My Horror Story, “The Hatchlings” Is Now On Amazon Kindle

Hi, everyone. In all the excitement of my vacation to Peru, I failed to notice an important development. My short story, “The Hatchlings” is now available on the Amazon store in Fiction Vortex’s August 2013 issue.

Fiction Vortex Cover

That’s right, for $2.99 you get not only “The Hatchlings,” but eight other great speculative fiction stories from new writers. If that’s not enough, you can really feel good about supporting an up-and-coming fiction e-zine. Let me tell you, as a new writer I think the editors of publications like this are doing God’s work—sifting through manuscripts, picking out the winners from the slush piles, editing them, putting together the next issue and getting it out the door—all on a tight budget and with a skeleton staff. It’s publications like Fiction Vortex—not agents, not the big publishing houses—that are helping to discover and develop new fiction writers. If you want to support the art of fiction and help encourage new writers, go visit Amazon, spend $3 and help support a great new e-zine.

As a writer, I thank you for it.

,Darius

Talk with a Young Writer

A few weeks ago, I got a request from a work colleague to talk to his son who is thinking about becoming a writer. clip_image002

Not a fiction writer, mind you, but just a writer. You see, I’m a professional writer (of a technical nature) already. I make my writing off my pen, just like Stephen King or Neil Gaiman, but in a much, much less glamorous way. I show up to work five days a week, bang out some material, my editor reviews it and if it’s good enough it gets published and I get to draw another paycheck. It’s actually not a bad way to make a living and I like to think I’m good at it.

Anyway, I agreed and set up a phone call with “the son” to talk writing. I was expecting a rather dry, short talk, but it turned out to last 45 minutes. And besides pumping up my ego (a young writer wanted to talk to me?), I learned a lot during the talk not only about the young writer (let’s call him Mike), but about myself.

We started off talking about what he had done so far. Turns out, he had taken LSAT prep courses (LSAT is the test you have to take to enter law school in the U.S.), but had decided against going to law school. I told him that was the right decision. I know far too many bright people in their 20s who have finished undergrad, are looking for something to do, and decide to go to law school. My advice to him and anyone else in a similar situation is: unless you want a career in law, DON’T. That doesn’t mean that some people aren’t suited for a career in law, I know a couple of people who chose law and actually enjoy it or at least don’t mind it. But you have to know WHICH PERSON YOU ARE before you commit yourself to three years in law school and $150,000 or more in debt.

At any rate, the conversation moved on. He had worked at a car dealership recently which had been a “disaster.” And now he was thinking about writing. “Why?” I asked. He said that he had always enjoyed writing and that other people, friends, class mates, teachers had always said he was good at it. That was the first time that he reminded me of my own experience in high school, even grade school, when I got the first feedback from “the others” that my writing was something good, that I had found something I excelled at…Mike and I kept talking…

I said that it was a good sign that his writing had struck a chord with others.

“Well,” he said. “I thought, you know, I can do this. And maybe I could do this professionally. So, I wanted to talk to you.”

At this point, he had successfully engaged my vanity (The sin of Lucifer!). I said that it was worth a shot, if it was something he enjoyed and was good at, why not try to make a living at it? Then, I asked him if he had any experience, because that’s what employers would look for.

He said he didn’t, not really. That a friend had offered him $10 to write a story for a car website, but that he turned it down because he thought it wasn’t a lot of money and couldn’t make a living at that rate. I stopped and asked him if he had published anything, had a portfolio of writing samples. He had nothing.

So, I gave him a basic overview of the economics of writing. I said that I used to have nothing in my portfolio. Nothing except for a few newspaper articles from my college newspaper. And that luckily I met a guy, my first employer, who liked the samples enough to take a gamble and bet that I could write. He decided to pay me a small salary, but you know what, I took it. And in two years, I had a great portfolio of writing pieces (articles, press releases, ads) and was able to use that to get a new job with a better salary two years down the road. It’s been the same ever since, just building that portfolio up and taking it to the next employer.

I told him his biggest challenge was to find anyone—anyone—that would pay him to write. $10, $5 it didn’t matter. Heck you might even have to do it for free. But if you do it for free the first time and the second time, make sure you ask for money the third time. Hell, even Isaac Babel didn’t get paid money the first time. Once you have a portfolio, it makes it easier for the guy across the desk to hire you. And the deeper and broader the portfolio, the more money you can ask for.

We said our goodbyes and he thanked me for my time. I wished him luck and that was that.

Except, it wasn’t. That night I thought more and more about the call and I finally realized why it was bugging me. It was like I had been talking to myself. Not my younger self so much, but myself today. I realized that all the advice I had given Mike about writing professionally could apply to myself and fiction writing. Because in the field of fiction writing I’m just beginning, just like Mike. Just like him, I have the belief that I could be good at it. I have friends and fans say that they see something in the writing. And now I just have to build up a portfolio of good writing—piece by piece—until I can convince that person on the other side of the desk, the editor, that I’m worth it.

So, day by day, week by week, I keep writing. I keep adding piece by piece to that portfolio, making the person on the other side of the desk a little more nervous with each submission, with each new manuscript. Each time I want to make the question: “What if I reject this guy?” a little harder to answer in the negative. And with each new published piece (“He’s been published somewhere else now”) and each new fan (“He’s getting a bigger following on Twitter.”) I turn up the heat just a little (“The manuscript does have some good qualities…”) until (“His characters are getting stronger, more well-defined…”) one day (“Maybe it’s worth a shot???”)…the dam breaks and an editor somewhere accepts my next piece.

It turns out the one who really needed to build up his portfolio was me.


In a continuing sub-series, I’m mentioning each time viewers from a new country visit the blog. This past month the blog had its first visitors from:

– Singapore.

– Hungary.

– Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Welcome, everybody!

A Writer Reads: My October Reading List

Ah, October.

The weather changes, the leaves begin to turn and I peruse the shelves of my library for horror books.

I started doing this last year, but this year I’m getting a bit deeper into it and making it a tradition. In preparation, I’ve landed on a series of classic tales that I’ve been meaning to read, but never quite gotten to. No more. It’s time to dust off these old tomes, grab a cup of tea and start reading.

This October, I’m reading these classics:

I’ve always meant to read Sleepy Hollow and Pym, so I’m excited to finally delve into those two. I intend to read the works in the order above and I hope you’ll join me. I will write an upcoming post on them and look forward to reading any input you guys have in the comment sections of the blog.

Until then, happy horror reading and I hope to see you a little further down the darkened footpath,

Darius

My Historical Novella is Free All Weekend

My Biblical historical novella, “The Man Who Ran from God” is free all weekend long  (Oct. 19 and 20) in the Kindle store. It’s a reimagining of the tale of Jonah based on Biblical and other sources. 

MWRFG_Kindle

And if you read it, please leave a review on Amazon. Good or bad, I want to know what you think.

Also, don’t forget you don’t need a Kindle to download, just the Kindle app.

Thanks!

…And I’m Back/Hotel Illness

Just made it back from Peru and want to let you all know I’m still alive. And still writing.

The trip to Peru was great, but challenging. I was able to see a good portion of the country, but managed to get a parasite whilst traveling on Lake Titicaca. On the upside, I made it to Arequipa, went hiking in Colca Canyon, sea kayaked on Titicaca, and hiked Machu Picchu. It was epic despite my inadvertent tour of the (bus, hotel, rest stop and airport) restrooms. If you haven’t done Peru, I highly recommend it, just consider bringing antibiotics and watch what you eat.

As far as literary aspects of the trip, here are a few highlights on that score:

  • Arequipa seems alive and well as the literary capital of Peru. There was a small collection of bookstores downtown and they were all well-stocked. And over 120,000 people visited their recent book fair.
  • The selection of the bookstores seemed to match up with what I’ve encountered in other bookstores in South America. Lots of magical realism, fantasy, bizarre and experimentalist fiction with a good helping of comedy and satire. Back in the USA, we seem to group books into “serious” literary fiction and “fun” genre fiction. It was nice to see bookstores where these things are mixed up on the shelves without a clear demarcation between the two. I’m just beginning to learn about Latin American fiction and magical realism, but the in-store selection seems to indicate Latin American has a sophisticated reading public that relishes literary experiment, invention and fun without boundaries.  I really like that.
  • 1 bookstore had a beautiful,  leather-bound edition of H.P. Lovecraft’s collected works. It was about $100 US.
  • A newspaper item in El Comercio, noted that Arequipa is preparing to change one of its old residences into  a museum housing, local-boy-done-good and Nobel laureate, Mario Vargas Llosa’s personal library. Across town, the place where he was born will also be a museum, apparently. It’s great to see the “Republic of Arequipa” feting a worthy local writer.
  • Llosa’s latest book, The Discrete Hero, could be found in almost every book store I visited in Peru, from the Lima airport to Aquas Calientes to Arequipa. It was great to see a native son’s book become a literary event. It was also the best-seller at the Arequipa book fair.
  • I still love the cover designs of Latin American books. They are simple, direct, uncluttered. Wish more NorteAmericano books had the same simple design.
  • I didn’t write anything or even think about writing the while I was travelling.  But a great idea forced itself into my head when I was lying sick in my hotel bedroom, thinking about the Aymara legends our guide had shared with us and the Inca mummies left in the high Andes. The vision of a female mummy couldn’t leave my head, she crept into my room, as it were, and asked to be written down. I promised her that as soon as I finish my Southern comedy-horror novella, I’ll get cracking on her tale. The drugs, the boredom and the subconscious conspired to give this character motivation, a plot, a setting and other characters to struggle against. Praise be to Pachamama!
‘Hotel Illness’ live.
  • Two other story ideas also occurred to me during these hotel illnesses and I’m trying to flesh them out now with plots and see if they’re worth writing down. One is stronger, more mature, than the other and might be ready for a full  treatment. The other is the barest of ideas and needs to mature more in the cellar of the subconscious. I think I’ll let it stay there for now.
  • I submitted my Orientalist Horror story, “The Ghul of Yazd” to a magazine just before I left. It’s been there just over three weeks, I’m anticipating a rejection letter in the next couple of weeks, and I will  let you know what happens. I will tell you guys a little more about the story in the coming weeks, but not too much, because it hasn’t been published anywhere yet. But I will keep pushing until I find a place to publish it.

That’s about all for now. The blog will return to its regular programming soon.