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News & Events for C. Dennis Moore

"WHY SO SERIOUS?" --THE JOKER

Posted 8/16/2017

Who said writing has to be nothing but words words words every day? Sure, we have no problem with that. But every so often, it’s good to take a day off and purposely NOT write anything. Just don’t make a habit of it.

It is very possible to get burned out, so it’s important that you take a step back BEFORE that happens, otherwise that one day off can turn into two days and soon a week, then a month and before you know it you haven’t written anything in 6 months and now you feel like it’s been so long, you’re not sure you even know how to do it still.

So it’s not a terrible idea to take a day off now and then. But this is important: do NOT take that day off between projects. That’s when it’s easiest to let the days off multiply. Take a day off when you’re right in the middle of something and you’re having a blast working on it. That way you’ll want to come back to it the day after.

Writing is a solitary pursuit. I don’t care how many writer friends you have, how many writers’ groups you belong to, or how many subscribers to your newsletter. When you sit down and face that page, you’re all by yourself. So every now and then you need to push away from the desk, stand up, go talk to other people, step outside and get some sunshine on your face.

Or sometimes maybe you just need a day off from the current work. This can be fun and constructive, too. Usually in the middle of a novel, I find I can keep my focus by stepping away for a couple of days and writing a short story instead. This way I’m still writing, but I’m not wearing out the welcome on the novel, and those few days away usually makes me eager to get back to work on it.

Or just try some random writing. A good writing prompt book works well for this. 642 Things to Write About is an excellent start. This is the prompt book I have and I’m enjoying it a lot.

Have fun with the projects you choose. I’m currently several titles in on a series of short stories based on making every calendar holiday into a horror story, inspired by the great slasher movies I grew up with, like April Fool’s Day and Mother’s Day. It’s fun and inspiring to try to turn every new holiday into a workable horror story, but I think so far I’m managing pretty well. Or find inspiration in other places. I’ve also got a few titles in on a series of Angel Hill shorts, each one based on the title of a Harvey Danger song because I think they have excellent titles and they make me think.

Have fun with your characters. I once named a couple of characters Seamoon and Toomey because, when I was writing the story (“Coming Down the Mountain”), I was listening to Paul McCartney’s song “C-Moon”, which has the line “C-Moon, to me.” It was a silly way to name my characters, but it worked and it’s almost 20 years later and I still remember it.

Writing is an art and you should definitely give it the respect it deserves, especially in the new landscape of the self-published author. But, Christ, you still need to enjoy your life, right? Take it seriously, but not so seriously you drain all the enjoyment out of it and start seeing it as a chore. Writing was never meant to be a chore. Those of us who do it, who did it in the days before you could just throw something up on Amazon and call yourself a published author, we did it because we love it. That’s the attitude you have to have. Do it because you love it. And if there comes a day when you don’t love it anymore, take a step back, take a day off and go to the park or go for a long drive with some great music blasting. Go watch a movie with your family. Grill something and eat outside (I just had lunch on the porch swing with my daughter, a frozen pizza, and it was wonderful). And when the work starts to bog you down, turn the tables. Grab a random line of dialogue from television or a book and write a funny 1000 word story based just on that one line.

No matter how seriously you take this, never forget to live your life and to have fun in everything you do. Anything less is no way to live.

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TIME...HE'S WAITING IN THE WINGS, HE SPEAKS OF SENSELESS THINGS

Posted 8/15/2017

I feel like I’ve talked about this before, but for writers with a day job, time management cannot be stressed enough.

I’m currently fortunate in that I have from roughly 8 AM to 2 PM every day to write, if I want to. I don’t actually spend this much time writing, but I have in the past and I loved every second of it. But now my daughter is graduated and home most of the day and I like to spend time with her, I’ve got my walks to take, and when the grandkids are here, I want to spend time with them, too. Also, when you have another job you have to go to, spending all day at the keyboard and getting NOTHING else done is not only mentally exhausting, but sooner or later you’ll look around and realize I REALLY need to dust and vacuum.

So I allot a solid TWO HOUR block for writing new words. This is the time I used to spend writing when I worked a day job and got up at 4:00 every morning to write before work. Two hours is a good deal of time to make some solid progress on the current project, and at the end of it I’m still riding that writing high and wishing I could stay and do it all night. That’s a good feeling to carry around because it makes rousing myself and getting back to the computer the next day just a little easier.

I also give myself 30-45 minutes to do a blog entry, but that’s current and I don’t honestly know how long I’ll keep this up. I’d like to say indefinitely, but, well… We’ll see. For now, though, I write for two hours, then do a blog post, then get away from my desk and spend time with my daughter. That’s a 6 hour block of time I COULD be writing and I never feel like it’s enough time, even if I’d written THE END on something that day and have no desire nor plans to start anything else just yet. I have a feeling it’s like that for most writers, we just want to write, no matter what else is going on around us. The call of the keys…

And I understand that not every writer out there has that kind of time. Hell, I want nothing more than to get on day shift at my current job, knowing full well that eliminates my day long writing schedule. And I’m fine with that. Because I’ll just go back to 2 hours a day and I’ll do what I did for the 13 years before that: make it work.

Because I know how to manage my time. Wanna know a secret? I’m a Time Lord. I can take time and bend it, stretch it, wrap it around, and generally distort it however I like. I’m not alone, though. I bet you could do it, too. Ever been so engrossed in something you enjoy that you happen to glance at the clock a few minutes later and find it’s really five HOURS later? Yeah, you have!

We use this distortion technique every day in one way or another. You ever go somewhere for the first time and it seems to take forever, but the more times you go there, it seems the shorter the trip is? Or how about when you’re driving outside of town and, again, it takes FOR! EVER! But the return trip HOME always seems to go by much quicker, even though you’re driving the exact same distance.

Time distortion, y’all. And we can apply this to our writing schedule and make that thirty minutes you have free feel like two hours or more.

First, you have to alter your beliefs about time. How long is a minute? How long is an hour? How long is a day? A week? A month? You get the idea. Remember in school when we had to do that fluoride rinse once a week? Only took 60 seconds but the stuff was so foul it was the longest minute of the day. But recess, which was, what 30 minutes? SNAP, over like that.

Because we hated the fluoride rinse and were focusing only on THAT and getting it out of our mouths, time dragged on and on and on and on and on. But at recess, you were having a blast and not even considering what time it was.

See, a minute isn’t really any time at all. And thirty minutes, you can get a LOT of stuff done in that time. Because you’ve gained a lifetime’s worth of experience with minutes and half hours, we have certain beliefs about how long each of those is. Same with an hour, a day, etc.

Do me a favor. Open a book, any book, and set it next to you on your desk. Now spend the next FIVE MINUTES copying the text of that book into a blank page on your computer. Don’t worry about accuracy, just copy what you see as best you can. Now at the end of that five minutes, do a word count to see just how many words you typed in only five minutes.

I guarantee it was a few hundred, if not more. Look at how many words you can write in FIVE MINUTES. Didn’t think that was possible did you? Because you see five minutes as a blink, as nothing compared to all the other measurements of time you use throughout the day.

Imagine how many words you could type in thirty minutes. Or TWO HOURS. Confession, the most I’ve written in one two-hour session was over 4000 words. It was a long time ago, it only happened once at the end of a project, and I’ve never been able to duplicate it, although I’ve come close several times.

Okay, now that we’ve altered your beliefs about time, we have to distort your perception of time.

Back to the recess example. You’ve got an hour to write before you HAVE to get the kids up for school, get them FROM school, or start dinner. Whatever the upcoming task that’s keeping you from just writing long into the night, how do you make it feel like twice as much time, or four times as much time, without actually taking that much time?

Sometimes I write with the pomodoro method. That’s a focused 25 minutes of writing, then a 5 minute break, then another 25 minutes of writing followed by another 5 minute break, alternating until I make it stop. The problem with this method--and I use a lot, but then I have 6 hours a day I can do this if I want to--is that it forces you to focus too much on how much time has passed vs. how much time is left. You need to be able to concentrate on your writing WITHOUT the constant countdown. On my phone, I have several alarms set. One for 8:30. One for 10:00. One for 11:00. And one at 2:15. This is my drop everything and get ready for work alarm. The 8:30 alarm is the “it’s about time to start heading back home from the walk because it’s going to be time to write soon” alarm. 10:00 is the “you need to start writing” alarm. 11:00 is the “you’ve been writing for an hour, how much have you got done?” alarm. I know these alarms are there, but there’s no countdown, no worry of a random alarm signaling time to take a break when I’m just getting into the heart of a scene. I can take my time, I can stretch my literary wings, so to speak, and just let it flow. The alarm will sound when it’s time to, but when it does it’s only the “just checking in to see how you’re doing” alarm, no big deal.

And you know what happens? Amazing things. Since the countdown is the last thing I’m worried about, it’s the last thing I worry about, and that hour until the next alarm can feel like several hours. This morning I wrote the day’s 1034 words in 28 minutes!!!

God, can you imagine if I’d been doing the pomodoro and 25 minutes in, the timer beeps and I lose the flow right there at the end. Don’t get me wrong, like I said, I love the pomodoro method. But it’s not for every writing situation or writing session. Sometimes just knowing that countdown is happening right next to you can be enough to keep you from putting down ANY words that day.

So I forego that and just write, knowing my hour alarms will keep me posted on the time. That’s another thing, do NOT look to see what time it is once you’ve started. I know normally a watched clock never moves, but when you’re writing and watching the clock at the same time, the blank page never fills.

Okay, we’ve changed your beliefs about time, and we’ve seen how you can distort the advance of time. Last step: Prioritize your tasks!

I have several things I want to get done every day. Things IN ADDITION to that day’s words and that day’s blog post. But those are the two most important, and that day’s words are THE most important. So I do that first. Every day. There are days I don’t even answer emails until after the day’s words are done. You can do a dozen smaller tasks during the same amount of time you would have spent writing, but when that time is over, did you really do anything IMPORTANT?

Do the important things first, so that at the end of that time, or at the end of the day, you can look back and know you didn’t waste whatever time you had. Once the day’s words and the day’s blog post are done, it’s time to start digging into those other, smaller, tasks. THIS is when you play with new cover designs or re-work your calls to action or send out a welcome email to your new newsletter subscribers. All worthwhile tasks for the self-publishing author, but without getting those new words done, there’s not going to be anything new to self publish.

All daily schedules are not built the same. I don’t know your situation or how much time you have every day to get some writing done, but I DO know that, using these few techniques, you CAN get some writing done, and chances are you’ll get more done than you first thought you could. Once you start to understand just how much is possible to do in a short amount of time and once you stop focusing on how much time is passing vs. how much time is left, you can prioritize that time to get maximum results and help your career advance one writing session at a time.

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HAVE YOU RAISED YOUR STANDARDS TODAY?

Posted 8/14/2017

I always like it when Gordon Ramsey gets pissed at some young chef for not raising their standards and letting less than perfect food onto the plate. Every time it happens on HELL’S KITCHEN or KITCHEN NIGHTMARES or MASTER CHEF, I think about writing and how often I’ve let a story go out with a less than perfect ending or a sub-par edit. And then I think about how I feel knowing that work is out there.

We’re definitely a “good enough” society these days. So many new authors out there who weren’t around in the days of submissions and rejections and Writer’s Markets and response times and guidelines and SASE (I’m not even going to explain what that means because as a writer YOU SHOULD ALREADY KNOW!) think it’s nothing at all, this writing thing. Hammer out a 40,000 word “novel” in a few days, give it a quick read-through, slap a cover on it, and quit your day job.

See, they don’t have standards, because they never learned to develop them.

But like Sean Nelson said, “Only cream and bastards rise,” so my job now is to be that cream that rises to the top. While all the Seanny-Come-Latelies (Dave knows what I’m talking about!) are pumping out a new “unit” every two weeks, I’m going to craft my stories with care. Which I’ve always tried to do anyway, but I do admit now and then to tacking on an ending just for the sake of an ending. But what’s the rush?

We’re not under deadlines anymore, unless you’re foolish enough to submit your upcoming book for pre-sale on Amazon. But miss that deadline and no more pre-sales for you. So why are we trying to hurry and get more and more work out there? I’ll tell you why. Greed. The same reason my bosses at my day job can’t be satisfied with meeting the schedule and feel the need to add to it every time we might finish a little early. It’s not needed, but think of the money! And then we end up spending a week off work without pay because SOMEONE over-produced. But I digress.

Why this constant rush to get out a new book every week or every two weeks when all we’re doing is sacrificing quality for quantity. Two years ago I pushed to put out a new title every month for a year. And I did it. But I’m the first to admit not every one of those titles was great. Some came to be because I needed an idea I could finish within that month. That’s not to say I think any of them are terrible, but I had one or two that weren’t my best work, and could have been made a lot better with a little more time and care given to them.

But I sacrificed standards in favor of just getting it out there.

No more.

From now on I’ll live and write by a code.

1) There’s no rush. As in the old days, a story is done when it’s done NOT when I decide it’s been too long since I’ve published anything new and I need to get something out there to keep my name in readers’ minds.

2) I’m not going to concern myself with what other writers are doing, whether they’re more successful for not. I’m not them, I can’t write their work, but also they can’t write mine. So I need only be true to myself and the work that I do.

3) Do my best, each and every day. When I sit down to the keyboard, I’m not putting down words for the sake of putting down words, but also neither am I dilly-dallying around because I “don’t feel like it.” I’ve put in enough hours behind the desk to know that, if I really WANT to, I can write new words EVERY DAY. THAT is me at my best.

4) Every day I will appreciate the gifts I’ve been given. My life, my family, my writing, my friends. As much as I complain, I really do have a good life. I should spend a little more time appreciating it.

This is just a start. I can add to this list as they come to me, the important thing is to be able to look at myself every day and know I lived up the standards I set for myself and my work. What standards have you set for yourself and how strict are you in keep--or better yet, RAISING--them?

Email me a let me know.

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THE WORLD OWES ME A LIVING AND I INTEND TO COLLECT

Posted 8/11/2017

The Bible says “Love of money is the root of all evil.” But I like Prince’s thoughts on the matter better. He said, “They say money don’t happiness, but it’ll pay for the search.”

Damn right.

Money is the bane of the writer’s--hell, all creators’--existence. We NEED it to survive, but we’d do this thing even if we knew going in we were never going to make a dime at it. We don’t do it for the money, we do it because we love it that much. But think how much more time we’d have to do it if we didn’t have those damn day jobs. So, to cast off the day job, we have to make money with our art. Which can be a hard issue to press when, really, we just want to be seen and heard whether we’re getting paid or not. I can’t tell you the number of free books I’ve given out because I’m just so pleased with the books and want other people to read them. And yet I hate my day job and wish to God I made enough money from writing to not have to work there anymore.

All hope is not lost, though. There are several tips for making money that can be adapted to writers. At least, I hope they can. Let’s see what we’ve got.

1) Create Wealth. What this means is, whatever you do, fiction, painting, music, films, find a way to do it that adds value to the lives of your audience. For myself, I try like hell to write stories that reward readers who go in for a second round. I want my fiction to read even better the second time through. I want readers to pick up new details, new words or turns of phrase they didn’t catch the first time that can, in retrospect, make the experience even more enjoyable the second time. My short story “The Timesmiths”, I think, works like this, if a reader is paying attention. I think my short story, “Monday”, does it too, even better. And I hope an upcoming short, “Problems and Bigger Ones” does the same, too. I try to slip in phrases or actions that work well for the narrative the first time, but if they read it again, they might say OH, I see what he was doing, yeah yeah, that makes it even better.

Does this add value? I don’t know about that, but I like to think paying for a story once and getting more and more enjoyment out of it the MORE times your read it adds value.

Also: maximize your work’s potential. Writers of fiction, we can do audio books and add value that way. Musicians can license their music--some local business might want to use one of your songs in a commercial. Filmmakers can gather together with other local filmmakers and hold their own film festival.

2) Maintain Your Wealth. You’ve probably heard it say many times before, “spend less than you earn and invest the difference.” What I like to do--and this may or may not work for you; I don’t know your situation--is … I have a day job (night job), so I get a regular paycheck from that, and that’s enough to cover my bills and allow me to buy comics and go out to eat and see movies now and then. I don’t rely on money from writing. And thank God for that, because I’d be dead in a ditch somewhere if I did. So what I do is, my regular paycheck goes into my checking account. But anything I make from writing goes into my SAVINGS account. My Visa is not tied to my savings account. Sure, I can transfer money from one to the other with a phone call, but that’s a hassle usually, so the savings account money just sits there and collects. And as for reinvesting, when you have enough built up, use that money and invest it in your writing. Buy a professional cover, hire an editor, pay for some ads. When you’re still at that stage where you’re trying to make it in the business, it’s a good idea to use at least part of what you make from your art and put it back into the business in some way that expands your reach and gets your stuff out there to more people, or helps you to improve the quality of upcoming works. Investing in your career is VITAL because, at this stage, you can’t rely on others to do it for you.

3) Increase Your Wealth: Reinvest. When your initial investment pays off, the book you bought the fancy cover for starts selling, or you bought some new software that improves the quality of your films or music, Reinvest that money back into your business again. Hell, I shouldn’t even have to tell you this, because you’re already investing in yourself, so naturally why would you NOT reinvest when you start making real money? Well, because people sometimes lose sight of their goals. Especially when you’ve spent most of your adult life living paycheck to paycheck. Seeing that new balance in your savings account can get the wheels turning. Trust me, you WILL start seeing things you like in a new light. You WILL start thinking “You know, if I wanted to, right now, I could buy that. I have the money.” But let’s be real, you don’t need it. It’s gonna satisfy a very brief itch and tomorrow that money will still be gone.

4) Enjoy Your Wealth: Look, I’m not saying NEVER spend any of the money you’ve made, but follow the first few steps FIRST, and then enjoy the spoils. As long as you remember the most important rule of spending LESS than you earn. You deserve a present now and then. Or someone you love deserves a present. The psychological effects of treating yourself to something you’ve had your eye on can do wonders for your state of mind and self esteem sometimes--especially knowing you were able to do this, whatever the gift is, from your own hard work and talent. Myself, I’m a comic book junkie. If I’ve had a lean month or something else has come up, something with the kids or whatever, I won’t buy more than my regular monthly haul. But if I’ve got a little extra in the bank and I’ve taken care of what needs taken care of first, I’ll buy a couple of back issues I’ve been looking for. But NEVER if I can’t afford it. But you have to learn how to flip that switch between something you NEED to survive and something you just WANT because you think it’ll enhance your life. Know what will REALLY enhance your life? Having the money later in life to take care of yourself. I’ve work with a guy who turned 71 this year!!! I don’t want to be that guy. So I can’t spend more than I earn, and I need to make sure I’ve got some put away.

This topic might not be for everybody, but I do believe MOST of the creators I know, that’s what they want to do with their life full time. I’m not guaranteeing that if you follow these steps, you’ll wake up tomorrow to a full bank account, but what I can promise is that following these steps, living by these steps, will go a hell of a lot further toward financial independence than blowing all your money on payday and then trying to do those financial gymnastic we’ve all done, trying to figure out how many more weeks you can put off THIS bill, what number do you call to make an arrangement for THAT bill.

I’m with Prince on this one, I know money won’t make me happy, but it’ll sure as hell help me figure out what will.

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6 TIPS FOR WRITERS IN RELATIONSHIPS.

Posted 8/10/2017

How is your relationship with your significant other? With your kids? With your friends? As writers, we spend so much time in our heads, our relationships with the people who matter most to us often begin to suffer. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “What’s wrong with you?” only to reply, “Nothing,” and mean it. Because there wasn’t anything wrong. I was just in my head, working through whatever I was writing at the time, trying on an ending or searching for the right title.

It’s unfortunate for the people we care about, but we can’t help it. We live in a make-believe world most of the time, but it’s a world WE’RE responsible for and what kind of god would we be if we stopped paying attention to the small details? And then someone at work pipes up and says, “What are you in such a bad mood for?”

“Um … I’m not?”

“Well, you look like you are.”

“Nope. Perfectly fine.” I was just trying to decide if the main character should die in the end or defeat the monster. Do you think this title gives too much away, or is it mysterious and exotic?

And I’m by NO means a relationship expert. Good Christ, just the thought of it. It’s downright laughable. I’ve gone months without talking to friends before, even my closest friends, and when I do talk to them again, it’s like no time has passed at all. And, sure, the phone works both ways, but also the phone works BOTH WAYS. And one of those ways was mine and I neglected it because I was so busy writing one short story after another, or I got so deep into a novel I forgot a birthday. It’s unfortunate, but it happens.

Luckily there are steps we can take to help strengthen those bonds and at least look like we’re trying. Again, I’m no expert. But I do know how to read and find out the things I know nothing about. So here goes:

1) I’ve mentioned before knowing a person’s rules and communicating yours to them and how important this is. I can’t stress it enough. I have a friend who, a long time ago, I got home from work one day and he had opened my mail while waiting for me because we had plans that night. I guess in most cases I would have shrugged it off, but this time it was a rejection letter. I’ve gotten tons of them since then, but this was my very first rejection letter from my very first submission. Man, that’s a feeling you face alone the first time. Eventually you get over it and it’s nothing anymore, but I was 19, had been writing about a year and a half at the time, and was not ready to share that kind of stuff just yet. His only comment was, “I didn’t know you were submitting work.” Maybe there’s a reason for that. But, you know what? I couldn’t really get mad at him. Because his rules for things weren’t the same as mine. He didn’t and never has valued his privacy the way I do mine, so he didn’t know. It really did something to our friendship, but it probably hurt it even worse that I kept quiet about it and just went on with my day, a little damaged and untrusting and possibly even more protective of my privacy after that. Of course, at the time I had no idea how to communicate and didn’t even have the words for what I was feeling. If I HAD, and if I’d told him about it, things could have gone different. We’re still friends, we always will be, but there’s a little part of me that will never forget that. And that’s on me.

2) I think the reason my friends and I get along so well, the reason we can go so long apart and then talk again like we just talked yesterday, is because we expect nothing from each other. I’m not friends with any of these people because I’m trying to get something from them. If anything, I want to do whatever I can FOR them. If you build your relationships on what you can get rather than what you can give, you’re headed in the wrong direction for sure.

3) When you meet resistance in a relationship, confront it then. Don’t wait. Resistance leads to Resentment leads to Rejection leads to Repression (see #1 above). We’re not always going to agree but keeping your mouth shut and eating it … well, it’s going to start eating YOU from the inside. Our relationships work best when WE’RE at our best.

4) This is the one we writers have the most trouble with. You have to make your relationships a priority. You remember that part in FIGHT CLUB where the narrator is talking about “the couch problem”? You get the new couch and you say to yourself, Okay, I’ve got that couch problem solved, and you move on and never again have to worry about the couch. Christ, this is my entire life. I make a friend. Okay, I got that friend problem solved, now I can get back to what I was doing before. We keep people at a distance because we’ve got this novel we’re working on and we really want to finish it, so we’ll do something in a couple weeks, cool? That’s not how you build a relationship, that’s how you build an acquaintanceship!

5) Do the work. With friends, try to do one thing every week to make the friendship better. Go get coffee or see a movie. Have a conversation, even if it’s only over text because you’re several states away and you both have busy lives. I have a book called THE BOOK OF USELESS INFORMATION. Every morning I text a handful of my closest friends one bit of useless trivia from that book. Today it was: “Lachanophobia is the fear of vegetables.” A couple of friends I share music with every morning. Another friend and I swap music every Thursday. It’s a weekly ritual. When we both remember. But even when we forget, we get it the next week without missing a beat. That’s friendship. With a relationship, a spouse or you kids, you don’t TRY to do something, you DO something. With my kids, we share comics. I still buy my younger son and daughter comics every month when I buy my own haul. And sometimes I read theirs before handing them over. My daughter and I (she’s the only one still living at home, so it’s just easier with her) have spaghetti and/or pizza once a week and do the grocery shopping together every other weekend. In fact, she goes with me pretty much every time I leave the house. Sometimes we just go to the guitar store to see what’s new and ogle the beautiful guitars. Sometimes this means I cut my writing short for the day, but she’s 18 and won’t be around forever, so I’m trying to make sure those bonds are unbreakable. I didn’t do this with the boys when I should have, because I was too wrapped up in my own head. I’m trying to make the efforts NOW, of course, but I regret not doing it sooner.

6) Remind yourself why this person and this relationship matters to you. I bought a little 2X3 notebook for, like, $1, and every morning I write something in it that I’m grateful for. This would be a good place to remind myself why my family and friends are important to me. Keeping these things in mind helps us to make them a priority. Dave and Tyrion know they matter because every morning, there’s music in their email, so they know I was thinking of them. Caleb, Curt, Evans and Swope know every morning when that Useless Information text comes, that I was thinking of them. And I hope the daily reminder from me serves as a daily reminder for THEM why I matter. It is SO easy for writers to put their relationships on the back burner and not give it a second thought and that’s an excellent way to lose a friend or, worse, a spouse. Yes, the work is important and we want to get it done, but even the most hardened antisocial misfit in the world needs someone to talk to now and then.

Don’t let the writing make you lose sight of all the other things you have in your life, all the people whose lives your presence--or your ABSENCE--affects.

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GET OFF YOUR DEAD ASS BEFORE YOUR ASS IS DEAD.

Posted 8/9/2017

There are a couple of serious dangers writers face. There’s Carpal Tunnel, eye strain, backaches, overeating (who doesn’t have a little something something handy when they’re writing?). When your job consists of sitting at a desk and typing all day, and there’s not a regular clocking out time, no regularly scheduled lunches or even days off, you’re facing a lot health risks.

For a long time, I kept trying to counter this lifestyle by working out in the mornings before I went to my office. I never felt healthier, never felt more energetic. In fact, I often found I needed a nap around mid-afternoon. And I don’t mean a nap would hit the spot, I mean I NEEDED a nap.

I know a lot of writers counter this by buying a standing desk, but I stand all night at my day job, and anyway I just spent a couple hundred on the desk I bought 3 years ago, I’m NOT buying another desk.

So lately I’ve gotten back into doing something I used to do before I got this job, when I actually had time off work every week. When I get up in the morning, before I’ve done ANYTHING, even before I turn on my computer, I grab a book and take a walk. I used to have a route I walked every day, and it took about 2-2 ½ hours. I don’t take that route anymore because now I’m just walking while I read another chapter. Sometimes it’s 30 minutes, sometimes it’s an hour. And I like to change it up and take a different route every day now just to keep it interesting.

And I have to say, having been back out there doing it for a few weeks now, the benefits are amazing.

I got to bed last night around 1:30. I got up today at 7:30. While six hours of sleep is very common for me, that doesn’t mean I don’t get tired during the day. Hell, I’m tired all the time, actually. But even when I get to bed later and only managed about five hours of sleep, I haven’t been hitting that I HAVE TO LAY DOWN wall lately. I attribute it to walking. Well, that and drinking a lot more water with lemon. That’s what I take to work now instead of Sierra Mist or something.

But back to the walking. The problem with all the working out I was doing before was, while it’s GOOD to work out, I don’t think it was the right kind of exercise for me. You should be able to carry on a conversation, your breathing should be audible but not labored. But working out I wasn’t breathing right, I certainly wasn’t stretching nor did I allow myself a winding down period, which is important.

It’s really the difference between an aerobic workout and an anaerobic workout. An anaerobic workout is something like lifting weights or sprinting, anything that requires a "short exertion, high-intensity movement". It works your body, but your burning sugar, not fat. You can get FIT without getting HEALTHY.  Jim Fixx was FIT but not necessarily HEALTHY We want to be HEALTHY. And we’re writers, we don’t need bulging muscles, we need to keep that sitting-around weight off. And aerobic exercise not only burns fat, but also prevents clogged arteries which can prevent heart disease.

Sure, standing is better for you than sitting, but how much aerobic exercise are you getting there, REALLY?

Take a break. Take a book, or an audio book, or a pod cast, and LEAVE YOUR HOUSE for a change.

We’re solitary inside creatures, that’s our nature, but there’s a world outside and the sun is shining and the flowers are blooming and while the air may not be perfect out there, I guarantee it’s less stale than in your stuffy old office.

Something else I like about walking. It’s addictive. Some days I hope for a long chapter, because I just want to enjoy being out there. And I know I could just keep walking longer if I wanted to, but I use the chapter a day method to keep my focus and make sure I come back and get to work on that day’s words. Otherwise, I’d be out there all day and have nothing left when I get to work that night. But it’s definitely something I look forward to every morning now.

I admit walking might not be your thing. But for God’s sake, do SOMETHING. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of sitting down at work all day, then coming home and sitting down at home night, but what would you rather do, get off your ass and do something for an hour a day and have many more days to do them, or do nothing and have fewer days left to do it? I don’t know about you, but I’m hoping to live as long as humanly possible, so I’m getting up and moving, getting my heart rate up and letting the blood flow, breathing, and getting some sun on my face.

I feel I definitely have more energy, my mood’s a lot better, and if I do say so myself, I’m doing some pretty damn good work on the page lately too.

It’s not ALL from walking. Like I said, lemon water instead of whatever else you were drinking. The benefits there alone are awesome. And also when I get home from my walk, I spend 15 minutes meditating. A great book on this subject is Russell Simmons’s SUCCESS THROUGH STILLNESS. You can listen to the audio book on your walk.

I’ve tried countless morning rituals. I’ve tried exercising, I’ve tried affirmations, I’ve tried just jumping right in and getting busy, then taking a nap later. That worked okay but it didn’t help my jeans fit any better. So far, walk and a book, meditation, and lemon water at work (I’m still drinking coffee in the morning while I write and you can’t stop me!) has shown me more serious benefits than anything else I’ve ever tried to start my day on the right foot. And if nothing else, it’s gonna be cold sooner or later, so I might as well enjoy some sunshine while I can; God knows winter is coming.

If you’re a writer, trust me, you NEED to get off your ass and move your body, and for the lives we lead, an aerobic workout is best. You don’t need abs of steel, you need a body and mind that’s in it for the long haul.

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WHAT, ARE YOU GONNA CRY ABOUT IT?

Posted 8/8/2017

This may seem like a strange topic today, but hear me out.

I have a friend who once said he imagined that, at the end of the world, I would be on a mountaintop eating Twinkies and watching the world burn. He said this because I am, on average, a blank. It’s not that I have no emotions, but I hold them in check. I used to have a temper. My old bedroom wall at my mother’s house--made famous as the room where Milo Dengler arranged the bodies of his murdered children in THE THIRD FLOOR--had cracks and holes in the walls from where I’d punched them. But that’s no way to live.

So I had to do something about that. For me, it seemed pretty simple. I made two realizations. 1) NOTHING in life is worth getting THAT upset over, and in five years whatever the big deal was today isn’t going to mean a damn thing. And 2) people look really friggin’ stupid when they’re grown adults throwing temper tantrums.

So whenever I feel myself getting pissed or even just slightly upset I remember these two things and it helps me to face the problem with a blank face. It’s not that I’m dead inside--my kids can tell you that--I just think it’s much easier to face my problems with my HEAD instead of my heart.

But how can you master your emotions, and how the hell does this apply to writing?

First thing’s first. You have to understand your emotions and label them. What emotions do you run through in a typical week? Happy? Sad? Angry? Loved? Anxious? Disappointed? I think most emotions are just varying degrees of these few. Happy gives way to thrilled gives way to ecstatic while angry stems from frustrated and gives way to furious. The first step in mastering something is naming it. So these are our main emotions we deal with in a given week. You may have others, emotions specific to the life you live.

Now let’s look at the negative ones and make a list of the things in our lives that trigger these emotions. Unexpectedly, and unnecessarily, long nights at work for me. Or getting there and finding out first shift did only a small fraction of the schedule leaving second shift to finish it. I can feel myself getting heated just typing those sentences. What else? You know what? I think that’s about it, honestly. In any given day, the only things that really bother me are work-related, and mostly because of the nature of my job and the company I work for.

But I don’t spend all night in a pissy mood. Why not? Because I moved on to the next step, which was finding something that could trigger the opposite reaction. Being pissed off all night isn’t going change anything, and in fact it’s just going to make the night even worse. So I changed my thoughts, which changed my emotions. I employ this technique CONSTANTLY at work.

I ask myself new questions. Not why did first shift only get three out of twelve blends done? Instead, I ask how am I going to decide on my main character’s name? What is his job, and does that job affect the plot or vice versa, or is it just a job he happens to have? Instead of focusing on the fact it’s going to be another 10 hour night while first shift got to leave on time, I focus on a solution instead of the problem. *Write*. Write a killer short story, write a killer novella, write a killer novel that sells well enough I can take a lesser paying job where I have more time and energy. Better yet, write something that sells so well I don’t have to work a day job anymore. And then I can write MORE books.

See, I’ve had plenty of nights where I felt completely trapped by life. “I can’t accept that THIS is how the course of my life will go from now on.” Good, because it’s not. This isn’t my first job. Most likely it won’t be my last. And unlike a LOT of the people I work with, I have something to get me out of my head and to give me hope to work toward. I’m a writer. And writing doesn’t have an expiration date. Well, it does, but that’ll be the day I die. I can work at this every day for the rest of my life and no one can stop me. So that means, no matter how bad my day job ever gets, I’ve always got this backup plan. And I’m not sleeping on the backup plan, I’m working at it 6 days a week, with the faith that THIS is not my life. It’s just my life RIGHT NOW. And that fills me with hope, happiness, and, believe it or not, sometimes with love for all things because in those moments, God smiles on me.

But it’s the same for every negative feeling I have. I know that, whatever it is, it’s just right now. In five years, who’s going to care? Who’s even going to remember?

Letting your emotions control you is a sure path to failure. Your emotions, like anything else that affects your life, are only meant to act as a periphery. Just like logic needs the balance of emotions, emotions also need to be tempered with logic.

So the next time you feel the walls closing in and you start to get anxious or frustrated or pissed off, think of your art. The films you plan to make, the music you plan to record, the painting you plan to do, or the fiction you plan to write. Stop focusing on the thing that’s causing all the negativity and put your head into that place where you get to be free. And then remember this thing, this pain, is not forever. Soon you’ll be away from it and back where you want to be, behind the camera, in front of the easel, or at the keyboard.

At least, that’s what works for me…

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CUE CSI THEME...

Posted 8/7/2017

This morning on my walk I was reading about identity, how we view ourselves and how others view us. And I started questioning things. How do I view myself? What is my identity?

I’m a husband, a father, a grandfather, a child, and a writer. These are the terms by which I define myself every day. Yes, I have a day job, but I never identify myself as a machine operator because I never wake up in the morning or look in the mirror and think “machine operator.” That’s something I DO, but it’s most definitely not something I AM.

So why do I view my identity as those other things? Because that’s who I am. I am a husband, a father to three children, a grandfather to two, a child to my parents, and I am a writer.

Now, those other things are genetic--in the case of husband, legal--so I’m those things whether I want to be or not. Luckily, I want to be. As for writer … no one made me be a writer. No one asked me to be. No one suggested I be. I’m a writer because I write.

I’ve heard people ask several times over the years, “Is it okay to call yourself a writer when you’ve never published anything?” Hell yes. Once you’ve published, you become a “published author”. I called myself a writer long before I ever published anything. Because I wrote. I wrote every day. But … I didn’t call myself a writer in the beginning.

Because I wasn’t a writer, not yet. I was a guy who had written, or was writing something at the time. But I wasn’t a … WRITER.

When did I become a writer? When I started thinking of myself as a writer.

I started my writing journey with a story called The Man in the Window, a little idea that had been plaguing me for a while until I finally sat down and WROTE it. But I wasn’t a writer, not yet. I then wrote a very short piece for school. I still wasn’t a WRITER. I was a guy who had written and was writing something at the time.

But then I wrote another story. And I wrote another. And there was one after that. Soon writing was all I thought about. My entire day centered around when would I get some time alone to write? What would I work on? Where was the story going? What would I work on next?

I was a writer. Why? Because I stopped thinking of myself as a guy who had written or was writing something at the time, and started thinking of myself as a Writer. And once I started seeing myself as a writer, others did, too. And once they started seeing me as a writer, their behavior toward me changed.

To acquaintances I was no longer the quiet guy with his nose in a book all the time, I was the writer who was busy working something out in my head. To family I was no longer the loner who spent all his time in his room and never wanted to socialize, I was the writer who was probably hard at work on his next masterpiece. And with my wife and kids, once that association clicked in their heads, I was no longer dad or husband who would rather go off by himself for a couple hours every day instead of spending time with them. Instead I was dad who had to get a little work done in his office and we’d do something as soon as that was done.

I’m telling you, how people treat you is based on how they view you, and how they view you is based LARGELY on how you view yourself.

Remember a few blogs ago when I said I used to always be the guy who made plans and then cancelled at the last minute? It got so bad, friends stopped being surprised when I would do it. It was probably expected. But I saw myself as that guy, too, and I hated it. So I decided that wasn’t me. That’s who I USED to be. Who am I now? The guy who says he’s in and follows through. Sure, there are times I don’t want to, times I’ve got very little free time as it is and would rather relax and recharge in my off hours from the day job. But I said I would and, let’s face it, doing so isn’t going to kill me. So I get off my lazy ass and do what I said I would whether it’s give somebody a ride or … well, whatever. If I said I would, I do it.. And guess what, none of it’s killed me yet. The world spins and the sun sets and everything is just fine. And the more times I follow through when I made plans, the more confident I feel in myself and then that’s more confidence others will have in me. And before long, I’m NOT that guy anymore. That becomes who I USED to be.

A change in MY thinking leads to a change in THEIR thinking about ME.

So, writing and being a writer.

My friends and family don’t see me as a writer because I tell them I’m a writer. They see me as a writer because I write. I consistently get to my desk at least 6 days a week and I write. I may take a day here to work on some covers. Or I may take a week there to write reviews. But I’m writing. I finish and publish the projects I start. I’m organized. I’m committed. Whether I sell anything or not, whether I’m famous or not, is not the point. I’m a Writer, so I write.

And all it takes is deciding that’s who you want to be, and then BEING that. There were times early one, before I identified myself as a “writer”, when I’d skip a day or two, maybe three, maybe I’d put aside whatever I was working on and come back to it some other time. Because I wasn’t a writer, I was just a guy who had written or was writing something at the time. So big deal if I blow it off for a few days. It’s not like I’m a WRITER. I’ll get to it when I get to it.

But you know what? I sometimes never got to it. How many stories did I let die because I set them aside and just never picked them up again? I have a file stuffed full of half-finished projects. But then I made that switch and stopped being THAT guy and started being a WRITER, and I started finishing things. I wasn’t the fastest writer in the world, but I was committed and I finished things. I wasn’t the BEST writer in the world, but I was committed and I got better. I wasn’t the most popular writer in the world, but I was committed and I gained readers who turned into fans who turned into friends. And now I know I have people ready to read whatever I write and, I gotta say, that drives me along every day, too. I want to finish THIS story because I know there will be people eager to read it. I want to finish THAT book because I want to show my appreciation for the people who buy my books and spend their valuable time reading them.

I’m a writer, man. This is what I do. Hell, I can’t imagine a life where I’m not a writer. Even if self publishing goes away and I never again make another sale or publish another book, I’m going to write. Because I’m a writer. Try and stop me. I fucking dare you.

Now, who are YOU? Better yet, who do you WANT to be? Good. Now forget your past and go make it happen.

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SHAPES OF THINGS AND REFERENCES.

Posted 8/4/2017

I have read that “it’s the moments of our lives that shape us.” And that is true.

Have you ever considered how you got to this point in your life? What decisions had to be made, what people had to influence you? I think about it all the time. Because life really is just a series of choices, and we don’t always make the right ones.

I also spend a lot of time thinking about fate. Was I going to wind up here on this day, in this place, doing this thing, no matter what decisions I made? I like to think NO, that I have some say in the matter. But then I also take great comfort at times knowing that “the universe is right on schedule” and things are unfolding as they’re meant to unfold. But those are totally competing ideas, so I’m still working on that.

The choices I’m going to make will be influenced by the choices I’ve already made. If I’m smart, I’ll avoid making choices that will lead to pain based on past experiences of pain, and I’ll continue to make choices that give me pleasure based on similar pleasurable decisions in the past. But what were those decisions that led me here? Where am I?

I’m a writer. I’m a horror writer. I’m a horror writer who writes almost every day (depending on my schedule, sometimes I’ll skip Saturday, but that’s it). I’m a horror writer who, over 25 years, has gained a lot of friends who are also writers, but not all of them are horror writers. I’m a writer who takes great pleasure is self-publishing and the control it gives me over the finished product.

How did I get here? I could fill a 100,000 word book giving a detailed account of all the people and events that have shaped me over 44 years. But I won’t. I will, however, give credit to a few of the most important ones. When I look back at who and what led me to this day, in this place, doing this thing, I think of…

The Exorcist is my earliest memory and I’ve been a die-hard horror fan ever since.

Lisa Jackson was a babysitter when I was in grade school. She was in high school and she used to have to write stories for one of her classes. This lit a spark in a very young me.

Mike Swope is a friend I worked with in the early 1990s. He was also a writer who published his own chapbooks. I was fascinated by the process and the outcome. This gave me encouragement that I too could write.

Christina Schellhorn was a local writer who wanted to make writer friends, so she started the St. Joseph Literary Guild. I later became president of the Guild and wrote and published its monthly newsletter. This gave me confidence to speak and write like a professional, to conduct myself as if I knew what I was doing even when I didn’t.

Dave Barnett was my first professional acceptance. And years later during an email exchange he remembered the story. I started copy editing for his Necro Publications and gained invaluable insight into horror and publishing. He’s also the one who suggested I get on some message boards and meet people.

Stephen King’s THE CYCLE OF THE WEREWOLF was the first book I read cover to cover in one sitting. It gave me a taste for story as a whole thing.

Stephen King’s THE DARK HALF was the book that made me a reader. I’d read many books before, but always one at a time, here and there whenever one struck my fancy. But reading THE DARK HALF, I not only got inspired to stop thinking about writing but actually WRITE. I also never stopped reading after that and I’ve always got a book I’m reading now.

Scott Meade was my best friend all through high school. We were walking home together one day and we stopped at a drug store so he could pick up some comics. I grabbed one while I was at it. I’d always liked comics but never really collected any on a consistent basis. That all changed that day. Now I can’t imagine my life without comics, they’re such a huge part of who I am.

David Bain. I met Dave over a decade ago when he edited an anthology I submitted to, then edited a short story collection I enjoyed. I invited him to an anthology I was editing, and a couple years after that we started exchanging music on a daily basis. We swap war stories, ideas, good news and bad. He’s one of the best writers I know and he continually inspires me to keep going.

I’ve made a lot of bad decisions where writing and publishing are concerned, but they were my decisions and I live with them. I’ll use those references of the past, both good and bad, to continue guiding myself along this path, hopefully to even better, more productive and successful places.

What references do you have that you use to draw on in helping you decide what move to make next? What events from your past have shaped you?

Take a minute to write down the five most important or memorable references and how they have positively shaped your life. Now, write down some possible FUTURE references you’d like to be able to draw on. Find someone you admire and see how they got to where they are and maybe use THEM as your reference--who said you could only learn from YOUR mistakes?

Another big reference for me is Prince. I admired not only his ability to write, produce, perform his own music, but his insistence on it. NO ONE was going to tell him how to build his career, but him. Even as a 19-yer-old kid with no experience, he believed enough in himself and his art that he would be the only one to touch it. I can’t tell you what a huge influence that has always had on me.

Bowie was another huge reference for me. I read in one book or another that during one of his mid-70s tours, he had numerous records sold, was touring constantly, was a huge star, but still had to borrow money from his manager for cigarettes. That was the turning point where Bowie took over the reigns of his own career and ascended to even newer heights, eventually becoming one of, if not THE, British rock start with the highest net worth. I used to wonder what that must be like for his kids, knowing there’s not another British musician in the world worth more money than your dad. That’s got to mess with your head. That’s also got to build some amazing reference points for those kids.

How could I not mention Trent Reznor? Like Prince, he wrote and performed all the music on his albums, using a band only for touring purposes. These people just keep on proving that one artist can make a HUGE difference in the world, one artist can change the course of a trend with nothing more than a good idea and the commitment to bringing it to fruition.

How can I be committed to anything less?

And I believe I can achieve those levels I seek by using my references, calling upon my memories and experiences, as well as the experiences of people who’ve been where I want to be.

It’s got me very excited for the future.

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"IT IS NOT WISE TO VIOLATE THE RULES UNTIL YOU KNOW HOW TO OBSERVE THEM." --T.S. ELIOT

Posted 8/4/2017

Rules, man. If they’re good enough for your kids, they’re good enough for you. And, as with your kids, rules are only as effective as your commitment to them.

You ever get up on a Saturday morning, get your coffee, and head immediately to your office to write, only to get halfway there and your spouse or your kids come to you with a list of other things they need you to do first? Or worse, INSTEAD?

That’s because while you know what you wanted to do with your morning, they don’t know, and unless you communicate it to them, they’re not going to know, and they’re not going to care. They don’t know your rules.

When my wife and I got together, she knew I loved to write. She knew I wanted to write. What she didn’t know was I HAVE to write. She was … 17? at the time. I was 19. And I hadn’t made it clear yet that writing wasn’t an option in my life, but a necessity. Once that became clear to her, I stopped having to bargain for time alone at my desk to get down a hundred words or so every few days. Once I’d made it clear writing consistently was a RULE, it stopped being an issue and just became “the way”.

But if I hadn’t shown her how serious my commitment was, she probably never would have clued in. Because her rules differed from mine. To her writing wasn’t a paying job, so it couldn’t be anything more than a hobby, and no one needs to work at their hobby EVERY DAY. Whereas I had an entirely different perspective. Writing wasn’t my JOB--yet--but I knew if I one day wanted to make it my job, I had to work at it, and not just part-time. And anyway, writing was my zen. When all the pressures of being young and broke started to get to me, I could shut it off for an hour, make up a story that, hopefully would sell for a few bucks, and then come back to regular life with a clear head.

There are people in your life who are going to push back when it comes to the thing you love to do, because they have a different set of rules than you do. This is going to cause some arguments, I guarantee it. And the only way to get them on board is to COMMUNICATE with them just what exactly are your rules. And since they clearly have a different set of rules than you, you need to learn their rules at the same time. Only with a clear understanding of where the other person is coming from can we really find that middle ground that works for everyone. And the only way to do THAT is if YOU know your rules.

I sat down today and came up with a list of the ten most important rules I live my writing life by every single day. A few of these rules concern the other people in my house, and after 20+ years, they know them very well. The rest are strictly for my own benefit to make sure I live my writing life by a certain standard and that I NEVER dip below that.

My writing rules for life are, in no particular order:

1) Finish what you start.
2) Respect the process
3) Respect the craft.
4) Always do my best.
5) Only write what I’m in love with.
6) Make time at least 6 days a week to write. (1 hour at least, but 2 is better)
7) Always have something going, never be “between projects”.
8) Follow the editing process.
9) Make marketing a regular part of the process.
10) Never get so wrapped up in work that regular life begins to suffer.

What are some of your rules for your writing life, and how committed are you to living by them every day?

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