Timothy Baker: In Search of The Story

Joining the blog today for a guest spot is one of Ragnarok Publication’s latest authors, Timothy Baker. He has written quite a few short stories previously and with his latest book Path of the Dead he is going big. Ragnarok is a new publisher, set up by my friends Tim Marquits and Joe Martin who put together the awesome Kaiju Rising anthology earlier this year and Django Wexler’s John Golden: Freelance Debugger novella, which were both fun reads. Now we have Timothy’s new story, and hopefully it is going to be just as good. As part of the promotions for Path of the Dead, Timothy put together this neat little post outlining how he put it all together and his inspiration as well. Fun read for sure, and it does get me excited for the book itself. Enjoy!

Path of the Dead

In Search of The Story

by Timothy Baker

Three years ago, I started on this precarious, unreliable, career in writing. I was 54 years old and a retired firefighter that really needed something to do with his free time, of which I had entirely too much. Idle hands are the tools of Satan, so it’s been said, and the devil was having a pretty good time with all my bored ten digits. Of course, I needed the money, but that wasn’t close to the main reason I started writing. Besides, if you’re wanting to make it rich with your writing, well, you have about a one in one hundred thousand chance of making enough moolah to quit your day and night jobs and pay your bills with wild yarns. And about a one in a million chance of making it Stephen King and J.K. Rowling rich. Save yourself the work and go play the lottery if money is what you want.

No, money is nice–I never submit to a non-paying market–but I wrote to stay sane. Anyone with a creative and artistic drive knows that if you aren’t flexing the making muscle, the blues moves in like a strong cold front bringing rain and dark days. And on top of that, I suffer from chronic depression (yeah, I know, duh, he’s a writer) and it takes more than feel-good meds to lift your shoulders. I’ve always been into the arts, dipping into several over my life: drawing, music, photography, TV production, filmmaking, and a touch of writing. So, having had a job with more supervisors than you could shake a very pointy stick at, I hired myself as my one and only boss and employee, and took up writing.

(Stick with me; I’m getting to my point.)

I did the NaNoWriMo thing and kicked its arse. Broke the imagination-to-page barrier and wrote a freakin’ novel in a month. It wasn’t great nor was it that bad. I could this. I wrote short stories to hone my craft and to edge my way into the market. That got me in, and I now have three short stories out there in very cool anthologies, with two more coming out, one that will be included in an anthology with a very big horror author’s name on the cover. During that time, I searched for a new novel idea, one I could get excited about then hone into a razor sharp read.

My unpublished short story to published ratio is about ten to one. You gotta make a lot of fish to get one the angler publisher won’t throw back. Starting out, I went for many of the horror tropes: vampires, werewolves, dismembered living hands, mummies, and the like. Zombies I kind of hem-hawed at, thinking I couldn’t possibly bring anything original to the idea. Then Muse got me drunk and shouted over the loud music that I might take zombies out of the norm urban setting, and raise them from the dead in a place in the world we westerners know little about, with a culture that has a completely different worldview. “Hmm,” I said, “what about Tibet?” Muse fist bumped me, I bought her a drink, and we clinked glasses. The rest is personal.

But that was just an idea, not a plot. All I had was a picture in my head of a Buddhist monk and a young boy dealing with the undead apocalypse, high in the mountains of Tibet. An inspirational idea will not write itself, and research is the one endeavor where I found the story for Hungry Ghosts: Path of the Dead.

I already knew much about Buddhism, having been a student of the religion for several years, but I had to bone up. The more rural citizens of Tibet don’t have the fear of death or the revulsion of the dead that we westerners have. They don’t paint them up with faux life colors, and hire a beautician to do their hair. No burial for them since we belong to the sky, not the earth, hence the placing of their dead loved ones high in trees, or burnt to smoke to rise to heaven, or the dismemberment of the dead to feeding them to vultures. That was a very interesting discovery and definitely could play a part in the story, yessiree.

And there’s nothing better when doing research then perusing pictures. Writers are a visual bunch, needing to see the worlds we intend to create, and photographs can open all kinds of windows in our mad minds.

This made me stop and stare and sent my mind all a flutter…

tigers-nest

Oh yeah, baby. That’s the ticket. Even though that monastery is in Bhutan, a little of the ole creative license would clear that right up.

And then there came this, the coup de grâce that sealed my commitment to the story that became Path of the Dead

mummy

Yep, that’s a mummy monk on display behind glass. Nop, not creepy at all. And they have more of these in them there parts. And don’t ask me how his sunglasses got off his head (previously worn to hide his decaying eyes) to hanging on his robe; that’s a mystery I don’t think I want to solve.

Research is not only to get facts and to double-check them, but also to find more ideas, minor inspiration shock waves after the initial Musegasm. Sometimes the muse isn’t enough, and you have to pack you backpack, hit the trail, and go in search of your story.

*****

Timothy Baker on the Web.

You can find Path of the Dead on Amazon here.

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