The Serial Killer Phase

I think most writers (especially those of horror) go through at least one major phase where they become complete and utterly fascinated by serial killers. Where it stems from can be debated. For some, we see something on TV. This usually occurs when we’re young (the True Crime network or Cold Case Files.) We’re horrified, fascinated, intrigued, disturbed. We have nightmares, doubts. We think, How is something like that possible? How can someone commit such violent acts? Normally the killer’s motives don’t matter. How gruesome their crimes or the psychology behind them aren’t necessarily considered. We, at such a young age, can only think: Why?

Eventually, evolution takes place. Old habits die hard. We almost always return to our roots. Though I grew up on True Crime TV and Cold Case Files, it wasn’t until after I watched the made-for-TV miniseries The Deliberate Stranger (which dramatizes in chilling detail the murders committed by Ted Bundy) that this surge of macabre fascination returned.

Some joke that ‘every writer has their serial killer.’

Mine was (and, up to this writing, still is) Jeffrey Dahmer.

I was inspired to write this post after concluding a condensed hour-and-a-half viewing of Dahmer’s trial. This montage — which contains the actual recording — isn’t glamorized, as many documentaries are privy toward. It’s edited, sure — mostly for length, as the trial went on for weeks — but goes into detail about the psychology behind Dahmer’s actions and history. Testimony by his victims (and I say ‘victims’ to include those he did not kill) is also included. This was perhaps the most disturbing information I’ve ever encountered upon researching Jeffrey Dahmer. His last victim (who thankfully escaped without severe injury) described in chilling detail the paradox of the man, the machine, and monster that was Jeffrey Dahmer — and how, like flashes in the dark, he would appear as one thing, then another.

I decided to forego including pictures in this post because of the nature surrounding Dahmer’s crimes. Primarily a necrophiliac, he is confirmed to have participated in sexual acts and to have consumed pieces of his victims. This information is documented — not only in text, but photograph. One of the most disturbing things I’ve ever seen was a crime scene photo taken in Dahmer’s home the night he was arrested. This was found via a Google Image search under the man’s name. I do not, under any circumstance, recommend you search for it. Reading about it is bad enough, but actually seeing the photograph is haunting beyond comprehension. It was something I could never be prepared for, and something I will ever be able to remove from my mind.

This segues into my continued fascination. Morbid as it may be, my interest in Dahmer increased after I became aware of his psychiatric diagnoses. He was, by grand jury, considered of sound mind, but psychiatrists were in full agreement that he had much wrong with him — including not only sexual paraphilias and borderline personality disorder, but also GAD.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

A condition I myself am diagnosed with and am in medical treatment for.

His ghost (and legacy) was only brought closer to home after discovering this fact. Dahmer’s struggle with his sexuality and then resounding coming-of-age is not unlike what a lot of young gay men experience, and is, in part, easy to relate to. I was fortunate enough to have been born on the cusp of the new millennium. But Dahmer? He was a child of the 60s. To see what he must have seen — to experience what he must have experienced — as the monster inside was festering? That is something too monstrous to imagine. Somehow, though, I am always drawn back to this — to this paradox of a person: of man, machine and monster.

I am always left to wonder: Why? When? How? Was illness his trumping demon? Did society play a role? Could something — anything have been done to prevent the seventeen deaths and the countless terror this man has wrought? Was it the result of genetics? A freak accident of the psyche? Something he saw? The psychology here is stupendous. It is the fodder of nightmares and the stuff writers can only dream of orchestrating.  In the end, this is what fascinates me the most — and what continues to draw me back to his story even when I am inclined to pull away.

Why Writers Need to Back-Up Their Work

Though it doesn’t happen often, I’ve seen a few (and very unfortunate) posts from writers on various networks wherein they detail a computer issue. My computer just stopped running, someone says. Or, My harddrive failed. Sometimes, people spill something on their laptops. Other times their property is stolen. Always, though, these posts are written with grief, and every time I see these posts, the question, Did you have it backed up? gets asked.

More often than not, that work isn’t backed up. It wasn’t saved. It’s gone–forever.

Let’s be honest: In today’s digital mecca, there really isn’t a reason for us to have physical copies of our manuscripts lying around. For one, they take up extra space. For two, it’s more convenient to have everything accessible in one place. And for three, we hold the false assumption that technology is infallible–that, somehow, someway, our work can be recovered even if something catastrophic happens.

That isn’t the case.

There’s a lot to be concerned about. Power outages, virus attacks, hardware failures, accidental damage–the list goes on. Most writers (me included) sit down at a computer and start writing. We don’t have the constant belief that we’re going to lose that work because our minds are elsewhere. And even when we do become concerned, we think, I’ll do it later.

Then you lose your work. Nothing you or even a professional can do can get it back. And it’s lost. Forever.

Thankfully, there are simple ways to prevent this.

Dropbox-Logo

I started using Dropbox after a computer virus nearly caused me to lose all my work. During the attack, the malware kept me from going online, so I couldn’t email The work to myself. Thankfully, a tech-savvy friend had just given me a Terrabyte harddrive and I was able to transfer everything over without issue. But I’ll confess — many people don’t have huge harddrives lying around, and even if they do, they don’t provide a complete failsafe.

So you might be wondering:

 What is Dropbox? And how can it help protect my work?

Dropbox is a cloud service. Without going into the technical details, it connects your computer to the internet via a background program and saves your work automatically whenever a file is updated.

How do you do it?

Below is my simple method on how to back up your work without hassle. Do note that this is written from the perspectives of a Windows user and operating system.

1. Locate your Dropbox folder under your user profile (which can be found by clicking your computer/username on the start menu.)

2. Create a folder (or drag a preexisting one) into Dropbox.

3. Right-click on your desktop and click ‘Create a Shortcut.’ Using the ‘Browse’ command, locate your User profile and then your Dropbox folder. Once you are in, simply click on the folder you wish to link. You will now have a functioning ‘shortcut’ to your Dropbox folder on your desktop.

By doing this, you will be able to click on your folder and access its contents as you normally would had you created the folder on your desktop. Now, however, your documents are saved to the cloud every time you alter them.

And there you have it: a simple way to keep your files backed up in a place other than on your desktop.

You can download Dropbox by clicking on the image below.

Dropbox-Logo

Why do writers give away free fiction? (My thoughts)

There’s a universal question that is often asked whose answer lies across a broad range of spectrums. If you a writer, some people begin, and you eventually want to make a living off your work, why are you giving it away for free?

The answer, as I said, is different for everyone. Some may want to establish a fanbase; some may want to improve their work. Others, meanwhile, may simply crave the feedback from an unknown individual who, hopefully, will praise your work.

As a writer, I can tell you there is no greater high than having someone post a comment on your blog or email you saying how much they’ve enjoyed something you’ve written. Public writing collectives such as Writer’s Cafe and FictionPress allow for something that, in prior years, was nearly impossible to receive–the eventual (and, in some cases, instant) feedback on your work.

I’ll be the first to say that not all that feedback might be great. On sites like I listed above, this ‘instant gratification’ might simply be automatic responses tailored in an attempt to make you reciprocate them for ‘reading your work.’ Oftentimes, though, I’ve found that the people who are willing to reach out to you are truly genuine. When that happens, you’ve just established something between you and a reader: a bond.

It’s safe to say those bonds are sometimes lasting.

But, going back to the original point–I can understand the argument. Why give it away when you can sell it? I’ve been asked this multiple times throughout the duration I’ve been posting free fiction online, to which the automatic (and logical) response was: Couldn’t you just put it together and sell it? I bet people would buy it.

Well… that’s where it gets complicated.

In my experience, collections don’t sell. Over the past few years, I’ve attempted to sell (at least in part) several collection-themed works that’ve contained either short stories, flash fiction, or a combination of the two (with the occasional novella sometimes included.) The first was simply called Stories. That one didn’t last long (fairly certain it was the cover.) The second one was Love and Other Horrors–which, though its cover was my own creation, and while visually well received, went nowhere. And finally, my crowning acheivement: Amorous Things–which garnered much praise from several writers and even well-known publications, yet hasn’t gone anywhere besides being known as a ‘good collection.’

From my research, it all comes down to this:

  • 1. People don’t like short stories because they’re short.
  • 2. People don’t like short stories because they get too immersed in what they’re reading, then feel cheated when it ends. (The disconnect.) — via Stephen King
  • 3. People don’t like short stories because they’d rather save their money and spend that on a novel.
  • 4. There’s so many short stories online (for free) that there’s no point in buying a story collection.

Those are just the reasons I myself have come across in my research and various experience throughout the internet. I tend to give a lot of credit to King’s opinion due to how many short story collections he’s put out over the years–and how, admittedly, their popularity has dropped off a substantial degree.

Which brings me to my final point–the ‘big announcement’ about an older work that I’ve hinted over on Facebook.

I am releasing the contents of Amorous Things to my short fiction blog

amorous-things-front-cover

I love this collection. It has some of my absolute favorite stories in it and I’ve been told some of my best short work. Knowing that it’s resting in obscurity has troubled me for quite some time now. I held on to the idea that it would suddenly take off (or that the audio production which I announced way back when would actually be completed.) Alas, it didn’t, and while many might be content in allowing a work to remain static in the hopes that the occasional fish might bite, I’m someone who knows what kind of power free fiction can hold.

So, with that in mind:

You can read the contents of Amorous Things on my short fiction blog by clicking here

or

If you have a Kindle (or a Kindle reading app) and would prefer to download it that way, you can do so by clicking here

It has already been well-received in the short time it’s been available on Amazon. Other markets are forthcoming, though due to individual retailers’ specifications, I cannot promise it will be free everywhere (though if you do in fact find that to be the case, you may always go to my fiction blog and read the stories there.)

Thank you for all of your support. It is much appreciated. I hope that, if you do download Amorous Things, you will enjoy it.

Amazon Anonymous; Or, Why Authors Shouldn’t Read Their Reviews

The recent controversy regarding the given choice to remain anonymous on review sites like Amazon has been a staple feature in almost every writer’s mind for the past two weeks. With individuals such as Anne Rice making vocal their opinion on the matter (and trust me, Miss. Rice has a pretty strong one,) it’s easy to see why people are torn between the two possibilities.

It’s perfectly understandable why people would want to remain anonymous on the internet. From potential employment conflicts, to differing viewpoints between family members, for safety reasons regarding past or even present incidences, it’s easy to see why Jane Blaine would want to present herself online as KittyX123. For what it’s worth, the internet is not a witness protection program. Post the wrong thing and the suspiscious (or even curious) scriptkitty can get into your personal information. (Edward Snowden, professional scriptkitty, proved this to the United States government.) For some, though, anonymity can be used for control.

The dawn of the internet has created a period in which anonymity is both a blessing and a curse. For some, they use that anonymity to remain silent–to ensure that their identity is kept locked behind a steel veneer from which they can look out with their porcelain facade. For others, they use that influence to exert control over.

As a public figure who has had to deal with the scrutiny of such individuals, I’ve come to develop what most everyone in the entertainment industry refers to as the ‘thick skin.’ Designed to render you impervious from public perception, it’s meant to ensure that you don’t get emotionally involved with something someone else wrote about you and your product and therefor have an adverse reaction because of it. (Some people literally go crazy when this happens, I shit you not. Just ask the editor whose head was slammed into her steering wheel by a disgruntled writer.) It isn’t, however, a failsafe mechanism. Humans are, by design, emotional creatures, and when shown that some might be so vehemently hateful against them that they will say almost anything to get a rise out of you, there eventually comes a breaking point.

Herein arises what I like to call the double-a (the Amazon Anonymous issue.)

I’d mentioned previously that the internet allows for pretty much however much ambiguity you want. Consider this scenario:

Jane Blaine (AKA KittyX123) buys books off Amazon.

And she reviews them.

Under her username.

Knowing completely well that no one will ever know she is Jane Blaine.

The power struggle that is presented here is laid out in the matter of speaking: If you wished to say anything you wanted about anyone or anything and you would never get in trouble for it–either from friends, acquaintances, employers, potential strangers or even the law–what’s stopping you from doing it?

That is the thinking behind the anonymity quotient. In some ways, it works (as I’d previously described above.) In others, it allows individuals to attack you out of spite or merely for the fun of it for whatever reason they choose.

I stopped reading my Amazon reviews a long time ago. Save the one I read and then commented about on my Facebook page last night (which I promptly deleted out of the Why do I care about this? thought,) I don’t find much worth in trolling Amazon or any of the other sites for reviews. The few I do happen to read don’t come from Amazon at all (in this case, professional organizations or review sites,) but even then I don’t usually just sit there for hours on end reading what everyone has to say about me. Maybe it’s because I was so horribly bullied throughout my public school years that I’ve become numb to the paranoia that the bad people are out to get me (they are out to get me, and always will be, because I’m a gay religiously open-minded writer who is mentally ill and happens to write about such issues in my books.) Either way, it doesn’t help when marauding bands of these individuals go about attacking authors under pseudonyms, especially when those unverified rankings and heinous reviews can adversely affect a potential reader’s decision to buy the product.

I don’t believe that people should be stripped of their anonymity. Amazon presents a case in which unverified reviews can be posted willingly without any kind of validation system (though I can’t imagine how they’d do such a thing anyway.) I do believe that this sort of problem isn’t going to go away, and while I agree with many of the statements that people like Anne Rice have given, it’s ultimately up to Amazon to decide what they’re going to do. They are not the arbiter of our use; they are merely a mechanism within which we operate.

Either way, I think the moral of the story is this: Don’t read your reviews. They’re for purchasers, not authors. You put out the product you wanted (or at least you hopefully did.) You should, in that sense, be confident in your work. Not everyone is going to like what you write, do, support, etc. And whatever you do, do not engage with these reviewers. The internet is very much a digital jungle, and for those who happen to get snared within its nets, it’s usually impossible to get out.

How NOT To Get Screwed After NaNoWriMo: A Guide

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So… you finally did it. After a grueling month of agony, frustration, tears, a little blood and way more order-in or take-out food than you can imagine (or starving–we’re writers, it happens,) you’ve finally come to that monumental part in the writing process.

You’ve finished!

Or, in Layman’s terms: HOLY SHIZORZ WHAT DO I DO NOW?

Throughout the month, you’ve probably seen (or at least heard) of publishing services related to the process after your novel has been completed. Editing, cover art, interior formatting, publishing — with so much to consider, it’s no wonder you’re confused about what comes next. However — certain people and organizations aren’t always looking out for your best interest, and because of that, it is very easy for an unpracticed or unknowledgeable author to fall prey to scams that could not only take their money, but so much more as well.

As someone who’s worked in the business for seven years, I’ve seen it all.

What follows are several tips that, hopefully, will help you make proper, educated decisions about the future of your novel. Read more