Monthly Archives: June 2013

The Story Behind The Story: Putting The Cat Out

Jaws has got a lot to answer for…

 

There was a time in the seventies and eighties when it seemed all a writer had to do to get into print (or onto celluloid) was to take an animal (shark/alligator/piranha/dog), take a special event of some sort (chemical spill/genetic experimentation/rabies), add a dash of helpless victims, and voila!  You had a bestseller.  I’m not talking about the classics, like Jaws (one of my favourite films of all time, although at best an average book).  I’m not talking about the second stringers with their tongues planted firmly in cheek, like Alligator or Piranha.  I’m not even talking about Grizzly, which while loaded with killer animals and helpless victims, at least had the good grace to choose a dangerous animal to do its dirty work.  Nope, I’m talking about the works of people like the mighty Guy N. Smith, author of Night of the Crabs, Killer Crabs and the ultimate “does what it says on the tin” title, Crabs on the Rampage.   I’m talking about Cliff Twemlow’s The Pike, a novel so wonderfully horrendous that it deserves, and will get, its own blog post.  It’s impossible to hate The Pike.  You just have to sit back and admire its absurdity, while wondering what the fact that two attempts have been made to film it says about the human condition.

 

One thing all these books and movies have in common, though, is that the creature is actually dangerous.  Between them, they proved that with a bit of effort, a decent writer could make virtually any member of the animal kingdom sound like a lethal killing machine. 

 

Back in the late nineties I wasn’t at my most prolific.  Having written at every opportunity as a kid, I’d had a brief burst of productivity as a teen and pushed out a couple of short stories and a short novel at university.  But I was stuck in a rut.  There were so many other things I wanted to do with my time – mostly sports and beer, if we’re honest – and so many things I should be doing with my time – like finding a job – that I just wasn’t feeling it.  I lacked inspiration.  Until I re-read The Pike, chuckled to myself, and then found inspiration surging at me from the frigid grey waters of my lethargy like a 12-foot dreadful spindly killer fish from the depths of Lake Windermere.

 

What if you took a creature so patently unthreatening that you wanted to take it home and cuddle it, then gave it the mind of a stone-cold psycho?   Thus was born Putting the Cat Out.

 

In Guy N. Smith’s hands, the cat would have killed a lot of people, ripping out throats, eviscerating stomachs, spreading terror through small rural communities before meeting an ambiguous end that left the door to a sequel firmly ajar.  Guy, if you’re reading this, you should absolutely write that book.  The rights are all yours for just 10% of your peak fan base.  Here’s the problem, though.  Cats have tiny claws, and very small teeth.  They are completely and utterly useless when it comes to killing people.  The question is, do cats know that?  If a psychotic cat set out on a killing spree, what would be the result?  What would be going through its furry little mind?

 

Check out Putting the Cat Out in the SHORT STORIES section.  It’s over fifteen years old now, but it’s still one of my favourites.  Remember that long period of not writing much?  After finishing PTCO, I went on to write another dozen short stories and a full novel in two years, so let me leave you with two pieces of advice.  Always keep writing, even if it’s just some silly story about a killer cat, because you never know when you’re going to trigger a burst of creative enthusiasm.  And never, ever, go swimming in Lake Windermere.

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Take The Tour

Why visit this site?  Well, let’s take the tour…

 

HOME – Here’s where the new posts will show up.  We’re going to cover a lot of ground – news, reviews, amusing stories, advice, recommendations, curios, story ideas – and almost everything will appear here before it goes on to the individual sections.  Speaking of which…

ABOUT – Want to know about me?  Want to send me an email?  Here’s where you go.  But then, you already know that – you’re reading this, after all – so let’s move on to…

NEWS – There is a lot going on in my world and my writing career right now, and you’ll be able to see it all here.  Plus I’ll put up links to other noteworthy stories, too.  Which brings us neatly to…

LINKS – It’s a big world out there, full of people I know, people I admire, things I recommend and places to go.  Follow these links to check out some great websites and hear some great stories.  Or, if you’d rather stick with my stories…

SHORT STORIES – Over the next year I’ll be posting extensively from my back catalogue, covering thirty years of writing.  Right now I might be focusing on sci-fi/fantasy, but I’ve moved between the genres over the years.  These stories range from hauntings to killer cats to zombies to doomed romances to killer squirrels to bad house buying choices to killer dirty dishes (yep, you heard that right).  I’ll even throw in a couple of the stories that got me started at the age of eight and nine.  They’re all absolutely free – read ‘em and let me know what you think.  With each story, I’ll be providing a “The Story Behind The Story” post, where I’ll talk about where the idea came from, what I was trying to achieve, what the story taught me about writing and its influence on my future projects, which seems a good time to move on to…

PROJECTS – Right now it’s all about Wrathful Skies, but it’s not the only thing on my radar.  I love writing, I want to make a living from it, I want to cover a lot of ground, and this is the spot to find out what I’m working on.  The best way to improve as a writer is to write, after all, but if you’re looking for shortcuts…

ADVICE – As Bismarck said, “only a fool learns from his own mistakes. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others.”  I invite you to learn from mine.  I’ve been writing for thirty years and mistakes, I’ve made a few.  I’ve also learned a huge amount and if sharing that means you get to the best part (being paid to do something you love) in less than the time it took me, then I will consider my time well spent.  I’ll be posting both my own advice and links to the advice of others, and maybe one day I’ll add a forum so writers can discuss things among themselves.  That, though, is for the future, when www.robertlassen.com is fully up and running, with its very own…

HOME – And we’re back to the start.  I know, I know, that tour would be even better as a video with an awesome stirring soundtrack (John Williams, I’m thinking of you).  In the meantime, please check out the site for content, keep coming back to see what’s new, and please click on the follow icon or the sign-up sheet to get the updates hot off the press!

 

Most of all, thanks for visiting, good luck…and keep writing!


Three Months and Counting!

The edits are mostly in, the cover art is almost ready, the review copies are being distributed…yes, Wrathful Skies is only three months away from its official date of publication.  It’s a cliché to say that writing a novel is a lot of work, and I’m all too aware of the hours / days / years of effort that have gone into writing, editing, rewriting, adding scenes, deleting scenes, exterminating unnecessary adverbs and generally getting this book honed to where it’s ready to hit the shelves.  What comes as an unpleasant surprise at the end of all this is the sheer time necessary to make that final step from approved manuscript to finished product, and the next three months are going to be a very busy time.  The end result, though, will hopefully be worth it.  It’s been a great journey, and some of you reading this will have been with me on that journey almost from the start, but we’re almost at the end.

The end, that is, unless you count further marketing, interviews, writing the sequel…


Welcome!

Welcome, and thanks for visiting!  If you’re a first-time visitor to the site, please check out the tour in the ABOUT section, and maybe take a quick look at my bio while you’re there.  Otherwise, feel free to wander about, maybe read some of my short stories, check out the latest developments on my debut novel Wrathful Skies, peruse the calendar for forthcoming events that I will be attending, or just go to the LINKS page for the fast-track to some great artists, writers and websites.  This website is for you, readers and writers alike, so if you check out the contact details on the right, you can always drop me an email.  And if you want to, please feel free to click the follow icon or the subscribe icon and get the latest updates delivered straight to your inbox!