Monday, December 19, 2011

A Present For You

Ok, so I decided to get you a gift after all. (One you don't have to pay for)

Just me and my guitar and some holiday cheer...

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Krampus Christmas

Okely dokely boys and girls. It’s Christmas time and I’m getting ready to get back into the recording studio to finish this album (there’s nothing better than a warm recording studio when it’s cold outside.) But before you think I didn’t get you anything for Christmas, let me stop you with a soft shushing sound and a frowning shake of my head.

I wouldn’t forget you, no I wouldn’t. See how thoughtful I am? How like the image of a gentleman scholar you have in your head. (Unless the words ‘gentleman scholar’ inexplicably make you think of Hannibal Lecter.)

Anyhow, now that you think I’m so magnanimous, allow me to let a little air out.
I only got you something if you own a Kindle.
And you have to pay .99 cents.
But hear me out first, you WANT to spend this .99 cents. Really, I’m doing you a favor by telling you to spend this near buck.
Here’s what I want you to do: buy the Shock Totem HolidayTales of the Macabre and Twisted 2011
Simple, right?
Why should you buy it? Two great reasons and then a bunch of other good reasons.
Reason 1: you get to read “A Krampus Christmas” by none other than Illiterati member Ryan Bridger (aka Battle Bunny)
Reason 2: you get to read “Heartless” by Illiterati member Merceded M. Yardley
That’s right, TWO members of my infamous estimable writer’s group are featured in this issue.
So what are you waiting for, an invitation? Get off your lazy duff and have an awesome book filled with holiday havoc beamed directly to your Kindle.

Do it now or the Krampus will get you...

Friday, December 9, 2011

OK, who put Copyright in my Freedom?

I read an interesting post about DRM and eBooks the other day (for the life of me I can’t find that link!) and one of the things that was talked about was the need for copyright control.

Control is the trick, isn’t it? I mean, you’ve slaved for months and/or years over your songs, short stories, novels, art, and by golly you don’t want someone turning around and mass producing it without giving you a fair cut.

But we live in the digital age. Information wants to be free. The original might be a canvas, or on 2” analog tape, or in a handwritten draft in your drawer, but once you digitize it and put it out there, you can’t maintain control. (and I assume you are putting it out there, i.e. on the interwebz, because if you aren’t you aren’t reaching your potential market. Unless your market is the Amish.)

So, let me say that again.

Once it goes into the world, you have no real control. Not that it’s always right, or fair, or whatever epithet you give it. But it’s true: once you let it out into the world you lose control. (That doesn’t stop people from having the illusion of control and suing Napster into oblivion)

You can’t stop piracy, you can only try to mitigate it.

So do we artists and content providers throw our hands up in despair? Maybe we buckle down and make DRM and copyright laws even more draconian. Or do we turn it all loose like the bands Nine Inch Nails and Radiohead, who release their albums on a “pay whatever you like” zero-copy-protected creative commons open license?

Let’s go back to the problem of control. One thing to realize is that control is the old-model method for dealing with copy protection.

If the strong arm of the law can’t reign the copy-right violators in, codify the law into computer code (DRM) and force them to obey. The problem in the digital age is that any form of copyright control is like a game of whack-a-mole. DRM? A joke. Hordes of l33t h4x0rs are hunched over keyboards cracking content providers’ DRM as a morning exercise before their real hacks.

Copyright control, as used by the old guard, also has the negative effect of fomenting an antipathy between customer and content provider—comparable to the effect that censorship has on nations (i.e. in the same way that censorship creates more fervent curiosity and subversion, copyright control, such as DRM, encourages more circumnavigation and antagonism)

But there is a new model that seems to work.

It’s been called the iTunes model: Make the legitimate avenue of acquiring the product so easy, simple, so ubiquitous and NORMAL, that piracy is relegated to the outer fringes.

Notice that this model doesn’t try to stop people from copying the content; it just makes it easier and more convenient to buy it legitimately.

One sad truth is that piracy flourishes where legitimate copies are unavailable.

A book that comes out in the US may not come out in Australia for months. An album available on iTunes USA might not be available in Japan.

And if there’s something true about consumers of today, they hate waiting. And sadly there are some antiquated and despotic copyright/licensing laws to thank for that service gap.

Another part of the new model is value-added content, content (special packaging, author extras, personalized content, etc, etc) that can’t be replicated by privateers (pirates) easily. Such content de-legitimizing illegal content providers.

So in the new model, reliable and value-added content delivery mitigates piracy more effectively than methods of copy control. If information really wants to be free, well let's not try to hold back the tidal wave, but instead channel the energy of its inertia to sell content.

Your thoughts?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Crossed Genres Issue #36

Guess what?

My short story “The Last Recall” is being published in the final issue of Crossed Genres Magazine. (Issue #36)

This is a huge honor and I share the issue with such talented authors as:

     Megan Arkenberg
     Sarah A. Drew
     Lara Ek
     Helen Estrada
     Zachary Jernigan
     Cat Rambo
     Nisi Shawl
     Jo Thomas
     Maria Stanislav

Crossed Genres Magazine is a small publisher of speculative fiction and every issue has a new genre/theme. Not only that, but their cover art ALWAYS rocks. (see?)

art by Brittany Jackson
And did I mention that you don’t have to wait for the Kindle edition, you can go and read it online right now for free!

So what are you waiting for? Go read it already!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Branding, it’s not just for cows anymore™

Branding, it’s not just for cows anymore™

I read it all the time: market yourself, develop a personal branding identity, stand out from the crowd by positioning yourself as a commodity. Strategy, strategy, strategy.
Yes I get it, being heard above the crowd is valuable in today’s hypersaturated market where entertainment is comingled with even the most basic purchases (Since when has beef, or milk, or orange juice needed a pithy slogan and a jingle? Save your marketing dollars trying to convince me to buy a device that warms baby wipes)

And naturally we want to save ourselves from the marketing blunders that allowed this little poor-decision-making gem of marketing dross to be unleashed on the world.

Whose bright idea was that? Almost as bad as Hong Kong's "It'll Take Your Breath Away" ad campaign. (SARS anyone?)


So I get it, I ought to read up on how to market myself to get and retain readers.


But after about five paragraphs of marketing strategy positioning doublespeak I start wondering if anything exciting is happening on twitter.

Branding is supposed to be creating an identifiable difference in your “product” that separates it from all the other products out there. When it comes to personal branding, as it is employed by authors, songwriters, bloggers, anarchists, talking vegetables, et al, branding is just having a uniquely distinguishable persona and talent.
How hard is that? We’re all unique snowflakes, right?

Well shoot, it’s hard to think about positioning yourself so your witticisms and charm bring hordes of readers to your blogs or books. It’s hard to smile for the virtual camera of interwebiness, which never sleeps and never forgets.
It’s not really that terribly hard to make up a strategy… I mean, we can armchair strategies all night long. But it’s the follow-through and the dedication (or revisifying) which ends up being the toughest part.

What’s a bloke to do?
Usually just do what you do, learn a few tricks along the way, blog about something that interests you at the time (and in that too-short free time you would normally reserve for playing video games).

That’s all I got. What about you, oh intrepid reader? Have you ever wrestled with the “Market Thyself” beast?

Saturday, November 5, 2011

A Motivational Speech (Plus Music Video)

Allow me to introduce you to my other band: Aurea Verba

Eric, Mason, Eli, Matt
See, that's me over there with a pained rock star look on my face. In my opinion, a constipated or wounded pout is the only real face one can make for band photos.

But I digress.

My other band is quite fun to be in. For starters I have too much music in my body to get it all out with just one band. So I need at least two full time bands with several other pick-up gigs thrown in on the side.

It's kind of like writing. I can't just write in one genre, nor am I content with just writing a few stories or novels "and then I'll be done." I'll never be done, I'll always create.

Do thousands upon thousands of people come to our shows? No (unless they are invisible, in which case I am kinda creeped out). But does that mean that somehow it's not worth it?

We do what we love doing because we love doing it--no, we NEED to do it. I can't help being creative, I couldn't stop myself from being creative.

So why would I ever let myself mope and have those useless thoughts of "not being really successful"?

Hot diggety-dawg, I put my pen onto a blank page and a story comes out. I put my fingers onto a contraption made of steel and rosewood and music happens!

That's the fountainhead of it all. I don't need adulation or hordes of fans (though it'd be nice, sometimes), I just need to keep creating.

So I leave you with a music video as I go off and get some writing done. Or maybe I'll go play some guitar...

Thursday, November 3, 2011

World Fantasy Con 2011 Debriefed


World Fantasy Con 2011 was held in San Diego this past weekend, and my infamous writing group, The Illiterati, were in attendance and in rare form the whole time.
Illiterati with guest appearance by Jaym Gates (far left)
First let me say that we turned it into a road trip of epic proportions, legends of which shall be whispered in the dark for years. Mercedes M. Yardley and Billie Bundschuh are super road warriors.

True to my slightly obsessive insanity, I’d made a WFC binder with bios on every guest of honor and each of our co-panelists so we’d be studied up.

Yes, co-panelists. That’s right, both Mercedes and I managed to get onto some of the panels at World Fantasy Con. I can either ascribe that to our awesomeness or their desperateness. :)
Talkin' bout H.P. Lovecraft

I’ll be writing another post about the oddity of being on a panel soon (including Do’s and Don’ts learned the hard way!) but for now, on with this post:

The main thing everyone needs to know about writers’ conventions is that pretty much everyone there is either a writer or an editor, publisher or agent. Which means that networking is the name of the game.
Mercedes and other Fey Folk

Ok, so that sounds cynical. Let me define networking as I see it (and as we in the Illiterati see it): networking is making new friends who also happen to have industry experience and may lead us to new opportunities. 

See? That sounds much better and less self-serving.

When we arrived fresh from the road on Thursday, we almost immediately stumbled into Misty Dahl and Jeff Mariotte, friends we’d made at KillerCon. Soon after that we finally met IRL some online friends from the InkPunks writing group.

Then in splitting up and hitting the panels we found ourselves getting into great discussions with authors who we may never have stumbled onto on our own (but now that we randomly bonded over Boba Fett and why zombie unicorns will rule the earth one day, we’re BFFs!)

And then there were the after parties. Now, let’s get one thing straight, yes there is free booze—but if that’s what gets you excited about writing convention after parties, then you’re a dumbnut. Just saying.

See, the after parties are where people let their hair down and actually are interested in getting into REAL discussions.

I loved hearing about the various writing projects that everyone was up to. I loved seeing the fire and passion in people eyes when they talked about what they were writing. I loved the way us writers start off kind of shy when asked “so what do you write?” but before long we’re head-to-head getting all giddy about our favorite authors.

Speaking of giddy, whilst wandering the halls I got somewhat lost (the hotel was designed by evil minions). As I stood there looking like a tool I was accosted by William F. Nolan who made me laugh so hard with his story regarding the now-defiled hotel potted plants.

Another great person I met was the Australian author KirstynMcDermott (author of Madigan Mine, Aurealis Award winner). She’s awesome, and let’s just say that I was “adopted” by the Australian contingent as we crashed the various parties happening around the hotel. My only regret is that we got separated somewhere in room 1111 and I didn’t get to say goodbye and thank you to Kristyn. So, let this blog post serve.

I also got to finally meet the inimitable Simon Larter. Let me tell you folks, I like this man’s style. Can you say, trickster?

Speaking of trickster, parking at the hotel was $16 a day. A DAY. Are you kidding me? Well, we at The Illiterati won’t take that sort of tripe. We had a giant Yukon SUV so when it came time to leave the party and head to our host home we just drove over a bunch of innocent shrubbery to freedom.

Take that parking robbers! Nyah nyah!

~Mason

(the following is a very incomplete list of some of the wonderful people who made WFC2011 such a success for us)

Kirstyn McDermott http://kirstynmcdermott.com/
William & Peggy Wu http://williamwubooks.com/


Saturday, October 22, 2011

Dominating World Fantasy Con 2011

So, this year my whole crazy writing group, The Illiterati, decided to gang up on World Fantasy Convention in San Diego.

Aside from the fact that Battle Bunny FAILED to get tickets in time (an oversight which he will not be allowed to forget) the rest of us are carpooling down to unleash our particular brand of insanity on unsuspecting convention goers.

And in the tradition of things being crazy, two of us have been asked to sit on panels whilst at World Fantasy Convention. Rock.

I'll be talking about H.P. Lovecraft and the Horrors of the Sea on Friday at 1pm, with fellow panelists Christopher Farnsworth, Cody Goodfellow(M), Rain Graves, S. T. Joshi.

And on Saturday Mercedes M. Yardley will be joining Holly Black, Jenny Blackford, Patrick Rothfuss, and Delia Sherman to examine faeries as they have historically been known--that is, as creatures of fear and danger, not cutsie little kissers-of-flowers.

So, if you are hitting up WFC, you can either join us or walk the plank. (But if you join us we're nice pirates... with cookies and many inside jokes that you can laugh at after a brief initiation period too...)


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

KillerCon 3: The New Convention on the Block

Now it’s time for my much belated recap of KillerCon 3, an exciting new convention catering to horror and dark fiction held right here in Las Vegas, NV.
As to being belated, my poor computer was raped by a computer virus the day after the convention.

Those pictures of your mom were so not worth it.

Luckily I backup regularly (if you don’t, start NOW) but it still meant a few days downtime while I wiped the hard drive and reinstalled the OS. Fun!

But what was fun was KillerCon.

KillerCon exists because a small group of hyper dedicated people like Wrath James White, R.J. Cavender, Boyd Harris, Bailey Hunter and crew at Cutting Block Press decided that Las Vegas needs a convention, dangit! (ok, so maybe that wasn’t the reason they began KillerCon, but I’m sticking to it). These dudes and dudettes know how to make things happen.

Mercedes and I furiously trying to outwrite each other in the Creative Writing Contest
(She won... "I'll get you next time Gadget!")
Only in its third year, KillerCon in some ways shows its age—or youth—by being somewhat small and loosely organized. But far from being a distraction or detraction, those very qualities lent itself a real sense of bonhomie among the crowd of writers.

In between panels and readings and mass book signings, these veteran writers were casually rubbing elbows with us n00bs, offering us good advice and just being plain ole wonderful people.

I don’t know what the attendance numbers were for the entire weekend, but I can say that I generally saw a good 25-40 people mixing freely in the hospitality room where well-established writers—such as Jack Ketchum, Mort Castle, John Skipp, Ray Garton, Weston Ochse, Jonathan Maberry, Robert Devereaux, Jeff Mariotte and Edward Lee—connected and invested in writers just starting their careers.

In fact, it was SeƱor Mort Castle who really made an impact on me with his bottomless passion for writers. I mean, this guy loves writers—they energize him! After Mort did an intimate and intense two-day writers’ workshop I cornered him and pestered him with all sorts of questions about the craft—and he never flagged.


Mort Castle, Honorary Member of The Illiterati
 For that, Mort Castle has earned my respect, and the respect of the other Illiterati members who were in attendance, granting him the envious title of: “Honorary Member of the Illiterati.”

Speaking of the Illiterati, our very own Mercedes M. Yardley won 1st place in the absolutely crazy Creative Writing contest. We had 15 minutes to write a short story which had to include a list of inane words chosen by the cruel-hearted judges (OK, so it wasn’t as bad as last year where one of the words was calzone, but “chartreuse?” come on…)

KillerCon is a young convention, and suffers from the usual growing pains such as occasional chaos and “Where’d all those name badges go?” syndrome. But let me tell you, I’d take a little disarray if the pay-off is solid connections with quality writers and editors/publishers.

So, overall, KillerCon might not be the largest or most well-known horror/dark fiction writers’ convention, but you just watch next year, and the year to come. Good things are in store.

A special (alphabetical) thanks to my new friends:
Leah Anderson and Vincent Daemon of “Grave Demand” http://gravedemand.com/
Steven Booth http://www.geniuspublish.com/
Christopher Boyle
Mort Castle
R.J. Cavender
Eddie Coulter (look, dolphins!)
Misty Dahl http://mistydahl.com/
Robert Devereaux
Brad C. Hodson http://bradhodson.wordpress.com/
Bailey Hunter
Laura J. Hickman
Chris Marrs
Jason S. Reinhardt
Wrath James White
Rhonda Wilson of Monster Librarian http://www.monsterlibrarian.com/
(Forgive me if I missed someone, I’m still recovering!)

(Also, if I missed your link, let me know in the comments!)

Monday, September 19, 2011

KillerCon 3: a Convention in Las Vegas = crazy

This weekend, KillerCon will descend upon an unsuspecting Las Vegas.


A writer’s convention for writers of the horror genre (and not for serial killers), KillerCon is bringing together some really great (and Bram Stoker Award winning) guests of honor, including Jack Ketchum (dubbed the scariest guy in America by Stephen King), Ray Garton, Jonathan Maberry.

Since it’s in my backyard, and because my fellow Illiterati super-friend Mercedes M. Yardley coerced me, I’ll be there as a volunteer.

This will be my first writer’s convention, so I’m excited. And that it’s about 15 minutes from home makes it even better!

They say that networking is the real reason for these conventions, and since (as my wife will tell you) I am driven to a fever pitch of energy by other people: either I’ll make really good connections or I’ll burst into flame through sheer excitement.

I’ll be reporting back with my experiences and insights (because you care, I know you do)

Until then, I leave you with the most awesome thing ever:

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Universe of my WIP: or, a totally fabricated interview with James Lipton

Ok, so I found some questions from something called 30 days of writing. It might be an old meme, but I had fun answering the first question so I might just keep it up.


Besides my jilted blog needs content! Haha.

Let us pretend that I am being interviewed by James Lipton from the Actors Studio:


James Lipton will burn holes in you with his eyes.
 James Lipton: Tell us about your favorite writing project/universe that you’ve worked with and why.

This is tricky because like most writers it’s usually “What I’m working on now” since that is the most vibrant and fresh and compelling.

But I really really really love the universe I created for my fantasy series.

James Lipton: Fantasy? Why not a sweeping epic about Depression era farmers?

No... I don't think--

James Lipton: Can there be some Depression era farmers in your fantasy novel?

Well, there are farms I suppose...
But The first book in the first series is titled THE WATCHER IN THE WOODS and I’m doing some edits before looking for a potential agent. And I’ve written about half of book two just because I can.

James Litpon: That's a lot of work into something that hasn't been published yet. Did you just go crazy like my hairline?

More like your tie. When I just tallied it up for this blog, I’ve written almost a million words in this world, mostly myths and histories and a bunch of interconnected short stories.

Whenever I’m overwhelmed by my WIP, or I just want to be unfettered in creativity, I can always slip into the world and make magic. Sometimes it’s sweeping epic history, sometimes high mythmaking, but many times a character catches my imagination and draws out a close story, intimate and personal.

It’s a great feeling, going from the macro to the micro within such a wide scope of history.

James Lipton: Do you feel like you need to have an epic rap battle with Tolkien?

I can't rap in Old Norse yet, so he'd prolly win that one.


Stay tuned for more madcap interviews!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A Letter to my Jilted Blog

Dear blog,

You probably think I'm a jerk for running off and ignoring you for a few months. I admit, I'd feel hurt too if you did the same to me.

But I can explain.

I'm nearing completion on my supermegacomplex WIP whilst working full-time and raising two kids under 3, AND working on songs for the new album (you knew I was in a band, right? http://www.atlastakesaim.com/), and working on a few intense secret and undisclosable projects.

So, yeah, blog, I'm sorry I haven't been here for you.

See I brought roses... and maybe this picture will cheer you up...
Every Dragon Needs a Keytar

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Interview: Mae Empson - Historical Lovecraft

H.P. Lovecraft. BAM.


If you’ve read any of his stuff you know what I mean by alien horror. Not as in Ridley Scott, but as in so utterly alien and impossible that to even scarcely glimpse it is to go insane.

Lovecraft’s contribution to the world of horror and science fiction is irrepressible. So when I tell you that my short story “Black Leaves” is in the latest Anthology put out by Innsmouth Free Press, a Canadian micro-publisher of dark fiction and horror with an affinity for H.P. Lovecraft-inspired works, I know you’ll be so excited that you’ll go out and buy twenty copies. One for each finger and toe!

But while reviewing the galley copy I had the opportunity to read through some of the other stories featured in Historical Lovecraft and let me tell you folks: eerie, creepy, terrifying and fascinating are all words to describe the anthology.

Not to mention high-caliber. Editors Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Paula R. Stiles have a sharp eye for discovering unique and compelling voices. (And I’m not just saying that because they published my little story!)

In fact, I discovered the up-and-coming author Mae Empson whose story “An Interrupted Sacrifice” was inspired by her study of the Moche civilization which flourished in Peru during the first millennium. They apparently had a demon sea-god with tentacles for a face… Can you say Cthulhu fhtagn?

Seattle-based author Mae Empson is a relative newcomer as a published writer, but her work belies a deep and fierce commitment to her craft. I have the pleasure of asking Mae some questions about her short story and about the craft of writing.

First of all, satisfy my burning curiosity. Is it raining right now in Seattle?

Yes, it is currently raining in Seattle. (Laughs)

Your story “An Interrupted Sacrifice” takes place in the coastal deserts of pre-Columbian Peru—a decidedly un-Seattle-like setting.

I think living in Seattle is a useful background for writing about a culture that is very dependent on the weather, and praying for rain. Our winters are very dark and wet. Our summers are brief and glorious, and there is an element of sun worship--praying for the endless rain to break--only possible in an environment where the sun shines so infrequently and the summer days are as long as the winter days are short.

The Moche had the opposite problem: drought, which features in the story. They lived in a coastal desert, bordered on one side by mountains, and on the other by a hostile sea that occasionally flooded them. These threats usually followed predictable cycles, but then in the 6th century they experienced a massive drought that exceeded all previous memory. In the historical record, it is one of the forces that led to the collapse of their civilization.

Is it safe to say that a sacrifice is interrupted at some point in the story? (Said in my best dead-pan)

From the title, everyone ought know that a sacrifice is going to be important to the story, and that it will be interrupted. The first line builds the expectation that it’s the sacrifice of the protagonist’s lover, and that she (the protagonist) is going to be the interrupting force.

There is also the alluded-to ill-fated sacrifice that the protagonist’s mother was involved in which is a sort of parallel for the situation your protagonist faces when the story opens.

I like cycles and echoes in stories, and skewing expectations. And I wanted the title “An Interrupted Sacrifice” to have different meanings.

Your first line really struck me because it firmly sets up the conflict and deftly tells us the core premise: the protagonist is to sacrifice her lover.

I wanted the reader to “meet” the triumvirate of gods quickly—sea, land, and sky, since that structure describes the relationship of both the gods themselves, and of their three associated high priests/priestesses. I also wanted the reader to recognize immediately that this is a historical story about a culture that is extremely devout, and to feel the alien-ness of that mindset, and how that changes the stakes of this primary conflict. Given the demand to sacrifice her lover, her conflict isn’t whether to do it. She never considers that. He (her lover) never considers it. The question is: how to do the sacrifice in a way that does not anger the gods, and that allows her to preserve a desperate hope of seeing him again in a post-sacrificial form.

It’s a well-honed and meaningful first line. Did you write and rewrite that? Or was it one of those first draft surprises?

Personally, I find getting the right opening to a story to be one of the hardest parts of short story construction. For this particular story, I benefited from a long plane flight where I didn’t have access to my computer, so I kept outlining and world building rather than jumping into drafting since those are tasks I enjoy doing on paper. By the time I stated writing the story itself (on the second leg of the flight), I had a clear vision of the plot and the opening conflict. That definitely helped me to start at the right place, and to articulate the conflict that is driving her initial action clearly. The only difference between the first version and the final, for that first sentence, is that I often do my first draft in first person present tense, and then convert to third person past tense during editing.

That is by far one of the most unique writing habits (or methods) that I’ve heard of. Was that a conscious technique, writing in 1st person to then change to 3rd person? Or did that come about by necessity, as editors seem to favor 3rd person narratives?

A little bit of both. I think writing in first person helps me stay very close to the narrator's point of view, and writing in present tense builds tension for me because it feels like each choice can still make a difference in the outcome of the story. It's also a very fast way for me to write, to get the draft written so that I can begin editing in earnest. It's probably more of a habit than a conscious choice. I got in the habit of starting in 1st person and moving to 3rd person since editors tend to prefer it. Then, I was so excited to sell some of the stories that I repeated some of the happenstance techniques (like starting in 1st person) as something of a good luck charm.

“An Interrupted Sacrifice” is full to bursting with fascinating cultural references. You obviously researched the Moche people and pre-Columbian South American cultures.

I love researching historical cultures and their beliefs. The Moche are particularly interesting because they had no written language. Everything we know about their beliefs is an inference from their art. That’s a very powerful opportunity for a writer, since I can research the same facts and artifacts used by academic historical researchers, and then offer my own explanation for the beliefs that might lead a culture to the practices and pantheon known through their art.

Excellent point. Writers’ imagination flourishes between the cracks and in the gaps of hard facts. I’m interested to know a little about your research habits and how your research affects your story.

The way I research is primarily through the internet. I start with broad resources, and then dig in on details. I try to get to pictures – primary sources, so I’m not having to work from someone else’s description. I build a file of facts and pictures. My file for the Moche is over one hundred pages long. At this point, I’m just trying to learn, and follow interesting trails. I’m not sure which pieces are going to be important to any given story yet, but I’m looking for world texture and for curious things that could be brought to light in a story.

While in the research mode, I ran across the notion that their gods may have been organized around the sea, land, and sky, and that there may have been priests aligned with each. This may simply reflect the desire of researchers to sort through the references in the art – crabs and fish and tentacles, bats and birds, and spiders. Many of the historical researchers note that the god with the “cat-face” and ring of tentacles is a sea god, though few have referenced the cat-face specifically as a sea lion face, but that seemed logical to me. And naturally I invented the name “Octopus Lion God”, but the images of him are exactly as described.

A tentacled sea god? How Lovecraftian. It begs the question: since there is no written record and all we have are educated (or uneducated) guesses, what elements of your story are based on historical record vs. imagination?

We know that the bird priestess had a ritual that involved taking a woven reed boat to an island, with what may be sacrificial victims and vessels on the boat with her. We know that the mountain/spider god and his associated priests played a key role in the blood sacrifices, and the drinking of blood. I invented the detail that each god received a piece of the body, with the eyes for the sky, and the skin for the sea. Their art includes the demon-fish (fish bodies and the feet of a man), but this might have been repetitive depictions of another god. It is my invention that the demon-fish are the servants of Octopus Lion God.

In researching the blood sacrifices and decapitations, I saw the evolution of historical research about the Moche, where researchers initially thought the images were purely fiction, then found archaeological evidence that the sacrifices were performed (in the bones of the victims and the teeth of the blood drinking priests) and an assumption followed that it was a violent war practice. Then ultimately, there was a recognition, from other clues in the art and archaeology, that it was a highly ritualized practice with losers in symbolic ritual games going passively to the sacrifice. I wanted to reflect that last understanding – highly ritualized sacrifice of willing victims. It certainly lends itself to a Lovecraftian story!

Indeed! But even though we focus on their horrifying practices (to our Western eyes), obviously the Moche culture wasn’t all blood and Cthulhu-worship.

One of the interesting things about the Moche is that their crafts are extremely advanced relative to other markers of “primitive” culture. Their vessel painting is individual and realistic – every face is unique, with the full range of human facial expression. Their metalwork was ornate and more technologically advanced than other early civilizations. They crafted intricate body ornaments and masks from gold, silver, and copper. They inlaid their metalwork with turquoise and lapis lazuli.

You mentioned that they were a highly ritualized a culture; which of the rituals portrayed in “An Interrupted Sacrifice” are conjecture, and which are true?

The notion that intercourse for procreation only occurs in a particular ritual context is supported by the record of their art. This ritual art does include images of some kind of sky blessing, where bats carry vessels from the sky and pour them over the participants. I don’t know if this is symbolic of rain or something else.

We also know that their ritual sacrificial practices included dropping victims from heights. It’s my own invention that whether the skin is broken in that fall has a ritual meaning.

The story is written from the point of view of a young Moche priestess whose world is fairly removed from that of 21st Century readers.

And not from the perspective of a cultural outsider (the educated researcher) trying to make sense of something alien and horrifying.

Which is the usual device of Lovecraft.

Right. I wanted to tell the story from inside the cult, from a narrator who doesn’t find her beliefs and practices and gods to be horrifying.

A huge challenge in this story was to convey to the reader the exposition about how their society functions, its rules, etc., in a way that made sense. The narrator is a part of their world. She doesn’t wake up in the morning and think about their beliefs and rules except as they matter to her day-to-day action. It’s like writing about an alien society from the perspective of an alien. I had to be very conscious about what it would make sense for her to reflect on, or remember, that would provide key detail to the reader sufficient to make the world and the plot accessible. Being able to reference her mother’s experience was a logical thing for her to think about that allowed me to convey some key information about how their society works.

You have mentioned to me that myth (particularly the nexus between myth and history) is an integral part of your writing.

The ideal short story, for me, weaves in history and myth while telling a moving story about real characters who feel three-dimensional. Folks that do this exceptionally well include Charles de Lint and Catherynne M. Valente. I think of myself as a mythpunk writer, though I’m not sure that I’m good enough yet to claim it as anything but a personal goal.

What Charles de Lint does that I wish I could do is make all of the individual stories live within a single highly textured consistent location – the city of Newford. Newford becomes a character in its own right, and characters thread in and out of the stories, a protagonist in one and a side character in another. Right now, my stories are each set in a different universe, with wildly ranging times and places, running from pre-historic Peru to medieval Ethiopia to modern day.

What Catherynne Valente does that I wish I could do is write exquisite, evocative prose that absolutely sings. There is a poetry to her writing that I can only admire from a distance, and wish I could achieve.

Poetry in prose is one of my loves. When done well they can be interchangeable. *sigh.
But, you talk about what you admire in these other writers; however, your style is very well-developed. Not only the one being published in Historical Lovecraft, but I particularly enjoyed your story featured in Enchanted Conversation: A Fairy Tale Magazine, titled “Little Rattle Belly”.

Thanks! That is one of my very favorite stories that I've published. I'm glad you enjoyed it. It's another good example of interweaving myth and history, but with less of a Lovecraftian flavor.

Going back to “An Interrupted Sacrifice”, there is a certain ‘turn’ in your story which changes everything for the protagonist. What I admired most about the way you wrote it was your economy of words. You didn’t beat it over our heads or spend a few paragraphs telling us how astonished your protagonist was, or how astonished the reader ought to be about it.

This sort of controlled knife-edge prose is quite a talent. Do your drafts start out terse and sparse then you add as needed in subsequent drafts—or are you voluble at first and then find yourself trimming back the forests of words?

We have in common that we both write both prose and poetry, and move stories back and forth between the two modes. I think writing poetry is very useful in teaching economical expression.

However, left to my own devices, I can write extraordinarily long, cumbersome sentences, that feel very accessible when I’m writing them in a stream-of-consciousness style, but that require paring to assure that the story is ultimately crisp and readable. It’s something that I work on in editing. One of the things that helps me to edit is a strict word limit. Stories like this one are usually way over limit in my first draft, and the need to pare down the word count helps to force me to pare down the sentences.

I do try to match the style to the narrator, in terms of culture and age. Featherhair [the protagonist of “An Interrupted Sacrifice”] has complex ideas, but she exists in a society that doesn’t even have a written language. She’s not going to think in paragraphs—dense word forests—tied together by semi-colons, etc. I have indulged in somewhat more verbose writing for an older narrator in a Victorian period, for example, where I believe structure of internal thought might have been more complex.

I wouldn’t claim this is something that I always get right, but it’s on my mind.

I do struggle to make sure my narrators don’t just sound like me. Dialogue is not my strong suit. It’s an area where I’d like to grow as a writer.

One line that stood out as delightfully creepy was: “His skin will rot on his bones… which was the worst of fates.”
As our stories are being published in a Lovecraft anthology, it’s safe to say there is a strong element of horror to them. However, elements of horror and the macabre appear in every genre. So where do you see your writing style fitting in terms of categorization? (For the record I believe that too many writers are categorization-obsessed; good writing is good writing. So I ask this in the general sense.)

What is consistent in my short stories is the use of myth and history. I have written fairy tale, fantasy, dark fantasy, horror, erotica, gothic/detective, and spiritual short fiction. I think each genre has a useful lens on human experience, and a given story can mix-up genres as well.

As a reader, in the past I have not read much horror. However, when I started writing, I found that horror elements crept in. The line between fairy tale and horror is quite thin. So, now I read more horror short fiction to better understand the craft, and find that I enjoy writing it very much, and have become more active with local horror writers and the horror writers professional association.

I would like to write science fiction, and enjoy historical speculative science (i.e., steampunk-esque stories), but science fiction is, in general, by far the most challenging speculative fiction genre for me. I’ve only written one short story with science fiction elements so far, but I commend it to readers of Historical Lovecraft as probably the only other speculative fiction story to be published in April 2011 (and possibly in 2011 at all) about the Moche. It’s in the In Situ anthology by Dagan Books.

I like that you are challenging yourself as a writer. So what’s next in your writerly future?

I've begun submitting poetry for publication, though I still spend most of my time writing short fiction. It would be exciting to try a longer piece—i.e. novel—at some point, but I work full-time, so short fiction seems to fit my schedule better.

But for now I'm focusing on short stories while submitting to larger and more challenging markets. I try to keep about 10 pieces out with publishers at a time.

Now that is a most motivating factoid. Listen up folks: try to keep 10 pieces out with publishers at all times, you heard it here.

------------------------------------------------------
Well Mae, here’s to your very bright career as a writer!


Thank you for taking the time to chat with me. It has been a delightful and eclectic interview. I particularly enjoyed digging into some of your writing techniques.



Make sure you all stop by http://maeempson.wordpress.com/ and check out Historical Lovecraft at http://www.innsmouthfreepress.com/

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Flying Wombats

Someone found my blog whilst searching for flying wombats.

Yes, i know wombat has 'bat' in it... but they are sadly terrestrial animals.

(that's all I got. seriously, it's a random post about flying wombats.)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Contest of Cthulhu Proportions!

Some of you know that I have a short story in the upcoming Innsmouth Free Press anthology "Historical Lovecraft"

("Hooray!" says little Cthulhu.)

Well why don't you just go ahead and get it for free?

Check out the contest on Goodreads
http://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/9376-historical-lovecraft

BAM, that just happened.

:)

Saturday, April 30, 2011

7 Random Facts... and an Award!

And suddenly from out of the blue sky it comes… a blog award!




But when you gets yerself a blog award from @ThatGirlAni you jump up and down and shout your favorite new word: frawesomesauceness









The rules for this award are:

* Thank and link to the person who nominated me. (That’s Anime)
* Share seven random facts about myself.
* Pass the award along to 15 new-found blogging buddies.
* Contact those buddies to congratulate them.

7 Random Facts In No Particular Order

1) I used to take my lunch breaks in a graveyard. I’m not even goth (at least I don’t think I qualify, having too much color in my wardrobe) And hey, I’ve even slept in a graveyard. (On a grave, but that was mostly so I could look at the stars uninterrupted for several hours. There’s just something really peaceful about graveyards.

2) I can mimic really useless things… like Gollum and Bobby from Bobby’s World (which is also Gizmo the Mogwai, so I guess that’s cool). Also harmonica, wookie, Tie Fighter flying by, and I did voiceover work as a bear. Seriously. Actually, 20 bears. Rawr.

I also did this voiceover… it’s very silly:



3) I’m Mexican. Half counts right?

4) I went to school in a castle in England. No it wasn’t Hogwarts… ok, yes it was Hogwarts.

5) I can play slide blues guitar. It’s an annoying party trick… haha!



6) I read mostly “literature” but write mostly “genre” fiction. *shrug

7) I almost got killed by lightning whilst standing on a grassy hill holding a plastic trashcan lid. (We were sliding down the buffalo grass in the rain, when BOOOOOM) It seemed to me a particularly ignoble and inexplicable way to die, so I’m glad I didn’t.


but as for passing on my blogging friends, I'm going to share this award with those who have my favorite blog titles!

A Broken Laptop
you are the unicorn of my dreams

Strange Men in Pinstripe Suits

Literary Coldcuts on Toasty Buns

Is It Hot In Here Or Is It This Book?

Ink Runs From the Corners of My Mouth

Constant Revision


Yeah.... I don't follow instructions... :)

Scheduled Post FAIL!

Somehow I managed to NOT post the last few posts.

i'd scheduled them a few days apart... but somehow they just languished in the "drafts" folder.

Technology is great until it don't werk.

bah!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

What ARE You, Strange Thing On My Porch?

I live on a hill far from the ocean in Hawaii (ok, so I live far enough away from the ocean for the purpose of my story).

So when I went outside this morning only to find these little critters in a plastic dish my daughter'd left out...

I can only ask: What ARE they?????

Land Shrimp? Baby aliens? WHAT?!?!?!?!?!

Anyone got any idea?


Saturday, April 9, 2011

Creativity Myth #1: Waiting for Inspiration to Strike

Ok.

But if you ever find yourself sitting around waiting for inspiration, here's a little tip: you'll do more waiting than
writing.

Which brings me to the first myth about creativity: Waiting for inspiration to strike.

Waiting for inspiration to strike is a little like waiting for lightning to strike.

Sure it happens--but if you want to make it as a professional writer you can't bank on waiting for it.

Boy, when inspiration strikes, all bets are off. Pen goes to paper and you feel as if you've touched live electric wire. (or fingers go to keyboards, or paintbrush to canvas, or hands to guitar neck... you get the idea)


But what about all the other days when inspiration seems far away?

One trick you hear about is to seek out things that inspire you. Sure, this works sometimes. There's nothing wrong with trying to induce creativity by shaking things up or listening to Sigur Ros or Florence + the Machine. You don't wait in one spot for lightning to strike. You go out and chase storms.

But, there is something deeper than just scouring Youtube for creative videos to spark your imagination (besides, time spent online is time spent NOT writing).
Why not make inspiration a habit?

"What do you mean, Mason? What is this secret of which you speak?"

Ok, so no real secret. Making writing a habit makes inspiration a habit.

As you learn to express yourself more clearly, with less affectation or bad writing habits, the easier it is for any glimmer of inspiration to be seized and nurtured and developed.

You become a clearer conduit for your muse. You learn to fan into flame that little spark, instead of stifling it.

I love my critique group (The infamous Illiterati) because they always tell me when I'm clouding up the waters. And they challenge me to go farther, deeper, and swim in dangerous waters where inspiration lurks like a sea serpent coiling just under the surface.

But let me make one thing clear: You have to be able to write under duress.

Life doesn't slow down. Life doesn't pause or go on vacation for you to write.
You do it in spite of life sometimes.

Anyone who has children under 5 and who's written anything coherent recently can attest to that.

But now let's hear from you.
What things inspire you? Music, videos, blogs, people, thingamabobs?

~mason

So to spark some inspiration here's Florence + the Machine tearing your face off under extreme duress (outdoor festivals, electric instruments and rain = no bueno)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Rabbits and Catapults

Once again my blog is a repository for inane inside jokes.

Battle Bunny, one of the members of our infamous writers' group The Illiterati, failed to secure tickets to World Fantasy Convention 2011. Everyone else in the group got their tickets.

Battle Bunny did not.

To commemorate this tragic event I created this.


Photoshop you are my friend.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

When It Rains It Gets Wet

So, my posts have been sparse lately, forgive me. I've been crazy busy.

I know I meant to share more info on my adventures as a ghostwriter, but MORE has happened!

A few of you might have heard of the SOUL SURFER movie coming out about Bethany Hamilton, a young surfer girl who was mauled by a shark, lost her arm, and not only returned to surfing, but became a champion surfer.
Well,
See, my dad's name right there in small letters!
I got a chance to work with my dad on the book "Raising a Soul Surfer" which he wrote with Bethany's mother, Cheri Hamilton. (Actually, my dad is the "with", it's Cheri's book)

It's a movie tie-in book. An "Inspirational Autobiography."

And I got to earn some industry cred... or maybe crud... by helping my dad to crank out the manuscript in record time. I edited, fact-checked, and occasionally rewrote chapters at Cheri's and my dad's direction.

It wasn't quite as legendary of ghostwriting 50k words in 50 hours, but it was close! haha.

Also it was an interesting glimpse into the professional world of writing.

Those of us who write take for granted that the written word is our milieu. Words are our spirit's limbs, moving them, arranging them, crafting them to convey and emote.

We forget that many many people who can communicate in person, on screen, etc, etc, etc, aren't as comfortable with words. They can say it, speak it to huge crowds with passion and clarity, but when they sit down to write a book it just doesn't come across like they want.

I suppose it's like people who are photogenic, and those who look normal until you take a picture of them and they seem to look goofy no matter what.

Or like otherwise accomplished people who can't sing in tune even with training. (I've met these people, they baffle me!)

It has been exciting to help a woman who has a pretty amazing story share it with the world...

But MAN it was a lot of work. I had to sort through a half dozen insertions and notes and possible scenes--and the deadline was like a bear gnawing on my shoulder.

It was new realms of intensity, frustration, and validation.
Sending it off to the editor on the last day before DEADline felt sooooo good.

Now I can actually spend time wroking on my book! sheesh. :)

Friday, February 18, 2011

Why My Writers' Group Rulez

When one of our members (Mercedes M. Yardley) needs a writerly kick in the proverbial pants, who's there to put their boots on?

The Illiterati, that's who:

http://abrokenlaptop.com/2011/02/16/bust-it-out/

You can be sure we are awesome. They should bottle our sweat and use it to fight fires, because everyone knows forest fires yield to awesomeness.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I'm Officially a Published Author!

Hooray for me!

Strange Tales of Horror (NorGus Press), an anthology featuring my short story "A Secret Amongst Boys" is now available for purchase through the wonderful world of amazon.com or on the publisher's website.

Look at that gruesome cover art! Awesome!

Super kudos to Matt Nord and the NorGus press people for an incredible job on their first big anthology. And a double thank you goes to them for liking my story enough to publish it!

Yes I've been published before, but it's been so long that I'm pretty much starting over and calling this my official first sale.

(I also had one or two nibbles which fell through for contractual reasons--see my post about contracts)

So to celebrate my big publishing milestone I'm going to go home and play with my two daughters.

Now that's a great way to celebrate!

What about you? Have any publishing news? When was your first sale? Got a link where we can find your stuff?

Enquiring minds want to know.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Pounding Out the Word Count

So doing this ghostwriting has really opened my eyes to pounding out the word count.

I've always looked for tricks and tips to help motivate me to write constantly, instead of just when the inspiration strikes. (Bradbury likens it to leaning out of a belltower gripping a lightning rod and screaming for the storms to come.)

Now let me just point out that there is a difference between having goals and being motivated.

One trick on the goal side is to set a word count goal. Every day you must hit 2000 words at the very least.
That's a pretty good goal, IMO. It's helped me churn through.

But, we can set goals for ourselves all day long and still get nothing done.

So what actually MOTIVATES you to write?

Well, I learned an interesting thing that may very well be a no-brainer: Money was a pretty darn good motivator.

When cold hard cash was dangled in front of my eyes, I wrote. And I wrote fast. And I wrote pretty darn good. (Did I mention I'm the humblest guy I know?)

How motivated was I?

I wrote 51K words in 52 hours spread out over one month.

Looking back it doesn't seem like that really was possible... but there it is, when i tally my hours (which i had to log) I spent 52 hours (stolen in 1-4 hour increments--sometimes several writing spots a day) and in effect wrote a thousand words per hour.

My keyboard is a little raggen now.

I won't lie. Sometimes I stared blankly at the screen. But the proof is in the pudding and the delivered manuscript stands currently at 51,357 words.

So folks, what motivates you? Figure that out, and make it happen.

Is it chocolate? Because i can come to your house and withhold chocolate from you (and eat is slowly in front of you) until you hit your daily word goal. I can do that. No really, I'd like to do that.

Is it money? Well, if you're a writer that dream will be nice and crushed soon enough...

Is it the burning need to say something into the void?

Well? Go find out and get back to writing!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Coming Up for Air

Hello people in the blogosphere, it’s been awhile since my last post and I’m here to tell you why.


I’ve been writing. Writing like a super-star.

And while I wish I could say I’ve been working on my WIP, I actually have not touched it in more than a month.

“Boo,” you say, “Boo mason, why aren’t you working on your book?”

Well boo is right. I’ve actually been at something I’ve never done before: I’m ghostwriting a book.

I really can’t give you details on the book, but let me tell you fellow writers, ghostwriting is a strange and wonderful process. It is also hard work, and the deadline is tight. I put in anywhere from 4 to 8 hours a day writing and that is on top of my two other jobs.

But writing this project has given me all sorts of new insights into writing—in particular I’ve gained insights into the nature of procrastination and earned some secrets to writing on-demand instead of waiting for the ole muse to show up.

It’s taught me tons about working with deadlines breathing down your neck, about writing in a voice that isn’t really what I consider “mine”, and taught me that to be a writer you have to be able to suck it up and put in the time.

Stay tuned for some interesting stories from my adventures in ghostwriting… when I come up for air, that is.