#ShortStory: The Reunion

Hello my Freaky Darlings,

Since it’s Friday, I thought I’d share a short story with you. Hope you enjoy it.

The Reunion

The wind howled over the small lake causing white horses to form on the surface. Frank had inherited the old house from his grandmother and turned it into a boutique hotel. The old lady was probably spinning in her grave at the idea of the local riff-raff sleeping in her bed, but the house was the perfect setting for honeymooners or couples on romantic getaways. The only problem was that when the cold weather rolled in, his love-struck guests rolled out.

He’d sunk all of his inheritance from his grandmother and his parents into fixing the house up so that he could turn it into his dream – a five star boutique hotel. Unfortunately, the monthly expenses to keep it running exceeded the income from the hotel guests. His cooking wasn’t good enough to make the restaurant a draw card for the Johannesburg culinary types or for the less picky Pretoria bunch.

The Magaliesburg was known for its B & B’s and little hide-away restaurants. Most of them were close to the main access roads, but Frank’s place was hidden and only accessible by dirt roads. Someone kept stealing the signs he put up on the main road, so his guests kept getting lost on their way to him and then decided to stay at one of the places they could find more easily. In short, the competition was stiff and Frank was broke. But he kept hoping that with just the right marketing strategy those honeymooners would start streaming in, even if the weather was cold and the roads were crap.

As it was, his wife had just left him. Tracy hated the hospitality business and her feelings towards Frank were decidedly cold. He was now running the place on his own. The only help he had was Bettie, the maid he’d inherited with the house. She was eighty, and managed to make him feel like he was a naughty school boy who needed a smack every time he asked her to do something. He’d known Bettie his whole life. She’d practically raised him. It was Bettie who’d taught him to tie his shoelaces, not his mother. He’d learnt to speak Zulu before he’d learnt English. Bettie’s grandson, Mpho, had been like his brother. Mpho had died of AIDS several years ago, and Frank still missed him. They should have been running the hotel together. Bettie would have liked that, his grandmother and parents on the other hand may not have felt the same way.

As he went through the house, closing the windows to guard against the unseasonal storm that was heading his way, a small, bashed up old Mini Cooper bounced along the drive towards the hotel. A young couple, who made no effort to keep their hands off each other, fell out of it in a giggling heap. They’d obviously had a few drinks. How they made it down the dirt road without crashing or how they’d managed not to get pulled over by the Johannesburg Metro cops was a mystery to him. He made his way to the front entrance to greet them, like any good hotelier should. After all, hospitality was the name of the game.

He stepped outside the front door and noticed that the sky had turned that grey yellow colour that always seemed to precede a hailstorm. Winters in South Africa were supposed to be dry. Storms happened in summer, but lately the weather had been unpredictable and the storms were the worst he’d seen in twenty years. It looked like the latest one was going to be one for the record books. One of the wooden deck chairs that he’d forgotten to fold up and put in the storeroom rolled across the front lawn. The chair impersonated tumbleweed with remarkable aplomb. Its journey to the water was stopped by the canoe he’d pulled out of the water and turned over to resemble an elongated turtle. The house wasn’t really equipped to withstand a bad storm, but that wasn’t something he would put in the brochure. In anticipation, he’d stocked up on candles for the inevitable power failure. He needed a generator, but couldn’t afford one, so paraffin lamps and candles were the best he could do, and that combination probably wasn’t a good idea. He reminded himself that the house had been standing for a hundred years and would probably, with a little maintenance and some cash, be standing for a hundred more.

The couple clung to each other as they stumbled up the long gravel pathway towards the front door. A blast of wind tried to separate them, but only managed to make them crumble to the ground in a hysterical mass of laughter. A flash of lightning cracked the sky. The thunder clap was only a few seconds behind. The lightning strike was close by, only a few kilometres away and getting closer judging by the rumble. The man got back up on unsteady legs. He looked to be in his late teens, early twenties. He’d probably only been shaving for a year or two. The girl was even younger – fresh out of high school and still wet behind the ears. He didn’t envy either of them the hangover they were going to have in the morning, but he couldn’t help but envy their youth and the happiness they shared in their drunken stupor. Had he ever been that young and that in love? He couldn’t remember.

Something shimmered at the periphery of his vision. The hair at the back of his neck and on his arms bristled. He put it down to the electricity in the air created by the incoming storm, but a feeling in his gut made him look over his shoulder. In that instant he wished he could rewind those seconds and ignore his gut. Four men stood behind him. Their pale skin and blood shot eyes turned his stomach. Not to mention the assortment of knives, axe’s, and bloody machete’s they carried. Fear and confusion tore at his brain. He blinked hoping that they were simply a horrific mirage. When he opened his eyes the men were gone and he was still alive. He let go of the breath he’d been holding and thanked a god he’d never been sure he believed in, but saying a little prayer seemed appropriate. He chalked the ghostly vision up to his overactive imagination. There’d been a few grisly murders in the area over the last couple of years and no matter how much security he put up, sooner or later someone was bound to show up and try and take what was his.

The young man, who on closer inspection was little more than a boy, stood behind him holding up the girl. He had one of those ridiculous patches of beard on his chin and the girl had bleached her hair that silvery white blond that seemed to be the fashion with young girls. They both wore happy grins, which made him feel old. Frank wondered how they’d gotten up the pathway so quickly. Just a couple seconds prior, they’d been falling about laughing at their car. It should have taken them longer to make their way up the pathway. He’d only turned away for a split second, he was sure of it. He shrugged his confusion off and chalked that one up to being over tired.

Men’s laughter came from inside the parlour. Those men were inside his house. They hadn’t been a figment of his imagination. He tried to calm himself down. Panic would only get him killed. He’d last seen Bettie upstairs pretending to dust some of the bedroom furniture but he knew, from previous experience, that she’d probably dosed off on one of the beds. Bettie was a tough old bird who wouldn’t have let anybody, who wasn’t a paying guest, inside without a fight. He hoped that she was still asleep and blissfully unaware that they had unwanted guests. His other, newly arrived, guests looked at him expectantly.

“Hey bro,” the boy-man slurred. “Can we have a room? We just got married.”

“Look, now’s not a good time,” Frank said. He couldn’t let the kids inside. He needed them to get help. Although he wasn’t sure they were capable of doing much of anything in their condition.

“Sounds like there’s a party going on,” the boy ignored him and pushed past Frank, stumbling inside with his young bride hanging on his arm.

“Shit,” Frank swore under his breath. He didn’t want to die. He hadn’t changed his will yet. Tracy would inherit the house and that would really piss him off. She’d probably sell the place off for a fortune and spend it on her new toy-boy. He took a deep breath, pulled his shoulders back and tried to control his bowls as he stepped inside the house to face his deadly guests. Perhaps he was wrong about his visitors. Perhaps they were simply there to have a good time. Perhaps their idea of a good time didn’t include killing anybody. A man could hope.

The four men stood at the bar his great grandfather had built in the 1920’s. Their weapons had been carelessly discarded on the polished mahogany surface and they’d each poured themselves a generous glass of Johnny Walker Red.

“I can still remember how that little boy squealed just before I stabbed him again and again. He only stopped squealing after the fifth time I stuck him like a pig,” one of the men said, fingering a knife lying on the counter next to him. His hair looked like he’d put one of his fingers in an electrical socket and the bulge in his pants caused by his recollection was disturbing to say the least. Frank wanted to run away screaming, but he and his two young guests were transfixed.

“The boy probably sounded like you did when they fried your brain, Sparky. I always did enjoy a good electrocution, especially when a paedophile like you gets fried. They should never have gotten rid of the death penalty,” the man with a face like an exploded melon said. “If I’d been on death row I would have lived longer and had a better last meal.”

“I might have been fried, Pretty Boy, but at least I didn’t get a beat down like a bitch in the prison yard.”

“Fuck you! Those guys were a bunch of cowards and I took a few of them with me.”

“Who are you calling a coward? I gave you that face,” said the man with a missing eye.

“And I took your eye for your trouble. So I guess we’re even, One-Eyed Jack.”

“Not by a long shot. It took me a week to die from an infection thanks to your dirty finger nails. Do you know how crap it is to die in a prison hospital? My nurse was a horny inmate with a cock like a bull who thought it would be funny to rape me while I was in a coma. My arse still hurts. You and I will never be even.”

“Do we have to go through this every year? For twenty years I’ve been listening to you idiots moan about the same shit. Can’t we just kill a few people and enjoy our weekend without all the other crap?” Asked a man with rope burn marks around his neck and blood shot eyes. There was something familiar about him. Frank was sure he’d seen his face before. A memory scratched at the edge of his brain.

“Speaking of victims,” One-Eyed Jack said. “Slim pickings this year. You really picked a crap spot. I told you we should have gone to Knysna. There are tourists there all year round.”

“You can choose any spot you like when it’s your turn, but I had the pleasure of raping the slut who used to own this place upstairs in her bed. She was my first. I made her boyfriend watch before I slit his throat. She came to say goodbye at my execution with my kid on her hip. She smiled and made my son wave goodbye when they made me do the hangman’s jig. This house has a special place in my heart,” the man with the rope burn said as he looked around the room and nodded. “Good memories here.”

Frank’s grandmother had never spoken of what had happened to her when she was a girl, but he’d seen old newspaper clippings in the attic. That was why the man’s face was familiar. He’d seen his face in those old clippings and it was his father’s face. What had happened all those years ago was something nobody in the family ever talked about. No-one spoke about the fact that his grandmother never married or that his father had been born nine months after the rape. She’d kept her son when most women would have given him up for adoption. Sometimes he wondered if it wouldn’t have been better for his father if she’d done that, though. Knowing that he’d been the product of rape and the offspring of a notorious serial killer had haunted his father all his life.

“And here’s the fruit of my loins. He’s a disappointing sight, isn’t he?” The ghost of his serial killer grandfather said. “Must take after his mother’s side of the family. Doesn’t look a thing like me.”

“Lucky for him,” said One-Eyed Jack. “I thought this was supposed to be our reunion not a family one.”

“It’s not a family reunion, just some unfinished business.”

“What unfinished business?” Sparky asked.

“That’s between the kid and me,” his grandfather said as he put his empty whisky glass down and walked towards Frank with a panga in his hand. A bolt of lightning struck one of the trees outside the parlour window. The windows rattled from the blast. An orange glow emanated from the flames as they licked the dry tree branches. Frank hoped the rain would put out the blaze, he didn’t foresee any fire fighting in his immediate future. As his grandfather walked towards him his future looked short and bloody. The girl screamed as One-eyed Jack pulled her towards him. The boy tried to punch Sparky’s leering face, but his fist passed right through what should have been solid matter.

“Hey,” Pretty Boy said. “Where’s mine?”

“Up-stairs, asleep on the old slut’s bed,” Frank’s grandfather said. “She’s waiting just for you and she probably hasn’t seen any action in the last twenty years.”

Pretty Boy’s laughter as he ran up the stairs to find Bettie stirred Frank’s watery bowls.

“Just don’t piss yourself,” his grandfather said over the sound of Bettie’s and the girls screams. “Me and the boys get together every year and remember the good old days when we were alive and killing our way across this country. We have fun together, just like we used to,” he said as he put his arm around Frank’s shoulder. Frank got a whiff of old blood as his grandfather waved the panga around under his nose. “Your grandmother was a slut and I should have killed her the night I put my seed in her belly. I should have come back when I found out she was having my bastard, but the cops stopped me before I could. I let your father live because he, at least, was a man. That little wife of his knew what would happen if she didn’t respect him. He knew how to give her a good slap if she stepped out of line. But you, my boy, are a disappointment. Look at yourself. You’re a disgrace.”

Blood sprayed the curtains as One-Eyed Jack and Sparky sliced and diced the young couple. Bettie’s screams came to an abrupt end followed by the sound of Pretty Boy’s gurgled laughter. Frank watched as his grandfather brought the panga down on his neck. His own, short lived, screams were accompanied by the sound of the rain and thunder.

“Don’t worry, Son. That wife of yours won’t live here for long. The boys and I’ll pay here a visit next year on our way down to Knysna.” His grandfather stared down at him as his blood pumped out of his severed artery. He drifted off to the sound of laughter, glasses clinking, and rolling thunder.

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This story was originally published in Tales from The Lake Vol 1.

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Fury: New Review

Hello my Freaky Darlings,

There’s another review for Fury out thanks to Terry Tyler, who feels that Fury is horror at it’s most grisly (reading that of course gives me the warm and fuzzies). She goes on to say: “I don’t think I’ve ever been more keen to point out that a book is not for the faint of heart, and you definitely shouldn’t read it while you’re eating.  If you’re a fan of films like ‘Hostel’ and ‘Saw’, and if you didn’t have to shut your eyes in the more revolting bits of ‘Trainspotting’, you’ll like this.  That is all I will say!”

To read the full review pop on over here: http://terrytylerbookreviews.blogspot.co.za/2016/07/fury-by-joan-de-la-haye.html

She gives me a 3.5 star rating which isn’t too bad! I can’t always have 4 or 5 star reviews you know. And lets face it, I’ve had far worse than 3.5 stars.

Every review helps! So if you’ve read Fury or any of my other books, please leave a review on Amazon and Goodreads. I’ll give you a big squeeze if you do.

 

Profiled in Authors Magazine

Hello my Freaky Darlings,

The October issue of Authors Magazine is out and I’m in it!

AM profile

I am incredibly chuffed to be able to say that I share this issue with the likes of Stephen King (Holy Fuck!) and local superstar Gareth Crocker. Along with the profile on me there’s also an excerpt from Burning and several incredible articles on the writing and publishing industry. Do yourself a favour and check out Authors Magazine especially if you’re in the publishing industry or a writer.

To read the profile on me and the excerpt from Burning have a look here.

Let me know what you think.

 

Resources

Hello my Freaky Darlings,

Last time we chatted about Marketing and Publicity. For the final post is this series here is a short list of resources that you might find handy, magazines that accept short fiction submissions as well as a few small publishers that focus on horror fiction. This is a basic list that you can expand on. It’s just to get you started.

Associations and helpful websites:

Short Story Markets:

Game writing markets:

Freelance Editors:

Publishers:

Marketing and Publicity Advice sites:

Review Sites:

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Marketing and Publicity

Hello my Freaky Darlings,

Last week we chatted about Getting Published, today we’ll be discussing Marketing and Publicity.

‘Never respond to a bad review in public. You only make yourself look an idiot and people think you’re unprofessional. If you don’t like the review – suck it up. The reviewer is entitled to their opinion and you can’t please everyone so just get over yourself.’Sam Stone, author of Demon Dance.   

You’ve finished writing your book, found a publisher and it’s about to be released. All the hard work is finally done, right? Wrong!

The real work has only just begun. All the years you spent writing, editing, and re-editing were only preparation for what you’re going to have to do now.

There are many ways to promote yourself and your writing, it’s just a case of figuring out which ones work for you. But if you want your book to sell, you’re going to have to put yourself out there. People are not just going to stumble across your book, you’re going to have to make sure you’re easy to find. Marketing your book is not an overnight process. Some people will say that there’s only a short window of opportunity to market your fiction novel, but that’s rubbish. You should continue marketing your book for as long as it’s in print or in e-format.

Your own website:

Having a website is a great way to introduce yourself to readers and the world at large. Whenever I find out about a new author, the first thing I do is Google them, check out their website, have a look at what they’ve written, and only then consider buying their books. You should have a bio page, a page listing what you’ve written and where they can buy it, and a contact page. Have a look at other author’s websites. Having a website that looks professional is important. Your website is the first impression you give a potential reader. If it looks like it was put together by someone who didn’t know what they were doing, they probably won’t have a very high opinion of you or your books and won’t bother to buy your book. But if it looks good, they may just hit that buy button. Also make sure the website loads quickly. People are impatient. If it takes too long to load, they’ll simply move onto another writer’s website.

Blogging:

Having a blog is probably more important than having a website. A website is static, whereas a blog is interactive. Blogs are also free! I prefer the WordPress platform because you can set it up to look like a website. You can use your blog to showcase your writing far better than on a website. Only drawback is that you have to blog regularly. When building a following for your blog you should blog at least once a week. Have a link to your blog on your email signature. You want to point potential readers to your blog or website every chance you get. Post links to your latest blog posts on Facebook and Twitter.

Social Networking:

Being on social networks has become one of the most important weapons for any author to have in their marketing arsenal. There are so many to choose from. There’s Google +, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and way too many others to mention. But the fact is you don’t have enough time in the day to spend on every single network there is. If you did there wouldn’t be any time left to write. And as a writer, writing is what you’re supposed to do. So I would suggest you pick two or three and commit to those. I prefer Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads. I find them far easier to use and far more useful than the others.

  • Facebook:

Over the years Facebook has become the main social network. If you’re not on there, then you probably prefer living under a rock. I know a lot of authors are tempted to go out and get a fan page as well as a normal profile. It’s a good way to separate your personal from your professional, but don’t go bugging everybody to become a fan on your professional author page. It’s annoying. I, personally, hate it when some author I’ve never heard of friends me on Facebook and then five seconds later starts harassing me to like their page. My response is usually a quick unfriend and the chances of me ever getting their book drops from slim to none. I only like the pages of authors I’m actually a fan of, like Stephen King or Anne Rice.

There was this one writer who even went so far as to bother me on Facebook chat. I’d never spoken to him before; he hadn’t taken any interest in me or my books. The only thing he did was try and force his self-published book down my throat. Please, for your own sake, don’t do that! You’ve got to strike a delicate balance between marketing yourself and being social. If there’s a good review out on your book, post a link to it. But also remember to post things that have absolutely nothing to do with your writing. People also want to know who you are as a person. They want to connect with you on a personal level. They don’t just want to hear about your book.

  • Twitter:

Twitter is a little more complicated to get a handle on. A lot of people find twitter difficult, because it’s so fast. It’s hard to keep up with everything that happens on it. It’s like being at a very busy cocktail party and only getting snippets of conversations. There’s also a temptation to follow thousands of people, but if you do that do your really have a quality stream or are you simply following people to get them to follow you back? I prefer to follow people who I find have something relevant to say. I follow other writers, publishers, a few agents, publicists, and most of them are part of the horror industry. I would also suggest tweeting a few times at different times during the day. Once again, don’t just tweet about your book. Be a part of the conversation.

  • Goodreads:

What makes Goodreads so brilliant for authors is their author program and the fact that everybody on there is a reader. They’re the perfect audience to market to. You can also add a stream from your blog to your author page. You can add your book trailer if you have one. As you publish more books your Goodreads author profile is automatically updated. There are loads of forums where you can list yourself, your book and join the conversation.

Book reviews:

Book reviews are unfortunately something that authors have to get used to. It’s one of the main ways of promoting your book. Word of mouth is probably the fastest way to get the word out about your book and reviews are one of the main ways of doing it. Bad reviews suck, but when you get a really good review there’s nothing quite like it. Knowing that someone who doesn’t know you, thinks that you’ve done a brilliant job is incredibly reaffirming. When you get a bad review do NOT respond to it. Do not get into a debate with the reviewer. They’re entitled to their opinion. When I get a bad review, I go back and read all the good reviews and eat some chocolate. I feel much better afterwards. There are also lots of horror sites that give fair book reviews.

When looking for a site or a blog to review your book, have a look at the reviews they’ve written in the past. Are the reviews fair and well thought out? Or is it just a quick opinion piece? How much traffic does the site get? The site should also list their review policy. What are they looking for? Do they accept ebooks or only print books?  Do they have a contact page? Only once you’re satisfied that it’s an above board review site should you get in contact and send them a review copy. Be prepared for a long wait. Most decent review sites have a huge backlog. Some reviewers have taken a year to review my book. In some cases I’m still waiting for that review. Whatever you do, do not harass the reviewer for that review. They’ll get to it. You don’t want to poison their opinion of your book by being overzealous. Patience is the key here.

Blog book tours:

These are relatively new, but are becoming more and more popular. A single author blog tour should ordinarily last from ten days to two weeks. It consists of a guest blog post or interview on a different blog every day. It does involve quite a bit of work and planning, but the nice thing is you don’t have to leave the comfort of your own home. When picking your blog stops make sure the blog gets a decent amount of traffic and that the blog has something to do with your book. Since this is a course on writing horror, I would suggest blogs that have something to do with horror or publishing or writing. I don’t think a blog on knitting would be a good idea. Here’s a good place to help you plan your blog tour: http://blogbooktours.blogspot.com/ Join the yahoo group. Dani helped me plan my first blog tour. It was one of the most helpful experiences.

Another type of blog tour that’s making an appearance is the blog hop. It’s where a bunch of authors get together and promote it so that potential readers can hop from one blog to the others. Each blog offers prize’s etc. I took part in the Coffin Hop (http://coffinhop.blogspot.com/) this year, it was a great success. I had a couple hundred new visitors on my blog every day during the hop. It was great exposure and I met a whole lot of other horror writers I wouldn’t have otherwise gotten to meet.

Live readings/book signings/panels

I hate public speaking. I absolutely loath it. Put me in front of a crowd of people I don’t know and I freeze up. I’m far more charming one on one or in front of my laptop. Strangely enough, I find panel discussions a lot easier to handle, maybe it has something to do with my not being all alone in front of everybody else. If you get invited to talk to a book club or at a restaurant or at a bookstore, don’t make the mistake I did on my first one. Start with a reading from your book. I found it calmed me right down. Take a few notes on what you want to talk about. I didn’t. The moment I stood up in front of all those faces, everything I thought I wanted to say flew right out of my mind and I was left with a complete blank. Question and answer sessions are great. It makes things move a lot quicker and the audience feels that they’re a part of it all and that they’re getting to know you better.

When you’re signing books afterwards make sure you get the correct spelling of the person’s name before you start writing. I had a guy scream at me when he’d bought my book for his girlfriend. I didn’t realise that she spelled her name differently to all the other girls out there with the same name. I ended up having to apologise to the girlfriend for the incorrect spelling as a part of the note I wrote. It was all rather embarrassing.

Radio/TV interviews

These are incredibly exciting and they make us writers feel like we’re celebrities, but they are not the staple in our marketing and publicity arsenal. Getting a radio or TV interview is incredibly rare, especially for a horror writer. Strangely enough I’ve never seen a pickup in book sales after I’ve been on the radio. I’ve been on small radio stations that only have a few thousand people listening to the big national radio stations and while it is great publicity, I’ve had more sales from a blog tour. Don’t fixate on what you perceive as the big prize, you’ll only be disappointed.

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Getting published

Hello my Freaky Darlings,

Last week we chatted about writing for games, this week we’ll talk about getting published.

‘My advice to aspiring authors is to read widely and read outside of their genres. Read everything from classics to best sellers and even the newspapers. It doesn’t matter what genre you write. Then get your posterior on a chair and write every day. Even if you manage 500 new words every day, that’s something. Revise your manuscript to within an inch of its life. Get peer reviews from fellow writers (you can find them at places such as www.absolutewrite.com/forums) and submit, submit, submit. For every rejection you receive, send out another submission until you can honestly say you’ve tried.’Nerine Dorman, author of Khepera Rising. 

So … you’ve finished your book. Congratulations! Now what?

Well … you have a few decisions to make. Do you start submitting to agents? Do you submit to small or independent publishers? Or do you go the indie route all on your own? Do you go print or ebook? Or try both? In todays publishing climate all of these options are viable, it just depends on what you’re looking for and how much rejection you’re willing to take.

If you go the self-publishing route don’t just get your auntie or your mother to edit it for you. Hire a proper editor. Self-publishing has a bad wrap because writers don’t have their books edited properly or they don’t get a cover designed. Self-publishers often end up with an unprofessional product and as a result it’s looked down upon and it doesn’t sell. So … hire an editor and get a professional to design your cover. You want your book to be and look as good as it possibly can, don’t you? You also don’t want people to leave scathing reviews on Amazon because your book was riddled with spelling and grammatical errors. And people do judge books by their covers.

One of the really nice things about the horror industry is that there are quite a few reputable small and indie publishers who are focused on horror. You don’t need an agent to submit to them but you do need to stick to their submission guidelines. Every publisher will have their submission guidelines on their website, read them carefully. Do not deviate from what they ask for. If they ask for the first three chapters, only send them the first three chapters. Don’t send them the whole manuscript. They get so many submissions and can only afford to publish a handful, so you don’t want to give them a reason to reject you before they’ve even had a chance to read those first few chapters.

Rejection sucks! But it’s also a part of being a writer. You need to develop a thick skin in this industry. You’re going to get rejected a LOT and even once you’ve got that ever illusive publishing deal, you’ll have to deal with reviewers ripping your book to shreds. So put on your armour and get ready to take a few blows to your ego. Even Stephen King got a hundred rejection letters before he was first published. I’ve still got my first rejection letter, which I got when I was twelve. Handle the rejection gracefully. Don’t reply to the rejection letter with a snotty note on what a huge mistake they’ve made. Simply thank them for their time. You never know when you’ll want to submit to them again. They’ll remember if you were rude.

Agents are just as hard to get these days as a publishing deal with a big publishing house, especially for a first time author. Agents have often got a full list and can’t take on new clients. They also take their cut of your royalties. But if you manage to get a good one, they’re worth their weight in gold. And if you want to get in with one of the big houses, you’ll need an agent.

To be honest, I’m a fan of the small and indie publishers. They do so much for their writers and they provide a lot more freedom. Big publishers are focused on the bottom line and what they think will sell. They seem to stick to what they know and what’s sold in the past. They don’t go out of their comfort zone and want things to fit nicely in a box, whereas the smaller publishers take risks and push boundaries. The writer also has more say in the cover design and pretty much everything else with a small publisher. You’re just another cog in the wheel with a big publisher. One of the draw backs with a small publisher is that they don’t have a budget for promotion and marketing. You’ll have to do it all yourself, which while a lot of work can be a great deal of fun.

Make a list of the publishers you’d like to submit to, make sure it’s a reasonably long list, but just remember most of the big publishers do not take unsolicited manuscripts, that’s where agents come in. You need to play a numbers game here. The more publishers or agents you submit to, the greater your chances of getting picked up. Have a look at their guidelines, stick to them and send it off. Then hit the next one on your list.

Now the long wait starts. Publishers and agents can take three to six months to get back to you, only to reject you. If you haven’t heard back within six months, send a follow up to make sure they got it. Sometimes things get lost in the inbox. Just keep at it. Being a writer requires persistence. You’re not going to get anywhere in this business unless you put yourself out there and keep doing it.

While you’re waiting, start work on another book or get a few short stories out. You have to keep writing and submitting. Writers Write.

Have a look at these websites:

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Game Writing

Hello my Freaky Darlings,

Last week we chatted about writing short horror fiction, today we’ll be discussing Writing for Games.

‘The Horror genre has long been a cornerstone in computer and console games, from Phantasmagoria to Doom, Alone in the Dark to Plants versus Zombies–and many in-between. In the early days, game developers themselves wrote all the text for a game, but in more recent times, many game companies have come to value the polish only trained and experienced writers can provide. This is presenting a wealth of opportunities for writers. The games industry is a demanding mistress, however, and in order to succeed, you must be devoted to her.’ –  Angel Leigh McCoy, writer/game designer at ArenaNet  

Do you play games? I don’t mean mind games. We all play those in some form or another. I’m talking about role playing and video games. If you don’t play them, you probably won’t have a feel   for the intricacies involved in game writing. You also won’t have a clue what makes a game work, what makes it fun from your own experience. If you want to write games, you have to play them.

So … you’ve played some games and now you think you’re ready to write them. Well … slow down. Breaking into the industry can be a little on the hard side. Get ready to network. Go to trade shows, conventions, and any other industry get togethers that you can find out about. Collect as many business cards as possible. Make friends with as many industry players as you can. This also holds true for anything in the writing industry.

Write a few reviews on games for gaming magazines. Some game magazines hire freelancers, but they expect in-depth, well thought out reviews. It’s not like writing a review for your blog. An added bonus with being a reviewer is that, like with book reviewing, you get a lot of freebies to play with. Another avenue to pursue is writing game guides and role playing game books. Here’s an interesting post on getting into game writing: http://blog.ubi.com/the-write-stuff-on-becoming-a-game-writer/

Once you’ve gotten your foot in the door with game writing etc you would normally end up writing the setting and character sketches, and the general plot based on what the game developer comes up with on the ideas front. You’ll have to get comfortable creating new and complex worlds. It is your job to give the necessary tools to a gamer or game master to play the game and create their own story along with the other players. You can’t just carry them along on the story the way you think it should go. You aren’t writing it for yourself; you are writing it for other players.

You also have to give them choices. If you don’t want a player to go through a certain door because you haven’t actually put anything behind it, you have to give them a reason why they can’t. You can’t just leave them standing in front of it, trying to open it. You also have to give them another option of where to go. There are also certain rules that you have to stick to in the game. Learn the settings and the rules for the game and stick to them. There is no leeway. No breaking of rules allowed.

Get used to collaborating with other writers. Novel writing is a very solitary occupation, but game writing is the exact opposite. You work in a team, which is made up of other writers, designers, engineers, actors or voice over artists, directors, and sound engineers. Working in a team comes with its own set of problems as well as bonuses. You don’t get to decide everything, but you do have a lot of back up, people to bounce ideas off of, and you don’t have to do it all alone.

In horror games, you get to play more with the mood and the ambience. Just think how much fun you can have with the sound effects that are designed to scare the living daylights out of the most seasoned of players.

So … if you like playing games, you can write, and you can handle working in a team, then game writing may just be an avenue that is worth exploring. Good luck!

There are sadly not a lot of books available about game writing, but something to keep in mind is that game writing is similar in its requirements and style to writing a screenplay, so any book on screen writing that you can get your hands on will be helpful as well. 

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