The Perfect Happy Ever After Story Can Be Found Inside This Dark Fiction

Everyone loves a happy ending. Even the darkest of stories have one if you know where to look for it. It’s a time when villains become heroes and it’s cool for them to do evil deeds. The trick in locating the dark fiction HEA is to skew your head sideways. Conventional thinking won’t help you locate it in the obvious places. You must first allow the darkness to flow over you so it can smother out orthodoxy and open up your mind.

There are millions of authors on social media who write vanilla HEA’s for traditional HEA fans. HEA comforts readers. Fans know that by the close of the book, any crazy world made inside it will always end in one place, happy. It makes HEA fans feel safe — like pulling up a cosy blanket on a cold Winter’s night.

It got me thinking, I write HEA’s too. My evil narratives end in happy places! Sure they do.

Stop laughing.

It’s a fact. My characters flounder like any HEA character. They doubt themselves. They love, hate, inspire-to-do-better, fail and succeed — just like any HEA character would do. There are winners and losers. And every dark story I’ve ever written comes with a profound, life-affirming resolution at its conclusion. Yes, I know, I offer readers a scratchy HEA blanket, but who said all blankets are soft?

evil eye

A criminal’s version of happy-ever-after would be different to yours and mine. It’d be no less important (to them) but it would be a new challenge to create a good one as a writing exercise. Taking their viewpoint would allow a writer to explore their life goals, their hurdles, ups-and-downs, and all the foibles that come with living their kind of life.

For instance, not going to jail would be one of the criminal’s best HEA’s, right?

This type of HEA would be a hard-sell to those who firmly believe bad people should be punished. Jail time or a death sentence is the only satisfactory outcome for those who commit heinous acts on others.

Remember TV’s Dexter?

Now there’s a likeable bad guy who managed to get millions of fans on-side. The show was one part psycho-killer, three parts Equaliser. Dexter killed people but his victims were evil people too. They were paedophiles, murderers, etc — the worst of the worst. We liked watching our deranged, yet well-controlled killer, police society’s filth with his sharp knife and oodles of transparent plastic film taped to the walls and floors of his home. He became a judge, jury, and an excellent executioner. It’s an unconventional HEA.

See? It can be done.

This writer’s greatest challenge is to create new narratives using the HEA as a starting point — and then to develop them from evil’s perspective. I invite readers to experience them, so they too can become dark HEA believers by The End — the perfect HEA for my kind of adult fiction.

Michael

Five women’s bodies are discovered after the nights of thunderstorms. Their spouses are suspected of the crimes, but it becomes clear that someone else is responsible. There’s no blood and few clues. A storm photographer who specializes in taking pictures of lightning may be the only witness.

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Choosing The Perfect Graphic For A Book Cover Before Sending It To Print

People say, don’t judge a book by its cover but most of them aren’t authors. For many readers, a cover is all they have to go by when they’re choosing a new book. The front surface (and its back) of a book, is the face of a story. The graphic offers clues to it. In a way, readers are digesting a book long before opening it. Yes, a book is first judged by its cover.

Clearly, a good graphic (and title) won’t guarantee the book will hit a home run in the literary world, but it does get one to first base. I decided to have a predominantly black cover for mine because it made the right statement for its narrative. The cover graphic looks like how the story feels as it’s being read. If I made it a pink one covered with hearts, it’d say the wrong thing to the wrong readers. I didn’t want that. Honesty is the best policy when it comes to designing and choosing the right graphic for a book — a thriller-styled novel.

It sounds like a simple process but mine didn’t go that way — and black wasn’t my first choice. It wasn’t even my second or fifth one. It took time to experiment with many wrong graphics to get to one that mattered. The earlier versions looked nothing like the finished cover!

First Attempt

Cover designs weren’t considered until well after the book was finished, eight years after the writing project started. The first mock-up was a representation of a key scene in the novel. It was a nighttime picture, set in a secluded bush area, well away from the lights of civilisation. There are trees, grass and a lightning bolt jutting downwards in the distant background. The image proved to be a difficult cover shot because it became messy when placing a title over it. The graphic looked like spaghetti and cobwebs and the title just got lost in it. I moved on.

Teddy Bear Thriller

I started shooting new material with a teddy bear, just like the one described in the final chapter of the book. There was that bracelet on its wrist and the all-important SIM card. It kinda worked but the fluffiness of the bear softened the cover. It made it look like the book was written for children. I tried to harden it up by showing less of the bear and accentuating the bracelet but it didn’t work. I abandoned that idea that worked on the title instead.

Black on Blue

After doing the titling research with strangers, using a simple single-shot layout, I became hooked on the idea of using a simplified, dark theme. It felt right — and the abundance of space gave me the flexibility to fit words anywhere on top of it. The trick was finding the right lightning bolt shape (the one I used in the mock-ups was lo-res and not mine to use). I had a few of my own but none worked. I went back to designing an entirely new graphic.

A-ha!

The story isn’t just about rain, lightning, teddy bears or bracelets. The greater story is about sex and sexual abstinence. I found some old material in my photo library (a woman’s chest), placed the shot onto the screen, and then dropped it into black and white. The cover then made perfect sense. I added a crucifix, coloured it red, and then placed the title on the surface. It worked but there was one element left to add. I wanted that storm element on the cover. I tried a lightning bolt inclusion but it ruined the cover. I opted for a small splash instead. A droplet with a rain tracer accompanied it. The spot colour was added to the droplet to balance the scene. The evolution was complete.

Nine years after I sat down to write SEETHINGS, this cover appeared on the shelves.

The irony was those shelves had become virtual ones during the time of the project. E-books and e-stores had replaced traditional ones. Readers can now pick up copies of my books and begin reading them before they are able to lock their front door to visit their favourite bookstore. Oh well, the principle of designing book covers is still the same. People scroll through the catalogues and still stop when something catches their eye. Getting them to stop scrolling is the book reaching first base. Taking home plate (or hitting a home run) requires more than a good cover. The story behind it has to match.

See you next time –Michael (Dark Adult Fiction Author)

Five women’s bodies are discovered after the nights of thunderstorms. Their spouses are suspected of the crimes, but it becomes clear that someone else is responsible. There’s no blood and few clues. A storm photographer who specializes in taking pictures of lightning may be the only witness.

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Character Spotlight: Mitchell Felding (photographer) Dark Adult Fiction.

Dependable Mitchell comes with bucket loads of amiability. A joke accompanies most conversations. His warm smiles melt anyone’s ice. There’s a wonderful sense of calm surrounding our reliable, likable protagonist.

Mitchell Felding.

  • Thirty something
  • Married to Samantha Felding (10 years sexless marriage.)
  • Professional Photographer and Photography Teacher
  • Self Employed
  • Good Sense Of Humour
  • Practical

His personable character is welcoming, especially when it’s placed against that of his wife’s, Sam, who spends her time checking her clocks, calendars, and organizing things. She’s extremely officiant but highly strung. This kind of personality mix could be ideal for both of them, but it isn’t. Equitable work/life balances in the Felding home aren’t easy to find. Mitchell is dedicated to his wife, but his efforts to settle her anxieties are never enough. There’s always a new obstruction blocking the path to the bedroom. We look to the past for answers to this struggle.

broken rings

A long-term celibate relationship began their journey. Heartfelt abstinence was meant to be a gift — a well-intended promise of devotion that’d secure their love, forever. Unfortunately, it worked against them. By the time they married, sex had become misunderstood, even feared. It never turned into a form of intimacy. Sex became a weapon of abuse — in an unexpected way.

Counsellor Tony Brindell is helping the couple work on their childless marriage. He believes the issues plaguing it are minor, but he isn’t aware of their depth. Despite Mitchell’s dedication and amiability, they’re of no use to him in the counsellor’s room. Sam’s methodical sense of organising things, doesn’t help either. Neither benefit from the therapy. Both are ill-equipped to move forward. A new kind of objectivity is required. It’s Mitchell who learns to let go of conformity to make the first breakthrough — and solve those five murders reported in the media. He’s sure he knows one of the victims, but Samantha dismisses him in an instant. Fixing his marriage takes priority, but understanding what happened to those women will have to be done on the down-low.

Happy ever after is calling inside the pages of SEETHINGS.

Michael

Five women’s bodies are discovered after the nights of thunderstorms. Their spouses are suspected of the crimes, but it becomes clear that someone else is responsible. There’s no blood and few clues. A storm photographer who specializes in taking pictures of lightning may be the only witness.

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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 got added to the 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 of the 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 and labelled it as 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 stayed while the rest disappeared into oblivion.

SEETHINGS' test-drive title
Long enough for ya?

Stop laughing. This title will 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 and it was due for some real-world testing. A beta-reader journey was the next step. Feedback mattered — not for the book’s title, but the story beyond the cover page that displayed it. I handed my readers the manuscript in a four ring-binder and said nothing of the narrative. This long title fronted it, acting as a type of synopsis and reader screener. If the reader didn’t like the sound of the title, they didn’t get to read the book (some people can’t abide violent stories no matter who writes them!). Those who tolerated the title got to read the story, and then I waited for their comments/reviews to return. The book was never going to be called Pink Tears In The Hot Rain And The Cold Stench Of Death. A real title would come much later.

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. Those files have gone astray). Each of these simple proofs was printed using the same image on the background, only their titles differed (even the font was the same). I shopped them around to friends, family, book club members, strangers, anyone keen enough to give me an opinion. I didn’t tell them what the story was about (the beta readers weren’t involved), I just wanted a new set of strangers to look at the mock-ups. “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.

Five women’s bodies are discovered after the nights of thunderstorms. Their spouses are suspected of the crimes, but it becomes clear that someone else is responsible. There’s no blood and few clues. A storm photographer who specializes in taking pictures of lightning may be the only witness.

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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’.

Self Reflection And The Glass Of A Photographer’s Viewfinder

We can always discover a little more inside ourselves if we took the time to look in from the outside.

SEETHINGS and SEETHINGS 2 are the first two books of a trilogy — a darker look at love, marriage, sex and photography. It’s about a photographer eager to capture the perfect lightning bolt in his lens, but ends up in the middle of another type of storm on the other side of the camera. (excerpts are found here)

The narrative places the reader at a cliff on the banks of the Brisbane River. The body of another photographer is found by morning joggers hanging by a tree root. The plot follows our protagonist until five mystery deaths line up to reveal an explosive ending that’ll horrify the tender-hearted.

If I could leave you, dear reader, with a few words — not everything a photographer needs to understand about the pictures they fail to capture come from using a inferior lens or a poorly chosen shutter speed. Sometimes the answers they seek are found deep within themselves. Thank God most don’t focus on that and choose to blame their equipment instead. It’s better to question that or the composition of a yet-to-be-taken photograph than confront the inner-self on why the passion to create is greater than the art. Finding answers there can stir the darker parts of our soul, raizing a dangerous Beast within.

Get ready for twists that will bend your senses!

-Michael

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’.

I Love Lightning. Watching Thunderstorms Is Better Than Watching TV.

I don’t watch movies in the Summer. My eyes devour storms instead. I prefer to sit on my porch and watch the thunderheads grow above the horizon and slide over my home. Each season, they form in the west, and then crawl towards the east. They growl and rumble while harassing the land with their sparks, wind and noise, threatening everything as they go. Their drama is way better than anything I can see on television.

There’s something exciting about storms that draws me in. I can’t put my finger on it. It’s visceral. Primeval. My body wakes when they’re near. I feel more alive when the sky swells with moisture laden air.

I’ll watch those columns of churning cloud rise into the night sky. I’ll stop everything I’m doing to turn off all my house lights, pull up a chair, and watch the sporadic flashes emanating from within them. When the lightning finally breaks through that wild Beast and then strikes the ground, my heart begins to race fast. A flush of heat rises to my skin. Goosebumps form. That familiar localised flash fills me with excitement, and the thumping air that follows it finishes me off.

I know thunderstorms well because I used to photograph them. I wrote about them several times. When it came time to writing about the best one of all, I drew from the deep, personal experiences I had with them. The sensations I got from watching tropical thunderstorms develop, move and deliver their lot, were placed directly into my book’s protagonist. What I saw with my eyes, he sees with his own. What I felt, he feels. Readers will enjoy his innermost sensations when he’s encountering the storm.

And now we must say something of sex. After all, I should connect the dots I laid down two paragraphs ago. Yes, let’s complete what I started.

As you may have guessed, storms and sex are intrinsically linked together — at least, they are for me. As a consequence, so too does the protagonist inside SEETHINGS. My part was to bring those two worlds together in the best possible way, so a reader could come along for the ride.

Yes, I revealed a part of myself on this very blog. I rarely do that.

Sex and storms. There, I said it.

There is the highly charged electricity, the anticipation, noise, frenzied activity, the explosive climax, and then the wetness that follows. These are the bones of my sexually-driven storm story, but it took eight years and thirteen re-writes to give it the proper flesh. Yes, it’s important to mention that too. SEETHINGS wasn’t a quick write. It was a thorough one.

And then there’s the serial killer I wove into the narrative — just to make things extra-interesting. Now you’ll want to see where this goes, right?

Michael

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 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)