Considering What A Book’s Title Should Be Before Committing To Publishing It

Before SEETHINGS was finished, the novel tried on many other titles. That name didn’t appear until eight years later. During the book’s long development, alternates were applied to assist the author with writing its content. Few were considered to be permanent fixtures. None were planned to appear on any bookshelf.

There are fair and good reasons why a book starts with one title but finishes with another. In SEETHINGS’ case, I used one of my titles as a temporary label, sort of a mission statement, for the purposes of keeping me on track as I wrote the yet unknown story.

In the beginning…

This was SEETHINGS’ very first title and the story was always going to be about a storm. I love a good thunderstorm and wanted to write a great story about one. It was to take centre stage, but how that’d translate into an entertaining story was uncertain. I wrote Stormfront on a post-it note and then stuck it to my computer’s screen. That little yellow tag kept me on-task during the first draft (and it stayed around for another couple of rewrites).

Brrrr!

As is usually the case when I write, something else gets added to an original draft. The story soon developed the nucleus of another plot. It paralleled the first one but, while the hot, summer rain dominated the core narrative, a chilly relationship story slithered right up against it. I saw the irony in this dichotomy and so I wrote a new title on a fresh post-it note, Cold Climates.

Ick!

Attracted to that new second plot, I kept working on developing the chilly relationship between those two characters. My goal was to create six identifiable occasions in the story when the couple’s life soured and their bedroom turned icy. Thank goodness that title didn’t remain. Neither did those six occasions. The key ones remained while the rest disappeared into the trash.

SEETHINGS' test-drive title
Long enough for ya?

Stop laughing. It’ll make perfect sense after I explain why I chose it. The process was getting really serious at this point. The book had been written ten times over and it was time for real-world testing to take place. A beta-reader journey was required to get the book to the next stage. Feedback mattered — not for the book’s title, but the story accompanying it. I needed readers to tell me how the story felt from a reading perspective. This long-title version acted as a type of synopsis. I handed them the manuscript in a ring-binder and said nothing of the contents behind the cover page. I let them read the story and then waited for their comments/reviews to return to me.

With the last of the structural edits being finalised, four titles were selected for proofing (I can’t remember one of them — yes, these are mock-ups of the original mock-ups. The files have gone astray). Each of these simple proofs was printed using the same image (a lightning bolt) as a background. They looked identical, but for the title (even the font was the same). I shopped them around to friends, family, book club members, strangers, anyone keen enough to give me their opinion. I didn’t tell them what the story was about. I just wanted them to look at the covers. “Which book title would make you stop and look twice?” I asked.

The votes came back and the book officially became SEETHINGS in mid-2012. Of course, it wasn’t yet ready for the reading market. Sorting out a title was just one step in many more to come. The next thing to consider was a suitable cover graphic (clearly, I didn’t go with the lightning bolt option)… but that’s another post for another time.

Until then, enjoy your reading. Michael.

“Forman’s writing style is artful, with the protagonist Mitchell’s warped thought processes masterfully exposed. The author has a powerful and vivid command of language and his word pictures are stark and disturbingly real.”

– Linda J Bettenay, author of ‘Secrets Mothers Keep’ and ‘Wishes For Starlight’.

Rewriting The Paper Orgasm

Literotica? Really? Aren’t you supposed to be writing thrillers Michael?

Yes and yes. I write tease. Tease is transient. Sex, life, death — all can be written with tease. Tease is entertaining. It’s titillating. The trick is blending them the right way and making it work.

Murder narratives often contain sex. Kissing is part of sex. Hugs are in there too. Leg-twitching, shudder-shaking bedroom action raises the tension. I include all of them… with rising-tension murder too. They go together well.

Lori Beeton (a huge Dean Koontz fan) said my literotica was unusually feminine. She says I take my time and don’t rush the sex.

I guess she’s right. I favour growing the tension between lovers. I let it build and swirl as though I’m writing an erotic-specific piece.

Eyes that shift, breathing that falters, secret desires which are revealed one touch at a time, makes for a better read.

Good sex is all about negotiating those ‘unspoken words’. I like the anticipation, the doubt, the uncertain outcome of what may take place after the first kiss happens. How we communicate desire and make contact is what it’s all about baby!

Savour that feeling!

Read about it in my books!

Michael

“Forman’s writing style is artful, with the protagonist Mitchell’s warped thought processes masterfully exposed. The author has a powerful and vivid command of language and his word pictures are stark and disturbingly real.”

– Linda J Bettenay, author of ‘Secrets Mothers Keep’ and ‘Wishes For Starlight’.

Intimate Murder: Villain and Victim Development

When writing dark fiction, it’s important to create the perfect villain. Without one, a hero can’t rise above and give the reader what they need — hard justice. A hero’s strength depends on the power of the villain to get them there. Justice aside, there’s one other thing to consider.

The victim.

Simply using random individuals as victims certainly quickens part of the writing process. It can give our bad-guy instant badness and we don’t need to know about a victim’s life, learn their name, or visit a funeral. We can spend more time with the villains and heroes in the story. But using a nameless nobody to die at the hands of the best-crafted bad-guy, can ruin a good dark fiction story.

Why not include some intrigue by selecting the perfect victim for our villain? If the so-called randoms don’t turn out to be that random at all, we could give deeper purpose to each kill — discoverable later in the story.

And what about the manner in which they die?

Murder is highly personal — at least, I believe it is. Nothing is more intimate than making one of my character’s life snuff out. It’d be easy to under-value a good murder by failing to honour murder’s intimacy. For instance: A shooting. There’s a crack of a gun, a fall to the knees, and a body hits the ground — all done, nice and quick. If the villain is a sniper, it’s even less intimate, because it’s done from a distance. He doesn’t even have to see the eyes of his victim fade. Where’s the intimacy in a sniper-kill?

My murder is not the kind that comes by way of a gun, or a knife, or poison. I’m talking about something deeply intimate — like the electricity that crackles between two new lovers.

Theirs is all about erotic anticipation, hot kisses, fingers and hands seeking bare flesh. Only eyes, moans, and heavy breathing, is used to guide their way into the bedroom. A murder can be written into this space instead. It can be just as sensual, building towards a steamy homicide, creating a whole new level of creep for the dark narrative.

I’m a writer who yearns to bring intimacy and murder together. I want a reader to want to witness the development of such a relationship and then rise as their union climaxes. And then I want them shocked by what I do next.

Avoid clichés at all costs.

Clichés take us where we expect to go. There’s nothing left to do but to wrap a story up with a justice bow and let the reader off with a feel-good outcome. The only challenge for a writer, is to become creative in hiding the cliché, while writing it. For instance: Bad guy goes to jail, dies, banished forever, turned into stone, becomes a horrible monster, etc. The result is always the same — the evil never stays. It goes away, always. Predictable. Not in my stories.

Should justice be as predictable?

You’d think it’d be black and white. Once the badness is identified, it’s removed by good, old fashioned justice. But justice is subjective. Depending on your age, race, upbringing, beliefs, sex, sexual preference, intellect, wisdom, experience, even weight and height, you’ll have a unique view on what’s just. There’s another human flaw to factor into the justice mix — psychological stability. There are moments when we’re not ourselves and make bad decisions on things like justice. All of these varying elements in the justice process make it somewhat fluidic. This fluidity is something I like to explore in my stories. All I need to do is get my reader to jump in and get wet with me, to find appropriate justice in the sloppy liquid. It’s not conventional but it works for the thriller-styled novels I write.

Self awareness, identity and acceptance is important to everyone, including psychopaths. We all have an inner-something that drives us and makes us do the things we do. Even well-balanced people can get things horribly wrong on matters of love, lust, family, money, and much more. Any of these items can be motivators for us to think and act inappropriately, and then look to cover our tracks when we see things in the light of a new day.

My books include this strange shift in behaviour. They are dark fiction and not meant for children. They’re not for simple souls either. They contain complex, adult issues, and challenge a reader’s moral standing throughout their narratives. They are written for a perfect villain who commits an intimate murder, and then ask readers to accept a different type of justice that makes perfect sense, only at the time of the crime.

Read SEETHINGS now. It’s the first novel in a series, and it’s free on *SMASHWORDS. (*limited time)

Michael Forman (Author)

“Forman’s writing style is artful, with the protagonist Mitchell’s warped thought processes masterfully exposed. The author has a powerful and vivid command of language and his word pictures are stark and disturbingly real.”

– Linda J Bettenay, author of ‘Secrets Mothers Keep’ and ‘Wishes For Starlight’.

Character Spotlight: Maxine Sewell. (Dark Fiction Dissection)

Maxine heads a group of small business owners who specialise in photographing weddings. Most of the newer, inexperienced photographers who are breaking into this field, see her as an authority figure and look up to her for guidance. Those who have been around much longer know that they are mistaken to look up to her for anything.

Maxine Sewell.

  • Early thirties
  • Single but on/off again relationship with Andrew
  • Wedding photographer
  • Loves going to parties
  • Central figure to the photography industry
  • Enjoys red wine and Champagne

Her Rubenesque form and aggressive personality helps her get her messages across. No one can out-do Maxine’s vitriol or volume once the wine flows. She can drink anyone under a table or out-argue them over it. Nothing stops Maxine when a party is in full swing.

As a photographer, she isn’t creative or even all that successful, but she certainly is loud. She’s a rambunctious woman whose abruptness is often mistaken as confidence, but it often disguises what little she actually knows about photography. Bridge burning is her only real talent — as once her bluff is exposed and that facade falls, she turns nasty quickly.

Andrew is another photographer. He’s from the northern suburbs and has an efficient business on his side of town. It’s no secret that he and Maxine are seeing each other. He’s playing her, calling on the big girl when no one else is available. He makes it clear that he wants to remain single — and he’ll say it to her face when everyone’s listening. Maxine says she doesn’t care and the friends-with-benefits arrangement works well for her. It’s not true. She’s lonely and everyone knows it. No one believes her, not even Andrew. He’ll just smile and pour her another glass of Merlot. Maxine will be there for him anytime he needs her, no matter how much it hurts her to wait.

And then there’s Mitchell, another eligible male photographer who lives and works much closer to Maxine. She’s been watching him through a separate lens, wondering if he could be the one. Unlike the rest of her male-colleagues who are either too old, too broken, or incapable of holding a meaningful conversation, he’s the only guy she’s willing to try. He seems nice enough, but he’s refused her, twice. She knows he’s married, but she’s also seen him dating other women. It doesn’t make sense. Why won’t he accept her offers. She’s good enough. And why won’t he tell her what’s going on with his wife? Maxine needs to be informed at all costs!

She hates men keeping secrets from her. She’ll find out what’s going on with Mitchell even if it kills her!

SEETHINGS is written with a happy ever ending after you won’t forget.

Michael

“Forman’s writing style is artful, with the protagonist Mitchell’s warped thought processes masterfully exposed. The author has a powerful and vivid command of language and his word pictures are stark and disturbingly real.”

– Linda J Bettenay, author of ‘Secrets Mothers Keep’ and ‘Wishes For Starlight’.

Dungeon of Dark Fiction For Lovers of Creepy Writing

I’d like to welcome you to my pit of evil happenstance. This is where the most innocent of people are lured away from the light and taken deep into the dark recesses of a primeval mind. May your stay be deadly.

Y’know, this dungeon of dark fiction in which I dwell is actually part of a neurosis labyrinth. This is a quiet corner, far away from the prying eyes of the angel do-gooders, the politically correct and those who tch-tch at everything they see and hear. I apply a few sadistic keystrokes, and suddenly they are here with me, bound to my dungeon’s walls. Stripped of their dignity and clothes, I get to probe their flesh with shiny, metal objects and make their minds quiver with vile words. No one out there gets to hear their wonderful screams.

Dungeon of dark fiction - stories and ideas

There’s no romance here. No weddings. No love everlasting. Warm and fuzzy hero righteousness is banned. I provide no clichés. My happy ever after is to watch victims plead for mercy and then kill them regardless what they say. This version of a HEA is a refreshing change to the literary landscape, don’t you think?

Helpless victims and fictional manuscripts aside, churning out stories for dark fiction readers in my mind-dungeon comes with the same problems authors on the surface of the planet have to deal with. We can murder all we like, but we still need a special kind of electricity in the text to make the reader stay with the page. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. And then there’s the marketing, advertising and finding our reading market in the first place. Self-publishing isn’t an easy road.

Somewhere between the creation of a phenomenal story and a reader’s inevitable enjoyment of it, is the editing process. It’s the single largest and most challenging part of any writing project. Watch the video below to meet me and see where the writing comes together.

Michael Forman

Creep you later,

Michael


“Forman’s writing style is artful, with the protagonist Mitchell’s warped thought processes masterfully exposed. The author has a powerful and vivid command of language and his word pictures are stark and disturbingly real.”

– Linda J Bettenay, author of ‘Secrets Mothers Keep’ and ‘Wishes For Starlight’.

Former Teacher Walks A Dangerous Path While Concealing A Dark Secret

As police search his residence for evidence, counselor and popular radio identity, Tony Brindell, continues to deny that he ever had a relationship or acted inappropriately with one of his students when he was her high school teacher thirteen years ago.

‘I’m not a pedophile. I’m Christian’ He told the waiting media.

Tracey Logan, now twenty-seven, has previously claimed that Brindell seduced her when she was just fourteen. A second woman has also come forward, revealing intimate details of a long term affair she says she had with Brindell when she was only thirteen.

Brindell and his lover, Logan

The women’s claims have become the focus of a historical probe into Brindell’s personal and professional life. Brindell, a well-respected Pastor, youth worker, counselor, and media celebrity, has not yet been charged, but investigations are ongoing.


Originally, Tony Brindell wasn’t written into SEETHINGS to be a pedophile. He was meant to be a kind, Christian man who simply helped people who were in trouble. As I wrote more of him into the story, I had to follow his life path back to when he wasn’t a Pastor, but a teacher. That’s when I discovered that there was a monster inside him.

Did I mention that my writing is dark?

(More of Tony’s character is found here.)

-Michael (Author of SEETHINGS)

“Forman’s writing style is artful, with the protagonist Mitchell’s warped thought processes masterfully exposed. The author has a powerful and vivid command of language, and his word pictures are stark and disturbingly real.”

– Linda J Bettenay, author of ‘Secrets Mothers Keep’ and ‘Wishes For Starlight’.

Maxine Sewell Is A Brutal And Crass Woman. Here’s How I Dealt With A Female Narcissist.

Ugly. Inside and out. A nutshell. That’s Maxine. The pleasure I got from making such a repulsive character for my book was absolutely exquisite. It was a new and wonderful experience. I’d definitely do it again!

When it comes to writing novels, male characters fit ‘ugly’ much easier. And, as long as there’s a redeeming counter-force, readers don’t usually give Mr Ugly a second thought about his ‘ugliness’. He was made that way and it’s okay. Giving ‘ugly’ traits to a female character in modern fiction is risky. Many of us want to protect femininity at all costs. Putting a flawed female upfront defies logic. Women should be empowered. They are to be seen as an uplifting force in a world long fractured by an outdated patriarchy. Vulgar female behavior doesn’t exist today and, if it does, it doesn’t need discussing.

Wrong. It does.

I’ve met vile females. They do exist. Regardless of what society thinks about the matter of bringing the bitch to the page, she is a very real person. She’s a shitty individual. The she-narcissist lives amongst us — and she’s definitely worth mentioning. I wrote Maxine until I birthed her into life, and then I wrote until she was dead and buried. As a nod to feminism, I conceded to one thing when writing about this obnoxious super bitch: Her name. When it’s shortened, a man appears in its place.

I don’t apologise for creating this royal pain in-the-ass. I’m just glad to have had so much fun making and breaking her, using her demise to take charge of a much larger story. Her corpse was used to lay an original path for readers to walk. Now tread slowly and read where it goes and why I set up Maxine up to fail.

-Michael Forman (Author – Dark, Adult Fiction)

Redeeming Evil Characters

When it comes to lovable evil characters, Hannibal Lector is one I’d like to give one big ‘ol squeeze.

You can’t help but fall in love with the good Doctor’s wit, intellect and sense of propriety. If it weren’t for the odd liver and fava-bean request, you’d be happy to have him over for dinner, to charm and entertain, right?

Writing evil into any narrative comes with certain perils. Some discerning readers can’t abide free-flowing, mindless slashing and burning without an opposing force of goodness to balance it out. To restore sanity, authors give their evil a redeeming quality.

Pure Evil and Kindness

Hannibal Lector is a good example. He has just enough niceness to keep most lovers of dark fiction in-the-room. There’s a despicable element, but it’s offset by bags of amiability. It’s just not right for a character to be bad from sun up to sun down. No one can be that sinister and not have a lovable side tucked away somewhere.

A creative writer adds something extra for their character — the villain commits murder but visits animal shelters to care for orphaned kittens. Suddenly our fiend is likeable, accessible. There’s hope for them after all.

Mitchell Felding has redeeming traits of his own.

No one dies unless there’s an extremely good reason for them to do so. In fact, when he’s not ending a life, he’s helping someone remain alive. In one instance, he rescues a family from a rampaging thunderstorm that annihilates their entire home.

Mitchell’s second redeeming trait is closer to his heart. He adores his wife Samantha. He’ll do anything for her. He’s especially mindful of Samantha’s religious beliefs. Furthermore, he was the one who remained celibate for her while they dated. It wasn’t an easy time, but he kept his promise just as he said he would.

‘Not until I’m married,’ she told him between kisses.

Seven years was too long, but Mitchell loved Samantha. It just so happens that a dark element was seeded into their relationship — and the abstinence continued long after their nuptials were exchanged. The darkness continued to grow with it.

Mitchell has tried everything to chip at the ice, but nothing works. Sam and Mitchell are like oil and water. And now Sam has told her best friend that she and Mitchell are trying for a baby. A child? How can conception occur without intimacy? How can a couple remain best friends when they should be lovers?

The lies to maintain order are just too to much to bear. Something in Mitchell snaps.

I'm going slightly mad!

At first, Mitchell cheats on Sam for immediate gratification. Bored women from emotionally stifling marriages fulfil a basic need. Secretive, curious wives make the best candidates of all. The women, eager to take a break their humdrum’s routine, are attracted to his sense of adventure and candidness. Each agree to trying out his kink.

But sex only begins the process. Mitchell’s darker side wants a different kind of action. The seethed that feeds it runs deep. Rain washes away the intention, and the evidence. That’s convenient — for a serial killer who hides in plain sight.

SEETHINGS is dark, sensual fiction with a few twists along the way. The last one is explosive.

Michael

Five Random Victims
Summer Thunderstorms
Charm Bracelet
Author: M.Forman
Avail: Kindle, Kobo, Etc

“Forman’s writing style is artful, with the protagonist Mitchell’s warped thought processes masterfully exposed. The author has a powerful and vivid command of language, and his word pictures are stark and disturbingly real.”

– Linda J Bettenay, author of ‘Secrets Mothers Keep’ and ‘Wishes For Starlight’.

Great Heroes Require Quality Villains. They’re Compulsory.

Dark fiction does heroes a great big favour. Without a certain kind of evil to rise to the occasion, heroes can’t develop into what they are meant to become. Thank God for the darker elements of humanity and the baddest of bad-boys (or girls) to show us and our hero the way into the light.

What about the reverse storyline, y’know, the one where an ordinary hero loses to a fantastic villain, with evil winning the day and taking readers to the dark side?

Too hard to envision?

I could talk about mind-traits blocking the path to enlightenment — how our brains are wired to find the happy-ever-afters in the stories we hear and read. I’d include something about existentialism’s desire to fix problems whenever it sees a breakage in itself, but that’s not my job. Writing is my thing. My work is to tease out intriguing plots from ideas and turning long strings of words into entertainment. Dark fiction is my life. I live and breathe it. My quest is to create a villain who can be loved and hated with equal measure, with the reader accepting evil by the final page.

Are we talking of monsters, witches and the supernatural?

The only monster my writing contains is the one each of us carry around inside us. It dwells beneath an old part of our subconsciousness, and it just happens to be the most dangerous. If the conditions are right, this inner-creature is capable of broaching the upper-consciousness, reaching the surface and making it into this world. If you believe this is possible, then you too can accept the kind of evil I write.

SEETHINGS includes storms. Some are seen, others are felt. When they meet, a murder takes place. Police recognise the timing, but there are few other clues. It’s a mystery, but the greater mystery is why. The answer is deeply unsettling. It’s a crime that could’ve been committed by anyone. Even you.

Read SEETHINGS now.

Five Random Victims
Summer Thunderstorms
Charm Bracelet
Author: M.Forman
Avail: Kindle, Kobo, Kindle, iPad, Android.

Writers Need To Find Their Special Type of Rabbit Hole, And Fall As Far As It Takes Them

Frustrated writers locate them easy. Sitting behind a keyboard for hours at a time, experimenting with words, characters and plots, generate rabbit holes all the time. One character will go left while her friend turns right. Their life-courses diverge because of their independent choices. The first finds Utopia, the other walks into Hell. A writer must allow themselves the courage to go to both places — or to any other their characters take them. That’s the deal. Nothing comes from writing safe. 

Exploring the creative freedoms of the inner-self will allow an author to spend time in the light AND the darkness (or anywhere in-between). A good writing discipline starts journeys like these but, once they begin to move, open-mindedness chooses their directions. There’s no telling where a story will go. It can lead into an uplifting one, or something that frightens.

Hold that thought!

down the rabbit hole

Hey! Did you ever dream and get a feeling of falling, and then you’re suddenly jolted awake? You know, your eyes pop-open, you find your heart pounding, nails dug deeply into the mattress and an inexplicable sheen of sweat on your forehead?

That’s the one.

What if you could stay asleep through the entire descent and go to where that fall was supposed to take you?

What kills the dream is something called a fear jolt. We wake because falling in the conscious world usually ends bad, and our mind applies that rule — but dreams aren’t like that, dream-falls can’t hurt us. We should be able to ignore the conscious jolt and continue downward into that subconscious world.

What if we could trick our mind and stop that jolt from spoiling the dream?

If it’s fear that wakes us, then it’s fear that needs to be suppressed. Instead of falling and fearing an outcome, why not fall and turn fear into curiosity instead? Let’s hand our destiny over to inevitably and just go with it — we should get past the jolt and find out what’s at the bottom of the hole.

Rabbit hole writing is the same. Rather than fearing our imagination and limiting the words that sprout from our inner-voices, we should embrace curiosity and let them grow. Let’s nurture them and watch what they become.

Standing at a hole’s edge, looking into the abyss below, doesn’t give us knowledge about what’s inside it. We can speculate all we like, but we actually have to go down there to know the deal. Evil could lurk. Death is a possibility. Heaven and equality is on the cards too. Imagine the possibilities. Like a sleeper staying in dreamland during a fall, all quality fiction needs is a writer to jump and let themselves discover.

I’m going down my next rabbit hole right now, and I’m keeping my eyes wide open when I do it. Will you join me as I jump in wonder?

Michael Forman

-M


“Forman’s writing style is artful, with the protagonist Mitchell’s warped thought processes masterfully exposed. The author has a powerful and vivid command of language and his word pictures are stark and disturbingly real.”

– Linda J Bettenay, author of ‘Secrets Mothers Keep’ and ‘Wishes For Starlight’.