Elevator pitches are for more than just trying to sell a completed work. They’re also handier than a pocket on a shirt for boiling down the essence of your story, pointing you toward the heart of your tale.
Crafting the perfect elevator pitch isn’t easy. I mean, how can you boil a 100,000 word book into a single sentence (or at most, two sentences)? Better yet, you’re standing at the foot of your next big project with all these loose threads bandying about your brain. What magic incantation do you devise to make sense of it all?
I have to give huge props to one of my editors who pointed me to an article by professional screenwriter Noam Kroll. He gives a step by step process for writing what is called a logline for your story. Now for him, he was talking about screenplays, but you can use it for anything. It’s given me laser focus for several projects I’ve been working on, and has also dramatically improved my ability to convey new ideas to my editors. Loglines eliminate all of the hemming and hawing and cut to the heart of your story.
They’re not simple to write, but with practice, you’ll soon be a master. And you’ll wonder how you wrote without them.
Now nail that logline down and get to writing!
Today is a good day.
Because of popular demand, Sinister Grin Press has extended the pre-order phase for the limited edition hardcover of We Are Always Watching until the end of the month. They want to make sure everyone gets a copy, rather than stick to the hard cutoff of Feb 15th. So if you were on the fence and worried that you missed the boat (I know, what the heck does a fence have to do with a boat?), there’s still time! We’re limited to 150 copies, but let’s, as the Eagles once sang, ‘take it to the limit!’
Because I’m so over the moon about this, I’m also going to Skype folks who order the hardcover and personally thank them. So, if you’ve placed your order, email me at email@example.com and I’ll set up a day and time for us to shoot the bull. I always wanted to jump in an RV and visit my readers, so this is the next best thing. The RV may come next.
Aaand, you can also now pre-order the ebook on that fledgling book site, Amazon. Click here to reserve your ebook.
The signature sheets have been signed, sealed and delivered. Now they just need to be woven into the books themselves.
Starting March 1st, you’ll be able to order the trade paperback as well.
And stay tuned, because I’m going to have some exciting news about one of my most popular, best selling Samhain books. It’s coming back, better than ever! More on that very soon.
As my wife will sometimes remind me, I’m an idiot.
A couple of weeks back, I posted an offer for people to send me a self addressed, stamped envelope and I would send signed bookmarks for my upcoming releases, TORTURES OF THE DAMNED and THE DOVER DEMON. The only problem was, I transposed 2 of the numbers in the zip code. More proof why authors should never be their own editors.
So, I want to make it up to you in 2 ways. For people living in the United States, you can :
1. email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your name and address and I’ll send the bookmarks to you.
2. send 1 copy of any of my books you’d like signed to the correct address below and I’ll mail it back to you on my dime.
PO Box 232
Yonkers, NY 10710
When it comes to writing, we often feel like we’re on a desert island. Some days, we’d love to run into Gilligan just to have someone to talk to. We chose this path, and we have to go it alone (cue The Hulk walking away music).
Yes, writing is a solo endeavor, but you can get a helping hand from time to time. A lot of people don’t know where to turn. Here are a few reference materials that will not only walk alongside you, but also help you get to your destination. Being a horror writer, I’m going to come at this from that genre’s angle, but this is really for everyone.
There are so many writing self-help books out there, you can spend a lifetime reading them and never getting any actual writing done. In my 20 years of writing, I’ve found two books have helped me more than any others. The first, naturally, is Stephen Kings On Writing. There’s no magic here, just good homespun advice that you a put into practice right away, The second is Errnest Hemingway on Writing. The man changed the way people read and write. Learn at his feet.
I know that every english teacher will tell you Strunk and White is a necessity. I have my copy sitting on my shelf, but it has enough dust on it to choke a horse. I much prefer Bill Bryson’s Dictionary of Troublesome Words. Not only will he teach you the difference between affect and effect, but he’ll amuse you as he guides you along.
Submitting Your Work
For my money, there’s really only on place to go, and that’s the Writer’s Market. I prefer the online version to the biblically sized print because it stays current and won’t strain your arm. Here you’ll find agents, publishers, magazines and guidelines for submission.
For a horror writer, you can also join the Horror Writer’s Association (HWA) and persuse all of the genre specific materials they have on archive.
Marketing Your Work
And you thought all you had to do was write! 🙂 Marketing and promotion are a large chunk of every writer’s life. Learn how to do it best by picking up any of Kristen Lamb’s books, We Are Not Alone : The Guide to Social Media or Are You There Blog? : It’s Me, Writer. I’ve read more books on the subject than I can recall. These 2 short books are all you need. She gives tips that work the moment you put them in place. Great stuff.
Knowing Your Genre
I know I’ve said this a million times, but you can’t expect to be a writer if you don’t read…a lot. So if you’re a horror writer like me, you need to read as much as you can get your hands on. Know what works, what sells, where the genre is going, where it’s been. I know there are a lot of Leisure horror fans that were crestfallen, like me, when they went under. The good news is that a lot of those writers are putting out books with my publisher, Samhain, because that’s where editor superstar Don D’Auria has set up shop. But make sure you read in other genres as well. Being well rounded only makes you a better writer.
See, short and sweet. No need to be bogged down with books and organizations to follow, but at least you know there’s help out there. We don’t need Professor to get off the island from time to time.
What are some of your favorite writing themed books? What’s worked best for you?
I know that seems a harsh thing to say, but it’s true. Oh, he wasn’t alone with shattering my expectations of the genre I loved most, horror. But damn if he wasn’t the biggest influence on my entire generation.
When I try to list the top 20 horror films of my teen years, J.C. dominates. If I whittle it down to my top 10 of all time, he’s still the master. As a writer, director and musician, he’s the one I think of when I conjure up the images and sounds of the boogeyman and impending doom. The man was at the top of the heap for two decades, which is about a decade and 5 years more than most.
The Monster Men recently dedicated an episode to singing his praises. I can’t believe it took us 30+ episodes to do it, but better late than never. You can watch the video here.
My goal today is to give you a moment to stop and admire the filmography of one of the best in the biz. My first exposure to the legend was, naturally, Halloween. That movie defined the slasher flick, spawning hundreds of imitations. Shot in just a few weeks, it isn’t the least bit dated and is terrifying a new generation. As an added bonus, it gave us Jamie Lee Curtis! Big score. When I was a kid, my friend bought a William Shatner mask and painted it white with house paint so he could be Michael Meyers for Halloween. The dude nearly passed out from the fumes. I think he even puked a couple of times. But the mask was awesome.
Carpenter followed that up with The Fog, again with Jamie Lee and the seductive Adrienne Barbeau. Undead pirates seeking revenge on a sleepy little town. What’s not to like? John Carpenter was married to Adrienne for some time, which is why you see her in a few of his films. In fact, if John liked you, you could expect to be in quite a few of his movies. The man is loyal as hell.
Escape From New York is one badass of a flick. Snake Plissken could wipe out Al Queda singlehandedly and solve the debt crisis. “I’m the Duke of New York, A Number One!” For a whole year after that came out, you would hear me or one of my friends daily say, “Call me Snake.”
Now comes one of my all time favorite movies, The Thing. Growing up in my house, the original Thing was sacred, so we went to the movie with some trepidation. Carpenter pulled off the rare feat of creating a remake a thousand times better than the original. Great characters, fantastic monster effects for its time, and of course, Kurt Russell with a kick ass hat and a flame thrower. This and Escape From New York made Russell the epitome of the tough guy that every dude wanted to be in the 80s. The Thing is horror and sci-fi perfection. I actually heard people gagging in the theater when the monster was revealed for the first time. Nice.
They Live, a movie about aliens that have infiltrated our lives and can only be seen with a special pair of sunglasses, was great because it starred my favorite wrestler, Rowdy Roddy Piper. Yes, it’s silly, but it also good fun. And it gave us the immortal line : “I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass… and I’m all out of bubblegum.”
The Prince of Darkness is a creepy tale about the devil and a desperate race to stop a plague of evil that will consume the world. I just rewatched it recently, and now that I’m older with a firmer grasp of theology, it gave me even more chills.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Assault on Precinct 13, which I attest is actually a zombie movie, and maybe one of the best ever made. Towards the end of his run, Carpenter directed Vampires, a decent adaptation of John Steakley’s avant garde novel. I’ve never been able to look at James Woods the same way.
These aren’t all of John Carpenter’s movies, but they are the best of the best. Thank you J.C. for making me the horror junkie that I am. The big question is, who is going to be the one to fill his shoes? I’m not sure I see anyone on the horizon. Some might say Eli Roth, but I think he has more to prove. What do you think?
And what are some of your favorite John Carpenter movies and moments? If you need time to mull it over, play the soundtrack to Halloween in the background to help speed things up.
I first met Damien Walters Grintalis at the Horrorfind con in Gettysburg, PA last Labor Day weekend. I was immediately struck by her sharp wit and great sense of humor. We were at the Samhain author table and believe me, she could hold her own with the boys. I especially loved the 50’s era dresses she wore that made her stand out from the crowd. She was promoting her debut novel, Ink, months before it was scheduled for release.
Because her book is about a tattoo that takes on a sinister life of its own. she had made little temporary tattoos to hand out to promote the book. By the end of the weekend, a first time author was the most popular person at the booth. Remarkable. And her novel, Ink, is even more so.
I’m happily seeing more women getting recognized in the horror field, especially on the writing side. No need to dress skimpy and scream a lot when you’re creating a world of terror. This being Women in Horror month, I though it was appropos that I kick things off with Damien. But when you get down to it, man or woman, she’s an extremely talented writer.
It’s very apparent that Damien worked very hard on her craft before submitting for publication, which I think a lot of new writers kind of skip over. We’re all so eager to make our mark on the publishing world that we jump into marketing and promotion before making sure our manuscript is as tight as it can be.
I was very happy that she wanted to appear on the blog and chain and talk about her road to publication, upcoming work and most creative way to die.
To prepare myself for this interview, I read, or more accurately, devoured, your debut novel, Ink. I promise not to give away any spoilers, but I will say that it was one of the top 5 horror books I’ve read in the past few years. Would you care to tell everyone a little bit about the book? Jason, the main character, is fresh out of a bad marriage and he makes an impulsive decision to get a tattoo by a tattoo artist he meets in a bar. Can you say bad decision? Neither the tattoo artist nor the tattoo are what they seem and Jason ends up in a world of hurt.
Ink is truly one of the more original and inventive stories I’ve seen in a long time. Where did you get your inspiration? I was walking out of a tattoo shop and had a what-if moment. Then I had a picture in my head of a man with a strange walk. I wasn’t sure how he was connected to the story, but I knew he was. I tried to replicate his walk in my living room and after a few minutes, the reason for his odd walk and his connection to the story became very very clear.
Speaking of Ink, do you have any tattoos? I have a few myself and now I’m a little nervous when I feel an itch on my arms. Yes, I have six. It may be tempting fate, but I’m contemplating a griffin on my left arm.
I know from my own writing that characters are often drawn from the people who have touched my life in one way or another. Your characters are so reach, so vivid, I just know there are some real life folks in there. So, care to spill the beans on who Jason. Mitch, Shelley and even Sailor are? Jason is a construct of a few people I’ve known. I did not want to write about the big burly alpha male who fixes everything with a flex of his pecs. I wanted someone less confident. Someone breakable. Mitch, on the other hand, is strong and self-reliant. If anything, she’s the White Knight in the story. Jason’s father is based on my own, although the catchphrases he uses belong to my husband.
Sailor isn’t based on anyone I know, but a concept that evil can be anyone, anywhere. There is no one face, one look, for evil and a man in an expensive suit can be just as dangerous as a homeless man with wild hair and crazy eyes. (And no, I don’t believe all homeless men are dangerous, just that many people perceive to be.) Take Ted Bundy, for example. He was good looking, he was charming, but beneath the pleasant exterior, he was a monster.
After I read Ink, I said to myself, “where has Damien been hiding all these years?”. What was your road to publication like and how did you become a part of our Samhain family? I wrote Ink initially in 2009. It wasn’t my first novel, but it was the first one I felt confident about. When it was edited and pretty, I started to query agents. I had several offers of representation, which shocked me. Fast forward a handful of months and I heard about Don D’Auria joining Samhain. I talked to my then-agent, he sent Ink to Don, and a few months later we had an offer.
OK, your debut novel is out and on the Samhain topseller list. What new book or books are you working on and when can we expect to see them in print? My new novel, Paper Tigers, about a disfigured young woman and a haunted photo album, is still in the horror genre, but of a different sort than Ink. My agent and I have been going back and forth with revisions, trying to make it as shiny and sparkly (of the non-faux-vampire type) as possible. I have two other novels waiting in the wings for edits and in between the novels, I also write a lot of short fiction.
If aliens made themselves known to us and asked you to come with them to their planet, never to return to earth, would you accept the invitation and why or why not? No, I would not. My family, my life, is here.
Here’s a series of rapid fire questions: Favorite movie? Favorite food? Bugs Bunny or Tom & Jerry? Most creative way to die? Kittens or puppies? Alien. Soup. Tom & Jerry. Um…jumping into an active volcano? Puppies. Definitely puppies.
Thank you so much for appearing on my blog and chain. Please let everyone know where to find you and any parting words of wisdom.
You can find me online via my website: www.damienwaltersgrintalis.com , my blog: dwgrintalis.blogspot.com, or on Twitter @dwgrintalis. Parting words of wisdom? Never investigate strange noises while wearing only underwear, and always check behind the closed shower curtain.
So, have we piqued your interest? Trust me, even if you’re not a horror fan, Ink will captivate you. What’s your publication journey been like? And more importantly, what is your most creative way to take a dirt nap?
One thing every single writer is asked time and time again is, “Where do you get your ideas?” I was recently at a talk given by R.L. Stine, and he said he’s always wanted to respond, “I don’t know, where do you get yours?”
Inspiration can come from anywhere. From a childhood event, to something you see on the news and even a mispronounced word (which sparked a short story of mine that has been published quite a few times). I want to peel back the skullcap of horror writers and take a peek inside their creative process for all to see. I’m going to kick off this series with author Lynn Hones and the childhood vacation that was the golem-esque clay for one of her novels.
So without further ado, the following page is Lynn’s stage…
My horror ebook, Laugh in the Dark, started this way. Back in the late 1960’s it wasn’t unusual for Dad to call out to my mom that we were taking a road trip. Keep in mind this was way back before seat belts were mandatory and the posted speed limit was 70 miles per hour. There were six kids and one Volkswagen Bug. Growing up in Ohio, near the Pennsylvania border, the usual response uttered under our breath was, “Dear God, not Gettysburg…again.”
He’d light a cig and smiled, “Nope, we’re going to Conneaut Lake Park.”
Now he was talking. We’d happily jump into that tiny car with big smiles dreaming of Devil’s Den with the infamous Wall of Gum. I made a mental note to have the mandatory wad of gum to stick on the wall as the cart went up the first hill.
Mom, depending on the year, was pregnant and holding a baby in the front seat, with the rest of us crammed into the back and the “puke bucket,” along with a random kid or two, stuffed in what we called “the well” in the way back.
Once there, us kids, green from Mom and Dad’s ciggy smoke filling the car, would jump out and run for the Conneaut Hotel. Old and spooky, built on Lake Conneaut, it was a fantastic place with long, uneven hallways and doorways with windows up top to let in the lake breezes. No televisions, radios, phones or air conditioning, it was right next door to the small park. We loved to hear the old-timers tell us about the young and beautiful bride, Elizabeth, who died in a fire there on her wedding day, and haunted the hotel ever since, looking for her lover.
Dad would buy the tickets and we’d run through the park and ride to exhaustion. Back in our room, we’d sleep with one eye open waiting for Elizabeth to float through the wall.
Fast forward to 2011. I now bring my own kids there and run around with them like the skinny little, Converse wearing, gum chomping girl I used to be.
The best part, is that the hotel, built in the late 1890’s, is still operating and…there are still no phones, radios, televisions or air conditioning. And yes, the Wall of Gum is still there. The park is just hanging on however, financially and may be seeing its last days in this economy. If you get the chance, go. The lonely bride will remind you that although she died over sixty years ago, her spirit lingers, just as the spirit of the old park lingers in the memories of anyone lucky enough to have visited it back in the day or as recently as last year.
For further information check out this website, http://www.clphotelconneaut.com/history.html, or go to my own website, www.lynnhones.com and look for my page, A Haunted Hotel. I’d love to hear from anyone who has been there and their memories.
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