When The Devil Rips Your Heart Out

I haven’t done a book review for a while, but what I read yesterday warranted this review.

I’ve read two of Gabino Iglesias’s books, Coyote Songs and The Devil Takes You Home.

Gabino is one of those writers who can rip your heart out with a turn of phrase. He can melt your heart on the next page.

The Devil Takes You Home is both of these. While reading it, I stared at the prose, analyzing how he constructed everything.

I’ve taken a few classes from Gabino. He’s one of those writers who will offer help if you need it. He pushes you to get better at the craft of writing. In the last class I took from him, he said he was looking forward to what I was working on. He had no idea what I was working on, but he’s always nudging you to keep going.

There were so many instances in the book I could see the determination he talks about on Twitter in the main character whose life has been turned upside down. It’s been a while since I could relate so well to a character.

There’s this constant thing in this book about being brown, white, or black in America. I am a white guy. I grew up in Utah and Wyoming. There were times we didn’t have enough food. My parents couldn’t afford preschool, so I went to HeadStart, but at the core of me is my whiteness. I won’t ever see the struggle of a brown man in America. I won’t get the racial jabs or the straight-out racist bullshit on the book’s pages. This is because of my skin tone.

Gabino dives into that at various points in the book because that is his worldview. That’s the world he’s lived in since he was born. One quote from the book will always stand out to me, “A silent ally isn’t a thing.” That floored me. My position as a CisHet, White Male, is the golden ticket. I become more aware of this every day.

I can’t say that I’ve never seen racism. I have. I’ve heard people say the N-word in front of me. Growing up in one of the whitest states in America, you hear these words from family or friends growing up. Those words aren’t treated how they should be because it’s a joke to them. Making friends with many people of various ethnicities, gender identities, and sexual preferences makes you realize how others are treated. This is something I’m more aware of than I used to be.

I read to learn. This is as much a topic in fiction as nonfiction. We’re not moving forward if we’re not learning about other cultures. If we’re ignoring writers like Gabino because of where he’s from, Puerto Rico, we’re doing a severe disservice to ourselves.

Gained A Level, or a few.

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I sat down the other day and wrote out all the projects I’ve written in the seven years since my family moved from Las Vegas to Ogden, Utah.

I have 10 projects either done, outlines, or ready to be written.

Four thrillers in the military/political/espionage realm and six in the horror genre.

I’ve been hard as hell on myself for the last few months. Writing these down feels like I’ve gained a level in my writing.

I’m a big gamer, and I have been since the ’80s. Looking at all this feels like I gained a level in one of my games. The fear of rejection and the fraud police will always be on my mind, but I have a date for my military/political thriller novel, November 1st. Here is the link.

But I want to thank everyone who commented on my posts over the last few months. I’m working through some things personally, and all of your support has been amazing.

I have a whiteboard above my desk, and I have all of the books I’ll be publishing until 2024 listed. There are seven with dates. I have one of the 10 I listed above out on submission. As soon as I get a reply on that, I’ll add it to the queue.

I write horror and military/political/espionage thrillers. I grew up watching horror and reading thrillers. Tom Clancy will always be my favorite in the genre, but Mark Greaney, Jack Carr, David Baldacci, Brad Thor, and Brad Taylor are my favorites right now.

Here‘s my list of what I’m currently reading.

I hope you have a good rest of your week.

Back to work

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There are many clouds over my head as I write this. I feel their showers, their thunder, and I’m waiting for their lightning strikes.

I’m writing from my desk as I construct a new project from my wife’s dream. I can’t give the details, but it intrigues me, and while she’s given me permission to construct something from it, I will stray into something darker than I’ve done before.

The factors of the dream are not what will make it terrifying. It’s the elements I intend to add.

This is where I dig into what I’ve been doing since my last post.

Over the last few weeks, I finished the exercises in Writing In The Dark Workbook. This book has changed how I create without completely diving into the exercises.

I have thought about sharing my response to the exercises, but I’ve created too many beginnings for stories, and I want to keep them to myself.

I will say this about the two books, yes, there are two. The first is Writing In The Dark, based on Tim’s articles. The second is Writing In The Dark: The Workbook, and you will do some work.

This book makes you look at your writing in a new way. It did with me, at least. I feel I’ve found a way to create an outline with a horror novel.

I’ve never found a way that actually works for me. I’ve always written horror as a pantser. It’s when I write thrillers that I’m able to create an outline. After finishing the workbook I feel more confident in my writing, which I’ve struggled with for a long time.

Moving forward, I will revisit this workbook with every project.

I have to get to the editing on my thriller novel this week. I will be submitting that to agents in the next couple of months. I still have a novella out on submission. It has been over a year, but I’m holding out for it. I love the story. It would be great for it to be picked up.

I will see you next time.

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.

Found myself in Limbo today.

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The last few months have tried my mentally and physically. I’ve barely written a word in the last couple of months and those I’ve written I don’t care for.

I’ll never stop writing, but right it feels hard. I don’t know it’s this way, but it is and it’s causing my depression issues to creep back in. I want to be left alone to read, watch movies, and do absolutely nothing, but that’s not a possibility.

The aspects of not writing or being blocked, which I’m not sure if I’m blocked or if there’s something else going on.

I had a good discussion with my editor about my military/political thriller on Tuesday and it gave me a lot of confidence to continue to write in that genre, but it hasn’t turned into new words on the page.

I’ve dealt with a lot in the last couple of months with my mental state, what I want to do and whether I’ll continue to write, it’s a yes on the latter, and confusion on the former.

It’s difficult to deal with childhood issues when you’re working on them. It’s also difficult to understand that trauma you dealt with as a kid when it raises its head at the most inopportune of times.

I’m trying to work past all of this, but it’s quite difficult to understand why I’m stuck. I’ll go back and erase some of the items in the draft, or move them around. They’re hard to deal with and they set the story on a path I’m not comfortable with at the moment. I have to get back to writing and not worrying about whether the story is going in a direction that is manageable. Sometimes it manages itself, and I need to get back to my writing moving smoothly. It’s not happening right now.

I’m feeling a bit lost with my writing and it not flowing is making it worse. I’d wanted to have a finished draft of the espionage thriller done by the end of May, but I’m not sure that’s going to happen. I have plans for other books within the same world.

My brain has been active with regards to writing this stuff but my fingers have not. I’m writing, just in my head not on the page.