Friday, August 20, 2010

How I Got Into the Writing Business

I thought it would be interesting to blog about how I became a full-time author and what I was doing until then, so here goes nothin:

I've been writing short stories since I was eighteen, showing them to my little brother and my closest friends. I also found I had a storytelling ability, as I could hold people captive with my crazy tales, whether at work or around a campfire.

Yet that was not my first ambition.

I became a metalhead when I was twelve because of KISS, and I wanted a career in heavy metal more than anything. As a teen, however, I was just learning to play because I started the guitar late, at sixteen (I actually started on bass and still play the bass guitar).

If I want to be truthful, my first ambition was sports. I was on the basketball team at Lincoln School in Monmouth, Illinois, where we won a couple of championships. I always got the Best Defensive Player award, stuffing the basketball on wannabe shooters, and even made a three-point shot from half-court (when you meet me, you'll know why I played basketball: I'm 6'3'').

But when I got to junior high, I no longer made the basketball team, and I had to do something to be special. Once puberty happened, I tried to impress the girls with heavy metal. It blew me away with its sick, over-the-top grossfest. Since I was just learning the guitar and wasn't that good yet, it didn't pan out for me to be in a band at eighteen.

When I was sixteen, they gave me an assignment in high school that changed my life. I had to read Edgar Allen Poe's "The Telltale Heart," and it was the first time I ever enjoyed an assignment. I was fascinated with the gripping, eerie tale, knowing I wanted to do that for a living. By age seventeen, I was reading Chillers magazine every month, a 'zine that not only had great short stories by up-and-coming authors, but also pictures and articles about now hard-to-find horror classics like Evilspeak, Without Warning and Mother's Day. By the time I was eighteen, I had the whole Stephen King collection.

Yet heavy metal was my true love. So I moved to the city as a young adult and worked full-time for twenty-one years, putting together bands like Heaven's Which that didn't want it bad enough to practice. I finally found a serious band named Streetlight, who not only wanted to practice, but also was supposed to open for Seventh Angel (not the Seventh Angel that's currently popular). The problem with heavy metal was, I played too Goddamned fast! By the time I realized I was meant to play death metal, I was twenty-eight, too old to start a band. All the death metal bands I listen to put out their first album when they were eighteen. Therefore, I've resigned to do it as a studio project.

I kept reading Chillers up through the early nineties (it was still excellent!) and worked on bettering the stories I'd written at eighteen, typing them up on Wordperfect at college and sending them out in the mail. Problem was, I didn't spend enough time perfecting my craft because, at the time, I was still trying to put together a band. The same thing happened from 1999-2001. I still had a jones for a musical group.

Finally, in 2006, I got the idea for a novel that demanded to be written. It started out as a seventy-page scribble draft in my notebook. Then I wrote for an hour on the library computer every morning before my full-time job, lengthening it to two-hundred pages. In 2007, I finally gave up the band dream (I'm getting ready to record my first studio album though!) and became a full-time author, getting serious enough to start getting good in the spring of 2009 (don't let anyone tell you it happens overnight!), when I started getting publications. By 2008, I'd added a bunch of parts to the novel and fleshed it out to over 80,000 words (over five hundred pages), but, since I wrote it when I didn't know what I was doing, it needed major surgery. Problem is, I still believe in the plot, which means it's time to take out the bonesaw and whip this thing into shape, an arduous task, indeed.

I'm glad to say my first novel will be critiqued and fixed and proofread ten more times by October, which is also when my birthday comes up on the calendar. I can't think of a better birthday present than finally finishing a novel. At that time, I'll start drafting query letters and sending them to agents. There's even a couple of agents that represent horror that are going to be at the writer's conference I'm going to in October, as luck would have it. I can't wait.

It's been a long road, and I suspect I have much farther to go before I'm a famous novelist.

Wish me luck!

A. R.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Music of Silence

At the writer's conference, they say "Always be professional," which I agree with, but then someone said, "Thank editors that reject you for taking the time to look at your story." Then I read an agent blog saying, "There's no need to thank me for rejecting your query. It's my job."

So whom do you believe?

I've also heard it said at the conference to tweet on Twitter twice a day and get involved in social media, like Facebook. Okay, but what if I don't have anything to say? You see, there's no taming the tonuge, so if one says something just to say something, one will end up saying something foolish and offending people. Sometimes key people. Sometimes editors and agents.

A famous singer once said, "What if my fan meets me and thinks I'm a jerk?" I'm thinking the same thing. What if you add me on Facebook, Twitter, or wherever, and you don't like me because you think I'm a jerk? What if I add you and think that you're a jerk? I mean, am I wrong here? Is this not a legitimate concern?

Not to mention the people on Facebook just waiting for you to say something stupid so they can take your job away.

The music of silence. It's a motherfuckin symphony.

Therefore, right or no, I'm not posting everyday just because I'm supposed to. If I don't have something clever to say or if I don't have something to promote, I'm not talking. I've had it with foot-in-the-mouth syndrome!

It's time to make some sense here!

Whay say you?

On my playlist: Practice What You Preach by Testament.

What I'm reading: The Loveliest Dead by Ray Garton.

Friday, August 6, 2010


I've been hearing a lot about labels in writing lately--and no disrespect meant to anyone--but I see it as a necessary evil: nothing more, nothing less. They call it "horror" or "bizarro" because horror's not scary enough anymore. Don't get me wrong, an author has to brand himself, therefore I'm a "horror author." I keep in mind that it's just a tag, however. The bottom line for me is an exciting story. I don't care what genre it is if it's a great story, and most horror tales aren't great, let's face it. If you're kicking my ass with a thriller, then good for you.

Take The Wicker Man (*yawns* I am so tired of stating, "The 1973 version"), for instance. It's a lot of things: it's scary, it's a musical and it's an erotic film. Some people don't like it when there's a lot of things going on in a novel (thinking Bag of Bones here), but I do, and if that wasn't the case with my first novel, I wouldn't have cared enough to come back to writing. In addition to the scares and gore, it's got comedy and it's got eros. Having a lot going on is better than having nothing going on, which I've seen a lot of. To call oneself "horror" is to imply that there's nothing to life but being afraid. We also are sometimes confident, sometimes laughing, and every once in a while, we fuck.

Then some people call themselves "romance authors." This is the most foolish tag of all. Don't all stories have a romance embedded in them? I know all but one of my novels do.

"Adult" is a funny tag. I'm still the same teenage kid that listened to metal and read Chillers magazine every week. Only difference is, as adults, we can work out and learn to fight, thereby not being pushed around anymore.

A good example is music. I'm a musician, and they want to call me "death metal" or "screamo" or "emo." Most of those tags really bother me. I just like exciting music. I listen to thrash most of the time because most bands in my genre keep garbage songs, and some don't even have lead solos. I don't want to listen to the popular radio station to make more friends, however. Chances are they're going to see through the facade anyway.

So call one of my pieces a great tale, and I'll be happy.

On my playlist: Covenant by Morbid Angel

Reading: Wolf's Bluff by W. D. Gagliani.