The hard writing creates the most improvement.

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I’ve thought about this blog idea and finally stepped up.

I consider myself and horror and thriller writer, which is stated on my Twitter profile.

With thrillers, they come easily. They write themselves from the start of the outline to the finished story.

With horror, it’s different. I have to think a bit more. It challenges me more. I can’t write an outline for my horror stories, no matter their length. I’m not sure why this is, but I’ve learned to accept this is my process for each genre.

Identifying this little bit took me to the point of quitting altogether. It wasn’t until recently I identified that each story needs something else. And that’s okay.

I started a horror novel this week, and just as with others, I attempted to write an outline, but nope. These stories are all discovery written.

I believe it’s the intricacies of the thriller genre that require this. The layers of military/political/espionage thriller and the research those categories require force me(who has never served in the military, worked in politics, or participated in any espionage activities) into discovering how certain firearms work. How certain groups would operate and what they’re like is the most difficult. I don’t know anyone who works in these environments, so I read about tactics and weapons. The library I have on certain groups has probably put me on some government list. I’m fine with that. I get pulled out by the TSA every time anyway. I always have.

I enjoy the lack of need regarding all of the research with horror. Of course, there is some research, but nothing like when I’m writing thrillers. There is also the fear factor involved. I worry more if I’m getting details wrong with thrillers. One can only read so many books and still not understand what it’s like to be in a firefight, and I would never ask a vet.

I love writing horror for the simple reason of its freedom. I love writing thrillers because that’s what I grew up reading more than any other genre. Both are my wheelhouse and I learn different things from writing both. I find writing horror more difficult because it’s straight world-building throughout the process.

Thrillers will always have more work on the front end with outlines, and research, while horror will have more on the backend, either with more drafts or with research during or after the first draft is complete.

I’m adjusting to the fact that I write differently depending on the genre. I’ve taken some damage to my ego, which I’m sure needed to happen. I’ll be working this way from now on.

Horror will be my favorite of the two because it’s my safe space, as I mentioned earlier this week. But that’s all I have for today. Have a good weekend.

Horror has always been my safe space.

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When I think of horror it’s about the times I spent alone as a kid. My father wouldn’t come home for a couple of days. I’d spend that time watching horror movies on HBO or Cinemax or I’d read. But the books weren’t horror, they were military/political thrillers. Later they were dubbed techno-thrillers, but I digress.

Horror was my safe space. I felt safer watching those movies than at any other time. It was in those long nights of being home that I watched Basketcase, Creepshow, Tales From the Crypt, and a myriad of other movies. I watched movies a 13-year-old maybe shouldn’t watch, but it was the ’80’s and us latchkey kids didn’t have many rules. The rules we had were about school, but everything else was open and free to explore. I took advantage of that.

I’m sure the reason I fight with myself over writing horror or thrillers is because of those days and nights alone. When my father was home I read thrillers. When he wasn’t, I watched horror. Horror made me feel safe. It scared me of course, but I knew it was safe. T

he thrillers were about the world ending in a war or some random shooter. But horror wasn’t like that.

When I write horror I consider it a dive into my deepest, darkest memories and how those memories scarred me.

It’s within the construct of a horror story that I feel safe. I’m allowed to explore those bad memories. Those bad events. I’m able to parse those things into a story and allow my mind to explore them in a safe space. It’s this same safe space that I felt growing up watching those movies.

It’s the darkness staring through our eyes. Our memories of tragedy, of abuse, and of learning to deal with it in our own way. My way of dealing with abuse was to shut down. It still is.

When I consider where I came from and what I’ve learned about myself and the fear of things in the night, regardless of what they are, I think of long nights alone in the dark. The flicker of a horror movie on the screen is my solace and when I’m depressed or upset it’s these movies that bring me joy.

A new story comes from these dark places and they bring me joy in the same way those movies do. A new story comes when I’m ready to deal with the past in any shape. It breaks through the barrier I keep around myself. Those stories endear themselves to me. They show me the dark isn’t that bad and that I can work through anything.

My own development as a writer is to put this process through it’s paces. I must feel the story. I must understand that it’s going to get rough for these characters and that through them I can work through whatever trauma I have. I did that with the story, ‘Carnival of Darkness’ in my collection. I dealt with a situation from my childhood I’m still working through.

I must hear the story and the characters in my head and it’s only with horror that this happens.

While writing thrillers it’s the story, but with horror it’s the characters and their feelings.

I come to a story with an idea, but getting to know my characters and their feelings about life, love, and what trauma they’ve dealt with is where I play my cards.

I will let you get back to your regularly scheduled program.

I will be at the same Bat Channel tomorrow.

Change is coming…

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I’ve been in a very depressed state for the last three months. It started with my writing not going anywhere. It moved on from that onto my oldest having issues at school. They graduate this year and ran into some issues in February. From there my mind was thrown off and I haven’t written anything I’ve really enjoyed since.

I have a novel out with my editor and will continue to use this editor. She’s been awesome and understands the characters. Her going over my draft has been one of the brightest points of the last three months. The rest of it has been shit.

I have six projects in one form or another moving along, but getting fresh words on them are the hardest things I’ve done in a long time.

Long time readers of this blog know that I equate depression to living in pit. The walls are slick with mud and slime. It is hardest thing to climb out of because of those walls. I’ve had many thoughts of self-harm over these three months. I’m working through all of it but damn getting out of the pit is hard.

I’ve also quit drinking. This time for good. I can’t drink. It’s something that I’ve fought with over the last three years. It finally came to head around my birthday in March. I can’t in good conscience drink alcohol and fell good about who I am as person.

I no longer want to be in this situation. I’m working to improve my mental as well as physical well being. I will be using this blog to refocus my energy and to use it how I’d initially intended it. To write about my problems. I know it’s sometimes depressing to read about how someone is struggling, but I know there are people out there who are comforted and feel less alone by reading my words. I’ve had numerous people tell me so.

But I am on to the next page. I will be here more often and my content will change a little bit, but I’ll always talk about writing. It’s the one thing that keeps me going.

What’s holding things back?

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This will not be my usual content!

I’ve been on TikTok a lot lately and there are some fabulous conversations about trauma by good creators. These conversations led me to confronting a lot of bad shit from my childhood, from my late teens, and from my early twenties.

Some of these are issues I’m not ready to deal with, while others are of a different variety.

When I graduated high school all I wanted was to be a Marine. I went to boot camp and was shipped home a week later. I prepared for boot camp for months. But when I was sent home a lot of desire for anything came out of me. I got really depressed and a few times I thought of suicide.

I have never wanted anything in my life the way I wanted that and I think it’s held me back. I see this in my writing, my family life, and myself personally. I haven’t dealt with ghost of the months following my discharge. I didn’t care about anything then. It’s been almost 30 years since then and the “What if” creeps into my mind.

Today I’ve chosen to deal with this and what it did to me.

I was 18 and was as much of child as I could have been. I don’t believe I was truly an adult until I turned 28, just before my eldest child was born.

I was coddled when I got home by my father, siblings, and other family members. I’m sure they were trying to be nice about it, but I think that hurt more than anything else.

Was this 30 years ago? yes. Does it still have space in my head? Yes. But I haven’t dealt with this and I know it’s stilted my writing. I’ve never wanted anything the way I wanted the title, United States Marine, and it screwed me up.

I’m telling you this because I needed to write it down. I had to get it out. Maybe because I hope it will help me throw it away and move forward. I need to go after my writing goals like I did with that, and it’s been almost 30 years.

Today I’m moving forward and taking steps to put this period behind me. I have to. It’s done enough damage to my mental state. I feel like I’ve floated through in life since coming home. I’m sorry to that 18 year old kid that we didn’t do more for him. I hate that we’ve let him down, or at least it feels like it. By we I mean the me who’s lived since he came home. I feel we’ve let that damaged kid down by not doing something more with our lives.

I have a wife and kids and live a good life, but I think he would be disappointed in the lack of things we haven’t done for ourselves. I’m going to remedy that.

Have a good week and do things your 18 year old self would be proud of you for doing!

What truly scares you?

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While I’ve been actively working on this rewrite I’ve thought about fear, judgement, and what really scares people.

When I was a kid I had a recurring dream about my Aunt’s basement. There was a coffin at the bottom and all of this smoke. When I reached the coffin a ghoul would pop up and I’d wake up screaming.

Being stuck in a place, with nowhere to go or worse, being stuck and unable to move are the worst things I can think of. I’ve had night terrors for years and used one of them to write a story in my collection. Most of what happens in one of the stories is completely true.

I find that writing horror allows me to tap into those fears. I use it well enough that my wife has asked if I’m okay while she’s reading drafts.

We’ve talked about what scares her and I’ve used that in stories, because she is the first person to read my stories. I also think about what would have scared me in my teens or twenties and incorporate that.

I’ve read a lot of books over the years and while some of them are very odd, I’m looking at you House of Leaves, the also make me think about different aspects of fear. House of Leaves does that with the Navidson House and Johnny Truant. Spoilers ahead for House of Leaves.

With The Navidson House is the fear of something outside our reality or outside what we understand. With Johnny it’s about a descent into madness.

Both of these sections of the book messed with my head. And thinking about the book in that context, I really enjoyed it.

We find ourselves writing things that scare us, our family members or who we were at one point in our lives. It takes a lot to scare me anymore. I’m very desensitized when it comes to horror, but there are limits for me. I don’t like when kids are hurt. The Girl Next Door did a number on me. It was a difficult book to read. The writing is so good you feel complicit. But I’m running away from the topic.

I’ll talk more about fear on Wednesday.