Writer Spotlight: Damascus Mincemeyer
I hope you enjoyed my last blog post about Karen. I just love reading how other writers think and do. I'm hoping it'll become an inspiration for all of you :)
Today's post is another writer spotlight. Today I'd like to introduce Damascus Mincemeyer, a horror writer and illustrator.
Take it away, Damascus!
1. Tell me about yourself
Well, I'm Damascus (pleased to meet everyone!). The biography I use a lot claims I'm '...a writer and artist of various strangeness from St. Louis, Missouri, USA', which is a fairly accurate description. I've had 16 short stories published in the past fourteen months or so (mostly horror) in such anthologies and magazines as Fire: Demons, Dragons and Djinn, Earth: Giants, Golems and Gargoyles, Hell's Empire, Aphotic Realm's Appalachian Horror, Gallows Hill, StoryHack and done the cover art for five (working on #6) horror anthologies for Deadman's Tome Publishing: Bikers Vs The Undead, Psycho Holiday, Monsters Vs Nazis, Mr. Deadman Made Me Do It, Satan Is Your Friend and Monster Party (I've got stories in all those, too).
I've also got a novel called By Invitation Only that is in it's final stages of development. It's a splattery black-comedy horror story revolving around three teenaged stoners that become vampires and the horrible and hilarious things that happen afterwards. In the very near future I'll be doing the cover for Ryan Wood's YA horror novel Undeath By Chocolate: The Journal Of Cinnamon Paige and internal illustrations for Nocturnal Farm by some Icelandic writer named Villimey Mist.
Aside from that I'm pretty much your standard issue fan-dork. I'm well versed in horror, sci-fi, TV, movies, comic books. You know, the usual nerd stuff.
2. When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?
When I was five. I took to reading and writing instantly and began creating my own little stories right away. An oft-told anecdote of mine relates to my first-ever writing effort, a horror tale I wrote at the babysitter's. It was about a dead guy coming back to life; I wrote it, the babysitter's daughter (age 6, I believe) illustrated it, and her mother was so horrified she ripped it up and threw it in the trash! I still have the second story I wrote, at age 6, called 'Attack Of The Bunny Ears'. It was about an army of severed rabbit ears with legs falling from the sky and eating people (I was a weird kid. Can't you tell?).
Writing prose fell by the wayside when I discovered comic books at age 12 and devoted myself to learning how to draw them. Even then I viewed that less as a deviation from writing as another avenue of storytelling to explore, and I learned a lot about narrative structure and suspense from comics, too, probably more so than from prose.
3. Do you think an education in writing is necessary?
That answer would be a firm HELL NO. I believe with all my heart that certain crafts, like writing (and art, too) cannot be taught. They can be learned, but not taught, if that makes any sense. No class or professor will bequeath you with the ability to create a good story, and studying the works of writers past won't, either. It'll just muddle things up and confuse you so that you can't find your own true voice. That can only come from you, from putting your thoughts and observations and feelings down on paper. Nothing else. And when you find that, then you've got something no one else on earth will ever have.
4. Are you a full-time author? If so/not, how do you balance work, life & writing?
I'm a full-time starving artist, with heavy emphasis on the starving. When I sold my first story in late 2017 it was after years of rejection ('Aladdin's Laugh', in Rhonda Parrish's elemental anthology Fire: Demons, Dragons and Djinn), and I pretty much just said "Fuck it, hat's in the ring. Let's do it. No going back."
My recent success has been quite unexpected, but I try not to take it too seriously. I mean, it could all go away tomorrow (especially if I get run over by a bus or something), but at the moment I'm having more fun than I've ever had in my life, so that's worth more than money right there to me anyway.
5. Are you a plotter, pantser or plantser?
I always like to pretend I'm the hip, clever, organized planster with all the angles prepared in advance before I dive into a story, but in reality it's a mixture of the three. I do create an outline and a scene-index breakdown with the main relevant information and plot points, but it's rarely more elaborate that that (I don't go in for creating vast character/world bibles for my stories. I'd much rather put that effort and time in creating the actual writing process.). So I do know where I'm driving when I set out on a journey, but the path to get there is often filled with wild detours as ideas come to me during the ride. I'm always getting flashes of dialogue and paragraphs when I'm doing non-writing related things and jotting notes down. To others I must look like a nut, with my collection of scribbled-on scrap paper.
I oftentimes write my stories out-of-sequence scene wise, too, which is kind of odd. But in the end there really is no one perfect way to write, is there?
6. Who or what inﬂuences your writing?
As a kid my top writer was H.G. Wells, and I still say The War Of The Worlds is my favorite novel. After that I was cast under H.P. Lovecraft's deadly spell, and I love Clive Barker, Colin Wilson and Harry Turtledove. Joss Whedon's work on Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel really clicked with me, too. I'm a big fan of mixing comedy and horror, and his stuff just hit all the marks for me.
On the art side, I'd blame comic artist Jim Lee for causing my obsession with art. He, along with James O'Barr, Steve Dillon, Bryan Hitch, Will Eisner, Dale Keown, Greg Capullo and the old E.C. Comics gang were the ones I admired most.
Music is also a big influence on my writing. I love metal (horns high!), industrial, old-school punk and gothic rock, techno, electro-pop, '80's New Wave...The list just goes on and on.
7. Do you have any writing habits?
Despite my love of music my only real habit is the need for absolute silence when I write. I need to concentrate, and usually write late at night (over very early in the morning) for this reason.
I sometimes (but not always) create a 'soundtrack' of songs for a specific character/story I'm working on to listen to when I'm not writing. I helps set the mental mood, so to speak, for when I sit down for the real work.
8. What do you feel is the hardest thing about the writing process?
Probably finding the quiet time to do it. Also, writing with a deadline hovering over you can be a bit harsh, but it also has produced some of my best work. I do well with my back to the wall.
I also find writing about technical details difficult, particularly anything related to science and/or mechanics. My mind's an intuitive one, not an analytical one, and doesn't often understand those things, so I'm always keen to check and double-check my research in those areas if they're necessary for a story. It's for this reason that I don't often write science fiction, though I do love it as a genre. I'm much more comfortable with horror for the very reason that it's more emotionally based storytelling, which I excel at.
9. What are your solutions for writer's block?
Switching off to something else, another story, or artwork. I usually have multiple projects going simultaneously, so if I get weary with one I can hop to another. It's like playing Whac-A-Mole in my brain sometimes.
10. Are you self-published or trad? What made you choose that route?
Traditional thus far. I hadn't planned on any of this happening, so I really didn't know there were other avenues available other than the traditional ones. I don't scoff at self-publishers like some people do, though. To me it's completely irrelevant how a story is disseminated. Ancient tales like Gilgamesh and the Norse epics were told orally for hundreds of years before behind written down at all, so whether a story is produced in print, digitally, self-published or through 'traditional' channels shouldn't matter. What matters is the power a story possess, how it moves somebody, how it touches them. That's what sticks with people, not how it was delivered to them.
11. Who encourages your writing?
Growing up, my Grandmother always encouraged my creative endeavors (even if she doesn't always enjoy the content of my works), and my oldest, dearest friend David Alien Laporkra Palmer has been a vocal fan since the earliest days, too. Lately I've been finding quite a bit of support amid the Twitter writing community (Jesse Dedman, Ross Baxter, Lisa Pelligrini, Ray Zacek, Sara Raztresen, Arthur Harper and Ryan Woods, I'm looking at you!).
Oh, and that aforementioned Icelandic author Villimey Mist encourages me, too. Why do I keep bringing her up? Hmm...
12. How long does it normally take you to ﬁnish a book/story?
It varies. Sometimes I'm a fast writer and fire off entire short stories in one sitting, while others sit half-finished on my computer for a year before I get around to completing them. On average, though, for a 5-7,000 word short story, I'd say 2-4 weeks, depending on the complexities of it and amount of research involved. A novel? Who knows. The only one I've finished thus far took seven years, but that was with a five-and-a-half year gap in between where I left off and picked up.
13. Do you have any marketing strategies?
My main marketing strategy is to turn in the absolute best work possible. I mean, no amount of advertising dollars will help if your product is a piece of junk. You may sell a bunch initially, but audiences with eventually turn on you and then it's all downhill. If you deliver killer material every time word will eventually spread that you're someone to be reckoned with and relied upon.
Beyond that it's being kind, polite and supportive. Far too many people sabotage themselves with uncouth, rude, selfish or just plain mean behavior. They fail to see that it's in their own self-interest to build and join with others instead of tear things and people apart. It's backwards thinking, yet I see it all the time, and not just in the writing world.
14. Any favourite genre you like to write in? What draws you to write in that genre?
Horror is, and always has been my favorite, ever since that first story I wrote. I'm a monster kid at heart, and I believe there are endless avenues to explore in horror as opposed to other genres. To me, horror isn't about blood and guts (although I do feature quite a bit of that in my writing). It's about the emotions related to the situations the characters are put in: fear, anxiety, dread, despair, hopelessness, obsession. One of the most prevalent themes in my work is survivalism, and by that I mean many of my characters find themselves in situations where they think to themselves, 'I've fucked up and might not make it out of this in once piece.' And sometimes they do, and sometimes they really, really don't. I like that.
I've sold a couple of non-horror stories, though. 'TimeShare' in the upcoming Blood Bound Books anthology Crash Code is dark sci-fi, and 'The Spirit of St. George' is an alternative history/fantasy hybrid published in StoryHack magazine about a biplane squadron engaging in aerial combat with rampaging dragons over the American Rockies in an alternate 1922. And since I'm pretty much a goofball in real life, my work contains a lot of comedy. I like to make people laugh as much as scream.
15. What do you think readers will ﬁnd appealing in your book/books?
You'd have to ask them, because I don't know. I just try to write what I find amusing and entertaining to me. The fact that it appeals to others at all is a very blessed coincidence in my eyes.
16. Any advice for aspiring writers?
I'm probably the worst person to give advice, but I'd have to say 'Don't stop' would be at the top of the list. Even if things look bleak and you keep getting rejected, keep on trying. There's 7 Billion people on this planet. Somebody out there is bound to like what you do. You just have to find them, and this can take years sometimes. So 'Be patient' is the next piece of advice.
And don't try to write like Stephen King or George R.R. Martin or J.K. Rowling or anyone else, either. Those writers already exist, and you can't be them because you're not them. They didn't become huge by aping the works of their predecessors, but by taking their own thoughts, feelings and observations on life and the world and putting them into words. That's what made them succeed. Nobody else can have the same perspective as you can, because they're not you. And once you find out how to do that nothing can stop you!