Above is the official cover for Stephen King’s upcoming novel 11/22/63. It’s about an English teacher who discovers a portal to 1958 and uses it to prevent the JFK’s assassination. More of a science fiction thriller than a horror story, it nonetheless sounds fascinating.
Archive for Writing
Welcome to Day 5 of the “Ghost Radio: Countdown to Paper” event! Our celebration of the mass market paperback release of Leopoldo Gout’s hit horror novel Ghost Radio. Today Leopoldo looks at the mysterious Toltec civilization. And make sure to read to the bottom of the post for a chance to win some exciting PRIZES!
One of the greatest assets to any writer is a mystery. Whether that mystery be large, like the meaning of life; or small, like a missing set of keys, their ability to drive stories is virtually identical. They don’t merely aid in creating narrative, they serve as the most functional armature for building narrative upon. The mystery has done for writing what the post and lintel did for architecture. But if writers see mysteries as an asset, readers see them as almost a necessity.
You’ll rarely find a successful novel, from the most high-minded to the most mercenary, that doesn’t have a mystery at its core: Some question that author hopes to examine if not fully answer.
Ghost Radio is a novel full of mysteries from murders to missing radio shows to the mystery of the afterlife itself. But one of my favorite mysteries that Ghost Radio tackles is the mystery of the Toltecs.
Unlike other ancient civilizations, the Toltecs have become more mysterious by the decade. Once believed to be an actual ancient people of central Mexico, now more and more historians have come to accept that they may simply have been a mythic creation of the Aztecs. And, because of this unclear history, they have become utilized by all types of people for all types of purposes. The Toltecs seems to serve a function similar to that of the druids of ancient Britain: A mystical group upon whom we can project our own ideas and feelings. A new age catchall, if you will.
But I didn’t want to use the Toltecs that way in Ghost Radio. I thought they deserved better. So I sought to use them in a way that was both more mysterious and more surprising. You’ll have to read the book to find out more. But, if you’re like most readers, I think you’ll find it a mystery worth exploring. And I hope you enjoy what I did with it.
Each day of this event we offer the chance to win prizes. Every winner will receive autographed copies of both the hardback and paperback editions of Ghost Radio. But they will also receive a special bonus surprise tied to the day’s theme. This could be additional books, DVDs, CDs, audio books, or maybe something even more exciting. So what are you waiting for? Enter today’s contest now.
Here’s all you need to do to enter today’s contest:
Just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and put “COUNTDOWN TO PAPER – DAY 5″ in the subject line, and “Ghost Radio” in the body of the email. Or just use the contact form below:
This contest closes on March 13, 2010. Winners will be chosen at random, and notified the following week.
And don’t forget to check back to tomorrow for another day of this exciting event, and another chance to win PRIZES!
If you’ve missed any of the COUNTDOWN TO PAPER event you can catch up here.
Cory Doctorow has an excellent column on Locus Online about sex and other mature subjects in Young Adult Fiction. Here’s the heart of the piece:
There’s really only one question: “Why have your characters done something that is likely to upset their parents, and why don’t you punish them for doing this?”
Now, the answer.
First, because teenagers have sex and drink beer, and most of the time the worst thing that results from this is a few days of social awkwardness and a hangover, respectively. When I was a teenager, I drank sometimes. I had sex sometimes. I disobeyed authority figures sometimes.
Mostly, it was OK. Sometimes it was bad. Sometimes it was wonderful. Once or twice, it was terrible. And it was thus for everyone I knew. Teenagers take risks, even stupid risks, at times. But the chance on any given night that sneaking a beer will destroy your life is damned slim. Art isn’t exactly like life, and science fiction asks the reader to accept the impossible, but unless your book is about a universe in which disapproving parents have cooked the physics so that every act of disobedience leads swiftly to destruction, it won’t be very credible. The pathos that parents would like to see here become bathos: mawkish and trivial, heavy-handed, and preachy.
Read the rest of the column here.
Novelist Cory Doctorow has some excellent advice for aspiring writers on …
“Writing in the Age of Distraction”
From Locus Magazine Online:
We know that our readers are distracted and sometimes even overwhelmed by the myriad distractions that lie one click away on the Internet, but of course writers face the same glorious problem: the delirious world of information and communication and community that lurks behind your screen, one alt-tab away from your word-processor.
The single worst piece of writing advice I ever got was to stay away from the Internet because it would only waste my time and wouldn’t help my writing. This advice was wrong creatively, professionally, artistically, and personally, but I know where the writer who doled it out was coming from. Every now and again, when I see a new website, game, or service, I sense the tug of an attention black hole: a time-sink that is just waiting to fill my every discretionary moment with distraction. As a co-parenting new father who writes at least a book per year, half-a-dozen columns a month, ten or more blog posts a day, plus assorted novellas and stories and speeches, I know just how short time can be and how dangerous distraction is.
But the Internet has been very good to me. It’s informed my creativity and aesthetics, it’s benefited me professionally and personally, and for every moment it steals, it gives back a hundred delights. I’d no sooner give it up than I’d give up fiction or any other pleasurable vice.
I think I’ve managed to balance things out through a few simple techniques that I’ve been refining for years. I still sometimes feel frazzled and info-whelmed, but that’s rare. Most of the time, I’m on top of my workload and my muse. Here’s how I do it:
- Short, regular work schedule. When I’m working on a story or novel, I set a modest daily goal — usually a page or two — and then I meet it every day, doing nothing else while I’m working on it. It’s not plausible or desirable to try to get the world to go away for hours at a time, but it’s entirely possible to make it all shut up for 20 minutes. Writing a page every day gets me more than a novel per year — do the math — and there’s always 20 minutes to be found in a day, no matter what else is going on. Twenty minutes is a short enough interval that it can be claimed from a sleep or meal-break (though this shouldn’t become a habit). The secret is to do it every day, weekends included, to keep the momentum going, and to allow your thoughts to wander to your next day’s page between sessions. Try to find one or two vivid sensory details to work into the next page, or a bon mot, so that you’ve already got some material when you sit down at the keyboard.
- Leave yourself a rough edge. When you hit your daily word-goal, stop. Stop even if you’re in the middle of a sentence. Especially if you’re in the middle of a sentence. That way, when you sit down at the keyboard the next day, your first five or ten words are already ordained, so that you get a little push before you begin your work. Knitters leave a bit of yarn sticking out of the day’s knitting so they know where to pick up the next day — they call it the “hint.” Potters leave a rough edge on the wet clay before they wrap it in plastic for the night — it’s hard to build on a smooth edge.
- Don’t research. Researching isn’t writing and vice-versa. When you come to a factual matter that you could google in a matter of seconds, don’t. Don’t give in and look up the length of the Brooklyn Bridge, the population of Rhode Island, or the distance to the Sun. That way lies distraction — an endless click-trance that will turn your 20 minutes of composing into a half-day’s idyll through the web. Instead, do what journalists do: type “TK” where your fact should go, as in “The Brooklyn bridge, all TK feet of it, sailed into the air like a kite.” “TK” appears in very few English words (the one I get tripped up on is “Atkins”) so a quick search through your document for “TK” will tell you whether you have any fact-checking to do afterwards. And your editor and copyeditor will recognize it if you miss it and bring it to your attention.
- Don’t be ceremonious. Forget advice about finding the right atmosphere to coax your muse into the room. Forget candles, music, silence, a good chair, a cigarette, or putting the kids to sleep. It’s nice to have all your physical needs met before you write, but if you convince yourself that you can only write in a perfect world, you compound the problem of finding 20 free minutes with the problem of finding the right environment at the same time. When the time is available, just put fingers to keyboard and write. You can put up with noise/silence/kids/discomfort/hunger for 20 minutes.
- Kill your word-processor. Word, Google Office and OpenOffice all come with a bewildering array of typesetting and automation settings that you can play with forever. Forget it. All that stuff is distraction, and the last thing you want is your tool second-guessing you, “correcting” your spelling, criticizing your sentence structure, and so on. The programmers who wrote your word processor type all day long, every day, and they have the power to buy or acquire any tool they can imagine for entering text into a computer. They don’t write their software with Word. They use a text-editor, like vi, Emacs, TextPad, BBEdit, Gedit, or any of a host of editors. These are some of the most venerable, reliable, powerful tools in the history of software (since they’re at the core of all other software) and they have almost no distracting features — but they do have powerful search-and-replace functions. Best of all, the humble .txt file can be read by practically every application on your computer, can be pasted directly into an email, and can’t transmit a virus.
- Realtime communications tools are deadly. The biggest impediment to concentration is your computer’s ecosystem of interruption technologies: IM, email alerts, RSS alerts, Skype rings, etc. Anything that requires you to wait for a response, even subconsciously, occupies your attention. Anything that leaps up on your screen to announce something new, occupies your attention. The more you can train your friends and family to use email, message boards, and similar technologies that allow you to save up your conversation for planned sessions instead of demanding your attention right now helps you carve out your 20 minutes. By all means, schedule a chat — voice, text, or video — when it’s needed, but leaving your IM running is like sitting down to work after hanging a giant “DISTRACT ME” sign over your desk, one that shines brightly enough to be seen by the entire world.
I don’t claim to have invented these techniques, but they’re the ones that have made the 21st century a good one for me.
Since its publication in 2000, Welsh horror writer Rhys Hughes’ collection of stories The Smell of Telescopes has garnered fans worldwide. Now Eibonvale press is releasing an illustrated version of this modern classic.
Here’s what the publisher has to say about this new edition:
Like all the best books, this quirky and surreal collection is hard to classify, but it lies in that region where the macabre and eerie worlds of classic horror and fantasy become a basis for something else – for a dark and original sense of humour filled with unexpected cross-references, homages, satires and black comedy. What makes this collection remarkable is not just the delightfully murky and skewed tales themselves, but the complex and ingenious way they all lock together and interrelate. I was going to say ‘tessellate’ but if this is a tessellation then it is filled with impossible-sided polygons, non-Euclidean three-dimensional geometry, unexpurgated curves and cracks from which blueberry-scented steam emerges with a screaming hiss.
But what is without doubt is that ‘The Smell of Telescopes’ is a magnificent book and a cornerstone of the rather oddly shaped corner of literature that it occupies. Since the first edition went out of print, the unavailability of this book has been a great crime of literature. And Eibonvale Press is, as always, dedicated to the righting of the world’s more substantial wrongs.
For more information about the book check out the publisher’s website here.
Reading, writing and ghost sightings
November 10, 2008
MARYVILLE, Mo. — Witnessing a translucent human being as a little boy has a way of leaving a permanent imprint.
Jason Offutt wasn’t traumatized by the brown-haired kid wearing a flannel shirt that he saw through in his home in Orrick, Mo., as a pre-teen. It spurred an interest that he’s turned into a book, a popular blog, a newspaper column and now a 300-level journalism class.
The journalism instructor at Northwest Missouri State University is continually finding ways to teach his students how to research, interview and write news stories. As a former newspaper reporter, photographer and editor, Mr. Offutt knows the tedium that comes with covering bureaucratic powwows. So he’s offering an outlet to students that allows them to hone their reporting skills while exploring a quirky and fun subject.
“Every culture on the planet, separated by oceans, all have ghosts in their belief systems,” Mr. Offutt said, explaining that there must be something to the phenomenon of ghost sightings.
Read the rest of the article here.
Want to write a novel done in a month? November may be the month to do it. National Writing Month (or NaNo WriMo, as they call it) gives you tools to help you do it.
Check out the site. It might be just what you’ve been looking for.