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!