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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org for a free 30 minute consultation and let’s make those writing dreams come true.
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.
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
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?
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!
Kristopher Rufty’s Latest Thriller – DESOLATION
I’m a pretty lucky guy. Kristopher Rufty is not only my friend, he’s also one of my favorite authors. We share a publisher and an agent, so he can’t shake me even if he wants to. Last year, he floored me with Jagger and Bigfoot Beach. He’s already kicking off 2016 with a new book from Samhain, Desolation. The cover it flipping awesome, and I know the contents will be even better.
Today I hand the wheel over to Krist as he takes you on Desolation’s journey. Ever wondered where writers get their ideas? Well, Hellions, read on. And don’t forget to enter the giveaway at the end of the post. He’s giving away the store. Man, I gotta up my giveaway game.
Highway to Desolation
Desolation has been around for ten years. That’s a long time for an idea to be brewing. But when it was first conceived, it was meant to be my first attempt at writing a novel, but then it was changed into a script that I thought could be shot for a very low budget during a very short shooting schedule. I still think so, actually.
The original idea came to me in a dream. Is that laughter I hear? I’m being serious! In this dream I had way back in 2006, I was watching a movie. The scene that was transpiring on my dream screen was the opening: a man trapped in a car, his injured wife bleeding profusely beside him. He kicks his way out of the car, wanting to find his son. A strange man appears, seemingly out of nowhere, to help him search. As they look, the DVD begins skipping. I didn’t get to see what happened, for the movie jumped ahead several scenes to show me an intruder invading somebody’s home, armed with a crowbar, and using the tool to bash heads. I tried to figure out who was in the home, who the intruder was, and was becoming increasingly frustrated because I had no idea what was going on.
Then I woke up.
It was just after three in the morning, and I was now wide awake. I smoked cigarettes back then and snuck outside to have one. It was the middle of winter, and I was standing on our porch, shivering as I replayed those scenes over and over in my head. I wondered what had caused the accident at the beginning, and why, obviously later in the dream movie, was somebody invading someone’s home.
Before I had finished smoking the cigarette, the entire premise had come together: A man, horribly wronged by another man. This man who caused so much harm is not a bad man. He’s a good person at heart, though he’s made many mistakes and this wrong is something that is felt not only by him, or the other man, but by their families. I wanted it clear that Grant is not evil; he’s not vindictive, though he’s used to getting his way. He’s just a guy, somebody that messed up. But I also wanted it be clear that Dennis is also a good person, driven to deplorable actions by Grant’s mistake.
That premise has stuck with me for a long time. In the original script, I wrote it as a straightforward exploitation-style horror movie. At one point, David Hess (of Last House on the Left fame) had agreed to play Grant and possibly write the music, with Trent Haaga set to play Dennis. The script floated around for years, with many people being attached on as actors, producers, composers, and FX artists.
It came back to me in 2013 for the last time. I decided to just put it in the drawer and leave it be.
A year or so later, I told my agent about the idea. She liked it a lot and told me not to forget about it. I didn’t. With the idea fresh in my brain again, I reread the script, cringing a bit. I still really liked the premise, but not the execution. I thought, If I were to rewrite this, I think this needs to be changed, and this, and this…”
Then another idea hit. I remembered after my father passed away, somebody suggested I write him letters. Just take a blank notebook and write him a letter every day until I felt I didn’t need to do that anymore. They said it would help me in my grieving. I tried. I hated it. It seemed to make me hurt worse, knowing he’d never read them.
And I stopped writing them.
But the idea I had was this: What if Dennis is writing letters to his deceased wife and as we read them, we see his mental wall chipping away a piece at a time. While this is happening, Grant is off trying to take his already crumbled existence, and plaster it all back together. Then the two worlds collide and complete chaos happens.
I had to write the book.
Took ten years, but I finally wrote the novel that I had originally hoped would have been my debut. I’m glad I did not try to write this book all those years ago. And even with the years of disappointment from the movie not being made, I’m very relieved it wasn’t. Had it been, this book would have never been written.
ISBN: 978-1-619233-09-6 Trade Paperback (List: $15.95)
There’s no escaping your past. Especially when it wants revenge.
Grant Marlowe hoped taking his family to their mountain cabin for Christmas would reunite them after his alcoholic past had torn them apart, but it only puts them into a life and death struggle. On Christmas Eve, a stranger from Grant’s past invades the vacation home and takes his wife and children hostage. His agenda is simple—make Grant suffer the same torment that Grant’s drunken antics have caused him. Now Grant must confront his demons head on and fight for his family’s lives. Because this man has nothing left to lose. The only thing keeping him alive is misery—Grant’s misery.
Biography, Kristopher Rufty
Kristopher Rufty lives in North Carolina with his wife, three children, and the zoo they call their pets. He’s written various books, including The Vampire of Plainfield, Jagger, The Lurkers, The Lurking Season, The Skin Show, Pillowface, Proud Parents, and more, plus a slew of horror screenplays. He has also written and directed the independent horror films Psycho Holocaust, Rags, and Wicked Wood. If he goes more than two days without writing, he becomes very irritable and hard to be around, which is why he’s sent to his desk without supper often.
Praise for Kristopher Rufty
“Kristopher Rufty is the demented reincarnation of Richard Laymon!” –Jeff Strand
“A Dark Autumn is a wild gender role reversal of ‘I Spit On Your Grave,’ with gonzo nods to Norman Bates and ‘Friday The 13th’ thrown in for good measure. Kristopher Rufty delivers the goods yet again.” –Bryan Smith, author of Kayla Undead and The Late Night Horror Show
“A creepy, gripping tale of horror. And it’s got one of the best death scenes I’ve read in a long time!” –Jeff Strand, author of Pressure and Dweller
“A powerhouse debut novel. Rufty’s prose will suck you in and hold you prisoner!” –Ronald Malfi, author of Floating Staircase and Snow
“An occult thriller with a new twist. Rufty juggles captivating characters, breakneck suspense, and insidious horror in a macabre story that will leave you feeling possessed by the end of it. Next time you think about taking that old Ouija board out…forget it!” –Edward Lee, author of Lucifer’s Lottery and City Infernal
Barnes & Noble
We have a lot of books to giveaway from Krist! We have two audio books, Oak Hollow and Pillowface in one link. In the second link we have a signed print copy of The Lurking Season and two e-books, Vampire of Plainfield and Bigfoot Beach. Winners are chosen random via rafflecopter and are given choice of prize of order pulled. Any questions on raffle, please e-mail Erin Al-Mehairi, publicist, at email@example.com
Link for audio book giveaway:
Link for print/e-book giveaway:
My Editor, My Main Man, Don D’Auria
I’m a reformed editor stalker. At least that’s what the state shrink has declared in my case.
Actually, following the career of my dream editor, Don D’Auria, turned out to be a pretty smart career move. When I talk to people about writing and getting published, I encourage this kind of behavior. And if you want to be a horror writer, Don is the man you should make a point to follow.
When I was a wanna be writer and tried and true reader, I hoovered horror novels like they were dust bunnies. The 80’s was an absolute horror boom, with tons of great and oodles of bad books, all waiting for my little eyeballs. Things slowed down a bit in the early 90’s. Finding books by authors other than King, Koontz, Barker and Saul was like searching for the holy grail or my last shaker of salt.
And then came Don (you can sing that to the theme from Maude). The first time I spotted a Leisure paperback in the horror section of my local bookstore (yes, there were still shelves dedicated to horror in the mid-90’s), I fell in love. In the front, or back, of all these wonderful books, I saw a common denominator – they all thanked their editor, this mythical dude named Don D’Auria. I wondered, who is this guy who’s bringing me great works by writers like Richard Laymon, Jack Ketchum, Brian Keene, Tim Lebbon, Sephera Giron, Hugh B. Cave, Douglas Clegg, Graham Masterson, John Everson, Bryan Smith, Tim Waggoner and so many more? Talk about an eye for talent! As far as I was concerned, Don had an almost supernatural ability to find the brightest and the best, the old and the new.
When I set out to write my own horror novel, I did so with the express intention to write it for Don and Don only. I sent it to him at Leisure and waited…for years. Eventually, he offered me a contract with Leisure. Alas, the company imploded as I was signing, so I waited (while standing on the ledge of a tall building) until Don moved to Samhain, where he took me along for the ride. It’s been beyond my wildest expectations ever since.
I remember the first time I met Don face to face at a Horrorfind convention. The Samhain authors were making their con debut at a booth right where attendees checked in. Man, was I nervous. I was expecting this imposing Max Perkins character to come waltzing in. I did a lot of dry swallowing waiting for him to show. Turns out, he was one of the most down to earth, unassuming guys I’d ever met. I still couldn’t shake my fan boy apprehension during that con. He was the guy who rescued me from the slush pile. I owed him my entire budding career!
We discovered that we lived close to one another during that con, and made it a point to meet for drinks one night. That was many nights and martinis/beers ago. Don isn’t just my editor. He’s a true friend, a brother from another mother who grew up on Chiller Theatre and Famous Monsters Magazine. We’re two kids who get to play on the same field as the greats who shaped our passion. Sometimes, while we’re talking about Vincent Price movies or getting Barbara Crampton’s autograph, I feel like I have to pinch myself. How many people get to work with their dream editor? And of those, how many can call that person a true friend? I’m one lucky bastard.
As Samhain turns 10 this month, I want to thank Don for all he’s done for not just me, but all the lost boys and girls of the horror line. To show my undying thanks, I even tattooed their logo on my arm. Don’s portrait is next! 🙂