Friday, July 31, 2009

Back to the Basics

It seems I didn't have writer's block so much as I just needed a change of pace. I've decided to go back to the basics, for now, and work on some new short stories for anthologies. The first anthology I'm trying to write for is called "Weird Westerns" and is due on August the fifteenth. While that doesn't give me much time, I think I can write a weird western quickly. I've actually had plans to write one for a long time but just never got around to it.

The next anthology I need to work on is "Amazing Alternity Stories." This one just sounds like a ton of fun because you take a historical figure and throw them into a strange alternate universe. For example, Albert Einstein could be a swashbuckler or George Washington could be a maritime adventurer. I don't have an idea yet, but it just sounded like too much fun to pass up. That one is due on August thirty first, though so I don't have much time. We'll see what I can accomplish when I put my mind to it.

Either way, I'm already twenty one hundred words into the Western story and I think it's going pretty well. Wish me luck on finishing it by the fifteenth. For some reason I usually work better with a deadline. I hope this is one of those times, and I hope they like it. Even if they don't, that will give me one more story to add to the homeless story collection and someone will eventually want it. Like I said, wish me luck. I'll be keeping you notified on how it goes and which ones I'll be working on next.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Writer's Block

Here we are in the second week of writer's block. Even though I said I was going to try to write something new last week, it never came to me. Every single time I sit down on the computer expecting to write something, nothing is what comes to me. Oh well. There isn't much I can do. For some reason, all of my other projects that don't involve writing a story come along nicely during this time, so I'll use this time as a break from writing and to work on my other projects.

I don't take enough breaks anyway. Since I work at home usually after my chores for the day I have some spare time, but I take things so seriously I won't sit down to take a break. Who knows without my writing and with more free time, maybe I'll even play some video games or pick up another book to read. Either way, the longest bit of writer's block I ever had lasted about two months. Usually when this happens, it's more like two weeks.

Wish me luck. I know I'll get through this, it's just very frustrating. It's usually not a good idea to try to force creativity, so I'll do what I can when I feel inspired again. In the meantime, I'll keep writing on my blog and I think for once I might actually visit some web forums. That's something I've never really gotten into on the internet, but I hear it's pretty fun. I'll let you know which ones I decide to join.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Weird Carolinas and Ghost Hunting

I love South Carolina. Still, to the rest of the world, I know this city looks like a population of hicks and rednecks. I blame the media for that. Whenever there's a hurricane or a natural disaster, it seems they always interview the people with the least amount of teeth, especially if those people happen to be illiterate. Not to mention the controversy over the "rebel flag." (Please, don't get me started...)

Still, my love for this state was rekindled as I picked up the book "Weird Carolinas." It reminded me of all the strange folktales and haunted places in this state. We have lizard-men, ghosts, eccentric artists, cryptozoological animals, and buildings dating back to the civil war, most of which are also haunted. Not to mention the tunnels under the main streets, occupied by "The Third Eye Man." (And people wonder why I'm a horror novelist...)

The flavor of this state is intriguing. All of the counties and cities are different and vary widely from one another. For example, the city of Columbia is slowly being assimilated by the University of South Carolina, and no matter how much of it I see, there's always something new. (Once I discovered an old fashioned pub located on the basement floor of one of the skyscrapers.)

Reading this book also reminded me that I have to go ghost hunting again soon. Granted, so far I haven't been able to find much evidence, but I know strange things are out there. After all, I lived in a haunted house for a short period of time. And, to all of you skeptics out there, you'll change your tune once you see, hear, or feel, something that isn't possible. I sincerely hope that you do, it broadens your perspective on life.

Ghost hunting, especially with friends is a lot of fun. Get some cameras, tape recorders, a compass, and go. Half of the fun is seeing everyone getting very freaked out over something that turns out to be nothing--remind me to tell you the story of the cemetery balloon.

I plan to get my friends together soon to visit the most haunted city in the state, as well as one of the most haunted cities in the world, Charleston, SC. If I find anything I'll post pictures, and either way, I'm sure I'll have some amusing stories to tell. Wish me luck on that. Sometimes it's difficult to get everyone together, especially since many of my friends work on the weekends, but I still want to try. And, if not Charleston, I do have friends that know of other good places in the state to look.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Time for a Change

Even though I love the cyberpunk genre, I'm thinking of taking a break from it and working on a new fantasy novel. Still, before I go into the "why," I'd like to tell you a little more about my completed trilogy of novels.

The trilogy of cyberpunk books I've written take place in "Cimmerian City," a futuristic city with the ruins of the original city buried beneath it in a series of underground caves. I'm content with how the books turned out, and I only have one more to proof read for content before they'll all be ready for some serious editing, and hopefully publishing. I've started on a fourth book in this universe as well, but I just don't want to burn myself out on the setting or the characters. They mean to much to me to do that.

This is the teaser I always send with my query letters for the first novel of the series, Eternity Game. Let me know what you think.

The main character, Rose, is rescued from a plane hijacking by a mysterious stranger named Julio and a romance begins to bloom. Rose and Julio are swept into a plot of corporate sabotage when androids are brutally destroyed in the building where Rose works. One of her friends even goes missing while trying to solve the mystery. Rose’s life is also repeatedly threatened when the conspirators believe she knows too much. When Rose and Julio finally bring those responsible to justice, Rose is confronted by Julio’s mysterious past and he is forced to reveal himself as a vampire. His offer to turn her into a vampire is the catalyst for her kidnapping and ultimately involvement in a dark underworld that she never knew existed.

All of the novels I'm writing in the cyberpunk universe take place in this city and are connected to each other by characters and the way the characters interact with the world. For instance, in one of the later books Julio is forced to resort to something horrific to survive, feeding on an infant. He manages to help the child survive. One day, that same child will be one of the main characters in a novel called "Extraordinary," a book about a group of teenagers with psychic abilities taking place in the same city. I'm about one hundred and fifty pages into that novel as well. Ironically, I came up with the idea for that novel before I started writing the trilogy. (Something else you should know about me, I'm a speed writer. I wrote the trilogy in a little less than a year, and I didn't rush through it.)

However, even though I love this series, I'm going to take a break from it and write something totally different. I haven't gotten far in the fantasy novel I'm planning, but I can tell you a little more about the setting. It takes place in a world where strong emotional settings give life to the creatures of chaos, the fey. The fey rely on the humans to feed on their memories, dreams, emotions, and sometimes even their souls, but as with most entities born from imagination, there are good fey and bad. For instance, if they're manifesting on an old battleground, they might become the likeness of ghosts or wraiths. If they're in a forest surrounded by superstition, they might become dragons, unicorns, or tree spirits. The plot of the book centers around a girl who finds out that she is in actuality a changeling. She's shunned from both worlds, but has to find her place in both of them.

Anyway, let me know what you think. The idea is still in it's early stages. Thanks for reading.

Friday, July 17, 2009


The title of this entry is referring to the Kafka novel. I've observed that writing is a dynamic process that changes as we improve our skills, and changes us in the journey. I'll explain.

When I first started writing, it was around my senior year of high school. I began writing a generic fantasy novel in an old notebook in my spare time. Eventually, with college approaching and other worries, I put the novel away and decided I would work on it again later. (I probably knew I didn't intend to, but I did anyway. At the time I didn't think I wanted to be a writer for a living. I thought I wanted to be a graphic designer...but we'll save my reasons for changing jobs for another entry.)

When I went to college, I became involved in gaming and wrote a very long character history, and added to that history chapter by chapter. I showed it to my friends who were very encouraging, telling me that they really enjoyed it and that they wanted to see more. So every time I wrote on the history I showed it to them in weekly installments. They told me that I should be a writer.

I also, during this time, took a creative writing class and wrote my first short horror story, "Jack and Jill." It was about a woman being haunted by the ghost of her suicidal boyfriend. My writing teacher told me that it was the best short horror story he had seen in his class in years and I should publish it. He pointed me in the direction for finding a magazine to submit it to.

Well, to make a long story short, I found both the notebook and the character history recently when I was going through some old papers. I read them and couldn't believe it. THEY WERE TERRIBLE! The grammar was like that of a third grader, and it was kind of me to think the plots were simply generic. Also, the characters were all two dimensional. I don't think one of them changed. I even found my old copy of "Jack and Jill" and, while it wasn't as bad as the fantasy novel or the character history, in comparison to the short stories I write now the style definitely needed improvement.

It was then that I realized in just a few years my writing had changed so much that looking back on it I could barely recognize my own work. It also made me realize that the more I write, the better I'll be. I'll probably be looking back on my first novels in ten years and thinking the same thing.

Still, I'm not trying to say that those people who liked my work had bad taste, or that they were lying to me to make me feel good. It just made me realize I could do so much better for my friends and for everyone that reads my work. It made me wish I could let them read what I've been working on right now. The work I started then is so sub par compared to the work I have now, it's amazing. While the realization was kind of sad, it also made me happy at the same time--it means I made it. When you can subjectively look at your work and see how dramatically your style has changed and improved, it means you're developing your own style and morphing into a real writer.

I've noticed that I feel at home cloistered in my writing room and staring at the computer for hours on end. How much writing I've done for the day greatly increases or decreases my mood, because writing is not only my job, but my pleasure. Ironically though, since I'm allowed to stay home and write, it means I'm also unemployed. Even when my novels get published on any official form, there's no place to circle the job "writer." So, in some ways, I'm like Gregor, cloistered inside of my room and unable to work. But, I like to think my metamorphosis is more like that of a butterfly, and less offensive to my family. I just need a chance to spread my wings.

This blog entry is for those of you who want to write. The moral is, don't give up when you get rejected, but also remember that the stories you write starting out, are the stories you'll probably hate later. Don't be discouraged by that, but think of it as a journey, your own personal metamorphosis that you'll get to watch as you improve.

In the future, I'll be adding more blog entries to help out beginning writers. Even though I still technically am one, I have enough experience to at least help. I remember that I had a very hard time getting started and needed as much guidance as possible. For those of you who are just starting to write, I recommend these books.

The Writer's Market - It's a yearly compilation of publishers, magazines, trade journals, literary agents, and also provides some advice for writing query letters and other important tips for beginners.

Stephen King A Memoir of the Craft On Writing - This is a very straightforward book that gives you interesting insight into the life of one of the greatest horror novelists (in my opinion), as well as everything from where he gets his inspiration from what to do to get your own career started.

William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White's The Elements of Style - This short book gives you not only good tips about common grammatical mistakes, but also tells you basic principles of composition and ways to start forming your own style.

I'm sure there are many more. And, anyone who reads this, feel free to add to the list. But, these three will at least get you started on the right path. I hope this list helps a little, and remember, READ! READ! READ! Reading will improve your writing.

Thanks for reading. I'll have more for you in the future, including samples of my work. (Maybe even samples of my early work, if I'm brave enough...)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

An Addict's Introduction

My pen name is Nancy Gray and I'm a writer. (My pen name used to be Angela Gray, so for those of you following the two anthologies I mentioned in my bio, that will be the name the stories are published under.) I write horror, science fiction, and fantasy, and sometimes a combination of genres also known as "speculative fiction." Still, don't let the idea of speculative fiction scare you away. I'm in it to entertain myself and others, not to make a point or "seem clever."

When I decided to start a writing blog, one of my friends reminded me of something important. He told me as a new writer to reflect on "why I write." I've put some thought into this question and now think that I have an answer for it.

I'm addicted, and I'm not ashamed. I'm addicted to writing because it frees the stories trapped in my mind. It puts form to my imagination and allows me to create my own world that can be enjoyed by others. It's a way to convey an image that can be enjoyed by everyone, like designing a roller coaster and watching others ride it.

I've always had an overactive imagination, and allowing it to take control is freeing, allowing me to escape with my readers for just a moment into a world that offers more than the mundane. That is why I write, and that is why I hope you'll read. Welcome to my blog.