A reader question about THE PULLER

Yesterday I received a nice email from a reader named Colby. He talked about the detailed flora and fauna in THE PULLER, and how I’d been able to do so much research, and how he felt like he was there.

THE PULLER started as a short story, a long time ago. It was actually my first acceptance for any writing, ever. I was 24, and had been accepted into a Northwoods ghost anthology. Unfortunately, before the anthology could be published, the publisher was bought-out by a toy company.

Kind of a bummer.

At the time, this curbed my drive to be a writer, and I went on to do other things for a few years. But after some positive feedback in the non-fiction arena, I decided to brush off THE PULLER and turn it into a novel. I had a couple things going for me. First, I had years of experience hiking around the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Along with that, I had an unbridled passion to tell this story. I had no doubts as to the location, character, and the concept. So I plunged into it. While much of my personal experience with the ecosystem was conveyed in the first draft, I had print outs of the flora and fauna of the U.P. at my side during the second revision. Beyond that, the manuscript received at least eight line edits. I cut 20,000 words before the book was accepted for publication.

At the time of acceptance, I’d been writing a lot of science fiction short stories, and had, in a way, veered away from THE PULLER’s style. This was a mistake, because the novel had heart. And in the end, readers pick up on that. They can feel the difference between being sincere, and a writer who’s just trying to impress other writers, like some out-of-touch 1980’s guitar wizard where the solo doesn’t fit the song.

And trust me, it’s all about the song.

There’s an old writing cliche called “write what you know”. This does apply, but I think it applies earlier on, rather than later on. Early, write what you know and are passionate about. The goal is to finish your work and find your voice. There’s no such thing as a novelist who didn’t finish a manuscript.

I knew a hell of a lot about the U.P. And so I poured that into my book, and worked hard to create what is known as “character as landscape” (or at least I hope I did).

The struggling moose herd is a real thing. The Huron Mountains are a real thing. Twenty Mile Bog is real, and so is the Black River. And in a way, the novel is a love letter to the U.P., the culture and the battered ecosystem.

I haven’t been back to the U.P. since 2009, and to the shack area since at least 1998. But it remains in my heart. And in a way, THE PULLER is me saying goodbye to my childhood.

Perfecting your query letter and pitches

Agents see thousands of submissions a year. You have to craft a query that stands out above the rest.

Query writing is a different skill than novel writing, but it will be extremely helpful for your career. As novelists, we’re super attached to our novel, and try to cram everything into a pitch or query. It’s difficult to see our work objectively.

This is bad.

The goal is to elecit an emotional response in an agent with 200 words or less. And you want the query to be tight. It doesn’t have to be a mini-outline of the novel. It can be the inciting incident, or a catchy summary of the concept.

In the past, I’ve spent as much time working on query letters and pitches as I do my novels. Queries and pitches are the window to your writing. They represent you. And once you master the skill, it can be incredibly helpful in attracting Hollywood producers as well, where the “logline” is king. In 2017 I had numerous studios and producers reach out to me because of loglines/pitches. Now, that doesn’t mean you’ll convert those opportunities (I’m still waiting on some), but a good pitch will help create them. And as anyone knows, this business is about converting that rare and incredible opportunity.

I highly recommend Query Shark for taking off the whiskey goggles and seeing your query at its essence.

All of this is hard work. No one ever said it would be easy, or that you’re guaranteed anything. But when you have this skill in your pocket, it might just get a little easier.

Party

You never know where a good pitch will take you. Image is from a book to film party at RĂ©sidence de France, Beverly Hills.

Award eligible work for 2017-2018

Hey everyone,

Politically, 2017 stunk. But it’s been good for my writing. My novel “Black Friday” is on the Stoker Award Reading List, and the Nebula Reading List for work published in 2017. Because of that, I’m offering free copies for any HWA (Horror Writers Association) or SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) member.

In addition, My short story collection “The Gloaming” is on the Stoker list, along with my experimental short horror story “Tree Line”(contained in the “The Gloaming”). I’m making these available for free to any interested HWA members.

“Black Friday” is diverse fiction featuring a black protagonist and strong female characters. The novel is a thriller at heart, but tackles race relations, consumerism, capitalism, and technology. It’s definitely raw and unfiltered work.

Best,

-Michael


Contact Me

Black-Friday-Cover-blurb

Happy New Year!

I’d like to take this moment to wish everyone a happy and healthy new year. 2017 was a hell of a grind for nearly everyone I know. Yet, most of us made it through.

On the writing front, 2017 was outstanding. “Black Friday” has been incredibly well received by both the science fiction and horror communities, and my first short fiction collection, “The Gloaming” was released. I also had my first audiobook released by Tantor Media (“The Invasive“), and it’s available worldwide.

My debut novel “The Puller” came out in mid-2015, so I’m surprised and happy at how things are moving so quickly. Not to mention I’ve been contacted by at least a dozen producers the last year on various projects. It’s been exciting but also a little nerve-racking. It’s a crazy business, so I’m only going to focus on what I can control-and that’s the writing. For 2018, my writing goal will be aimed at producing two new high concept novels, which I’m really excited about.

In other parts of my life, I couldn’t be happier. I’m still living in my dream place, the great state of Montana. And my girlfriend Rachel recently moved in.

In a way, Montana tends to isolate you from the rest of the country. That has its good and bad points. But it’s been fantastic for my photography and well-being overall.

Wishing you and yours the best possible 2018.

– Michael