It's been awhile since I wrote the popular "5 Elements of a Good Horror Story", which made me wonder if there was anything more I could add to the list. As I worked a bit more on Ashland's Asylum, I realized there is a great concept I completely missed - the concept of false antagonists and allies. After all, shouldn't any good horror story keep you guessing who's the bad guy and who's the hero?
I'm working at getting back to the blog more often. Not that it's an excuse, but I've been pretty busy working on the follow-up novel in stories to No-Injury Policy called Ashland's Asylum.
As always, I've bitten off a bit more than I'm meant to chew. So it'll be until around winter 2014/2015 before this one hits the shelves.
However, I thought you might like to know what has made this book so difficult and what I've been up to lately. Enjoy!
Lately there's been a major buzz about print publications, copyright infringement, our education rate, and what role literature will have in the future. Luckily, it seems many people are acting out to insure a better tomorrow. The times have changed, so have publishers, news sources, print and digital technologies, as well as our educational systems. All of these things combined show three signs of hope for the future.
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.
"Ideas, ideas are just as real as the neurons they inhabit. They leap from brain to brain." - Concept from the "What is Meme?" essay by James Gleick &Richard Dawkins
More so than genetics, ideas over the years evolved in nature. The basic concept here is that ideas transcend, generation to generation, which often times results in a more-informed and creative society. As ideas mature, they can even lead to progression. While these ideas might seem ever-lasting, I do believe there are a few threats stopping us from becoming a more productive specie.
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.
One reason why horror stories may not be as popular as they once were has little to do with vampire-/zombie-/monster-romances and is more related to the difference between sight and perception. While certain sub-types have watered down the genre as a whole, the real problem is film.
See why I say horror literature will always trump film. Let me know if you agree.
I recently stumbled across an article about a bestselling writer who wants to either stop libraries from lending out books or force them to pay a substantially larger royalty.
Terry Deary, author of the children's series Horrible Histories, lashed out in The Guardian about the irrelevancy of libraries & the harm they cause writers, editors, and publishers.
Here's what he had to say:
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.
There's a lot of talk these about digital copying ("piracy") in the literature world.
While torrents and other methods of illegally downloading copyrighted material seem like the concern of yesteryear, the truth is, it's relatively news for the publishing world.
Moreover, the music industry changed due to illegal sharing, and the film industry is adapting as well. It's as though when people started downloading media, they spaced out the part about books, and to compensate they're stealing whole libraries.
But honestly, it doesn't bother me too much. Here's why:
There's a pretty popular argument out there concerning social media versus literature. Before we begin, let me explain I write, read, and use social media. Check out around the site - there are tons of icons for Facebook, Twitter, Google+ (which I might use for a hangout one of these days), Goodreads, Cowbird, etc.
I dig the whole social networking thing. I use it for good on most days. On others, I idle on the newsfeed. However, there's still a question I'd like to address:
Does digital rubbernecking influence you more than an actual story? Can you remember what happened on Facebook better than you can remember what happened in the last chapter of a current read?
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!
At some point in our lives, most of us have spent time with another human being, who at first seemed quite lovely and breath-taking, but later wanted to take our breaths away literally. While there might be some sort of attraction to said person or a deep case of sympathy, someone who is genuinely frightened or concerned by their significant other would make the hard choice of walking away. However, for those of us who were not the "psychopaths", we might've made the worst decision ever. Why? Well, you'll have to continue reading. You might just be surprised by what follows.
Halloween is already in the past, but for me the scares have only begun. Most people will read eerie stories or watch one of the thousand Stephen King adaptations they play on every channel before and after FX - just for one night! To me, this is the time of year during which I wolf down numerous eerie tales. However, as of late, I'm having a hard time finding some good, scary tales. It seems the villains have been watered down. You can save that stuff for the kiddies. If you want a better villain, consider what's next in this entry.
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.
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.
Today I came across an interesting article from the Huffington Post that discusses how books shaped the life of Ray Bradbury. During a brief argument with a librarian, Bradbury said, "That’s what books do. They are the building blocks, the DNA, if you will, of you."
I think this is a brilliant notion. What we read, how we read, and if we read all plays in to who we are. Join me as I explore the benefits of books that many of us know and some should consider.
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.
(BLOG ETHIC NOTE: You might notice I use "they" instead of "he" or "she" in many of my posts. This is an effort to remain gender-neutral and a choice of craft I implemented during linguistics courses at Ball State University,)
The reason show is more of focus than tell in a story is all due to the way we perceive information as human beings. Interestingly enough, Amanda Davis, a Byrn Mwar student, wrote, "It's become clear to me that humans' primary sight organ is our brain."
Even the recent democratic speech made by Bill Clinton tried to apply this notion. Rather than making promises to change America, he spent time getting the audience to visualize the democratic plan step-by-step with actual facts and practical explanation. Whether you side with democrats isn't relevant in order to see the way Clinton came off more emphatic and believable than any of the other speakers for any side of the presidential race.
If you apply this theory to the page, you'll quickly realize why certain books entertain and inform better than others. Sure words can be written on the page that tell the story. With a little more craft, a great description can provide an excellent visualization of geography and set the tone. But what's more effective, is constructing a story in a such a way that the reader can relate to multiple layers of the story, especially a character's actions - what a character does without much explanation.
In No-Injury Policy, I strive to showcase stories that rely more on character interaction than anything else. I haven't neglected eloquent description, and sometimes a little tell sets the scene like the beginning to a theater production. But if a character does something, then it's important that they don't need to say why. It should be obvious. And as for the things said character does, readers should be able to think, "Yeah, I thought about doing something like that before."
The general concept is to set characters in pressing social constructs (that nature of trangressive fiction) and have them live out the reactions we all wished we could live out. One example is the story "Sleep" from No-Injury Policy. In this story, a character named Adam Hope is a recent graduate/writer (how creative of me, right?) who is pressed by the norm of finding a "real" job. In short, he loses a lot of sleep while trying. We've all been in situations during which stress kept us wide awake through the night.
However, Hope is sickened by the expectation of having a great career right off the bat. The thing is, he's not alone. The rest of Long Brooke can't sleep, and soon they'll all going to show society just what they think. The idea of demonstrating our angers and frustrations to someone or something pressing is a dream for many of us; therefore I hope many of you will enjoy the tale. Admittedly, the story's a little off-the-wall.
It's this kind of retaliation that I think makes a good story. A character is in an extreme version of everyday life, faced with crushing social constructs, they want to break free, show people what they think of their norms, and pursue a vocation they truly enjoy. In most cases, a character who acts out the way we all think about doing is always the protagonist in our eyes.
Occasionally the bad buy will make us cheer on the inside, but that doesn't mean the character is the antagonist. He could simply be the anti-hero, or he could be the antagonist in the literal sense: The opposing force in front of a hero's goals. Then again, every protagonist is someone else's antagonist.
The same argument could be made for recent college graduates. You spend four years deep in ideology and practice, but once there's a taste of the real world, things change. Some of us live out our dreams. Some of us keep trying. And the weaker of us simply gives in. As the butler from "No-Injury Policy" says, "You're too young to understand now. You might say you would't do things just for money, but when you're an adult you'll be surprised at what you won't do for money."
Of course, the longer you live, the more you'll become for which you'll become responsible. In this sense, priorities need to be made in order to fulfill those responsibilities, but the dream still lives on somewhere. And this is where a good story comes in: It can at least allow us to imagine the things we always wanted to do. It only makes sense a good story can relate to us in such a manner.
While I aim to have my characters live out our best and worst ideas, it's important to note they are all "manning up." This is the difference between a great speaker and mumbler. It's the difference between a good character and a flat one. And it's crucial to real-life. In college, you learn all the things that are important to you. In some cases, you might even have a strong sense ethics. Unless you act out what you know, the information can dry out and render itself useless.
If you wish the world would operate a different way - a better way - practice that method in front of it in a manner is relatable to many, one which they can support. You might just be the catalyst for revolution.
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If you're reading this blog right now because you have nothing better to do, then this entry might be for you. Don't despair, though, I aim to show you how being an outcast or even a loser is one of the greatest things that can ever happen to you. Bill Gates, Stephen King, Lady Gaga . . . All these people had rough starts. They sat alone during high school lunch periods. They were the last picked for sports. Now they're the most prominent names in their fields. Why? Because losers are more creative and make the world not only go 'round, but they also change it. Don't believe me? Believe science.
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.
Tim Kreider is a popular guy lately. As of late, readers are starting to pay attention to him for his comments on the difference between being "too busy" or "too tired" and this cartoon. And while I would love to comment on saying your too busy when you're really too tired, I think there's something else in a recent Huffington Post that moved along a few wheels in my head: The concept of messy writing.
Messy writing is certainly an under-appreciated thing. There appears to be a disconnect about how much work actually goes into writing a messy book.
It's Not a Lack of Discipline
Admittedly, there are quite a few disorganized books out there, and I don't mean for effect. These are the sort of stories an author haphazardly writes in an effort to make money or because they don't read enough. They're sloppy and terrible.
Then there are the other type of messy books. These are the stories in which a tale is told from middle to beginning to end to middle to beginning to 1,000s of years ago in the future. Stories like these are written with the intent of being disjointed. Writing a decent disjointed tale takes a tremendous amount of patience, planning, and revision.
Some people will automatically disregard such novels because they aren't verse-chorus-verse. But should all books be?
Euphoria Comes Before Epiphany
The standard way of writing a novel is to pick a starting point and build to the end.I think we've all encountered Freytag's arc. Most novels anymore have this unrealistic progression of events. Right now you might be thinking my stories aren't the most realistic, especially stories like Excluded or Lovely Weather in Long Brooke. However, my focus isn't whether or not hands can reach out of walls or whether a man's identity can be literally stolen. Instead, my argument surrounds the way a story develops.
We tend to have a certain mindset that after something happens, we immediately learn from it. I don't know about you, but I'm normally left in disarray after something momentous strikes. For example, the minute you lose a loved one, you might not immediately think, "Oh, I should've listened to them more." On the other hand, you're more likely to lose yourself to thought.
This is the sort of messy story I like. After significant events, characters should spend some time in a euphoric or miserable state. They need time to sort things out and make great or terrible decisions as they begin to learn and change.
Writing a disjointed tale, one that is messy and all over the place, can sometimes be serendipitous to the read. Unfortunately, they require a second or two of patience, but they tend to be worthwhile in the end. While we all - myself included - are influenced by the norm of it-has-to-make-sense-by-page-two, we should consider reading a novel in which things aren't linear and don't always make sense right away. At the beginning, you might think, "Now why would Character A do that?" It's likely you'll know the answer in the next few pages, as long as you're willing to travel to past, the future, throughout the present, and somewhere else in time.
He's a rough snippet or my disjointed narrative in-the-works:
from His Daughter
Someone in the mob yells “bastard” at my second-story bedroom window. They all sway in my front yard, trying to keep warm and all yelling the same word. They’re like geese calling . And considering I’m a girl, their insults don’t even make sense.
On the tenth anniversary of the bridge incident, I remain indoors, hiding. I don't understand these people, or how they can ridicule me for a past I did not control. Just because my father murdered those eight people, doesn't mean I possess the same blood-lust. I’m not like my father. Not at all. Consider this my confession.
It's the third day of October, and in Lakeside that means something—means something more than any Halloween. This day means something more than any goddamn Styrofoam cup of hot apple cider or ghost costumes made from bed sheets. Halloween’s essentially a holiday when kids pretend they are things that matter. The third of October is the day when the adults of Lakeside do the same. At times, however, the mob in my front yard means nothing more than the crinkled, dead leaves on my front lawn.
The protests mean more nine years ago, when I’m ten—the first time anyone gathers in my front yard. I still live with my mother. My mother still lives.
"I don't know what they want from us, Cameron," mother says. She gazes out the front windows of the living room, her eyes barely peeking between the blinds. She shakes her head every so often and mutters something I cannot quite understand. I don't know that she really says anything; perhaps, her words are as broken as her thoughts.
The second anniversary of the bridge incident isn’t much better. I lie on my bed the entire day, alone in the townhouse; my uncle out somewhere. It's a narrow place. Hardly accommodates three, which by some standards, is significant. To me it means a little less than half as many people as my father killed. I need people around—as many as possible. Otherwise the world hates me; radiates animosity, hot and stinging. On the second anniversary I pray to God—something I haven't done in years. I ask for my mother back. I ask to go back in time so I can take the gun out of her hands.
I prepare for the day, sliding neon green gages through my earlobes. I brush my teeth and straighten my black hair. Setting the straightener down on my sink, I glance at the pack of cigarettes on my medicine cabinet. I pull them down and flip open the lid only to find that the box is empty. “Fuck,” I mutter to the mirror.
Moving on, I slide on black and blue Chuck Taylors and creep downstairs to my living room windows. Through parted blinds, I see the mob taking a break. They all sit on the ground, munching on thick sandwiches stacked with deli meats and generic American cheese and foam cups of steaming something. It’s all routine procedure for us, like we’re counterparts, except I’m not the one allowed to take a break.
Changing my direction, I sneak underneath the windows and scurry out of my backyard. In case I haven't painted the right picture yet, this is what it's like every October 3rd. Normally I would stay indoors, but a mob on your front yard will make anyone want a cigarette. Even if you don't like cigarettes, you can understand what this feels like to me. Imagine having to sneak around your own house or town for a large cup of coffee. I have been denied such simple guilty pleasures. Sometimes I wonder why I don’t just stay indoors. Then again, I won’t succumb to their torturing.
Determined to have my safe blanket of cigarettes, I head down the street, where something heinous is bound to happen.
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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?
Fear, focus, and the future. C.M. Humphries talks about writing, horror, and whatever.