Tag Archives: Stephen King

A Look into My Heart

Hi, I’m author Lee Thompson. For those that don’t know me (and those who don’t know me well, since I am quite private), I’d like to take a minute to fill you in.

I’ve recently turned 39. When I was younger I moved all over. I’ve lived a lot in the country, in small towns, and in several cities. My favorite places are the Colorado Springs area (I can’t get enough of the mountains), and San Diego.

I come from a pretty creative family (my grandfather played guitar and painted; my mother writes novels, my brother is talented in multiple artistic areas and works on a program for Reelz TV.) It took me thirty years to find writing and it’s changed me for the better, a little more every year.

Some of my core beliefs are: All we have in life are our choices; who we choose to invest time in, who we love, who we hate, what we choose to do with our lives. I believe we can help others in some small way. I believe that sometimes violence is necessary to protect ourselves and those we love. I believe the world would be a sad, sad place without great books and art and music. I believe life is over in the blink of an eye so we better make the most of it. I believe in change because even though who I was when I was younger has shaped me into who I am now, I’m a much better, more well-balanced person.

Interests outside of writing: Playing guitar, watching great shows and movies, learning new things, traveling, and the two special girls in my life.

My main goals for writing are: I want to make people feel and think. I want to entertain too, but I also want to do more than write escapist fiction. I want to sell film rights. I want to get to the point where I can move thirty thousand copies a year so my gal can quit working and we can have more money to travel and show little Rae the world.
I typically write three kinds of stories.

#1: Coming-of-age because I feel even as adults many of us are still discovering who we are, what we believe, our place in the world, and our purpose for being here. I love classic coming-of-age stories like Stand by Me, Leon The Professional, The Catcher in the Rye, Grendel, etc.

I’ve written a number of them: Earthly Things, The Devil Gave Them Black Wings, The 1st Division Omnibus (Red Piccirilli books), The Lesser People, Beneath the Weeping Willow, Daddy Screamed With Us, As I Embrace My Jagged Edges, and An Ounce of Mercy.

#2: Supernatural Tales because what we cannot see and what might be all around us fascinates me. I love authors like Clive Barker, Stephen King, Peter Straub, John Gardner, Jack Cady, John Connolly, Robert Dunbar, Douglas Clegg, and Mercedes M. Yardley.

I’ve also written a number of Supernatural stories: Shine Your Light on Me, Earthly Things, The Devil Gave Them Black Wings, the Division Mythos (7 books so far), When We Join Jesus in Hell, and Gossamer.

#3: Crime/Mystery/Noir. I love authors like Dennis Lehane, Les Edgerton, James Lee Burke, Donald Westlake, Lawrence Block, and John D. MacDonald. I like how Crime fiction explores morality or lack thereof.

I’ve written a number of them in the last two years, books like When We Join Jesus in Hell, A Beautiful Madness, It’s Only Death, The Lesser People, After the Fog Clears, Shine Your Light on Me, and With Fury in Hand.

Thanks to everyone who has given my stories a try. Writers need readers, and readers need writers. Thanks for being part of my journey.


Interview with Cinematographer Richard Vialet


This marks the first time I’ve interviewed a cinematographer, so this is pretty cool. I learned about Richard because he reviewed my novel IT’S ONLY DEATH and my novella WHEN WE JOIN JESUS IN HELL. Like most creators, I like people who like my work. No shame there. Thanks to Richard Vialet for taking the time and sharing about himself and what he’s learned with his craft. For fellow writers, up-and-comers and such, I believe we can learn a lot from other creative people (I learn all the time from musicians, athletes, artists, poets, other writers, film makers, etc.) So enjoy! And spread the word about the interview. You can check out Richard’s website here to see cool stills and video clips from projects he’s done

How much artistic leeway do you have with each project? Or does it vary a lot from director to director?

Richard Vialet: Yes, it definitely varies from director to director. I’ve worked with some directors who are very specific with the shots that they want from scene to scene, providing storyboards and other references, while others are less specific visually, and lean on me to craft the shots while they just work with actors. I try to adapt my working style to fit the style that the director prefers. Most directors give me carte blanche on lighting decisions though, with the occasional suggestions on set. But I never plan a look and approach without letting the director know my intentions first.

What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned so far?

Richard Vialet: Probably the most valuable lesson for me at this point in my career is to keep an open mind about every project and everyone you meet, and always treat everyone with respect. I might find a project that doesn’t sound very attractive at first, but by keeping an open mind, you might discover potential. For example, a project might not be paid very well, but the director may be an undiscovered talent and have a unique vision that could lead to great things down the road. So you never know who you’re meeting with. Another great lesson I’ve learned is to stay healthy. I’m still working on that! We work demanding hours that are taxing on the body, and I would love to be doing this job for as long as possible.

What’s a typical film project like? What steps do you have to take to do your job with as few hitches as possible?

Richard Vialet: On a typical film project, the crew is basically just trying the tell the story and support the director’s vision as much as possible. while also trying to predict any obstacles that might pop up on set and being prepared to tackle them.

The key to doing this is: Pre-production. Pre-production. Pre-production. There is a lot of money on the line, and unless you’re David Fincher, Steven Spielberg, or Chris Nolan, you almost never time to get shoot the movie you want to make. So scouting locations as much as possible, being familiar with the script, getting on the same page as the director and the other department heads, and having a clear idea of how I want to approach every scene, goes a long way to a successful shoot.

What are some of your favorite films?

Richard Vialet: 1) Casablanca – It’s a timeless, universally enjoyable, and nearly perfect story of romance and heroism, and explores the choice between striving for personal happiness and acting for something that’s bigger than yourself.
2) L.A. Confidential – It’s probably the best movie adaptation of a book, skillfully converting one of the densest crime novels ever into a 2-hour, 20-minute movie that is really entertaining and extremely well-made. It also has one of the best casts of any movie.
3) Se7en – The textbook movie for what a great psychological thriller can be. It has a creepy and original concept and script and has such a dark, oppressive mood, that after your finished and watch it again, you’re surprised by how little violence and graphic images there are. A feat of filmmaking.
4) Sunset Boulevard – It was amazing how modern Billy Wilder’s movies felt. And this one was his greatest. It’s one of the most scathing satire on Hollywood to date and I consider Gloria Swanson’s tightrope walk of a performance one of the best ever.
5) The Treasure of the Sierra Madre – It’s pretty cool that this movie is still endlessly entertaining even though it was made in 1948. It’s an awesome adventure about how greed slowly corrupts and becomes a greater danger to the characters than bandits, wild animals, or the elements.
6) A Separation – Proof that great writing and acting is all you need. It’s interesting how this small Iranian family drama was ten times more riveting than most of the big-budget action movies I’ve seen.

Who inspires you?

Richard Vialet: My mother Eveth, cinematographers Rodrigo Prieto, Harris Savides, Greig Fraser, and Bradford Young, late photographer Gordon Parks, and directors Sidney Lumet and Steven Spielberg.

How did you get your start in the film industry?

Richard Vialet: I enrolled at Howard university in Washington D.C with the goal of becoming an actor and film director. But I fell in love with cinematography and decided to focus on that exclusively. I was then accepted into the prestigious American Film Institute Conservatory as a cinematographer and after graduating from there, I’ve been working, doing what I love ever since!

I know you love to read, who are five of your favorite authors?

Richard Vialet:

1) Stephen King is truly a master storyteller who”s not only entertaining but knows how to skillfully use the art of the written word to tell engaging stories. And he’s constantly challenging himself and evolving. I think King should be included more in talks about the greatest modern American authors.

2) Dennis Lehane is one of our greatest crime writers. His books have a great balance of character development and plot and has yet to write a bad book in my opinion. Mystic River is one of my favorite novels, Gone, Baby Gone is the best detective novel I’ve read to date, and Shutter Island is a great atmospheric psychological thriller.

3) George Pelecanos’s urban morality tales and tragedies continue to touch me. He writes some of the most authentic dialogue and explorations of inner city life than most authors and always treats his characters with love and respect. I feel like I know the people in his books.

4) I recently started reading Junot Díaz and I love how reading his books feel like hanging with a buddy and hearing some good stories about young lovelorn guys and failed romance.

5) I’ve also just started reading Lawrence Block and his writing and crafting of plot seems so effortless. He makes it look so easy.

*Other favorites include the great Walter Mosley, David Goodis (the poet of depression and urban despair), Megan Abbott, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Robert McCammon, Scott B. Smith, Jake Vander Ark, and Chester Himes.

I’m sure you travel a lot, correct? Did you ever fall in love with a particular setting while filming?

Richard Vialet: I fall in love with at least some aspect of everywhere I’ve traveled; I just love to discover new places. But the Pacific coast of Costa Rica might be my favorite so far, and looked great on camera. I’ve also shot in the Redwood forests of Northern California and that was mind-blowing! I kept thinking about the Endor scenes in Return of the Jedi!

You’ve already been part of some great projects. What is something you’d like to achieve that you haven’t done yet?

Richard Vialet: Of course, every filmmaker is dying to get the next game-changing script. But yes, I’ve been fortunate to work on a wide variety of genres with their own individual challenges. But I would love to shoot a Western. A serious one, with classic themes and a great villain. I’m a huge Western movie fan. I think a musical would be tons of fun as well!

What are you working on now? Can you tell us a little about it?

Richard Vialet: I can’t talk lot about the specifics, but it’s a sequel to a popular revenge thriller remake. At first, I wasn’t excited about it because I’m not really a fan of the gory genre that the first movie belongs to. But after a director I’d worked with before signed on and I read the script, I realized that there was more of character and story in this sequel and I was excited about doing an installment that brought something new to the genre.

Thanks so much for taking time to answer questions, Richard!

Again, check out Richard’s website here!

Ideas for Christmas Book Buys

Hey there you sexy pilgrims. I hope everybody is well. I’ve bought a bunch of books recently and figured, hell, why not do a suggestion post of some of my favorites old and new to help you with your merry holiday shopping list! Keep in mind that most of these are dark, heartbreaking tales, not feel-good reads, although there are a couple on the list that have moments of wonderful humor (like Grendel, Beautiful Sorrows, and Savage Season).

Darkfuse Book Club: It’s a hell of a deal! Top-notch writing from established writers on both sides of the pond, as well as up & comers like myself. They used to be Delirium Books and have since branched out into Dark Fiction of all styles, which I think is truly awesome. Got a hankering for Horror, Sci-fi, Mystery, Techno-Thriller, Noir, Coming-of-Age, etc., Darkfuse has you covered!

GRENDEL by John Gardner: Easily in my top-three of all-time favorites. Beautifully written, tragic and funny.

THE LAST KIND WORDS by Tom Piccirilli: Pic is a master of Noir. The sequel to his novel was released recently. Check them out!

WILLY by Robert Dunbar: A truly underrated author who, with this novel, captures some of my favorite things a great story can produce. This novel still sticks with me.

THE BLEEDING SEASON by Greg Gifune: Another underrated author. This novel is extremely atmospheric, as is all of Gifune’s work, and the story is a perfect example of why craft is so important.

THE RAPIST by Les Edgerton: This is one wicked read but don’t be scared by the title. It’s a terrific book!

THE DAMNED by John D. MacDonald: I heard of John D. MacDonald through John Connolly’s BOOKS TO DIE FOR… MacDonald quickly became my favorite of the old pulp crowd. He’s a master of characterization and most of his stories zip along. This one is brilliant in a very subtle way, kind of like WINESBURG, OHIO by Sherwood Anderson. He was one of Stephen King’s and Dean Koontz’s favorite authors too.

WATER FOR ELEPHANTS by Sara Gruen: Still one of my favorites, and the book is a thousand times better than the movie. Read it!

MORDRED, BASTARD SON by Douglas Clegg: Like EDGERTON’S The Rapist, this short novel will not set well with the PC crowd, but it’s brilliant and I think Clegg’s best.

BEAUTIFUL SORROWS by Mercedes M. Yardley: Mercede’s first short story collection. Dip your toes and imagination into an assortment of tales that are at once disturbing and humorous. This gal is a sweetheart and so incredibly talented.

THE GIRL NEXT DOOR by Jack Ketchum: Ketchum’s novel pulls off that tough to do ‘I want to punch this protagonist in the face,’ thing. At it’s heart it demonstrates the damage done when we stand by and watch horrible things happen. Sadly, I think this is one of the truest novels there is.

SAVAGE SEASON by Joe Lansdale: The first Hap & Leonard novel and a great introduction to these two raw-boned characters. What a great series!

SHARP OBJECTS by Gillian Flynn: A short novel with a terrific punch!

THE END OF EVERYTHING by Megan Abbott: Still my favorite of her novels. Haunting and fast-paced and has a perfect ending.

THE CYPRESS HOUSE by Michael Koryta: I met Michael at Bouchercon and he signed a book for me. Such a nice guy and terrific writer. In many ways he reminds me of a cross between two other favorites–Michael Connelly and Dennis Lehane.

WHITE DOVES AT MORNING by James Lee Burke: Great novel!

CABAL by Clive Barker: This was one of the first Barker books I read and certain moments are still vivid in my memory. He’s such a talent at showing how our hunt for excitement and pleasure can transform us.

THE BOOK OF LOST THINGS by John Connolly: Still my favorite of Connolly’s!


And for a shameless plug, add WHEN WE JOIN JESUS IN HELL by me. It’s my most popular release so far and a quick, powerful read that heroes like Tom Piccirilli and Jack Ketchum read and blurbed.

If you’re on Twitter, give me a follow. If you’re on Goodreads, friend me. And don’t forget to subscribe to my website newsletter since I have a lot of big news coming in 2014!

Happy holidays to all!

Tuesday’s Training: Showing Vs. Telling?



First off, there is no competition between showing and telling so get that out of your head. Both are required, in their place, and work together to push the story toward the climax and payoff. I remember when I first joined some writers’ groups (Editred and then Zoetrope) and these are good places but nearly everybody would do critiques that can be summed up with “Show, don’t tell.” It’s very misleading, and it creates very thin work. After I began studying what my heroes did and I started learning how to use showing and telling together is when I also started selling work professionally. Coincidence? I don’t think so. It’s too easy to buy into rules like “Show, don’t tell!” because we desperately want to believe that if we follow the rules then somebody will buy our work. So we only show, we never open with weather, we always write in active voice, all that crazy shit. Anytime somebody gives you a bunch of absolutes–Always, Never, Everybody, etc.–run away. Or better yet, see what your heroes have done. Figure out why they did it and why it works.

Mastering when to show and when to tell (and how to blend them) are essential in drawing the reader into your story. There are dangers with both, even though writers have it pounded into their heads to “Show! Show! Show!” I say bullshit. Showing can be done very badly. Telling can be done and connect with readers quickly. Telling can prepare the reader and most of all make the characters and their actions understandable. You read Stephen King, Clive Barker, James Lee Burke, John Connolly, Lee Child, William Faulkner, Tom Piccirilli, Jack Ketchum, Dennis Lehane, etc., and pay attention to how often they’re ‘telling.’ It’s a lot. And there are reasons they tell when they do instead of showing. It’s an essential and basic part of great storytelling. Learn how and when it’s right for you personally to use both of them. Know why you’re showing, know why you’re telling. Just remember this, it’s a key: Whether showing or telling, it must be interesting, it must have movement and advance the story and/or show character.

Think about some of your all-time favorite books, the ones that inspire you to write something so moving and entertaining and grand. Study them. Seriously, take them apart and see why things work, where they work, how they work.

I’ll list what I believe to be some of the dangers and benefits of both showing and telling that novice writers face. I’ll give examples, too, so you can see what I mean, though some of this will be a bit tongue-in-cheek.

Dangers of Showing:

#1- The novice writer can easily write scenes that show nothing happening (no emotional turmoil, no physical challenge, no doubt or anticipation)


(Showing only)

Bright sunlight hurt her eyes as she carried flowers to her husband’s grave. She knelt and set them near the headstone. Tears wet her cheeks. She read his name and the date of his death.

(Showing and telling)

She dreaded taking flowers to his grave because it reminded her of all the times her husband had bought her roses.  Bright sunlight hurt her eyes as she wandered from the car and over the lawn, the wrapping soft and crinkling beneath her fingers the way the letters he used to writer her had. She knelt and leaned them against the headstone. He’d been gone a year and she thought it was supposed to get easier. Tears wet her cheeks but she ignored them, reading his name, the date of his death–July 4th, 2011– and slowly, her neck and heart aching, she glanced at the empty plot next to his. They’d had no children, and she feared the day she’d take place next to him, for there would be no one to bring either of them anything.

#2- It’s easy for a novice to write scenes that play out well in their head, but do not play out the same way in the readers because the telling details aren’t there (how the character feels about the setting, themselves, those involved in the situation, etc.) I won’t take the time to write a whole scene showing examples because I have a novel to work on as soon as I finish this post.

#3- The novice writer can easily present back story through character dialogue, which comes across forced and unrealistic.


Derrick popped the top on his beer and placed his feet on the coffee table. “I’m really glad you’re finally divorcing that bitch. You put up with her cheating, lying, stealing ass for way too long. Like five years. You guys met in Vegas, so I guess it figures. Your parents were so mad that you married a stripper. A midget one at that! If they hadn’t disowned you you’d have been in their will though and shared the inheritance with your brother. Instead you’re drinking beer in the morning with a guy with little ambition or interest in anything other than internet porn. I’m starting my own company though and if I ever get rich, you’ll be rich too. The bitch and her boyfriend can suck it, then, right? Blah, blah, blah.”

It could go on and on, unfocused, instead of hitting  the points that matter most for the story.

#4- A writer may show something graphic, overdone, overwrought, for showing’s sake and never follow up with how it affects the character emotionally and intellectually. If you have a chapter where something incredible or hardcore happens it’s good to follow it up with the character dealing with it, or trying not to deal with it. If the reader is invested in the character and story they care even more after seeing the protagonist struggle to restore balance.

#5- For a novice it’s easy to be vague when showing instead of being specific.

Look at Example #1.


Benefits of Showing:

#1- Creates suspense by visually showing your protagonist physically/emotionally in jeopardy.

#2- Transports the reader into the action via sensory details: Taste, Touch, Smell, Sight, Sound.

#3- It’s engaging if it’s raising the stakes and showing the character making a choice, followed by setbacks and more choices and higher stakes.


Dangers of Telling:

#1- Loss of suspense… It’s easy to fall into telling too much (though you can also show too much if it’s not something that moves the story and characters forward).

#2- Preaching your beliefs. You feel very strongly about something and you have your character preaching about it from beginning to end instead of growing. Easy mistake to make.

#3- It’s easy to summarize instead of letting important moments play out.


Benefits of Telling:

#1- Increases anticipation since telling serves setting things up well and the reader can visualize the showing portions to get to the payoff of each scene.

#2- Transports the reader into the story via descriptive details: setting, back story, secrets, etc.

#3- Works with showing to establish who your character is, how he feels about those around him, and why he makes the choices he makes.

#4- Helps you speed past the boring crap which improves pacing.

Don’t be afraid of telling or showing. Study the professionals and see how they apply each to draw you in and hold you to the end. For more of my thoughts on writing go here.

And watch this video of Lee Child at The Center for Fiction. Good stuff.

Lee Child

Tuesday’s Training: Finding Your Voice


“As a writer, you should not judge, you should understand.”
― Ernest Hemingway


A lot of beginning writers worry about finding their voice. They spend money on courses and exert an incredible amount of energy thinking about it. I think it is within us from the beginning. It’s not hiding at all. Our voice is our experience, our biases, our pains, our joys, our passions, the themes of our own lives. We just need to learn and practice our craft so the expression and execution of those things that are ours and of us come across as powerfully as possible.

I believe, at least in my own case, that there is a duality that has to be acknowledged and embraced. My duality is a deep-seated wonder of life and people in contrast to the other side of my nature which is hip-deep in melancholy. I can write with authority in a certain area because I know them, feel them, and they’re of my essence.

I believe favorite writers–like Dennis Lehane, Stephen King, John Connolly, William Faulkner, Hemingway, Michael Connelly–all have a unique voice. Their writing is an extension of them is my bet.

You want to discover your voice? Know thyself. Your voice comes from honesty, reflection, acknowledgment, craft and confidence.

What holds people back from letting their voice out? Fear is probably number one. We don’t want people to hear what resonates in our hearts, what makes us us, and not accept it, or worse, make fun of it/judge it, and in turn judge us. But that’s part of connecting, and we can’t please everybody, so write from your deepest self. I get it, our egos our fragile. Yet I believe that if we’re spending a ton of energy protecting who we really are  then we’re NOT expressing who we really are.

Know thyself.

It’s also fun to explore the things we squirm away from. The ‘hot buttons’ for us. I think it’s a quick way to challenge ourselves, by creating a character who shares an opposing core belief different from one of our own, and instead of showing the reader how the character is wrong, let the character show why he’s right from his perspective. It’s an important skill learned to grow as a person and a writer. To gain new perspective and tear down the walls we build to protect ourselves from the world.

What do you really want to write, more than anything else in the world? What story are you scared to tell because you’re afraid of what those around you might think of you?

What do you think you need to become a great writer that you lack now? Once you can identify it, you can learn it. You can learn what is important to say and what is wasted breath. You learn what you fear is not insurmountable, even if every fiber of your being cries out that you can’t do it, or think it, or say it. You learn to understand yourself, the good and the horrible. And you learn to understand other people and show their lives honestly, beauty and blemish.

Everything you need voice-wise is already intact. You just have to trust yourself. Refine it. Learn how to express yourself masterly. Expect that not only will you discover the voice already inside you, but it will morph as you experience more, assimilate it, reflect upon it, and share it.

For more writing advice visit this page. If you find any of it helpful, share it with someone else. 
























The Next Big Thing



The lovely and gifted A.C. Wise tagged me for this whatchamajigger.  Thanks Alison! I normally avoid things like this because I’d rather be working on a project than talking about it but a ten minute break won’t hurt.


 Ten Interview Questions for The Next Big Thing: 


1. What is the working title of your book?


She Collects Grave Nectar


2. Where did the idea come from for the book?

It’s part of my massive Division Mythos, and is a pivotal moment in Michael Johnston’s life. The initial spark came from an image, or snapshot of a scene, too, the way most of my work does. It came from my own fears of going blind and stumbling into that gray area between life and death, that single nanosecond where both are one before life ceases and death begins and a new life is rebirthed.


3. What genre does your book fall under?

Supernatural Thriller. But it’s not for lazy readers. My work doesn’t go over well with those types. That said, if you’re well-read and have a lot of imagination you’ll dig it.


4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

For the main character, Michael Johnston, I’d pick Christian Bale if he was ten years younger because Mike Johnston is kinda like Batman. For the girl who collects grave nectar I’d pick the girl from The Lovely Bones movie because she’s kinda creepy in a good way, mostly due to her eyes.


5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A Special Forces soldier with a hidden past meets an odd girl in a cemetery bordering our world and another and what she wants from him is soul-shattering.


6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I don’t know. What do I look like, a mind reader?


7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

A rough guess: three months of heavy drinking. I’m still working out all the pivotal moments.


8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Tom Piccirilli’s Shadow Season since my Special Forces protagonist is blinded and faces incredible entities as well as a profound mystery. Peter Straub’s novel Koko since there’s this complicated and creeping dread. And Stephen King’s Dark Tower series because it’s a mixture of many things both concrete and surreal.


9. Who or What inspired you to write this book?

Michael Johnston’s character arc runs through most of the thirteen Division Mythos books and this one was inspired by how little of his past he’ll reveal to other characters, even to his best friend in the series, John McDonnell (The narrator of the second Division trilogy).


10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

It has one zombie, one ghoul, and one vampire who walk into a bar full of politicians?



Include the link of who tagged you and this explanation for the people you have tagged.

The mighty A.C. Wise tagged me. Authors I’m tagging because I think they are amazing like A.C. Wise:


Cate Gardner.

Douglas E. Wright.

Mercedes Yardley.

Shaun Ryan.

Robert Dunbar.


Rules of The Next Big Thing

***Use this format for your post

***Answer the ten questions about your current WIP (Work In Progress)

***Tag five other writers/bloggers and add their links so we can hop over and meet them.


Be sure to line up your five people in advance.

Tuesday’s Training: Using a Pen Name

Tons of famous writers have used pen names for various reasons. Some writers’ who have used pen names, or these are their pen names: Dr. Suess, Ayn Rand, Lewis Carroll, George Orwell, Stan Lee, Stephen King, Ed McBain, Donald Westlake, Dean Koontz, Douglas Clegg, Joseph Conrad, Mark Twain, O. Henry, Robert Jordan, Lee Thomas, Max Brand, Benjamin Black, Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, John Le Carre, Anne Rice, James Joyce, Joyce Carol Oates, Nora Roberts, Lawrence Block, Harlan Ellison, Michael Chrichton…

You may be for or against pen names for whatever reason. I didn’t like the idea of them until recently. I felt that we should have our name on all of our work, but the more I learn the more I see why pen names are useful. I’ll list several of the reasons I’ll be using a few pen names…


#1. I’m very prolific

I only have to write about a half hour a day to knock out two novels and two novellas a year. Easily. Some days I don’t write at all because I’m tired or lazy or life gets busy or I just want to read. But when I get back to the keyboard I’m flying. Could be because of all the dexterity I developed through years of guitar playing but I am an extremely fast typer. Plus I have about the next eight book ideas lined up, with some of the pivotal moments for each, so I can just bridge the gaps between those pivotal moments and have a new novel done in no time. In the last two years I’ve written and sold the following novels (Nursery Rhymes 4 Dead Children, The Dampness of Mourning, The Collected Songs of Sonnelion) and novellas (Iron Butterflies Rust, Immersion, Down Here in the Dark, When We Join Jesus in Hell, As I Embrace My Jagged Edges, and Within This Garden Weeping). See, I need more names. That’s too much for one person to do. And the more I write and the more my name gets out there the more time I’ll have to write. I can’t fathom writing three hours a day every day. I know I’d knock out a library of books in a decade. But hell, that’s what will probably happen since writing is therapy, and it’s a compulsion, and it’s a challenge, and it’s fun.

#2. I want to write in more than one genre

I read widely and want to write widely. If somebody reads one of my more touching novels that I plan to write and then they went and read one of my Dark Fantasy novels they’d be upset. And I couldn’t blame them. We’re automatically tattooed with certain emotions by a writer and their work. For example, I’m nearly finished with a Historical/Family Saga/Thriller novel called The Lesser People. I know that it won’t sit well under the Darkfuse (or any other small press roof, though I’m going to let my publisher read it to see what he thinks), so more than likely I’ll be looking for an agent for that book, and I’ll be selling it under a pen name. I also have a sad and touching novel I’m going to write called Shine Your Light on Me that isn’t Horror or Crime, again more in a Family Saga/Price-of-Fame scope. And I have a few YA novels that I want to write that will be kinda edgy, gritty, and very realistic. Plus I want to pen some straight-up Crime fiction like some of my heroes. And I have a Western trilogy called Past Hard Seasons that I’m going to tinker with and modernize to see what I can make of it.

#3. Well, I don’t have a third reason. But those first two reasons are enough to warrant some fake names to write under.

Reasons other professionals have used pen names (besides using one for the same reasons I am):

They didn’t like the sound of their real name…

They didn’t want their family to know what they were writing…

They were paranoid and didn’t want people to know their real name…

They use a lot of real-life material in their novels and want to protect themselves from judgment…

To disguise their sex…

The list goes on.


It’s up to you to decide if you need or want a pen name. I’d follow the more ‘need’ side of it. My reasons show me I need a few. Follow your heart and trust your gut.


My standalone novella WHEN WE JOIN JESUS IN HELL was just released on Kindle (other digital formats out Sept. 25th). Go snag a copy! It’s a dark and harrowing tale of love, loss, revenge, and over-compensation. My hero Tom Piccirrilli read it and said,  “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

You can also read my FREE serial novel THE COLLECTED SONGS OF SONNELION until the end of the month. Then it’s gone until it comes out in book form one day.










Tuesday’s Training: Money

The green stuff. We all love it. It’s hard to eat without it. As an aspiring writer you may have dreams of building houses made of money based on nothing but your sheer talent and your staggering genius, and although it’s okay to dream big, it’s also good to be realistic because it is a fact that the farther our expectations are off from reality, the more upsetting the results will be.

A lesson I learned a few years ago from my hero Tom Piccirilli was “Don’t just publish, publish well.”

In other words, sell your work to professionally paying markets, and sell to publications that have a solid reputation. Sell to markets you love to read, that has a readership, etc. You can give your work away if you want to and count it as a sale, but how is that really any different from putting your story up on your blog for free? It’s not any different. But most everybody has done the for-the-love thing starting out, I’m sure. It gives us that little bit of validation we need to keep going (so we tell ourselves) but that validation is also pretty fleeting. Hell, validation is pretty fleeting even when you sell for actual money (though the money is nice because then you can go buy books! Or take a vacation! Or  pay your bills!)

So, publish well, grasshopper. Be grateful and proud of yourself, but realize the journey is never-ending when you have the chops to sell to magazines and book publishers you respect.

Money comes to the writer. Who said that? James D. MacDonald. Money flows towards the writer. You don’t pay a publisher. You don’t pay an agent to represent you. You don’t pay some magazine to publish your short story.  You don’t pay a production studio to make a movie adapted from your novel. You get paid for your creation. Basically leasing the rights to the work in some form (Hardcover, paperback, audio, digital, film) for a specific amount of time. And you get paid.

The indie author’s journey makes this a bit different. Because you do have money going out before you ever make a dime. As an indie author you have to pay for editing, covers, formatting, and all that. But that is an investment in your work so it’s different. Not much different than paying for good advertising on Goodreads or in a very popular magazine. And the money is still coming to you, its just you have to soak up the bills that a traditional publisher takes care of first.

As you approach writing full time you also have to learn how to manage your money better. This can be a big shocker.  Have you ever worked one of those jobs where you get paid every two weeks and sometimes it’s difficult to make the money stretch until your next paycheck? Okay, now imagine getting a paycheck every three months. Think about that for a minute. Sure, you’ll get some short story sales that pop in here and there for 250 bucks a pop, but it’s not like you’re selling a story every week, week after week, at pro rates. And the payments for those short stories will also be a long time off. It’s not typical to be paid ‘upon acceptance’ but ‘upon publication’.  And sometimes you have to wait six months or a year before the story you sold comes out and you collect on that piece of work, so think long term now. Learn to manage your money now, in your everyday life, before the illusion of rolling in wealth is shattered. Learning to budget will save you stress. Again, it’s a hard truth that the further our expectations are from reality the more upsetting it is when our expectations aren’t met. Don’t worry about getting rich, worry about writing the best story you can and improving your craft and being a professional and everything else will fall into place.

In traditional publishing you get paid an advance against royalties to help you live as you write the next book. But you’re not making a dime until your book earns back that advance, which sometimes never happens. And sometimes, if sales are abysmal, your publisher might not give you a contract on another book. Though it’s partly art, it’s also partly business. That’s why it’s important to keep writing, to manage your cash flow and not get all crazy like you’re going to be the next Stephen King or Stephanie Meyer or J.K. Rowling. You’re probably not. I’m probably not either and that’s okay since we know how few people get ‘rich’ in any profession.

Sometimes, especially starting out, there just isn’t much money coming in from our first book. We can augment that income by gaining experience and branching off into other areas.

You learn to save receipts (for internet bills, living space, research trips, conventions, paper, ink, etc.) to help come tax time.

You learn to make extra cash from other skills as well as from non-fiction.

You line up editing gigs to make extra dough so you can do what you love most and write fiction.

You can make extra money from ghostwriting.

You can make extra cash from writing under a pen name in another genre.

You learn that it can be fun, enlightening and profitable, to span mediums: Novels, Novellas, Short stories, Screenplays, Audio books, Hardcovers, Paperbacks, Graphic novels, Games, Songs, Non-fiction, etc.

We’ll never make enough money just like we’ll never have enough readers or kickass reviews. It’s human nature to always want more. But we can find balance, create it like we do stories, if we’re aware of what it’s like to write for a living. Not the dream, but the reality. Stay disciplined. Study your craft. Listen to your mentors and heroes. Be humble. Be honest with your readers.

Since we’ve talked about money here we’ll follow up next week with what you want and don’t want in a book contract.

Note: This Friday (August 31st) marks the final chapter of my FREE serial novel The Collected Songs of Sonnelion! It’s an important puzzle piece in my Division Mythos and the last book in the first trilogy. It’ll be up for a few weeks after that and then my publisher will be taking it down. Catch up while you can!  Find out more on my Division Mytho’s website.

Tuesday’s Training: Dealing with Doubt

 “Plenty of people miss their share of happiness,
Not because they never found it,
But because they didn’t stop to enjoy it.”

-William Faulkner 


Like with many of these Tuesday Training posts, this idea stems from talking to my buddy Shaun. When we’re talking about writing, we’re also talking about life. When we’re talking about life, we’re also talking about writing.

There is no escaping Doubt. It enters every aspect of our life at some point: work, creativity, sex, parenting, goals, dreams, and death. It has its moments and we beat it into submission, sometimes after wallowing in self-pity a while. And don’t be fooled, Doubt wants us to wallow because then we can hang out longer with it and Doubt’s a lonely sonofabitch. Doubt drives us endlessly forward believing that we always have to be productive, that we should feel guilty for downtime, and that’s a horrible way to feel when there’s nothing wrong with stepping back, or stopping completely and taking a look around at the beauty in the present moment. We can miss so many things, so many amazing things, along the way if we’re constantly rushing forward.

I remember when I started writing about ten years ago, how hard the work was to produce, to polish, to submit. I racked up over a thousand rejections that fluttered about upon their beating razor blade wings. And those horrifying little creatures still intrude on my life like a plague at times to remind me that the race is won not by how many cuts I ignore but by how many cuts I can endure and learn from and accept as part of the process and life itself.

Everything cuts you when you’re hungry to say something, when you’re aching to prove something to yourself and the world and all who told you, “You can’t do it. Some people have it. Some people are born into it. Some people start young. Some people have degrees to do that. Some people know other people who get them in. Some people are lucky. You’re not. You’re none of those things. Instead you’re a truck driver, a carpenter, a nurse, a waitress. Don’t be silly. Don’t make a fool of yourself.” I’d like to tell everybody that ever told you those things to shove off. There should be an island just for them. One we could drop a bomb on. Deep down we know that these people–these naysayers and critics who not only haven’t read our work, but any novels in general expect maybe a beach book once a year–are the same cowards who never even take a chance, not a baby step toward chasing their dreams since they’re terrified of connecting on a deeper level, since they’re the type who avoid anything that challenges their ideal of themselves first and their world view second. What do they know? Why even listen to a coward?

Many trains of thought are developed when we’re young. Many by parents, some of them who even mean well. Maybe you never did anything good enough for them, but ask yourself if you’re doing it good enough for you.

Doubt hunches on our shoulders as we wait to hear back from an agent who has our manuscript. But you do what the pros do and you pour yourself into the next piece because the last one is out there and it may come back crinkled, or it may come back bearing good news, yet the fact is that it’s out of your hands. You’ve done your best. You slaved with your soul over something that wouldn’t have existed if you hadn’t put the time and effort into creating it. That’s such an amazing gift, just to be able to create something of ourselves and of our time and even of our very essence. Be proud of each little accomplishment, each line that sings clearly and each character that you’ve born of your love and agony who has since lived on in the halls of your heart.

When Doubt parts your lips with an “I can’t…” you tell Doubt, “I can, I have, I am. And I am, I have, I can.”

Instead of despairing over the last rejection, you embrace the challenge of upping your game by mastering your craft, by asking those who will not sugar coat, where and how your work is lacking. We need those people. The heavy readers who can articulate what is ‘off’ about our work. What is missing. Because once they have a chance to explain, and once we see their meaning clearly, it’s a lesson we never forget.

When Doubt says, “Will I ever get a goddamn publishing credit?” you say to Doubt, “My time will come because I am committed and I am serious and as long as I learn and I’m honest, I’ll improve and my day will come because I have earned it with sacrifice, with great effort, with an imperishable conviction.”

When Doubt says, “This project is too huge…” you say to Doubt, “This single page, I can beat it, I have beaten it before. I will defeat this page right now because these characters have a story to tell.”

When Doubt says, “This story means a lot to me but no one else will like it…” you say to Doubt, “If it truly means something to me, it will mean something to someone else.”

When Doubt says, “I’ll never be adored by everyone…” you say to Doubt, ” You’re right, I can’t please everyone, no matter who I am. Not even Stephen King can do that and he’s like Jesus to some people, but not all.”

Instead of listening to the black void of hopelessness, we focus on the wonder of creation itself, our creation, other people’s creations, we dream up new creations, we press on because that’s what creators do. We’ll never get it perfect, but we can get it down honestly and passionately and expertly.

Believe in yourself. Slow down and enjoy the process of discovery again. There is no room for Doubt in the discovery, there is only room for enlightenment, and exhilarating joy.


Tuesday’s Training: Being Ambitious

Going to post this early since it’ll be a busy week.

As with most things I write about this strikes close to home. I’m reminded of Stephen King talking about his brother Dave in On Writing, when he says Dave always had to make something super awesome. Average wasn’t good enough. Not even close. If you’re going to invent or create or modify, why not make it effing epic?

It’s cool if somebody is a one-book wonder. Some people probably only have one story to tell and once its free they feel free.

Others have many stories to tell. And somewhere along the way we have to decide on our career path, and even after deciding upon it there will be times we’ll have to make adjustments. I’ve known for the last couple years that I wanted to write a story that spanned around a million words. I figured out what the story was about on so many levels. I looked deep into the abyss of myself and some things I found there made me proud and others made me ashamed. But I got to work on the Division Mythos project because though I don’t want much from life I do want to create something intricate, challenging, and wonderful.

I think, for me at least, the most satisfaction comes from creating my own world (Division.) Writing one book can be difficult. We have our moments of high self-esteem and our moments of doubt. But what I want to accomplish with the Division Mythos is grand and super crazy: each novel is a cornerstone,  each novella a wall, the short stories a patchwork ceiling of the very textures it takes to be human. The contrasts between the mundane and exquisite, the echoes of former glories and the striving for new ground, the hope that all we do is for something (even if we don’t know for certain what that something might be).

I like the idea of one book building upon the next. I enjoy it with series characters a lot like John Connolly’s Charlie Parker and Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch. King did it with the Gunslinger series. And with my mythos I have an underlying story arc combined through all the books. It’s one story even though there are many stories that create it. None of the stories can exist without the others. Is that easy to do? Fuck no. It’s an ambitious effort especially for someone whose first book just came out a year ago. But difficult or not,  it’s what I want and with hard work, some sweat, some deep thinking, I can pull it off.

Reaching for the sky as a new author isn’t easy. It’s hard enough with one standalone novel.  But the truth is we all, even our heroes, started the same way. Without a single story, without a single acceptance, then with stories, with rejections, and we learn about ourselves and what we truly want to write. It’s a fun adventure with a lot more freedom than a lot of people can handle.

Finding our audience isn’t easy. At the beginning we all dream of being the next Stephen King, and that’s probably normal, and a way to protect our emotional investment and keep plugging on because we know that writers write. We don’t talk about getting to it someday. We face the blank page and paint a story to the best of our ability, and slowly, with the help of others and all the books that came before, we learn to refine what we’ve created. We learn to judge its value by where we’re coming from.

Those who want a simple, straightforward book will never like my work. It will demand too much of them. I guarantee it. And my advice is William Faulkner’s advice… In 1956 the Paris Review published a charmingly trenchant interview with William Faulkner. Like his novels, the man himself vacillated between cagey misdirection and evangelistic confidence:
Some people say they can’t understand your writing, even after they read it two or three times. What approach would you suggest for them?
Read it four times.”

And those who enjoy a challenge, who enjoy using their imagination and their intellect, will be rewarded in the long run as they read each successive piece and the puzzle of the Division Mythos becomes clearer and more powerful.

How ambitious are you? What do you want to set out and do in the greater world? How often have you held yourself back because you thought, No, that won’t be popular… or thought, I could never pull that off… The way I see life is pretty simple, very direct. It is a series of jumping off points and our idea of security is only an illusion to protect us from what we most fear. But illusions can’t really protect you can they? So why not jump, follow your heart, live the life you want to live and create what you want to create? Nothing stops us but us (and death.)

The Division Mythos is a project that will live on after I’m long gone. I’m sure of that. What do you want to create that will challenge you and help you grow even as it leaves its mark once you’re gone?