The MONTAUK MONSTER Is Here!

Montauk Monster by Hunter Shea

I’ve been a fan of Hunter Shea’s writing since the publication of his first novel, FOREST of SHADOWS. When Hunter asked me if I would like to help him promote his thriller, THE MONTAUK MONSTER,  I was ecstatic! Imagine being able to ask one of your favorite authors a question. Now imagine him answering – on your blog, no less! Well, that’s what’s happening for me here today.

Hunter Shea

Hunter Shea

Hunter Shea’s Official Website: http://huntershea.com/

Hunter Shea’s Twitter Handle: @HunterShea1

MONTAUK MONSTER on Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/SheasMontaukMonaster

My Question:

Have you ever had a book that just felt stuck, or a time when you thought it might be “easier” to not be a writer?

(Okay, I really posed this question in about ten different ways in one breathless paragraph. I’ve abbreviated my intense fangirling it so you can get to the good stuff: Hunter’s answer!)

Hunter’s Answer:

I don’t believe in writer’s block. Not in the sense that you see in movies or read about where the world famous author just can’t come up with the next great novel. To me, writer’s block is a fancy way of saying a writer is either afraid (of rejection, success, criticism), tired or just plain lazy. By nature, writers have overactive imaginations. Truth be told, there isn’t enough time in a writer’s life to type out the ideas that float through our brains in a given month.

That in no way means writing is easy and consistent. It’s hard work, and sometimes, getting from start to end is a long, long slog. That spark of excitement you had at chapter one will most definitely begin to fizzle around chapter ten. Sooner or later, no matter how smoothly you think things are going, you’re going to get snagged by the mid-book-blues.

What happens during the mid-book-blues? For me, this is when the story takes on a life of its own, shaping itself into something I hadn’t quite anticipated. It’s at this moment when I realize I have written myself into some tight corners. It’s also usually when I start to lose faith in the entire endeavor.

Reading over the past several days’ work, I’m often known to mutter, “Oh Jeez, this is crap. What the hell was I thinking? Why on earth would anyone want to read this?” Confidence waning, I look ahead, knowing I have another 45,000 words to go. Are you kidding me? That’s 45,000 words to add to something that I’m dead sure is utterly worthless. I could be watching the Mets lose in extra innings, out with the kids at Starbucks or teaching my cat to stop peeing in our bathtub.

Since the publication of my first book, Forest of Shadows, back in 2011, I’ve written 7 novels. That’s seven times I’ve doubted myself and wanted to throw in the towel or tear my idea down and start anew. As nice as starting from scratch might seem, I have deadlines that don’t allow for a massive re-start.

So what do I do? I remind myself to stick with the instincts that got me started writing in the first place. Somehow, they were sharp enough to get me multiple book deals. The worst thing I can do is stop writing and allow myself time to lament. Lament is like Miracle-Gro for doubt. If you let doubt take root, the book is done, and quite possibly, your writing aspirations along with it.

Sometimes, I’ll head to the classics for inspiration, re-reading The Sun Also Rises or I Am Legend (a book every horror writer should hold near and dear). Great writing makes me want to write. And if you read great writing, your own writing will improve.

Rewards help too. It could be as simple as, “If you get through this chapter, you can sit back with a cold beer.” Or, “Finish the next 5,000 words and you can binge watch Orange is the New Black with the better half.” Just remind yourself that you are a writer, and writers write, which implies finishing what you started.

When I started writing The Montauk Monster last year, I was supercharged. This was my first chance to write a thriller that would be out in paperback all over the country. I plowed through the first 20,000 words like it was nothing. Then, my father passed away. The family was devastated. I kept at the manuscript but my heart wasn’t in it. I suddenly didn’t think my crazy idea could get me to the finish line. Worse, I wasn’t sure I even wanted to get there.

I thought of my father and how proud he was that I had become a writer. The man was the biggest reader I ever met and I always secretly believed he wanted to be a writer – and would have been a hell of an author. That lit the fire under my ass and infused belief in what I was trying to create. I attacked that manuscript with the same ferocity as the maniacal creatures I had conjured. I almost didn’t want it to end.

Every book will come with its own struggles. It’s up to you, the writer, to find the strength to plow through them.

My Reaction:

This amazing writer is a human being! He has a cat! He has a bathtub and watches television and likes one of my favorite books (THE SUN ALSO RISES). Hes’s also written an astounding SEVEN (7!!!) novels in less than five years. That is a lofty achievement, made all the more impressive given that Hunter endured – and overcame – the virulent doubt that plagues writers. Here, though, here’s what really speaks to me:  Hunter completed MONTAUK MONSTER despite suffering an intensely personal loss. He didn’t give up, didn’t break under the weight of his grief or the resurgence of doubt. Instead, Hunter found the strength to finish his book. When I read MONTAUK MONSTER, it will be in honor of Hunter’s father, a reader who raised an amazing writer!

xoxo,

-aniko

Publisher’s Weekly Praises MONTAUK MONSTER!

Publisher’s Weekly named THE MONTAUK MONSTER one of the best summer books of 2014! Not only that, they gave it an awesome review. Here’s a snippet:

The urban mythologies of the Montauk Monster and the government labs on Plum Island unite to cause staggering levels of mayhem when mutant animals with toxic blood descend on a Long Island town. This wholly enthralling hulk of a summer beach read is redolent of sunscreen and nostalgia, recalling mass market horror tales of yore by John Saul, Dean Koontz, and Peter Benchley. — PW

 

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Excuses are killing your joy.

Do you see through your own poor excuses?

Copyright 72soul via 123RF.com

I am an authority on the excuses a writer can use to avoid writing. Time constraints make for easy excuses. Obligations to family or job provide a slew of excuses. Exercise is another perfectly “legitimate” excuse. Lack of space, lack of quiet, and lack of inspiration look like valid excuses. These are top-self rationalizations masquerading as true limitations or honorable obligations. They are lies I told myself. Excuses killed my creative joy. Are they killing yours?

Creating is scary. It is terrifying to bring something out of nothing. There is the anxiety of creative blocks, the specter of failure, the gut-wrenching realization that someone is going to hate your work. If you are persistent in honing your craft, if you share your art with others, you will experience all of these fears and more. The excuses act as a salve, a protective layer for the raw psyche. Excuses appear to give you a way out of the misery. There might even be brief moments where you believe your own justifications. At such times the panacea is perfected. Sometime between 3 AM and insomnia, you know the hollowness of your own weak rationalizations. Your horror is a night sweat soaking the sheets. A shower rinses your body clean, but the truth cannot be rinsed out of your mind. You are aware of your faulty reasoning and avoidance; you are hiding from your art. If you’re the sort of excuse-maker I was, it is at this point the despair arises. Problems loom. There is no time, there is no space! In some sense, you are right, because excuses are like cactii or goldfish, and will grow to the maximum extent of their enclosure. Your excuses might fill a house, invisible as carbon monoxide. They’re certainly cramping your soul.

Have you filled your time with pursuits unrelated to your art? Are television, drinking, and drama with your consorts supplanting your creativity? What about those intellectual all-nighters, on a balcony with your smokes? Oh, and if you say it’s the day job that’s stifling you, I’ve heard that one before, too. I used to bemoan that while I could cut out marathon sessions of DEXTER, I couldn’t cut out the day job. I remember feeling like work was an insurmountable block to my writing, and I resented the job. Never mind the fact that it’s the job that gave me the financial security to have a place to live, food to eat, and access to health care so that I could even begin to think about writing. I was not living in gratitude. I wasn’t even really living. Still, my “damn job” excuse was an excellent false justification; not many saw through it. I did, though, and now I know blaming a standard, forty-hour job is a cop-out. Maybe for you it’s not so much the time that’s an issue, it’s a lack of space, or the noisiness of your space. Maybe you have children, roommates, an apartment in NYC where your bed is your table is your ironing board. I have to call BS on that excuse, too. Imprisoned authors have managed to write novels. If a drunkard interred in a Nazi insane asylum can create, then you can certainly find some space. Sculpting and painting present more difficulty in this respect than writing, but writers, you have coffee shops, writer’s rooms, libraries… need I go on? Stop using excuses to barricade yourself away from the terror and uncertainty of TRYING. You are not here to generate excuses. You are here to generate art.

I’m  reading Annie Dillard’s THE WRITING LIFE. The cover blurb from the New York Times Book Review states that THE WRITING LIFE is “full of joys.” That blurb makes me wonder if I’ve read the book wrong. Joy isn’t the dominant theme I find in Annie’s discussion of writing. She honestly dissects the despair and impossibility of writing your true vision. She shows the disassociation of living in a world that exists only in your mind, and at first only in pieces. She doesn’t sugarcoat the sheer terror and difficulty of the endeavor, but neither does she countenance excuse. Annie discusses the interesting occurrence of people who want to be “poets” because they are in love with the idea of being a poet, not because they love poetry. In one vignette, Annie relays a conversation where a seeker after the writing life is told she can be a writer if she “loves sentences.” Annie goes on to extrapolate that there is joy in creating if you go one sentence at a time. Now, finally, there is joy in THE WRITING LIFE, but only when the writing is begun, and only when all of the other “stuff” (the excuses, the self-seeking) are abandoned. The difference between those who only want the title of “poet” and those who love sentences is that the latter will suffer more. Creating is the kind of suffering that brings freedom and joy, but only if you give yourself fully to it. That means you have to stop making excuses to avoid the hard work of doing your art.

I invite my Muse by setting aside time in my day for my writing. Monday through Friday, that amounts to two and a half hours. It is not a lot of time, but I make it count. I do not wait to be inspired: I sit at my desk and I write. I do not seek the perfect writing nook: I write standing up on the commuter train on the way to my day job. My commitment to writing is sacrosanct. It is not optional. In 99 of 100 days, any excuse I give to skip writing would be a lie, a willful rejection of who I am meant to be. There are days, though, dark days where I cannot write. I am human, and I’ve missed writing sessions due to illness, or the death of a loved one. I accept that I cannot control, plan, or prevent either of those circumstances. Neither do I use them as an excuse to continue to avoid my writing desk. I recover from illness, I go back to writing. I mourn, I go back to writing. It is how I am meant to live. This is only one aspect to my writing life; I have an entire code for how I do what I do, and how I avoid the pitfalls that life invariably throws at me. I’m calling it Bring Your Joy: A Code for Creatives. I’m still finalizing a PDF you can read, print, and share, but I hope it is helpful to you.

Xoxo,

-aniko

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Marvelous Journey

I have big plans to share my writing with you! Over the next five years, I will produce seven fiction releases. The works include literary short stories and a series of  dark sci-fi novels. I’m looking forward to taking you to new and magical places. My favorite authors – Italo Calvino, Elizabeth Hand, Iris Murdoch – shared adventure and joy with me, and I want to honor them by passing it on.

Marvelous Journey

Marvelous Journey (Attribution Kata Links at 123rf.com)

My publication schedule is aggressive. I don’t write full time, and I don’t have writing minions to do my authorial bidding. I have so much (everything!) to learn about the mechanics of producing books. I want to attend book festivals, meet readers, and build authentic relationships with them. I want to help other writers by sharing what I learn – including how they can avoid the embarrassing mistakes I know I’ll make. I want to do all of that, plus keep writing new stories. It’s a lot to attempt, but it’s also an invitation to take a marvelous journey. There will be moments of discomfort, and of exhausted incomprehension. Sometimes I may wonder where I am going, and then I will need to lean on my own definition of success to be my guide. Everything I do will have to pass one simple test: does it help me become the author-publisher I want to be, and will it add value to your life? If either half of that proposition is not true, then I need to rethink my approach.

My journey of a thousand publications begins with one short story. I chose a project small enough to not feel overwhelming, but one that requires many of the same skills needed for the more daunting story collections and novels. It will be my crash-course in ebook formatting and cover design. Later this year, I’m releasing Stolen Climates as paperback. Not only is that a great opportunity for me to tackle the process of print formatting, but it also meets the needs of readers who asked for a physical edition. I can’t wait to get started on this marvelous journey!

 

-aniko

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“The journey of a thousand publications begins with one short story.”

Jealousy Kills Writers

Brothers Grimm

Once upon a time there were two writer-bloggers I loved, Josie and Parker. Josie had a vulnerable, writer-next-door vibe; she was open about her rejections, the stumbling blocks to creativity, the difficulty of having to wake up early to cram in an hour of writing before the day job. Parker was an indie firebrand. Her edgy, outspoken allegiance to self-publishing was a rallying call. I loved them both because they were showing me how other women cope with the psychological brutality of writing in a void, struggling for readers, and striving for their dreams.

Josie and Parker aren’t their real names, and this isn’t a Disney-happy fairy tale. No, this is a Brothers Grimm cautionary tale because once upon a time, I stopped loving these writers because they got what they wanted. Their writing careers took off and left me feeling betrayed. Betrayal slouched towards jealousy, and I fell into self-pity disguised as certainty that I would never be where they are. I couldn’t stop comparing myself to them and feeling like a failure. After all, Josie and I used to be so alike, both loved coffee, wore odd writing sweaters, wrote before work. How dare she get a publishing deal, quit the 9-5, leave me behind? Parker also got a publishing deal, but hers came with a full reversal on her stance on indie publishing. My indie icon abandoned  me! Me, me, me! All I cared about was how these women’s choices reflected on how I saw myself. I knew I should be happy for them, to celebrate their well-earned place on the bookshelves of the world. I couldn’t, though, because I was full of spite and resentment. I stopped following them on Twitter, I got angry when Amazon recommended their new books, I used their successes as excuses for my failure. Does that make sense? Of course not! Jealousy isn’t reason’s bedfellow.

What did I do?

I withdrew from the community. I let my  jealousy become my permission to give up on ever ‘making it’ as a writer. That big screen TV that I just wrote about giving away? It was how I spent my time, drinking and eating delivery food and feeling wronged by … what? The fact that writers whose stories I loved made it? That women who struggled harder than I have got farther in their writing careers? I was the biggest pity party in town.

The road back to a place of  joy in writing and freedom from the burden of jealousy hasn’t been easy. It took months, and the tough admission that I was reacting to Josie and Parker’s success out of total selfishness. I don’t know if anyone else has this writer-jealousy problem; it’s not the topic of polite conversation. But, if even one writer is suffering that way, I want to share what I’ve learned about how to stomp out the killing seeds of writer’s envy. Here’s the first step:

STOP COMPARING YOURSELF TO OTHER WRITERS!

Decide what you want, define success in concrete terms that matter to you. YOU, not Josie and Parker. Then make a plan of how you will get there. Know what you need to do this week, this month, and this year. Prioritize your list, then start working. I started with cleaning up and unifying my author-publisher platform; it doesn’t take much to get all of your social media outlets using the same type of images, taglines and bios. That was one tiny step on the larger journey, but it felt good because it is in alignment with my plan. When you know what and how, it’s easier to find appropriate role models. Then Josie and Parker become an inspiration rather than some bizarre writer’s yardstick that you either measure up to, or beat yourself over the head with for not being them. Practice gratitude and thank the authors who guide you by commenting on their blog and buying their books. Put in extra hours towards your goal by cutting TV out of your life. Look at other writers as a source of teachings, rather than a catalog of ways in which you have been “outdone.” Take your lead from your role models, but do things in your own way, and in accordance with your plan. Stop giving yourself permission to fail because you aren’t Josie and you’re not Parker. You will never be either of them. You are something equally beautiful, though: YOU!

-aniko

 

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My New Math

There are inflection points in life. The variables shift, and the comfortable plateau becomes something else. My graph is no longer a steady line, but a hyperbola, a sine curve, a Lissajous figure expanding and tightening its figure-eight of me-then/me-now.

Life on a wave is different than life on a line. I wake up excited and energized by the changes. I am a more fearless version of myself; my hair is cut short as a warrior queen’s, I wear chunky bracelets that clang as I journey to the living, beating heart of my city, my self. All of my electrons make the jump to the next level. I feel like a bright filament, a reactor of potential. Time runs faster, and there is an intensity to the even the still moments. I wish I could hold your hand, transmit this to you, but my words will have to suffice.

Aurora potentialis.In the onrush of nownownow I stopped blogging, but I kept writing. I put another revision on my second novel, DEAD BREATH, and have just received the last of my beta reader comments for a final pass. I revisited the decisions of my plateau-self and decided that I want to submit this book to traditional publishers. I love the freedom of indie publishing, the ultimate control – but I falter in post-production. I never found my audience with STOLEN CLIMATES, and all those people who are looking for small town horror with a soupçon of  THE HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL are still looking because I never made it possible for them to find it. If one function of life is to keep each other company, and a function of writing is to extend that company beyond time, space, and even death – isn’t it very sad indeed that books get lost?

I don’t want that to happen with DEAD BREATH, my second novel. DEAD BREATH is dark science fiction driven by the strong-arm elements of a thriller. Traditional sci-fi publishing houses accept unagented, unsolicited manuscripts. I know the arguments against traditional publishing. They remain valid. However, good stories don’t find their way to an audience on their own. They need advocates. What is a publisher, if not a long-standing advocate for stories? I want that big, purple-ape of an advocate. I’ve picked five markets to submit to, and given that the average time for response seems to be three months, it will take me over a year from Day One Submit to get to the end of my list. By then, my third book will be finished. If there are no takers on DEAD BREATH, then I will send the next book. If I get to the end of the series, and no purple apes shout my books’ praise from the towers of advocacy, I’ll go indie – but I’ll do it right, with a plan and with the budget to back it up. No matter what happens, the wait until my next book is published will be measured in years. In the interim, I’m toying with dabbling in Wattpad and Booksie to share out some of my odd little stories. I will keep you company here, too, checking in throughout the submission process, and you can friend me on Facebook, GoodReads and Twitter.

In other writing plans, I want to go on a writer’s residency next year. Nova Ren Suma, whom I’ve never met outside the pages of her books, inspired me with her diary post from her residency at Hambidge. The idea of a space to myself and time dedicated only to my writing titillates. I love it that there are writers residencies. I really love it that they feed you. Looking at MacDowell Colony and the like made me realize that although I love the idea, I don’t have to wait for acceptance to a residency to carve that time and space for my craft. I don’t know if any of you have every visited HomeAway, but beware! – it’s addictive. My ideal “residency” is a week of rural rental via HomeAway. I picture buying my provisions; there’s a blue ice cooler involved, a rented car, and the thrill of being somewhere new. I’ll drink hot black coffee, eat crusty French bread, and spend my days writing. There will be no dogs to walk, no job, no obligations, and no internet. It will be my residency, and I’ll write the first draft of a horror novel that begs to be birthed in a strange, isolated place.  I’m going to take advantage of this surge of creative energy – can you feel it?

 

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