Tag Archive | writing

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.

Resolutions are for Suckers

This is going to be a short post because I want to get right to the point. This time of year, a lot of people start thinking about what their new year’s resolutions are going to be for 2019.

Don’t be one of those people. Resolutions, like hearts, are made to be broken. You want to do something? Get off your ass TODAY and do it.

I’ve known a lot of people who swear they’re going to start writing that book that’s been circling around their brain right after the ball drops. Guess what? They don’t.

Ideas are like passion fruit. Eat them now before they wither and die.

If you said you will write a book in 2019 and wait until 1/1/19 to start instead of today, you’re already behind. You could have written 30,000 words already! And face it, by the time New Year’s Day rolls around, you’re going to bitch and moan that you’re hungover or tired or just worn down from the holidays.

Write now. Eat right and exercise now. Start your own custom bagel shop now. Pet every dog you meet now. I don’t care what you do. Just don’t be one of those suckers who thinks they need to wait for a date on a calendar to start your passion, your dream, your big plan!

Don’t just take my word. Listen to this guy. He has a beard and tattoos and curses a lot – and he says it like it is.

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. 

Loglines to the Rescue – Writing Aid

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?

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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.

To read Noam’s article, click here.

Now nail that logline down and get to writing!

Pre-order Extension for WE ARE ALWAYS WATCHING

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 huntershea1@gmail.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.

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The signature sheets have been signed, sealed and delivered. Now they just need to be woven into the books themselves.

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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.

Review The Jersey Devil, Get A Free Book!

Jersey Devil CoverI have a very special offer for all the Hellions out there who have dared to take the plunge into the Pine Barrens. If you go to Amazon and post a review for The Jersey Devil, send an email to huntershea1@gmail.com with a link to the review and the ebook you’d like to receive as a way of thanking you for taking the time to spread the word. In the world of writing, reviews and the buzz they create are more valuable than advances and royalties. Not to mention, after spending all that time writing alone with just the voices in my head, it’s nice to hear what you think of the book. Even if it’s just to tell me I need professional therapy (or in my case, more professional therapy)!

Sure, I write because I love it (sure isn’t about the moolah when you scribble horror), but more importantly, I write to entertain Hellions and non-Hellions alike. The world isn’t always such a nice place. Finding some time to escape, even if it’s curling up with a monster, is important just to keep our sanity.

And if you already posted a review before this offer, follow the same process and I’ll get a book out to you.

There are 4 books you can choose from : I KILL IN PEACE, SWAMP MONSTER MASSACRE, THE DOVER DEMON & THE WAITING. Happy reading!

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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?

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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!

 

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