Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A Page Turning Conversation with Author Jack Night

Where Horror Begins 

Jack Night
  It is rare that I find myself so intrigued by an author. In the case of  Jack Night, I did and found that I had to read everything thing he had written to date. For me, that's rare, if it’s a series, sure but not when it’s a stand-alone novels or novella.
     “The Dead of Winter” grabbed my attention, from first glance. It was something of nightmares that I felt compelled to delve into.  Going a little further I read the blurb & back jacket of the book and found myself wanting to read more in this story. Anyone who knows me knows horror is not my forte as a rule, but there was something unique and special about this book. It became my guilty scary pleasure as I got to know the characters and the horrors unleashed on them. You are immediately drawn into his nightmare by the striking cover, and find yourself wanting more. Names like Stephen King, Blake Crouch come to mind when I think of his style of writing.
The Dead of Winter
     Jack Night was born in Kansas and settled in Florida with his family at age three. It was there he attended college at Full Sail University in their film & video program before heading to Los Angeles to join the ranks of those working in the film industry. He found himself working at everything from script reader for a studio, to being a paid screenwriter and associate producer on a film that included Gwyneth Paltrow. After several years of working inside the Hollywood industry, he returned to Florida ready to commit to his writing full time and graphic design.
     His love for writing, that he shares with many writers out there, was something he has always done, it’s a passion. In school, it was a way to distinguish himself, which helped him realize that this was something in which he excelled. He is also a voracious reader and found a connection to both Edgar Allen Poe and Stephen King, which helped him find his way into horror.
      I asked him, how he came up with his ideas?
     “I find my ideas everywhere and in everything around me. I keep a list on my phone of all the random things that occur to me or things that might pique my curiosity.” Some examples of this are Morgellon’s disease, Mel’s Hole, and the Kelly-Hopkinsville goblin case. These stories where the inspiration for his book "Starvation Assembly". 
     “My ultimate goal as a writer is to take the nice normal world you find yourself in on a daily basis and start showing you the tiny cracks in the façade. the little places you don’t notice, and the shadows where there might just be monsters hiding.”
     For such a detailed writer, he restricts his research on a subject to getting a few snippets of detail not wanting to get bogged down in too much research. For Jack, the story is the most important thing. He elaborated on this point,
Coming Soon
            “I’ve found that when I do research sometimes extensively first, very little of that ends up in the narrative. For my current novel, "The Space Between," suicide is a very major factor so as I’m writing parts of that I’ll stop to read up on things like, the state of a body after carbon monoxide poisoning (a horror writer’s internet search history is NOT a pretty thing) but once again I only need a certain level of realism.”
        I found myself agreeing with much of what he had to say about his process. New writers can all too often get lost in the details forgetting that it is a story and not a history lesson or nonfiction.
     One of the questions I was able to ask Jack was about his storyline and if he preferred the longer story as in a novel or the shorter versions of a novella or short story. Again his answer was well thought out and made some good points new authors may want to head.
        “The novella I believe, is a bit of a compromise. There are certainly plenty of diehard readers out there that would love to tackle a longer novel, but with so many other things competing for everyone’s attention these days, it’s beginning to seem that a large portion of the reading audience would like something a little more in the middle, like a novella.” 
People of The Static
      Regarding publication the question came up of whether to self-publish or follow the industry publishers. Once again, I was pleasantly surprised by his articulate answer. When Jack was ready to publish his first book, the self-publishing industry was showing promise with some early success stories. He had also heard a few horror stories concerning one of the major horror publishing houses in the industry that helped make his decision. Since he did his cover art, writing and intended to handle his self-promotion he opted to self-publish. This has allowed him the ability to retain the full rights, royalties, and control over his publication schedule.
     He does point out that he uses the services of a good editor that he was able to connect with at one of the horror writer’s conference specifically KillerCon in Las Vegas. Jack also advised that for any author the writer’s convention have a purpose and he recommends committing to going to at least one a year.
     It’s an excellent way to meet other peers in your genre and connect with individuals who provide services such as editing, cover art, etc. In my own journey, I’ve found listening to panels of guest authors, and informative speakers at such conferences both inspiring and useful.
     The self-editing and editing process seems to be one area where writers will vary. Some writers get caught in this trap throwing away pages of work for no good reason. The hard part is when to know that we are doing more harm than good.  When to double check ourselves and when to just leave it alone. His advice on the subject is this.
     “Typically I’ll go through the entire thing for one or two rounds then I’ll send it off to my editor. Once I receive his edits and notes, it’s usually one more solid round of editing, and then I’m done. I know that I have a tendency to be too much of a perfectionist so I have to make myself stop and let it go at a certain point otherwise I’ll be whittling away at it forever, it’ll never be perfect, and eventually I’ll probably do more harm than good.”

Starvation Assembly

One of the last questions I had for Jack was what one piece of information would he give to those who read and love his books?
     “If I could tell my fan base one thing, it would have to be that I would love more interaction. Yes, I write for myself to a large extent but hearing from my readers is honestly what pumps me up and keeps me motivated to keep writing. Amazon reviews are probably the easiest way to give me feedback or to even let me know that people are reading and enjoying what I write. . Even beyond the Amazon reviews you can send me an email, leave a comment on the blog, or even hit me up with a comment or message on Facebook. I’m going to push for a lot more interaction with my readers this year. The more I hear from and know about my fans, the more I can deliver the kind of stories they want to read."
     It is important to hear from your fans. Those reviews left on sites like Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble’s make a difference to writers. Why? Because many authors do read them, we want your impute. We like knowing when we are doing something you like, what characters you connect with and what ones you hate. As writers, the fans are the ones who keep us going in a job that is pretty much a solitary profession.
     This last bit is for writers, we each have our own habits and tricks we use to write. For some its music, location, time of day what works for you?
   “I suppose I tend to keep the same writing hours and location but these days that location has gone from having an actual office set up to mostly writing from the couch. Probably the one thing that I always do before getting very far into a project is to create a cover. There are way more completed covers than finished manuscripts at this point but for me nothing makes the story more real than having that cover image to re-inspire me and to show around to other people.”
     His advice to new authors just starting out?
     “First and foremost if you’re an author just starting out, WRITE! Writing is the only way to perfect your craft and find your voice. You can study up on the details of it all you want, but the only thing that will make you better is to sit down, pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard and write. My next piece of advice would be to treat it like a job. If writing is something that you would like to do long-term, then you need to approach it that way.
        The image of writers sitting around in coffee shops and scribbling away madly on napkins when inspiration strikes is, of course, a lovely one, but it’s not reality and it’s not sustainable. You show up for work every day, you sit down at the keyboard, and you write, lather-rinse-repeat. If you only have a limited amount of time then some days you’ll only get a page done, some days it may be ten. The point is that you’re creating a routine that will help you create.”

Some additional links for more about Jack Night and his books all three are currently available on Amazon

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Happy Mothers Day

To Mom, Where it Not For You 
     To all the mom’s out there who get up each morning to make sure your kids have breakfast and a lunch to take to school. The moms who go to work when their sick because they know they need to save those days for when the kids are sick and need them more. Thank you, for your sacrifice, you give without question or demand. To you, there is no greater joy then the feel of your child’s arms wrapped firmly around your neck in a hug. 
     To the mothers who never stop, never quit, on their kids, no matter how much heartache or disappointment they may give us. You love without question.
      Your grace and beauty under such pressure is to be admired. To the moms who have sat up, watching the clock until their children are safe at home. You deserve to be acknowledged and thanked for being there. 
For eve time, you have had to come to the rescue, either to rush, some forgotten item to school or to pick up a teenager because it wasn’t safe for them to drive home. Thank you. 
Your patience under even the hardest circumstance is to be respected and admired. For the many years of selfless love, sacrifice, and caring. Thank you. 
     You know who you are. Sometimes you’re going it with a husband by your side. For others, it’s a long lonely road that is gladly traveled for those we love. Thank you. 
     For the mothers, who have passed on leaving a legacy, of their love behind. In life, your selflessness showed us how to love. Thank you, for the time we were blessed to have you in our lives. 
     Please take a moment to thank all the beautiful mom’s in your life today. Let them know that what they do matters. Let them know how proud you are to have them in your life, even if they aren’t your mom. 
      It is easy to forget all the things mom does. We take for granted their selfless desire to put our happiness first. Moms aren’t always limited to one person; sometimes we are lucky enough to have several women who play this role. Women who help shape who we are, being role models, guides or friends.

      So please take a few moments out of your day and reach out to share your love with them and say Thank you. 
     I wouldn’t be who I am if you had not been in my life and shown me what it means to be a mother. Thank you!

Thank you to all mothers today, 
this is your gift your day.   

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Path to Submission with Marisa Sciarappa and Her Upcoming Novel "Taking Flight"

Marisa Sciarappa On the YA Horizon

     Assumptions are where we often get into to trouble as writers. Yes, we create, we strive to bring something special to people who read our work. The goal is to do something different that both enlightens and entertains our readers. In some cases, it’s to try and make a difference. To try to let others know, they are not alone that we can relate to their pain or have  experienced it ourselves.
     Marisa is a slender sweet, attractive young woman, whose writing is both powerful and moving. Before reading parts of her novel, called "Taking Flight" I have to admit I had made certain assumptions. Always kind, friendly and outgoing she is a natural, at being positive. In fact, the complete depth she has brought to her story showed me a wisdom and caring beyond her years. We see what we want to see. It was not until our interview that I felt like I as a person had a better understanding of just who she was. What she has to offer the literary world. Her writing style is different, filled with heart and layers of deep emotion that draw you into her story. You want to understand, and know what is going to happen to her characters.
      Her story deals with the serious issue of teenage depression, suicide, and vampires. Not what one would expect in a YA paranormal book but what you get is a work that is more than surface deep. In checking, I found that there aren’t many stories dealing with or touching on such a serious subject that still plagues our society. Nonfiction yes, but far too few that  capture the emotional roller coaster and internal torment that teens can experience.
      I found myself awed by the depth & sensitivity of her work. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Marisa professionally for several years through the Ocean County Library. I consider myself fortunate that she was willing to discuss her upcoming book called “Taking Flight” a paranormal work of YA fiction that is currently going through her final edits in preparation for submission to a publisher. For now her plan is to submit to publishers open to dealing directly with authors.
      A recent graduate of Stockton University, she obtained her Bachelor’s degree and is intending to pursue her Masters in Library Science. Serious about her craft, she is someone worth watching for on the YA horizon. With a fiancé, job, and finishing up her novel you can see she radiates happiness.
     During our interview, she laughingly told me that she has dreamed of writing since she first picked up her pencil in elementary school. She then had lost interest for a few years and stopped not taking up her pen again until middle school. Marisa had her first real inklings that she wanted to be a writer while in high school.
     One of the biggest motivations that drew her towards knowing this was the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling’s. Smiling down at her tea, she admits “I love her writing.” She is also a fan of Sylvia Platt, James Joyce, Susan Collins, and Virginia Wolf to name a few.
     Not unlike many others writers six years ago she started writing the story that had been forming inside her head. Feeling that driving compulsion to get it out. One of the biggest issues, Marisa explained was procrastination, when she was in school she found she only wrote on her breaks. It wasn't until after taking a workshop group that she found the motivation to write and complete the first draft.
     Another tool she used to reach her goal was (nanowrimo.org) participating the in National Novel Writing Month in November. Committing to getting 50,000 words in print she met her goal and finished with 100,000 words in total. It allowed her to track how much she wrote on a daily basis. Other sites that are writer friendly & help with setting goal are scribeophile, and Aeon Timeline. It is a great way to get feedback on your work from other writers fighting the same fight.
     I asked Marisa what was one of the many challenges she faced?
     Thinking about this for a moment she paused before answering. “Going through the editing process. Editing becomes an even greater challenge when writing in the first person. You have to think about the “I’s” and how they fit in.”
Marisa & her Fiance CJ
     Her advice to other writers out there struggling to get that first book on paper. “Just write what you have and don’t stress until you’re in the editing process. Don’t be afraid to write about tough subjects or to take ownership. Write with your heart and put your all into it!”
     Finishing up our interview we picked up our empty cups and pushed in our chairs. Giving me her infectious smile once again she gave me one parting piece of advice,

“For anyone struggling with writing there is always hope in the end. As long as you put your mind on a positive goal you will get there.” 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Devil in the White City in Review

By Erik Larson

This book is outside of my normal wheelhouse. In general I tend to stay away from nonfiction books, one because I get bored easily with them and second it’s often about the perspective or view of the writer. When this book was recommended to me I was honestly intrigued both with the premise of the story and idea. In fact I found myself double checking to confirm that this was a nonfiction book. 
     Rarely do we find good story tellers in nonfiction. What Erik Larson has been able to do, however, is create a beautiful and informative story about the history of the 1893 World’s Fair along with the rabid killing spree of Dr. H.H. Holmes. All within the same city? 
World's Fair 1983
     If history were written like this perhaps more people would be open to it. I could not put this down, he not only shows us step by step the madness of a killer, but also the details in creating and making the World’s Fair. Surprisingly he also lets us see glimpses of the start of the great depression and the many struggles that were faced from both sides. 
     Larson takes nonfiction to a new level, and this book I have to give a high recommendation. Don’t wait to read this. A gifted and talented writer Larson takes what could be viewed as boring subject material and breaths unbelievable life into it making it a page-turner you won’t want to put down. This is a five plus star book that is well worth checking out. 

Its More then Just a Dream

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As a recently married 46 year old I am in the process of finishing my degree. Working to take care of my family and live my life.Blogging, working, writing, and chugging along like most of us.  Who am I ? I am you, I am me, I am your mother, friend, the best and worst that we each have inside of us. I am a different perspective and find myself fascinated by the interesting moments in life.

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