Tag Archive | publishing

Fu** Your MFA

This isn’t me crapping on MFA (a Master of Fine Arts) degrees or everyone who has worked hard to get one. I know quite a few damn good people who have one they can add to their resume. This is about elitism and misguided entitlement. You can expand this from the microcosm of writing to all things great and small in our society.

For years, I’ve heard select MFA holders put down writers who they believe don’t possess such a degree, referring to them as hacks or worse. To them, only he or she who wears the MFA crown has the necessary skills to put words to paper. The rest of us are here to be dazzled by their command of the English language and storytelling prowess. I came across such a troll recently who lambasted my writing on Goodreads, basically saying I didn’t have the skills to be a good writer because it was apparent I never received the proper education to do the very thing I’ve been working at for over a decade. I read it and laughed, then looked up their name to find their writing credits. I wasn’t surprised to find zippo. (By the way, I’m a college graduate who never scored less than a 90 in English my entire life.)

Truth be told, the review didn’t make me angry. My skin is thicker than an elephant’s hide. If you’re going to do this for a living, you can’t let the bad or even the good reviews get to your head. What does make my blood boil is when I see a trend that deeply hurts earnest, honest writers.

An MFA degree doesn’t make you a writer, just as going to astronaut camp doesn’t qualify you for a stint on the ISS. In many cases, an MFA degree does put you in some serious debt, hoping to strike it rich in an industry that is pretty darn parsimonious when it comes to paychecks. As an author friend once said, better to learn a trade and be a fucking plumber.

I learned all I needed to know about becoming a writer from a chance meeting with the great Elmore Leonard. It was the late 90s and I was at a two day writers conference in New York City. I’d spent money I didn’t have to be there, hoping to learn from those who had scaled the mountain. I was in a classroom, sitting in the back because I had a hard time finding it and was almost late. A famous thriller author was giving a talk about the publishing process, but it was really an examination of the neurosis of a writer who never felt as if his stuff was good enough.

A small, older man sat next to me during the class. At one point, he leaned over and asked if I’d spent a lot of money to be there. I gave a quick answer, wishing he’d leave me be. He then said, “You see all these people? None of them will ever be writers. Don’t waste your money. You really want to be a writer?” Slightly annoyed, I said, “Of course.”

He said, “Then go home. Read a ton. Then write a ton. That’s all there is to it.”

I thanked him for the advice and shifted my attention back to the real author in the front of the room. When the class ended, the old man shuffled out and I headed for the next session. When lunch came, I grabbed a table by the podium, chatting with a world famous bestseller. Imagine my surprise when they brought that older man up to be the key speaker. It was Elmore Leonard!

I realized in that moment that I’d just gotten invaluable wisdom from a man who’d published more books than every writer at the conference combined. Who the hell was I not to listen to him? I vowed that day to never attend a writing conference. I was already a voracious reader, but I stepped up my writing game. Read a ton. Write a ton. I could do this.

And I did. As have so many others, all without the benefit of an MFA. You don’t need any high falutin’ qualifications to be a writer, other than a command of your native language, imagination, and limitless passion. I don’t care what degrees you have and don’t have, and neither do editors. Tell a damn good story they think will sell.

If you think your MFA makes you a better writer than someone who gets paid to write and publishes book after book, it’s time to dispel yourself of that delusion. That degree, especially if you’re not writing and publishing, is worth as much as the paper it was printed on. You are not entitled to a damn thing. You need to earn it. That means get off your high horse and get down in the mud and muck and write. Then go bust your hump finding someone to publish your work. Stop criticizing those who have accomplished the very thing that inspired you to get that degree. You are not the elite. You’re just a regular person who spent more on school.

Over the years, I’ve found that writers rarely criticize other writers because we all share the same story, the same grind. We not only know how the sausage is made – our hands are in it day after day. So next time you want to use your MFA to tear down another person, take a good, hard look at yourself and like most opinions, keep it to yourself. Writing is a great equalizer. You’d know it if you did it.

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Looking For An Editor Or Writing Coach?

The new year, with all its resolutions, is just a few weeks away. I’m going to tick one of my resolutions off the list right now with this announcement that I’m starting an editing and writing coach business. If your goal is to have a completed manuscript or get published in 2018, we can kick some resolution butt together.

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Writing is a lonely endeavor. Writers need support and encouragement (along with a stiff drink every now and then). Getting to THE END isn’t always easy. Neither is polishing that manuscript into a diamond. All successful writers have a stable of people with critical eyes dissecting their work well before you ever see it in print.

The big question is, why me? Well, aside from having written and traditionally published over 20 books in the past decade, I’ve also been senior editor for a trade magazine, have coached and edited several books for struggling authors and secured their first book deals.

I may have railed against the nuns in school who drilled grammar, spelling, reading, and writing into my thick head, but I thank them now. And so can you.

So, what kind of services am I offering?

  • Setting goals and accountability to meet them
  • Sounding board for ideas and turning them into action plans
  • Feedback and editing
  • Deciding whether to publish traditionally or self-publishing
  • Agent and publisher searches
  • Writing query letters
  • Building author platforms across social media and blogs
  • Creating fresh and consistent content
  • Creating mail lists and vital newsletters
  • Finding reviewers
  • Curating sources of inspiration to keep you writing

If your goal is to become a working writer, you want help from someone who’s not only been there and done that, but is still doing it. My advice and expertise is current, which is vital in publishing since it has changed dramatically over the past five years alone!

Ready to take that next step? Let’s do it together. Contact me at huntershea1@gmail.com for a free 30 minute consultation and let’s make those writing dreams come true. 

The 4 Keys to Writing Success

I used to say there were 2 central keys to becoming a writer, with a lot of little caveats that add up to a big ball of wax. But without those 2 keys, you can’t unlock the door to publishing. In fact, I wrote a whole book about it and how to get published.

I was just sitting in my car waiting for traffic to unsnarl when it hit me that there are actually 4 keys to writing. The other keys were always there, just not in the forefront of my mind and advice.

“Dude, why do you keep prattling on about keys? Are you a valet or locksmith?”

Valid point.

I’ve been many things (and called many more), but those professions have so far eluded me.

What are these keys? Let’s dive right in. I’ll start with my first 2 tried and true.

READ – I’ll keep preaching this until I’m blue in the face and my tongue falls out of my mouth. You cannot expect to become a writer if you’re not a reader. It’s the equivalent of saying you want to be a baker but you have never tasted a baked good or know what goes into them. Every book you read, and you should read a wide and varied lot, is a vital part of your education and maturation as a writer. You’ll learn the art of writing and storytelling both consciously and subconsciously. I read over 100 books a year and still feel as if I’ve come up short. Read every chance you get. Read great writing. Read bad writing. Read shampoo bottles and fine print. Just read.

writing

WRITE – Pretty self-explanatory. You can talk the talk, but eventually, you need to walk the walk. Or, more accurately, sit the sit. If you’ve found a way to walk and write, call me so I can learn from a master. Writers have to write, either to satisfy their inner need to write or an impatient editor. You have to get the words all the way to THE END. Then you have to go back and edit and polish and submit.

Once you’re done with one project, start the next. Or do several at once. Remember, ABW – Always Be Writing. That’s not to say you can’t have days where you goof off or fall down the Netflix rabbit hole. That’s life. But you have to make writing a priority.

SUPPORT – Writing is a very solitary experience. It’s not natural. You can spend years toiling away, missing out on family events, trips, parties, never knowing if anyone will ever read, or better yet, buy your work. There are times you’ll feel like giving up. That’s where you need to have someone at your back. It can be a spouse, friend, fellow struggling writer, established writer who has become your mentor, even a stranger on a train who for some reason believes in you, writer dude.

Your support team needs to be there to run interference so you can concentrate on writing, pick you up when you’re down, and be honest with you when you need feedback. It’s a tough role for someone to fill, but absolutely necessary. I’ve been lucky. My wife has fully supported my dream from the start, even when it looked like I was spinning my wheels for nothing. She told me to never give up. I didn’t. I even tattooed it on my arm as a constant reminder. Find your rock, and avoid others who want to derail your efforts or mock you for even trying like the plague they are.

TALENT – I’ve read a lot of books on writing/publishing, and not many come right out and say you need talent to make a go of this. I don’t believe that if you lock a bunch of monkeys in a room with laptops that they will eventually write Shakespeare. I think you’ll get an eternity of monkey gibberish.

Talent is hard to define and impossible to create from thin air. You can fine tune and polish your talent (because it will be in very raw form at the start), but you can’t make it magically appear. You either got it or you don’t. That’s where your support system comes in. If they’re truly honest and good, they will tell you if your book is worth its weight in ink and paper.

Elicit the opinions of others that you trust and get their feedback. Hire a professional editor who will be blunt and impartial. Compare your writing to others in the genre. I know we writers can be poor judges of our own writing, but doing a little side by side can shed light on whether or not you’ve got the chops. So, feel free to tattoo Never Give Up if you have the talent. If you don’t, it’s perfectly fine to give up and find where your talents lie.

 

There you have it, my updated and revised 4 keys to writing. If you took the time to read this whole post, you can check off key #1 for the day. Now get back in your chair and start writing. I’ll be waiting for you at the finish line.

A Summer of Full Time Writing

I have something important to report – bucking the system and pursuing your passion does not bring the world crashing down around your head! The rewards of doing what you love are immeasurable.

Well, I’m 2 months in to this whole full time writing thing and we’re not living in a cardboard box. The one strange thing is this : despite having all day to write, I still feel like there’s not enough time! It could be because I’ve taken on a ton of projects to work on. Every day is filled with both writing new material and editing. I’m certainly not spending my time watching daytime TV. I do wish I’d caught more Jerry Springer. An hour break to revel in humanity at its worst can’t hurt, can it?

my office

My new office. Instead of an admin assistant, I have a squirrel that’s always in the branches above me. Hope he’s not stealing my ideas!

But here’s the thing – I go to bed every night feeling as if I haven’t worked at all. Because it’s not work. It’s what I want to do. The only weird part to get over was this ingrained guilt at not being in a cubicle and miserable. We’re so used to this as the status quo that it takes time to detoxify.


“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~ Mark Twain


So, what have I accomplished? I finished my next novella for Severed Press, LOCH NESS REVENGE. It’s with my beta readers now and will be delivered to my publisher this month. Expect an October release. I’ve also started a new book for Severed set in a lost world packed full of cryptid madness. It’s pure nuttiness and fun.

A month back I mentioned I was working on a series of 3 novelettes for an undisclosed publisher. Well, I still can’t make the official announcement, but the first novelette is all done. I’ll start the second this month. They’re going to be set in the 70s and 80s and have something to do with comic books. That’s all I can reveal for now.

I also finished the book I started last October, WE ARE ALWAYS WATCHING. It’s with beta readers now and will also be sent to my new publisher (another announcement I’ll be able to make soon) in early September. I heard that it’s going to be out in January, 2017.

Feeling like I wanted to branch out a bit, I wrote 2 children’s picture books. They’re with my agent now. Cross your fingers.

You’ll also be seeing writing tips and advice from the Shea trenches on THE VERBS blog this month. I hope to be a continuing contributor.

Now, here’s a brand new project that I think you’ll dig. I’m going to release a series of short stories called HUNTER SHEA’S FAST FRIGHTS. I’m shooting for a new story every month, priced at just 99 cents. The first story, an alien abduction tale, will be released in September. I’m tidying things up and artist Mike Chella is tweaking the cover art. FAST FRIGHTS will be quick hits of horror, a dose of what you need the most. Stay tuned for more about them because you, the readers, will be involved in the creative process as we move along.


“The writer walks out of his workroom in a daze. He wants a drink. He needs it. It happens to be a fact that nearly every writer of fiction in the world drinks more whisky than is good for him. He does it to give himself faith hope and courage. A person is a fool to become a writer. His only compensation is absolute freedom. He has no master except his own soul and that I am sure is why he does it.” — Roald Dahl


Other than that, I’ve spent a lot of time with my family, which has been fantastic. My oldest daughter passed her road test, so I now have someone who can save me from making every run to the supermarket! Daughter number two gets all my attention now to prepare for her road test. Oy! We’re also getting things in line so my wife can have some major surgery. She’s having double knee replacement. I expect a lot of cursing when it comes time for rehab. She asked one doctor, “Will I be able to run once it all heals?” He said, “Were you able to run before they went bad?” She shook her head. “No.” To which he replied, “Well, then, no.”

I’m working with my local Barnes & Noble and library to help new writers by offering any kind of assistance they need. Always, always give back to others. It can’t all be about you, no matter what you do. I remember what it was like when I started out with no one around to lend me a hand. I would have given both legs for a published author’s guidance.

Having time to read, really read, has been a godsend. I surpassed my GoodReads reading challenge of 70 books for the year. Some books I truly enjoyed were Island Red by Matt Serafini, Go Givers Sell More by Bob Burg and John David Mann, Robert Parker’s Kickback by Ace Atkins, Devil Red by Joe R Lansdale and A Living Grave by Robert Dunn.

As far as television and movies go, I absolutely loved Stranger Things on Netflix. I also really enjoyed Judd Apatow’s series, Love. In the movies, hands down, the best movie of the year is Hunt for the Wilderpeople. If you can find it near you, run and see it. It’s gotten a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes for good reason.

The good news is that all of this is inspiring me and giving me the room to deliver more for you than ever! Oh, and I’ve been gearing up for the release of The Jersey Devil on August 30th. You’ll be able to find the paperback in bookstores, supermarkets, Walmart and everywhere. Send me pics of where you find those devils and I’ll share them and give some shout outs!

 

Writing Full Time

Ever since I decided to become a writer, I’ve dreamed about what it would be like to pursue my passion full time. If I can write 2-3 books a year while juggling a day job, how much could I get done if I had all day to write?

Well, that day has come. After a divorce with the old day job a month ago, I became a full time writer, though without the full time pay. The adjustment of working for 30 years and suddenly not working took some time getting used to. So, what did I do to get through it?

I wrote. Writing has always been my private island, the perfect escape, the place where reality never gets past the bouncer. As the shock wore off, the time I devoted to writing increased. I actually looked at this as a needed break so I can devote proper attention to the slew of projects I had agreed to take on.

Now it’s time to reflect. After a month, what have I accomplished?  Well, I have 3 novellas that I was scheduled to write for an as yet unnamed publisher later this summer. Now that I had time, I set my ass down to start the first. Draft #1 was completed in two weeks. It’s now resting in my laptop. You need to give your story and yourself time to breathe before jumping in to the editing process. Or at least I do. Rewrites start in a few days.

Writing Room

At the same time, I started working on my next monster book for Severed Press. I have about 10,000 words to go before I can type THE END on draft #1 of that puppy. I figure that’ll be done around July 7th.

Then my family and I head to house-sit for a friend up in the country where I’ll finally finish the novel I started last fall, WE ARE ALWAYS WATCHING. There are literally just a couple of chapters to go, then I have to do a ton of rewrites because the story kept changing as it went along. This is a dark one. No monsters. Nothing paranormal. Just people at their strangest and worst on a Pennsylvania farm.

After that, I have a special project I’m going to write and self-publish, followed by the other two novellas I’m still contracted to write this year. And Lord only knows what else I’ll agree to along the way. Let’s just say this chapter in my life will be marked with a boom in my creative output.

I’m also catching up on my TBR pile and getting new books from the library every 3 days. I’ve decided to re-read everything Hemingway for the rest of the summer. Then there’s more time to spend with my family at independent league baseball games, movies and swimming at the pools and beaches nearby. My old day job actually gave me a gift – my first summer off since I graduated high school! I don’t plan to waste it.

 

 

One Step Closer To The Jersey Devil

I got  my final page proofs for THE JERSEY DEVIL in the mail this week. This is my last pass before the whole shebang goes to print. I have my multi-colored pen ready to roll. Prepare for the madness to come in late August!

 

Jersey Devil MS

An Odd Path To Publication – Guest Post by Norman Prentiss

For my moolah, Norman Prentiss is one of the best writers out there in Author Land. And I don’t just mean the horror genre. He’s publishing his latest book via the Kindle Scout, a path I know plenty of people are interested in. Check out why and how it all works. And then hop over to the KS page, read his excerpt and vote!


 

I’ve got a new book that I’m very proud of, ODD ADVENTURES WITH YOUR OTHER FATHER, and it’s currently on view at Amazon as part of the Kindle Scout program: https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/31CCF08HMHST3

Kindle Scout is unusual, because it allows readers to preview a book that’s not yet selected for publication.  Authors supply a cover image, description and bio., and a 5,000 word excerpt, and then reader “nominations” help the book garner attention from Amazon.  The program begins as a kind of popularity contest, measuring web traffic over a period of 30 days to gauge reader interest and a book’s marketability; however, the ultimate decision lies with Amazon (high-traffic books have been rejected; average-traffic books have gotten a contract).

Now that I’m posting a book at Kindle Scout, a few folks are asking me why I didn’t work with the horror specialty press, where I’ve had previous success (Cemetery Dance, Dark Fuse, PS Publishing, and Thunderstorm). Why go the Kindle Scout route for this one?

Prentiss Cover

Well, I’ve been shopping this book around, and have gotten a lot of very positive feedback–but one of the key comments was that it fit too many categories.  It’s kind of a “queer pulp roadtrip adventure,” with horror and fantasy elements.  As an added wrinkle, the adult-themed adventures are surrounded by a frame tale that’s kind of YA in style: a coming-of-age story as a daughter attempts to understand her fathers’ past.  On one level I think it’s my most mainstream book, likely to appeal to people outside horror because of its social themes and, ultimately, the emotional content of the book’s overall effect.  At the same time, it might be, to repeat a word in the title, too ODD for mainstream. Writing it (I realize now), I was aiming for something like a “cult-movie” type of readership.

How does a book like this find its audience?  One strategy, I guess, would be to publish it modestly and hope people find it eventually (maybe in a few years…or even decades, when I might not around to know it!).  But if the book doesn’t fit the usual categories, then an unusual or new-fangled path to publication might be exactly the right way to go.

Another important factor in my decision is that ODD ADVENTURES WITH YOUR OTHER FATHER is different from my other stories, to the point where I briefly considered publishing it under a pseudonym.  It’s maybe a little sexier, even a little more fun (pulp instead of literary in places) than my other work.  The queer themes set this book apart from some of my other fiction, as well–the adventures explore homophobia in a supernatural context. Ultimately, though, the book is still ME, and I want my name on the cover.  So instead of the pseudonym route, I thought a different publishing path could help distinguish this book (and the two following titles I’ve planned for the series) from things like INVISIBLE FENCES, my Dr. Sibley stories, or THE FLESHLESS MAN.

No matter what path this book follows to publication, I think my horror fans will dig ODD ADVENTURES WITH YOUR OTHER FATHER.  It’s definitely got some chills and unsettling scenes, and monsters all the way through. And I’m hoping a lot of new readers find me through the Kindle Scout campaign.

In the meantime, please consider giving me a boost by checking out the excerpt from this book at Kindle Scout (https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/31CCF08HMHST3), and nominate it if you find it worthy.  I’m happy with the excerpt, and can promise that the whole book has a lot more surprises in store.  And if Amazon chooses to publish it, they’ll provide a free advance copy of the full eBook to folks who nominated it!

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