Archive for the ‘Writing Craft’ Category

Happy New Year faithful readers!

2019 is going to be a great and active year here at jimtgammill.com!

In January, we will see the first episodes of The Heroic Wordsmith Podcast!!!

I have written the first three episodes of the podcast and will be posting reference material here to jimtgammill.com to accompany each episode as it is released. I am really excited to see how many people can get some use from the podcast as it is really shaping up to be EXACTLY what I was hoping for; A humorous, yet solid, guide on writing craft that covers everything from grammar to literary pacing to the actual publishing process.

A solid release date for my upcoming novel, The Artist and the Carpenter, should also be available in the very near future!

2019 will also bring new releases from Nothing Comics, that will pick up where the events of last year’s premiere volume, El Frio, left off.

It is a very exciting time to be a creative and I wanted to take a moment to share my sincere appreciation for EVERYONE that has shown support for me and my creative projects.

Enjoy 2019 and stay tuned for exciting updates from the desk of Jim T. Gammill.

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I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone that downloaded my novel, Whispers of the Wakinyan earlier this month. I am always satisfied at the thought that my stories are finding their ways to readers and are (hopefully) being enjoyed.

Like any author, I try to write stories that are different, compelling, and entertaining, while interlacing some creepy and bizarre tidbits of things that I’ve actually experienced to keep them authentic.

For those of you that know me personally, you know that many of the things that occur in Whispers of the Wakinyan  are things that were re-imagined from my own life. I’m not saying that I was tormented by a Native- American spirit monster by any means, but in reality, some the things that I remember from some of my early childhood years isn’t explained much easier.

I waited to post this for a couple weeks for a reason and many of you may have already guessed why that is.

If you have read and enjoyed Whispers of the Wakinyan, please leave me a review on Amazon.

The Amazon search algorithm is pretty sophisticated, but one thing that is sure to bring my work up in more searches is more interaction from readers and positive reviews!

getting amazon reviews

Your interest and readership means the world to me and I honestly hope that you enjoyed the story as much as I did when I was writing it. My new novel, The Artist and the Carpenter will be dropping soon and I am hoping to have some good momentum in order to launch it at a higher level in the Amazon search algorithms.

Also keep in mind that Joey Gordon is returning soon and his summer vacation this year is going to put him and his family face to face with something darker, stronger, and more resilient than even the Wakinyan!

THANK YOU AGAIN AND TAKE CARE– Jim

Here is the link for anyone who has yet to leave a review for Whispers of the Wakinyan :

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As I found myself typing some of the final chapters of my latest novel, I noticed something that I never had before. I was experiencing a unique type of what Steven Pressfield would classify as “resistance”.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that there is a writer out there who hasn’t experienced “resistance” in one way, shape, or form; the most common forms being procrastination, self-sabotage, and the dreaded (somewhat generic and all-encompassing) writer’s block. We all have been guilty of checking emails, or browsing social media when we could actually be throwing down some words on the page and occasionally, we may find ourselves wanting to write only to find that our creative wells are in need of filling.

The type of resistance that I found myself contending with was simply NOT WANTING TO FINISH THE BOOK! Now, I had heard of some writers having a bit of post-project depression when they are trying to decide what their next project is going to be, but this was something new for me altogether.

If, anything I have more projects than I do time, so when one is completed and I still have words to type to meet my daily goals (currently 1500-2000 words a day depending on work and family commitments) it’s on to the next story I go.

I think the best way to describe the feeling that I was having while nearing the end of the project was like coming to the end of a binge-worthy Netflix series, I wanted to finish it, but just didn’t want it to be over. The only reason that I could think of this project being any different from any of my past ones is that save for maybe one, (my novelette, Not Only the Dead) it is the most personal.

It was because of these feelings of personal attachment that toward the end of the novel, I found myself consulting my mental checklist almost as much as I was writing. This feeling was one that I was more familiar with, because regardless of the level of attachment I feel to a project I try to check all of the open story arcs in the earlier sections of the book/story/screenplay and make sure that they are either effectively resolved or that every bit of them are removed from the manuscript so as not to leave any loose ends.

Some people use whiteboards or computer programs for stuff like this, but I prefer to keep them all jumbled and quasi-organized in my head, so that I have an excuse to act brain-dead for the last two weeks of any project.

Is there a better way?

Sure, but I still manage to get the job done.

So with all that being said…

I have a confession, faithful readers   —

I still have one chapter and a prologue to write before I can wrap up The Artist and the Carpenter.

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See how this particularly annoying form of resistance works? I ended up writing a blog instead of wrapping the project! Either way I hope that you enjoyed my little “creative detour”.

 

Until next time, faithful readers!

As many of you know, Whispers of the Wakinyan is now live in the kindle store as well as in print on amazon.com.

BOOKS AVAILABLE HERE

Many exciting things have happened in the 48 hours or so since the book was released. Book sales are off to a great start in both formats and Whispers of the Wakinyan has also been downloaded several times through the Kindle Direct program, that allows members of Amazon Prime to download thousands of titles free to their kindle or ereader.

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It may seem somewhat strange for free copies of a work to be welcomed, but the download and consumption of free copies helps to both boost the ‘title rank’ in Amazon analytics and also qualifies the book to receive royalties from the Kindle Select Fund, which is distributed to all participating titles according to the number of pages read by subscribers.

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Also, I have been invited to enter Whispers of the Wakinyan in an Amazon UK contest that is open to new book listings. With this being said, please remember to read and review to help take Whispers of the Wakinyan to the top of the rankings! Prizes include exclusive publishing opportunities and a higher rate of exposure.

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Some of you out there may have noticed a new addition to my amazon author page. Whispers of the Wakinyan, the first installment in the ‘Things That Follow’ series, is LIVE in kindle format and will be available in print VERY SOON. By that, I mean that by the end of the week copies may be available for order from amazon.com and this website.

The original release date for Whispers of the Wakinyan was exactly one month ago today. As you may imagine, the publishing process is not all sunshine and roses. In fact, it is some-what arduous. That for me, at least, resulted in some late nights and last-minute frustrations. I found that Murphy’s Law was in full effect and that anything that could go wrong usually did. Even some of the things that initially went right turned out to be wrong later!

First, I want to touch on the importance of document formatting. In my opinion, if there is any chance that you think you may publish your work, please do yourself a favor and download a word template that has margins set to your desired print size. These may be downloaded for free from many writing sites out there (I got mine from createspace).

I had my 30 chapter 93,000 word tome primed and ready to go in a standard word format.

I uploaded.

I watched.

I cringed.

For my binding size I chose 6”x9”, which is a very popular size for main-stream trade fiction.

I am sure that you all know where this is going…

I would liken it to pouring a gallon of a milk into a pint glass and then watching helplessly as the milk continues to gush over the sides and run all over the counter. Knowing the whole time that your wife will be so mad at you when she has to clean it up.

Sorry, I couldn’t help that last part.

And to my wife: just kidding.

All of my main and sub-chapter breaks were sprinkled throughout the document and each time one was put into place another was pushed into chaos!  Maybe, I am being a little dramatic, but still, if I had worked with the intended margin size from the get-go this could have certainly been avoided.

Second, and this also pertains to the subject of planning a binding size, know how many pages the finished document will be with title pages, table of contents, blank pages in the front, etc… BEFORE starting cover creation. It may seem like a no-brainer, but format changes like mentioned before can drastically change your binding size, which will in turn affect the bleed area (this is the small area on the outer edges of the cover, where text or images may be distorted by the bleeding of printer ink) and overall dimensions.

How do I know about all this?

You guessed it. This was another delay that I encountered in bringing Whispers of the Wakinyan to print.

However, the end result is something that I am very pleased with and I am sure that you will all be as well.

Thank you all for taking the time to read this post and please like or comment if my pain and suffering has or may have saved you some grief in creating your own project!

Please keep an eye out for the official release date. It is looking like it may be Friday, April 7th!

Product Details

If you haven’t already, please follow my amazon author page:

RIGHT HERE!!

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I was fortunate enough to be part of an author meet and greet/book signing on Sunday, March 5th in my home town of Menifee, California. The turn-out was great and the level of support from the community was fantastic!

This is one of many photos provided by my good friend Michael Perez, a top-notch inland empire photographer behind fotohaus studios.

Check out fotohaus at http://www.fotohausco.com

He took some great photos of the event, which I will be sharing with you all as soon as they become available.

I would also like to offer a very special thanks to the handful of attendees that signed up to be beta-readers for the sequel to Whispers of the Wakinyan, the work is untitled as of now, but will be the second installment of the ‘The Things that Follow’ series.

It would make sense that the process of editing and finalizing would be the most drawn out and pain-staking to a group of individuals (writers and other creatives) that are traditionally self-critical and border-line paranoid about how their work may be received.

Yet, despite this unfortunate reality, editing and proofing is not only the best way to make a work stand out, but also for an author to transcend from amateur to professional. Many literary powerhouses have passed on their wisdom about the editing process and regardless of what they say or how they say it, the end result is generally the same:

Writing down your ideas is only the beginning!

or the ever-popular euphemism,

Real writing begins AFTER the first draft is complete.

For me, the thought of editing is no different. I feel the urge to tell another story the second I wrap up the one that I am working on. But, how fair would that be to the characters that inhabit the pages, the meters within the stanzas, or the themes shrouded beneath the webs of prose that we, as writers labor so hard to create?

The answer:

Not at all.

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Editing takes determination and patience, but the resulting drafts are far more rewarding than half-finished or open-ended manuscripts that are not just unsuitable for the market place, but questionable for even sharing with a friend or family member!

As some of my more regular readers probably know, I have just completed a close-to-final edit on my upcoming full length novel, The Legend of Thunderbird, Coyote, and Joey Gordon. The time spent in editing that beast could have allowed me to create a couple of smaller sized works from concept to print (or kindle), but like the ideas outlined above:

The end product was totally worth it!

To effectively end this post, I would like to leave you with a couple of my favorite editing quotes:

“Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”

-Stephen King-

“I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil.”

-Truman Capote-

HAPPY EDITING EVERYONE!

Have you ever noticed that sometimes a movie, novel, or other work of creative prose may have an outstanding premise, but ends up leaving you wanting?

Like dry turkey without gravy.

A peanut butter sandwich without jelly.

You get the idea.

When I used to encounter these common offenders in my pre-writing life I would ask myself questions like where did the author go wrong? Or, the story was so cool, but why did it leave me unconvinced and unfulfilled?

And then, late one dark and stormy night (aka sitting at my desk writing about a subject that was new and unfamiliar) it happened to me. I was feverishly writing a suspenseful paranormal   screenplay about extra-terrestrials through the eyes of a hard-boiled detective. I successfully dodged clichés (aside from hard-boiled of course) and everything was coming together, and THEN:

I re-read it.

AND CRINGED!

I took a break from my writing desk and stepped into my backyard, which for me always offers some distance from the worlds in my head by showcasing the world that we live in. In the foothills of a secluded semi-desert valley, I am always treated with scenes of local wildlife, bright stars, or air traffic from the local military base. I thought about what was working in my story and what wasn’t. I realized that the detective, who’s perspective the story was told through was just too strong and level-headed to create the tension that I was really looking for. His girlfriend, a journalist and rape survivor, was a much better outlet for a story about vulnerability and offered the reader more of a human connection.

I re-wrote the story through the journalist’s perspective and was amazed that it not only increased the overall tension, but made the thought of alien abduction all the more terrifying as she could relate it to her past experience of being raped. People usually don’t like movies for aliens or monsters alone (although in my opinion, they DO help quite a bit), the stories that are really successful and memorable are usually the ones that speak to audiences on an emotional or human level.

Of course, if a story isn’t working the way that you want it to it could just be bad (I have had a couple of those too!), but if you have a great premise and feel that your narrative is not as strong as it could be, a change in perspective could be just the thing that you are looking for.

Since the dawn of human culture, a mostly silent debate has been occurring. It is one that transcends religion, cultural expectations, as well as political or geographical boundaries. You as the reader may have some idea as to what the topic might be, and I can assure you that some knew what to expect from this post just from reading the title. Either way, this post may at first seem out of place on my website, but I assure that as the subject matter unfolds, or more appropriately manifests, it will seem as right and familiar as a drinking buddy’s sofa bed.

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The debate I refer to is that of the existence of the paranormal. This can be considered a somewhat broad and all-encompassing word as it can refer to anything that falls outside the boundaries of normal perception; this could be a spiritual abnormality, an extraterrestrial presence, a crypto-zoological encounter, or a simple glimpse into the world of extra-sensory perception. These topics are almost always laced in obscurity and veiled by a tarp stitched with the thread of cultural taboo. Academics are often shunned or ostracized if they acknowledge any of the aforementioned topics with anything more than a wry comment and a disbelieving smirk.  Then of course there were the classical attacks on the paranormal by organized religions throughout history, including, but not limited to the Spanish Inquisition, and the Salem Witch Trials.

Now with the broad strokes taken care of, we can take a look at the esoteric meat and potatoes of the subject. Most people have had (or think that they have had) a paranormal experience or at least know someone who has. A 2005 Gallup poll showed that 74% of Americans believe in at least one aspect of the paranormal (which Gallup broke up into the following categories: Extrasensory Perception, Demonic Possession, Psychic Healing, Telepathy, Haunted Houses, Extra-Terrestrial Visitation, Clairvoyance, Astrology, Ghosts, Reincarnation, Post-Mortem Communication, Witches, and Spiritual Channeling). Notice that the pollers did not even mention the existence of crypto-zoological entities like Bigfoot, the Jersey Devil, and Moth Man; I would think that this would push the believer percentage up to at least 80%. According to Americans, the most believable paranormal categories were ESP (41%) and that houses can be haunted (37%).

With numbers and percentages like these, the reason that books, movies, and other entertainment mediums often find a reasonable level of success in the horror/sci-fi genres becomes self-evident. People are intrigued by the thought of the “beyond” and many find a sense of comfort and even quasi-immortality in the idea of some sort of existence beyond the grave, whether it be spiritual or  esoteric. I would postulate that many of the writers who choose to express themselves in the supernatural genre have likely had some type of paranormal experience of their own. This makes sense if you think about it; most drug and alcohol counsellors have had experience with substance abuse, most psychologists have experienced some level of psychosis (or have witnessed it in someone close to them), and every exterminator has probably seen Starship Troopers too many times.

Stephen King has sold an estimated 350 million copies of his accumulated and extensive creative works. Nearly all of King’s books at least skirt upon paranormal topics, and some of them would be more accurately described as driving through said topics with a bull dozer constructed with words and driven by fear. King has discussed paranormal topics in countless interviews over the years, and is a believer in ESP (like 41% of America!) and has alluded to some ghostly encounters at the Stanley Hotel, which became the basis for one of his more popular novels, The Shining.

Clive Barker, the spinner of such twisted tales as the film Hellraiser and the novel, Imajica, has never publicly alluded to any personal paranormal experiences. However, when Barker was a young boy, he witnessed the unfortunate accidental death of a prominent sky diver in a grandiose Liverpool airshow.  The experience, although not paranormal, may have set the tone for many of his macabre tales. Understandably so, considering how a young person’s mind often times tries to rationalize death as a point of spiritual transference as opposed to one of finality.

Dean Koontz is another well-known horror writer, who finds himself in the company of the aforementioned authors, but is included in this short list with a slightly different subtext. A quote from Konntz’s  novel, Velocity, is a very good example of how the author may feel on the subject of the paranormal; “Houses are not haunted. We are haunted, and regardless of the architecture with which we surround ourselves, our ghosts stay with us until we ourselves are ghosts.” The author is a proponent of spirituality, but in a way that may not be expected by some of his readers; Koontz is a devout Catholic and in reality his personal views on the paranormal are more likely to resemble those of a clergyman than a carver of gory and suspenseful stories. Koontz’s background with his sociopath father and the subsequent attempts that the man had made on his life also were likely contributors to the author’s paranormal lexicon.

The long and short of it: people have different views on the paranormal. Some embrace it fully and like to imagine themselves painted into the pages of some illustrious and terrible tale of demons or zombies or things with long teeth and short tempers. Some see the hope of otherworldly existences as a comfort to their own mortality; while others like to listen, let their imaginations run rampant, and fall asleep with one eye opened just wide enough to let their night lights give them comfort.

To me the question of whether or not the paranormal is real is irrelevant. It is all based on personal and cultural perception, and whether we like it or not, the dark and terrible is here to stay. And it is a part of us.

Until next time horror fans!


Being a writer comes with its own set of unique challenges. Many writers would argue that the biggest challenge is the act of writing itself; others would likely state that finding the time to write is the hardest part. Despite these differences, most, if not all writers would agree that the act of putting words on the page is one that is both intimate and personal. Some have even likened the sharing of one’s writing to a metaphorical baring of the soul or as being viewed naked and vulnerable by anyone who reads it.

This brings us to the elephant in every writer’s living room and the subject of today’s blog:

THE FEAR OF REJECTION.

                Many writers use their words as a source of introspection or even self-supplied therapy. This is why it is such a big decision for a writer to choose to share their work with even a single person. For non-writers this feeling of vulnerability could be replicated, or at least understood, by a hypothetical breech in personal privacy such as the reading of a journal or diary, personal emails, or even text/voice messages.

This delicate situation presents one of the most important transformations that one must undergo in order to be a successful writer:

DEVELOP A THICK SKIN.

                Stories of overnight success are certainly present in all disciplines, such as acting, music, writing, and just about any other outlet in both the creative and non-creative worlds. In the screenwriting world, many would think of Shane Black upon hearing the words “overnight success”. Black sold Lethal Weapon, his first screenplay, for $250,000, and has had several high-grossing/ successful projects since. Of course, what you don’t hear about is HOW Black ended up at the top. Did he get a good break? Sure. Did he connect with just the right people? Absolutely. But, what he did first was write and when he was finished; he did not let the fear of rejection keep him from realizing his dream.

Very few writers will experience the rapid rise to notoriety that Shane Black did, in fact, many well-known writers have had more than their share of rejection. Stephen King, in his must-read book, On Writing, tells of how he fell in love with the craft of writing at a young age and how he endeavored to become a writer. He would tack rejection letters on his wall and when the weight of the letters became too much he used a nail; by the time he was fourteen the letters were so numerous and weighty that he pinned them to the wall with a spike. If King had not pushed through the endless rejections, to eventually receive a glimmer of hope in the words “not bad”, the world would have been denied some of the most original and groundbreaking horror/thriller stories ever told.

King’s lesson:

BE PERSISTENT.

                Neil Gaiman echoes this to some degree in a 2004 journal entry on his website. He recommends building such a powerful ego/confidence that rejection is not an option. Of course, the possession of iron-clad confidence will not be enough to prevent rejections from coming, but it can definitely help to make them into something that can be used productively (or as Gaiman says in his journal, “Okay, you bastards. Try rejecting this!”).  There are many more great insights on Gaiman’s original post: http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2004/02/on-writing.asp

Gaiman’s lesson:

TAKE CRITICISM AND KEEP WRITING.

                Any blog or article on writing craft and rejection would be lacking if it didn’t borrow something from one of the most professional and inspirational writers of the recent past: Steven Pressfield. Pressfield is perhaps best known for his novel The Legend of Bagger Vance, which was later turned into a movie (one that Pressfield was not particularly thrilled with) starring Will Smith. One of Pressfield’s crowning achievements however, comes in the form of a short work of non-fiction. The War of Art is a must have for anyone that hopes to make a living in a creative discipline. I could write an entire blog on each and every chapter of this book, so I have opted to include a couple of quotes from the book that are relevant to the subject:

“We cannot let external criticism, even if it’s true, fortify our internal foe. That foe is strong enough already.”

“Tomorrow morning the critic will be gone, but the writer will still be there facing the blank page. Nothing matters but that he keep working.”

                Perseverance seems to be the underlying theme. A writer will never be able to write professionally without putting themselves in a position that could illicit rejection. Hypothetically, a writer could hit it big on his or her first submittal, but it is far more likely that their road to success will be paved by rejection letters and ‘pass’ emails. The professional will not only move forward after rejection, but use the criticism to further their own ideas and constantly improve upon their work.

So with that being said, it is up to the individual to judge within him or herself if rejection is a crippling rebuke or simply an opportunity for improvement. I have had my share of passes and rejection letters from movie studios and like King, I save them (in my cluttered email archive as opposed to the spike!). I have had some that were short and impersonal and others that were more of a personal attack. Like with most things, NEVER taking it personal is something that is easier said than done; I have tried my best to treat rejections like building blocks to hone my craft or stepping stones to my next success. A particular writing style might not be for everyone and sometimes rejection can take a form that actually makes you feel better about your work. One of my favorite rejection letters was from a mid-sized and fairly young UK based production company. The letter praised my script (a modern-day paranormal thriller), and even outlined what they liked and how excited it made them. The reason for the pass: the last scene was effect heavy and they didn’t feel like they could do it justice. They recommended a couple companies and gave me their best.

 To me, that rejection is one that I will always cherish.

Until next time horror fans!