Posts Tagged ‘Eternity’


Being a writer isn’t a choice. It’s a condition and those of us afflicted are intimately acquainted with the suffering we were born to endure. Because our tortured lives are lived in the service of our art, we strive to sacrifice our very souls at the altar of literature for the sake of presenting the world with the beauty of our pain.

Today, we have decided to share with you the burdensome joy of our oft-flailing endeavors to create for you, Dear Reader, the finest, most insightful fiction our poet-souls can spew forth.  We shall reveal our rituals and our deepest secrets so that you may understand what all writers go through every day of their tormented lives to give the gift of verseful prose and to keep the word-thirsty demons of our condition at bay and our sanity at least partially intact.

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TT: So, Jerod, I used to use heroin to spark my imagination, but that wasn’t quite elegiac enough, so now I make my own absinthe. Not only is it a staple of great literary tradition, I also find the color green clarifying and provocative and it allows me to maintain both creativity and beauty in my life. Do you have a similar support system?

JS: I gave up absinthe when my liver protested too much. I replaced that sweet nectar by the very bonnet Laura Ingalls Wilder wore when she was compelled to write her Little House on the Prairie series. It still brandishes the magic of long ago, which really was beneficial when channeling Sterling Bronson in Beautiful Monster. http://www.amazon.com/Beautiful-Monster-Mimi-A-Williams/dp/1615727752/ref=sr_1_17?ie=UTF8&qid=1364787121&sr=8-17&keywords=Beautiful+Monster Tamara, what attire do you don to conjure up your tortured brilliance?

TT: I dress as a Union gunnery officer, circa 1864, because after all, isn’t writing a war with words?  Words are my rifle, my computer is my sabre and rattling it is my life.  I’ve worn this outfit for all my novels except Moonfall when I found it necessary to dress in a full Felician nun’s habit, complete with the garters and holey leggings of the Benedictine monks.  Do you perform any rituals to enhance your performance?

JS:  I believe that to get to the creative depths of our souls, we must maintain the precarious balance of each of our universes by creating and destroying in equal portions. That being said, my rituals include but are not limited to breaking furniture, smashing mirrors, throwing champagne glasses into the fireplace, watching I Dream of Jeannie reruns, and animal husbandry.

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No, but seriously, my real rituals are far less spectacular than any of those.  I like to wear electronic nipple clamps while I’m slaving over my work. There’s something about the power juicing through my body that I believe adds an adventurous edge to my writing. I also center myself by counting the hairs on the back of my left hand.  There are many hairs and this helps me find inner peace. It’s my Zen moment of the day and I always look forward to it.  Do you have any rituals, Tamara?

TT: I do, but none as interesting as yours, I’m afraid.  I keep a framed signed photograph of a young Samuel Clemens over my computer.  It’s been handed down in my family since he presented it to my great-great-grandparents, Chester and Sarah Bellham as a wedding gift in 1859.  (They were traveling after their wedding on the very first steamboat he piloted after receiving his license.)  Each evening, at the end of the working day, I close my computer and light a votive candle kept on the little altar below the portrait.   Then I choose thirteen ants out of my husband’s ant farm and hold them, one by one, over the flame with long tweezers until they crisp while I recite these lines partially from Tolkien:

Cut the cloth and tread the fat!

Leave the bones on the bedroom mat!

Pour the milk on the pantry floor!

Splash the wine on every door!

Hubba hubba shebop shebop

Hobbits, don’t let my new book flop!

 Those lines have spoken to me since I was ten years old in ways I can’t begin to explain, even to myself. Perhaps it’s merely silly superstition, but I believe that these small sacrifices aid my creativity.

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JS: That’s amazing, Tamara. I do the same thing, but I didn’t admit it earlier because I didn’t want PETA to go after me.  I do it a little differently. My altar includes a painting of Stevie Nicks and a tambourine, which I shake vigorously before sacrificing my ants to her. After the sacrifices have been executed, I look up to the Stevie Nicks painting and recite the following lines three times:

“Just like the white-winged dove…

Sings a song, sounds like she’s singin’

Ooh, baby, ooh, said, ooh…”

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TT: Why Stevie Nicks?

JS:  Why Mark Twain?

TT: Good point.  We all contend with our private demons in our own ways.  Jerod, they say no book is written by just one person, so tell me what role your wife plays in your writing life.

JS: She lies. She tells people I’m a plumber because she’s very embarrassed, but in private, she’s quite supportive, going so far as to help me count the hairs on the back of my hand to help me focus. I couldn’t do it without her because she’s a far keener mathematician than I.  What of Robert Damien?  How does he cope with your literary mistress?

TT: Threesomes.  Well, Jerod, in closing, what advice would you give to new writers?

JS: As a natural born writer, you’re surely already hanging on to life by the thinnest of threads, so my advice to invest in plenty of anti-depressants, read books such as The Story of O by Pauline Réage, Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann, and of course, The Back Passage by James Lear. Also, find a good luck charm – worry stones. It’s nice to have something to rub whilst pounding away at your work, and according to ancient legend, worry stones are also good for your circulation depending on the vigor of your worry. Additionally, porn is good because it clears the mind, but make sure you have a keyboard cover.  Exercise.  Kegels are great because you can do them right at your desk and the keyboard cover also comes in handy. Also I glue leather elbow patches to my Lycra Spandex unitard and carry around a meerschaum pipe because it makes me look literary. I advise all new writers do something similar. Think like the writer — BE the writer! What’s your advice, TT?

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TT: I advise always taking writing very, very seriously. There’s no joking around when it comes to being a Published Author.  This is a business, damn it, and you must be a professional at all times. Make sure, as well, that your subtext is well thought out and inserted consistently so that people will know just how brilliant you are–and obviously, you must be sure there are always many deeper meanings in whatever you are writing. Thinking like Camus is excellent for romance writers, and I recommend Nietzsche for humorists, but the cant of any serious philosopher will fit the other genres.

Any more to add, Jerod?

JS:  Yes. I agree one hundred and seven percent.  You must take your art as seriously as you do every breath you take. Each move you make and each claim you stake in writing is important. You don’t have to put on the red light. Just write. Write like the wind. And remember, I’ll be watching you.

TT: One last question, Jerod. However did you get the original Laura Ingalls Wilder bonnet?

JS: eBay.

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The subject of serial killers is always interesting, and having both done a good deal of research on the topic, fellow horror novelist Tamara Thorne and I got into an in-depth back-and-forth e-mail conversation about it. After re-reading the e-mails, we thought it might be interesting to use as a blog post. Tamara and I have both written about killers and what follows is Part One of our own thoughts as well as what we learned along the way. 

Here is the first question I asked her. It got the ball rolling and turned into a more of a mountain than a ball, really…

JSA: Who is your favorite serial killer, and why?

TT: Let me look through my serial killer trading cards. . . Seriously, I have a lot of favorites. I’m more interested in the ones like Ted Bundy who easily pass for normal, than the creepier types like John Wayne Gacy. The triad of Jack the Ripper, H.H. Holmes and the less well known Austin Ripper (aka The Servant Girl Annihilator) intrigues me. Of the three, only H.H. Holmes was captured. Holmes was active between 1886 and 1894, when he was captured. He built a huge “murder hotel” and was most active during the Chicago’s World’s Fair in 1893. He is often referred to as America’s first serial killer.

But he was not America’s first, despite the title. That dubious honor more likely goes to the Austin Ripper, who was never captured. He was active from 1884 through 1885, and was named “The Servant Girl Annihilator” by writer H.H. Munro (Saki), who was living in Austin, Texas at the time.

There’s a reasonable chance that the Austin Ripper moved on and became Jack the Ripper, active in London in 1888. The crimes were similar. Some, including H.H. Holmes’s descendant, postulate that Holmes was the Ripper, but other than similar handwriting, there is currently a lack of compelling evidence.

I think these – particularly the two Rippers – fascinate me because of the mystery. There’s so much room for conjecture.

Jared, who is your favorite?

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JSA: If I had to choose a favorite, I’d also go with Jack the Ripper. Because his identity is unknown, we can fill in our own blanks about who he was. He murdered so openly it’s hard to imagine he was sane, and yet, whoever he was, he clearly didn’t stand out from the crowd so much that he gave himself away.

Another one who has always fascinated me is Jeffrey Dahmer. Whereas killers like Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy exhibited a lot of typical sociopathic personality traits such as a firm conviction they’d done nothing wrong, a heightened sense of ego, etc., Dahmer never denied or tried to justify his actions. I find that fascinating. He simply admitted what he’d done, and accepted the consequences. I read a lot about Dahmer when I was researching, and I was surprised to find that a good number of researchers believe Dahmer’s conscience was intact. That’s hard to fathom considering the crimes he committed, but there’s just something different about him that makes him a bit of an anomaly.

TT:  That’s a very good point.  He’s worth further exploration!

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JSA: I also have a particular fascination for the killers who fit into society so well as to go unnoticed. When we think of serial killers, I think a part of us believes we’d know one when we saw one, and I don’t believe that’s entirely true. When I was researching serial killers, I would look at photographs or watch videos of certain killers, and try to determine if, in all honesty, I would be able to sense anything dangerous about them. While I have a hard time believing I wouldn’t have been a little creeped out by John Wayne Gacy, I have to admit that I probably wouldn’t have given killers such as Ted Bundy or Jeffrey Dahmer much notice. To me, these guys appeared to be perfectly normal, intelligent men.

I was intrigued though, while reading a book about Ted Bundy, by how many women who’d met him claimed they just felt something wasn’t “quite right” about him. Many of the women who evaded Bundy did so simply because some inner voice warned them against him. So, on that token, I wonder if there isn’t some kind of instinct inside all of us that tries to protect us. The question, though, is, would we heed that instinct, or just ignore it?

TT:  I think we all have an instinct, but defining it is difficult. The best explanation of our “knowing” I’ve ever read comes in Gavin DeBecker’s book, The Gift of Fear. People who listen to their instincts are much more likely to live longer, safer lives. The trouble is, we often tend to denigrate our feelings as silly nonsense. We go ahead and get on the elevator with the man in the business suit who looks entirely normal even though our instinct is to run. I wonder what Bundy’s “tell” was. Eye contact? Lack of it?

JSA: I don’t know. No one I read about ever explained what it was exactly that made them uneasy. Just a “feeling.” It’s interesting. So why do you think, as a society, we’re so interested in serial killers?

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TT: They walk among us, they look like us, they sound like us, but they are not like us. I think the otherness is a big part of the fascination. If you’ve ever found yourself dealing with someone who does not react like ninety percent of the population, you already understand this. I knew a writer many years ago, not long after my first book came out, who wrote a first novel and sold it. He was overjoyed. But the book was very long and his editor suggested cutting one of the characters in order to shorten it. He asked me about it — I’d read the manuscript — and without a clue about what I was stepping into, I said I thought cutting was a great idea. This was a character that was non-essential and anything important he did could be moved to the main hero. I told the writer my thoughts.

Holy crap! The shit hit a dozen fans. My jaw dropped as I watched this guy go ballistic. He ranted and raved and said nobody understood. And then he screamed and cried. Okay, I knew none of this was normal, but I wouldn’t have called it insane behavior, just a tantrum. But then, I saw his insanity when he said the editor wanted him to kill his father. Evidently he’d named this character after the long-dead parent and somehow this brought Daddy Dearest back to life. At this point, I stopped answering his calls. It was my first brush with insanity and I didn’t like it.

However, it’s fascinating, isn’t it? Serial killers hide the insanity, but we know it’s there. Certainly not in the form I saw with the new writer, but they are even further removed from our emotions and morals than he was. They are foreign.

What kinds of experiences have you had with crazy?

JSA: I’ve met, and in a couple cases, known, people whom I’m certain totally lacked a conscience. The interesting thing is, the majority of sociopaths are not violent. To lack a conscience, and have a murderous temperament is a rare–and pretty unfortunate–blend of psychological problems. That’s not to say sociopaths who aren’t violent aren’t dangerous, they are. It’s just that most sociopaths are what are termed “blue collar” criminals, and are more likely to be found committing various–and usually very crafty–small crimes, rather than outright murdering folks. If you get the chance, read The Sociopath Next Door, by Martha Stout. According to her and the studies she’s researched, one in every 25 people has no conscience. This book is a kind of if you think you’ve never met one, you’re wrong wake-up call.

I found when writing Sterling Bronson (in Beautiful Monster) that creating ways to make him sneaky and underhanded was actually harder than making him a killer. I never diagnosed Sterling in the book, because I wanted readers to be able to fill in their own blanks, so I’m not saying he was an outright sociopath, but in order to write him, I had to understand, to the best of my ability, the way these people think. It wasn’t easy, and in a lot of ways, it wasn’t fun, but overall, I’m pleased with his outcome.

You’ve written about serial killers a few times. What kind of research did you do, and what was your experience in the fictionalization of a monster?

TT: One of my serial killers is definitely not without conscience, but a prisoner of his own desires. The others are traditional psychopaths. In researching, I read everything I can about a multitude of serial killers and their pathology. I find interviews with sociopaths very interesting. I also like to talk with profilers, cops, and other experts and read books like Mindhunter, written from their expert perspective.

I rather enjoy writing from the killer’s perspective — I find it freeing and, sometimes, very therapeutic.  Certainly it’s a disturbing process, but I like it. A lot.  I tend to dream in character points of view while writing and those are more disturbing — and useful — than anything else.

JSA: Ha! Glad I’m not the only one who dreams of his characters… even the killers! Tell me one of your dreams and I’ll tell you one of mine.

There is more of this to come later. We don’t want to overwhelm you, so we’ve decided to post this in small installments! Next time, Tamara and I will discuss dreams and writing, as we’ve both utilized our dreams as a writing tool and, since dreaming of serial killers makes for great stories, we also got pretty heavily into that discussion. So…to be continued!

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The writing life, for the most part, is not glamorous, but every so often, something really fantastic happens, and it reminds me of the reasons I wanted to do this. I’ve made a commitment to chronicle these things as a way of keeping myself from taking it for granted. I call these my “Rockstar Moments” because they make me feel like a rockstar! My most recent Rockstar moment came a few days ago.

Recently, I’ve been assisting my friend and fellow horror author, Tamara Thorne, in proof-reading some of her earlier books which are currently being converted into eBook format. Tamara does all the hard stuff – I just double check for typos that the scanning sometimes produces. I’ve been a Tamara Thorne fan since the ’90s, so really, it’s just an excuse for me to read really good books. Anyway, the latest Tamara Thorne book that’s been successfully converted into eBook format is Eternity.

Until I started proofing it, I’d never read Eternity, so this one was especially fun. I’ve read (and in several cases re-read) Bad Things, Haunted, Moonfall, and The Sorority Series (Eve, Merilynn, and Samantha) but there were still a few out there that I hadn’t had the chance to get.

I plowed through Eternity, trying very hard not to demand the chapters from Tamara faster than she could restore and send them. Whereas most great stories have their climactic end, Eternity felt to me like one big, wonderfully on-going peak that just kept getting higher and higher. Seriously. This book has it all: serial killers, famous missing persons, horror, shrewd humor, murder mystery, a dash of sci-fi, and even a bit of romance. What’s not to love?

So the fact that I genuinely love this book only makes my recent Rockstar Moment that much sweeter. After the conversions were finished, Tamara sent me the file to look over, and this is what I saw:

This is probably one of the coolest things that’s ever happened to me. I couldn’t be more honored.

Thank you, Tamara, for your very kind gesture. Words fail.

Eternity is now available in eBook at: http://www.amazon.com/Eternity-ebook/dp/B00AA3WWW6/ref=sr_1_7?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1353445662&sr=1-7&keywords=Eternity. It will be re-released in paperback next year.

Also, be sure to check out Tamara’s Little Blog of Horrors at: http://tamarathorne.wordpress.com/


Dear Readers,

Today I finished chapter eight of Cadence/The White Room, the manuscript I wrote prior to Beautiful Monster. I’m still undecided on the title, but the storyline is coming along nicely. I’ve currently gotten Cadence (the protagonist) into “Desert’s Edge,” the night club where the vampires hang out (but he doesn’t know about them so keep it under your toupee, k?) and this time, I’m making the place especially charged with obscenity. I’ve spent the past several hours imagining the craziest, profanest, barely-legal-est things that can take place in a public club. Needless to say, my mind today has been filled with all kinds of wild things.

I’ve been writing all day today because I’ve decided I need one day a week off~ and…I’ve decided tomorrow is going to be that day for me. In the past weeks, I’ve been writing seven days a week for a minimum of three hours a day, much more most days, especially on the weekends. I have to remind myself of the old adage, “slow and steady wins the race.” I love writing, but it can be all-consuming. I’ve always said that too much of a good thing is beautiful…and yet, in truth, I realize as I’ve gotten older, too much of anything is never a good thing.

When I hit burn-out, I just end up playing online when I should be writing anyway, and also, I get numb to the story. For me, it’s about balance. If I go too long without writing, I fall out of touch with what I’m working on, and if I write too much, I just can’t see it anymore. I lose sight of the characters’ voices, and sometimes, the plot starts going south.

Part of the reason I’ve been writing so much is because I am chomping at the bit to get some other stuff written. I love the book I’m working on now, and I am pleased with the changes, but still, I’m eager to get to Beautiful Monster’s sequel as well as another project I’ve been working on finished…and overall, people have responded very well to Monster and many folks have asked for a continuation. So, if getting a sequel published for it is even a remote possibility, I don’t want to wait too long.

Tonight, I’m going to print off all eight chapters of Cadence/The White Room and give it a beginning to finish read-through to see how it gels. Then… I am going out. I don’t know what I’ll do or where I’ll go, but this city is limitless in its nightlife. Tomorrow, I have a couple minor things to do, none of it unpleasant, and for the rest of the day, I am going to lounge around messy-haired and indecent, and read someone else’s work. I feel like I’ve been waiting an Eternity (hint, hint, T) to get my hands on a good book!

I hope you all have a great and relaxing Sunday as well!