Guest Post – Guillaume Sauvé

How to Become a Storyteller Without Writing a Single Word

Did you know that 90% of people want to write a book? It’s true. Unfortunately, most people never even write the first word. Of those brave enough to begin, less than half actually finish. Then comes the scariest part: Submitting the manuscript to agents and publishers. Not only is it a painful process that makes you feel like a total and utter fraud, but your odds of landing a contract are about as good as you winning the lottery. And, if by some miracle you actually get your book published, you’re unlikely to sell more than a handful of copies.

No wonder most people never take the plunge.

Luckily, the days where the above-described scenario was the only option have come and gone. The rise of self-publishing has revolutionized the publishing industry. While better than the mahogany desk approach of old, self-publishing still has many pitfalls. Not only must you pay for all the expenses—editing, proofreading, cover design, etc.—out of your own pocket, but you must master the skills necessary for a successful career as an author. That means learning how to create a website, how to run a newsletter, and how to promote your books because the days where you could just throw a book up on Amazon and watch the sales roll in have long since past. All in all, self-publishing requires hundreds of hours of training and thousands of dollars in expenses.

By now, you’re probably thinking, “Why the hell would anyone choose to be a writer?”

I feel you. Unfortunately, writing isn’t something you choose to do. It’s a calling. I’ve always known I wanted to be an author, but I denied it for many years. It wasn’t until I had a near-death experience that I decided to go for it. Since then, I’ve spent thousands of hours honing my craft and invested over $15,000 into my passion. While I don’t regret it, I know it’s not something most people are willing to do. But I also know how incredibly gratifying it is to hit the “Publish” button on your very first book, so I started brainstorming ways to help aspiring writers fulfill their lifelong dream of becoming a published author. It took a while, but I finally came up with the perfect solution.

Storytellers Unite!

The concept came to me when I stopped thinking as an author and started thinking as a reader. I remembered how popular Choose Your Own Adventure books were back in the ‘80s and ‘90s and realized I could do the same thing. Only, instead of writing a book with predefined paths for readers to follow, I would let them vote on what happened next as I wrote it. Not only would it allow aspiring authors to contribute to the creation of a novel, but it would make my job easier—and way more fun.

I won’t bore you with the details, so here is a quick overview of how it works:

Each week, I write one new chapter and provide three possible options for what could happen next. All you must do is vote for your favourite and watch as the story comes to life.

Intrigued? Good. Here’s a short description for our current collaborative project:

The Memory Thief

There’s a thief on the loose. A memory thief. No one is safe, not even the thief. The main character awakes to a blank mind. He doesn’t know who he is, but the note in his pocket claims he’s the only one who knows the thief’s true identity. At least, he did until his memories were stolen. Now, he must find the clues he left behind and reclaim his stolen memories in time to unravel the mystery and stop the thief once and for all. Will he succeed? Help me find out.

Want to know more? Great! Here’s Chapter 1:

Chapter 1

The world slowly came into focus. Blurry mountains gave way to rundown houses. Fuzzy shapes turned into pedestrians hurrying along dirt roads. Glowing spots of pure light became streetlamps, lighting up the city. Piece by piece, my surroundings emerged from the endless void that was my life.

An aura of hardship infused the landscape, like a scene from an old steampunk novel. The pedestrians walked around with slumped shoulders and grim faces. The buildings—if you can call them that—were pieced together in giant patchworks of metal and wood. Trash littered the streets. Mangy mutts scurried about amid the rat-infested landscape, looking for their next meal.

Where am I? I wondered, scanning my immediate surroundings. To my left stood a sharp drop to a lower level of the rundown city. A makeshift park lay to my right, empty but for a few filthy children playing in the mud. Directly in front stood a statue of a young man. His jaw was square and his gaze piercing. Worn by time and abuse, the sculpture was missing an arm, and a middle finger had been carved into its metallic surface. Whoever this man was, he was despised.

Continuing my study, I focused on the house that lay behind me. Mediocre in both design and craftsmanship, it seemed on the verge of collapse. I’m surprised the pressure of my body pressed against it didn’t finish the job time had begun long ago.

The patch of hard-packed earth upon which I sat was bare but for a few discarded objects. The occasional blur of movement told me I wasn’t alone, but whatever vermin was hiding in the shadows chose not to antagonize me.

The final detail I took into account was the starless sky that hovered high above. Vast and devoid of colour, the expanse hung over the city, like a giant raincloud heavy with impending doom.

Now that my first question had been answered, I moved on to the next obvious one.

“Who am I?” I asked, this time aloud. The rumble of my voice sounded foreign, just like everything else in this strange world.

Ignoring my rising sense of panic, I scanned my body for clues. My clothes were torn and stained to the point where determining the exact colour of the fabric was impossible. My feet were bare and calloused from years of navigating this strange landscape. My hands were covered in scars. My stomach was flat, though I couldn’t tell if it was the result of malnutrition or frequent exercise. My facial features remained shrouded in mystery, but a few quick touches revealed my jaw was square, and a subtle scruff had begun to invade the lower half of my face. The jaggedness of my nose seemed to indicate it had been broken—on more than one occasion—and three of my teeth were missing. The final detail I noticed was the triangle that had been carved into my left forearm. Fresh, the wound was red and swollen.

“Who am I?” I repeated, worry once more rising within me. I scoured my memories in search of a hint, but all I found was emptiness. As impossible as it seemed, I had no recollection of my life before now.

Now more terrified than worried, I leapt to my feet and once more scanned my surroundings. I studied every detail, hoping to jog my memory, but the desolate scene that stretched all around remained unhelpful. As were the worn faces of the pedestrians. It wasn’t until I patted my body for hidden objects that I finally found my first hint.

A balled-up wad of paper had been stuffed into one of my pockets. Crisp and white, the note seemed out of place among the surrounding filth. Hands trembling, I smoothed out the square sheet and read the words written upon it.

Find the clues and solve the mystery. The fate of the entire city rests on your shoulders.

I re-read the note twice more before returning it to my pocket. Though far from helpful, the enigmatic message filled me with hope. Whoever wrote it knew what happened to me. Finding them would mean unravelling the mystery that was my life. Unfortunately, I had no clue where to begin. Fortunately, the burden of choice was taken from me when a dark shape emerged from my right.

I turned to find…

Option 1: …a massive, snarling beast.

Option 2: …an odd-looking robot.

Option 3: …a little girl with tear-stained cheeks and a headless doll clutched in her hands.

I hope you enjoyed the start of The Memory Thief. Click Here to keep reading and become a Storyteller.

—G. Sauvé

NOTE: You DON’T have to join my newsletter to read The Memory Thief, but only subscribers can vote, and you get a FREE book for joining.

Guest Post – Athabascan Languages and Legends by Daniella Shepard

“The Headless Ravine? You mean up Chitistone Gorge? That’s just a legend.”

“Yeah, the Athabascans didn’t name it that for nothing, kid.”

Myths and Legends of all cultures have fascinated me since I was a little girl. One of my favorites is that of the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe of the Mojave Desert (near Death Valley). They tell of early times, when the Coyote Spirit carried the First People into the Living Valley (what the Europeans would later name Death Valley) in a basket. He fell asleep, and the people crept out and populated the world. This took place at the Wosa, now known as Ubehebe Crater, a large extinct crater shaped like a basket in the National Park. I always liked to picture the coyote sleeping under the multitude of desert stars, while the curious people wandered away.

As I grew older, my brother, cousin and I would sit around and tell darker stories. Those of the of the Yucca Man and Skin Walkers. The southwest like every region of the world has its own tales of creatures that stalk the empty, uninhabited spaces of the land.

Native Legends

Navajo Legends

Yucca Man

Athabascan Language Groups

When I moved to Alaska in 2007, I became fascinated with the differences and similarities between the legends I grew up with and the ones I encountered in my new home. Something that I didn’t know, and others may be surprised to learn, is that Alaska Natives First Peoples of the interior of Alaska, called the Northern Athabascans, are actually related to the Apache-Navajo tribes of the American Southwest. The Apache Navajo are considered to be Southern Athabascan (also spelled Athapascan). The language structure, verb usage and words are similar, though the two groups live more than 3000 miles apart and have had no contact for many millennia. Some words have become obsolete over time and distance as the languages have evolved, but they have found that if they bring members from the different groups together, they are able to understand each other with some difficulty. I have included some links below that talk in more detail about the Athabascan Languages, relationships, dialects and origins.

Athabaskan Peoples Languages

http://qenaga.org/relationships.html

http://athabascanvoice.blogspot.com/2013/05/athabaskan-languages.html

Of the 31 dialects of Athabascan in Alaska, my particular story, The Dark Land is derived from legend of tailed creatures in the interior of Alaska in the region of the Ahtna (referring to the Upper Ahtna). The Dene, Han, Upper Tanana and other tribes have similar stories and legends revolving around evil creatures in the Alaska-Yukon wilderness, the most complete version resides in the book, Tatl’ahwt’aenn Nenn’ or The Headwater’s People’s Country, transcribed and edited by James Kari.

Cet’aenn Nal’aen’de (When the Tailed Ones Were Seen), is a chilling account of the Upper Ahtna’s encounter with the Cet’aenn (pronounced: Ket-ANN) detailed in the aforementioned book. It described evil, monkey-like creatures* that would come out of the ground at night and watch from the hills. The story describes how the Ahtna vanquished the creatures in the particular area known as Roasted Salmon Place (Batzulnetas), but the implication is that they didn’t eliminate them entirely.

*English translation-no word for monkey in Dena’ina/Ahtna.

Talking with some of my other friends who are more closely related to the Tanacross/Tanana tribes, this oral story/legend is not familiar to them. But they are very familiar with what is known as the Bush Men (Ts’el’eni or Kol’eni) or “Wild Men of the Tundra.” According to legend these men are known for kidnapping women and children and waging war against the First Peoples. There is also fervent belief in “The Hairy Man,” or the Wood Man (Nuhu’anh) what we would call Big Foot or Sasquatch.

http://www.native-languages.org/ahtna-legends.htm

No matter where you go, the theme of something sinister lurking in the woods beyond the shadows of the campfire prevails. No matter what our differences, tales of things waiting to devour those that stay too far from the path permeate every culture. Blending these tales into my own brand of fiction was a fun adventure, at the same time I wanted to share the inspiration. I also wanted to share the reason why I will definitely think twice before investigating the strange noise outside my cabin in the darkness.

Thanks for reading. If you want to read about legendary bloodthirsty creatures stalking the frozen trails of Alaska, you can find The Dark Land on Amazon.

You can also check out more of my blog posts about my Alaska adventures on my website:

http://dmshepard.com/blog/

Daniella’s book, The Dark Land, a wonderful mix of romance, terror, and action will be released May 4th. Yes, I’ve read it. Yes, it’s a lot of fun. Check back on May 4, 2020 for a full review.

You can also find Daniella on Twitter.

Guest Post – Writing Without Fear

Ashley Holzmann is a horror author by trade and a generally cool person overall. The irony of a horror author writing a post on writing without fear isn’t lost on me, but he makes some excellent points and it’s always great to hear someone tell you to not be afraid of your writing. There are some links at the bottom of the post if you want to find out more about Ash, but without further ado, I’d like to turn the stage over to the amazing Ashley Holzmann.

Hello, my name is Ashley and I will be your guest blogger this evening.

This post is for the writers out there, but will also hopefully interest the readers and other creators alike.

Why is that? Because some of the biggest hindrances to creativity are the self-imposed fears we carry with us.

I’m normally a horror writer, though I dabble in various genres, and I’m going to be putting on my writer hat to tackle this from what I believe to be some interesting perspectives. My goal is to discuss the fears that hold creators back and methods to get beyond those fears.

Creation For The Sake Of Creation

The pure artist, as can be found discussed in great detail in Leo Tolstoy’s What Is Art?, would state that the purer forms of art and creation are performed for the sake of the creation itself.

On some level, they are performed for the sake of the creator, but the more any single creator decides to push their art into the world and display it for others, the less pure it becomes.

I struggle with the purity of this idea.

On many levels, I love the romanticism of it.

The unfortunate counter argument is that it’s terribly convenient to have such an opinion of art for art’s sake, but what of us who were not the creators of War and Peace?

Tolstoy formed many of his important ideas and wrote many of his important essays concerning art after he was already an established personality. This is unfair of me, I know, as the argument is supposed to be separated from the man making the argument, but it’s hard to. Purists are not often in a position of vulnerability

Purists are often not in a position of vulnerability.

What of the artist who is only able to work on their art once a month because of the costs associated with it or the time constraints?

While art may very well be more pure when done for the sake of the creation of it, I would argue that a free artist is one who has enough support to function as an average member of society and concentrate wholly on their creations.

This, too, adds complications to the argument. As famous artists such as Michelangelo were given such freedoms, but were also constrained by the Medici family who paid his bills growing up, and then his commissions throughout his life often being from churches.

Who knows how great Michelangelo’s art could have been if he was given the financial freedom, but also the political and creative freedom to experience his art simply for the sake of it—allowing his mind and hands to take the work where it would go.

Tumbling around these arguments, I find myself settling into a middle ground as an artist, myself.

I create for the sake of creating. Most of my drawings are shared only briefly with family, and sometimes never. My writing is shared as widely as I can get it to be shared, though, and I am actively pursuing that lifestyle.

Maybe it is selfish of me to desire to make enough money off of my creative work to finance my lifestyle and allow me the freedom to leave my day job.

But if the result is more art, then is the world a lesser place?

The interesting aspect of modern times is the self-financed artist. Self-publishing for books, websites like Fiverr that allow for creative people to directly be sourced: the freedoms given to creative people are amazing these days. I sometimes wonder how modern platforms would inform Tolstoy’s opinions, if at all.

All of this brings be back to the title of this section: creation for the sake of creation.

Any artist must start somewhere, and in practicing the craft there will be many works that are never shared. That honing of skill is important, but also something I would argue is so important that it must always be returned to. While I personally believe that artists should strive for freedom in order to actively pursue their art as a career, I also recognize that some art should be kept to ourselves.

That art is both pure, but also important because it teaches us to discern between what we place of ourselves into the world and what we place of ourselves only in those closest to us. Because, at its core, most art is in some way a reflection of ourselves.

Because, at its core, most art is in some way a reflection of ourselves.

When You Are Afraid, Your Art Suffers

The freedom to create anything is not often give to artists. This is not always the choice of an artist, either. I already referenced one of the Renaissance masters. While the great awakening of artistic value occurred during that period, most of the people financing those efforts were the elite. It was not easy to be completely free and still tailor one’s work to the holder of the money purse.

These days we are in may ways more free, but if we are pursuing careers in creation we still have to play to an audience somewhere. This holds back a lot of creators, who feel like they must create to appease the people.

Stroll to the local movie theater and you’ll be given plenty of examples of the fear of creators. Held by by either themselves or by the financiers in order to appeal to as many people with wallets as possible. Being a creator isn’t an easy experience.

Being a creator isn’t an easy experience.

I would argue, however, that it is the artists who fall for this fear that create the lesser versions of the art they hold within them. And while it is financially safer to sometimes tackle the easy victory, the mass market appeal, many artists may surprise themselves when they take the risk to be themselves.

There is a happy medium between the artist who pursues their art in order to achieve financial stability and the artist who wishes to have the funding to be free to express themselves.

The Lack Of Fear

The irony of the fearful artist is that the un-fearful artist is often the one who stampedes through the cliche and lands themselves in the record books.

Every actor who has taken a performance and turned it up to eleven is hailed for their bravery. It is not easy to go through a fight scene completely naked like Viggo Mortensen in Eastern Promises. Or Michael Fassbender in Shame.

Stanley Kurbrick defined most of his career by his lack of fear. He often took so many risks with his work that a large part of his filmmaking experience was ensuring that he had the financing and creating his amazing work on as low a budget as possible. He found a way, though, and he stuck to his artistic guns and remained as pure as he could.

Lolita is another excellent example of a lack of fear. Like Catcher in the Rye, both star a likable, yet unlikeable, unreliable narrator tackling subjects that the writers themselves have stated are not pure to them as creators, but they had a vision and executed it masterfully.

When you work without fear, you are able to work in that middle ground between the extreme of the hermit creator and the opposing side of the sellout.

Pure Art Creation

We can all identify beautiful art. Many of us agree on certain aesthetics, but we will also disagree on many things as well. That’s understandable. What matters when it comes to any form of creation is for the creator to express themselves fully. If an artist is unafraid, then this is the next step they must take: being true to themselves.

This often means that artists true to themselves are exposing some of their inner-most demons to the world. They are allowing themselves to be vulnerable in front of the masses. This is almost always difficult. Crying in front of thousands of people is something that takes training.

Writing about secret childhood experiences can bring back horrible hurtful memories. Exposing one’s character flaws leaves us open to criticism that we may not be fully emotionally prepared for.

Exposing one’s character flaws leaves us open to criticism that we may not be fully emotionally prepared for.

Let Go

The reason we do allow ourselves the freedom of pure expression is because while we do expose ourselves to the voices of critics, we also expose ourselves to inclusion and acceptance.

I’ve often told myself that my friends and family will never read my work. This is not true, but the thought of showing my stuff only to strangers has a freeing quality to the creation.

Another simple tactic to use is to create things you would only want yourself to see. Then leave those things for a time. Come back to them. Refine them. Then either force yourself to release it out into the world, or have a trusted friend or loved one do it for you.

Tell yourself that you have not created such a work. Or use a pseudonym to hide your true identity. Create the double life that is necessary to spread your work. Justify your work to yourself any way that you can.

It is not easy to be true to one’s self, but the more often you are, the more often you open yourself up to surprising revelations. More people may fall in love with your work than you think. More opportunities may open the door for you as an artist because you are known to not have fear.

More people may fall in love with your work than you think.

You may also be surprised to find out that many artists will also look up to you. They may reach out to ask how you were able to be so honest or brave with your work. You may be surprised to find that being true to yourself opens yourself to just as much awe as it does to judgement.

It has been my experience in both creating and in enjoying art that the awe of admiration is more often gifted toward artists than judgement.

-Ashley Franz Holzmann

About The Author

Visit asforclass.com for more from Ashley.

His new book is available on Amazon. Get your copy here.

Ashley Franz Holzmann bio:

A Boy Named Sue, named Ashley, who goes by Ash around his friends. Ashley grew up overseas on Air Force bases. He once bought a 70s VW bus so he could drive it across the country. He married his first love—they were long distance for seven years. He reads poetry constantly; believes experiences define a life, and pursuing art is the purpose behind his existence. Ashley kept all of his Legos growing up and plays with them with his three kids. He’s in the Army. He likes big dogs.

Visit asforclass.com to learn more about Ashley, or to sign up for his mailing list to receive an exclusive and free novella.

His mailing list is also the best way to learn about upcoming projects, exclusive deals, and opportunities for free advanced versions of his work.

You can find out more about Ashley at his various social media sites. Drop by and say hello. Or howdy, if that’s more your speed.

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As a side note, if you’re ever interested in doing a guest post, drop me an email and we’ll figure it out all out. Questions or comments for Ashley? Drop ’em in the comments section.

Guest Post by Robert Holt – On The Nature Of Horror

guestpost

Today we have a special feature. I’ve never done a guest blog post before, but Robert Holt kindly offered to share his views on the horror genre and give us a tantalizing glimpse at one of the new books he has coming out soon. As anyone who’s read my books can attest, I use elements of horror, but Mr. Holt is a genuine horror author.

Without further ado, let’s hear from the man himself.

Hello, I’m Robert Holt. Eric was kind enough to invite me to discuss horror. I am a horror author with several novels under my belt and dozens of short stories published in anthologies and on the web.

What does horror mean?

Horror is more than a genre. Horror, like romance, is a state of being. A good horror story, whether it be ghosts, zombies, are carnivorous sea slugs, will leave the recipient in a feeling of discomfort and unease. Horror has received negative publicity ever since it was founded. It has been called immature, disgusting, and void of art, but that is simply politics. Horror can be immature, as that is what it truly is, a maturing experience. Like baby lions pouncing upon each other to prepare for hunting, children tell stories of the hook handed maniac and the glassy eyed ghost to prepare for a life where threats lie around every corner, and identifying them is crucial to survival. Horror teaches us when to be afraid. This differs from terror. Terror is a driven fear that haunts every aspect of life. Some books can bring a state of terror, but more often than not, they will be non-fiction books such as Mein Kampf.

Disgusting? Sure horror can be disgusting. It doesn’t have to be. Just as a romance novel can depict graphic sexual imagery or a simple peck on the cheek, horror can have intestines hanging from the ceiling fan or a little girl afraid of her breakfast grapefruit. In fact, both are in examples of my work. In a scene in a yet to be published novel of mine, a werewolf disembowels his victim and tosses the entrails around in glee. In my published collection of children stories, a girl is haunted throughout her day by the ghost of her breakfast grapefruit. It sounds silly, but the story was probably the scariest in the book and one that my daughter won’t let me tell her before bedtime.

Now the void of art claim is one that really fires me up. The same people that will say that horror is void of art will joyfully watch Jurassic Park, Sixth Sense, or Silence of the Lambs and claim they are good science fiction, drama, or suspense thriller, but they are all horror movies. All three films set out to unnerve you, scare you, and drag you through the fear to the other side where you emerge a little apprehensive of the future. The horror is the driving force of these films. Just as romance is always James Bond’s driving force and nobody calls 007 movies romance, many films with horror in the driver’s seat are never called horror. In fact, most movies that find mainstream commercial success through horror are often called something other than horror to differentiate itself from the schlock horror that smothers the genre. Terminator and Alien were both sold as science fiction despite them being classic style monster movies with very little science fiction tropes in them. Horror is an art form, and perhaps the greatest of all arts. Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus, Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven, Melville’s Confidence Man, and Austen’s Northanger Abbey should be viewed as testimonials to the craft and art of horror.

What is scary to me?

Everything. That is not to say that I’m a panophobic. I get around alright, better than most, I dare say, but I see the underlying threat in all things. It’s my job. A piece of paper may look harmless, but imagine having your eyelid pried open and receiving a paper cut across your cornea. Yep, these are the things that cross through my mind every day. Sometimes I even fear the weak nucleic force within the atoms of my own body. If one atom were to spring a leak, I and everyone within a thirty mile radius of me would be vaporized in a wave of radiation. Don’t think about it too much or rationality will kill the horror.

What do you think is the state of the horror genre right now?

The genre is suffering from the bad press it gets, but with King still near the top selling authors, The Walking Dead still holding onto fans, and new generations being lured to the genre with great horror for the youth like Harry Potter and Serafina, I feel secure that what I do will keep finding an audience.

What trends do you see coming down the pipe and what’s completely played out?

I think we are is for a revival of bizarro style horror in a big way. Whenever the conservative party is in control, things get weird. We will see a revival of the unexplainable horrors that I grew up loving, like Hellraiser and Phantasm. These were stories that you tried to wrap your head around but couldn’t, and that made them all that much scarier. I think it will come back in a big way.

As for what is played out, I think vampires and zombies are about tapped, with that said, I have two books coming down the pipe and one is a vampire book and the other is a zombie book. And that’s the thing. I thought I would never write a book about either of those, but when a good story came into my head, I had to run with it. My zombie book should be out very soon, and the fun part is that there are no zombies in the story. The book is about Americans and how we would react in a scenario where Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia have all fallen to the zombie apocalypse. There are no zombies in America. Let me repeat that since it is the title of the book: There Are No Zombies in America. T.A.N.Z.I.A. Thank you for indulging in that self-promotion. But yeah, I think nothing has been fully explored and the worlds created by the monsters that have been played out can still offer fun avenues to explore.

Thank you for allowing me into your day to discuss my craft.
Robert Holt
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