M. K. Theodoratus, Fantasy Writer, blogs about the books she reads--mostly fantasy and mystery authors whose books catch her eye and keep her interest. Nothing so formal as a book review, just chats about what she liked. Theodoratus also mutters about her own writing progress or ... lack of it.


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

My Worst Writing Fear: Failure

My Biggest Writing Fear:
 It’s failure…Kind of...

 Jason Helford
   I spent the first decade of my writing career immersed in learning and coming up with ideas.  The book ideas came easily for me, but I knew that I could and would not do them justice if I didn’t learn my craft first.  Many people think writing only involves an idea, a computer, and a bunch of time, but having been around writers for my whole life, I knew there was a lot more to it.  I found myself feeling very daunted—how the heck does someone just become a novelist?—so I tried to come up with a series of steps.

After thinking on it for some time, I came up with a list of the concepts I felt it was important to know and understand.  The next step required a classroom, so I signed up for a class.  I read, I studied, I took tons of notes and read examples from great authors, and then came another more advanced class where I was introduced to more advanced concepts.  I immersed myself in learning how to write by learning how other people wrote.  Then, my wife and I had a wonderful little girl, so I had to continue my studies at home.

In a drawer in my Grandfather’s old writing desk, I have a notebook in which I write down all my ideas, and that book was nearly filled a few years into my studies; however, I didn’t think I was ready yet, so I kept learning.  Grammar, syntax, themes, subtext, the subtleties of character.  The question persisted: “How do I do justice to these odd ideas floating around in my head?”

Months turned into years, which drew out to a decade.  Honestly, I had plenty of valid excuses available to me: I was a stay at home dad; I had to understand how to appropriately mix genres utilizing layered themes; I simply had more to learn.  “I’m just not ready,” I said to everyone.  Well, it wasn’t enough, and the pressure began to build, both internally and externally, as more and more people asked, “Where is the book?”  Everything I learned led to more things to learn, and I feared that I would never be good enough to start writing.  I was in a semi-comfortable feedback loop of learning, explaining and making excuses about why not yet.

Finally, the best writer in my life, my Dad, took me aside to talk.  We had been playing poker together on a weekend visit, something we always do, and it was 2 AM.  We were driving back home, laughing about all the odd characters at the table.  He got quiet, kept his eyes on the road, and asked me, “Jai, why aren’t you writing yet?”  I gave him the same pat excuses I gave everyone, but he brushed that aside, and told me possibly the best bit of advice I have ever gotten.  He told me, “Jai, look, everyone is afraid to put themselves out there.  But you have to, or you’ll never know.  Jai, you have to allow yourself to fail.”  Allow myself to fail.  He hit the nail on the head with that one, and I had nothing to say back.  I was not allowing myself to fail.  We just listened to the radio for the rest of the drive.

Fear of failure had kept me from trying.  It had kept me in a comfortable, embryonic stage, where the water is warm and no one is judging yet.  I think he may have won the dad advice pool with that one.  Once we pulled up to the house, I said, “You’re right, Dad.”  He smiled and nodded, and I found the drive to finish my first book and get it out into the marketplace.  That conversation was three years ago next April.  Since then, I have published two books, and I’m working on the third as I type, and I have the next bunch of books already planned.  I am allowing myself to fail…but I sure hope I don’t.

Author Bio:
Jason Helford

   Jason Helford is a first time author, having recently published his debut novel, From a Killer’s Mind, in July of 2013.  He’s a devoted husband and father, an avid comic book collector and an enthusiastic craft beer drinker.  Prizing originality and creativity more than anything else, his favorite authors are Hunter S. Thompson, Chuck Palahniuk, Ray Bradbury, Terry Brooks, Margaret Weis, Tracy Hickman, Robert Asprin and Albert Camus.  Please don’t be offended if you are an author and your name wasn’t mentioned, he probably likes you, too.  He lives in Maryland with his wife, Bella, his daughter, Maddie, and his goofy dog, Sunset.

More information about Helford's writing can be found at his Website

Book Blurb:
From a Killer's Mind 

   The prologue is a vignette that brings the reader into the tone and setting of the novel, giving a foreshadowing of the events that will unfold.  It starts with newlyweds on a happy day, looking at a prospective home, but ends in tragedy due to an evil resonance attached to the house.  This leads the reader to the beginning of John's story.

John has been a successful serial killer for his entire adult life, committed to his craft without detection or disruption.  He's spent years refining his process and meticulously planning out each kill, honing his abilities to horrible heights.  At the start of the novel, the reader is introduced to John going about the routine of his particular method of selection and abduction.  The plans are well-rehearsed, but his dark life is abruptly disrupted as something even darker wells out from deep within him.  What starts out as one dissociative lapse--a blackout on the road--turns into a series of uncontrollable blackouts, unraveling his carefully wrought control.  John tries to re-center his mind through meditation--a technique he taught himself as a young man, to quiet his chaotic thoughts--but while John is deep within himself, he finds unfamiliar dark voices, voices not his own.  They claw past his defenses and force themselves into John's reality, manifesting from out of the depths of his subconscious.  John's scarred psyche had manifested as grotesque physical representations, torturing his fragile mind and bringing his buried past terrors back to life.

Through a series of unbidden flashbacks to the abuses and defining moments of John's past, and through his interactions with these manifestations representing his weaknesses and fears, the reader glimpses what set him on the path to being such a prolific killer.

The book is written with an emotional honesty that lays bare the killer's soul for all readers to see, while also delivering a good scare.

Buy Links for 
From a Killer's Mind.

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