I Would Never Have Believed It

Steve K SmyIf somebody had told me, just a few short months ago, that most of my writing efforts would be pointed anywhere near the horror genre, I would likely have dropped dead from a fatal episode of hysterical laughter!  Fair enough, as a kid, and even as a youth, I dabbled with reading the genre, but they were true horror classics.  Well, maybe not classics, except my one reading of Dracula, but classic in the sense of content.  There was lots of carefully constructed tension and very little, if any, actual gore.  They were, I suppose, what could be termed ‘psycho-emotional horror’, working on the shadowy corners and dark places of our primitive mind.  Those authors didn’t, then, feel the need to compete with the gory, in-your-face, leave-nothing-to-the-imagination bloodbaths churned out by Hollywood (and others).  Many were writing when there were still directors, producers and screenplay writers who saw the value in creeping you out – not trying to gross you out!  Subtle horror movies are now very rare, and the same is also true with books.

Don’t get me wrong!  Horror isn’t the only victim of ‘bloodbath fixation’.  Thrillers, crime stories, and other genres have suffered, too.  One thing I enjoyed about reading Chris Allen’s excellent novel Hunter was the fact that action sequences didn’t devolve into mass shootouts with bodies dropping every few microseconds and people being torn asunder, graphically, by a variety of explosive devices.  The action was real, sometimes brutal (violence can’t, after all, be anything else!), but never excessive and most certainly not the reason for the book!  The action was a fundamental necessity of an excellent story, but only because such violence is a natural part of the world portrayed.  The world wasn’t reinvented to allow violence to be the dominant characteristic.

Shade of Evil

Anyway, back to the fact that I seem to have become hooked on what is, essentially, the horror genre.  The appearance of a character interview with one of the ‘stars’ of the books is evidence of that fact.  It actually started as an experiment, and one that I deliberately wanted to keep as far away from the flood of Vampire tales as possible.  That first tale, Shade of Evil, reached an unexpected conclusion and introduced a group I didn’t even know existed when I started!  In fact, after that first tale, I initially had no plans to pursue it.  Then a tiny idea popped into my head.  This time, though it still wasn’t to be immediately obvious, the mysterious group would be a key element, and one or two of the characters in their number started to take on real personalities.  I didn’t know their histories, but I knew more EvilUnderTheCircle.jpgabout them, as people.  So, Evil Under The Circle came trotting out into the light of day and the mystery group took on a real identity that had the power to survive, and to go on.  Even so, I was fairly ruthless towards them and made their loves hard and grim.  Grief, it was now clear, was to be a familiar part of their lives.  Grief and change.  But, that needed a balance.  Nobody would last long in that kind of existence!  It was necessary, as well as desirable, to bring in a new character.  One who would provide an anchor, a sort of paternal figure, only more.  Yet the second book wasn’t the right time or place for this new person to TheSigilofAhrimancoversmall_thumb.jpgappear.  It was only to be in the new book, The Sigil of Ahriman, that the gentle, kindly figure of the Director would make his entrance.  There are hints that he is able to be ruthless himself, of course.  An entirely benevolent leader couldn’t function in the world of the Guardians!  He had to have the strength to send teams out against Evil, even if everything indicated that they would fail, and perish in the failing.  Yet, he has a pacific nature, on the surface, that can stabilise even the most volatile of the people under his command.  He loves his people, as a parent loves their children, and he feels their grief with them, but he has a personal balance far beyond anything his people possess, or can understand.  And with the introduction of the Director, so the personalities of the others began to become more apparent.

Like most people, I’ve subjected myself, during a lengthy period of semi-vegetative existence, to the Soap Opera!  I can’t say, now, that it was entirely wasted time.  Like the vast majority of authors, I’m a people-watcher.  I never just see a person.  I analyse them, digging into their minds, their emotions.  In fact, ‘digging’ is a good word.  It’s like people are mines, containing precious elements,and the author is a miner, delving deep down to extract those treasures.  What’s that got to do with writing horror?  Well, in truth, it relates to all writing!  Yet I have never before used the treasures I mined quite as wholeheartedly as I am now.  Some genres of fiction let you get away with superficial characters, to some degree.  Placing them in situations which elicit strong emotional and psychological reactions, however, as in horror, you have to have stronger, more real characters, with the correct human responses.  And you can’t have everything pleasant outside of the danger periods.  You have to admit the friction always found between those who exist in a tight knit group.  In essence, a horror-based Soap Opera.

I know that I’ve gone on, rather, in this post, but I’m nearly done now.  I want to close this post out by saying that I would never have discovered the deeper characterisations and the often mixed and confusing interplay of characters if I had continued to plod along writing those things I was most comfortable with!  By risking the experiment, I have discovered something not only about characters, but about myself, and some of my deficiencies as a writer in those more comfortable genres.  That’s why I’m hooked on the G1: The Guardians series.  It’s a Soap Opera I control (sort of), but it’s also much more.  I owe G1 a great debt.  I only hope that I can repay it in the tales to come.

~ Steve

Thoughts on a Tuesday – New Paperback Launch

‘Likes’, ‘Follows’ and so forth

I’ll admit it.  I’ve participated in a few ‘Like for a Like’ and ‘Follow for a Follow’ schemes in recent times.  Now, the theory is that you’re supposed to click on ‘Like’ or ‘Follow’, or something very similar, for everybody you track a link to.  In all honesty, at first I adhered to that rule.  Lately, however, I’ve been very naughty!  I’m afraid that if I didn’t like what I found, I didn’t do what was expected of me.  What caused this revolution?  Well, quite simply, some of the participants were ringers!  The schemes were supposed to be for authors, writers, self-publishers, book reviewers and maybe book lovers.  Some of those who jumped on the ride, however, had nothing to do with any of the world of books!  They were promoting sites/blogs/pages that did anything but talk about books.  Then, there were some that did fill the bill but I had a crisis of conscience over and had to duck away from (and no, I’m not going to say what they concerned, other than for the ‘make me rich by buying my self-help-get-rich-quick book’ types).  I have no objection to the concept, but in truth I prefer the idea of having a similar scheme where you only ‘Like’/’Follow’ those you actually have an interest in hearing more from.  It’s time for a more discerning scheme for these things!  Yes, I know that I’ve gained followers, but it’s almost by accident as I’m sure the vast majority don’t really expect to maintain any active interest, and many cancel their ‘Like’/’Follow’ after a while.

Paperback Writer

Yes, the second paperback is out there – sort of!  Following the instructions given, by FeedARead, I ordered a ‘proof’ copy of my novelette in paperback.  Now, the instructions indicated that I had to approve said proof before it would go live on their store.  Performing what I like to call a ‘security check’ by Googling my name, to see if any of my ‘to-buy’ books were in places they didn’t belong, I encountered my new paperback being offered for sale by… FeedARead!  Now, in essence, I don’t have a problem with that.  I do, however, object to having to buy a copy of my own book – surely they could absorb the cost of a complementary copy – on the grounds that it wouldn’t be put up for sale until I had done so and approved it, only to discover that it was being advertised anyway!

Well, if it’s good enough for them (and no, I won’t be using them again!), then here we are:

Shade of Evil (Being Part 1 of G1: The Guardians) is available from FeedARead, ISBN 9781782993551, for £3.99 plus Post & Packing.  To quote the blurb:

A simple man bears a terrible burden, unknowing. Now, that burden is killing him, seeking freedom from his exhausted hulk. Freedom to satisfy its evil hunger.

“A darkness dwelt there, a vile miasma of misery that gnawed at the very soul of the man. It had been there for years, growing like some parasite, growing bloated with every bit of melancholy that was sucked from him. Worse, it was taking on a life of its own, a substance that should not exist. And the man was becoming something less, something hollow.”

A novelette.

A Matter of Spam

This blog is very well protected against Spammers by a system called Akismet.  The odd bit slips through, but as I have to approve comments from anybody who hasn’t been previously approved, they’re easy to mark as Spam and disposed of.  More rarely, a comment from somebody legitimate might end up in Spam when it doesn’t deserve to, but I’m scrupulous about checking before emptying the Spam folder, so they get found and approved that way.  The same isn’t true for all blogs!  I’ve noticed several blogs where Spam comments have gotten through, which means that the blog has become vulnerable to attack, and other readers may suffer if they follow links in those comments, or click on the commenter’s name.  More worryingly, this is happening on some sites that use alleged secure systems, like Captcha, which requires that you  decipher something before your comment will be accepted.  Obviously, Captcha isn’t working!  Why?  Because Spammers all know about it and it seems they are (probably) randomly attacking sites in person, so that they can get past Captcha!  Unless, of course, somebody’s created a ‘robot’ program which can solve the puzzles.  If you’re a blogger, I suggest you keep a close eye on all comments!  If you’re a blog reader – be wary of clicking on links in comments, especially if the language is poor and the comment seems ‘odd’.

As an aside, you can find out about any commenter quite easily.  First choice: Google them!  Chances are, you’ll find a string of entries where they’ve posted on various forums and blogs.  If you’re still unsure, maybe because Google has proven inconclusive, there’s a site called WhoIs.  That will look up information on anybody who is online, and it can even trace IP addresses.

Take care out there!

~ Steve