About Paul Michael Anderson

Paul Michael Anderson is a writer, editor, journalist, and teacher living...somewhere

My Process (Because I’m Nothing If Not a Bandwagon Jumper)

One of my literary soulmates, Bracken MacLeod, posted this morning about his “process” when it comes to writing.  He did in a response to a social media post from his friend, who is, to use the illustrative phrase, a “pantser”–meaning, they get an idea and they just run with it.  MacLeod isn’t a pantser…but I am.

Sorta.

In one of the “definitive” editions to American Gods, writer Neil Gaiman talked about the process of writing the novel, expressing relief after he had written it that now he knew how to write a book.  However, a legendary writer whose name escapes me pointed out to Gaiman that he had only figured out how to write that book.  Every book is different.

This is true.

So, with tongue firmly planted in cheek, here’s as close as I get to a process:

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  • Gets an idea, usually a what-if.
  • Noodle it
  • I’m waiting for a title at this point.
  • But this title sucks.
  • This title is marginal
  • Do I have a good opening-scene?
  • That one comes too soon
  • That one means I would have to do flashbacks.  Fuck flashbacks.
  • Start writing.
  • “Hey, this is going decently”
  • Doesn’t write for two days.
  • I hate the first three pages.
  • Man, I’m using a lot of passive sentences here.
  • Spend the next week imagining how I’m going to fix the one scene I wrote to night.
  • Spend the next week imagining how the next scene’s gonna go.
  • Finish the first draft.
  • “This thing is three times as long as asked for.  Fucking hell.”
  • Stare at it for a month or so.
  • Print it out, wincing.
  • Start reading.
  • Cut 40%
  • Realize that the sentence structure is choppy as hell.
  • Stew about this for four nights and three days.
  • Open a blank document.
  • Write the entire story over without looking at the original.
  • Revise, cutting only 20% of the overall.
  • Begin submitting.

Now, this ignores the times when I get a title before a story–“Bones Are Made to be Broken”–or think of a weird scene before I have a conflict–“Baby Grows a Conscience”–but this is fairly close to accurate for a majority of my work.  Sometimes, the idea comes from me noodling a prompt for an hour or so (“In the Nothing-Space, I Am What You Made Me”) or from spit-balling with another writer in conversation (“How We Broke” in Chiral Mad 4, which is forthcoming).

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Being an Editor of Anthologies and Magazines in 2018:

Quick message to those dudes–always dudes because of course it fucking is–who rail against “forced” diversity in trying to get beyond just straight white dudes in the Table of Contents:

To be an editor means to seek diversity so that readers can see/experience different angles or perspectives or viewpoints (or whatever in the fuck you want to call it) on a specific theme.  To not seek that diversity is to be lazy, at best, and morally repugnant at worst. 

Doesn’t matter if you’re a little nobody outfit with an editor whose time passed right around the time Bill Clinton was first elected or a New York Times bestselling author and an icon of your genre.  If it’s a pale sausage party in your TOC, you flat-out fucked up and you offer nothing new to the readers.

Oh, totally and completely off-topic, here’s an incomplete list I came up with in roughly five minutes for no particular reason:

Damien Angelica Walters. Kristi DeMeester. Rachel Autumn Deering. Erinn Kemper. Sandra Odell.  Stephanie Wytovich. Lucy Snyder. Cat Valente. Gwendolyn Kiste. Linda Addison. Nnedi Okoafor. Ashlee Scheuerman. Jessica McHugh. Livia Llewellyn. Rena Mason. Lisa Mannetti. Mercedes M. Yardley. Althea Kontis. Sarah Langan. Tonya Liburd. Meghan Accuri-Moran. Kelly Link. Gemma Files. Amber Fallon.

There are over twenty names on that very incomplete list.  They’ve all been recognized for their short fiction.  Again, I offer it for no particular reason at all.

 

 

Quick Bits: The Early 2018 Edition

Oh. Heya.  Popping in for a few minutes of:

1. …Imma gonna have a new story out!

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My story “Wants and Needs” will be in Simon Dewar’s Suspended in Dusk II.  It has wendigos, blizzards, and bereft parents, if that’s your thing.  It’ll be out sometime this summer; click the title to see more info/who else is in the book.

2. New interview!

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Curtis Freeman over at Cedar Hollow Horror Reviews asked me a few questions and I answered them and managed to fit in references to ASPCA commercials while still plugging Bones Are Made to be Broken, so there you go.  Click the title to read it, if you so wish.

3. More stories–later this year!

So, right now, I have a total of four stories, two of them novellas, showing up at some point this year, most likely late-summer/fall:

  • “Guardian” – Tales from the Lake, Vol. 5 (about pets and the center of existence)
  • “How We Broke” (co-written with Bracken MacLeod) – Chiral Mad 4 (a novella about the past and trauma)
  • “I Can Give You Life” – Ashes & Entropy (a novella about the 1950s and Virginia State Troopers and Elder Gods)
  • “Wants and Needs” – Suspended in Dusk II (I already told you about this one)

I’m actually cleared of deadlines at the moment, so turning back to older projects while stories circulate with the editors who requested them.  See if you can guess where my head’s at:

  • “Well, You Asked for a Miracle”
  • “To-Do Lists of the Possessed”
  • “Every Apocalypse Is Personal”
  • “A Collapsing Life, but with Free Rentals”
  • “The Simple Lives Offered at Rest Stops”

So, how are things with you guys?

 

The “I Love Everything about This Goddamned Book” Post: Husk, by Rachel Autumn Deering

Hi there.

At the start of this year, I took on the Goodreads Reading Challenge, putting an insane amount of books I quite simply don’t have time to read if I intend to work, write, parent, husband, eat, or sleep at some point this year.  Still, I’ve kept to it because, fuck, why the hell not?  Some books are better than others.  Some I don’t finish because they’re fucking awful.  Some are fucking great.  And some I absolutely loved. 

Here’s one of those books.

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I don’t have the blurbin’ power of Brian Keene, but, for what it’s worth: “Rachel Autumn Deering’s Husk is a stunning, heart-pounding (and heart-wrenching) story that will force you to read one more page, and then one more, and then another, until you take in this entire novella in one sitting.”

In Husk, writer Rachel Autumn Deering effortlessly creates the world and the voice of a veteran suffering from PTSD and forced to rebuild his life after his final tour.  Kevin joined the military when his grandparents died, his last-living relatives.  While fighting, his unit is attacked and his best friend is violently killed right in front him.  Now Kevin’s come home, left with just the broken pieces of his life prior to serving, the pieces of his time in uniform, and not much else.  Worse, he’s begun to see things, out of the corners of his eyes, and those things are growing bolder.

The first thing that strikes a reader when they start Husk is the voice.  Not necessarily the voice of the characters, but of the narration.  This is a story one could imagine hearing told in the oral tradition.  The setting for the vast majority of the novella is in the South, but it doesn’t fall into the pit of stereotype; this isn’t caricature.  More, the narration itself is almost a character, filling in the gaps between dialogue like the side-comments of a trusted friend.

Kevin and, later, Samantha are fleshed-out figures, done quickly in keeping with the overall stories length and when the sense of doom builds, this makes the inevitable all the more impactful.  Even characters with almost no page-time–the receptionist in Kevin’s doctor’s office, Samantha’s parents–breathe freely here, moving throughout the world in a way that the reader senses that, when the scene cuts away from them, they might still continue moving and going about their business.  Deering doesn’t belabor the characterization, choosing key details that will resonate with the reader.  The reader knows someone like Samantha or Samantha’s mother or even Kevin’s best friend in the service.

The novella hinges on one conceit for the reader–is what Kevin seeing real or not?  Honestly, at the end of the day, you could go either way and not get much of an argument from me (Deering, although building some ambiguity, tips her hand a bit, but not enough that to argue one way or the other would be a fool’s game; YMMV).  Because of that seeming-ambiguity, the novella works all the more; it forces you to think of it after the final too-soon page passes through your fingers and you close the cover.

Really, the only problem with Husk is the length.  Deering built a world quickly and threw a ton of plot lines out into the fields; while she ties everything up, you won’t want her to.  Husk doesn’t beg to be a full-fledged novel, but you will.  Easily.


 

On a more subjective note, I tend to cull my collection of books pretty regularly; only so many bookcases in my house.  Will I reread this?  Have I reread it in the past decade?  Books that answer in the negative get donated.  Still, on the top shelf of my tallest bookcase are my go-tos.  My absolutely favorite novels.  David Morrell’s First Blood is up there, as well as Damien Angelica Walters’s Paper Tigers and Harlan Ellison’s Shatterday and Eddie Little’s Another Day in Paradise, among others.  When I finished Husk, I put it on the top shelf.  It fit right in.

You can pick up Husk here.  Go.  Buy.  Read.

I’m Here to Attack Your Eyes and Ears

Two brief things of note, gang:

One.

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The annual Halloween special of The Wicked Library podcast debuted this week; for it, host Dan Foytik brought back show creator Nelson W. Pyles to resurrect and reproduce a few “lost” stories from the show’s first season, including a production of my story “Love Song for the Rejected.”

Entirely recreated with noted voice actors Mike DelGaudio and Addison Peacock, with music by Nico Vettese, I am absolutely in fucking love with this.  Not just because, hey, it’s my story–everything they did was amazing.  Whenever I reread this story now, it’s going to be in Mike’s and Addison’s voices.

You can listen to the episode here, which also includes stellar stories (and productions) from Jessica McHugh, C. Bryan Brown, and Nelson W. Pyles.

If you’ve been curious if what I write is up your street, you could do worse than listen to this podcast–hell, “Love Song” is in Bones Are Made to be Broken.  The me-centric portion of the program begins, roughly, at the one-hour mark.


Two.

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Holy hell–it’s here.  It’s finally here.  Almost a year to the day that the paperback and eBook came out, the deluxe, expanded, slipcase hardcover edition of Bones Are Made to be Broken arrived at the house.

Hoo, boy.  I couldn’t help it–I took pictures.

There are five copies left of the hardcover edition–which includes a bonus story (“Grownups”), as well as story notes–and you can get that here.

If the pricetag for all the bells-and-whistles is a bit much for you, you can pick up the Kindle or the paperback over at Amazon.

As we approach one-year-out since Bones was released, I have thoughts.  I’ll get to them soon.  Gotta noodle some more.  Also, life and deadlines get in the way.

Cheers.

Help Michael Bailey & his family recover from the California wildfires (a signal boost)

 

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The family.

Hey all.

On October 9th, Michael Bailey and his family had seven minutes to evacuate their homes in order to escape the wildfires that are still, as of this writing, rampaging merry hell through California.

Jumping on top of this, novelist Brian Keene set up a GoFundMe for the Baileys because, flat out, they lost everything.  It is all gone and the pictures/video Michael has posted show the extent of the devastation.  Seen pictures of Dresden post-bombing?  Like that.

Brian put a modest cap at $5,000 and, within 24 hours, contributors (mostly colleagues of Michael’s in the horror industry because, a, Michael has done immeasurable good for our industry and, b, we know how to help a comrade out) doubled that.  We’re now, one week in, nearly at $15,000 for Michael, Kelly, and their kids to literally–and this isn’t by any stretch of the imagination hyperbole–rebuild their lives.  Hence, why I’m here, telling you.  A signal boost.

Go here and help out.  Hell, boost the link or this post if you can’t spare the scratch, but get it out there to those who maybe can.  Now, people, in light of these events, might be tempted to contribute goods.  However, as Karen Merzenich points out, this is usually the last thing they need.  Families need the money.  The GoFundMe Brian set up is immediately usable by Michael and his family.

So go.  Share.  Help out.

Honestly, I’m terrified of open water*

*I was going to title this post “My new stories are underwater”, but in light of the devastation in Texas…yeah, not going there.  It wasn’t like the various editors planned on releasing work that I happened to be in, that happened to involve water, around Mother Nature, but…yeah.

Some new story news because I like sharing things with my name in it. Also, who doesn’t like new stuff to read?

First up – Fearful Fathoms: Collected Tales of Aquatic Terror (Vol. 1 – Seas & Oceans) – Scarlet Galleon Publications

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This anthology, which includes such people as Jack Ketchum, Laird Barron, and Richard Chizmar, includes an older story of mine, “Surviving the River Styx”, about a survivor of a terrorist attack on a cruise ship–one of the few survivors after everyone else on the ship has been reduced to psychotic murderers.  I have a terrible fear of open water, any time I can’t see land across the way I get unnerved, so this story was me working through that.  It’s an early story, published originally years ago, and I’ve always been pleased with how people have responded to it.  Big ups to Mark Parker, the editor for digging this.

You can pick up the paperback here.

You can pick up the Kindle here.

Second – Space and Time Magazine, #129

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I’m still awed whenever I make the cover–like, hell, I might be a draw for people.  Not a big one, of course, but enough to justify slapping my name right where people’s eyes are gonna be drawn.  Like, damn.

My story in this bad boy is “How I Became a Cryptid Straight Out of a 1970s Horror Movie”.  Basically, a young guy gets cursed into a carnivorous lake and it gets weirder from there.  It was one of those, “Hey, let’s make a new monster”-type scenarios and I ran with it because it was just so much fun to think about.  Which says a ton about me.

Big-big thanks to Hildy Silverman, Gerard Houarner, and Gordon Linzer for liking this.

You can pick up the physical magazine at Barnes & Noble.

You can get the DRM-free eBook (for $3!) here.