Monthly Archives: April 2010

Memorable Monsters by M.T.Murphy

monstersFor me, the word monster conjures images of classic Universal Horror creature features from the 1930s and 1940s. Popular literature has its fair share of monsters, but the principles behind a good beastie apply to both cinema and books.

Frankenstein (1931) starring Boris Karloff is the first film that comes to mind when I think of a classic monster tale. The title character was a brute who did horrible things, but he was also rejected by his creator and mercilessly tortured before escaping into a world he could not comprehend.

Monsters, like people, are defined by their actions. Before a character can be considered a monster, it must establish itself by doing something that is a clear violation of the rules of society. Causing death and destruction or harming and imprisoning another character are quick ways to accomplish that. Coaxing the reader into hating/loathing/fearing the monster is the easy part. Making the monster three dimensional is the challenge.

Memorable monsters transcend the cut and dry boogeyman concept from children’s fairy tales. Frankenstein’s monster attacks when enraged, but is terrified of fire and desperately craves human contact. Jason Voorhees, the hockey mask clad monster of the original Friday the Thirteenth motion picture sequels, was a meek child who drowned after being ostracized and neglected by lustful camp counselors. Freddy Krueger from the original Nightmare on Elm Street films (can somebody please tell me why we need to remake this series?) was a cold-blooded killer who preyed on children. Though Freddy had virtually nothing that could generate sympathy, he had another quality: Freddy was funny. Against better judgment and taste, the audience laughs at Freddy’s bad jokes. It may only last as long as the laughter, but a connection is made with him.

The Swedish film Let the Right One In (2008 – Låt den rätte komma in) portrays a centuries-old vampire as a bloodthirsty predator in the body of a young girl named Eli. She kills to satiate her thirst with no remorse whatsoever. Despite her feral actions, she becomes friends with a human boy, even coming to his aid against a violent gang of bullies. Eli is no less a monster, but her human longing for friendship forges a connection with the audience. By the end of the film, it is virtually impossible to hate her despite her heinous actions.

Anyone can write glowing red eyes and bat-like wings onto a baby-eating poodle and call it a monster. Once a writer coaxes the audience into feeling something other than fear, hate, and loathing for the creature, then they have created a memorable monster.

M.T. Murphy is the author of Lucifera’s Pet, a violent and sexy dark fiction tale of werewolves and vampires. Connect with him below:

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Can Twitter turn you into a bestselling author?

bestselling author

Those of you who live in The Bubble will probably think Twitter can turn you into a bestselling author. Wrapped up in your own little world, dreaming that social networking will deliver you from corporate evils into the the light of a brave new order where shunned writers make it big.

Every trend brings its heroes and villains. The unknown wimp who suddenly discovers the right formula and “comes good”, the soulless marketing exec who thinks he or she can milk this “life” opportunity for all it’s worth. Social media, social networking, Facebook, Twitter, Beebo, the whole damn thing.

Here’s the question: What can Social Networking do for you? What can it do if you have the courage and time to embrace it, sell your soul to the nearest demon and set yourself on a road to…well, that just doesn’t bear thinking about.

Marketing is largely a numbers game.

That’s why you have SEO and social media experts who have around 50,000 followers and follow around the same number. They’re not concerned with quality. They’re concerned with quantity. They have 50,000 people. All they need is about 1% of that to make a sale.

Of course, they’ll give a broad grin, say they value you as a person and tell you how much you can make, but, if you look close enough, you’ll see there’s not much but personal dollar signs behind those eyes.

It’s all lies, sure it is.

A while back, there used to be books like the 10 minute manager or salesman. Remember those? The ones that said the first rule was to care about your customer. It’s an axiom that 99.9% of sales people and marketers generally ignore. Oh, they’ve pretended. But it’s not their priority. They are selfish individuals and, at the end of the day, if you have a different viewpoint from them, you’re of no use whatsoever.

So, as a writer, trying to sell your books online, who are you going to be? Are you going to sell your soul?

The customer is king.

To grow your fan base, you’re going to have to talk to your fans. You’re going to have to engage on a level that many of you may not be too comfortable with.

FACT: Word of mouth is the most powerful tool in your armoury.

What does that mean? The truth is, bad news spreads a damn sight quicker than good. If you’re rude to one of your fans they are likely to tell more people than if you were nice to them or they like your work.

So be nice. It pays to be nice.

I started this article mentioning The Bubble you live in. We all live in a bubble. And in that bubble, the world is just fine.

To make it in social media, you’re going to have to expand that bubble.

A lot of writers tend to throw their work out at other writers and writers are generally supportive of each other, especially in the self-publishing bubble. But that’s not the real world. It’s not the place your work should really be.

Your stuff should be out there. With the people who read, rather than write. With the true fans. That growing hoard of voracious fans who want to read your latest work.

The question is: How do you find your true fans? Who are they? What do they want? Who’s going to like your stuff?

I write what I want. I believe the essence of a writer is they are true to who they are. I say: This is me, this is what I am.

I write therefore I am. I am a writer. I do not write for you. Like it or not, this is me.

This presents a problem if you are looking to make money out of your writing. It generally means (unless you are extremely lucky) that you’re too inflexible to succeed in this brave new world. If you’re content with that, then fine. It’s what you are and I applaud you for your integrity.

If you’re writing for a particular market then you have to provide what that market wants. If you’ve developed a fan base, you have to keep the fans happy. You will become typecast, as the acting fraternity has it.

If you’ve been feeding them zombie mayhem for the last couple of years you can’t suddenly change to a deep social commentary and expect your die hard fans to go with it. Your fans control you. They define you. They gradually steal your integrity.

And you’ve been so goddamn nice to them.

So the first rules of social marketing are these: Know who you are, what defines you, what you have to offer and who you want to offer it to.

To any free soul, that’s going to be depressing. Isn’t it? Really? Maybe not. Maybe this is the point you get out your felt-tip pen and really discover who you are as a writer. This is the point you become serious about your art.

In the great big swing of things, you don’t amount to a hill of beans. Why should I take notice of you? Why should I read your stuff? Who the hell are you to pretend to be a writer?

Do you like giving a spark of terror to a 40 year old female who’s bored with her husband and kids? Do you want some semi-illiterate teenager to go: wow that’s minging (okay, I’m showing my age there)? Define yourself. Look at yourself closely.

The biggest copywriting/marketing thing is Radio WIIFM.

What’s In It For Me.

That’s what your customer asks. What’s he or she going to get out of your story? Are you giving it to them, with both barrels, straight between the eyes?

If you want to sell your book, then you’ve got to start asking serious questions. You can take this from two viewpoints:

  • This is what I write, who is going to be interested?
  • This is what people want, how can I deliver it?

Which viewpoint you take depends on the type of writer you are. But what it comes down to is asking the questions about your audience that matter. And until you do that, you can’t make a difference with social marketing.

Try this: Those who have followers on Twitter, bring up the list and have a close look at them. What percentage is actually useful to you? How many will be interested in what you write and how many are just collecting followers because they think it’s kind of fun? I suspect you will narrow down the list to about 10% or less who are truly useful. That begs the question: What’s the point of the other 90%?

So does social marketing offer a new world for us poor, forgotten writers who can’t find a publisher?

For some, maybe.

There’s that Darwinian rule. The survival of the fittest. A few of you are going to make it. I’m convinced of that and you’ll be the shining lights of our community. If you get the hang of social media and write reasonably good stuff, you’ll maybe shoot off into the literary stratosphere. The rest of us will watch you disappear into the distance, we’ll wave goodbye and we’ll shed a tear for what could have been.

End of the day, you could win the lottery. But how intelligently you engage with social networking is going to make or break you. Some people are going to be better at it than others – that’s the law of the internet jungle. They’re not necessarily going to be the best writers but they will be the best networkers.

So, if you want to make this your world and banish those mainstream publishers to the abyss, what do you need to do?

Discover all the benefits of social networking, learn how to do it and be comfortable with it. Be brave, bend it to your will and don’t be afraid to experiment.

Break out of the bubble, my friends. Go out into the big wide world and peddle your wares to the unsuspecting multitude. Tell them you’re here. Tell them you’re here to stay.

And damn the consequences.

And, if you still don’t succeed, then maybe that was meant to be and you can return to your comfortable bubble content that at least you tried…But maybe, just maybe, you’ll be the next best thing…

Monsters are everywhere by Jennifer Hudock

monsters

I write horror and dark fantasy fiction, and have done so most of my life. There’s something about exploring spooks and ghouls that appeases my writerly soul, but in most instances I am more satisfied if the horror aspect of my work hits my readers in the gut on a more personal level.

Fear is a very real aspect of everyday life, whether it be irrational anxiety and stress, or a lifelong extension of that childhood fear of the dark. The thing is, we all understand fear and can easily relate to that tingling feeling at the nape of our neck when something is amiss. Our triggers might be different, and our reactions may vary, but the overall essence of personal fear is something we can all relate to.

Finding inspiration for horror fiction is a lot easier than you might think, but I think your mind has to be geared to perceive life itself through a horrific lens. I tend to find ideas for stories in the most bizarre places. For example, I live out in the countryside, but a major stretch of highway runs along the rural road. Last summer, while walking my dog every day, I started to notice a lot of broken down cars that would sit on the side of the highway for a day or two, and then disappear. When I say a lot, I mean, like three to four cars a week, which in my area was pretty unusual.

Every day, I’d walk by these cars and see the doors hanging open, maybe a towel hanging out the back door, a shoe tumbling onto the roadside–the lace stuck in the door, and my overactive imagination started to run. Living in the country, I saw images of these rogue farm girls pretending to have car trouble in the middle of the night to get drivers to pull over. Then they whacked them with a tire iron, left their cars on the side of the road, then took them home to torture them before chopping them up and feeding them to their mama’s pigs. Obviously, my imagination is a very creepy place, but I digress.

I don’t know. Maybe as horror authors, we suffer from paranoia and post traumatic stress disorder, but it’s a gift we need to draw on in order to keep the genre fresh.

Monsters are everywhere. You could turn your evil boss into a cave dwelling troll, or portray your nasty ex-mother-in-law as a soul-sucking demon. Just let your imagination run wild over every day scenarios and twist those things into something that will not just shock your readers, but alter their perspective about the mundane.

Follow Jennifer Hudock:

Official website: http://jennybeans.net
Twirlit: http://www.twirlit.com/author/jenh/
Real TV Addict: http://www.realtvaddict.com/author/jhudock/
Examiner.com: http://www.examiner.com/x-32220-Harrisburg-Book-Examiner

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Creativity by Jennifer Hudock

creativity

Jennifer Hudock is an author, poet and freelance writer from Northeastern Pennsylvania. She holds a BA in English and Creative Writing from Bloomsburg University, and enjoys writing in a variety of styles from dark fantasy and horror, to drama and creative nonfiction.

She has been writing for nearly twenty-three years, and has been published in zines like Strange Horizons, eMuse, The Watershed, had one of her short stories appear in Library of the Dead’s Book of the Dead: A Zombie Anthology, and has upcoming work to appear in two Library of the Living Dead Press anthologies.

Visit Jennifer’s website.

Creativity is the spark of life. Many of us want to be considered creative because it gives us the power to emulate life. For centuries “There’s nothing new under the sun” has saturated the creative zone, and people use that complain about the literature on the market, artwork in galleries, music on the scene, poetry explorations.

The truth is, there is nothing new under the sun. The same old stories have been told hundreds of thousands of times, and you can recognize them if you know where and how to look. For instance, while J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series is considered a new and innovative series for young people, much of the story creatively borrows from a handful of stories past. Is not the relationship between Dumbledore and Harry reflective of Arthurian legend and the classic mentor/mentee relationship of Merlin and Arthur? That is but one example, and if you look through the stories and books you read, you will find elements of old stories spun anew through each and every one of them.

That is how you fool the sun as a creative individual: by tricking it to shine on the same old same old in a whole new light. Those with a true creative spark and vision can look at any story they’ve read in the past and find a way to make it new and unique again.

So, who possesses this creative spark?

Does it brand you conceited to believe you may hold it inside you?

Absolutely not. I personally believe we are all born knowing what it is we are meant to do in this world. Some of us are born storytellers, others contain the power of music inside them. Others still can look at a simple scene you or I might find ordinary and capture it on film in breathtaking light.

Not sure if you have what it takes?

Don’t give up on yourself just yet. Practice. Hone your skills and keep at it. Art and beauty are what makes the world go round that big old sun, and being a part of the creation of that beauty is incredibly fulfilling.

Follow Jennybeans Everywhere:

Official website: http://jennybeans.net
Twirlit: http://www.twirlit.com/author/jenh/
Real TV Addict: http://www.realtvaddict.com/author/jhudock/
Examiner.com: http://www.examiner.com/x-32220-Harrisburg-Book-Examiner

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Creativity by Mari Miniatt

creativity

Writer Mari Miniatt was born and raised in the north woods of Wisconsin but now lives in New York. A dream of a dark haired vampire originally inspired her to take up her pen. Mari’s novel Fledgling: Coiree Guardians is available now from smashwords.com.

You can find out more about Mari from her website at http://www.mariminiatt.com/

Creativity is a mental disorder.

It really is.

Think about it, to get through life you are told to act certain ways, do certain things, and you will be a success. So why would anyone not want to do what they are told and go off and do these crazy things? Because if we don’t, we will drive ourselves nuts.

I live in a house full of creative people, so the madness is quite evident. Let start with me. I write. I had a father who wrote every day. I picked up the same mad habit. I get an idea in my head, it’s like having a strange birth. The characters start to come alive in my brain. I can see them eating breakfast. I can hear them having conversations. Doesn’t that sound like a mental disorder to you?

But I have to write, that is the only way I can get them out of my head. Once they are on paper, my mind clears space… for the next idea.

My husband is a painter. He has disappeared in front of his canvas. I mean mentally. He will be painting, you can walk up to him, and he will not know you are there. He is so engrossed in to his creation, that a bomb could go off and he would not know. He also acts. Which can get strange because when he is practicing his lines, he looks like the crazy man at the bus stop talking to the pigeons.

Both of my sons have also been blessed or cursed with the spark as well. So far they can cover their oddness, by being teenagers.

All creative people are mad. We really are, but if you were to take away our ways of expression. We would really have to visit a hospital.

But if it wasn’t for creative people being a little off center, being a little strange, the world would be very dull indeed.

Find out more about Mari Miniatt

Creativity by Amanda Norman

creativityAmanda Norman’s horror photography focuses on capturing the eerie atmosphere of graveyards and cemeteries. She also loves to capture the dark soul of her subject in her dark portrait photography.

Amanda is inspired by her love of Hammer Horror, vampires and Universal Horror.

Horror photographs, graveyard photographs, cemetery photographs and her dark photography can be purchased via her gallery.

Creativity does exist and will never be lost.

Anyone can write a story, anyone can draw a picture and take a photograph, but only those who are truly creative, will strive to create something that is full of emotion and atmosphere, which isn’t an easy thing to do.

Without creativity, life would be bland and unproductive. You have to be creative to come up with a money making idea, to be successful in business and outwit the competition.

You stated that copywriting is not creative, it’s a craft. Well, not that I’m familiar with copywriting, but you’re creating a piece to sell something, which surely isn’t just about choosing the appropriate words? Surely it’s about stringing them together and not losing the viewers focus?

I consider myself to be creative with my photography.

How many snap shots do you see and how many times has some relative or friend made you sit there and endure their boring family photographs?

Snapshots are boring due to the lack of creativity. The lack of thought that went through the photographers mind when taking that photograph. I’m sure photography could be labelled as a craft, but creativity in the setting up and execution of the photograph is something different and the true aim of a photographer, writer or artist is to evoke an emotional response from the viewer.

Not many people have a creative gift!

Visit Amanda’s website.

The difficult journey: Finding your writing voice

writing voiceTo be a writer, all you need are a pen, paper and a few ideas. To be a good writer, you need that something extra. You need to go out and find your writing voice: your style. And that can be a difficult journey.

Take a look at Cormac McCarthy’s work. Compare it to, say, Stephen King, and then compare both of those to someone like Raymond Chandler. Pick up Susan Hill or Anne Rice or Agatha Christie. Look at the way they write. Listen to their voices.

Cormac McCarthy is a good example of a writer finding his voice. In his novel Outer Dark the writing is quite intricate, as though he’s too aware of his own style. Read No Country For Old Men or The Road and you can see his voice has changed. His style is much sparer. A lot more confident.

You can get an editor to tidy up your prose, highlight all those grammatical errors and plot disparities, but your writing voice is yours and you should be comfortable with it. Get to know it. Work on it until you become good friends.

We’re timid souls, us writers. We flinch at criticism. It hurts just as much as a knitting needle plunged in the heart. If someone says they don’t like what we’ve written, we run to the bathroom, lock the door and burst into tears (or is that just me?). But this isn’t about other people’s critiques.

What we are bad at is self-criticism. We’re not too fond of stabbing ourselves in the neck. That’s understandable. But it’s a trait that also stops us progressing as writers.

So let’s try a little experiment, nothing too painful, to get us going.

Take some writing you haven’t looked at for a while, something that’s been sitting there for at least a couple of months. Read it through once (don’t try to edit as you go along). Think about the piece for a while. Does it have your true voice? Is it what you intended.

Now, pick up your pen and have a play around with it. Sit somewhere nice and comfortable, have a glass of wine or a nettle tea, whatever your poison is. If you generally use a lot of words, try paring it down to the minimum. If you’re a minimalist try bulking it out with more description. Remember, we’re not looking at whether the story is a good or bad one but how you tell it.

Finished? Compare the original with the new piece. What do you think?

Improvement in your writing style may happen organically over time. The more you do something, the better you get. However, it will happen a lot quicker if you can stand back, question yourself. Be a little ruthless.

Just a smidge.

I like spare writing. It gives the reader, in my opinion, more chance to involve their own imaginations. It also, for me, helps stop a scene stagnating with too much description. That’s my point of view. It may not, and probably isn’t, yours. But spare suits my inner voice. It’s how I want to develop my writing (that and mastermind a killer plot that scares the socks off the world).

The point (I think) I’m trying to make is this: Don’t be content with your writing. I know it’s a painful process and I know there has to be a point when you put down the pen and say “that’s finished”.

A modicum of honest reflection will make all the difference to both you and your reader.