Guest Post: Alistair Cross

Hello my Freaky Darlings,

Today, Alistair Cross has hi-jacked my blog.

Here’s a little info on the fiend who dared trespass here.

ac-headshot

Alistair Cross’ debut novel, The Crimson Corset, a vampiric tale of terror and seduction, was an immediate bestseller earning praise from veteran vampire-lit author, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, and New York Times bestseller, Jay Bonansinga, author of The Walking Dead series. In 2012, Alistair joined forces with international bestseller, Tamara Thorne, and as Thorne & Cross, they write – among other things – the successful Gothic series, The Ravencrest Saga. Their debut collaboration, The Cliffhouse Haunting, reached the bestseller’s list in its first week of release. They are currently at work on their next solo novels and a new collaborative project.

In 2014, Alistair and Tamara began the radio show, Thorne & Cross: Haunted Nights LIVE!, which has featured such guests as Charlaine Harris of the Southern Vampire Mysteries and basis of the HBO series True Blood, Jeff Lindsay, author of the Dexter novels, Jay Bonansinga of The Walking Dead series, Laurell K. Hamilton of the Anita Blake novels, Peter Atkins, screenwriter of HELLRAISER 2, 3, and 4, worldwide bestseller V.C. Andrews, and New York Times best sellers Preston & Child, Christopher Rice, and Christopher Moore.

Top Ten Writing Lessons I’ve Learned in Ten Years

Though I’ve been writing all my life, it wasn’t until ten years ago that I got serious about it. And I didn’t want to be a hobby-writer, either. I wanted to be a real-life, full-time professional who spends his time writing, editing, marketing, and well … doing it all – because that’s what writers do these days.

The road was long and winding, but in 2012, I finally got published. Since then, I’ve written several novels with bestselling author, Tamara Thorne, and am now completing my second solo novel, The Angel Alejandro, which will be out early in 2017, as well as several other collaborations and solo projects.

And Tamara and I didn’t stop there. We also began the radio show, Thorne & Cross: Haunted Nights LIVE!, where we interview authors, paranormal investigators, forensics experts, and anyone else who likes frolicking in the darkness with us. I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know some amazing people, and in the decade since I plunged myself into the strange world of creative enterprise, I’ve learned some things about writers, readers, the craft, and the business.

Some of these lessons were learned first hand and some of them through the wisdom of others, but all of them have proved profoundly valuable to me. The list that follows comes from my experience in the writing world, and I hope some of it may be useful to other writers … and interesting for readers.

1. Reading is the single most important thing to do if you want to improve your craft. Read everything … and read it with an active eye, taking in plot devices, pacing, theme, voice, dialogue, and character development. Reading trains the unconscious mind to find its own writing rhythm and gives you an “ear” for storytelling. So read. Not a little, but a lot. As Stephen King famously says, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.”

2. There’s no such thing as ‘just a writer’ anymore. Gone are the days (if they ever existed) when publishers spent copious amounts of time and money getting the word out about your new book. You’re not just an author anymore. You’re also a marketer, a public relations specialist, a social media virtuoso, and a business manager, among other things. Make peace with that, keeping in mind that no one will work as hard for you as you will. They never have and they never will. So be accountable for your career.

3. The cream rises to the top. In an age of do-it-yourself digital delirium, everyone’s an author. It’s easy to look at the bottomless pit of other writers and wonder how the hell anyone is going to find your work. But look closer and you’ll see how many of those authors fall off the map, disenchanted when their dreams of instant fame and fortune are promptly torn to pieces. Not to mention the profusion of books out there that simply aren’t any good. Readers are smart people and they know the difference between a good story and a poor one. They don’t come back to authors who write bad books. Keep writing damned good books and, like the proverbial cream, you’ll rise to the top.

4. Have heroes. Learn from the best. Once you’ve established what kind of writer you want to be, keep a close eye on those authors who inspire you. Study their work, learn from them. Stalk them on Twitter. But don’t get too stalkery. No one likes a creepster.

5. Set goals. Whether it’s a page amount, a word amount, or a paragraph amount, set daily goals. Don’t settle for the “when I get around to it” approach to writing. No one ever “gets around to it.”

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6. Know the difference between a hobby and a job. If you want writing to be your job, you have to treat it like a job or no one else will. That means you set hours. The phone is off. The door is shut. You’re not readily accessible. If you don’t spend your time wisely, other people will happily spend it for you, so unless writing is a mere pastime for you, don’t let other people spend your time.

7.   Go big or go home. Don’t think you can only write for small markets, or that a high-powered literary agent won’t be interested, or that a big-name author is going to look down his or her nose at you. Know your worth and aim for the stars.

8. Walk through every door that opens. And if you keep at it, people will open doors for you. But getting through the door is the easy part. It’s up to you to earn your place in the room.

9. Never read your reviews. For better or worse, reviews are necessary, but they’re designed with other readers in mind – not the author. If you’re looking for a critique, get it from your agent, your editor, your publisher, another author, or an objective friend … anywhere but from the reviews section of the book retailer. Reading reviews – whether they be glowing or insulting – isn’t really doing you any favors.

10. Trust your characters. Some writers will say that you must keep your characters on a short leash and remain in full command of them at all times lest they sully your painstakingly-plotted story with their whimsical meanderings. But here’s the thing: Those seemingly frivolous departures from your plans are where the characters come to life. And when the characters come to life, that’s when the magic happens. I say let your characters go where they want, let them say what they want … let them tell you their story. Let yourself be as delighted and surprised by them as your readers will be.

alejandro-promo

You can stalk Alistair at the following places:

★ Author’s website: http://www.alistaircross.com/

★ Author’s social media links:

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Alistair-Cross/e/B00N446AZS/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6517308.Alistair_Cross

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/crossalistair

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CrossAlistair

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/alistaircross/

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Remember to hit that subscribe button to keep up with all the news, reviews, and interviews. And feel free to leave a comment or three. It’s always nice to hear from you guys.

My A to Z of Horror

Hello my Freaky Darlings,

Today is the first day of Coffin Hop 2011 and therefore I’m running a competition!

Below is my list of A to Z for horror and Halloween. I’ve only left Y open. The person who comes up with the most original association for Y and horror or Halloween gets a character named after them in the sequel to Shadows. The winner will be announced on the 1st of November!

A = Aliens

B = Bodies

C = Claws

D = Death

E = Evil laugh

F = Fear / Fullmoon

G = Ghosts/Ghouls/Goblins

H = Haunted Houses

I = Infectious Diseases

J = Jumping Jitters

K = Killing

L = Living Dead

M = Monsters

N = Nightmares

O = Occult/Outer Space

P = Poltergeists

Q = Quarantine

R = Rats

S = Spiders

T = Trick or Treat

U = Urban Legends

V = Vampires

W = Werewolves

X = X-rated Gore

Y = ?

Z = Zombies

Leave your answer in the comments section as well as your full name and an email address I can get hold of you on. Now pop in at the Coffin Hop site and check out all the other sites participating. There are loads of competitions to enter and freaky things to win.

Here are the gory details for the Coffin Hop!

1) HAVE A SPOOKY FUN TIME!

2) INVITE YOUR FRIENDS AND SPREAD THE WORD!

3) THIS TOUR STARTS: Monday, October 24, 2011 at Midnight (PST)

THIS TOUR ENDS: Monday, October 31, 2011 at Midnight (PST)

Winners will be drawn and posted November 1, 2011

4) MEET AND MINGLE WITH THE AUTHORS! EXPERIENCE A NEW DESTINATION AT EVERY STOP! PARTICIPATE IN EVERY SITE’S CONTEST AND BE ENTERED FOR CHANCES TO WIN MULTIPLE PRIZES! EVERY BLOG VISITED IS ANOTHER OPPORTUNITY TO WIN!

5) PARTICIPATION AT ALL SITES IS RECOMMENDED, BUT NOT REQUIRED. THE MORE SITES YOU HOP, THE BETTER YOUR CHANCES OF WINNING PRIZES.

6) DID I MENTION TO HAVE A SPOOKY FUN TIME?

***Authors have full discretion to choose an alternate winner in the event any winner fails to claim their prize(s) within 72 hours of their name being posted or after notification of win, whichever comes first. Anyone who participates in this tour is subject to these rules***

A World of Darkness

Hello my Freaky Darlings,

Today I’ve got a guest on my blog! Fellow South African dark fiction author, Nerine Dorman. So without any further ado I’m handing you over to her.

People have often asked me why I have a preference for dark subject matter. I know for a fact that it drove my mother nuts by the time I hit my teens and I started seriously getting into literature and role-playing games featuring “evil” critters such as vampires and werewolves. Looking back now, I’m still not quite sure where my fascination started. What I do know is that this was definitely motivated by fear.

Things that scared me when I was a young were the creatures of the night, but also more sinister forces—I was raised in a strict religious household—so this included fear of evil cultists and demon possession. These forces could be interpreted also as the fear of being the Other, of being different and possibly damned through having transgressed society’s moral boundaries. I spent my entire childhood scared to death of being outcast and all this bottled repression had to bubble out eventually.

In a sense, as I grew into my own identity, I purposefully set out to recreate myself in the image of the very things I’d been warned against. And it wasn’t just a phase I’d grow out of, either. A decade and a half later, I’m still the unrepentant coffin kid. I tried the whole corporate stint for two horrid years when I was working in an ad agency and I was so miserable I couldn’t wait to get more body piercings.

In a sense, most of my writing reflects this notion of the Outsider, of people or beings who, due to some twist of fate or through their own doings, exist on the periphery of society. South Africa, with its turbulent history, presents many opportunities to explore the concept of the Outsider; at present, my published novels are mostly set in the Rainbow Nation because I’m a firm believer in “write what you know”.

A handful of foreign publishers and agents rejected my writing due to the fact that it’s not “recognisably African” (by their standards) but to be honest, I don’t give a toss. I write the Africa that I know, which is a melting pot of cultures, a mélange of East meets West in the Dark Continent. I carry in my non-conformity into my fiction.

What my foreign readers get, however, is a slice of life of my world the way I see it. There are enough touchstones of familiarity for them to get to know the milieu while I offer them hints of the exotic. Local readers get to see everyday settings given a darker twist. Considering that I’m nominally involved in the local alternative subcultures, I reckon I offer a fairly authentic voice. My friends are indie filmmakers, photographers, musicians, models, performance artists or professional body piercers, among others. I never lack ideas for new stories.

Like many indie-published authors, I walked a long road before publication, and ran the whole gamut of rejections from literary agents and traditional publishers. The publishing industry is, at the moment, in the midst of a massive state of flux and has seen the rise of small and indie presses. With the advent of digital and print-on-demand publishing, many authors are now being given the opportunity to put their words out there. I’m pleased to number among the latter.

Since I made my first sale in 2008 and saw the release of my debut horror novel, Khepera Rising, I’ve since then published three novels and one novella, all through small and independent presses in the United States, with further sales already under my belt. This goes to show that one needn’t hold one’s breath waiting for the local publishers to play catch up.

What I like about working with the smaller presses is that they allow me a lot of creative integrity while providing editorial guidance. They also take care of my cover art and distribution, and deal with vendors and royalty payments—which is not something I like to think about. It’s a great arrangement. While I could go the DIY route (and occasionally do bring out anthologies or self-published titles), there’s a lot of work that goes into that, and I prefer not to play publisher.

There are a lot more opportunities available to writers now than ever before. My advice to anyone who’s about to sit down and write that novel that’s been churning around in their head is to finish the manuscript, get constructive criticism from other writers (there are wonderful critique groups such as The Critters Workshop (for the fantasy, science fiction and horror genres): http://www.critique.org/) and to polish that manuscript to within an inch of its life before getting onto the submissions mill.

Lastly, don’t stop writing, don’t stop improving on your writing, read widely and don’t take rejections personally. If you’re determined and work hard, you’ll succeed.

Bio: Nerine Dorman, who sometimes writes as Therése von Willegen, works as a sub-editor and writer for a newspaper publisher by day; by night she edits and writes fiction. Every year she organises the Bloody Parchment event and anthology under the auspices of the SA Horrorfest. She is a full-time snark. Follow her blog at http://nerinedorman.blogspot.com or on Twitter @nerinedorman

Find her stories at http://www.lyricalpress.com

Download a free short story, written in collaboration with Carrie Clevenger, at http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/68457

 

S.L. Grey visits

Hello my Freaky Darlings,

S.L. Grey is actually the combined intellect of two spectacular talents, Sarah Lotz and Louis Greenberg. They are also the authors of The Mall, which has just been released in the UK, South Africa, and the common wealth. And today they pay us a visit! So without any further ado I’ll hand you over to them. Don’t worry they don’t bite … hard … but if they do, you’ll like it …

We’re always being asked about how our hive-mind collaboration works. For example, do we lock ourselves in a sealed room so that we can keep an eye on each other and make sure the other one isn’t playing Spider Solitaire or trawling for internet porn instead of writing? As we live in different cities (Louis in Joburg, Sarah in Cape Town) this would have been tricksy and with the air fares alone, prohibitively expensive (although, like most writers, we’re capable of being champion procrastinators wherever we happen to be).

The Mall was written entirely by email, and we’ve kept most of our correspondence (not for egotistical reasons, but because Sarah is far too lazy to clear out her gmail inbox).

Below is a snapshot of how we worked together, a series of emails sparked off by a picture of a Rat King on BoingBoing (http://boingboing.net/2008/02/07/rat-kings.html), as well as musings on what we were actually supposed to be doing.

From: Louis Greenberg

To: Sarah Lotz

Date: Fri, Oct 9, 2009 at 11:36 AM

Subject: Rat kings

You seriously think rat kings don’t exist? I was hoaxed, I must admit.

I’m sure if you breed like 1000 baby rats in a small box that could happen.

I’m going to let my simple credulity work in our favour… describe it like they can naturally occur… scuttle scuttle scuttle

From: Sarah Lotz

To: Louis Greenberg

Sent: Friday, October 09, 2009 at 1:32 PM

Subject: Re: Rat kings

They really don’t exist – the theory is that the tails knit together, but that’s like putting a bunch of babies in one cot squashed together and their limbs entwining (ugh! Baby kings!).

I’m going to send you my chapter just now – but had unfortunate incident last night when my horses went on stealth mode, broke out of the paddock and set off every house alarm on the street and trashed designer gardens. I threatened them with the glue factory, but it didn’t help. I don’t like my chapter by the way, but will send details just now.

On Friday, Oct 9, 2009 at 1:43 PM, Louis Greenberg wrote:

Oh, Jesus, sorry about the horse trashing. I hope things will be okay with the neighbours. And that you and the horse are fine. Where did he/she want to go?

I had my own neighbour incident this morning. This kid was screaming – long and hard, like in real terror. This is at the slum house across the road, so I had images of this kid being beaten or molested. And all the men and women were just drifting around in the yard nonchalantly. I called the cops then spoke to one of the women who told me his mother wasn’t there and he was probably just having a fight with his brother who is 25. I said I’ve called the cops, and she said whatever. The cops came pretty quickly and checked things out and the boy looked okay. I would’ve called them any time again, but I’ve never had the best relationship with those neighbours and now they’re thinking I’m the cop-calling bastard (which I am of course).

ANYWAY… I look forward to reading your chapter. I won’t let our writing-doom get contagious. My rewrite’s sounding a lot better, even though it’s been hard to get myself to actually start doing it. I’m glad I’ll have 7 so that I can ponder 8 over the weekend.

I’m sure if you put 100 embryos in a cot and grew them up somehow without moving them out of the cot they would make a baby-king. Just in theory.

On Friday, October 9, 2009 at 1:54 PM, Sarah Lotz wrote:

Oh no, Louis! It was very funny. The horses periodically escape and trash the neighbourhood and then slink home. They’re just after better grass (aren’t we all).

Good on you for calling the cops – not enough people can be arsed to get involved, I think it’s brave of you. Stupid fucking neighbours of bad parentage. Makes me angry.

Embryos, possibly, but not babies. (but then, multiple births never end in Baby King births – ugh! That’s quite a gruesome idea for a short story, maybe SL Grey should expand his/her repertoire). I’ve always like the theory that left-handed people are so because they ate their twin in the womb (Sav’s left-handed and it freaks her out). But then, I convinced her that the world was black and white before 1940, so much fun. Bad, bad mother.

On Friday, Oct 9, 2009 at 2:03 PM, Louis Greenberg wrote:

Well, there are conjoined twins…. and if kids had tails I bet they’d get tangled up more often. And baby rats are more like embryos than baby humans when they pop out cos there are like a million of them in there. They have to come out earlier. I’m still not going to quit believing. I am a man of faith.

Oh, then I’m glad the horsecapade was fun.

Ha ha – I used to piss off my mom by asking her “In your day were things black and white?” Hilarious.

On Friday, October 09, 2009 at 2:10 PM, Sarah Lotz wrote:

Oh yes, I forgot about conjoined twins. BUT that is different. I think we should do an experiment and make our own rat kings. At your house, of course.

I also told Sav that the head rest button in my ancient merc was actually an ejector seat for the back. Worked a treat on long journeys – if they were naughty I’d just let my finger hover above it… One day I did actually press it and she went hysterical. Sav’s never forgiven me for that.

On Friday, Oct 9, 2009 at 2:15 PM, Louis Greenberg wrote:

Bwahahahahaha

You sure you don’t want to experiment with baby-kings? There would be more coverage if successful.

On Friday, October 09 at 2009 3:14 PM, Sarah Lotz wrote:

Baby kings would be cool, let me know how you get on.

Have just sent ramblings of incoherence to you. Gawd. Probably we need to speak over the phone to discuss further developments, I struggled with my chapter.

On Friday, Oct 9, 2009 at 3:22 PM, Louis Greenberg wrote:

The ramblings haven’t reached me yet but I’m sure they will soon.

I’m setting up skype this weekend (I have an editing client in Portugal!).

Are you on skype? Even if not I think you can phone landlines for very cheap. Then we can natter even when the free minutes run out.

Sorry it was a struggle – we will find the momentum again – just a bit of planning needed. And when we get a bit of a change of scene too (like I’m looking forward to getting into the dark side and back into the light side and slaughtering Josie). I’ll let you have my rewrite soon – may also get us back on course.

I have less of the pally nonsense and more of this:

What did she know about me? I got up and went back into the restaurant. I needed to piss, and right now if I had a choice between sitting next to that putrid freak and a hand-to-hand battle with the fucking elephant thing with my dick hanging out, I’d choose the latter.

On Friday, October 09, 2009 at 3:41 PM, Sarah Lotz wrote:

Awesome! I like that. I’ve kind of got them a bit pally. But easy to fix with the magic-of-words. (Sigh). By the way, I have no problem if we need to cut out/rewrite anything, even from scratch.

I’m not on skype but my folks are. Anyway, have 2000 minutes accrued and have to use them up (well, I don’t have to, but probably should).

On Friday, Oct 9, 2009 at 3:55 PM, Louis Greenberg wrote:

Ja, but as we said originally they do need to learn to cooperate too, they can’t be at each others’ throats all the time…. Even though they do hate each other. But I did get the attraction thing all wrong. His version of attraction is perving at a distance, not actually having a chat to a woman. He’s quite a psycho actually – he hates the women he comes across, whether he’s fighting them or perving over them.

Your chapter hasn’t come through yet… I’ll wait a bit, and will let you know when it does.

On Friday, October 09, 2009 at 4:00 PM, Sarah Lotz wrote:

Oh yes, totally agree – but have written notes about this in chapter email – suggesting that maybe we make them a tad more likeable. Why hasn’t it arrived? Naughty gmail. It says it has in the <sent> box thingy. Maybe gmail has the capacity to bullshit.

On Friday, Oct 9, 2009 at 4:03 PM, Louis Greenberg wrote:

Haha – it was in my junk folder… everyone’s a fucking critic

On Friday, Oct 9, 2009 at 4:05 PM, Sarah Lotz wrote:

Leave it there. It will fit in with the Nigerian scam artists and penis enlargers.

Now, that was entertaining! Thanks meat sacks, it was wonderful having you here!

You can get your copy of The Mall from Amazon UK, Exclusive Books, and Kalahari.net. You know you want to!

Authors as Celebs?

Hello my Freaky Darlings,

I live in a country where there isn’t much of a celebrity culture, and most don’t know about or care about local authors. But I’ve been observing an interesting phenomenon internationally as well as locally … well … interesting to me as an author.

When people, in general, refer to celebrities they usually seem to mean actors, musicians, models, TV personalities, or people like Paris Hilton who are simply famous for being famous, but what I find interesting is that authors are usually left off that list. When watching E! (yes, I’m embarrassed to admit I do watch it sometimes) it’s all about Hollywood celebrities, but they never mention any authors. If you think about it, most of the movies that Hollywood churns out are based on novels written by the very authors they tend to ignore and whose imagination feeds their industry.  And I wonder why that is. Do authors not count? Are well-known authors, who are often stalked, not classified as celebrities? Or have I just missed something? What do you think?

Misbehave horribly!

Bad Reviews!

Hello my Freaky Darlings,

I was recently asked by Sharon over at The Dark Fiction Review blog to participate in a Q&A type discussion about receiving bad reviews. She asked several authors including Gary McMahon, Joseph D’Lacey, Bill Hussey, Jeremy C Shipp, and myself. I must admit, I was rather honoured to be included along side such great names in the horror industry.

She also got the other side of the reviewing table to wade in on the discussion. The reviewers participating included: Adele Harrison from Un:Bound, Johnny Mains, Liz De Jagger from My Favourite Books, and Dave Brendan.

It’s interesting to see how different authors feel about getting bad reviews and also how reviewers feel about giving them. Please pop in here to participate in the discussion. My little bit is close to the bottom of the post, but all the different points of view are well worth the read.

Looking forward to seeing what all of you think on the subject.

And speaking of reviews … The Dark Fiction Review did review Shadows way back when it was first released. You can read that review here.

Wikipedia – The New Status Symbol

Hello my Freaky Darlings.

I love Wikipedia! It’s my go to place when I need to do research on most subjects. It’s my trusted friend who knows all and shares all. It’s also become a bit of a Status Symbol for newbie writers who are just starting out.

You can’t simply just add your information, it has to be vetted and approved by the Wikipedia gods, and it has to be added by a disinterested third party. In other words, a family member or your Publisher can’t simply add your info just for the sake of it.  Because of this exclusivity, Authors are now more determined to get themselves listed on the hallowed pages.

Some Authors have banded together to try and get each other on. While others still pester friends and family in an attempt to sneak past the watchful eyes of the guardians. Some have succeeded and others have failed.

I will admit that being on Wikipedia is also one of my many goals. But I’d rather wait for the day to arrive when I find out that, by some miracle, I’ve joined the list of Authors who are there by merit. I want to be listed because someone who doesn’t know me and has read my books, thinks I should be there. On that day I will know I’ve arrived! I will no longer be a newbie or wannabe Author.

But chances are, on that day I will also no longer care if I’m on Wikipedia or not, because, hopefully, by then I’ll have accomplished a lot more and I’ll be more than the sum total of what is contained on a Wikipedia page.

But that’s just me.