be. I’m curious to hear what you think on the subject. Maybe more of you will agree with me than I imagine.


Happy New Year, my Followers of Fear. I wanted to start this year off with a post that’s reflective on the craft of writing, as I enjoy writing those posts. Anyway, I hope you’re having a good 2022 so far. Mine’s been rough so far, but that tends to be the case with the first full week of January. And at least there’s a lot to look forward to right now: editing and releasing Hannah and Other Stories; putting out the paperback and ebook copies of The Pure World Comes; conventions and expos; maybe a bit of travel; and, of course, some good reading and writing.

Oh, speaking of conventions and expos, I’ll be at the Hidden Marietta Paranormal Expo on the 29th in Marietta, Ohio. If you can, stop by the Lafayette Hotel and maybe I’ll sign your book and read your Tarot.

Also, the crowdfunding campaign for That Which Cannot Be Undone is at 58.5 percent! We’re over halfway funded and we just keep going! And if you would like to help me and my fellow Ohio horror writers put out an amazing anthology of horror stories set in our state and revolving around the theme “that which cannot be undone,” click on the link here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/crackedskullproject1/that-which-cannot-be-undone-an-ohio-horror-anthology. There are also some amazing perks to pledging, like candles, Ohio-themed Tarot cards, copies of the book, and even end up in one of the stories! How cool would that be?

Anyway, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I hope to have more stuff to tell you soon. Until next time, good night and pleasant nightmares!

Call the press! Pour the honey wine! Sacrifice your neighbor to the eldritch deity of your choosing! The first draft of Toyland is done! To be specific, I finished it early this morning at around four in the morning. I started working on the last two-and-a-half chapters around ten o’clock last night, after I wrote my review of The Lodge, and just didn’t stop.

And now that I’ve gotten some sleep, I’m blogging about it, because that’s what you do!

Now, for those of you who are unfamiliar, Toyland is a Gothic horror novel I started writing back in November for National Novel Writing Month. The story takes place at a boarding school in southern Ohio, and follows students being menaced by a ghost obsessed with a children’s book. Yes, that’s the plot. I can assure you, it’s just as bonkers as that pitch sounds. I hoped to have it done by the end of January, but I’m glad I was able to finish it by the end of February, which is still a whole new record for me in terms of writing a novel (I think Rose had the last one at around six or seven months).

And how is the first draft?

Well, it’s a first draft, which means it’s crap.

Okay, that might be harsh. It not crap, it just needs a lot of work. First drafts are nicknamed “rough drafts” for a reason, after all. I’m going to have to do a whole lot of editing to get this book out to people. And I may need to have someone take a look at it just to make sure it can survive out in the world as a full novel. I did that with Rose, after all, and Rose is doing very well now, with an audio book and some awesome new reviews.

So how long is Toyland, anyway? I knew it would be longer than fifty-thousand words (the minimum word count for “succeeding” at NaNoWriMo), but I haven’t done a count recently. Give me a moment to do some math…holy crap! In terms of pages (with twelve-point, Times New Roman font, double-spaced on regular MS Word paper), Toyland is three hundred and sixty pages long and 97,186 words! For context, the first Harry Potter novel is around seventy-seven thousand words.

This isn’t the longest story I’ve ever written (that honor goes to my thriller Snake), but still pretty freaking long.

So what’s next? Well, obviously I’m going to party a bit (pizza and locally made mead tonight!). But in terms of Toyland, I’m going to let it be for a while. I always believe a story needs to lie and sleep for a while before editing, so I can look at it with fresh eyes. After a second draft, I may start looking for a publisher. Hopefully, it won’t take five years like it did with Rose to get it published.

I wanted to post this graphic one last time.

In the meantime, I’ll try to take a little vacation from writing anything except blog posts (though if the writing bug gets me, that’s that). After that, I’ll try my hand at those ten short(er) stories I mentioned in a previous post. Two of those stories, by the way, take place in Victorian England and one of which I hope to put into that short story collection I’m putting together. I’m looking forward to them. I may also work on an essay which has been cooking in the back of my mind. We’ll see what happens.

For now though, I’m off to relax. Thanks for supporting me during this writing process, my Followers of Fear. I hope you’ll check out Toyland when it comes out and maybe let me know what you think of it. For now though, how about checking out my novel Rose? It’s a Kafkaesque horror story about a young woman turning into a plant creature (and that’s just the start of her problems). If Toyland sounds up your alley, you’ll probably enjoy Rose. I’ll post the links below.

Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

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

Well, November is over. And so, by the way, is NaNoWriMo. So you know what that means. Time to give you all my final report of how this past month went!

Now, if you’re unfamiliar, National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, is an annual challenge in November where authors around the world try to write a fifty thousand word novel in thirty days, or about 1,667 words per day. The last time I participated was in college, but I decided to participate this year and even took time off work to get a good start on the novel. My project this year is called Toyland, and is a Gothic horror novel about a boarding school in Ohio that’s haunted by the ghost of a girl obsessed with a children’s book.

Yeah, the premise is as bonkers as that of Rose. But hey, that’s kind of the way I like it.

So now that November is over, how did work on Toyland go?

Well. I think it went well. I managed to get quite a bit of work on the novel done in a short span of time. Yeah, my ADHD often led me to distraction, and the normal things that come up in life–errands, social events, and all the stuff you do as a functioning adult and member of society–took away from writing time. And after I went back to work, things only got more hectic. But I still managed to write and discovered just how much I can write when I really set my mind to it. And during the time when I was off work, I got a glimpse as to what life could be like if I ever am able to write full time (fingers crossed someday that happens), which was neat.

Anyway, time for the final word count (I won’t go into page count because that varies depending on a number of factors). At the time midnight rolled around, I was halfway through Chapter Ten of Toyland. As of my stopping to write this post, Toyland is now 34,284 words long. Last time I participated, I think I wrote about thirty thousand words, so this was some positive growth. So while I didn’t reach the fifty thousand word goal, I do consider NaNoWriMo 2019 a huge success.

Hell, I might do it again next year, and take time off as well. I already know what novel I’d like to work on next, so it’d work out, and I earn a lot more time off at work these days, so it could happen.

Still have plenty of writing to do on this book. And I plan to keep at it.

In the meantime, though, I’m still not done with Toyland. I have a feeling this novel’s going to be somewhere around eighty thousand or more words,* so I still have plenty of writing to do. I’m aiming to have it done by the end of January, but we’ll see what happens. You can’t rush perfection, after all. And even if my work is far from perfect, the sentiment stands.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m not sure when I’ll provide another update on Toyland or post again, but I can assure you it’ll be very soon.

But before that, have you considered a gift for the lover of the strange and macabre this December?** Why not give them a copy of Rose? The novel follows Rose Taggert, a young woman who wakes up in a greenhouse with no memory of how she got there. She soon finds her life, and her body, irrevocably changed forever, and with it comes many dark forces and powerful secrets that will lead to a desperate fight for survival. It’s dark and engaging Kafkaesque horror novel that will leave you glued to the page until you reach the end. Available from the links below (with an audio book link coming soon).

Rose: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada

Until next time, Followers of Fear, happy reading and pleasant nightmares!

*For context, the first Harry Potter book is about seventy-seven thousand words.

**Yes, I’m doing this. Can you blame me? It is that time of year, after all.

So yeah, Toyland is going to be a lot longer than Rose, and way more than fifty thousand words. I always did like an expansive story.

So as you’re probably aware by now, I’m participating in National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, this month and I’m trying to write a fifty-thousand word novel before the month is out. This is my second time participating, and I’m writing a Gothic horror novel called Toyland about a boarding school haunted by a ghost obsessed with a children’s book. And while I’ve set myself a deadline of January 31st, I’ll try to get as much of it done this month as possible.

In my update last week, I wrote about how I was a little over eleven-thousand words and 3.5 chapters in. As of last night, I’m in the middle of writing Chapter Six and am currently at 21,566 words. So this story’s already into the novella word range, and it’s still going! I bet by the time I done, I bet this book will be four times its current length. Maybe more.*

And honestly, I’d be fine if that turned out to be the case. While it’s still a first draft and there’s still plenty of work to do (not even thinking about editing at this point), I feel like this is some of my most mature writing yet. By this, I mean my voice as a writer has matured. It’s reached a new level, gained from so many years of writing and editing and experimenting. I’m giving up the last of the clumsy bits that mark me as a new or young writer. I’m breaking out of my chrysalis.

Is this making any sense to you? I hope so, otherwise the points above are all meaningless.

Anyway, we’ll have to wait till the final draft comes out before we know for sure just how much I’ve improved as a writer. But in the meantime, I’m enjoying working on this story and seeing it take form. Even though I wrote an outline and I know what’s going to happen, I’m discovering new things with every word. Hell, what words I use are part of the discovery, and they come together to show me just how these scenes I’ve outlined actually shape out.

That’s all for the moment. I’ll be sure to update you all next week, but in the meantime, I promise there will be more than just a review in the meantime. I mean, there will be a review, but there will be more than that.

Anyway, until next time, my Followers of Fear, pleasant nightmares!

How’s your NaNoWriMo going? What’s the writing process for you been like?

*For context, the first Harry Potter book was around seventy-seven thousand words, so that should give you an idea of what we might be dealing with in the future.

You ever find yourself doing something casually, thinking it’d be a fun hobby or just a way to pass a couple of hours, and then it ends up becoming something much bigger than you could ever have imagined? That’s happened to me a number of times. Reading Harry Potter as a child and then reading Stephen King’s It as a tween led me to become a writer and a horror writer, respectively, when I’d only been looking for something new and fun to read. Likewise, reading books about the Holocaust while traveling through Israel during the summer before senior year of high school led me to want to study the Holocaust along with creative writing in college.

And just recently, a story I started writing in-between drafts of Rose back in spring has quite possibly become my next novel. And I have no fucking clue how that happened.

Let me explain. Back in late winter/early spring, right after I’d finished another draft of Rose, I started a story I’d been wanting to work on for a while, both to pass the time and to experiment with writing by the seat of my pants. I didn’t think it would be a very long story, maybe twenty-thousand or thirty-thousand at most (so a novelette or novella), so I thought it would be a good side project. I named this story River of Wrath, as it deals with a certain aspect of Dante’s Inferno, and I went at it.

The writing by the seat of my pants didn’t work out so well, and I only got about nine-thousand words or so in before I had to do another draft of Rose (still impressive, but I felt like I could do better). I got that draft of Rose done, and then sent it to the imprint that would become my publisher. I worked on other stories while I tried to figure out how best to edit River of Wrath. After I sent the latest draft of Rose back to Castrum and did a few other stories, I decided to write an outline for River, and then go off that.

Whoo-boy, did that work! Writing the story went a lot faster, especially after I went through the initial thirty pages or so and tried to clean them up a bit. I was enjoying the story, and I found it challenging in a fun way, which is usually a good sign.

And then I got past ten thousand words.

And then fifteen thousand.

And then twenty thousand.

Thirty thousand arrived before I knew it.

I reached thirty-five thousand around Sunday.

And last night, I reached forty-six thousand. Yeah, I wrote around eleven thousand words over three days. I’m not sure how I did that either. On the bright side, I think I can do it again and write stories a lot faster now.

But back to point. Defining novels by word count varies from person to person. Mine is usually around sixty thousand (for clarity, the first Harry Potter is seventy-seven thousand words, give or take a few), but many people and quite a few publishers consider forty-thousand words or higher a novel. As I said, this novel’s upwards of forty-six thousand, so some would definitely consider it a novel. And I have a feeling River’s going to be at least fifty-thousand or higher by the time I’m done.

Like I said, I did not intend for this story to get so long. I thought it would top out at twenty-thousand. At the outside, it might reach thirty-thousand, too long for a magazine but perhaps good for a future short story collection. I never thought it would get this long! But parts of the story I thought would be short as heck became entire pages, complete with dialogue and inner thoughts and a couple of crazy scenes for people have to fight for their lives! And I felt that if I was going to do this story justice, I’d just have to go with the flow and write till I finished it.

So yeah, I’ve got another novel in the works, one called River of Wrath, and one I didn’t even know I was writing until it got as long as it did. And if I’m lucky, I’ll finish it by Halloween (which, coincidentally, is also when this story takes place). And afterwards? I plan to hand it off to some beta readers and do some edits, of course. And hey, if Rose sells well and Castrum wants to continue working with me afterwards, maybe they’ll take on River of Wrath and publish that as well.

But I’ll cross those bridges when I get to them. First thing’s first, I’m going to finish River. And when I do, I’ll celebrate with a drink and let you all know about it (whether or not you want to know or not).

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m going to get ready for bed and think of more scary stories to write. Expect a review of the new Halloween movie at some point this weekend. Until then, pleasant nightmares!

So on Facebook, this thing’s been going around my friend circles where you post one picture of the cover of a book that you love or found influential, no explanation, and then tag someone else to do the same. You do this for ten days in a row, posting a different book cover and tagging a different person each day. I knew that eventually I’d get tagged, so I wasn’t surprised when my cousin Matthew tagged me for his second day. However, because I never follow anyone else’s drumbeat, I decided to do this on my blog and talk about why I love the books so much. Who knows? It may get some people to pick it up and read it.

So with any viral Internet tag/challenge/meme/award/whatever, you have a set of rules. Here are mine for this challenge:

  • Thank whoever nominated you with big, bold print. If they have a blog, link to the post where you got tagged there. He doesn’t have a blog, as far as I’m aware, but thanks Matthew! I appreciate it!
  • Explain the rules.
  • Post the cover of a book that was influential on you or that you love dearly.
  • Explain why (because I don’t see the point of just posting a picture of a book cover without an explanation. That goes for Facebook as well as blogs).
  • Tag someone else to do the challenge, and let them know they’ve been tagged.

So there we go. We have rules, so let’s start the Ten Day Book Challenge. And with Day One, the choice of book is obvious: it’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

It’s fair to say that without Harry Potter, I wouldn’t be a writer. When I saw the first film it blew my mind, but the first book, which I think I read afterwards…I don’t know how to describe it, truth be told. Not just the world of Harry Potter, but the words within truly immersed me in the story. I don’t think before then I knew how words could be used like that. The words were the real magic, because they made places and creatures and people and concepts with rules come to life out of nothing. Like God, in a way. And I worshiped JK Rowling for years┬álike a god, rereading the available four books at the time obsessively. But not only that, but I tried to write like JK Rowling. My first attempt at a novel was a Harry Potter-esque story with a female lead.* And even when I stopped working on that story, I still relied on Harry Potter and the works of JK Rowling to give me a basis on how to write.

It sometimes amazes me how far from Harry Potter ripoffs I’ve come since then. In fact, there’s almost no resemblance between my stories and Harry Potter! Still, without JK Rowling’s initial influence, I might be doing something very different today. And I have no idea what that “something very different” might be.

Ooh, there’s a horror story right there!

Anyway, I’m tagging my friend and fellow author Matthew Williams of Stories by Williams. Good luck, Matt! I hope you have fun with this (as well as time for it, what with a new book out and all).

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear! I’m going to start prepping for tomorrow’s post…as well as possibly Days Three through Ten. Something tells me I’m going to need the prep.

*For more on my early writing projects, click here for an article on that subject.