Author Archives: KDAlex

Boo!

So, it’s Halloween. I’m actually kind of excited that I ended up with the Halloween post because it’s right up my alley. And I was looking forward to the leaves changing and the crisp chill in the air as laughter and screams fill the otherwise silent night.

But I’ve got a more important topic to talk about. Specifically, college football.

Actually no. We’ll stick with blood, guts, and gore.

I’m not going to lie, I love horror. But not the crap that’s filling our cineplexes nowadays. My favorite kind of horror doesn’t jump out and say BOO! It’s the sneaking, creeping blackness that twists your insides and makes you feel the fear.

My favorite horror movie of all time isn’t a slasher. It’s a little independent film called Session 9. Check it out, it has that redheaded guy from CSI.

The movie starts with a simple premise: A waste removal team goes into an abandoned mental asylum to clean the asbestos out of the building to render it safe for some government office or something. There’s nothing that jumps out at the characters, there’s no creepy little girl ready to eat your face. No, it’s a pure psychotic meltdown in the best kind of horror. As the team works diligently to meet their deadlines and put supper on their family’s tables, they uncover some of the patient’s files. And what happens after is the best education in true horror.

Are monsters scary? Sure. I still sleep with the covers over my head every night because I’m afraid Freddy’s coming to get me in my dreams. Don’t blame me, blame the babysitter. Who lets a 9 year old watch Nightmare on Elm Street anyway!?

What do Session 9 and Nightmare on Elm Street have in common? And what are they doing on a writing blog?

In Session 9, we have a prime example of horror, the CHARACTER.

In Nightmare on Elm Street, we have a prime example of horror, the ACTOR.

But wait, don’t actors play characters? Yeah. Sorta. Anything more would be an elementary lesson in literature. And I don’t have the patience to teach. 🙂

Freddy Krueger terrorizes children in their dreams, slitting their throats, chasing them around, throwing them in furnaces…It’s gratuitous. Do I have a problem with it? Absolutely not. I’m human. Heck, our whole race’s history is mostly based on sex and violence.

Here, the horror of the story isn’t the character of the fear, it’s the actor of the horror. If that makes sense, then you’ve been eating just as much candy as me.

The Elm Street movies rely on the slash/bang shock and awe of what sort of violence is going to befall the next victim. Movies and books like this are a dime a dozen.

In Session 9, we have the creeping characterization of pure horror as the cleaning crew learns what sort of pseudo-science went on behind closed doors. The influence the asylum has on its new occupants is characterized by the shifting tone as the actors interact and go on their own individual story arcs.

It’s a more satisfying horror that sounds boring on paper. But big on screen.

Which is easier to write? Neither. Which is more satisfying to write? Both.

The issue is everyone that reads your book has a completely different concept of what frightens them. You can’t win every battle. And you can’t save everyone. As long as you don’t trip over the corpse sticking out from under your bed though, you just might be okay.

Providing it doesn’t get you first.

Happy Halloween!

Black and White…Gray and Gold

My day job exists in a strange state of flux. There is only black and white, no shades between. I deal in actual fact, method, motive, and circumstance.

But yet, everything is painted over with this strange gray haze. Good guys do bad things, sometimes bad guys do good things. Smart people make dumb decisions, and generally ignorant people end up doing things so off the wall bloody fricken’ genius that it would just make your head spin.

I exist in the here and now, the actual reality of fictional realism. Things that happen defy logic, exist without rhyme or reason. They’re just accepted as existing, simply because they are.

But even in the end of it, we’re all guided by black and white. Yet, while there is only one right way to do things, there’s an infinite number of wrong ways to do the right thing.

And so exist my characters. There is no defined archetype. They exist because they do. And the things they do, they do because they want to. Whether guided by logic, madness, revenge, or even lust. Heck, I’ve been known to find some strange demonic presence skulking about in the corner of a character’s bedroom, guiding their hand in all that is achieved.

I’ve heard the modern era of fiction’s gray bemoaned by the archetypical fiction writers. There’s nothing wrong stylistically.

But, we live in troubled times. And the greatest fiction often mimics society at the time of its writing.

Don’t be afraid to try something new.

Because even in the gray, you might find your gold.

Throwing in the Towel

is often the most difficult decision that we have to make. Sometimes things just don’t work and you need to cut your losses and move on for greener pastures. Most of my posts thus far have been relatively positive pep-talks for you and me.

Unfortunately, sometimes there’s no positives that can come from something. And it hurts, bad. Like, real bad.

Here’s my problem. For the past seven months, I have been working on a draft of a steampunk “coming of age” story. It’s the most difficult thing I’ve ever worked on. Since November, I’ve accomplished a grand total of 49,000 words. Not even enough to claim a NaNo victory.

I think writing this story is probably the hardest thing that I’ve ever had to do. Harder than boot camp, harder than moving away from everyone and everything I’ve loved for a job that was everything but what I dreamed it would be. Harder than all the pain and suffering and defeat I’ve probably ever known.

It’s not that it’s the whole “writing a story” thing, when I’ve got the write idea (pun intended) and the characters are in my head, sometimes writing them is easy as eating or drinking. It’s not the concept, because the story details that I’ve worked out are an excellent concept.

It’s a poorly executed dream. And when I realized this, I started to learn how to let go.

See, my biggest issue was letting myself get too emotionally wrapped up into the story for reasons that I won’t even go into here, because there’s not enough Kleenex and let’s face it. You’re just not that bored to read about it.

I’ve been sitting on this post for about a month now because I wasn’t really sure how it would be received. I don’t even think I knew when I started writing this what the primary problem was. And forgive my rambling, but I’ve found that when I need to vent or clear the cobwebs out, the blog is here. Mostly, it’s advice to myself and the oft chance that someone else might find some pearls of wisdom amongst the dreck and drivel that I spout routine. =)

People shouldn’t get all wrapped up in books. I mean, after all they’re nothing more than words on a page (or screen) right? But try telling that to the librarian who selflessly devotes her time to share the joys of reading with the less fortunate children who wouldn’t blink an eye at a book either way. Tell that the authors who toil endlessly over their craft and creations. Writers write because they can. Readers read because they want to.

But, there’s something strangely mystical about the “book” itself, both the act of creation and the act of reading it. For some, they’re beach reads to kill an hour while they bake in the sun. For others, they’re the lost secrets and histories of the world whose keys can only be found by endless study.

If they’re just words on the page, meaningless and out of context, then try breaking the bad news to the collectors who search the inter tubes day in and day out to collect rarities, signed copies, first editions. you name it, they want it.

Me? I grew up in a house that didn’t read. My mom was too busy trying to raise me right and my dad was too busy to make sure the bills got paid. Books were the farthest thing from my parent’s mind. So, when I was an eager child of about six or seven, Disney just so happened to have the perfect answer to a child’s wonder. They came in chapbooks and cheap hardbacks, serialized adventures of Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse, Goofy…hell, even Pluto got to star in his own adventures.

Every month I would make my parents take me with them to the grocery store. I didn’t whine for the Cocoa Puffs or the Lucky Charms. No, I wanted the Disney books. My parents couldn’t understand it, but they weren’t the ones to question a chance to expand their child’s growing mind.

Yet, they still couldn’t figure it out. Why was I so obsessed with books? Along came my aunt and uncle with the answer to that question.

And therein lies the issue of my discontent. I hated this book I was writing with a passion. I was obsessed with perfection. It wasn’t a book for me, it wasn’t a book for selling. No. It was a gift. To them.

It was supposed to be a thank you for making me some crazy bookworm.

And it failed miserably. Within my quest for perfection, I lost focus and the motivation for my story. Months came and went without me making my deadlines I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. The voice didn’t work, there’s issues with the plot.

You name it, I found the excuse for it. Ashes is my most written and rewritten work. In total, I’ve charted over 100,000 words that went absolutely nowhere. Throwing outlines out halfway through, tearing up whole chapters, rewriting scenes, points of view, everything, anything I could do to keep myself from finishing.

And then I realized the problem.

The book was too perfect that it was disgustingly imperfect. I could do no right with it. I needed to quit.

I felt terrible, crushed even. It was like watching the cat eat your goldfish, your favorite balloon loosening and flying away into the sky.

I gave up.

But, in my defeat I found success. Inside that crushing dread that motivated me to tear my hair out night after night, day after day, I discovered a gem in the muck.

I quit Ashes and finished Hills, rewrote Black, and started Psychic and Night Watch. These were projects that I put away, shelved and believed to be pure crap. After my crushing defeat, I found new life in these works and have worked tirelessly to whittle away the rough bark to leave my own pretty little race car.

And then I presented the absolute rough copy of Hills to my aunt and uncle, just a small token of thanks for their tireless dedication to me.

Soon enough, my other books will be finished with my friendly neighborhood editor. They will be presented in the same fashion, complete with jacket art and interior design. It was as close to published quality as I could get with being unpublished.

And the moral of my story: Find the strength in your weakness. The skies are always most beautiful after the storm.

Don’t be afraid to throw in the towel. When something doesn’t work, don’t sit and kill yourself over trying to turn guano to gold. If it’s meant to be, then it will be.

But, while you’re killing yourself trying to make things work, just think of all the other stories you have waiting to be told.

Sometimes they don’t like to wait. =)

 

What do you do When your Good isn’t Good Enough?

Take a deep breath, relax. What’s got you so worked up?

Is it your three hundredth rejection letter? A hypercritical response from a beta reader? A moron/cyber bully with a keyboard and a bone to pick?

If you’re going through the traditional route, rejection letters are part of the game. It’s kind of like pledging a fraternity…you’re going to get knocked down only to be built back up.

Take Amazon reviews with a grain of salt, don’t let them offend you. If you get upset, the bad guy wins. You don’t want them to win, because that means you lose. And you don’t want to be a loser, do you? =)

If you can distance yourself from your work, your emotional health will be in a lot better shape than if you get wrapped up in all of the personal jibes. It’s perfectly fine to get wrapped up in your book when you write that first draft. Pour your heart out, write everything and anything.

But when it’s time for the second and subsequent drafts, go in with that little violent bugger in the back of your head. Kill your darlings. After your mass murder during the second draft, you should feel a whole lot better about your work and have that emotional distance to know that you’re creating to the best of your ability. Show it back to your hypercritical beta reader. Compare the two drafts, did the comments made/suggested make sense in retrospect? Did you write the best book you possibly could and the reader/reviewer/critic just doesn’t know what they’re talking about?

Or was there more truth than lies? Don’t be afraid of the troll under the bridge. Think of their criticism as the toll you paid to make a second, third, or fiftieth book that much better.

Good luck!