That’s not a question I can answer for you since I can only answer for myself, based off what I want as a writer, based on my drives, expectations and experience. I see this topic come up a lot and usually don’t pay much attention because all the hating publishers who don’t deserve it is childish and it gets old. Not that there aren’t bad publishers out there, with self-publishing there are more presses(?) popping up than ever before. I know you’ll want to figure out which direction is the right one for you, or perhaps a little of both.
Here’s what helped make up my mind to go with Delirium Books instead of trying to be a self-publishing superstar (good luck with that if it’s your dream!)
1. I have a professional editor’s opinion, and I know the little bigot in us says that a professional opinion doesn’t matter (until we label ourselves professionals, then our opinion better matter! Please.) It’s important for me to have someone tell me when I’m coasting by, which I can do sometimes. I want that push to make something better than I’d do on my own. It’s why part of my writing time is caught up in trying to impress my first readers.
2. I get money up front for hardcover editions, money up front for paperback editions, plus I get royalties.
3. I get more royalties from ebooks, too. And I know my publisher pays me a great royalty because I did my research. I would actually make less per copy if I self-published them because I’d be dumping my money from a regular job into cover design, layout, marketing, copy editing, etc. I’d rather make the more royalties from my publisher handling all that other crap instead of it coming out of my pocket and out of my time.
4. I get original book covers that I don’t have to pay a dime for (because my publisher pays for it.)
5. I get a copy editor with sharp eyes who picks up things me and my first readers and everybody else involved missed (because my publisher pays for the copy-editing, too.)
6. I get author copies of hardcovers and paperbacks that I can give to my first readers because I appreciate how much they always, always help me.
7. I get physical books I can take to conventions and book fairs, and with those physical books can do readings and signings and sell them in person.
8. I get to fill up my bookshelf with my work (or my bed, it happens.) Here’s what’s been published in the last year or so.
9. I get a marketing director (Dave Thomas, not of Wendy’s fame) who does a fabulous job.
10. I get to have physical copies for interviews with the local papers and surrounding areas.
And that’s why I went with Delirium Books instead of self-publishing. I don’t have the mind for the self-publishing route, I’d rather be creating and reading. Getting to the point where I was good enough to sell my work wasn’t easy (I’ve been stupid most of my life) but it’s paying off, and I know it’s the right thing for me. Go think about what’s right for you. Weigh the pros and cons, not just the idea of freedom. Freedom doesn’t exist. You’re bound in an unspoken contract with every reader who picks up your book and you want to give them the best product you can, right? Go on, get out of here (but tell your writing friends to check out my Writing Advice essays, and come back yourself.)
Called “One of the best writers of his generation” by both the Roswell Literary Review and author Brian Keene, and praised by masters like author Ed Gorman, Greg F. Gifune is the author of numerous short stories, several novels and two short story collections (HERETICS and DOWN TO SLEEP). His work has been published all over the world, consistently praised by readers and critics alike, received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and The Midwest Book Review (among others) and has recently garnered interest from Hollywood. His novels include CHILDREN OF CHAOS, DOMINION, THE BLEEDING SEASON, DEEP NIGHT, BLOOD IN ELECTRIC BLUE, SAYING UNCLE, A VIEW FROM THE LAKE, NIGHT WORK, DRAGO DESCENDING, CATCHING HELL, JUDAS GOAT, LONG AFTER DARK and KINGDOM OF SHADOWS.
In addition to working as a full-time author, he also serves as Editor at Darkfuse Publications. Greg resides in Massachusetts with his wife Carol, a bevy of cats, and their dogs Dozer and Bella. He can be reached online at: email@example.com or through his official web site.
He’s one of my favorite writers and I’m honored he’s taken the time to answer some questions. Feel free to leave comments and share the interview, people!
Me: Congrats on your Delirium novella LORDS OF TWILIGHT breaking the top 100 on Amazon! What’s the story about and what significance does it hold for you?
Greg: Thanks. The novella is about a former high school teacher who has lost everything due to accusations of sexual misconduct made against him by a female student. His marriage is in ruins, his career is over and he’s on the verge of a nervous breakdown, so he flees to a place where no one knows him, a rural town in northern Maine. In an attempt to reset and put his life back together, he buys a small house in the middle of nowhere and settles down for the winter with his puppy Vince. As the story unfolds, we see a desperately lonely man trying to hold onto whatever scraps of his life and sanity remain, while strange, otherworldly things begin happening in town. Soon, he realizes these events may somehow be connected to his breakdown. While on the surface it’s an alien invasion/abduction tale, that’s also a metaphor for what’s happening to him, what he’s allowed to happen to himself, those things in his life that have invaded and dominated him and who (or what) may be pulling the strings.
Me: I imagine things were quite a bit different when you started writing. What were your beginning years like?
Greg: They were different. My early years trying to break in were very difficult. I went nearly five years with nothing but rejections before I was able to break in and get published. Once I sold my first short story though, things took off. It was a struggle early on, and I’m glad it was, it’s supposed to be that way and it ultimately made me a much better writer. I kept working hard as I could to continue to learn and hone my craft, and it paid off. I was also fortunate to come up during the old zine days in the late 90s and early 2000s, which were great. There were so many cool little magazines out there looking for new talent and good work, most run by artists and people who really cared about what they were doing. There was a wonderful atmosphere then. All of us were in it together and trying to make something original and good and new. Sometimes we were paid in cash, sometimes in copies, sometimes both. It was a fun time and an atmosphere that really helped develop a lot of writers into professionals. It was like this great little minor league where we all got our start before being called up to the majors. Most of the name writers in the genre today (if they’ve been established awhile) came up during the zine years. I feel bad for writers starting out today that don’t have the zine culture to work in because it was pretty special.
Me: Very cool. How the hell do you release so much work?
Greg: I can be fairly prolific, but remember, I’ve also been doing this a long time. I’ve been a professional, published author for nearly fifteen years now, and I have a lot of work to show for it. I go through periods where I write like a demon, produce a lot of work and am very productive. Then I have periods where it’s like pulling teeth, where I sit at the keyboard for hours and hours and struggle to write a single paragraph. But I try to produce work regularly because, one, I have a mortgage, and two if I don’t and I let it stay bottled up in me the results are not good. I’m tortured enough, I need to get these things out, and writing is how I do that.
Me: I understand that. You have a distinctive style—dark, brooding, poetic—that I, and a lot of other readers, love. Did you find your voice there from the beginning and just have to develop it through attentive practice? Or did it change drastically somewhere along the way?
Greg: Thanks. A writer’s voice comes from the deepest parts of who they are. Often it comes from the darkest parts, the purest. Not to say it can’t come from a happy place too, it does—but most serious fiction is dark, so you need to be able to mine that effectively (and frankly, there has to be something to mine). Writers should run into the fire, not away from it, toward the pain and darkness, not away from it. There’s no other way to come through it. You can go around it but then what the hell’s the point? If you’re not willing to bleed when you have to, to get down there into the crazy then why be an artist? It’s a balancing act, what we do, between sanity and madness, and that’s where you’ll find your real voice. I always had that voice, it was always present on some level, because when finding your voice, if it’s genuine and comes from a place of raw, stripped down honesty, then you really don’t create it per se, you’re simply digging down to where it already is and uncovering it. What I needed to do was learn how to use that voice correctly and effectively, and also how to develop it, hone it, sharpen and maximize it. It goes back to craft. The key, to me, was not being wholly conscious of it. In a sense, it’s instinctual, and you shouldn’t think about it. Be aware of it and try to hone it, but let it happen, let it speak. In-other-words don’t try to write in your ‘voice.’ Listen instead, and let your voice speak to you. Trust it. Leave it to its own devices (more or less), and let it do what it needs to do to gather strength and confidence and that will manifest in the writing.
Me: I still have to catch up on some of your work (I know, shameful) but of the majority I’ve read I’d suggest these three to new readers who want to give your work a try: SAYING UNCLE, THE BLEEDING SEASON, and LONG AFTER DARK. Do you have favorites? Which books have been pivotal in your growth as a writer?
Greg: Yeah you need to correct that ASAP, man. Go ahead. I’ll wait (laughs). You know, I get asked this a lot and I really don’t have favorites. THE BLEEDING SEASON is one I have to point to because it was the novel that really broke through for me, and in the years since it was first published it’s already become considered by many to be a classic in the genre. That novel means a lot to me, and I think if a reader wanted to get the essence of my writing, THE BLEEDING SEASON would probably be a good place to start. But the others you mentioned, particularly SAYING UNCLE (which is really more a family drama than a genre piece), was very personal to me (as all my work is) and has a special place in my heart as well. LONG AFTER DARK is a novel I’m very proud of, and again, I think it captures the essence of what I do well. In terms of my growth as a writer, I can’t point to one or two. They’ve all helped that and they all have meaning to me. If they don’t, there’s no point in writing them. That’s what it’s about for an artist, as you know; it’s a process that never really ends. We’re always growing, always learning, always striving to be better and go deeper. It’s like climbing a mountain and knowing you’ll never reach its summit because the summit doesn’t exist. There is no end of the road. But the struggle to get there is what makes you better and brings out your best work. Just because Shangri-La may not exist doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep looking for it, because maybe that’s exactly where it does exist, in the striving.
Me: Agreed. The striving is the gold. I’ve just started selling work and find it difficult to keep up with emails from people. How do you manage it?
Greg: You saw how long it took me to find the time to do this interview. Which again, I apologize for, but that’ll give you an idea. Between email messages, regular mail (people do actually send letters these days now and then, or books they want me to sign or that kind of thing), and Facebook messages, it’s hard to keep up sometimes, but I do my best to start each day answering as many as I can and I usually hit them again right before I wrap up for the day. And I remind myself daily that there are worse things than to be in demand. There are countless writers who would love to have such problems, so I don’t bitch about it. It’s actually very nice, but it can be overwhelming sometimes in that if I don’t keep up with it I’d be in trouble. Now add to that my new gig as Editor at Darkfuse Publications, and it’s completely off the charts.
Me: Thanks, Greg. GARDENS OF NIGHT was in my top five for 2011. I was stoked to hear it’s part of a trilogy. Did you realize it after writing the first book? Were they written back-to-back? What’s special about the trilogy and what do you explore in these books?
Greg: Thanks, GARDENS is a novel I’m very proud of, and I’m also proud that it helped launch such an important and exciting new publishing company, UNINVITED BOOKS. Rob Dunbar is doing some amazing things there. Check it out (www.uninvitedbooks.com) and pick up a few of their titles—great stuff. The way the trilogy came about was I wrote a short story years ago called SMOKE. It was published in a few magazines and then appeared in my short story collection DOWN TO SLEEP (Delirium Books). I knew then it would not only one day be a novel, but a novel in a trilogy, because I had the overall vision at once. I had always planned to write SMOKE as a novel first, but once I sat down and went over the entire project, I realized BLOOD IN ELECTRIC BLUE needed to come first, followed by GARDENS OF NIGHT (they needed to be written in that order but don’t necessarily need to be read in that order, although that is ideal). So ironically, the story that gave birth to the trilogy concept and those two novels has turned out to be the last one that’ll be written. I still haven’t finished it, but I’m hoping to relatively soon. It’s now titled SMOKE IN CRIMSON, and like the other two novels, it can be read as a stand-alone novel or as part of the trilogy. All three are designed to work as both lone novels and part of a bigger picture. The concept behind it had to do with exploring some of my own demons and working through some things through the use of mythology. I wanted to use mythical female characters specifically, because it tied into the overall theme(s) of the novel(s) and allowed me to try some things I hadn’t before, and to try some things that—far as I know—hadn’t been done before in relation to these mythological creatures and how they could (and should) relate to the human experience. In the end, the novels in the trilogy are about what it’s like to be human, and ironically, how things that are so decidedly not human can shape that.
Me: I’ve sold five books to Delirium/Darkfuse in the last year and a half, and Shane Ryan Staley has been awesome to work with—insightful, humorous, straightforward, knowledgeable, and passionate. How long have you been working with Shane Ryan Staley? What are the ingredients for a successful working relationship (I know it seems like a dumb question but I’m pretty convinced that it’ll help newer writers who may be ignorant)
Greg: Shane and I go way back, little over fifteen years. We both came up as writers and editors right around the same time. We were both part of that zine culture and crossed paths a few times, sometimes as writers working side-by-side in magazines or anthologies, sometimes with one of us acting as editor and the other as the writer. Pretty early on we both liked and respected each other as writers and editors. Love Shane or hate him, he’s honest—often to a fault—and that’s a rare quality in this business. I’ve always been impressed with his work ethic and the way he approaches things and sees the business. Shane is very no-nonsense, and I’m very similar when it comes to business. Nothing’s personal with him (or me), when it comes to business, and some people fail to always understand that, but that’s really how it is. Yes, we’re artists, but this is also a business, and in order to survive and thrive, sometimes tough decisions and unpopular stances need to be made. He’s always done that (with a greater good in mind) and he’s always been ahead of the curve in this business, and I respect that. Again, that aspect is business. I don’t have to like every business decision he makes as a friend, but when warranted (which is almost always the case), I have to respect it from a business standpoint. We shared a lot of the same views from the beginning but were also able to discuss our differences as well without any difficulty. We’ve had our share of disagreements, but we’ve always been able to do it respectfully and to, again, keep it business. This isn’t a hobby or some ego thing with Shane, he was a pro from the start and wanted to make a mark—a difference—he wanted to do something special that hadn’t been done before, and while he rarely took himself seriously, like me, he took the work very seriously. When he started Delirium Books I took notice and submitted some things. I remember he rejected the first series of stories I sent him (in the hopes of landing a short story collection), when he wrote back to me simply, ‘I see nothing here I’d be interested in publishing.’ Vintage Shane (laughs).
I kept trying and eventually sold another series of stories to him, along with the novella HERETICS as the anchor of the collection, and our working relationship took off from there. Heretics got amazing reviews and brought a lot of attention and prestige to me and to Delirium, and when I followed it up with THE BLEEDING SEASON the same happened but on a larger scale, and sort of set the stage for what followed with my work. Much like I did when I was Editor-in-Chief at Thievin’ Kitty Publications and later as Associate Editor at Delirium and now as Editor at Darkfuse, Shane built a reputation as someone who took chances on up-and-coming authors, and really got behind them and helped build their careers. This was unheard of back then, particularly in the independent press. It’s often forgotten (or not even known) by many today, but back in the day he really opened the door for numerous new and up-and-coming writers that otherwise would’ve never been given the chance. That’s just a fact.
Over time Shane and I became friends as well, but we’ve always both been very strict about keeping our friendship and business relationships separate. Anyone who truly knows either one of us knows this. We have a solid relationship as professionals. Although I’ve worked, and continue to work regularly with numerous publishers (and am always open to that), my main home is Delirium because I’ve built a career there and also been part of helping Shane build what I believe is the best genre publishing house there is. In terms of what builds a good relationship, it’s tough to say because it’s rare to find a relationship between an author and publisher like we have, which is one of the reasons I’m grateful for it. It should come as no surprise to anyone who’s been in this business more than ten minutes that writers tend to take the pipe in most cases, so trust me, I’ve had my share of horrendous experiences with publishers, so when I find publishers that treat me well and treat me fairly, I stick with them and I’m loyal to them. That can be tricky sometimes, because writers are like mercenaries, hired guns. We have a certain skill and if you want what we can do, you have to pay us (except for this wildly disturbing trend of writers giving their work away for free), and we have to deliver. A good publisher understands this and will work toward creating the best possible situation for everyone. A lesser publisher will treat the writer strictly like a product, which of course we are, but we all like to be seen as something beyond that as well.
I think since Shane is a writer himself, it helps a lot. He understands what it is to be writer as well, and he’s sympathetic to it. In most cases it boils down to patience, mutual respect and a good working relationship, which is actually very difficult to find in this business. And that’s the other big thing: understand (again) that this is a business and you’ll go a lot farther.
Me: Excellent advice. Thank you. What’s next for Greg F. Gifune?
Greg: I have a lot of projects going on, working on some novels and novellas, my first graphic novel project (with amazing artist and one of my oldest friends, Greg Chopoorian), which I’m very excited about, and some other things I can’t talk about yet. Also keeping busy as Editor at DarkFuse, putting together a lineup of authors I think a lot of people are going to be very excited about. I’m assembling a lineup that consists of outstanding new writers and more established veterans, and so far the fiction is absolutely amazing. I really think it’s going to be something special. When you see the Darkfuse brand (much like Delirium), you’ll know we’re talking quality.
Me: If you could only offer three pieces of advice to writers, what would they be?
Greg: 1. Learn the craft. Worry about that, rather than getting published and trying to be some pseudo celebrity, and be the best writer you can be instead. That’s why you’re here, right? If not then my advice is to fuck off and go do something else. The business has enough posers and pains-in-the-ass clogging it up as it is. If you’re real, and this is real to you, then focus on always learning and striving to produce your best work and the rest will come. 2. Learn the business, work hard and stay clear of organizations and circle jerks and mutual admiration societies and all that bullshit and smoke and mirrors and focus on what matters, the work. 3. Don’t self-publish unless you’re already established (and even then, be careful), and don’t devalue your work (or literature in general) by giving it away or under-pricing it to the point where you’re just a discount item.
Me: Great advice. Your characters are always complex and well-rounded. Do you have a process for developing them? Or do they arrive to the story close to fully formed?
Greg: In short, I treat them as real people (rather than ‘characters’) and I do have a process for developing them. They arrive fully formed. The characters are everything to me. They’re usually a compilation of people I know or have known, or something similar. I create files and backgrounds on all of them (most of which seldom makes it to the finished product but allows me to know them fully in any situation I place them in or struggle I give them). My stories are generally born from the characters, not the other way around.
Me: I hear that. What’s your favorite part in working on a new book? Why?
Greg: Finishing it and being free of it, being able to (hopefully) be pleased with and proud of what I’ve accomplished. I’m in the Dorothy Parker camp. Hate writing, love having written.
Me: Lol. Anything I should have asked and didn’t?
Greg: Not that I can think of but I’ll be happy to answer anything else.
Thanks for taking the time, Greg. You’re a rocker. I’ll send you sappy fan mail soon. Hehe.
And there you have it. Go grab one of his novels and see why he’s so respected.
A big thanks to those who came to the live event and asked questions, participated in the polls, and won some great prizes! You all made it a wonderful night! And thanks to my publisher Shane Ryan Staley and his marketing director Dave Thomas for putting the event together!
In a short publishing history that dates back only to 2010, Lee Thompson has amassed a large collection of acceptance letters and heaps of praise from peers like Tom Piccirilli and Brian Keene. He’s also laid the foundation for a massive mythology all his own, the Division Mythos, a huge, expansive story arc that remains tightly focused on character. It’s quite an ambitious undertaking for a “new” writer (Thompson may have only been publishing for two years, but he’s written for far longer than that, collecting “enough rejections to break an elephant’s back”), but Thompson is undaunted. The author was kind enough to take a break from world-building to share a few words with October Country…
Neat. My brother-in-law Dale made me some cool business cards for writing! I’ll use them at book fairs, conventions, when talking to staff at the local Barnes and Noble, and when traveling, wherever “What do you do for a living?” comes up. Thanks, Dale!
And Douglas E. Wright sent me this cool link to a video that’s awesome and you should watch it.
The first four chapters of my serial novel COLLECTED SONGS OF SONNELION are up on my publisher’s website, with the fifth chapter going live this Friday. Feel free to leave feedback and spread the word if you know anybody who enjoys dark fiction hot off a writer’s brain.
Super pumped that my third Red Piccirilli novel COLLECTED SONGS OF SONNELION (which is a pivotal moment in Red’s life over the course of the Division mythos) is going to be serialized on Darkfuse! I realize this is a very huge gamble my publisher is taking on me since I’ve only written the first four chapters and he has no idea where it’s going (so a huge thanks to Shane Ryan Staley for that kind of faith!)
Since the book isn’t even written yet there is no contract for another edition (hardcover, paperback or digital) so if you want to read this follow along every week at Darkfuse’s website!
This novel is really going to show why John’s uncle Red is the recluse, shattered man he is in the later books. It’s going to be brutal and savage and full of so much emotional weight by the end that you’re going to need a stiff drink or two to get your head straight again.
For those who have read The Dampness of Mourning you’re in for a special treat with this book.
Tons of things going on here and all of them rocking. I’ve got the signature sheets for DOWN HERE IN THE DARK in front of me. The digital is out now, the signed/limited hardcover coming mid-April. It’s a hell of a story and picks up right after the end of IRON BUTTERFLIES RUST. It’s dark, twisted, cryptic and stunning. Alfred Hitchcock (my pet monkey) said it’s a tour de force.
Like everything else, I think it stands alone, but it’s a sliver of the Division mythos and I think it’s going to be badass when every book and short story is complete so everybody (including me) can read them in order and experience the full effects of these character’ trials and successes.
It also ties in directly to THE DAMPNESS OF MOURNING which is out early as a Kindle Exclusive. The signed/limited hardcovers are coming out on Valentine’s Day!
I did an interview on Literary Mayhem. Also just turned one in for Darkfuse that was a lot of fun and should be live soon. Working with Dave Thomas on some promotional stuff that should be a blast for everybody! I think I’ll be playing guitar and reading some opening chapters.
NURSERY RHYMES 4 DEAD CHILDREN is in production as an audio book and so far I’ve heard the first 13 chapters (my lucky number!) and it is so cool to hear somebody else read my work.
I’ve also been interviewing some of my heroes lately. So far I’ve sat down and sipped absinthe with Robert Dunbar, Tom Piccirilli, and Lee Thomas. All amazingly talented bad boys. Up next I’ll be interviewing Greg Gifune. Working on his questions now. It’s been a lot of fun talking to those guys and picking their brains. They’ve been surprisingly candid and I love ‘em for it.
I finished the rewrite on the second Red Piccirilli book WITHIN THIS GARDEN WEEPING. I’d submitted it to Chizine but since I’ve written one novel and three novellas while waiting to hear back from them I figured it a good idea to use what I’d learned while waiting to make the book stronger. It’s the sequel to the first book BEFORE LEONORA WAKES, a simple but interesting YA story. I’m very proud of both of them since they set the foundation in what comes in the adult novels and novellas. You can read the opening of the second book on the lovely Book Den.
Another Division story, THE RIVER, is under consideration with Apex’s Dark Faith 2 antho. It’s the only short story I have unpublished right now and I love it.
Two short stories (Daddy Screamed With Us and Crooked Stick Figures) will be in the anthology American Horror Stories, vol. 1 from Delirium Books later this year, too.
I’m working out the threads of the third Red Piccirill novel COLLECTED SONGS OF SONNELION. So not ready to write this one yet. It’s going to be incredibly dark for Red. It’s going to break my heart to write. But I know I have to get to it at some point because this is the book that mostly shapes who Red is in the Division novels Nursery Rhymes 4 Dead Children, The Dampness of Mourning, and The Patron Saint of Infinite Sorrow.
Also working on the threads of a very touching, yet very disturbing, YA novel called A Monster of Many Faces. It’s going to tackle issues that have bothered me my whole life and people are going to die (one of them is already dead.)
I’m anxious (somewhat) for when reviews start coming in for all four books coming out this year. I enjoy feedback, and especially enjoy it when people tackle the challenge each story presents. I know not everybody will get them, and not everybody is going to like my work, but I’m grateful some do (some who I have a ton of respect for.)
I’ve heard news that my Thunderstorm novella is on the fast track and look forward to seeing the finished product. It’s going to be a beauty.
I’m very excited that some people are loving the Division story line and characters. I see it all so clearly and its such a massive story it takes my breath away knowing that it came out of my wee little imagination. Crazy.
Feeling very relaxed. No pressure here. But expect some great things.
Very cool that Brian Keene read and enjoyed Nursery Rhymes 4 Dead Children enough to include it on his Top Ten Books of 2011 list with so many great novels! Thanks Brian! And thanks to Susan for sending me a link and making me aware of it!
Here’s a snippet of what Brian said about NR4DC (I need to see if I can use it as a blurb!):
“Thompson’s voice is his own — strong, hypnotic, and unsettling. Nursery Rhymes 4 Dead Children is a bleak fucking book, and therein lies its danger. So beautifully-constructed is Thompson’s prose, that the reader is often caught off-guard, mesmerized by a turn of phrase or a descriptive passage, until the book grabs you by the balls and rips them right off, breaking your heart and your psyche in the process.”
If you haven’t read Nursery Rhymes 4 Dead Children yet go see why it’s creating so much racket!
And if you like that first Division novel you’re in luck because the second novel (The Dampness of Mourning) in that series is available as a Kindle Exclusive right now! And it will be out early next year in signed/limited hardcover as well as all other digital formats!
Get ready for 2012. I have four books coming out so far!
1. The Dampness of Mourning (Novel from Darkfuse Publications)
2. Down Here in the Dark (Novella from Delirium Books)
3. Immersion (Novella from Thunderstorm Books)
4. When We Join Jesus in Hell (Novella from Delirium Books)
Will be sharing my 2011 Year in Review very soon. Thanks to everybody for all the faith and support and friendship!
As I was preparing my 2011 Year in Review thoughts on this post kept pinching me, so what the hell. Maybe it will help somebody.
This is my opinion, but gleaned from experience. Most of my life I’ve been a drunk or a laborer, or a drunken laborer, but I’ve always been a searcher and knew there were no easy answers, though the simplest and most honest route is the best for me. Over the last two years I’ve gained some traction and serious momentum. And I hope this post will help some writers who could use a little of both.
#1: Know exactly what you want…
Part of this comes from paying attention to yourself and your own drives, where you’ve already found some success, etc. Here is a list of what I wanted two years ago, exactly what I wanted.
For short stories I bought a bunch of mags and found the ones I wanted to have stories in because I respected what they were publishing. And I sold to some of them and still need to sell to others, but I won’t write just any idea that pops in my head or I’d never finish a book, so I am not a very productive short story writer.
I prefer writing novellas and novels and I should have known that a long time ago because I will pick a novel or novella to read over a short story any day of the week. If I only crank out six shorts a year I’m at peace with that because I’ll sell them to markets I believe in and support, and all the while be honing my chops on the next book. This was one of those things that took me a little time to come to terms with because I want to be good at everything. Zombie Jesus told me this as he was munching on my hopes of being good at everything: “Yeah, good luck with that, Lee.”
I wanted a book publisher who believed in me. And boy, oh boy, did I get one. Shane Ryan Staley at Delirium/Darkfuse has had unshakeable faith in me and it is priceless. He has more faith in me than I do. To have a person who has seen a lot of the genres best fiction believe in you and help you grow is like an uplifting drug to counter the hard times when self-doubt kicks in, when you worry that you’re wasting everybody’s time including your own.
I wanted to write MY stories for me first, and I still do that, because if they never sold I’d have the satisfaction of knowing I was honest with each tale and could take pride in them.
I wanted to make a living from writing, and the more I write the more I realize that making a living from it isn’t as important as it once was because that takes care of itself as we learn and grow and people gather in our corner and spread the word for us.
I wanted die-hard fans (like I am a fan of Tom Piccirilli, John Connolly, Peter Straub) and I have been lucky enough from a very early point in my career to have steadfast and enthusiastic people in my corner. *Waves at all the beautiful people!*
I wanted to make a name for myself based on the quality of my work alone, which is one reason I haven’t joined any groups like the HWA or anything else. Until I’ve proven to myself that the stories, not my people skills, are the impetus for my success, I’d rather remain invisible. This is a very big deal to me. I’m stubborn.
I wanted to grow as a person by putting a lot of my life into my work so that I could get a clearer view of my own actions and reactions and try to make some sense of it all.
I wanted to leave behind something worthwhile, to know that even if it wasn’t anything groundbreaking, it was at least real and it was honest.
I wanted to let people know that they matter because I’ve had a lot of people open up to me for some reason and I don’t think many people feel that they do matter.
I wanted to be less stubborn, but so far that hasn’t happened. *Smiley face*
#2: Get good enough to get what you want…
Seen plenty of people want to skip this step, seen ‘em playing online and always talking about the book they’ve yet to finish. Hell, I’ve sat by and watched and waited for them to get excited about a book in general! Come on, how can somebody claim to be a writer but never get excited about a book? Jesus Christ. There are some posers out there. Some shams who won’t ever get good enough to publish outside their little circle jerk parties because to them it’s not about the stories or giving something special that only they can create to the world.
Being on the stage as lead actor isn’t the goal.
The goal is producing and directing and connecting with your audience.
I knew a hundred musicians who treated their music the same way (as an ego booster) and ten years later they were still hanging out trying to draw the most attention in the sandbox and bitching about other people’s success. What’s your motivation? Really? There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be popular or respected, but if that’s your prime motive for writing, you’re already taking steps in the wrong direction. If you want to climb you have to look at where you’re standing and start by carrying yourself up the mountain. If people like the way you climb and they want to be there when you reach the summit they’ll join you.
There are a million things involved in getting “good enough” but you have to really know yourself and tear down the delusions you’ve constructed of why you want to write in the first place.
#3: Pay attention to (and nurture) the details that matter…
A.) Your craft: It’s all up to you if you improve, and if you’re anything like me (human) there are probably a million areas in your craft you can work on. Take baby steps. Challenge yourself. If you’re a Young Writer listen to more readers instead of your peer writers. Listen to yourself as a reader. And if you’re a writer, I’ll say it again, You’d better be a goddamn reader. Handcopy some of your favorite books to learn the mechanics if you suck like I do. Don’t run with every idea; develop the worthwhile ones. Ask other people where you can improve even if you’re afraid of what they’ll say.
B.) Your honesty: If you can be honest with yourself you can be honest with your readers. And if you’re not, they’ll pick up on it and they’re not going to trust that you can give them their money’s worth, even if you’re only writing for entertainment. Don’t rely on kissing ass or networking to make you a better writer. Have some motherfucking integrity. The more you’re honest with yourself, and other people are with you too, the quicker you can grow as a person and gain traction as a writer.
C.) Your supporters: Besides being brave enough to write only the stories you can write, this is one of a writing life’s greatest gifts. These people don’t have to believe in you. Really. They don’t. Realize that right now. And when you get people who chose to believe in you, appreciate them, okay? They’re precious. They’re helping you pay your bills, they’re encouraging you to write more of your stories, they’re telling people who have no idea who you are that you’re worth investing in. They’re invested in you and showing it by example and that is a big deal!
D.) Your non-writing life: This, as hard as it is to swallow, is more important than your writing time. This is where all the real work goes on, all the stories start and end, all the textures manifest and all the colors in your palette gather to enrich the work. You live and you ponder and you ask questions and you find answers and you daydream. You pick at scabs and learn a new hobby and contribute something to someone else. You work your job and interact and see how other people view the world, you, and themselves.
You can lock yourself in a room and twiddle your thumbs, or you can go live and report back what joys you’ve discovered, what battles you’ve seen, what victories you’ve tasted, what loves you’ve felt, what secrets you’ve heard, what sorrows you’ve endured and learned from, and how all of these things have helped you grow as a person.
And you draw and observe and collect the same things from all your real life relationships because you’re invested in other people’s lives if you’re really living.
Take time to get fresh air. Smile as it fills your lungs.
"10 out of 10 Stars... GOSSAMER: A TALE OF LOVE AND TRAGEDY will blow you away my friends. It is that good." -- Peter Schwotzer/Famous Monsters of Filmland.
"WHEN WE JOIN JESUS IN HELL is as crazy as its tormented protagonist. Hard as nails." -- Jack Ketchum, author of The Woman.
"Lee Thompson knows his horror-noir. He fuses both genres together in the turmoil of terror, tragedy, blood, guilt, and lost chances at redemption."--Tom Piccirilli, author of THE LAST KIND WORDS
"The Dampness Of Mourning is taut, tough, and terrifying..." -- Brian Hodge, author of Picking The Bones
“The Dampness of Mourning is a riveting thriller." --Midwest Book Review
"Thompson’s voice is his own — strong, hypnotic, and unsettling--grabs you by the balls and rips them right off, breaking your heart and your psyche in the process.” -- Brian Keene, author of Ghoul, Dark Hollow and The Rising
"Brooding, soulful, haunted." -- Robert Dunbar, author of Willy and Martyrs & Monsters