Why do Serial Killers Fascinate Us?

What is the obsession we have with serial killers? Well, maybe obsession is a strong word, but we, as a society, are perhaps overly interested them. Last night I watched the Zodiac film for the first time. Aside from being a good movie, I found the whole case fascinating.

Afterwards, my wife got online and started researching all of the serial killers in the world. She found that more than 50 serial killers are active in the country at any one time and, of course, because she was on the internet, she found out that most serial killers come from the Pacific Northwest.

Somebody once made a joke about the Green River killer living in a shed and then, of course, she found out that the Green River killer was real and did live in that shed–not really, but he is real. He’s in prison trying to claim more kills that he didn’t do to get more infamous than Ted Bundy. Speaking of Ted Bundy, we love that a sleazy guy in a sitcom is named Al Bundy (Married with Children) and we love watching movies like Silence of the Lambs where he makes a skin suit from plus size beauties. We are endlessly fascinated with Charlies Manson and his strange prophecies and weird antics. Our skin crawls at the tales of Jeffery Dahmer and his freezer and bathtub. In Katy Perry’s song Dark Horse they draw a comparison on “she’ll eat your heart out like Dahmer” or some horrible analogy. The list goes on.

Well, why is that? In the movie the Zodiac guy wanted a movie made of him, wanted promotional buttons that people would wear and otherwise wanted infamy. And dare I say, he got it.

Perhaps it is because the sane man or woman simply cannot fathom the depths of depravity such personalities have gone, or perhaps we just don’t understand that there isn’t a even a person there at all. Just a machine or an animal, but no soul, and we look in vain to understand how someone that looks like us, can destroy us.

Statistically, they don’t kill that many people. They kill a handful. Compare that with, oh, Hiroshima, and you see the disparity. Compare it with highway accident deaths in any given month and, well, then again. So, it’s not the number of victims that gets us, but the way its done.

The worst crime is murder. It is the worst crime because is takes away another individual’s right to play the game. I can almost envision these dedicated killers as some kind of urban decay, come up from the sewers to level out the playing field, a nightmare clothed in human flesh.

But really they are just men gone mad and if they have a soul left at all it must be so small and so very lost.

How to Handle an Infested Manuscript

I am always in search of techniques to make self editing easier and more effective. Because, let’s face it, if you write more than a book or two, paying a couple grand a pop breaks the piggy bank. 

So, between myself, wife and my English guru friend, we tackle the subject armed with Chicago Manuals of Style and an assortment of dictionaries and self editing compendiums. And we flank our maneuvers with full tanks of caffeine.

We also go over the manuscript many times, about six or seven before we put that baby to bed. Needless to say, this takes time and since lack of time is the biggest enemy of today’s indie author, I am always looking for ways to speed things up and increase quality. Because you don’t want to speed things and decrease quality, do you?

So in the interest of community and assistance to my fellow authors, I would be remiss if I did not mention here what I have found. If you already know all about this, it wouldn’t be the first time I am late on the chain, but as they say, better late than never got out of bed.

This method I am about to expose, is based on a the principle that writers have crutches they don’t know about. Subconscious word smiths who are so dull they make Eeyore look like Bozo the Clown. Yet these sluggards have one very strong trait. They never drop a ball.

They go to work day in and day out, tirelessly pounding in the nails. These boys have no life. 

They construct pet phrases and little words that, when trouble sets in, at least get the job done and take the story where it wants to go regardless of weather conditions. These workman verbs don’t give a rat’s fanny pack how it gets done, just build that road.

I call it the Wyrm Method. “Wrym” is a cool way of saying “worm.”

These repetitive words and phrases can infect a manuscript like a tapeworm, sucking out the life while making you think you’re just hungry.

A couple of these ageless parasites are: Seems, stood, nodded, sighed. When the terrain becomes slightly more rocky, the Eeyore homunculus in his yellow plastic construction hat opens his thermos and really pours on a double dose of dull. Stopped and stared, looked and smiled, thought and realized.

Some other construction site parasites might include: cocked his head, spun on his heel, smelled the fear and that Mack Daddy of them all: between forefinger and thumb. Its just not a good book unless someone can hold something with his forefinger and his thumb at the same time, as if he would do it any other way!

Oh, its nothing to be ashamed of. We all need to walk on a sidewalk and when you can’t cross the river, you better build at least a rope bridge. The problem with these utilitarian words and cliches is not even so much that they are as tasteless as stale baklava, but that they are used time and again, like that Chicago pothole that just won’t stay filled after the next rain no matter how many times they come and pour in loose asphalt.

There is another problem. These boredom inducing bits posses a camouflage component that is more effective than a Trojan rocking horse. Around these manuscript murderers I daresay you will find whole nests of pathetic prose, passive voice and in general sleep inducers better than Ambient, but far less addictive. Find the wyrm and you find his brood of dullards in overalls and hard hats. Have no mercy. Exterminate.

So, if you think your manuscript might have wyrms, use my extermination technique. Pick a colorless modifier, load it into you search and find matrix and root those suckers out. And I daresay once you begin, you’ll find more and more and more, until they wither up and die and your manuscript will be that much closer to health. 

Happy hunting.

State of the Union in Indieville (for those who care)

I’ve fallen off of all social media bandwagons and online interactive platform thingies. I haven’t missed it at all. I am happy like hell not to be posting status updates on FB, sharing photos of my eyeball or tweeting buy links for a .99 specials. Oh, yes, I am. 

I do like writing a blog, sometimes, so you’ll see me flapping my gums on this soap box. 

I decided to close the door and concentrate on getting my work done. I also decided it was time to read some instructional books on writing. And I am so glad I did. It used to be that reading books on writing would just fuck with my head. I would get all screwed up and not be able to write anything. I’m a big boy now and I can trash the stuff that isn’t true for me and run with the stuff that is. That’s important to do as a writer. It’s huge because if you don’t, the road to learning craft is blocked and that’s a recipe for stale bread.

I started by re-reading Self Editing for Fiction Writers. That was a much needed re-visitation. I had forgotten so much of the timeless advice in that book. I feel awakened to bad writing habits. I also read How to Write the Break Out Novel and am in the middle of Indie Publishing No Luck Guide. The Break Out Novel was great, such a good take on writing fiction that appeals to everyone. Not what to write, just how to write it. Happy with that book. And the No Luck Guide to Indie Authorship, indispensable. These guys are my new heroes.

Oh, here’s the real title: Write. Publish. Repeat. I love these guys. Really. They are making me feel so empowered and able to succeed at this. No joke. This book is very needed.

I should give a little recap on what has transpired since the last installment of Indie Author Digest on this blog. As you may know, but probably don’t, last summer I decided to “go Indie” with my novel Prizm: Dominatrix of Sulan. I had gotten a killer cover for it and then was planning on doing a little clean up on the manuscript. That turned into a major surgical overhaul, that, thank God I wasn’t working for two months, I cranked out in a sweaty little room in Los Angeles. 

I finally got it posted on Amazon sometime around March, I think, of 2014. No, February. I posted it for 2.99, then frantically changed the price to .99. At the time, I was doing free giveaways on KDP with all of my short stories and so with all of the hubub, I sold a few copies. Not anything more than soda money, but hey, better than nothing!

Anyway, painfully and forlornly I watched the Prizm sales peak at like 5 a week, then slowly drop. I frantically changed the prices all over the place and then, when it was obvious that I wasn’t going to be able to prevent a crash, I just let it go. Now, Prizm still sells, a handful of copies a month. Last month I sold two in England and one in Germany. No new reviews, so not sure if its being read or enjoyed or what. I did send it to a couple of reviewers who gave it 4 and 5 stars. 

The thing is, it sells a few copies a month without me doing anything and it’s not at the garbage price. It’s up for 4.50 and well, it should be at least that. I even sold a hard copy book. It’s all pretty lame in terms of book sales and numbers, but it’s a start and I cheer every time I sell a measly copy. All my other books have flat lined though and that makes me feel dejected. Or frustrated. But what can you do? Perhaps they will sell once something else takes off. 

Since then, I have completed Thomas Hunter, a paranormal occult mystery staring a cross between Corwin of Amber and Philip Marlowe. I have also gotten Poppycock: A Midsummer Night’s Mare into shape and will be ordering the hard copy book print this week. I am excited about this book. The whole series actually. I have the sequel about half done on the first draft. I am envisioning a ten book series, each book being about 60,000 words. So, a fast read urban fantasy horror series with serial killing fairies, occult shit and tons of pretty girls and blood. The second is called Rutlinger: A Mid Summer Night’s Hunt and I am really digging it right now.

They will all be “Something: A Midsummer Nights Blah.” Or a Midwinter Night’s Blah. You know, like Poppycock: A Midsummer Night’s War. It’s a take on, of course, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, duh, and it’s about the war between humans and faeries and what it might be like if all that crazy faerie shit was real. 

So, Poppycock should be up this month, June. 

It all just takes so much longer than I expect, but once you get into the manuscript, you kind of have no choice but to burn out the underbrush. On Poppycock, after re-reading Self Editing for Fiction Writers, I found all manner of screaming banshees flying out at me and me going, “really, I did that?” or “Shit, I was really lazy.” For instance, I went through and did a word search on the word “Seemed.”

Oh God. Everything “seemed” to be and nothing was or was not, black or white, true or false. It’s really interesting to see what kinds of crutches you use. Another one: “stood.” All my characters had these horrible moments when they were just standing around staring at the walls. Some were doing a combination action of “stopping and standing.” I was like, what a dope, he just stops and stands there. There were others and I am glad I had the sense to search and destroy all that stuff.

You live and you learn.

I am hoping to speed this process up. My goal is to get 3 trilogies up and get into a book a month velocity. It’s going to take a while. Prizm, I figure, since it’s selling a trickle without me doing anything, is worthy of a sequel. Poppycock of course, the sequel is underway and Thomas Hunter is also sequel primed. Those are the three I am putting all my bets on. But, I have other manuscripts to get up, too. A New Weird fantasy sea voyage called Godsign that must go up this year, well, this summer. Must! And it also deserves a sequel.

I have another manuscript that I got a cover made for, but I cannot bring myself to do anything with it. I know I am going to have to just trash it and start over. Or maybe not. The ambivalence is killing me. Is it good enough? Does it suck? Couldn’t it be so much better? I don’t know the answer to any of those questions, I can’t bring myself to even look at it.

I am also working on ways to work my day job less and write more. I have got to get a million words on Amazon and elsewhere. I have got to crank this thing up and hit critical mass where the books are selling themselves and my promo action is to release the next book. I am not going to rent booths at flee markets. I would like to do readings, but not to empty rooms, please God, no. I still see the last guy who stumbled in on my reading and glared at me for making noise in his favorite coffee table. Honestly, I don’t have the time if I want to keep writing.

It’s a trade off. If you go and sell at fairs and conferences and push the one book like Sisyphus and the boulder, you won’t write new material. Well, maybe you will if you don’t have to work a day job, but probably not.

It’s a long haul. The funny thing is I don’t mind the long haul anymore. I really don’t. I think it’s because I know where I stand, I know what I am doing. I am getting better and better and learning and reading and writing and so, I know, it’s just a matter of time. I know it depends on me just doing the work, getting the manuscripts up to publishing standard, always striving to write a better tale and simply doing it.

I used to slowly go crazy, sink into apathy, think I needed other people. Not anymore. Well, readers, I need them, but that’s different.  

Well, I don’t plan to go back to Facebook for more than the occasional Like. And I feel liberated. I always felt it was a government surveillance strategy anyway. 

Until next time.