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(or, the transient Truth, updated 8/17/2010)

0. Boy, you have a lot of books out. You must be rich and famous.

Ha. That's not a question, that's a joke.

I used to want to be rich and famous, but now I just want to write one book good enough to dedicate to my daughter.

1. What's up with this digital publishing stuff? Do you hate books?

What are you calling a "book"? The paper product derived from an author's words, or the story represented by the words themselves? (I know, I shouldn't answer a question with a question, but it's my FAQ and I can do what I want.) I believe digital books will lower the price of content, make more stories and information more widely available to more people, and inspire more readers and writers to spread their wings. That's a wonderful thing and I am lucky that Act II of my career coincides with this era. And I will still make my books available in paper wherever possible.

2. Wait a second. You have books in the UK Kindle store that aren't available in the U.S. Blimey? Isn't this the world wide web?

I retain foreign rights to my US paperback novels. As I get my rights back, I will release them everywhere, but for now they will only be in the markets in which I have rights. I am revising all the books because I am a better writer now, and I am using my original titles and fully pursuing my artistic vision. I may not know as much as a publisher does about selling books, but I do know more about what I am trying to say and how I want to meet my readers.

3. I'm a big fan. How can I help you besides buying several copies of all your books?

You don't have to apologize if you never buy a single copy of any of my books. Money is valuable and so is your time, and the world is full of books by great writers both living and dead. Heck, I'd say buy Richard Brautigan over me, truth be told.

If you do choose to spend time and money on my work, I guarantee that I'll hold up my part of the bargain by giving you everything my talent and soul have to offer. If you want to help beyond meeting me halfway in a book, you can tell your friends and your favorite bookstores about the book, ask your local library to buy some copies for their shelves, write a review at Amazon or B&N online, turn my books face-out on the store shelves, or mention it on your favorite newsgroups, blogs, and message boards.

Put up a link to the Haunted Computer on your website or follow my blog. Become a Microchip at Haunted Computer Books and be eligible for freebies, or join the Inner Circle and be the first to get big breaking news and sneak peeks. Bug your friends. A writer is nothing without readers, and I'm grateful to every one of you who help make my crazy dream come to life.

No stalking allowed. Unless you're cute.

4. I'm a writer. Will you read my manuscript? Will you recommend me to your publisher and agent?

As for your being a writer, please let me offer my condolences on your pending unhappiness. I regret that I can't read your unpublished work because somewhere along the line I may get sued for stealing somebody's idea. This is especially true since I'm also a screenwriter. Ideas aren't protected by copyright but it's still an inconvenience to be accused. However, I do offer a professional editing service at no risk to either of us. I'll edit a sample for free, and then we can see if we should work together. Details here.

Writing groups work for some people, though you have to be wary that the critics might try to turn the story into something they would write instead of something you would write. A literate friend or two who are non-writers can probably do a better job. If you want an agent, see who represents the writers you like. Then go a big conference and buy many rounds of drinks.

I used to tell people not to self-publish. I still think every writer should seek an agent and let the agent do the work of shaking down poor, penniless publishers. But now I'm trying some publishing on my own and started Haunted Computer Books because the world has changed so much and electronic publishing is a new frontier. I don't think the publishing industry's approach is forward-thinking right now, and I will still jump at decent book deal, but there are plenty of reasons now for people to self-publish, the primary one being it costs nothing. It may lessen your chances at a "real" career, but I am not so sure what a real writing career looks like anymore.

If you are a real writer, fully dedicated in your heart, you will make it even without the shortcuts and will succeed no matter what I tell you. If you're already rich and famous, that helps. If you're insane, that helps even more.

4a. Okay, okay, but will you write me a cover blurb anyway?

If you can write well enough to make your grandmother smile, I'll take a look. But no promises.

4b. Boy, you're really starting to sound like a jerk. Why don't you want to help other writers?

Well, if you feel that way, you obviously don't know me. I freely give advice in my articles and you can sign up for the Haunted Computer newsgroup and get free writing articles to give away or publish. I'm also compiling the Write Good or Die freebie download with a number of successful authors. However, most of my advice now seems to fall under "Everything I Thought I Knew Was Wrong." Use at your own risk.

4c. Can you recommend a writer's club? What conferences do you attend?

Even the most remote area will have some gathering of writers, if for no other reason than to break the loneliness and spill coffee on each other's manuscripts. There are some online critique groups, depending on what you write--mysteries, science fiction, romance, etc. Joining one of the major writing organizations is a good place to start, or do a websearch for "writing critique group."

Of course, if you're not a joiner, it's not necessary to be in a group. I'm in some writing organizations but I don't consider them necessary for success. Sharyn McCrumb says, "I wouldn't show my manuscript to anybody who couldn't write me a check." I know other people who spent years with their manuscript being revised by a critique group and don’t have much to show for it except one character is now two inches taller. It's a personal decision that each writer must make.

I go to regional conferences, but I'm a working-class writer so my trips to New York and L.A. are few and far between. Go anywhere you can afford the time and money. If nothing else, it's a nice tax deduction. Plus some poor writer looking for an agent is always buying rounds of drinks.

5. Can I send you a book to sign?

I love to sign books. All I ask is that you enclose $3 in postage or cash to pay for the book's return via media mail. Please contact me by email first to get the address. Or you can order signed books here.

6. Where do you get your ideas?

I don't see how you can be alive and not have more ideas than you could ever handle. Life is an idea in progress: look at the next person you pass on the street and imagine their thoughts, where they might be going, what their dreams are. At a stoplight, look at the person in the next lane and guess what their worst memory is. Open a book, any book, and read a paragraph, then close the book and go from there. Ask "What if?" and "What happens next?" Once you get in the habit, your mind will train itself to overflow. Unless you're insane, and then you don't need training.

5. Are horror writers creepy?

First off, you shouldn't ask such rude and insensitive questions. Second, I have no idea whether or not I'm a horror writer. I certainly don't feel like one and have never dressed completely in black, I avoid senseless gore, and I bear no Satanic tattoos. I don't believe in ghosts, though I believe in an afterlife. I believe in the freedom of spirit and expression. I feel perfectly normal and I'm more or less at peace with the products of my imagination. Obviously I'm insane.

I never set out to write in any particular category or to fit any publisher or market. I simply started writing. Some of my books will have "horror" on the spine. That doesn't bother me. I'm neither proud nor ashamed of being associated with any particular genre. The labels really don't matter. I call myself a "thriller writer" because it more easily encompasses the horror, suspense, and mystery fields in which I most often write. Now I write screenplays, children's books, comic books, young adult, and metafiction.

All I know is that I have stories to tell that nobody else would be able to tell. Sure, there are plenty of writers who are better, sell more copies, win more awards, and have more friends. But I have pledged to continue rendering my own versions, however imperfect, of the truth inside. Unfortunately, I've now changed my attitude to that of "The World's Laziest Hack,'" which has saved me no end of discomfort.

And my only goal now is to write books that are love letters to my daughter, to instruct her about the world and make it a better place, where we all live happily ever after. Is that so much to ask?

6. Which of your books should I read first?

It depends. Buy a Kindle or other ereader and you can get many of them. Others are out of print. Finding them on store shelves is hit or miss. Stealing my books from the library seems to be a popular pasttime.

If you like scary books with religious overtones, try The Red Church. If you like science fiction B-movies, start with Forever Never Ends. If you enjoy art or Appalachian folklore, go for Creative Spirit. If you like Koontz-flavored thrillers, try Troubled. There's Solom for big-scale rural supernatural chills and They Hunger for creature action and some comic books and a few more projects floating out there. If you like short stories, I still have copies of Thank You For The Flowers available. If you want to go insane, read As I Die Lying. If you want me to make some money so I can eat, buy The Skull Ring or Disintegration or Scattered Ashes or The First.

So, the short answer is, read The First first. Or last.

This is a work in progress and more will be added over the years as Scott deceives himself into thinking he has more knowledge.

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