What I stand for and want to accomplish as a writer:
There are 2 things I’ve always wanted to showcase in my work -- 1) writing as an art form, and 2) the case for “horror” as “literature”.
My love of horror goes back to the beginning and I’ve often felt it gets the short end of the genre stick. Horror is the poor man’s fantasy and science fiction. It’s the dull-witted step-son, the fat friend you have to bring along to the party because he’s got the car. And Hollywood isn’t helping. I want to show that horror doesn’t have to get by on the same old clichés and cheap scares, that it CAN be done in a mature, original way that elevates not only the story but the genre.
I believe--hope--that much of my past work, stories like “The Insanity Dance”, “The Room”, “Monday”, and even the science fiction story “Timesmiths” bears this out in the, what I hope was original, ways in which these stories were told.
I strive to continue this in seeking new and interesting ways to tell my stories--but also never to let the method overtake the story in importance. The story must always be the heart of the matter, and the method secondary.
I may also begin to further explore horror as an idea, seeking to better understand what it is that makes horror so appealing to its fans and maybe how better to capitalize on that appeal to help reach a larger audience.
Truly, all I ever wanted to be was a horror writer. I should try for nothing less than being the best horror writer I can be.
What I want to write about:
I want to write about relatable characters in relatable situations.
I think I have tried, from the beginning, to take everyday situations common to everyone and show them in a horror setting.
I want to write stories that are set in the world we know, that start with situations we’re all familiar with--taking out the trash (“Payroll Man’s Ordeal”), working (“Plaything”, “The Strange Thing that Happened at the SpinCycle Laundry”), driving home (“Biscuithead”)--before introducing the horror, whether supernatural or not--and it’s not always; sometimes the worst horrors are those we inflict on each other (“The Stand-In”).
But I want to write stories readers can identify with.
However, I can’t limit the settings to ones I’ve experienced--sometimes the familiar is character-driven as opposed to situational.
The mountain setting in “Coming Down the Mountain” isn’t something I expect a lot of people to have experienced, but hopefully the feeling Barrett has, of being the “odd man out”, trying to prove himself to Seamoon and Toomey, the “popular” kids in class, is. The same with “All Mother’s Children”. Not everyone is the worker-bee spawn of a monster, stranded in the middle of nowhere after a plane crash, but I think the sibling dynamic of the characters is definitely understandable to most readers.
I want to write stories that entertain.
I feel neither the need nor the desire to write lengthy dissertations on the human condition. Nor do I ever want to talk down to my readers, as if I feel the need to educate them.
I want to write stories they come to because they know they’ll be entertained, they know they’ll relate in some way to the characters or the setting or the situation.
But all of this is surface stuff. What is my goal?
I want to write stories familiar and relatable, I want to write stories that invite readers in, have them sit back and get comfortable, even leaning back in the chair because they’re just so at home--and then I want to kick the chair out from under them.
Because horror is my first love, horror fiction is my main focus--but that’s not to say I won’t step outside that box, frequently; everything serves the demands of the story first, not the genre. As long as I strive always to entertain, I think the rest will fall into place, whether it’s a short story, a comic book script, a poem, novel, horror, science fiction, or whatever I’m moved to write.
This is the whole purpose of writing within the realm of the familiar, to give the readers characters they know, characters that could be them, doing things they do on a daily basis.
How I plan to achieve my ultimate goal:
The work is first and foremost. A writer is nothing without the work to back him up. I’ll do my best to avoid the tired clichés--wherever possible--and to not talk down to my readers. I’ll try, always, to “elevate the story” as Sean Stubblefield said.
If I gain their trust in turning in quality work that is uniquely mine, and get them coming back for more, hopefully they will follow me even further.
With novels, serials, comics, and more, I plan to expand my brand and create a name synonymous with quality horror, and fiction in general, with pushing the boundaries and limits of what horror, and fiction, can do.
With this manifesto I dedicate myself to the task of showing writing as an art form and horror as literature.
I will write.
I will publish.
Write the stories. Polish the stories. Publish the stories.
Organize more collections of my work. And promote the hell out of them.
Expand the reach of the newsletter.
Heart. Horror. Spectacle.
How I stay motivated to do the work:
One of the main things that hinders me in fiction is not trusting myself enough. More often than not, I’m afraid I won’t be able to write that compelling opening that grabs a reader, or I don’t trust my characters to be fully realized or to use believable dialogue. I don’t trust myself to write something readers want to read.
Why is that?
Lack of self-confidence. And I know those times when I have felt confident, I’ve had a tendency to become too confident, which comes across as cocky. And that’s not good for anybody. I need to find a balance.
Sometimes I rush into stories, I think. I may ponder them for days at a time before I start writing, but that’s only to get the beginning and end down in my head, so I know what I’m writing toward. But it’s always the middle that stops me.
I’ve never been one to outline--nor do I ever imagine being one to rely on outlines; part of what keeps the writing interesting for me is discovering the story as I go. But I don’t think taking a little more time in the planning would be such a bad thing. Having a little more understanding of the story may keep me from getting tied up with the “what next.” Or maybe I just try too hard to force the story because I want to get words on the page.
Setting deadlines for myself seems to help a lot, but I don’t to it often enough--never in fact, unless I realize a month into a first draft that I’m nowhere near finished.
I’m usually pretty good at estimating a story’s length once I’ve gotten a decent start on it, so setting realistic deadlines will, I believe, definitely help to keep me motivated and working. But also, not rushing into the story will, hopefully, prevent me from hitting that mid-story “what next” wall.
I also need to re-establish my editing routine. I don’t know where it’s gone, what’s happened to it, but I seem to have lost my focus in that area, too. I used to have methods, including shortening lines, deleting adverbs and forms of “to be”, but have, in recent years, apparently forgotten all of that.
Reliable first readers is also a must have. I’ll find reliable first readers and enlist their help. I’d like to include at least one or two non-writers in this group.
How I will use my work to inspire people and impact their sense of the world:
One thing I’ve learned over the years is that horror writers, no matter how depraved and rotten the things their imaginations come up with, are some of the most kind-hearted, giving, generous and loving people you’ll ever meet.
I would like to find a charity that means something (The Haven Foundation is looking really good, also the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, plus Scares That Care), and pledge a portion of everything I make from writing to it--or I could find several charities and tailor special projects for them.
To inspire and impact lives, I would like to do all of this under the guise of, specifically, a horror writer’s banner, so that not just one writer, who happens to write horror, is responsible, but the horror writing community.
How I will link myself and my work to a “larger social network”:
I’ve already taken some steps in this direction by featuring some of the writers I view as my peers on my website. There are more I want to highlight, but it shouldn’t stop there.
There are definitely writers I see as producing work that is most similar to mine, with a vision very close to my own.
I wouldn’t mind collaborating with some of them. I would also like to do some world building, maybe themed anthologies based on their stories, possibly some world sharing.
I wouldn’t mind seeing what kind of stories they came up with using Angel Hill as the setting.
If I go back and look at all the stories I’ve written, a number of themes pop up over and over.
There’s “identity”, where who the character is or isn’t is what drives the story. Examples would be “The Stand-In”, “Plaything”, and “Parliament of Jim”. Another recurring theme is the question of Heaven or Hell and the many different interpretations of such. Stories like “Camdigan”, “The Legend of Mr. Cairo”, “Angels of No Mercy” and “Like the Fruits of the Devil” explore the Heaven and Hell mythology in a number of very different ways.
Relationships are also a big one in my fiction, something like “Safe at Home” being the most obvious and personal.
While most of my identity fiction is rooted in my own questions about where I came from--I never knew my dad, nor anything about his side of the family until I was 27--and the Heaven/Hell stories help me to deal with fears I have about death, the relationship stories are mostly drawn from my own personal experience in how two people deal with each other--which usually comes out as “combative” on the page, especially when those two people are both stubborn and independent thinkers.
My “brand” is a sound mix of all these types of stories, wherein characters are dealing with questions of “Who am I?” “What happens when I die?” and “What’s this strange person doing in my house and why are they telling me what to do?”
On the other hand, I think I also provide an interesting mix of “what if’ stories as well. “What if a house was alive?”--“The Room” and “Renovation”. “What if you found a dead baby in the garbage?”--“Payroll Man’s Ordeal”. “What if Santa Claus ate the bad children?”--“Working for the Fat Man”.
So I don’t believe my “brand” is any one thing or another. I have my recurring themes, but I also think I shine most brightly when I’m not working in one of those areas, but am asking one of the more outrageous what ifs.
I do know that, in almost all of these stories, we’re dealing with everyday blue collar people who get up and go to work in the morning, who worry about bills, who watch TV at night and shuffle around in the morning until the coffee is ready. I try to write as often as possible about regular characters thrust into situations the average person doesn’t find themselves in every day, and then I like to see them prevail or fail, depending on their own strengths and weaknesses. It doesn’t always end well for them, I know that.
One thing I know I want readers to expect coming into my work is not knowing what to expect. I try to mix it up as much as possible--even when dealing with so many recurring themes. I may write about the same few topics over and over, but I strive to always keep it fresh and unpredictable.
Write. Polish. Publish.
Heart. Horror. Spectacle.
For the foreseeable future, the titles of the next 10 projects are written down and I’ll be working through them one at a time.
I’ll also go through the books I’ve already published and keep their front and back matter up to date, as well as updating all of the covers and experimenting with prices.
I don’t know that I’ve ever included a social message in any of my work. I don’t think I’d know how to do it without sounding like I was preaching. Instead I try to focus simply on telling good stories and telling them well. If I had a message it would be only that the limits of what fiction and storytelling can do are nonexistent. There are so many ways to tell a story, so many ways to make the art work for us to inspire our own imaginations as well as our way of thinking, of doing away with these restrictions on what we think we can do when in reality we can do anything.
Writing is more a business now than an art form, and I don’t agree with that at all. Obviously a writer wants to make enough money to be able to write full-time. Because we’re greedy? No, because we’re not suited for anything else, and there’s no other job out there that fulfills us as human beings--and isn’t being fulfilled the point of living life? But I think in a lot of cases--even though few would admit it--the desire isn’t to write the best stories and further this art of fiction and storytelling, but to make money and be famous. The truth of the matter is there are very very VERY few writers who are household names. In relation to the number of authors on bookstore shelves, the writers the average person can list off the top of their head is a very small fraction of the total number of publishing authors. And most of those “lesser known” writers will always be in that position.
The chances of doing this with the end result of worldwide fame and millions of dollars is so slim as to be almost nonexistent. So we write because it’s what we were made to do, simple as that.
Telling the best story I can, in the most interesting way I can. My passion is in finding new ways to say something, new ways to look at situations or ways to phrase something. I love telling a familiar story in a way that hasn’t been done to death, for example “Birth Day” or “Family Name” or “When Jessica Went Home”--all vampire stories, but as unlike the regular vampire story as I could imagine.
My passion is in finding that spot in the story where the words come without any effort, where the conversation between characters carries the story. My passion is in the moment something I may have mentioned offhand early in the story comes into play in a big way at the end, when a minor, insignificant detail turns out to be the whole point on which the story rests, or when the story takes a huge turn and goes in a direction I didn’t anticipate, but one that feels wholly accurate.
My passion is in telling a story a reader thinks is one thing, only to reach the end and find out they weren’t even close (“When Jessica Went Home” I think does this very well).
My passion is in finding that story or that situation or that description or that sentence that makes my gut tighten and my heart flutter.
These are the stories I want to tell, and this is the work I want to do.