My latest blog post is part of series by Curiosity Quills Press on Romance (for February). I talked about love, but how genre fiction provides a unique medium for exploring non-standard relationships. Also, it includes an excerpt from Exacting Essence.
It always seemed strange to me to wish somebody a, “Happy Halloween.” Probably because Halloween isn’t really about happiness, in the traditional sense. Still, I always love the ambiance of this season. I guess that probably means I have a dark side?
What I really want to talk about is horror. Growing up, the horror genre was not appreciated in my house. To be fair, I think it was heavily stigmatized by all of society. I blame splatterpunk and slasher movies. Stephen King’s early books didn’t help, either. For decades before that, horror was black and white monster movies. I loved the Gothic masterpieces: The Wolf Man, Dracula, The Mummy, and Frankenstein. But by my childhood the genre had been over taken by blood and guts images so disturbing that the average Christian abhorred it. Consequently, I was taught that horror is bad and to not watch or read it.
But I couldn’t stay away from those amazing monsters.
Luckily, science fiction and fantasy have plenty of monsters in them. So I didn’t have to read or watch the stuff that triggered the “evil” label. I watched Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and various fringe horror shows. What I didn’t realize is how horror is a much broader genre than most people think. Most thrillers and all monster-based fantasy have elements of horror in them. Horror is really just about fear. Fear is one of the core human emotions. So how could any good story completely ignore it? That would be like making action movies with no romance in them– absurd! Over time, the horror elements in various stories I loved (like Ghostbusters) became more and more important to me as I more deeply explored the human experience.
Imagine my surprise when the first time one of my books reaches #1 on Amazon it’s in DARK FANTASY. To be honest, I wasn’t even entirely sure what dark fantasy meant. My publisher chose the categories. I did know it to be a sub-genre of horror. HORROR? But I’m not a horror writer. I don’t write about serial killers and psychopaths. The Actuator series is about an evil saboteur who kills billions of people in order to… oh wait. And there are vampires and werewolves in it. MIND BLOWN!
I’m a horror author? How did that happen? Shouldn’t it be on purpose?
The book also ranked in sci-fi and fantasy, as well as other genres like cyberpunk and steampunk. My earlier book, Exacting Essence, usually lists as paranormal. Most people insist the evil clowns make it a horror, though.
So I finally accepted I had embraced the forbidden thing. Finding out how broad horror really is helped. I still plan to write non-horror sci-fi, but I’ve come to accept how dark many of my stories really are. I even edited a whole anthology of it. It shocked me to discover, but isn’t that really the point?!!
Time for treats! Get this great anthology for just 99 cents to celebrate All Hallow’s Eve: PRIMETIME!
And if that’s too much for your budget, I have some free spooky stories you can find on my short stories page or get two free short stories (ghosts and zombies) in the FREE Actuator RPG manual. Here’s wishing you a HORRIFIC HALLOWEEN!
It’s been too long since I wrote a legit blog. Time is relentless in its march. Still, I want to talk about names. Really, I want to discuss made-up names and words of all kinds. Maybe the benefit of what I’ve learned will help you in your writing endeavors. If not, at least it should be interesting.
If you’ve been with me from the beginning, you probably remember the tragic first edition covers on my first two books. I’m embarrassed to show them now, but it makes a point. (Just to ease my mind, I’m putting the newer versions, too.)
To this day, the Space Balrogs won’t call my first book anything except, “The Cracide.” Which is what the title looks like on that initial cover. Since then, I’ve learned it’s best not to title a book after a made-up word at all. Not only because I get confusion by people who think the book is about killing God as some kind of anti-religious statement (which it isn’t, it’s about killing a Theocrat who claims to be God), but a lot of people aren’t attracted to the title at all because it inspires confusion more than curiosity.
I went to a book signing where Terry Brooks shocked the entire audience of fans by informing us that Shannara is pronounced Shan-uh-ruh, not Shuh-nar-ra. Every person there had been pronouncing it wrong for decades. I’m guessing after a lifetime of correcting people’s pronunciation of his title, he wishes he hadn’t used a made-up word in the title, too.
Exacting Essence isn’t much better. It sounds cool (to me), but nobody knows what it means. So again, it causes confusion instead of curiosity. So, by making bad decisions in the past, I’ve learned to title books using only common words people already know. It is much more likely to inspire them to want to learn about the book. Here are some better book titles.
Uniqueness in titles isn’t as important as getting the reader’s interest. Common words can make a really good title.
I think this has also affected how I think about made up words in the book as well. I have a few in Salvation, because it’s a straight up fantasy and monsters and towns need names. But even though there have to be made up words in it, I think I would advise authors to use as many common words and when they are made up, spell them in a way that’s easy to understand.
Schism is the name of the planet. An actuator is a legitimate machine part. The sense of something familiar being used in a new and “magical” way is more intriguing, I believe, than if I named the planet Blarghdorugh and the machine R.T.C.I. (Reality Transforming Computer Interface). There is a place for fancy made-up words, of course, but less is definitely more.
So what brought this up now? My work-in-progress involves me deciding what to call a city, the people in it, and various aspects of their culture. So I have been revisiting some of the wisdom I learned by past mistakes. The title will not be a word I make up. The city must be called something that sounds like a real city, named as real people would name one. And the characters will have names that are “futuristic” in the sense that they are names people might really use as a result of a real societal evolution… not Zaphanianna or some other nonsense that readers can’t pronounce. It’s unlikely that after people used the name Matthew for thousands of years it will suddenly disappear in 100 years and nobody will be giving it to newborns.
If I save just one author from making the same mistakes I did, this blog will have been worth the effort. 🙂
My publisher is putting all my books on sale over the next week. So, if you missed them, now is your chance to fill our your collection, cheap! Today (Monday, December 12) for the first time EVER on sale, you can get WINDOWS INTO HELL!
With a Stoker Grandmaster award winner, an international #1 bestseller, and a line-up of many incredible authors, this is one of the best existential works you’ll read.
And how much risk is it for just 99 cents?
And if you’re not in the mood for deep thoughts, you can get something lighter. Who doesn’t like ghost stories, and nightmares, and monsters? Or better yet, a romance between a ghost and a monster? There’s all that and more.
I spent ten years world-building this story. Ten years of my life and you can get it for less than a buck. Try EXACTING ESSENCE!
That’s right, for the next three days (through January 3, 2015) my publisher, Curiosity Quills Press, has 87 of their e-books on sale for Kindle for just 99 cents! 6 of those titles are mine! So if there are any holes in your James Wymore collection, now’s a great time to fill them. I thought I’d do a quick overview of my available stories. If you want more information, you can always look at the book and short story pages following the links in the left panel. Also, you should check out all the great titles they have for sale.
To start with, I don’t believe CQ’s first annual anthology, Primetime, has ever been on sale before. So it’s a great time to grab this gem. My story, CYBER COWBOY, is a prequel to the Actuator series. If you’ve never read it, this your chance.
Unless your new to my blog, you’ve probably heard of the bestselling first book in the Actuator series: Fractured Earth. A unique, multi-genre adventure, you don’t want to miss this one. The sequel is coming out early in 2015. So now is the time to start the series if you haven’t yet.
Although I’ve been in many short story collections, this is the first one I edited! On sale for the first time, the Borderlands Anthology features sixteen authors writing in the Actuator world. It fills out the story nicely, including several characters and events which come into play in book 2. My own short story, THE CULT OF THE ACTUATION, continues right where book 1 left off. If you’ve been waiting for book 2, Return of the Saboteur, this anthology will prepare you for what’s coming next.
My first epic fantasy, Salvation is a metaphor like the great works of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. I really wanted to do the monsters right, from a scientific perspective. This book is often compared to the Lord of the Rings movies.
I spent ten years developing the Shroud world with R.A. Baxter. Exacting Essence is the first in those series (his is coming soon). A cross between urban fantasy and paranormal, the characters in this book not only pass the Bechdel test, but they kick butt!
And the first shall be last… Theocracide is my dystopian sci-fi. In the style of some of my favorite authors, Kurt Vonnegut and Ray Bradbury, this book looks at what we see versus what’s real. Several people told me that they had to put this book down and come back to it later because it affected them so much.
When I look at this list, I’m am awestruck. My first book, Theocracide, came out December 31, 2012. In less than 2 years I have a lot of great work out there. It’s better than a dream come true, it’s living a dream. And I owe it all to you! As always, thanks for being so awesome! I hope you find something you like. If not just look a little further. Most of all, have a great holiday and prosperous 2015!