Sunset in the Land of Laughter

I’ve been hit by death in my life. My father died at 52, my brother at 36. The pain was surreal…and then leveling. I know heart hurt. Last week, though not as heavy and I’m guessing not as lingering, the death of Robin Williams hit me harder than maybe it should. I mean, I didn’t know the guy. I’m not family or friend, but there’s something about watching something so beautiful and bright go dark.

I remember watching Popeye and Mork and Mindy when I was a little brat in the trailer park, and years later, Mrs. Doubtfire, Good Morning Vietnam, and my personal favorite, Good Will Hunting.

For me, Robin’s true magic poured out when he was on talk shows. Especially Letterman. If Robin was the guest, I had to watch. Watching him explode from one hilarious bit to another, and then improvising at breakneck speeds was brilliant. Beyond that, it was special. He was the sun.

When I heard he had died, I was sad. When I heard how he died, I was hurt. If I’d not thought it was a stupid Facebook hoax (and then prayed it was a stupid Facebook host), I may have shed tears right there at work. It had that horrible “can’t be real” feel to it. The same surreal truth that I felt when I heard my dad, and then my brother had passed. It took it’s time setting in.

It really struck me in two mean shots.

The first hard strike came when  I sat down with my wife and kids and watched Mrs. Doubtfire the other night. Near the end of the movie, when Sally Fields announces to the kids that they have a new nanny and she opens the door and he’s there smiling…that smile. That face. As much as anything he said with his words or his movements, it was all there on that face, in that incredible smile. Look at him again. The twinkle in his eyes. His face was built to smile. It was full of humor, heart, joy, care, happiness.

RWrobin-williams-mork RW2 RW3

The second shot to my heart came with the knowledge that I–we–no longer get to see that smile anymore. He’s not going to sit down and then hop right back up from that chair across from Dave or Conan or Jimmy…that smile is no longer going to burn for us all to see. To keep us warm, to melt our hardened hearts, to give us that lift we might not have even know we needed.

Tonight I shed my tears. I miss you Robin. May your smile light the other side of Heaven. Nanu, Nanu.

RW SUN

Why You Gotta Be So Mean–Take 2: Let it Go

AAAATROLL

In Internet slang, a troll (/ˈtrl//ˈtrɒl/) is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people,[1] by posting inflammatory,[2] extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response[3] or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.[4]

*Fair warning: the opinions in this piece are not meant to bring you to tears, or in any way make you want to quit what you love to do. Remember, they are only words.

Okay, so a few months back, I wrote a piece about people (writers) who have mean things to say about their contemporaries. My beef was with social media-types who went out of their way to tell us that somebody else was terrible or overrated. Now, I wanna talk about the place where people are supposed to give you their opinions. In the past year, I’ve seen quite a few of my writer friends complaining about “trolls”–specifically, the secretive 1-star villains of the Amazon book review world. Even Anne Rice demanded that someone needs to put a stop to them.

Are we really that sensitive? Does it really matter what a small cluster of people write about us? I mean, what are we talking about here? An individual, or tiny armies of assassins, who seek out writers of all levels of success and try to obliterate their series of good reviews by expressing to the rest of us that the work stinks? Does it take a certain amount of ego to consider that this is really happening to you? Or maybe it’s total paranoia.  Say the words out loud: This person sought me out and is trying to ruin my sales by saying they didn’t like my book.  Doesn’t that sound ridiculous? Yes, it does.

AAAANINJA

Let’s look at a couple of the ones I’ve seen…

Some of the common ones are things like “they gave my book a bad rating and admitted that they don’t normally read my genre!” Hey, maybe it’s just me, but sometimes I like to read outside of my genre, too. And you know what? Sometimes I genuinely don’t like the writing. Am I not allowed to say so just because it’s outside of my genre (outside of what I guess I’m supposed to know)?

Or how about “they didn’t even finish the book, but still gave it a bad rating!”  Yep, but guess what? They put that in the review, right? Everyone can read right in the review that the reviewer didn’t finish the book. Maybe your style was not for them. Maybe they’d seen it before? Maybe they really thought it was awful and they feel the need to warn people against all of your “friends” reviews. I’m not saying that if you have good reviews they’re all from your friends, but chances are a few of them are.

People, it is possible that someone genuinely doesn’t like your work. So you get a couple of 1 or 2 star reviews. Maybe the person’s a jerk with nothing better to do. Maybe they felt the need to tell people their wonderful opinion. Whatever the case, is it really gonna hurt you and your pile of 3,4, and 5 star reviews? No. And it’s not the end of the world. If you think it is, well, maybe you’re a bit too sensitive to be offering up your work to the public.

I don’t want my writer buds that have spoken out against “trolls” to take this as an attack on them, or as me siding with the dark side.I know it can hurt when someone tears apart something that you put so much heart and soul and pieces of yourself into, but it’s going to happen. Just roll with it and let it go. If you’ve seen my reviews you’ll see that I usually try to find the good in a book even if I didn’t like the overall story or writing. If it’s less than 3 stars to me, I try not to say anything. But that’s me. There are a whole lot of readers with a whole lot of tastes and opinions.  If you can’t handle the feedback (warranted in your mind or otherwise) maybe you need to just hand out your books to your friends.

Some words of advice from Oasis

Castle of Ambition: Walking the Halls of Darkness with Author Jonathan Janz

I got a chance to interview one of the most fun and prolific horror writers from the Samhain family, Mr. Jonathan Janz. His debut, The Sorrows, brought him high praise from Brian Keene and a rabid following. He’s tackled ghosts, vampire westerns (Dust Devils), serial novels (Savage Species), and soon, exorcisms (yikes!). I admire his style, his effortless ability to churn out one quality piece after another, and his accessibility. He doesn’t shy away from his fans. You can find him responding on a daily basis to his faithful followers on Facebook or his blog.

This month, Janz returned with his latest effort, Castle of Sorrows, the sequel to his highly praised debut.  He took a few moments out of his hectic writing/family schedule to chat with me.

JANZ

Thanks for taking the time, man.

Thanks for taking the time to talk to me!

What was your main profession prior to writing? Do you still work, or is it full-time writing for you?

I’m a high school and junior high English, Film Literature, and Creative Writing teacher. I write during summers, before school, and after my family has gone to sleep.

What really kick started your interest in this gig?

Stephen King and a car crash. When I discovered King when I was fourteen, I discovered the joy of reading. When I crashed my car during my eighteenth year and nearly died, I spent several weeks in bed with nothing to do but read and write. I realized I loved to write, even though I wasn’t any good at it back then. 

Your talent seems so natural. What really helped your writing early on? When did you think ‘I can do this’?

Thanks, Glenn! I had several people who encouraged me. My family, some teachers…but I still doubted myself until some people I really trusted to be objective—Don D’Auria, Louise Fury, and Brian Keene, to name three—said positive things about my work.

Those are some pretty nice people to listen to.

Your vocabulary is off the charts. I find myself looking up words pretty regularly in your novels. Where did this come from and where can I get some?

Hah! Thanks again, Glenn. It’s all organic for me from my reading. Like you, I’m in love with the language, and when I read a word I really like, it sort of sticks in my brain and germinates and awaits the right moment to be called into action. But it has to fit; otherwise, it’s just pretentiousness. Most of the words I find myself writing down in my daily life are normal words that I’ve simply neglected to use. Words like indicated or slashed.

When did your serious writing begin?

I didn’t really get serious about writing until I quit coaching basketball (I was a varsity basketball coach for a decade, as well as a varsity track coach and a coach of several other sports and levels). So that would have been about seven years ago. I didn’t know what it would take at that point, but I did begin to take the craft more seriously and begin to develop more self-discipline, which I think is one of the primary ingredients of success in any endeavor.

Do you have an agent?

I do. Louise Fury represents me, and she has been incredible for me and my career. An agent isn’t for everyone, but for me, it has been indispensable.

What’s a day in the writing life for you look like? Any routines/rituals?

During the summer, I spend the morning and early afternoon with my wife and kids. Then I write from 1:15 until 4:45. I listen to baroque music and sit in my chair by an upstairs window. I drink coffee, water, and munch on almonds. Oh, and invariably, my three-year-old will wake up from her nap and come in to visit me. On some afternoons this happens about fifteen or twenty times.

I have three, too. I hear ya. I know my at home writing schedule is constantly changing. Sometimes I have a few hours before the clan wakes up, sometimes I sneak in a midnight scribbling session, but usually someone wakes up and pulls me from the “writing zone”. How do you find the time to write?

I basically cut out everything else that most people enjoy doing. I don’t watch movies unless I’m with my wife, my kids, or working out. I almost never hang out with friends. I almost never watch sports or television (unless I’m sharing the experience with a family member). So basically, I’m either with my family, teaching, or writing for the majority of my life. It sounds dull, but I’m incredibly happy.

Samhain….

What’s the best thing about being a part of the Samhain family?

Working with Don is great. Another thing I love is developing relationships with my fellow authors. I’ve met some great people both on the writing side of things and the business side of Samhain. 

I’m right there with you. Don and the other authors I’ve had a chance to meet so far have been amazing and welcoming.

keene-janz

Let’s dive into some of your Samhain novels. Starting with The Sorrows. I thought there were a lot of hugely impressive pieces in there. From the building of your characters– Ben, Claire, Eddie, and even Chris, and even Daniel’s journal–to the way you weaved back and forth through the past to the present. The novel was praised as ‘the best of 2012’ by Brian Keene. How did you not let that go to your head? Did it at any point paralyze you? Or was it motivation?

The Brian Keene mention, as you have guessed, was very important to me. It did feel incredibly validating to have this awesome writer who I admire say such positive things about my work. But it didn’t go to my head or make me relax. Like you said in your question, it really motivated me to do even better. For me, everything is motivation—from the soul-crushing disappointments to the breathtaking highs. It all motivates me to improve.

JANZ

Obviously, you know I enjoyed Savage Species…loved the Laymon and Ketchum vibes you had going in there.  How did you like the serial experience? Would you do it again?

Thank you! I loved the serial experience and would love to do it again. It wouldn’t work for every book, but for the right one, like Savage Species, I think it’s ideal.

 

 

You have some new works coming. Let’s talk about Exorcist Road. Is this going to scare the hair off of my nuts? Can you tell us a little about it?

Hah! Well, I hope it scares you that badly. It’s inspired by several sources, most recently John Farris’s Son of the Endless Night and the novels of William Peter Blatty. As you’d imagine, there are demonic/spiritual overtones in the book, but what I really like about it is the mystery/suspense angle. It’s kind of a horror whodunit. And I really love the characters in this one. It’s also the first story I’ve written entirely in the first-person, which was a blast to do.

COS JANZ

 

Sounds awesome. Can’t wait to read that one. Next, we have Castle of Sorrows. Beautiful cover!  For me, the best part of The Sorrows was that it pushed on every emotional button I have. What can we expect to be put through this time around, and (without giving too much away) how is it going to be different?

Castle of Sorrows is the darkest thing I’ve ever written. It’s bleaker and more violent than my other stuff, but again, there’s a real emotional core there that anchors the book. Ben Shadeland is a lot like me in that he’ll do anything he can to protect his family. But like most dads, he sometimes questions his ability to do that. In Castle, he faces just about every horror imaginable.  

What made you want to write a sequel?

The story really lent itself to that. I love the setting, the premise, the main villain, and the protagonist. There’s a great deal of growth potential there, even after two books. I’m probably going to write a third book to complete the trilogy, but that won’t be for a couple of years.

Any timetable on book 3?

Yep! It will likely be written in 2016 and will hopefully be published in 2017. But those are just guesses.

There are some classical references in The Sorrows. What bands or artists do you crank when you ride alone to the store?

Boring answer, but I almost have a kid with me. If I don’t, it’s a book on tape or silent time to think and develop my ideas. But musically, my favorites are George Strait, Metallica, The Doors, and anything classical.

I like the variance in artists. I’m the same way.

images

For me, The Exorcist is the scariest move all-time; The Texas Chainsaw Massacre the best horror film all-time. How about for you? Scariest all-time, and best horror all-time?

Great choices! I’ve gotta agree on The Exorcist. For me, the best horror film would be Jaws because of what it did to be psychologically and because it’s simply a perfect movie.

LOVE Jaws! Give me a personal favorite from each of these greats. Doesn’t have to be your favorite, but maybe one that holds a special place in your heart:

King‘Salem’s Lot or The Stand

LaymonThe Woods Are Dark

KetchumRed or The Girl Next Door

Rapid Fire:

What’s in your DVD player right now?

 The second Percy Jackson movie (I just watched it with my son for his birthday).

Burger or Pizza?

Beer or Wine?

Does your wife ever read your work? (Mine refuses to)

Sorry to hear that! My wife has read a couple of my books, but she doesn’t usually get into horror, so she’s got some catching up to do.

Thank you for talking with me!

Thank you so much for talking to me, Glenn! 

 

Find Jonathan Here!

His Amazon Page: Jonathan Janz

His Blog: Jonathanjanz.com

His Samhain Horror Page: Samhain-Jonathan Janz

 

 

 

 

 

 

Killing Your Friends: Another Inside Peek at The Haunted Halls

A piece from last month that I really dig.

Okay, so writers know that they have to build characters that you (constant reader) care about. Unfortunately, being in the horror business, some of these lovable folks have to die. We’ve read this article/this advice before. Now, how about this? How about we write our “real” friends into our horrible, macabre masterpieces, and then we murder them for you?

This is another true tale from the creation of my debut novel releasing later this month, The Haunted Halls.

HH pronmo

So if you read my previous post on the long journey this novel took to come to fruition, you know it started as a short story for the serial novel site, JukePop Serials. Well, once that first chapter (which turned into the prologue) went live on the website, I needed to write what happened next. I needed a story, and I needed characters–some cool characters to make you care about…

View original post 429 more words