Confessions of a Writer, Part 6

To celebrate next year’s release of my first science fiction novel, The Curiosity Killers, I’ve posted my responses to the Confessions of a Writer Tag survey (http://nicoletteelie.com/2015/10/02/the-confessions-of-a-writertag), with a few responses to each of the twenty questions parsed out over October and November interspersed with other news and events. This is the last post in the series. You can find the earlier parts all linked at the end of this set of questions.

1. Who is your favorite author?

Because he’s the first popular fiction author who really got me reading voraciously, Stephen King. It isn’t so much that individual books of his stand out among my favorites, but he definitely taught me through all his work about character and dialogue and the fact that “horror” can mean a lot of different things and be just as subtle a genre as any other.

2. What are your plans for the rest of the year in terms of your writing?

I have several Sam Brody/Red Eye projects I’m working on as well as working on the sequel to The Curiosity Killers, tentatively titled The Girl with Mechanical Wings. I’m also putting out a new edition of my self-published short story collection Grinning Cracks and just released an audio version of my short story “Method Writing.”

3. Where else can we find you online?

Blog: kwtaylorwriter.com, Twitter: @kwtaylorwriter, Facebook: facebook.com/kwtaylorwriter, Instagram: @kwtk, and Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/K.W.-Taylor/e/B005Y183PE

The rest of my Confessions of a Writer series: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

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Exciting audiobook news!

The audio version of my Kindle short story, “Method Writing,” is finally available just in time for Halloween! And the best part is Audible subscribers can get the title for FREE!

If you don’t already use Audible, you can grab it for just $3.46 over on Amazon (or search for it on iTunes). I’m delighted with the work of actor Mark McClain Wilson, who did a fabulous job making my grim, creepy story come to life.

This is the perfect story to listen to while driving down a dark country road late at night. Happy Halloween!

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Confessions of a Writer, Part 5

To celebrate next year’s release of my first science fiction novel, The Curiosity Killers, I will be posting my responses to the Confessions of a Writer Tag survey (http://nicoletteelie.com/2015/10/02/the-confessions-of-a-writertag), with a few responses to each of the twenty questions parsed out over October and November interspersed with other news and events.

1. What are your favorite writing sites or blogs that you turn to for help, tips or encouragement?

I usually turn to books on the craft of writing for those things. Some of my favorites I’ve gone to multiple times include Plot vs. Character, by Jeff Gerke, and Architectures of Possibility, by Lance Olsen. Both books are useful for very different things. Gerke’s book is helpful for constructing plot for fairly straightforward, mainstream work aimed at a popular audience or genre. I’ve gone to some of his charts, graphs, and plotting methods time and again to outline both stories and novels. Olsen’s book is wonderful for idea generation, with lots of fun exercises at the end of each chapter. It’s also great for entirely different fiction than the kind Gerke guides one toward writing; Olsen inspires me to try crazy, experimental stuff that I can make great use of in short stories, especially.

2. Besides writing, what else do you enjoy doing? What are your hobbies?

I love to read, which I think is a pre-requisite for being a competent writer, but I also love film and television and especially devour anything in the SF/F/H areas. I’m a huge podcast nerd and love finding new ones to listen to on my commute. I also jog extremely slowly and enjoy losing to my friends and family at board games. A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I was a musician, and even though I don’t play anymore, I still have a great affinity for music.

3. What is the best book you’ve read this year?

I was still finishing up both my MFA and a graduate certificate in instructional design this year, and as a result much of what I had time to read all the way through were textbooks on writing, teaching, technology, and e-learning. But I managed to sneakily read the first few books in Blake Crouch’s Wayward Pines series and absolutely adored the first book, Pines, for its pacing and suspense. I just finished Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train and thought it was quite good. I’m currently reading J.L. Gribble’s Steel Victory and listening to Shelley Adina’s Lady of Devices on audiobook, both of which are wonderful so far and speak to the types of genre fiction I tend to enjoy the most.

4. What is the best movie you’ve seen this year?

I started hearing good things about The Gift as a strange little sleeper hit and was really glad I made it a point to not read any reviews before seeing it. I loved Joel Edgerton’s use of atmosphere and place. Thrillers with beautiful cinematography are worth repeat viewings to catch extra nuances each time.

5. What is your favorite book or series of all time?

In adulthood, my favorite is definitely Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, despite the fact that I got busy around the time book 12 came out and haven’t had a chance to get back to it. In childhood, my favorite series was the Wrinkle in Time books by Madeleine L’Engle. My favorite standalone novel is Octavia Butler’s Kindred. I owe a lot to Butler in examining time travel fiction for paradoxes and structure and seamless integration of historical narratives, which I then put to good use in The Curiosity Killers.

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Confessions of a Writer, Part 4

To celebrate next year’s release of my first science fiction novel, The Curiosity Killers, I will be posting my responses to the Confessions of a Writer Tag survey (http://nicoletteelie.com/2015/10/02/the-confessions-of-a-writertag), with a few responses to each of the twenty questions parsed out over October and November interspersed with other news and events.

1. What is the best writing advice that anyone has given you?

One of my thesis advisors told me once to focus on one thing at a time, as I’m a habitual multitasker and overextend myself in all areas of my life. As a result, it was hard to get anything done with too many works in progress and too many obligations generally. I’ve learned to better zero in on what’s most important and try hard to get that completed before moving on to the next thing. I now have a color-coded priority list of my writing projects and am doing better with putting some pieces on the back burner. I’ve also learned to say “no” in other areas of my life and understand that to really master your craft, sometimes you have to let go of being the best at absolutely everything in your life. I can be a fabulous writer, but I probably shouldn’t also take up the trombone and expect to be great at that as well. I also probably shouldn’t volunteer to add extra things to my plate unless I’m sure I can devote reasonable time to them. A lot of a writer’s life is time management and prioritizing. When I was finishing the first draft of The Curiosity Killers, I was working full-time, teaching two college classes, and taking three graduate classes. I never sacrificed sleep, but I sacrificed a lot of leisure time. For the overscheduled writer, learn to take tiny breaks and soak up as much joy as you can from them, because they may be few and far between.

2. What advice would you give to another writer?

Perseverance is half the battle. If you really want to be good and successful, don’t give up. Things will happen that discourage you, but if you put your focus on your own work, try to make it high quality, and don’t compare yourself to others, you will likely find a lot of satisfaction. Also, don’t go into this thinking you’re getting a six-figure, 1970s-style multi-book deal. Money shouldn’t be your endgame, nor should quitting your day job. That era is gone, if it ever existed. Carve out a niche for yourself among your peers, among people who like the kind of stories you tell, and with publishers who believe in your work, and keep at it. Keep making it better. Keep taking the advice of people who’ve been doing it longer and whose work you admire on artistic merits. The saying used to be “Do what you love; the money will follow.” I think in the current state of the industry, it should instead be “Do what you love, get better, don’t stop, and you will achieve something with your work that will bring you satisfaction.” For some people, that satisfaction might come in the form of money, but for others, it might come solely from critical acclaim or respect from peers or students. And if you’re writing what you really believe in, that will be more than enough.

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Confessions of a Writer, Part 3

To celebrate next year’s release of my first science fiction novel, The Curiosity Killers, I will be posting my responses to the Confessions of a Writer Tag survey (http://nicoletteelie.com/2015/10/02/the-confessions-of-a-writertag), with a few responses to each of the twenty questions parsed out over October and November interspersed with other news and events.

1. How much time a day/week do you get to write? When is the best time for you to write (morning or night)?

I don’t get to write every day, but I try to, even if it’s just for fifteen minutes. I write either on my lunch hour or for a few hours in the early evening. Weekends are tough while the weather’s still good, because I like to get outside and gather inspiration. When I do NaNoWriMo, I sometimes do a bootcamp weekend day of writing for up to eight hours with just a few breaks. When I start to get in the “zone,” I try not to stop! The last few chapters of The Curiosity Killers were written on weekend-long writing binges, and I distinctly remember working for hours on my laptop at my dining room table one fall evening, beaming with excitement when I could finally type “The End.”

2. Did you go to college for writing?

I did my undergrad in communication, focusing on radio and TV broadcasting. At the time, I thought I wanted to be a disc jockey (instead, I used that experience as inspiration for Sam Brody’s career and workplace in The Red Eye). As I took more classes in literature and writing, however, I considered changing my major to English but was too far invested in finishing within four years. I went to grad school, first getting an MA in literature with a little creative writing coursework and then in June of ’15, I finished an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction. Even my com major had a lot of writing in it, however, including a course in TV screenwriting, which is something I’d like to do more of in the future.

3. What bothers you more: spelling errors, punctuation errors, or grammar errors?

None of these are awesome. Spelling errors bother me the most, because in this age of spellcheck, we should all know better. I am a comma perfectionist and realize not everyone else can be, so punctuation errors don’t bother me quite so much. Grammar errors get fuzzy once we’re talking about creative writing or style choices, and grammatical rules evolve over time. I’m becoming less of a prescriptivist the older I get.

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Confessions of a Writer, Part 2

To celebrate next year’s release of my first science fiction novel, The Curiosity Killers, I will be posting my responses to the Confessions of a Writer Tag survey (http://nicoletteelie.com/2015/10/02/the-confessions-of-a-writertag), with a few responses to each of the twenty questions parsed out over October and November interspersed with other news and events.

  1. What was your first piece that you can remember writing? What was it about?

The first concrete piece I remember writing that I think would qualify as a real piece of fiction was a short story I wrote in high school called “The Conspiracy to Catch Dierdre Long.” It was a romantic comedy about two teachers set up by their students. I also remember writing a horror romance in early college—the title now escapes me—about a rock star who quits performing to lead a quite life out of the spotlight but is then found out by a stalker.

  1. What’s the best part about writing?

The best part about writing is shutting out the real world for a bit and envisioning my scene. I try to engage all five senses and truly feel as if I’m my point-of-view character, then just allow the scene to play out, seeing how it would unfold both adhering to my outline and perhaps deviating from it, and experiencing moments for their greatest emotional and thematic impact. I like being able to slow moments down and speed them up and experiment with them until I’m happy with how they look and feel in my mind’s eye as I get that first draft down on paper. Revision is somewhat painful and tedious, though necessary of course, and pre-writing activities (outlining, character creation, getting the essential elements decided) is also sometimes tedious. The idea generation stage doesn’t bother me, as I tend to have strange concepts occur to me at odd times, which I then just file away in a notepad document on my phone to comb through later when it’s time for the next project. But it’s that golden time of the actual hands on the keyboard, first draft where everything just flows out and gets filtered through my brain that is the most creative, zen-like time of my day. I can imagine and create and first draft for several hours at a time and feel like barely a second has passed. That is when I truly feel like my best self, like I’m engaged in what I was always meant to do.

  1. What’s the worst part about writing?

Even worse than revision is proofreading copy prior to going to press. By that point, I’ve read and re-read the material so much that I’m blind to the tiniest of errors. I usually read aloud, very slowly, or enlist a second reader to help so that I can actually catch any final typos that even my editor missed.

  1. What’s the name of your favorite character and why?

In everything I write, I tend to get a favorite character and enjoy working on their scenes quite a bit. In my Red Eye series, it’s Sam Brody, a damaged, snarky guy who’s flippant to a fault. With Sam, I tried to design a character around the premise “What if the ‘breakout character,’ the audience favorite, the comic relief, the ‘Fonzie,’ if you will, was the protagonist?” The thing about a comic relief character is that you don’t necessarily want them foregrounded all the time, as their attitude can often be their downfall. It definitely is with Sam, which is why he’s kind of an almost anti-hero in a way, suffering from a need to entertain himself and others even when the fate of the world is at stake. In my upcoming science fiction novel The Curiosity Killers, I’m quite fond of Eddy Vere, the “mad scientist” character, as well as Rupert Cob, the playboy adventurer. Both are complex creatures, but Vere is more damaged and full of gravitas, while Cob is more a mixture of two types of hero: comedic and tragic.

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Confessions of a Writer, Part 1

To celebrate next year’s release of my first science fiction novel, The Curiosity Killers, I will be posting my responses to the Confessions of a Writer Tag survey (http://nicoletteelie.com/2015/10/02/the-confessions-of-a-writertag), with a few responses to each of the twenty questions parsed out over October and November interspersed with other news and events.

When did you first start writing? Was being a writer something you always aspired to be?

 I first began writing in early elementary school, spending my summers on short stories that, in retrospect, were obviously terrible. By high school, I had better figured out that character and plot were vital to storytelling. I used to want to be an actor, actually, until I figured out that writers are actually actors, directors, art directors, cinematographers, and producers of their own movies in a way. Writing a book, therefore, is more creatively fulfilling than just doing one of those jobs.

What genre do you write?

I write science fiction, fantasy, horror, experimental fiction, and have lately been trying some romance, YA, and mystery, though just in the planning stages so far. I don’t want to be constrained to a specific genre but want to tell the best stories I can that continue to challenge me. With my short fiction, I tend to be more offbeat and try things out that I might not do in a full-length novel, making my short pieces much more surreal as a result.

Can you tell us a little about your current work in progress? When did you start working on this project?

I have two main works-in-progress going right now: finalizing things with my forthcoming novel The Curiosity Killers, to be released in 2016 from Dog Star Books, and The Skittering, the next work in my Red Eye series (the first two volumes of which were released by Alliteration Ink in 2014). The Curiosity Killers began life as a short story back in 2011. I fleshed out the idea into a full novel and used it as my MFA thesis at Seton Hill University from 2013 to 2015. It’s my first science fiction novel—I’ve written a lot of short SF before but never anything this long or this ambitious—and it required lots of historical research due to its time travel plot. I began The Skittering in late 2014 but haven’t been able to prioritize it until the first draft of The Curiosity Killers was done. My Red Eye series as a whole has been a long time in the works—the first book was originally a NaNoWriMo project several years before its eventual release. After The Skittering, I have at least one more book planned in the series.

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Big news: The Curiosity Killers to be released by Dog Star Books in 2016

I’m delighted to announce that my first full-length science fiction novel, The Curiosity Killers, will be released by Dog Star Books in 2016. Dog Star is the science fiction imprint for Raw Dog Screaming Press, home to Stoker Award winners and all-around amazing writers, scholars, and imaginative folks. I am honored to be in such good company.

Fellow newly-Dog Star-ified author J.L. Gribble (Steel Victory) covered my book’s acquisition on her own blog recently, where earlier in the month she completed the Confessions of a Writer Tag survey. I’ll be blogging my own answers to those questions in batches over the next few days to celebrate The Curiosity Killers.

While I will obviously acknowledge these folks and more in my book itself, I want to take a big of space here to give special thanks not only to the aforementioned MC Scribble Gribble but also to Heidi Ruby Miller and Tim Waggoner for helping me get this book in great shape, all my critique partners (Todd, Chris, Crystal, Anna, Carrie, and Jen), members of my old writing group who read bits of this in its infancy (Steve, Mike, and Cynthia), and my husband Tom, the editing guru, for being willing to do a continuity edit on what is admittedly a very convoluted time travel knot. Tom is single-handedly responsible for helping me remain paradox free!

Huge, huge thanks, too, to Dog Star’s delightful Jennifer Barnes for taking a chance on this book. I’m excited to see what the future holds.

***

I have fairly exciting other publication news going on as well. My Kindle exclusive “Method Writing” is doing great and will soon be my very first audiobook, available through Audible on Amazon and iTunes. The ebook is still only 99 cents (free for Kindle Unlimited customers). More news on the audio when it’s all done.

A brand-new second edition of Grinning Cracks, my short story collection, is coming out in November. As a teaser, here’s an excerpt from the back-copy blurb:

Thirty-five short works filled with the upsetting and uncanny, from the author of the urban fantasy Sam Brody series (Alliteration Ink) and the horror novella We Shadows Have Offended (Etopia Press). This newly revised and updated second edition includes eight pieces not found in the first release, featuring the never before published stories “The Apple Box,” “Colleagues,” and the poems “Floater” and “Il Necromantiosmo.” Taylor reimagines both classic, familiar fairytales and superstitions (“Abaddon,” “The Apple Box,” “Rabbit Rabbit,” “Trichotomy”) and a sequence of Breton folk stories (“The Ankou,” “Bugul Noz,” “Dahut and the Destruction of Ys,” “Gradlon,” “Iannic-ann-ôd,” “The Korrigan,” “Les Lavandières,” “The Lovers,” “The Morgen,” and “Yan-Gant-Y-Tan”). She experiments with surrealist science fiction (“Alter Ego,” “Arcus Senilis,” “Encounter,” “Eden”) as well as gruesome body horror (“Ornithology,” “Pseudanor”), crime noir (the multi-chapter “Christmas Wrapping”), and a literary fiction cycle based on the concept of the four humors of Hipprocratic medicine (“Choleric,” “Melancholic,” “Phlegmatic,” and “Sanguine”).

This one should be out well before holiday shopping time in trade paperback and (for the first time) Kindle edition. I’m planning an audio version of this as well but it may be abridged and a 2016 release. A few other things are in the priority queue ahead of that, but I think you’ll be excited about what they are.

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New Kindle exclusive horror short story, just 99 cents!

New release day today! “Method Writing” is a short story exclusively on Amazon for Kindle. Only 99 cents, or free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers!

Method actors inhabit their characters. Method writers do, too. John goes to elaborate lengths to study the habits, physiology, and needs of a vampire. From the mundane to the emotional, he wants to lend a sense of realism to his horror writing that goes beyond the pale. But is the undead life all it’s cracked up to be? Can he last a month inside this experiment?

This story is dark fantasy/horror, with a surreal edge to it. Perfect for folks who like their horror a little more on the psychological, experimental side, and makes a great Halloween read. At 17 pages and 3,325 words, it makes a great quick read late at night right before you go to sleep. I’m sure it’ll give you interesting dreams.

I’m also using this story as a springboard for a workshop I’m designing on the very concept of “Method writing,” or writing as performance, and how to use acting techniques to enliven your fiction writing. That’s not to say you should use my protagonist’s process in your own work…

…or should you?

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We need space…

In the romantic comedy television shows, movies, and even the romance novels I admit to occasionally reading in my youth, one common thread united that now-cliché of institutions: the unspoken love. Also known as couples with “UST,” sometimes unrequited love, or (more wordily) “will they/won’t they” pairings, these include such hallmark couples as Sam and Diane from Cheers, Maddie and Dave from Moonlighting, and Mulder and Scully from The X-Files. On the page, couples were allowed to stare longingly at each other, the point-of-view character’s thoughts drifting over the object of desire and telling the reader what was so great about this person. On the screen, lips quivered, eyes locked, souls kissed. Actors got to bust out all their fun acting skills to convey longing, desire, words left unsaid with just a single glance.

In my overly romanticized memories of ‘80s and ‘90s TV, we had lots of these moments–the accidental declaration of love under anesthesia, the forced sharing of a sleeping bag on a stakeout, the soft play of careful lighting across Cybill Shepherd’s perfect face as she gazes at Bruce Willis. We got string sections. We got rainstorms and being trapped underground together and Angel turning evil from a moment of perfect happiness with Buffy. We got moments. And we got the pacing to pause and drink them in.

Now, though? We don’t.

Sure, you’re saying, we have romcoms and favorite OTPs and all that good stuff. We ship like nobody’s business. We ship people who don’t even appear in the same book together. We ship people from storylines that never intersect, we ship people who never appear in a scene together, we ship people based on a single funny look that passes between them. But the sad thing is, a single funny look is sometimes all that gets to pass between even the show’s golden couple, the canonical pairing, the pairing we’re meant to root for. I barely even remember Pam and Jim having more than one good romantic moment in nearly ten years of The Office.

Some folks still do it right. There was a kiss between Leslie and Ben on Parks and Recreation that was immediately .gif-worthy and amazing. Mostly, I think, because of its rarity. The scene was allowed to linger, to expand, to play itself out. We got time, as viewers, to let this big change in their relationship sink in and register it.

On Brooklyn Nine Nine, we’re meant to root for Jake and Amy, but while the actors are intensely appealing and banter well, there’s no “there” there. No moments of chemistry allowed space and breathing room and slightly-darkened sets and a pause from the rapid-fire comedic moments. We aren’t even allowed those things in films, which should be all about beautiful shots and Moments with a capital M but too often just aren’t anymore. The most romantic conversation I’ve seen in a recent film is in The Avengers: Age of Ultron, not in an actually romantic comedy. In books, unless it’s a full-on romance novel rather than a novel-of-another-genre with romantic elements, we have to keep the A plot moving, moving, moving at such a breakneck pace that sometimes we lose those pages of silence and stares and longing for the brush of a knuckle on a cheek or someone smelling a letter, eyes closed, in memory and rapture. If romance isn’t the main thing your book is about, you’re too often asked to cut for pacing.

So, authors, showrunners, directors, listen up. Even if it’s an action movie, even if it’s a science fiction novel, in those romantic subplots?

Give me space.

Give me space to see and feel and soak up as many senses as the medium will allow. Just for a moment, let these two crazy kids calm down from the hectic pace of Modern Hurried Plot long enough to really see each other, and let us in long enough to recognize the moment their feelings awaken.

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