Saturday, August 23, 2014

Steven L Shrewsbury Five Things Learned Writing PHILISTINE

The Philistines, a mysterious warrior people known now for mainly one man: Goliath. The giant.
Goliath. A name grander than even the man himself. You've heard of his infamous end at the hands of a shepherd as written in a famous book, but what of the life of the man himself? What book tells his tale?
A warrior among warriors, a son of a god, a living legend. Goliath, the warrior champion of the Philistines. On the battlefield, he runs like a horse, wields killing instruments no normal man may heft, and revels in the fear his presence evokes. Off the field, his will is immutable, his trust invaluable, and his appetites unbearable. Goliath. This man knows no challenge.
But such a reputation will not discourage all men. Scheming rulers and generals, prophetic priests and powerful cults, dauntless warriors looking to make their own legend. Monsters. Gods. For one seemingly un-killable, at the very least, these things can ruin an otherwise pleasant day.
Along with his shield bearer, Abimelech, and soldiers more in awe than they are useful, Goliath will set out on missions for kings, face foul magic users, and walk in the shadows of mysterious halls. History tells us Goliath died at the hands of an Israelite.
Goliath may have something to say about that.
Philistine is the first Tale of Goliath, set in the same world as Steven Shrewsbury's novels such as Overkill and Thrall, and his Blood and Steel: Legends of La Gaul short stories.
Every novel writing experience should be educational, right? Wow, that sounds like I went to a kid’s pizza place to crank out one of the bloodiest books I’ve ever done. I doubt any writer, unless they have a stick forever lodged in their keister, really sits down to start a novel and says, “What will this teach me?”
However, one would have to be the Other Brother Daryl to really say you’ve learned nothing penning a novel. For example, with a first novel, one will learn you don’t what the heck you’re doing? We all have written a few we thought were as good as sliced bread, or at least the gift shop of the Great Pyramid, but were really closer to the men’s room in a Portuguese cathouse. Hopefully, the lesson learned there was: “not gonna try that again.”
One discovers and grows if one has enough bullets for more than a single book in one’s head. One also uses the word ONE too often instead of talking as one really does, but I digress.
When asked to write a blog on five things I learned while writing my epic PHILISTINE I agreed, at first, to convey a few thoughts and promote the book further, and, secondly, because I really don’t want Peter Welmerink to post those pictures. [Me, post pictures of you in your skivvies and cowboy boots shoveling a ten foot during a little Illinois snow? I can’t believe you’d think I’d do such a thing. LOL—PJW]
Anyway, onward to the Five Things I Learned Writing PHILISTINE.
1. This book is gonna be bigger than I thought.
A book is as long as it needs to be. I don’t write with the idea of many sequels and stretching it to be a bridge to another tale. PHILISTINE would be a good story, one I’d wanted to tell since I was a kid, and my books usually run 75K to 90K words tops. From the scope, the cast, the tale and the layers, I had a feeling I was in real trouble with my usual method for writing a first draft, then subsequent ones.
I get focused and crank away on an idea, pumping that sucker out in roughs in a month. I don’t try and get it perfect the first time out. I tell the tale and dress it up purdy later. The year I sat down and wrote Philistine, I had written a horror novel in the month of February, a rough of another in May. But Philistine’s first draft, that took me all summer and then parts of October.
I oft return to a trip through a festering draft I left behind, but PHILISTINE plagued me for years, not months.  
2. I’m not bright enough NOT to have an elaborate codex of the work. Most writers have a God complex. If they won’t admit it, then they are liars. However, I haven’t considered myself such a stroke that I cannot bend in my ways. It was clear I was no where near intelligent enough to keep track of so many gods, peoples, clothing, locations, customs, etc. without a guide for myself. The scope became broad for the work and I had to adapt. Usually, my brain is restricted to one piece of paper as a CAST and many hand written notes in binders.
PHILISTINE has a twenty page add-on of info.  
3. I’m going to do more drafts on this monstrous sucker than I have ever done before. I really enjoyed the realm/place this book was in so much I dragged my feet leaving it. My usual walk-through (as I call them) second draft is: read it, tidy up, and see that it all makes sense and add as I go. This system was a tad strained with Philistine, a work that was double my usual length. But I started to like the realm, the place near 1000 BC. (Bite me, you modern BCE dorks. Get pissy about my non-conformist ways after I’m dead).  
4. These characters, for good or ill, were real to me. I could see their faces, see them sweat, smile and die. I could see the hulking Goliath, his shield-bearer, Abimelech, the expressions of the soldiers, the coyness of the goddess Malak.
5. It was fun to write about an antihero, even if many might not like him. I wonder if such a grudgingly likeable guy as Goliath will play in Peoria or Sphincter, NY. He isn’t a great romantic, and has a great deal of ego, to the point it blinds him at times. While an easy guy to root for in a fight, Goliath isn’t a pleasant fella.  But, you might just find him hard to resist.
I think Waylon Jennings was quoting Mae West when he said, “Sometimes when I’m good, I’m bad. But when I’m bad, I’m the best you ever seen.”  
STEVEN L. SHREWSBURY lives, works, and writes in rural Illinois. Over 360 of his short stories have appeared in print or electronic media along with over 100 poems. 9 of his novels have been released, with more on the way. His books run from Sword & Sorcery (OVERKILL, THRALL, BEDLAM UNLEASHED) to Historical Fantasy (GODFORSAKEN), Extreme Horror (HAWG, TORMENTOR, STRONGER THAN DEATH) to Horror-Westerns (HELL BILLY, BAD MAGICK, and the forthcoming LAST MAN SCREAMING).
He loves books, British TV, guns, movies, politics, sports and hanging out with his sons. He’s frequently outdoors, looking for brightness wherever it may hide. 
Connect with Steven Shrewsbury on Facebook and WordPress

Sunday, August 17, 2014

WILLIE MEIKLE: Five Things I Learned Writing THE EXILED

When several young girls are abducted from various locations in Edinburgh, Detective John Granger and his brother Alan, a reporter, investigate the cases from different directions. The abductor is cunning, always one step ahead, and the only clue he leaves behind at each scene are the brutalized corpses of black swans.
When the brothers' investigations finally converge at a farmhouse in Central Scotland, they catch a glimpse of where the girls have been taken, a place both far away yet close enough to touch. A land known throughout Scottish history with many names: Faerie, Elfheim, and the Astral Plane. It is a place of legend and horror, a myth. But the brothers soon discover it's real, and, to catch the abductor, they will have to cross over themselves.
To catch a killer, John and Alan Granger will have to battle the Cobbe, a strange and enigmatic creature that guards the realm, a creature of horrific power that demands a heavy price for entry into its world. The fate of both realms hangs in the balance…and time is running out...
1. The black bird isn't going away.
I've been having a dream off and on since I was a boy. It's of a bird - a huge, black, bird. The stuff that dreams are made of.
In the nightmare I'm on the edge of a high sea cliff. I feel the wind on my face, taste salt spray, smell cut grass and flowers. I feel like if I could just give myself to the wind I could fly. Then it comes, from blue, snow covered mountains way to the north, a black speck at first, getting bigger fast. Before I know it it is on me, enfolding me in feathers. It lowers its head, almost like a dragon, and puts its beak near my ear. It whispers.
I had the dream many times, and always woke up at this point.
Then, in 1991, I heard what it said.
"Will we talk about the black bird?"
The next morning, for the first time since 1976, I wrote a story. It wasn't a very good story, but something had been woken up, and the day after that I wrote another, a wee ghost story. It didn't have a black bird in it, but it did have some jazz, and a sultry broad, a murder and some dancing. When that one made me 100 pounds in a ghost story competition, I was on my way.
The bird comes back and whispers to me every couple of years - I've come to think of it as my spirit guide. Although it terrifies me, it also reassures me in a weird kind of way. As long as it's around, I'll still be a writer and not just a drunk with weird ideas he can't express.
The bird's most recent appeareance was last year, and the next morning I had an idea. THE EXILED, my Darkfuse novel is a way of making sense of that dream - I think I got close to the heart of it.
2. Scotland is seared into my soul.
I moved to Newfoundland in 2007, but my writing keeps circling back to my homeland. A lot of my work, long and short form, has been set in Scotland, and much of it uses the history and folklore. There’s just something about the misty landscapes and old buildings that speaks straight to my soul. Bloody Celts… we get all sentimental at the least wee thing.
I've been writing 'away'a lot in recent years, picking up stories in my new environment here. But as soon as I started THE EXILED and got the sights and sounds of Edinburgh in my head, it felt like coming home.
So, although there will be many tales to come set in the New World, it is in the old one where my heart truly lies. I don't think that'll ever change.

3. Shite happens.
I've tried writing outlines, both for short stories and novels, but I've never stuck to one yet. My fingers get a direct line to the muse and I continually find myself being surprised at the outcome. Thanks to South Park, I call them my "Oh shit, I've killed Kenny" moments, and when they happen, I know I'm doing the right thing. It happened again in THE EXILED, at a pivotal point in the story. A character was taking form, staring to get a voice and grow real - and then a sentence later, they'd gone. I don't question it - I've learned to trust my subconscious on these things, but it was still a jolt at the time it happened.

4. The pulp is seared into my soul.
It's all about the struggle of the dark against the light. The time and place, and the way it plays out is in some ways secondary to that. And when you're dealing with archetypes, there's only so many to go around, and it's not surprising that the same concepts of death and betrayal, love and loss, turn up wherever, and whenever, the story is placed.
And in my case, it's almost all pulp. Big beasties, swordplay, sorcery, ghosts, guns, aliens, werewolves, vampires, eldritch things from beyond and slime. Lots of slime.
I think you have to have grown up with pulp to -get- it. A lot of writers have been told that pulp=bad plotting and that you have to have deep psychological insight in your work for it to be valid. They've also been told that pulp=bad writing, and they believe it. Whereas I remember the joy I got from early Moorcock, from Mickey Spillane and further back, A E Merritt and H Rider Haggard. I'd love to have a chance to write a Tarzan, John Carter, Allan Quartermain, Mike Hammer or Conan novel, whereas a lot of writers I know would sniff and turn their noses up at the very thought of it.
So here's to the pulp. I may long for literary recognition, fancy awards and bookish respectability, but in the end it's the story that's the important thing. I hope I don't forget it.

5. I'm a long way from done.
I started writing in '92, so the twenty five year mark isn't that far off. I've written 25 novels, ten novellas and over 300 short stories. And they just keep on coming - faster now if anything. Ideas continually vie for attention - and just this week the nightmare paid me another visit... Will we talk about the black bird?
William Meikle is a Scottish genre writer now living in Newfoundland.

He has 20 novels and several hundred short stories in genre presses, anthologies and magazines. His current top seller is the sci-fi novel THE INVASION with 20,000 copies sold and counting.

His work covers several genres including:

When he's not writing Willie drinks beer, plays guitar and dreams of fortune and glory.

Sunday, August 10, 2014


Fangirl favorite Alexander Kingston has a “type”—blonde, willowy and sophisticated. He doesn’t give mousey wardrobe mistress Elizabeth a second look, until she transforms herself and sets out to seduce him.
But dark desires are at play. Before long their erotic encounter will turn into a date to die for.
Writing “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” was a complete and utter accident.  I had no intention of writing it.  In fact, I was pissed off when the idea came to me.  I was right in the middle of writing another novel that I was really excited about (which, incidentally, was also an accident) and just couldn’t be bothered with a creepy little erotica piece.  I was having a conversation with a friend about Tumblr and how “fangirl culture” was a scary place that I wanted no part of.  She sent me a link to this massive Twitter war between two fangirls over some celebrity.  The details aren’t important, but as I was reading this ridiculous internet fodder, I got to thinking about how both of the girls involved felt that they knew this person.  That their appreciation of his portrayal of characters made them feel as if they had a stake in his life.  The more I thought about it, the more creeped out I was.  The idea that in our media saturated culture, everyone is either our best friend or our worst enemy.  We have so much access that we begin to feel connected and trusting of people we’ve never met.  That thought disturbed me so much that I was compelled to write this cautionary tale—whether I wanted to or not.
I come from a long line of “people watchers.”  My father can sit in a shopping mall food court for HOURS watching the people that walk by.  He makes little deductions and tells little stories about them.  It’s remarkable.  Over the years, I realize that I’ve started to do the same thing.  I have created so many characters and been inspired to write so many stories just by watching the people at the coffeeshop where I like to write.  It also helps to create realistic reactions to various situations.  I’m constantly cataloguing incidents and people to use for stories. 
I have written a few horror tales in my time and looking back over them—mostly they feature women that have a psychotic break over some guy.  They say you write what you know and that the best horror writers write about what scares them.  Sudden and uncontrollable madness is definitely something I find completely horrific.  The thought that a perfectly normal human being could wake up one day and mow down their office with an AK-47 scares the shit out of me.  But I assure you—my love life is very healthy and I don’t think I’ll be stalking any celebrities anytime soon.  Well… maybe just that one…
I write paranormal romance for the most part.  A genre that is utterly saturated with girls falling in love with a monster (i.e. vampires, werewolves, zombies, dragons).  What I’ve learned writing this story and others is that supernatural stuff isn’t particularly frightening.  It’s the guy sitting next to you on the bus. Or the guy washing the produce at the supermarket.  Or the guy you’re talking to on Facebook.  Those are the ones you have to watch out for.  Those are the real monsters.
I don’t generally use beta readers.  It isn’t that I don’t like using beta readers or that I’m super-secretive about what I’m working on.  I always take opinions way too much to heart.  I agonize over details and wondering, “What if they’re right?” instead of following my instinct.  But with this story, I did let someone beta and they gave me some really good ideas.  Many of which I used, but one that I agonized over for quite a while.  Now, I’m not going to tell you the suggestion, because I’d spoil the book to do so, but needless to say—I loved the beta’s idea.  But not for this book.  I considered it for a long time going back and forth, but in the end I remembered that this was MY book and I had to do what I felt was right.  Following your instincts and writing the story that only you can tell is probably the most important lesson a blossoming writer has to learn.  And ultimately, it’s what separates the real writers from the ones who think anyone can do this.
About the Author:
Alexandra Christian is an author of mostly paranormal erotic romance and horror.  In case you don't know what that means, she writes about not-so-nice girls getting it on with out- of- this- world heroes.  Vampires, werewolves, dragons, angels and demons-- and that's just recently! 
A self-proclaimed “Southern Belle from Hell,” Lexxx is a native South Carolinian who lives with an epileptic wiener dog and a pet ghost hunter.  She has published several novels, novellas and short stories with Ellora’s Cave, Purple Sword Publications, Mocha Memoirs Press and most recently, Seventh Star Press.  She looks forward to sharing her twisted view of reality with the masses through erotic paranormal romance and horror.  Lexxx’s long-term aspirations are to one day be a bestselling authoress and part-time pinup girl. 
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Friday, August 1, 2014

Bob Freeman: Five Things I Learned Writing SHADOWS OVER SOMERSET

What evil lurks in the heart of Cairnwood Manor?
Michael Somers is brought to Cairnwood, an isolated manor in rural Indiana, to sit at the deathbed of a grandfather he never knew existed. He soon finds himself drawn into a strange and esoteric world filled with werewolves, vampires, witches… and a family curse that dates back to fourteenth century Scotland.
In the sleepy little town of Somerset, an ancient evil awakens, hungering for blood and vengeance… and if Michael is to survive he must face his inner demons and embrace his family’s dark past.
What are the five things I learned from writing Shadows Over Somerset? Good question, and one not easily answered. Shadows was my first novel, written under both the best and worst of circumstances. Let's take a look at how that unfolded.
1. I was married on the first day of Autumn in the year 2000. As luck would have it, I walked out on my job as manager of a retail chain bookstore just a week prior. So there I was, newly married, without meaningful employment, and a job search that was getting me nowhere.
My new bride suggested I use the time to write a novel, something I always talked about doing but never got around to. Call it a lack of motivation, or the fear of failure, or what have you. Regardless, it was something I aspired to, and she damn well knew it.
She saw this as my opportunity and inspired me to drum my fingers on the keyboard while she went off to make ends meet. And that's what I did.
Each night after she left for work, I sat down at my computer, armed with a pack of smokes and a head full of ideas, and I wrote, feverishly. When she got home, she read what I'd spent the night writing.
This was my motivation — to have something worthwhile to share with her when she got home. It was a magical, bonding experience for us.
Three months passed and the first novel in the Cairnwood Manor saga was a reality.
Ummm, yeah, I'd be getting the heck out of there too.

2. The setting for Shadows — The Mississinewa Reservoir and surrounding State Forest, the town of Somerset, et al — was (and is) my old stomping grounds. I spent years combing that area, and I'd had a long fascination with its local history.
It was a natural fit for that location to find its way into the novel.
As they say, write what you know, and I knew Somerset and its environs like the back of my hand.
3. Speaking of writing what you know.
Shadows is littered with actual events, culled from my personal history. The names were changed to protect the guilty, of course. If you're looking to add verisimilitude to your stories, there's no better way than to keep it real. That means bleeding on the page. Your pain is your audience's gain.
4. The genesis for this tale about a clan of werewolves living in the backwoods of Somerset was born from a real enough event.
My brother, a couple of our friends, and I were out along an old stretch of abandoned road near Goose Creek in the late '80s when we heard the low growls of something fierce. Several somethings actually. We could see the glow of their eyes in the deep woods, moving toward us.
Needless to say, we were each gripped by an unnatural fear. Suddenly, one of our companions bolted, racing up the fractured road, hellbent for the safety of our car parked at the top of the hill.
That's when the beasts came at us, fast and furious. We fled like we had hellhounds on our trail.
It's certainly a night I'll never forget.

5. The truest thing I learned from writing Shadows was that the old adage about putting your ass in the chair and doing the work was gospel.
Writing was something I knew that I was born to do, but the thing that was holding me back was the motivation to do the actual work.
And it is work. Don't kid yourself.
The thing is, it's satisfying, and once you bite the bullet and park yourself in front of the keyboard and just let it go, you'll wonder what took you so god damn long.
Anyway, that's how it played out. If you'd like to hear me ramble more on the subject, you can find me at or on twitter/occultdetective.
Shadows Over Somerset (The Cairnwood Manor Series Book 1) can be ordered through your favorite bookseller (you know, the ones you actually physically walk through the door), or found here:
The Occult Detective himself: Bob Freeman