Monday, November 18, 2013

The Necessity of Doubt.

     Doubt.  For an author, or any creative person, doubt can be a crippling paralytic.  It can make one second guess, worry to the point of the demise of creativity, eat away at them like worms burrowing through the nebulous part of the brain responsible for inspiration.  Nevertheless, it must exist.
      An absence of doubt simply means you aren’t looking hard enough.  No one has ever sat down and pounded out the perfect novel...okay, you’ve never sat down and pounded out the perfect novel.  Trust me.  Yeah, you.
      Taking the leap into self-publishing was not an easy decision for me, and it has come after reading many works by those who have gone before me.  Some of them have been great, while others should never have been published, at least not in their current states.  Mistakes happen, typos happen even in the most polished big-publisher books, but I’m talking about something deeper.  That thing that makes a reader ask, “Why am I reading this?”
     Far too often, I come across ill-conceived, unimaginative, and downright lazy writing.  Hey, anyone can write a book.  It’s actually not that difficult as long as you have dedication, but remember, just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.
      I had an interesting conversation with a self-published author recently, which made me want to give my thoughts on the subject.  This writer told me how much he loved being able to write and publish his own work because it allowed him not to worry too much over it.  He was of the opinion that having created a social network that assured he would sell a certain number of copies of anything he wrote was all that mattered.  I was astounded by his viewpoint. 
      Selling books is great.  Doing so on your own terms is also great.  But should there not be some love for what you do and respect for the audience reading it?  This, in my mind, comes down to doubt.  He has none, yet needs a good deal of it.
      I like to think of doubt as the metaphorical devil on the shoulder.  It allows a writer to put himself in place of his audience and see what works and what does not.  Sometimes it whispers and sometimes it screams, but it invariably is there to remind you that something could be better.
      After all, we use doubt every day in ways we don’t think about, and it makes life better, so why not writing?  Whether it’s choosing which version of a product to buy or the weighing of another’s reaction to what we say in a conversation, doubt informs our lives.  There is no reason not to have it be a part of the writing process.  An appropriate level of doubt is necessary in order to create the best work one can, and I think the audience is owed it.
    Here’s a suggestion for creating healthy doubt.  When you’ve completed an entire “thought” in your writing, ask yourself these five questions.  You'll find the answers will inform each other.

Why did this happen?
Did it forward the story?
Is it interesting as well as informative?
Does it fit well in the greater narrative?
How can it be better?

     That last one is the key because it can always be better.  That is not to say you will always be able to do it, but asking the question allows for the possibility.  And that is doubt, doubt of whether what you’ve written is good enough.
    What is the correct amount of said doubt?  I don’t know.  Some writers will work best questioning every word they write; some will be most comfortable only worrying about the “grand scheme”.  Like most things in life, people must find what level works for him or her and spurs them to be better, without compromising their ability to create.
     I, for instance, am the worry-over-every-word type, but only after completing the worry-about-almost-nothing phase of writing my first draft.  Getting it all out and then fixing my issues is what I find works best for me; I get bogged down in the minutiae too easily.
    For someone else, they may not be able to place their full concentration and best effort into the continuing work because they can’t move past the issues that exist earlier in the text.  The only absolute I can state is that some level of self-doubt is critical.  If you find yourself too easily pleased by your writing, there are probably many things that are not all that pleasing.
     So, invite doubt in, have a good conversation and enjoy your time with it.  Just remember that it doesn’t live with you and has to leave at the end of the night and you’ll be fine.


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

"The White Door" & "A Festival of Dolls" Now Available as Part of Amazon's MatchBook Service

True to my word, and in conjunction with the thoughts of my previous post about Amazon's MatchBook service, my debut Suspense/Horror novel The White Door, as well as my short A Festival of Dolls, are now available as part of Amazon MatchBook.  When you purchase the print edition of either one, you will receive the Kindle edition free.  Also, anyone having previously ordered a print copy through Amazon will be able to take part in this service.  The Amazon links for the print versions of my books can be found in my eStore, in the sidebar, or by clicking on the book title in this post.  The White Door is currently just $13.22 and A Festival of Dolls is $4.03 at the moment.

I would also like to add a thought to my original words about the MatchBook service in general, or at least its publishing partners.  The publisher's will need to step up to the plate instead of using the service for another way to soak customers of their money.  When I looked through my personal list of MatchBook titles, I noticed that almost 100% of them were being offered at the highest price of $2.99.  This will not cut it.  You should take the time to let these publisher's know that while you appreciate their participation in the program, they must make the service a value to you as a consumer.  Hopefully, these initial offers are simply the publishers' way of "testing the waters" and price adjustments will be forthcoming.  If not, I fear the service will do little to benefit the customer.

Thank you,

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

First Review of "The White Door"

"...his debut horror novel The White Door brings along an original tale built on strong characters, mystery, emotion, and some downright disturbing and frightening moments."

Read the first review of my novel The White Door over at  And if you like what you read, check out my eStore for the ways you can purchase the book.


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The White Door - Kindle Version Now Available

The digital version of my debut novel of suspense and horror The White Door is now available for purchase and download for the Kindle and Kindle eReader apps via for only $2.99

If you prefer, the paperback version is also available from Amazon, or you can visit my eStore.

Thank you,

Saturday, October 12, 2013

"The White Door" Paperback - Now Available to Order

The time has come.  My novel of suspense and horror The White Door is now available to order online.  You can use the links below or visit my eStore.  The Kindle version of the book will be available for purchase and download on Tuesday, October 15th.  Read the entire Prologue to get a taste of what to expect.





Alice Simpson is an eleven-year-old girl much like any other, except for the ever-present specter of her tragic past.  Her single mother works hard to provide for Alice, which means sometimes being home alone.  That is when the nightmares come.

Following just such a night, after a blizzard has left behind feet of snow, the three strangers who passed in and out of Alice's life will be drawn into her nightmare world…and through The White Door.

Harry Breedlove is a cop chasing a murderer seemingly more beast than man.   The clues he finds all appear to lead to nothing.   His frustration, and a desire for answers, will send him through…

Katie is a young woman trapped in a nightmare of her own, that of watching her mother slowly be ravaged by cancer.  Her grief will push her through…

Arthur Dodgson is a man feeling trapped by middle-age circumstances he never dreamed would shape his life.  His desire for escape will entice him through…

They all have their own reasons, their own motivations, to enter…The White Door.  What awaits them there not even little Alice Simpson knows, but together they must find the answers that will lead them through the nightmare world and back to the one they left behind.  Alice is the key, but can they unlock the mysteries in time to escape with their lives?

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Commissioning Cover Art for My Novel "The White Door" - A Progression

Now that you've seen the final cover for my novel The White Door, I thought I'd share the stages that went into creating it...with images.

So, the first step of the process was to come up with an idea for the cover, something I could convey to prospective artists.  As a writer, I use words to depict what I want, while most artists think more visually.  Because of this, I decided to do a quick cover sketch, which ended up scribbled with writing to convey my poorly rendered visuals anyway.  It was then time to find an artist, and I turned to longtime comics artist Tom Derenick (DC Comics' Action Comics, INJUSTICE: GODS AMONG US), who is extremely versatile and always delivers a quality product. 

Here is that first sketch I made for Tom.  Try not to snigger too much...and don't strain too greatly in an attempt to read my atrocious handwriting.

Yes, that image, along with a synopsis of my ideas was what I gave to Tom.  Needless to say, when he delivered the initial thumbnails for the concept sketches, I was happy not to have to refer back to it.  Below are images of the three thumbnail sketches Tom did for me, the first being a direct translation of my idea and the other two his own interpretations.



The only idea I had any issue with was B, and that was for entirely thematic reasons.

A was, of course, the closest to my original idea, so I felt slightly partial to it, despite C being the real attention grabber.

This was one of Tom's original concepts, and the pick of anyone whose opinion I trusted.  The only aspect I didn't like was the extreme angle, thinking it would appear narrow on the front of a book.


With that in mind, and my inability to entirely let go of my original idea, I asked Tom to do two new thumbnails with some small revisions and he obliged. 

Despite a touch of confusion concerning one of my notes about the placement of the arm reaching around the door, when I saw the second revised sketch, I knew it was the winner.  It captured the character's struggle and was the most interesting visually.  I informed Tom of my decision, and he went to work.

Some time later, he delivered the finished pieces to me, one in pen & ink and one fully shaded.


I was thrilled.  The artwork was exquisite and conveyed all I could wish of my book cover.  Tom's work made it so easy to be pleased, but I had work of my own ahead of me if I was going to be able to finish the book cover in such a way as to honor his original art.

I wanted to lessen the shadowing on the girl's face because I thought it made her appear slightly older than the character of Alice.  To this end, I simply overlaid the image from the pen & ink piece with that of the shaded one, letting a smaller amount of the shading show through from beneath.  When that was finished, I set to coloring the image, something I'd never attempted before.  In the end, I wound up with something I was pretty happy with.  In all honesty, Tom's shading work made the coloring process much simpler than it otherwise would have been.  The final task was a simple matter of laying the image into my final cover layout, which had been finished prior to receiving the art.

And because I was feeling playful, I also altered the colors as an experiment.  I made all the color paler with a higher degree of delineation.  The only exception was the nightgown, which I made a darker, striking blue.  I call this my "EC Comics" cover.  I would have also changed the character's skin and hair if I was doing it as more than a lark.

Off to the printers!

That was my journey from original concept to finished artwork for my novel The White Door.  I hope you enjoyed the insight into this process, and remember the release date for the novel is next Tuesday, October 15th.

Thanks for your time,

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The White Door - Available October 15th

The release date for The White Door is set for October 15th.  Here is a good look at the gorgeous cover artwork by DC Comics' artist Tom Derenick.  After you've had a chance to soak in the finished cover, I'll be posting a series of images with notations, detailing the progression of the artwork from my embarrassing initial sketch to what you see here. 


Saturday, September 28, 2013

The White Door Book Trailer

Let me present the book trailer for my novel The White Door.
Watch and learn the release date and get a first look at the cover, illustrated by DC Comics' INJUSTICE: GODS AMONG US artist Tom Derenick.  Then read the preview of the book here.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Kindle MatchBook

     Kindle MatchBook for Kindle Direct Publishing has been announced.  Simply put, this is a service that allows an author or publisher to give a discount on the digital version of a book when the physical copy is purchased.  May I say it is about time.  My friends and I, along with many readers and authors, have been waiting for this day for a long time.
     It seems a simple thing in reality.  The movie industry has been doing this for years upon years.  Even comic book publishers have embraced the concept, albeit with their own somewhat prohibitive pricing model.  It has seemed a very logical thing to do for the book publishing industry, though they have resisted it even as other industries have embraced it and, more importantly, garnered success from it.
     I am a great lover of the printed word, as I'm sure most authors are.  To me there is no greater or more perfect art form than the printed book.  A book has long been a vehicle to connect disparate worlds through the conveyance of great ideas and entertainment.  The rich and the poor, the weak and the strong, the educated and the less so are allowed to congregate and form unions through the simplicity of bound paper.  It is one of our oldest heritages, and we should be loath to so easily let it go.
     Convenience: this is the word of the day and the one that so defines our lives.  It need not be a dirty one, but it also need not be the altar on which we sacrifice something so beautiful as the printed word.  I feel its pull as much as anyone.  I love my eReader.  It is wonderful how it can be taken anywhere, and, strangely, is more acceptable company to some than opening an old-fashioned book, but the two can coexist.  At home, I enjoy looking through my printed books for reference and remembrance, finding what it was I was looking for only after stumbling upon other things I had forgotten or overlooked.  That is something that is being lost: the happy accident.  When information is so easily searchable, we lose the chance of discovering unforeseen things in the search.  That's why print and digital should coincide.  Amazon is making this possible for the Indie writer.
     There is a problem, however.  This is Amazon and only as part of their KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) platform.  There is no sign on the horizon of the larger publishing industry adopting this formula*.  The industry has complained about the loss of profits and the shrinking market for printed books, and this business model would address many of those concerns.  Let the reader have the best of both worlds.  Don't let the deluded notion that giving anything away for free is a loss of profit.  It isn't.  It is a very rare circumstance that a customer is going to buy both print and digital versions, and nothing is lost by giving them the freedom to read and enjoy your product as they wish.
     I may be an unusual example with my library of dusty books, but I am not alone.  Ever since I was a child, reading the Moby Books "Illustrated Classic Edition" of The Call of the Wild or Great Expectations or any number of others, I've had a love for this medium.  It is a love that will continue until the day of my death.  I can only hope it is a love in which those that follow me can also partake.
     I know that for the Indie author this can be a tricky proposition when most of a book's profit is derived from the digital edition, but I urge all who publish with Amazon's KDP service to make use of MatchBook.  I believe it is an important service for author and reader, as well as making plain business sense.  I assure you, all of my work will be a part of this program in the future.
     I'm going to crack open a couple books today in celebration.


*Apparently HarperCollins is the one large publisher on board with the new program.  We will have to see if others join them.

Monday, August 12, 2013

A Festival of Dolls Review

"There are a few shocking moments to be had here too when Jhonen is confronted with some nightmare visions and ideas, and Owens relies on mood and character to convey the horrors rather than splatter or exploitation."

There is a very kind review of my short story A Festival of Dolls over at  Check it out.  And while you're there, give a look at all the other reviews and information the site has to offer.


Monday, July 15, 2013

What is Horror?

Horror is armed conflict, which leaves more dead bodies than resolutions.  It is rape and murder, which happens every night in far too many cities.  Horror is an explosion in a public place, or a mother holding her dead child's body in her arms.  I think we all know what real horror is, even if we have only experienced it vicariously.   So I guess the pertinent question is what is horror fiction.

The dissection of an idea can be treacherous.  A concept could mean something completely different to different people with differing standards.  For instance, right now I think many people would say a television show like The Walking Dead is horror, but I disagree.  I think horror should move us on a deeper level, not just shock us or make us jump in surprise.  There is a place for those things, but it’s not horror.

In just two sentences at the very beginning of his novel Ghost Story, Peter Straub asks us to examine the worst things we have ever done, as well as the worst that have happened to us.  It is an authorial sleight of hand, but that is what has happened without the reader consciously knowing.  The text that makes up the book that follows is thereby informed by our own dark experiences.

Horror done well will make us squirm and feel genuine unease, at the best of times due to its subconscious messages rather than its explicit ones.  If I were to write a book about Achluophobia, or fear of darkness, in which the characters constantly thought about and analyzed their fear, would it be scary?  What if, instead, I constantly put the characters into situations where darkness was an unnamed coconspirator wordlessly oppressing our protagonists, and thus the audience?  Wouldn’t the latter have the greater impact on a reader’s fear of the dark?  The best writers, in any medium, will build an atmosphere of unease, not simply point out things people commonly fear.

When Dan Simmons writes of his “mind vampires” in his novel Carrion Comfort, it is the idea of losing our will that we fear more than any of the overt acts described by the author.  We imagine our loss of mental control, or how each day we are stalked by those in the real world who would manipulate us, or have done in the past.  The audience should be made to imbue the work with their own fears, and they must be allowed to scare themselves, for we know best what scares us.  I think horror is an art.  It is most effective when using the roller-coaster mentality.  People fear the chance of something happening far more than the result.  We have reality for that second kind of horror.

Some would say if you throw enough blood on it, then it becomes horror.  To some, I suppose it does, but I think true horror fiction has a psychology.  In a movie like Alien, the real fear comes from the feeling of claustrophobia, the characters trapped in a small space with no escape.  The Aliens are simply the catalyst for the real fear, the fear of the subconscious.

I feel the best way to gauge horror is by asking people what they fear.  Try it for yourself.  Ask someone what he or she fears most, and then analyze the answer to reveal the real fear hidden beneath their words.  That’s where horror lives.  For example, if someone professes a fear of flying, does that really mean the dread springs from being up in the sky in a giant tube?  Most times, it does not.  The real fear is death and destruction.   As a writer, you must create that airplane in order to plumb the depths of an audience’s unspoken fears.  If someone is not scared of clowns, Stephen King’s It would fall flat without the darker, seedier psychology beneath the surface.

Horror comes wrapped in all manner of packaging, but it is the underlying causes of our fears, and our own personal experiences with them that are of utmost importance.  Whether through allegory or metaphor, horror challenges us to inspect our fears, societal and personal.  It can be release and catharsis, as well as warning.  Horror, at its best, expresses themes and concepts that make us investigate ourselves in ways we commonly do not, sometimes realizing the truly horrific that resides inside each of us.  That is where true horror lies.

What is horror to you?