ANCIENT ENEMY 4 IS NOW AVAILABLE

Just wanted to let everyone know that the fourth (and last) book in the Ancient Enemy series is now available on Amazon for preorder. I loved writing this series, and I’m sad to see it ending, but I’m ready to move on to other projects. But before I started those projects, I wanted to wrap this one up with a final showdown in the Ancient Enemy’s world.

Just click on the link below to preorder, or it will be live on December 21st.

Evil Spirits - Ebook

You can find it here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B07L8KLXVB

Thank you so much for reading my books, and I hope you enjoy this one!

 

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WRITING TIPS: NOVEMBER 2018

PLACEHOLDER WORDS AND/OR PHRASES IN YOUR FIRST DRAFT

Before I get to December’s Writing Tips post about letting your manuscript breathe or “cool down” after you’ve completed the first draft, I wanted to take a moment to talk about placeholder words and phrases in your first draft. Maybe placeholder words isn’t the correct terminology, but that’s what I call them.

Let’s say you’re writing your first draft and the story is flowing nicely. Your fingers are flying across the keyboard, music is playing in the background (or not), and the story is alive in your mind. Then it all comes to a screeching halt because you can’t think of the exact word or phrase you want to use in that moment. It’s on the tip of your tongue, but you can’t summon it. So you put a placeholder word or phrase in that spot and move on so you don’t lose the momentum that you’ve already built up in your first draft.

For instance, you want to use the word fortuitous, but you can’t think of that word at the moment , so you write in the word lucky. Just write down a placeholder word and move on. Or you want to use a certain model of car or type of pistol, but you don’t know exactly what you want to use or you may need to do some research later, so you can just use a placeholder word or phrase here. You can either insert the placeholder right into the story or use parentheses and leave a note to yourself. I might write something in parentheses like this in a first draft: John escaped out the back door and got away (go into more detail here). Or I might write something like: Carla loved her job (explain how she got this job). I don’t do this a lot because if there are too many placeholders then it’s not really a first draft but a very detailed outline, but if I’m really stuck somewhere on a certain detail, and if it’s a minor enough detail, I don’t want it to slow my first draft down so I’ll go back and add that in during the next draft.

The most important thing about placeholder words or phrases is that they can allow you to power through that first draft. You can always go back and change the placeholder words and phrases when you complete your next draft or edits.

Hope this helps someone out there. I would love to hear any comments you have.

Until next time . . .

HALLOWEEN BLOG: THE TOP 30 HORROR AUTHORS OF ALL TIME

Who is the greatest horror author of all time? Is it Stephen King? He’s probably the most successful and maybe the most well-known. How about authors who have written literary classics, authors like H.P. Lovecraft or Edgar Allan Poe? Or what about authors who have created legendary monsters and characters, authors such as Bram Stoker or Mary Shelley? And where do other horror authors like Dean Koontz, Clive Barker, or Robert McCammon place on this list? What about newer or independent authors? Well, let’s take a look at the list and find out.

Once again, like with my previous Halloween lists, I scoured the internet for lists of the greatest horror authors. There were a lot of suggestions and I narrowed those down to fifty-nine of them – authors who received two or more mentions on various lists. But there were eleven authors who kept popping up on most or all of the lists. So I decided to narrow the list down even further to only the top 30 authors. The top three writers were on every list I looked up. The authors from 4 to 10 appeared on most of the lists. Number 11 had one less mention than the seven above her. The authors listed from 12 to 18 had one less mention than number 11. And numbers 19 through 30 all had one less mention than the authors above them. In each section, I listed the authors randomly, so this isn’t a countdown from best on down; for instance, the top three authors all received the same amount of mentions so I listed them in no particular order.

As with my previous lists, this isn’t a list of my personal favorites, but a consensuses among many lists I researched on the internet.

Another note: There are some authors on this list that many may argue aren’t true horror authors; they may be more famous for writing in other categories such as science fiction, fantasy, and thrillers. But again, I tried to stay true to the authors mentioned over and over again in various lists that I researched.

What do you think of the list? I would love to hear your thoughts. Do you feel some in the top 30 shouldn’t be there? Was there a particular author you feel was left out of the entire list? Who are your favorite authors?

And now here’s the list:

  1. Stephen King
  2. Dean Koontz
  3. Clive Barker
  4. Ramsey Campbell
  5. Anne Rice
  6. Edgar Allan Poe
  7. H.P. Lovecraft
  8. Richard Matheson
  9. Peter Straub
  10. Bram Stoker
  11. Mary Shelley
  12. Ray Bradbury
  13. Dan Simmons
  14. Shirley Jackson
  15. William Peter Blatty
  16. Robert McCammon
  17. Jack Ketchum
  18. Neil Gaiman
  19. Robert Bloch
  20. Richard Laymon
  21. Bentley Little
  22. James Herbert
  23. John Saul
  24. Joe R. Lansdale
  25. John Mayberry
  26. Thomas Harris
  27. Ambrose Bierce
  28. Brian Lumley
  29. Douglas Clegg
  30. R.L. Stine

And I wanted to list the rest of the authors that appeared more than once on the various lists I looked up. There were many other authors mentioned only once (some great horror authors), but to keep it fair I only wanted to complete this list of runners up with authors who were mentioned more than once. So here are the rest that make the entire list of 59 authors. This list is in no particular order.

  1. Henry James
  2. Daphne du Maurier
  3. Poppy Z. Brite
  4. F. Paul Wilson
  5. Chuck Palahniuk
  6. Thomas Ligotti
  7. Algernon Blackwood
  8. Ania Ahlborn
  9. Mylo Carbia
  10. M.R. James
  11. Robert Louis Stevenson
  12. Arthur Machen
  13. Robert E. Howard
  14. Fritz Leiber
  15. H.G. Wells
  16. T.E.D. Klein
  17. Harlan Ellison
  18. Tim Lebbon
  19. Edward Lee
  20. Whitley Strieber
  21. Joe Hill
  22. Brian Keene
  23. Mark Z. Danielewski
  24. Ira Levin
  25. John Ajvide Lindqvist
  26. Paul Tremblay
  27. Adam Nevill
  28. Scott Smith
  29. Susan Hill

So there’s the list. Once again, I would love to hear your thoughts on it, and please feel free to comment below.

On a personal note, I’m still working through my own challenge to read every book on my 100 greatest horror novels (this list can be found on this blog). This year I’ve read: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, The Call of Cthulhu by H.P. Lovecraft, I Am Legend by Richard Matheson, We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson, Hell House by Richard Matheson, They Thirst by Robert McCammon, The Song of Kali by Dan Simmons, Lost Souls by Poppy Z. Brite, The Choir of Ill Children by Tom Picarelli, Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk, and The Ruins by Scott Smith.

I hope to read many more books from my list in the coming year.

And I just wanted to let everyone know that my book THE EXORCIST’S APPRENTICE is still on sale for .99 cents for a few more days.

You can find it here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00YYF1E5C

Exorcist's Apprentice Cover 3

I hope everyone has a safe and happy Halloween.

Until next Halloween . . .

WRITING TIPS: OCTOBER 2018

WRITING THE FIRST DRAFT OF YOUR NOVEL

How do you write your first draft?

You power right through it.

In the previous posts we talked about coming up with ideas for your stories and novels, character bios, creating an outline, using drawings and maps, research, and now it’s time to finally begin writing the first draft.

First, you need to decide how you’re going to write your first draft: by hand on paper or on your computer (or there’s always speech to text). That’s totally up to you. I usually do a mixture of both writing by hand and typing on my computer. I almost always start a first draft by hand in a spiral notebook, but I usually end up typing about the halfway point, sometimes going back and forth between paper and the computer until it’s done.

You’re ready to begin your first draft; you either have your pen and notebook ready or your writing program in your computer – one way or another the blank page is staring at you. And maybe you freeze; you just don’t know where to begin. My advice is to just start writing. Even if you don’t love every word or sentence you’re putting down, just get something on paper or on the screen so you’ll have something to go back and fix later on. My advice would be to get as much of the first draft down without going back and doing much editing. Of course you might make major changes to the story as you go along and new ideas may pop up, but if you’ve written a pretty detailed outline there shouldn’t be too many major structural changes to your story.

One of the worst mistakes a writer can make is worrying about the first draft being perfect. It never is. You’ll always want to go back and make some changes after you’ve written the first draft, tweak something here and there, some fiddling there. You’ll want to improve a scene, punch up some dialogue, go into more detail here and less there. No one is going to write a perfect first draft every time, so just get it all down on paper so you can have something to revise and improve.

Another mistake is thinking that your fist draft is garbage and then you give up. Your first draft isn’t going to be perfect, and sometimes when you’re in the middle of it, struggling with sentences and descriptions, backing up and editing as you go, the whole thing can seem like a big mess. But push through to the end and then let it breathe for a few weeks before beginning the editing. You might surprise yourself and find that what you’ve written is better than you remember.

Your first draft is exactly that, a first draft. you can revise it as much as you want to. I do many revisions on my novels, and usually I’ll have read and re-read a project ten or twelve times before I finally publish (this doesn’t include editors/beta readers looking it over for me). Some books I’ve written need more rewriting and editing than others, some books have been easier for me to write than others – every book you work on is different.

We’ve established that you’re just going to power through this first draft and not try to do major revising and editing along the way. So, how long is this first draft going to take you? Well, that depends on how fast you write, how much time you have available to write, and how many roadblocks you come across in your story (if you don’t have a detailed outline). It could take a month to write your first draft or it could take years, no way is the right way. I would still suggest that you try to power through your first draft as quickly as you can. You could even give yourself a goal of getting the first draft done in a month, or three months, or six months, but make sure you try to get a little writing done each day. Maybe you could give yourself a word or page count for the day or the week to accomplish if that helps. There will be days where the writing is easy, where the muse is singing in your ear, and then there will be days where just getting a paragraph or two down on paper is torture. But you must power through those days even if you only get a few paragraphs done.

I’ll admit that I don’t always write every day. Sometimes I’ll take several days off. I tend to write in spurts, maybe nothing for a few days and then I’ll bang out thirty or forty pages in a few days. But I’ve been writing for so long now that I trust my process and I know that I’m not going to let a significant amount of time go by without writing something. Remember, writing is like a muscle that needs to be exercised.

On those days when you don’t feel much like writing, just try to get a few paragraphs done, or even a few sentences. Sometimes when you begin writing, something magical happens and ideas begin to pop up in your mind as you write. If you’re really stuck, another trick is to take a piece of notebook paper and just start writing down what you’re going to write about in the next chapter. For instance, you could write something like: John will meet Susan in this chapter. They’ll meet at a store, one going out and one going in. They haven’t seen each other for a week now since their awkward first date. And on and on. Before you know it you might be writing dialogue and whole paragraphs about what’s going to happen in this chapter. This works for me a lot of the time if I get stuck.

So, just power through that first draft as quickly as you can and then set it aside for a week or two so it can “cool down” before you go back to it. We’ll go more into the “cooling down” or letting a manuscript breathe stage in an upcoming post.

How do you write your first draft? I would love to hear your writing process in the comments. Also, if you have any tips about maintaining motivation, I would love to hear them.

Next month we’ll talk about placeholder words or phrases in your first draft.

Hope this helps someone out there.

Until next time . . .

WRITING TIPS: SEPTEMBER 2018

KEEP A JOURNAL OR NOTEBOOK OF YOUR STORY IDEAS

It can be a good idea to create a journal or a notebook of ideas. I know it’s helped me though the years. The ideas you jot down can be something you’re working on now, or something you’re going to work on in the future. If you try to keep everything in your mind, you may lose some really great ideas if you don’t jot them down; I know this has happened to me in the past so I try to jot down ideas as soon as they come to me.

I keep one spiral notebook just for new ideas. These can be vague ideas that come to me or they could be an idea for a story, novel, or series I’m working on. For the projects that I’m working on, I keep a separate spiral notebook with notes, any sketches or maps I’ve made, the general outline for the book I’m writing (my outlines usually run from five to twenty pages), any research I’ve done or still need to do, and then the first draft I’m working on.

I keep notebooks on all of the projects I’m working on because I usually work on several projects at the same time. And even though I’m working on a few projects, that doesn’t mean that other ideas won’t come to me, so I want to have the “New Work” (as I call it) spiral notebook handy in case I need to jot an idea down that I may use in a story or novel later on. Sometimes these ideas can be a plot idea, or a scene that pops into my mind that has no place yet, or a few lines of dialogue, or an interesting character or backstory. I may never use some of the stuff I’ve written down, but it’s there if I need it.

Along with keeping a notebook for ideas that come to me, I also create to-do lists for the months. And I create a list of goals I want to accomplish for the year, but it’s easier to break things down to each month. Do I get everything on my list done each month? No. Never. But the list of things I want to get done is something to aim for. If I get blocked on a project I’m working on, I can move on to another project for a little while, or I can work on advertising and promotional schedules, or some research I need to get done.

For those of you who hate to work with pen and paper, feel free to keep your idea notebook as a file in your computer or writing software. I can’t recommend which way is the best because I still use spiral notebooks for my ideas and usually for my first drafts.

Hope this helps someone out there.

Next month in the Writing Tips we will tackle the writing of the first draft of your novel, and I’ll reveal my new list for my Halloween blog.

Until next time . . .

WRITING TIPS: AUGUST 2018

NAMING CHARACTERS AND PLACES FOR YOUR STORY

Naming characters has always been a little difficult for me. I’ll get a story idea and immediately start jotting down some notes, but I’ll usually use a few standby names for the characters like John or Cathy until I can come up with some better names. Or, in my early notes, I’ll even use words like: husband, wife, father, mother, etc. At the very beginning of a story idea I like to get the notes down pretty quickly, much like when I write a first draft, just getting it down quickly and worrying about changes and editing later. Later, as I go over the notes again, I begin to form an outline and character bios, changing the names of the characters to what they will eventually be.

So how do we come up with names for our characters? Maybe the name for a character pops into your mind right away. That’s happened to me before, but not very often. You may juggle through names in your mind until one just sounds right for the character.

One thing that has helped me is to have a list of names for characters. I’ve heard of writers grabbing a phone book (what’s that, right?) and scrolling through the list of names until a name jumps out at them. I’ve heard of other authors who stare at their bookshelves, searching for a first or last name, or combination of names, that hits them.

Recently, I created a long list of first names, and another list of last names. I also created a list of names that I’ve already used in my books and stories so that I’m not using the same names too often (like John and Carla). Maybe it’s impossible not to use the same name twice, especially if you’ve written a lot of short stories and books, but you may not want to use the same name too often.

You can get creative with names, and sometimes a name can seem to identify with a character, but you want to be careful that you’re not making a parody of a character (unless that is your intention).

Naming places like fictitious towns or a business, etc. can be tough, but it can also be fun. If you come up with a name of a fictitious town or business in that state or country, you may want to do a quick internet search to make sure that the name of your fictitious town doesn’t really exist. For instance, let’s say you want to call a small town in Nevada Devil’s Elbow, you may want to make sure that there’s not already a town called Devil’s Elbow if you want your town to be totally fictitious. Or you could go with common town names like Haven and Jackson.

Using lists of names has helped me, especially with keeping track of names I’ve used more than once in stories and novels, and I hope it helps you too.

ANCIENT ENEMY 3 IS NOW AVAILABLE

HOPE’S END: ANCIENT ENEMY 3 is now available on Kindle/Amazon.

I’m so excited to finally release the next book in my ANCIENT ENEMY series. But the good news is that this most likely won’t be the last one – I’m already working on the outline for the fourth (and probably final) book in the series. There will be some big surprises in the final book, but I don’t want to say too much about it just now. And hopefully it won’t take me as long to get the next one written.

Hope's End - Ebook

I hope everyone will pick up a Kindle copy. It’s only .99 cents for a short time, but it’s free if you’re subscribed to Kindle Unlimited. And remember you can always download a Kindle app on your phone or tablet for free. Just go the Amazon page, then the Kindle Store and you can download the app there. You can find my book here:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07G1MS6RK

I’m busy right now putting the finishing touches on my newest series, a post-apocalyptic horror/thriller. I’m hoping to have those three books available in the next month or so.

Please feel free to spread the word about my new book!

WRITING TIPS: JULY 2018

CREATING MAPS OR SKETCHES FOR THE WORLD OF YOUR STORY

In my last post I talked about creating a world for your story, and this post kind of goes along with that one. When you’re building a world, especially a totally made-up world, you may want to write a history of that world, and along with that history, you may want to create maps and sketches of that world and the characters that dwell there.

I’m not sure if a lot of writers do this or not, but maps and sketches are tools I’ve used often in my writing. And maps and sketches don’t just have to be for some alien planet or fantasy world, they can be helpful for any story. If a large portion of my story takes place in a house, I’ll draw a diagram of that house. In the diagram, I’ll draw where the rooms are, the major pieces of furniture, the doors and windows, which direction north is, etc. For my book THE EXORCIST’S APPRENTICE, I drew a map of the house where much of the second half of the story takes place. For my novel THE DARWIN EFFECT, I drew the schematics of the spaceship they were on. I also drew a map of the entire town of Edrington for THE SUMMONING.

Drawing diagrams, maps, and sketches helps keep things straight in my head as I write, and keeps things logical. You don’t want a character entering the master bedroom off of the living room early in the story and then have that character enter the same bedroom from a hallway later in the story. Many readers will pick up on this flaw even if you don’t.

As far as fantasy is concerned, it almost seems mandatory to include a map of the land where the story takes place. I wrote a book with a friend of mine called THE CHANGING STONE (which we still haven’t published yet), and we created a detailed map of the continent along with other detailed maps. Those maps helped me keep details in the story straight while writing it.

When it comes to sketches, they can be useful if you’re writing a horror story and want to sketch out the creature or monster you’re trying to describe. I’ve used sketches many times in my writing. Even though I created a map/diagram for the saloon in HOPE’S END: ANCIENT ENEMY 3, I still wanted to draw a sketch of the place so I knew exactly where the tables were and what was on the walls, and how the place felt.

I think maps, sketches, and diagrams can be useful tools to help you with your writing. What do you think? I would love to hear your comments.

Next month we’ll talk about naming characters and places in your story.

Until next time . . .

 

6 MONTH PROGRESS REPORT

Well, it’s a little past the halfway point of the year, and I thought I’d post a progress report for 2018. At the beginning of the year I resolved to publish more than last year (I only published 2 books in 2017), and I set a publishing schedule for 2018. I was doing okay at first, publishing FOLLOWED in January and then THE VAMPIRE GAME in April.

But then life got in the way. My wife and I bought a house and spent weeks painting and remodeling, and then our son got married.

But now it’s back to work for me.

The next book I plan to have on Amazon/Kindle is the third installment in my ANCIENT ENEMY series called HOPE’S END.

Hope's End - Ebook

HOPE’S END is a prequel of sorts and tells the story of the ghost town featured at the end of DARKWIND. But there’s also a twist at the end of this one that ties a lot of things together.

I’ve also completed the first three books in my new post-apocalyptic series that I’ve titled THE RIPPER APOCALPYSE. What’s a ripper? You’ll have to read the first book to find out. The first three books are the introduction to the series from various characters’ viewpoints, and it all begins as society collapses. I can’t say much more than that right now, but I’m already halfway through the first drafts of books 4 and 5. I’m really excited about this series, and I’m already imagining where it can go. I hope to have the first three books of this series available sometime in August.

I’m also working on the second book in THE EXORCIST’S APPRENTICE series, and I hope to have that one available in the fall.

And there’s a stand-alone thriller I’d love to complete before the end of the year called SLEEP DISORDERS. A man’s wife disappears while they’re eating at a restaurant. The police are sure she walked out on him, but he believes she was taken. As he digs deeper into his wife’s past and a secret life he knew nothing about, the mystery grows more and more odd and frightening.

I’ll continue posting my writing tips for each month (one more this month since I missed June), and I’ll continue notifying you of any sales or promotions I’m part of. Thank you for sticking with me and this blog, and I truly hope you’ll keep tuning in.

Until next time . . .

 

 

WRITING TIPS: JUNE 2018

Note: This was supposed to be posted last month, but my wife and I moved to a new house and had to do some painting and remodeling before we could move in. And then right after that our son got married. So . . . apologies for not getting this out last month, but here is June’s Writing Tips.

BUILDING A WORLD FOR YOUR STORY

When a reader begins your story, you want them to enter a new world. That world could be the inside of a spaceship, or nineteenth century London, or a rural town in Maine, or the dawn of civilization. But you want your reader to see that world, smell the scents, hear the sounds, feel the air temperature. These details may take some research (which we discussed in an earlier post) unless it’s a world you already know well.

How do you describe this world? I think it’s important not to overdo the description in most cases. In Stephen King’s On Writing, he has a great section on description and he describes a bar scene in that section. Description is a balance of details yet not bogging the reader down with too much information.

Building a world, especially an entirely new world like a fictitious town, another planet, or another civilization (like in different genres of science fiction and fantasy) may take some extra work in the beginning. You may want to write a history of the world and places you are creating before you even begin your first draft in those cases. But as with the tips we discussed on research in the earlier post, you may not want to include every detail you created in your history or bible, just enough details to tell the story.

In my next post (which I will post in a few weeks) we will talk about creating maps or sketches for the world you are creating in your story.

Hope this helps someone out there.

Until next time . . .