Friday, June 17, 2011

DARK BITES: Four Tales of Horror

My first birthday present this year was from my friend and amazing horror writer, Robert Ropars. He sent me his book, "Dark Bites." I absolutely love it. The book consists of four detailed horror stories with a female as the lead characters which I thought this was so cool. I definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves horror collections.

Here is Robert's amazing thought process how he comes up with his work plus how he became the writer he is today. He is a very intelligent man which I respect a lot:


I have a B of A in English-Writing, and while at school often would be
lost for hours in the library's computer lab writing away. Short
stories and poems would pour from me as I sat there almost in
automatic writing style like I was a conduit and the words just passed
through me. When I graduated college I was fully intending to write
full time (next great American author), do photography and movies.

Flash forward-ok didn't quite go exactly down that path. I had been
working part-time while in college and quickly sought/got a full-time
job. That pretty much led to several jobs over the years taking up
most of my time and energy as well as various relationships along the
way. I learned much from both, but was losing my artistic connection.

In 2008, I decided to get my ass in gear (partially inspired by the
ongoing success of my aunt a successful romance and crime novelist)
and pulled together my favorite poems and self-published them via
Amazon's print-on-demand service CreateSpace.com. I sold only a few,
but was proud of my work and the cover which added to the achievement
as it was a photo of my current hometown's downtown area by railroad
track's aged to look like an old photo. I was/am very proud of how
the cover turned out.

Further inspired, I started writing poetry again and in 2009 published
"Romantic Confessions" combining poetry and haiku. I was extremely
happy with the results and feedback, but soon learned poetry isn't
really a money making venture for authors-it's a work of passion.

Along the way for many years my father was fighting cancer and in 2009
he took a turn for the worse. After about 7 years fighting against
all odds, surviving far beyond any doctor's extreme best case scenario
he started down the road to the end. It was a horrendously awful time
for all involved and from July to December we did our best to be
present and cope with someone we loved very much slipping away.

Towards the end the horror of it and the living death we witnessed got
worse and worse draining our strength and breaking our hearts. He
moved on mid-December and we were relieved that his suffering had
ended but grieved the loss of an integral part of our family. I began
to write fiction again mid-2010 as a venting/therapy process. I had a
variety of ideas, but the recent events were heavy in my mind and that
horror inspired me to try the horror genre first.

I had researched ebooks and realized ereaders/apps were the future. I
converted my poetry books to ebooks and found out all I could on
ebooks. I read somewhere that a great way for indie authors to engage
readers and get sales was serial publication much like early authors
having their works appear in daily newspapers in small parts to keep
the reader coming back. I had several stories bouncing around and so
that focused me.

I picked four classic horror themes and worked on them feverishly
every night/weekend for months. I wrote them in the order seen today
and I followed the outline I had read of publishing them about a month
apart. The goal was to give 1-2 away for free and make parts 3 and 4
cost something. At the same time, put out a collection of all 4 with
a bonus story that was cheaper than parts 3 and 4 combined. It made a
lot of sense and seems to be working based on the download/sales data
I've accumulated since July 2010.

As for the stories, I wanted to get back to the heart of and in some
ways "reboot" zombies, werewolves, vampires and ghosts. The stories
are all separate, but interconnected so it's a full world and
characters and places reappear at various times. I love movies with
strong female leads who think fast, are smart and don't need a man to
save them. So it was key to me that I create four women I would want
to see on screen kicking ass.

The zombie story was first and most clearly reflects my dad's cancer
spreading, the impact on him and such as seen as the zombie outbreak
spreading through Chicago. The werewolf story I wanted to introduce
other were creatures intelligently and expand this world. For the
vampire story I wanted something completely different. Set far in the
future it's a bit of scifi combined with horror and tried to get into
what would happen if you became a vampire and why are people so
attracted to them? For the final story, it was to be a ghost story
with a twist. I wanted to explore what would cause a ghost to exist
and what would happen if someone died in such a way that no one knew
it and their ghost haunted a place and people just wrote it off as
weird things. In fact the fourth story (despite my love of all of
them, the zombie one in particular) is special to me. There is a
monster, but it's not what you'd think-it's a man. A sexual predator.
To me that was the scariest monster of all and I tried hard to create
a sense of chilling, twisted dread against the backdrop of what was
one of the worst blizzards of all time.

In terms of writing, I start with the title. Probably superstition,
but I have to have the title before I start writing. I scope a bit
out, but mainly I just write. Let it pour out. Print it, read it,
edit it, repeat. Stories go through many updates before I have my
trusted hardcore editor (my lovely girlfriend) tear into it (and boy
does she-but with precision and reason). What you read is mostly what
I wrote with a few exceptions ("Windy City of the Dead" was originally
called "Eating Crow" but it just didn't work for me at the time and
"848" ended up changing after my girlfriend noted my original ending
didn't physically make logical sense in the real world. She forced me
to step back, do some research and get it right and the story is
stronger as a result.

Research is something I insist on doing before I write once I know the
topic/storyline in my head. The internet (in addition to just Google,
Google Books and Wikipedia in particular) allows writers virtually
limitless access to the world's knowledge. There's really no excuse
when it comes to facts. I just want to be sure that if I write
something medically-related and someone in that field reads it-they
don't get hung up and realize someone didn't dig into the facts.


>Have an idea-usually inspired by real life events, experiences or news stories
from around the world (but generally the former)

>Hand write some overview thoughts/notes in sort of free form manner as it comes
to me.

>If I'm writing poetry, I almost always hand write that. If I'm writing
fiction, only brainstorming and outlining is handwritten generally. I much
prefer to type fiction as I'm MUCH faster at typing than writing and don't tire
as quickly. My hand couldn't keep up with my writing and when you type both
hands share the burden.

>Let it stew in my subconscious

>If necessary do some online research (Google, Google Books, Wikipedia, etc.)

>Work out a potential title, hard to explain but it's like a series of titles
filters through like a slot machine until one locks and suddenly the bells go
off and the story starts to shape from it.

>Start poking around iStockphoto for cover ideas

>When ready, typically at night I usually have coffee (no creamer, two Splenda)
and listen to anything from blues to jazz to Gaga to Rihanna to Mumford & Sons
to streaming New Age/Celtic (sometimes depends on what the theme is).

>I get the document set up formatwise using the last story for the "shell"
gutting all but the opening/closing, rename/save and then after a deep breath
sort of trance out. The story opens in my head and fortunately I can type very
fast because when I plug in it comes fast. The words pour through me like
energy or fuel to my fingers. I try very hard to not edit as I go, but there
are times where I back up and revise as I'm going. I write until it stops and
then I save and back away.

>Later I re-read it, usually can't help doing some editing-in particular if
there's an issue/stumbling block. In some cases, more research is needed.

>I keep going until the story ends itself. I save and leave it for a day or so.

>I print it out, read it to myself, read it out loud and start making edit
notes. I make the edits and repeat this a few times until I feel it's solid.

>Then my girlfriend gets it to cut into it. I can NOT emphasize more strongly
how critical it is that as a writer you have an outside voice/reader you trust
review your work. You can't take it personally and know that some things are
subjective and you won't do. But if you have a trusted editor and they're stuck
on something-other readers could as well.

>In terms of inspiration, it's all over the map. In terms of writing guidance,
Stephen King, Robert Ludlum and Neil Gaiman are probably the three authors who
most influence me in terms of their success, attention to details, ability to
create realistic alternate worlds and act as general role models for me. There
are many, many more, but if I had to pick three....

To check out more of Robert's work or to buy Dark Bites, which you must, you can find it at the links below including his contact info. I hope you all enjoy this collection as much as I did.

View samples of my ebooks on Smashwords.com (free 50% preview) and
order (for any e-reader):

Order Kindle versions of my ebooks or the print version of "Dark
Bites: Four Tales of Horror" on Amazon:

Follow me on Twitter:

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