THE CREATION OF A BOOK COVER

An artist collaboration in any form is not an easy thing to accomplish. Artists have different schedules, different temperaments and, above all, different creative visions. As an independent author, I collaborate with talented cover designer Johnny Breeze on my book covers. Our goal is to get on the same page so that we might get on with the chapters and reach THE END with something eye-catching, outstanding and, since I write mainly in the horror genre, horrifying.

Currently I’m collaborating with Johnny on The Dark Menace, my latest work in progress. Here’s a short synopsis:

Mysterious and terrifying attacks by the Shadow People and the Hat Man lead a nightmare-plagued man to suspect an enigmatic doctor has accidentally opened a portal to hell.

Here’s a long synopsis:

Noah Janzen is plagued by nightmares and numerous sleep disorders; night terrors, sleepwalking, sleep talking, and a terrifying sleep paralysis that often invokes chilling images of the Shadow People and the Hat Man.

Determined not to let his nocturnal demons interfere with his successful career and newly formed relationship with Angela Rosewood, he meets her in a local pub. But when he sees a shadowy figure wearing a fedora and a trench coat eerily watching him through a window, he freaks out and battens down the hatches.

He soon learns that a hat-wearing psycho has viciously attacked Angela, smashing in her door, trashing her apartment, and nearly killing her. Worse still, Angela suspects Noah has morphed into a conduit for evil and starts distancing herself from him. She might even think he is the Hat Man.

Desperate to save his new relationship and find answers, he seeks the aid of physicist and sleep specialist, Doctor Neil Samuelson. While remaining tight-lipped on his experiments involving the Shadow People and the Hat Man, the enigmatic doctor informs Noah that an old woman has been brutally murdered at the hands of The Dark Menace.

As blood-curdling reports of Shadow People and the Hat Man escalate, Noah suspects Neil has accidentally opened up a portal from another dimension, unleashing a torrent of evil shadowy entities, hell-bent on terrorizing and destroying humanity.

He’s thrust into an epic battle to preserve his relationship and sanity and find answers to a strange and mysterious real-life phenomenon that has haunted and terrorized thousands of people around the world for centuries.

I’m fortunate that Johnny and I both possess minds that are visually oriented. We can generally get on the same page quickly. When I write novels, I take some time to visualize the scene in my mind before putting pen to paper. Before I send Johnny my vision for a cover concept, I search out images to reflect my vision and send them to him, along with a short cover vision synopsis. Usually, when I nail the vision, Johnny nails the cover and produces something amazing. But when I miss the vision, Johnny generally misses the cover. Of course, he’s just trying to incorporate my vision and add his creative talent to it, so if I don’t get it right I can hardly blame him.

That’s what happened on the first go-around for The Dark Menace. I only envisioned the Hat Man, also referred to as The Dark Menace, standing idly with a sword in his hands—his red glowing eyes staring at you threateningly. The result was a rather bland image.

I quickly realized this and called Johnny as often a short conversation will create a unity of vision. He offered some suggestions and we came up with a totally new and much better cover concept. I sent him an email to convey the new cover concept and to remind him of what we had discussed. He’s a very busy artist so I wanted him have something to fall back on when he decided to get creative with The Dark Menace.

Below is an excerpt from the email:

Possibly red for the author and book name, which matches the eyes of the Hat Man.

Hat Man upper torso clearly defined; his bottom half black and wispy, apparition-like, as you’ve done a bit in the first cover concept.

Machete or sword not needed.

Eerie graveyard scene with perhaps a few tombstones, skulls and bones. Maybe a red glow surrounding the Hat Man image that makes him stand out.

Clearly defined lines on Hat Man and Hat Man eyes. Gaucho style hat.

Maybe a full moon in the background. Maybe not. I like wild skull-like images.

Maybe the Hat Man has his arms outstretched in sort of an enveloping embrace.

I like your idea about predominant colors being black and blue and maybe gray as opposed to my original fiery background.

The Dark Menace image you see in this blog post represents my first failed vision. Playing around one day, I even doctored it up a bit. But trust me, I was just having fun. I’m not a graphic artist. I don’t mess with Johnny’s creations as far as a hands-on tampering with the image is concerned. I only offer suggestions. He has the creative license. He has the creative genius.

Expect something truly remarkable when the real cover finally emerges. Stay tuned and have an awesome day.

The Witch’s Tombstone Revisited

I hope you’ll be happy to hear I’ve destroyed the writer’s block demon and am moving forward with substantive revision on The Dark Menace and proceeding at a decent clip with The Witch’s Tombstone, my latest work in progress. It didn’t hurt that I took three days off over the weekend and had the opportunity to clear my mind by spending time on my awe-inspiring beachfront property. The beautiful scenery never ceases to invoke a sense of peace and inspiration.

It might have also helped that I had a terrible nightmare the other night in which, armed with a chainsaw, I found myself attacking and indeed slicing and dicing demons with it. It was deeply disturbing but I believe the nightmare acted as a cleansing mechanism of sorts, my mind’s way of taking out the trash.

The Witch’s Tombstone will be a supernatural thriller combining researched elements of the myth of the Prince Edward Island witch Paddy McGuinness, the real life tragedy of Minnie McGee and the legend of the witch of Port LaJoie. It has been reported on social media that Paddy McGuinness supposedly poisoned children in the late 1800s or early 1900s and was publicly hanged for her crimes. I’ve found zero evidence to support these claims, let alone the existence of a female witch called Paddy McGuinness.

The tragedy of Minnie McGee, on the other hand, is a true story of a troubled and abused woman who poisoned many of her children to death in in 1912 by soaking phosphorous matches in tea and giving it to them. She was originally sentenced to hang but the community rallied around her and her sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. There is a lot of evidence to support the story and even a book or two on the subject.

Still in the research stages with respect to the witch of Port LaJoie, I’m hoping to find some dark and mysterious facts to add credibility and menace to The Witch’s Tombstone. When I have a clearer idea of where I’m going with it, I’ll post an update. In the meantime, to whet your appetite, here is the prologue. Enjoy.

 

The Witch’s Tombstone Prologue.

The executioner slipped the rope around her neck and grinned through an improvised black balaclava. “You’re going to burn in hell.” He lifted the potato sack from her head and tightened the rope, just enough to pinch skin.

She felt a stinging rope-burn pain. She winced. Her heart rate accelerated. Beads of sweat sprouted on her forehead in the stifling heat. She blinked several times, adjusting to bright sunshine. One sweat ball dripped into her green eye and she squirmed. But she couldn’t wipe it away. Her hands and feet were tightly bound to the gallows with thick rope. She blinked twice more, trying to clear the salty bead of perspiration away. Slowly her vision cleared.

The hangman stepped back and ceremoniously bowed.

Hundreds of onlookers, gathered to witness the public hanging, erupted in applause and then began chanting, “Burn in hell, witch. Burn in hell.”

Minnie McGuinness surveyed the anxious eyes and smiling faces of men, women and children alike. Her quivering lips tightened. She waited until a hushed silence fell over the crowd before speaking. “I’m innocent. I didn’t kill anybody.”

“Burn in hell, witch. Burn in hell.”

“It’s all a big mistake,” she pleaded. “I wouldn’t kill my own children. I’ve been framed. Please… please. Let me go.”

As the crowd of death-hungry people began to erupt again, the executioner turned to them and raised a darkly cloaked arm. “Silence, please.”

He waited until order and calm was restored before continuing. “You, Minnie McGuinness, have been found guilty of starting a cult of heretics. You have also been found guilty of poisoning your own children and poisoning many children of this community—several of whom are now dead as a result of your efforts…”

A cackling-voiced woman interrupted the executioner. “You killed my little Joshua. For that you’ll die.” She flung an egg into the air. It struck Minnie in the head and shattered. Yellow yolk and clear egg-white began oozing down her long black and gray streaked hair and onto her forehead.

“Enough,” the executioner demanded. The cat calls were reduced to a hushed murmur before silence prevailed.

He continued. “As well as heresy and murder, you have also been found guilty of witchcraft. For all of these crimes you have shown no remorse. For all of these crimes you will be publicly executed at the gallows. Death by hanging, after which your evil corpse will be burned at a stake so we might rid the world forever of the evil which you possess. Now is your chance, Minnie, to show remorse and make your peace with God. Do you have any last words?”

She felt egg yolk snake down her forehead, onto her nose and into her left eye. She blinked several times but her left eye vision grew cloudy, elongating the audience into a garish band of circus side show freaks.

She cleared her throat. Might just as well give them a piece of my mind. There’s no hope now. They’ll never believe me. “First of all, I didn’t kill anybody, least of all my own children. My herbal remedies cure the sick. They perform miracles but have nothing to do with witchcraft. For all of my accusers and all the people who framed me, may you all burn in hell. Bunch of religious hypocrite liars. Burn in hell… all of you!”

More jeers, shouts and screams. More flying eggs. More flying rocks. All of them missed the intended mark. Then a hushed silence fell over the crowd as the executioner waved the hand of death.

Minnie heard a sharp metallic clunk, felt the trap door beneath her swing open, and instantly the noose tightened powerfully around her throat. She heard a bone-rattling snapping sound and felt excruciating pain as her last breaths were slowly suffocated out of her.

As her life ebbed away, she watched the crowd, who were now jeering, chanting and clapping. Several eggs and a half a dozen rocks were again flung at her. As if by divine intervention, all of them missed her. However, one egg did splatter the darkly masked face of the executioner, sending him leaping around the gallows and waving his arms in a fit of rage.

As the black curtain of death closed in around Minnie, she imagined herself in a much younger body, in a much better time, living a much better life.

Then she smiled and died.

Thanks for stopping by and feel free to leave comments below. Have a terrific day.

What do you do when the well runs dry?

They say it happens to every writer at some point. The creative well runs dry. The last time I suffered from writer’s block was a long time ago indeed. I was working on a sci-fi novel called Orgon Conclusion, got stuck a third of the way through, and put it on the back-burner. Twenty years later, I overcame my demons, finished and published it.

And for the last six and a half years I’ve always been able to write myself out of writer’s block. Knowing the words weren’t the best, I would pound them out furiously with the knowledge that eventually the muse would visit and bless my prose with a smoothness, clarity and conciseness that some say are the trademarks of my writing style. It would be music to my ears, magic to my eyes. It would fill me with wonder and awe at the poetry and power of prose.

But not today.

I have two writing projects on the go and I can’t seem to get into either one of them. The Dark Menace, a work in progress, sits on my desk collecting dust. I haven’t touched it in almost a week. I recently wrote the first draft and did three editing passes. Apparently it still needs considerable revision, but I just can’t seem to find the passion, enthusiasm, or inspiration to begin the process.

Then there’s The Witch’s Tombstone, a novel I started researching and writing about three weeks ago. I’m about 600 words into it and haven’t added a single word in over a week.

Probably worse than writer’s block, some writers suffer from a debilitating writer’s anxiety that creates fear in their minds. Every time they put pen to paper, a debilitating fear prevents them from being successful. Fortunately, I’ve never had that problem. When I do write, I write fearlessly, and generally with passion and conviction.

But how do you cure writer’s block?

Well, according to the so-called experts, here are some things you shouldn’t do:

Watch TV.

Wallow in self-pity.

Wait until you feel inspired.

Procrastinate or make excuses.

Read articles on how to vanquish writer’s block. Guess I cut off my nose to spite my face on that one, huh?

Here are some things people recommend to overcome writer’s block:

Go for a walk.

Get rid of distractions.

Exercise.

Play.

Read a book.

Listen to music.

Call a friend.

Spend time with a friend.

Change your environment.

Brew some coffee.

Read some inspiring quotes or even inspiring book reviews if you have a backlist of well-reviewed novels.

The list goes on and on. I had some ideas of my own to deal with writer’s block but unfortunately the experts don’t agree with my remedies. I considered drinking wine. Thought of drinking rum. It also occurred to me to drink beer. Then I thought, hell, why not combine all three and just drown my sorrows in a dark abyss of alcohol abuse and wallow in self-pity. That might even lead to some inspired drunk-dialing.

But then the voice of reason spoke to me and I did two things. I brewed a fresh pot of coffee, which I’m currently enjoying. And the next thing I did—which conventional wisdom says is the most important thing you can do to overcome writer’s block—is to write.

It might not be much, but it’s a start. And the best start toward finding a solution to the problem. I wrote this blog post. Maybe now I’ll go read a book. Maybe I’ll go play. Maybe I’ll call a friend.

Tomorrow is another day. Here’s hoping it brings more passion and inspiration.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by. I’d love to hear all about your writer’s block remedies. Please post your comments below.

When the truth leads you astray

I’ve heard it said that, “You are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own set of facts.” I fall back on the saying occasionally when engaged in a debate where the facts will only show one answer. No gray area. Just black or white, right or wrong.

One such story is the tale of Paddy McGuinness, the so-called female witch. As the rumor goes, she poisoned children in the early 1900s and a successful witch hunt led her to the gallows where she was publicly hanged for her crimes. People say her tombstone is in The Roman Catholic People’s Cemetery in Charlottetown. The weathered statue depicts a grief-stricken woman holding a hand to her face. An old cross leans up against her, tilted at an odd angle, probably the result of Mother Nature’s powerful forces. My research shows that she isn’t buried below the witch’s tombstone in Charlottetown at all. In fact it’s a man by the name of Patrick Paul McGuinness. Paddy is a common nickname for Patrick.

As well, sources say that that area of the cemetery is no older than 1960, so the Paddy McGuinness timeline doesn’t square with the facts. In efforts to further debunk the myth, I reached out to PEI history guru Ed MacDonald.

He writes: “Jim Hornby published a history of capital punishment on PEI through Island Studies Press about 20 years ago now. No mention of a Paddy McGuinness there. I suspect the story is a complete fabrication possibly concocted by combining two incidents: one old legend about The Witch of Port Lajoie, which was made into a novel by Joyce Barkhouse and concerns a supposed witch from the French Regime on PEI in the 18th century; and the well-known case of Minnie McGee of St. Mary’s Road, who poisoned five of her children in 1912 but was not hanged. She spent the remainder of her life either in prison or a mental hospital… Minnie was no witch, just a tragically troubled mother.”

According to a news story in The Graphic, in “April 1912, Minnie McGee poisoned her six kids by soaking phosphorus matches in weak tea, and giving it to them to drink. They became deathly ill within days: they vomited, their pulses weakened, their hearts failed. The first five children died on the same day: Louis (age 13), Penzie (age 12), Georgie (age 8), Bridget (age 6) and Thomas (age 5). Johnnie (age 10) died two days later.”

In her confession, Minnie, whose real name was Mary Cassidy-McGee, reportedly said, “They will be better off. They will be in heaven.”

The Minnie McGee story is a tragic account of a woman who endured much hardship and suffering and found herself in a position of utter despair and hopelessness. Prior the poisoning, two of her children had died from pneumonia. Evidently her husband Patrick was frequently away from home seeking work and often beat her. “Pat, my husband, used to beat me quite often. He would beat me when I was sick in bed.”

Some may find it hard to have sympathy for a woman who poisons her children. But when you consider her situation—a poor, abused, troubled woman raising six children by herself in the winter of 1912, it is hard not to feel a pang of sadness for her plight. After all, she lived during a time when spousal abuse was hardly frowned on; there were few counselors, no shelters, no government hand-outs or food banks. With no one to turn to for help, the weight of her burden became too much.

Although Minnie was originally sentenced to hang, the community rallied around her and in the end her sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. She spent part of her days in jail and part of her days in an insane asylum, before passing away in 1953.

So, where am I going with all this? Well, what started out as a story of the so-called witch called Paddy McGuinness has morphed into a tale that will combine the tragedy of Minnie McGee with The Witch of Port Lajoie. A cursory search of major book retailers showed no such book currently available for purchase. I guess I’ve come full circle. I find myself once again searching for an elusive witch. Research takes you down strange and unexpected paths.

Tune in next week for a follow-up.

Thanks for stopping by, please leave comments below, and have an awesome day.

Where the hell is the witch’s tombstone?

Where the hell is the witch’s tombstone? I’ve started doing some preliminary research on a story idea that’s gelling in my head and I’m trying to locate the whereabouts of the witch’s tombstone on Prince Edward Island. PEI is rich in ghost folklore and haunted stories so maybe there is more than one.

Searching Facebook groups dedicated to the paranormal, I’ve unearthed a number of possibilities.

Location One. The witch’s tombstone is said to be in Charlottetown in The People’s Roman Catholic Cemetery, 110 Kensington Road, behind the Saint Pius Catholic Church. The tombstone, made from concrete and wire mesh, depicts a cloaked, grief-stricken young woman, with a weather-beaten cross leaning against her. Her left arm has been amputated, probably the result of Mother Nature’s wrath.

Location Two. In PEI’s Pioneer Cemetery Road and rumored to be the grave of a pioneer involved in a shipwreck. The ground is said to be mysteriously raised in a circle around a number of graves. Problem is, a Google search produced at least four Pioneer Cemetery Roads in PEI.

Location Three. On or near Cemetery Road in Borden in Seven Mile Bay area, beside or behind Saint Peter’s Catholic Church. Apparently that tomb stands alone, in the middle of nowhere. On a night near Halloween, a group of supernatural enthusiasts reportedly decided to visit the tomb. It was a dark and eerie night and none of them were brave enough to get real close to it. Eventually they decided to return to their vehicles and inexplicably they saw a downed tree on the road blocking their paths. It was a windless and calm night and they hadn’t even heard the tree fall. They cleared the downed tree away from the road, rushed to their vehicles and beat a hasty and fear-filled retreat.

The tombstone in Charlottetown is the one that intrigues me the most, primarily because I visited the cemetery a few days ago, located and photographed it. The image of Paddy McGuinness, rumored to be a witch, is both scary and sad. Scary, because she is rumored to have started a cult that poisoned and killed children before a successful witch hunt led her to the gallows where she was publicly hanged around the early 1900s. Sad, because the portrait of grief the tombstone depicts is deeply moving.

CBC News published a story August 11th, 2011, about a mother-daughter team who formed the Island Paranormal Research Group (IPRG) and visited the witch’s tombstone in Charlottetown. A picture shows them at the witch’s tombstone taking readings with various electronic ghost hunting equipment. Many Google searches produced no evidence that IPRG still exists.

Multiple searches of previously active PEI paranormal groups suggests all of them are now defunct.

Trying to disentomb clues, I’ve smashed head-first into a weathered and mysterious concrete tombstone. None of the Facebook group members responded to my queries. Maybe there are several witch’s tombs on PEI, but for now I’m concentrating on the one in Charlottetown. I’ve heard some students at the University of Prince Edward Island did some research on the topic but so far my efforts in that department have led to a dead end. I do have a few feelers out however, and I might hear something yet.

During my recent visit to the witch’s tombstone in Charlottetown, I noticed a phone number for the cemetery. I called the number and that led to three conversations—two with helpful cemetery officials and one with a helpful cemetery caretaker.  Here’s what I learned. That part of the cemetery where the witch’s tombstone is located is no older than the 1960s or 1970s. The tombstone or monument depicting a woman painfully carrying her life burdens is probably no older than 1960. There is no record of a female called Paddy McGuinness buried in that plot number where the tombstone is. There is, however, a male buried in that plot number by the name of Patrick Paul McGuinness. I am still investigating the date and details surrounding his death, but my information suggests it certainly would not have been in the early 1900s, since that part of the cemetery is much newer than that.

As well, Paddy (with that spelling) is a common nickname for a male named Patrick.

Throughout history, hundreds of people have been falsely accused and convicted of witchcraft, many tortured, publicly hanged or burned at the stake. Misinformed people believed they’d made a pact with the devil—consummated by sex—that gave them supernatural powers potent enough to wreak chaos, harm and death. They were considered heretics who had sold their souls to the devil and had become the devil’s hand maidens—implements of Satan’s evil agenda.

The term witch hunt has come to define a reckless crusade or investigation untethered to the truth.

So, was Paddy McGuinness a witch? Was she much maligned?

Did she even exist? Is she merely imaginative fiction unrooted in fact?

Or was she actually Patrick Paul McGuinness?

Either way, I plan on resurrecting the Paddy McGuinness story or another similar tale from the grave to haunt, educate, and entertain readers. I was hoping to write a fact-based narrative but so far I have no facts to support what my online paranormal research has said about the witch, Paddy McGuinness.

Does anyone know anything about the so-called witch called Paddy McGuinness? Does anyone know the story behind the witch’s tombstone at The Roman Catholic People’s Cemetery in Charlottetown? Does anyone know of any other witch’s tombstones on PEI (exact locations would be nice) and the stories behind them? Are there any active paranormal groups on PEI that wouldn’t mind an intrepid author joining them on some paranormal investigations?

Any light you could shed on this dark subject would be greatly appreciated.

The Paddy McGuinness mystery continues.

Please post your comments below and have an awesome day.

I just got divorced

I’m a little sad today. I just got divorced.

But, fortunately, not in the way you might think. A few days ago, I finished three editing passes of my latest novel, The Dark Menace, and my beta reader returned it with glowing praise. Just prior to doing some last-minute polishing of the book description, I emailed my talented editor Winslow Eliot, telling her to expect the manuscript soon. To my shock and despair, I received an email a short time later explaining that unfortunately she could not edit the manuscript as she had moved on to perhaps a higher calling—namely writer mentoring and spiritual counseling.

Saddened, I started reflecting on how much Winslow has done for me over the years. A good writer-editor relationship is a marriage of sorts. When you find a good fit it’s worth nurturing and preserving. There’s a fine line between interfering and even undermining an author’s voice, style and tone and actually helping them become a better storyteller. Say the wrong things and you can shatter a fragile writer ego forever. Say the right things and they could become the next New York Times bestselling author. Make no mistake about it, editing is an art and special skill and talent is necessary to be able to elevate a writer’s prose from good to great.

I can’t begin to explain the ways in which Winslow helped me polish my storytelling abilities. But I’ll try. Strong characterization. Repairing plot holes. Better use of description. When point of view becomes confusing. Story arc. Grammar and punctuation rules. Tone. Cadence and rhythm. Pace. There is so much more. Winslow provided me with a mountain of information on how to construct a good story. Much more than any university course could have taught me, much more than mere words can describe.

But there was something more to our relationship than mere writer-editor. Winslow believed in me. She picked me up when I was feeling down. She encouraged me when I lost hope. Sure, she constructively criticized me when I screwed up, but I wouldn’t expect anything less than the truth from a great editor.

She was just a ray of sunshine in my life.

But, while wallowing in my pit of despair at this divorce of sorts, I started to realize something. Winslow didn’t go anywhere. Why am I speaking in the past tense? She is a ray of sunshine in my life. She’s still a great friend and always will be. She’s still an amazing person and always will be. Presumably she just decided to follow her passion and do what she does best—help other people realize their potential in life. So I swallowed the lump of sorrow and sadness welling up in my throat, dried my watery eyes, and went to work finding another editor.

I thoroughly researched three possibilities and sent out some preliminary feelers, anxiously checking my inbox every half hour for replies. What I did find was a reply from Winslow, doing what she does best—pick you up when you’re feeling down.

Here it is: “I feel you have come such a long way from your first book—how many years ago was it!? And what a wild, exciting ride it has been for you! You’ve moved, traveled, and published, published, published (and written too!!). Yours really is an extraordinary journey, and the more books you write the more fans and readers you’ll get—it will continue to get better for you. You have such persistence, determination, amazing talent, and enthusiasm. I send you love and light, dear William, and many blessings on all your future endeavors.”

I didn’t realize I would be that emotional about the writer-editor part of our relationship, but I couldn’t help my eyes from watering. Of course, I responded:

“I can’t begin to tell you how much you’ve helped me, Winslow. It is with a great sense of sadness that I write these words. As you know, a good writer-editor relationship is a marriage of sorts and when you find a good fit, it’s best to preserve and nurture the relationship. There is a fine line between interrupting an author’s voice and enhancing and developing it. You’ve masterfully developed my storytelling ability in ways that mere words simply cannot describe. I know so much more about the craft than when I started and you’ve given me a much better education than any university course ever could. Thank you so much for the high praise and the words of encouragement. You are truly an amazing person and you mean so much to me. When I look back at the first novel and I see what I’m writing now, it really is a night and day difference. You’re right. We’ve come a long way together. I know I couldn’t have done it without you. Thanks for believing in me. Best of luck with your spiritual enlightenment counseling. I always knew you were a deeply spiritual person. I send much love.”

After that reply, we went back and forth a few times, promising to stay in touch, to be there for one another, and remain great friends. It wasn’t long before the black cloud hovering above me began to drift away. I began to realize that (to use an overused cliché) people come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.

I’m sure Winslow came into my life six and a half years ago for a reason—to make me a better writer and a better person.

I’m also sure she also came into my life as a great friend—for a lifetime.

It made me reflect on why it’s so important to find a good editor. Writing is a deeply personal craft. It teaches you who you are, teaches you how you think—touches your heart in so many poignant, wild and wonderful ways. Novels take hard work to produce—often blood, sweat and tears. It takes courage and thick skin to write and publish a book. You spill open your heart to the world and—as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow—some will stomp all over it.

But when the validation comes—in the form of a rave review from my editor or a rave review from a reader—it makes the whole journey deeply rewarding and satisfying.

More than the money, it’s just the recognition that, as Stephen King once said, “I’ve got game.”

Thank you, Winslow, for helping me find my game.

Thank you, dear readers, for your loyalty and support. If you’re a writer in need of mentoring, or searching for spiritual enlightenment, Winslow Eliot comes highly recommended.

Find Winslow here: http://winsloweliot.com/

Feel free to leave comments below. Have an awesome day and, as always, thanks for stopping by.

Do you believe in ghosts?

Ghost stories come in all shapes and sizes. Terrifying, funny, morally upright, morally bankrupt and some just downright unbelievable. As a young boy, I used to be a skeptic and would openly mock the veracity of ghost tales. As a sort of rebellion, I would endeavor to select the scariest Halloween costumes, would relish in scaring the crap out of my siblings and would even construct elaborate haunted tours, both outside and even in various upper bedrooms of the two-story home I grew up in. Often, I would charge admission for these haunted tours.

One night I invited a bunch of neighbor kids over for a tour of a haunted house I’d constructed in three upper bedrooms of the house. It was sufficiently ghastly, containing skeletons, candles, blood-dripping corpses and scary noises. I even hired friends to dress up ghoulishly, approach participants by surprise, and scare the hell out of them. We terrified one boy so badly he fled the house screaming in terror, only for his angry and distraught mother to return fifteen minutes later and admonish my mother for psychologically damaging and traumatizing her young and impressionable son. Needless to say, that spelled the end of my lucrative haunted tours empire.

I relished scaring others because I didn’t believe in ghosts. It was my way of poking fun at the supernatural and spectral entities. Even when I began writing novels, I remained somewhat of a skeptic, enjoying scaring readers who loved to be scared. They say karma is a bitch, especially when it rears its monstrous fangs and tears a chunk out of your ass. But it wasn’t until well in my adult years that I had to get fitted for a new derriere.

As part of my research on paranormal novel Phantom Rage, I joined a team of paranormal investigators on some investigations. On one such investigation, we got set up in an old house in Strathmore, Alberta, where a frightened woman had told us a story of seeing an apparition of a sad little girl playing a violin in one of the basement bedrooms. She said she’d also heard strange noises in the house and even relayed a story of an apparition attacking her in her sleep. She was convinced the only thing that had saved her was the guardian ghost of her recently deceased and beloved husband.

As we began to set up our equipment, we noticed that two of the bedroom doors had locks on the outside, suggesting someone had been locked inside against their will. I wondered if perhaps it had been the little girl. Although we did experience highly suggestive levels of electro-magnetic activity in those bedrooms, we never saw the little girl apparition. However, late that night, as we sat huddled around a coffee table in the dimly lit basement, we heard and recorded barely audible strange voices coming from the basement laundry room. We couldn’t decipher exactly what they said but one thing was clear. We weren’t welcome.

A short time later, from the laundry room, we heard a loud crash. I jumped so fast my heart just about sprang from my chest. Flashlights leading the charge, the lead paranormal investigator and I rushed into the laundry room. We couldn’t find anything amiss that might explain the crash and a few seconds later both of our flashlights died. Not five seconds later the batteries in the video recorder went dead, even though they were freshly charged prior to the investigation. Although I didn’t flee from the house screaming bloody murder, it was a wake-up call of sorts. Don’t play games with the supernatural. Don’t mock the paranormal. Don’t parody something you don’t understand.

From that moment on I became a believer. And I began writing about the supernatural with more passion, respect and conviction, borne of personal experience. I also became fascinated with information on the subject and I gobbled up everything I could read and everything I could watch. Some of the documentaries cast much light on the subject, while others infused me with a darkness that left me afraid to go to bed at night.

The single most compelling and terrifying documentary on the existence of the paranormal that I’ve ever watched is Demon House, directed by and starring Zak Bagans. In this recently released documentary, Bagans, a leading researcher on ghosts and demonology, purchases a house in Gary, Indiana, widely reported in the media as “the house of 200 demons,” and a source of demon possession.

In December, 2014, Latoya Ammons claimed that she and her three children were possessed by demons in the home. These are credible people who reported strange growling, barking, odd footprints, demonic chanting by children, even stories of levitation in which children were being hurled into walls by supernatural evil forces. Child Services, medical officials, even police verified many of the details. Staff at an Indiana hospital said one of Ammons’ sons “walked up the wall backwards… flipped over and landed on his feet.”

What Bagans doesn’t realize when he brings his film crew to his recently purchased home to conduct a series of paranormal experiments, is it might be the worst decision of his life. Strange things start happening the moment they arrive. Bagans inexplicably becomes violent and angry, pinning one of his crew against a wall and ordering him out. A camera man flips out and begins behaving erratically, believing he is possessed by a demon. A medium (and a good friend to Bagan) who claims to have contacted one on the demons winds up being murdered in a double murder-suicide. A home inspector develops cancer shortly after inspecting the property. A cop suffers a violent gash to his head after inexplicably falling. After visiting the house, a former resident, believing she is demon-possessed, must undergo an exorcism. One paranormal expert who conducts experiments winds up in the hospital with multiple organ failure. Even Bagan, after spending a night in the house, develops a strange, debilitating and potentially inoperable eye disorder that may haunt him for the rest of his life.

Dread Central reviewer Steve Barton says, “Demon House will leave you with a lot of questions about the existence of both the normal and the paranormal. It’s a masterfully created and seriously frightening account of what can happen when things just end up getting far out of control… when events occur that supersede rational human comprehension and reason. It’s one of the single most compelling documentaries on the existence of the supernatural that I’ve ever witnessed. Whether or not The Ammons House was haunted or is the portal to hell is still very much debatable. As always, there will be people who believe and those who do not. However, the effect that it has had on everyone who has ever walked through its doors is undeniable.”

Of Demon House, Bagans says, “This film is cursed.”

If you’re on the fence about your belief in the paranormal, or are looking for more evidence to back up your already strong convictions, Demon House comes highly recommended. Warning. Not for the faint of heart.

Good or bad, I would love to hear about your paranormal experiences. Please leave comments below. Thanks for stopping by.

Critically Acclaimed Assaulted Souls FREE

Good day dear readers. As a token of my appreciation for your loyalty and support, I’m giving you a gift. From today until April 30, you can download post-apocalyptic thriller Assaulted Souls FREE.

Here’s a short synopsis:

Nathan King wakes up one day freezing cold and starving with hunger on a tattered mattress in a dark cave, and has no idea where or who he is. He meets Edward Sole, apparently his protector for the last few months, who tells him a nuclear bomb has been dropped and most, if not all of the world, has been destroyed. Slowly the realization sinks in that in this horrific post-apocalyptic landscape, there are no rules, no laws. Cannibalism is rampant, mutant animals and humans are on the attack.

With all communication cut off, and meager supplies, every day becomes a fight for survival and sanity.
To make matters worse, a band of savages called The Neanderthals have emerged who rape, pillage and murder for more than just survival. They enjoy it.

Fighting for their survival and hoping to find a more hospitable island off the coast of Prince Edward Island, Ed and Nathan team up with Cadence Whitaker, Nathan’s girlfriend whom he has no recollection of, and fierce warrior Velvet Jones to try and hatch a plan to escape the island before they’re all killed.

In the meantime, Ed has begun a slow descent into madness, leaving the group wondering who the enemy really is. A lightning-paced, action-packed exploration of a terrifying existence in a wasteland produced by humankind’s stupidity.

My publisher says Assaulted Souls, with its raw and gritty depiction of post-apocalyptic survival, is one of his favorite novels. Ninety-nine per cent of Amazon reviewers have rated it five stars.

Eight Amazon review snippets:

The writing style evokes a lot of tension as Nathan slowly realizes he is living a post-apocalyptic nightmare and every day becomes not only a struggle to remember, but a violent and death-filled struggle for survival. He teams up with his girlfriend and along with tough no-nonsense chick Velvet and Ed, they try to hatch a plan to escape the island and the marauding Neanderthal gang who are out to get kill them.
A well-written story with a powerful shock ending. Really makes you think about the stupidity mankind is capable of. This story does not amble. The action is full throttle from beginning to end. A gifted writer.

The plot is fast paced and there are many points where a struggle or conflict is described in such detail that I can imagine it perfectly without having to fill in any blanks with my own imagination. A very interesting and impressive read. I would recommend this book to people who like fast paced thrillers and enjoy reading of a world with society ripped out from underneath us.

I thought the book also had a surprise ending while teaching a lesson. Enjoy!

Author William Blackwell weaves a Post-Apocalyptic thriller with intriguing twists and turns that will easily captivate the reader’s attention from the beginning. The author paints a raw and graphic dystopian tale in a very vivid and convincing way. In addition, the characters are drawn with great credibility and integrity. If you’re looking for an action-packed fantasy adventure that’s packed to the rafters with blood, guts and gore, this book has it all…and more.

I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for something different in this dystopian genre.

I have read several of this author’s works and find his writing consistently fast-paced with a variety of plots and sub-plots and fascinating character development. This particular novel contains a fair bit of violence as one would anticipate in this genre. These scenes are vividly described creating a lot of tension and causing the reader to fear for the survival of its main characters… or mankind, in fact. I like the clarity of the writing style and the authenticity of the dialogue. The reader is drawn in from page one and can easily read this book in one sitting. I certainly found it impossible to put down!

I would also call this novel a page-turner. Written with very intense scenes that will slowly but surely wrap you in a spider web of fear and horror. The author has done a brilliant writing job!

I was particularly impressed with Blackwell’s depiction of the action in the novel; the story flowed well, and I found it easy to follow the often vivid and stark scenes of battle. Assaulted Souls does not amble; it is well-defined and moves along. The book offers the reader exactly what the subtitle says, and it does it masterfully. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys post-apocalyptic tales, science fiction, or action-adventure. I look forward to reading more of Blackwell’s works.

There you have it, folks. If you don’t believe me, believe the honest and unbiased reviews. In return for this freebie, I would ask one small favor. If you enjoy Assaulted Souls, please post a review on your favorite Amazon site. I don’t solicit reviews that often, but novel writing is my livelihood and positive reviews drive sales and help me pay my bills. They also help me do what I love to do—entertain you, the reader. I’m not the best self-promoter and I often find soliciting reviews like pulling teeth. Although many people enjoy my novels, most readers don’t bother posting reviews.

I’m not a celebrity author like Stephen King, whose publishing companies spend millions of dollars on book promotion. If I don’t endeavor to put eyes on my novels, with my limited promotional budget, I don’t have a lot of other options. If you’ve already read and posted a review of Assaulted Souls, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your positive comments add fuel to my creative fire.

If raw and graphic post-apocalyptic tales aren’t your thing, I get it. So here’s an idea. Why don’t you forward this email or blog post link to a friend who does enjoy such tales and kindly ask them to post an honest review on Amazon?

Six years ago when I began writing novels full-time, I didn’t have any unrealistic expectations. My publisher, Telemachus Press, said, “You have to remember, this is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.”

I understand that.

All I’m asking is for you to please give me a little push toward the finish line.

Thanks, dear readers, for your loyalty and support. Have an awesome day. Please click the link below to instantly download your FREE copy of Assaulted Souls.

https://dl.bookfunnel.com/7b7hocxqji

The Dark Menace is born

After forty-five days of writing, The Dark Menace is born. I’ve completed the first draft of the supernatural thriller that also involved two months of research on the Shadow People and the Hat Man phenomenon. Now the editing stage begins. After one editing pass, primarily concentrating on obvious inconsistencies, plot holes, grammar, spelling and punctuation, the manuscript will go to a beta reader to try and get a general sense if it’s even a good story.

On the second and third editing passes, I will incorporate suggestions as well as examining plot, character development, motivational inconsistencies, cadence, conciseness, story arc, overuse of certain words, pace, point of view, believability, dialogue, etc.

After a month of rewrites and revision, The Dark Menace meets my editor. The talented Winslow Eliot, who represents New York Times bestselling authors, will apply another layer of polish and return it. After two more thorough coats of wax, The Dark Menace enters the publishing pipeline for yet one more proofread before it will be formatted for ebook and paperback distribution to major book retailers.

Wow. That’s a lot of editing and rewrites. Six editing passes in total before it’s finally released.

After an uninterrupted 7,000 word, seven-hour stretch of writing last Thursday, I reached THE END of the first draft. On one hand, I was exhilarated; on the other, exhausted. I mean I was so physically and mentally drained I was having a difficult time performing the day-to-day tasks necessary for survival. I forgot to eat, forgot to shower. Good thing I forgot to invite friends over on that day.

After taking a full three days to recover, I started editing yesterday. And that’s what I spent the first four hours on this morning. Edits. I’m moving along at a decent clip, although I still feel a little drained. I’m still waiting for that burst of creative juice that often infuses my edits. Maybe it will visit me tomorrow. Maybe the next day. Maybe I just need to take a week or so away from the manuscript as I sometimes do and revisit it with fresh eyes. I honestly don’t know write now (that’s a deliberate pun).

I like to say I write with this tunnel-vision focus and commitment to please myself. And that’s true to some extent. But I also do it to please my readers; to educate them and plant a small seed of positivity, so that in some small way I might make their lives just a little bit better. That’s why, in The Dark Menace, I examine both the good and bad aspects of the Hat Man. Many people, both in their sleeping and waking worlds, have been tormented and haunted by the Hat Man. Many others have felt spiritually uplifted or in some inexplicable way protected by his presence.

It begs the question, is he a benevolent or a malevolent force? I’m not going to offer any spoilers obviously, but let’s just say in The Dark Menace, I give equal weight to each argument. And, since the Hat Man is ultimately not scientifically verifiable, I’ll leave it up to you, dear reader, to view the Hat Man through a negative or positive lens.

Here’s a teaser summary: Mysterious and terrifying attacks by the Shadow People and the Hat Man lead a nightmare-plagued man to suspect an enigmatic doctor has accidentally opened a portal to hell.

And, for your reading pleasure, here’s the raw, uncut, unhinged, unleashed, first chapter of The Dark Menace.

Thanks for your time and have an awesome day. I hope you enjoy it.

The Dark Menace Chapter One

A kaleidoscope of brilliant colors flashed before his eyes. Deep greens, dark purples, vibrant pinks, reds and blues. Inside the colors, images appeared—faceless apparitions with indistinct and undulating shapes. Some of the ghost-like images were black, some white. They twirled in the rainbow of colors, shrinking and growing, shrinking and growing. Then the black images began attacking the white images, slicing them with machetes, stabbing them with knives, biting into their heads and bodies with menacing fangs. Blood-curdling screams punctuated the eerie silence and Noah, eyes opening in shock and horror, bolted upright.

Where am I? He looked around at the darkness and saw large trees looming in the distance, illuminated faintly by the white glow of a full moon. The ghostly combatants had disappeared. A forest. But where? Brushing off dirt and leaves from clothes, he stood up, trying to make sense of his surroundings. But try as he might, he couldn’t figure out how he got here. Worse, he couldn’t remember events of the last week. He tried to take a step, but felt a numbness and an electric tingling sensation in his body that strained his efforts. He managed one step and stopped, frozen to the spot. A terrible feeling of cold dread surged through his veins. He felt his heart begin to pound in his chest furiously; struggling to escape its rib cage prison cell and leave him to fend for himself. He took a few deep breaths, trying to restrain his cardiovascular prisoner. It took a few long and slow deep breaths.

“What’s going on?” Noah asked. “Where am I?”

In Noah’s panic-tinged tone, the forest echoed back a response: “What’s going on? Where am I?”

Fighting paralyzing protestations, he brought the other foot forward and crunched it into the forest carpet. It brought him renewed confidence, helping to diminish the fear demons. That’s it. You can do it. Do what? Go where? Noah had no idea, but knew he wanted to leave the forest, find some city lights, find his apartment in downtown Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, find his bedroom, resume his sleep and wipe this nightmare of the map; if indeed that’s what it was.

Finding a path in the forest, he crunched his way along, rubbing his shoulders and arms in an effort to eliminate the tingling numbness and the bone-chilling cold that was slowly enveloping him. He was still looking down at the path when he felt its evil presence. He snapped his head up instantly, knowing but not wanting to know what he was about to see. But it was different this time. He was different.

Noah stopped dead in his tracks.

Illuminated by the ominously glowing moon, the old man grinned. He produced a machete and held it high in the air, adjusting his tattered straw hat and scratching his stubble with his free hand.

“You’ve finally come to meet your maker,” he said. Then he cackled in an incongruously high-pitched voice.

The cold chill coursing through Noah’s veins turned to ice. Oh my God, no. He had seen the man in many forms in his childhood years and didn’t waste any time on small talk. He turned around and ran, taking some measure of satisfaction in the realization that the ice miraculously thawed and his legs willingly complied.

He turned a corner in the path, allowing himself a quick glance behind. The man was coming for him, and if he caught him there would be no mercy. Sliced and diced to smithereens.

You’re dreaming, you’re dreaming, you’re dreaming, Noah thought as he ran. Hide.

As if the man was reading his thoughts, he heard his throaty voice. “You can run, but you can’t hide.”

Panting and puffing, Noah rounded another bend and came into a clearing in the forest. In a corner, just inside the tree-line, was a large hollowed-out log. Quickly he bent down and crawled inside, curling up in a fetal position as soon as he was out of sight, hoping against all hope that the menacing man was wrong. He could hide. He would hide. He would wake up and return to the comfort of his bed.

He struggled to control his breathing as the twig-snapping footfalls grew nearer. Then it became quiet. Eerily quiet. But out of the quiet, Noah heard the sound of breathing, not his own, a raspy, nasally inhaling and exhaling that grew louder. In a terrified instant, he knew it was too late. He was caught. Time to die.

“I got you now,” the man said, the sound of his approaching footfalls nearing. “You can run but you can’t hide.”

Before he could move, Noah heard a splitting sound and he knew right away what it was. Metal on wood. The man was chopping at the rotten tree trunk with his machete. Chopping through to him. But a split-second later, instead of the sharp metal of the blade, Noah felt the stomping of a boot heel on the small of his back and a bolt of red hot pain shot up his spine.

He tried to scream. Nothing. He tried to move. Nothing. Frozen once again.

The man cackled. “I bet that hurts. What I’m gonna do next will really mess you up.”

Noah tried to crawl out of the log but he was still frozen. He pressed his eyes shut tightly, gritted his teeth and tried with all his strength to break free from the paralysis. When he opened his eyes, he was sitting bolt upright, staring at the small green nightlight that instantly told him he was back in his house, back in his bedroom. With a loud sigh, he laid back and melted his head into the pillow, relieved. His heart stilled. The fear slowly melted away. A terrible nightmare. Nothing more.

But it wasn’t long before a dark presence invaded the room—thick and palpable. His heartbeat once again thumped louder, faster. Beads of perspiration sprouted on his forehead. His throat became dry and parched. The numbing, tingling sensation returned. Green dots danced in front of him and he tried to reassure himself. It’s from the nightlight. Don’t worry.

But he was too afraid to open his eyes, lest the inbred-looking hillbilly return. Finally, it became too much. He felt like he was being completely engulfed by this dark and evil presence, as if it was swallowing him whole and turning him into some kind of a monster. Emotions swept through him—anger, rage, anxiety and finally a powerful sadness that slowly began to give rise to fear.

He opened his eyes. Of God, please. All this time. Why now?

The blackly cloaked man stood at the foot of his bed staring at him. Staring at him as if he was trying to reach into his soul and snatch it away. He raised a hand and touched his wide-brimmed black hat. Noah tried to shout, scream, speak and move but it was no use at all. He was paralyzed, frozen like a chunk of ice. The Hat Man walked around to the side of the bed and leaned down, his black face, a dark mask with no discernible features whatsoever, moved in closer.

Like an incubated alien fetus, Noah was sure his pounding heart would snap his rib cage, tear his muscles and flesh, leap right out of his chest, and escape its humanoid incarceration once and for all. He had an image of a slimy extraterrestrial creature suddenly exploding onto the Hat Man and wrapping its deadly tentacles around his throat and face, constricting and suffocating the life out of the monster. If he wasn’t paralyzed with fear, he might have grinned at the image.

The black face moved closer and stopped six inches or so from Noah’s face. Noah’s breathing became labored and he felt a painful tightening in his chest. The small of his back still stung from the hillbilly’s heal. Time to die. This is what it feels like to die. Not now, oh please God, not now. With raw panic rising up his throat like a sick green bile, he mustered all his strength and jerked. His body twitched and convulsed and he instantly sat upright, gasping for breath, sweat streaming down his face. Eyes wide with terror, he watched the Hat Man shrink, retreat and disappear out of sight, trailed by a green dragon tail emanating from the glowing green nightlight.

It took a few minutes for Noah to calm himself down. When his breathing finally returned to something approximating normal, he glanced at his digital alarm clock: 3:33 am. He climbed out of bed, wincing as the small of his back ignited with fiery pain. He was still trembling by the time he reached the bathroom of his third-floor apartment smack in the center of downtown Charlottetown. Still too terrified to look in the mirror, he wiped his face with a towel, relieved himself, and sat down gingerly on his living room couch and flicked on a table lamp. He needed some incandescent comfort right now to try and make sense of the nightmare that seemed so much more than a nightmare.

The Hat Man had returned. With a vengeance. He counted the years. He had been only six the last time he saw the Hat Man, thirty-four years ago. But he remembered the haunting experience as if it had happened yesterday. As a child, he’d suffered from frequent nightmares, many of them paralyzing. There were variations of many themes, but most involved some kind of a monster chasing him with the intent to kill. And while they’d terrified him, none of them had resulted in physical injury. Except for the Hat Man. As a child, the darkly cloaked intruder had bent down to his bed, wrapped cold fingers around his throat and began choking the life out of him. He felt the pain then as he gasped for breath. He felt more pain when he leaped out of bed, rushed from his bedroom in terror and face-planted the hallway wall. He’d suffered a concussion that dislodged his cognitive function for two weeks and displaced him from school for three weeks. He absently rubbed the scar above his left eye, the result of the concussive cut that had required six stitches to repair.

But, after that ill-fated evening, the nightmares had stopped. All the monsters and the Hat Man had vanished. Maybe the concussion, which doctors had described as moderate to severe, had helped but Noah had also managed to banish the Hat Man, along with all the other shadowy creatures, from his waking and sleeping world. Blocked them out and successfully expelled them from his existence.

Sure, growing up in Calgary, Alberta, was tough, but he’d also managed to block that out. He was eighteen when his father-in-law Garrett and his mother Barbara combined lethal doses of opioids and alcohol one night during a horror-movie binge-watching session. The irony at the time wasn’t missed on Noah. They’d been watching a remake of a Jack the Ripper slasher movie, when the grim reaper, with his death-dealing scythe, decided to pay them a life-ending visit.

But, like the Hat Man, Noah put it behind him like a fading shadow, and focused full-tilt on work, not willing to admit to himself on any level that at best the workaholic cure would only serve as a Band-Aid solution to a gaping traumatic wound. In spite of himself, images began to float into his head, images of Barbara slumped into the couch, her glass of vodka and orange juice, her signature poison, still held tightly in her hand. Garret, the loser that he was, nestled in beside her, his head slumped on her shoulder, mouth agape in an O of horror, still clutching his poison of choice, a Molson Canadian beer.

But, as he’d done successfully throughout his life, Noah, in spite of a knot of sadness and grief tightening in his stomach, pushed the dark shadows into the dark recesses of his mind. In his mind’s eye, he grabbed the Hat Man forcefully and tossed him into the cavernous hole along with the others, locked the closet door and threw away the key.

He smiled, a half-fake, half-real smile. He was starting to feel better already. “Mind over matter,” he said, trying to boost his confidence. “That’s all it is. Mind over matter.”

A few minutes later, as he drifted off into what would be a dreamless and peaceful sleep, the only thought that crossed his mind was one that brought anticipatory chills of excitement. Last week, he’d asked Angela Rosewood, a cashier at a nearby Wendy’s fast-food restaurant, out on a date. And, finally, after four unsuccessful entreaties, she’d accepted. Tomorrow was the big day.

As he drifted off, her acceptance speech echoed in his head: “I used to think you were weird. And I probably still do. But you’re weird in a positive sort of way. You’re five times lucky. I guess I’ll go.”

The Creative Process

The creative process is probably different for every writer, every artist. I know some authors who write at night, others who write mid-afternoon, still others who write early morning. And their routines often differ. Some like background music playing, others flirt with social media between paragraphs; some light candles, others shut everything down and need silence and solitude to write.

I fall into the latter category. I need silence and solitude to write. I used to write at night, but found I would get bombarded with ideas while trying to sleep and found myself getting up every few minutes to either scribble ideas on paper or just give up on sleep altogether and start pounding away on the keyboards late into the night. In the long run, this strategy affected my ability to sleep so I abandoned it.

Now, I write in the morning hours, sometimes starting at six am, other times at seven or eight. Since I’m not a morning person, I get the coffee going as soon as I wake up, drink a cup or two while catching up on some TV news headlines. Then, when my caffeine-fueled mind begins to feel lucid, I retreat to my office. Before I start writing, I spend a half hour checking my email inbox and checking on social media. Once I’ve completed my personal and promotional posts and responses, I shut everything down. I won’t even turn my phone on and check messages until I’ve completed my daily word count.

Before I start, I usually bring a small tea candle into the office, light it and insert it into a pirate-shaped glass candle holder. The tea candle burns for almost four hours and serves as an hour-glass timer for me. Often when the flame goes out, I go out.

Although I’m more focused on story than word count, I generally write 2000-plus words a day. I sometimes get so involved in a story, I lose track of the words and even lose track of time. I generally envision an entire scene or chapter in my mind before I write anything down.

Toward the end of a story, I get so excited and passionate about the possibilities that I often write six to ten thousand words a day, a kind of sprint to the finish line. I get so involved with the characters I create that I often find myself laughing out loud, feeling sadness, anger, or despair as the situation warrants.

There are at least two kinds of writers, some would say. The plotter, who methodically plots out chapters, scenes and dialogue, determining the end of a novel far before the characters realize what lies ahead for them. I know mystery writers who are plotters and it makes sense for the whodunit genre.

Then there are the pantsers, writers who fly by the seat of their pants. When they start a book, they have no idea where it will go, what characters will be involved, or how it will end. Stephen King is said to be a pantser. He contends that rigidly plotting all aspects of a story may have a tendency to limit the creative process. Maybe the characters you’ve created know better than you do where the story should go.

My style falls somewhere in between the pantser and the plotter. Many of my novels contain a lot of research and I find the pantser style doesn’t necessarily lend itself to weaving painstakingly researched material into a story line. But I don’t like to limit the creative process either. Sometimes I’ll outline ten chapters ahead and compare and contrast ten chapters later to see how closely my prose resembles my outline.

More often than not, I’m surprised at the results. Often the characters, once created, demand that the story follow a different arc.

Many writers are excellent multi-taskers, managing to juggle family, friends, loved ones, other careers and hobbies and a hectic social life while knocking out excellent novels. I’m not one of them. I’m not the best multi-tasker. I tend to develop tunnel vision when I write. Not to suggest the novels will ever replace friends, family and loved ones. If they have a crisis or emergency, I try and be there for them in whatever capacity I’m able to. I’m just not one for a bunch of small talk when I’m trying to work.

And when I’m writing, I become intensely passionate about and focused on my work. My schedule is rigid and self-disciplined. After I write for four or five hours—sometimes eight or nine hours—it is only then that I’ll turn on the communications and check messages from friends, etc. During production of a novel, I generally socialize little and work six days a week. If I want to socialize, I know there will be plenty of time to do that when the first or second draft of the novel is complete. At that stage, I like to leave it for a week or two and then revisit it for revision and rewrites with fresh eyes before I send it down the pipe to my editor.

Much can be said about the creative process. Although at times it is fraught with blood, sweat and tears, writing a novel is richly rewarding in so many ways—ways often difficult to put into words. Creating characters and stories from one’s imagination is nothing short of magical.

In the creation of The Dark Menace, my latest work in progress, I’ve felt the magic, felt the love for the characters, felt their despair and sadness at times. I’m perhaps 10,000 words from the finish line. The ineffable feeling of euphoria, pride, and sense of accomplishment that will inevitably occur when I finally type THE END is what continues to drive me forward.

Here’s a short summary:

Nightmare-plagued Noah Janzen suspects an enigmatic scientist may be responsible for a series of horrifying attacks by the Shadow People and the Hat Man.

Here’s a long synopsis:

Noah Jansen is plagued by nightmares and multiple sleep disorders; night terrors, sleepwalking, sleep talking, and a terrifying sleep paralysis that often invokes chilling images of the Shadow People and the Hat Man.

Determined not to let his nocturnal demons interfere with his successful career and newly formed relationship with Angela Rosewood, he meets her in a local pub. But when he sees a shadowy figure wearing a fedora and a trench coat eerily watching him through a window, he freaks out and battens down the hatches of his apartment.

He soon learns that a hat-wearing psycho has viciously attacked Angela, smashing in her door, trashing her apartment, and nearly killing her. Worse still, Angela suspects Noah has morphed into a conduit for evil and starts distancing herself from him. She might even think he is the Hat Man.

Desperate to save his new relationship and find answers, he seeks the aid of physicist and sleep specialist, Doctor Neil Samuelson. While remaining tight-lipped on his experiments involving the Shadow People and the Hat Man, the enigmatic doctor informs Noah that an old woman has just been brutally murdered at the hands of The Dark Menace.

As blood-curdling reports of Shadow People and the Hat Man begin to escalate, Noah suspects Neil has accidently opened up a portal from another dimension, creating an invasion of evil, shadowy entities, hell-bent on terrorizing and destroying humanity.

He’s thrust into an epic battle to preserve his relationship and sanity and find answers to a strange and mysterious real-life phenomenon that has haunted and terrorized millions of people around the world for centuries.

Expect The Dark Menace on bookstore shelves in a couple of months. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I’m enjoying writing it. THE END, at least of the first draft, is near. As always, thanks for stopping by and feel free to leave comments. Whatever art you might excel at, I’d love to read about your creative process. Remember, your only limitations are self-imposed.