Guest Interview: Weird West Writer Gemma Files

Gemma Files is the weird west author of A Book of Tongues, one of the novels included in the

gemma-files

Gemma Files

weird west StoryBundle which a reader can purchase at a very low price. I had the opportunity to interview Gemma recently and she was kind enough to allow me to post it on my blog. I hope you like it, and I hope her interview inspires you to check out the weird west collection from StoryBundle.com as well. Thanks!  –Mark

Mark: Hi, Gemma, thank you for the opportunity to interview you about your work. I’ve looked forward to this opportunity for a long time, so let’s get to it. As a writer how do you define the weird west genre? Why did you decide to set A Book of Tongues in this time frame?

Gemma: Hey, Mark, right back at you–I’ve been impressed by your work since I first ran across the initial short stories that would eventually give rise to Haxan online. Like most people my age (I think), I was first introduced to the weird west genre through Joe R. Lansdale and Jonah Hex, both on their own and in concert, though thinking back, I actually believe my first brush with it came through William S. Burroughs’ The Place of Dead Roads and Michael Ondaatje’s Collected Works of Billy the Kid. So for me, it’s definitely always been best defined as “Western with something extra,” whether that something is psionics, black magic, Mexica goddesses, zombies, alien technology, time travel or just a general sort of…spiritual weirdness, an Acid-soaked 1960s hangover, a Do What Thou Wilt Shall Be The Whole Of The Law deconstructive Southern Gothic ethos that translates from The Outlaw Josey WalesMcCabe & Mrs Miller and Heaven’s Gate on down to The Long Riders and Unforgiven, Deadwood and Carnivale. There’s also a whole lot of fire and brimstone folk-country/spookabilly rock ‘n’ roll in there, too: 16 Horsepower, Murder by Death, Leonard Cohen, Emmylou Harris, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. That’s the soundtrack that was hovering in the back of my mind as I was writing A Book of Tongues.
As for why I decided to set the book in that time-frame, well…my previous obsession had been Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York, so I’d already done a fair bit of research about the 1860s. But at the moment I began writing, I’d just spent basically a year not writing much except fanfic for James Mangold’s remake of 3:10 to Yuma. So that was the seed everything grew from: a Bible-quoting bad guy in black and the trigger-happy right hand man who was obviously in love with him, with liberal application of other stuff I liked: blood magic, evil dead gods, Pinkerton agents, towns cursed to salt, absinthe, incautious sex, train robbery, wholesale murder. All that.

ABookofTonguesM: A Book of Tongues has many cultural and historical references, some quite obscure or not well known. You kept the western and supernatural elements distinct when needed, or used both to great effect. How did you research this novel, and how did you decide what elements to keep, and what to leave aside?

G: I love history, and I love to know stuff other people don’t. One of my biggest influences was probably either a book called Poe Must Die by Marc Olden, which I got at a rummage sale when I was in my teens and is mainly set in Five Points, New York’s most notorious slum, or Michael Crichton’s The Great Train Robbery, large sections of which are set in the area of London called Seven Dials, which makes an appearance in Hexslinger Series Book Three. Poe Must Die juxtaposes hierarchical black magic and necromancy with “normal” period-specific criminal violence and enterprise, while The Great Train Robbery is about how people’s emotional impulses–venal and otherwise, pre-planned or otherwise–can drive and derail even the most complicated plans. Both were really useful in terms of outlining A Book of Tongues. The other thing that helped was thinking about religion as another form of magic, both in terms of Reverend Rook’s Christianity and the Mayan-Mexica goddess Ixchel’s plans for humanity, especially since both are bridged by various characters’ talent for natural magic–“hexation.” But generally, I just kept the stuff I liked most and threw away the rest, the way I do with almost everything else.

M: A Book of Tongues is the first novel of a trilogy. When you were writing did you know this ahead of time and did it present any problems in structure?

G: I did not know this would be a trilogy, no.;) What happened was that I kept working from exactly the same outline I started with, then getting to 80,000 words out of a potential 100,000 (ChiZine Publications’ official cut-off point) and going: “Oh shit, time to tie it off and write another book.” I like to say it comes from having written screenplays; the three books are like three acts in a classic Syd Field-style Hollywood three-act structure, each sub-divided into three acts of their own.

M: I was wondering what is it about the weird west genre you like? Is there anything you don’t like, or would like to see improved?

G: Like I said above, I think the weird west has an amazing potential for deconstruction, particularly as it applies to some of those old established storytelling tropes which really deserve to be challenged. In a lot of ways, Westerns are a genre of stories America tells about itself to excuse its own actions–the destructive lies behind the idea of Manifest Destiny, for example, of the West as an “empty” frontier, which allow settlers to try to pretend that that emptiness wasn’t achieved by removing indigenous people from their tribal lands, herding them like buffalo, trying to exterminate them. Add in slavery on top of that, and sexual violence, and all the different types of awfulness people perpetrate against each other, and you see that this is a genre ripe for reinterpretation, for being busted down to its component parts and messed around with so different voices–voices other than those of the accepted default–can get a chance to tell stories which imagine themselves as heroes rather than background, or villains. Is it easier to do that when you splice Western DNA with something else, something that cracks the mold a bit? I don’t know. I do know that even in A Book of Tongues, though, I was trying to push those boundaries. I’ve been rightfully called out for not doing it as hard as I might have (the novel’s a pretty shameless bag of dicks, for one thing), but I do think I got a lot better at it by the time A Tree of Bones rolled around.

M: What are you working on now? Can we expect more stories or novels set in the weird west?

G: What I’m working on right now are two contemporary, stand-alone horror tales in the basic mode of Experimental Film, for which I recently won the 2015 Shirley Jackson Award for Best Novel. However, who knows? When CZP asked me to write some supplemental novellas for their Hexslinger Omnibus ebook, which collects all three parts of the series, I had the opportunity to revisit this world and those characters in a way that was very satisfying–I wish more people had gotten to read those tales, because they really do form a nice little epilogue of sorts to the whole saga. Since then, however, I haven’t really done much more in the genre, aside from three fairly obscure short stories (“Some Kind of Light Shines From Your Face,” which I did for an anthology called Gutshot, “Black Bush,” which was in Arcane, and “Satan’s Jewel Crown,” for Dark Discoveries #26). I’d eventually like to do another series set in 1880, mainly focused around New York–characters from the Hexslinger series would turn up in those, definitely. I’m pretty sure I’m not done.
M: Finally, the most important question of the interview. What would you like to hear Matt Dillon of Gunsmoke say if you were suddenly transported to the Old West?
G: Okay, what would I like to hear Matt Dillon of Gunsmoke say if I were suddenly transported to the Old West…well, sad thing to admit, but I’ve never actually seen Gunsmoke. My personal vision of ridiculously cleaned-up Old West media acceptance of choice would probably be the so-called “Brat Pack” Western Young Guns (1988, dir. Christopher Cain), in which characters at least got to say a weird-ass version of “fuck” (“farg,” if I remember correctly). I’d like to be welcomed there by a thin, smirking Emilio Estevez and a vaguely poetic-looking Kiefer Sutherland.
M: Thank you, Gemma!
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Thermopylae. Masada. Agincourt. And now, HAXAN.

THERMOPYLAE. MASADA. AGINCOURT.

AND NOW, HAXAN, NEW MEXICO TERRITORY, CIRCA 1874 . . .
Through a sea of time and dust, in places that might never be, or can’t become until something is set right, there are people destined to travel.

Forever.

Marshal John T. Marwood is one of these men.

Taken from a place he called home, he is sent to fight an eternal war. It never ends, because the storm itself, this unending conflict, makes the world we know a reality.

Along with all the other words waiting to be born. Or were born, but died like a guttering candle in eternal night.

 

What is Haxan? Haxan is Lonesome Dove meets The Punisher . . .  real, gritty, violent, and blatantly uncompromising.

 

“In the Haxan series, Kenneth Mark Hoover is recreating the Old West. Or rather he would be, if the Old West was equal parts Gunsmoke and John Brunner’s Traveler in Black. . . . Fans of the western and dark fantasy genres alike should give this series a serious look.”
—Richard Parks, author of Yamada Monogatari: Demon Hunter and To Break the Demon Gate

 

Haxan by Kenneth Mark Hoover

 

Wow, my novel HAXAN is up for preorder by CZP/HarperCollins (plus a shout out)

All right, this is pretty cool. CZP/HarperCollins already has my upcoming dark fantasy novel Haxan up for preorder on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback. Thanks!

Haxan Preorder Page

And another cool thing that happened. My novel was listed (with many other upcoming novels to be sure) on the Westeros.org site. Now that right there made my week because they didn’t have to do it:

Westeros.org List of Upcoming 2014 Novels

Finally, a writer friend of mine, John Zeleznik name dropped me in the Westeros thread. Thanks, John! So, all things considered, it appears we are inching closer to the May launch date for Haxan. Looking forward to it.

Cover Reveal! My New Haxan Novel Coming Soon!

Yay! My new weird western novel Haxan will be published by CZP in May, 2014. Here’s a peek of the cover designed by Erik Mohr.

 

My new novel Haxan slated for publication by CZP in May, 2014!

I am currently getting events lined up to attend and talk about the novel. I have been invited to ArmadilloCon in Austin for July 25-27. When I get a schedule of my panels and events I’ll share it here and on Facebook. Thanks!

Quaternity and Haxan Update

Still have some personal things on my plate which take precedence over everything else, but I wanted to catch you up on my

Busy writer is busy.

Busy writer is busy.

writing so far.

I finished the second draft of Quaternity and sent it to the publisher for review. I thought they had a lot of really good advice for me and I believe the novel is that much stronger for it. I feel I am lucky they took the time to critique it at this depth and commit so much time to it. They didn’t have to do that.

I added about 3,000 words to the original manuscript and now it runs about 78,000 total. Fleshed out some characters and brought Marwood more to the forefront in key scenes where he was something of a background character. I’m happy with how things have progressed regarding this novel. If you’ve been following this blog you know how much trouble I had with this book until the flood gates opened and I wrote the entire novel in 19 days. Pretty crazy, but I still view this novel as the best thing I have ever done. I raised the bar on myself a lot with this book and I was glad I met my goals.

I’ve also got news in the upcoming days regarding the novel Haxan which will be published by CZP in May of this year. Please, keep checking back.

Thanks!

Assassin’s Gambit by Amy Raby (review)

I am not a big fan of romance. I don’t think much of most fantasy, either, because a lot of it draws too much on what has been done before and comes off as lazy. It feeds upon itself too much, especially when it comes to plot and motivation and the world the characters are supposed to inhabit.

All too often much of romance and fantasy is cardboard characters stomping through yet another two-dimensional background. Popular?15808673 Extremely popular. Do these kinds of stories bring anything new to the literary world? No, not much, or rarely, nor are they expected to. So everyone wins. I guess.

Is Amy Raby’s Assassin’s Gambit one of these kinds of stories? Nope. Not even close.

Not that it’s easy to find new plots and develop them with twists that engage and surprise the reader. As a professional writer I realize there is no such thing as a new plot. Even Assassin’s Gambit by Raby, her first fantasy romance novel, doesn’t do that, nor does it set out to prove otherwise.

In Raby’s novel a beautiful assassin named Vitala Salonius (with a tragic past) is sent to, well, assassinate an emperor and ends up falling in love with him. She’s a Caturanga champion, a game much more complex than chess and one which mirrors the social and political machinations and upheavals of the world she lives in.  As you might guess the lovers battle intrigue and powerful political forces arrayed against them. Shades of From Russia, With Love at least as far as the basic plot line goes. Serviceable and robust.

So far so good. But Raby does something extra here which I find very welcome and wish more writers would take the time to do. She builds a world. More than that, her world and its culture and its unique magic system isn’t copy/pasted from some other novel or cliched background. She did a lot of research and homework for this novel, and it shows. And, boy, does it work.

It’s not often I become so immersed in a novel I stop reading critically and just read and enjoy the novel for what it is. But this is what happened to me with Assassin’s Gambit and it was a welcome change.

I read it in one sitting. You know how often I do that? Maybe once a year. So this novel was my quota for 2013. Seeing as how good this story was, I can live with that.

Amy Raby, author of Assassin's GambitI really like Raby’s magic system and how it all hangs together. Nor does Raby ignore the cultural impact her magic has on social and political institutions or the burgeoning gunpowder tech which is being developed. What’s more, the world she presents is itself multicultural, and within those cultures there are opposing factions. She doesn’t pull any punches, either, given the set up. She shows the racism and fear and hate and distrust you would expect.

It’s a believable world. I like that. As a professional writer….I like that a lot.

But aside from all that, which is considerable, I like how Raby subverts. From the cover of this novel of a pretty lady with wind in her hair, to the blurb (In the struggle for power, nothing is safe…not even her heart) you figure, “Okay, this is a fantasy romance which is maybe kinda heavy on the romance. I’ll test the water with my toe.”

And at first when you start reading it does read like a standard romance. But then Raby pulls a fast one, and this is why I liked the novel so much because not only was it subversive, it was dangerous.

It’s almost like Raby was laughing behind her hand a little and saying, “Do I have your attention? Good. Let’s get to what this story is really about.”

She pulls it off with aplomb. In essence, the novel stops being a traditional romance in an exotic setting and turns into a hard hitting fantasy tale that examines how (and more importantly why) two broken people are able to love and trust one another…while in the meantime killing some bad guys who really need killing.

Is the novel without fault? No. There are too many adverbs, too many exclamation marks (one per novel, please and thank you) and I personally would have liked it to be darker. But then again I wasn’t writing it so what do I know. I also thought Vitala made a crucial decision in a bean field that wasn’t true to her original motivation. (Although I do understand and sympathize with Raby’s limitations regarding Vitala’s decision.)

Finally, the novel actually ends on the penultimate chapter, and quite strongly, too. But, once more, Raby is playing with us a little here and it’s as if she says, “Okie doke, this is supposed to be a romance, so here ya go, one last chapter.”

I liked this novel a lot. It was damn good. Yes, it is a romance. A very good one. The characters are memorable and I found myself lost in the world. You can’t ask for more than that.

Give it a peek.

There might be blood. But then we’d have to swab it up and who wants to do that?

I am finishing the second big edit of Quaternity. This morning I finished fixing some pieces in the story that had been bothering me. I think I mightCurve be reaching a point where I am starting to do more harm than good. Too much editing can have a negative impact on a manuscript.

I am not saying the manuscript doesn’t need work. It does. But I am becoming aware I am reaching a point where I have to be careful. There is always a cost-benefit analysis you have to be aware of when editing. It’s an asymptotic curve. You get closer to the point but you never reach it. There comes a time when you have to cut your losses.

Meanwhile I am working on a short story and completing a list of the conventions I want to attend this year. I’ve got a lot planned for the year and I am curious to see how it all pans out.

No Country for Old Men (book and novel review)

No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy is a very good novel that, by all rights, should have been great.No Country for Old Men

It tells the story of a drug deal gone bad and how fate impacts different lives, and ends up shattering them. Written in a minimalist style with no quotation marks, commas or apostrophes, this literary quirk of McCarthy’s presents the story in raw and bold power. The violence of the novel isn’t symbolic or splatterpunk, it’s everyday real violence: unexpected and sudden and leaves you shivering and vulnerable.

The writing is laconic and powerful in its simplicity, as this passage relates:

“When he woke it was almost dark. He rose and went to the window and pushed back the old lace curtain. Lights in the street. Long reefs of dull red cloud racked over the darkening western horizon. Roofs in a low and squalid skyline. He put the pistol in his belt and pulled his shirt outside his trousers to cover it and went out and down the hallway in his sockfeet.”

I am a huge Cormac McCarthy fan. I think Blood Meridian is one of the best American novels out there. It’s easily in my top five.

I also like this novel a lot. There’sone thing that keeps me from giving it five stars, and it’s the thing that kept me from giving the film five stars. It has to do with the malevolent psychopath: Chigurh.

He is in effect little more than a Terminator, albeit in this case a biological one and not robot. He’s an unstoppable cipher (which is fine) but at the end of the novel he disappears leaving the reader with no resolution. This is done on purpose by McCarthy and therein lies the problem.

It’s transparent. It’s so obviously literary gamemanship that we see right through it. Chigurh’s disappearance loses its full power and leaves the novel (and the film) feeling broken and unfinished.

On the other hand, in Blood Meridian, the ending again is similar. There is no neat little bow to tie things up, and in Meridian we are  abandoned. But McCarthy pulls it off with more aplomb and skill in that novel than he does with Country.

Don’t get me wrong. I still like this novel and I still like the film. I think McCarthy is damn amazing. It just does not reach the level of Blood Meridian.

Then again, no one should expect it to. No-Country-For-Old-Men-m01

Finished the First Edit of Quaternity

Today I finished the first edit for the Haxan prequel novel. The title of the novel is Quaternity. There is a sub-title The Sunset of Destruction, the Ashes of the West.

I think it went pretty well. As I have mentioned this is not like anything I have ever written before. When I first thought of the story I knew it would be difficult to write and would be outside my comfort zone. Which is what drew me to the project in the first place.

This is no longer outside my comfort zone. This is my comfort zone.

I didn’t come across many places where I thought it was messed up beyond redemption. Most of the stuff I found were little things which needed attention. There were a handful of plot points I had to correct or shape up. There remains several more I have to go back and pay attention to anyway. But they are small and I saw no gigantic structural problem which stopped me in my tracks.

I can catch up on those little things later. A couple of characterization notes, not much else. Making sure I have the specific points of the history or culture in line. Given the kind of novel this is, I actually have a little running room in that regard. This is not a history book. It’s a novel.

It went pretty well. I started this rewrite on Christmas Day and finished it today. I will probably take a couple days off before I do a cold read through to see how it holds up in fresh light.

I am well within my timeline to get this finished by March. I am not worried about meeting that goal at all.

I am beyond the light at the end of the tunnel. I am standing at its terminus.

A Novel in the Light of Day

I’ve been writing a long time. I’ve always been a writer, I guess, even as a small boy that’s all I ever wanted to do. But I have been doing this full-time since 1998.

One of the things I have learned is how to read other writers. When I read their stories or novels I see tricks and things they use to advance the plot, develop character, and so on. It’s pretty neat, having this insight into other writers. I am not saying I always see these things. But sometimes I do.

It’s kind of cool and I wonder if other writers do it when they read stories. I’m sure they do, probably to a greater degree than I can. But there’s a downside to this, too, at least for me. I very rarely read anything for pleasure anymore. I am always reading with a critical eye and wondering why the writer did this, or used that, or decided to cut short a scene. When I was young I read for pleasure. It’s a rare occurrence for me now. I admit that kind of bums me out.

I mention this because tomorrow I start the edit on the novel. When I finished the first draft I decided I would let the novel cool for two weeks before I ever looked at it again. Two weeks happens to end tomorrow. I am going to stick to my schedule.

I am looking forward to working on this very much. I have written about the process I went through to get this novel’s first draft done. I continue to be flabbergasted how it came together at the last minute…although admittedly I worked (better read that as: struggled) with the novel for over a year and a half.

Anyway, tomorrow I start the rewrite and edit. I think I will plan three rewrites. The first to get the novel cohesive and the timelines correct, the second will be to make sure it all looks okay….and the third I will read the entire novel out loud, and make corrections accordingly.

Reading your work aloud is one of the best ways to see (and hear) if your story “sounds” right to the ear, and subsequently, to the inner voice of the reader. Truman Capote said he wrote for the ear, not the eye, and I think it’s a good formula. I have never read an entire novel of mine out loud, but this novel is important to me in a lot of ways so I will go that extra mile. When I was writing it or working through a difficult scene, I would read it aloud. That helped a lot with the creation process, I admit.

I’ve already done so much to get this novel written in the first place. The least I can do is read it out loud to make sure the final version is as strong as I can possibly make it. It will take some time, but it’s a small sacrifice considering what I have already done to bring it to the light of day.

The Border Trip: Fort Davis Camping

Here are more pictures from what I have been calling my Border Trip. It’s the trip I took from Laredo to Nogales in preparation to writing the novel I have just completed.

090

091The buttes in the distance are fantastic.

092

093

096

Here is my campsite at Fort Davis. There was a lot of wildlife here, including javelinas and deer. I worked on the novel a little bit at this picnic table and felt I was making some progress. Little did I know the real writing would not take place until Thanksgiving of this year, and I would finish a 85,000 word novel in 19 days!

Catching Up with Me

Next week I will try to post some pictures from the Border Trip I took to research the novel. I don’t know what they will add to the context of the process I have already written about, but you might like them. Who knows?

I wanted to thank everyone for all the kind words and support you sent my way during, and after, the novel was written. It means  a lot to me. 🙂

I haven’t been doing much lately. Getting some reading done. I am thinking of working on a couple of short stories. After a big project like this I generally enjoy working on shorter stories. But I am committed to beginning the edit on the novel Christmas Day. Doesn’t leave much time. I won’t obsess over it. If I can squeeze in a short story or two, fine. If not, no big deal .

The novel comes first. Period.

I am also kind of toying with an idea for  a new novel, but I am keeping that close to the vest right now. I will blog about that, too, later. Not trying to be coy, the initial phase of this new novel idea is pretty inchoate. We will see where it goes. (If anywhere.)

I also have some blog posts that have been hanging fire, reviews and such, I haven’t gotten to. They are on the agenda as well.

Other than that everything is going along fine here. Hope everyone has a good weekend. See you next week with new blog posts. 🙂

More Thoughts on the Completed Novel

I am trying to completely process what I was able to accomplish in 19 days. One of the things that strikes me about it is how fast this novel was written. Yet when you take into account all the notes, research, trips, preparation, it wasn’t so fast. Then again it was kind of fast, ha. Like I said, I continue to try and understand all this myself.

When I finished I decided to put it aside for two weeks before I start editing. That means I start the edits on Christmas Day. Well that’s two weeks so that is when I will start. I’m looking forward to it.

Not only do I feel a sense of relief in finally getting this done, I feel a real sense of accomplishment. I always do, when I finish a story. It’s more pronounced now because of all the trouble I had getting this started and understanding the novel.

I am very gratified I was able to do this. I knew it would be a difficult novel to write. It was. But I did it. I accomplished it, and I like the story and it turned out to be the story I wanted to write and had a vision for.

I can’t beat that. Hell, I will take it and run.

Takes a writer to know a writer….

Just a quick update about the novel writing so far.

I have been working diligently every day. I plan on having this novel completed (first draft) by next week. If I do, I will have a lot to say about the process and what I went through to get it done.

Haven’t forgotten you guys or the blog. Just totally immersed in this work right now.

Other writers will understand.

Late Afternoon Thoughts on a Novel in Progress

It's all just scribbling in the end! I am not using italics for the Spanish translations in the Haxan prequel novel. I want to show stylistically the Spanish and English is all one part of the same culture. Now whether or not I am ultimately successful in this is open to debate. But that’s my philosophy why I am not underlining Spanish words, etc. I feel it is a correct one, so far.

Because I am not italicizing Spanish words and phrases I thought about not using quotation marks at all. I will write the novel in such a way as to convey who is speaking. There is dialog, but do so without the use of quotation marks? My writing buddy said that would require a deep rewrite of the 170 pages I have so far, and I agree. It would require a deep rewrite. But then I could go ahead and finish the novel in that vein. Hey, it could be worse. I could have a finished novel on my hand and then be faced with a 400+ page rewrite.

Well, no one ever said writing was easy.

Here’s the structural problem, as I see it. You can’t just pull quotation marks out and expect the story to flow. My writing buddy suggested I write the next scene and see what it looks like on paper. It will answer for me whether the story calls for that, plus it’s easier to add quotation marks in a scene for dialog, than to take them away and expect the prose to make any qualitative sense.

I have read novels before without quotation marks. I’m just wondering if the story calls for it. I won’t do it for any other reason than the story, because any other reason is an affectation on my part. I’m not going to risk the story for that reason alone.

Nothing I have mentioned here is consuming me. The story is consuming me. But these are questions that raise themselves every time you write something. I feel it is always important to look deep into the story and see what else it needs, rather than concentrate on smoke and mirrors to get the job done. I am toying with these ideas as the story unfolds. I am trying to see ways to elevate the story without it becoming more than itself. Or, what I mean, I guess, is drawing attention to the story that do not elevate or enhance other aspects of the novel.

This is all stuff I am thinking of as I work. I always viewed this novel as an anti-western from the first day of conception. Non-traditional ways of structure might help convey that sense while keeping the story congruent.

I have been waking up around 3:30 am and ready to write. I have done this profession a long time. This is the nice part. Strike while the iron is hot, because later when that energy flags you still have to write, and it just becomes work, work, work.

Another thing I am concerned about is  how it looks on the page. A lot of writers don’t consider that, but it’s important. It’s one of those almost nonexistent things you don’t necessarily think about or consider, but they operate on subconscious levels and readers definitely respond to them.

It’s looking like this will be around 100K words or so. Not  too bad. I want to keep it around there. 125K tops. It doesn’t feel like a bigger book than that, and if it were bigger a primary character’s role would be diminished. That would be totally wrong because the entire novel is about Marwood’s relationship to him. You subsume the antagonist to that degree and the novel would collapse. I don’t want that, obviously.

There’s always something to keep in mind when writing. It’s not just transcribing the story from your mind into print.

It’s the subtleties that kill you, and keep you up at night.

So far the new start on the novel appears okay….fingers still crossed

So far the change to 1st person POV appears to be working. It might be a little too soon to render final judgment. I might not be able to do that if and until the manuscript is completely written.

But so far so good, I think. The three chapters I have done so far appear strong and I think they are, but who ever really knows? I also want to thank everyone who gave me well wishes when I started this new POV. Your support is invaluable.

Over the next week or so I will be busy headed to a wedding so I won’t be around. But I hope to have some new posts for you when I return. Thanks!

Guest Blogger: Jenn Nixon’s new novel Lucky’s Charm

Today I am happy to welcome Jenn Nixon as a guest blogger. She will talk about her new novel Lucky’s Charm. Enjoy! –KMH

  Jenn Nixon says:
I started writing at a very young age but didn’t realize I actually wanted to make a living as a writer until I finished my first Star Wars Fan Fiction. It was one of the first projects I started and finished. It was a cohesive story that, to me, was really awesome at the time! Actually, it’s not a bad story, and I’ve gotten a lot of miles out of the set up, the character names, and the plot for other small projects I did afterward.
Lucky’s story came to me one day while chatting with my best friend. I’ve always loved women who can kick ass and take names. Lucky is no exception. The original plot transformed over the course of the books as I introduced more characters who took on lives of their own. Eventually, I was telling their story instead of making up my own story for them!

Lucky’s Charm

To protect her family and find a killer, Felicia “Lucky” Fascino assumed her adoptive father’s identity and joined the network, an organization of moral assassins to finish the job he began. Eliminating the man responsible for murdering her mother has consumed her for the last five years. While keeping her Uncle Stephen and cousin Elizabeth at arm’s length, Lucky begins to feel the weight of her career choice and reclusive lifestyle. Then a chance encounter with an enigmatic hit man, during one of her jobs, turns into a provocative and dangerous affair. Distracted by the secret trysts with Kenji Zinn and mounting tension within her family, Lucky makes reckless mistakes that threaten her livelihood and almost claim her life.

Excerpt:

Lucky watching her next target…

The average person wouldn’t know how to spot someone following them. More often than not, the marks Lucky tailed looked like every other citizen making his way through a herd of bodies on the sidewalks. In a major city like Montreal, it was easy to become lost in the crowd.

Lucky never drew attention to herself, especially while working. The sweater she wore—thanks to Bet—was perfect for the chilly fall weather. It went down to her mid-thigh and covered most of what she wanted to conceal. The self-tinting glasses lightened some when the clouds played hide-and-seek with the sun. Colored contacts and a dark chestnut wig hid the rest of her unusual features.

To the world, Lucky was just another pedestrian, walking down the street.

During her second day in town, she had followed Newton into his office to do some recon. She’d timed the elevators and checked for security cameras in the building and surrounding areas. The fourth day, she memorized the traffic around his office and house, and decided it was less risky in town than his home.

Day six of watching Newton progressed smoothly. He was more difficult than most, constantly searching his surroundings like a Cold War spy. Since he had things to hide, including a thriving illegal pharmaceutical business and murder, she considered it a challenge to go up against him. Lucky liked when a mark tested her abilities because it made her more vigilant.

Newton’s secretary had inadvertently confirmed a meeting for today when she called earlier. Lucky waited all morning to catch a glimpse of him. He appeared close to noon, heading to the corner store. When he vanished into the parking garage to find his car, Lucky backtracked to hers. She didn’t need to follow him. Newton was a workaholic; he never left his office before seven. Meeting or not, he’d be back.

Though she had the time to go to the hotel, she opted to move into the parking garage and wait. The interior had no obvious security, but she wanted to be certain no one watched the lot. Lucky settled in and pulled out the USA Today she’d bought before getting on the plane. She spread the outdated paper over the steering wheel and kept her eyes just above the edge. If there were any kind of hidden security system in the garage, she’d have to change locations. For now, she left the car running in case she had to move fast.

Bio: Jenn’s love of writing started the year she received her first diary and Nancy Drew novel. Throughout her teenage years, she kept a diary of her personal thoughts and feelings but graduated from Nancy Drew to other mystery suspense novels.

Jenn often adds a thriller and suspense element to anything she writes be it Romance, Science Fiction, or Fantasy. When not writing, she spends her time reading, observing pop culture, playing with her two dogs, and working on various charitable projects in her home state of New Jersey.

www.jennnixon.com

www.facebook.com/JennNixonAuthor

Twitter: @jennnixon

Wish Me Luck

I have decided to write the new Haxan novel I am working on in first person POV. I think this is the right move for the story and for me. But mostly for the story because I have always been of the opinion the story comes first. My wants are secondary to that and always will be.

I’m a little nervous about this decision and excited. I hope this is the entry point I have been looking for. I’ve thought about this a long time. It doesn’t change what the novel is about or what I want it to say. I can still demand the lift and work from the novel I want. Hope so, anyway.

I mean, I’ve tried everything else, right?

So. First person POV. I start work on it today.

Wish me luck. Please.

Sometimes you gotta take a chance....

Rules are made to be broken, except when they’re not.

As a writer, the only time you should break the rules is when you know the rules beforehand.

Fortunately, in writing, there are no rules. Which is why you must be extra careful before you go around breaking them and drawing attention to yourself.

I know. Sounds screwy and somewhat zen-like. But there’s a lot of truth in it. Many classics have withstood the test of time  because they are stories which, in one form or another, broke rules. These can be rules of grammar, pacing, POV, format, a lot of different elements. You can name just as many as I can off the top of your head, probably more. Novels like Lolita, Tropic of Cancer, Dracula, Blood Meridian, Moby-Dick, 1984 and on and on.

But you have to know what the basic rules are before you go around breaking them. That means you have to learn your craft inside and out. You have to do your homework and you have to keep your mouth shut and listen when professionals are talking about writing. Because you know what? You can tell instead of show…but only if you know how to show instead of tell first. You can mix POV in a scene. But only if you know and understand why it’s normally not done in the first place.

There are lots of others like this. You can break all the rules because writing is not a protocol exercise. It’s an organic creative process. Because it is organic it has the leeway already built in so you can leaven your imagination into it and make something truly memorable, truly artistic.

I am a big believer in breaking rules. You should be, too. But learn what they are first and then when you do break them it won’t be because you’re an amateur, it will be because you are empowered. 🙂

Making Some Decisions as a Writer are not as Easy as it Seems

It’s morning and I am sitting in the coffee shop with my writing buddy. I’ve been having some difficulty with the heel of my right foot. I somehow banged the heel or popped it or something and now it’s sore and I am having a very hard time walking around on it. Wearing boots helps because it supports the foot some, but walking is slow.

I have done this before. I never can remember what I do to hurt the heel but it’s obviously something very stupid since I keep doing it. I’ve been dealing with this for three days now and while it has gotten nominally better it has not healed up. But then again if it’s a pulled tendon (not the Achilles’ Heel, btw) or something then it will take a long time to heal. There is no bruise or anything. It’s all very frustrating.

Sometimes making a decision as a writer is more difficult than it seems. I have not been writing new stuff recently although I plan to look at the novel today. I’ve been thinking about the book a lot lately. I am probably writing this a little slower than I ordinarily would, I admit that. But part of the reason behind this is because I am also deeply immersed in research and, yes, there’s a lot of thinking involved with this novel.

I am satisfied with what I have so far and I like the direction the book is headed. I do admit part of my problem in slowing down is my big Border Trip is coming up probably in April or May. I have talked to my writing buddy about this and she says I should go ahead and write the book and anything I learn or find on the trip along the US/Mexico border I can layer that in. She’s right, of course, but part of me continues to think I will miss out on some tiny literary aspect that would escape me otherwise.

Yes, I know that’s stupid. I’m not going to wait two more months or whatever before I start writing on this novel again, no matter what my reasons. And, yes, I know I am always one on this blog to preach you should listen to your instincts. And you should. But not when your instincts go against what you know to be intellectually correct.

I have to keep writing the novel before I take the trip because otherwise I risk losing connection with the story. Not that I think such a thing will happen. But I don’t want to risk it.

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