Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Things That Annoy Me #2: Sentence Finishers

Oh my brothers and sisters, they're everywhere: People who think it's okay to finish your sentence for you.

Where the fuck did this come from?

When I speak, I take my time. I make sure the words I choose will do the best possible job of articulating what it is I'm trying to communicate. That means there are, occasionally, pauses. These pauses are not an invitation for someone else to jump in and interrupt. I am not playing Mad-Lib (or whatever the hell that game is called). I am taking my time to make sure I say exactly what I mean to say.

And it is, of course, during those pauses that the dreaded sentence finishers of the world leap in and attempt to complete others thoughts for them.

The audacity!

And here's the rub:

Sentence finishers, in my experience, NEVER complete my sentences correctly. In fact, they are often spectacularly off target. Perhaps this is what makes the sentence finishers I've encountered especially annoying. Here's an example:

Me: I was thinking about...

SF: Buying new tires for your car?

Me: ...looking for a translating job in Botswana.

SF: Oh.

That's the most common thing you'll hear a sentence finisher say--"Oh." And you'd think the sentence finisher might learn the first or second time he or she has to say "Oh" and feel foolish for posing as a mindreader (and for anyone who says, Well, sometimes you can predict what someone's going to say, realize this: Anyone who is that predictable isn't worth talking to).

The most notorious sentence finisher in my life is a woman I've known since we were both small children. I'll refer to her only as KJ in order to avoid any possible lawsuits. When we were kids, KJ referred to me as her "little brother." She had no siblings of her own and I was the oldest sibling in my own house (and, at the time, had no sisters), so I went along with it. This allowed me to have one safe, platonic relationship with a female and I attempted to use this relationship to glean information about women in general. But KJ, I learned over time, was not an ordinary female. The advice she gave me with respect to women was awful and cost me more than a few dates and relationships with women I really liked. KJ never moved out of her mother's house and she is now a middle-aged spinster whose impressions of the world are manufactured entirely by the garbage she sees on television. She has also, for reasons I couldn't begin to comprehend, blossomed into a hardcore sentence finisher. Most people in my family will no longer hang out with her for a number of reasons. One of the main ones, I suspect, is that KJ has NEVER, NOT ONCE IN HER LIFE, correctly finished anyone else's sentence.

There, I had to get that off my chest. Don't try to finish my fucking sentences. Be patient and wait for me to finish my thoughts on my own. You'll be rewarded, I promise, with something much more interesting than you could possibly predict in a split second.

Saturday, September 16, 2017


So I am going to edit a charity anthology of short stories called NAPTOWN NOIR. The stories will take place in my hometown, Indianapolis, Indiana. Anything dark. No detectives or mystery-solving stuff. The profits will go to the Indiana Literacy Association. The anthology will be released through Down & Out Books. That's all the info I have at the moment. If you have a story that takes place in Indianapolis that you think would be appropriate, let me know and we'll discuss it.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Things That Annoy Me #1: Public Restroom Etiquette

In attempts to make this blog just slightly interesting, I shall begin a new series on Things That Annoy Me. I'd like to start with a discussion of public restrooms. In particular, the behavior of my fellow brothers in the human race.

I write in the library and work at the radio station at the University of Montana. Across the hall from the radio station is a coed bathroom. A real coed bathroom, meaning, men and women use it at the same time. Initially, I didn't think much of it. The first couple of times I used a toilet in it, no one else was present, so the ramifications of men and women sharing a public restroom didn't make themselves clear.

The third time I used the coed restroom, however, I noticed someone was in another stall. I began to wonder--if it's a woman, will she mind hearing the sounds I make when I use the restroom? It was also at that point I noticed the remnants of piss around the toilet, a sure sign that men had used it and, as is often the case, had betrayed their supposed superior visual-spatial intelligence by failing to hit the bowl (calm down, potheads!). I took care of my business, making sure I didn't add to the moat developing around the outside of the toilet, and went to wash my hands.

The occupant of the other stall, indeed, turned out to be a young woman. We didn't make eye contact as we washed our hands. I thought, at that moment, that maybe coed bathrooms, as much as the campus idiots may think them "progressive," are not such a good idea. On my next trip, I encountered another young woman who seemed to have a better sense of humor about it. She managed to grin as she passed me at the sinks to wash her hands. But in both instances, I couldn't help but wonder, Do women really want to spend time positioning their feet on the toilet so they don't step in the puddles left by men who cannot do something so simple as aim for the interior of the bowl?

Here's another thing I've seen way too many times recently--Men using the bathroom and not washing their hands afterward. This is disgusting and, ultimately, dangerous. Who the fuck raised these barbarians? Oh my brothers, you must do better in the public sphere. Hit the fucking toilet dead on and wash your goddamn hands when you finish!

Sunday, September 3, 2017

A Contest and a Plea!

So I must make this request once again -- as many who read this blog know, a book does much better on Amazon once it has 25 reviews. If you haven't already done so, please buy, read, and review Down on the Street, my latest novella. Even if you absolutely hated the book, leave a review letting people know why you didn't like it. You won't hurt my feelings. In attempts to convince folks this is worth their time and money, I am having a contest. Once the book has 25 reviews, I will take the names of all 25 people who were kind enough to help me out, drop them in a hat, and randomly choose three to receive copies of the follow up to Down on the Street when it is (hopefully) published next year.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Pulp Modern Volume Two, Number Two Submission Window

Well, we're getting to that time again. Thanks to those of you who contributed to volume two, issue one, and a big thanks to those of you who purchased and reviewed the book. For those of you interested in submitting stories for issue number two, the submission window will be October 1 to October 10. Please read the guidelines. Submissions that do not conform to the guidelines are rejected without being read.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

George A. Romero and What It Means to be Independent

George A. Romero passed away this last Sunday. My facebook feed is filled with tributes. I must belong to all the right "groups," otherwise it would be nothing but cat pictures and histrionic parroting about "Russian collusion" and whatnot. I'm guessing Romero meant a lot of things to a lot of people. He absolutely transformed horror cinema. That would be enough to make him a legend. But he did so on his own, without any blessings from the Overlords of Hollywood, the suits and ties in the movie business who think they get to decide what will and won't be produced. This spirit of independence, to me, is Romero's most important contribution. As a writer who has been completely shunned by the mainstream publishing industry, I've had to go the independent route and it's not easy at all. Easy is selling out. Easy is "giving the people what they want." The difference between the corporate media and truly independent artists is the artists understand what the people want and what the people need are two different things. In 1968, the people may have wanted more pandering drivel like Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, but Romero gave them what they needed. Unlike a mainstream product, Night of the Living Dead wasn't made to be, ah, consumed over a weekend or two and then relegated to secondary markets. It took a while to build its steam and eventually became what the mainstream calls "a cult classic." That's their way of saying, "Gee, we really missed the fucking boat on that one!" In this day and age, when the corporate media cranks out nothing but one pandering, cloned product after another, that spirit of independence is more important than ever. The best thing we can do to honor the work and legacy of George A. Romero is to continue giving the public what it needs, even if it infuriates our corporate overlords.

And then, of course, when we're dead, we can come back to life and feast on our corporate overlords' guts!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Drive-in Radio: The Complete Slasher Cycle

So I declared summer, 2017, the Summer of Horror at Drive-in Radio on KBGA. I spent the first month talking about the Golden Age of the Slasher Film. All four episodes are now archived at YouTube for your listening pleasure:

Episode One: The Golden Age of the Slasher

Episode Two: The Politics of the Slasher

Episode Three: The Final Girl

Episode Four: The Top 10 Slashers

This month I'll be talking about George A. Romero, Wes Craven, Tobe Hooper, and John Carpenter.

If you want to tune in live, the show airs on KBGA Missoula, 89.9 FM, available for streaming here, on Tuesday nights from 10PM to Midnight, Mountain Standard Time (That's midnight on the East coast and 9PM on the West coast).

If you ever hear anything on the show your disagree with or want to discuss further, feel free to do so in the comments section here. Just don't write anything stupid!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Mr. Cizak has a horror story in MASSACRE MAGAZINE!

So just over a year ago I started writing horror stories (I should say I RESUMED writing horror stories since I wrote horror stories when I was a kid, before college poisoned me with idiotic aspirations to become an "intellectual") and a few have finally gotten published. The latest, "EMUQ," can be found in the new issue of Massacre Magazine. Like all my horror stories, it takes place in the Lake County region of Indiana in one of several towns I've invented. It's only 99 cents on your futuristic kindle device. Enjoy!

And if you want to read some more horror by Mr. Cizak, be sure to check out "Creepy" at Beat to a Pulp and "Atomic Fuel" in the latest issue of the outstanding Digest Enthusiast.

Friday, June 16, 2017


Just in time for Father's Day, a novella about the fantasy all red-blooded American males have: To quit your normal job and become a full-time pimp!

Here's what some folks have to say about this tender little love story:

"reminds me of the darker side of Bukowski" -- Grant Jerkins

"You won't want it to end" -- Eryk Pruitt

"Alec Cizak demonstrates...he remains among the top fiction writers alive" -- Rob Pierce


Monday, June 12, 2017

I discuss my personal experience with campus lunacy

Elizabeth White has allowed me to vent some frustrations about the current climate on our misguided college campuses. Read the full article here.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Mr. Cizak's Radio Show on KBGA

In case you missed it on my other social media advertising devices, I host a radio program on Tuesday nights called DRIVE-IN RADIO. It's a mix of me saying outrageous things about b-movies and various strains of 'billy' music--psychobilly, rockabilly, hellbilly, etc.

For an example of outrageous things I say, in the STAR WARS show I declared only the first Star Wars movie worth watching. Yes, I dismissed even THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. Unfortunately, somehow I managed to lose that show.

Here are links to archived shows on YOUTUBE:

The first in a series of shows on SLASHERS, this is the most recent broadcast.

Here's a show I did on the 1970s, THE SILVER AGE of the drive-in or, as I called it, A DECADE OF SLEAZE!

And here's a link to the show on AIP.

And finally, here's a show all about the influence of Ed Gein on contemporary horror films.

If you want to listen live, you can tune in on Tuesday nights from 10 to Midnight (Mountain time, which seems to be the same as Central Time) at KBGA.ORG. If, by chance, you are in the Missoula area, you can listen on your radio at 89.9 FM. I log the songs played at Spinitron, where you can also chat with me during the show.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Sean McDaniel and Alec Cizak reading at Shakespeare and Co. in Missoula

Mark your calendar and make your travel plans! On June 21, 2017, at 7PM, I'll be reading from DOWN ON THE STREET at Shakespeare and Co. in Missoula, MT. Sean McDaniel will be reading from his book CRIMINAL ZOO. Be there for the invasion of the Great Northwest!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Fiction by Mr. Cizak in The Digest Enthusiast #6

So let me take a break from pushing PULP MODERN Vol. 2 No. 1 to tell you about THE DIGEST ENTHUSIAST #6. I was interviewed for a previous issue of the journal to talk about PULP MODERN. This happened just as I had lost all faith in the reading public's interest in TRULY independent publishing (and I gotta' say, it hasn't picked up all that much; I'm editing PULP MODERN now for the sheer sake of providing an alternative to the crappy corporate digests and touchy-feely boring-ass "literary" digests out there).

ANYWAY, earlier this year, when I started getting the itch to produce more PULP MODERN issues, I happened to be flipping through one of my contributor copies of the THE DIGEST ENTHUSIAST. I realized the editor, Richard Krauss, seemed to know a whole hell of a lot more about putting together a professional-looking journal than I ever did. I wanted to see some of my fiction in a future issue of THE DIGEST ENTHUSIAST. I contacted Richard, sent him a story, and he said he liked it and would run it in the next issue. That's how the conversation about PULP MODERN started. The rest, for those of you with the money and good taste to purchase the latest issue know, is history.

SO, let me implore you to buy and read the latest issue of THE DIGEST ENTHUSIAST. Not only will you get to read a fun story of mine about conformity ("Atomic Fuel"), you will get to see why I asked Richard Krauss to join the PULP MODERN crusade. THE DIGEST ENTHUSIAST is the best of its kind. No debate about it. Buy it, read it, and, of course, as always, review it on Amazon and help the squares get hip to the independent scene.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

An Honest Plea

Dear non-writer friends, family, lovers, and enemies:

I recently re-launched PULP MODERN, a fiction journal filled with short stories by some great, independent writers from around the world. I’ve teamed up with Richard Krauss, who also produces an equally impressive journal called THE DIGEST ENTHUSIAST. Richard’s contribution has lifted PULP MODERN above the ranks of the thousands of independent journals out there by giving it a very professional look. The journal has been out for a week and, frankly, I’m very disappointed with the sales figures thus far. To be clear, this is not a profit-seeking venture. This is something I do to help my fellow writers by providing a non-corporate-influenced market they can send their work to. Sales figures, to me, represent how well the journal is read. Everyone involved is not doing this to pat themselves on the back, they are doing this to bring YOU, non-writer readers, something different from the vanilla, stale fiction journals you see on the stands at Barnes and Noble and other mainstream booksellers. You see, about thirty years ago, corporations started buying all the entertainment outlets that had any influence with the masses in effort to promote a singular, narrow-minded point of view. That’s why today, television, movies, and books and magazines are bland and uninteresting. We’re trying to provide an alternative to this neutered narrative the corporations want everyone to buy into. We can’t accomplish this without your help, though. Most of my friends, family, lovers, and enemies claim they like and support independent art. When I look at the sales figures for PULP MODERN, however, I know most of those who say they support it aren’t actually doing it.

Here’s what we need you to do:

1. Buy the journal. The journal is available in print for those of you who like to hold books in your hands, and in digital form for those of you who like to read on a kindle or similar such device. The price of the print journal is as low as I can go without the printer charging me extra for printing the book. Now, I understand Oprah doesn’t promote PULP MODERN. Nobody on the E! channel talks about PULP MODERN. The wonderful women on The View never discuss this journal. You probably think that means the journal is defective. No. It means it’s independent of any and all corporate influence. It means you’ll be reading fiction that hasn’t been watered-down to be “polite” or “politically correct.” That means you’re reading a REAL artist’s work. As I said, Richard Krauss has made sure this journal looks professional, so you can be seen in public with a copy of PULP MODERN and people won’t think you’re part of some cult or involved in some other unsavory activity. Reading a truly independent fiction journal won’t give you kooties or raise your property taxes. You will never be accused of being a communist or a “terrorist” by a House on UnAmerican Activities for reading PULP MODERN. This is not an example of “self-publishing,” so you don’t have to worry about the old fashioned stigma associated with self-publishing. You will be entertained, you will be enlightened, and you will be putting your money where your mouth is when it comes to supporting independent art.

2. Post a review at Amazon. Once you’ve made the great leap into the New Frontier and purchased and read (and thoroughly enjoyed) PULP MODERN, we need you to go to Amazon and post a review. Amazon promotes books according to the number of reviews a book has received. The first level starts with 25 reviews. This is very difficult for an independent journal to achieve, so we need ALL of you to do this. Whether you loved the journal or hated it, PLEASE take the time to post your thoughts at Amazon.

3. In order to encourage all my non-writer friends, family, lovers, and enemies to participate in this important endeavor, I will put the names of the first 25 people to review the journal into a hat and draw three to receive prizes. These prizes will be out-of-print books that are very hard to get now.

I thank you for your participation and hope that you will share this post with your friends, family, lovers, and enemies.

Here's a link to the print version.

Here's a link to the kindle version.

Here's a link to the Magzter version.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The New PULP MODERN Has Arrived!

The first review is already in -- the new Pulp Modern is excellent.

You may get your print copy here.

You may get your kindle copy here.

You may get your Magzter version here.

Both digital versions are in COLOR.

The writers and Art Director Richard Krauss of Larque Press, LLC, deserve the overwhelming majority of praise for this one.

Here's the reliable David Wilde's review.

Pulp Modern vanished for a year because I felt the efforts of myself and the writers were not appreciated. Let's make sure this resurrection is successful. Please purchase a copy, read it, and review it at Amazon. The goal is to get fiction to a broad audience that has not been pre-approved and sterilized by corporate-owned publications (fake fiction! fake fiction!). THIS is the revolution. It's now or never...

Friday, May 5, 2017

The Summer of Cizak!

"Alec Cizak's DOWN ON THE STREET reminds me of the darker side of Bukowski" -- Grant Jerkins.

Just a reminder -- pre-orders now being taken for DOWN ON THE STREET.

Also -- Pulp Modern makes its triumphant return on Tuesday, May 9.

Finally -- check out my radio program DRIVE-IN RADIO on KBGA 89.9 FM Missoula, Friday nights at midnight (MST). I will begin posting archived shows on youtube in the next few days. I talk about b-pictures and play psychobilly and rockabilly music.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Ladies and gentlemen, your Pulp Modern Vol. 2 No. 1 Lineup!

Here are the authors who have provided some fantastic fiction for the rebirth of Pulp Modern:

Mark David Adam
Calvin Demmer
Myke Edwards
L.S. Engler
Marc E. Fitch
Adam S. House
Lucy Kiff
Nick Manzolillo
Mario E. Martinez
Stephen D. Rogers
Joseph Rubas
Tim P. Walker
Michael Wertenberg

Richard Krauss (The Digest Enthusiast) has worked overtime to make this the finest fiction journal ever produced. Get your copy this May.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017


You may now put in your pre-orders for my new book, Down on the Street. Buy one for yourself and one to donate to your local university. The histrionic college kiddies are gonna' cream over this one!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Submission Time!

Hopefully you are aware that the submission window for Pulp Modern, Vol. 2, Issue 1, has opened. We will be taking submissions all month.

Also, if you write fiction that is shocking and would "trigger" the spineless editors at most "literary" journals, you might like to know the submission window for Profane Journal has also opened.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Mr. Cizak interviewed at Bad Citizen Corporation

S.W. Lauden was kind enough to ask me some questions about Down on the Street and other things. You may find the interview here.

Monday, February 6, 2017

First new submission window for Pulp Modern, Volume Two, Number One

In effort to make sure things are done better than before, I am going to open submissions for Pulp Modern in a very orderly fashion so I don't break my back reading submissions. The first submission window will open March 1, 2017, and end March 10, 2017. Depending on the quality of the submissions received, there will either be no more submission windows before the first issue is produced, or I will open another one in a month or so in attempts to find more quality submissions. What that means is, prepare your best work for that first window, because that may be the only one until we start work on the second issue. There is also a new email address for submissions:

therealpulpmodern (at) gmail (dot) com

Also, very important: Pulp Modern once again will publish crime, horror, fantasy, science fiction, and westerns.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Pulp Modern, Volume Two

After some discussion with Richard Krauss, who edits the outstanding Digital Digest Enthusiast, I am bringing back Pulp Modern way, way ahead of schedule. I'm afraid it won't be quite what I had suggested a few weeks ago, but I've decided it's more important to have Pulp Modern available as a market for writers than it is to nourish my nostalgia for the 1930s magazine market. I still will not be able to pay what I would like to, but I will enact a ten dollars per story flat rate that I will be paying out of my own pocket. Richard Krauss is going to help with the layout and other aspects to make sure this is the best, most professionally-presented independent journal possible while I focus on making sure the best possible stories are published. As I know more, I will post here, at twitter, and facebook.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017


Well, if I haven't pissed off the entire world yet, my next novella just may do the trick.

Stay tuned.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Coming Soon!

"Faces shine, real low mind" -- The Stooges

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Grant Jerkins' ABNORMAL MAN: Testing Thresholds of Empathy

Abnormal Man is one of those books—it’s going to take you places you would never voluntarily go. But you’ll go along for the ride, because Grant Jerkins gives you little choice. Written in the second-person present tense, Grant implicates the reader in the thoughts and actions of his three main characters, forces empathy with people you normally hope the law will catch up with and either lock them away for good.

The book is about Billy, a teenager who gets a sexual thrill from fire. Circumstances put him on the road with Frank, an older, violent, even more troubled character. They end up at a trailer with Chandler, a much older, much more twisted individual who deals in dope and mild child pornography (if there is such a thing). From that description, the average person no doubt feels compelled to turn away. But Jerkins’ writing chops are on-point—just enough description to put you in the time and place of the action. Observations are made that all people, whether they’re suffering similar psychosis to the characters or consider themselves “normal,” have made (the most obvious being the impression young Billy has of the moon, and how he carries that impression with him throughout the book).

This is not always an easy book to read. Squeamish, unimaginative (and I would argue, people devoid of genuine empathy) readers might toss it out early on, excusing their lack of empathy by saying, “I don’t like these characters.” But for the reader interested in understanding minds unlike their own, it does what great books are supposed to do—it drops you right in the shoes of strangers and allows you to think about society’s “undesirables” in ways more complex than simple black and white generalizations. I couldn’t help but think of Lolita as I read it, and how that book no doubt shocked readers when it was first published. Abnormal Man should shock the status quo, but it should also be elevated to the same critical status as Nabokov’s book.

(Abnormal Man was the first publication from ABC Group Documentation, who will be publishing my novella Down on the Street in a few months)

Monday, January 2, 2017

Mr. Cizak Returns to Beat to a Pulp!

So the first story in the Lake County mythology I'm putting together has been published at Beat to a Pulp. It's called "Creepy" and takes on what I think of the over-use of that particular word. Enjoy!

Friday, December 23, 2016

The Second Life of Pulp Modern

So I spent the last three months researching and designing an online course at the college I teach at called Fantasy, Horror, and Science Fiction Literature. In the process, I had to revisit the original pulps for all three genres and my love and fascination with writing that is truly imaginative was rekindled. I fucking love these magazines. Is there anything on the newsstand today that rivals Amazing and Astounding? Weird Tales? No. Not even close. Bringing back a culture of fantastic fiction through pulp publications was a goal of mine five years ago and I failed. I failed miserably.

Pulp Modern's first two issues approached what I had originally set out to do. After that, the journal (there's a problem right there--calling it a journal instead of a magazine) started to veer in odd directions. People noticed and hardly anybody submitted stories until I went to the "themed" issue idea. Well, this was all fine and dandy, but again, it was far away from my original intentions. That's not to say that every issue of Pulp Modern wasn't its own little masterpiece. I love issue five, the variety of stories in it was amazing. The JFK issue looked like something 20-year old Alec Cizak would have produced, full of paranoia (see Joe Clifford's story for an example) and all out rage, not to mention the highly imaginative pieces by Chris Rhatigan and Mav Skye. Stories in the drugs issue earned praise from Otto Penzler's assistant who helps put together the Best Mystery Stories anthologies (or something like that). And the last issue, when I went all crime all the time, was wall to wall great crime fiction. I'm proud of every issue of Pulp Modern and the writers who contributed should be even prouder of the work they produced. But Pulp Modern was inflicted by the sensibilities (or lack thereof) of the academy. The very name, Pulp Modern, suggested "postmodern" work would be acceptable. And I certainly did publish some stories that could fall under that category. But I feel that alienated the genuine genre writers out there who, ultimately, like me, don't want to waste time writing stories where the writer overtly pats him or herself on the back for being so gosh darned clever. Again, far, far away from what a real pulp is supposed to be.

The lack of sales versus the amount of time I put into producing Pulp Modern led to its demise. Not enough people cared and I blame that on lack of publicity and lack of exposure. Most people who might want a nice collection of stories to read on the subway or while they're sitting on the toilet don't look for material like that on Amazon. They see something on a newsstand or at Barnes and Noble, the cover catches their attention, and if they like the description on the back, they buy it. That means that any real movement toward a thriving market of pulp magazines needs to go a bit the old fashioned way--real magazines need to be printed up and distributed to book stores and newsstands.

So, all that being said, my ultimate plan is to start one of these kickstarter funds or whatever the hell they're called, and raise the kind of money that would allow for the publication of a real pulp magazine that actually pays writers a decent sum of money for their work (I, and hopefully the rest of you, have reached a point where publishing "for free" is not acceptable. Writing is work and it should be rewarded as such. Nobody asks a janitor to mop floors for free...). That is my goal and I will begin assembling a team of people to help make this happen. I don't know if the result will be called Pulp Modern, or if I'll start with a particular genre and then branch out with magazines for all the different genres. But that's the thinking for now. Any comments or suggestions are welcome.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Merry Christmas!

Just thought I'd say Merry Christmas to the two or three people who still read this "blog," if it can even be called a blog.

I've spent the majority of this year working. I wrote the rough draft to a novel. I look forward to polishing it and sending it out to be rejected by editors some time in 2017.

In January, 2017, Beat to a Pulp will publish a short story of mine called "Creepy."

Later in the year, ABC Group Documentation will publish Down on the Street, a novella I started work on way back in 2012. It's about a cabbie who makes the wonderful decision to become a pimp.

An old friend of mine recently read the "weird fiction" stories I've been working on for the last nine months and said she found them "tame." Of course, I'm trying to write elegant horror stories, so I shouldn't have been surprised by her assessment. My ego couldn't take it, however. I've pulled out a nasty little novella called Temple of the Rat that scared me pretty bad when I was last working on it in 2014 (it's actually the novella I had started for Drive-in Fiction way, way back in 2011). It's the most disgusting thing I've ever written. We'll see if I can find a home for it.

Now that I've forced myself to write a complete draft of a novel I'm not so hesitant to start another one. I hope to write at least one or two more over the next twelve months in addition to writing a feature-length script I'll shoot on my nice, new HD video camera here in Missoula some time in the summer.

Once again, have a great holiday season and hopefully I'll have much more to report over the next year.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Interview: Greg Barth

In case you didn't know, Greg Barth is a juggernaut in independent publishing. He sells more Selena books in one month than most of us will sell in our entire lives. When I saw him mention outlining on Facebook, I thought it might be interesting to hear more about his writing process. I sent him some questions, and here are the fascinating answers he provided:

1. You’ve stated you use the Save the Cat! beat sheet to outline your books. How close do you stick to Snyder’s beat sheet? Do you ever switch anything up in the beat sheet? About how long does it take you to get the outline to a point where you’re ready to write a book? How thorough would you say your outlines are when you’re ready to write a book?

I don't stick very close to it. I think it's a good guide as to whether or not I have enough story to begin writing, but I never nail down all 15 beats. To me, building a story and writing the story are two separate actions. Before I begin writing, I like to have what I think of as "three big scenes". Those scenes are usually violent and emotionally charged, and those are the scenes I write toward and look forward to getting to. Those scenes would be the break from act one to act two, the midpoint, and then a break into act three. I want each of those scenes to change the direction of the story. I come up with those scenes by thinking about them while driving each day. Once I have those, it's a matter of figuring out how to get things started in an interesting way. 

I don't do any writing until I have a good bit of the story figured out. I am not the kind of person who can sit and make something up by writing. If I don't have enough story to excite me to write, then it's not time to write yet. I spend a lot more time playing with the story in my head than it takes me to write the book. This usually takes a few weeks or months. The outlining only takes a couple of days. When I do sit down to actually write the book, it usually only takes me two weeks or so to have a draft complete. 

I never outline the last 25% of the book. Sometimes I have an idea of where I want it to end, but more often than not, that's just the closing scene, not the climax of the story. My outline for act three usually just says, "she murders everyone" or something along those lines. 

Also, while it's not one of the beats, Blake Snyder talks about the crucial "Save the Cat" scene. That's the scene where the protagonist does a kindness, and it helps endear them to the reader. I never include that scene. My character is just not that kind of person. 

2. How much prewriting do you do with respect to characters? Do you write thorough biographies for each one? Do you have a list of questions you answer for each character? How much thought goes into minor characters before you write a book?

I don't do any prewritimg of characters. I find that I grow bored with secondary characters, so it's rare that I have on in more than a single book. Some of them get killed off, others just fall by the wayside between books. When I think up a secondary character, I want there to be a contrast with my main character. They don't have to be polar opposites necessarily, but it helps if there is enough diffference to drive tension. 

3. Outlining seems to be a choice some writers make while others (including, apparently, Stephen King) don’t believe in outlining. For writers just cutting their teeth and getting started, can you make an argument for why outlining is necessary? Have you ever tried to write a novel without first outlining? How did that go?

I think you have to find what works for you. I just can't sit down and make up a story by writing it. I have to build the story in my head first until I get something I am excited enough to write about. I think of myself as a story builder first and foremost. Writing the story is just a medium to get it told. I enjoy the writing itself, but it's always about the story, not so much the writing. I'll never be one to put in a lot of detailed description or cool metaphors or any other poetic devices. I just want to tell the story in a straightforward manner. 

I can't think of a time that I wrote something without at least a mental outline. Road Carnage gave me quite a bit of trouble even with outlines. I completely scrapped everything and started from scratch five times. Each of those five versions are very different. I started off writing a meandering road novel, something along the lines of On the Road. That just didn't work. I tried writing it with a different protagonist from a third person POV. Scrapped that too. It wasn't until I had a strong outer motivation and high stakes that drove a fast paced story that I had any success with writing it. Once I had that, the story basically wrote itself over about two weeks. I think of Road Carnage as one of the hardest novels I've written and also among the easiest. Once I had the right story, it all clicked into place. 

4. What do you say to those who argue following a template just produces the same story over and over again?

I think that is a possibility if you are too rigid with your outline. Story structure is important to me, but structure is not the story itself. There's an endless variety of ways to make the framework suit almost any story. But at the same time, you have to go with your gut and do what feels right for the particular story. Once I am actually doing the writing, I don't think so much about the outline anyway. 

5. The Selena books have been amazingly successful. Without giving away anything top secret, can you tell us steps you took to make sure word about your book got out there?

I wish there was a top secret, but there isn't. I start with trying to write the most exciting story that I can. And then I make every effort to be accessible. I am fortunate enough that a few readers have reached out to me. I don't think being a writer is that big of a deal, I don't think of my readers as "fans", and I try to never talk down to them. Part of an entertainer is just being nice. I try to engage on social media with readers, and I enjoy getting to know them. 

I've been very fortunate in getting a number of kind reviews for the series, but there's no real secret. I just try to be out there and engage where I can, whether it is on Facebook, or at Noir at the Bar, or wherever. 

I post about the books fairly frequently in social media, especially if a new volume is out, or there's a review to share.

I'd like to thank Greg for taking the time to answer my questions and I encourage anyone who hasn't read his work to fix that situation ASAP.