When I was writing my independent military fantasy novel Battle for the Wastelands, one of the major people involved was none other than Apex Publications founder Jason Sizemore. Not only did he do a developmental edit back in 2016, but he proofread the manuscript, formatted it into an eBook and print book, and put me in contact with cover designer Mikio Murikami. He said that the final cover equaled anything from one of the Big Five publishers.Continue reading
In one thousand words, I’m gonna tell you why you love writing.
I had no idea I’d ever get divorced. I loved my wife. We’d not only been lovers during that relationship from day one onward, we’d been friends. We were the kind of couple who’d spontaneously reach out to hold hands for no reason. We’d shower together not for sexy bits but for levels of intimacy that said come be renewed, you are safe and loved here. We’d have carpet picnics. We’d have exercise sessions that were not PG-13. (Bless you, Tae Bo.)
But we divorced several years ago. I love my ex-wife. I really do. If she’d been a wicked, awful person we’d never have gotten married. I mean, that’s generally how things go, right, you don’t look for the absolute worst and say “That right there!” We drifted apart as life’s currents direct at times. The gulf had gotten so wide that by the time either of us truly acknowledged it with eyes open we couldn’t see each other.
And we couldn’t row back.Continue reading
A few years ago, I bought a fantastic zombie novella for Apex titled Asylum from Mark Allan Gunnells. It’s a classic Romero zombie fan’s dream: trapped survivors, vicious zombie kills, and hordes of zombies having dinner. Mark has written a sequel, of sorts, titled Fort that I cannot wait to read. Enjoy Mark’s What Say You about Fort!
OUT OF THE ASYLUM, INTO THE FORT
Zombies are incredibly popular in entertainment and incredibly unpopular at the same time.
What I mean by this is that for every person who loves and celebrates zombie literature and film, you have someone who says they are sick of zombies and that they are polluting the market. Each new zombie story that is released seems to draw as much ire as it does praise.
Which makes it interesting for the writer with a zombie tale to tell.
Years ago when I was writing my zombie novella Asylum, I was quite new to publishing and wasn’t really aware of public perception of these sorts of things. I just had an idea I was passionate about, and I wrote it. I was lucky enough to find a home for the story with Apex Publishing, which aggressively promoted the book, and for a writer at my level, the book sold fairly well.
And yet as I got more involved in the horror community through message boards and other online avenues, I discovered the backlash that existed against all things zombie. I encountered people who were quite aggressive in their distaste for the zombie subgenre and made a point of telling me they’d never read my novella. Some even went so far as to say they believed the horror genre was being killed by the glut of zombie fiction and thought writers should stop writing it.
This was a bit baffling to me. I have my personal preferences, but I never feel anything should be off-limits to writers because I believe writers should always pursue the ideas that inspire them. Plus when I love a writer’s work, I’ll follow him or her regardless of genre. Still, everyone is different and people have a right to feel how they do.
That said, it caused a brief dilemma for me because shortly after publishing Asylum, I realized I had a new zombie idea, a novella that would act as a semi-sequel to Asylum. Now that I was aware of the contingent of readers who despised zombie fiction, it gave me pause.
But only for a moment. I’ve always been a writer who believed the best writing comes not from trying to fit a certain market or deliver what is expected but from simply falling in love with an idea and exploring it, regardless of all else. The fact of the matter is the idea of this new zombie novella, Fort, excited me and I wanted to write it. True, there were a certain number of readers out there who wouldn’t be interested in it, but you can say that about almost any subject matter. The question becomes not is it a story that others want me to tell but is it a story I want to tell. And the answer was definitely yes.
The writing was quite enjoyable for me, but in this case, the rewriting of it was even more enjoyable. Sinister Grin Press bought the novella, but in their initial editorial notes they asked if I could bulk up the story, increasing the word count, and they also said they wished I could find some way to explore more of the college campus on which this story is set. Those two requests gave me the idea to interject flashbacks throughout the piece, revealing the characters’ lives before the zombie outbreak. This gave Sinister Grin what they wanted while allowing me to deepen the characters without detracting from the forward momentum of the main plot.
And it afforded me another exciting opportunity. The connection between Fort and Asylum was there but not overt, mostly just a reference in the opening of the story. By creating these flashbacks, I realized I could make that connection a little more direct by incorporating two of my characters from Asylum, Curtis and Jimmy, into them. It was actually thrilling fun to resurrect those characters, so to speak, and hear their voices again. Like revisiting old friends you thought you’d never get to see again. I hope readers feel the same.
I realize that with this novella there will be those that avoid it just because it deals with zombies, and that is out of my control. My hope is that those who give it a shot enjoy the writing, that they find it to be an exciting and engaging story. I would also hope that people who enjoyed Asylum will give Fort a try and that readers of Fort who never read the earlier novella may find their way to it.
I think it’s important as a writer to follow your instincts. We all want to please our readers, but I believe the best way to do that is by being true to our passions. The simple fact of the matter is that we’ll never be able to please absolutely everyone, but we run the risk of pleasing no one if we aren’t writing stories we believe in.
I believe in Fort, just as I did Asylum, and I look forward to hearing what readers think about it.
Stephen Williams is an up-and-coming young writer I met through a science fiction and horror workshop I led a year ago. While he has no books out, the guy is one of the most prolific writers I know. Give him a few years and he’ll be running a novel sweatshop like James Frey.
Stephen is big into NaNoWriMo, and I invited him to give the blog readers some information about NaNoWriMo and how to become more involved.
It’s that time of year again. No, not pumpkin spice latte, haunted house, scary movie, outrageous costumes, and baseball playoffs time of year—it’s time to plan for National Novel Writing Month.
If you’ve never heard of National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, then let me give you a quick breakdown. The goal of NaNoWriMo is to write a novel in the month of November—“literary abandon” as some have described it. A novel in NaNoLand is considered 50,000 words which equals 1,667 words a day. For a slow writer and busy person like me, this is not an easy task. Normally, I average 500 words a day but during the month of November, I write like no other time in my life.
Last November was my first time, and I was so excited to have completed a rough draft at the end of the month. I went a bit overboard and wrote 80,000 words. I spent the next year ridding it of superfluous adjectives and unnecessary descriptions. Now if only I could find an editor…
The community in Lexington, Kentucky, is great and all the local support propelled me to keep writing. This year I am one of the Municipal Leaders, and I’ve scheduled a plethora of events at regional coffee shops, libraries, bookstores, and bars. It’s so exciting to see writers, people are notoriously known as hermits, gather together to participate in the solitary activity we love.
If you are sitting on that great novel idea and need the extra motivation to crank out the first draft I would recommend that you sign up at nanowrimo.org. Connect with your community of writers to help you write that novel you’ve been dreaming of writing.
This October also signifies another exciting time for me—my completion of the first year of the “School of Sizemore,” a school so elite that even the teacher doesn’t recognize its existence. A year ago I was searching for a way to improve my writing and find others to share it with. I stumbled upon a Science Fiction and Horror Workshop taught by Apex publisher Jason Sizemore.
I had my doubts but they dissipated after the first few minutes of his workshop. Three weeks later, I’d written my first science fiction short story and immediately signed up for the next class. A year later and I am about to finish a collection of 18 short stories, have met a ton of fellow writers who helped beta-read and co-write projects with me, read some amazing speculative fiction, and learned a ton about the publishing industry so that I don’t make a fool of myself when I query my manuscript. I would recommend Jason’s workshops and seminars to any ambitious writer who has the opportunity to attend. I think he travels too!
Stephen Williams is an unpublished writer in Lexington, Kentucky, and avid Apex Publications and Apex Magazine reader. He is the municipal leader of the Lexington region National Novel Writing Month group, member of the Lexington Fiction Writers Group, Lexington Prose Group, and a sophomore in the School of Sizemore. He blogs at swilliky.com and is on twitter: @swilliky.
Lesley Conner’s The Weight of Chains (Sinister Grin Press, 2015) is a visceral, dark historical fantasy that holds nothing back. She bases much of the novel’s horror on historical fact…and you know how it goes…the truth of our atrocities far exceeds any horror any one of us can imagine.
I will have a review of Lesley’s book next week. In the meantime, Lesley gives us some background regarding the main characters, the acts they performed, and the accuracy of her novel.
Very slight spoilers ahead.