Friday, October 24, 2008

Part III: Personnel

I'm a busy guy, and I like it that way. But sometimes I pay the price for having too many irons in the fire. A three-part blog that was supposed to be Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday and became Monday-Wednesday-Friday is a good example. But I can't help it. I like to be busy. But recently, I've become overly "blessed".

I remember when I had all the time in the world to write. No one was waiting for anything, and if it took a week, a month, or six months it really didn't matter. Now, it seems I can't sit at the keyboard without hearing the ticking of the clock. Everything's on a deadline, but hey, isn't that what I wanted? Throw into the mix readings and book signings. Sure, I don't call myself a horror writer anymore, but Halloween is still the busy season. In fact, I have one coming up tomorrow at Taylor Books. I might have another reading coming up for Halloween, but we'll see.

If that isn't enough, I have my extracurricular activities. Wrestling shows, magic performances (have an appearance coming up this month), and maintaining not only my website but also the website of poet extraordinaire Brandy Schwan. Throw in a day job and the occasional trip, and there you have it: my filled-to-the-brim life.

So full, in fact, that life is beginning to run away from me. I've reached the point where I can't do it alone. I need help. I need a personal assistant. Brian Keene has Big Joe. Maurice Broaddus has his "con wives". Yeah, that's what I need. A helping hand. A partner in crime. A cross between My Girl Friday and Wednesday Addams. Someone who is, God help us all, crazier than I am. An impossible dream, you say? An unreachable goal? Au contraire. Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce Grace Welch:

Some of you have already met her. Expect to see more of her around as I travel to conventions and other gatherings. As well as being an exceptional historian, researcher and note-taking goddess, Grace is also an amazing artist. You can see samples of her work on her MySpace page. She and I are in the planning stages of a series of children's books. More details to come.

I did want to mention that the reading at the Book Exchange yesterday went swimmingly well. I had a great time, and had story time with 10-12 kids, and then more adult spooky stories with the adults toward the end of the evening. Music provided by Captain Crash and the Beauty Queen, a duo I first saw perform at Rudy Panucci's Radio Free Charleston celebration. They brought the acoustic funk.

By the way, the new Weird Tales is on newsstands, and you can find my poem "The Monster With the Shape of Me" on page 13 (how cool is that?). I couldn't have asked for a better layout, and the page is illustrated with a piece by omni-talented artist Steven Archer.

More projects on the way. Would you expect anything less?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Part II: Purpose

Brian Keene and Gary Braunbeck made my decision much easier, and helped me to realize this was the right thing to do; but they weren't the catalyst. The seed was planted many years ago.

I've been writing poems and stories since elementary school. I made the decision to become a professional writer about six months after I left seminary. I started out with an electric typewriter, but I created the majority of my early work on a Commodore 64 and a nine-pin dot matrix printer. My word processing program was Geowriter, part of the GEOS software suite. For those who don't know, this was one of the first Graphical User Interfaces for a home computer. It was Windows long before there was a Windows. I knew what I wanted: to be the next Stephen King. I submitted to Eldritch Tales, Spectral Tales, Grue, 2AM, The Horror Show, The Scream Factory, and others. I received many encouraging rejections, for which I am both grateful and amazed. At this point in my work, I was not very well read in the genre and I still labored under the false impression that all horror stories had to end with a Twilight Zone-like ending. Still, these editors encouraged me to keep writing. Perhaps they saw something more that what I had given them on the page.

I knew that if I wanted to get better, I would need to learn more. I read every writing book I could get my hands on, and managed to understand a little of it. I finally decided that formal education was the route I needed to take and enrolled at West Virginia State College.

I worked during the day and went to school at night, taking courses when I could. I majored in English with a minor in Computer Science. I studied literature and linguistics. I read a wide variety of authors. I wrote stories and poems, and published in the school journals. After six years of hard work, I finally earned my degree. And promptly gave up writing.

Jean Anaporte, my poetry professor at State, was very upset to learn I had taken a computer tech job and had stopped writing. I thought I was just being practical. I had read great literature and felt I didn't have the talent to measure up to that. I had a good job that stimulated me intellectually and paid me well. I had simply grown older and my dreams had changed. Or so I thought. Being a writer is very much like being in the Mafia: you can try to get out, but it just keeps dragging you back in.

My road to becoming a published professional began in New York City in 2005 at the World Horror Convention, which I attended because I saw something about it on the Internet. I was the quiet guy who knew absolutely nobody, feeling like a gatecrasher at an exclusive party. I did manage to introduce myself to a few people, see how real authors behaved (both good and bad), and met people who would influence me in ways I never would have guessed. Many of these people became my good friends.

WHC would be followed by Necon, HorrorFind, and Borderlands Boot Camps. My knowledge grew, and would eventually bear fruit in my incipient writing career. I'm not even close to being another Stephen King, but I couldn't imagine ten years ago where I would be now. Horror has been very good to me. That is why what I am about to say might come as a surprise. It certainly does to me. But the seeds to this announcement started right at the very beginnings of my writing, found root and were nurtured during my time in college, and has come to fruition because of the counsel of some very wise teachers and friends in the horror business. And at this point in my career, it is the logical next step.

I am giving up horror.

It was a matter of time. My writing has drifted away from purely horror themes. I can see the pattern in my writing clearly now. During a horror author panel at this year's ConText, I asked a bit of a loaded question. "What is it that you want your readers to take away from your work?" The answer was nearly unanimous: nothing. Horror is meant to be a funhouse ride and nothing more. These authors didn't tell me anything that I hadn't read in many of the literary texts I've studied. Horror is the most restrictive of all genres, focusing on the emotion of fear very often at the expense of all others. Calling fiction "Dark Fantasy" or "Supernatural Thriller" are simply attempts to write horror themes without being beholden to horror construction. Horror can be a box that limits theme and meaning. Although it may not be important to a horror writer for a reader to take something away from their work, it is important to me.

Therefore, I'm no longer calling myself a horror writer. I am simply a writer. This doesn't mean that I won't write horror fiction. It does mean that those stories I choose to call horror may not fit very comfortably within what some might believe horror fiction should be. Personally, I believe horror can and should use a broad emotional palate, and that a horror story can have meaning that isn't painfully contrived when constructed by a skilled author. Joyce Carol Oates, Ray Bradbury, and Gary Braunbeck prove that in their work, and I would be thankful indeed to have a fraction of their talent.

I don't wish to be misunderstood here and lead anyone to believe that I have ceased upon the na├»ve conviction that I have gained some sort of enlightened state that makes me somehow better than the average horror writer. I am no literary snob, and becoming one would be the death knell to my writing career. I still love horror stories, and I don't believe anyone who writes horror needs to explain themselves to anyone. I'm not in a better place than my friends who write horror, just in a different one. And I truly believe that the writer's panel at Context—many of whom are friends of mine—were selling themselves short. Readers take away more from their work than they know.

Honestly, I'm not sure what label will ultimately be placed upon my work. Mainstream or genre. Popular or literary. I don't worry about that. My only concern in to improve my craft and to write fiction and poetry that is uniquely and irrefutably… me.

Tomorrow, I'd like to introduce you to someone.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Part I: Projects

I have made a concerted effort to get more writing done and out for submission. So far, this has only managed to increase the number of rejection letters I receive per month, but that's the name of the game. Penn Jillette (of Penn & Teller) said that the best magicians were the ones who put in the most "flight time", the ones who perform the most shows. It's not that much different for writers. The ones who continue put words to paper, send their work out, and take their lumps are the ones who eventually publish. Writing has gotten more difficult for me recently, but only because I require so much more from my work. Mentors have shown me weak points in my work, and I'm managing to stumble onto many of them on my own. Yet, I continue to write and make my work the best I can make it, and then try to make it better. That's the name of the game.

I have several short stories out to different anthologies, and I am polishing a few more to go out to magazines. I've been submitting several pieces to literary magazines, and am working to get a few publishing credits outside of genre fiction. Michael Knost is putting together a new anthology of stories written by West Virginia authors, and I believe I have a story worth submitting. It's unlike anything I've done before, and that's what makes it interesting to write. If there were a theme to my latest works, it has been "Explore New Territories".

With the upcoming publication of "The Monster With the Shape of Me" in Weird Tales, my poetry is gaining a wider audience. My first works as a writer began with poetry, and it has always been a part of me. My recent success, as well as help and encouragement from poets such as Linda Addison, Mike Arnzen, and Brandy Schwan, drives me forward to pursue my poetry and to get more of it out there. I hope all of you will get the opportunity to see more of it soon.

I also have an idea for a series of children's books, inspired by the artwork of a local artist. I am very excited about this new project, but I won't say more about it until Wednesday, and then you'll see why I've waited.

My big project, however, is my novel. The working title is "The Patchwork Queen", and it is a supernatural thriller based in a fictional town in West Virginia. I will be workshopping the novel in January at the Borderlands Press Novel Boot Camp. This project has taken a life of its own, and I already see some changes I want to make to the structure of the novel. I'm looking forward to the critiques in January, and with the help of the instructors and fellow grunts, my plan is to have a finished manuscript to market sometime next year.

What all this boils down to is that how I pursue my writing, how I choose my subjects, and how I plan my career path is changing. The nature of this change, and what it means to me as a writer, is the subject of tomorrow's blog.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

State of the “Union”

Especially since I haven't posted in a while, I wanted to give everyone a heads-up on what I have been up to, and what I have coming up toward the end of the year and in the coming year. As I began to put the blog together, I realized that if I did it all in one blog, I'd have one huge wall-o-text with a lot of comments of tl;dr (too long; didn't read). So, for the sake of personal and general sanity, I will post a new entry over the next three days: "Projects" on Monday, "Purpose" on Tuesday, and "Personnel" on Wednesday. For today, a few news tidbits.

1) The Legends of the Mountain State series has been doing well. I had a great time at the reading at Border's in Huntington with Mark Justice and Michael Knost, as well as the book signing at the West Virginia Book Expo. I have more appearances down the road, including a reading at the Book Exchange on October 24th. Both books are soon to be available at Amazon.com, and are currently available at the Horror Mall.

2) Speaking of Michael Knost, he has some exciting projects on tap, and one of particular interest to WV writers. Get all the details at http://www.michaelknost.com, and sign up for his newsletter.

3) Weird Tales #351, and my poem "The Monster With the Shape of Me", will be hitting newsstands soon. Look for it.

4) Shroud Magazine is becoming a force to be reckoned with in the horror genre. Definitely worth a look. My flash fiction piece "Snowbound" appears in Issue #2 as part of their MySpace contest. You can read it on the Amazon.com website.

5) Congratulation to Brandy Schwan on her first poetry reading. One of the great joys of being a writer for me is to stand in front of an audience and read my work; I'm glad Brandy has finally experienced this for herself. If you want a copy of her new chapbook Catacombs & Photographs (along with the $5 Grim Trixter special), don't wait. This limited edition is going fast. Head over to the order page at the Apex website.

Enough for today? I believe so. Check back tomorrow for "Projects".

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Get Ready...

This weekend, I finally break my silence and let everyone know what's been going on, and what coming up soon. Some great news and some big changes are on the way. Look for a huge blog post soon.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Readings

Mark Justice posted about last Friday's "Legends of the Mountain State" readings at Border's in Huntington on his blog. Check it out.

Also, the following announcement for those of you near Charleston WV:

The Book Exchange
1588 Washington St. E Charleston, WV
304-941-6170

Presents!

Brian J. Hatcher

Coauthor of
Legends of the Mountain State, vol. I and II:
Ghostly Tales from the State of West Virginia

Date: Thursday, October 23rd
Time: 5pm to 8pm

Come as you are or in costume. Refreshments, candy for the kids, and live music provided by:

Captain Crash and the Beauty Queen

Finally, I'll be making an announcement in a few days about the newest member of Team Hatcher, and what I have coming up for the new year. Keep an eye out for that.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Weird Tales #351



The weird animation of Bill Plympton
- Viktor Koen's biomechanical visions
- Exclusive excerpt: The Alchemy of Stone by Ekaterina Sedia

INTERNATIONAL FICTION SPOTLIGHT:
- "First Photograph" by Zoran Zivkovic
- "The Gong" by Sara Genge
- "The Dream of the Blue Man" by Nir Yaniv
- "The Wordeaters" by Rochita Loenen-Ruiz
- "Out of Sacred Water" by Juraj Cervenak
- "Time and the Orpheus" by chiles samaniego
- "BleakWarrior Meets the Sons of Brawl"

POETRY:
- "The Monster With the Shape of Me" by Brian J. Hatcher

NONFICTION:
- The Library: Elizabeth Genco talks with author Lauren Groff about writing The Monsters of Templeton
- The Bazaar: Jessica Joslin's crazy steampunk critters
- Weirdism: Robert Isenberg on the cinema's latest obsession with apocalyptic futures
- Lost in Lovecraft: Kenneth Hite dives literarily into the Pacific Ocean and pulls up H.P. Lovecraft
- Harvey Pelican & Co.: special offers from the esoterica king

ARTWORK:
- Cover art: "Skelephron" by Viktor Koen
- Illustrations by Steven Archer, Hellstern, Ira Marcks and more