The last few days you might've noticed I sort of fell off the map. Reason 1 is that I'm currently work on some music, which takes some time. Reason 2 is because I had the great fortune of having my computer malfunction.
After a few days without access to my main writing device, I found myself diving deeper into music and writing out a new version of His Daughter by hand, and that's when I realized there were even more benefits than I previously mentioned.
One-Way Streets & The Hybrid Writer.
There are many writers who either go indie and/or self-publishing; or there are those who will only follow the path to traditional publishing. The argument behind traditional publishing is merit. There's a label on your book and check to say this book was seen to be worth at least this much. Some self-pub writers will argue their method is the only way to truly express your writing. It brings so much freedom and a much higher royalty rate.
With that in mind, I was furious and than impressed by this article by Rob W. Hart on Salon.com.
Hart seems to hold a mutual viewpoint of the many publishing media. He traditionally publishes his manuscripts, while some of the smaller ones that don't fit into a specific commercial market, he reserves those for self-publishing. He considers himself a "hybrid writer."
Although I think the term is a bit inflated, I fall into the category. For instance, many of my works involved signatures, but then there's No-Injury Policy which has been fairly successful since its release in October 2012.
The short story collection might found some sort of accreditation in the traditional market, but I knew a book of its nature wasn't expected to be a bestseller. However, it is a collection of stories I believe many people will find--or already have found--interesting.
There's just not real a demand for short story collections in the general markets, especially a work like #NIP that crosses between genre fiction and not.
Maybe you've never considered "learning" as a possible addiction, but here I am to suggest the contrary. "Addiction is a brain disease," Alan I. Leshner, PhD. said back in 1997. He was considering the chemistry of the brain as it related to addiction, but I believe there are many more ways to look at such a statement, one of them being the way you process information. For example, there are some of us who coast in life, just bouncing off the ropes a bit, because there's an inherent sense of knowledge.
Some people like to refer to such individuals as "old spirits" because they either know everything, literally, or because they have a basic understanding of what to do in life. "New spirits" are often seen as inferior or somewhat ignorant individuals. These people tend to question everything and always flash a curious eye. In my opinion, the stigma around new spirits (and/or "souls" as I think of it now) is completely erroneous and arbitrary at best. People who want to know more, might have a real advantage in life, but on the other hand, they might have a limiting addiction.
Kelsey Timmerman, author of Where Am I Wearing?, Where Am I Eating?, former mentor, and the only writer I know who can catch a glimpse of someone's undies and recognize their origins, tagged me in The Next Big Thing Blog Hop.
Check out Kelsey's answers on his work in progress.
Now take a breath and prepare yourself for my journey.
While I would assume you're perfect in every way and everybody loves you, you might've come across an insult some point in your life. In fact, if you have a social profile, I bet you've seen a little slip come through. That is, although you'd striven for a clean profile page, someone either insulted you publicly dismissed your thoughts, or simply made a comment you didn't want the bulk of your friends to see.
In most scenarios, people either report, delete, or challenge the comment. However, when your business is writing (which emphasizes the idea of Free Speech), your choices are really ignore or conquer. Today, though, I came across an author who started to receive nasty remarks and decided to run with them.
(Technically it's more like my "personal" virginity, but as a headline the phrase might mislead some web crawlers. You know, those utilizing an incognito window.)
There's a general idea that everything a writer scribbles down stems from a personal experience. For a long time, I fought the notion, and suggested the imagination could lead further than personal experience. I mean, I've never encountered a vampire.
I feel pretty stupid now, knowing personal experiences don't like being inferior to imagination and often seek revenge. How is it this? They like to slip back into my writing.
Don't worry, this isn't going to be some melodramatic blog - I don't think -but it's meant to show how certain aspects of a story reflect something somewhat personal . . . in retrospect. I wonder if any "personal experience slips" translate or are they simply a nuisance?
Anyone considering college or who finished their college career recently, might be concerned about costs. There's no curtain in the way, though. Tuition and loan debt are not the best responsibilities to assume during or just after your college years.
From time to time, I've joked about a college degree and implied I'm so smart I traded $70,000 for a piece of paper that said I'm smart. However, the reality of higher education costs is a real concern lately, leaving many to wonder is college worth it?
Here's another rough draft section of "Armageddon as Expected". Enjoy!
II. The Masked Girl in the Barren City
We wrapped chains around the wheels, Allen and I, and it was a good thing we did.
Transgressive fiction is nothing new. In fact, although I coin myself a transgressive writer, it's kinda like saying punk rock after the 1980s. To be a true trangressive writer, many would argue you must've been a published pen between the late 1800s and early 1900s. However, many writers of the new and sorta new can be found quite easily today, such as Amy Hempel and Chuck Palahniuk. Oh yeah, James Joyce - you know Ulysses - is a pretty common gem. While we're name dropping: Bret Easton Ellis, Anthony Burgess, Elizabeth Young.
Trangressive fiction started with prose that was often banned or chastised for being too obscene, too vulgar, or just too close to home. These stories brought the social struggles of their times into an honest - admittedly sometimes dark - portrayal. Some people go to the extreme, while others might just rip on consumerism.
The thing about transgressive fiction is that's it's about what's right. Here are 3 points to consider if you ever find yourself bored in a Barnes & Noble and want to count the trangressive writers throughout the entire store.
Today I was spoiled with an opportunity to interview author Andrew Cyrus Hudson, the mastermind behind Somewhere in the Shadows: The Anthology. See, he's the guy who designed the book and had it made.
He's worked with multiple aspects of publishing, and his passion resides in producing a book from the ground up. He's also the guy who asked me to be in the short story collection.
You know that "Charlatan" thing I've been, admittedly, self-promoting like crazy as of late? That's the short story I contributed.
For now, here are the publishing-related questions and his uncensored response to them all.
C.M. Humphries (C):
C: How did you decide which authors would be in the anthology?
C: What were the overhead expenses for producing such an anthology?
C: What are your future plans for Somewhere in the Shadows or for other story collections?
C: Where can everyone find you online?
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Ask Andrew Cyrus Hudson Anything About Somewhere in the Shadows or independent & self-publishing in the comments - and earn points towards a hand-bound edition of No-Injury Policy!
It's getting closer to bedtime and you're looking at your loved one, thinking about the ways you would love to express your love. The day was a long one, and now you want to share the excitement of a relationship and reduce stress in one fell swoop. You start with the sweet nothings and pillow talk shortly before your loved one turns to you and says they're too tired, too stressed, or they have a headache. Now, making love would be the cure-all in this instance, but it takes two to tango. Getting two people to agree about anything is difficult. So there you are, wanting to embrace your lover and wishing the stressors keeping you awake at night would go away. What do you do?
There's a good chance this post will piss a lot of people off. See, this one is all about publishing - what it is and it isn't. It's no secret that No-Injury Policy is self-published, but trust me, there's a great deal of trepidation as I type this sentence. See, self-published works often procure the curious eye and the furrowed brow. Self-publishing is said to be for the impatient, the lazy, and the worst of writers. But ever wonder who says such things? Consider this: I, like many authors, have a dream of one day being part of either Random House or Penguin Group. That means you made it, right? If you guessed "yes", the you really need to keep on reading.
When expectations are high, money is tight, love is tainted and stress is ubiquitous, the citizens of Chase County will do anything to make sure they survive. From the deconstruction of a town to frivolous intercourse with strangers, No-Injury Policy explores the dark depths of human nature when social pressures peak.
No sooner than the meek taste retribution, however, they encounter the demons that have aided authority figures to the top - demons that refuse to lose control no matter what it takes.
No-Injury Policy is the 1st short story collection by C.M. Humphries, showcasing seven of the eeriest tales from every town in Chase County: Raven's Crook, Lovington, Lakeside, and Long Brooke.
Following along as I provide a snippet of each story in the collection. If there's a picture to the left of the premise, that means I blogged on a topic from the story. Be sure to check them all out.
Let's face it, we're part of an interesting historical period. Or several. There almost seems to be an ideological Civil War taking place within the United States, one that might determine what is right, what is acceptable, and what is illegal. No matter what your stance is on an issue, you probably realize it's important to stand up for what you believe. However, let me suggest that you spend a little more thinking than acting.
Whenever someone is trying to pursue a creative endeavor, one of the first topics that comes to mind is discipline. See, you have to actually do something. Now for most writers, the ideal of a novel is alluring. In fact, many writers can probably complete the first hundred pages or so of a book in record time. However, it's all about following through and then forcing yourself to write eight more drafts, all before preparing to do a lot of leg work no matter who your publisher is. You want to know my recommendation? Of course you do. Guilt. Feel as guilty as a dog with irritable bowels.
The first thing they teach in art school is that a masterpiece will sell itself. This is the most untrue statement ever made. Now, it's hard to argue, especially as a writer, whether you have a masterpiece on your hand, but rest assure, no one is going to find you accidentally. No worries, though, here are 3 things you can do to increase your chances of selling an idea, and it works even if you're not an artist.
Almost anything can inspire me to write. As Stephen King would say, "Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, while the rest of us just get up and go to work." There's no reason to force inspiration, and sometimes, it's best to make time and push out some creativity. However, when it comes to my fiction, a story really fleshes out when I discover a new fear.
While no one enjoys the sensation of being lost, I always feel I have a good handle on location and rarely panic when I make a wrong turn. Let's face it, some of us aren't as geographically savvy as others. When we're totally lost, we're scared shitless for a moment. That's me in New York last summer. And the following is what both provided inspiration for a story and the fearful turn it needed.
It's only a few hours since you fell asleep and already you're jolted upright in bed with a sort of panic. Your mind races with all the things you need to complete or improve. While in the story "Sleep" insomnia is entertaining, in real life it's not quite the same. For writers, insomnia and sleep deprivation aren't unusual terms. The sleepless writer is even a stereotype. However, staying awake for countless hours can be detrimental to writing. creative thinking, learning, repair, and concentration.
Do you think popular media today have an affect on the way literature history of future generations will look back on novels?
For instance, Mary Shelley, Ray Bradbury, Kurt Vonnegut and many other authors are remembered for their works because of quality and relevance.
Today, many novels have become famous largely due to TV and film adaptations. Do you believe the popular stories of today will be remembered in their initial form or because of their saturation through other forms of media?
I was fortunate enough to ask these questions to Red Fez editor and Literary Underground mastermind Lynn Alexander and New York Times Bestselling author of such books as Crank Ellen Hopkins. Here's what they had to say:
Saturation - Lynn Alexander
Red Fez Editor Lynn Alexander
Unfortunately I think many novels are commercially successful because of the franchise model, and the ability to translate the story elements into marketable merchandise in addition to films. A good example is Twilight because it wasn't just the movies but also the way that stores like Hot Topic were able to blitz the niche market of young readers with merchandise. Walk in at the height and you would have seen DVD parties, t shirts, pencil cases, earrings . . . We saw the same for Harry Potter and now with Hunger Games.
I think that these kinds of novels will be remembered for the trend, less for the novels themselves. I find that many people have not actually READ the novels but it doesn't seem to matter.
Now on the other hand, I think there are novels that will be remembered because of their ideas - helped along by film of course but also helped by the appeal of the concept regardless of form. Think Fight Club. Great novel, great movie. Doesn't matter.
Your question says "popular stories" and if you focus there, then no. I think they will be remembered for their film adaptations and because of the saturation. What is there to really remember about many popular stories? Many are written as though they are intended to be made into movies. Many are terrible, reflect a reading level that is just sad, and probably don't deserve to be remembered.
For those that began as great books that just happened to be adapted, not necessarily as popular but successful, I think some will remember them and hopefully appreciate them in the future. I think of examples like Angela's Ashes but it also depends on the window of time when you say "popular stories of today". Today, literally? Or just modern? Adaptations of Jane Austen or Edith Wharton or F. Scott Fitzgerald or E.M. Forster will likely not change the appreciation for the novels, which are still being read despite their film counterparts. And some novels just seem stuck as novels, in a good way. Toni Morrison, for example.
Painting the Picture - Ellen Hopkins
NY Times Bestselling Author Ellen Hopkins
I think it's unfortunate that future generations will be pushed into digital mediums because of what is happening right now, today. Reading a book, on page, not onscreen, works a part of the brain that may, in fact, become extinct within a few generations. Why do I think this is sad? Because that is the CREATIVE part of the brain.
Once future generations allow other forms of media to PAINT the story, rather than letting their brains do the coloring in, they will become dumber and dumber. The same entities encouraging this today are helping to defund education. They don't want the workforce to be creative or smart--too much competition.
My heartfelt advice is to fight back! Work the creative part of your brain. Read (print). Write! Educate yourselves every way possible that does not involve some media hack telling you what is "true." Investigate. Learn what is true. Know what? It isn't easy. But if you don't, this planet has a sorry future indeed.
My Final Thoughts
The reason I was compelled to ask others what they thought was because I wasn't sure of the answer myself. I believe in the various outlets for stories, and at heart I root for the story more than I do the form.
However, there's something to be said about written works. As Ellen Hopkins pointed out, it's far more beneficial to process a story than to have it completely spelled out for you. Film and TV tell you what to see, think, hear, and so on. There's very little room for interpretation beyond the weak subtext.
Horror stories, as an example, are much scarier in the written form than up on a screen. In this instance, they use your own fears and imagination to haunt you, whereas film and TV tries to make you afraid of someone else's nightmares. Horror novels bring out your fears and play them against, while other forms tend to focus on the pop-out scare.
An oversight on my part was merchandising. In Lynn Alexander's example of Twilight, it's easy to focus on the books and the novels, but what is sometimes left out of the equation is product. After she mentioned it, I remember seeing the lunchboxes, candy, trading cards, clothes, and many other promotions. Was the book so revolutionary it reached to such heights, or was it all a clever franchise model?
Edgar Allan Poe comes to mind now. Poe made a name for himself as a writer way before anyone adapted his stories into film or used his ideas for plots and video games. When Poe items first came to stores, I thought it was kind of cool. I liked Poe and now I could flaunt such a fact, but after awhile it became too much. It was almost as though to like Poe is akin to loving cliches. Lucky for Poe, he's already cemented in history.
Will the works of our time have the same opportunity to go down in history on merit, or will they become too much of a marketing scheme and fade away?
Since I'm left with multiple theories and no prophetic powers, I leave the question with you. How do you think the constant media saturation of novels will affect they way they will be remembered in the future?
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Science vs. Art
Ever start to relive a moment from your younger years only to be contradicted by someone else who was part of the moment?
For instance, say you had a brother who always blew up his toys with fireworks. As you recall the event, you might swear he used to blow up some of your toys too, although someone else might disagree. What is worse is when a third person jumps in and says you're wrong, although you remember the moment like anything else.
According to this article, here's what happened: You clearly recalled your brother blowing up toys with fireworks. You remember the days when this event excited you, and perhaps you remember an event when your brother destroyed one of your toys, which wasn't so enthralling. As you look back on a toy that became nothing more than plastic burned down to static drips like dry wax, you might swear to the heavens that your brother destroyed your toy in one of his pyromaniac moments.
But still, your brother and whoever else swears you're wrong. It's like that you've confabulated.
"Confabulate" was definitely not a word I learned until I read this article, and if it was on the GRE I sure failed that question. Basically it means that there were gaps in your memory that you filled in with plausible events from other memories or with scenarios that made sense with all of your previous knowledge.
Don't worry, though, you're probably not suffering from a mental or emotional disorder . . . yet.
This is just the beauty of how the mind works. Of course, once you confabulate (I love saying that word!) too often and too much of a story, you should probably be checked out. Otherwise, it's our natural storytelling process.
See, the mind doesn't really care about information nor does it remember it that well without a narrative. Sometimes when I used to take a test, I would recall a joke that was made while I was studying a certain subject. Many people remember things when there is some sort of story surrounding it. It's how Bill Nye can teach hyper-active kids the most boring concepts in science.
The downside of all this is many people have either chosen science or art. As it relates here, sure you remember a narrative better than a singular set of facts, but science can explain way. There's no magic or mystique to it, which is the very essence of art.
A lot of fiction has become unpopular because science explained some of the elements and made certain ideas erroneous at best. Think old-school sci-fi films and how you laughed at their notions of space.
It doesn't have to be science vs. art though. There's no reason you can't understand a situation and still admire the magic behind it. In fact, here's what Michael Gazzaniga, a cognitive neuroscientist and the author of Who's In Charge has to say:
"Gazzaniga suspects that narrative coherence helps us to navigate the world – to know where we're coming from and where we're headed. It tells us where to place our trust and why. One reason we may love fiction, he says, is that it enables us to find our bearings in possible future realities, or to make better sense of our own past experiences. What stories give us, in the end, isreassurance. And as childish as it may seem, that sense of security – that coherent sense of self – is essential to our survival."
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Some people ask me why I don't write nonfiction, since I have so much to say about college, post-college blues, and so forth. The answer is relatively simple, and I think Kurt Anderson, author of True Believers, says it best:
The Pleasure of Writing Fiction
Whenever I write fiction, I often feel excited and intrigued. There's a certain sense of euphoria I undergo when I'm imagining as opposed to reliving in nonfiction.
For me, writing fiction is more like recreational sex, whereas nonfiction is like being a pornstar. With fiction, I am creating something new and really reaching into my imagination, whereas in nonfiction it's more like trying to look good on camera as I repeat the acts I've already done. Like Anderson, the only real joy I find from constructing a piece like an essay is having written. That is, when the story is ready to ship off, I am happy to be done with it. Sometimes with fiction, I don't want the story to end.
I've created new characters and events that I could explore for the rest of my life. When I finish a short story or novel, sometimes there's so much editing and leg work to be done that I am happy when the material is available but never want to look at it again. During the process, however, I couldn't enjoy anything more.
Nonfiction is almost the opposite experience for me. The entire process makes me want to quit early on. I don't know what it is. It's kind of like playing the guitar versus playing the piano for me. I love to write or learn new songs, because there's some sort of intimacy behind it. Piano on the other hand . . . Let me just say I admire anyone who has perfected it. The same goes for nonfiction authors.
Will I ever write a nonfiction piece? The truth is, I've written several, but I've never tried to have them published. I've been toying around with the post-college blues concept for awhile. I think I might be too lazy to do all the research. Or it might be that I'm not sure which angle to tell it from. Or maybe I don't want to relieve my past. Besides, in nonfiction you have to work a lot of freelance gigs before most publishers will even consider your proposal. There's another point: I prefer to have written the novel and polished it before proposing the idea for publication.
In short, I see myself eventually diving into the nonfiction world. For now, I'm working on getting His Daughter out there and writing a zombie novel tentatively titled The Illness.
What Brings You More Joy, Fiction or Nonfiction?
Today I received a phone call from an old chum who was seeking a bit of writing advice. To me, giving advice seems a bit too pretentious, though I mention the things I've learned from time to time. There's nothing more discouraging than finding out a writer you look up to is discouraging, and this really applies to a prominent figure in any aspiration. Some people are too negative. Some people are know-it-alls.
So if there is one piece of advice I believe in whole-heartedly, it's be yourself.
If you're thinking that's a cliche message, you're already on the wrong path.
1. Meeting people is key to success in the publishing game.
You can't force this. When I went to the Midwest Writers Conference (#mww12), I saw a lot of writers jumping to the point. Lucky for me, I interned for Kelsey Timmerman and ended up making a lifelong friend (or acquaintance with hook-ups, though I don't see it that way) and weaseled my way into the conference as an intern.
What I learned was to be natural. Hang out. Talk. Whatever. We're all human beings, and that's what we look for first in people, despite any prior motives. Someone who is "real" is much more appealing than someone trying to pitch an idea. You never know when these opportunities will arise, but you know your goals, and more importantly, you know who you are - So work with it! If you end up at the same restaurant, grab a drink and make conversation. If they're interested in what you do after that, they'll find a way of getting it out of you.
Warning: Be aware they may ask you to "pitch" your idea, though you think you're lost in conversation. I made this mistake when chatting with Dana Kaye. Be on your toes!
2. Don't try to fit in.
Being the awkward kid rarely works, but don't blend in. Of course, you don't want to be too far off in your own little world. Are you the kind of person who knows these tidbits about things, as though you're waiting for your turn on Jeopardy!? Then do that. It's you, and there's nothing you can design that will ever be as authentic.
I receive criticism from others all the time for writing horror. Look, I love horror. I love to write horror stories. I know horror. So I go with it. And guess what, other people might be looking for that.
3. You are Your Audience.
It's important to see your idea in a realistic perspective, but at the same time, think about what lead you to liking whatever it is you like. If you're writing a certain way just because it sells, most people will see through your façade . For instance, I love horror. I write horror. There are other people just like m, and they might be the audience you've been searching for all along.
People who don't like horror, will only mock horror. Your audience (if you're a horror writer in this instance) are those who love horror. See how it works?
Be organic. Who you are as a person might be your very best selling point.
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Fear, focus, and the future. C.M. Humphries talks about writing, horror, and whatever.