Category Archives: writing

An Audience With Guest Author Stuart R. West

13608075_10208533000220126_1487223109_nI’m delighted to welcome guest author Stuart R. West to the blog today.

With superb comic timing, Stuart published his wicked novel Demon With A Comb-Over via Samhain Publishing – just as they announced they were winding down their business. But the killer punchline is all Stuart’s as he has many other exciting books for you to read, with more on the way.

Read on to learn more!

Hi Stuart, thanks for dropping by at my blog today.

SRW: Thanks for having me, Frazer! Freezy, Frazey Leezy! You like your hip-hop name? No?

I’ll stick with Lazer Free, thanks! Now – your novel Demon With a Comb-Over is a wicked blend of horror and humour. What made you settle on this hybrid genre for your book?

SRW: Frazer, it didn’t start that way. Originally, it was gonna be a straight-up horror book. But I thought, “Hey, what if the setting, the weird characters, all of that, lean toward comedy?” Seemed kinda like a no-brainer to me. Of course, some readers have thought it’s not funny. Humor’s subjective. Bring to it what you will.

The horror in the book ranges from subtle atmospheric creeps to full on guts-out (quite literally) visceral mayhem. How did you achieve the balance with this when you were writing?

13649674_10208533003540209_707351052_nSRW: I hope I did achieve it. There’s subtlety, than there’s full-on horror. Personally, I like a mixture of both. But I couldn’t write a trip to Hell without getting all up in everyone’s faces. Actually, there’re two detailed trips to the netherworlds. Readers seem to be mixed: some like the grue, others are all about the comedy. Then there are the ’hatahs. Can’t please everyone.

Charlie is a living, breathing and completely engaging protagonist, I think because he’s flawed and therefore believable. How did you dream him up and were there any real-world influences when developing his character?

SRW: Charlie’s actually me. Duh, Frazer, duh. All the foibles, the mistakes he makes, the pseudo-crimes her performs against humanity? All me. I’m putting it all out there. Don’t judge me!

13625365_10208533001340154_963211776_n

I’m guessing that you are no stranger to the world of stand-up comedy. The book shows your deep knowledge of that world to great effect. Care to share any road stories? Any particularly horrific heckles?

SRW: Right you are, my friend! Actually, I only performed stand-up twice. The first time was in college. I made everything up on the go. Thing is I had a built-in audience of about 20 people—my entourage from school—following me. So they laughed. Alcohol helped. The second time? Alcohol didn’t help. I went to an open-mike night at a club, thinking I could wing it again. Didn’t work so well. Crickets didn’t even begin to explain the response. Glad I got out alive.

This is also a wild guess, but a very strong element of Comb-over is the relationship between Charlie and his daughter. Reading it, I felt sure you must not only be a parent, but father to a daughter? If so, was this helpful to you when exploring the horror of Serena being threatened in the way that she is (by a vengeance crazed demon!)?

13624559_10208533015700513_2145899622_nSRW: Very astute, Frazer. Yep, I’m a father. My daughter’s now 24, but I pretty much raised her on my own. Well, that’s not true exactly; my ex was cool enough to give me 50-50 rights. But, yeah, it’s based on truth. I hope my ex never reads this post (she won’t, right?), but a lot of it is based on her – true down to the reliance of therapy, the accusations, the constant aggravation. She even told me once, “I checked over our daughter; I cleared you of abuse.” WHAT? Damn.

Another part of the novel that I enjoyed immensely was the use of the chapter headings based around the ‘rules of comedy’. “Put your fantasies out there. It makes you more relatable,” was one that stood out in particular. Care to expand on that one in the context of your writing?

SRW: Fantasies? No, that’s up to everyone else. It does seem like a lotta stand-up comedians dwell on fantasies. I believe part of the secret of comedy is making yourself relatable, saying crap everyone wants to, but doesn’t have the guts to. But the chapter headings I kinda made up. Sorry. My research assistant, “Ms. Google,” helped me with the rest.13643771_10208533016740539_1147014760_n

Those chapter headings really help support the structure of the story and the thematic content of each part, and the whole. Did you work to an outline based around those headings? Or did you go with the flow and discover this later?

SRW: I’m sorry to say the headings kinda came as an after-thought. No way, Frazer, am I that smart. Just seemed right as I plowed along.

Following on from the ‘Rules of Stand-up’, what do you believe to be the core rules of writing Horror?

SRW: Make your characters human, relatable. Then toss ‘em into hellish visions. Without characters people can empathize with, a tale would be like a tossed-off nightmare, barely remembered.

13644257_10208533022500683_74075230_nAside from a liberal sprinkling of salt around your bed each night (readers – check out Stuart’s novel for more about this!) what’s next for Stuart R. West?

SRW: Glad you asked, Frazer! I have an upcoming darkly comical novel from Grinning Skull Press called Dread & Breakfast. I’m working on the third and final book in my darkly humorous (I’m detecting a theme here) serial killer thriller series, Killers Incorporated. There’s a sequel on the way to my comedic mystery series, Bad Day in a Banana Hammock, about a vapid male stripper who keeps turning up dead bodies. The prequel to Demon with a Comb-Over, The Book of Kobal (a very dark, immoral, irreverent tale), is hunting for a new home since the original publisher, Samhain, is pretty much dead to horror. Hey! I have a children’s picture book coming out (dunno when) from Guardian Angel Press. I’d like to write a Lovecraftian/Cronenbergian horror tale about a genetic dairy farmer but it’s kinda a hard sell. Finally, up next will be a nostalgic ’60s set, Midwestern ghost tale.

Sounds like a great, diverse line-up! Thanks again for dropping by Mr. West!

SRW: Thanks for putting up with me, Frazer.13624723_10208533022940694_547791730_n

Demon with a Comb-Over available at Amazon.

Stuart R. West Amazon Page.

Blog: Twisted Tales from Tornado Alley

Stuart R. West Facebook

Twitter: @StuartRWest

 


Announcing the UK Chapter of the Horror Writers Association

UKskull
Ah, the United Kingdom. Birthplace to all manner of horrors and their creators (and I’m not just talking about the current Government).

With its rich history of ghost stories and gothic nightmares, wouldn’t it be great if the UK had its own chapter of the Horror Writers Association I hear you ask? Well, behind the scenes, we writers have been discussing that very possibility. And, thanks to co-chairs Marie O’Regan and Paul Kane, HWA UK has now launched.

This is exciting news for the genre, its fans, and practitioners. Together, we can celebrate all things horror and help to promote the work of UK horror scribes, at home and beyond our shores.

Check out the official website http://hwauk.org where you can find a list of current members, details on joining the organisation, along with information about Stokercon and the Bram Stoker Awards®.

Cthulhu Brittania!

HWA-LOGO-copy

 


New book, new title!

Samhain HorrorMy new novel THE SKINTAKERS is no more!

Instead, THE SKINTAKER will be released on April 7th, 2015.

So why the title change?

Well, I can’t actually go into specifics because *spoilers* but…

The decision came after a suggestion from my editor extraordinaire, Don D’Auria at Samhain Horror. (We’re hard at work on final edits for the novel.) The plural ‘Skintakers’ did make sense (but could have been distracting to the reader) whereas ‘The Skintaker’ singular makes much more sense (and is not distracting to the reader).

Titles are so important, perhaps the most important words you’ll write as a novelist. So I’m very happy with the change (especially as it leads directly to the title of the third book in the trilogy that started with The Lamplighters). And this, dear f(r)iends is just one of the many reasons why every writer needs an editor as awesome as Don, and a publisher as awesome as Samhain.

I hope you’ll join us for a trip into hot hell next April.

The Skintaker has some secrets he’d like to share with you…

Cheers,
Frazer

 


Dr. Download or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Book Pirates

ebook piracy - yarrr? or aarrrgh?

ebook piracy – yarrr? or aarrrgh?

Just popping out of summer vacation hibernation (or “writing” as i like to call it) for a quick blog post on the touchy subject of internet piracy.

I meant to post this sooner (but i’ve been writing, see above), following an interesting debate on Farcebook sparked by an alert sent out to a bunch of authors whose books were listed on an illegal download site.

For a long time, I’ve held the belief that people downloading my books for free were stealing from me and taking the food from my family’s table. (and look no further than Brian Keene’s impassioned, insightful post on this aspect of internet piracy)

But i was also painfully aware that piracy is inevitable in this day and age and could, in effect, provide a free marketing campaign for an author’s work. (who else but Neil Gaiman can sum this up for us so eloquently?)

Then author/filmmaker/all-round-mighty dude John “yer pal” Skipp showed me the way, and the light. He said (by the way I, ahem, stole the following quote from the aforementioned Farcebook debate thread):

The thing is: the first time I got file-shared, I went fucking ballistic. I got ahold of the perps, took out my psychic reaming tools, and gave them a good what-for. Once I was done screaming, they kinda shrugged and went, “Okay. We took it down. Didn’t mean to piss you off. Take care.” And by the end of the conversation, I felt kind of like the dad who finds his kids partying in the rec room and loses his shit. They didn’t actually break anything. They just got high and watched TV. I never liked that dad, and sure as shit never wanted to be him. And that’s when my perspective began to change. I guess what I’ve come to accept is that a lot of my readers are outlaws. You make outlaw art, you get outlaw fans. GO FIGGER! (John Skipp)

Outlaw books, outlaw readers. Hadn’t thought of it that way before.

And then Carlton Mellick III added (again, quote stolen from Farcebook):

Two things to keep in mind: 1) these people wouldn’t be buying your book if it wasn’t free. It costs you nothing, but you might gain a reader who might spread the word about your work or start buying your work in the future. 2) most file-sharers are also the biggest consumers. I admit that I download stuff all the time, but I also spend at least $1000 a month on books, movies, comics, video games, and mp3s…mostly by creators I discovered through free downloading. (Carlton Mellick III)

An interesting distinction. These people wouldn’t be buying your book anyway.

I took a peek at one pirate site and one of my novels has had over 1,000 illegal downloads. That would buy a lot of groceries for my family if the pirates were to buy those books. But they’re not. They never intended to buy the book, and if no pirate copy was available they still wouldn’t buy it either. They’d just go on to the next available title.

But now they’ve read it, maybe they’ll recommend it to others, leave a glowing/or damning Goodreads review, or  (saints preserve us!) maybe even buy my next book.

 

That’s how it is now, so maybe we should all stop worrying and learn to love the pirates.

What do you think, me hearties? Yarrrr? or Arrrrgh?

Comments below please – i’d love to read ’em!

 


Everything’s gone green: using a mood board

I think visually, so when it comes to writing a new novel a mood board is an essential I can’t do without. Lucky for me there’s so much foliage around these parts, as when the time came to draft my new Samhain Horror novel ‘The Jack in the Green‘ (out in paperback and ebook, October 1st) I found inspiration during every stroll.

Some of the images made it straight into the text (readers of ‘The Jack in the Green’ will know the importance that trees joined at their roots have in the overall story), while others simply served to get me in the mood before writing. Like music (or in my case in addition to music) an evocative image can help fast-track you into your writing process. And, as was the case with many of the images included in the gallery below, I occasionally got lost inside of them.

I hope if you pick up my new book that you’ll enjoy getting lost in those forests too.

Just watch out for ‘The Jack in the Green’. “He’s in the trees…he’s waiting.”

 


The Jack in the Green: Book Giveaway

The postman came a-callin’ today with a big box o’ books, and I knew it was that George McFly ‘Back to the Future’ moment as I tore into it and saw the Samhain Horror logo peeking out from a gap in the cardboard. It’s an undeniably good feeling to hold your new book in your hands and sniff the pages. If it ever stops being so, it’s probably time to hang up the pen.

Yes, my author copies of ‘The Jack in the Green‘ had arrived. Aren’t they handsome?

There are only 10 of these author copies in existence and you can grab one by entering the Goodreads Giveaway.

And I hope you’ll check out the book anyhow when it releases on Oct 1st in ebook and paperback.

He’s in the trees. He’s waiting…

BRkPzaXCQAMZRfU.jpg-large


In Memoriam: James Herbert

one of my bookshelves, earlier today

one of my bookshelves, earlier today

It came as a shock to hear of James Herbert’s untimely passing last week. Just a few days earlier I was walking to work and paused to  admire a bookshop’s window display for ‘Ash’, the great man’s latest – and now last – novel. Much has been written about Mr Herbert hence, and I particularly enjoyed Colum’s thoughtful piece at Dreadful Tales, which also includes tributes to David B. Silva and Rick Hautala, two more genre giants who sadly passed recently. Christopher Fowler’s brilliant blog gave further insight into the phenomenon of Herbert’s fiction and author Hari Kunzru evoked the school kid hobby of passing around dog-eared copies of The Rats and The Fog in an attempt to out-gross one another.

From a personal perspective, a couple of blog posts ago I mentioned how I admired Mr Herbert from afar during an interview he did at The London Dungeon many years ago. I remember how starstruck I was to see the great man in person. Now I think of it, so was everyone else in the room (or rather, the dungeon) that day as he wrapped everyone around his finger with his charm and fantastic sense of humour.

And I remain starstruck to this day.

Sure, the numbers are one thing (23 novels, worldwide sales of over 54 million copies) but the man’s ideas are another. Each and every book brought something fresh, enticing and fun to the party. An author friend posted online that he felt sad that there would be no more James Herbert books. I feel that sense of loss too, but the great thing about true legends is that they never really die. I haven’t read ‘Ash’ yet, and I’m looking forward to savouring each and every page. And I realised when I snapped the photo to accompany this blog entry that I never finished reading ‘Portent’. And when I’m done with those? Books like Herbert’s demand to be read and re-read, over and over.

Because true legends never really die.

R.I.P. James Herbert. May your tales haunt the nightmares of generations to come.