Cormac McCarthy, Pulitzer winning author of ‘The Road’, ‘Blood Meridian”, and “No Country for Old Men”, to name a few, died June 13th, aged 89, at his home in Santa Fe.
An influential writer, his prose was brutally visceral, lyrical and amazingly challenging. And while people know of these books, others, such as Child of God, and Outer Dark tend towards transgressive horror, and are equally amazing, and as disturbing and spare as the Road and No Country for Old Men.
In a statement announcing his passing from Penguin Random House CEO, Nihar Malaviya, they said, “For 60 years, he demonstrated an unwavering dedication to his craft, and to exploring the infinite possibilities and power of the written word.”
Shy and retiring from the spotlight, Cormac McCarthy’s ‘the Road’ was chosen as an Oprah book pick in 2007, and won him a Pulitzer, while his first critical success was in 1992, and was the first of the Border trilogy, ‘All the Pretty horses’.
From post apocalyptic travels of a father and son in ‘The Road,’ to a serial killer collecting bodies in ‘Child of God’, gritty, gruesome western ‘Blood Meridian’ (or The Evening Redness in the West) to ‘No Country for Old Men’ and his bolt gun wielding assassin, his work has shaped and influenced the work of many, and remains part of the fabric of American literature and will do for years to come. A foundational writer in southern gothic, and post-apocalyptic works, many of his themes (cannibals, incest, necrophilia) might be seen as transgressive, but are all firmly rooted in the action or inaction of his all too relatable characters.
And as his publisher added in their statement announcing his passing, and offering their own obituary, “Millions of readers around the world embraced his characters, his mythic themes, and the intimate emotional truths he laid bare on every page, in brilliant novels that will remain both timely and timeless, for generations to come.”
2022 was a bit of an ongoing horror story for me, with this volume of the trilogy reboot starting in 2019 (see what I did there?). In all seriousness, I went into 2022 saying it was going to be my year. I was so gung ho.
It was a huge mistake.
This year I promised myself and others I’d write more articles (here being a prime example. I’ve written a dozen. I’ve posted…this one?), that I’d publish more books, I’d launch my podcast. I had a huge list of things that I could have done. Could being the operative point.
Could is a difficult one too, because I’m looking back now and I’m miserable because I didn’t get everything I wanted to do, done. And quite honestly, the later I got in the year the less I got done, the more I felt guilty, and the less motivated I was. It was like a self-fulfilling loop. Get less done, feel guilty, lowering what I could get done, slower work, more guilt. Repeat. (more…)
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When it comes to writing tools, I’m often looking for the next new thing, the next *big* thing. I’m on various writing sites, so when I was given the option to review Plot Factory and explore, I was delighted. Mostly because they have a narration feature, and I’ve been exploring my editing with narration from either my text to speech on my Kindle, or in Word, so other options are always welcome.
But that’s not the only thing there is on the site. I’ll be talking more about canon and organising universes later, but there are tools in Plot Factory that are far more advanced than some other sites that let you do this – in fact, I had to design a Wiki to do it in the past.
The basics of Plot Factory
Plot Factory has a word processor, some basic formatting within it, and is pretty easy to use. If you’re used to Blogger or WordPress, you’ll be unphased by it. As it should be for a writing site. And as soon as you join, you’re directed to their very active Discord server. I’ll touch on that later, but as much as I love all of the other features, honestly, the Discord server is quite incredible. I can also confirm that as suggested on their front page, it’s completely mobile friendly. I went through several devices while on the go over the last two weeks, and it’s all smooth and loads. It’s still new, so I can forgive having to occasionally reload pages or faults that I’ve seen. (and as an aside, all reported faults show up in chat on the Discord server and are almost immediately fixed, for the few I saw. As it’s still in active development, the fact that the developer is available to answer on Discord and fix things is actually a very good thing).
Bells and whistles abound in Plot Factory
I’m sure that I could explore for weeks and find new things, but each of the tabs on this screen leads to more options. But the easiest way to look at all of the options and branches are different ways to access things. Each screen can, I think, pull other things in that have been created elsewhere, and if you’re building a series of books, with characters that repeat, or places, or rules, or other items you really need to keep track of, Plot Factory has you covered. Organising is easy! Stuck? There are questionnaires to shake your thoughts free, and at the time of writing this piece, they are running a weekly writing prompt on the Discord server.
Narration from Plot Factory
One of the unusual things that I found on the site was the narration. You can put your novel through its paces and see how it flows. To give you an idea of how this sounds, I pasted the Horror Tree’s ‘About us’, and had ‘Matthew’ read it. There are four options. Matthew, Joanna, and Brian and Amy (British voices). All four sound lovely – Amy (British) in fact, sounds like a narrator I recognise, which is quite neat. Take a listen! (This is Matthew)
Pros and cons of Plot Factory
I wish I had some clear cut pros and cons to offer with the site – I’m still enamoured and exploring, and everything I’ve got issue with are things that are more to do with the fact that I code and write sites rather than actually issues with what the site does. It could be too much if you write stand-alone and no-repeat universe books, but even then, organisation, backup, access no matter what platform, Epub export and narration (depending on your level of membership), could be worthwhile. But, if you’re looking for no distractions, no fluff and filler, then the site may be a bit much for you.
Finally, the best bit
I’ll be honest, the bit that I’ve spent the most time with has been their community. They are friendly, talkative, helpful, receptive and a joy to discuss things with. Their server is quite highly trafficked, and there appear to be sprints, voice chat, and more going on, as well as the aforesaid writer’s prompts. As far as I’m aware, the Plot Factory Discord is free to join, on their free plan. There are people from all over the world available on the server, but do be aware that you might get distracted. So far, I’ve talked about everything from language construction to study, to publishing, to cats. LOTS of cats. 🙂
I think there’s a solid site in place with Plot Factory. The narration is by far and away the most interesting thing on there for me, but I like everything from goals and accountability, to the writing challenges, the writing interface (which isn’t too simple, but isn’t hugely complicated – like I said – if you’re used to posting on sites, you’ll find it familiar), and backup. I love that I’ve connected up to Dropbox and it just copies it over for me – something I don’t have on my other writing sites for now. But, if you write standalone books, some of the features might not be necessary for your needs. If like me, you write a lot of stuff that’s based in universes that you need to keep track of or are stuck on filling out your character details, then you’re going to LOVE Plot Factory… and most of all, it’s community.
If you’re interested in learning more, be sure to check out Plot Factory today!
Hi. Long time no write.
When Stuart asked us all to write a blog about the New Year and share advice, the only thing I could think of was ‘why would anyone care what I had to say, it’s not as if I’ve written in the last year. Between Uni, my adult children, my own illness, and all of the other stuff I’m doing, and honestly, I don’t think horror readers would care about what I’m doing with infosec’. And then I realized, you just might, because one of the things I did this year, finally found my way back from burnout.
Burnout city, population….variable?
The last few years are probably the sort of years many can relate to though, possibly not all in one burst. In the last three years, since my last fiction book was published, I’ve had to close parts of my company, discovered that my mental health is anything but straightforward, and actually, probably the weirdest combination known to man (aspie+a form of issues with language processing that goes the other way from normal (fussiness about definition to the point of pedantry, CPTSD and bipolar disorder. I’m just a bundle of fun 🙂 ), and I’ve been doing therapy to train me out of my automatic reactions to upset and worry/fear/panic which has taken up a lot of my time. I also got involved in the information security (Cyber-sec) community and started a degree. And while I’ve always been involved in Nanowrimo, this year was actually really quite nice, because by November, the stories were whispering again! Admittedly, the stories had to, we ended up with so much more going on in our world (the word three kidneys and my son feature quite prominently, to be honest), so my time is spent, most of the time, in waiting rooms, and I’m learning my way around an Android tablet, and actually, finding joy in my writing.
And that’s what hit me the hardest. For so long, I’ve worked very hard to ‘work’ at my writing. It’s been a chore and often ends up being something I avoid. I commit to stuff, and then end up being overwhelmed, and then get into a loop, and I finally learned this year how to avoid that.
My three tips for the New Year
So, with that in mind, here are my three tips for the New Year, and new decade.
Self-care is not a bad word, and neither is no: I’m not very good at saying no, and I’m even worse at knowing when to stop, and it’s a very common thing in creatives. So…while you’re slogging it at everything else, remember it’s ok to say no, and make time for yourself.
Write every day – edit when you’re happy – this might seem a bit of a weird one, but I’m pretty sure that if I just write and not worry about it, I’ll find it far easier to edit when I feel less pressure over it. I’m not saying ignore deadlines – far from it. But I am saying that editing isn’t something I always need to be in the mindset for and honestly, that’s ok.
Read, read, read. My Goodreads listing, which doesn’t include most audiobooks I listened to, has me at 120+ books. I’m really delighted with that because reading was hard this year. And so, I’m upping my goal. I’m doing 150 next year. I’ll be reviewing some on Netgalley (and maybe bringing horror ones over here), and working on other books as time permits.
Did I say three? Well, here’s a bonus. If you’re really looking to give yourself a kick in the pants, shoot for the moon. Make a big pledge, and make it in front of as many people as possible. So. Gulp. Here’s mine.
I’m going to write a million words, I’m going to publish at least 12 books and 8 novellas. I’m doing some boxed sets and anthologies and entering as many short story projects as catch my attention. I’m taking this year, and beginning this decade and I’m hoping to do it and do my degree, but if I don’t, that’s ok. I’m going for it, but it’s a lofty goal, so though I’m sharing it loudly, if I miss, I’ll have things to talk about.
What are your plans for the new year, and are you coming off burnout, or trying to avoid it (I’ll write about that later in the year). Whatever it is, good luck, and I hope you keep visiting the site for markets, advice, and information.
Welcome to Shaun Allan’s Darker Places tour. Today, Shaun is sharing some of his favorite horror TV shows!
Shaun Allan’s Singularity Books is proud to introduce Darker Places!
What if you could steal the final moments from the dying? What if you had the darkest secret, but couldn’t think what it might be? What if you entered the forest in the deep of the night. Who is the melting man? And are your neighbours really whom they appear to be?
So many questions.
To find the answers, you must enter a darker place. Thirteen stories. Thirteen poems. Thirteen more doorways.
“There is Darkness and Madness in each of us. We must do battle with our own demons”
I think that the greatest horror comes from within – we do battle with our fears and the demons that live inside us daily. That’s why horror speaks to us – it’s the things that, deep inside, make us tremble, or repulse us. The best horror reaches into us and squeezes all of the primal bits that make us feel…alive.
But, I think there’s another kind of darkness and another kind of horror. One that comes from things that are so big, they consume us. It’s a bit of a renaissance in some ways; we have some of the most amazing, chilling and outright crazy horror in the last few years, so I thought I’d talk about some of the shows that I’ve been enjoying lately, and ask you what you think.
How TV shows play on our greatest fears
When you look at TV now, it’s pretty obvious that shows are getting smarter, slicker and the narrative quality is designed to suck you in. And when you’re sucked into a horror show you experience it in a different way from books. Your imagination is given a rest in some ways, but in others, you’re given more fuel to enjoy, relive or scare yourself with later. I’ve spent the last few months binging on horror – on Netflix and Amazon, and I have to say, if you’re a horror fan, there’s an amazing variety out there!
Supernatural and Grimm
I have to admit, Supernatural and Grimm aren’t traditional horror, but both are great series’ using elements that also appear in horror. Supernatural has turned from a story about monster hunters, taking on the traditional tropes to something that’s smart enough to make fun of itself, while telling a story of angels, demons, monsters and more.
Grimm is another story that takes the traditional pieces and twists it on their heads. Grimm is another monster hunter – one that can see monsters that normal humans can’t. And while it’s more ‘family friendly’ (or at least teen friendly!), it’s still got some really clever storylines, designed to make you really think. And the Hexenbeasts…
From appearances in other shows, to The Strain, Hemlock Grove (with Werewolves and other supernatural creatures) and True Blood (random Triva – Bill and Alexander Skarsgård are brothers – Roman plays a vampire in Hemlock Grove, Alexander in True Blood. And their Dad (Stellan) is the scientist in the Thor/Avengers movies!), to name but a few, there’s a dearth of vamp shows out there that are worth people’s time. And some that aren’t. My favorite so far has been ‘The Strain’, but I’ve got a soft spot for most vampire stories that don’t use tropes as crutches.
Gothic and revival horror
One of the biggest standouts from last year for me has to be ‘True Detective’. It was an incredibly slick, gothic horror story that crept along instead of jumping out and scaring the life out of you. I’ve also enjoyed American Horror Story and Penny Dreadful. But I’ve also quite enjoyed both Whitechapel and Ripper Street – there’s something about the retelling of stories that have no clear resolution that makes them especially terrifying.
I’ve tried to use all of the shows I’ve been watching recently to influence my stories – directly when I wrote Mr Composure, but indirectly too – I enjoy my down time and use stories to both test my deductive skills (and try and guess what’s going on!), and to see what others are doing, where the fresh takes are and what they inspire in me. Reading and watching a variety of media is the only way to feed our imaginations. But, given it’s horror, it’s also led to a LOT of sleepless nights!
What are your favorite shows?
A writer of many prize winning short stories and poems, Shaun Allan has written for more years than he would perhaps care to remember. Having once run an online poetry and prose magazine, he has appeared on Sky television to debate, against a major literary agent, the pros and cons of internet publishing as opposed to the more traditional method. Many of his personal experiences and memories are woven into Sin’s point of view and sense of humour although he can’t, at this point, teleport.
Quick summary: Clean Reader is an app that didn’t seek permission before listing author’s books, used affiliate links to earn money and bills itself as an app that corrects swearing to more ‘appropriate’ language. They claim to do this by covering the word with another word.
They are billed on their Facebook page as ‘Read books, not profanity’.
A few days ago, I was told about an app which changed swearing to less contentious (to them) words. It turned out after a bit of investigation that they claim they don’t alter the underlying book – instead, they’ve worked out a way to dictionary search and place something on top of the word that So, the f-Bomb was turned into heck or gosh. Similarly, other words were changed based on settings in the app. Knowing as I do how dictionary search worked, I quickly realised that this app, at it’s worst, could really ruin the experience the reader had been promised – both by the author and by the app. It’s since been pulled from the app store, and authors are demanding to know where their books have come from.
My first thought of course was ‘I need to invent new cuss words’. Then I got angry. Then I looked at my body of work and realised that if they were going to do that to some of my pieces, they wouldn’t make sense, and I wasn’t looking forward to the reviews. Then I got to thinking (again) about how language actually works, and why, linguistically, covering over *some* words might be a very bad idea. I mean, think about it. Dick is a boy’s name, crap can be in many MANY words (and personally I think hecktastic looks ridiculous) and lets not get started on the other words that are being changed to witch which they rhyme with- I’m pretty sure that ‘the witch had puppies’ looks like an editing mistake, not part of the app change, especially if then quoted out of context.
But then I got to thinking about how removing a potentially commonplace reaction that people DO HAVE (and please, don’t debate with me that you live in an environment where people’s linguistic inclinations are cleaner than white snow) occasionally. I agree with some that, like sex and drugs, some people overdo it to make their work somehow edgier, but I defend to the DEATH a writer’s right to do that. I think that if readers need to block out profanity to read books though, they’re changing the very fabric of a story, and that fabric isn’t one you can just simply remove a colour or two from and reweave lickety-split. You start obliterating red and turquoise from your language access and where does it end?
Do we in other words end up in a world where texts are prissily treated as clean simply because we can cover the bits we don’t like? Does our writing have to suddenly be so sanctioned, cleaned and made ‘PC’ that we’re looking at work that doesn’t have a soul – doesn’t have passion and emotion, because someone’s going to be offended by it somewhere? And then, I started looking at the language I was using to describe this – prissy, offensive, censoring. I’m using words they use about our books to talk about what they’re doing, but there’s no common ground. None at all.
My bottom line to this is we can’t tell writers what they’re allowed to write – that’s not how the world works. But at the same time, without explicit consent from the copyright holder, these sorts of apps shouldn’t exist. Not because I think that it’s censorship, because I think that writers still have control over their works, especially if they’re self-publishing. Our language choice is carefully weighed and though readers can choose to avoid work, I personally think that my books should be read as I wrote (and edited!) them.
And ultimately, if you have chosen the words that cover over the words you don’t want to see, your brain is still, on some level, processing it as the word it SHOULD be. You might not be conscious of it, but it’s not that easy to trick our language centre. And while a conscious self would feel much better about all of that, the subconscious knows.
You’ll notice I’m not actually swearing in this article – it’s because I don’t think it’s appropriate for where this is appearing. And anyway, Chuck Wendig covered it better than me.
As it stands, Clean Reader has basically withdrawn their app, though possibly not as fast as they hoped. Some authors are still pushing for details – me, I think I’m satisfied that they’ve woken a sleeping giant, and that the author community IS stronger than ever, and we speak up when we’re unhappy.
Welcome to the Longclaws and Alien Agenda tour, by Steve Peek – The following places will be hosting Steve on his journey in the next few weeks, as he tours around blogs and shares information about his writing process and more.
Steve is talking about Longclaws today – here’s what he had to say….
Longclaws is a book that was written and rewritten more times than I remember over more than a twenty year period. The story was born of thinking about another book that was completed in 1984.
My book Otherworld is a non-fiction work that provides evidence, via world mythologies, that not only did parallel worlds exist, but that ancient men often had to deal with things that passed between one world and the next.
After completing Otherworld, Longclaws was born of wondering: what if?
One of the things I wanted to accomplish was eliminate the readers’ need to suspend belief. I wanted long claws to be a horror novel where no victim tripped over nothing while fleeing a vicious creature. I wanted the science to be solid and easily and quickly explainable so readers would know that it is feasible. I didn’t want any character to do anything stupid and I did not want to suspend any natural laws in order to bring the story together.
My reviewers, so far, confirm I succeeded.
Now, the big problem is making people aware this book exists in this universe or another one.
You can follow Steve as he blogs about his adventures writing this, Alien ‘science faction’ and more at Steve Peek’s Blog.
Their world is crowded with active volcanoes, sulfur and acid rains, permanent thick clouds turn day into deep twilight. It is a violent place: moment-to-moment survival is victory, every creature is constantly predator and prey, sleep is certain death. This is home to the longclaws, beings of super-human speed, strength and senses. Their predatory skills allow them only a tenuous niche in their hellish environment. Though smart and fierce, their rank in the food chain is far below the top. One clan leader draws from ancient legends of paradise and devises a plan to escape and take his clan to the otherworld – a world filled with slow, defenseless prey. The clan activates an Indian mound deep in southern forests and enters our world -hungry for prey. Torrential rains and washed out bridges force a runaway teen, an old dowser and a Cherokee healer to face the horrors of the clan’s merciless onslaught. Mankind’s legends are filled with vampires, werewolves, dragons and other nightmarish. Perhaps our legend of hell is based on the world of the Longclaws.
Steve Peek grew up in a family of readers and writers. In the second grade a neighbor gave him a toy printing press and, using rubber linotype, he wrote and printed a neighborhood paper. His first short story won a competition in his third grade class. Sometimes he dreamed of being a policeman, fireman, lawyer, minister, soldier, politician, but in every dream he was also a writer. Peek loves games. He enjoyed a forty year career in the game industry which allowed him to travel the world where he was able to explore many of the ancient, mythical places he’d read about. Some legends associated with these enigmatic sites led him down a winding road to a junction where myth meets science and the hold of this magical place continues its grip. Over the decades Steve always wrote. Sometimes just here and there. Twice he managed to have books published. Now, with the precious time to write, Steve found the traditional publishing world in disarray and decided that it is more important for him to write than to sell books to the big publishing houses. The venue of the e-book makes this possible. So, for better or for worse, Steve sits at a kitchen table looking into the woods around his home in the Smokey Mountains and writes every day. Reviewers have declared his books Longclaws and Alien Agenda: Why they came, Why they stayed to be a new sub-genre, ‘science faction’. Much of the books are based on history and science while the story falls under fiction. Steve’s books are based on things that interest him and he works hard to make them interesting for his readers. He would like to hear from you via jstephenpeek on facebook or send him a message via his contact form.
Hello there 🙂
First up, I feel I should introduce myself.
My name is Kai (among other names at least), and I’m a 34 year old self-published writer. I’ve got a couple of shorts up on Amazon, have worked in publishing and website design for writers for close to ten years and maybe, most importantly of all, I’m a bit of a horror lover.
I graduated from ‘The Magic Cottage’ by the lamentably now lost James Herbert to ‘It’, ‘The Stand’, and then the Necroscope books before I was 15. From there, I’ve kinda spent a lot of time reading horror – zombies, scary stuff, spatterpunk, gorefest….about the only one I’ve not read broadly, beyond the classics, are vampire novels. I especially love transgressive fiction, the darker the better.
I finished my degree in 2011 with a 2:1, having completed a year of transgressive fiction and I’ll be honest, I loved it! The University of Gloucester is a great place to go to study, and I’m blessed with having been allowed to do the degree.
Movies too – I love scary movies. My favourite of recent years has had to be Cabin in the Woods – I loved the twist on the genre that it presented and I’m always up for a good, scary movie. But, just the same, I’ve seen some *really bad ones* too.
So, I thought – now that I’d introduced myself – that I’d talk about writing.
My freelance experience
I’ve been doing it – with varying degrees of success – and freelancing as an editor, service provider, copywriter and most recently, using some of my degree as a publicist and social media strategist (I did some psychology too – creative writing and psychology lend themselves to sales, I feel). And the one thing I’ve learned is that it’s not easy to be a freelancer, but perhaps the worst (and most disheartening) is how hard it is to be a freelance writer. I mean, I’m not talking impossible, but it can be quite hard to find an income when you’re working with writing books, and subbing to presses, and doing everything else. And I’m not saying I know *the* solution, but I do have one of them, that worked for me.
No choice but to freelance
I’m one of them. I got a degree, and before that had been signed off (long term) because I’m bipolar. So I decided that I’d had enough in 2010, before I graduated, and thought I’d freelance as a copywriter. The net result was three months of really HAPPY writing – I was on top of my reading, writing, anthology submissions. I was a writing machine. And then, as the workload for uni got heavier, and copywriting just got to be *the same stuff*, which I began to enjoy less, and I found it difficult to keep things going. So…my first tip. When it stops being fun, find a way to make it FUN again. Or at the very least, make sure you’re still doing a tiny bit of the fun writing. Tiny bit.
The second thing I learned is that when you freelance, there’s always a good time for certain work. I found I write best first thing in the morning, creatively, in the afternoon I was best at Uni work and copywriting (including research), and in the evenings, I’m best at editing. Night time, in bed, winding down or watching TV is a great time to do the social media stuff I missed between breaks. And most social media is so tiny, you can do it in bits when you’re not doing other stuff.
The third thing I learned?
Just because writing makes me happy, doesn’t mean ALL forms will. It’s ok to follow your heart, especially if your heart is telling you that what you’re doing is good, but it’s not great.
I’m now a full time fiction writer and do social media and pr consulting on the site, so I’ll be talking about both, if people are interested.
And it’s nice to ‘meet’ you.
See you in two weeks! Wanna know anything? Got a question I might be able to answer – just ask!