Sorry to the folks that have been asking where The Dark Layer is. Unfortunately, I’m having issues with the cover image so I’m trying to figure out what to do with that before I can continue. It should be up very soon. I’ll be sure to blog when it’s there.
I’ve been holding out on writing this post for quite a while.
Part of me said to write it would be a mistake; I’ve still not stuck my entire foot in the water of the indie pool, only my toe. Scared, I suppose would be the reason for that, because I don’t like branding myself “indie” or “traditional”. If an agent offered to rep me I wouldn’t say no-I think a lot of indies feel the same-and yet sometimes I feel that I would hesitate before saying yes. The writing world is changing, after all, and not for the betterment of agents. Unfortunately, the problem with agents and publishers, is that they tend to back what’s safe instead of what’s good. Money makes the world go round, don’t you know.
There are advantages to both sides of the coin (traditional & indie). When I stop and think of the advantages of being traditional, it sounds very appealing. No stigma, placement in bookstores, professionals backing and believing in your work and talents, etc… And yet I can still remember the very moment I first learned about independent publishing. At a Writer’s Digest thing a few years ago, this had been. It was a magic feeling of…possibility?
I guess I’m writing this to remind myself that being an independent isn’t as bad or lowbrow as people think, particularly the writers that are vehement about going down the traditional trail.
1.) Rebel – Going indie appeals to my rebellious nature. I don’t immediately dismiss good advice or things that are “popular” just because, however, I do tend to think and consider a little longer than most. I move slower than normal, which annoys the crap out of a lot of people, and I always arrive in my own time. My mother, who was in labor with me for well over a day, will testify to that.
2.) Freedom – Not much needs to be explained here and no matter what side of the fence you’re on, you understand this. There is so much more freedom in being an indie and I’m not just talking about the choices you make for your bookcovers. Your career is yours to cultivate as you wish, like an exotic breed of rose in your own private garden. I don’t have to worry mightily about how something might look to the public. If someone says something I don’t like, I don’t necessarily have to bite my tongue (although sometimes I do, I will admit). I’m allowed to write what I want, say what I want, do what I want. There’s no publicist, agent, publisher, or anyone else there to slap my wrist over a public faux pas. I realize the flip side to this as well, of course I do, but the feeling of not only having wings but being allowed to use them is priceless.
3.) Community – There is a sense of community in the indie world that you just aren’t going to get in the Hollyweird world of traditional publishing. I imagine it’s the same for those who toil under the indie flag in the movie-making world and also the indie music world as well. We’re all in this together. I can recall not so long ago that a traditional author insulted an indie writer and the indie community put the smack down so hard that the traditional author had to issue an apology. Yeah. I kind of like that. Don’t fuck with us. Cause we fuck back.
4.) Trust – It always surprises me how authors are willing to hand over a manuscript that they’ve worked, sweated, cried, and shed blood for rather easily to an almost complete stranger with the “agent” or “publisher” title, and yet we revere our phone numbers and our weight the way KFC locks up the recipe for their tasty fried chicken. Even more perplexing when you consider how many times we’ve never received a formal rejection for a submission, which means our hard work is floating around in the universe of the Internet, for anyone to steal.
5.) No Contract – There is nothing legal binding me or the brilliance in my brain to any particular person or publishing entity for any amount of time. I know we have to click “agree” before uploading our work to Amazon but I think most people know what I mean. I can pretty much quit writing if I so choose-not that I want to-but I like the option of the ability to stop should I go Hemingway and slip a few cogs.
I’d love to hear some thoughts on this. Hope you read to the end. Thx.
I’m participating in the CoffinHop and here are the prizes for my blog:
This week anyone who comments on any given blog on my website, http://ginapennfiction.com will be entered to win a $25 Amazon Gift Card or $25 Barnes and Noble Gift Card, whichever you prefer.
Second Prize is $10 Amazon Gift Card or B&N, again, whichever.
More comments, more entries, so comment often!
Please remember to include some way for me to get ahold of you in case you’ve won.
Winners will be contacted by Nov 1st.
I want to pause a moment and reflect on the tragedy in Zanesville. As a fellow Ohioan from the Cincinnati area and writer, I simply cannot help but say a few words about this event.
“Of all the animals, man is the only one that is cruel. He is the only one that inflicts pain for the pleasure of doing it.”
– Mark Twain “The Lowest Animal”
“Heaven goes by favor. If it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in.” ~~Mark Twain
“There are no wild animals until man makes them so.” ~~Mark Twain
Not really but I thought it would be a hilarious title to the blog.
I was recently interviewed by Jason Darrick of Fear In Words fame. You can read the interview here.
Between the 24-31 of October, I will be participating in the Coffin Hop. There are a lot of great writers involved in this who are offering some amazing prizes, so you should check out their blogs. The links can be found here.
For the coffinhop, as well as the release of my new book, I will be having a giveaway but I haven’t decided what to give away just yet. So, keep your ears on!
If you say: “I can’t read scary books!”
Here’s my response: Fine, then don’t buy my books.
Yes, you read me correctly.
Don’t buy my books. I don’t want you to. If you can’t handle reading outside your comfort zone, or trying something different, then I’d rather you didn’t buy my books. If the words on the page are going to scare you that badly, then don’t buy or read my books.
I’m totally cool with that and I won’t hate you if you don’t read them. We can still be friends.
There are a lot of authors out there that will feed on that type of resistance. Those authors will pressure you, argue with you, try to sell you.
That’s not me.
I see how some authors are. They tweet endlessly about their books. “All ___ books are now only .99!” “Try the sequel to ___!” “Need a good #paranormal read? Try ___!”
That’s not me.
I’m not speaking disparingly about authors I follow on Twitter. They’re marketing and that’s cool. I’ve done it and and will probably do it again when The Dark Layer is released. But the ones I do speak disparingly about are the ones who only use Twitter as a marketing tool. No one wants to follow a used car salesman. And that’s what you sound like.
I’m not going to beg you to buy my book. To me, that’s demeaning and desperate and unattractive. If you follow me on Twitter, I’m going to assume you do so because we’ve clicked in some way and/or we’ve chatted each other up once or twice. Maybe you followed me for a short while to see if you get a follow back because you feel having a high follower number makes you look popular. If so, you probably unfollowed me in a hurry.
I don’t auto follow back. If you choose to follow me, I’ll read your tweets to make sure there’s some substance there and then, if I see something I like, I’ll follow you back. Sometimes right away, sometimes after a little time.
I’m not your typical indie author. I have an agent in mind that I would love to represent me. If she doesn’t, that’s cool, we can still be friends. But mainly, I write books that I would like to read. I write because it’s what I was meant to do. I write to entertain myself and hopefully a few others. What I don’t want, is for a bunch of people who enjoy YA paranormal romance to buy my book because I’ve practically begged them to do it and then hate it.
Unless, of course, those fans also enjoy adult contemporary horror.
If you don’t like horror, then don’t buy my book. It’s a waste of your time and mine as well.
But if you read the description and think it sounds interesting, give it a try. If you’ve read my blogs and see that I write relatively well and you enjoy my voice and style, give it a try. You never know, maybe you’ve just stumbled upon something. That’s why sampling was invented.
If you say you can’t read scary stories, when in truth you are judging all horror based on the two you’ve read, then you should probably rethink your stance. That doesn’t sound like a book lover to me and you’re not the type of fan I want.
I don’t judge all YA based on Twilight and YA writers should be grateful.
I’m in this for the long-haul. I want fans that are in for the long-haul with me. If you enjoy cold spots in houses, heavy footsteps coming down stairs, supernatural experiences, and fun, then come along for the ride.
If you would rather put your eye out with a hot poker than read a scary tale, then don’t buy my book.
See how easy that was?
I was popping around the interwebz reading some blogs, looking for some cool posts about October and all the scary fun that comes along with it, when I stumbled upon Amanda Hocking’s Zombiepalooza blog posts. I don’t ordinarily read her blog but it’s interesting to keep up with all the hoopla surrounding her and her work and keep tabs on what’s happening in the industry.
She offered a guest post by Robert Duperre and it was called “Top Ten Horror Movies of All Time”. I started reading this list and initially, was pretty impressed. The list began with “Hellbound” one of the greatest horror movies ever by one of the greatest horror authors ever (Clive Barker), and even though it was a great way to start off the list, I didn’t really feel it deserved to be number ten. Especially when I began reading further down the list.
I got partway down the list and saw Alien, American Werewolf in London, and Rosemary’s Baby and was still happy. But then I reached number six: Videodrome? Really? This movie beat out Alien, Hellbound, and Rosemary’s Baby? Really? Yikes. Now, I will admit that I’ve never seen this movie but even if it’s really good, I somehow doubt it’s better than the previous films mentioned.
Then it got worse: Frailty? This one I have seen and it’s definitely not better than the previous films. Except maybe Videodrome (which I will watch and if I like it I will be happy to edit this blog).
The number one was Dawn of the Dead and while it’s not a bad choice for number one, I argue whether or not it’s really the “The Greatest…”. No disrespect to Romero fans-I am a Romero fan and love this movie-but number one? Of all time? Not sure about that.
This list really missed out on some great movies. She began the blog by assuring us that there are no “slasher” flicks in the list, and there weren’t, but the tone of that statement struck a chord with me. Why not? What’s wrong with slasher flicks? Slasher flicks, while they might not be believable or fantastically done movies, are still the backbone of the horror movie industry. Look at Nightmare on Elm Street. It’s a hugely popular and successful franchise. The 2010 remake actually wasn’t bad and starred Jackie Earle Haley as the main shredder and he is an extremely fine actor. It also starred Rooney Mara of The Social Network fame and also the highly anticipated upcoming Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. My point is good actors, decent movie.
And we can’t forget the Friday the 13th franchise. Nothing can kill Jason Vorhees, not even Batman and Chuck Norris together with the A-Bomb. I grew up watching this man slice and dice his way through all the camp’s sluts and fell in love with the sounds of “chhh, hahahaha” whenever Jason was near. Gave me chills then and still does to this day. Jason is the king of slasher fright and no one can claim to look at a hockey mask and not think of him. He not only rules horror but has permanently branded every hockey goalie in his image. That’s pretty powerful stuff and deserves respect.
I’m not saying that every franchise is good (anyone remember I Still Know What You Did Last Summer? We can effectively thank Brandi for screwing that up) or every slasher deserves respect (no matter how many people he kills, I’ll never respect Leprechaun). But the ones that stand the test of time say something about the fact that even though these movies aren’t smart horror, they still deliver and resonate with us. And if you’re in the mood for a thrill, they never disappoint. Slashers are simple minded in their pursuit to do the one thing they want to do: kill a bunch of people. If you’re a true fan of the genre, you have to admit a little piece of you loves slasher flicks.
I can at least bet that they’re more fun to watch than Videodrome. Sheesh.
For the month of October I’m going to blog about some of my favorite horror. I’m going to include film, books, and t.v. There’s some great content out there right now as well, with Dexter back on the prowl, the upcoming American Horror Story, and The Walking Dead soon to air.
Why are you screaming when I haven’t even cut you yet? ~~Freddy
For the past few days I’ve been in Virginia Beach attending the Hampton Roads Conference. While there, I met up with some very great people and attended some useful panel discussions about writing and the publishing industry. Never did I think this would be the conference that would make me seriously think about my career and ponder it in a way that could affect my place in the writing world.
When I first started writing, I wanted to traditionally publish. I wrote The Storm, then rewrote it, then submitted it out to a few agents for consideration. One I never heard back from, one denied, and one is still considering. The bad thing about The Storm is that it was written over two years ago and when I look at it now, I just see a big pile of crap. I’m a better writer now than I was then and I’ll be a better writer two years from now than I am right now. I don’t want to reach a point with my writing that I’m not always improving…but I don’t want to write inferior work either. I’ll be damned if I put some worthless piece of junk out there with my name on it. But my definition of a worthless piece of junk is different than all those who read The Storm.
Immediately after I wrote The Storm, I put it aside and began working on The Dark Layer. The Dark Layer took almost two full years to write and is still considered a work in progress, but it’s the one I consider the most finished. It’s an exciting book with an interesting concept and I worked really hard on it. It has problems but what book doesn’t? No one submits perfection and even after books are published, you can still find issues. Good writing is subjective, just as good stories and good characters are. And the problems it has aren’t terminal-they’re totally fixable and I’m capable of fixing them.
While waiting for The Dark Layer’s draft to mellow, I began outlining/writing a new sci-fi/horror possible trilogy. I’m very excited about this project because every day I get new ideas for scenes. I also have a pretty awesome idea of how it might end. Actually, it’s more than awesome; it’s biblical.
*I’m upset because WP did not save the rest of my draft. It sucks because it was really good too.*
When nothing began to pan out for The Storm, I decided I was going to self-publish The Dark Layer. The cover was done by a professional, it was proofread, beta-read, edited, all of the above. And over this past weekend, something changed. I decided that The Dark Layer isn’t quite finished yet.
I’m not sure what to do. I think The Dark Layer may go on indefinite hiatus. The Storm as well because it needs a really good thorough rewrite. Unfortunately I’m hesitant about tackling these jobs without having a professional to work with. I don’t want to devote hours and hours and hours to something and then post it without having a professional to tell me where the real problems are. Yet I also don’t like the idea of sitting on my hands and waiting for an agent and publishing deal to fall out of the sky and into my lap. It’s hard to tell what to do, what the right decisions are, where my best interests lie. I’m famous for making bad decisions and when it comes to my career, I definitely don’t want to fuck this up.
To be continued…?
I’ve been busy doing a lot of editing and because of this, I haven’t had much time to blog. I clearly suck at blogging but that’s simply because I’ve been too busy working. My friends and family will concur this statement. If you mention my name, they’ll probably say, “Oh yeah, I seem to remember seeing her around.”
Without further ado, here is the cover for The Dark Layer, designed by the brilliant Dustin Ashe:
Isnt’ it gorgeous? The colors are amazing. Dustin Ashe did a great job.
When the betas come back to me with their thoughts/edits/
complaints suggestions, I will comb through this book yet a fourth fifth time before the release. Late October is the tentative date for release but that may change depending on how much more work has to go into this piece. ARCs will go to all my favorite book reviewers, of course, and hopefully they will all love it as much as I do.
That’s it! Tell me what you think.
I read a fantastic blog post today from my World Fantasy Convention friend Livia Blackburne about self-promotion. If you’re a writer, then I suggest you take five minutes out of your day and read her blog post, which you can find here.
If you’re a smart writer, then you’ll subscribe to her blog and read her posts religiously.
Anyhow, this blog got me thinking. I HATE self-promotion. Hate. Hate. I hate it more than the average person. Attention has never been something I’ve been comfortable with, however, I do fake it rather well. The wall-flower child, that’s me. I’m passive and quiet by nature, so whenever someone asks me about my writing, my muscles clench all the way down to my inner eye. I almost lost a job because I refused to pimp the company’s products. It’s not me. When the book of Gina was being written, the chapter on extrovertedness ended up in the editor’s trash can.
This isn’t the way it works in the book world. I can write books all day long. I can bend your ear until it breaks off with a terrific yarn, leaving you satisfied yet wanting more. I love every process of writing books; some I favor more than others but I wouldn’t trade any of my experiences for all the quid in England. Yet, when it comes to this one part, this one, tiny, itty-bitty, teeny, miniscule piece, I cower like a nerd who has offended the school bully. “Please, officer, I’ll tell you anything you want to know, anything at all, but please don’t make me tell you about my book!”
Any agent reading this post has now clicked away.
One of the main reasons why I hate promoting my work is because I’m filled with self-doubt. I’m very fortunate and unfortunate to have a slew of extremely talented friends that are writers and when you’re surrounded by that much talent all the time, you feel like Forrest Gump at an M.I.T. party. Stephen King could tell me my writing is great and I still wouldn’t believe him. This self-doubt isn’t singular to me and I know it-lots of writers have this crippling anxiety-but it keeps me from getting my work out there and getting noticed by potential readers.
Part of me is okay with this. I’m not about the money. I don’t live extravagantly and I don’t aspire to. Sure, the money is a nice side-effect but it’s not the goal. I just want to have fun.
But the other part, after reading Livia’s blog, now feels a little bad about this. Personally, I would be a little upset if a great book was out there and I didn’t know about it simply because the writer was too chickenshit to tell me about it. I know that I should get out there and scream about my books on the tallest building on the highest mountain in Colorado but I like the Bartleby defense: I prefer not to (shame on you if you don’t get the reference, especially if you’re a writer). In my perfect world, those who would enjoy my work would stumble upon it purely by accident, or by word of mouth, or accidental word of mouth. But it’s not a perfect world and a lot of people could be missing out. That I can’t have.
I am going to work on supporting the stuff that is baked fresh from my brain and onto the page. I am going to try to be more confident, even when green-eyed lurkers in my life have nothing better to do than post fake reviews about me. I won’t tweet about them 24/7, I absolutely abhor people who do that but I will make a point to talk about them more often.
Now, go to the links at the top and buy my books, dammit!
Just for anyone who is interested in knowing.
A boy, an old man, and a donkey were walking through a town. The boy rode on the donkey while the old man walked beside it. As they passed the people of the town, they remarked what a shame it was that the energetic young boy rode while the old man walked. The boy and the old man thought that the critics were right, so they switched and the old man rode the donkey while the boy walked.
As they continued, they rode past more people in the town. The people remarked what a shame it was that the old man was making that poor little boy walk as he rode on the donkey. The old man and the boy thought their critics were right, so they decided that they both could walk.
They continued and as they passed more people, they heard remarks about how silly it was that both the man and the boy were walking when they had a perfectly good donkey to ride. The old man and the boy decided they were right so they both rode the donkey.
As they rode through the town, more people said how sad it was that the poor donkey was being made to carry such a load. The boy and the man thought they were probably right so they decided to carry the donkey. But as they crossed a bridge, they lost their footing and the donkey fell into the river and drowned.
The moral of the story? If you try to please everyone, you’re going to lose your ass.
Never lose your way.
It is a misconception to assume that an indie writer doesn’t work hard. On the contrary, we work extremely hard.
That’s not to say that all indie writers work hard. We’re no different from traditionally published writers. There are those who work very hard and those who do not. Since storytelling is so subjective, it is almost impossible to judge who works harder than who. There is no yardstick to measure who’s been spending time molding their craft into perfection and who simply dabbles, which, to the lazy writer, can make writing for a living seem like a pretty sweet deal. Sure, we have the Chicago Style Guide and the dictionary to tell us who’s getting it technically right. But is the English language really so technical? If we lived in England, I would be inclined to say yes. But we don’t, at least I don’t, and my English language has a scruffy charm that I expect to come out just right in the books that I read. If it doesn’t, I put it down fast.
Technically right all the time = boring! If I wanted to read something that didn’t take any chances, I’d read an instruction manual.
Lately, I’ve been spending quite a bit of time reading indie books. Some are great and some not so great. For me, there are a lot of reasons why a book might not be so great. Maybe the story is unoriginal. Maybe the characters aren’t becoming meaningful to me, maybe the conflict isn’t resonating. I can ignore a few grammatical errors, passive voice, and bad commas without it interrupting the flow of the story. But these problems are not solely an issue with indies. I’ve found that the more indie books I read, and the more I compare them with gatekeeper books, that I prefer the indie characters over the ones that the gatekeepers let through.
Why? Because indie authors can take chances.
Their characters are rich and unsupervised. Unfiltered and unsung. Their voices are real. Pure street poetry. Greatness has to start somewhere and it isn’t as meaningful if it begins institutionally. I won’t deny that some of the greatest literary characters ever written were traditionally published-of course they were-but I often wonder what they might have said had they been allowed to say it.
Big publishing is like censored ABC. Indie is like uncensored HBO.
Would you rather see a sunrise on a movie screen or does it pack a bigger punch when viewed in real life in raw nature?
This isn’t to say I completely shun structure and correctness. There are a lot of things that indie writers can be doing to up their game. I’m not perfect either, not by half, but I’ll do everything within my power to get it right the first time.
As the tide starts to turn and indies are viewed in a more positive light by those that choose to trudge the traditional path, (what’s so abhorrent about indie musicians? or indie movies?) we will face quite a lot of tyranny from the other side on our way. There’s room for all of us in this ocean of a book world. So you go ahead and make money.
I’ll make history.
Care for a tasty bite?
“Listen,” he said. “I ain’t trying to find no trouble. Those two ding-bats might not recognize you but I do. I know who you are and I know your name ain’t Al.”
Jonathan felt his skin crawl. He was sure his stomach was about to give and the beer he’d been drinking would come burning back up his windpipe. He only nodded.
The bartender gestured around the bar with a short little wave of his hand. “This place ain’t much but it’s a job. You see, I been in prison a few times myself. Armed robbery. Assault. One more and I’m a three time loser. Cops don’t like my face; they give me a hard time whenever I see them. So your best bet is to pay a visit to the little boy’s room. It’s right down that hall over there. When you’re done, go through the door in the middle. That one will take you through the kitchen and if you go straight, you’ll see the back door. And if you don’t give me no problems, you might find a meatloaf sandwich on a plate. I wouldn’t miss it if it happened to disappear.”
Jonathan took the wad of cash out of his pocket and pulled out a five. He slid it on the bar toward the man. “Thanks.”
The bartender shook his head. “Keep it. You need it more than I do.”
At first, Jonathan felt a little insulted that the bartender wouldn’t accept his money. But then he realized that this man was right. He took it back and stuffed it in his pocket.
“You know a place where I can lay low for a while?”
“Plenty of abandoned houses and boarded up businesses around here,” the bartender said. “Too many for the cops to monitor. Hell, there’s a park not far from here. Plenty of trees to hide behind. Just stay the hell away from people. And keep going south, if you can.”
Jonathan nodded but he didn’t want to leave the bar. It was still early evening and he didn’t feel comfortable exposing himself outside just yet. But he had no choice.
“Thanks, man. I really appreciate it, Mr…?”
“Gauldin,” the bartender said, extending his hand to shake. “Bobby Gauldin.”
They shook. Jonathan took another long pull off the beer bottle in front of him and then stood and headed in the direction of the men’s room. After he finished taking a piss, he went through the door in the middle and found his way into the kitchen. A plastic grocery bag with two meatloaf sandwiches, two Cokes, and a small brown sack stuffed with French fries sat waiting for him on the counter by the sink. At the sight of that bag, Jonathan actually felt a sting of tears. It had been a long time since someone had selflessly helped him out in any way. If asked, he would have said that no such people existed in the world anymore. And he would have believed that. But as he took the bag and opened the back door (he half expected to see pulsing red and blue lights and a team of cops with their guns drawn, waiting for him) he realized that a simple bartender with a checkered past named Bobby Gauldin had proved him wrong.
It was a mad world, indeed.
From Chapter 7 of The Other Sky-Book One-Earth
It’s no secret that I love the man’s stories. Trying to choose a favorite would be no easier than picking a favorite pet. There are certain books of his that I tend to turn to the most in times of distress but at any given time, I’m reading at least one Stephen King book.
What am I reading right now? Full Dark, No Stars. Again.
Every year in the fall months, I eagerly look forward to the latest King book. This year it’s 11/22/63. From what I hear, it’s another monster like Under the Dome but I don’t care. Personally, I prefer the luxury liner experience of a good, long read, one I can really immerse myself into instead of the typically encouraged 80-100,000 word book. These books dwarf my own “Learning To Fly” collection but I have my own massive stars on the way.
The Dark Layer, my upcoming book, ended around 155,000 words. The writers I know screamed that it’s too long. But whenever I ask readers what they think, they don’t seem to care. “If I don’t like a book,” a friend told me once, “then I’ll put it down and it won’t waste any more of my time. But if I do, then I don’t want it to end. So how is being long a bad thing?”
Anyway, I’m getting off target. King’s the man and I’m one of his biggest fans. At eight years old, my horror book virginity was popped by Christine. Eight is rather young but I’m glad I was young when I started adult books. If I had children, it’s something I would encourage for them as well. But these were more than just books with interesting characters and crazy stories. These books were escape hatches.
My childhood was rocky, and being an only child, I had no one else to talk to about what was going on. Few friends and no family that gave a damn so my books became my refuge. Christine, Cujo, The Dead Zone, The Shining, Pet Sematary, and Firestarter were my friends. Actually they were better than friends because not only did I learn from them but they never broke my toys or told lies about me behind my back. The best part? They were always, always there. No phone calls, no embarrassing admissions, no judgments. Just companionship.
I write ebooks now. Currently, I’m outlining a book called “Rainbow in the Dark” and what I hope to accomplish with this book is the same thing that King’s books did for me. I want to provide companionship to someone else out there that might be going through a tough time. I want to give them advice on how to stay strong through trials and tribulations they may be living, or surviving. Most of all, I want to give them hope. Because it can get better. Will get better.
26 years later and I’m still reading King. Here’s to the next 26.
It really makes my day when someone enjoys what I’ve written. Here are a few words on my short story collection, Learning To Fly:
“Penn tells a series of unrelated stories with a single fascinating, but horrifying theme: death.”
“…this book draws the reader into many ways people experience death…”
You can read the entire review here:
If anyone is interested in reviewing my book for their blog or periodical, please feel free to contact me and I’m happy to provide you with a copy.
A few people have asked me why I named my short story collection “Learning To Fly”. This is a fair question. The title doesn’t describe the central theme inside and it’s certainly an odd title for a book. Surely there are other names, better names, that are more befitting of such a collection?
Yes, there are. But this title has a certain meaning to me and it isn’t only because I’m a Pink Floyd fan and LTF happens to be my favorite song by them, even though it is. In part, perhaps, but not all.
Ever have a clear memory of childhood? I was 11 years old when “Learning To Fly” was released to video and that was around the age I began writing real stories with real people as characters along with an 11 year old’s definition of substance. It was also the year that Aliens was at the movie theatre and a young Gina Penn began a serious interest in horror as her favorite genre. My clear memory is of me sitting in my living room, watching MTV (back when MTV was worth watching) and seeing this video for the first time. I was writing a story, scribbling it with a pencil on spiral-bound notebook paper when this video caught my eye. It opens with a handsome young man cutting through vast fields of wheat with an enormous sickle. The young man spies a small plane coming toward him and stops. Stopped as I did when I first saw him.
The images of the video are quite powerful. Strong winds blowing tall stalks of wheat. The elegance of the plane as it glides over the man’s head. The peculiar dancing Native American. And the notion that if the young man wants it badly enough, he can jump off a cliff, and fly.
The words to the song are more powerful than the images. They meant something to me as an eleven year old child and have resonated with me throughout the years. The song is about beginnings, the start of something new and exciting.
A fatal attraction, holding me fast, how can I escape this irresistible grasp?
This is what my book, Learning To Fly, means to me. It is my first shaky step into an unknown so ominous that once you go in, you won’t find your way back.
No navigator to find my way home. Unladened, empty and turned to stone.
The writing process is similar to this song. It’s filled with wonderful highs and abysmal lows. The hours are long and the work is stressful. And even when you think it’s perfect, you later discover you’ve missed something; a key sentence, an awkward word, a plot hole.
Ice is forming on the tips of my wings. Unheeded warnings, I thought I thought of everything.
But, as writers, we soldier on. We keep writing. We do it for the love. For me, this song encompasses how I feel about my process, not just with this book but with all my stories. And no matter what, my sights are set for the clouds. Not to go through them but to fly above them.
There’s no sensation to compare with this.
Suspended animation, a state of bliss.
Can’t keep my eyes from the circling skies. Tongue-tied and twisted, just an earthbound misfit, I.
I need to blog a little bit about The Dark Layer, an upcoming book of mine that’s being worked on.
Originally, this book was slated for a May 2011 release. While working diligently to ensure such a date, a window of opportunity opened up to me that I definitely do not want to miss. I have the opportunity to work with a proofreader, a very good proofreader that has worked with JA Konrath, however, she doesn’t have an opening until October. And rather than releasing an inferior product and welcoming bad reviews, I’m putting The Dark Layer on hold until she has a chance to look at it. This will not only ensure a better story but it also gives me time to work on my new horror/sci-fi series called The Other Sky. Book 1-Earth is pouring out of me and I hope readers will like reading it as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it.
The cover for The Dark Layer is being worked on by a very talented man. If you’re seeking a professional cover for your book, go here: http://www.indyarmada.com/
There is a chance that the book could be looked at sooner but this is not to be counted upon.
So, unless something changes (and I will be sure to announce it if that should happen) expect the book to have a fall 2011 release.
If I can, in the interim, I may release some short stories to tide everyone over until then. Let’s hope time allows this.
Take care everyone and happy reading,
This post is not going to be as long as the previous post about the convention but this one will have something the other one didn’t have: pictures.
I Tweeted a few of the pics from the con but wanted to include them in the post in case anyone missed them and wants to see.
The basic consensus of the panel was-yeah, some are terrible but there are a lot of terrible movies that aren’t horror. Just look at the movie “How Do You Know” with Reese Witherspoon. I saw that movie on the flight to Austin and my god, that movie was effing terrible. Technically it wasn’t a horror movie but it scared me that a movie could be so bad and still get made. Sorry Reese.
People tend to single out horror movies because of bad actor choices (again, not something singular to horror movies) and bad character motivation. Plus, horror is such a small market compared to say, drama or rom-com, that people that aren’t fans of the genre are making judgments when they really don’t know enough about the genre to make a judgment.
There are a lot of good horror movies out there that I feel deserve some recognition: The Ring, Silence of the Lambs, Aliens (this is sci fi horror), and recently the psychological thriller (but some people call it horror) Black Swan, which garnered Natalie Portman a golden trophy. I wouldn’t call Black Swan horror per se, however, I go back to my previous assessment that horror isn’t really a genre but a feeling and there were some undeniable feelings of horror here, on the same level as Silence of the Lambs. Oh, and did anyone know that Black Swan was an independent film? Yeah, go indie!
The next day I attended a reading of Scott Edelman’s at 11 a.m. His was the only reading I attended so I hope Scott is flattered. Again, I will encourage everyone reading this to buy something of his. He literally oozes talent.
The next panel I went to was called Horror Without Stephen King. I can sum this one up for you: We wouldn’t have such fantastic works as Carrie, Misery, The Shining, The Stand, Shawshank Redemption, (I could go on and on) but someone else would sit at the throne of horror. Probably Jack Ketchum.
Moving on, I attended another panel called The Future of the Book. I didn’t Pulse Pen this panel and I should have because it was very interesting to learn what the panelists (Jeff Burk, Kim Glichrist, Sarah Langan, Robert Fleck, Joe Hill and Fred Venturini thought. (For some reason I think that this list of who was on the panel might be incorrect but that’s what’s in the program so that’s what I’m using. Sorry if there is a discrepancy but because of the lack of good internet connections throughout the hotel, I couldn’t Pulse Pen everything.)
This panel, again, was interesting because there is so much debate on what’s going to happen to the book. Check that-what is happening to the book. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve noticed that some very big and exciting things are happening in the book world and I think a lot of purists would be surprised to know that many of the traditionally published authors are in favor of the e-book. One huge point that was made was connected to this very conference: lugging all those books home is a problem. The brilliant thing about e-books is that you can have thousands of books on an e-reader and not have to sweat over what books to take home and what books to leave. Unfortunately, there was no post office or UPS store anywhere near the hotel and a taxi ride is out of the question because it’s so expensive so, speaking for myself here, I had to leave 3 books behind at the hotel. The rest had to be smashed into my carry-on bag and into my already heavy laptop bag and my back was singing Ave Maria because of the extra weight. Print books, according to the panel, will never go away but they will become more of a collectible item instead of the norm. E-books and e-authors aren’t going away. The last word on the ease and efficiency of publishing an e-book went a little like this: the cream will rise to the top. Those that don’t use editors or proofreaders or write well will sink to the bottom and those whose work is good will rise to the top. Just because a book is in print doesn’t mean you can count on quality. The gatekeepers at the big publishing houses are in it for the money not the art and so indie writers will be in the same class as indie filmmakers and indie musicians. The cream will rise to the top. I kind of liked that. Takes some of the fear, question and shame out of choosing the indie path.
The last panel for Saturday was How To Break Into Comics. I’m going to level with you here: I went to this panel because Joe Hill and Joe Lansdale were there. I love comics but I don’t write comics so it was pure fun, plain and simple.
Around this time on Saturday, April 1st I went into the dealer’s room to check out some of the stuff for sale. I was tired and my back was hurting and I wanted some time to unwind a little before disappearing away from the mass signing. When you have a bad back, mass signings equal one thing: long lines.
I got a chance to meet Jack Ketchum at this point. He was manning his own booth topped high with his books. We conversed a little, the subject matter I will not divulge, sorry, but I took away one thing here. Jack Ketchum is a fantastically nice guy. You can tell he enjoys talking to fans and and hanging out. He was gracious and polite. Not that I wouldn’t have expected these things but in all honesty, not all famous authors are as approachable as Jack Ketchum. He signed a book to me, personally and this made me really happy but I have a feeling he does this for all his fans and that makes me glad. I love knowing that I’m supporting a writer who is truly grateful for his success and knows who gave it to him.
It was at this point that Joe Hill also walked into the dealer’s room and his stand was right next to Jack Ketchum’s. Joe sat and immediately buried his face into his iPad or e-reader (he’s admitted to having more than one). I took this as a sign that it was time to approach him.
Now, out of respect for Joe, there were a few opportunities that I wanted to get his autograph and say hello but I am very shy and nervous and I always feel as though I’m imposing. I’m not one of those fans that’s going to interrupt someone’s lunch or conversation simply because I want to exclaim what a fangirl I am. I will miss an opportunity before doing that-I know that’s dumb but it’s the way I’m built. So, me taking the plunge and walking over to Joe Hill when he appeared not to be busy was a huge step for me. A milestone.
I asked for a moment of his time and he looked up and smiled. I asked if he could sign my book (Gunpowder, a little-known Joe Hill book that I bought at the con) because there was no way I was going to make it to the mass signing because of my back. He said “Sure” and took the book and did his signature doodle. During this time, I told him I was a huge fan and that I even had one of his bookplates (during a recent promotion for Horns in paperback, Joe Hill signed bookplates to those that pre-ordered. That is the third time I’ve purchased Horns.). This was where the good times ended. At the mention of the bookplate, and I’m sure I’ll never know why, Joe Hill looked up at me with such a bewildered look of incredulity that it made me take a step back. It was only a moment but in that moment I was suddenly reduced to the size of an ant and wished I’d never approached him at all. He handed the book back to me, I think I muttered “thanks”, tucked my tail between my legs and hobbled away.
I’m scarred for life now. I don’t think I’ll ever have the guts to approach another published writer. Ever.
Now please understand that I’ve been a Joe Hill fan for a very long time. I didn’t enjoy 20th Century Ghosts nor did I enjoy Heart Shaped Box (the MC in the latter I just couldn’t stand) but Horns is one of my favorite books ever written. I really, really love that book. It’s well-written, Ig is a totally likable character, and the story is resonating. It’s just damned good and it’s one of my comfort books that I can pick up anytime and just read. Very few books make it to that shelf; it lives there with Christine, which is the first King book I ever read. I really wish I knew why or at least understood why Joe Hill gave me such a dirty look. It would ease my pain. But I never will and I just have to tell myself that maybe he was having a bad day or something. So, if by some miracle Joe Hill reads this, I’m truly sorry if I said something wrong and I apologize.
Edit: Joe responded and said he didn’t give me a dirty look. So, my life can now continue unscarred. Thanks, Joe. You have made me feel so much better.
After such a meeting, I spent Saturday night in the hotel room. I went to the book launch parties but I’m not a big party girl. I was tired, my back hurt and my feelings had just gotten a good sucker punch so I went to bed.
On Sunday, the last day of the con, I attended the Zombies Mega Panel with panelists Joe McKinney, RJ Sevin, Julia Sevin, Sarah Langan, Joe Lansdale and John Skipp. Later Brian Keene also jumped in. It included a rather awesome video intro and was basically a discussion about the zombie genre, how zombies aren’t going anywhere and how they’ve evolved over the years. A fantastic panel and a great way to end the con.
Okay, so this post is probably just as long as the last and I apologize but I hope you’ve read until the end. My overall take-away from this experience is that it was a fantastic con, I’m definitely going again (hopefully with some success under my belt), and if I do, I’ve got to think of a better way to tote my books home.
An Interview with Gina Penn by Gina Penn
I decided to have a little fun and interview myself.
Gina: All right, tell me a little about yourself.
Gina: Well, I’ve lived in Ohio all my life, am the proud parent of some very clingy but adorable pets, and I’m a writer.
Gina: How long have you been writing?
Gina: Since I was old enough to pick up a pencil.
Gina: So, you started writing before you could read? That doesn’t sound possible.
Gina: I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing or telling stories in some form, be it pictures with crayons or on a computer. It basically boils down to the same thing, just a different form.
Gina: Okay, I get it. What did you used to write about?
Gina: The very first book I ever wrote was in the fourth grade and it was about a rock group on tour. I handed it in for an assignment and the teacher didn’t give it back. To this day, I have no idea if that’s a good or bad thing. I hope I’ve improved a little since then but I sometimes have my doubts.
Gina: What’s your favorite story you’ve ever written?
Gina: That’s tough because they’re all my children. “The Storm” pulled me out of my writer’s block so that one holds a special place in my heart. I’m currently working on what may turn out to be a trilogy called “The Other Sky-Book One-Earth”. It’s a mix of sci-fi and horror and I’m really excited about it because I get cool ideas for it every day. I’m finding ways to explore character development in this book that I’ve never done before and it’s so much fun to play.
Gina: Any people you know in real life making an appearance in this new trilogy?
Gina: Yes. Lots of people. But remember I write horror. (smiles wickedly)
Gina: I’m not even going to ask. What else do you like besides writing?
Gina: I like horseback riding. Reading, of course. I love trivia and am an avid watcher of Jeopardy and the Discovery channel. I love shows about disasters. I’m also interested in religion although I don’t consider myself to be a terribly religious person.
Gina: Since you write horror, I gotta ask; are you afraid of anything?
Gina: Oh yeah, you bet. A good horror writer has to have fears and know what it feels like to be scared of something, otherwise, what are they drawing from? I’m deathly afraid of clowns; the technical term is coulrophobia and I’ve had a nasty case of it since childhood. I can probably thank Poltergeist and It for that. Also, I’m scared of going to the dentist.
Gina: Anything else you want to say before we close?
Gina: Here are a few things about me that people might not know:
I prefer my dog’s company over that of humans.
Occasionally, I go on info binges. One week I’m obsessed with serial killers and the next week I might obsess over learning how to cultivate the perfect rose.
I could literally eat Mexican food every day and be happy for the rest of my life.
I suffer from crippling shyness even though I don’t come off that way. It’s so crippling that sometimes I can’t maintain eye contact with someone while having a conversation with them. This may lead to the person I’m conversing with to think that I’m a bitch and not interested in what they’re saying but nothing could be further from the truth. My body literally clenches up to where my neck won’t support my head anymore. It’s a real, physical reaction.
I’m not a morning person but that’s my best writing time. I hate my body for choosing this dumb schedule.
I grew up an only child and require alone time to myself every single day to keep from going nuts.
Stephen King is my idol and for a long time I didn’t read any other author. It was only within the last decade or so that I discovered other authors could write almost as good as he can.
Gina: That’s a great list! Now, what say we get a burrito?
Gina: Let’s go.
I need to thank my friend Kara for asking me to do a blog about seven things people may not know about me. This was a lot of fun! Here’s the small print:
This blog is about my four day experience at the World Horror Convention 2011 in Austin, Texas.
The World Horror Convention began in the late 80’s when folks that loved horror attended the World Fantasy Con and decided they needed a con of their own. Not long after, in 1991, the first World Horror Convention took place in Nashville, TN.
Being a past attendee of the World Fantasy Convention (last year in Columbus), I can certainly understand why followers of horror felt this needed to happen. The Fantasy Con is close, but not quite the same. People that don’t write or try to understand horror won’t get this but it’s true; horror is an island all its own. There are different rules when it comes to writing horror. Horror isn’t really even a genre-it’s a feeling, an emotion that starts when a certain author, painter, filmmaker, or any orchestrator of something scary creates something that stirs something inside us. Maybe it jangles a long ago memory or maybe it reminds you of a horror movie you saw recently but the desired reaction is to scare you a little or a lot.
I arrived in Austin, Texas early Thursday afternoon after my flight from D.C. to Austin was delayed due to weather. It was on this delayed flight that I bumped into my first WHC friend-Scott Edelman. I could take up an entire blog writing about Scott Edelman and his long career in the horror industry. He’s published over 75 short stories, edited countless magazines, works for the SyFy channel, has been a Stoker award finalist five times and a Hugo Award finalist for best editor. Not to mention, an extremely nice and down-to-earth gentleman and I can’t say enough how privileged I am to have been stuck on a plane with him while we waited for the pounding rain to stop outside so our plane could take off. I attended a reading of his over the weekend and was blown away by this man’s talent. If any of you out there in Blogland haven’t read anything of his, I implore you; please do. He’s immensely talented and just awesome. He is the zombie writer extraordinaire.
Due to an unfortunate incident involving my back (for anyone unaware, I have arthritis in my spine and sometimes I’m forced to use a cane to walk with) my trek from Ohio to Texas made me extremely tired and so I didn’t attend Thursday’s opening ceremonies or any of the readings or panels. If anyone out there is wondering who I am, I was the girl with the black hair and the wooden knotty pine cane that hobbled around the hotel all weekend. Yeah, that was me. It seems that whenever I travel I have some type of injury. In November of 2009 when I flew to MN to a Stephen King reading, both my ankles were sprained. Yes, I flew to MN to see Stephen King read on stage with two sprained ankles. And yes, I’m nuts.
On Friday I attended a panel called “Why Write Short Stories?” and the panelists were Joe Hill, Molly Tanzer, Claude Lalumiere, Orrin Grey, Suzanne Church and Brad Sinor.
This was an interesting panel for me because I just recently published a short story collection and so I was interested in hearing what was said about short stories. Joe Hill began by saying “I think the short story form is the great classroom for writers to learn their craft”. He spent three years on a project called “Fear Tree” that was turned down everywhere and that’s when he decided he needed to “get small”. He also said it’s a “set of skills that are acquired through practice”. Claude Lalumiere commented that the skills it takes to write short stories aren’t the same as writing a longer work. A novel is a “long investment of time” while writing short stories does not “bog down the project when my mind is elsewhere”. Orrin Grey concurred this thought by saying short stories are “quick” and there’s an advantage, both creatively and also for the reader, in this. Suzanne Church said that short stories help to “build the brand” and your platform as a writer. Joe Hill went on to say that there aren’t “different rules when it comes to writing short stories versus long”. He also says that you have to “get your hooks in with an editor in the first page, first paragraph, first sentence, if possible and keep him there. And it’s not different in novels and you can’t have a chapter that floats around…It has to count.” He continues, “you create a trance in a short story…and it’s very hard to do that in a book.” Claude Lalumiere commented by saying the great thing about short stories is that you can read them in “one sitting” and all the panelists agreed that if they’re reading a short story, they want to read it in one sitting. (I have to agree here-it gives you such a sense of accomplishment when reading and finishing a story in one night.” Brad Sinor commented that “…you have a 150 words to get the editor’s and reader’s attention” and it was said that “150 is A LOT”. The opening paragraph is “scary” according to Joe Hill and Claude agrees that you have to “seduce” your readers. The panel then went on to discuss length and Brad Sinor said it depends on the “guidelines”. “Shorter is better.” Joe Hill: “I start with a concept. I need an idea I’m excited about. After that I need a character…and the third thing I need is the story has to be more than itself. It has to ask an interesting question.”
Joe Hill touched briefly on discovering new authors: “Short stories are the best way to discover a writer… Things are starting to change a lot in the last year or two and we’re pretty excited about it. People have new e-readers, the nook, Kindle and the iPad and those markets are very open to short stories. If someone writes a 20,000 short story, novella…they put it up on the Kindle, nook or iPad and it makes the perfect bite-size length for someone to download and read on their e-reader. There’s a magazine called “One Story” you can purchase on your Kindle, they publish one story a month and it’s great…”
Another interesting comment that was made was about editors being needed, regardless of what type of fiction, short or long, you write. Editors are needed to challenge you on your writing as well as finding all the mistakes you make.
The next panel discussion I went to was called “New Blood” and featured panelists Rio Youers, John Rector, John Horner Jacobs, Jesse Bullington, Guido Henkel, and Norman Prentiss. This discussion was focused mainly on the new generation of horror writers and what they bring to the table. (Unfortunately, I did not Pulse Pen this panel so I’m relying only on my notes!)
“New blood” isn’t necessarily “new” at writing. Writers can start in random places, such as video games, short stories, poetry, comics, etc… Rio commented that he received a blurb from Peter Straub and it helps to make connections from people bigger than you are. (I couldn’t agree more.) Guido Henkel commented that he “doesn’t like agents” and that socializing and networking are important. Guido also went on to say “trust your instincts-it doesn’t matter what people say.” There are opinions and there is advice and advice is not necessarily always good. (Guido mentioned that someone told him to change his name! Can you imagine?) One simple truth is that there is no simple truth. From here on out, the panelists discussed work that was done early in the careers of some well known artists and took a few random questions at the end.
The next panel I attended was a reading and interview with Joe Hill, a guest of honor at the convention.
Joe did a reading of his newest work, entitled “Nos 4 A 2”, an upcoming novel he’s currently working on. I have to admit, this work sounds interesting as well as maybe a little humorous, with Joe’s unmistakable style of writing leaning toward the sexually bent.
After Joe’s reading, he took the time to answer a few questions.
Regarding Twitter: “Twitter is great, Twitter is awesome, love Twitter. There are other formats, you know, and as a writer, I’m interested in any form where I can write…if I look at all the different things I’ve tried, short stories, comics, novels, or screenplays, the literary form I clearly suck at the most is blogging. I’m a terrible blogger, I hate doing it… but Twitter I get. Twitter is 140 character posts and essentially (embodies) the most noble literary form which is the one-liner. Mark Twain would have Twittered.” I like it myself, Joe.
On musical artists that inspire: “I listened to a song called “Beautiful Wreck” about 250 times…I listen to a lot of heavy metal, a lot of Kiss. I’ve listened to a lot of Tom Petty while working on this one (Nos 4 A 2).”
On his dad: “The elephant in the room is my dad, Steve King. And, you know, it’s something I’m fairly comfortable discussing, might not have been a few years ago… When I was in college, I got thinking about, I do want to be a writer, I do want to be a novelist, but the last name might be a disadvantage. Because, I figured, I’d write something mediocre and come out as Joseph King and a publisher might see it as a way to make a quick buck on the last name. And people would say, he just got somewhere because of his dad. Readers are really smart, they might buy your first book because your dad is someone famous but if it’s no good they’ll never buy the second one. I decided to drop the last name and write as Joe Hill and was able to keep the pen name under wraps for about ten years. I had a great trick I used to keeping it under wraps, it’s called “failure”. It’s amazing, no one will figure it out if you can’t get anything published.”
Is he ever going to consider doing a video game? “No.”
On acting: “I was in my dad’s film, “Creepshow”. I’m the kid that gets slapped by Tom Atkins. They had to do the make up, so it was like, a bruise on my face, and after that scene, I went to McDonald’s and went through the drive through, “I want a milkshake! I want a milkshake!” and my dad, he’s like, “get the kid a chocolate milkshake” and he looks around and everyone in the drive-thru is looking at me and then looking at him like they’re thinking, “You piece of shit! You slap the kid and then bribe him with a chocolate milkshake.”
Tune in tomorrow for the remainder of the weekend, where I’ll blog about the panel “Why Horror Movies are Terrible”, the Grand Master Award Presentation (winner Jack Ketchum), the book launches, my reading with Scott Edelman, the panel “Horror Without Stephen King, “The Future of the Book”, “How to Break Into Comics”, and the Sunday mega panel on Zombies.
If you write horror in any form, be it gothic, dystopian horror or plain old slash and gore horror, The World Horror Convention is the place to be.
This year the WHC is attacking the city of Austin, home of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It doesn’t get more appropriate than that.
So, if you’re out and about in Austin, looking for something to do on a ninety-some degree day (thank goodness for AC) swing on by and join us for sessions, book signings and maybe even some no-good, bloody fun.
Remember: what happens in Austin, stays in Austin.
See you there.