I had such a beautifully productive morning. I’m pretty much a hermit. I don’t write or edit in cafes often, but today I had an incredible urge to go to the British Tea Rooms that recently opened in Stone Manor, an English shop that I love and that has been around for ages.
So I packed my laptop in my bag and was on my way. The reason I love Stone Manor is because they have English products that cannot be found in local stores, but also because of its cozy ambience and the fact that it is pretty much in the countryside, surrounded by farms and beautiful fields. To go there, I have to drive through this endless, narrow cobblestone road flanked by trees. It’s a peaceful drive.
The owners of Stone Manor go out of their way to decorate the place for every holiday, be that St. Patrick’s, Halloween, or Christmas.
With Christmas approaching, the Tea Rooms were quite festive today. Best of all, it was toasty warm. I found a corner table and immediately took out my laptop and got ready to work. It was about 10:30 am. The place had just opened, so I was pretty much alone in there. I was planning on ordering Earl Grey–that’s what people drink in British Tea Rooms, right? But I saw on the menu “Pumpkin Spice Latte” and had to order it.
There’s something warm and fuzzy about drinking a Pumpkin Spice Latte while working on a YA mystery/fantasy in a Tea Room around the holidays, when you’re snuggled inside and the wind is howling outside. But then, I’m a romantic for stuff like that.
For the next hour or so, I worked on the edits of The Luthier’s Apprentice, soon forthcoming from Twilight Times Books. (By the way, I was planning on completing an interview for Dora Machado for her blog, Murder by 4, but when I got there, I couldn’t find the questions in my files!)
There’s no Internet in the Tea Rooms–thank God! So I had no distractions, no emails, no Facebook or any other stuff like that. In spite of the people that kept coming in and out, I was completely submerged in my novel, perfectly focused. I loved when that happens. It makes me feel “in the flow”–even if I’m editing and not writing. Hyper-focus like this anchors me intensely in the present moment, with no worries from the past or the present, nothing but me and my story, me and the words.
At midday, my brain signaled me that it needed fuel. I took a break and ordered a soup. To my surprise, the same hyper-focus continued while I ate. I was in the “now.” I savored each comforting spoonful of hot soup, relished each bite of warm bread, loving the way the different flavors teased my tongue. As I looked out the window and saw the trees rustling in the wind, the yellow leaves falling, I was filled with gratitude and something close to mild euphoria.
Then I worked intensely for another hour. Afterwards, I ordered a carrot cake–completely unnecessary! But I guess my Muse was demanding it, even if she was in editing mode. But, hey, I’m not one to argue with Muses. If she wants carrot cake, she’ll have carrot cake (good excuse, huh?)
As I got ready to leave and pay the bill, the waiter, a boy of around seventeen or eighteen, asked me if I was writing. I said yes, that I was working a book, and he ended up confessing that he had been writing a thriller for the past 2-3 years! I was so pleasantly surprised. A like soul! He said he was about half way. Of course, I encouraged him to keep writing and finish that book!
While driving back home, I couldn’t help thinking that writers are like aliens. It’s as if writers are a different species and are secretly living on earth among humans and, suddenly, when they encounter another alien, something clicks, something that makes them widen their eyes and smile and go “Ahh? really!” It’s that powerful feeling of connection, the silent and subconscious acknowledgement of like minds.
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I’m promoting my supernatural thriller, Dark Lullaby, with three virtual book tour companies; I’m almost finished putting together an anthology of Latina author interviews (Latina Authors and Their Muses, Twilight Times Books, Spring 2014); I’m working with various authors/clients, helping publicize their work; and I’m preparing myself mentally and emotionally for Nanowrimo, when I plan to complete my YA psychological thriller, Chills.
I’m not going to sign officially for Nanowrimo, but I’ll be benefitting from the “group energy” as I work on my own. I started working on Chills about 3-4 years ago, then put it aside to work on something else. I already have about 40K words written. So what I need to do is write another 30-40K words more. My plan is to write 2K words a day until it’s done. This is an exciting, high goal for me, one that will push me out of my comfort zone for sure.
When I work on a novel, my usual output is 500-600 words a day. This is why I said earlier that I’m preparing myself mentally and emotionally. Also, to prevent getting stuck during the actual writing process, I’ll be brainstorming and outlining my plot during the last week of October.
One book I just finished reading that has been incredibly helpful is Writing in Overdrive: Write Faster, Write Freely, Write Brilliantly, by Jim Denney. I liked it so much that I bought copies to my three SCBWI local critique partners. The book is all about “the zone,” what it is, how to tap into it, how to sustain it. Denney’s advice is perceptive, insightful and best of all, doable. If you’re considering Nanowrimo and need to increase your regular daily word count and at the same time stay calm and confident, I urge you to grab a copy.
Once I complete the manuscript, I plan to put it aside for two weeks, then do one or two rounds of edits before I send it to professional freelance editor Deborah Halverson of www.DearEditor.com. Then, once I’ve revised based on her edits, Chills will be on its way to my agent.
It’s a long process, and I still have a lot of work to do, but I’m deeply passionate about this story and its characters. Although I have a basic idea of how the ending will turn out, I know from experience that there are always surprises along the way—and for me this is one of the most exciting aspects of writing fiction.
I am a horror author, but I promise I’m not a freak. There isn’t a body hidden beneath the floorboards in my house, and I don’t have anyone tied up in my basement (because I don’t have a basement, but that’s beside the point). I also don’t revel in violence and I’m far from titillated by blood and gore. If anything, I’m as much disturbed by some of what I write as any of my readers are, and I’m even more prone to being afraid of some of the movies and books I read. I don’t know where my desire to write about the dark side of life comes from necessarily, and I’m not sure I want to know. I’m only grateful that it’s there, because it’s given me a career.
In a recent interview, I was asked what’s inside the mind of a horror author and I was later asked to expand upon it. Originally, I said horror authors’ minds aren’t much different from any others but they do have this desire to shine a light on the darkness that lives in all of us. People who aren’t a fan of the horror genre aren’t without this darkness. They just don’t like to look at it, and that’s okay. There are people who like to highlight on the positive and make people feel good, but make no mistake: horror writers like to make you feel good too. Only, it’s more of an inverse process. Anyone who has ever been through a rough time in their lives, be it losing a loved one or financial hardship or being the victim of a violent crime, I think we can all say that when we reach a place of peace and healing, we have a new gratitude for it.
To get technical about it, horror stories try to simulate those events by activating the same parts of the brain that are active during times of peril. It serves the same purpose that minor thrill seeking does, like riding a rollercoaster or skydiving. By the time you put down that book or finish that movie, we want you to feel more alive than you did before. We want you to feel glad it’s over and that you have this otherwise normal and sort of mundane life, but at least you’re not being held captive in a decrepit old mansion by a human spider. Sometimes when I watch movies or read books that are too positive, the opposite happens to me. I look at my life and find it starkly unfulfilling and mundane in comparison, and that can depress me. Maybe that’s just an odd quirk about my mind, but I think it’s why I tend to stray to the darker side of things. I crave that shift in perspective, and I think a lot of people out there do too.
Another thing people assume about dark fiction authors is that we are cynics and pessimists in daily life. Now, I don’t want to fool anyone into thinking that this isn’t the case. Writers can be some of the most jaded people out there. In many cases, it’s why they write. But I also argue that there is a lot of optimism buried in horror, because the underlying message in a lot of it is: “See how much WORSE things could be?” My book STRINGS is probably the most grim piece of fiction I have ever written or will ever write, but it was also written by an optimist who believes that human beings are as equally capable of good as they are of bad, and that even the worst among us have a spark of humanity that can be coaxed into a flame under the right conditions. Of course, it could just as easily go the other way too, but that’s not pessimism. That’s just reality.
Allison M. Dickson is a writer of dark contemporary fiction living in Dayton, Ohio. Though STRINGS is her debut novel, she has been writing for a number of years, with several short stories (including “Dust” and “Under the Scotch Broom”) available on Amazon. Two of her stories were featured The Endlands Volume 2 from Hobbes End Publishing. In 2014, Hobbes End will also be releasing her dystopian science fiction novel, THE LAST SUPPER, and she is independently producing her pulpy dieselpunk noir novel, COLT COLTRANE AND THE LOTUS KILLER to be released in November of 2013. When she isn’t writing, she’s one of the co-hosts of the weekly Creative Commoners podcast. She might also be found gaming, watching movies, hiking the local nature preserve with her husband and two kids who also serve as willing guinea pigs for her many culinary experiments.
This month I’ll be touring the blogosphere with Enchanted Book Promotions (October 1-15) and Pump Up Your Book Promotion (October 7-31).
On the 29th, there will be a review blast with I.O. Book Tours.
I’ll be posting more information as the tours progress. I’m really enjoying answering all the hosts’ interesting and challenging questions!
These will be my stops with Enchanted Book Promotions…
October 1st: Starter Day Party @ I Heart Reading
October 2nd: Book Excerpt @ Urban Fantasy Land
October 4th: Book Review @ Endazzled Reading
October 6th: Author Interview @ The Single Librarian
October 8th: Book Review @ Forever Book Lover
October 9th: Book Excerpt @ Sylv Jenkins’ Blog
October 10th: Book Review @ I Heart Reading
October 11th: Book Excerpt @ Bookish Madness
October 13th: Author Interview @ Majanka’s Blog
October 15th: Guest Post @ Brenda McCreight’s Blog