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A WRITER’S JOURNEY: Part 17

Posted in A Writer's Journey with tags , , , , on February 2, 2013 by brandonlayng

A Writer’s Journey: Part 17
Not So New Ideas

How are you supposed to feel when you find out a totally cool idea – possibly the basis of a scientific theory – is not so new and a genius like Stephen Hawking already came up with it?

I was struck by this story idea one night while working at an apple packing plant (I’m not going to say what it is, because I may still write it one day if I can ever figure out how) but it involves people in parallel dimensions where time runs in opposite directions. I was excited when the concept hit me. Here I was, with not only what I thought was a great story, but possibly a theory that no one else had considered.

Then a few years later I buy the Sliders television series on DVD and realize the show created a season finale around this theory, which Stephen Hawking had already called “Time’s Arrow”.

I felt so completely disappointed.

It isn’t the only time it’s happened.

I wrote a story called, “The Last Concert”, about a band that needs to keep playing a concert to calm a crowd of undead fans hungry for their brains. If you’ve watched Dance of the Dead you already know they had the same idea, apparently at about the same time as I did. I wrote my story for submission to an anthology called, Bits of the Dead, the story was rejected and published a while later. At the time I wrote it, I wasn’t even aware the movie existed. I watched the movie and said, “Hey, that’s my idea!” My wife concurred, as surprised as I was. After researching the movie, I discovered it came out around the same time I wrote the story, the times too close together for a movie to be produced from a stolen idea that hadn’t even been published yet, even if someone had grabbed it from the submissions’ pile.

One of those weird coincidences, I guess.

The thing is, it makes me wonder: is it possible to still have a new, original, unique idea of your own? Or are we doomed because there might be someone else out there who could have the same idea as you within a few years of it blossoming in your mind?

The world keeps changing and as it does new soil is laid for ideas to grow. Or in some cases these ideas will shape the future.

So go forth word gardeners and cultivate. Remember, everyone uses the same flowers. It’s how you arrange them that makes your stories a thing of beauty.

A WRITER’S JOURNEY: Part 16.1

Posted in A Writer's Journey with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 7, 2011 by brandonlayng

A WRITER’S JOURNEY: Part 16.1

The Books that Started it ALL

I won’t say it’s true for all writers (exception to every rule and all that jazz) but most writers can pinpoint a single book as the one that inspired them to write. I’ve heard all kinds of inspiration stories from my friends and peers. Children’s book writers wanting to capture the joy of hearing Dr. Suess read to them as a youngling. Horror writers hiding under the covers terrifying themselves with their first scary book. Or the writer so unimpressed with a horribly written book they are inspired to write something better.

We all have a story about the first book that made us want to write. More often than not, those same books have an influence on what we write. And it seems that for authors who write in certain genres, they can often share the same book or writer as their initial influence.

I credit a few books and writers on changing the course of my journey to becoming a full-time writer. But the one that made me say, “I want to be a writer”, is No Change, Please by Gordon Korman. Korman will probably be familiar to Canadians more than Americans or UK readers. Korman began his writing career at a very young age, barely into his teens he began with his Bruno & Boots books. The first in the series was This Can’t Be Happening at Macdonald Hall! begun during a semester in the 7th grade. His English teacher encouraged him to finish the book, which was published by Scholastic along with many of his 55 books that followed.

My grade 5 teacher was reading No Change, Please to the class and explained to us how Korman started his journey to the book we were hearing. That was the moment. Right there. Being told that a kid roughly the same age as me had written a book and had it published, inspired me to try and do the same. Well, I didn’t. I wasn’t published until I was in grade 8 and it was a short story in the photocopied school newspaper. I followed that up with a few poems in different issues of that paper and a couple more short stories and poems in highschool Writers’ Guild anthologies.

But I’d been bitten by the bug.

For this part of A Writer’s Journey, I decided to ask some of my peers to share their stories about the book that inspired them to write. They were all asked the same question and I was amazed by their responses. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did. Maybe you’ll find a book in their answers that will inspire you to write your own book. Or possibly you’ll take the time and read something by the authors themselves and find that spark you’re looking for.

***

Zoe E. Whitten

Website http://www.zoewhitten.com/

The first book to make me want to be a writer was Stephen King’s It. His characters were so real, and I wanted to create people just as flawed and believable.

***

David Dunwoody

Website http://daviddunwoody.com/

I think I’ve wanted to write since I was 10 or so. Around that time I wrote a story called “The Lost Souls” (recently updated as the novella “Lost Souls” for THE UNDEAD: HEADSHOT QUARTET). At that time I was reading Louis Sachar and Roald Dahl, but I don’t believe they were as much of a direct inspiration as what I wasn’t allowed to read – the King books in my parents’ bookshelf, books my older sister had told me about and at which I sneaked peeks whenever I was home alone. It was more than likely IT that did it for me, as that’s the only one I can recall with clarity. I didn’t read the entire novel until I was in my twenties, and it is one of my favorite books today, if not my #1. As a kid, I think the mystique and taboo of the book was as affecting as what I actually glimpsed in its pages (and what I did glimpse was wonderful and scary and definitely left an impression). Between its title – emblazoned in giant blood-red letters on the hardcover – and the fact I wasn’t supposed to be anywhere near it, the book took on a mythic quality which only drew me more to it and to that genre. I really do have my parents to thank for getting me into writing horror. I don’t think they’d take that too hard.

***

Mark Leslie (Lefebvre)

Website http://markleslie.blogspot.com/

Wow. That’s a tough one. When I first heard the question I thought, oh, cool question – now what book was it for me? And then I realized that I couldn’t be 100% sure. Why? Because I’m pretty sure I wanted to become a writer long before I actually started typing out stories on my typewriter which was in my early teens. Of course, it was many years after when I started sending my stories out to publishers (which is often what I think about when I think about becoming a writer). But to be true to wanting to become a writer, it goes back even earlier than my teen years, it goes back to even before I wrote long prose tales. When I was a boy, I loved to draw cartoons; to tell stories via a combination of words and images. Before that, I remember creating epic adventures with either my Lego figures or my Fisher Price figures, compiling long complex plot adventures that would last weeks in short episodic segments.
And throughout all that time, there were a lot of books I read, many of which likely provided me inspiration to want to tell my own tales, produce my own stories.

So, nailing down a specific single book that inspired me to become a writer is a challenge indeed. I mean, if I go back far enough, it was likely a comic book (likely a poignany story told by Stan Lee about a young outcast teenager with the proportional strength, speed and agility of a spider) that inspired me to want to write my own tales. Later on in my childhood, it might have been one of Lester del Rey’s novels such as Marooned on Mars or Tunnel Through Time. In my early teens, there were books such as George R. Stewart’s Earth Abides that I remember enjoying so much and wanting to write my own post-apocalyptic tale.

And when I first pulled out my Mom’s Underwood typewriter and started seriously hammering out tales, Piers Anthony was a writer whose science fiction and fantasy novels I was avidly consuming. The use of my pseudonym of “Mark Leslie” was derived from reading about how this particular author’s full name was Piers Anthony Dillingham Jacob and he simply sliced off the extra names to get a “writer’s handle” that was easier to say and spell.

But in a nutshell, it might seem like a cop-out to the question, but it seems as if books have always inspired me to be a writer – and the books I read today continue to inspire me to write. When I was young and I read a tale that I marvelled at, that tickled my imagination, I would set forth and want to write my own story that would do the same thing for other readers. And when I write today, it’s not without that part of my mind that conjures up the feeling I get when I read a great story or book.

***

Amy Grech

Website http://www.crimsonscreams.com

When I was twelve, an aunt gave me a copy of Stephen King’s Pet Sematary. Being at a very impressionable age, I devoured the entire novel in one sitting! King’s haunting portrait of an All-American family facing evil sparked my imagination—that’s when I knew I wanted to become a writer!

***

I’d like to thank all of the writers for taking the time to answer.

I’ll be coming back to this question again. Hopefully you’ll join me for the second half of this part of A Writer’s Journey.

Until next time, keep writing!

A WRITER’S JOURNEY: Part 15

Posted in A Writer's Journey with tags , , , , on October 4, 2010 by brandonlayng

A WRITER’S JOURNEY: Part 15
For Want of a Better Word, It’s a Room

By Brandon Layng

Where do you go when you write? At one point in time I went to coffee shops and pubs alternately but that was before my health situation stepped in and permanently fixed my alcoholism issues at the same time it said coffee would be a thing of my past. I wrote over half of my unpublished novel “Sin in Skin” in those places. It was begun for NaNoWriMo (if you’re a writer who doesn’t know what NaNoWriMo is, you need to get educated on it before November 1st) and I completed my required 50K in a 9K burst over two days, headphones on and coffee or Strongbow cider in hand. I’ve added 40K of words since then but that was my last coffee shop/pub book.

I moved on back home with my writing. My mom became very sick with cancer (miss her dearly, bless her wonderful soul) and I needed to be close since my wife and I were taking care of her with the help of a few caring family members and two amazing nurses. I took my laptop to the basement when the kids were awake and causing a fuss. I put headphones on or watched a movie with my wife while I wrote on my clunky out-dated PC.

My mom passed and finances required my family to move from the home we lived in for four years together. We’re in a little white house, closer to the countryside, which is where I’ve always wanted to be. Here I write in the basement. It’s probably the least temperature controlled area of the house. I’m surrounded by shelves, but mostly boxes, of books.

Those books are waiting for something.

The rooms we write in in the real world are far different from the ones in our heads. The imaginary ones can be more physical to us while writing.

I can sit in a park and so long as I can find a way to escape through the door of the room in my head I can write anything almost anywhere. It’s harder to find the door when I have screaming kids and even screaming adults running amok in my vicinity, which means there’s many times I end up with a migraine just trying to find the key that fits in the wrought-iron keyhole fitted absurdly in the wall between seams in the wallpaper. The door to my room, in the house in my mind would ideally be invisible to everyone but me. On the other side exists a sound-proofed room, a library, wall-to-wall shelves filled to over-flowing with books of all shapes, sizes and ages. I need those books, it’s where everything I ever learned is stored along with all the things I hope to learn. Sometimes my room has a window. Sometimes it does not. The desk reminds of the old wooden teacher’s desks that sat at the front of the class when I was a wee small kid. Four drawers; two small up top and two bigger ones beneath, two to a side. There is a banker’s lamp with rounded shade on top, with a yellow-white bulb (not one of these weird looking too-bright energy-saver wads of dung). There are two chairs, great cushy winged-back chairs, not leather but soft suede and dark brown like the ottomans in front of them, their wooden legs cherry-stained nearly black and table between them. The chairs face a fieldstone fireplace – a real one, not gas – with warm hearth fire burning. The room, my room, smells of paper and wood smoke. Next to the scent of a woman is there any two greater smells in the world?

You need a room to go to. You probably already have one. I’m always curious about the rooms other writers runaway to when they’re getting the words out. You head to the gym to work out your anger. You slink off to the bathroom to push the poop out. You disappear into the room in your head to write the story out.

While you’re in there, your spouse has walked into the room your body physically occupies and begins talking to you. It could be that they are asking what kind of cookies you think they should whip up for the kid’s school bake sale. Or they could be asking you to take a look at the pimple on their butt to find out if you think it looks cancerous. Maybe it’s one of those kids you remember having, the ones in the picture on your desk who won’t be able to make their next braces adjustment appointment if you don’t hurry up and sell something so you can afford the outrageous fees. The kid is probably asking if they can borrow the car and you automatically say “yes” because your body is running on auto-pilot while your mind plays in its room. An hour later, you recall that your kid is twelve and doesn’t even have a learner’s permit. Thank God your spouse caught that one as the car backed down the driveway.

My point is this:

While my books and I can’t wait to move into the real version of the room in my head, I have to remind myself that right now it’s still a part of my imagination. I can make it a reality one day, but I don’t want to arrive at that point in my life to discover the rest of the house is empty.

You don’t want to spend all of your time hiding away – alone – creating your magnificent art to step out one day and find you’re still alone in reality.

I get caught up in so many great ideas, they won’t stop, and I feel myself swept away by them on their surging waves while my family waves and calls to me from the shore. They’ve been knocking on the door trying to catch my attention.

Take time to remind yourself there is a life outside the place you go to in your head, because after all it’s just a room.

A WRITER’S JOURNEY: Part 14

Posted in A Writer's Journey with tags , , , , , , , , on July 24, 2010 by brandonlayng

A WRITER’S JOURNEY: Part 14
The Value of Animals

This topic has come up before in A Writer’s Journey – not directly – and I said I would tackle it in a future edition. As writers we value our friends. They are kind enough to read over our work, pointing out a misspelled word or a faulty fact. They are there to take us out for drinks when we’ve been locked in our offices spending too much time playing with fictional people. Our friends keep us grounded in reality. In most cases these friends have their own homes, their own lives and jobs, which means they can’t be there for us 24/7 to remind us life is more than what happens between the pages of a book. That could very well be the reason many writers have pets.

I have a couple handfuls of pets. I consider them all my friends. Having pets during my life helped inspire my story, “Backyard Holes”, which you can find here. It was a commentary on those people who collect pets as a possession and the parents who enable their children to neglect animals without respect for their fragile lives. I’ve known people who treat their animals this way (none of them were writers, I might add).

Cats are listed in the bios of many writers. Ray Garton has a small pride of felines running around his house. I think if you looked through your stacks of books you’d probably find half of the back pages where the hundred word blurb about your favourite sits include a mention of a pet, and often considered a member of their family. Why are pets so damn popular among writers?

I watched a brief video tonight sent to me by my local aquarium store. It’s from a segment on The Discovery Channel showcasing a new aquarium exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum. Here’s the link watch it yourself: http://watch.discoverychannel.ca/clip316896#clip316896 . Watching it will help you to understand what prompted me to write this edition of A Writer’s Journey tonight.

In my 38 gallon tank I have many friends. I call them my meditation buddies. 1 Rope Fish (he’s eel-like and reminds me of a watersnake), 2 Silver Mollies, 1 Rainbow Killi, 1 Golden Algae Eater (roughly 8″ long, he’s the Goliath of the tank), 6 Serpae Tetra, 1 Glass Cat, 1 Black Platy, 1 Long-fin Albino Cory Cat (he’s died over 20 times and has earned the nickname “Frankenfish”), 1 Spotted Cory Cat, 2 Pearlescent Angels, 1 Black Lace Angel, and 1 African Dwarf Frog. I list them all here because I want you to see the variety, which is important to me. I think non-creative people have a tendency to fill their aquariums with large amounts of the same fish. If you googled my meditation buddies, you would also see that many of them are strange fish and that’s important to me as well. I never become bored with them after the thousands of times I’ve sat in front of the tank watching them in an attempt to clear my mind. They have unique personalities that have been known to inspire my characters. The Serpae Tetra don’t have individual names, I’ve simply called them, “The Kids”. The Rope Fish is called, “Noose”. I can’t take them out and interact with them. I can only watch them interact with each other; like my characters. I have zero control over them short of letting them live or killing them. It’s therapeutic while I watch them because it reminds me that while I write I have very little control over the book’s path. I can’t make things happen. I can watch and record what happens. Get yourself some fish and tell me that on a bad night you don’t become mesmerized by their antics. It’s better than tv – better than most tv these days at least.

In our house we also have a Lop-eared Dwarf Rabbit. He’s fluffy and cute. Ripley also has buckets of attitude when he feels he isn’t getting the attention he deserves. He thumps his hind legs when he’s pissed and rings his bell if he wants you to let him out to investigate. I have a harness for him and take him out for walks in the front yard. His curiosity reminds me that even in the gentlest creature is a thirst for adventure and a fighting spirit.

We have two geckos, a Petri Gecko (desert gecko) and a Golden Gecko (rainforest gecko), and they both have different personalities. The Petri acts like both a playful squirrel and a tiny Pit Bull. The Petri also squeaks when he’s irritated. The Golden is skittish until you pet him and calm him down. At night the Golden rests on the back wall of his aquarium and stares at me. The Golden kind of reminds me of Norman Bates at times. I took him out one time and he freaked out, separated his tail which waggled mindlessly in my hand while he ran away. Scared the shit out of me. I was traumatized.

The last of our pets is a Boston Terrier with a cat complex. I believe in addition to unique personalities animals can also develop mental disorders. My dog has the OCD of a cat, constantly cleaning himself. I’m not talking about long, slow licks of his testicles like a normal dog; he cleans his paws all of the time and curls up against you like a cat would. His smile is infectious though. He has a goofy bug-eyed grin that softens your heart.

I’m around these animals every day. It’s like living with the cast of a book or a house full of friends. They are invaluable to my writing. Whether it’s because I have to take a break to feed or take care of their needs or watching them behave gives me the answer to a plot problem, they are always there to help me. Would I have made it through the stress of writing a book without my animal friends there to make me laugh? Probably, but with a few more mental scars than I did with them by my side. 24/7 they’re there to remind me to write an extra thousand words.

Ask any writer with a pet and they’ll tell you writing would be a lot harder without their friends. If you don’t already have a pet, I suggest you get one. There’s an animal out there that suits you. Your writing will benefit from it, even if it’s only because you are a little less stressed out when you sit in front of the keyboard to pound out the next best seller.

If you have a pet and find it helps you to write in some way, I’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment below.

A WRITER’S JOURNEY: Part 13

Posted in A Writer's Journey with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 1, 2010 by brandonlayng

A WRITER’S JOURNEY: Part 13
Making the Internet a Writer’s Power Tool
An interview with Douglas Clegg

I think sometimes the world goes crazy. Winds itself up and lets go. People are like that too. You get enough people wound tight in the same place and… it spins out of control. Douglas Clegg is a writer who has capitalized on that concept in his Harrow books. Harrow is a house constructed from the magic of the past, mish-mashed together to unlock the secrets of an unseen world of ghosts and horrors beyond imagination. It was these books that brought his name to my attention and hooked me without regret. Harrow has spread across multiple novels, novellas and short stories and I’ve tried to read them all. The most recent Harrow related tale came in the form of Isis, which chronicled the earliest encounters with the supernatural of Isis Claviger, the psychic brought in to investigate the monstrosity known as Harrow. Other Harrow tales include The Necromancer, Nightmare House, Mischief, The Infinite, and The Abandoned. On average he publishes a book a year and has been doing so for the past 20 years, which has brought him a great deal of success, earning him the Bram Stoker Award, International Horror Guild Award and the Shocker Award.

A few of his other books include, The Vampyricon Series, The Attraction, Naomi, Goat Dance, The Halloween Man and the recently released Neverland. He’s one of the most reliable writers in horror today for quality and output. Douglas Clegg also happens to be a major leader in using the Internet to its full potential when it comes to promoting and distributing horror fiction. He’s been kind enough to join us today on A Writer’s Journey and maybe he might share with us some of the secrets he’s learned on the road to becoming the writer he is today.

With great honor I present, Mr. Douglas Clegg.

BL: First off I want to say thank you for allowing me to interview you for A Writer’s Journey. Over the last four years since discovering your work through Nightmare House, I have watched you change from an innovator of online fiction to becoming a powerhouse of using the Internet to promote and distribute your works. Your website has increased its features available to fans to astounding levels. I know that may sound like over-the-top praise, except, I think anyone watching the metamorphosis of www.douglasclegg.com would agree with me and be in an equal amount of awe. At a time when few writers use their website to full potential, what has inspired you to make yours what it is: an interactive fan treasure trove of goodies?

DC: I love people who read books, whether mine or others’ fiction. I love writing. I always have.

The website allows me to communicate directly with readers — through my e-mail newsletter — and to convey aspects of my life and writing to readers who might be interested. It’s my home on the web, basically, so I have fun with it — and I hope readers do, as well.

On the other hand, the beauty and functionality of my website is a direct result of the team at www.DeenaWarnerDesign.com who made it look so good and work so well.

BL: Naomi originally was launched in 1999 as the Internet’s first publisher-sponsored e-serial, which was later released in both hardcover and paperback versions. Finding a publisher to sponsor an e-serial is no easy task and following that up with hardcover and paperback sales of the same book seems next to impossible since few publishing houses would be willing to take a risk on a book that is already available in digital format. How were you able to convince publishers to take the risk? Was the popularity of the e-serial a determining factor in the later print sales? Did the online availability of the novel hurt print sales?

DC: It wasn’t that difficult to get my then-publisher interested — it was Dorchester Publishing, and at the time they jumped at the chance. This was back in 1999, and a few people in publishing told me they were fascinated by this experiment. But Dorchester backed it and asked for no rights in return, which was generous and remarkable.

The online availability helped both the hardcover and paperback editions, of course. E-books were in their infancy then, at least in terms of New York publishing houses. Nobody really knew where anything might be headed. I had nothing to lose — it was more important for me to find readers on the Internet than to worry about the sale of the book later on.

That e-mail serial changed my career — but at the time a lot of people told me it might end it.

Still, I did it because it was a challenge — and I like challenges.

BL: Your accomplishments to date have been numerous and if anything you seem to downplay a majority of it. What has helped you in your life to keep humble about your success and stay grounded in the work?

DC: Reality will ground you every time. My work involves waking up, facing a blank page, and writing. This can be both wonderful and tragic — at the same time. I know I’m fortunate to do this for a living, and I enjoy it when it’s going well. But it doesn’t always go well, and I accept that, too.

The one thing I don’t do is fool myself into believing that the world owes me anything. It doesn’t. I face the reality of what it means to be a writer, and that is: simply to write. And write. And write.

Years ago, when I sent off my first novel and was expressing a bit of discouragement about the odds of that book selling, a friend’s father said, “I’ve always believed that when you have a talent, you owe it to the world to develop it and see it through no matter what.”

Those words have stayed with me. They were magical in terms of how my attitude changed. When the book sold, I felt as if that man — a respected surgeon — had given me a huge gift.

BL: Cemetery Dance has been a large supporter of your work. How did this relationship come to be? What have been some of the benefits of working with a small press?

DC: My relationship with Cemetery Dance Publishing began with a shock to my ego. I had a book or two out, and I wrote a short horror story. I sent it to Cemetery Dance and the publisher — some guy named Rich Chizmar — wrote back that it wasn’t for him.

Then, he bought the next story I sent. After that we got to know each other, and several years later I was lucky enough to get a book out of the gate with them — my first sale to the limited edition press. That was my novel You Come When I Call You, which also came out in paperback at the same time.

Since then, we’ve done a lot of books together and his film business with Johnathon Schaech, Chesapeake Films, also optioned my novel, The Hour Before Dark for Hollywood.

Anyone who reads Cemetery Dance editions knows that they produce beautiful books — the kinds of hardcovers that both writers and readers love. I’ve worked here and there with some other presses in this area, but my relationship with Cemetery Dance is strong — I trust Rich Chizmar, I’ve had nothing but great experiences with him and his staff, and frankly, they have treated me and my fiction well.

They also publish a lot of King and Koontz and other writers whose work I admire, so I feel honored to have books in their line-up.

BL: It can’t be easy getting multiple publishers bidding on a book that comes out free in an e-mail to a mailing list. How did you manage to make this happen? What techniques did you use to draw readers to the mailing list?

DC: Regarding publishers — they approached me. They were enthusiastic. The hardcover publisher of Naomi was Subterranean Press, and Bill Schafer is another smart publisher. He did a beautiful job with Naomi‘s hardcover edition — this was roughly about ten years ago.

Then, Cemetery Dance brought out my second e-serial in hardcover, called Nightmare House. Down the road, Cemetery Dance ended up outbidding other publishers on eBay when I had some fun and put the limited edition rights to my novel The Abandoned up for auction.

Regarding drawing readers to my newsletter, a lot of people arrived who’d heard about the serial novel from other sources — newspapers and magazine and online write-ups — and then some of my constant readers arrived, as well. I run contests, offer some freebies now and then, and do what I can to encourage people to subscribe to my newsletter at http://DouglasClegg.com

BL: Book trailers are becoming a common marketing tool, but it’s not often that an addictive game comes along to promote a book, especially with such amazing artwork. Who came up with the game idea? Was it something you had a hands-on approach with or was it left up to the game designers, Difference Games? Be honest, how many times have you played the Isis and Neverland games?

DC: First, book trailers are great tools to help get a conversation going about a book — and a lot of online bookstores love carrying them on their sites. Sheila English and www.COSProductions.com has done all of mine and if I have my way, they’ll keep doing them.

The game came about because one of the Internet geniuses — Matt Schwartz, who runs www.Shocklines.com — came to me with the idea of doing a game.

He put me in touch with the game developer — Adam Schroeder at www.DifferenceGames.com. Then, the publisher for Isis — Vanguard Press — jumped at the opportunity. The rest is history.

What was distinct about the Isis game — besides the beautiful illustrations by Glenn Chadbourne — was that unlike other book promotion games, the Isis game wasn’t going to exist only on a publisher or author’s website, but instead went to hundreds of online casual game sites. In the first month, nearly 2 million people had played it.

Then, the Neverland game came next, and again hundreds of thousands of people played it — it’s nearly at a million players now.
I’ve played the Isis game about twenty times, and the Neverland game about the same number.

There’s going to be a new game coming up, too, but I don’t want to announce what it is just yet.
 
BL: How influential do you think your website has been in exposure and sales of your books?

DC: I look at www.DouglasClegg.com as a place where readers can come over and find out more about the books, and we can communicate. It’s a fairly active community, and crosses over to my Scribd, Facebook, Twitter, Myspace and YouTube areas, too.

I’ll say it again: I love getting to know people who read fiction. I’ve loved readers since I was a kid, and I’m happy to know them. Readers allow me the time to write. I can’t thank them enough.

BL: Recently, you tried taking time off from the Internet to see if it would impact your production/life. It seems a rather odd experiment for a writer who has used the powers of the Internet during so much of their writing career. If there was no Internet, how do you think you would have done things differently when you were getting your writing off of the ground?

DC: Well, there was no Internet to speak of when I began. My first novel came out in 1989, and I didn’t get on the Internet until the mid-1990s. I had about five novels out from publishers in New York before I ever got online, and it took me a number of years to even understand how the Internet would be helpful to a writer.

But I figured it out quickly, and then people like Matt Schwartz — who at the time launched a big horror fiction-lovers website called www.Horrornet.com — and writers like M.J. Rose, publishers like Angela and Richard Hoy at www.Booklocker.com, and writers and thinkers like Seth Godin with his unstoppable e-book, Unleashing the Ideavirus and Michael Cader whose Publishers Lunch revolutionized communication and community in publishing — all of them happened to be there, trying different things.

These were the early days of e-books and the Internet. A lot of creative people were experimenting online. Tons of e-book-only writers appeared and they, too, tried various ways of getting books out in e-book form. It was exciting, and a kind of golden age in retrospect. There was nothing about books and the Internet that didn’t seem new and untested at the time.
 
BL: You put together a free “20 Tips for Writers” that received a large amount of readers. It offered a humorous take on the traditional tips. What inspired you to write this? By the way, my third and fourth books began during NaNoWriMo.

DC: What inspired 20 Tips for Writers, truth be told, was Tip #10. I won’t say which one that is — the reader will have to look it up at www.Scribd.com
But basically, I thought of all the things I do that I want to believe help me write (none of which really do), as well as the b.s. I’ve heard some writers spout over the years, and also some of my worst impulses as a writer.

And I put it all in the book. As the book’s cover suggests, it’s mostly true.

Mostly.

Certainly, coffee is a writer’s best friend.

BL: What are the most valuable lessons you’ve learned on your writing journey? Any advice you would like to pass onto fledgling writers regarding the process of writing and the business of publishing? Pitfalls to avoid?

DC: The most valuable lesson I’ve learned is that if it’s not becoming more difficult with each book, then I’m doing it wrong. I have more to learn with my 25th book than I did with my first — or my 24th.

My advice? If you don’t love being alone a lot of the time and you don’t love revising your writing, staring at walls and being hypercritical of what you’ve produced — don’t get into this line of work. If you want your hand held by anyone, don’t go into this business.

And those are the things I love. Sure, there’s plenty of joy, too, and believe me, I’d rather spend my life as I currently do than in any other way. I wake up when I want, I read, watch movies, then spend most of the day writing. And despite the fact that most people in this business can seem overly-cautious and often cheerily negative, I still love the business of publishing.

Regarding avoiding pitfalls, that’s impossible. I get approached by a lot of well-meaning aspiring writers who want more than anything to sell a novel to a big New York publishing house — but they only want to do it if there’s a shortcut.

I don’t know the shortcuts. If you’re a celebrity or a close relative of one, or if your husband or wife or eldest child is a publisher or major agent, then perhaps you can trim a little of the rind off and get to the warm flesh of the business.

But I’d still rather take the long way around. If there were shortcuts, everybody would take them all the time. There are none.

It’s a matter of writing a novel or story that people will want to read and perhaps even be affected by in some way. It’s about digging deep, finding what you love, what you hate, what you believe…and writing stories.

BL: Now comes the part of the interview I enjoy quite a bit (because I’m a greedy bastard who is always looking for more to read). Toot your own horn time. What new writing projects have you got lined up? I see that Cemetery Dance has a serialized novella in its pages. Are you expanding on Harrow more in the future? Spill the beans, Mr. Clegg.

DC: The serialized novella is called The Innocents at the Museum of Antiquities. Since the serialization, I’ve revised it quite a bit. This seems odd, but I felt it could use a bit of expansion even after it was serialized.

I’ve slowly been working on a big novel called The Language of Wolves that may not see the light of day for a bit. It’s set on the coast of Maine, in a magnificent summer place, and deals with madness, murder, love and brotherhood. It may be the most ambitious novel I’ve ever undertaken.

My novelette, Mr. Darkness, should be out by winter from Cemetery Dance Publications. This story — short as it is — has gone through so many permutations that I might as well have written a long novel in three parts. Yet, Mr. Darkness should see the light of day soon.

I’ve spent a few years primarily reading and studying drama and various aspects of world literature — just revisiting and rediscovering. Other projects should be surfacing over the next twelve months or so.

BL: Thank you very much for taking the time to join me on the journey. It’s always a pleasure finding out more about your work.

DC: Thanks for the great interview, Brandon.

Visit Douglas Clegg’s Website www.douglasclegg.com and sign up for his newsletter for exclusing goodies. Or follow him on Twitter http://twitter.com/douglasclegg 

Want to play the Neverland game? http://douglasclegg.com/Neverland/

Reviews of Douglas Clegg’s Neverland, Nightmare House, The Infinite, Mischief, & The Abandoned up at Spine Busters http://www.spinebusters.wordpress.com

A WRITER’S JOURNEY: Part 12

Posted in A Writer's Journey with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 21, 2010 by brandonlayng

A WRITER’S JOURNEY: Part 12

The Lost Stories

Two things happened that lead me to write this part of the journey.

The first was a wonderful evening spent with my wife. It was beautiful, she was beautiful and while I won’t go into details, a great time was had by all.

The second was when I struck a nerve.

My wife and I have a quasi tradition of enjoying an episode of a favourite television show on DVD most nights before she falls asleep and I go back to writing for the night. Last year it was all nine seasons plus two movies of the X-Files. We did Quantum Leap’s first season and we have moved onto the starting two seasons of Sliders. It was while watching an episode of Sliders that I took a toothpick and poked around one of my rear molars. The toothpick slipped (or slid) into a hole in my tooth I had been unaware of, but believe me, you could judge by my screams of “Oh, God” followed by spittle covered expletives that when the pointed end came in contact with the exposed nerve inside my molar, I was very aware. The pain was like being shot with a large caliber bullet straight through the upper jaw and out of the crown of my cranium – over and over again.

I grabbed my heating pads and applied giant dollops of Oragel maximum strength, then I crawled down to my basement where I could cry in peace like a man. While I enjoyed the numbing effects of the gel and calming incense of nicotine, I began to think. I arrived at several conclusions. The best moments in your life (or maybe just mine) are preceded or followed by some of the most painful moments in your life.

These good and bad times become our stories, the myths and legends of our lives that we leave behind as a way for people to remember us. When they are gone, we wish we could remember the stories our grandparents tried to leave us. Those “lost” stories were about those moments in their lives that were most important, even if they seemed to our child’s ears tall tales of inconsequence.

I’m turning 29 in less than two months, all of my grandparents are gone from me. They are lost with their stories. My children are growing up with one less grandparent, since my mother passed less than a year ago. It’s a family tragedy — my mother’s death — for so many reasons. My children never had the chance to hear her stories. She never told me enough of them to pass on. Storytelling is an art lost to my parent’s generation. Sure, there are great novelists born from their time of the fifties and sixties, but something has been misplaced along the way and I’ve come to realize, it is they themselves that are forgotten. The average parent of Generation X and Y have been busy telling the stories passed down by their grandparents and parents, failing to remember to tell their children and grandchildren their own tales. I’m not sure why that is. I’m sure there are socio-economic factors that could be pointed at. Or that the world suddenly fell on a set of shock paddles, jump-starting the motors and all the hippies realized there was work to be done and we were left with hordes of White Rabbits late for everything, always in a rush. When these men and women stopped working long enough to tell a story, the only ones they could remember were the ones they had been told as children themselves.

Generation X and Y, have gone in the opposite direction. Their stories are all about themselves. The only problem is, life was busy growing up and they didn’t take the time to really listen to the stories of their grandparents and great grandparents when mom or dad took a break to pass them on. They heard them, it’s just that they couldn’t wait to get back to playing Nintendo or Playstation, or just catching the newest episode of Thundercats. That’s why so many memoirs or life-based fictional books by these two generations (X and Y) have little soul in them. Their words are ink on paper without resonance. Literary fast food, instead of soul food.

One of my favourite movies is Big Fish and I only came now to understand why it rings so true to my heart. Right now I understood it, at this very moment of typing these words.

Big Fish is about my parents’ generation. Fed up, frustrated and too busy to listen to what older generations are trying to pass down to them and their children; and like the son in the movie, never realizing that the tall tales they’re being told are their tales too.

If we don’t put soul and meaning in our stories before we give them to our offspring, how can we ever hope to live on through them? How can we ever expect our kids to know that there is more to life than the next text message or what generic favourite television show of the month is going to be cancelled?

My generation and the generation after knows their own story but forget that their parents’ stories are an important part of that.

What stories will our children have to tell? I shudder to think of it.

So what’s wrong with books today?* There’s been an implosion caused by lost stories fallen between the generational gap.

The only solution to making your writing something that matters, is to make your parents tell you what life was like for them growing up and raising you. When your grandparents begin to ramble on about the price of bread or how they dug wooden nickels out of the piles of dirt left by street sweepers in the alleys, LISTEN. Don’t just hear their words, LISTEN to them, commit them to memory, write them down, record them on a digital recorder and save it in an MP3 file. I don’t care how you do it, just don’t lose them. Because the most effective way to write from what you know, is to remember all of it. When you chronicle how a young protagonist yanks a tooth out with a foot of dental floss and a slammed door, it will be more realistic if you are not just working from your own memories of pulling off such a ridiculous and seldom plausible stunt, but if you remember the way your parents told the story to their friends over coffee. You may be surprised to realize after asking them a few questions, that the reason they held you so tight as the tooth dangled in your nine-year-old mouth with blood running down your chin, is that they felt your pain. They may have done the same thing at a similar age, maybe instead of a door, it was string attached to a rock thrown by a sibling, and that matters, those details matter. They’re the reason you felt a single tear fall on your shoulder as they held you, soaking up your sobs with their work shirt.

The lost stories are ours, theirs and those that came before. Without those three dimensions, the story you tell may be one dimensional and flat when it reads off of the page. It will lack the wisdom and experience it needs to thrive with passion that touches the hearts of even idiots like me who take three years to understand what you were saying.

It will be painful but it will also be beautiful. Or beautiful with the pain coming later. That’s life. The best way to get that on paper is to always remember…

 

*I would note that there are exceptions. Most of those exceptions have not forgotten the stories of those that came before and it shows.

A WRITER’S JOURNEY: Part 11

Posted in A Writer's Journey with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 23, 2010 by brandonlayng

A WRITER’S JOURNEY: Part 11

A Writer’s Little Black Book

Every writer should have a “little black book”. Mine’s brown faux leather, slightly larger than my wallet (though not as George Costanza thick) and lined. I’ve picked up some replacements because they were only two dollars but they weren’t lined and I’ve had to cut out a thicker piece of cardstock from the back and draw lines on it. I can’t write a straight line on a blank piece of paper if my life depended on it (and that idea goes in the little brown book). That’s what the book is for; ideas. You need to have an idea book.

“Why?” you ask. Because ideas may be coming to you like crazy right now but there will come a day when the pressure is on to think of one and it just won’t come. It hides in the corner of your brain. It’s shy, you see, and you want to bring it out to show to everyone. It helps if you have a way to get in contact with it. Your little book is like a phone book, the ideas written in it, a way to get a hold of the story. With this book you’ve got its number and you can call it up to coerce and cajole it to the party taking place at the home of your word processor. This is a lot of analogies and metaphors, but I think you get the point.

The little book is important. There are times when themed anthologies will arise that you want to submit to. You’ll think, “Hey, I thought of a great idea for that a week ago while I was waiting in line at the grocery store”. If you had a little book, you would have written that idea down between putting the bags in your trunk and starting the car. Without the little book it’s possible you will remember glimpses of the idea but not the whole thing. A nugget is better than dust when it comes to literary gold, remember. You can grasp the importance, I’m sure. You’re all smart people and you probably already have a file saved in “Documents” labelled “storyideas.doc” or “bestsellers.rtf”. How often do you update it though? How many amazing tales were lost in the wind between work and getting home to your computer? Quite a few I imagine. Whole nations of ideas have been lost that way for me. A computer file is not enough.

“What about a PDA?” you ask. Expensive little book I say. Seriously, they’re great and after you figure them out, easy to use, some even have spellcheck. Here’s the thing. Have you seen the cellphone commercial where the two guys bump into each other and their cellphones go flying, they both break. The one guy says to the other, “It’s okay, the cellphone company will just replace it.” The other guy says, “I’m not with that company.” A PDA can be replaced if it gets broken, but your ideas saved in the file on that delicate – fragile – microchip can not be replaced if the handy gadget ends up under the wheels of a passing semi truck or flushed down the toilet.

If those things happened to a book, it would mostly survive and still be legible. If you absolutely need to have a digital copy, there’s no reason why you can’t type out the ideas each night on the home PC from the book. A book is also cheaper and more likely to be left where you dropped it by any passerby, making it easier for you to go back and retrieve it. A PDA will be halfway to the pawnshop by the time you realize it’s missing. You also don’t have to recharge your book. It will stand the test of time – there are copies of DaVinci’s sketchbooks in museums all over the world. How many Commodore 64s do you see in museums? Can you read the old programs on them while you check them out? Technology becomes outdated very quickly and twenty years from now, you won’t have the old technology to access the files saved on your ancient PDA (Hell, it’ll be a classic version by next year).

In other words people, your little book of ideas… should be an actual book. If you need anymore convincing, think of this: one day when you’re super famous and you die, your family will make a bundle selling it in an auction. Come to think of it, keep that in mind when you go out to buy one. Leather means they’ll get more for it, as opposed to one with Winnie the Pooh on the front.

Make sure it’s small enough to fit in your pocket or (ladies) purse. It’s good if it has a ribbon to mark your last entry page and a band to keep it closed. Mine has both and I find them very useful. Like a mini-skirt, they make for quick and easy access. Keep a ballpoint pen with your book; not a permanent marker (it bleeds through and runs when wet) or a pencil (it smudges and fades). Make sure it’s a good pen, ask for one for Christmas if you have to, but don’t skimp on the quality here. You don’t want it jamming up or running out when that Novel of the Year comes to mind. When an idea does come to mind, write it down and then leave a blank page after it before you write down your next story idea. This way if you come up with something to add later but you’ve written down a new idea since then, you still have room to embellish on the first idea. Always keep the book close. In your pocket during the day, by the bed when you got to sleep.

Now this next part will sound stranger than the rest. Don’t go back and read your ideas. Not unless you are stuck for an idea or remember a specific one for an anthology or book you really want to write.

The beauty and power of your book lay in its very existence. By being around it, it gives you confidence to come up with new ideas and write them when you are taken away by them. There will be ideas that you don’t write in the book because they have to be written right away. The little book of ideas will help you do that because you’ll never worry about running out of ideas or feel like you have to hurry up and get that mediocre idea fleshed out so you can start on the great one because you don’t want to lose both of them. It’s a failsafe. With it around, you’ll also find it easier to remember your ideas without having to look them up. Somehow its close proximity gives your creative memory a boost and keeps them fresh in your mind like a preservative does for McDonald’s fries. It’s like the airbag in your car. It’s there, you know it’s there and that makes you feel safer than if it wasn’t, you hope you never need to use it but if you do, it’s a lifesaver.

You get the idea. I know you get them, so go out and buy a little book for your ideas and write them down.

If you have any thoughts on the this post I’d be happy to hear them. Comment below and tell me about your own ways of keeping track of your ideas. I whole-heartedly encourage discussion.

Speaking of discussion. I recently approached another author to do an interview for the AWJ blog series and he has agreed. This man is a powerhouse for using modern media (the Internet) for promoting his work. He’s a ghost story master with several new books out that have simply blown me away in their ingenuity and I’ll be asking him not just about those books but also how he has come to embrace and use the Internet in his work. Hopefully I’ll be able to have that posted for June, so keep your eyes peeled and this blog bookmarked so you don’t miss it.

If you haven’t read them yet, be sure to go back and read the previous interviews with Nate Kenyon and Ray Garton. Those two gentlemen have a lot to teach. I know I’ve learned a great deal from both of them. I hope to have more interviews to post in the future and if you have any suggestions of Horror authors you’d like to see appear in a future installment of AWJ feel free to make a suggestion at anytime in the comments section.