Dark scribblings

John's Ramblings and News

Night Terrors 2 released!

Posted by [email protected] on January 18, 2012 at 7:20 PM Comments comments (0)

Back around the first of the year I promised some forthcoming publishing news, and here it is...


Night Terrors 2, a horror anthology published by Blood Bound Books, has been released! My story, A Mother's Love, is among 28 tales of dark and, hopefully, disturbing fiction. It will soon be available on Amazon, Borders, and the usual places, but you can get your paperback copy now by going to the Night Terrors Website at https://www.createspace.com/3729847 (I would love to make that a live link, but this screwy Website won't work properly!!! For now you'll just have to copy and paste, OR you could go with my Blogger link in the next paragraph). The list price is $15.99, and if you've been looking for something to do now that we're past all of that holiday hub-bub, this collection of chilling tales is sure to keep you busy over two or three cold wintry evenings.


Better yet, I have a special offer for you, since you've been a faithful reader of my oh-so-infrequent blog. The first 12 people who comment on my blog, either here or at my Blogger Site, Dark Scribblings AND send your e-mail address to me, I will send you a special promotional code to purchase the anthology at half price! Don't worry, I'm requesting your e-mail address only so I can send the code. I will not share that address, post it on my blog or Website, or otherwise expose you to being spammed.


I have not yet read the full collection, but I can tell you a couple of the stories I have read are quite good, and I can't wait to get into the rest of them. So, what are you waiting for? Slip on over to and place your order. Remember, leave a comment here and then send your email address to me at [email protected], and I'll send that promotional code for 50 percent off (if you're among the first dozen people to do so).


After you've read the collection, come on back and tell us what you think.


More to come soon. Thanks for stopping by.

Winding down the year, more coming in 2012

Posted by [email protected] on December 22, 2011 at 11:30 PM Comments comments (1)

Hey folks,

I've been strangely quiet of late, mainly because of life -- the workload has increased significantly on my job in recent months, I've been back into coaching basketball since practice began in August (we're 13-4!), and a few other issues have come along.

That doesn't mean I haven't been at work on the writing and publishing, and I'll have some news for you all before the end of the year! Nothing major -- it's not as if I've signed a book contract or anything (I wish), but I've got a few pieces coming out soon, so I'll update the old blog within the next few days.

And, for those of you who have asked, I'll update you on what's happening with the basketball team and the family, as well.

Stay tuned.....

Your favorite author?

Posted by [email protected] on July 24, 2011 at 8:57 PM Comments comments (3)

I don't watch a lot of television, but one show that does fascinate me is Mad Men. I recall one episode in which the character Betty Draper was alone at home. The kids were gone, her husband was at work, and she just walked the house, bored, it seemed.


Eventually she sat on a sofa, paperback in hand, and read. Then it hit me – what else could she have done? She lives near New York, so her family do doubt has all of the television channels available, which probably amounted to four or five – affiliates of the three major networks, maybe a public television station, and perhaps some sort of independent station. Even in the largest city in America, that was probably all there was.


Remember, the show takes place in the early 1960s, a time many people remember from their own childhood or early adult years, yet also a time so far removed from today it's hard for those who did not live through it to imagine what life was like. No cable television, no Internet (or even home computers), no I-pods, no air conditioning.


How did society ever make it through such dark times, my kids sometimes wonder.


One thing people did more of then was read.


I don't have some idealized, romanticized idea of what life was like then. I don't sit around lamenting for the days when children were always quiet, knew their place and begged to do things such as read. Those times never really existed, despite what some older members of our society might claim.


But I do know people read more in earlier times, particularly during the 1950s and 1960s, when Americans found themselves with more leisure time and the ability to buy things such as magazines and dime store paperbacks. Oh, sure, the total number of books sold during that period might be smaller than today, but the nation's population was a little more than half what it is at present.


When I was a child I hated reading. But my parents, bless their hearts, decided that was a skill I needed to master, which was no small feat given that I was one of the weaker readers in my class at school. So about the time I was in second grade they decided I would have to read aloud to them twice a week. I still recall sitting in our living room, mumbling my way through story after story.


A funny thing happened. Not only did I begin to get better at reading, but I soon found I enjoyed it. There was a whole universe of stuff to learn! And I loved the adventures which played out in the works of fiction I read. By the time I was in third grade I was among the strongest readers in my class, and from then on I read everything I could get my hands on. Seriously – I'd read cereal boxes while eating breakfast.


I really can't tell you any particular author I enjoyed from those early years, although there have been different writers whose work I particularly appreciated at various stages of my life. In my late elementary school years I recall Alfred Hitchcock's Three Investigators (I still have a few of those boxed up somewhere). Of course, Mr. Hitchcock never wrote any of them – the books did carry an introduction he had supposedly written – but otherwise the publisher was simply using his name to sell books. No matter, they were great fun to read.


During my middle school years I was introduced to Edgar Alan Poe, who for years was my favorite writer. It was reading Poe that made me want to be a writer when I saw the effect some of his work had on my classmates. I saw that his writing touched them in some way (or more appropriately, scared them or grossed them out). Since I had a great affinity for horror stories even when I was a much younger child, the fact that Poe's work dealt with the dark was simply a bonus. The fact that writing could affect people in any manner touched something inside me, and I wanted to be able to do the same.


It wasn't a big leap over the next few years from Poe to Stephen King. During my later teen and early adult years I read most everything published with King's name on it. I still remember fondly sitting on a balcony at Myrtle Beach, the air filled with the gentle sound of ocean waves rolling up on the shore, a teeny little queasy feeling in my stomach as I read Survivor Type. That's the thing about King – he has such a way with story telling, hitting you right where you are with the normal, everyday stuff that's around you. I still pick up Salem's Lot and reread it every so often, and a few weeks ago I finished Pet Semetery (which, somehow, had eluded me all these years).


After a while I grew tired of reading novels, if you can believe that from a writer. The immediate tasks of raising a family, supporting them (which sometimes meant multiple jobs), chasing down non-fiction freelance assignments all took a toll on my time for reading – and writing fiction as well.


In recent years the pressure to support the family has not lessened (on the contrary, with four teens in the house and one who thinks she's a teen, that has in many ways become a more challenging task). But I've also returned to reading more. Douglas Clegg is now one of my favorite writers. I've seldom seen a person who can combine absolutely stunning story telling ability with such beautiful prose. Sometimes, when reading his work, I stop and reread a sentence, not because it was difficult to understand, but because it was written so well – I just want to read it again, slowly, to enjoy it.


If there's one other writer whose work I enjoy as much as Clegg's, it is the late Robert Parker. I'm a slow reader, but once I stumbled upon his work, I think I managed to read his entire Spenser and Jesse Stone series of works, as well as assorted other novels he had written, within a couple of years (that's somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 novels), and found myself over the past couple of years anxiously awaiting the arrival of his latest at the local library.


Unfortunately, Mr. Parker died in January 2010. I recently completed the final Spenser novel he wrote (Sixkill), and was a little sad to read a publisher's note stating this was the last Spenser work he completed before his death.


What about you? Do you have a favorite author, either one you read now or a particular writer whose work you enjoyed at some other point in your life? Tell me about it. You can e-mail, of course ([email protected]), but I'd far prefer you share that with all of the good folks who read this blog – use the comment section to tell us.

Why writers write what they write

Posted by [email protected] on July 18, 2011 at 12:22 AM Comments comments (0)

A few years back a writer friend of mine, Estaban Silvani, as well as Mark Canada, associate professor of English at UNC-Pembroke, and I were interviewed together by Frank Stasio on WUNC, a public radio station in Raleigh, N.C. (Hear the interview at http://wunc.org/tsot/archive/sot1031b.mp3/view?searchterm=)


It was Halloween, and the anthology Horror Library Vol. 1, published by Cutting Block Press, had been out just a few weeks. Purely by chance, five of the collection’s 30 writers resided in North Carolina, so the station decided to do a little piece on horror and fear in literature and invited the three of us to participate.


The interview was great fun. Afterward, Estaban and I went to a nearby restaurant for lunch. During our conversation he mentioned to me that the Horror Library Vol. 1 was the first paying market he had ever submitted work to.


I recall looking at him, not sure how to react. I knew Estaban, with a wicked sense of humor and a love of the dark and twisted, had been published here and there, and the man could definitely tell a tale.


Why in the world would you submit to a non-paying market? I screamed.


Okay, I didn’t scream. Didn’t even say it, but I sure thought it. While I have enough of an artist’s heart in me to wish writers and painters and musicians were valued and paid handsomely for their work out of a sense of simple appreciation by the public, I have always understood if one wishes to make money at writing, then one must approach writing as a business. There was a time, about a decade ago, when I made most of my income – meaning most of the income for a family of six (we’ve since grown to seven) — from writing.


I wrote business articles mostly, along with some work for trade or specialty publications, a Web company, and I did some part-time weekend copy editing for the local newspaper. Believe me when I tell you, as the sole bread-winner for the family, writing was strictly business, and I learned to value my time. There were plenty of publications that would pay seventy-five or a hundred bucks for a story, but I couldn’t afford to do that. I might contact those magazines with a story idea I could piggy-back on an assignment from a much better-paying publication, but no way was I able to spend 10 or 20 hours on a piece that didn’t pay well.


While I figured out the small press and fiction world was different, I’ve still been loathe to give credence to freebie publications. I think I’ve been in large part justified with that belief, because in much of the small press world, someone starts a little freebie magazine or Web site or puts out an anthology, and publishes his friends in there, who in turn start their own little publishing enterprise and return the favor, with very little professionalism. I’ve also found many freebie publications to be…well, let’s just say lacking in quality control.


I work hard on my writing, and by gosh, I’m not going to give it away, or be associated with those sorts of people who do. At least that was my thinking at one point.


Over time I’ve evolved a bit as a writer and a person, and I sometimes think back to Estaban’s comment — “I’ve never submitted to a paying publication before.”


It took a few years, but that statement, it turns out, was deeper and more profound than either of us thought at the time. At least what I now take away from that simple declaration is.


Estaban wrote what pleased him, because it pleased him. Publication, even non-paying publication, was a bonus.


That, I’ve come to realize, is at the heart of the artistic side of what we do. Writers write because it’s simply what we do. It is part of our DNA, the same as artists draw or paint, musicians play, cross-stitchers stitch, masons lay block and stone.


As writers we are fortunate if we find a following, maybe make a little money at our craft. And yes, approaching it as a business is necessary if one ever hopes to derive anything more than the occasional twenty-dollar check, just as plying our craft every day — with our without inspiration — is necessary if we truly expect to seriously evolve as a writer.


But not everyone has that in their make-up. And that’s okay. Spending a life time of writing with work appearing in freebie or low-pay magazines is just fine, if that’s what you want to do. If that gives you joy.


Because, in the end, fat paydays or not, writers writer, because that’s just who we are, and we should not let someone else define what is or is not success.

Published in the UK!

Posted by [email protected] on July 14, 2011 at 10:17 AM Comments comments (2)

My story “Patron Saint” has been picked up by the United Kingdom publisher Spinetinglers, winning the organization’s monthly contest for July. That means my story is live on their Website as you are reading this. If you'd care to take a look, visit http://spinetinglers.co.uk/ViewStories.aspx and go to the “please select category” drop down menu and click on July. The story also will be published in Spinetinglers annual print anthology, due out early in 2012.


I gotta say I'm starting to love the international fiction market place. As any writer will tell you (at least United States-based writers), the writing life is built around rejection unless you're named Stephen King, John Grisham, or David Baldacci. You send your story off, wait several months (or longer), then generally get a form rejection -- or worse, you get nothing, as if your story fell into a black hole. I've managed to see a few of my stories in print or online over the years, but for each publication there are probably dozens of rejections.


My experience with international markets, however, has been quite different. Perhaps I've been lucky, and admittedly my numbers are a small sampling that could change for the worse pretty quickly, but I have submitted exactly six stories to international markets, four of which found their way into publication. (If you're really interested in trivia, I'm one for two in Australian submissions, two for three in Canada, and now one for one in Great Britain.)


My experience also has been that these markets generally respond quicker and pay faster, too. Spinetinglers, for instance, responded to my submission within a month, it was published within a week of the acceptance, and I had payment in-hand within 48 hours of publication. That's hard to beat! As a bonus, the exchange rate from British pounds to American dollars is a nice little perk.


Anyway, that's my big news for the day – publication in Spinetinglers! Go on over, take a read, and if you're so inclined slip back here and leave a comment.


Thanks for stopping in.