Friday, December 16, 2011

'Twas the Night Before KRAMPUS

Ever wonder what happens to the boys and girls who don't make Santa's "nice" list?  They fall victim to the fearsome beast named...Krampus.  Tonight, we present a special Christmas tale called..."Twas the Night Before Krampus."

Twas the night before Christmas
And deep in our bunker
My mom, dad, sister and
I did hunker.

The streetlights were dark
No carolers sang
not even the blessings
of church bells rang.

And beneath our beds
We all huddled tight
And hoped he would pass
by our house tonight.

Everyone knows of
Jolly Saint Nick
and the gifts he brings
on his single night trick.

And the presents and baubles
and candy and toys
that he brings every Christmas
to good girls and boys

But it wasn't the man
with red suit and white beard
whose annual Christmas
visit we feared

Outside in the snow
we heard a loud howl
the crunching of ice
and an animal growl

I heard it sniff by our
window payne
then a throaty laugh
and saw red eyes like flame

My sister and I
both stared horrified
and prayed that the creature
could not get inside

but a moment later
a thundering pound
turned our door to splinters
all over the ground

I screamed as the creature
into our home came
This horrible beast
Von Krampus by name

He was massively tall
At least seven feet
From the points of his horns
to his hoof-shodden feet

Across his back what I
Mistook for a coat
Was the shaggy long hair
of a filthy dead goat

And I cried and I swallowed
My terrified pangs
at the sight of his wickedly
razor-sharp fangs.

His claw-fingered hands
looked ready for pain
in one was a bullwhip
the other a chain

He growled and sneered
and laughed for a while
then he pointed at us
and said "Naughty" with a smile

My sister and I
Both shook with fear
what terrible things
had we done this year?

We tried to be good
and thought we succeeded
we minded our manners
no punishment needed

We both made good grades!
We neither one lied
or cheated or stole
We had nothing to hide!

But Krampus still came
With his evil heart black
to steal us away,
Stuff us in his sack

To take us away
to his punishment cave
where all the bad children
forever his slaves

We turned to our parents
behind them to hide
but they both shook their heads
and sadly stepped aside

"You must face the music"
My father lamented
Von Krampus then laughed
his expression demented

My sister and I
hugged each other tight
And prayed that someone
could save us that night

And just when we gave up
and all hope was gone
there came a loud clatter
from out on the lawn

With a tinkle of bells
our spirits did lift
Von Krampus snarled
the air he did sniff

On the wind came the scent
of holly and pine
of gingerbread cookies
and holiday wine

In the doorway he stood
in his suit of bright red
St. Nicholas came!
We cried out and said:

"Save us St. Nicholas!
There's been a mistake!
We've been good all year!
You can't let him take..."

"Hold on!  Not so fast!"
He raised his great hand
"There is something happening
you don't understand!

Von Krampus did come
that much is true
but the demon of Christmas
did NOT come for you."

At the demon we stared
both of us confused.
He had to be here for
somebody...but who?

Then I started to think
and all became clear.
Who'd been the naughtiest
of all that year?

Well...Mommy drank vodka
by pitchers and glasses
and Daddy watched porn
and cheated on taxes.

And Mommy spent far too much
time on her hair
and Daddy had something
he called "an affair."

And Mommy spent all of
my birthday money.
And Daddy called sister
his own secret honey

The more that I thought
the more I understood
We children were fine,
But the parents, no good.

"But Krampus takes children!"
My father protested.
And Santa's face twisted
toward the man he detested.

"Christmas time is for children,
And gifts to be given.
You took their innocence
and that can't be forgiven.

You scared them into silence
their souls you did twist
And to top it off told them
I didn't exist.

For your your lifelong naughtiness
The piper must be paid."
And set Krampus upon them
with a dismissive wave.

The adults screamed as they
went into his sack
And we cried until Santa
patted my back.

"What's wrong?" Asked Saint Nickolas
"I thought you'd be happy
to be rid of those people
who treated you crappy."

"We are," I sniffed,
sincere as could be.
"But what is to become
of my sister and me?"

St. Nickolas smiled
And laughed loud and deep
As did Krampus, A sound
that still haunts my sleep

"Why, you'll come with me!"
He said with great joy.
"I have great use for
a good girl and boy!

You'll come to my workshop
and work with my elves
I promise that you will
enjoy yourselves!

I'll teach you my secrets
my toy making ways
And you'll take over when
I've ended my days!"

"But..."  Said my sister.
"What about him?
Won't Krampus be lonely?"
She scratched his chin

"I wish to thank him
And I know the way
I will go with him and
be his protoge!"

And so, from Kris Kringle
I learned to make toys
and my sister to torture
Naughty girls and boys.

And every evening
from that point thereafter
My dreams were full of parent screams
and my sister's laughter.

And so this ends our
Happy Christmas Story
If you're nice and not naughty
You've no need to worry

But if your heart's full of coal
and you're an evil mister
Try to hide, but you'll soon meet
Krampus and my sister.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Twas the Night Before Christmas...MY WAY.

I've been reading and performing this for years, but this is my version of "Twas the Night Before Christmas."  Hope you enjoy it.   I'll post the other version (Twas the Night Before Krampus) later. 

Listen to the MP3!

T'was the night before Christmas
In my mausoleum.
The ghosts were about
but only I could see 'em.

There were chains on the gates,
and snares on the ground.
Not good at Christmas
to have zombies walking around

The corpses were snuggled
and locked in their coffins.
And they never complained least not often.

And I hunkered down
inside my old crypt
and resumed my vigil
for the fat-man's night trip.

When from out in the grave yard
there arose such a ruccus
I ran past the headstones
with pants on my tuccus...

The moonlight fell down
in a softening glow
setting the headstones
alight in the snow.

Amid all the finery
of the white wonderland
I spied a lone zombie
chewing on a hand.

Then beyond, a few more
around the downed sleigh
I took up my pitchfork
and leapt in the fray

The zombies were feasting
on Santa's entrails
and wiping their mouths
on fluffy reindeer tails

I kicked them and beat them
and sent them a'scurry.
I had to save Santa
double quick in a hurry

But just as I cleared
away all the rot,
I found that my struggles
had all been for naught

Santa, what was left
was a puddle of goo,
the sleigh was demolished,
The reindeer dead too.

Poor children of the world,
for they would not see
any toys for Christmas.
All because of me.

I hadn't been quick enough
I'd slacked in my task
But I could set it right
with one favor to ask.

I lit a black candle
and knelt in the snow
for the old ones like ritual
like this, don't you know?

I called to Cthulhu
to beg him this favor.
In my determination
I never did waver.

The earth it did shake
and smoke gathered round
when the tentacled old-one
came up from the ground.

I asked him my favor,
he squinted his eye,
then he shook his head slowly
and said "Again?" with a sigh.

"This happened last year
in case you don't remember.
I usually like to see
people dismembered."

But I begged him please
and he sighed "very well,
but that's now five million years
you must spend in hell."

He waved his great arms
and blood did congeal,
wood did unsplinter,
contusions did heal.

The sleigh was intact,
none the worse for wear.
And the reindeer now lived,
despite missing some hair

And what of the fate
of the jolly-red elf?
Said the old one, "I'd planned
on eating him myself."

But a deal was a deal,
he had to concede.
The soul of the fat man,
for this year, was freed.

The goo pulled together
and began to reform
as toys all around him
began to swarm.

In an instant he was
as he was meant to be.
He seemed back to normal
from what I could see.

Some pieces were missing,
sure that I'll admit,
but we couldn't find everything
the zombies had bit..

But his nose like a button
and his great giant belly
both came back from
the puddle of jelly

He climbed in his sleigh
and whipped the deer hard
And flew with such speed
from my lonely graveyard.

And although I helped him,
I'll still get coal rocks
for a zombie destroyed
Old Saint Nick's voice box.

He was almost perfect,
the best I could do,
considering he'd just been
a puddle of goo.

He flew through the sky
and never looked back.
Who would, after such
a zombie attack?

But I did hear him call
as he drove out of sight,

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Looking Back, Looking Forward

We're mere weeks away from the end of 2011 and the beginning of 2012.  Last year, around this time, I put up a list of goals for the following year.  I'm happy to say I accomplished most, if not all of them. I did, in fact, lose a great deal of weight (which I promptly gained back again when I quit smoking), got another book published, landed an agent, and did lots of good things that made me appear to be a shiny happy person.  Along the way, I learned a few things.  Among them:

  • No matter what I write here in this blog, someone's going to take offense.  And I will hear about it.
  • I have the best friends in the world and they're scattered all over the world.  Russia, South Korea, Pittsburgh, Texas, California...There are even a few that I don't know where the hell they are, but they're my dear friends anyway. 
  • It is possible to have a moment of true happiness, even it is a tiny one.  Those moments are what make life worth living. 
So, with that in mind, I figured I'd state a few goals for 2012 (provided the earth doesn't explode in some Mayan-predicted mishap, although that would be very entertaining).  Keep in mind, I feel the whole "New Year's Resolutions" thing just begs to have them broken.  That's why these are goals.  
  • Lose weight.  Again.  I need to lose about sixty pounds.  And, here's the kicker, I want to do it by June.  I want to look good in my kilt for the next residency. 
  • More publishing.  The third book in the Stanley Cooper Chronicles will be out, but I also want to expand into other areas.  (Remind me to tell you about my friends Sonny Redwood and William Strange.)  I would also love it if my agent sold the two novels of mine she's shopping around. 
  • Write more.  Some people question what I mean when I say that because they know I'm ALWAYS working.  I have the disposition of a hermit much of the time because I'm always busy.  But there are more stories to be told. 
  • Read more.  Always.
  • Go to more conventions.  This year, I'm eyeballing Armadillocon and Austin Comic Con, but I'm open for any conventions a person wants to book me for.  
  • Get into better health.  That kind of falls under the losing weight thing, but it's more that I need to be more healthy again.  I want to be around to see my grandkids, if I get any.  That's not a hint!  I don't want grandkids right now!  I'm only 40 for crying out loud!  
  • Produce more.  That'll be interesting...More on that as it develops. 
So that's it.  Short list, right?  But, sitting here, in this chair, it feels almost insurmountable.  Almost.  One thing I can say:  I've never failed to reach a goal.  I just haven't.  It's not an option for me.  It's one of those things my Father instilled in me, a distinct lack of "quit."  So no matter what, I'll reach those goals.  

Now it's your turn.  What do you have planned for 2012?  Anything good?  Anything bad?  Leave it in the comments.  I'd be glad to hear from you. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Don't Demonize Me for Being a Guy

Anyone who knows me knows a few things.  One, I love Eggs Benedict.  Two, horror isn't something I do, it's something I am.  And number three, I can't stand the subjugation of any people because of race, religion, sexual orientation, or any one of a thousand other stupid "reasons."  Hate, in my opinion, is wrong and a sign of a uneducated, unintelligent mind.  So, before we go any further, let's clear something up:  If you are of a minority, and you dislike the members of the majority simply because they are members of the majority, you, yourself, are guilty of being prejudiced.  Go back and re-read that sentence until it sinks in.  I'll wait.

Back?  See, I can't count the number of times I've heard people say "I can't be racist!  I'm black/hispanic/asian/insertracehere!  It's all you white people that are racist!"  Look at that statement again.  "It's all you white people..."  Uh, yeah.  That is, by definition, a racist statement.  You're welcome.

But the one that pisses me off more than anything else, the one thing that I find more upsetting and more degrading than any other form or prejudice is that which is based on gender.  I will admit I have a certain bias toward women when it comes to the area of sexual relations, but that's as far as it goes.  In the job, on the street, in the gym, it doesn't matter to me if you're female or male.  I don't give a plug-nickle about anything like that.  All I care about is a) are you nice to me; b) can you perform the function for which you were hired; c) do you possibly need my assistance in any way.  That's it folks.  But that's me.

So here's where this is going:  The other day, I overheard someone say "I can't be sexist.  I'm a woman." As if being a woman precluded her from the ignorance involved in hating someone for no good damned reason. Same day, different person:  "That's just like a man."  Same day, different person:  "If they try to fire me, I'll cry sexual discrimination!" (that one from a person truly incompetent at her job, and someone whom I wouldn't cross the street to piss on if she were on fire...)  From another person:  "You couldn't understand.  You're just a man."  That last one cut me pretty deep, so I asked her:  "What?  I'm incapable of understanding the intricacies of human emotion just because I've got balls?  I can't understand what it's like for someone like you to look at someone like me and immediately dislike me on the basis of an extra chromosome, over which I had no control?  I can't understand what it's like for someone to force themselves on another person?  Really?  Is that what you think?  Because, in all honesty, I don't think you're a strong woman.  Not at all.  In fact, I think you give strong women a bad name because you call yourself one, when, in reality, you're just a bitch."  Then I walked away, leaving her slack-jawed and fuming.

Here are a few myths about guys from your good-ole Uncle Scott that I'd like to dispell:

  • We (the men) are not all rapists. 
  • Most of us don't think rape is funny.
  • We get it...Rape is an awful thing, and you don't have to keep throwing it in our faces, even if you were molested/raped because we are not the ones who did it.
  • We do not befriend you just to have sex with you. 
  • If you are attractive, yes, we're going to be attracted to you.  That's what the word means. 
  • Yes, we have a decidedly different sense of humor than MANY of you, but not ALL of you.
  • We don't like killing cockroaches/spiders/unnamable horrors any more than you do.  
  • We are not the big bad that you make us out to be, and we're tired of being portrayed as such. 
Now, here are a few other helpful hints that you might find useful (Warning:  Although most of these seem like common sense to me, they're bound to piss someone off.  If you've got thin skin, grow a sense of humor, a sense of humility, and read a book)
  • You can, in fact, kill that cockroach/spider/unnamable horror yourself.  You are more than a thousand times larger than said bug, and while it may give you a class-A case of the willies, you won't die from it.  Suck it up. 
  • If you wear an outfit to a club/in public/to a mall/to church that is designed to look sexy (i.e. shows cleavage, hugs your butt, exposes the navel, etc) including, but not limited to mini-skirts, bikinis, tights, baby-doll t-shirts, we are going to look.  The clothing is designed to attract the attention of the opposite sex.  For you to put those items on, then complain that men look at you, is stupid.  In fact, any outfit that you purchase because you saw it in a movie/tv-show/magazine ad that you thought looked cute?  IT DOES.  That's the point of it.  
  • If you do not enjoy being treated like less than a human or less than intelligent simply for being a woman, congratulations...We don't like it either.  We're not all knuckle-dragging simians.  Just like not all of you are raving castrating psychopaths.  Whoa, that was an offensive phrase, wasn't it?  Yes, it was.  And you're saying to yourself "I'm not like that!" and getting offended, aren't you?  Congratulations.  Neither are we. 
  • The excuse of "men do it" or "men have done it for years" no longer holds water.  Why?  Because, as your mom undoubtedly pointed out:  "Two wrongs don't make a right."  And because we've had our noses shoved in the proverbial poo for years for such behavior.  We get it.  Those of us who are educated and not complete imbeciles don't do it anymore.  That doesn't mean you get to continue to beat the dead horse into the ground.  
  • You want to be perceived as a strong woman?  Be a strong person.  Strong and bitchy aren't the same thing.
I am tired for being looked down upon for being something over which I had no control.  I'm a guy.  I do like to piddle with my car, but then, so do lots of my female friends.  I like hockey.  I like beer.  Those things are not a product of my gender or genetic code, but of a personal choice. Treat other people the way you would like to be treated.  Look at the central theme in most any system of belief and you'll see they all say basically the same thing.  Treat other people the way you would like to be treated.  I, for one, do not treat women as objects, as ornaments, or as fragile little things who need a "big strong man" to come and do things for her.  I don't find women who behave in such a way to be attractive, either.  Sure, I'll hold the door for you.  And for the man that walks in behind you.  Why?  Because it's a nice thing to do, not because my gonads dictate that I should.  I'll help you move that desk.  No, not because you're a woman, but because you're five-foot-two, weigh a buck-10, and lifting it would seriously hurt you, whereas I spend every Wednesday night proving the theory that I can throw a guy twice my weight across the room.  It has nothing to do with boobs, I swear.  Either that, or kill your own damned spiders. 

Just my unsolicited $.02...

Friday, November 11, 2011


It took longer than I hoped, but I'm back to announce the winners of the Halloween photo contest!  We had so many entries that it took me this long to judge them all!

Not really.  We had a total of four entries, and the reason it took so long is I got snowed under at work.  But that's boring.

Because we had only four entries, I decided that there would be prizes for everyone.  All four entrants get a beaded bookmark from Monsters Under Glass, but the big winners get the books.  So, without further adeau, your winners are:

Becca, with her entry of "Airship Mechanic!"

Runners Up
Jona with his "Michael Meyers" costume and Neighbor Bob with his Grim Reaper!

And finally, 

Special Runner Up

Technically, this contest was for humans, but I never specified.  Plus, I'm a sucker for fuzzies.  So the special runner-up prize goes to Meg's dog!  

Congratulations to all the winners, and thanks so much for sharing your Halloween with me!  I'll be putting your prizes in the mail soon, and I'll e-mail you once they're sent.  

Thanks again, and I'll see you next year!

Friday, October 14, 2011


Psst...Hey...Wanna win signed copies of some of my books?  You can!  Really! I'm giving away signed books (and maybe a few surprises) to one lucky grand prize winner and two runner ups.

  • GRAND PRIZE WINNER (1) - Will receive signed copies of Deadlands (my zombie novel), City of Demons (the first horror-noir novel I attempted), and PAGES:  Book Two of the Stanley Cooper Chronicles (which is book two...nevermind).  You will also receive a custom-made metal bookmark, hand-made by Tabby (my wife) over at Monsters Under Glass!
  • RUNNERS-UP (2) - Two runners-up will each receive copies of Deadlands and City of Demons, plus a custom-made metal bookmark, courtesy of Monsters Under Glass.
So how do you win, you ask?  Easy.  
  1. Follow me on TWITTER (@horrorscott).  If you already follow me, you're good!
  2. Retweet the contest on TWITTER using this phrase:  "I want to win free books from @horrorscott and"
  3. Send me pictures of you in your Halloween costume.  
That's it.  Scary, sexy, cute, demented...I don't care.  Send me pictures of how YOU celebrate my favorite holiday!  Winning photos will be announced and displayed, so make sure it's a good (IN FOCUS) picture.  

Deadline for picture submissions is NOVEMBER FIRST.  Hard deadline there.  

Pictures can be sent to me at the special e-mail address I've set up just for this purpose:  

Once the contest is over, that account goes bye-bye.  

Here are the official rules:  You win if I like yours the best.  Totally subjective, totally up to me...Just me looking at folks celebrating Halloween.  All entries must be in costume of some sort.  Racy costumes are welcome, but may be censored when I post them.  All photos may be posted online.  I reserve the right to disqualify anyone for any reason, but it's unlikely I'd do something like that.  That's it.  Get started!  I want to see the pictures! 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

That Deep Dark Place...

It's a running theme, that I'm going to answer a great many of the frequently asked questions that writers like myself get.  Because I write horror, many of my characters turn out to be less than savory sorts.  Sociopaths, psychotics, human monsters, my work is filled with them.  And invariably, when I go to conventions, one of the most often asked questions is "How?"  How can I, who on the outside seems like a normal guy (let's not talk about the inside, okay folks?) with a friendly nature and a sense of humor, write someone so diseased and twisted?  How can I write a character who dissects his victims while they're alive and can feel it (like in City of Demons), or who enjoys using corpses as puppets while the rightful owner suffers?  And so convincingly?  And, the most frequent statement/question combo:  You look so normal...What's wrong with you?

Not a thing.  And everything.  Let me explain.

When a writer creates a character, we, like actors, need to understand their motivations.  We need to understand their points of view.  Very few people wake up in the morning and say "today, I'll be...*dramatic pause and fanfare* EVIL!"  Nope.  They go about their daily lives working to do what they feel is the right thing from their perspective.  And your perspective determines your reality.  Whether it's someone who kills because he believes it's for the greater good or because he gets a sexual thrill, he's doing what is right for him.  I know that's a hard thing to wrap your mind around.  I mean, how could a rapist really think that what he's doing is right?  In his mind, however, his victims might deserve it.  The people he tortures need the pain to get closer to God, or because it thrills him so much that it's similar to a drug rush.  Whatever the case, we writers need to examine the ugly side and bring it to the front.  But how?

Actors like Robert DeNiro and Dustin Hoffman are famous for being "method" actors.  They immerse themselves into their roles and, occasionally, have a hard time climbing out of them.  Many writers, myself included, go through a similar process.  We have to put ourselves in the mindset of the characters, no matter how diseased or horrible, in order to have that character make believable choices, and to make the character come off as more than a one-dimensional stereotype.  The killer from City of Demons, for example, killed because he genuinely felt that his actions would bring about the physical manifestation of his God, and that the people he murdered were the scum of the earth.  In his mind, their suffering brought them closer to God, and the more they suffered, the greater their chance at salvation.  He mutilated, skinned, and destroyed because he felt it was necessary, and that gave him a sense of joy at his work.  And how did I write him?

By visiting a very dark place in my imagination.

With characters like him, my first point of access is to see the act, then to determine why he did it.  In order to determine that, I have to put myself in his head and piece out the reasoning, just as he would.  And in the end, it becomes easy to see why someone like him would make the choices he did.  And it's terrifying, the moment when you catch yourself thinking "yeah, that's completely justified."  Because in doing so, you have to admit that there is a black spot on your soul that's dark as pitch and thick as a bog. You have to admit that, somewhere, deep inside you, darkness lives, breathes, and thrives.  Somewhere, within your Jeckyll, Hyde lurks and begs for a chance to get out and flex his muscles.  And, as a writer, it's your job to let him out to play every now and again.

I can't speak for every writer out there.  There are as many ways to write a book or character as there are books and characters.  All I can do is speak about my own methodology.  When I write a psycho, the reason he comes across as real is because he is.  Or at least, part of him is.  Once a long time ago, I had a psychiatrist stop working with me on the grounds that she was afraid of me.  I didn't take it as an insult, though I probably should have.  I took it to mean that my characters were visceral, authentic and just as nasty as they come.

So what about you?  What lives in the dark half of your soul?  Do you visit that part of yourself?  Are you afraid of what you'll find?  Leave a comment below, and write on.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Your Greatest Character is YOU.

It's not cheating.  I swear, it isn't.  Writers do it all the time.  Luminaries like John Carpenter have admitted to it.  Stephen King does it (where exactly do you think The Dark Half came from?), and so do so many other writers you've read.  You may not even realize it.  What I'm talking about is the age-old chestnut of basing a character off yourself.  Maybe the character's not really you.  Maybe he's a little taller, or a little quicker on his feet, but, let's face it, it's you.  The character is Superman to your Clark Kent, Batman to your Bruce Wayne, Snake Plisskin to your John Carpenter.  We all do it.  We take a premise and drop an idealized version of ourselves into it and think to ourselves "That's what I'd like to think I would do in that situation."

Here's a couple of examples from my own work:  My first book, An American Haunting, centered on the Rosewood Family, which consisted of Gabriel, wife Trish, and daughters Lizzy and Shannon.  What many didn't know was that Gabriel Rosewood was, in fact, me.  Trish was my wife, Tabby, and Lizzy (Elizabeth) and Shannon are my daughter's middle names.  The cat in the story, Bishop, was even patterned after my daughters great white hunk of useless fluff, Spot.  The characters were written using pieces of our personalities to fill them out.  Granted, as it was my first book, I had a lot to learn.  Years later, though, I used the technique again with the Stanley Cooper Chronicles.

Stanley is short, pudgy, with wild hair and a sarcastic attitude.  He's me.  No, I don't see dead people and I never died, but his reactions are mine, his physical description is mine, and his sense of humor is mine.  As are his faults and insecurities.  I gave him my life so he would come to life on the page.  Obviously, I'm not going about chasing South American rat demons, nor have I ever encountered a walking corpse. I do have a copy of the Necronomicon, but that's another story that has more to do with nerdiness than actual occult writings.  The point is, I created Stanley so I could live vicariously through him, like putting myself in an action movie.  And it serves a few purposes.  First, it allows me to live with the illusion that I could be that smart-ass unlikely hero if the chips were down.  Second, it gives me real insight as to who the character is.  But most important, it allows me to paint the character's emotions from a unique perspective:  Mine.  Because the feelings he has are ones that I've felt, I can mine my own experiences and pull things out that, admittedly, are hard to write about, but are effective.

So if you're reading this, I'm assuming you're a writer.  Otherwise, why on earth would you be reading my blog?  Which brings me to my real question and an assignment of sorts.  Question:  Have you ever based a character off of yourself?  Question the second:  Would you, in your own work, create a series or a story around said character?  Assignment:  Write yourself as a fiction character, and post about him/her in the comments section below.  Should be fun.  Might be interesting.  You also might learn something about yourself that you didn't know.

Until next time, WRITE ON!


Friday, September 16, 2011

Most Frequently Asked Question: Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

It is, arguably, the single most frequently asked question to any writer, and one to which we all sit around and try to come up with canned answers so we won't just stare at the asker with a blank expression:  "Where do you get your ideas?" And, to be honest, it's a fair question.  Have you ever read the work of someone your really respect and wondered if there was some kind of alchemy at work for their genius?  We all have.  And the natural thing to do is ask.  Most writers, however, don't really have an answer.  We draw inspiration from so many sources that stating a definitive place is impossible.  Or, as is the case for some of us, we really do need psychological help.  But that's for another blog.   Here, then, is a partial list of things that give me demented ideas, people who inspire me, and the ways I see the world in general.

  • The News - Yeah, it's a tried-and-true method.  You want horror beyond anything that most people would imagine?  Read a newspaper or watch the evening reports.  On any given day, you've got it all:  Murder, rape, atrocity, mutations, experiments.  And every drop of it is fodder for your creative writing.  Some of the most effective horror mirrors the world situation, and serves as a metaphor for the twisted crap that's going on in the world.  In some cases, it's a thinly-veiled attack on the things the author finds wrong.  In others, the veil is thicker. 
  • Real Places - What do The Stanley Hotel, Wykehurst Place, the Winchester Mansion, Poveglia Island, and the LaLaurie House all have in common?  They're all real places with interesting histories (or at least interesting appearances) that inspired horror novels.  In the case of the last two, the real history of the places are more horrifying than anything Hollywood could come up with.  My first book, An American Haunting, was based on a real house in which I used to live.  Cane River:  A Ghost Story was actually inspired by my home town.  
  • Family and Friends - I've said it before: If you've ever met me or come into contact with me in any way, chances are you're going to end up in one of my books.  And if I like you, I'll kill you in the most brutal way I can imagine.  You wouldn't believe how many times my brother's died in my books.  Or my friends.  Or my daughters' friends.  I draw on the interesting people in my life to help me build interesting characters.  In fact, I can honestly say that I'm lucky in that there are no boring people in my life.  And most of them get a kick over being killed off in a book.  
  • My Twisted Perception - It's no secret that most of us writers look at the world in a different way than normal people.  It's why we're story-tellers.  In an introduction to my book City of Demons, award-winning author (and dear friend) Gary Braunbeck said about me: "This is a man who does not see the same world the rest of us do. I do not mean he sees the world differently than us – he sees a completely different world, and that mad sparkle in his eyes tells you that Scott Johnson is warped in the best of all possible ways – the embodiment of what Oscar Wilde called, “… the divine madness of absolute clarity." I take statements like that as a compliment, and it's true.  Take for example, when you see a little girl walking a huge dog down the street, most people think "that's cute... little girl walking a big dog."  My first thought is "Where's that dog taking that little girl?"  I constantly look for little things in the periphery that make me say "what if," and bring the world into a stranger state for me. 
  • Inside Myself - One of the tricks to writing is putting yourself in your characters' places to see how they should react.  Which is fine and dandy if you're writing a normal person.  But that's boring, isn't it?  We (and I mean horror writers in particular, but others do as well) write about psychos, monsters, and madmen.  Do we put ourselves in their places?  I do.  I visit some very dark places in my own psyche when I write dark things, and sometimes it is disturbing to think that such thoughts came out of my head.  But then I pull myself back out and be myself again.  Call it "method writing," call it psychosis, it doesn't matter.  Actors do it all the time.  Why can't I?
There are so many other places and things that provide me with the creative ideas to keep writing horror. This list barely scratches the surface.  If I were to take the cop-out approach, then, yeah, I could say I get inspiration from everywhere.  But is it really a cop-out?  What do you think?  From where do you draw inspiration?  From where do you get ideas?

Enquiring minds want to know.
Write on!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Depression Redux

I read a report a while ago that stated the three professions with the highest incidence of clinical depression were actors, musicians, and writers (guess how many of those jobs I've held).  I think it's pretty easy to see why.  We're always craving approval, we all get rejected more than most people, and it's something we deal with every day.  For writers, depression has a one-two punch because writing is something we can (usually) only do alone.  It's a solitary activity, one that enables us to escape into our imaginary worlds.  But then we have to come back.  There are bills to pay, rejections to catalogue, etc.  Granted, for some people, depression is simply that, a feeling of being down. But for me, it's a little different.  I have a disease, a chemical imbalance, if you will.  My body is hardwired to make me feel like crap most of the time, and that's just something I have to learn to deal with.  It isn't something my parents did (hi mom!), or something anyone else caused, it's me.  And that doesn't make the feelings any less real or make me more of a whiny little emo-guy than the next person.  In fact, most people who meet me don't even know.  So what does it do?  For those who've never felt depression, I'll attempt to describe it. I'm a writer, so I should at least give it a try, right?

Imagine waking up every day in pain, secure in the knowledge that everyone around you only tolerates you, and that the world would be better off if you weren't around to take oxygen away from someone else who needed it.  Imagine the constant feeling that you are worth less than shit and that nothing you do is going to change it.  You've damned your children by being their father.  You've damned your spouse for being just charming enough to get her to marry you before she found out what a loser you really are.  You look at your insurance policy and try like hell to figure out a way to die that doesn't look like suicide because the policy doesn't cover it.  Anyone who tries to help, you're sure they being patronizing, so you snap at them.  You lock yourself away in your room and stare all day at the computer screen wishing for words that won't come because you're too embroiled in self-loathing and hatred and shame for anything worthwhile to come out of your fingertips.

Welcome to my world, or at least what used to be my world.   And I don't mean I had days that felt like that.  I meant I woke up in that state every day.

Don't worry...This isn't a "feel-sorry-for-Scott" pity party.  I'm not looking for pity because, frankly, I don't need it.  And, no, this isn't a "how I found Jesus" story either.

See, that used to be me.  You wouldn't believe how many times I sat in a chair trying to figure out a way to die because I knew, just knew, that I was worth more dead than alive, and my own death would cut my family free from the curse that was living with me.

Now look at your life.  Do you think you could go through your life like that?  Do you think you could keep all the hate and bile bottled up inside you because the people you love don't deserve to have it spilled on them?  Sure, we all have bad days, but every God-damned day?

I've told the story a few times, of how I came out from under depression, but for those who haven't heard it, there are two people in my circle who literally saved my life:  My wife and my oldest daughter (the youngest wasn't around yet, but I know she would've done the same thing).

I won't beat this dead horse into the ground by going into the grim and gruesome details, but my I can say this:  Anna saved my life with a hug and a kiss, and my wife made me more happy with who I was.

So what's the point?  Simply this:  Depression is a problem.  it's not something that can be solved by binge-eating, violence, overcompensating, a kick in the pants, sex, or any other thing that uninformed people think.  I love it when people say "he just needs a kick in the ass/to get laid/chocolate/beer" to pull someone out of the throws of actual depression.  What the person needs is love and understanding, and, most importantly, help.

If you, or someone you know, is having trouble, get help.  Contact someone who knows how to help, and get to them on hot feet.  Please believe me, no matter how bad it feels, no matter how worthless you think you are, and no matter how bad things are going, there's hope.  There's always hope.  There has to be.

Remember that to live is an awfully big adventure.

Leave your comments and keep your head up.

By the way, this article was inspired by this article over on

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Goals, Wishes, and Dreams

We've all got goals, pie-in-the-sky wishes, and dreams for a better life.  All of us writers sit around and think about what would happen if we got "that" contract, the one that would set us up in Stephen-King-Style surroundings and make sure that none of our families or friends would ever have to work again.  We all dream of seeing the words "based on the novel by..." on the big movie screen.  Hell, some of us just dream of being able to exist comfortably by writing, and nothing more.  So, while I'm in a mood, I thought I might put down some goals, list a few dreams, and add a few wishes in there.  At the end, let me know what you think of my list, and maybe add a few of your own!  If you have a goal or wish for me, by all means submit it.  I'd be glad to add it to the pile.  Always... always working.

  • Deadlands - I'd love to have it made into a movie.  I think my vision of the zombie apocalypse would work well on a cinematic level, and I'd even love to see the "SyFy Channel Presents Scott A. Johnson's DEADLANDS" on my television.  It could work!
  • Cane River:  A Ghost Story - One of my biggest regrets is that this book never got a chance to spread its wings and fly.  Cane River came out, literally, weeks before the publisher went belly-up, so there was no advertising, no promotion, nothing.  A few people read it, and most of them liked it.  So I think the goal here is to give it a decent run. 
  • Stanley Cooper - Ah, Stanley, my alter-ego.  I want to see VERMIN and PAGES done as movies.  I'm not saying I'd want to play the lead (after all, he is a stylized version of myself), but I'd love to see him on the big screen.  I think Stanley has a lot to offer the movie-going audience. 
  • Screenwriting - I'm already a screenwriter.  Really.  Part of that involves the super-duper-secret project I'm working on, but I've written several movies.  But I want to write more.  I want to be able to jump into a meeting with Warner Brothers and have them take me seriously. 
  • Respect - Okay, I know this is dumb and totally ego-serving, but I want a Stoker.  Awards don't mean anything, right?  Well, tough, because I still want one.  I'd love to win a Stoker, a Hugo, or any of the thousand other horror-related writing awards out there.  Why?  Because.  That's why.  It means something to me.  Do I need one to legitimatize myself as a writer?  Of course not.  But I'd love to be able to put "Award-Winning" next to my author by-line.  Plus, when you're like me and love to teach, universities tend to look more seriously at your resume if you've got something like that on it.  
  • MFA - That's right, I don't have one of these, and I'd like to have one.  Of course, I don't have the money or time, but I can dream, right?  Besides, what's the overall goal of college courses anyway?  To be able to learn to do something well enough to survive doing it, right?  Well, I don't really need an MFA because I seem to know what I'm doing.  But I want one, all the same.  
So that's my list of goals, dreams, wishes and wants.  Do you want to see Stanley Cooper come to life on the big screen?  Tell me.  Do you, too, wish to see your work on an award ballot?  Let me know!  What are your goals and dreams as a writer?  What do you think you need to do to reach those dreams?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Did I Misspeak? (Writing For Your Audience or Yourself)

(note:  This is not directed at anyone.  This came to mind after a crit session and made me think.)

In a previous entry, I postulated that you, as a writer, should write the story you want to read.  I still stand by that statement, to a point.  But now that I think about it, I do feel it deserves a little qualification.  See, what the statements means, to me, is if my story is to pull my readers in, it has to pull me in.  I am, after all, just an overgrown kid who loves horror.  So I want my readers to feel what I felt, to see what I saw, when I write something.

Of course, there's another side to the coin.  Isn't there always?  If you want to be a professional writer, you want to be published professionally.  You want your work to capture the imagination of not just the audience, but also the editor, agent, and publisher to whom you send it.  Sure, you want your story to be as visceral and engaging as humanly possible, but at the same time, you want it read, right?  So there comes a point where you have to step away from the original statement of "this is what I would want to read" and ask yourself "Is this something my audience would like to read?  Is this something that the editor/agent/publisher will read to the end and give a chance?"  It sounds a little mercenary, I know, and a little cynical, but the ugly truth is being a writer is a business, first and foremost.  Maybe not first, but it's right up there at the top of the list.  The point is, without readers, for whom are you writing?  If not for the readers, you don't have a job.  So we, as writers, may very well use all our learned craft and tricks to write a story that we'd love to read, but the truth is we're producing a product, something that we hope other people will want to read.  If you hand a story to an editor, publisher or agent that offends them so greatly that they refuse to read it, then you may as well have thrown that story in a hole.  Sure, someone else might publish it, but that first one now has a lasting impression of you.

So how do you tell?  How can you tell what's going to set an editor off?  Research.  Look at the titles that editor has already published.  Talk to the other writers who are represented by that agent.  If nothing else, write and ask.  There are few things worse than that awkward moment when you realize you've offended someone who, you hope, could help your career.  Imagine handing in a story in which you portray witches as every negative stereotype, only to learn that the editor who read it was a practicing wiccan who takes the bashing of her religion very seriously.  Or subbing a story in which the only way to survive is to eat live kittens, to a card-carrying member of PETA.  Or a story in which every female character is portrayed as inferior to men, bad drivers, and psychotic to a feminist who happens to be tired of all the gender-biased crap that gets heaped on her.

My opinion (and it is mine, for no one else wants it) is simply this:  I want to be read.  I want to be an author.  Therefore, I need readers.  An author without readers is like an actor without an audience.  What's the point?  So I guess, to a point, I write for the audience.  In my case, however, I am the audience.  It's easy to say "I write for myself," but without the readers, I have no job.  The readers plunk down their hard-earned money and time to read my work.  The least I can do is try to give them what they want.

Again, just my unsolicited $.02.

Friday, July 22, 2011

"I Should Just Write Horror..."

Way back, many years ago, my first novel got picked up and published.  And, like any young writer, I was thrilled.  To the point that I actually had the audacity to go up to a few graduate students in the English department to share in my good news.  I tell the story a lot about how they turned their nose up at genre fiction (insert effete snooty accent, if you please), but there was one guy who really got my goat.  I'll never forget his words because of how they marginalized my beloved genre, but also because of how they insulted me and any other writer who dared to write something a little scary.  Here's what he said:
I should just go write a horror novel so I can get published quick, then I can get back to real writing.
I memorized it.  That's how hurtful and wrong the statement was.  But, like any true Texan, Scotsman, and professional loudmouth, I couldn't let it go.  It took a while to get all the obscenities out of my head, and to quash the almost insurmountable urge to strangle the self-important bastard (not obscene...I truly believe his parents were never married), but here's my carefully considered response.

Go for it.

If you think you can do what I do, if you think it's easy to frighten people with words on a page, or to build an eerie atmosphere, give it your best try, Sparky.  See, here's the thing:  We're trying to do the same thing.  We're both trying to tell a story.  We're both trying to develop characters that people care about.  We're both trying to make our readers feel the way we want them to feel.  We're trying to make that emotional connection between us and the reader that allows them to feel sympathy, or love, or wonder, or fear.  I just happen to concentrate on the fear aspect.  That's all.  His story, as I understood it, was a very heart-felt tale about a boy who grew to manhood having never experienced his father's love, and was full of chapters in which the character sat at a desk and thought deeply about how much he'd missed, all the while never comprehending how much he was currently missing by sitting in the dark like an emo-kid and contemplating how his dad never hugged him enough.  Frankly, I'd choose zombies over that any day, but to each his own, right?

And while we're on the subject, do you really think that by writing horror you could just "get published quick?"  Really?  Again, go for it.  I've got rejections upon rejections to throw your way.  See how easy you think it is to "just get published quick" when your work is shot down by fifty or so publishers.  Not so easy, is it?  Nope.  We have just as hard a time, if not harder, than the so-called "literary" types because we can't rely on academic presses and because there are many more of us than of you.  So to get published, we have to be at the top of our game and turn in the best piece of fiction we can in hopes that someone will like our work.  I think we actually have it harder than you.

I think the point I'm trying to make is this:  Horror isn't bad.  In fact, none of the genres should be considered "bad" or "lowbrow" or "unworthy to be printed on paper because only the ignorant masses care for that kind of thing and I'd rather spend five-frickin'-years working on a single manuscript, secure in the knowledge that no one will ever print it because it's too high a concept for their tiny brains to handle" or any other such thing.  Good writing is good writing.  Bad writing is bad writing.  That's the bottom line.  If you can't string together two sentences, chances are you need to either re-evaluate your career choice, or you need to suck up your pride and work on it.  But to say you're not an artist, or a real author, or any of a thousand other derogatory things because you write genre fiction is insulting, small-minded, and ridiculous.

So remember that.  Everyone deserves to be respected.  Every genre deserves its own little pile of respect.  Because if it were that easy to write what we do, you would be writing it too.  Admit it.

Oh yeah... And Buy My Books!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Common Errors in Writing Fiction

Like every writer on the planet, I always try to improve my own craft. I'll be the first to admit, I've made mistakes. But as someone who's been in the business for a while now, and who has some experience, I feel like it's part of my responsibility to throw those mistakes into the open and help someone else avoid them. So here are a few common mistakes that new writers make, and maybe you can excise them from your work.

  • "...he thought to himself" - Well, yeah.  Of course he thought it to himself.  Who else would he be thinking to?  Unless he's psychic or has a wireless e-mail system tucked into his noggin, then, if he thought, he did it to himself.  In fact, the whole phrase "he thought" isn't really necessary in nine out of ten times it's used.  If you're writing in, lets say, third person limited, you're in the character's head.  Therefore, the narrative is from his perspective.  Therefore, what the narrative tells us, we see as fact.  Instead of "'Sure is dark in here,' he thought," try instead "The room was dark."  In one way, we're kept at arms distance, and the other pulls us right into the action.  Get it?
  • "He could see/smell/feel/taste..." - Same thing here.  Keep us in the story.  Instead of telling us what the character's senses detect, just show us.  "He could smell car exhaust."  Or... "The scent of exhaust hung in the air."  See?  One way, we're told what he smelled.  The other way, it's stated as part of what builds the scene and puts us more into that place, more into the story. 
  • Disembodied Body Parts (DBP) - Having your character's body parts move independently of him is fine, so long as it works within the confines of the story.  Otherwise, the arms don't flap themselves, the character flaps his arms.  "His feet ran..."  No, he ran, unless his feet were somehow removed and then ran off without him.  "My wings flapped..."  Did they?  By themselves?  Or did the character flap her wings?  Think hard...  Yeah...The character flapped her wings. 
  • Naming Protocol - Quick...Run down the hall and talk to someone.  Anyone.  As long as you know them (for heaven's sake don't get arrested for bothering some poor stranger...).  Now count the number of times you or the other person says each other's name.  Chances are, once, or even not at all.  So why, then, do we insist on writing the names of our characters in dialogue when it doesn't work for the scene?  We're trying to make realistic characters, and realistic characters speak in a realistic fashion.  Read your dialogue.  If your characters call each other by name every time they see each other, or often in the middle of the conversation, you need to go back over it. 
  • Inappropriate Dialogue - This is a big problem.  I'm not talking about foul language, I'm talking about dialogue that may be inappropriate for a particular age group/educational or social class/etc.  Put simply, a Harvard graduate and a high-school drop-out do not speak in the same way.  In real life, people speak in accordance to everything from their age, education level, and region to their economic standing, their country of origin, and how they're feeling at the time.  If all your characters sound alike, they're either robots (or Daleks) or you're not writing them well. 
These are my top five mistakes that noob writers make.  They're also some of the top things that raise red flags for agents and editors.  Funny how that works, isn't it?  Keep this list in mind, maybe not for the first draft (the "just-get-the-damned-thing-written" phase), but for sure in the subsequent phases.  "But Uncle Scott," I hear you say.  "I've seen lots of books with all that stuff in it, and they got published.  What about..?"  Fair enough.  However, there are a couple of responses to that.  First, just because you've seen it doesn't mean it's good.  Second, even a blind hog finds a truffle once in a while.  Third, and most important, as a writer, it is your job to elevate the art form.  Let me repeat that.  It is your job to continually try to improve to elevate the artform instead of resting on your laurels of some publishing award you got when you were twelve.  If you want to be a pro, act like a pro.  Write like a pro.  Write with power, write with passion.  But also, write intelligently.  

Just my unsolicited $.02.  Hope it helps someone.  In the comment section below, share some of your top writing errors!  That should be fun!  


Oh yeah... And Buy My Books!