The BFD

Those who know me-really know me-can tell you that I have something of a humble streak. In fact, I tend to be humble to a fault, not accepting compliments and using myself as the butt of many jokes. I’ve been told I shouldn’t do this, but I guess I’m too British not to.

So when I got my last round of edits back from the publisher, I began working on them, not really thinking about it. Writing is more than a “job” or a “hobby”, it is something of a spiritual experience. I can’t describe it any better than that, not because I fail at wordsmithing (I actually have put most of my experience points in it) but because like most things spiritual, it must be experienced rather than explained. And editing is a part of that experience; I just sort of zone out and do what needs to be done, enjoying the process. tonight, in the midst of it, I suddenly realized: I’m going to be published. Not self-published, not sell books out of the trunk published, but actually published. And when I tried to downplay this with my damned humility, my brain said, “No, idiot, this is a BFD!” (For those of you who might be slow, that translates roughly into Big Frikkin’ Deal). And it is. Not a large percentage of people get published, but an even smaller percentage actually complete a novel. Writing novels is difficult, not because throwing sentences together is in and of itself difficult, but because writing drains you, body and soul. You write because you are compelled by a force stronger than you, and there are days when it can take all that is within you to write a sentence, while other days it flows from you like beer at a frat party.

Writer’s block is only conquered by writing. There are no secrets to this, just doing the work. And sometimes, when the stars align, the Norns favor you, and Heaven smiles down, you get to have something published. But if we did it to get published, we’d be writing bodice-ripper romance novels. I don’t think I’ll rid myself of my self-deprecation any time soon, but the realization that I’m being published, that this is a BFD, makes me feel a little bit good about myself. And I think it should.

Until Death is Defeated,

 

Sam

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Immolation has a cover, and it’s pretty creepy.

I know, I know. I’m a bum. No blogs posted in a little while. I swear I have a good reason, but you don’t want to hear it. You want style, substance, information, and maybe a picture of me doing something embarrassing. Well, I don’t have any of those to give you, but I do have the final cover for Immolation to tide you over. Thanks to Fish for all his hard work.

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Extra creepy, I know. Book is in second edits and should be done soon. Thanks for all the encouragement from all those who matter. And if you’re wondering if that means you, it does.

Until Death Is Defeated,

Sam

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Influences Part (eh, I lost count): Carrie

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Whenever I tell people what my book is about, inevitably there will be someone who makes a statement similar to this: “So basically, you wrote Carrie.” While it irks me that, having not read the book at all, they feel they can make this comparison simply because I tell them it’s about a teenage girl who is abused by her father and who finds out she has the ability to control fire with her mind, I understand the confusion. I am also at least slightly flattered they think of Carrie because let’s face it: there has never been a more famous girl in horror than Carrie. Even my mom knows who Carrie is, and my mom tends to read everything but horror.

It’s time to set the record straight: Immolation is in no way influenced by Carrie. I had never read Carrie before I wrote Immolation, I never saw the movies, and I only had a vague idea of what the story was about. The closest I can get to saying that Carrie influenced the story of Lydia Allison Cantrell is that it began the career which would eventually bring about Bag of Bones, which as I said in another blog was a definite influence on Immolation.

That being the case, why would I throw Carrie in my list of influences? Simply put, the spirit of Carrie permeates Immolation. When I first read Carrie, all I could think of was how similar the two characters were, as well as how different. Both were teenage girls, both were influenced by forces outside of their control, both were outsiders, both had mental powers. And, when I watched the movies (especially the first remake) I realized that I had something of an adolescent crush on both. Lydia is the kind of girl I would have dated in High School if she had been around. Carrie was the kind of girl I would have given anything to kiss in high school. I don’t need the knockouts to make myself feel better, I need the girls that were so achingly beautiful because they didn’t realize it.

Of all the things I hope people will get out of Immolation when it’s released, I think one of the most important is that beauty has less to do with a figure or an eye color and more to do with personality. The joke out there is that when you ask how a girl looks and you’re told she has a great personality, it means she’s a dog. HA HA, funny funny, everyone laughs. But I have learned in my 30+ years on this planet that personality is a better gauge of beauty than looks can ever hope to be. I hope that Immolation can teach people out there-from adolescent girls to grown women, from little boys to men who have children of their own-that basing one’s desires to know another human being on how they look is simple and childish. The true “Beautiful People” out there are not always the ones Marilyn Manson ironically identifies in the song, they are often the ones who embraced that song because it spoke to how they feel: alone and scared. And I want them to know: you are not alone. There are more of us than you ever realized.

Carrie, thank you. If you were real, I would have taken you to the prom.

Until Death is Defeated,

Sam

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Influences Pt. 3- The Thief of Always

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The first “scary story” I ever remember reading was a little book that had disguised itself as a “fable for adults”. It was by some guy named Clive Barker (you may have heard of him) and it was entitled “The Thief of Always”. I probably would never have read it if it weren’t for the person who recommended it to me: my cousin Parker.

Parker was like a brother to me when I was growing up, but really he was more like a best friend with brotherly qualities. We fought and such as brother/friends always do, but he was one of the few people that I could stand to be around for days on end and not want to throttle. we shared untold similar interests: heavy metal, action movies, the need to watch Bloodsport over and over and over again. We liked the same kinds of girls, felt like weirdos and were proud of it. We generally had a good time just being us and not having to be anyone else. Sadly, we’ve fallen out of contact with one another as we’ve gotten older, and I think it’s life’s fault as much as it’s his or mine.

One of the things we never shared was a love for reading. Sure, Parker would read comic books and the like, but he was never a bibliophile. Heck, he was never a biblio anything. I don’t know why, but he just never seemed able to enjoy books for some reason, and I found it odd that anyone could live life without books. I thought maybe he had some sort of disease but, sadly, I’ve met a few others as I’ve gone out into the world who feel the same way he does. So when he told me I absolutely had to read this book he had just finished-for the second time-I had to see what in the world had the power to make a Fahrenheit 451 firefighter empathizer betray his anti-book stance. And that’s when I learned about “The Thief of Always”.

I won’t get into what the book is about; you can (and should) read it for yourself. I will tell you what it did for me: it made me want to live. I’ve read some of Barker’s other books and they’re like anything else: some are good, some are better, and some just need to be buried out in the backyard. But none of them have given me the sense of immediacy that Thief did. Not only did I want to go to Holiday House (even though I knew it was a trick) but I realized that in a sense I had been living in Holiday House all along. While I was busy being preoccupied with things that I felt mattered but didn’t, life was passing me by. Thief helped me understand that life is about more than pleasure, and that the greatest pleasures can often come from the very things we fight the hardest not to have to do. Thief taught me that life moves with or without us, that our parents and grandparents and everyone in our lives get old and start falling apart, and that while we’re busy gorging ourselves on cardboard cake that we think is important and nourishing the real things that matter in life have moved on without us, and we will never be able to get those things that we missed back.

One of my hopes in being a writer is that I can touch people’s lives with my stories. I want my stories to entertain but I also hope that they will teach lessons and change lives. I hope they will give people the strength to overcome their own demons and perhaps to fight back against the things and people which oppress them. If the pen is truly mightier than the sword, I hope that my pen can-at least for some-be the mightiest of them all. Clive Barker showed me that, with a little imagination and a little talent, stories can give us the strength to carry on. And all it took was a little nudge from a kid who hated books.

 

Until Death is Defeated,

Sam

 

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Influences Part 2

I just found out yesterday that Madeleine L’Engle passed away. I suppose that anyone who would count her as an influence would likely point to-at the very least- A Wrinkle In Time as the book of L’Engle’s that changed their lives, but I have a confession to make: I’m just now, at the age of 32, reading the Time Quintet. It’s not that I didn’t know about them; I had seen them all over libraries and bookstores, on lists of good books for kids and books one should read before they die. But my reason for not reading them was actually pretty elementary. Everyone I knew that had read them was a girl, and for whatever reason my brain relegated them to boring books about kissing and wishing for true love rather than important things like killing people and being generally amazing.

For me, the inspiration from L’Engle came from this book:
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I read Walking on Water when I worked at the University library while getting my Master’s degree. It had come into the collection as a new purchase and, being in Circulation, I had access to such things before anyone else (which, incidentally, made numerous people angry as they were constantly asking, “When is this guy going to return this book?”). The synopsis on the dust jacket intrigued me, as I was just now beginning to really understand that I had a passion for writing but, like any good writer, thought everything I wrote sucked cheese through a straw.

Mrs. L’Engle changed all that. She taught me that art is art, and that it should be created for its own sake. She taught me that age-old adage that writer’s write, and if you’re going to be a writer the greatest thing you can do in the pursuit of that goal is to write. She taught me that sometimes you must be tenacious, that rejection has nothing to do with whether or not the story is any good but often it has to do with whether or not the person reading your work will be able to sell it. I owe quite a bit to Mrs. L’Engle and this little book, as it was the first book that encouraged me to write for the pleasure of writing and for no other reason, but to take comfort in the knowledge that even if I am rejected a thousand times, so was she.

Now I find myself on the cusp of having my first book published. I have only been rejected a handful of times for this book, so I can’t relate to the idea of hundreds or thousands of rejection letters. But I do know that every rejection letter I got hurt, made me angry, made me want to give up. But I couldn’t, because I knew that if I gave up I might be letting down a woman I had never met and who, incidentally (though unknown to me at the time) had already passed by the time I read her book. I felt responsible to this woman whose other works I had never read to keep fighting, working to get my work out there no matter what. And for that drive that she instilled in me I am eternally grateful.

Rest In Peace Mrs. Madeleine L’Engle.

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Until Death is defeated,

Sam

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Influences Part 1 (of an indeterminate number)

Influences make us who we are. The people, ideas, and works of art that inspire us to a higher plane of existence are quite indispensable, and without them we would know nothing but this little place we call madness that is our mind. I want to take a few posts to discuss the influences on my life, beginning with the book that reminded me that I loved telling stories.

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Before Bag of Bones, I had never read Stephen King and I’m pretty sure I never saw any movies based on his works. I have this odd quirk that keeps me from following something popular just because it’s popular, and so I think that perhaps knowing I was “supposed” to like him kept me from actually liking him. Yet, when my stepdad gave me his used copy of this book while I was in college, something about it intrigued me. I opened the book and could not put it down. I think I probably read the entire novel in about three days, forsaking much-needed sleep (I was a Senior after all) to satisfy my curiosity about what would happen next. I was hooked in all the right ways, and it was then that I realized that I, too, could write stories that not only frightened people but also encouraged them to enjoy life. Bag of Bones is a romantic ghost story that transcends its genre and is my very favorite of King’s works (although, admittedly, I haven’t read them all). I don’t think I have to tell you that King is an amazing writer because let’s be frank: you either know this to be true or you will never know how true it is.

The miniseries starring Pierce Brosnan is top-notch as well should you be more inclined to watch than read (although I certainly hope that’s not the case. The world already has too many watchers and not enough readers, but I digress). If it weren’t for this book, I never would have started writing Immolation, my soon-to-be-published novel. But above all that, I never would have understood what Mr. King says about writing: that writing is not actually what a writer does. A writer simply acts as the psychic in a seance with imaginary characters who use him/her as their amanuensis to tell the world what it needs to hear. If you are a writer, you know exactly what I’m talking about. If you are a reader…thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for taking the time to lend me your eyes and your heart. I will try my best to treat it with the dignity it deserves.

Until Death is defeated…

Sam

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