Blog, blog, blog!

Hello all. When my wife Nicole Castle-Kelly “suggested” I take part in the Blog Tour, I leapt at the chance. This is officially my first foray into the blogosphere. Let’s go!

What am I working on?

As Nicole Castle-Kelly mentioned, the creative energy at the 2014 World Horror Convention was amazing. It was just what I needed to finish a short story I have been writing for two years. That short story lead to several story ideas using the same setting and characters, culminating in a novel with characters and setting fully fleshed out by the short stories.

I am also working on a short story for the Great Lakes Association of Horror Writer’s 7th annual anthology. The myth of Osiris came instantly to mind and would not be denied. Some of the subject matter is out of my comfort zone, and I’m not sure I want to release it, but I could not stop writing it. And nothing else came to my rescue as a suitable replacement. So, copper mining, zombies, dismemberment and unhealthy family relations it is!

Small steps, but welcome opportunities to sharpen my craft and refine my voice.

How does my writing differ from others?

Good question. Wish I had a good answer. I don’t have a large enough body of work to speak for itself or let you read and tell me what you think is unique. What am I shooting for? Clean dialogue, efficient prose, characters you want to hang out with, settings and situations you haven’t seen several times before (done better than me!), real risk and consequences, and satisfying endings that are some combination of triumph and failure.

That’s quite a list. I better get back to work. I definitely need the practice!

Why do I write what I do?

First and foremost, I write stories I would like to read. If I entertain myself, I hope I will also entertain you.

 What I like to read has evolved over the years, but it all began with The Hobbit. My uncle loaned it to me when I was seven. I read it several times and never understood it. I’m sure I still haven’t grasped all the subtleties. But it lead to The Lord of the Rings, and the discovery if you read long enough the words disappear and you are there, in the story. You all know what I’m talking about.  Once I made that discovery, the public library became a best friend. It remains so to this day. One of the first things I do when I move to a new place is to get a library card. Coincidentally, when I started to read for fun my grades made a dramatic improvement. Straight A’s for the first time in Fourth Grade, and for most of my academic career thereafter.

Early on, I did judge books by their covers. The Children’s Section didn’t have much in the way of Horror. Their lurid covers would have to wait. But it did have Sci-Fi and Fantasy: Runaway Robot, Have Spacesuit Will Travel, the Dragonfall 5 series, Barney in Space, The Day the Sea Rolled Back, A Wrinkle in Time, and many more. Chose Your Own Adventure was always a treat. Phyllis Reynolds Naylor creeped me out. Her books are way better than Goosebumps or any of the other “horror-lite” series marketed for kids, and hold up well today. I read the Hardy Boys, Edgar Allan Poe, and Conan.

My grandmother bought me dozens of paperbacks at garage sales. As I grew older, the books grew more adult. Anything by Stephen King and Clive Barker. And one of my favorite Horror books of all time: Shadowland by Peter Straub. I didn’t always understand what they were saying, but these authors, and many more, opened up new worlds. To them I owe them an unpayable debt.

Second, I’ve always wanted to know how things worked. It started with how airplanes fly, but didn’t end there. How? lead me to become an engineer, and procrastinate by world building when I should be writing. I’m still a sucker for a plausible magic system or workable steampunk technology. My favorite part of going to a haunted house is studying the scenery. I look at the ceilings and floors. The pictures on the walls. What do those books on the shelves say? Are they real? I do the same with the occasional first-person shooter game. I still play Clive Barker’s Undying on my PC. I use cheat codes to fly, walk through walls, and explore areas otherwise inaccessible.

What is my writing process?

I procrastinate, usually in the form of outlining, world building, or research until a deadline comes along and forces me to write. I’m getting a little better at writing every day, but it’s a struggle.

Being an engineer, I thought for sure I would be an outliner. I thought my writing process would be to outline and expand the outline step-by-step into a draft. The way I actually write is to take an idea, either from my subconscious or research, and write a simple outline/synopsis. Then I start writing the story, almost always from beginning to end. I generally follow the outline, but the story must be discovered as I write, to some extent. I should tell you, my outlines have questions to myself, to answer as I write, and multiple options that I try out as I go.

I keep all my notes and current projects on a flash drive that’s always with me. Two scares where I lost it for a few days have taught me to back it up regularly. Some writers recommend storing things on the cloud as well, so they’re always accessible. I haven’t, but it’s a great idea.

I am always writing notes to myself, during meetings or while on vacation or when I’m bored. I like to keep the notes on pieces of paper in my shirt pocket, with my jump drive. When it’s time to work on a project I incorporate those slips of paper into my electronic outline.

I try to get the whole story down as fast as possible. I’ve finally learned it’s much easier for me to revise than create. My internal editor is an annoying perfectionist and I have a hard time ignoring him. He also makes me annoying to go to movies with. So, I complete my “zero” draft as fast as possible so I can turn the editor loose on it. By the way, I don’t like letting anyone read my zero draft. I usually rewrite the zero draft once or twice before allowing anyone to read it. With readers’ input, I write my final draft. Then usually tinker with it a bit more until I submit it. I’ve also learned it’s best if I let the “final draft” sit a while before looking at it again and making one more round of revisions.

Writing is far more exhausting than I ever thought it would be, looking in as an outsider. It’s also as fun and rewarding as I thought it would be.

**The next blogger on this tour will be Cheri L.R.Taylor.

Cheri L.R. Taylor has four chapbooks of poetry and has been published in Ellipsis, Awakenings Review, The Café Review, Reintigration Today, Clean Sheets, Current Magazine, Rattle, Third Wednesday, Strange Michigan, Jezebel, Love Notes: An Anthology, and others. Her book of poems, Wolf Maiden Moon was released from Pudding House Press in 2010. She is the recipient of a 2007 RARE Foundation Everyday Heroes Award for her work in dedication to the healing potential of expressive writing community settings and was awarded a 2009 Ragdale Foundation Artist’s Residency. Director of Blushing Sky Writers, an organization dedicated to all things creative, she established the Projection of Soul Poetry Workshop Program for Boysville in Clinton Township, Michigan, and was the founder and Director of the Blushing Sky Poetry Performance Troupe. Her new novel, Leaving Walloon, is out now. Contact Cheri at cherrion@aol.com! Find her blog at https://www.facebook.com/BlushingSkyWritingServices?ref=br_tf on Monday, 7/7.

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