fearless and noisy, quiet and desperate

A quick excerpt from an interview I recently gave to Joe over at Crystal Lake Publishing. One of those times when I surprise myself by sounding smart, accomplished, wise…sane. 😱

Enjoy! 😃

Joe: Instead of just focusing on your most successful work, which story are you the proudest of, a story that managed to capture a piece of who you are?

JW: Although Eidolon Avenue stands head and shoulders above anything I’ve ever done, without doubt or hesitation Martuk… the Holy, my first book, is what I’m proud of and captures perfectly the surprising journey I found myself on at that time: someone discovering, page by page, that he could really write!

For someone who’d never written a short story or an article or any piece of prose fiction to sit down (without an editor or even an experienced beta reader—I was new, remember, and knew no one in the writing community) and slam out an 80,000 word novel is beyond audacious.

Is Martuk perfect? No. But it’s ambitious. A sprawling epic covering two thousand years. It’s fearless and noisy, quiet and desperate. It’s wounded and yearning, violent and hungry. Martuk may lack the polish of its sequel Proseuche or Eidolon Avenue, which is on a different level entirely when it comes to the writing and storytelling, but what Martuk has in spades is the passionate, carefree excitement of a writer finding his voice.

And that, right there, is worthy of applause. In fact, sometimes I find myself wondering ‘Where the heck did that guy go?’

You can read more over at Crystal Lake Publishing.

writing our wounds

The other day, while writing the sequel to Eidolon Avenue, I found myself facing a familiar fork in the narrative road. That moment when, like it or not, I have to put on the page something I find abhorrent and confusing and wrong. Something painful. Something only the most shattered of souls could even think of doing. Something the story demands, that the story has been building towards, but which still makes my heart wince and my soul sob.

As I said over on Facebook:

…I’ve just ended up on a road I dread because I know what’s coming next and it screws with my head and makes my skin crawl to have to write it. The depravity and pain and wounding and heartbreak is something I simply do not – thankfully – understand or comprehend.

Now, after writing that, a reader who’s familiar with – and thankfully a fan of – my work sent me a PM with a simple question:
How do you write what you write when it’s obviously so difficult to do?
After some thought, this is what I sent back:
Writers, in many cases, as odd as it seems, write what they know, to some extent. A lot of creativity and imagination goes into it, of course. And if you’re writing in a different genre – romance or self-help or something – then, obviously, the arc from personal to page doesn’t bend too dramatically.
But those who write horror are digging into their wounds whether they realize it or not. Only when you touch the darkest, deepest, most vulnerable parts of yourself, your psyche, can you put the worst of the worst fears on the page. And when you write with your body and soul, you feel that worst of the worst. You feel those wounds. You write with blood and tears and dread and hope.
And that’s what readers respond to. There’s a tacit acknowledgement, more subconscious than not, of the courage it took to tell your story. As if the writer’s taken a metaphorical bullet in order to guide the reader, from the safety of the page, into the dark and then safely out again.

After some thought, I suspect the above is more accurate than I realized. And that’s why I strongly believe horror is a necessary genre. And the stories we tell – as dark and f’ed up and terrifying and “wrong” and twisted and boundary-pushing and unique and brave as they are – are as widely accepted and applauded as they are.

We’re the brave ones who forge the trail and cut back the brambles and, torch in hand, show you, the reader, the way into fears you didn’t even know you had. And then help you back to safe ground. Because we’ve been there. We’ve opened the way. We dug the earth with our bare hands to make the trail. It’s our home.

In writing our wounds, we, in some way, help the reader face and hopefully heal theirs.

Then again, this could be the second cup of coffee talking, so-

 #backtowork #writing

nope nah nyet

I pride myself on having a strong work ethic. One of those oh my god he’s so boring all he does is work work work-type of work ethics. I write every day, often balancing several projects – all in various stages of development (active fiction WIP, outline, first draft edit, new script, script polish, etc) – at once while brainstorming not only new projects but also new ways to expand the ones I’m already working on (adaptations, comic books, graphic novels, novelizations, amusement parks).

So it should come as no surprise to say that when I sat down the other morning, coffee in hand, and brought up the Word Doc of the Day, my brain said

Nope

Nah

Nyet.

Yeah. Just drew a huge blank. No words. Nothin’. It was like I was looking at some foreign language I could kinda maybe sorta understand but, in the end, made absolutely no sense.

I switched to a different WIP. That sometimes work to get the gears a’going’.

Same thing. Nothing. Not even a glimmer of where I was supposed to go next on the page or what direction the story was supposed to travel now.

Of course, keenly aware of my self-imposed calendar, I started to very quietly have a full-blown – but quiet – panic attack. Started rescheduling, moving projects around, buying myself a day here, a week – maybe – there. Started feeling guilty for letting people down if something didn’t show up on time or, I don’t know, when they expected it to.

And then I did something I rarely do: I shut my laptop. Just closed it. Left the WIP alone, stood up and took a walk. A long one, actually. Enjoyed the, what’s it called again? the sun?, on my face. The breeze.

In short, I played hooky.

But my creativity demanded it. To run yourself ragged on a self-imposed – I use that word a lot because everything I do is dictated by me; I am my own worst boss – treadmill without touching base with your humanity not only stifles your creative voice, it silences it.

So, in truth, my stories, my characters, their narratives, all stood up and stepped forward to shut me up, steal my voice and get me out of the house.

And what happened when I came back?

Nothing. I took the day off. Shocking, isn’t it? 😁

But, hey, sometimes we gotta be daring and break the rules in order to get those words on the page.

stranger with the tear-drop tattoo

A sneak peek excerpt from Eidolon Avenue: The Second Feast, the WIP (work in progress) sequel to Eidolon Avenue: The First Feast

***

They’d met easy over a year ago. The noisy bar. The sudden argument. The vicious fight. The shouts. The scream. The beer bottle smashing against the wall behind her head. Chaos as he’d been dragged out the door, feet kicking, fists flailing. Her finding him moments later kneeling on the sidewalk, bloody fists punching concrete. Face red, teeth gritted. Cheeks wet with tears.

His silent primal scream breaking her heart.

Too drunk to move, she helped him stand. Too disoriented to walk, she stumbled with him to her apartment nearby. And, his arm wrapped around her neck, his boney bicep squeezing tight, his lips hot and wet against her cheek, she’d fallen in love as he’d wept in a blind rage.

Two days later she’d given this lanky stranger with the tear-drop tattoo a key to her new place on Eidolon Avenue. A day after that, her paramour with the missing front tooth tossed his duffel bag in her closet. Then, stockinged feet plopped on the coffee table, ankles crossed, beer in hand, TV remote nestled in his crotch, he’d sat on the couch.

There he’d stayed.

A year later, nothing had changed.

Except everything.

It’d started with her stomach.

***

coming soon

Eidolon-Avenue-crop-title

 

we are never 100%

We are never perfect. We are never 100% day-in and day-out our best. The path to our greatest work is riddled with failures, mistakes, bouts of laziness and just plain ol’ bad writing (or whatever it is you do).

It’s important to remember this when you find your tank empty and your creativity strangely silent.

Sometimes, though, it’s wise — and I’m speaking to the writers here — to push through and, at the very least, get words on the page. Even if those words are the worst words you could ever write. At least you’ll be giving your mind and your talent an opportunity to open its eyes, wake, stretch and go “Oh yeah, I need to get back to that.”

Or at least that’s the idea that helped me write this “Do Your Worst” essay in Crystal Lake Publishing’s new Writers on Writing Vol. 1-4 Omnibus.

Check it out. Tons of good advice to be found.

Oh. And me. 😉

A brief glimpse:

writers-on-writing-excerpt

the weight of the impossible

A bit of a personal post today. A chance to vent, perhaps. Or just a chance to clarify what I’m feeling right now. And what is that?

The weight of the impossible.

Yeah. Sounds big, doesn’t it? The weight of the impossible? But that’s what it is because, silly me, that’s what I feel driven to achieve.

My choice, my doing, no one to blame but me. I know how high and difficult the climb is and yet I choose to continue. Choose to sacrifice and struggle for the smallest of steps forward. And we’re talking painfully small steps here. Like, laughably small.

And, no, this isn’t one of those “woe is me”-type of deals. Not at all. It is, like I said, a chance to vent and/or clarify what’s making my mood so heavy these days.

The weight of the impossible. I like that phrase. I don’t like how that phrase feels as I live it, but I like the heft of it as I write it. The solidity of the sentence. The cadence and rhythm. It’s a memorable phrase that perfectly captures my present journey.

And, honestly, it’s not like I’m the first doing what I’m trying to do. Thank god! This road is teeming with those who’ve walked before me. Who’ve struggled, fought, failed, fallen, stood up and eventually succeeded. Everywhere I look I see shining examples of the impossible having been done.

Right now, though, I’m surrounded by silence with no clue as to whether or not my efforts are known or seen or appreciated. I think “Yes” but I don’t know. Obviously, and I’m calling a spade a spade here, today is one of those days where the candle flickers and the dark grows darker and the doubt grows deeper.

But I still march on. Like a man in a long tunnel surrounded by deepest, darkest black who keeps putting one foot in front of the other because he knows without a doubt, with a faith that goes beyond reason or present reality, that there is an end, a fantastic end, and if he keeps walking he’ll find it.

That’s me.

So I keep writing, breaking down my long-term goals into shorter term bite-size achievable chunks — I’m somewhat famous for my email bullet lists, by the way — and doing what I can to move forward. Or even just stay where I am because the worst is to slide back. And today, for whatever reason, feels like a day where I slid back. At least in my head.

So, I dig in my heels, narrow my focus and just keep going. Keep pushing. Even if the push is imperceptible and the reward is negligible. Even if what I do now won’t show a result weeks, months, even years down the road, if at all, I just do what I can from where I am. Because that’s all I can do.

But you know what would help?

A sign.

A Yes. An “I hear you.” Or “you’re on my radar.” A “I like your work.” A nod — not even an answer, but a simple nod — that lets me know I’m on the right path. That I’m moving in the right direction. An acknowledgement that would help me find the spark to click Send on yet another email or to dial the phone for yet another unanswered call or make another bullet point list that might never be seen or discussed.

That, any of those really, would be the light shining far, far at the end of the tunnel telling me to keep walking.

See, this, right here, this is what the weight of the impossible does. It tests your faith. Dips you low so you can climb back out. Strengthens your resolve. Allows you to flirt with the possibility of failure knowing that your desire for a different result is stronger. That, even unheard or unseen or unacknowledged, you will fight on, keep pressing, keep asking, introducing, discussing. You’ll keep making those lists and getting the words on the page and brainstorming ways to carve out a space to help make the impossible possible.

But here’s something else I’ve learned: we’re not designed to carry the weight of the impossible by ourselves. This burden is designed to be shared.

And, now that I think about it, that’s what I’m feeling. The need to share what I’m creating with others. Build my dreams with people. I feel like it’s time to stop traveling this road by myself. To stop walking this alone.

Yeah, now that I think about it, that’s exactly what I need.

See? Clarity. I knew there was a reason to write this post. 🙂

 

apologies…perhaps

I don’t know about other writers, but when I find I’ve written something a bit rough or cruel or viciously brutal— this doesn’t happen often, but it does happen — I feel more than a smidgen of guilt.

Not necessarily because of the experience the Reader will go through — they did sign up for it, though, so… — but more because of what I put the characters through.

Interesting, isn’t it?

For better or worse, I feel deeply for people who exist solely on the page. But that’s what I suspect gives my work emotional resonance: these people are real to me. Very real.

They are telling their stories. And, for better or worse, those stories follow me. Poke into my thoughts months, years, after being told. The consequences of what I create keep me awake at night.

No, seriously. That happens. A lot.

Almost a year after its initial release, Click, the third story in Eidolon Avenue: The First Feast, is one of those stories I can’t get away from. And it’s not just because of how brutal it was, but because of the innocence of the victims and the dangerous psychosis of the killer.

I’ve said this before, but I simply could not get my head around the absence of empathy and the glee he took in the act of hurting another.

You see, with my immortal Martuk, he does bad things, but there’s always a reason. So, at the end of the day, readers may disagree with what Martuk does, but they understand on a visceral, very basic level why he did it.

With Martuk, you hate him, you love him, you fear him and, most importantly, you understand the Why of his What.

But with Colton in Click?

He was pure evil. Evil and insanity. And, yes, there were reasons. A litany of Whys to his What. Wounds that drove him. Ancient scars that still bled.

But none of that excused what he, the Character, insisted I, the Writer, create for him.

I remember writing the story while sobbing — like, really SOBBING — because I HATED what was happening. Hated it. Made me sick to my stomach. Forced me up and out to take long walks just to escape it for a much needed breath of fresh air.

But it was the story that needed to be told.

You know, I still get emails and private messages via social media raking me over the coals for Click. Questioning my sanity, my kindness, my heart. Questioning what kind of monster I am to put on the page someone as horrible as Colton.

And I get it. I do.

Which is probably why I’m feeling the need to write what’s turned into an open letter.

But, listen, those of us who invest ourselves totally in our work sometimes don’t have the control over the final product people think we might. Sometimes our characters want to tell stories that we vehemently disagree with. Sometimes they grab us by the arm and drag us, kicking and screaming and, yes, crying, much deeper into the dark than we ever wanted to go. And when we stumble free, back into the light, after the story’s told, we find ourselves changed, wounded, even scarred.

But that’s the deal we made to do what we do. Life isn’t always pretty and perfect. Sometimes vicious people do atrocious things with no rhyme or reason. As someone who writes horror, it’s my job to capture the barest hints of that so that my readers can exorcise, vicariously, their own demons. I guess. I don’t know.

All I know is that I relish returning to the relative normalcy and sanity of my dearest immortal Martuk as I dive into Shayateen, his third and perhaps final book.

Still, though, I do wonder if there should be apologies…perhaps.

Looks like I still have some psychological knots to untangle.