Seeking to improve my skills, I ordered a copy of How to Write a Mystery, edited by Lee Child. At first glance, anyone who enjoys a whodunit would get a little excited. Some 70 authors were invited by the Mystery Writers of America to contribute, and I was eager to absorb their wisdom.
A few reasons for my interest. First, my ongoing Call of Cthulhugame. Surely developmental ideas from fellow authors could transition to the TTRPG scene quite nicely. Second, mystery knows no real bounds. The Robots of Dawnby Isaac Asimov is an example of a sci-fi mystery, while the entire Harry Potterseries is such in the trappings of magical fantasy. Even the super hero genre benefits. Batman: The Long Halloween is an excellent tale, a puzzling series of murders still discussed and analyzed today.
Coming from some professional experience, I envisioned trying a few new methodologies or perhaps adding a fresh frame of mind to the tacklebox. Unfortunately, How to Write a Mystery wasn’t exactly what I sought.
It’s spooky season and we don’t mess around in my haunted house. Although there’s plenty of timeless tunes, Halloween-themed options have grown lately thanks to new bands embracing the holiday or horror in general.
This list is a mixture of classics, new earworms, and near forgotten gems waiting to be rediscovered. Each earned its place through haunting melodies, dark lyrics, or terror-inducing imagery. All are ideal for parties or chilling with friends. It is not in any particular order, and ranges from goofy and fun to very adult, for which I’ll provide NSFW warnings.
If you enjoy this, be sure to check out my latest release, Arkham Horror: Secrets in Scarletfrom Aconyte Books. A set of globetrotting, thriller-horror adventures with stories by Josh Reynolds, Carrie Harris and MJ Newman.
Ece Şahin. Art historian. Curator for the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts. Member of the Red Coterie, an organization dedicated to finding and safeguarding dangerous artifacts of otherworldly powers. One of which may be hidden in Istanbul. Yet as Ece and her assistant Haluk seek the past, a rival cult emerges to challenge her cabal. Unwilling to play the game on their level, Ece will discover just how alone she is… unless she changes her approach.
“How did James do it?” you may ask. Believe it or not, my writing magic involves no blood sacrifices. Just sleep sacrifice and a whole lot of reading. Here’s a few of my author’s notes for “In Art, Truth.”
The studies are in, and they strongly suggest that readers are smart cookies. Indeed, word addicts possess more fluid and crystallized intelligence. They’re more empathetic. They have wider vocabularies, less stress, and better memory. They are the superior nerd!
So why the hell do some authors treat readers like they’re suckers?
Look buddy. If you’re buying automated book reviews, readers will catch you. Nor can you force your novel to “become a viral sensation.” Even the almighty Big Five can’t do that. If they could, we’d have a new bestseller every week.
“What?” you may ask, with statistically probable innocence. “What do you mean? What ‘tricks’ have been tried before?”
In the business, can other authors really help you as a writer?
Many folks go, “Yeah! Absolutely!” and mention their writing groups. Or point to big name authors who provide promotional quotes for marketing. Maybe they’ll even point to review exchanges, where novelists swap books and publicly applaud each other.
…yeeeeeeaaahhh. Honesty time.
Writing groups aren’t bad or anything, but most attendees just want to be the hot topic du jour. Few will give you deep, valuable criticism because that takes effort. If they knew the market’s tastes, they wouldn’t be hanging out at the library on a Tuesday night—they’d be employed at a publisher. It just becomes the blind leading the blind.
“At long last!” self-published authors declare, deviously twirling their evil mustaches. “Thank to the power of artificial intelligence, I no longer have to pay a premium for beautiful cover art!”
Okay, I’m embellishing that. Still, it’s hard to ignore the zeitgeist. Last month, social media was inundated with image after beautiful image. Reddit and Facebook briefly became digital art museums of the information age before mods cracked down on the deluge. The situation was not lost on Ars Technica.
The art flood has slowed or stopped, but uncertainty remains. We finally live in a time where something gorgeous and one-of-a-kind can be mass produced faster than toilet paper during an epidemic. Still, why take my word on the matter when you can try it yourself?
Pride month is here, and unfortunately I’m spending most of it at home, entertaining guests and taking care of household needs. Next month holds bigger plans, including a wedding and even a beach getaway. June is my month to prepare.
And preparing I am. For those who don’t know, I became a parent almost five months ago. This prompted thoughts as to how my own parents could have done more for their health. So I’ve put myself on a dieting and exercise regime to get the weight down. A routine that involves an hour on the treadmill for four days a week, usually coupled with almost an hour of calisthenics and weight lifting.
I’ve been at it for about a month now. Aside from weight loss, some extra muscle is really helpful. There’s always something heavy to be lifted, be it the baby carrier, stroller, or additional bags. It could come in handy next year when I return to fan conventions, and have to lug all those extra books to the booths…
If you have this thing called the interweb, you may have been exposed to virulent contagions known as “memes.” To date, the CDC has no known procedure for handling exposure to these infectious buggers, but one particular strain is on my mind.
Yes, book slappers. The fictitious job in which a literary snob would strike a movie director with a printed novel, or perhaps a very durable e-reader, for the audacity of possessing creativity. As if movie studios exist for the express purpose of selling novels. Because many claim “the book is always better than the movie.”
Is it really? Are books always better than movies? Or are we justifying the many hours a novel requires against the runtime of a full-length film? Not unlike how we merely think expensive wines taste better?
The year is 202X. Technology and progress have advanced to such a point that two nerds can get together and create poetry from thousands of miles apart. What a time to be alive!
While solo writing will always be the norm, it’s easier and more reasonable to share the experience with co-writers than ever. The Expanse, a recent book-turned-television series phenomenon, is actually a team effort by Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck under the pseudonym James S.A. Corey. The San Cicaro series is no stranger to paired writing either. While working on Beasts of San Cicaroand Decades of San Cicaro (which is out this week by the way), Andrew and I got together to create the misadventures of one Olivia Murphy, the book series’ new hostess.
“By why?” the naysayers scream. “Why would I share writing credit with anyone? The glory is mine alone! There can be only one!“
Eaaaaaasy Highlander… I can think of three good reasons.
Sooner or later, everyone in the biz is going to hear it. “But you’ve never done [genre/topic] before!”
For some reason, audiences get this ludicrous idea that writers, musicians and yeah, even artists, should “stay in their lane” regarding what they produce. I can’t say why this is the pervading wisdom, but being asked these questions feels like a job interview against (not with) an obstinate hiring manager.
I too have experienced turbulence when I made the transition from contemporary horror to low-fantasy. And again while introducing those familiar with my tie-in fiction to my original work. I’m not the only one. Other franchise writers have been miffed when their debut homebrew fails to make a splash, despite being published traditionally. Friend Manuel has faced similar problems as a graphic designer, for no other reason than never having worked with a particular product before.
As if new folks can’t or shouldn’t break into the field in question.