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The Only Three Books to Seriously Mess Me Up

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Author’s Note: I came across this guest blog while answering a friend’s question about Stephen King books on Facebook, and realized I’d never brought it over here for safekeeping. So, you get it now. It originally appeared on the Undead Rat’s website, preceded the previous day by a review of WILD, the book I was touring (virtually) for in March 2011.

Let’s face it; when you write the scary stuff like I do and review horror books on a regular basis, it’s easy to… take the chills for granted, so to speak, or to become jaded. Kinda like how you can eat your dinner while watching the evening news because you see the same murders and genocide night after night.

Now, there have been quite a few novels that made me cringe; I made the mistake of reading Brian Keene’s Urban Gothic and J.F. Gonzalez’ Survivor while eating meals, for instance. Grossing me out isn’t the same as really sticking with me, though, and while I don’t want to take anything away from the authors I enjoy reading every week, I read horror for entertainment and only three books come to mind as having actually horrified me.

I first encountered Pet Sematary by Stephen King while in high school, though the novel was released the year after I was born. I’d been reading horror for a couple of years by this point, was a freshman at a local Catholic high school and routinely broke the religion teacher (a priest)’s balls by ignoring his lessons in favor of Stephen King but still maintaining an ‘A’ average. Even at that age I didn’t lay awake for hours after reading a horror novel or get creeped out by reading about the various bad guys.

However, I almost didn’t finish Pet Sematary, the story of a family’s dealings with an ancient Native American burial ground. I put it down about 2/3 of the way in and couldn’t pick it back up for two months, as I recall. Imagine how gratified I was when I discovered that King almost didn’t publish the book and considers it the most horrifying of his works.

Last year I had the pleasure of personally telling Jack Ketchum how affected I was by his novel The Girl Next Door. In return, he shared with me how affected he was by the real-life story that inspired the book, of a girl in 1965 Indianapolis tortured to death by a family friend and her children. My autographed mass-market paperback of the book is probably my favorite signed book of all because of the impact the story had on me, but I have to admit it’s the book I’m least likely to ever read in public again.

The first time I read the book I didn’t know what to expect; I’d heard good (bad?) things about it, but I read horror daily, you know? There were certain points in the story that I reached while sitting in a large group of people, praying that no one would look over my shoulder and see what a sick freak I was, while at the same time unable to put the damn thing down.

Finally, Succulent Prey by Wrath James White really did me in, to such an extent that I still found myself thinking about it weeks later. It starts out intriguingly enough, with an unorthodox theory about the propagation of serial killers, but quickly degenerates into a horrifying string of brutal cannibal episodes interwoven with the protagonist’s quest to discover whether serial killers create other serial killers.

Wrath’s a good writer, but so are a lot of the other authors I read for fun, too. There’s something about cannibals that really screws with me, though; I guess everyone has their thing, right? For some people, it’s clowns. Succulent Prey not only has the gore-factor going for it, but the emotional impact of the story, especially the end, was the icing on the cake.

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Links-n-Shit

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Because you can’t possibly come here every day wanting to hear moar about me:

Since enrolling in Select six months ago, my monthly sales have gone from around $50/per month, to surpassing my day job income in three of the last four months.  I’ve reached thousands of new readers by enrolling in this program (Kindle Select–ed.), and these readers have, in turn, bought my other works.

Depending on how quickly you work, I think it’s vital to come out with new material at LEAST every few months. Debuting new material allows you to promote it and simultaneously call attention to your other works. I’m aiming for new stuff every other month. I’m not necessarily talking a new novel every other month – it can be as small as a new short story.

The Rules of Writing

  1. You MUST Write Quickly
  2. You MUST Write Slowly
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Editing Techniques

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Author’s Note: Here’s another taste from the archives, a guest post I did earlier this year for Ms. Janice Gable Bashman during my blog tour in support of WILD. In case you’re wondering, this “archive thing” is something I’m doing, purposely, for the holidays. The next two weeks of writing output will be almost exclusively dedicated to finishing a novella. Also, I have an anthology to wrap up, doncha know. I hope you like it.

Hi! I’m Lincoln Crisler. I play G.I. Joe for a living and write scary stuff in my spare time. Janice has been good enough to let me climb aboard and share a bit of my magic with you and suggested my editing techniques as a possible topic of interest. This is what I do; if you’re looking to try something different, it might be worth your time. If you’re a reader looking for a peek behind the curtain, this would be that. As wiser men than I have said, your mileage may vary. Just for fun, I’ll name the segments after songs from the best rock band ever, RUSH.

Leave That Thing Alone. [VIDOnce I’m done writing that bad boy, whether it’s a short story, a comic script, flash fiction or a novella, it goes to sleep for awhile. If I’m still lucky to have blocks of writing time in the days that follow the completion of a story, I’ll usually move onto something else. I’m always working on more than one project at a time; I’m ADD like that. Sometimes I’ll take a break from writing altogether, either because I can’t find time to write for a few days or because I need to do something else. The most important reason for putting a finished work in a drawer for a while (I recommend two weeks, but sometimes my impatience wins out and it’s only one) is so that the next time I look at the work I have a fresh perspective and will catch things that I’d miss if I edited right away.

The Main Monkey Business. [VIDSo, with a couple of weeks between me and the story (and hopefully with another completed story to shove into the drawer, ideally), it’s time to pull that puppy out. I read every single sentence, as you might expect, and if something doesn’t seem quite right, I read it out loud. If it sounds awkward when spoken, it needs a rewrite. I also look for signs of slop like excessive adverbs (words ending in -ly) or one of the biggest indicators of passive voice, words ending in -ing. Sometimes I’ll get a jump on that two week break by critiquing with some fellow authors whose opinion I value. I can usually implement their advice right away, since it’s not tainted by lack of objectivity. There’s been one or two times when I’ve been up against a deadline and needed to forgo the break. I depended solely on the advice of my critique group and didn’t go wrong. It’s very important to have some good people around you, for a variety of reasons. I also pay particular attention to the dialogue portions of my work. I’ve been complemented on numerous occasions on how natural my characters’ dialogue seems, and by and large it comes naturally, but that praise makes me paranoid. Now I have something to live up to. Every so often somethng won’t roll off my tongue as well as it did off my pen, and I err on the side of caution in those instances.

Working Man. [VIDBasically it’s business as usual at this point; find some decent markets, write a good cover letter and push that bad boy out of the nest! I’ve had editors come back at me two or three times requesting further editing; a couple didn’t like my curse words (and honestly, the stories weren’t harmed by their removal, either!) and another noted a slight difference in writing style at a certain point (coincidentally, the same point where I set the story aside for a year and a half!). All that’s essential at this point is deciding whether you want to make the changes, and then getting word back to the editor in a timely manner. Other than that, the only thing I should point out is that asking for revisions usually isn’t a guarantee of acceptance. That’s okay, though; I have a list of ten things you’d be better off doing than worrying!

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