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Posts Tagged ‘werewolves’

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This was an actual break in writing.

I should probably not swear in blog titles, right? That’s a “don’t” in blogging, I think. Well…whatever…

About three months ago, just after my little episode, I wrote a 66k-page novel in just under 2 1/2 weeks. Despite being manic, pharmaceutically fucked up, and emotionally-driven to do it, the revision process (or, the editing-in-order-to-do-a-proper-revision process) revealed that it’s actually pretty decent. But I still need to actually do the revision. At this point, facing it seems too difficult, considering the conditions under which it was written. I just need some time away from it, but hopefully not too long. It’s practically finished. I know what the cover will look like. If I sucked it up and worked hard, I could put it out next month.

But I’m not going to do that. It’s just too hard, even if the story itself is probably the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever written.

But I do have a MS that is all ready to go. Here is something I’ve learned about myself: I really have no patience, and by that, I mean, I have no patience with the publishing submission process–certainly in terms of novels. Short stories–I would just sort of send it off and forget about it until the rejection/acceptance email. Not usually something I get bunched up about. Though, short stories aren’t really my thing, I realize. This I’ve learned. I write long. It takes a real effort on my part to keep short stories, well, short, and frankly, that cramps my style. Fucks up the flow. It just isn’t where I’m going when I sit down to write, and the end result, to me, always feels stilted. Sitting down and trying to tell the story I want to tell in the way I need to tell it, while trying to keep it 3k words or fewer–you know, if I ever want to see it published, which is sort of the end goal, really–it’s a pain in the ass. So…novels. Maybe novellas, I haven’t really tried that yet.

That’s not to say I write long novels. I don’t. As far as novels go, they’re fairly short, falling between 60k-70k words. That seems to be my sweet spot. And no, they’re not the 100k+ monstrosities some folks like to churn out, but despite my tendency to go on, I do also know when to edit myself. So, mine lean short. But they’re still work. They’re still often difficult to get out. I outline like a crazy person, so I cut down as much “writer’s block” as possible, but still. It’s work.

So, when an agent sits on it for 6+ months, or a press for even longer, with no word…I mean, what the fuck, folks? I know you’re busy and all. I do. But the MS I have right now, that’s all finished and ready to be read–I finished it more than three years ago. And I understand and am fine with rejection. But…tell me, right?

I’ve considered resubmitting it elsewhere. But I kind of know how these things work. We all do. It enters the slushpile and it sits there. And sits there. And sits there. And that’s sort of wasting my time. And here’s the thing, and this is going to sound egotistical, but since ego has been in such short supply for me these days, I’m just going to let it rip. The book is good. I read through it and even I–who is the very last person to give myself any credit for just about anything–even I have to say, hey, it’s good. It’s a good book. I did a damn good job with it. So, I’m not waiting for some gatekeeper to give their blessings. Especially with the industry as it is nowadays anyway.

There’s the self-publishing stigma, but really, who gives a shit? How can I possibly give a shit? Will published authors look down on me? Sure, but, you know what? I’m an editor. I’ve read some of their submitted, unpublished work, and guess what: A lot of it is crap. Not all, but a lot. There, I said it. And there are Stoker award winners I’ve started and just couldn’t get past the first fifteen pages because, Holy Christ, where was the editor? Who on earth accepted this for publication? (And yeah, it kind of makes me wonder what the fuck goes on there over at the Stokers). So, do I really need to be worried about what published authors will think of my self-published book? I’m leaning heavily toward “no.” All I guess I could say to them is, “read it.” Yeah, I’m actually that confident with this one.  “Read it and then come back and tell me it’s crap.” This one, at least. We’ll see what happens after it, but this one is good. It’s better than good.

And, I’m pushing 42 years old–I don’t really feel like waiting to find just the right publisher who thinks it fits their general marketing strategy, which, let’s face it, is never much to begin with. Again, I know. I edit. I publish. I do have a pretty fair idea how micro-small-to-medium presses function. And the way I see it, the only thing I have to gain with a publisher is “cred.” The rest of the work is up to me. I know what it takes to publish a book. I have enough experience in both traditional publishing and print-on-demand to not fuck this up too badly. So, basically, I can do what a publisher would do for me, work wise. Otherwise, the work is the same. If I published with someone else, I’d still be doing the bulk of the promotion and whatnot, if not all of it. I’m not bagging on presses…this is what it is when you either don’t have the budget, or you don’t know how to use your budget. Shit happens. Things are what they are. But I just don’t have the patience for the time it takes to deal with all that shit when the reward is so minuscule. The fact is that I could likely do just as well self-publishing, or better. Yes, it’s work, but it’s nothing I don’t do already anyway, so, again, it comes down to respectability and pub street cred.

So…fuck it. I’m no longer tying myself to this dying industry just because I’m a-scared of what anyone thinks–writers, editors, publishers, reviewers, etc. The times, they are a-changing, some douchebag once said. Other than myself. So, watch this space.

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Here’s me in a sweet-ass Rush shirt being all like, “Fuck it.”

The novel in question is the Robert Louis Stevenson werewolf piece I blogged about here forever ago. Yes, it’s a historical mystery horror novel. Tough to categorize, but still not unusual. I’ll eventually get around to revising the one I crapped out a few months ago. That is a somewhat bizarro adventure/love story involving meth labs, dildos, and extreme social anxiety. And the WIP, thus far, seems to be indescribable (I need to work on that). But it’s about a group of people set in the factual town of my upbringing, Fairchance, Pa. The main throughline character is a black albino former mortician named Ludlow. There’s death and ghosts. There’s child molestation and burning buildings. There’s religious fanaticism and explosions. I’ve been working on it on and off since about 2008, but I’m coming up on finishing it, finally. Then revision, but that generally goes pretty quickly. I think it’s more literary in terms of the writing and maybe the subject matter, but, again, I’m shit with that sort of thing. I appreciate labels and genres–they’re obviously helpful. But I kind of write what I write and unless I make a real effort to fit a certain genre, it can really be anything. I gave an large chunk of it to a writer whom I respect greatly and he liked it a lot, so, I’m pretty confident about this one, too. But, in time. It’ll get done.

I’m looking to get these three books out before the end of the year. Maybe more. I do have some fairly lengthy outlines sitting around and being tinkered with. We’ll see. So, here we go…

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BeastGevaudan1For this was the land of the ever-memorable Beast, the Napoleon Bonaparte of wolves. What a career was his! He lived ten months at free quarters in Gévaudan and Vivarais; he ate women and children and “shepherdesses celebrated for their beauty”; he pursued armed horsemen; he has been seen at broad noonday chasing a post-chaise and outrider along the king’s high-road, and chaise and outrider fleeing before him at the gallop. He was placarded like a political offender, and ten thousand francs were offered for his head. And yet, when he was shot and sent to Versailles, behold! a common wolf, and even small for that.

–Robert Louis Stevenson

I just finished yet another revision of this story, the title of which has been changed a hundred times and, at this point, stands at The Wolves of Gévaudan (still not satisfactory). Although I am leaving for a week-long mindfulness retreat at the Blue Cliff Monastery from September 10th-18th, I still have a few days to work on the second Stevenson novel I’ve got in my head. It’s sort of in my head.

While Wolves is basically set against the template of RLS’s Travels with a Donkey Through the Cévennes, this second story will follow Louis to America–this time I’m using The Amateur Emigrant, Across the Plains, and The Silverado Squatters. Right now, I’m just figuring out the timeline, which characters I want to use and how I want to use them. In this book, we will actually meet Fanny Osbourne, so I’m thinking a little extra reading is in order. I think my favorite part of writing something like this is all the research/reading associated with it.

So, last time we had werewolves (and you really can’t go wrong with werewolves). This time, I think I’m going to be exploring a variety of geography-dependent folklore. Who’s with me?

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vesalius-p559Straight to the words!

In front of the alter—his feet pointing to the nave, his head to the apse—lay Father Apollinaris. Louis approached the corpse, though he was loathe to. It was not dressed, but only covered to the chin with a set of clean robes, as though it had been too difficult to dress such a ravaged body. No part of the man was bare except for his head. The friar’s face was ivory, and Louis studied it, wondering at the stillness of his dead skin, taking note that, in life, the very flesh must have some barely-perceptible movement that signifies the soul surging underneath. The dead man’s mouth set strangely, and Louis saw that it was propped closed with a wooden block beneath the chin. Looking around to be sure he was alone, he pushed the edge of the robe down just a bit. Indeed, he suspected the only part of the poor friar that went unscathed was his peaceful face, as even the block that held his jaw shut sank into the wounds he’d received in that area.

To their devoted credit, there was no blood. None to soil the habit that covered him, none to stain the wood of the block. His body had been so thoroughly cleaned, the men that performed the duty could sleep well knowing they’d helped deliver Father Apollinaris to his Heavenly Father cleaner than he’d come into this world. Louis pushed the robes down a little further, searching for the thing that would answer his troublesome question. He prayed he would not have to see more than his spirit could take.

Below the block, the holy man’s flesh lay mangled and torn. Louis marveled at the man’s resilience, for his wounds were so grave, his lingering time had defied the truth of them. His eyes searched the carnage, hoping not to have to descend to the man’s belly, which, judging by the shape of the covering, could not be seen without a lifetime of nightmares. Then, he found it. Around the edge of the butchery that extended from the friar’s chest to his right shoulder, spread four claw marks, as from an animal.

Not too much to say about this excerpt. It’s obviously not in Stevenson’s original Travels with a Donkey, though it would have been a doozy if it was.

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Quick post today, I’m afraid. Got some work to do on the manuscript, and then it’s off to the city for some socializing with my peeps at Horror Realm‘s Spring Break Massacre.

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Have a swell weekend, and don’t do anything to provoke the werewolves. Like this guy above clearly did, much to the dismay of his puffy-shirted friend.

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Friday, I revealed my big, exciting self-publishing plans, and I said I might just tell you about the book today. So, I will.

Last October, the day after a best friend’s raucous wedding, I got a call that my aunt was sick and needed help. My aunt lived in Canada, which, from where I am, is about a five-to-six-hour drive. For the next two weeks, I drove back and forth and helped out as I could. In the end, the diagnosis was what we all thought: cancer. And she was gone by November 10th.

It’s sad and I’m sorry about that, but it’s the exposition.

While I was there, we had taken her into the hospital for tests, and during that trip, as I was waiting, I found this book in the hospital’s gift shop, used for four bucks. I had been in such a rush to get up to my aunt that I had neglected to bring anything to read, so I snagged it. For the next few weeks, I was reading this pretty great biography of Robert Louis Stevenson (which thankfully took my mind of some pretty heavy stuff).

RLS, taken in 1879, a year after his travels through the Cevennes.

RLS, taken in 1879, a year after his travels through the Cevennes.

As far as Stevenson goes, I’d read the usual suspects—The Strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Treasure Island, The Body Snatcher, etc. And I knew a little about his life, but not a ton. However, I had just the previous summer visited the Writers’ Museum in Edinburgh, and as bothered as I was that they made no mention of James Hogg (really?), they do have a wonderful Stevenson exhibit in the basement level. The more I read, the more fascinated I became of this person, whose writing I came to better appreciate through his real-life trials and adventures.

How can anyone not just love RLS? Answer: They can’t. Not molecularly possible. To not totally dig RLS would, I think, suggest some sort of inner deformity. But that’s just my opinion…

When I finished the biography, I didn’t end up diving into more of his fiction, like I thought I would. Instead—apparently now on a non-fiction kick—I started in on his travel essays and books. And I can only assume that whatever it was that finally burst from me like an alien thing had started germinating sometime during the biography phase. Because as I turned to his Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes, I hadn’t even gotten to the text proper and had only just finished the introduction before a fairly fully formed concept popped into my head. I started writing about five minutes later.

I pretty much knew how I was going to go about it, but then not two days later, I’d managed to plug up one major narrative gap with a little research and a little luck. In the end, this is what I came up with:

Antoine killing the Wolf of Chazes, 18th-century engraving.

Antoine killing the Wolf of Chazes, 18th-century engraving.

When RLS was 28 years old, heartbroken by certain complications with his great love, Fanny (fated someday to be his wife), he embarked upon a walking journey through the highlands of southern France to clear his head, but also to gather notes for a planned travel book. Just him and his donkey, Modestine. It just so happened that the region through which he traveled was the very same region famous, not only for its religious suppression and resistance, but also for its wolves. Specifically, La Bête du Gévaudan! Two wolf-like beasts had been hunted and killed during the 18th century after having slaughtered up to two hundred French folks.

So far, everything is true. Even La Bête. As a matter of fact, Stevenson mentions La Bête specifically in his journal and it winds up in the ultimate MS that originally went to press.

What does this have to do with a sickly Scotchman traveling through France with his ass in the 19th century? Well, you’d have to read it to find out, but I can tell you this: there are monsters, of varying sorts. Monster-monsters and human monsters. There are peasants and monks, socialites and priests. There is lovely scenery. And there is, of course, Stevenson and his irascible, loveable donkey, Modestine.

Though I’ve done a fair amount of historical horror fiction, I had never written a werewolf story. It only took about a month and a half to squeeze out a first draft. I am now working toward a final draft, which I expect to have finished before the end of April. The best part: I can see doing this again, because, although he died young, rather tragically, at age 44, his life did not end after France. Nor did his travels and adventures. And, frankly, I had a lot of fun writing this.

If you like Robert Louis Stevenson, and you like fictionalized accounts of the lives of famous folks, and most importantly, if you like mystery and werewolves (and perhaps a little of the red stuff)…then this book is for you. Yes, you. So, stay tuned! Watch me finish this guy up, prepare promo materials, and navigate the world of self-publishing! It’ll be fun, or horrifying. Or both. For you and for me. Good times.

P.S. My aunt would have liked this book, and despite her wacky tastes (or maybe because of), she knew what was what.

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