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.

You have to put a book away sometimes.

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Last year I struggled to read books. I started strong but got stuck along the way. I’m certain I know which book did it: Lonesome Dove.

Don’t get me wrong I loved the book, but I felt like I read it for months. I’m feeling the same way with The Brothers Karamazov. Which I’ll be setting aside for a while. I finished Lonesome Dove last month, followed quickly by Streets of Laredo which was a good book, but it’s not the same as Lonesome Dove.

I need to read something fun. Dostoevsky is not fun. I’m enjoying reading about the characters but feel like so much is dragging on about various story threads. It feels closer to a bunch of stories put together to form a book rather than a novel with cohesion. I don’t care for the story, but the prose is incredible. There’s a difference.

If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I picked up a couple of books recently and I’m a subscriber to the Nightworms monthly book box. I received last month’s books and haven’t touched them because I’ve been reading Karamazov.

I recently finished watching the Reacher show on Prime and while I’ve read the first book, I haven’t read any of the others. I think I’ll read some of them for a while, then read the Nightworms books.

It’s okay to put a book down if you’re feeling overwhelmed, bored, not digging the story, or that you’d rather brush your teeth than go through another paragraph. Read what you want to read and read for enjoyment, not for a number.

Anyway, I enjoyed the Reacher show. I’m glad they’re going to do another season. I’m going to read something fun for a while. Dostoevsky feels like schoolwork.

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.

Taking your time and getting through the drafts.

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Through trial and error, I’m discovering that I need to take more time with a story before I commit to writing. This comes as I’m working on the 3rd rewrite and 6th draft of this story.

I don’t take enough time to figure everything out. I jump in feet first and don’t think about it. It takes me more drafts to do that and as I worked on the story this morning I’m understanding the story better. It could be the draft number, but I’m realizing more about the story I didn’t see before.

I won’t get into the specifics because I’m submitting the story again this year, but it’s about more than I thought it was. Parts of it are personal, others are just the story, but I hope it finds a home.

But I digress.

When I take my time I understand the story, and while it takes a few years, it’s a better story for it. The current story started a couple of years ago as a short story. It’s changed what it is, but the meat is still in it and the heart continues to beat.

Getting through each draft is the maddening part of it. My wife thinks I should outline and narrow the scope to reduce the number of drafts. Some stories don’t let me do that. I know the story’s bones when I sit down. That’s not all the time, but usually, I construct the rest of the story around those bones. When I don’t know it I may sketch the thought down, just to have a record of it. I’ll work with that thought over a few weeks. If I have enough I’ll get to work. If not it sits.

The problem is jumping into a story without having those bones, ligaments, tendons. The heart may be there, but it’s a lifeless, grey thing without the other parts.

I’m trying to slow down with these drafts and construct something better.

I have to get other things done today. I hope you’re all well and I’ll see you on Friday.