The moment has finally arrived. Feast your eyes on the most delicious cover for Come to the Rocks.
So soon that you should stay tuned for details.
The moment has finally arrived. Feast your eyes on the most delicious cover for Come to the Rocks.
So soon that you should stay tuned for details.
To Complicate Things
Josh and his partner Vince sat on the couch in the living room of Stella James’s sister, Brandy Everly. Her husband, and Stella’s brother-in-law, Lance sat in a chair opposite them. Mrs. Everly was in the other room, finishing up a phone call.
The search of Starla James’s luxurious apartment quickly revealed that it wasn’t the site of her death, but also revealed little in the way of clues as to who the culprit might be. Everything was neat, tidy, orderly, and there was no sign of any of the men that Starla James might be connected with, either currently or in the past. The most Josh and Vince were able to recover was the name of the victim’s next of kin.
The Everly’s living room was done up tastefully enough in dark wood and white, which let Josh know that this couple didn’t have any children or pets. The white couch he and Vince sat on was spotless. Lance Everly sat nervously on the edge of his chair, waiting for his wife so the couple could receive the bad news that Josh and Vince had brought them. Not that they knew at the moment they’d be receiving bad news, but what good news do two plain clothes detectives ever bring? Mr. Everly was a thin man, young with an older cast, like he worked too hard for too little. Josh watched him fidget as he waited, his hands unable to remain still, the only attempt at small talk to fill the time unsuccessful. Josh wanted to keep this serious and direct.
“I’m sorry about that,” Mrs. Everly said as she entered the room. “I’m trying to organize a girls’ night out for next weekend and you would not believe how involved it is.”
She smiled at the two detectives as she perched herself on the arm of her husband’s chair, putting an arm around his anxious shoulders. Brandy Everly didn’t quite have the exotic, sexy beauty that her sister had, but she wasn’t unattractive. Instead of black hair, hers was red, and kept about shoulder length in an easy, flattering style. She was thinner, less-curvy than her sister, and whatever bosom she might have had was discreetly concealed beneath a modest dark purple blouse that matched her light purple capris.
“Now, what’s this all about?” Mrs. Everly asked.
Josh felt Vince shift beside him. This was a tough part of the job, informing someone that their loved one had died and not in a natural manner. The reactions to such news varied from person to person and there was no clear predictor of what to expect.
“Mrs. Everly, I’m sorry to inform you that your sister was found deceased early this afternoon,” Josh said.
He waited while the words found their meaning for the couple. Mr. Everly looked up at his wife, reaching back to grasp her hand that rested on his shoulder. Mrs. Everly stared at the two detectives for a moment, her face somewhat neutral, as though the full weight of her sister’s death hadn’t quite hit yet.
“What happened?” she asked softly.
“Your sister was found hanging from a tree at End Of,” Josh said.
“She killed herself?” Mrs. Everly asked.
“Right now we can’t say,” Josh said, watching as Mr. Everly squeezed his wife’s hand hard. Lu called it a homicide, but Josh wanted to be careful with that information for now. It hadn’t been confirmed. “We have to wait for the autopsy results before a cause of death can be conclusively stated. But as an unattended, suspicious death, we have to investigate it. Are you up for answering a few questions?”
Mrs. Everly nodded.
“Do you know of any reason why your sister might have wanted to take her own life?” Josh asked.
Mr. Everly looked down at the white-carpeted floor, considering. Mrs. Everly sighed and looked at Josh.
“Maybe she was finally tired of being a whore.”
I’ve just wrapped up the first round of revisions/rewrites on The End of the (Werewolf) Curse and I’m feeling pretty pleased with myself. I think I might need only one more round of light revisions, and then I can polish it up. I stress might. Like, I said. Right now I’m feeling pretty pleased.
Part of that is because I am pretty satisfied with the work I’ve done on the novel and how swell it’s all gone so far.
The other part is me comparing the work on this novel to the work I did on (Vampires) Made in America.
For those of you playing the home game, you know that both of these novels, as well as another NaNo first draft called To Tell the (Conjurer’s) Truth, is all part of my Outskirts universe that began with the short story “My Winter with Stanley”. So comparing the revision process of the two novels makes sense.
I wrote the first draft of (Vampires) Made in America for NaNo in 2011 and back then it was called American Vampires. While the basic story remained intact throughout several revisions, the context of the story changed dramatically. We’re talking major rewrites. I think I rewrote it at least twice before I could even get to the point of doing revisions.
Contrast that with The End of the (Werewolf) Curse. I wrote it for NaNo in 2015. I did some light rewriting to probably the last third of the book, along with some revisions throughout. That’s it.
The biggest difference between the two were the first drafts. When I wrote (Vampires) Made in America, I was still learning how to write a first draft effectively (though I’d already learned quite a bit by that point), but outline for the book was probably the best I’d done at the time. When I wrote The End of the (Werewolf) Curse, I knew what I was doing. I had the outline and I knew how to write what I was writing. The years of practice in between had paid off.
And because the first draft was better (though still garbage because first drafts are supposed to be), the revisions have been better.
Sometimes it’s hard for me to tell if I’m getting better as a writer. Comparing myself to other writers isn’t really good for my ego because I read so many who are much better than I am.
So to see that at least the actual technique of my work has improved, well, that’s something I can appreciate.
Even if I’m the only one.
Yeah, no. That was it.
And I didn’t even get it done.
Okay, I sort of knew that I wouldn’t get it done in February because I typically only revise one, maybe two chapters a day and there are more chapters in the first draft than days in the month. Throw in a couple of unwell days when I didn’t do as much as I’d like and a couple of tough spots to revise, and there was no chance of getting it done before March.
However, it shouldn’t be any trouble to get it wrapped up in the first week of March. The ending needs some real work and some of it could be a struggle, but I think I can get it done.
And after I do, I’m going to work on a short story that might likely become the first chapter of another novel. We’ll see. Story first.
I’m also going to be working on submitting some of the short stories that I have done that are just sitting there. I need to get back in that game a little bit.
If you’re curious, I’m keeping up with my experiment to write a page a day on a novel. It’s about sixty pages of nothing like I’m currently working on and I find it very refreshing to write a page not knowing exactly where it’s going to go and having only a vague idea of the story.
This experiment is going rather well.
Episode 3 of Murderville: The End Of goes live on March 13th. Don’t miss out! Become a patron for a $1 an episode and read about Detective Josh Carpenter and his sister-in-law, death investiagor Lu Jones, as they try to solve the mysterious death of another Munsterville resident. For $2 an episode, you get all of that murdery goodness, plus bonus content, including peeks into other projects I’m working on. It’s never too late to get in on the killer fun.
As you may recall, I decided to do a few experiments this year. One of those experiments involved exercising at least 20 minutes a day, every day, for 100 days.
I’m now halfway through that goal.
The good news is that I’m not dead. I honestly thought by this point I’d be ready to quit, totally over the grind, constantly sore and tired. Well, I am constantly sore and tired, but I was before I started this little endeavor, so not much has changed there.
What has changed is how much easier it is for me to do my workouts in the morning. With this challenge in place, my stubborness wins out on the days that I’m not feeling like doing yoga or belly dance or cardio. I do it anyway. I feel like this stretch of consistency has set a good precedent for what happens after the 100 days is up.
I admit that I’m being careful with myself. The last thing I want to do is derail this experiment by doing myself an injury. And I acknowledge that my fitness level isn’t even close to where it used to be and where I’d like it to be.
But, it’s been fifty days, so I’m sure you’re wondering if I’ve noticed any progress.
Honestly, just a smidge. I was slow in introducing cardio into the routine because I knew how bad mine had gotten. So far, I’ve not died and I’ve noticed that the very basic, beginner routine I’m doing is slowly getting easier. I’m getting better at the yoga routines that I’ve been doing, though I haven’t mastered the half moon pose without falling over yet. And my belly dancing is getting stronger.
At least, this is what I’ve noticed on the good days. On the bad days, the days in which I’m tired and sore and cranky, it takes every bit of my energy to make it through half-way decently. I am noticing more good days than bad days, though.
Oh, when you ask about progress, you mean weight loss.
Well, I dunno. Maybe. The scale we have isn’t the most reliable thing. When I did my weigh-in (after four weeks), I either stayed the same, lost three pounds, or gained five. So, you know. Whatever.
Of course, weight loss isn’t my measure. I’m going by how I’m feeling. Am I feeling better?
Yeah, a little.
No, it’s not happening as fast as I’d like, definitely not as dramatically as I’d like, but it is trending in the right direction.
I’ll take it.
Automan is not a show I knew about until recently, coming across the title while doing research on something else. In November of 2017, Red Giant put out a short based on Automan that was written and directed by Aharon Rabinowitz and starring David Hewlett as the title character, Hewlogram. Between this hilarious short (please go watch it and the making-0f video because it’s just as much fun) and watching the opening for the actual series, I put this one on my to-watch list.
And as luck would have it, I received the series on DVD for my birthday.
(I also received Hewlogram poster that I won that same week. My 38th birthday week was lit in a hologram sort of way.)
Automan aired in 1983 for just 13 episodes. Starring Chuck Wagner as Automan, Desi Arnaz Jr. as his creater Walter Nebicher, Heather McNair as Roxanne Caldwell, Gerald S. O’Laughlin as Captain Boyd, Robert Lansing as Lt. Jack Curtis, and Cursor as himself. No, really. The little cursor thing got a credit.
If you bothered watching Hewlogram, then you’d have the basic premise of Automan. Walter Nebicher is a computer programmer and police officer whose captain prefers him in his little computer room and not out on the streets. He creates Automan, a hologram so powerful that it can hit a dude across a room. Only Walter’s co-worker and sort of love interest Roxanne knows that Automan is a hologram. Oh, and Cursor is a little firefly looking thing that can draw anything and make it real, like a suit over Automan’s Tron body or a super fast car. It’s also a bit of a perv. Because Automan requires a certain amount of power to exist, he sometimes has to disappear when he feels his battery getting low or find creative ways to recharge. All of this in the name of fighting crime.
The show only ran 13 episodes and that’s both criminal and totally understandable. In only 13 episodes, we had mobsters, tropical locations, corrupt cops, corrupt sheriffs, bikers, Laura Branigan, a male exotic dance club called Zippers, bombing threats, diamond smuggling, and I’m pretty sure every episode featured covers of popular songs of the time as well as the laughing freeze frame at the end. You can’t pack that much awesome into such a short run. The star that burns that brightly, burns out too soon.
It also suffers from the some questionable dialogue that boarders on painful, the obvious jokes and cheesiness that permeated the ’80s, and some less-than acting, though I blame the dialogue for a lot of it. Seriously, some of those lines are face-smackingly cringey.
But, it’s an incredibly fun show! Chuck Wagner is adorable as Automan. He embodies this hologram that is, in his own words, an eleven on a scale from one to ten while also being rather naive about the ways of humans. To help him learn about humans, Walter had Auto watch movies and TV shows. Auto inadvertently watching multiple episodes of a soap opera is a highlight.
Speaking of Walter, he’s not just an inept computer nerd. Yeah, in a few episodes things don’t go his way and he gets his ass handed to him, but he’s not incompetent. And he does get in his licks. He’s also not a total loser with the ladies. After all, Roxanne is one hot chick and he doesn’t seem to have any trouble with her.
Together, Walter and Auto are, well, maybe not unstoppable or unbeatable, but they get the job done and they’re entertaining.
The plots are typical ’80s grand with titles like “Staying Alive While Running a High Flashdance Fever”, “Murder MTV”, “Murder, Take One”, “Death By Design”, and “Club Ten”. In one episode called “Renegade Run”, you have Richard Lynch as a corrupt sheriff that pits him against biker Billy Drago. I know, right? How great is that? Pretty great.
In addition to Richard Lynch, Billy Drago, and Laura Branigan, the show also featured guest stars Clu Gulager, Mary Crosby, Patrick Macnee, Ed Lauter, John Vernon, Anne Lockhart, France Nuyen, Robert F. Lyons, Delta Burke, William Windom, Terry Kiser, Don Galloway, Richard Anderson, Doug McClure, Walter Brooke, Sid Haig, Mickey Jones, and Ola Ray.
Check out that crop. Nothing but cream.
Okay, Automan is a little on the silly side. It’s the early ’80s turned up to eleven. It is glorious.
Just ask Cursor.
A Little Bit Suspicious
Lu Jones looked up at her brother-in-law as he gaped down at her.
“You look like a fish,” she said.
Detective Josh Carpenter’s mouth snapped shut.
“How can you tell she was murdered?” Josh asked, narrowing his eyes at her.
“It’s kind of the whole point of my job to be able to do that,” Lu said.
“Lu.” It was a warning and Lu shrugged it off as easily as if it had come from one of her siblings. The curse of the two of them working together for almost as long as Josh had been with Nico.
“Well, it’s nothing so obvious as the rope done wrong,” Lu said, walking towards the body. Josh followed her. “But, there’s antemortem bruising under the rope inconsistent with hanging. And her face is the wrong color. It’s a little too red. That implies force.”
“So, she wasn’t hung?”
Lu shook her head. “Not by this rope and this tree. Though, if I had to guess, I’d say she was strangled. Dr. Pascal will make the final call on that.”
“What do you mean about the rope being done wrong?” Josh asked, peering as closely at the noose as he could bear to get.
Lu grinned. “The movie The Black Cat? Remember?”
Josh frowned. Lu and Nico were big horror film fans, a fitting favorite genre for their lines of work. They’d often get together to watch them and many of their conversations featured references to them. Lu was a little disappointed that more of this hadn’t rubbed off on Josh.
“Isn’t that the one where Bela Lugosi skins Boris Karloff alive?” Josh asked, squinting the way he did when he was trying to remember something.
Lu heard Vince mutter something under his breath and she was pretty sure it was in response to the mention of skinning, not the overall topic. Vince was green, but he’d been on enough death scenes with Lu and Josh to know how they operated.
“No, this one has Bela Lugosi, but he plays a gardener that gets shot as a scapegoat.”
“I don’t remember that one.”
“That’s a shame,” Lu said with a shrug and went back to business. “I’ll bag the vic’s hands and we’ll see if we can get anything off of her clothes, but she looks pretty clean. There are a couple of smaller bruises on her forearms that could be defensive marks and most people who are strangled put up a fight unless they can’t. I’m not seeing much evidence of a fight around here, though.”
Everyone standing in the little clearing at the end of the path looked at the ground.
“So, this is a dump scene, not a crime scene,” Josh concluded and Lu nodded. “Well, give me whatever you can get as quickly as you can. If this is a homicide, then we’re on the clock.”
Josh walked over to Detective Carthos, the other two uniforms, and the forensic team to hatch a game plan while Lu went on with her work. She picked up her clipboard from the gurney and started making notes about the case. Murderville was living up to its reputation this time. A homicide at the local suicide spot. Dr. Pascal was going to love this twist.
I spent the last week of January reading over two first drafts: The End of the (Werewolf) Curse, which I wrote back in 2015 for NaNoWriMo, and The Fate of the Immortal’s Assistant, which I wrote this past November for NaNoWriMo. One turned out to be in better shape than the other, which kind of surprised me.
I remember when I finished writing The End of the (Werewolf) Curse that I wasn’t very happy with it. I thought it was going to need a lot of work and so I shoved it to the side to wait its turn, in no hurry to get to it. I expected to feel the same when I read it this last month. I went in expecting that it still needed some serious work.
Gleefully, I was wrong.
Maybe gleefully isn’t the right word, but after the rough time I’ve had with my first drafts lately, I felt pretty gleeful.
It will need work, of course. There are some minor things that need to be taken care of and I have to do my usual thing of adding in details because I’m the worst at description. But as far as heavy rewrites, which is what I was expecting, that’s not in my future with this story. I’m actually really pleased how well the first draft did turn out.
Ah, those were the days, when I remembered how to write.
Because The Fate of the Immortal’s Assistant was just as bad as I remembered it. Yes, not too much time has passed, but even a decade wouldn’t erase that memory or the accuracy of it. I could see the struggle I had during that writing process in the words. It’s going to to take major rewrites to fix this story. Major rewrites. Major.
When I was reading the first draft, I could see exactly what needed to be done to fix the story. So while this story will take a lot of work, I have a very good idea of what that work is and that is somewhat of a comfort.
I’m still not looking forward to doing all of that heavy lifting, but at least when it’s time, I’ll know just how heavy that lift will be.
I finally finished the first draft of The Coop Run. It took until the third week of January to get it done, but it’s done. After that, I spent the final week reading over the first drafts of The End of the (Werewolf) Curse and The Fate of the Immortal’s Assistant and made revision notes for both. One got more revision notes than the other. I’m not looking forward to dealing with that.
And on the final day of January, I submitted (Vampires) Made in America to an agent. Fingers crossed and all that. I’m just happy to get the practice doing the query/synopsis/bio thing. Okay, that’s not true. It’s hell, but I still need the practice.
This month I’m going to revise The End of the (Werewolf) Curse.
Yep. That’s it.
I’ve felt like I’ve been pulling my hair out and banging my head against a wall and several other cliches that have put me at the end of my cliched rope. I need a recovery month.
Okay, yes, I know. It’s me. This probably won’t be the only thing I do this month, but it’s the only thing I’m definitely going to do this month.
Let’s call this a working break.
The second episode of Murderville: The End Of comes out on the 13th. $1 an episode lets you read. $2 an episode, you get to read and you get the bonuses, including one this month that comes out on the 27th. Don’t miss out! Become a patron!
Safe to say that since I started doing NaNoWriMo, the majority of the first drafts of the novels I’ve written have been written during 30 days (or less) in November. In fact, it’s been so long since I’ve written the first draft of a novel outside of November that I can’t remember the last time I did it.
I mean before this last time.
My bright self decided after finishing the first draft of The Fate of the Immortal’s Assistant to immediately start on the first draft of The Coop Run. Had the former gone better, then perhaps the latter would have, too, and I wouldn’t be writing this post.
But the former didn’t and that could be why the latter took me more than two months to write.
The original goal was to write The Coop Run in the two weeks I had left in November. Once I finished writing the slog that was the first draft of The Fate of the Immortal’s Assistant, I didn’t have the energy to keep up the needed pace of 3,500 words a day to get it done. I decided to take it a little easy for a while, only writing 1,000 words a day, and then I’d pick up the pace. It looked at the time like the first draft would only be about 35,000 words and if I picked up to 2,000 or 2,500 words a day, then I’d have it done in the first week or so of December.
Oh, how dumb I can be.
It’s no secret that the holidays are my least favorite time of year and I actively try to not work on big projects during them because the entire month of December drains my life force. Let this past December be a good reminder of that.
Instead of my word count on The Coop Run picking up, it went down. I was basically writing 500 words a day most days and calling that good. I just didn’t have the energy to write more. I did end up picking up the pace to 2,000 words after January 1st, though that dipped again the week of my birthday. The slog feelings from The Fate of the Immortal’s Assistant carried over to The Coop Run, though I think overall it turned out to be easier to write, especially toward the end. It also turned out to be longer than I thought it’d be. Instead of 35,000 words, it ended up around 56,000.
I actually ended up sick of writing the story. I wanted to be done so badly but just couldn’t push hard enough to finish it. It was a miserable feeling. And instead of feeling satisfied when I wrote the last word, I felt relief. Overall, it wasn’t the most enjoyable first draft writing experience I’ve ever had.
I do believe that I’ve learned my lesson, though.
No more novel first drafts in December!