Sunday, July 15, 2012

Welcome Stuart West

The silken ripple of waves provide the only break in the silence hovering over Distant Shores. Fog lays thick on the sand as another sound invades the night: The gentle knock of oars against wooden gunwales. Closer the vessel approaches; the soft glow of a lantern swells through the mist. Its bearer, still shrouded in fog, holds it high in a vain attempt to see ahead. He barely has notice to brace for the landing.

The hull sighs as it bites into the sandy shore. With a series of hollow clunks the oars are shipped. Coarse, guttural laughter scrapes my ears, accompanied by a heavy splash. The ship’s boat pulls back into the sea and soon the oars can be heard again, rhythmic and insistent, no longer concerned with stealth.

I arrive on the shore to fish the bundle from the waves, dragging the heavy burden ashore. There is movement within the heavy burlap. A swift stroke of my knife at a seam reveals the new arrival, drenched to the bone, coughing up salt water. Figures. Still wet behind the ears. Perfect for my needs.
I haul my salvage up the path to the top of the cliff. The cabin is warm, the stew hot.
My guest downs a bite and takes a pull from the tankard. The name is one I’m sure will be heard more than once in the coming years.

Everyone help me welcome Stuart R. West to his first blog post as an author.

Stuart: Thanks for having me here, Cy!  
Cyrus: Thanks for stopping by, my friend. For everyone’s information, Stu just signed the contract for his debut novel. I asked him to come by while the ink was still wet to encourage anyone else who hasn’t made it as far down the path yet, and to provide us all with the inner workings of a newly published writer.

All right, bro, let’s have the scoop, and I’m not talking stew. Let’s talk Stu.

Stuart: I’m Stuart R. West, fledgling author. It’s been a long and freaky road getting here.  I won’t bore you with the details of my journey, but wanted to tell other new authors about my last “bus-stop”—Muse.  Three weeks ago, I found out Muse accepted my first book.  I was thrilled, couldn’t believe it.  Then something strange happened.  Terror set in, followed by self-doubt.  I was alternately exhilarated and over-whelmed.  What business had I rubbing elbows with, you know, real authors?  What if it was a fluke, one of nature’s not so funny ironic moments?   And the idea of this entire new world of promoting, pinning, liking, blogging, guesting, pimping, every daunting “ing” word I could think of, was tossed at me in a small amount of time.  Frightening.

But something happened. I met some friends at MuseItUp Publishing.  They helped me, taught me how to breathe again.  Advice, tips, information were doled out to me when my new-found mentor felt I was ready.  Expectations were tempered.  Gigantic heads were deflated.  But that’s okay.  I’ve learned a LOT!  And the most important thing is my new friends at Muse have taught me a good deal about writing as well.  Before, I was writing in a vacuum, never having spoken with another writer.  Now I have.  It’s humbling looking back at what I’d written two years ago, back when people who read it—people who are predisposed to love me—praised my efforts.  I cringe.  But it’s an invaluable education.

Cyrus: How well I know this. Having one’s work torn apart by those in the know is always a bit intimidating, but the best thing we can experience.

Stuart: So. Here we are.  Have I toned down my freaking out?  Oh, yeah.  Do I think I know everything?  Hell, no.  I have so much to learn about writing, promotion, everything, it’ll take years. And that’s fine.  So, if my little tale can help other new writers chill out a little bit, make them realize they’re not alone, great.  Your friends at MuseItUp will help you through it.

Sorry.  Got a bit verklempt there for a second. Okay, quick word about me.  Hey.  I’m Stuart West, Kansas native and resident.  For the last soul-sucking 25 years, I was a production/graphic artist and art department manager for an awful company.  Now I’m a writer.  The two women in my life—my wife, a pharmacy professor and my daughter, finding her way—are my support group, my loves, my inspirations.  Talk about muses!  And they’re also both smarter than I am.  I’m not happy about that.  

Cyrus: Okay, so besides writing, what other interests do you indulge in?

Stuart: I love movies but I have a very dark confession to make.  I’m thrilled by bad genre films from the ‘60’s to the ‘80’s.  My wife calls it an illness.  I call it cinematic nirvana.  The bigger the hair, the riper the dialogue, the rubbery-er the monsters and the worse it is, the happier I am.  I don’t get it either.  Not really.  But when I stumble across a mind-blowing cinematic atrocity, more fun can be had then with a dozen Hollywood comedies.

Cyrus: Well, that was… interesting. Okay, let’s get back on track, and that’s about your upcoming release from MuseItUp Publishing, Tex the Witch Boy.

Stuart: My first book is slated for release this upcoming January.  It’s a young adult murder mystery with light paranormal elements, the theme being high school bullying.  Richard “Tex” McKenna, my protagonist is (was?) basically myself. I didn’t have the greatest time at high school and neither does my boy, Tex.  Awkward, insecure, bright, smart-assed, that’s Tex.  I know the character well.  There are many autobiographical elements in the book (well…I’m not a witch), every one of the bullying incidents having happened to me or a friend of mine.  The newer elements were inspired by my daughter’s recent tour of duty through high school.  I picked the name “Tex,” because I wanted an iconic name, something that would play against the usual expectations for witch characters.

From Tex The Witch Boy (Undedited):
The skies growled, rumbled, teased and threatened to dump down, but remained stubbornly dry.  It was one of those eerie, purple-skied nights foreshadowing worse weather.  But for now, the heavens were constipated and all the angrier for it.
I walked over the hill and saw the school.  It looked so much different on a weekend night.   No lights lit up the long building and the streetlamps lining the entry drive were off.  It was a shadow of its daily, bustling self–a skeleton deprived of its inner organs and muscles.
I hurried down the drive towards the parking lot next to the far end of the building.  Across the street sat the abandoned gas-station, lurking in the darkness.  By day it was a den of iniquity for the pot-smokers and by night was frequented by expelled students who just couldn’t seem to stay away.  I thought of my friend’s last week of life when he had taunted a bully there.  The ghosts were out in full force tonight.  At least in my head.
The fallen leaves crunched underneath my feet as I crossed over the descending islands flanked with barren trees.  A low long, rumble roared above me, the accompanying lightning firing up the sky for several long seconds.  There was the battle bucket, waiting for me like a loyal steed.
I unlocked the door and slid onto the cold seat.  I slipped the car key into the ignition and turned it over.  The bucket chugged along but wouldn’t catch.  “Come on, come on,” I whispered under my breath.  The bucket’s engine kept trying, but gave up and slowed to a down-winding death-groan.  “Bucket, don’t fail me now.” But I knew it was no use.
I heard a light snap, maybe the wind blowing the leaves.  A hushed scratching sound came from my right.  A dark figure in a ski jacket stood outside.  A sudden flash of movement, the window shattered, showering me with glass shards.  I screamed.  A black gloved hand reached inside, grabbing the door handle.  I snatched my skate-board from the floor, swung with all my might at the intruding arm.  I made contact with a sickening, deep “thud” as the figure fell backward, grunting.

Cyrus: Rock on, dude. That was a cool first look. What else do you have creeping arounf behind those squinty eyes of yours?

Stuart:  I’ve already completed the first rough (cough, VERY rough as it now turns out) drafts of two follow-ups to Tex’s saga.  They’re both more or less stand-alone murder mysteries, dealing with topical teen issues, and take the (surviving) characters up to graduation.  I’ve also written a spin-off novel from a character introduced in the second book that I’m particularly proud of.

            On the adult front, I’m hip deep in various stages of two thrillers.  One is a very black comedy suspenser about a secret society of serial killers.  The other is a dark, psychological thriller about some bad doin’s on a Kansas farm.  Call it “farm noir.” I’ve many other ideas I can’t wait to get into.

Cyrus: Farm noir: *Pours cola and dumps in a scoop of chocolate ice cream* Is that something you have with a black cow?

Stuart, that was a great look at your debut novel. Folks, you heard it here first. Now, before I toss Stu back into the ocean for his return trip (You didn’t think I was gonna pay for another boat, did you?), feel free to ask questions or leave comments. Thanks, Stu, for letting me drag you into the light. Congratulations on your new contract, and we wish you Happy Sales!


  1. Congrats on your upcoming release, Stuart. I know exactly how you feel. Take deep breaths. The roller coaster effect brought on by knowing you are actually going to be published doesn't go away. At least, it hasn't for me.

  2. Hi Susan! Thanks for your kind words of encouragement. It is really an unexpected feeling, elation tempered by fear. Something I never thought I'd experience upon being published. I kinda' wanted to let other newbies know they're not alone should they find themselves in the same boat I was floundering in (and I ain't talking about the boat that Cy dragged me to shore in either! Never get in a boat with that guy!). Thanks to the mighty Cy for having me aboard!

  3. Welcome! To the professional world of writing. You will go far. Let me share one word. I consider it a legacy, and it came from one of my friend's mothers, who read my books when I never thought they'd see the light of day. "Believe."

  4. Hey Stuart - Your story sounds like it will be a great one! When I got my first contract, you think "OMG! Finally! Then the second day, you think - "Why haven't they contacted me?" HEHE The good news is the Muse Family is there every step of the way! Much success, Stuart!!!!

  5. Hi Penny and Gail! Thanks for the kind words and wisdom. Until I hooked up with Muse, I wrote in a vacuum, didn't talk to any other writers. Obviously, that was a mistake. Because, now, thanks to the very cool writers I'm meeting, my stuff's actually improving and I know I'm not alone!

  6. Wow, what a response right out of the gate. Thanks for the kind words, ladies! And thanks for checking in. Coffee is on the cart, help yourselves.