Fear, focus, and the future. Here, C.M. Humphries writes about whatever.
But it sure is a lot to me!
We're only 6 away from breaking 100 likes on the C.M. Humphries facebook Author Page!
You're already getting the free story in 2014, but I've challenged my self as a sort of early New Year's Resolution.
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.
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!
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.
(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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There isn't a single character in No-Injury Policy who doesn't have a problem. In the case of Mike from " Façade": After his brother Ray moves in, Mike finds difficulty in relating to people, which ultimately leads him down a road where only roulette-styled monogamy connects him to another human being, or more specifically, generative rendezvous. It's not just the sexual encounters that keep him going, he also has several other vices. Mike can't be considered to be a hedonist without first realizing the commonplace of such social engagements.
So Many Books Are the Same
I crossed this blog the other day and thought about the first comment made. Essentially, the blog covers the idea of playing around with P.O.V. in writing. The comment made suggests writers, though they would love to 'play around', can't because they have to make money. This seems all too true.
In my latest creation, His Daughter, I toyed with P.O.V. and the structure of the plot. When I started the novel at of the end of my undergraduate career at Ball State University, I thought I was a creative genius. Never before had such a complicated structure brought such clarity.
And of course, I realized my first draft was far too confusing. I broke it down a little bit, but still held the mystery. Now in it's third draft, I feel it's definitely unique in style and reflects a certain competency, I realize there's a problem.
Almost every novel is in third- or first-person, with a main character narrating along the way. What happened to dual-protagonist narration? Where is the omniscient narrator? Why are so many stories linear. It's verse-chorus-verse in bookstores.
Certainly my new novel could be crap, but trust me, my point's not to justify it. As a matter of fact, it was just a catalyst to move on to my next point. So just forget about it now.
Instead, think about verse-chorus-verse. Usually this cliche refers to a Seattle-style repetition in music. But there're reasons so many songs follow this model:
1.) It makes money.
2.) It sounds familiar and works well with its structure.
So I'm not dissing on verse-chorus-verse.
But it's kind of watered down literature. And I know I sit here sounding unjustifiably pretentious when I say publishers no longer vary their materials. Sure, books can have a unique story or a strong selling point, but they want to stay close to what most people will buy.
And writers are left writing the same old thing, over and over. Sure, we could all try to force new ideas out into the marketplace. Yeah! Being broke, hungry, and humiliated sounds great.
I'm left perplexed. Is there a way to make both work - creativity and not-being-poor?
I'd say force new ideas out there. Take the hit. Maybe find a story with a more familiar story to put out there in the mean time. I'd love to hear some thoughts about this.
Establishing Your Voice Through Worldviews
You know a Palahniuk story when you read one.
In Chuck Palahniuk's Invisible Monsters and Diary there are moments in which the 4th Wall is broken. The protagonist/narrator of the story speaks directly to the reader and shares his or her worldview.
"All God does is watch us and kill us when we get boring. We must never, ever be boring."
— Chuck Palahniuk (Invisible Monsters)
While there is heavy criticism surrounding these moments - for instance, some cannot differentiate Big Voice from Little Darlings - spending a moment or two on the worldviews of a character can add much to the characterization in a story as well as establish the voice of the author.
Voice, in the opinion of many, is how an author communicates. For example, Ernest Hemingway used the Old-Man-In-The-Woods style of storytelling. That is, when one reads Hemingway, he or she knows the story is going to be told with a sort of aged wisdom. With Stephen King, the reader receives nearly every piece of the puzzle. Dean Koontz lets his characters trump the plot. And Richard Matheson uses a strong omniscient narrator.
Palahniuk's concept of Big Voice allows the reader to see the world from the main character's point-of-view, and he carries this style throughout many of his texts, which in turn creates the Palahniuk feel to narratives.
Of course, a reader is no fool. When these concepts are forced, everyone knows. Perhaps this is when Big Voice becomes Little Darlings.
To read more on Big Voice vs. Little Voice, check out this essay.
Remember, Big Voice happens when the story and morals are plaguing the writer's mind. Do be synthetic in your writing. . .
Finding Your Voice II: The Blog
While I stood behind the Midwest Writers Conference (#mww11) Bookstore Table, I thumbed through many of the manuscripts from the visiting authors.
If you ever find me at a bookstore, know that I am a harsh critic when it comes to me paying $7-$35 for a book. eBooks - I'm a little more linient. What I do is, I read the first line to the first paragraph. Let me take a moment to be emphatic about making first lines count. As a matter of fact, my ego soared into the clouds when someone at the conference told me I wrote stellar first lines.
Because within in the first line of a book, you get a sense of setting, conflict, and VOICE.
After a came across a few books I thought to have a great opening, I flipped to the back of the book to see where the were from, etc. As it turns out, most of them have blogs.
In 2011, this sort of thing isn't a revelation. I met a nine-year-old who had a blog once. What was amazing about the nine-year-old, was that his voice came through. Sure the syntax was dreadful and his organizational skills left much to be desired, but his voice came through - his attitude.
Maybe this is easier for munchkins, but this guy called the BLOGbloke doesn't think so.
I don't want to steal his thunder, so perhaps you should pay him a visit. The essential claim in his blog on blogging, is that each blogger needs to establish their voice. Pick a persona you want and are comfortable with, or just be yourself.
For writer types: Your voice - Writing - Blog - Platform. Make your blog sound like your writing. Make your writing sound like you. Or perhaps, you could tie them all together in another fashion. Pay this guy a visit.
They way you portray yourself to your readers, whether blog or book, is important.
Now, I would disagree with his notion of a niche. While it is important to figure out where you fit it, an artist maintaining a blog should probably always reach out to the larger audiences, and by god, never use the word "niche."
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More than Words on a Page
At first I was hesitant watching this video. There it was: another video about some teacher telling some reporter some arbitrary facts about establishing a voice as an author. However, as it turns out, Charmion Mohning has a good idea about where an author can find his or her voice at an early age. It doesn't place the blame on anyone, really. A lack of voice in writing is, well, a lack of voice in writing. She suggests that, perhaps, most young writers aren't exposed to the notion of finding their own voice due to strict curriculum. Let's think about what we were reading in high school: Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Dante, Twain, Hawthorne, and so on. While the aforementioned authors are all monumental to the literary world, it is important to note, that in 2011, the way they wrote then is nowhere close to how we communicate now.
I rather enjoyed her idea of simply putting yourself into writing with her example of the witty student who wasn't so witty in his works. Sure, we are all trained to write in the form of a research paper or traditional writer, but how far does that really bring us?
Then again, as I am slugging through The Passage by Justin Cronin, I am realizing that his new book holds an old tune - yet he keeps a certain something that let's you know, as a reader, Cronin wrote this particular piece of fiction.
But what is this something? I can tell you now, as a young writer, I find it rather difficult to define. Examples work the best, but what is the simplest way to describe an author's voice? Hemingway and Stephen King both have a man-in-the-woods feel to their books, but what the heck does that mean?
Merriam-Webster provides several definitions of the word "voice," one of which is useful: "Right of Expression."
Although we draw closer to the answer, it is still difficult to explain in one sentence what it means to have a voice as a writer. And this goes beyond writing. All artists have a voice. Most people have a voice. Finding your voice, however, is no easy task. And damn those who have an innate ability to project their voice effectively through their media (let's face it, writers must have more than one medium these days) on the first try.
To help with the answer, I recently asked Kelsey Timmerman, glocal, touron,and author of Where am I Wearing, for his view on establishing your voice in the form of the written word. My question to him? What is an author's voice?
"When my editor sent my manuscript to the copyeditor, he sent instructions to “keep the voice.” There were several very specific instructions, but the one I remember the most was to keep the spelling of “fella.” Is that voice?
I’ve always adhered to the advice: “Write like you speak. If a word wouldn’t come of your mouth, don’t put it down on paper.” That being my goal, I take it as a compliment when someone hears me speak in person and tells me that I “sounded” just like I do on the page. That said, people also tell me I sound either like Joe Dirt of Matthew McConaughey. I don’t imagine either one of those fellas is a very good writer.
My favorite Esquire writer is Tom Chiarella. For a long time I never knew he was my favorite because I wasn’t reading the bylines. But eventually I discovered that all of my favorite pieces were written by him. I liked his voice.
When I think about voice vs. style vs. tone my head hurts. So that’s all I have to say. I try to think about writing as little as possible, especially when I’m doing it."
Another tactic for finding a voice comes from King. His suggestion in the following video is that anyone who wants to write, has to read. You have to be disciplined at both. Through reading, you were learn how to write. And when you start to write, you will start to develop your voice.
If you or anyone you know is interested in pursuing a career in writing, and is working on his or her voice as a writer, I highly suggest you or them (or both!) attend the Midwest Writer's Workshop July 28th-30th at Ball State University. It's all about voice.
*And I would really like to keep this thing going. If you're interested in being part of the next blog, feel free to contact me here.*
Fear, focus, and the future. C.M. Humphries talks about writing, horror, and whatever.