Why I’m Looking Forward to 2014!

Greetings, happy belated holidays and welcome to 2014. I hope the first few days of this new year are treating you all very well.

Sorry I haven’t been around since early December. After pouring a few hundred hours into completing my novella, Vampire Zombie Claus, I decided to take a month off from the blog to recover and re-energize … plus I had all the holiday craziness to deal with, which was genuinely delightful, if slightly stressful.

My December went remarkably well. Not only did Santa bring me pretty much all the presents I could have ever hoped to receive, but my novelette, The Horror, was reviewed over at Horror-Writers.net. They gave the story a wonderful write-up, which I am incredibly pleased with. Thank you, guys … for reading the story, liking it and sharing your thoughts with the world. So awesome!

The Horror has also reached another major milestone. The book is currently sitting on Amazon’s Top 100 Best-Selling Horror books, where it has been for more than two weeks now. That’s right, my novelette has joined the ranks of other best-selling books by the likes of Stephen King and Dean Koontz! As of the time I wrote this blog entry, the book was seated at #52. Check it out:

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If you haven’t read this story yet, and you like slasher horror or intense nail-biting thrillers, please do so! You can check it out on Kindle devices as well as your tablets, computers, or those fancy internet smart phones like the iPhone or the Samsung Galaxy.

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So … onward with 2014! I’m incredibly stoked about this year. I’ve got a slew of projects coming up, from short stories, numerous blog entries and more. Here’s a rundown of what to expect.

On January 25 (my birthday), I’ll be releasing The Foot, the second installment of the Wicked Neighborhood series. I’m also currently editing the fourth installment, and finishing writing the third issue. As some of you may know, I was originally planning a seven-issue season for this series, but I have slightly altered those plans. The “first season” of Wicked Neighborhood will now end after five issues. Following the five-issue release, I’ll publish a full-length book, collecting every issue.

I’m also prepping some printed copies of my stories for sale on Amazon, and I’ll be taking Wicked Neighborhood, Vampire Zombie Claus and The Horror to a few comic cons in 2014. I’ll keep you all posted on dates and events.

Just an FYI, I may not be publishing as many short stories and novellas in 2014. I would like to focus my efforts on finding a publisher for my three full-length works, including two fiction novels and one nonfiction book. I am still dedicated to getting all five issues of Wicked Neighborhood out there in 2014, as well as one or two other short stories and novellas.

As if I wasn’t working on enough, I am currently crafting an audiobook version of The Horror. I’m looking to have this ready by late summer/early fall 2014. My good friend,and uber-talented wunderkind musician, Michael McFarland, is busy drafting a musical theme for that audiobook, while I perfect my mini recording studio to bring you the best sounding, most professional audiobook I can.

As for this blog you are reading right now (probably in the nude, you kinky devil), I’ll be discussing numerous subjects in the coming weeks, from the controversial documentary Blackfish, to the fascinating story of The Disaster Artist, the book about the making of The Room, one of the best worst movies ever made. I’ll also be adding a few book reports, movie reviews, interviews, top 10 lists, and more.

2014 is going to be a big year, folks … so stay tuned and keep on making those dreams a reality!

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I love my readers, and I love my Twitter followers, too! Be sure to follow me on Twitter.

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Why I Write: The Benefits of Short Stories

 

WHY I WRITE #1 – Welcome to the first entry in this ongoing blog series designed to offer my perspective on the subject of writing. I also hope to inspire and aide fellow writers and readers to explore their creativity in new, exciting ways, and to help others achieve their goals and get their work published.

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“Why are you writing short stories?” I’ve gotten this question plenty of times from friends, fans and family. Some might blindly assume I’m either too afraid to write a full-length book, or simply too lazy. The reality is unequivocally neither. I’ve written three full-length books and two screenplays this year alone, and I plan on releasing six or seven short stories by year’s end, with about a dozen or more slated for 2014. All told, I probably write, or work on writing, for about 50-60 hours a week, if not more.

In truth, I just can’t stop writing. I write every single day, be it a blog entry, tweets, a screenplay, a book or a short story. Writing is like air to me, I can’t live without it. It doesn’t help that I’m an idea machine and I’m always jotting down stories, film and book ideas.

But why short stories? Well, my real goal with shorts is to create a base of writing samples that I can share with new readers, fellow writers, fans and potential agents and publishers who might be interested in reading or buying my work.

But also, my decision to focus on shorts is intentional beyond those motives. We live in a very busy time. Our attention is more divided than every before. There is so much content to consume, and more entertainment options. And, as much as some might argue to the contrary, we are also living in an economically depressed climate. It might not be labeled as such by the powers that be, but trust me, we are. If you’re in the middle class, or lower, you are likely feeling the damning effects of this on nearly every single aspect of your life. You are working hard to pay bills, pay off debt and still have enough coins to have some kind of fun on the weekends. In some cases, people are working two or even three jobs to pay for what little free time they have.

Between having no money, and having so many entertainment options, many have little-to-no time for things like books, or even movies or television. Taking this into consideration, I decided I would focus on bite-sized stories that can be read in a matter of hours.

This, I feel, is satisfying to readers because they get that sense of accomplishment from finishing a story. But also, a shorter story fits into our cramped schedule much better than a longer one. And, let’s be honest, not many people know who I am just yet. That will certainly change, but for now I’d prefer to give new readers a tasty bite of my writing abilities before asking them to indulge in a full-length book. I’ve also found that many readers feel the same way. They want to know if they even like my style, or the genres I’m working in, before they take the big plunge and dive into one of my books.

If you’re a fellow writer, I highly recommend trying your hand at a short story. If nothing else, it’ll get you writing every day and it’ll get you exploring your boundaries. Try a new style of writing, a different perspective, a type of character you aren’t familiar with, or even a different genre. When you’re finished (editing included – this is important), you can sell these stories for cheap (about a buck) on Amazon, and they’ll help your career in the long run. Binge readers can quickly enjoy your entire body of work, and the stories may lead to bigger things, like an agent or possibly a publishing contract. If nothing else, it allows you to have a body of work for sale on Amazon that readers, fans, friends and family can explore and enjoy.

And yes, you can charge for your work. Don’t be afraid of this. Even though I’m speedy and efficient, I spend around 80-120 hours (at least) prepping just one short story, from writing to editing to building the Kindle file to designing a cover and promoting the title. People work hard at their jobs. There is no reason you should not get paid for your hard work, either. But keep your stories cheap, please. I prefer the price point of $1. Anything more than $2 is excessive for shorts.

That’s essentially why I write short stories. I plan on publishing my books in the near future, but I am still in the very long, very taxing process of searching for agents and publishers. But, in the meantime, I am building an incredible body of work that will only help me achieve my goals. And I’m having a blast writing and sharing all my stories and ideas with you. So thanks for reading and please, if you publish a short, share it in the comments section below and I’ll be sure to promo the hell out of it to aide you in your own personal goals. Good luck!

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On the next, WHY I WRITE, I will discuss creating book covers for Kindle Edition books. Stay tuned!

–Also, if you haven’t already, check out my first short story, The Stray Cats (BUY HERE)!

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Top Ten Favorite Horror Films Part 2: Favorite Books

A new week, a new list! This time I’ll be discussing some of my favorite horror books.

Please be aware that I change my mind often. The ability to change one’s mind on any subject is paramount for our culture’s growth and development. With that in mind, don’t be surprised to see another version of this list next year, with totally different books on it … what can I say, I absolutely love the genre.

Feel free to list your own favorites in the comments!

Also, for more books, check out this list of 11 Creepy Novels.

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Legion - William Peter Blatty

10) Legion 

Legion is a sequel to William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist. It’s a great follow-up, though not as haunting as The Exorcist. I included it here over The Exorcist because it’s a worthwhile sequel that fans of the series should seek out. While I’m on the subject, also check out the late Gary Brandner’s The Howling series. They’re also quite fun.

Zombie Survival Guide - Max Brooks

9) The Zombie Survival Guide

A lot of zombie fans loved World War Z, but I’m more fond of Max Brooks’ first zombie endeavor – a step-by-step guidebook for surviving a zombie apocalypse. It’s rather funny, but also extraordinarily helpful … if one were ever to come face-to-face with the walking dead, that is.

Darkly Dreaming Dexter - Jeff Lindsay

8) Darkly Dreaming Dexter

Dexter Morgan’s first tale is still his best. In fact, Jeff Lindsay’s book was so good that it got turned into an award-winning TV series (that later petered out and sputtered to a tragic death, but I digress). The book is a clever mixture of American Psycho and police procedure, with a reluctant anti-hero at the helm, steering the audience in the darkest, most macabre places. Gripping, tense and awesome!

Lord of the Flies - William Golding

7) Lord of the Flies

This one might not strike you as horror, but a book about a bunch of children who slowly succumb to the horrors of their own darker instincts is ripe material for horror, and no other book does it better than William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. You might have hated it when you read in school, but give it another shot. It’s outstanding.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

6) The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

I kept going back and forth about which book to include here: Dracula or Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Both books are tremendous achievements in horror, and stupendous pieces of writing to boot. Ultimately, I went with Dr. Jekyll because never before, and never again, has a book so perfectly encapsulated the duality of man. For me, that holds more water than the first vampire tale. But read both books, please.

Sphere

5) Sphere

Michael Crichton’s Sphere is one of very few books I find myself reading every couple of years. The science behind the story is fascinating, but even more chilling than the sphere itself, is the manifestations of evil we hid within ourselves. A deeply terrifying book for anyone seeking something to get under the skin, with just a dash of science to back things up.

The Stand

4) The Stand

A great many horror fans might pepper a “favorite horror novels” list with Stephen King, but I’ve opted to include only one, The Stand. The Stand was the first “big” book I ever completed (I read it when I was about 10 years old). And, honestly, of all King’s books, The Stand really, umm, stands out as a mythical tale of Americana’s survival in the face of an apocalypse. Epic stuff … and very scary. I’d also recommend It (a close second) as well.

Scary_Stories_to_Tell_in_the_Dark_cover

3) Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark (Series)

I primarily grew up on two writers: Shel Silverstein, who crafted the beauty of my youth through poems; and Alvin Schwartz, who helped shape my nightmares. But the real winner of the Scary Stories series is the artwork from illustrator Stephen Gammell. His work on these books still scares the ever-loving shit out of me. There are (crappy) versions of the Scary Story books without his artwork, replaced with toned down “kid friendly” artwork. Boo! Skip them and seek out the copies with Gammell’s imagery. It’s perfect!

Frankenstein

2) Frankenstein

Mary Shelley’s staggering nightmare of death, romance and reanimation is existentially rich and still quite beautiful, not to mention frightening. It also stands as one of the finest pieces of gothic writing ever committed to paper. The only writers who come close are Lovecraft and Poe, who are also (obviously) well worth reading.

The Demonologist

1) The Demonologist

Never has a book freaked me out more. You may think Ed and Lorraine Warren are a bunch of nutters, but after reading this book, I’m not entirely convinced. The horrors they walk their audience through is immeasurably terrifying and shockingly real. It might all be phooey, but it certainly made me want to hang some crosses up in the house, and that’s power no other horror book has ever conjured from me.

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Next week: My top ten favorite horror slashers!

Welcome!

Welcome to The Awkward White Man, a site created by writer Randy Shaffer.

Some of you may know me as that sniveling critic, R.L. Shaffer (insert insults here), from web zones such as DVDFuture or IGN. Yes, I am a former critic, but this site will be largely dedicated to my observations on the world of writing and film. I will also highlight old reviews I worked on, add a few more reviews every now and then (generally of stuff I dig), and offer news on any upcoming projects I’m working on.

Randy L Shaffer

Randy L Shaffer

About me:

All right. Let’s get real. For years I was a film critic. It was a job that I deeply loved, but eventually grew to loathe … not the profession, of course, though it does have its downsides (like getting paid dirt, for example). I greatly appreciate critics and the value that many of them offer to professionals, fans, upcoming artists and culture itself. But, it wasn’t a world for me. After more than ten years of writing reviews, I grew to deeply loathe myself for being a destroyer of creativity and art, the occasional spinner of negativity.

I absolutely loved reviewing content that I personally enjoyed. I relished in giving the camp classic, StarCrash, a perfect 10 score at IGN. But I hated tearing down films and TV from professionals who worked very hard to get something (even something bad) made. Creation, especially film production, is a feat that is not so easy, believe me.

I felt like I was part of this cultural movement comprised of destroyers. Purveyors of negative energy. That might sound corny, but just sit back and examine how we judge and ridicule ourselves, from the food we eat to the music and movies we enjoy. Some of this is necessary for cultural advancement and growth, but often it is largely mean-spirited and destructive. And most is just endless white noise. So, I made a conscious decision to choose the path less traveled — I wanted to be a creator, personal finances be damned.

For years I have been writing screenplays and stories, though none have been produced. I’ve gotten very close a few times, but no cigar. To my credit, I do have a music video to my name (see video below).

I’ve always been annoyingly afraid of success and, to be frank, I haven’t tried very hard to sell my work (yet). I could give you excuses as to why that is, but there’s no point. The past is the past. I reached a turning point in late 2012. I broke my hand in an embarrassing accident and found myself in a state of existentialism, re-evaluating who I was and what I wanted to be.

I decided to begin a book project centering on the world of swing culture (not dancing, mind you). This was a lifestyle I knew absolutely nothing about. I was, and still am, a big nerd and a huge movie geek, and the idea of people openly swapping spouses and attending sex clubs was about a foreign to me as things could get. That book was meant to segue me from the world of journalism to the world of book writing, and it worked! In 2013 alone I have completed three books: the non-fiction tale about swinging and sex culture, and two fiction novels. I’ve also completed several short stories, polished a screenplay, written an entirely new script, and I’ve got a few other projects up my sleeve before the year’s end, including one more book.

I’m not writing this blog to brag about myself, though I will shamelessly promo stuff I’ve worked on. But honestly, I write this blog to encourage. That’s what this site really is about. Any reviews I’ll post on here will be positive in nature. They’ll be pieces of entertainment and art that I like; things I love, and things that are important to me … or to culture. I’ll offer a different perspective than one you might have read about elsewhere. I might even defend some of those films I would have torn down in the past. I’ll also share with you books that I’ve read, from indie authors to well-known artists. I’ll offer news on any personal projects I’m working on. And I’ll discuss some great films on Blu-ray that I’m watching.

If you want some additional rants from me, follow my Twitter. I can certainly still be a critical bag of ass at times. After all, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and as a writer, I have more than a few. But this site is about the positive spirit of creativity, and all the wonders, perspective and joys of art. I hope you like what you find, and I hope this site inspires you to go and create.