A Long Short Month

The month of February found me curled up in bed with either a trashcan or a box of tissues nearby. My glorious plans of a timely post and finishing chapter four of my current project were thoroughly dashed by drain on my inspiration, a stomach bug, and a week later, the flu. Needless to say, for such a short month, February was a long one for me.

And yet, it wasn’t an entirely unproductive month.

I got ready for Read An E-Book week by putting my books on sale on Smashwords. Two of my stories are on sale this week (March 3rd-9th) : Of Secrets, Letters, and Lions is free, and the sequel Of Secrets and Sound is half off at $0.99.

I also came to an odd realization. The more ill I am, the more inspired I become. Maybe it’s the fever induced dreams, or maybe it’s because I do so little aside from lying in bed and letting my mind wander. In an odd stroke of inspiration I decided to go back and edit what I had of my current project.

Although I’m still editing (it’s near impossible to edit when one is running a fever), the idea to go back and work on what I had has really worked for me. I also decided to share a bit of my editing process on Instagram. But now I want to share more details. While writing is a solitary experience, it’s more fun when parts of the journey are shared.

Three papers are on stone tile, each paper is labeled from bottom to top "2nd draft: Chapter one" "1st draft: Chapter one" and "Chapter one". The topmost paper has many notes written on it. On top of the papers are three books, each related to thrillers, psychology, or murder.

My editing process consists of me reading through the chapter and making notes in different colors. In this case blue was what I wanted to add, and purple was what I needed to change. Once that’s done, I go back and I read over my edits. If it doesn’t flow the way I like, I edit my edits. Eventually I’m satisfied and type it up.

I was pretty content to keep going forward with my second draft. But I’ll repeat the process quite a few times before I release this into the wild. Regardless, I’m looking forward to it. I love writing, the pouring out of words, but I also love editing. I love carving away what’s not needed and getting closer to how I envision the book.

Of course, if I’m sharing this picture from my Instagram, then clearly there’s a reason I chose those books to star in the picture. The three books (Zodiac by Graysmith, Outliers by Gladwell, and The Tattooed Girl by Burstein, De Keijzer, Holmberg), all touch on elements in my WiP. While there are no serial killers, there’s obsession, mystery, powerful people, and a darkness that I haven’t touched on in my other works. In a way that makes the book easier to write. There’s no limits, except my own. On the other hand, it’s more difficult. How far can I push myself? How do I write about very real, very dark topics, with respect? Like any story, it’s a journey, and despite some lingering sniffles, I’m quite enjoying it.

The Hellsing Effect

Nazis, vampires, religious struggles, and near endless blood. This is the story that I fell in love with as a young teenager. The Hellsing manga (by Kohta Hirano) is a dark and bizarre tale of two Christian organizations (one Catholic and the other the Protestant organization, Hellsing) discovering that Nazis are not a thing of the past. In fact, the Nazis are behind the rising death count and the creation of numerous artificial vampires. Hellsing is a delightful blend of historical fiction and futuristic themes, while tackling philosophical topics.

When I first discovered Hellsing I was too young to be reading it, so I snuck in readings at the bookstore. Knowing that the next volume might be on the shelves filled me with excitement.  These readings became formative for me. Over the top? Absolutely. But the villains are true villains, unapologetic for their crimes and in love with their own depravity while our heroes are faced with near impossible odds and show steady growth. Not to mention, the psychology that is found throughout the series is brilliant. I devoured it.

HellsingManga1_Cover

Hellsing taught me in both pictures and words that extreme violence can be tempered with in-depth explorations of the human psyche. It was the first example I had where everyone was clearly a hero in their own story, yet not actually a hero; a concept that’s talked about frequently but hard to pull off with grace. Perhaps the most important concept that Hellsing explores is one that has wormed its way into my subconscious: embracing one’s darkness doesn’t mean that one has to give up their humanity; perhaps one can only be truly human after exploring it. And explore it I did.

I’ve been a morbid soul since I was young. Reading Hellsing allowed me to give myself permission to explore my own darkness and the stories within. While my first short story is a light, heartwarming romance (according to reviewers), there was a tinge of darkness in it. This darkness was greatly expanded upon in my short story, “Of Secrets Letters and Lions.” In the sequel, Of Secrets and Sound, I felt like I was truly delving into that darkness I so love. Whatever comes next will follow that path.

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When I first discovered Hellsing I wasn’t interested in writing. Looking back I can see how the series has impacted me as a storyteller. Hellsing showed me that the most intriguing stories can be found in dark places. Because it’s over the top, people often miss the subtle nuances of the story. I’ll probably never write something as gory as Hellsing, but I hope my stories can be flavored with hidden themes and subtly similar to what I found in the series. After all, good horror is suspenseful because there’s more at stake then just losing an arm. But perhaps the most important thing I learned from Hellsing is that no matter how dark, people will gravitate towards a well told story and life-like characters.