I’m extremely happy to report that my seaside horror novel, Dead Reckoning, has been accepted for a 2015 release by J Ellington Ashton Press!
Niche: Tell us a little bit about your creative process? How do you get through difficult spots?
M Cid D’Angelo: I don’t think there is an easy way around them. I, like many other writers, go through “dry” periods where the muse doesn’t sing. No matter how I try, nothing comes out. When it comes to fiction, I’m a draft writer, meaning that I usually just start writing and discover much on the journey. Then I rewrite another draft, and then another, until the draft is set.
Niche: What are some things that inspire you for stories?
MCD: They can come out of nowhere. Reading articles in magazines, online. Sometimes other stories inspire too.
Niche: You dedicate your story to Leonard Peltier and Russell Means. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
MCD: In 1977, Leonard Peltier, a Sioux Indian and Native American activist, was accused of killing two FBI agents in South Dakota. There is great controversy to his conviction and the investigation; much of which the FBI is considered to have whitewashed and pushed through evidence to convict him when many people believe Peltier is innocent of the crime. “The Road from Tahlequah” is a musing how it would be for an older Native American activist to finally come home after a long incarceration in Federal prison.
Russell Means was an outspoken Native American activist and actor I always admired. He passed away a year or so ago. Many people know him for his role as the father of Daniel Day Lewis’ character in the 1992 movie, Last of the Mohicans.
Niche: You have mentioned that the Road to Tahlequah is particularly special to you due to your Cherokee roots; did that make the story harder to write?
MCD: Quite the contrary. The Cherokee, after their removal from the east coast to Oklahoma, via the Trail of Tears, there was always a deep-seated resentment in many of the locals about the injustice. It’s a sad story that can ignite much passion.
Niche: Your characters of Margaret and Tom Long show different sides of a Native American family, could you tell us a little more about them? Do you relate to one more than the other?
MCD: Margret was inspired off, incidentally, a young Indian – that is, from India – woman. I transposed the character and her flamboyant in-your-face personality that reminded me of some other angst-ridden Native American girls I knew. They have become anglo-sized, that is, desiring to be “white” rather than Native American. I found that character persona to be indicative of the unrest in disaffected Native American youth across the 500 Nations. Tom Long is the old school; he is redolent of the old ideals of the civil rights movements of the 1960s and 70s. Nowadays, it seems, that those ideals have been trodden into the muck of forgetfulness, and that the Native American youth who still are harbored on reservations still face a barrier of what was then and what is now. Tom Long represents the courage and the desperation of those who fought for their civil rights while the younger generations are just doing what they can to eke by.
Niche: What, if anything specific, do you hope readers will take away from the Road to Tahlequah?
MCD: I want them to know of the other people who share this land with them. That just because they’ve been holed up on reservations far away, that they are still human. That they face not only the hardships of being Native American in the United States, but that their hopes and dreams are very much like anyone else’s.
Niche: Is there anything else that you want our readership to know?
MCD: Read. Read. And read some more. Read not only for entertainment, but read because perspectives make a reader worldly. Feel that we are all connected.
Niche No. 4 is now live!
You can download and save as many copies of the digital issues as you desire by going to our website: www.nichelitmag.com, and clicking the button that says, “Download Niche No. 4.”
First of all, I am not immune. I get myself into trouble ALL THE TIME.
We all use online public forums in one way or another to get our views, news, and opinions across to complete strangers. Most of the time, for the average Internet user, having such public profiles is for fun and a way to mingle – a digital and never-ending co…cktail party.
Many of you, no doubt, enjoy an office party at your dayjob. You work with these people every day, and therefore it is always prudent to make sure not to ruffle the feathers of those around you – it could lead to … unpleasantness.
Many people feel that the Internet grants them some measure of anonymity, and some of these individuals love to spew confrontational, shocking, and often facetious comments. They feel immune to repercussions or consequences that their comments can create.
Such behavior can be DANGEROUS for the writer or artist who is desperately trying to establish a platform. However, a popular online profile can endear audiences as well.
I have many established and bestselling authors, for example, in my Facebook “Friendship Pile.” I find their posts frequently trite and pointedly inoffensive. Boring. If they are not pushing their wares, they are usually posting something mediocre and crowd-pleasing.
This safe practice is used on Twitter, but, Twitter is greatly influenced for sales bites and promotions. I no longer, myself, use Twitter for that reason. Everyone there appears to be using it to shout out their book, self-published or not.
Yet, an artist should also attempt to show character in themselves. To show they are human. This helps garner care from strangers who wish to connect with people and not a Spambot. Yet, it is easy to offend and cause alienation.
So, how should one cultivate a popular online persona? It isn’t an easy jungle to navigate, and there will be those who will not be pleased with anything one says or does. Consider:
1. Be honest. Show your personality, your views as they are; do not try to use a facade to slip into a mainstream. People in general can not be easily deceived and will know a snowjob.
2. Attempt good-natured humor with your posts. Beware of angry tirades all the time, especially when you do little to soften your personality. Yet, be careful of sarcasm. I often, myself, get into trouble because my humor can be very dark and not easily understood.
3. Do not TROLL. That is, do not be a mean-spirited online jerk who attacks everyone for whatever reason – especially just to be a troll. If you disagree with people, attempt to be honest WHY you don’t agree, and also, attempt to soften the edge with humor.
4. Show genuine interest in other people in your pile. I CANNOT tell you how many established authors live in an ivory tower online and do not interface with their fans or friends. These people typically are so self-absorbed, all you get out of them is a sales pitch. I usually hide them or unfriend them after awhile.
5. Post interesting things. If your comments and posts are typically regurgitation of some smarmy meme going around, people will get bored with you pretty fast. Always add a little comment with them to show your view.
It is daunting, you know, to try to look at the publishing battlefield ahead and wonder if you have the weapons to fight it.
I have never come across an easy submission campaign to literary agents and traditional presses – large or small. Many new authors, using the path of self-publishing, forego establishing for themselves a writer’s platform mainly because it takes experience and credits to make one up.
Many traditional publishing markets require a writer to have some measure of experience, just as it is trying to find a dayjob other than writing. A writer’s platform is essentially a resume.
So how does a new writer build one up?
First of all, it takes time. In our “I want it all and I want it now” society, many new authors don’t want to try to spend time establishing themselves.
A writer’s platform should highlight publishing credits and education, and if at all possible, experience and fortitude.
Write nonfiction articles for trade magazines, especially for hobbies and professional training you have. Ignoring this takes away a lucrative and possibly easy publishing credit. My first important publication was a nonfiction article on the hobby of metal detecting for Lost Treasure magazine.
Write short and flash fiction and submit to literary journals that are pertinent. There are several databases online for them and between online and print magazines, THERE ARE MANY.
Try your hand writing different forms of prose and poetry and submit them. Matter-of-fact, write and submit often.
Establish yourself not only on Twitter or Facebook, but other online forums such as Stage32 and LinkedIn.
Search for writing freelance jobs on LinkedIn, Odesk, or other writers areas for work.
Check out technical and content writing for software companies; also consider freelancing as a technical writer for pharmaceutical/medical companies as well as technolgy companies. These look good on a resume.
Above all, be persistent and spend TIME doing it. You’ll be surprised how quickly your platform begins to build.
Daily Word Count Goal Met … check!
The END typed at the bottom of manuscript … check!
Revisions Made and completed … check!
List of literary agents and publishing houses ready for submission … check!
Yet, most successful and unsuccessful writers, whether published or not, meet a routine apex at the completion of their works: their stories are, despite ambition, not spectacular.
Even modern bestseller lists are rife with lackluster, unoriginal, bland works that only strive to retell banality and push mediocre strings of sentences without thought of voice or character depth. Some bestsellers are memorable not because of the writing, but because of the controversy, or appealing to a niche of readers. Besides the traditional published works, self-published works – in order to find a mass market to sale – are churned out by amateur writers who have not learned the craft of storytelling.
It seems that storytelling is fundamental when writing fiction. Boy meets Girl, Boy loves Girl, Boy loses Girl, Boy disses Girl and meets up with A’K’Aa’Rani of the Vegan Star System and they bring an end to the evil Carmalleon Empire by destroying their … oh, all right, let’s not get off track here.
I’ve just had a reading “session” with two novels that bored me to tears. The writing in both is adequate; the syntax is solid, but the characters are pretty 2-dimensional and the stories are predictable. The first one, written about anti-whaling activists, is written by a veteran writer with many titles under his belt; the second is a Native American mystery close to the works of Tony Hillerman, and is written by a new writer. Both are different in style and approach, but both are pretty bland reading because of their straightforwardness.
Trite and hackneyed writing doesn’t need to be enlivened by action or twists and turns; the greatest and most memorable works are memorable because we care for the characters and the storytelling is rich and provides us a universe all its own. The story might teach us something, it might inspire us; yet, great writing and storytelling is done because the author weaves color into every aspect of the fabric of the story. This cannot be done by the production mill of literature to make cash; quantity is not quality as we all know.
The greatest stories are told because they mean something. They introduce to us a shadow of our emotions and not just escapism. Stephen King was truly great in his day, that is, in this reader’s opinion, because he wove deep literary content into his genre-based horror stories. His words were eloquent and his characters real. His elements could have been used in westerns, or science fiction, or even romance. King is a closet literary author; he has proven such with works like The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile. Yet, after awhile, even King began to become a production writer in order to placate his publishers’ balance sheet for the exorbitant advances he demanded. His works began to slide backwards in quality and in order for him to grasp what he truly was, he had to reintroduce elements he’d written about years before.
That is the argument of being a successful bestselling author. The more money and fame, the more your works become mediocre.
So, what is good storytelling and how can we meager writers grasp it? I suppose I could attempt to bring a hint of what it could be by a mere number list here for perusal:
1. Reality within something outrageous. For example, your story may be far-fetched altogether and far from what everyday people might experience (like, say, Regan and her mother experience in The Exorcist, or what Drs. Grant and Malcolm experience when they agree to visit Jurassic Park), but the characters are very human in their perspective and their reactions. They would be much like anyone else. They bridge the gap between the outrageous and the mundane.
2. Contrariness within Character. Most protagonists are one way. They are feeling, caring people who are always altruistic or innocent in dealings with others until they are kicked in the head by a series of conflicts ala plot devices and turns. Memorable characters are straightforward and yet, complex. They undertake changes as they grasp the conflicts within themselves. The anti-hero, for example. What if the protagonist is conflicted but ultimately always delivers sympathy despite his/her POV? Don’t be afraid to hate your protagonist at times. Don’t be afraid to feel disappointed in how he/she deals with things because the greatest characters are those that ARE NOT us. They are not mere shadows of the author. They might have different religious, political, or even ethical differences.
3. Subplots. I was reading this new novel not long ago and was immediately disappointed in it because of its lack of reflection between plot and subplot. All subplots are not for deepening character and adding fodder to the story, nor is it meant to create a diversion from the main plot. A great subplot enhances the main plot and illuminates the climax and gives the perspective of the protagonist when he or she faces the final push and revelation. The Mirror Subplot, that is, a subplot that mirrors the main plot in theme if not specifically, has the greatest potential of deepening the main storyline. A great example of this is in the movies, especially Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back in which Han Solo and company deal with a sinister galactic cavern and Luke Skywalker faces the Darkside in the cavern on Dantooine at the same time.
4. Villains with Depth. Most antagonists are meant just to cause the protagonist and his/her friends trouble, but the best villains are complex creatures who are full of contrary motives and may, at times, help the protagonist inasmuch as hinder him. In each scenario, the villain is a reflection of the hero, as with the Mirror Subplot above. Jean Valjean and Inspector Valjert orbit each other in an endless cat in mouse conflict with the actions of each causing the other as much mayhem as the other. Here, Victor Hugo in Les Miserables shows the affect of one life to another in a constant war that both builds and destroys both of these men. The antagonist may also have a better argument than the protagonist, and acts against the hero not because of spite but of necessity.
The key to a profound work lies greatly in complexity, but written simply; an author who writes well writes simply, but delivers texture, voice, and depth to his or her works without boring or confusing the reader.
Frodo is given a magic ring by his eccentric uncle that makes him invisible. All Frodo does in the novel is put it on and play a practical joke every once in awhile on Sam or Merry or Pippin, and then retires for the day. End of Story.
Jean Valjean steals a loaf of bread and is able to feed his starving sister. He later founds his own business and becomes wealthy and marries Fantine and they both care for Cosette. End of Story.
Jack Torrence gets the job to be the caretaker at the Overlook Hotel, but early on he and his wife and psychic son realize the place is haunted and hire an exorcist. He writes his novel, the boy enjoys riding his Big Wheel through the hallways, and the wife never has to call anyone to save them from a axe-wielding lunatic. End of Story.
So, yes, I think you understand what I’m getting at here. End of Story? Why, there is no story. Who wants to read about nothing that goes nowhere? Why even write such a story in the first place? Who cares? Many of us live pointless lives that deal with a humdrum existence that doesn’t build us or challenge us. At least not on a daily basis.
But we, as writers, know that. Sheesh, even I at age 7 realized my short stories about dog adventures and Godzilla tearing up the place detailed major setbacks for the main characters. So, conflict is integral to the fabric of a story. However, what is often missed is the emotional conflict, the poignant self-challenges characters must face in order to become stronger and greater than they are; the more emotional depth, the greater their story.
I often read bestselling novels these days where the story is laid out well, sports a protagonist, an antagonist, and redolent of pace and action, but is easily forgotten because the main characters, though challenged physically, never face anything that must change them.
Most are series characters. For example, I enjoy the story behind Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon works; there are intrigues and puzzles and thrills, but Langdon is a forgettable character because he never grows. He’s always the same. One blockbusting novel to another, I could take them and wrap them together and they would fit seamlessly because they are the same. Langdon will figure out the puzzle. He will stop the bad guy, despite the conflict.
Not to pick on Mr. Brown; literature is rife with 2-dimensional series characters who solve their problems without change within themselves. Agatha Christie’s famous characters Hercule Poirot and Miss Jane Marple never change from story to story. They are “practically perfect in every way.” The gimmick with Christie’s novels is the intricate weave of the clever mystery; Brown’s pace and thrills as Langdon is pushed to his limits. Most dime-store pulp fiction is written that way. The reader is escaping.
The more poignant novels, however, are those stories where the character must confront him/herself and find out that they are changing at a very deep and emotional level. The main characters might succeed in their quest to Mount Doom, but the journey will tear them asunder. Frodo in Lord of the Rings is forever changed; the evil of the One Ring punishes him as he journeys a HELLUVA long way from home. Jean Valjean raises Cosette but must endure the fact she will fall in love with another and dash his own romantic ideals aside, though he’s suffered to make his and her life better. Jack Torrence faces his demon of alcoholism, but here, he is changed too much; he fails and is lost.
Harry Potter, a series character, is so poignant at times because he grows from novel to novel. As he goes through adolescence, his fate that is intertwined with Valdemort also grows. This is reflected in his companions as well. There is a good chance that somehow Potter might not survive this, and his journey is redolent of failures and challenges that are often too much for him to deal with. He pulls through most of them, with the help of his friends and allies, but all-in-all, Potter might not be powerful enough to meet the final challenge – and he might be defeated.
A memorable character faces challenges, but the memorable character’s main goal is not just ending the surface quest. There is more at stake here. Perhaps not only the life of the protagonist, but the very soul – the spirit – of what they had been at the outset.
How do we write something like that? How do we bring a character to the brink?
This is the hard part of being an artist; too many authors shirk the deep stuff because it means they have to delve into their own psychology. They have to breathe life into those Seven Deadly Sins of their own nature to breathe life into their characters. And that is what’s the most perilous; it becomes a journey to Mount Doom for the author and not just poor old Frodo and Samwise.
Stephen King’s characters are often reflections of his own psychology and personality. His characters are memorable because he makes them real. He makes them vivid, because they are him. His fantasies are an outlet of his own battles, and as such, we’re on for the ride because we identify with those precepts.
A writer should find those hot buttons they won’t go to. They must be willing to find their own deep-seated fears, lusts, and other driving darknesses to bring their own characters to such a level. A good novel is not just a series of flowery words, no matter how well written; it is a venture into the darkest realms of our psyche.
A few of his short stories are published by various for print and online literary magazines. Here are a few:
“Thumbs Up” (Midway Journal): http://www.midwayjournal.com/Oct10_Fiction-ThumbsUp.html
“Don Quixote de Las Vegas” (Moronic Ox): http://www.moronicox.com/don-quixote-de-las-vegas-dangelo.html
“In the Garden” (decomP magazinE): http://www.decompmagazine.com/inthegarden.htm
“Chad and Willie Break a Leg (March, 2013 – The Legendary): http://www.downdirtyword.com/