Author Archives: Matt Jones

About Matt Jones

Software Engineer for a living. Fantasy writer for myself. I'm a writer, veteran, gamer, hacker, maker, astronomer, thinker, and altogether indescribable.

Nothing to Fear but the Demons Inside

Scary Tree I admit up front that I don’t read much Horror. It’s not that I don’t like the stories or the work as a whole, it’s just that it makes me uncomfortable. And it’s supposed to, that’s its entire job! A good horror novel will take you through an emotional journey no other genre does. It elicits emotions of fear, confusion, pain, angst, and sorrow. All novels attempt to play with your emotions to some degree, but few attempt to do so in a way that is supposed to make you uncomfortable.

Despite all the books I read, I never actually thought about what, exactly, is it in horror novels that makes me avoid them. I enjoy the excitement and the anticipation that they create. The adrenaline rush makes me feel alive and excited in a life where the most fear I’ll feel is while getting cut off on the freeway. The monsters are imaginative and creative. But most of all, the emotions are powerful! For other novels, I’ll smile during the love scenes and sigh during the sad scenes. I’ll play the good reader and act the way I’m supposed to, but usually it’s only horror that can make me act as a frightened boy and not simply a silent observer.

So, if horror novels are so powerful, why do I rarely actually read them? Maybe it’s because these adrenaline filled moments feel unnatural to me. They might remind my mind of past events that brought about the same physiological response. For example, getting shot at in Iraq while deployed in the military. Or, maybe something as simple as the power going out at night while I was in our unfinished basement as a kid. Neither experience was something I enjoyed.

It might also be the discomfort caused by breaking social rules. Many horror characters have to deal with mental issues that either force or just allows them to go against the social norms that have been drilled into us since childhood. You are put into the mind of someone who steals, rapes, maims, and murders without any remorse. While this is uncomfortable to read, the real shocker comes when you let yourself go to the story and you start agreeing with the actions taken. When you’re in the head of that character who is walking down the hall with the knife in their hands and you find yourself agreeing that the little boy must die to ensure there are no witnesses.

To be honest, I’m not sure what the reason is. They are all good reasons, but I also think they are the reasons I am drawn to horror novels every now and then. Whenever I want to shake up the norm and remind myself that these primal feeling still rest within my soul and heart.

However, there might be one other reason why I have an uneasy relationship with horror. A reason that, as an fellow writer, you might experience as well.
When I was younger, my friends and I threw a Halloween party. Part of the fun and games was a writing contest. Bring a story and read it to the group for praise and prizes. I worked hard and wrote a story about a killer who stalks and rapes young women before sending them to their death. It was dark and the motivations were twisted and gruesome. It had a satisfying ending, if not the happiest in the world. It was a good piece of literary work, in my opinion, and it definitely got an emotional response from the party goers. I thought it was a success, but was surprised at the response afterwards.

My friends who listened to the story, friends who I’ve known for years, looked at me as if I was a new person. A girl I’ve dated asked me later how I could think up something so dark. I heard rumors that some friends thought my character in the story was a representation of who I really wanted to be inside. I began to wonder if my friends thought I really wanted to kill them. And what could I say? I was just a teenager. What if these stories that I thought up really were the thoughts of some inner demon?

Maybe I avoid horror because I’m afraid it’ll show me a side of myself that I really don’t want to see. Maybe I do have demons in my soul that will see the words as an invitation to let loose on the world.

I’m not sure I have a good answer, but I do know one thing: I took the fear and suspicion of my friends as the highest praise I’ve ever gotten. Demons or no demons, horror is a part of me. Even if I only open myself up to it sparingly.

February – Love and Murder

black-32834_640[1]February. The month that Greeting Card companies and Flower Stores wait for each year. The month where love and passion rule, and all things are possible. Where your true love holds you close and rips your heart out of your chest, still beating, to show you before you die. And why not? Every good novel needs some tension to balance the mushy love parts, right?

This month we will look at this balance and focus on the craft of writing a great love scene or a terrifying horror novel. We’ll seek out the secrets that have fueled stories told around camp fires for centuries. And we will look at why, when we are out in the middle of nowhere surrounded by whatever horrors our imaginations could dream up, the thing we inevitably do is create stories even more fearsome.

Both horror and romance work on playing with the readers emotions. They focus on the emotional response, a sense of longing or a chill of fright. They both focus on the passion that make us who we are. Even if you don’t write in the genre, we all want to elicit an emotional response in our readers.

So welcome to the Fictorians take on Love and Murder. Come in close where we can give you a kiss while we slide the blade home between your ribs.

Finding the Time for You

2283676770_6b53f8b77f_b[1]Today is the first day of the New Year where many people will be doing something that they rarely do: actually manage their time to do something that needs to get done. It could be working out, taking the stairs, balancing their checkbook, or writing an hour a day. Somehow, they’ll have time to do it… and for many it’ll fade away in a couple weeks.

You can go to a dozen different websites and find a dozen different methods on how to combat the odds and stay productive as the year progresses, but there lies the problem. People are complex beings, and it’s very rare that the simple solutions are the ones that actually work. People can tell you what worked for them, but there is no telling if it would be beneficial for you as well. The real solution is to look at your life, decide what you want, and figure out something that works for you.

As far as writers go, the advice seems to be pretty consistent. Choose a goal and make sure you reach that goal every day. It can be time based, word count, or page count. The advice is simple, but you need to figure out what will make it most likely that you’ll follow through with that goal. Are you more likely to complete it if you get it out of the way first thing in the morning or before bed? Some people have a reward system where they allow themselves to play a game, have a treat, or watch a show after writing. Others spend an hour destroying people on the virtual battlefield as a method to relax before they write.

Even if you can’t do it every day, find a goal that works for you and makes you ready and happy to write. Some writers will write every day for 20-30 minutes during their lunch breaks. Others will go off to a mountain retreat and lock themselves away from the world for a couple months, emerging with their new masterpiece.

The main takeaway here is to know yourself. If you can make writing a habit, things will be easier. Some people will easily develop the habit and will feel lost if they miss a day. Others will have to fight the urge to do something else every day. Remember that you have friends and allies in writing who are cheering for you and waiting to read your novels. The one advice I can give you that I think that works every time is to never give up!

Rothfuss and Praise

Patrick Rothfuss While I was in Brighton for the World Fantasy Conference, I was given the opportunity to hear Patrick Rothfuss read from one of his novels at a nearby bookstore.  Patrick did a great job and his humor and wit worked well with the foreign audience giving him plenty of material to work with.  By sheer chance I was given a seat in the front and after the reading I decided to stay sitting and wait while everyone else lined up to get a book signed.  What happened next amazed me.

While it wasn’t my intention to eavesdrop on all the conversations, fans are really passionate people and they’re really hard to ignore.  In the time I was there, I was witness to some incredible stories about how the stories Rothfuss created have inspired and improved their readers.

One story spoke of a girl who followed Kvothes lead and decided to go travel the world.  Another fan started taking piano lessons after hearing how music was able to move people in the books.  Patrick, each time, would look humbled and truly grateful at the words and the sentiments.  It was beautiful to watch and inspiring as a distressed author.

My work has been hurting since I would put other tasks before my writing.  They’re all important, in my mind, but the other tasks had deadlines and people waiting on me.  These tasks would always take priority, and I would just tell myself that I could just write tomorrow.  My intentions were good, but it turned into a perpetual postponement of my work.  I needed a deadline that would give my writing a fighting chance against these other things that seem to fill my time, and as I starting thinking back on that night in the bookstore the idea occurred to me.

Everyone always says you need to write for yourself.  This is true.  Don’t lose the love and passion that goes into your writing.  Don’t let it become just a job.  But don’t let that stop you from looking forward to your work being consumed and truly loved by others.  Let that be a motivation that helps keep you moving.  Others are out there waiting for that little push that will make their lives greater.  When you finish your work, people will read it.  Readers will reflect on their own lives as they do so.  They’ll put themselves in the place of the protagonist, and wonder why they aren’t out there playing an instrument or traveling the world.  They’ll wish they could draw, or sing, or dance like the illusion they paint in their minds eye does.  And, in that moment of vulnerability where the hero exceeds expectations and the emotions are riding high, they’ll cheer for that image that is shining in their heads and do something about it.

Let those people become your deadline.  They’re out there waiting.  Waiting for you to finish your novel.  Waiting for that push.  Waiting for your work.  Write for yourself.  Write to tell the story only you can tell.  Write to inspire.  Write to change the world and keep writing until it happens.  Someday, you’ll be sitting in a bookstore surrounded by fans and some troubled author will watch and even that will inspire someone.  They’re waiting for you.  Go do it!

Patrick Rothfuss’ Worldbuilders Charity is in the last week of their Christmas Fundraiser. Go consider donating to help make the world a better place!