Tag Archive | writing inspiration

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 Your Book – The Thousand Word March

I’m about to let you in on a secret that will help you write that book that’s been dying to get out. The best part is, you can do it without having an existential crisis.

It’s been too long since I’ve posted anything about writing in the trenches in this genre I love so much. Back when I was locking myself away in my room, tapping out words and getting nothing but rejection or worse, silence, I never dreamed I’d be in the position I’m in today. Sure, I did it with the goal of legitimate publication (whatever your own definition of that may be), but I just never thought I’d have a year like this one with three books coming out and writing four more for three different publishers for next year.

I’m not a full time writer. Writing doesn’t have health benefits, and if you’ve stopped by the blog and chain, you know I need them for my wife, who is the queen of auto-immune diseases. So I have a full time job that is more than that – it’s a solid career that can’t be ignored or pushed to the side. I have two amazing kids – teens now –the same number of cats, old friends, new friends, things to do and places to see every day.

The question everyone asks me is, ‘How in the world can you manage to write several books a year? Do you sleep? When’s the last time your family saw you? Or you saw the sun?’

My answer is usually that I just sit down and write because I truly enjoy the process. And yes, that is part of it. But what is the process?

Hunter writes

Basically, what works for me is something I’ve called The Thousand Word March – or TTWM if I’m too lazy to say or spell it out. When I started working with editors, I quickly found out that they think and talk in terms of thousands. Discussing the length of your work in progress, whether it’s a story, novella or novel, it’s all about word count, not the number of pages or file size of your Word document.

They’ll say, “I’d love it if you could get me that novel under 95,000 words, but no less than 90,000.” Or if you’re pitching a novella, they might say, “Anything between 28,000 and 50,000 words will do it.”

So, if they’re thinking in thousands, I had to rethink the way I worked and made my own projections. My first horror novel, Forest of Shadows, was a true labor of love. I worked on it for almost five years. When people asked about my progress, I’d tell them I was 185 pages in and so on. Come time to pitch it to the sole publisher I sent it to (fodder for a later post), I proudly stated it was 550 pages.

But to an editor, 550 pages does not translate. The number of pages I write will never equal the print pages in a book because of font and paper size, spacing, etc. It turned out my 550 pages equaled over 100,000 words, which was a little more than Samhain wanted at the time. So, I had to do some editing to get it under 95,000.

When it came time to write my next book, I came up with The Thousand Word March to wrap my head around the best way to proceed. Knowing that my editor would like something between 85,000 and 90,000, I looked at the calendar to see how long it would take me to get the first draft done. Since my editor also hinted that he’d like me to write two books a year for him, I knew I couldn’t just cruise along at my own speed. That’s a good thing. It prevents procrastination from rearing its ugly head. Nothing works better than a fire under one’s posterior.

Staring at the calendar, I thought, if I just did 1,000 words a day, I’d have a 90,000 word book completed in three months. Hmmm. A thousand words a day. I could do that. I don’t have tons of free time, but I almost always have time to write 1,000 words. In fact, as I started working on that book, I realized that even on a day when the words were hard to find, I could accomplish my mission within an hour. So, if I set aside an hour and a half each weeknight, I could hit my writing goal, that extra half hour spent doing all the other things a working writer has to do, like marketing, responding to emails and maybe tooling around with a short story.

On weekends, I shoot for 2,000 – 3,000 words a day. This way, I can finish ahead of schedule, giving me more time for editing later on. I know it sounds like a lot, but when you work at it all the time and get into a rhythm, it’s really not so bad. In fact, I’ve found that by writing on Saturday and Sunday mornings, before the day drains my brain, I can write far more in less time. The key is to get at least 7,000 words in a week so I can meet my goal of a full novel in three months.

Weekends are also a good time to catch up on days you might have missed during the week. Look, we all have lives to live and you can’t always find the time to write. Here’s what my past week looked like :

Monday – 1,900 words (I doubled up knowing that Tuesday was my day off, so to speak.)

Tuesday – nothing (It was St. Patrick’s Day and I’m Irish. ‘Nuff said.)

Wednesday – 1,100 words

Thursday – 1,000 words

Friday – 1,000 words

Saturday – 2,300 words

Sunday – 2,500 words

So, if my goal is 7,000 words a week, even taking a day off, I was able to write 9,800 words, putting me ahead of the game. Total time spent writing, marketing and other stuff – 10 hours. When you think of it, that’s not bad at all. I still had time to work, cook meals, watch movies, spend time with my family and friends and read. I read at least two books a week. I can’t function without my books.

Where do you find 10 hours? Look no further than your TV or YouTube or any other time suck. Turn ‘em off for a while. I promise, they’ll be there when you’re finished. Think of it as a reward for a job well done. What’s more important, watching housewife cat fights or creating your own work of art?

Some weeks are going to be far more productive than others. If you lock your mind on The Thousand Word March, you’ll always know exactly where you stand and what you need to do to accomplish your goals – all without having to become a crazed recluse.

Look, I know there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to writing. Everyone has to find their own way, just as they find their own voice. This is what works for me. If you’re struggling or feel intimidated by the blank page, give it a shot. The Thousand Word March can take you to some pretty amazing places.


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Guest Author Glenn Rolfe Finds His Inspiration

Glenn Rolfe is the newest addition to the Samhain horror roster and further proof that Samhain is publishing the best new talent around. His book, Abram’s Bridge, comes from a very special place. Read on to discover where…


Abram’s Bridge is my first piece with Samhain Publishing. I wrote it in the fall of 2013 when my writing group, Tuesday Mayhem Society, decided we should each write up a ghost story for the next meeting. I went home and sat down with my notebook. Nothing happened. I knew I wanted to write something really good. I wanted to impress the group, ya know? So, I threw on my headphones and found some Bruce. Bruce Springsteen’s album, Darkness on the Edge of Town, always has a way of getting my mind set right. I’ve listened to the title track a thousand times, but this time, I heard something in it that I’d never noticed before. There’s a line that says, “tell her there’s a spot out ‘neath Abram’s Bridge, and tell her there’s a darkness on the edge of town…” I said, “Whoa…”

I started scribbling.

I set Bruce on repeat and moved to my laptop. The story started to fall from wherever we writers reach to and I just went with it. It felt like real magic. It felt somehow special. Every free moment I got over the next few days, I jumped back in. I couldn’t wait to get back to my computer, to these characters, to their story. I had to know what was going to happen next. Somewhere along the way it became more than a simple ghost story. It outgrew the short story parameters I had originally set it in. I missed my writing group’s meeting and our self-imposed deadline. Something scary happened. A mystery developed and I stopped. I’m normally a pretty fearless writer. I let my characters live and breathe and do whatever the hell they want. I let my stories turn whichever way the like, but I had never written a mystery. Regardless, I knew that’s the way this story wanted to go. So, after an evening of staring at the blinking cursor, I said to hell with it. I reached back in and the rest of the story poured out.

AbramsBridgeWhen I finished, I knew I had something.

Bruce Springsteen, to me, has always been the most inspiring figure in the arts. Listening to his songs, his stories behind those songs and those albums, his reason for creating his art…it’s always moved me, motivated me. Abram’s Bridge is the first piece I thought actually had a touch of the Boss’s magic attached to it. If I’d never sold this story, it would still be special to me. Luckily, Don from Samhain enjoyed it as much as I did, and here we are.

I hope you’ll download a copy of this novella. I hope you’ll take a couple of hours and meet Lil’ Ron Sawyer and Sweet Kate, the girl out ‘neath Abram’s Bridge. I hope you’ll fall into their story and feel the magic like I did. There is darkness, but that’s often where we find our way to the light.

Cheers!

-Glenn

Travelogue of a Novel

So often, writers give advice on how to write (or not write) a book. It’s high-time someone gave a glimpse into where to bang those keys for your next novel.

The answer is simple – you can write anywhere! There’s no need to wait until you have that perfect ‘study’ with the mahogany desk, shelves lined with important books, bay window overlooking Mother Nature in all her glory. If you want to write, if the words just have to come out of you like that little guy from Alien, you’ll write anywhere you can. SinisterEntity_v3

My latest novel, Sinister Entity, was written all over the place. In a year’s time, I worked on it everywhere from New York, to Pennsylvania and Maine. I worked mornings, afternoons, nights, basically any time I could steal away to purge the story from my mind.

I started in the corner of my bedroom I call my office. Here is where I’m surrounded by all my stuff, the things that make me comfortable, my reference materials, signed pics of Elvira, yadda yadda yadda.

Home office

About a dozen chapters in, we went with my family to our annual trip to the Poconos. I woke up early every day to write downstairs in the living room and kitchen (which had a great view of the sunrise, by the way).

shawnee

Then it was back to the home office. Before we knew it, summer hit and it was time to go camping, our my family’s version of camping that involves a cabin with cable TV, a full kitchen and shower. Again, I mostly worked mornings on the porch, smelling the surrounding forest and flicking dew drops and strange bugs from the screen.

Jellystone 2

That was a special year because we took 2 vacations. The second was to my home away from home and favorite place in the world, Maine. I wrote all times of the day, either on the back porch or by the lake. It’s especially cool and inspiring to write a horror novel in the very same town where Stephen King penned a few of his own.

Maine porch

Now all I had was the last fourth of the book to go. And after so many tranquil locations, where did I end up? My cramped kitchen, of course. Not sure why it is, but I seem to write best there. Go figure.

Kitchen

I also did some writing in an airport during a four hour flight delay and made quite a few trips to the library to tap out a few hundred words here and there. The thing is, I wrote wherever I was at the time. I didn’t have time to wait for the perfect moment or place. I simply wrote.

Now go out there and create!

Getting off the Island : Writing Life Rafts

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.

Inspiration/Self Help

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.

On_Writing

Writing References

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.

Bill Bryson

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?

Women in Horror : An Interview With Damien Walters Grintalis

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.

Ink Cover

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?

Writing What You Love & A Case For Keeping Your Day Job

We all want to do what we love for a living, right? I know I do. They say (and we all know who they are) that if you choose a job you love, you’ll never have to work a day in your life. I think I might make a poster of that, complete with a picture of my cat sleeping on the radiator.

Writers are often asked, especially when they are starting out, if they plan to make writing a full time career. You know, quit your stultifying 9 to 5 job and live off the fat of the advance and royalty checks that will shower upon you like rain in Dublin. Naturally, we’d all love to do this. That dream is right up there with winning the lottery. Getting your first book deal feels even harder than hitting Lotto.

The truth is, only a small percentage of authors can rely on what they bring in from their writing as their sole source of income. Next time you go to your bookstore at say, 11am on a Tuesday, pay close attention to all of the names you see on the spines of the books. The vast majority of those folks are slaving away at some office while you’re out browsing.

Where’s the glamour in that? What’s the point of struggling to get published if I still have to clock in every day and stare at my cubicle walls?

I’m here to tell you that there is an upside to this. When we commit to being a writer, we’re basically juggling two full time jobs. The day job pays the bills and hopefully gives you some sense of fulfillment and accomplishment. Writing feeds the soul and puts you in touch with your passion. Keeping up with both jobs also gives you freedom and peace of mind. That’s right, I said you’ll have more freedom, even within your cloth covered cube!

What’s this upside I seem so hellbent to profess?

• Publishers don’t give writers benefit plans or retirement savings. Anyone over 30 with kids will understand the importance of this. In fact, a lot of people consider this more important than salary when considering a job.

• Your day job gives you a steady paycheck. That means you can plan your finances, count on buying groceries every week and paying the rent every month. There are no cash dry spells when you have a day job.

• Because you don’t depend on writing to keep you and your family from living in a cardboard box, you have the FREEDOM to write about the things you love and are passionate about. You take on assignments and book projects that you want to do, not just ones that you need to do in order to survive.

I write horror. Unless your last name is King, Barker, Koontz or a handful of others, you’re confined to being a midlist author, which means the financial payoff will not have you putting a down payment on that pretty Jaguar.

Of the few horror writers I know who make writing their only career, I see their stress and have been told by more than one to treasure my day job. It’s stressful when you have to produce a prodigious output and hope that publishers will accept it and pay something worth the effort. There are no guarantees. Writing in genres they’d never read in becomes a necessity. Did I mention the stress?

Look, we all should dare to dream about landing that game changing book or movie deal that will put our 9 to 5 days behind us. It’s the carrot that keeps us chasing the stick. But don’t fret that you’re on published book #7 and still saying hi to your boss every morning. When you go home at night, you get to dive into the world you love most, and you get recognized and rewarded for it. Not too shabby.

Now, what’s your opinion? Do you think I’m crazy to embrace my day job or spot on? Have you managed to become a full time writer? Share a war story.

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