My writing life: 16 highlights from 2016

by G. Robert Frazier

So, we’re two days into 2017 and I’ve had some time to reflect on 16 highlights from the past year.  But don’t worry, I’m not counting anything politics related.

  • I co-wrote a short script, “Blind Sighted,” with fellow Tennessee screenwriter Dustin Alexander III, which he later produced and directed as a short film. I hung around the set a couple of days and even got to be the clapper one day. Looking forward to viewing a premiere for cast and crew later this month. This was the first time I’d collaborated with anyone on a script and it was an eye-opening experience. We didn’t agree on every aspect of the script, but we learned to compromise and work together. That experience alone was worth the time spent as the art of the screenplay and making movies or TV episodes is all about give and take. We also learned a lot about the legal aspects of scriptwriting, such as writing agreements and copyright protection.

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  • I read and rated 250 scripts combined for the Nashville Film Festival and Austin Film Festival screenwriting competitions. If you want to learn how to write a great screenplay, there’s nothing like reading and learning from other screenplays. Story structure, characterization, description and dialogue and so much more can be learned from reading and studying scripts. I plan to read a lot more Hollywood scripts in 2017, beginning with The Dark Knight Trilogy: The Complete Screenplays (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises), which I received for Christmas.
  • My concert-going days are all but over, but I did manage to see The B-52’s, Jeff Beck with Buddy Guy, and the Hendrix Experience (featuring Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Jonny Lang, Buddy Guy, Billy Cox, Noah Hunt, Dweezil Zappa, Rich Robinson, and more). What’s this got to do with writing, you ask? Hey, writers need to let loose once in a while and concerts are an excellent way to let out some of that pent up energy. I used to go to concerts all the time, but not many of my bands come around much anymore and I’m not into a lot of the newer music these days (guess I’m getting old!). Ticket costs have also gotten a bit out of hand.
  • I attended the Imaginarium Convention, which is devoted to writers and fans of science fiction, horror and fantasy literature, in Louisville, Ky. I was thrilled to meet authors Brian Keene, Tim Waggoner, Jason Sizemore, Jim C. Hines, Scott Sandridge, Michael Knoxt, Tony Acree, and many others.
  • I served on my first-ever panel as a book reviewer at the Killer Nashville Writers Conference. I’ve been reviewing books for several outlets over the last few years and helped Killer Nashville founder Clay Stafford read and rate novels entered in the conference’s annual Silver Falchion Awards competition. I guess that makes me something of an expert and I’m honored that Clay saw fit to include me on one of his conference panels. In addition to the excellent panels and educational workshops, Killer Nashville is an excellent venue for networking with other authors, like Baron R. Birtcher, R.G. Belsky, Jaden Terrell, and Daniel Hooberry, to name a few.

end-of-watch

  • I saw Stephen King at the Ryman Auditorium and was one of a select few to receive an autographed copy of End of Watch. If  you’ve never seen King on a book tour, do so. He is as entertaining in person as he is on the written page.
  • I saw numerous other authors on their book tours in Nashville or as part of their appearances at the Southern Festival of Books. Authors like: Steve Berry, Brad Thor, David Bell, Colson Whitehead, Ann Patchett, John Lewis, Michael Chabon, David Hart, Robert Olen Butler, Neal Patrick Flannery and others. I blogged about some of their visits for BookPage and for this blog, took notes about their story tips, and even scored some autographs.
  • I began co-writing a crime feature script with friend Jay Wright. Jay asked for my help when he got stuck on a story idea and that led to a partnership. We’re more than halfway through our first draft and racing to the finish. Then the rewrites begin.
  • I saw KISS Rocks Vegas at Opry Mills with my brother Bruce. Again, not a writing event, but it’s KISS, so there.
  • I enjoyed a brief but awesome visit from my California brother, Wayne! I make an effort every week to listen to Wayne’s Hollywood Close-Up podcast, where he and co-host Natalie Lipka interview up and coming actors, screenwriters, and film industry professionals each week about breaking into the business, persisting, and more. It’s valuable, educational information for anyone interested in writing, acting, directing, or any other aspect of the film and TV industry. Give it a listen.

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  • Saw Rogue One, twice! I hope I can get a copy of the screenplay to study.
  • Installed new kitchen counter, backsplash and floor. It’s not writing-related, but since my writing desk occupies a corner of the kitchen it’s significant.
  • Wrote 26 book reviews for various sites, including BookPage, Blogging for Books, Killer Nashville and US Review of Books. I even posted a couple over on GoodReads.
  • Attended the Writers Homicide School in Knoxville, where I learned about blood spatter, police procedure, and other forensics.
  • Organized my stories, notes, and file cabinets. Hey, writers are notoriously messy, so this was a big thing for me.
  • Wrote a handful of short stories and submitted them, but had no luck placing them with a market. Outlined a pair of family-oriented scripts, continued edits/revisions to another feature script, and brainstormed several other projects to write in the coming year.

Wow. How did you guys do? 

Around the Web: Authors sound off on Trump’s America; awards season begins

It’s been a while since I compiled one of these, and a lot has happened (such as a new president being elected), so here goes:

If you just can’t get enough of President-elect Donald Trump, Publishers Weekly has compiled a roundup of its reviews for his books and books about him.

The backlash over Trump’s election has extended to some renowned authors as well. Brad Meltzer posted this message to the president-elect to denounce the hate. And The Authors Guild weighs in on what the Trump presidency could mean for writers. The New Yorker includes essays from 16 authors on Trump’s America.

The Oxford English Dictionaries in the U.S. and U.K. have selected “post-truth” as the word of the year.

The Columbia Journalism Review says journalism’s fundamental failure in this election is a wake-up call for the profession to return to “our legacy as malcontents and troublemakers, people who are willing to say the thing that makes everyone else uncomfortable.” Clearly, no one is more malcontent about the election’s outcome than CNN so far.

The Court of Justice of the European Union has ruled that lending e-books should not be treated the same as lending of physical books. The ruling concerns the ‘one copy, one user’ model, which blocks a library from lending out more than one copy of an e-book at a time. The Federation of European Publishers reacted immediately, saying it was shocked at the decision, principally because unrestricted e-book lending represents a serious threat to publishers’ revenues and equates to copying versus the sale of multiple copies of books.

I always enjoy the new issue of The Big Thrill from International Thriller Writers, Inc. The November issue features interviews with ITW co-founder David Morell, Lee Child, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Kathy Reichs, Marcia Clark, and many more. Always interesting to read about other authors, their processes, and their latest works.

It’s awards season:

  • Bob Dylan says he will not travel to Stockholm to pick up the 2016 Nobel Prize for literature because of “pre-existing commitments.”
  • The 13th annual Best Book Awards are out and here are the winners.
  • GoodReads welcomes your vote to help determine its 2016 choice award winners. Go here to get in on the action.
  • The Washington Post has listed its Best Mystery Books of 2016 and Best Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books of 2016. Scroll to the bottom of either list for links to additional best of categories.
  • Kirkus Reviews gets in on the fun with its best of list.
  • Former Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Chabon is back with a searching family saga in his new book, Moonglow. To get a taste of it, check out his short story The Sandmeyer Reaction. I’m planning to see Chabon on his book stop in Nashville next month.
  • And finally, the annual Bad Sex Award in writing, were announced.

Closer to home, author Michael Sims remembers Nashville’s BookMan/BookWoman, which will close its doors at the end of the year.

In Memoriam:

To celebrate the life and work of singer/songwriter/novelist Leonard Cohen, LitHub compiled some clips of him reading some of his works.

Gwen Ifell, who became the first African-American woman to host a major political TV talk show and went on to host “Washington Week” and “PBS NewsHour,” passed away.

 

There’s no fantasy in The Dead of Winter

by Jean Rabe

If you search for my titles on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, you’ll discover I’ve written roughly three dozen fantasy, urban fantasy, and science fiction novels.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000040_00072]I’ve been in the game a while, and it felt like now was a good time to acquire a new writing wardrobe.

So I traded in my wizard’s robe for a sheriff’s badge and moved my fiction from a magical realm to ultra-rural Spencer County, Indiana. Seriously. Ultra. Rural. It’s a great place to set uncozy-cozies.

Switching to writing mysteries was the perfect choice for me—I read mysteries. I have always read mysteries. My bookshelves are overcrowded with mysteries and thrillers. And I delight in mystery movies. About time I started writing mysteries, dontcha think?

I’d attended a few Bouchercon festivals back when I was writing about wizards and dragons (I love writing about wizards and dragons, by the way, and likely won’t entirely abandon it). I always made it a point to go to writing conventions outside of my genre—hence my trips to the World Horror Con and World Mystery Con. I figured there was an element of mystery and horror to fantasy and science fiction, and I sat in the front row during seminars at those conventions to soak in those elements.

And I attended Killer Nashville. I entered that convention’s Claymore competition in 2015 with my first mystery novel: Christmas Card Killer, and I took second place.

“I can write mysteries,” I announced at the Killer Nashville awards banquet.

“You sure can,” Deni Dietz answered. She judged the finalists, and so read my entry in its entirety. She pressed her business card into my hand before I left the convention and asked me to contact her, as she was interested in buying Christmas Card Killer for Five Star. The publisher, however, phased out its mystery line, and instead Deni blurbed my book for Imajin, which accepted the manuscript. The book releases November 1, and its title has changed to The Dead of Winter, the publisher wisely pointing out I would have a longer time to market the book if I took Christmas off the cover of the book.

THE DEAD OF WINTER was a blast—lots of fun to read! Jean Rabe’s characters come to life through the written word, and it takes a real writing talent to accomplish this feat.

Denise Dietz, USA Today bestselling author

Switching writing genres wasn’t as easy as I expected. Not that I couldn’t write mysteries…I once had an editor at Tor Books tell me I could write in “whatever damn genre” I wanted to. But I had trouble connecting to professionals in the mystery field; all my contacts were in fantasy and science fiction. When I met with agents at Killer Nashville 2015 regarding my manuscript, some of them asked me why I just didn’t stick with fantasy, since that’s where my audience and history was. I pointed out that I might get the inkling in the future to write another fantasy, but that right now I wanted to craft mysteries, specifically murder mysteries. Two agents told me they wouldn’t represent an author who dabbled in more than one genre. Killer Nashville Author Guest Donald Bain, who writes marvelous Murder She Wrote tie-in novels as well as his own material, told me to stay away from those lazy agents. He also told me I could write mysteries if I wanted to.

Some folks said I would need to change my author name to write mysteries since Jean Rabe

jean-rabe-and-wrink

Jean Rabe and Wrink

was a fantasy and science fiction author. So I was prepared to do that, settling on J.E. Mooney. But the Imajin publisher didn’t want The Dead of Winter by J.E. Mooney. She wanted The Dead of Winter by Jean Rabe, and said that Jean Rabe could write mysteries if she wanted to. She suggested that some of the readers of my fantasy and science fiction novels might also try my mystery books. My fingers are crossed that she’s right.

 

I find the mystery genre more difficult to write in, which is some of the appeal to me. I can’t use magic spells to get my characters out of a fix, and I can’t craft the landscape and creatures any which way I please. Setting something in the real world, present-day, means I have to follow maps, be up on area politics and demographics, and know the community’s history. It takes more studying and research than crafting from whole cloth…at least it does for me. And because I am a technological dinosaur, shunning the latest iPhone and tablet whoseywhatzits in favor of spiral binders, I have to immerse myself in electronics stores, browse Best Buy advertisements, and query my tech-savvy friends. Fortunately, several of my friends are addicted to iPhones and all the whoseywhatzits they can acquire; they are a great resource.

Maybe I’ll eventually find an agent who will represent me no matter what I write. I met with two agents at the 2016 Killer Nashville who were at least open to the notion. I’ll send them my current work-in-progress when it’s finished and see what they think. It’s a mystery.

So maybe the agent thing will happen.

Maybe it won’t.

Maybe I don’t need an agent. I’ve managed to sell more than two dozen novels on my own, a few hitting the USA Today Bestsellers list.

And I sold my first mystery…The Dead of Winter. My wonderful publisher has asked for a sequel, and I’m plotting that now, tentatively titled The Dead of Night. Hmmm…dead is the running theme here.

I really can write mysteries…as Jean Rabe.

_____

Find The Dead of Winter on Amazon by clicking here. There’s a pre-order special price of 99-cents for the ebook of The Dead of Winter. The price goes up sometime after the November 1 release.

Follow Jean’s blog here. Subscribe to Jean’s newsletter.

 

 

Books: Atlanta PD’s first black cops investigate murder amid racial prejudice

Thomas Mullen’s Darktown is a novel readers won’t soon forget—not just because of its thoroughly engrossing, suspense-filled plot, but because of the historical, moral complexity contained within its pages.

Read my interview with Mullen and my review, both at Bookpage.

Around the Web: A curated list of book news, writing tips and more, because, well,…books.

By G. Robert Frazier

So, I read somewhere that bloggers like myself shouldn’t waste time with these sorts of curated lists. The argument is that it doesn’t say anything about you, the writer, and it potentially sends readers away from your site. I can see the point of that argument, but I don’t entirely agree. For one, I think the following lists say a lot about me. The links below clearly show my interests in the industry and my support for other writers. If I see an industry-related article that might be entertaining or useful, I’ll share it. That said, here are some articles I’ve come across in the last few weeks you may find interesting:

The Authors Guild has now opened up member services to new and unpublished authors, as reported by Digital Book World. The $100 per year Emerging Writer Membership includes a quarterly newsletter, access to liability insurance in case you get sued for plagiarism or libel, marketing and social media advice (that you can get all over the internet), invites to seminars, workshops and writing events (not discounts, mind you, but invites!), access to their writer’s resource library of helpful articles and tips on publishing and promotion of your work. For a complete list of Emerging Writer Membership benefits and details on how to join, visit authorsguild.org/join/emergingwriter. Seems like most of these things you can get now for free by just doing some Google searching.

Amazon has made more changes to its review policy. This time it’s banning so-called incentivized reviews, which are reviews for products, including books, given away in exchange for “honest” reviews. The argument is that those doing the reviews aren’t being entirely honest since they are basically being “paid” for the review by way of a free book. As a result, there are more five-star reviews from incentivized reviewers than your routine readers. Read about it here.

The 2016 National Book award-winner will be announced Nov. 16 in a ceremony in New York City. Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad is among the five finalists for the honor. Parnassus Books co-owner Ann Patchett, during her booklaunch for Commonwealth in Nashville, said she believes Whitehead will win all the big awards this year, including the Pulitzer. As something of a Civil War buff, I already had plans to read the book. But when he came to Parnassus, I made sure to be there and get an autographed copy. I’ve still got a lot of books ahead of it in my must-read pile, but I’m hoping I can get to it before the year is out.

LitHub recently shared Junot Diaz’s introduction to the Best American Short Stories of 2016, all about his fascination with the literary short form.

Here’s Benjamin Percy on the books he wants to write, a combination of the best of genre and the best literary stylings. I’ve always enjoyed genre novels and never really had room for the so-called literary masters of the craft as I considered them boring and long-winded. I craved action and adventure, thrills and chills. Still do. But, lately, I’ve found myself picking up books I normally wouldn’t. Books like Only Love Can Break Your Heart by Ed Tarkington, El Paso by Winston Groom, and the aforementioned Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. Books that are literary, but combine action, mystery, and intrigue within their pages. It’s not that my tastes have changed, but that perhaps they have matured. On the one hand, I believe the more I read of such books, the more exposure to their style of fine writing and sentence structure and vocabulary, the more it will rub off on my own writing. In the end, it can only elevate a simple genre tale to a more impactful, meaningful story. Maybe I’ve come to this realization a bit late in my writing career, but I’m willing to explore it. I’m willing to expand and broaden my horizons. That, folks, is how you constantly learn and better yourself. Challenge yourself. Step out of your comfort zone. Explore your potential. Hopefully, in the months ahead we’ll see if my new reading habits are reflected in my writing.

The Hollywood Reporter ranked the movie industry’s 25 most sought-after writers, with several novelists making the list.

Jennifer Blanchard shared a handy guide explaining 5 Ways to Plot Your Novel, just in time for National Novel Writing Month.

The always insightful Jeff Goins highlights what professional writers know that amateurs don’t.

As it is approaching Halloween, you may enjoy reading Laura Miller’s introduction to The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, which was reprinted by LitHub. It’s a somewhat lengthy treatise about the book, its ghosts and its characters, and Jackson. Once you’re done with that, you may find yourself wanting to read Jackson’s book again. I’d actually love to, but I’ve got a backlog of other books to get to. Maybe next Halloween.

While we’re on the subject of horror, you’ve no doubt heard about all the alleged evil clown sightings. Publicity stunt or urban legend, it has admittedly made for some chilling reading. Naturally, LitHub took the opportunity to share this fascinating story on “The Literature of Creepy Clowns.”

Otto Penzler has a penned the introduction to The Big Book of Jack the Ripper, out this year from Vintage Crime. I’m adding it to my Amazon Christmas list.

And if you are still looking for a horror-themed fix, Kevin David Anderson offers these terrifying episodes of Star Trek as a guide to horror among the stars.

Harlequin is about to cash in on the commercial women’s fiction trend by launching a new imprint to its trade program, Graydon House Books. The books will focus on family relationships and “run the gamut from light-hearted humor to emotional tear-jerkers.”

There are some surprising numbers in regard to ebook sales in the October Author Earnings Report. Despite the fluctuating numbers, one thing is clear: Digital books aren’t dead. If anything, they are making another resurgence for your reading attention. Kensington Publishing, for example, has plans to add two digital-first imprints to its Lyrical Press romance line. And, Comixology is debuting a line of exclusive digital comics. Amazon, meanwhile, is now offering free digital books to Prime members as part of its Prime Reading program. The selection is somewhat skimpy compared to what’s out there, but there are a number of potential good reads included in the program. The freebie program is obviously an effort to get folks to dust off the Kindle. Best thing is there’s nothing to lose if you pick a book and don’t like it, ‘cause it’s free. I personally don’t like reading digital books and prefer a physical book to thumb through, and I’ve got more than enough of them on hand already.

I recently saw an advance screening of Deepwater Horizon and thought it was a well-done, though very grim movie. Screenwriter Peter Berg recently related the fascinating account of the challenges encountered in bringing it to the screen.

I recently saw The Girl on the Train at the theater and was a bit disappointed. The movie dragged in many places, the main character was irritating, and the climax wasn’t worth the slow buildup. The Guardian’s latest film blog says the film heralds the return of the Hitchcockian thriller, but I think it falls short of such platitudes. Hoping the book, which I haven’t read yet, will be better.

Podcasts

BookRiot compiled this handy list of 30 podcasts for writers, but, dammit, who’s got time to listen to podcasts when we should be writing!

And finally, there’s this: the new trailer for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Just ‘cause, you know, Star Wars.

‘Til next time…

Southern Festival of Books a slice of heaven for book lovers, writers

By G. Robert Frazier

One of the biggest challenges presented by events like this weekend’s 28th Annual Southern Festival of Books in Nashville is determining which panels or sessions to attend. It’s a good problem to have.

2016-sfb-poster-1Presented by Humanities Tennessee, more than 150 authors—from literary giants like Winston Groom to up and coming stars like Yaa Gyasi—will descend on Nashville’s Legislative Plaza for the three-day event, beginning Friday.

Author readings and panels run nonstop from noon to 5 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. As many as 12 discussions can be going on at once across the various venues, from the meetings rooms below the plaza to the nearby War Memorial Auditorium to the Nashville Public Library.

As soon as one panel ends, another begins. Some even overlap with the panel next door by a half hour.

If you’re a book lover or a writer, it can be heaven or hell. Hell in that no matter what you do, you won’t get to see every author you want to see. Heaven in that no matter what you do, you are guaranteed to see critically acclaimed authors no matter where you look.

I’ve spent several hours—yes, hours! —studying the lineup of authors and sessions in an effort to map out my days. More than once I’ve revisited my selections and picked a different session altogether. I know I can’t go wrong, but at the same time I don’t want any regrets.

I basically wound up picking events and authors who most reflect my own personal interests, namely, crime fiction or thrillers and history. But, I also included some big names among literary circles because, well, they’re big names.

Authors on my must-see list include Robert Olen Butler, John Hart, Winston Groom, Megan Abbott and Sean Patrick Flanery. I’m also looking forward to seeing a few Nashville writer friends again, like Erica Wright, Jaden Terrell, Jennie Bentley, Phyllis Gobbell, Lisa Wysocky, Dana Chamblee Carpenter, and Linda Sands.

I’m particularly excited about meeting author Thomas Mullen, who I will be interviewing for an article in BookPage. Mullen is the author of Darktown, a crime thriller about the first black police officers in Atlanta.

Another session that looks particularly interesting is Brian Allison’s talk about crimes and mayhem in Nashville’s past.

An interesting aspect of this year’s fest is several sessions follow a pair of tracks: one concerning the Pulitzer Prize in literature and the other on race and ethnicity in America. Fortunately, a number of the latter sessions will be broadcast on Book TV (C-Span2) Saturday. I’ve set my DVR accordingly to watch the sessions later in the week.

With dozens of book vendors, entertainment, and fellowship with friends, new and old, the Southern Festival of Books really is like being in book heaven.

Book TV on C-Span 2:

Saturday (10 a.m.-5 p.m. CT; re-airs at 11 p.m. CT Saturday)
* National Book Award finalist Arlie Russell Hochschild, Strangers in their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right
* Beth Macy, True Vine: Two Brothers, a Kidnapping, and a Mother’s Quest – A True Story of Jim Crow
* Adam Hochschild, Spain in Our Hearts: Americans in the Spanish Civil War
* Patrick Phillips, Blood at the Root: A Racial Cleansing in America

Sunday (noon-4 p.m. CT; re-airs beginning at midnight Monday)
* Joseph Beck, My Father and Atticus Finch: A Lawyer’s Fight for Justice in 1930’s Alabama
* Kelly Oliver, Hunting Girls: Sexual Violence from Hunger Games to Campus Rape
* Andrew Maraniss, Strong Inside: Perry Wallace and the Collision of Race and Sports in the South
* Marjory Wentworth, Herb Frazier, and Bernard Powers, We Are Charleston: Tragedy and Triumph at Mother Emmanuel Thomas

 

 

 

The Festival has always been a free event that offers readers and writers an opportunity to interact, to create a public community around a festival that promotes and celebrates the joy of reading and of lifelong learning. Each year the Festival brings to Nashville approximately 200 of the nation’s and region’s most prominent authors, from legendary mystery writers to critically acclaimed debut novelists, from poets to biographers, from chefs to children’s authors. Every author on the program takes part in a session, either a solo reading or a panel discussion, followed by a book signing in our Author Signing Colonnade. Books by all the participating authors are available for sale at Festival book sales area where proceeds support the Festival.

In addition, the Festival hosts popular book exhibitors and programs three performance stages throughout the event. The Artober Performance Stage highlights readings and other dramatic literary performances. The Music Stage features music by some of the area’s most talented songwriters and poets. Special events for children take place on the Youth Stage including appearances by favorite characters, musicians, artists, and storytellers.

 

Stephen King entertains, scares Ryman audience

by G. Robert Frazier

NASHVILLE, TN — Stephen King doesn’t let his scary side out. Instead, when he hits the road to meet and greet fans or to talk about his newest book, End of Watch, it’s Public Steve who shows up.

photo by Shane Leonard

Stephen King / photo by Shane Leonard

Fans typically want to see Scary Steve, the mind behind such classic novels as It, Carrie, and Salem’s Lot. But Scary Steve doesn’t travel. He works three to four hours a day holed up somewhere in the wilds of Maine coming up with ways “to scare the shit out of you.” If you’re Scary Steve, it’s what you do.

Home Steve is just a regular joe, hanging out at the house, watching ballgames on TV, going to the market, or cleaning up after the dog. Home Steve, as you might surmise, stays at home.

Public Steve is far better suited to book signings and lectures. He’s surprisingly entertaining, light-hearted, and fun. As King puts it, “Public Steve does a lot of deflection so that you don’t look for Scary Steve.”

King talked about the “three faces of Steve” while making a stop at the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville on his End of Watch book tour in June. The venue – known as the church of country music and birthplace of the Grand Ole Opry – was crammed with 2,300-plus of his constant readers on a night when downtown Nashville was abuzz with the annual CMA (Country Music Association) Festival and nearby Manchester was overrun with ‘Roonies (short for Bonnaroo fans), a fact that didn’t go unnoticed by the 68-year-old author.

“Everything is happening in Nashville this weekend,” he said, “and look at this place — full of people who read books.”

“If you have a gift, at some point it wakes up and it speaks to you and says this is what you’re supposed to do.”

— Stephen King

King received a standing O as he stepped on stage, remarking, “Well, it’s all downhill from here.”

In actuality, he was just getting started. Given the setting, King fittingly regaled the audience with stories about his own musical talent as part of the Rock Bottom Remainders, a group of authors able to play a  limited number of musical chords and sing a few cover songs.

“I’m going to talk about writing, but I’m in the Ryman so cut me some slack,” he joked.

King is a country music lover at heart.

“For me, country music was shit-kicking music,” he said about growing up. “There was nothing on the radio but country music and Rush Limbaugh, so I started listening to country music.”

Thankfully, he didn’t hop on a bus and come to Nashville all those years ago to pursue some dream of being a country music star. Instead, he found his calling in writing horror fiction. In a box. In the attic.

“If you have a gift, at some point it wakes up and it speaks to you and says this is what you’re supposed to do,” King said.

For King, the writing bug inside him awoke upon reading some of his dad’s pulp novels found in that attic, specifically H.P. Lovecraft’s The Thing From the Tomb. “Whatever it was, awoke in me.”

Over the course of 40-plus years since then, King’s writing has resulted in countless bestsellers and sleepless nights for avid readers. He knows what scares you, as the saying goes. The secret, he explained, boils down to two things: One, make readers care about the characters, and two, make it real.

To drive the point home, he let Scary Steve out of the box for just a moment. He noted that many people in the crowd were probably so excited about being there, they’d forgotten to lock the car door. That maybe while they were sitting listening to him, some stranger was trying the door to their car. That some stranger was perhaps slipping into the back seat of the car.

“I guarantee when you go to your car tonight, you’ll look in the back seat first,” he said. In order to scare people, “you have to plant the seed first.”

King admitted he sometimes even scares himself.

“People ask me if I ever scare myself,” he said. “I get scared, but when I’m writing I feel in control. I’m behind the scenes.”

That’s not to say writing is easy.

“The voice I have on most days is, this is great, keep going,” he said. “But you also have days where you feel like you’re wearing gloves and nothing has texture to it. The trick is to keep going. Writing a novel, it’s no job for sissies.”

Quotable Stephen King:

  • On fans: “People sometimes tell me, ‘you’re on my bucket list.’ That’s so goddamn weird.”
  • On critics: “The critics initially hated me. I decided, I’ll just keep writing and pretty soon they’ll all be fucking dead.”
  • On politicians: “Listen, you politicians, you oughtta thank God you can flush after you go to the bathroom.”
  • On TV: “TV is in a place it hasn’t been in in years. They are doing things that movies can’t.”
  • On what you should read next: The Fireman, written by his son Joe Hill
  • On what he’s writing next: King is working on a book with son Owen, Sleeping Beauties, due out in 2017. The book will be published by Scribner.
  • On advice to writers: Secrets to success
  • New short story: “Cookie Jar”
  • More from the tour: An entourage of one

 

Around the Web: Tennessee authors make lists, make news

Compiled by G. Robert Frazier

Every once in a while I like to pass along links to some interesting reads I’ve come across in the book industry or writing world. Hey, it’s what I do. So, herewith are some articles and missives to entertain and inform you at your leisure.

Nashville author and bookseller Ann Patchett, along with the staff of her Parnassus bookstore, offered her take on the 75 best books of the past 75 years. in Parade. “What we discovered in the process is how wildly we disagree about everything, except how much we love books,” she said. “We wanted novels, sure, but we also wanted picture books, science books, histories and young adult novels.” Download a printable checklist of Ann Patchett’s 75 books

Tennessee author J.T. Ellison posted this list of ten essential books for aspiring writers in The Strand Magazine.

Nashville’s Lee Conell is the winner of the Chicago Tribune’s annual Nelson Algren Award for short fiction with her story, “The Lock Factory.” Conell leads writing workshops in high schools, libraries and hospitals. She was a fiction fellow in Vanderbilt University’s Creative Writing MFA program and is working on a story collection and a novel.

The LA Times talks with author Neil Gaiman about his new book, “View from the Cheap Seats.”

Netflix is adapting Margaret Atwood’s “Alias Grace”, an historical crime novel. Atwood’s 1996 novel is based on the real life of Grace Marks, a 19th-century Irish immigrant who was convicted of brutally murdering her employer and his mistress. Earlier this year Hulu announced it was working to adapt her classic feminist dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale

LitHub columnist Emily Barton explores plot. “Any reader can tell you that this bias against plot is nonsense. Books depend upon plot. It is the armature upon which everything hangs.”

Novelist Edna O’Brien Explores the True Nature of Evil in this article for Smithsonian Magazine.

Wendy Werris, in a column on Publishers Weekly, provides an inside look at what it’s like working for a national book store chain, which she describes as  formulaic and counterintuitive. Looking to future, B&N puts is faith in brick and mortar: On the way, smaller stores with expanded cafes that will offer table-side service, wine and beer.

Anyone who bought an ebook from Apple, Amazon, Barne & Nobloe or Kobo between April 1, 2010 and May 21, 2012 could soon receive a credit or check as part of a payout to U.S. customers in the final stage of the long-running ebook price-fixing dispute that ultimately forced the tech giant Apple into a $450 million settlement. So far I haven’t received any word from Amazon concerning a credit and I don’t know if I will. I know I purchased a few ebooks here and there over the past several years, but I’m not certain if I was ever a party to this class-action suit or not. Anyone receive word on this yet?

Seen a good article from the publishing world in your internet travels? Post a link to it in the comments section!

 

 

Around the Web: More advice and articles for writers and readers

by G. Robert Frazier

Every once in a while I like to share some of the stories and advice articles on writing I come across in my wanderings around the interwebs. So, for better or worse, here’s this month’s collection of links for your reading pleasure:

Columnist Riki Cleveland offers six habits of prolific writers and how to make them yours on litreactor.com.

“Writing is an act of thievery,” according to Khalid Hosseini, author of Kite Runner. “You adapt experiences and anecdotes for your own purposes.” For both the memoirist and the novelist are inevitably inspired by the people they have met, and will make use of them to suit their purposes. This may not strictly be plagiarism, but it is similar territory. Read more about how writers will steal your life and use it in this excerpt from How to Write Like Tolstoy (Random House) by Richard Cohen for fiction here.

Everyone’s heard of the self-publishing success by authors such as Andy Weir (The Martian) and Hugh Howey (Wool), so it’s also refreshing to see a literary agent like David Fugate taking note of self-publishing books. “I’m a huge fan of self-publishing (in all its myriad forms) and what it has done for both authors and readers. I think it’s amazing that it’s no longer a question of if your work will be published, but how,” he said in a recent interview with Reedsy. “My advice for anyone who wants to self-publish first is: do it well. And if you’re unsure about whether you want to traditionally publish or self-publish my advice is often to try traditional publishing first. If you approach it the right way, you can figure out very quickly if it will work with a traditional publisher. And if not, you can always self-publish and all you’ve lost is a little time. However, for anyone who wants to self-publish their book first, the key is to make sure you really go for it. Don’t just put it out there and hope that readers will somehow discover it. Have a marketing plan and pursue it with more of an entrepreneurial mindset. That can be difficult for some authors, but given the amount of noise out in the market, if you want to really give your work a chance to do well, you have to do what it takes to let readers know it’s out there.”

What Walt Disney knows about storytelling

The 2016 O. Henry Prize Stories are out. Some of these stories are available to read online (just follow the links), while others will have to wait for September’s publication of the annual O. Henry anthology. Speaking of the O. Henry Prize Stories, reader Kelly Luce shares some insights gained from reading every short story published in 2014-15 in search of the top twenty for the anthology.

Apparently, in New York, in the latest transgender equality law, you can be fined by not calling a person by the pronoun they wish to be called by. If a person wants to be called “ze,” for instance, instead of he or she, and an employer or business professional refuses to honor that wish, they can seek legal recourse. This could make for some interesting written exchanges in your stories and screenplays.

If you weren’t all that thrilled by Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, and a lot of people apparently weren’t, you might want to seek out the books on this list of Superman comics you must read.

Author Matthew Norman posted a column that’s gotten a lot of attention from authors: What to do when no one shows up to your reading. I haven’t had the pleasure of that situation yet, but one thing I would do is try to work the bookstore crowd beforehand. Approach the book buyers and give them a bookmark and ask them to come to your reading. At least that’s better than just sitting in your car twiddling your thumbs hoping someone shows up.

The most enlightening article I’ve read on what makes fiction literary, as explained by author and literary agent Donald Maass (who else!).

And, just for a laugh, novelists warned about drug-resistant strain to writer’s block.

Lithub is now aggregating book reviews from across 70 sites into a sort of Rotten Tomatoes, called Book Marks. Here’s how it works.

Columnist Jane Friedman puts recent news about declining ebooks sales in favor of print into perspective with this column. Buyers who are shunning higher ebook prices from traditional publishers, an increase in adult coloring books, and the rise of indie publishers and self-publishers are the keys to the fluctuating numbers, she says. Nielsen reports that about 12 million coloring books were sold in 2015. Compare that to just 1 million in 2014. The increase is so dramatic that coloring books alone can account for the increase in print sales in 2015.

The WGA (Writers Guild of America) has unveiled a new diversity database. Writers can opt to identify themselves by race, sex, age, languages they are fluent in, and, of course, sexual preference. There’s even an opt in to identify whether they have a disability. Producers or filmmakers in turn can search the database to find writers matching their needs. The whole idea is in response to the continuing outcry over the lack of diversity in Hollywood, both on screen and off screen. Not everyone is rushing to embrace the “list,” however. TV comedy writer Susan Hurwitz Arneson tells ScreenwritingU Magazine that she’s not about to “out myself on something that may be perceived as a negative, or might prevent me from getting staffed.”

The first books in James Patterson’s new Bookshots series of shorter, more digestible books are hitting stores and available to purchase online now.

Author Erik Larson recounts how he looks for fascinating, complex real-life characters to bring his historical books to life.

The Atlantic published an interesting article this week on why women are writing the best crime novels.

Feel free to add any links to writing and reading articles you may have come across in the comments section.

Around the Web: Inspiring advice for writers and readers

By G. Robert Frazier

Every once in awhile I skim through my favorite websites or newsfeeds in search of interesting stories on writing and reading. I like to share those articles for other authors and readers who may like to draw inspiration from them. I haven’t posted one of these in a few weeks, so this one is extra long. Enjoy!

Author Anthony Hamilton grew up as a dyslexic who couldn’t read in an environment where reading wasn’t stressed as being important. Today, he’s a published author. Here’s his inspiring story.

Writer Alan Lewis shared this important story about a fellow writer who lost his battle with depression. It’s a moving story and something many writers experience. Writing is a difficult craft full of emotional ups and downs, self-doubts and personal triumphs. Sadly, it doesn’t always end well. I’m thankful to know Alan and many other writers like him in the Nashville Writers groups who meet each week to provide support and encouragement for each other, whether it’s in the form of a constructive critique or a simple conversation about the craft or life in general.

Literary Hub published this great article about How Books Can Help Us Survive A War.

Noir fiction is enjoying a renaissance. Author Nicholas Seeley expounds on why in this article.

Embracing intellectual messiness goes against our instincts and training as educated people, but writers and artists should accept and understand it as crucial to the creative process. That’s the gist of this message from author Malcolm Gladwell.

Another paying market for writers is falling by the wayside. Sadly, Thuglit announced its last issue will be published in May.

I came across this cool infographic depicting what 20 authors did for a living before they became famous. It’s particularly interesting that none of their previous jobs involved writing, which means when I become famous and join the list I will set a new precedent.

Columnist Leah Dearborn penned an article on the lifecycle of books, detailing how book production impacts the environment. While it’s eye-opening, I don’t think it will affect my book-buying habits.

Barnes & Noble’s longtime leader Leonard Riggio has announced his retirement. The big chain bookstore has oft-times been criticized for spelling the death of small, independent bookstores but at the same time turned his bookstores into a destination for book lovers. The New York Times says that today, the resurgence of indie bookstores has made B&N something of an underdog.

The Mystery Writers of America announced the 2016 Edgar Allan Poe Awards on April 28, honoring the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction and television published or produced in 2015.

Sana Amanat, Katie Kubert and Emily Shaw all work at the comic book giant that is Marvel, and are helping change the way their stories reflect women and women superheroes. Hear what they have to say in this video from Today.

Writers interested in writing for TV or the film industry should keep a watchful eye on next year’s Writer’s Guild of America negotiations. The WGA’s current film and TV contract doesn’t expire for another year, but guild leaders already are gearing up for negotiations. Some of the hot-button issues it says need to be addressed at the next round of contract talks include cable parity, diversity, free rewrites, free pre-writes, sweepstakes pitching and “bake-offs,” late payments, packaging, creative rights, one-step deals, so-called “paper teams,” the erosion of the “quote” system, the guild’s ailing health plan and the steady decline in pay and jobs for feature film writers.

LitHub offers these eight writing tips from the hit Broadway musical Hamilton, of all things. Just goes to show the power of the written word, regardless of format.

Keith McCafferty makes the case for why writing a short story is the key to becoming a better writer in this article in The Strand.

Paul Tremblay’s A Head Full of Ghosts (William Morrow) captured the top award in the 2015 Bram Stoker Awards from the Horror Writers Association. He and a slate of other winners will receive their prizes at StokerCon 2016 in Las Vegas.

There’s an interesting article on The Guardian’s website on How plot grips us. Writer John Mulan notes: “Plot involves the laying of clues, the implicit promise to the reader or viewer that the true significance of what we read or see is not self-evident, but will eventually be revealed. A good plot exploits not just suspense, but also a kind of retrospective curiosity.”

Novelist William Boyd is the latest author to share his process in My Writing Day, a recurring feature in The Guardian.  Boyd explains how writing long hand is more conducive for him than pounding away at the keyboard, but adds that after about three hours of writing per day he’s spent. I sometimes feel spent before I can get in any writing. My brother says I stay up too late, which makes me tired all day.

If you need a reason to quit worrying and start writing, this column by Corey Mandell might help. I heard Mandell speak at the Screenwriters World Convention in sunny L.A. a few years ago and got a lot out of his discussion, but this column really drives home the point of putting away your fears and going for it.

Speaking of going for it, Steven Pressfield offers The Blitzkrieg Method as one way to power your way through your novel to the end without stopping or looking back. This is sort of the idea behind National Novel Writing Month as well, where you just sit and type furiously until you get to the end. I’ve been meaning to get to the end of my novel, aptly titled River’s End, for some time now and I’m going to try this method.

This is an oldie but a goodie. South Park writers Trey Parker and Matt Stone share an amazingly simple piece of writing advice on the importance of “therefore” and “but”.

Thriller writer John Gilstrap, who I met at the Killer Nashville Writers Conference last year, talks about one of the most important weapons in a writer’s arsenal: the query letter.

That’s all for now. Happy reading and writing! And if you come across a great article about the craft you’d like to share, just do so in the comments sections!