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Look – I know how it is. I hear you out there, saying, “Montoure, your online presence enlightens and enriches us all. But it’s not enough! I want to see you with my own eyes! I want to hear your mellifluous voice, with its stentorian tones and distinctive vowel sounds, with my very own ears! I want to stand uncomfortably close to you.”

Okay, that – that escalated quickly. Never mind. The point is, for the convenience of all my stalkers out there, I wanted to hip you jive cats to my groove, as I’m pretty sure the kids are saying these days. That’s right – I’m actually leaving my cave and braving the daylight world, and here’s where you can find me, wandering around and blinking at blurry objects in confusion.

For starters, I’m going to be a panelist at RustyCon, which starts – well, today, actually. (No, that’s not much notice. Look, I never said I was good at this.) Here’s my panel schedule:

British Media
Sat Jan 18 11:00:am – Salon H
Going beyond Doctor Who, what other British shows are out there, and are they any good?

Joss Whedon & His Universes
Sat Jan 18 4:00:pm – Everett
Come discuss the Universes of Joss Whedon and listen to our panelists give their views on him (and his universes).

Humor in Writing? No, Never!
Sat Jan 18 5:00:pm – Salon I
Join several authors as they celebrate the best of bad writing advice, humorous rewrites, copy-editing quirks, and other funny moments in the world of writing. Caveat: Do not follow the advice, but feel free to laugh! (This panel will poke lighthearted fun at itself, the writing industry, and probably whatever else the panelists can think of to make the all-ages attendees laugh.)

Doctor Who-What
Sat Jan 18 6:00:pm – Salon H
What is coming down the pipe for the 12th doctor, speculation and everything we can dig up.

Fandom
Sun Jan 19 1:00:pm – Salon F
We like to think that our fandom is diverse and inclusive but notions like “fake geek girls” and events in the recent past like ReaderCon and PAX Prime illuminate the cracks in the facade. Join us to brain storm ways in which we can make fandom more welcoming.

Next up, I’m going to be down in Los Angeles for the Gallifrey One Doctor Who convention, on February 14th through the 16th. I’m not going to be doing any panels or readings or anything – I’m just going to be there, running around being a huge dork. If you’re there and you happen to see me, come say hi. I’m really nice! Forget what those other people told you.

Finally, I’m going to be doing another reading at Wayward Coffeehouse, on Friday, February 21st, at 8:00 PM. Click on the banner below to RSVP to the event on Facebook:

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That’s about it for now. Hope to see you soon!

A year ago, I declared that I was going to spend 2013 working on writing and self-publishing – that I was going to take time away from having a day job by cashing in some stocks and living off that money for a year. I’m here today to tell you how that went.

It . . . didn’t go very well.

Here’s what I said back at the beginning of last year:

I set myself a very simple victory condition. The goal is simply to do it. If my goal had been that in one year’s time, I would be earning a living wage from self-publishing, I would just be setting myself up for failure. But my only goal here is just not to walk away from it. As long as I’m still concentrating on my writing career by the time I cross the finish line a year from now, I can call this year a success.

I’m sure that within that year’s time I will manage to become more successful. I’ll manage to increase my sales a little bit and get my name out there more. The only hope here is to bump the needle a little — to lay the groundwork for a writing career that, hopefully, will someday earn me a living. I’m going to try to set specific, measurable goals during the next year in order to see if I’m on the right track, but I’m going to try not to stress over them too much. This is just to see if I can actually do the work, and that depends solely on me.

After that, my year got off to a pretty good start. I ran a book giveaway promotion that put me, however briefly, at the top of Amazon’s Top 100 lists, both for free books and paid. After that, I started my main project – revising a novel that I’d written about a decade ago, to get it into good enough shape to publish.

That went well, although it took even more time than I expected it to – I thought it was going to need a quick polish and a few minor changes, but with the help of my writer friend Elisabeth Knottingham, I soon realized there were parts of the plot that needed reengineering. While we were going back and forth over the final draft, I also started a new project – a new novel that’s really quite different from anything I’ve ever published before.

Unfortunately, that’s about when things started to go off the rails:

I’ve actually been having a hell of a hard time lately, even though I really haven’t talked about that much here. Left to my own devices, having no other obligations other than simply to write hasn’t been the liberating experience I thought it would be. It’s been paralyzing. On days when I’m not feeling too overwhelmed and depressed to sit down at the keyboard, I too often find myself instead sitting there in a blank state of free-floating anxiety – elevated heart rate, shallow breathing. [....]

Another big issue I have at the moment is that my current work-in-progress is very, very different in style and tone from anything I’ve ever published, and so [I'm afraid] that I’m not writing what everyone wants from me, even though I think what I’m writing is fun and good and even though everyone I’ve described the project to seems very enthusiastic about it. I still can’t seem to just relax and let myself work on it.

Part of the problem is that I had gone off my meds. My prescriptions for depression, diabetes, cholesterol, and high blood pressure had all expired, and I needed to find a new doctor but I kept being too anxious and depressed to actually do it, and the longer I put it off, the worse the situation got. It was an incredibly stupid vicious cycle, and I knew that at the time, but that didn’t make it any easier to get out of it.

I managed to finish revising Still Life and get it published. But after that, I had a couple of setbacks.

I tried to buy ad space in the BookBub newsletter. I heard they were pretty selective about the books they were willing to promote, but I was pretty confident – Still Life was getting good reviews on Amazon and it had a sharp, professional-looking cover. But they turned me down. This really rattled me – for one thing, it really made me start second-guessing myself in terms of the quality of my work, but mainly, it left me thinking, what the hell do I do now? Most of the tips and tricks that had lead others to self-publishing success over the past few years were no longer effective in the face of changing Amazon algorithms and policies, and as of mid-2013, BookBub was the 500-pound gorilla of book promotion. Most indie authors considered them the only game in town. So where did that leave me?

The more serious setback was that the mysterious chronic pain I’d been having in my left hand finally flared up in my right hand as well. I’d been getting by pretty well with a one-handed keyboard layout, but this left me practically unable to use a keyboard and mouse at all for more than a few minutes at a time.

This seriously cut into my ability to work. I never had quite gotten used to using voice recognition software to write fiction, and the limited time I could spend on the computer meant that all my promotional activities basically stopped as well, and therefore my sales dropped to practically nothing. My inability to work sent me spiraling down even farther into depression. My general health crashed pretty hard around this same time.

I honestly think this was the hardest, darkest period of my life. During that whole time, I managed to write exactly one short story, a submission for an anthology I desperately wanted to be in.

That little victory helped. With the support of my friends, I finally managed to force myself to go see a doctor and get back on my medications, and that helped pull me back up out of the place I was in.

I’m starting to feel better, but my year is over, and I need to start looking for a job again. (Although I’m not sure what kind of work I can do with my hands in their current condition.) Looking back at the past year, I’m forced to realize that almost half of it was largely wasted.

I’m trying not to beat myself up too hard over this. I didn’t manage to meet even my simple goal of “just keep at it,” and it’s hard not to look back at that and feel like I failed. Extenuating circumstances or not.

But dammit, Still Life is finished. It’s out in the world, finally. Even if I could only accomplish one thing in 2013 – that’s a hell of a thing to accomplish.

 

Well — rats. I just received my rejection letter this morning — my submission, “Waiting For The Miracle,” was not selected for the Midian Unmade: Tales of Clive Barker’s Nightbreed anthology.

I had really high hopes for this story, especially after reading last month’s update from the editors letting authors know that they had finished the first round of their selection process. That told me that since I hadn’t already received a rejection letter by then, I’d made it into the second round — out of the 500 entries they’d received, mine was among the 50 or so they were still considering. I thought those were pretty good odds, and have had my fingers crossed ever since.

Sadly, the editors ultimately decided that my submission didn’t fit in with the other stories they’d selected. I was a little afraid this might happen. I had gone in a very different direction with my story than I assumed most of the other submissions would go, in an attempt stand out from the rest of the pack. But it did occur to me at the time that this approach might knock me out of the running if they were looking to have a more cohesive anthology, either in terms of plot details or general style.

I’m definitely proud of the story I wrote — and even more proud of the simple fact that I managed to write it at all. I had a very serious fight with depression this year, one that lasted months — which is why you haven’t seen any posts from me here for quite a while — and the deadline for this anthology was coming up right in the middle of the worst of it.

I’ve always loved Nightbreed, both the original novel and especially the flawed but beautiful film that Barker made of it. (Longtime readers might remember my pilgrimage down to Portland to see the long-awaited restored cut of the film.) I was always a strange and slightly morbid child, fascinated by monsters, and the idea of a home for these monsters and outsiders, the hidden city of Midian, resonated with me quite deeply when I first saw the film as a young man.

Since it was so dear to me, I knew I would never quite forgive myself if I let this deadline pass by. At a time when I was barely managing to make it out of bed in the mornings, I was able to make myself sit down and write something that felt dark and beautiful enough to me to be worthy of the source material, and edit and polish the manuscript well enough to be confident in sending it off. That was an accomplishment I was able to hold onto, one that helped me get through the rest of that depression.

“Waiting For The Miracle” will never see the light of day — which, for a story inspired by a secret underground city, seems somehow appropriate. But I’m glad I wrote it. (I will be sending it out as a free Christmas bonus story to my newsletter subscribers, though, so if you’re curious about it and you’re not already a subscriber, this would be a good time to sign up.)

It’s that time of year again! It kind of snuck up on me. No, not Halloween, but the week before Halloween — which brings us COFFIN HOP, the annual online event for indie horror and genre authors and artists to reach out to their fans and readers. Authors hold contests, gave away e-books, paperbacks, prize packages, autographed copies, toys, personalized writings, videos, themed jewellery, movie posters, and more. Visit www.coffinhop.com and follow the member links there to see what everyone has for all you trick-or-treaters this year.

This year, they’re doing something special — the COFFIN HOP team has released a collection of some of the best stories from their members.  COFFIN HOP: DEATH BY DRIVE-IN includes twenty-one B-movie inspired stories about ”Brains from Space! Robot Squids Gone Wild! Radioactive Microwave Men! Monster Mash Massacres! Crotch Tentacles! Pinterest-loving Werewolves! Cannibal Bikers! Vampire Seduction! A man-eating Toilet! Robot Lincoln & Zombie Jackson!”

All profits from the anthology will be donated to LitWorld.org, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization supporting child literacy and social improvement the world over. The book is available here: KINDLE | SMASHWORDS | PAPERBACK

You can also win a copy right here! Just leave a comment on this post, and you’ll be entered in a drawing for a free e-book of COFFIN HOP: DEATH BY DRIVE-IN, and a free e-book of my new novel, STILL LIFE! Good luck!

2013chbanner4

Actually, I tell a lie; I already had a couple of Tumblr accounts, one of which I pretty much ignore and the other I use primarily to geek out about Doctor Who.

But I’ve noticed lately that more authors I’m interested in seem to be discovering Tumblr (like Joe Hill and Chuck Wendig, among others), and I’m thinking that this is gonna be the next big “oh my God you have to be on it” social-media platform-building thingy for writers. The last one of those was Pinterest, which I tried to fall in love with, I really did. But hey, this is one I already like, so, bonus!

So anyway, yeah, here’s my new Official Tumblr Presence, which is ostensibly at least somewhat for self-promotion and fan outreach, but which is really turning out to be an excuse to reblog anything creepy and scary and weird and cool. So if you like that sort of thing – and I assume you do, since you’re here – you should probably follow it. Let me know – who else should I be following? Is it you?

http://michaelmontoure.tumblr.com/

canadahorror

O Canada! Happy birthday, neighbors to the north! I didn’t want to forget your day, because quite frankly, I’m a little afraid of you. Oh, sure, you’ve got most people fooled with your quiet politeness, but not me. Not with the way you like watching men strap on skates and beat each other bloody out on the ice. And certainly not after seeing a few of these movies you’ve made.

If you’re in a celebrating mood, why not run out to your local video store (or torrent site, as the case may be) and watch one of these fine films over a plate of poutine?

Black Christmas (1974)
I swear to God the director of this movie must have been a time traveler, because he managed to make a straight-up slasher movie, complete with all the trappings of the genre — an unknown killer, teen-age girl protagonists, point-of-view camera shots, an ambiguous ending — four years before Halloween, the film that’s usually given credit for starting the genre. Crazy.

Shivers (1975), The Brood (1979), Scanners (1981), The Dead Zone (1983), Videodrome (1983), and The Fly (1986)
Ahhh, the early films of David Cronenberg, my favorite horror director. I saw The Fly when I was still young and impressionable and I loved it, and was blown away years later to find out that his earlier work delved even deeper into weird, nightmarish body horror. Good stuff. Weird, weird stuff. What the hell do you guys have in the water up there?

The Gate (1987) 
I don’t honestly remember a whole lot about this movie, except that I enjoyed it. The protagonists are kids, so it’s closer to Goosebumps than it is to, say, Saw, but it’s fun and kinda charming.

Cube (1997)
Love, love, love this movie. Really shows how a creative script can make up for a limited budget. Claustrophobic, paranoid, inexplicable.

Ginger Snaps (2000)
A vibrant, clever, entertaining take on werewolves, with interesting and relatable teen-age girl lead characters. Watching their relationship fall apart is almost as upsetting as any of the horror elements, and the ending is pretty heartbreaking.

Pontypool (2009)
This was a great little surprise. It’s basically a zombie movie, and that’s all I’m going to tell you — and I’d urge you to find out as little as you can before you watch it. I highly recommend it. (And I highly recommend you ignore the weird, pointless, kinda artsy post-credits scene. Not sure what they were trying to do there.)

Splice (2009)
This is, sadly, the first of these films I actually got to see in the theater when it came out. I’m glad I did. Made by the same people who made Cube, this is very creepy, very disturbing, and deals with some ethical questions we may need to face in the not-too-distant future. I know some people felt this film goes off the rails in the last act, but I thought the ending was pretty great.

FILMS I HAVEN’T SEEN YET
Haven’t had a chance to see any of the films below yet, but they have strong enough reputations that I wanted to include them anyway. (Besides, maybe this post will remind me to watch them.)

Rabid (1977)
That’s right — there’s still one last early David Cronenberg film I haven’t seen. At this point, I’m kind of saving it for a special occasion. It looks like a different take on vampires, and those are always interesting to me. (Which is why I wrote one — “Still Life,” available on Amazon on July 19th! Ahem.)

Prom Night (1980)
I know, right? I can’t believe I haven’t seen this yet, either, especially since it helped cement the role of Jamie Lee Curtis in our hearts and minds as everyone’s beloved Scream Queen.

The Changeling (1980)
I do love a good haunted house movie, and from everything I hear, this is one of the best. And it stars George C. Scott, who is awesome.

My Bloody Valentine (1981)
I did see the 3D remake . . . sequel? Reboot? I’m not sure. Anyway, it was terrible. But a friend whose opinion I trust says I really should watch the original, so I’m sure I will.

Fido (2007)
This looks . . . cute? Is that the right word for a zombie movie? Well, it does. Zombie fans speak of it pretty highly.

Martyrs (2008)
I know basically nothing about this, except that it’s supposed to be violent and really disturbing. Works for me. I also hear it’s one you should really avoid spoilers for, so I’m not seeking any out.

The Shrine (2011) and The Moth Diaries (2011)
Don’t know much of anything about either of these two, either, except that Netflix’s magical algorithm fairies think I’ll really like them, and they’re usually right.

So! Any Canadian horror classics I’ve left out? Any input on which one of these films I should watch tonight? Let me know in the comments!

We are finally, finally close to the release date of my first novel! “Still Life” will be available at Amazon on July 19th, 2013.

Want more info? Click on through to my new “Still Life” page to find out more details and get your first look at the cover!

Watch this space — I’ll be telling you all soon about how to pre-order your print copy, a reading in the Seattle area, and giveaways for both print and electronic copies!

Don’t feel like waiting? Send me some e-mail and pinky-swear that you’ll be willing to post a review on Amazon when the listing goes live — doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just a paragraph or two on what you liked or didn’t like about the book — and I will e-mail you an ePub or Kindle version right now. (Well, if I’m still sitting at my computer when you read this. Values of  “right now” might vary. But as soon as possible!)

I’m excited! Can you tell I’m excited? Can you tell I’ve had too much caffeine? I’ve had way too much caffeine!

Once again, Crypticon Seattle  was a blast. This has really become one of my “can’t-miss” events. If you’re a horror fan in the greater Seattle area, I hope you were there, and if not, you really should try to make it next year!

I was about ten minutes late for my first panel, which actually means I was doing way better than last year — last year, I was running too late to make it to my first panel at all. Somehow, it apparently never occurs to me that there just might be traffic on Memorial Day weekend.

 But, better late than never. 2012: The Year in Horror Movies with Mark Rahner and Chris Fred was a really fun panel to start my weekend with, even though we rapidly came to the conclusion that 2012 was honestly really kind of a lousy year for horror movies, with Cabin in the Woods, John Dies at the End and the Evil Dead remake being the only notable standout exceptions. (Things we’re so done with: found footage movies, movies that start off strong with a creepy atmosphere but end up showing you way too much.)

Up next was The History of Horror Comics and Freedom of Speech with Kelly Young ,and with Kate Lynch and Aron Tarbuck, the owners of The Dreaming Comics and Games, who really could probably could’ve handled the whole panel themselves. This is a subject near and dear to my heart, and we really had just so much material to cover that it easily could’ve been two panels — one on the rise and fall of horror comics in the 50s and 60s, and one on their return in the 70s and the state of the industry today. I don’t really think this panel got a big enough audience to warrant suggesting that next year, though.

After that, I went and had some dinner at 13 Coins, and came back and watched some short films until I was ready to call it a night.

My first panel on Saturday was Horror in Doctor Who with Aron Tarbuck and Peter Clines. This was the panel I’d really been looking forward to. I’m a huge Doctor Who fan (not to mention a published Doctor Who author), so being asked to talk about my two favorite subjects was a huge treat. I was even more excited when I realized Aron was going to be on the panel — I’ve known him for years, and he and I have had many long and involved conversations about the show. We had a large and enthusiastic turnout for this one, reminding me again that my once obscure hobby has reached a level of popularity that continues to delight and amaze me.

Later that evening we had Horror’s Unique Expressions in Comics with Steven J HoletzKelly YoungChris Fred, Kate Merriwether LynchAron Tarbuck, and Svetlana Fedotov. This was better attended than the previous day’s comics panel, and it gave us a chance talk about a broader range of topics.

late that night I got to see a screening of two local independent films: Motivational Growth and Sader Ridge.

Motivational Growth was fantastic – all the weirdness of a David Lynch movie with all the manic energy paranoia of Fight Club, plus the always awesome Jeffrey Combs as the voice of a talking mold. What more could you want?

I’d really been looking forward to Sader Ridge, largely because it stars , who is also one of the stars of my web series CAUSALITY, which is in postproduction now. Trin was great to work with and put in a fantastic performance, so I definitely wanted to see what she was like playing a totally different character.

She was terrific, and so is the film — a good, solid, long slow creepy burn, with a clever script and some great performances.

Seeing these films meant I didn’t get home until three in the morning — where I proceeded to stay up for another hour playing on the Internet. What the hell is wrong with me?

I did manage to make it back to the convention on Sunday in time to see Joe Bob Briggs interviewed by Anthony James Kay, which was highly entertaining. I think this kind of panel format is really more interesting and in-depth than a general audience Q&A session, and I’d like to see more local conventions adopt it.

My last panel of the weekend was Female Heroes in Horror with Anthony James KayDara DaveyEileen DietzM. NessK, Ronnie Angel, and Svetlana Fedotov. This was a great panel, and I tell you all about  it, but someone actually filmed it, and has promised to put up on YouTube, so I’m just going to post that here when they do.

Such a fun weekend. Can’t wait to go back.

 

 

It is Crypticon weekend once again, and I will be there as a panelist! I had a great time doing it last year and I’m definitely looking forward to being back. If you’re anywhere near the Seattle area, and you love horror, you really owe it to yourself to check it out. And while you’re there, you should come see one of my panels! (Remember, while I’m always happy to sign books, I will only sign body parts that are a.) yours, and b.) still attached.)

Friday, May 24th, 6:00pm / Emerald Ballroom A
2012: The Year in Horror Movies

Friday, May 24th, 9:00pm / Emerald Ballroom C
The History of Horror Comics and Freedom of Speech

Saturday, May 25th, 2:00pm / Emerald Ballroom B
Horror in Doctor Who

Saturday, May 25th, 7:00pm / Emerald Ballroom C
Horror’s Unique Expressions in Comics

Sunday, May 26th, 2:00pm / Emerald Ballroom C
Female Heroes in Horror

I seem to have gradually become quite the fan of Joe Hill. A friend of mine recommended his rather excellent comic series Locke & Key a few years back, and that led me to read Heart-Shaped Box and 20th Century Ghosts, which I also enjoyed, but it was just a few weeks ago that I finally picked up Horns, which I loved so much that it immediately put NOS4A2, his next release, on my “must-buy” list.

I had the pleasure of getting my hardback of NOS4A2 signed at Seattle’s University bookstore recently, and went home and started following his Twitter and Tumblr accounts.

Just in time to see this post today, right when I needed to. One of his followers asked him if treating OCD would hinder his writing process. He writes:

I struggled with mild OCD and not-so mild paranoid ideation for decades; it was especially bad in the year or two around the publication of HORNS, a paranoid book written by a paranoid and unhappy man.

For a long time I was determined not to get help, because I was very afraid that if I took a pill, or saw a therapist, it would destroy me creatively. Then one day I realized I didn’t give a shit about whether or not I could go on as a writer… it was far more important to find a way to go on as a person, so I could be the best possible father to my kids, and not a miserable man who couldn’t make his appointments because he had to keep driving home to see if the oven was on.

[....] Completing HORNS, and getting it right, was the hardest thing I’ve ever done as a creative person, because I did it with an interior voice constantly screaming in my ear that it was all wrong, that publication of the book would destroy all the good will I had created with Heart-Shaped Box. I got the novel written – and it came out good, Goddamn it – even though I usually began my day by searching my office for listening devices.

Can a little bit of OCD be adaptive for a creative person? Maybe [....]  But it’s very hard to be successful as an artist when you’re flinching from imaginary terrors and on the run from imaginary enemies. [....] I wrote most of NOS4A2 after getting on Paxil and getting into therapy and dealing with my problems. It was hard-going at first, but in the end I wrote the novel with joy and excitement. I owed it to my kids to get my shit together. If getting right emotionally has helped me to do some of my best work, that’s just a fringe benefit.

— Joe Hill’s Thrills – Took off my Crazypants.

Honestly, before I read this, I had no idea that Joe Hill struggled with mental health issues. I know I’ve written before about writers and depression, and about the problems with depression I’ve personally faced.

I’ve actually been having a hell of a hard time lately, even though I really haven’t talked about that much here0. Left to my own devices, having no other obligations other than simply to write hasn’t been the liberating experience I thought it would be. It’s been paralyzing. On days when I’m not feeling too overwhelmed and depressed to sit down at the keyboard, I too often find myself instead sitting there in a blank state of free-floating anxiety – elevated heart rate, shallow breathing.

I’ve been getting through it, a little at a time. I have been managing to make myself write, although not nearly as much as I want to – my daily word count is still pretty pathetic, which is another source of anxiety.

Another big issue I have at the moment is that my current work-in-progress is very, very different in style and tone from anything I’ve ever published, and so I have that very same interior voice thah Hill mentions constantly screaming in my ear that I’m not writing what everyone wants from me, even though I think what I’m writing is fun and good and even though everyone I’ve described the project to seems very enthusiastic about it. I still can’t seem to just relax and let myself work on it.

But reading this post reminds me that even artists I greatly admire have some of the same problems, and that they’re not insurmountable. There is a light at the end of the tunnel and it’s not an oncoming train.

So, just in case you ever read this – thank you, Mister Hill, for sharing this much, for being so honest about what you’ve been through. It helps a lot.

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An unreliable narrator, MICHAEL MONTOURE ( montoure@bloodletters.com ) is an indie writer of horror and dark urban fantasy. His obsessions include hidden truths, secret dealings, and the changing and fragile nature of our own pasts. He is known as much for his spoken-word performances of his fiction at Seattle coffeehouses and conventions as for the stories themselves. Currently working as a writer and producer of the webseries Causality, he lives alone with a gray cat by the edge of Echo Lake, Washington. ( Twitter / Facebook / Google+ )
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