Shirley Jackson

Use Fear

“I have always loved to use fear, to take it and comprehend it and make it work and consolidate a situation where I was afraid and take it whole and work from there.”

Shirley Jackson

Most of us have read Jackson’s famous short story, The Lottery. But, since it’s October and the perfect season for spooky reading, I’d be remiss if I didn’t recommend Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, easily one of the greatest ghost stories ever written.


Friday Link Pack 10-23-2015

Friday Link Pack 10/23/2015

Friday is here! That means it’s time for the Friday Link Pack. My weekly post covering topics such as writing, art, current events, and random weirdness. Some of these links I mentioned on Twitter, if you’re not already following me there, please do! Do you have a link I should feature in the upcoming link pack? Click here to email me and let me know! (Include a website so I can link to you as well.) Let’s get to it…


Win A Copy Of Red Litten World
The Northwest Horror Podcast is giving away signed copies of my latest novel, Red Litten World. To enter just Tweet, Instagram, or Facebook them and let them know your favorite Lovecraft adaptation. That’s it! (You have until midnight, tonight.) Good luck!

Advice From The Creator Of Calvin And Hobbes
It’s no secret that Bill Watterson is incredible. This comic, based on a graduation speech Watterson gave at his alma mater, does a fantastic job in forcing us to reflect on what matters in our lives. [Thanks to Sky for sharing this with me.]

10 Scary Books That Will Seriously Keep You Up At Night
Huffington Post compiles a list of the scariest books and just in time for Halloween. For whatever reason, Old Broken Road isn’t on this list, but it should be. (In my humble opinion it’s probably the scariest of the series so far.)

Fear Never Leaves
If you missed yesterday’s post, I got all emo and reflected on the emotions that build up over the launch of a book, and talk about working through my fears as I continue to fight towards my successes.


Reimagined Disney Animals With Human Personalities
What if the talking animals from animated Disney films were reimagined and humanized? What would Simba look like? How about Baloo? Well, artist and illustrator Alaina Bastian has answered those questions and more in her series Humanized. There’s a lot of fun work here. [Thanks to Dave for sharing this with me.]

Mark Zug’s Art For The Dune Card Game
I’ve been on a Dune kick this year ever since I reread it this spring. This week I stumbled across these illustrations of characters for the Dune card game. (Which is sadly out of print.) Some amazing work here, but my favorite is easily the Jessica Atreides piece. (Which is also the image featured above.)

There is some disturbing and otherworldly about this cotton installation from Jennifer Strunge and Jonathan Latiano. It’s like a bizarre cuddly monstrosity is pushing in from some other reality.


Better Reasons To Boycott Star Wars
So, some internet trolls started the #BoycottStarWars hashtag for some stupid trolly reason, and it went viral, and the typical people freaked out. In response, the Washington Post wrote up this article to offer some funny (and not racist) reasons to boycott J.J. Abrams newest film.

Dropping Water Levels Reveal Hidden Church
It’s like something out of Lovecraft, Mexico’s record drought has revealed a creepy waterlogged church that dates back to the 1600s.

A Treasury of Rare And Weird Star Wars Posters From Around The World
A collection of amazing (and often strange) Star Wars movie posters from around the world. No idea what is happening in Russia. [Thanks to my buddy Bartek for sharing this.]


Smiley Face Murder Theory
The Smiley face murder theory (variations include Smiley face murders, Smiley face killings, Smiley face gang, and others) is a theory advanced by two retired New York City detectives, Kevin Gannon and Anthony Duarte, that a number of young men found dead in bodies of water across several Midwestern American states over the last decade did not accidentally drown, as concluded by law enforcement agencies, but were victims of a serial killer or killers. The term smiley face became connected to the alleged murders when it was made public that the police had discovered graffiti depicting a smiley face near locations where they think the killer dumped the bodies in at least a dozen of the cases. The response of law enforcement investigators and other experts to Gannon and Duarte’s theory has been largely skeptical.


Herbert West—Reanimator
The tale of Professor West includes creepy zombies and the first mention of ol’ Miskatonic University. This story was also the basis for the 1985 cult classic, Re-Animator.


the majesty

Fear Never Leaves

Fear Never Leaves

Is there such a thing as post-publication depression? I mean we spend all this time working on a book losing our evenings, weekends, and holidays making sure it’s ready. Then the big day arrives, the launch happens! We’re giddy! We’re excited! The book is released! Then… silence. The book is out there. You see people buying it. You know it’s in the hands of readers. But you sit and wonder and wait and eventually fear starts creeping in.

Oddly, this is my third post on the subject of fear as it pertains to writing. (See: I’m Scared and Fear Is The Mind Killer for the others.) I say “oddly” because these are never the articles I set out to write, but somehow I still write them. Which shows how constant these emotions are in our lives. Over the last three years, with each successive launch I have taken the time to write about the tangle of emotions that swell around the launch of a book.

The greatest feeling in that knot is always the same; it’s fear. We’re afraid it’s not good enough. We’re afraid our books will be failures. We’re scared it’s full of mistakes. We worry that people will hate it. Those ideas can be debilitating. They gnaw at us, and if we let them they can devour us. But, here’s the kicker, I don’t think those feelings ever go away.

Worry comes with this job. Sure, in some magical land a writer writes a manuscript and everything is perfect, editing isn’t a bear, and reviewers laud them with praise, accolades, and candies. La de da. But that isn’t today, and it’s certainly not the world where we live. It can be tough out here. People can be mean. Some want to be mean. But, here we are. Three years ago, when I stared into that long tunnel and faced the launch of The Stars Were Right I was there. I was terrified. But I pressed on. A year later, when I set out to launch Old Broken Road, I still felt those pangs. Hell, here I am standing on the other side of Red Litten World‘s launch, and I still feel it. Those emotions are still there even three books and thousands of copies later.

“Perfect is the enemy of good.”

There is an ancient saying (Seriously, ancient, it’s attributed to Voltaire) that I like to quote, “Perfect is the enemy of good.” Now, I am not saying you shouldn’t try to achieve perfection. Quality matters. That’s a given. What I am saying is that so often we get so stuck in the chase of perfection that we never stop. We run and run and run afraid of failure. Projects never see release because they haven’t achieved an unreachable ideal we set up in our heads. Fear fuels it, and it’s empowered by those lingering “what if” questions. Questions that bog us down, snare us, and stop our momentum.

The biggest lie in life is the idea that failure itself is permanent. I’ve seen it crush writers, artists, designers, architects, and creatives of all types. I’ve seen it destroy dreams. But… it’s a lie. Failure is a state of being, and like every other state of being, you’ll realize that it’s temporary. Once you realize its temporal nature fear begins to take a back seat. The panic becomes a white noise. The post-publication depression that hangs over our head and sabotages us begins to fade. As that happens, you become powerful.

“You’ll have more failures than successes.”

Last week, Kari-Lise was watching The Trojan War, the latest in ESPN’s documentary series 30 for 30. (It’s a brilliant documentary series and I encourage more than just sports fans to watch it. A lot of great stories.) During the program, Lawrence Turman, the producer of The Graduate and American History X, had a great quote. It was something that has stuck with both Kari-Lise and me. I’m paraphrasing here, but it was something along the lines of: “you’ll have more failures than successes.”

Think about that for a moment, more failure than successes. That’s intense and yeah, it’s scary. But the trick, the thing a lot of people don’t understand, is you can’t fail unless you try, and you certainly cannot succeed until you’re willing to fail.

So, I’m scared. I feel the fear. I always do. But, now three books in, I’m realizing: that fear never leaves. It lingers, it picks, it torments. Somedays I give in, but more and more I find myself pushing past it. My reaction to it has changed. I’ve changed. The way I react is shifting. Emotionally I realize that fear is part of the process. Sure, I can still feel it moving beneath the surface. I know it wants to reach up, and (excuse the Lovecraftian imagery) grip and strangle me in its tentacles. But I push on. What else would I do? Give up? *scoffing noise* Not a chance. I want to write. I want to tell stories. I don’t ever intend on stopping.

So yeah, fear is out there. We all deal with it. But we can’t let fear stop us. Keep at it.

Now, go make great things.

H. P. Lovecraft

The Strongest Kind Of Fear

“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear. And the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.”

H.P. LovecraftSupernatural Horror in Literature

It’s been a while since I posted a quote, and since I’m close to launching my next Lovecraftian urban fantasy novel, I figure it’d be appropriate to post a quote from one of Lovecraft’s own works. This line also inspired the title for the Lovecraft documentary, Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend checking it out.

"There are thriving communities still out there that want more! They want to hear your voice, and if you keep at it, you’ll eventually find them and they’ll eventually discover you."

Ignore The Market. Tell The Story You Want To Tell.

Recently, over on KBoards there has been a discussion going on about finding success as an author in the current market. It’s worthy of discussion. After all, it’s always helpful to share what has worked for you. It’s a big reason why I started this blog, I want to share my experience and I hope you glean something useful from it. But, I had to pause when I read a post from someone on how reading through that thread was depressing them. This was sparked mainly by the heralded success of romance fiction—something they didn’t write—and its perceived market and potential profitably compared to their own genre.

Often authors get sucked into the comparison game—indie authors especially. They look at what others have done to achieve success and the kneejerk reaction is to emulate them. Likewise, they get disheartened when they pour so much of themselves into a work and the market seems to ignore it. It can lead to frustration, depression, and animosity. Instead of telling the stories they want to tell or sticking with their work, they end up chasing promises while trying to placate the desires of the market. It turns the market into a hungry monster. Instead of a place to share and sell work it becomes something else. It slumbers like an evil beast forged in the dark fires of jealousy and thrives on our desire for explosive and immediate success.

“Oh!” It will say in its sultry voice. “You’re writing an epic fantasy? No. No one cares about epic fantasy anymore, we’re all into hard science fiction these days! Didn’t you see the sales numbers for the last bookstore blockbuster? Your numbers are a pittance in comparison! Didn’t you see how Famous McAuthor did their giveaway? You should have done the same! Why didn’t you write a character like that popular one? Yours are boring in comparison!”

As long as you keep feeding it, the thing will never be silent. The mystical market monster cannot be appeased. Even success won’t sate its hunger. It’ll always want something else, it’ll always cause doubt, and it’ll always frustrate. You sold ten thousand books? Well, Famous McAuthor sold one hundred thousand. You sold one hundred thousands? Well they sold a million! On and on it goes. It’s easy to see how it can spiral down for anyone.

Yet… the market monster can be defeated. During interviews I have often been asked what my advice is for new writers. My best advice is to ignore advice. Advice will only get you so far. Everyone’s path to success is different. Keep working hard and keep trying new things. Don’t dwell on what others are doing. Ignorance, in this case, is bliss.

“There are thriving communities still out there that want more! They want to hear your voice…”

Sure, there are always cases of instant success but for the grand majority of people it takes time. Focus on craft. Write your stories. Tell what you need to tell and please, stick to it! It doesn’t matter if someone believes that “dystopian is played out” or “no one cares about steampunk” or “vampire romance doesn’t sell.” There are thriving communities still out there that want more! They want to hear your voice, and if you keep at it, you’ll eventually find them and they’ll eventually discover you.

That’s one of the best things about the internet and our connected culture worldwide. It’s what allows for stories like Homestuck to get told, find an audience, and become runaway successes. (If you haven’t heard about Homestuck, educate yourself.) None of the big publishing houses would have even considered giving the creator—Andrew Hussie—the time of day. He forged his own path and it took years but eventually his story found its audience.

So when it comes to your own creations, I really want to encourage everyone to keep doing what they’re doing. Keep writing. Keep perfecting your craft. Keep making quality products. Ignore everything else. Those three things should be your focus. Chase the stories you want to tell and ignore the market monster. You’ll be a lot happier and it’ll show in your work.

Now, get back to writing.

Reverend Mother Ramallo

Fear is the mind-killer.

Around this time last year I wrote a post titled “I’m scared.” It was a candid take on the feelings I was dealing with while I was on the verge of releasing The Stars Were Right. You’d think with one book under my belt that it would be easier, that publishing Old Broken Road would be more relaxing. Yet, here I am staring at another final manuscript and those same fears are hurdling through my head yet again.

Saying and understanding are two separate things. I now understand: the fear never goes away. It’s like the tide of the ocean. Sometimes its waters are distant and easily ignored and sometimes it hammers us. I don’t care who you are or how successful you’ve been. It’s always there. It pokes at us. It causes self-doubt. I think a lot of writers struggle with this fear. It’s why they rewrite and rewrite and rewrite. It’s why they never submit or never publish. But, for any of us to be successful, we need to push past that fear.

The Bene Gesserit‘s litany against fear always comes to mind at a time like this:

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

So, how do we push past this fear? How do we let it pass over and through us? Honestly, I don’t know. I don’t have a good answer. This fear isn’t something that has three quick steps or a handy online tutorial. Yet, thousands of authors get past it. If they can do it so can you. My solution: I just do. I swallow that fear, hit publish, and I let the work free. Maybe that’s enough.

Big announcement tomorrow.