Sunday, April 26, 2015

Guest post: Mandi M. Lynch

I really like opening my blog to guest writers. Not only do I have to do very little work, but I get to introduce new voices to those of you reading. It's intrinsically important to broaden our horizons and find new weavers of tales, to listen to different opinions and story tellers, to learn, to grow.
This week I have 2 guests, the first of which is the brilliant Mandi M. Lynch. So sit back and read her words. Learn, grow, and be better for it.
The Detail is in the Tale

I just read a line* from Neil Gaiman.  “There was a girl; her uncle sold her. … That is the tale, the rest is detail.”  Maybe that is why writing is both so easy and so difficult at the same time.

Sure, we can all come up with a simple storyline.  Okay, there is a guy and he’s suspected of being a terrorist… But then the problem becomes that we have to make our story be different than a thousand other stories that have exactly the same story line.  There’s a guy, and he’s suspected of being a terrorist, on the InterPlanet Hree, orbiting the Nth galaxy’s inner sun…

And then what if you write something that a thousand other people wrote that you didn’t have the luxury of reading yet?  So you spend how many hours writing a story and then you send it to your beta reader and they’re all like… “Oh, I just saw this movie last week!” Damn, now what?

My problems tend to come when real life decides it has caught up with fiction. 

(No, fiction doesn’t imitate real life – it’s totally the other way around.)

I had a book just about planned out that I was working on some minor plot issues and character development for.  A lot of it had to do with the spread of a virus, and a few political things going on, and… and then the political things sort of happened and we had that month long Ebola scare.  And then what do you do? Do you write it anyway and wait for potential readers to think you’re ripping things from the headlines, or do you hold on to it for six months, a year, more?  What do you do?

Of course there are no answers to it.  The number one thing that drives me crazy as a writer is listing to other writers ask if they can do things like there’s an absolute list.  “Am I allowed to write my story in <point of view>?”  Um. Yes?  “Can I put <character type> in <place>?”  I don’t know, can you?  “No, I mean, am I allowed?  Because I see other stuff where…”  Okay, but are you trying to do exactly what the other stuff does or are you trying to be your own writer and do your own story?

This is the tale, the rest is detail. And if you’re going to be a writer, you put on your big girl panties, and you start putting details down.  And who cares if the next person over wants to psychoanalyze whether or not your curtains should be blue or green or polka-dotted with contrasting neon zig-zag trim and pompoms dangling?

As writers, we have a target audience.  It’s exactly one person in number, and it’s ourselves.  You write to yourself – the story that you want to tell in the way that you want to tell it.  Because even the most brilliant story becomes total crap after you let a thousand so-called-potential readers tell you what you have to do.  You know that artist you’re writing about with polka-dotted curtains with the contrasting neon zig-zag trim and pompoms dangling?  Six beta readers later, they might be black leather, designed to block the natural light that your artist so desperately needs.

So be true to yourself.  And do the easy part – tell the tale – but then settle in for the long haul and do the hard part, too.  And don’t let others muddy your story by telling you how they want it.  If it were so easy, they’d be doing it themselves.


[*American Gods, hardback p 252]





Mandi M. Lynch wrote her first story at the tender age of six, pecking at the words on her mother’s typewriter.  Although the crayon drawings are marginally better, the spelling has not improved.  Aside from being a writer of speculative fiction, a blogger, and an editor, she publishes Ink Monkey Mag and a variety of anthologies, and is programming director for Hypericon, a speculative fiction convention based in Nashville, TN.  Her next anthology release is The Tomato Anthology, which makes its debut this August, and she has several horror stories in the works.  Lynch lives in the suburbs with three cats, none of which write due to their lack of thumbs.


You can find her on Facebook at,, or at her book review blog at

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Motivation and Success

Okay, in my last blog post I told y’all why I became a writer and why I write horror, in a weird, looking back into the shadows of the past kind of way. Today I want to touch on what inspires me, who inspires me, and what keeps me motivated. I also want to say a little something about how I can write as much as I do, because that’s something I get asked all the time too, and it fits here. So let’s get going.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what inspires me, but if I was to look deep inside and tell you the truth, I would say that my inspiration comes from me. No one else is making me get up at 3AM to write. I don’t have some huge contract with a scary deadline
looming over my head, there are no threats from my publisher that they’re going to pull my book if I don’t get it done within a few days. I get up and write because I need to. I have this undying need to become successful in everything I do, and writing is no exception. In fact, writing is the prime example of something I need to be successful at. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do, and I won’t stop until it’s my only means of support.

I have other inspirations, of course, such as other writers, friends I’ve made in the
industry, and the people I look up to. I mentioned Stephen King in my last article, but don’t really need to mention him because Steve inspired just about everyone. Other important influences to my writing are: Charles Bukowski, Richard Laymon, Jack Ketchum, and Brian Keene. I’ve had the distinct pleasure of meeting Jack Ketchum a few times, and Brian Keene is a friend of mine. I’ve had the honor of drinking alcohol with the man and talking about the publishing industry, movies, and all kinds of geeky fan-boy things. To say he is a gentlemen is a gross understatement. When success finally comes my way I can only hope I’ll be as genuine and cool as he has always been. The aforementioned authors inspire me, not because they’re big name, big deal authors, but because they write what they love, they live what they love, and they are always
honest and true to their fans.

I want my books to be read by tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people. I want to make them scared, make them angry, make them horny, and make them disgusted. I want them to love me and to hate me, talking about my books to their
friends and writing about them on social media. I want my words to echo in their minds and hearts, lasting long after they read the last page. I want to be the ghost that haunts them.

I’m motivated by the small amounts of success I’ve had, the tiny victories, and the not so tiny ones. In the past couple months I’ve been picked up by a big(er) publisher (Booktrope) and was accepted as a member of the International Thriller Writers. Those two things are HUGE for me. I moved from the dozen or so small presses I’ve been published in to a solid medium (and rapidly growing) publisher. I have about 5 new books coming out and close to 20 books being re-released through Booktrope. There is actual marketing surrounding my books, and more people are going to read my words than ever before. I can’t help but take the motivation from these victories and roll them over. They help fuel me. They motivate me. They push me to do more, to do better, to achieve, to find the success I’ve always dreamt of.

And to accomplish this, I do one thing, and one thing only. I write. I sit down in the morning, long before the sun comes up and sane people hear their alarms. I sit down at my desk, fire up the computer, and I JUST WRITE. I follow a goof formula (for me) that has worked for years. I write for a half hour, then I rest for ten to fifteen minutes. I jump on social media, update my pages, read the stupid shit that’s on there, and then go back to writing for another half hour. Then I get up, get more coffee, have a cigarette, check Facebook, and then I write again. And again. And again. I do that until it’s time to go to work. And then when I come home guess what I do? I write again. I try to get a solid 5 hours in every day. If I can’t, then I do what time and my life allows, but I write every single day. Every. Single. Day.

Okay, Lone Survivor is coming out soon, so I hope y’all buy it and leave me an honest revue. I’ll be posting excerpts over the coming weeks to whet your appetites. I’m also opening my blog up to some guest authors, so you can get to know them a little bit as well. I’ll also be doing guest posts on other blogs, so check Facebook and twitter to see where and when I’m posting. Until next time, my friends.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Why I became a writer

I posed the question on Facebook earlier: What would you like to read about on my blog. So here you go Jennifer Lopez, this is why I became a writer.


The easiest answer to this question, and the one I’ll give first, is that I became a writer because I had to. It’s just something that’s always been inside of me, a compulsion to put ideas to paper and tell a story. Ever since I was old enough to read I’ve wanted to be an author. I’ve told stories for as long as I could remember, standing in front of my class in grammar school and making things up as I went along, or hanging out with my friends at the park or on camping trips and telling one ghost story or another. Most of those tales were recanted from books, but I twisted them, making them mine and adding characters. I loved scaring people, creating nightmares and putting vivid images in their minds. So yeah, the easy answer is that I just kind of had to be a writer. It’s who I am, what I do, and what I love.


The harder answer, and the one that’s much more detailed, starts back when I was around 8 years old. My father was a drunk, and he’d come home more times than not hammered off his ass. There would inevitably be some big fight with my mother that, more times than not, ended with my drunken father leaving the house with a flurry of curse words and slamming doors. I couldn’t put on music to mask the sounds of the fighting and threats because if he heard that I was awake he’d come into my room. I didn’t own headphones and there was no money to buy any, and to survive I had to pretend I was asleep. So no TV, no music, no noise of any kind.

That left me with books. I would grab something, climb under my bed, and read by flashlight. I’d lose myself in the worlds created by others, finding solace in their words and safety in the pages. Once my father left I’d climb back into bed and wait for my mother to come crying. I always hated that part the most, trying to comfort her when I was terrified myself. I knew nothing would be okay but I couldn’t let her know that. After she left I’d lay in bed and think about the story I had read before, changing it around and making it my own. I’d invent new stories based on what I read and get lost in them.

One day fate handed me a strange curveball. I loved horror, even as a little kid. I watched slasher movies on TV before dear old drunken dad came home. I’d rent them from the video store when my mother had the extra three dollars. I liked the idea of something that wasn’t my father scaring the shit out of me. Oddly enough it felt like I could defend myself against Freddy Kruger or Jason Vorhees more proficiently than I could protect myself from dad. It was during this period, when I was around eight years old and still trapped by the horrors at home, that I found a copy of Stephen King’s Pet Semetary. My cousin was going to sell it in a garage sale, but he gave it to me instead. It wasn’t kindness that enabled that gift, it was a black sense of humor. He thought the book would scare me to death and leave me scarred for life. Instead it got this whole train running.

I read the book. I was eight years old, working my way through an adult novel, one of the scariest written at the time. I poured over the pages, reading and re-reading it until I grasped it all. Never before had the words of someone resonated with me so clearly, the world Stephen King painted in my head crystal clear and terrifying as hell. Of course I couldn’t grasp the real horror of a parent losing their child, but to me Gage was just a dead kid doing horrible things, things I could actually fight and survive. I wondered what my father would do if I died. Would he bring me to tainted ground in the hopes of resurrecting me, or would he just sit in the bar like he did every night and bitch about my death like it was an inconvenience? To this day I would like to think the former, but know the latter.

Mr. King was the game changer. He gave me a way out of the miserable fucking life I lived. He was rich and successful. He was just as sick and twisted as I was, and yet he made a living off the darkness inside of him. It made a weird kind of sense to me. I loved to read. I loved to tell stories. I loved to create, write, and draw. I had a darkness inside of me that needed to get out. What better way to purge the demons from your soul than to inflict them on others? I could unleash the horror of my life on the world at large and in doing so, just maybe, heal some of my own hurt.

So I started to write. I used an old typewriter my aunt had left behind. I spent time every day after school working on short stories and trying my hand at longer pieces. They all sucked, but each one got a little better. I showed them to my friends and family. I handed them in as writing assignments. I asked my teachers for advice and criticism. I was never shy about what I wrote or the fact that I wrote. I was never embarrassed to hand my work off to someone because it always just felt right.

Over the years my hobbies changed, my interests matured, and my life grew more complicated. My parents got divorced. My father moved to North Carolina where he died drunk and alone about five years ago. My mother got remarried and had a family she could be proud of, which apparently didn’t include me. I got my own apartment, then my own house. I moved from job to job. Most of the things in my life changed, but writing has always been a part of it, one of the biggest and most important parts. It’s the only dream that never died, the one thing I have always been good at. The one thing I will always be proudest of.

Writing hasn’t made me rich like Stephen King. It hasn’t paid me enough to make a living…yet. But with every word I write I know I’m getting closer to that dream. Someday soon I’ll be making a living off my words, and more and more people will get to read them. And maybe someday, hopefully, those words will inspire a broken child and help them find their way through the darkness.