Unflinching and uncompromising, tough and talented, Shane McKenzie stands at the forefront of the next generation of horror writers.

—Bentley Little

Saturday, March 10, 2012


This place is a festering corpse. Please come holler at me at my new website: www.shanemckenzie.org

Friday, January 13, 2012

New Website Coming Soon!

For anyone listening out there, this place is dead. I will be opening a new website just as soon as I can. I'll be posting all updates there from now on.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Lee Thompson's Guest Blog: Finding Your Strengths and Using Your Weaknesses


Thanks to Shane for having me on his blog and to any who read! Feel free to leave a comment and spread the word.

Part 1: Finding Your Strengths…

It seems obvious when you read a story by someone who doesn’t know their strengths or use them to full effect. The story is lop-sided, lacking power. I’m guessing a big part of a writer’s ‘voice’ comes from identifying and honing their best assets. If you want to hit someone hard you have to generate the power from the ground.
How does one find their strengths? Honesty helps. Listening too. Paying attention to what excites and stimulates our gray matter and our souls. And it helps to know what you want to say before you write it, to keep an open mind, your perception’s radar turning when reading, writing, and living.
I’ve got a few friends who read all of my work and I’ve come to trust their opinions as if they were part of me (extensions that see what I’m too close to see clearly). One says he loves the suspense. Another thinks I’m terrific at layers. The third says my characters rock, he likes how they get pummeled but still reach deep enough to keep standing even if part of them is broken in the process. And those things are favorite parts of discovering the story for me (building suspense, layering, pummeling my characters just to see them fight back from their deepest beings.) I want to play up those areas. And oddly enough they connect with each other—sharp imagery to demonstrate the character’s struggle, layers to build depth in both their forward and backward struggle and those of the people tied to them, and the imagery and layers working in sync to create suspense. I’m a firm-believer in the power of three, in triangulation. Weird how it comes up here again and something I hadn’t realized until I wrote it.
I learn what I’m strong at by paying attention when I read my favorite writers like Tom Piccirilli, Douglas Clegg, Jack Ketchum, Peter Straub, Dennis Lehane, Greg Gifune, and Clive Barker. Certain themes and imagery and metaphors excite me. I know when I read them (and when I write them) because it becomes effortless, I’m immersed, in a trance.
Maybe part of it is because those things share communion with my spirit when they’re all present in a story.
What excites you when you read? When you write? What excites you about life? About your relationships? Your job? Your children? Your dreams? Your nightmares?
I believe we can train ourselves to draw from it all, and from other passions like painting, martial arts, sex, and music. To do anything less is a shame. Dig deep. Ask yourself direct questions. Only settle for what resonates. Use it.

Part 2: Using Your Weaknesses

I know some of my weaknesses. The biggest is grammar, but I have two readers (Shaun Ryan and Kevin Wallis) who rock at that. And I’m learning a little more every week.
I suck at Settings. That’s probably my biggest hang-up. How do I use it to my advantage? I keep my characters moving through it so I don’t have to linger and describe too much (describing settings bores me anyway and I don’t want to be bored when I’m writing.) I also like to keep it minimal on purpose—my settings are usually taking place in a room or a forest. I don’t need to describe all the trees, you know what a forest looks like and if I describe mine it takes away from the forest you know. What matters to me is what the characters are doing in the setting, how they’re interacting with each other and their surroundings. I like to use setting for atmosphere, but in my stories, the setting is not the story. And I make sure even a ‘room scene’ has honesty and intensity, whether they’re subtle or in your face.
I think, like someone who is deaf or blind, our other senses are heightened in certain areas to compensate for where we’re lacking.
If you suck at Dialogue, you’re better keeping it minimal than grating on a reader’s nerves. And with character’s keeping their mouths shut more you can focus more on their internal lives and their actions while also creating tension between characters.
If you suck at Action, you can create a brisk pace with dialogue and deepen relationships and create conflict.
If you suck at Plot you can focus on characters. This is great because I rather read a story with great characters than a book with thin characters and a killer plot. Once you have made the characters real you can come back and re-examine the plot.
If you suck at Characterization… you’re screwed. Go people watch more, get to know yourself, study novels where the characters really move you and figure out why. The characters are the glue. You want strong glue.

--Lee Thompson

Friday, August 5, 2011

What the hell is goin' on?

I have been neglecting my blog. Sorry about that. But I have good reason! I've been a busy son of a bitch.

I just got word that my novella All You Can Eat will be released next year by Deadite Press! There will be two other books coming out by Deadite as well. Very excited about this. The whole thing is just so fucking surreal. And the folks at Eraserhead/Deadite are just awesome. Great group of horror lovers, man. I couldn't be happier to work with them. I think we can do great, horrible things together.

Also, along with my friend Travis Tarpley, I have opened a new, invite only, press called Sinister Grin Press. We officially launch the press in Vegas at Killercon this year! Hells yes! So far, we've got three projects under contract. The first of a chapbook series called Cut Corners, including brand new stories by Ramsey Campbell, Bentley Little, and Ray Garton. Also, a brand new novel by Wrath James White, Sacrifice. Trust me people, you don't want to miss out on either. And The Killings is being masterly crafted by Wrath James White and J.F. Gonzalez. It will be the first book out in 2012 from Sinister Grin, and it will be our first limited edition, signed hardback. We'll be doing a print run of 150 of them, so don't miss out!

Besides that, I'm putting some finishing touches on my latest editing project with Pill Hill Press called A Hacked-Up Holiday Massacre. A fucking great book, let me tell you. Sadly, it will mark my last project with Pill Hill, who are absolutely great to work with and who I will always remember as the first press to take a chance on me. They will continue to put out great, fun stuff. That's just what they do.

I'm also in the process of writing a couple more novellas to be sent to some other choice publishers, and I can only hope my luck hasn't run out. This horror writing stuff is just too fucking fun, isn't it?

Until next time!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

My First Convention

Well, World Horror Convention is over. Was it real? Did all that really happen?

I gotta admit that I'm having withdrawals. I had so much fucking fun out there, rubbing elbows with the best in the game. I had all these preconceptions about how the convention would be, and my expectations were high. Let me tell you, it was better than I could have ever imagined.

To be fair, from what I heard, it was the best WHC in a long time, some argued ever. I have nothing to compare it to, but goddamn did I have fun. And the people I met, hung out with, got thoroughly intoxicated with. I just never wanted it to end!

And a huge thanks to Wrath James White and Nate Southard for taking me under their wings and taking care of me. They introduced me to some huge names, talked up my writing to these people. It was surreal. It was like, "Are you talking about me? But...why?" I'm still not used to having anybody like something I've written. It's a very strange feeling for me.

I got to meet with publishers and editors of the markets that I've been dreaming about getting into, and having a damn good time with them. I doubt some of them will forget me anytime soon. I was the Asian mutt that looks Mexican with the Scottish name. And we got hammered together.

My pitch sessions went about as great as I could have hoped for. I pitched to Brett Savory for Chizine, RJ Sevin for Creeping Hemlock, and even though I had nothing scheduled, Jeff Burk let me pitch to him while he smoked a cigarette. All great people. I was terrified out of my mind before the convention, but now I see there is absolutely no reason to feel that way. And, best of all, every one of them asked me to send it over. One in particular seemed pretty damn excited about the project. Holy shit in a fishbowl!

As horror writers, we are all in this together. I mean, we all know for a fact that we have at least one thing in common, and that's our love for the macabre. I don't know about anyone else, but I have nobody to talk to about my writing, not in person anyway. My wife takes as much as she can, but I can't expect her to fully understand what the fuck I'm talking about most of the time. But at the convention, we all got it. There was this energy in the air like...I can't really describe it. It was just there. We are family. That's what it felt like for me.

And I made some new friends, put faces to names I had been chatting with online for a couple of years. I mean, I hung out in John Skipp's room! I smoked a cigarette with Jack Ketchum! Peter Straub was drinking at the table right next to me, Joe Lansdale on the couch across the room. Are you fucking kidding me?

For anyone who missed it, I'm truly sorry. All I can say is you have to make the next one. I for one won't be missing any of them. I feel like my batteries are charged, that I can write an entire library of horror now. Speaking of that, maybe I should get to work...

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Sponge Mode

So, I understand that I am a new writer and that I have a lot to learn. I embrace it. If I don't have an open mind and a willingness to soak in new information, I will wallow in mediocrity (and yes, I had to spell check that). I find learning about writing is a fun experience for me.

Right now, I'm totally in sponge mode. I feel like I've reached a level now that I actually know what good writing looks like and what its supposed to accomplish. Before, I was just writing whatever sick shit popped in my head and sending the stories out to whoever was interested. Most weren't. What's funny to me is to go back and read some of that stuff. My god, the fact that I published anything at all is nothing short of a miracle. THE STORIES WERE TERRIBLE. As an editor now, I would reject every one of them.

Back when I started, about two and a half years ago now, I read the essential books. I read Elements of Style and On Writing and Zen in the Art of Writing and the Writer's Workshop of Horror, twice. But it didn't sink in. I read the information and at the time, it felt like it made sense, but it really didn't. Right now, I read those books, and I get them. I get what I'm supposed to be doing. That's not to say that I'm any good at it still, but at least I understand what I should be doing.

So, now that things are finally making sense to me, I'm reading every goddamn book on writing I can get my hands on. I read David Morell's "Lessons from a Lifetime of Writing" and Jessica Page Morrell's "Thanks, But This Isn't For Us." I guess anyone named Morrell knows what they're talking about, because those books were fantastic and really opened my eyes about certain things. I'm reading "On Writing Horror: A Handbook by the HWA" and its great so far. I'm going to re-read Elements of Style, On Writing, Zen in the Art of Writing, and the Writer's Workshop of Horror. I have "The Successful Novelist" by David Morrell that I'll be reading next. I also have various other reference books on grammar and style that I'll be reading. And I'm loving every second of this. I feel like I'm being told a secret, even though the information has been there all this time, I just didn't know how to read it.

But most importantly, I'm taking an online course from Mr. Michael Knost. I already took one and got the chance to have Michael and Tom Piccirilli critique a short story of mine. I haven't got the results back yet, so needless to say, I'm shitting my pants. But the courses are fantastic. Seriously. I've learned so much and he is a great teacher, really knows how to make things easy to understand. Right now, I'm in the level 1 course, which is kind of backwards since I took the advanced course first, but its all good. As long as I get the information, right?

So anyway, I can feel myself getting better at the craft right now. I'm still no good, but I ain't horrible. At least I'd like to think so. But I'm never above learning, nor will I ever be. Now, I guess I should go write something.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Ass Kickery

Well, I just completed my tenth session with Wrath, and I gotta say, I feel pretty damn good. Muay Thai is addictive and fun, and I now feel that if someone tried to start something with me or my family, there is a pretty good chance they're gonna get hurt.

I feel great. I've lost weight, I'm quicker on my feet, my endurance and flexibility are better. I can throw punches, elbows, knees, and kicks correctly, though I still have lots of work to do as far as being consistent with my technique and form. But, I can kick with my shin and it doesn't hurt anymore. I can make it through a session, which believe me isn't easy sometimes, without feeling like I'm gonna die.

Wrath is happy with where I'm at, especially since I came into this training with no prior knowledge of any kind of fighting. He made a comment yesterday as I was kicking the pad on his leg, "It's nice to know that kick all came from me."

My original plan was to train for ten sessions and walk away with an experience that benefited me mentally and physically. But, at this point, I'm loving it too much to stop. We will be going for another ten sessions starting Friday, and I'll probably keep doing it even after that. Not only am I getting fit and feel confident that I could fuck somebody up if I had to, but I get to train with a fellow horror writer, and the conversations we have about writing are priceless.

I'll be getting my own punching bag at the house in a couple of weeks. I've discovered a new passion, the art of ass kickery, and I just can't stop.