donderdag 4 augustus 2016

about gore and sequel writing

One of my favorite things in the world is getting messages from people who have read (or are reading) my books. I’m not quite famous enough to get hundreds of fan letters, so every time someone takes a moment to seek me out and tell me they enjoyed my work, it’s very special.

Now, (bear with me, I’m going somewhere with this) I write stories in quite a few genres. I’m really into my speculative fiction, and can’t pick a favorite. Out of all the different categories, I think ‘horror’ one is the most awkward to talk to people about.

One of my most read books is Angel Manor, and let’s face it… it’s not exactly the fluffiest thing I have ever written. I didn't pull punches on this one. Not that I ever pull punches, because I would argue that Even Hell Has Standards: Wrath is by far the most horrifying thing I've ever written... but it's not horrifying in the 'disgusting' sense of the word. Angel Manor is.
I think the funniest review I’ve gotten to date for that is ‘ieuw’ (The reader gave it 4 stars, so I’m taking it as a compliment).

This is also the book where I’ve had to most awkward moments with readers. Some of them were funny, where people would send me messages wondering what I had against eye-balls, etc. Others could be quite emotional.

Once I had a conversation with a lovely guy who was in the middle of reading it. He was telling me how one of the characters made him very sentimental, because they reminded him of one of his departed friends. At that moment I was grateful he couldn’t see my face, because I was definitely having an ‘OH NO’ moment, knowing that I killed that character off quite brutally a few chapters later. Sure enough, I read on Goodreads that the reader needed a break from reading when he hit that particular chapter. In the end, he did finish it, and he was very positive about the book. But it was a moment I won’t soon forget.

One of my readers said something along the lines of ‘if you have trigger warnings, this book probably hits all of them.’ On the one hand, that’s a compliment, but at the same time, I’m not a fan of traumatizing people either. It’s part of that weird territory that comes with horror writing. I feel this mixture of pride and wanting to ask if the other person is okay.

Recently someone contacted me and told me that they weren’t sure they could read on, because the prologue was just too shocking for them. I felt terrible when I told them that it would only get worse as the book goes along (I always want to say in an ominous voice: beware of chapter 22). There was a reason why I made the prologue brutal: you can read the first chapter at Amazon, and I thought it would be fair warning of what was to come. (Not that the entire book is nothing but horrible deaths. I like to think there’s a story hidden in there too)
I totally understand if this is not everyone’s cup of tea.

Sometimes I wonder what made me go ‘all out’ with Angel Manor. I’m not usually an extreme horror
writer. Have I mentioned how squeamish I am? Because I am… it’s ironic, I know.
I’ll add a bit of blood and guts to all my tales of terror, sure, but I like to think that most of my stories are more psychological horror than a gore-fest. Perhaps Angel Manor was my proverbial middle finger to the people who told me that women couldn’t write scary things. (Yup, met a few of those online. Apparently we just can’t go all the way, when it comes to horror, and we write more gothic romances.) I don’t know what it was, I let the story guide me, and it took me to horrible places. The funny thing is, it seems to pull people towards it, more than my other work does.

Angel Manor is brutal, and when I started to write the sequel, I realized that it wasn’t half as brutal as the first. Don’t get me wrong, I still put in a decent amount of gore, but I don’t think the sequel is as ‘extreme’ as the first. It focuses more on the story that surrounds the manor and that which slumbers within. There is more adventure.

I’m not going to lie, I worry about the difference. Do people expect just another blood and carnage fest? Or do they want to read more about the actual story behind it? I went along with the story that I wanted to tell.

The Lucifer Falls series is part of a larger story, that I combine with the Celestial series which I’m writing. They’re much darker than the Celestial books, and focus on completely different parts of the story, but there is a cross-over. They’re also part of the same world as the Even Hell Has Standards series.
The benefits to having all these different books in the same world is that I have a really richly worked out setting.
The disadvantages is that it’s very complicated to write something this large. I constantly need to
consider when writing the one series, what will happen in the other series, so that I don’t mess up the bigger plot. (Even Hell Has Standards doesn’t really directly influence the story lines too much)

These series makes me nervous. I’m worried about what my publisher will think of it, and what my readers will think. Personally, I like the turn the story took, but will others agree? My Beta reader, Greg Faherty, was a huge support in the writing
process. He got me through the moments where I wanted to slam my face into the keyboard.

Writing sequels is quite a challenge. It’s nothing like writing individual books or stories.
When I wrote ‘Coyote: The Clockwork Dragonfly’ I hit a few snags too. There are so many questions that come up while writing a sequel. Does the second story live up to the first? Are the characters consistent? Does the story line still work? Did I forget something?

I guess we’ll find out when it comes out. And then I have an even more daunting task; not only do I have to write another sequel, it has to be the one that ends the trilogy. Now that’s truly scary.

If you want to read what all the fuss is about, you can find Angel Manor here or if you live in the UK you can find it here.

zaterdag 30 juli 2016

Plotters vs. Pantsers

*puts on her most impressive Ring announcer’s voice*

Ladies and gentlemen, in the blue corner we have the Grand Plotter, weighing in at whatever they weigh, all the way from all over the world.
Aaaaaaaand in the red corner we have the Classified Pantser weighing a few more or less pounds, and coming from where-ever.

Okay… okay… it’s not a match. Not at all. And even if it was, I’d not be in that ring, I’d be the one dinging the bell at inappropriate times, and confusing everyone.
But before I go off into a rambling tangent about boxing, let me first explain the Plotter vs. Pantser thing.

It is said that there are two types of writers (of course this is completely simplified and thus a for the most part untrue). There are the Plotters: those dapper dames/ fellows who have worked out their whole novel beforehand, knowing what each chapter will bring.

And then there are the Pantsers: those whimsical types who don’t plan anything, but just ‘fly by the seat of their pants.’ They let their muse guide them as they go along.

The two writing styles are very different, yet they do have some similarities, because in the end it all is linked to imagination and creativity.

I believe you can often (not always of course) tell if a writer is a Plotter or a Pantser. For example, I would not be at all surprised if George RR Martin is a Plotter and Stephen King is a Pantser. I just wonder if they are 100% one or the other, because I have my doubts if anyone can completely Pants a story, or completely Plot one.

Personally: I’m a Pantsing Plotter… or maybe a Plotting Pantser… who knows? I guess I like to be contrary. What I mean by that is that I plot certain elements in my book. I need to know where I’m going with my story. When I start a novel (or a short story), 9 out of 10 times I know how it will end. Okay… maybe 8 out of 10 times… I have changed endings before. 7 out of 10 max…


…. Eh… what? Who said that?

Back to what I was saying. Pantsing Plotter. *coughs* So I know certain things. I will make a ton of notes about them, and even work out incomplete timelines. If I don’t do this (and I’ve not done this in the past) my book will be a hot mess, causing me to spend even longer editing. And I spend a long…. loooong time editing to begin with.

When I write I start with an idea, and from that I do a little world and character building. How does my world look? What are the rules for things that are out of the ordinary? What metaphysics do I use for magic or other supernatural things? Who are my characters? What are their backgrounds? Etc. etc. You get the gist.

I have notes on things that will never even make it into the books. So… that’s my plotting part. It’s important to me to have a clear image of what I’m going to write. However, when I start writing, I get ‘in the moment’ and I let my characters and the story take over a bit. I try to imagine what it’s like to be there myself. What would I feel? What smells / sights/ sounds surround me?

Sometimes I get all these spontaneous good ideas, so I let them guide me—which, you guessed it, is the Pantser in me. When this happens, I need to adjust my notes, and make sure that I’m still heading to a solid ending. A pet peeve of mine is reading a book where the ending just leaves you baffled.

Endings are difficult things to write. I’m sure some writers don’t struggle with them as much as I do, but that last line is always a form of torture for me. What are the last words you leave your reader with, after you’ve just taken them on a lengthy wordy ride? How do you suddenly stop? To me, it’s important to have a plan.

That’s a personal opinion of course. And luckily for both Plotters and Pantsers, there are audiences for both.

It doesn’t really matter what your approach is, as long as you give your book the love and attention it needs. Make it the very best work that you can make it. My tip is to always run it past very critical beta-readers. The type that will find something wrong with it, and will take the time to point it out to you.

Your writing style should be your own. See what fits you, and what gives you your edge. And to quote Neil Gaiman: “Make good Art”.

Good luck! And may the Plotting or Pantsing force be with you!

And now... for some cheeky self promotion time! Please go check out my work, and if you've read any of my books, I would REALLY appreciate a review.

zondag 6 maart 2016

Reading my own work

One of the things most of us have to deal with is the faceless ‘they’ who seem to make up all the rules of conduct in this world. As a child I always pictured them to be a council of old and sour looking people who sit together and create the laws. One day, I’ll write a story about them.

But let’s get back on track. In the writing world I get slapped around the ears constantly with ‘you should feel this way’. A wonderful example of this, I hear everywhere that a writer has to love reading their own books. Because if you don’t love your work… why would anyone else?

You know what… by the time I finish a book… I freaking hate it, and the thought of having to read that *&^%$ again makes me cranky. That feeling fades rather quickly, but still, there is that moment.

That doesn’t mean I hate my work altogether. Not at all, because of course I am excited enough by my story to want to write it, or I wouldn't have bothered. I often fall in love with my characters, and I’m truly enthusiastic about my plot lines. So… plenty of love. But I just don’t enjoy reading it. For a reason…

First of all… I have read it. Over and over and over and over and over… and I could go on. There’s writing it, then reading it over, then editing it (which is more reading) so that I can send it to my beta readers. Then I read it again, one time for each beta reader (which are at least 3 in my case) then I edit it again, and again… and only then do I send my work to my publisher. Who will read it, give me more notes, so that I have to read and edit it again. That draft will get sent to the editor. There will be a few back and forth sending of the manuscript between the editor and myself, where I will read and edit again. When it’s finished the book will go to a proof reader (another editor) and then I get to read it for one last time. Blah, blah, blah... you get the point.

By this time I’m so sick of the work, I’m willing to ritually sacrifice it to a goat. Not a god. A goat. Not even a goat that will then be sacrificed to a god. Just one of those fat ones that jump against a fence because they think you have food. That kind of goat.

I’m digressing again.

It’s okay to reread a book, mind you. I love getting out my Harry Potter series at least every five years and reading them all again. But not the same book over and over again in a row. It’s not fun. Well, not to ME anyway. I don't like repetition. And I can’t just ‘read’ my own book. Even if I were to pick up one of my books in ten years time, I would still be editing the damn thing in my head. There is no way I can let go. If I were left to my own device, I’d
never stop editing. I’d edit until there was nothing left of my original story.

 Because I’m a bit loopy.

But no… I don’t enjoy reading my own books. I enjoy it more when you read my books. Especially when you like them. Then I can live vicariously through your eyes, and I can share my thoughts and my world with you. That works better for me.

maandag 3 augustus 2015


Last year I said I was going to turn 2015 into a great year. And so far I have… but I have to admit, it came at the expense of my writing.

No… that’s not right, because I have been writing. I’ve been neglecting my marketing and the ‘getting my writing published’.

This game is a constant struggle to get noticed. At least that’s been my experience, I’m sure there are writers out there with a different story, but this is mine.

So why has this year been great? Because I’m doing fun things with my life. The last two years have been a disaster. I was trying to get healthy again, and everything in my life felt like a struggle. I decided to take back control. At first it blew up in my face, and I was at a very low point at the beginning of 2015. I struggled to find my creativity after that, and most of the stuff I’ve written this year, ended up in my ‘discarded’ folder.

I think I’ve finally found the balance in my life between work and everything else. I started living in the ‘here and now’ again. Aside from making time for my daughter, I really did little else than work the last two years. I made long days and was pretty much a recluse.
Right now I have a social life, I have hobbies and I still manage to write between 2000-6000 words a day (but only on week days)

It feels good, I feel happier and I don’t set myself up for disappointment as much as I did… but… and there is a big but (not to be confused with big butt)… I’m disappearing into the unknown. Where I used to have at least one interview per month, I haven’t done an interview in ages. People still know me on facebook as Chanti or Noodles, but I think sometimes they forget I’m a writer too. Plus… I haven’t published anything new, so those who do know me, and like my work, don’t have anything new to read. This puts quite a lot of pressure on me, because I want to be professional. The sad thing is… I have something that’s pretty much finished. It would need another good professional edit, but it’s 80% of the way there (It already had one edit). The problem is… I don’t know what to do with it.
No, that’s a lie… I do know what to do with it. I need to keep sending it to agents. That part scares me, and I keep putting it off. Just as I’m putting off getting Wrath (the second story in Even Hell Has Standards) edited. It’s stupid fear. I need to get over that.

Part of me is terrified about finishing the first book in the Celestials series, because then I need to find it a home. It’s not horror, and I’m totally out of my element in the ‘not horror’ community. I don’t know any other publishers, etc. I need to start investing time and energy in this, but I just don’t know where to start. Once I get going, it should be okay. Part of me just wishes this was easier and more clear cut. Part of me wishes I could just be satisfied with writing only horror. That’s familiar territory. It’s not easy being a slipstream author, or being a genre floozy. I know it’s within my control to change it, but I also know I’d be really unhappy if I couldn’t just tell the stories I really wanted to tell.

So for now I’ll just keep pondering. And maybe even avoid fixing this problem until I feel a bit more confident. Who knows what will come up in the mean time?

I have some ideas of what I want to do. One of them is to start my own video series. I haven’t worked out the specifics yet, but it will be a nice little thing to do next to my writing that I would just have a lot of fun with. I don’t expect much of it other than I’ll enjoy creating the videos.

I’m hoping that my productivity will pick up towards the end of the year, and that I’ll overcome my own fear. I do miss the excitement of having a new book out. Readers, book parties, etc… I love it!

zondag 19 juli 2015

Comic Con

And thus endeth the weekend of my first large UK convention. I decided it would be nice to blog about it.

Things started off on the wrong foot. There was quite a bit of chaos before we left. The books were too heavy and very difficult to pack properly. The bookmarks I ordered didn’t come in right, and we had some last minute change of plans. Flying standby always stresses me out, even though this time I wasn’t as worried as other times. There were so many flights going, and a few of them were still on ‘green’. When you fly standby, flights come in color codes to see if it’s wise to book them. I think the colors mean this: Green still has available seats. Orange is fully booked. Red is overbooked.

None of them are any guarantee to either the positive or the negative. Our flight from Atlanta was overbooked, and we had about 8 other people, besides us three, flying standby with a higher priority, yet still Elora and I got on board. But you can easily not get on board on an orange flight because everyone shows up. Or a green flight can suddenly fill up because people missed their connection. It’s Russian Roulette, it’s stressful and I hate it. But… it’s so much cheaper, it’s worth the misery. We had already spent enough for this weekend, so I had to live with flying standby.

I was on edge when we left for the airport, but I tried to shake it. We parked the car at Daan’s work, and took the bus to the terminal. Our weekend of public transportation had begun. I’ll tell you that it’s not easy to walk around with a suitcase of over 20 kg (I think that’s about 45 pounds?) Suddenly you become aware of crappy roads and sidewalks. Lifting that thing is a pain.

We found the Hall we needed to be in, but we ran into snooty ground stewardess who didn’t know what she was doing. To make a very long story short, she kept sending us to the wrong place and making us stand in line a lot for no reason. By this point I was just grumpy. I don’t like standing in line, especially not crowded ones.

But, luckily we finally got to check in our bags. I asked the lady checking our bags how the flight was looking and she said: “There’s one seat left.”
This should have been a foreboding of what to come. I was a bit shocked because that one seat had been eight seats about an hour ago. These puppies were going fast, and people could still book their flights.

I decided to let it go. Either we would get on, or we would try and catch the next flight. Luckily for us, we DID catch this one. We had the last two seats. Someone hadn’t shown up, so that was fortunate. The flight was fine. Not too long, and not overtly uncomfortable.

By the time we had landed, I was starting to be giddy again. I was in London and about to head to my first international convention. This made me laugh and be silly. So one of the security staff who organizes the line laughed at me, and told me I was a troublemaker. I told him I was just there to make his day a little more wacky fun. He was lovely.
All the staff we’ve encountered this weekend on Heathrow Airport have been very nice. We really like this airport.

We got our bags rather fast, and I have to admit, I was very nervous about using the subway. The last time in London we didn’t have a good time with the public transportation. Granted, it was mostly the trains we struggled with. They kept changing platforms which were really far from each other and it was dramatic. I remembered the subway being extremely crowded and hot, and I was not keen on repeating that experience. In reality… the subway was absolutely fine. We found it easy, we didn’t have to get on another train, and it wasn’t that hot or that crowded. We made it to Hammersmith in a jiffy. The road to our hotel was straightforward too, though it was a pain getting the suitcases up the uneven pavement. Daan was a real champ in helping me out. We found Hotel 65 without a problem, though I was gutted to see that a hotel had so many steps leading up to it. Not that considerate for guests with suitcases… which should be a lot of them. I had booked what I thought to be an affordable, but not too cheap, hotel. I didn’t go for the really cheap ones, because they looked shabby. This one was advertised as having a friendly staff.

Whoever their friendly staff are, they must have had a break that weekend, because all we saw was this surly young man, who wasn’t at his post half the time. The numbnuts gave us the wrong wifi code too, so we had to get back to him on that later on. He told us we needed to go further down the street to go to our real hotel, since they had several buildings. Yippy, we had to drag the suitcases down the steps again, and further up the street.

Inside hotel 45 (I shit you not, that’s what it was called. Just the street number) we found that there were more freaking stairs in a really narrow corridor. These were high and steep. Lovely…
There was this bizarre ‘fire door’ in front of our room. It wasn’t an actual fire door, because it had gaps everywhere, so it was complete bullshit. It did remind me that if there was a fire down stairs… we’d be fucked. There was no fire escape to be seen anywhere.
When we opened the door to our room I thought someone was having a laugh at us. I have never in my life seen a hotel room this small. NEVER. Not even on the really shitty cruise that we once took. It was incredible.

A double bed stood pushed against the window. There wasn’t a wardrobe… let alone a chair and a table you would find in any other hotel room. NOTHING WOULD FIT. We barely fit our suitcases in there. My student rooms used to be bigger. I didn’t think it even had a bathroom at first. What I thought was a cupboard (it didn’t even have a full sized door in it) was our bathroom. It had a very small shower, a corner sink (I didn’t even know those existed and a tiny toilet inside (You were actually lodged against the wall if you sat on the loo) It was so small, it would have been cute if I didn’t have to stay there.

Aside from small, it also wasn’t clean. If I hadn’t been so tired, and Daan hadn’t told me it would be fine, I would have walked out. At that moment I was just mad, I couldn’t see the funny side yet. We just paid 205 pound (which is over 300 euros) for 3 nights in that place. Any hotel that’s over a 100 euros a night should be fairly decent. Not a freaking broom cupboard. It was under the stairs too, so we now call this our ‘Harry Potter experience’. Anyone who would walk on the stairs (and we were the bottom room, so everyone walked on our stairs) would disturb us, we would later find. Above us the rooms had to be like a clown car, because they were filled with loud German kids, playing terrible music and shouting at each other.

Daan and I escaped and went to have dinner. My mood was a bit toxic at that point, so a nice meal would do. We ended up in a French restaurant (basically because we didn’t want to wander too far, and everything else we saw looked a little dodgy.) The food was nice, the service was friendly but they didn’t know what they were doing. It took about an hour and a half for our food to arrive.
Afterwards we went home and didn’t sleep for the loud noises, lol. The designer of the room had decided white flimsy curtains were the way to go, so by the crack of dawn I had no chance at sleeping anymore. I didn’t mind being awake. At 11 we were going to meet Stuart at the convention.

It wasn’t too difficult to find the Olympia, though again, it was a pain to drag the suitcases there. Daan did most of the work, I’ll admit. He was my freaking rock star. The organization of the con was a bit of a nightmare, and we ended up getting one less green wrist band (which meant you were at a stall) than planned. This was inconvenient, to say the least. It made me panic a bit at first… how was I going to set up my stuff without a band? But I managed to blag my way inside that first day, and all was fine.

Meeting Stuart was awesome. He’s a lovely guy, and I kept apologizing to him for talking so much.
We were at the back of the first floor, in a place where there wasn’t a lot of traffic. So it was very quiet for us. The table was nice, and Stuart and Matt had made it look really good. Setting up was easy, and I decided I would just stick around, rather than go stand in line.

To my great pleasure Katherine found us too, and she and I chatted for a bit. She showed me her stall, which was lovely and tickled my inner geek. It’s a shame we weren’t nearer each other. We also had two wonderful Dutch girls next to us, who were fun too.

I met Matt later, after his meeting. It was great seeing him in person. He too is a fantastic guy. Meeting people really has been the highlight of my weekend. Steve Shaw stopped by to liven up our afternoon a little, and he stayed for a chat. It was great.

Daan and I left early that day to go to the Phantom. This time we didn’t have suitcases to carry around, which left us a lot more free. At the station we shared a fajita together, and we took some macaroons for the show. It wasn’t too difficult to find the theatre, and I was really over my fear of public transport by then. Everything went very smooth.

The show was lovely. I had opted for the cheaper tickets, so we had a restricted view. It really wasn’t that restricted, and we enjoyed it all fine. I wasn’t too happy with the fact someone had thrown up in the row behind us. Several people told the staff at hand, but they just didn’t bother cleaning it up. They were too busy preventing people from taking photos during the break. Because that’s more important than the comfort of your guests #sarcasm.
Luckily it was far enough away from Daan and myself that we weren’t too uncomfortable, but it was still pretty rank.
We went back home at around ten and decided to stop at this kebab shop we found on our way to the station. The people were so nice, and we got this HUGE kebab to share. Since we didn’t eat that much for dinner, we decided it would be okay. We ate it in our cupboard under the stairs and had a good laugh. Daan decided to check how the flights were looking for Sunday, and he gave me a ‘Houston we have a problem’  look. All flights on Sunday were red. All of them. That meant that they were all OVER booked. If too many people show up, they bump them to the next flight, so if we wanted to have any chance of catching them, we would have to leave really early in the morning, and it would still be risky. I asked him what the flights on Saturday looked like, and he told me it still had one green and two orange flights. After much discussion, we decided to leave a day early. Daan couldn’t miss another day of work, and he has an important meeting on Monday, and we didn’t want to leave Elora with my parents another day. It pained me, but it was the best choice.

We didn’t want to make it a late night, because the next day we’d have to stand in line to get into the convention. I still didn’t have a green wristband (the organizers were very rigid in some places and completely chaotic in others) I had made peace with it, but it meant getting up early.
I couldn’t get to sleep because people kept walking around. The room was so hot, we kept the window open. It didn’t make it that much cooler, but it DID make it a lot more noisy. It was dreadful. Slightly before 3 AM I dozed off, when suddenly a bright blue flickering light filled the room, waking me after about 5 minutes. It was the TV. I don’t know why it was doing that, I had never seen that happen before. Daan ended up unplugging the whole damn thing, because we couldn’t get it to stop.

I was wide awake. People were still going up and down the stairs (god knows why) all night, and the sirens wouldn’t stop. I don’t think I’ve ever heard that many sirens in one night. I didn’t sleep a wink, and by the time we were heading towards the convention, I was frazzled.
The line was already ridiculously long, going all the way around the corner. It was also pretty hot and sunny, even that early in the morning. In the end the line was great. I didn’t think it would be, but we met some nice people and had a real laugh. We were there for over an hour and a half, but it felt much shorter. We even met Robert… which I still need to tweet about. Poor Robert probably didn’t know what hit him, but he was very famous in our line.

We noticed an increase in crowds, but the traffic at our stand was still very low. Because this was a wider place, people used it as resting area. I can tell you that there is a special place in hell for people who block the path to a stand. It’s really cruel.

My overall view of the convention: These big conventions aren’t for me. I’m an attention whore, and I need social interaction. We didn’t get a lot of that here. I also don’t like large crowds, so I didn’t even really walk around and explore. It was just too overwhelming. Most people didn’t even browse our stand. I don’t mind people not buying stuff, that’s part of life… but a lot of people just completely ignored us all together. They didn’t even look. Also, I think I was scaring people. Making eye contact or talking to them didn’t seem to go down well with A LOT of people, and after the first day I didn’t know how to act anymore. I am only good at being me, and I’m very outgoing. So I started getting insecure. When I do that, I start to gibber, and poor Stuart had to listen to my crap. After a while I even got quiet. Apparently people worry when I get quiet, and I look miserable, lol.
What helped me was a few people who showed an interest in my work. A few even bought some books, and that was lovely. Though it was talking about writing and my work that really lifted my spirits. It helped balance it all out.

I’m glad I did this. I loved meeting the people I met. Not just facebook friends, but also the kind visitors and the people we met in line. That was really the highlight for me.

Despite the fact that ‘things didn’t go smooth’, I had a great weekend. And we certainly have stories to tell. 

vrijdag 5 juni 2015

Writing Celestials

Coming up with a story isn't hard. Everyone with a bit of imagination can come up with a plot. And a lot of people do. But coming up with a plot is not the same as writing a novel. It's developing that story, and the characters within it, that makes writing so tricky. I often find that the devil is in the details, and I can sometimes write myself in a corner.

When people ask me if I’m a plotter or a pantser (flying by the seat of my pants) I tell them I’m a little bit of both. I like to have a rough idea of where my story is going, and I need a beginning, middle and end before I even attempt to write it. There will be certain parts that are fixed within my story line… but the rest I pants. I just make it up as I go along, with the fixed points in my head.

I feel like I don’t know my characters until I’m finished with my first draft, and once I know them, I need to do a lot of tweaking in my manuscript. I’ll get back to earlier chapters and think “It’s not logical that *insert character name here* would do this… they’re a completely different person.” That’s because the characters evolve as I write. This also keeps my beta-readers on their toes, because sometimes I forget to change things, being the ditzy person that I am.

Now, the more complicated my plot becomes, the more difficult it becomes to ‘pants’ it. At the same time, I can’t write when everything is completely plotted out. It’s a waste of my time, because the characters always pull me in a different direction anyway.

At this moment, I’m writing the first novel (not come up with a name for it yet) in a trilogy called Celestials. This is a story I’ve been wrestling with since I was 23. So sixteen years this damn story has been haunting me. It’s changed so much in that time. The first version was all about a demon who escaped hell. She’s still in the book –though both her name and personality have changed drastically, and she’s no longer the main character. It was meant to be a graphic novel that I was going to write, and Paul Chapman was going to illustrate. We never got around to it, but the story always stuck with me.

Several years ago I wrote the first serious draft (I had written a few drafts before, but always got discouraged). It was terrible. I ended up junking most of it, though I kept one chapter and a lot of ideas. Then I wrote a second and a third draft, each completely different. Each with elements I liked. Late last year I started over, and I actually reused bits of the last draft. They needed a good polish, but I liked the general idea.

To make matters worse, I had written several other things, that I thought would tie in really well with the universe around Celestials. I did more world building and came up with new ideas. It only made the story even more complicated.

As I was writing I decided I didn’t like the way things were going. There is a lot to tell about this story, and I was going about it all wrong. It turned into an info-dump… which is an author’s nightmare. I had to change things. As I was changing, I started to doubt the actions of some of my characters. “Why on earth would they do that?” I would ask myself, and in an attempt to fix the questions, I would explain why they did things. I was telling… not showing, and it sucked. So I got discouraged and frustrated, until I realized, that if I changed the story just slightly, I could explain a lot of it away… without having to actually explain things.

In order to do so, I had to completely change my demon character again. I also needed to cut out a HUGE chunk of dialogue, and I needed to even dump two entire chapters. All gone… all that writing I had done… gone. I started with a 30K document, and added at least 4K… and ended up with a 26K document. That kinda sucked, I tell you.

Sometimes it feels like I will never finish this damned book. And other times, when I’m feeling particularly negative, I remind myself that if I do finish it, there will be people out there who will hate

And there will be, because there’s always someone out there who will hate it. No matter who you are, or what you write, you can’t win them all. All I can do is hope that I will finish this someday, and that I’ll be satisfied with the results. Of course I hope more people will like it than hate it, and with a little bit of luck, some people might even love it… who knows. First I need to finish it, and get it all to work. So I need to stop tormenting myself, and just get on with it.

woensdag 18 februari 2015

A message from a hag.

*deep breath*

I was almost fooled into thinking that this year would be a peaceful Women in Horror Month… but hurray… of course someone had to ‘shake things up a little.’

By now anyone who has anything to do with the Indie / Small Press / Self Published writing world must have heard about ‘Haggate’ or ‘Hagapalooza’. For those of you who don’t, here’s an update in a nutshell. An author (I shan’t name them, that’s not my place) got very upset with the horror community and he pointed out that all female horror writers look like hags.

This is the actual quote (though a lot more was said): “They do library readings, sign their novels on people’s lawns, pose for pictures as ghouls and monsters (the women are especially guilty of this; most of them look like hags anyway), and self-publish their work.”

My first reaction was to give myself a painful facepalm, mumble something about stupidity, and sigh,… but now, in hindsight… I actually want to thank the author who said this. Why? Because his dumb remark was a spark that ignited the flame. What he said created drama… but also awareness.

Let’s be honest, it’s nice that we get interviewed for Women of Horror month, but without the ‘drama’ it’s just that. People dutifully share the interviews, and the occasional person will point out it’s Women in Horror month. This doesn’t always create a lot of awareness, and not a lot of people really care.
There are a few people who always get their ‘knickers in a twist’ over the Women in Horror Month, and they’re quite verbal about it. For some reason women getting attention, when men don’t, doesn’t sit well with these individuals, and they can get very rude and very mean about it.

To those of you who are so jealous that we have this month… don’t be. It does NOTHING for sales (at least, not from my experience, February tends to be a crappy month in sales for me), and so far most of us just have to deal with a  lot of surly misogynists, who are suddenly reminded that women actually exist in the horror genre, and they hate us so much that they will go out of their way to be hateful.

Being called a hag was actually one of the kinder experiences I’ve had. It was less patronizing than last year, when I was accused of using my sexuality to sell books. God forbid we’d actually just have talent, right?

So, what the author of that little ‘hag’ statement did, is point out something that’s very wrong in the world, something that proves that we NEED a women in horror month… We’re still being judged on
our appearance, and not our talent.

Now, I didn’t even take the comment as particularly misogynistic. It wasn’t exactly ladies friendly, but the man was so angry at everyone, that he made derogatory remarks about more than just women. But it was remarkable that he pointed out our looks.

What do my looks have to do with my writing? Unless I decide that I want to take up body painting and put my words on my naked flesh… nothing. It doesn’t matter how I look. How I dress is irrelevant. All that should matter is ‘my work’. Why are women always expected to ‘look good’?

Someone made a funny remark about Stephen King selling books with his looks. I laughed, but at the same time I felt sad too. It doesn’t matter for men how they look, but women are expected to be attractive. And we feel that pressure (at least, most of us do).

And to be really honest… it kind of sucks being called a ‘hag’. Sure, I laugh about it, because what else can you do? If someone is being mean, the best remedy is to ignore it or mock it. At the same time it did hurt a little. The way he said, this stranger, was demeaning, and the message it sends to women is that they’re of less worth.

Which, incidentally, brings me back to the point of the women in horror month. Times are changing, and I’m glad of it, but we still struggle with too many stereotypes. Too many people (I don’t want to single out men here) still treat us as if we’re not a integral part of the ‘horror writing game’, as if we’re ‘different’ somehow, and what we do isn’t as ‘valid’. It’s a man’s world, and we’re just guests in it.
I keep reading in comments that ‘women write a certain way’.

Ehm… okay? What way is that?

Last year, my good friend Malina Roos decided to challenge the people who claimed women wrote differently than men, and she put up excerpts of writing without names. It was impossible to see which was written by a man, and which was written by a woman.

Not one of the people who said they wouldn’t read anything by a female author accepted the challenge… though apparently some of them did send Malina some nasty messages and threats.

How dare a woman step out of her place, right? No wonder they got upset.

So back to why I’m thanking the author who called us hags. His statement caused outrage, and it was like a band-aid being torn off. It exposed the festering wound underneath. Sometimes these wounds heal best when they’re out in the open. Misogyny is the same way, it can only be battled if we all see it.

He started Hagapalooza, and he created a wave. We joke about it, put pictures of hags up on our profiles, and some of us (me) even wrote ourselves a haggy bio.
Are we using this incident to get attention?

Sure we are, we’re writers, we need to be seen.

But it’s more than that, we’re using it to say “Here we are. You can’t get around us, and we won’t stand for disrespect any longer.”

This is actually my drawing that I made for my story 'The Bone Witch'
That’s what the women in horror month should be about, so thank you for reminding us of that, surly author. Thank you for making us band together. Thank you for showing us the men who stick up for us, who respect us for who we are. Not just as women… but as people. Because we may be different in many ways, when it comes to writing horror… we’re exactly the same. We all want to scare our readers, we all love the genre, we all want to make good books, and we all want to sell them. What we wear, where we come from or how we look is irrelevant. It’s about what’s in the pages.
But in the meanwhile… we might as well laugh at Haggate.

I am hag… hear me cackle.