It seems to be a common attitude within the writing community that self-publishing is somehow less valid as being traditionally published. I think that attitude is why the self-publishing movement is still growing. Too many people are mired in a way of thinking that unless it’s done “the old fashioned way” then it’s of no value. Well, if everyone published that way, there would a lot fewer authors in this world. Let’s discuss that, shall we?
Self-publishing has created a lot of new content that likely would never have been published before. Admittedly, some of the things that were self-published probably never should have been put into print, but that’s not the case with all of it. There are some excellent books out there by self-published authors. Authors who have done things the right way and made their books both quality works and presented them in a professional way. There are a lot of steps involved with doing it the right way. It’s not easy and you need to take your time to do it right. Otherwise, your book will be lost amongst all the others that fall into the category of poorly produced self-published books. Those are the ones that give the rest a bad name.
First and foremost, you have to write a good, solid story. Nothing will ever cover for bad writing. If the product itself is bad, no amount of pretty wrapping paper will fix it. You might get a few initial sales based on good cover, but once a few people read it and the negative reviews start coming in, those sales will vanish. Writing a good story builds trust with your readers and makes them want to return again for future books. Well-written stories will be the foundation on which your writing career is built. Bad writing will only mark you as just another badly written/produced self-published author. No one wants that. It makes all of us look bad, even when you’re doing everything right.
Next, editing is crucial. Poor or non-existent editing can kill what was otherwise a well-written book. Take the time to have your book property edited. It is possible to edit it yourself, but it’s always better to have another set of eyes look at your manuscript. Fresh eyes see things you might have missed. Also, you know exactly what you were trying to say. Does someone else? Let another person take a crack at the manuscript and see what you might have missed. Editing services are another possibility, but good ones are expensive. I see editing services offered on Facebook and other social media, but be careful and check them out before you pay them to edit your book. See if they have a good reputation. What do their previous author clients have to say about them? Have they ever actually edited professionally before? There are websites you can check, too. Predators and Editors is a good one as well as Writer Beware. Both of them have listings of the good and the bad in the industry. Do a little research before you pay anyone. It’s just good advice. Also bear in mind that it could take more than one round of editing to fix issues within the book. Food for thought.
Once your manuscript has been well-written and properly edited, you need to start looking at the internal pieces of the book. There will be certain extra pieces that you will need. You’ll need a copyright and disclaimer page. Look at the front of any book and you’ll find an example. You’ll want to put something together like that just as a legal disclaimer and to claim the work as your own. You also might want to look into an actual copyright, but that’s different. It’s also not free. If you can afford it, I’d definitely recommend it. It just protects your books from intellectual property theft and gives you legal grounds to stand on if someone tries to use your work without permission.
You’ll also want to add in title pages, table of contents, dedication pages, author bio/pic, a forward if you want one and so on. Look at several different books and see what all they have inside their covers before you decide what you want in yours. Some of it is crucial and others are up to you. But give it all serious consideration before you decide to add or remove it from your book. A thing to remember to add to your bio is your social media links and where to find you. This helps readers connect and to find more of your work. Connecting with your readers is of paramount importance in this digital age. You can get near instantaneous feedback for your writing and how to improve it. That’s something that writers who do things the old fashioned way have to wait months or even years for.
Interior layout is next. You’ll want to set your page size for the document to fit whatever your print edition page size will be. That’s just for starters. You’ll also have to adjust your margins based on your page count. The page count has a huge impact on the margins for print editions. If you don’t know how to do this, there are a number of free guides you can download and use in your formatting. Some of them are directly from Amazon, themselves. You’ll also have to set line spacing, font size, indent, page breaks, chapter headings, table of contents, and print versus kindle layout. Yes, they are quite different. There are services that will do this step for you. I don’t know what they charge. If you need help, feel free to contact me. I can either talk you through it or maybe offer additional help, time permitting.
Once the interior is done, then you need to look at a cover. You can use the free Amazon cover creator program, but you get what you pay for. Hiring a good cover artist is neither cheap nor quick. Covers take time. You might want to start kicking around the cover concept while you’re still in early story development just to be safe. There’s an old saying, “Never judge a book by its cover.” Well, that’s a great saying but when it actually applies to books, literally everyone judges the book by the cover. That’s what it’s there for. The cover is your first chance to grab their attention and pull them in, making them want to read the back cover and hopefully, the interior, too. There are cover artists that advertise on social media all the time. Do a bit of research and look at what they have to offer and their style before you decide. After all, you want the art to fit your writing. Choose wisely.
The back cover blurb. Wow, that’s a tough one. If you think writing the book is bad, wait until you have to figure out how to describe that book in two to three paragraphs. Back cover blurbs need to grab the reader’s attention and do it quickly. You have to sell that book in those few paragraphs. No pressure there, right? Take your time and get input from friends and family on the back cover blurb. Don’t just bang it out in ten minutes and slap it on the back of the book. Invest the time and thought into making it as good as it can be, because it represents your novel. It represents you. You’ve got to grab their attention and drag them into the book, making them want to read more. Make sure you edit the blurb just as thoroughly as you did the book. Errors on the blurb are magnified and will turn off a reader.
Once you have all of this done, then you’re ready to think about uploading the manuscript to your platform. That’s an entirely other kettle of fish and I won’t go into it on this blog entry. I’ll save that for next time. Stay tuned.
What follows is an untitled piece of fiction I wrote a while back. I wasn’t really planning on taking it anywhere. It was more or less an exercise, just to keep the creativity flowing when I was stuck while working on another project. Sometimes, I’ll write something like this just to keep me writing and thinking when I can’t think of what to do next on a project. This is still in a rough format. It hasn’t been edited at all, so bear with me if there are a few mistakes.
This was based loosely off the Weapon X concept in Marvel Comics. For those of you who don’t know, Weapon X is the program that created Wolverine, Deadpool and Sabertooth.
This was just a bit of fun writing. I’d love to hear what you all think. Who knows, maybe it might lead to more, if I thought it might find an audience. So, with that intention, I present to you an untitled piece of fiction from my archives that I have. Let me know what you all think.
I awoke in semi-darkness. The bare metal walls of the room were illuminated only by the soft glow given off from the electrical barrier that passed as a door. The room, scarcely more than a closet really, was a bare ten by ten feet square. The cot was bolted securely to the wall and floor. Even the mattress, such as it was, was attached to the steel frame.
The facilities consisted of a steel basin with only one tap for water and a stainless steel commode. There were no moving pieces to remove. A sensor built into the wall turned on the cold water when you placed your hands under the spout and the toilet flushed automatically when you moved away from it. There was nothing at all with which to use as a weapon or a tool.
I lay there, only barely conscious, but my mind was acutely aware of my environment. I could sense every detail, no matter how slight. For example, I didn’t need to open my eyes to sense the movement of the guards who patrolled outside the restraint field with Swiss precision, every ten minutes.
As my mind eased towards full consciousness, the pain set in. It was intense, and seemed like every square inch of my body had been bruised, every bone broken. There was no release from the pain, either. No matter how I tried, the pain was a constant. Moving only intensified it, so I opted to lay still and hope for the best.
I could feel every breath I took as an intense misery. Every blink of my eyes was agony. The light seemed to pierce straight into my brain, so I kept them closed. The air was cool, almost cold. I could feel that I wasn’t allowed even the barest of clothing. Not even so much as boxer shorts. But, I could feel the cool metal of a necklace. I couldn’t worry about that, now, however. I didn’t want to risk opening my eyes. Outside the cell, I sensed movement. One of the guards had stopped to look into my cell. But, I refused to move to look at him.
“Not so tough now, are you, Panther?” he asked, snidely.
I made no move to answer him. I didn’t even want to stir. My memory was returning to me, slowly. The voice belonged to a guard named Brickhauser. He was a sadistic bastard who seemed to get his kicks from beating prisoners. I remembered kicking him in the face to keep him from beating another prisoner when she was down. That had resulted in several of the guards beating me until I passed out, and perhaps even after that from the feel of it.
When I didn’t reply, Bricks (as the other guards called him) grew bolder.
“I know you can hear me, freak,” he growled, “Answer me or I swear that we’ll beat you to death next time.”
“Go screw yourself,” I managed to croak.
Infuriated, he started to deactivate the cell, but a call from another guard stopped him.
“Hey, Bricks! Leave him be, for now. They want him deployable in the morning.”
“Looks like you got lucky, this time, Panther,” he sneered.
“Yeah, my lucky day,” I rasped.
With that, he left me to the silence that followed. I lay there and tried to sleep, but I knew it was in vain. The pain was too intense to allow any such luxury. I’d just have to endure.
What seemed like an eternity later, I heard another voice at the cell door…a calmer voice. The voice was that of a woman, Dr. Patterson I recalled. She was one of the project scientists who ran the place.
“Oh, my God, Panther,” she gasped. “What did they do to you?”
I made no move to answer her; actually, I made no move at all. I heard the energy field shut down and foot steps approaching me.
“Get him onto the gurney and down to the lab,” she ordered.
Two sets of hands lifted me and placed me onto the rough linen of the gurney. I almost blacked out from the pain. Next thing I knew, I was moving. Moments later, I was moved again onto a cold table and secured down with heavy straps.
“Panther, I’m going to deactivate your power inhibiter now. If you behave, I’ll leave it off long enough for you to heal, understand?” asked Dr. Patterson.
I managed a weak nod. A split second later, I felt my powers kick in. It was like a flood of intense pleasure. The pain was gone, instantly and I smiled, despite myself. I opened my eyes. The doctor stood looking down and me, smiling.
“Feeling better?” she asked.
“Yeah,” I replied. “Thanks.”
“That was a stupid thing you did, Panther, attacking a guard like that.”
“He didn’t leave me much choice. They had Cheetah down and were beating her to death. If I hadn’t intervened, they’d have killed her. And all she did was stumble in line.”
“The guards have been a touch… well, overzealous in disciplining the subjects lately. I’ll have to have a word with Colonel Keller about the guards’ behavior, but until then, try not to aggravate them, ok?
“All right, doc,” I replied.
“Now lay still. I have to give you a full exam. You’ve got a deployment tomorrow and we want to be sure you’re fit for duty.”
I lay there and closed my eyes to bare slits, and watched every move she made. The ruse paid off. She began to do the exam and turned the computer monitor where she could see it. First thing she checked was the status of the power inhibitor and tracer that they had implanted inside my body. For security reasons, we were not allowed to know where they implanted the chips to prevent us from removing them.
I remained as calm as possible as she began to run the system check. Patiently, I watched as she concentrated the scan on the chip and quickly memorized the location. Cleverly, it was hidden behind my right knee where it would be difficult to get at. I had previously wondered if it might have been on my back, but considering the muscle structure, I would have noticed it. I continued to feign sleep until she had finished the exam.
“All finished, Panther,” she said in a friendly tone.
“Hmm…” I mumbled. “Sorry, doc. I must have dozed off.”
“No problems, here,” she said. “You are approved for tomorrow’s deployment.”
“Where am I going, this time?”
“You know we aren’t allowed to answer questions like that before you are briefed, but I guess it couldn’t hurt. You’re heading for an assignment in Russia. That’s all I can tell you. You’ll find out more in the briefing, later today.”
“Thanks, doc,” I said.
“No problem. Just try not to aggravate the guards quite so much and you’ll get along much better.”
I nodded and they reactivated the inhibitor. Instantly, I felt weak and nauseated. I knew the feeling would pass, but I still hated it. Then the guards came to take me to my cell. It was a quiet walk and I passed the holding cells of six more “volunteers” for the newest generation of the program. All of them naked, negated and in bare cells.
As we reached the door to my cell, Brickhauser approached me. Menacingly, he looked me right in the eye and smiled.
“Want to go another round, freak?” he sneered.
I stared back into his eyes, not bothering to hide my hatred, but I refused to give the prick the satisfaction of answering. It only seemed to make him madder.
“Yeah, you’d love to take a shot at me, wouldn’t you freak?”
I still refused to answer. I knew that nothing I could say would matter to him in the slightest. He would still do whatever he was going to do. Bricks was nothing more than a normal human in light powered armor and wouldn’t stand a chance in hell against me with my powers active and he knew it. I guess it made him feel like a man to push us around. Knowing we were tougher than him but couldn’t do anything about it.
As he raised his shock-rod above his head to strike me, I stood my ground. I refused to even give him the satisfaction of flinching. I wasn’t afraid of the prick and he knew it. But, just as he was getting ready to strike a voice boomed from down the hall.
“Officer Brickhauser! You will NOT strike that prisoner and that’s an order.”
It was Doc Patterson. She came storming down the hall and stood between Bricks and me. Defiantly, she stared at him. For just a moment, I thought he might strike her, but then he slowly lowered the shock-rod.
“What did this man do in order for you to strike him?” she demanded.
“He was being insubordinate,” he replied. “I was just going to remind him of his place in the order of things around here.”
“His ‘place’, Sergeant Brickhauser, is more valuable than yours. We can replace a security guard. Panther is the best of this generation and therefore extremely valuable to this program. Do I make myself clear?”
“Yes, ma’am,” he replied through clenched teeth.
“Furthermore, if I hear any more about you brutalizing the subjects while they are negated I’ll have you transferred to the Antarctica Facility so fast that it will make your head spin. Now put this man in his containment cell and leave him alone. He has to be in top shape for tomorrow’s deployment. If we have to scrub a mission because you got carried away, I can guarantee that the director himself will have your head.”
With that, they removed my restraints and shoved me into the cell. Once the cell was reactivated, the guards turned and walked away. Doctor Patterson watched them go, then turned and left without another word.
Returning to my bare bunk, I lay down and began concentrating on what I had learned of the negator/tracer. I could remove it, but without my regeneration, I would bleed a lot. The timing had to be perfect. I could extend my claws, remove the unit and let my powers kick in. Then all I had to do was try to clean up the blood.
The problem was, that the guards walked by the front of my cell every ten minutes and I wasn’t sure how long it would take to cut it out by feel, since I couldn’t see the back of my leg all that well. If it took too long, I could pass out from the lack of blood and get caught. But, I had to try.
I waited for the guards to pass by twice more to get my mental clock synchronized with their movements. As soon as the second guard had passed, I pulled my right leg up as high as I could. I began counting in my head down from 600, knowing I had 600 seconds until the next guard passed.
Setting my jaw against the pain, I extended one claw. The blood began to flow instantly down my hand where the claw came through. Ignoring that, I made a deep incision into my leg, behind the knee. Using the other hand, I began probing for the chip. At 505, I found it. I had been bleeding badly for over a minute and was beginning to get lightheaded.
As steadily as I could, I pushed the tip of the claw under the edge of the chip and twisted. My head was beginning to swim from the pain and loss of blood. My vision was getting blurry. The claw slipped and sliced open my free hand, to the bone. I gritted my teeth in pain, but felt the chip fall into my hand.
Tossing it onto the bed, I felt my powers kick back in. I closed my eyes and waited for the regeneration to take care of the wounds and clear my head. As my count reached 120, I knew I was running out of time. In the distance, I could hear the footsteps of the guard as he approached. He was right on time. At 35 seconds, my head was clear and the wounds were gone. Quickly, I placed my legs over the bloody areas and hoped that it hid it well enough. Then I composed myself back on the bed, exactly as I had been before.
I couldn’t help but smile. My powers were back. The guard stopped walking in front of my cell and I heard Brickhauser’s voice.
“What are you smiling at, freak?” he snarled.
Setting up, I looked at him.
“You,” I taunted. “I didn’t know they could teach chimps to wear armor.”
“Watch your mouth, freak. Your doctor friend ain’t around to protect you, now.”
“You’re not man enough to come in here without ten other guards. I know your type. All talk.”
“Screw you, freak.”
“You’d like that, wouldn’t you, Bricks. I hear you and Snider like to go into the guard’s locker room after hours for a little quickie. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear you wanted to give it to a prisoner.”
“I ought to bust your face for that, freak,” he snarled, “But I got orders to leave you be. You’re lucky that I do, or you and I would find out how long you can take a beating and survive.”
“Yeah, that’s a great excuse. All they got to do is reactivate my powers and I’ll heal. They don’t care what you chicken-shit guards do to us, so long as you don’t kill us.”
That seemed to make him think. I could see the smile on his face and he realized I was right.
“You haven’t got the balls to take me one on one, Bricks. You’re just a big coward who likes to hit people when they are down as long as you have plenty of back-up.”
“I don’t need back-up to shut you up, freak,” he snarled as he turned off the cell and walked in, raising the shock-rod.
Swinging it like a baseball bat, he swung for my head, but I was already moving. I dove aside and he hit nothing but air. The power of his swing left him off balance, for a second and I capitalized. Stepping inside his reach, I gave him a quick strike to the throat. Unable to yell for help, he dropped to his knees as the shock-rod fell from his hands. I snatched up the negator chip and held it before is face.
“Know what this is?” I taunted.
“Oh no!” he mouthed, terror filling his eyes.
“Oh, yes!” I hissed, smiling into his face.
In one quick move, I turned his head around backwards with a quick crunching sound and lowered him silently to the floor. In seconds, I stripped him of his armor and slapped it on. Laying him on the bunk, facing the wall, I hoped that no one would look too closely. I put on Brickhauser’s hat and walked outside into the hallway. Using his keycard, I reactivated the cell and turned to leave. Down the hall another guard looked down and looked questioningly at me.
I gave him the thumbs up and he went back to his magazine. I walked down the hall to the guards’ station and in my best impression of Brickhauser’s voice, I mumbled, “Cover for me willya. I gotta go take a shit.”
“No prob, Bricks,” he replied. “Just be back before the next shift check.”
I walked off down the corridor and found the stairs. Going up one flight, I followed the scent of Brickhauser’s aftershave and opened the door. Down the hall, I saw the guard’s locker room. Quickly, I covered the distance and tracked the scent to locker 268. Using a claw to jimmy the door open, I scanned the insides. Bricks had a set of civilian clothes inside, but the jeans were too small for me. But the t-shirt fit and so did the workout pants and jacket.
I grabbed his wallet and keys and headed for the door. Keeping his hat on and my head down, I cleared two checkpoints without as much as a nod with his id attached to my jacket. On the ground level, I headed for the door. The front desk guard handed me the clipboard to sign out and went back to the sports section. I quickly scribbled a name and walked out the door.
All I had to do was find his car. Removing his keys from my pocket, I pushed the alarm button and heard the desired “chirp chirp” from a red newer model Chevy Camaro. Moving quickly to the car, but not too quickly, I thumbed the unlock button and got inside. The engine rumbled immediately to life. Brickhauser was an asshole, but he took good care of his car.
Careful to drive the designated speed limit to the gate, the guard motioned me on as he raised the gate and I was out. Turning right, I accelerated down the highway and kept a close eye on the rear view mirror. There was no sign of a tail, yet, but that wouldn’t last. They would find Bricks’ body soon and the alarm would sound. Then the chase would be on. I had to cover as much distance as possible.
I also had to keep the use of my active powers to a minimum, because once I was discovered missing, they would be able to track me by them. My best chance was distance.
Ever since our earliest ancestors created a common language, storytelling has been a big part of our collective conscience. From tales told over the communal fire to modern oral traditions, storytelling helped to shape our lives. Before there was the printed word, there was the orator, who would often travel from settlement to settlement, telling stories and spreading tales. Some were true and others were fantastical. Thus, the creation of fictional stories began.
Many early tales were just retellings of heroic battles or brave warriors who had done the nigh impossible. There are still stories of that sort that circulate today. I could tell you dozens of stories from my time in uniform. Tales of the men and women who I was proud to call brother and sister, doing impossible tasks for a public that would likely never know what they had done. But we did, and we remembered. Many of those tales are told to young officers, even today. The history of those who have gone before lingers still in the men and women in uniform and I pray it always does.
Originally, that was what fueled my writing. I was inspired by some amazing people who did a thankless job and put themselves on the line. Many of the characters in the Ragnarok Rising Saga are based on real officers that I knew while I was a Corrections Officer. Since then, I have worked as a patrol officer and security supervisor. My list of inspirations continues to grow. For those of you “in the know” a big shout out to Bret Taylor, Brian Forester, Tyler Clark, Matt Roper, Terry Branscom, Rich Tew, Corey Hart, Kate Hughes, Joe Mahan, Andy Benjamin, Kate Ross and many, many more that I could name. You all inspired me to do more and be more than I thought I ever could be. I learned so much from all of you and tried to emulate your example. Thank you all.
Epic tales were handed down through the centuries by our ancestors and the tradition continues today. Once the invention of the Gutenberg Printing Press arrived, it became much easier for written books to be available for everyone. As civilization and time progressed, the ability to print and the fact that most people had learned to read, the tales became easier to be retold and handed down to the next generation. Books on virtually every subject suddenly erupted into print once the printing press was established and made available to the world.
Modern writing, both fiction and non-fiction, are merely extensions of the original spoken tales and legends. Fiction, in particular, became the vehicle for telling tales of exploits that may or may not have ever really happened. New genres and styles emerged. New tales flourished and found their way into our lives. Where would we be now without some of the greats in the literary world who paved the way for the rest of us? We can all remember great stories that we felt deeply on an emotional level. Stories that told us that good could triumph over evil and there were still heroes in this world. We needed those stories, especially when everything else in the world seems bleak. In dark times, stories become all the more important.
Where would we be without the storytellers? The writers and dreamers? The spinners of tales and the singers of songs? We’d be lost in the hopelessness of despair and have no means of escape. The best stories have always been a vehicle in which your mind can experience virtually anything, go anywhere, be anyone, live in any time. Fiction is the heart and soul of human existence. We all experience it, every day and in so many aspects of our lives. Do you read comic books? Do you read books? Watch TV? Listen to music? Watch movies? All of those are products of a writer. Reality TV is, as well. That’s all scripted for ratings.
My point is simple. We need writers in our lives. We need to encourage the written word and encourage our children to read. Mark Twain said, “The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.” Read that sentence again and really let it sink in. If you learned to read, you already have the literary world at your fingertips. If you know someone who can’t read, help them to learn. Reading is one of the greatest joys I know in this world. You can learn, experience, travel, share and feel so much that you wouldn’t otherwise. Reading can take you quite literally anywhere. And, the best part is, if you get a library card, the literary world is at your fingertips for FREE. That’s right, it’s all free. Reading is the ultimate achievement of man. Without it, nothing else we’ve done would have been possible. Without it, we’d still be scratching stick figures on cave walls. The written word changed the destiny of mankind and helped us to grow and learn and achieve more.
There are so many ways to improve yourself by reading. Reading is a skill and it gets easier with practice. Your mind is like any other part of your body. It performs better when it gets regular exercise. Whether you’re reading books on how to do specific tasks, reading biographies, reading fiction or whatever, reading is the vehicle that will take your mind to places you never would have known before. It can improve your life on so many levels. I was fortunate that my mother instilled a deep love for the written word in me at a very young age. I love reading to this day and I can’t thank my mother enough for that.
Reading is one of the greatest gifts that mankind has for one another. I read books on so many different subjects and genres. Unless I am searching for a particular author, I don’t pay attention to who wrote it. I read for the stories. Good stories are good stories, it doesn’t matter who wrote them. The best stories are the ones that move you, the reader, to new emotions and experiences. Those are the books that stay with you and you find yourself reading more than once. There are several authors who have affected me like that.
Open a book. If you like the story, read it. If you don’t, then put it down and find another one. There are millions of stories out there waiting for you. Millions of journeys out there waiting for you to go along with them. My suggestion, listen to the call and join them. Take the journey. Open the book and lose yourself in the pages. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
For those of you who might not be familiar with my writing, I wanted to take a few minutes to talk to you about the Ragnarok Rising Saga. It’s evolved a few times since originally written, but the story has stayed true to its origins. I wanted to tell an epic story, much like the way Tolkien told a much larger story that was shown in just one book. It’s only once you’ve read the entire series that you realize the story was far larger in scope than presented in any one of the books. An experience greater than the sum of its parts. I hope I succeeded.
The story follows Wylie Grant and Chrissy “Spec-4” Wilder from the early days of the zombie apocalypse and follows them as the story continues to grow and evolve. There are more forces at work than just the return of the dead. Forces that will shape the fate of humanity on a much larger scale than originally thought.
What was originally a five-book series evolved into ten when I signed with a new publisher. The original manuscripts were close to 150k words each. When I signed with J. Ellington Ashton Press, their publishing model was built on approximately 75k words in a manuscript. The books had to be changed to fit their publishing model. Thus, the change to a ten-book series. A fresh edit and a few linking scenes were added to effect the change, but the overarching story remained true to the original telling. The Ragnarok Rising Saga continued to grow.
This is a massive tale; full of heroes and battles, struggles and triumphs, growth and change, and above all else, striving for something bigger than one’s self. Something worth sacrificing for and risking everything for. The promise of a better world for those you leave behind. It’s a Saga, in every sense of the word.
This is a unique approach to not only zombie fiction, but post-apocalyptic fiction in general. It blends elements of Norse Mythology with modern zombie fiction, bringing about a new sub-genre in the process. It’s very different from any other zombie series out there. It’s a journey for all of the characters, each fulfilling a destiny that played a key role in the completion of the story, much like each of the Gods played in the final battle of Ragnarok. Each of the characters represents aspects of Ragnarok and adds their own pages to the saga.
If you haven’t read the Ragnarok Rising Saga, I hope that you will take the chance and experience it for yourself. Take the journey with me and see for yourself.
From Book 1: The dead are rising.
Reports of rioting and mob violence begin to appear in the news as more and more major cities go silent. The CDC and FEMA are powerless to stop the spread of the deadly “Reaper Virus.” Rumors fly about the nature of the “rioters”, claiming that the dead have risen to prey on the living. In the Midwest City of Springfield Missouri, all Law Enforcement Officers are called to report for duty.
Corrections Officer Wylie Grant is sent into the field only to discover for himself that they are facing the living dead. Wylie and National Guard Corporal Chrissy “Spec-4” Wilder must fight their way back to the Nathanael County Jail where the few remaining officers are attempting to regroup. Soon, they find themselves leading the rescue efforts as more and more positions are overrun by the dead.
I once read that Stephen King writes a minimum of a thousand words a day. That, in and of itself, doesn’t seem like an unattainable goal. If you think of it, I’ll likely be in that ballpark by the end of this blog entry. It’ll likely take me about half an hour to write that. Ultimately, it’ll be just over a full page of single-spaced text. No biggie, right? Well, maybe and maybe not.
A lot of that will depend on how fast you type. After seventeen books, I type fairly quickly. But if you’re like I was when I first started out, a thousand words can take a long time. There’s a huge difference between typing twenty words per minute and typing ninety. Also, you have to take into account if the writing is really flowing and how many times you have to stop and think. Fixing errors takes time, as well.
What does this all add up to, you might ask? It adds up to a thousand words being entirely too much, if you aren’t the fastest typist and have to think about each sentence before you write it. I’ve been fortunate that my brain processes two to three sentences ahead of what I’m actually writing. It’s been a blessing and a curse. Mainly when I try to go to sleep, getting my brain to shut up is the problem. I’m still plotting stories when I’m lying in bed. It can be nerve-racking.
You can set attainable goals for yourself but you have to know your own limits. What might be a difficult goal for some could be easily attainable for others. You want to set a goal that is challenging to reach without being impossible. That can take a bit of juggling. First off, only you know how fast you can type. That varies with each of us. Also, you know how often you get distracted and/or have to stop and think. Therefore, I can’t set an arbitrary number for you and it be a realistic goal. We are all individuals with our own strengths and weaknesses. Knowing your strengths is easy. The weaknesses takes a bit of honest introspection. You’ll have to do that by truly examining your own style and abilities. Don’t worry, it’s not that difficult. It’s just that no one can do it better than you can.
Setting an attainable writing goal is equal parts introspection and guess work. Take a look at your abilities in typing, focus and thought process. Once you have a reasonable idea, set a low goal. Say, 500 words. That’s it. Hell, for that matter, make it 250 words, if 500 seems unreasonable. Now, take a note of the word-count on your manuscript if you are already on a project. If not, you start at zero in a new one. If you’re writing in word, it should automatically track your word-count. Now, just set a timer and write until you hit that goal or run out of allotted time to write. If you run out of time and still have words to go to reach the goal, adjust the goal downwards and try again the next session. If you hit it easily, then adjust it upwards for the next session and record your details. It won’t take long before you find exactly how many words you can do in an allotted amount of time.
If you only have an hour every night to write, then you know how many words you need to have done in that hour. If you have all night, then adjust it for the time you have. Only you know how much time you have to write each day. Adjust your goal to fit your typing speed and the time you have to write. Soon, you’ll find that reaching that goal gets easier and easier. When that happens consistently, adjust the goal upwards and repeat.
The more you practice, the faster you will get at typing. Writing and typing are both skills. Yes, there is a certain amount of natural talent that plays a factor, but never discount the fact that skills can be improved with practices and time. You will be surprised how much it will change over time.
To that end, I would recommend you start a file on your desktop or in your writing folder. Name it something easy like “Writing Goal Sheet” and keep track of the date and your current goal. You can add to it weekly or daily. Keep updating it after each writing session with your progress. Then, go back and look at it and compare your progress over the course of a month or a year. You don’t have to go from typing/writing 250 words at a session to over a thousand to have improvement. Don’t try to measure yourself by using someone else’s progress as a track. It’s not a fair comparison. We’re all different and learn/grow at our own rates. You measure your success gauged against yourself, not against anyone else. Their journey is different than yours. The only fair way to chart your improvement is by trying to be better than you were yesterday. Anything else is just setting yourself up to feel bad about yourself.
It’s not fair to judge the ability of a fish in climbing a tree when compared to a chimpanzee. It’s not a fair comparison. The same goes the other way, you can’t judge the chimpanzee on its ability to swim by comparing it to the fish. They’re not the same. Both have their own individual strengths and weaknesses. We’re all unique and deserve to be proud of our strengths as individuals, not because of our differences with each other. I’ll never win a footrace with Usain Bolt, but I’ll put my recipe for homemade spaghetti sauce up against his any day of the week. We’re all different and you can’t judge yourself based on others. Set your goals and progress expectations based on you and you alone.
Writing is a journey. It’s different for each of us, but we all take that journey together. Remember when it comes to writing, rough drafts don’t have to be perfect. They just have to be written. You can fix the errors in the edits. That’s what they’re for. Write at your pace and on your terms. We’ll be ready to take the journey with you, when you’re ready to share it.
Merriam-Webster defines Suspension of Disbelief as: to allow oneself to believe that something is true even though it seems impossible.
All writing, specifically fiction, is based on Suspension of Disbelief. This is what allows us to tell stories that range from fictional accounts all the way to full Science Fiction and Fantasy. It forms the basis for how readers allow themselves to be immersed in a story, no matter how fantastic or bizarre. Without it, there would be no escapist fiction, no movies or television shows. When the readers allow themselves to be swept along with the story, the real magic begins. Let’s explore this a bit, shall we?
The primary element to suspension of disbelief lies in telling a good story. A tale that the reader enjoys enough to allow themselves to be swept along with. The more engrossing the tale, the greater the readers will become attached to the story, even going so far as to start believing (to an extent) that the tales could be true. Look at the Harry Potter franchise, books and movies. How many people have wondered which house they would have been sorted into? Who hasn’t thought, I believe in magic? All because they were swept along for the ride on a well-told tale.
Since writing became more than just bibles and books intended to teach, there has been the suspension of disbelief. The more scientifically advanced society became, the farther that suspension would take them. Science Fiction only became possible when we had progressed far enough in technology that we could conceive of it becoming a reality, even if it was a distant future. Writing therefore, is at least to an extent, turning the incredible into the credible.
You can’t just through your readers into any scenario and expect them to believe it without any explanation. You have to present the story so that it sets the reader up in a way that is relatable and understandable. Depending on what you want them to believe, it might be more difficult or easier than you thought. Especially if the subject is something they can relate to. The more relatable, the easier the suspension of disbelief will be. The less relatable, the more difficult. If the story is going to be more difficult to relate to, that is when relatable characters become invaluable. Something about the story has to draw the reader in and nothing does that more than characters that resonate with the reader. Building you story based on believable details really helps, too.
Let’s say you want to tell a story about a serial killer who is also a vampire who lives in London in the year 2153. You’re blending a lot of elements there, but that’s ok. It’s not impossible to make it happen. You need to build your foundation on details that are realistic and relatable. Add in characters that are normal people, not perfect in every detail. Set at least part of the story in “Old Towne” parts of London where the architecture hasn’t changed for “historical reasons” and then you can describe scenery that people find familiar and understandable. Keel the future technology attainable or at least explainable. Give the heroes, and by extension the villains, human frailties and passions. That makes them relatable to the reader, maybe even keeping them a little sympathetic to the villain. That always makes an interesting tale. None of this is impossible, but it will require you put some thought and effort into researching your subject and taking the extra steps to build the story on a firm foundation of relatable details.
If any of your characters have a particular skill, make sure you’ve done enough research to know the right details. If the character is a cop, then you’ll have to have a basic understanding of police procedures and behaviors. If the character is a doctor, you’ll have to know basic terminology and procedures to make them believable. Don’t just gloss over the things you don’t think the reader will notice. Trust me, they will and they’ll call you out on it, too. Readers are willing to forgive a lot of things in the pursuit of suspension of disbelief if they have that foundation in reality that a good story needs to be built on. Trust me, they came into the book wanting to be immersed in the story. It won’t take much convincing. You just have to know what you’re talking about when you write. Having those details correct makes all the difference in the world.
Readers want to be swept away by the story. That’s why they read. If you want your stories to be the kind that readers want to read again and again, you have to give them a fully-immersive experience. You owe them that for reading your work. Reading is a journey we take in our minds. The journey that you share with them is the story that you wrote. They want to join you on that journey, that’s why they read your book. Take that journey with them. Experience those joys and scares that a good story brings. Write for yourself as much as for them. Write the kind of stories that you want to read. I think you’ll find that what you look for in a story will be the same thing that scores of readers are looking for, as well.
When you read, you look for a story that is engrossing and takes you on a rollercoaster ride of experience and imagery. That’s exactly what your readers want, as well. It’s up to you to give it to them. Suspension of Disbelief allows you to tell that Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, Steampunk, Dieselpunk, Historical Fiction or any other form of fiction story that you can think of. Build your story on a solid foundation so the experience is as immersive as the reader deserves. Build solid characters and believable details for the core so that the fantastic details are accepted readily. Remember, the reader WANTS to believe in the story. Help them to believe.
Writing is all about a journey in our minds that we share with our readers. Just because you write the story doesn’t mean it doesn’t belong to the reader just as much as it does to you. It’s a shared journey into the world you created for them. Every emotion and experience you put into that story, you are sharing with them. It’s a strangely intimate relationship, bearing your soul with someone you might never meet. Give it the care and attention it deserves. The story you build will reflect that experience and your readers will love it.
One of the biggest complaints I hear from writers is finding things that inspire or jump start the writing process. Things that give them the beginning point for a story, like a creepy setting or an odd situation. Writing prompts serve to jump-start story ideas when you’re looking to start a new project. I can honestly tell you if you need a writing prompt, all you have to do is look around you and let your imagination run wild.
We see them every day. Odd buildings, strange people, creepy abandoned property, or even just a sinister feeling when you look at an otherwise normal thing. If you’re paying attention, then the entire world is a writing prompt. Everywhere and everything has a story to be told. Each conversation and interaction is fuel for the writer’s inner fire. Just put down you phone and have a look around. You might be shocked by what you see.
Just going out your front door, you open yourself up to the world. You might have that one odd neighbor who looks at you from behind a partially moved curtain. What are they hiding? What kind of story can you make of that? You pass by buildings all day long. Some of them have seen better days and some just need to be torn down. What stories do they have to tell? What could have happened to them in their prime? What can happen in the deep darkness of the abandoned factory?
They’re everywhere and in everything we see and do. How much do you know about local history? Every town or city has local lore and tales of ghosts, death and misadventure. Each of those places could lead to a new story. Each tale could be fuel for a new project. The possibilities are nearly limitless, just in your local history. Take a little time to do some research. Visit a historical society or museum. What you learn will probably surprise you.
Then there are the things that exist outside your area and outside your comfort zone. Go to a National Park, walk the nature trails and get a feel for the natural world. You will experience not only the life that’s all around you, but see some of nature’s spectacle and mystery. If that doesn’t inspire you, what can? When you walk in the wild places, it’s easy to envision the things that walk through those deep shadows. What was that sound? Is something out there? Was that a person or an animal?
That’s just the beginning. The scenery alone is abundant and inspiring. Sit beside a river or a lake. Or better yet, a water fall. Let the feelings wash over you. Pay attention to the sounds, the smells, the feeling you get there. There’s a peace in sitting beside the water. There’s a beauty there, as well. There’s also danger in the most primordial sense. Animals come to the water to drink and predators know this. Everything in the natural world needs water to live. You never know what you might see come to the water’s edge to quench their thirst.
Drive through rural areas or places where the people have just moved away. Ghost towns exist, but that’s not the only place where you’ll find these places. Every city has areas where there are derelict factories or buildings that have been boarded up and closed. These areas are rife with stories of danger and mystery. Is that building haunted? Is it used by criminals for nefarious purposes? What are the mysteries left behind? Why was it abandoned in the first place? These are questions that lead to new stories.
Story ideas lurk literally everywhere. They’re all around us in everything we do and see. Have you ever walked through a graveyard towards the end of the day? The feeling changes when the sun starts to go down. Shadows grow deeper and the sound seems to deaden. Are spirits walking all around you? Beside you? Through you? Graveyards are both serene and haunting. They remind us of the ones that have gone, and more importantly, of our own mortality. What stories left untold are buried all around you? What tales would the spirits tell if they could talk to you? Lost loves? Unfinished business? Revenge? Or would they just want to pass along a message to a loved one? Who knows, but the story is up to you.
Have you ever visited a Civil War battlefield? I have. They’re places of silent reverence because we know that scores of lives were lost there. A hush falls over a battlefield, as if the entire world is just waiting for the roar of the cannons or the clash of the sabers to start up again. You can almost smell the lingering gunpowder. Hear the battle cries as they charged, the screams of the dying and the silence of the dead. So much potential for stories are there. Stories that could have happened or would have, if not for the war. What do the spirits whisper to you? What stories do you see there?
This is not an all-inclusive list, by no means. Just a few examples of places and things you might not have thought of. Take a little time and look around you. I mean, really look. Stories and mysteries lurk around every corner and in each little detail. You pass them on the street, sit next to them on the bus, feel them staring at you from the darkness. They surround us with a rich history and with lore of days long gone by. Tragedies and triumphs that have been around you without you even being aware of them.
Observe the world around you. Everything you see is research for your writing. Stories are all around you, waiting to be told. Put down your phone and take a deep breath. Eat your lunch at a park and just observe. Walk outside your comfort zone and experience things you never noticed before. Take a different route on your daily drive to work. Go to a local venue and listen to a band you’ve never heard of. Writing is a culmination of our imagination and experiences. Every detail and nuance fueled by our own lives.
Anyone can reach the apple that’s hanging from the bottom branch of the trees, but the ones up high taste sweeter. Break out of your shell and experience the life and the stories that are going on all around you. There’s romance, action/adventure, mystery, intrigue, horror, heroic deeds, crime, drama and literally every other genre going on all around you. All you have to do is open your eyes and feel it. Need to experience fantasy, go to a Renaissance Faire. Feel the energy, taste the food and drink, see the costumes and listen to the music. Every genre you could want to be inspired to write exists in some form all around you. You just have to look for it.
Those writing prompts that you thought you needed are right in front of you. They’re in a scent on the breeze, a shadow in an alley or in a food you never tasted before. Writing is as much about you and your life as it is about your stories. After all, you and your experiences are what shape your writing. Don’t you owe it to yourself to experience as much of the things you write about as you can? Try that beer, taste that food, walk in that park, listen to the music and live in the moment. It’s those moments of your life and experience that fuel your writing and keep your creativity alive and vital.
Find you writing prompts. Just look around you. They’ve been there all along.
There seems to be some confusion about what is and isn’t a novel. Hopefully, we can clear some of that mystery up. I’ve seen titles being marketed on Amazon as a novel when they’re barely even a short-story. If you’re misleading your reader, they won’t trust future offerings from you. You can’t give someone twenty pages, no matter how solid they are, and call it a novel. It’s not how this works.
I won’t name any names, but I think we’ve all seen a few that were dubiously called novels when they weren’t even qualified to be a decent novella. Let’s go over a few of the types and discuss a bit, just for clarity and understanding on the subject.
First off, let’s talk about a novel. At a minimum, a novel should be at least Forty Thousand words. That’s right, 40,000 words. And that is a bare minimum. Good storytellers will just be getting warmed up at 40k, and some others are only getting warmed up at 100k. I like larger books. My original incarnation of the Ragnarok Rising Saga were all around 150k each, in a five book series. I had to change that when I signed with J. Ellington Ashton Press because their publishing model was based on 50 to 70k words. I wasn’t really sure about that when I first signed with them, but I understand it now. It’s all about marketability.
Most people today have busy schedules and lives. Committing to a larger book might be a bit difficult for them. I understand that. I also know that if the book is strong enough, people will read it no matter how long it is. Conversely, I have slogged through massive books only to be completely dissatisfied at the end, finding myself thinking “why did I just waste all that time on a lousy book?” So, if you have to split a manuscript in order to keep it manageable, I get it now. A lot of publishers don’t like taking a risk on a large book from an unknown Author. Stephen King can sell a large book. Joe Schmoe probably can’t.
Print costs are prohibitive, too. Publishers don’t want to spend so much money printing a large book from an author that can’t recoup the investment. That, unfortunately, is the reality of the print industry. However, if you only plan to release in e-book, then size isn’t really an issue. You’ve just got to be able to convince the reader to take a chance on such a large book, which takes us back to the earlier issues. Target your books in the 70k (that’s seventy-thousand) word range and you’ll find they’re easier to market. It’s also quicker to get a 70k book to market, even if it was intended to be more than that. Make it a series, instead. Historically, a series sells better than a single book, anyway.
Novellas are less than 40k words. They might go to the ballpark of 20k or a bit lower. Much lower and you’re getting into short-story range. Novellas are a good place to be if you aren’t telling a story large enough to be a full novel. I’m not suggesting you pad words to the story to make it long enough to be a novel, just understand what it is you’re writing. If your story is in the range of a novella, you should be fine with that. There is a good market for novellas. People have shorter attention spans than they did, years ago. Novellas are an easy read and can be done in a single session. A lot of people love the novella because it doesn’t require a long commitment. If that’s your target range, embrace it. Just remember you want to change your marketing strategy. You can’t market a novella the same way you market a novel.
Look for you audience for you novella, both in topic and in groups that specifically read novellas. It’s not all that difficult, actually. Facebook groups exist for practically every subject. Use the search bar on Facebook and search novella. You might be surprised with what you find. Also, let’s say you’re writing a romance novella, search specifically that. Your marketing target audience might just be at your fingertips.
That brings us to short-stories. I wouldn’t push beyond the twenty thousand word mark with a short-story. Actually, you might shoot a bit lower. Once you hit 20k, you’re really in the novella range. Short-stories are easily contained stories that can be told within that range. There are lots of ways to market and publish short-stories. There are online and in-print magazines that look specifically for short stories. There are publishers that are always holding open calls for anthologies. You can enter dozens of different short-story contests. Or, you can even create your own compilation of short-stories, all written by you. There are advantages to each of those. You’ll have to decide which one is right for you and your work.
Magazines can get your work notices through the established readers of that magazine. If the story is good, it will stand out and the readers will remember your name. Then, when you publish other works, they will see it and hopefully buy that, too. Magazines are great for exposure for a new writer. Anthologies are good, too. They can get your name alongside some much more well-known authors. That notoriety alone can get your name in front of a large audience. If they like the story, then you have just gotten the notice of an entire audience that follows a bigger name author. That’s a marketing win.
Competitions can get you noticed and awards and awards mean notoriety. Award Winning authors catch the attention of readers who want to see why your work earned an award. It can help launch your writing career. Lastly, the compilation of your own. The real advantage here is that you get all the royalties for the sales. As part of an anthology made up of a long list of authors, you only get a percentage. That’s just how it works. Magazines usually pay you for the story and buy it outright. Then you get no further royalties.
There are pros and cons in each of the methods for publishing short-stories. Explore them before you decide. Maybe pick up an online or in-print magazine and see what kind of stories they publish and how large their readership is. If doing an anthology, look at the list of authors involved. If you’ve never heard of any of them, then you might not be getting the exposure you thought you might. Do a little research and look into them all before deciding.
There are lots of other types of story/writing project. I only discussed these few because these are the ones you’re most-likely to encounter in the modern writing world. Take a creative writing course or read into the different types of stories and you’ll find the different types that are out there. Not all of them have much marketability in the modern world. Only you can decide what you want to write and how long it needs to be. This was just a brief discussion to show you your options and what you can look into.
If you have any questions, you can shoot me a message or if you want more than my word for it, check into the marketing of writing and the different types that you can expect to find markets for. Sales drive your ratings and you need to know your audience and marketing before you can decide. As usual, information is your friend. Take the time to learn and understand your craft and your audience. It will pay off, in the long run. I hope this helps. If so, let me know.
Every writer of every genre, whether they realize or not, have experienced this. We’ve all lived many lives, in different times, places and universes. We’ve seen things that we have to express through our writing. No, I’m not talking about past-lives. I’m talking about the stories we all create in our minds. Each of those stories is a life, unto itself.
Each and every character we create, while not truly being us, carries some part of us within them. Even the villains in the stories have some piece of ourselves inside of them. The writer creates the characters either from some facet of their own personality or from experience with others. But to truly breathe life into those characters, they have to have that spark within them that makes them more than mere words. That spark comes from within the writer. It’s a piece of them, making every character they create part of them, as well.
Each story we tell, each place we create, each situation, and each scene….are all drawn from visions within the writer. They are pieces of us, our experiences and our personality. They come from the mind of the writer and are drawn from the things we’ve experienced, learned and studied. Each one of them, a different life within the writer. We are creatures of our visions and the stories that come from them. Sometimes I feel that I don’t really write the stories. I merely write down the visions I see in my mind. As if I can steal glimpses into other lives and universes.
Creativity is an amazing thing, but it can be as much a curse as it is a blessing. How many writers through the years have suffered what they referred to as “melancholies” or struggled with depression? Hemingway committed suicide. Poe struggled with addiction to what was called Laudanum, which was nothing but an opium derivative. So many others struggled with alcoholism or addiction. It’s almost as if the visions they saw drove them to a darker place.
I am fortunate that my visions have always inspired me to continue writing, to tell my stories. Those visions can be dark, at times, and I can understand why some have struggled with them. Creativity can inspire us or drive us into darkness. Finding your focus and channeling that creativity is essential to writers. It fuels us and drives us to tell our stories, to paint, to sing or whatever that creative focus is. You need to create and release it or it will only haunt you. Focus your creativity and let in inspire you.
I think, and this is just personal theory based on nothing but my own thoughts, that writers like Poe saw visions that they were either unable to express or simply didn’t know how and it drove them to find ways to cope with it. Writers of horror sometimes write scenes that shake them up. I know several friends who write horror who have experienced this. Sometimes, a scene is so horrific in your mind that it leaves an impression upon you that’s difficult to shake.
Poetry is a deeply emotional expression of writing. I feel that poets are, for the most part, trying to express feelings that are almost intangible. Some poets enjoy writing things not quite as serious, but that’s a different subject. The poets who are trying to express the deepest of emotions, pour their heart and soul into those words and you can feel that when you read it. The imagery it conveys is exquisite. Poets can express deep beauty or deep sorrow, but they had to feel that in order to express it in words. What visions drive those deeply dark emotions? Only the poet can tell you.
Song lyrics are very much like poetry. Well, some are. Some are just nonsense. I think you all know the types of songs I’m talking about. But others, they’re full of raw emotion and paint vivid images of happiness…and conversely, of sorrow. The words they chose and the emotion they bring forth is powerful and can give you a glimpse into the writer’s soul. Sometimes it’s beautiful, and others…well, the others can be terrifying.
The point I am trying to make is that the writer experiences every word, sentence and paragraph as part of themselves. The characters are all pieces of them, as well. Every song, poem and piece of prose is a way for us to see into the mind of the writer. To share their vision. The creativity that fuels us can also haunt us. Every book, story or tale is taken from the mind of the writer. It’s a vision that you share, but they lived it in their mind. It’s part of them, to revisit whenever they choose and sometimes even when they don’t. Like a memory of a life that wasn’t really their own.
So, appreciate your favorite authors, poets, musicians, storytellers and artists. Each vision they create is part of them forever, the good and the bad. Share with them how you feel about their work. You can do that by leaving reviews for their work or, in this age of social media, you can send them a message directly. Let them know that you appreciated their stories. For those who struggle with their creativity, it just might be the boost they need to keep creating and sharing those visions. Have you hugged your favorite writer today? Not literally, of course.
I’m happy that I have come to an agreement with my stories. I tell them, then I move on to the next one. I am content with the arrangements that I have with the characters I’ve created. They are a part of me and keep me busy telling their exploits. It’s a great arrangement. I love to write and hope that I always do. It’s part of me. If I wasn’t focusing my creativity, I don’t know how I would feel but I doubt I would be happy.
Telling stories is part of who I am and I won’t be content unless I’m doing just that. I hope that you all enjoy the stories, because having readers that enjoy my writing does inspire me to keep going. Thank you for all of your kind words and reviews. I enjoy each of them and love talking to all of you about the stories that we’ve shared. I love hearing how you see the story and hear how it affected you. It’s the greatest part of being a writer. Thank you all, again. You are the best. Keep sharing our visions.
I thought I might do something a little different tonight, for my blog entry. I wanted to share with you a bit of writing I did as an exercise, not really intended to be part of any book. It is, however, based on stories I heard from an elderly gentleman I met while camping near Lake of the Ozarks.
What I thought were just scary campfire tales, he assured me were based on stories he had heard from his own grandfather, growing up in the river valley that would become Lake of the Ozarks, after the construction of Bagnell Dam.
I don’t know if there was any truth to the stories, but he certainly told them well. I’m sure he passed away a long time ago, since it was the late 80’s or the early 90’s when I met him and he had to be in his 70’s, then. I won’t say his name, since I don’t know how his relatives would feel about it. I’ll just say that he was a very interesting man to talk to and leave it at that.
So, based on the stories I heard, I present this short story to you. I hope you enjoy it. I’d love to hear what you all think. Also, if you’re from the Ozarks and have heard anything like this, please let me know. I’d love to hear more about this and maybe even put it into a book, one day.
The Beast of Lake of the Ozarks
Beast of Lake of the Ozarks
Long before the days when Bagnell Dam was built, farms and homes lined the valley that was formed by the Osage River. Our family had farmed that river valley since before Missouri was even a state. My great-great grandfather, Ora McCready, settled this farmstead in 1816, by the sweat of his brow and the blood in his veins. That parcel of land was farmed by my family until the government took it from us when construction of the dam began in 1931.
Now I’m old but I still remember the days of running along that river when I was a boy; fishing, hunting and playing games with my brothers. My memory isn’t what it once was, but I remember clearly the tales my grandfather told me by the fire, when the winter wind would howl through the valley and shake the thin panes of glass in our little farmhouse. When the icy grip of old man winter would bite into your flesh like the ravenous jaws of the Beast of the Valley.
What’s that? What’s the Beast of the Valley? That’s an old tale from even older days, full of death and misery that dates to the times when the settlers first came to this valley. I used to think it was a tall-tale, told to scare us children at night around the fireplace. But I could see the haunted look in my grandfather’s eyes when the wind would rattle the door, and I knew that it wasn’t just a tale. Somewhere, in the dark past of generations long-gone, the Beast once walked this valley. I could tell from the look on his face that not only was the creature real, but he had seen it for himself. You don’t get that haunted look from second-hand stories.
There were tales of animals being torn to pieces, dogs going missing and the occasional traveler caught out after dark. My grandfather even told me a story of a homestead that was found with the door smashed in and blood everywhere inside, but no other sign of the family that had lived there was ever found. In the dirt outside were massive tracks that looked like they belonged to a gigantic wolf. A wolf that was walking on two legs. I didn’t believe him until I found some of those tracks in the fresh mud along the bank of our pond, fifty feet from my bedroom window.
Then there were the nights in the fall of the year when my grandfather and father would build large bonfires near the house and keep them burning all night long. Sometimes members of the local Osage Indian tribe would come to our house and help with the fires. They also brought a plant that my father called Aconite to plant around the house for protection. They cautioned us not to eat it or to let our animals eat it, either. I didn’t know until years later that the common name for Aconite is Wolfsbane.
It was even told that during the construction of the dam, several of the workers vanished while walking home late at night from the construction site. It got so bad that the construction crews started walking to and from work in groups and carrying guns. Many quit the job and never returned to work. Then, when the dam neared completion and the water started to rise, the attacks suddenly stopped.
I always thought that once the dam was built, we would have heard the last of the Beast. With the creation of Lake of the Ozarks, those farms were buried beneath the dark water of the lake. There were no more attacks on people and livestock. No strange howls in the night that sounded eerily like a wolf, but not exactly. A howl that had an almost human quality to it, a quality that would turn the blood in your veins to ice.
Once the dam was finished, it all stopped. It wasn’t long as more and more of the older generations either passed away or left the area, that the Beast of the Valley became a fading memory. It was all but forgotten by almost everyone. After my brothers died in World War II and my sister died in childbirth, I alone was left to remember the tales. Even I began to doubt them as age and time took its toll on me. That is until the winter of 2016, when everything changed.
I was rapidly approaching my 100th birthday. I still lived in my little house near Linn Creek, Missouri. It was less than five miles from where our farm had been. My granddaughter lived with me, partially to take care of me and partially because she had nowhere else to go. It worked out well for me, because it kept my two sons from putting me in a nursing home.
The winter hadn’t been all that harsh, but the cold still crept into my old bones. That first night in December, the wind howled in from across the lake, shaking the windows on my old home. That night, I heard that blood-curdling howl, drifting on the wind. My blood seemed to freeze and for a moment, I thought I was having a heart attack. The pain subsided, but it was replaced by an icy grip that went to my core. I don’t know what had changed, but the Beast was back.
I told my granddaughter to make sure all of the windows and doors were securely locked. She laughed at me and told me I was just being paranoid. She said it was just the wind, but I knew better. I refused to calm down until she had double-checked the doors. She scoffed at me, saying I was working myself up over an old wives tale. She even laughed when I told her the story that my grandfather had told me, those many years before.
When we saw the hellish-red eyes in the darkness and heard the heavy footsteps on the wooden porch, she stopped laughing. Footsteps that ended with the rasping scrape of claws against the wood. I could see the terror on her face as she slid the heavy desk in front of the door. I knew from the old tales that if the Beast wanted in, that desk wasn’t going to stop it.
“It’s just an animal,” she whispered as we hid near the stairs.
We both knew that was a lie. Animals don’t try the door-handle.
Gear Profile: Dark Angel Medical Hey folks. DA here. I wanted to take a minute and talk to you all about some of the gear I use in my books. Whenever possible, I try to use “real-world” gear for the characters. This includes weapons, equipment, blades, and medical gear. When I was writing the Ragnarok […]
Author’s Bio: D.A. Roberts
D.A. Roberts is an author of fiction, primarily in the horror/dystopian and science fiction genres. Born in Lebanon, Missouri, he now lives in Springfield, Missouri with his wife and sons. When not writing, D.A. serves his community in Law Enforcement. He has been in law enforcement for nearly two decades, serving as a Corrections Officer, Deputy Sheriff, Hospital Security Team Supervisor, and most recently Patrolman with the Walnut Grove Police Department.
Best known for his “Ragnarok Rising Saga,” he blends the zombie genre with elements of Norse Mythology. The series has been called “a thinking man’s apocalyptic world.” This is a unique approach that creates a new sub-genre in Apocalyptic Fiction. Debuting in July of 2012, the series has been featured on radio shows on three continents.
He is also known in science fiction for “The Infinite Black Series.” This series is based on the hit video game from Spellbook Studio. Approached by Spellbook Studio to create the history of their universe, D.A.’s series explores the rich tapestry that is The Infinite Black. Download and play the game for free at www.Spellbook.com.
His two most recent releases are Cold Hunger which he co-wrote with Author Catt Dahman and Apex Predator: Wolf Moon. Wolf Moon is a tale which explores Native American lore and creatures known as the Dogman. Both available now from J. Ellington Ashton Press.
In November of 2018, D.A. took on the challenging role of C.E.O. of J. Ellington Ashton Press. In March of 2020, D.A. was elected first president of the Horror Author’s Guild.
Find more about his work at: