The Winners Have Been Announced…And I Am One

If you’ve been reading this blog or following me on Twitter or familiar with me on Facebook, then you know all about the Prose Simon & Schuster Challenge that I entered. You know it because not only have I blogged about it, but I’ve also been encouraging people to read and comment and like and repost on social media. Not only was this an actual contest for the intended prize, but also a personal challenge for me.

Last night, I received an email that the 50 winners were chosen.

Imagine my surprise, delight, elation, and absolute “oh shit, what have I done” dread when I saw “Take the 55 North” on the list.

That’s right, kids. Your Aunt Kiki placed in the top 50.

This means that in accordance with the challenge, those in the top 50 (determined by the Prose folks who read every entry and made their decision based on likes, originality, and grammar) will be read by Simon & Schuster editors and if they like what they read, they’ll be in touch.

Just typing that released a flock of Mothra-sized butterflies loose in my gut.

Because this could not be happening at a more batshit time.

Last week, my laptop borked. It is done. Work potentially lost unless I can salvage the hard drive because I backed everything up last month, but not yet this month. A monumentally frustrating occurrence that led to me having a bit of a meltdown and questioning whether or not this was a sign from the Universe to just stop writing. I realize how ridiculous that probably sounds, but I am a ridiculous person. I was also in desperate need for some self-care when this happened and this was more than enough to push me over the edge. Flipping my shit over my less-than-two-years-old laptop biting it was the opening of the ultimate release valve to alleviate the pressure before I went critical. Dramatic, but necessary.

So, while my sanity has been momentarily saved, I am still without a laptop, at least until the new one is delivered. Which may be as soon as next week. Or as long as July 5th. Now here I am, potentially on the brink of something new and wonderful and important, and I’m sans the thing I really need (this blog post is being written courtesy of my roommate Carrie letting me use her laptop). Only so much can be done from my phone.

Or only I can do so much from my phone. Some people can work their whole lives from a phone and to them I tip my hat.

Anyway, in addition to this laptop madness there’s also the sudden realization that I did not think things through. For someone who does such a good job of thorough planning in so many areas of life, I am really bad at it for some things that deserve more forethought.

Like this challenge!

I submitted a story that will ultimately be part of something bigger. However, this something bigger is right now only a sketch. I have very little actually written and the outline is at its most basic. Now, this may not prove to be much of a problem, but knowing that if this story generates any interest, I have almost nothing else to show them in regards to this specific project and that causes me some anxiety.

I was not prepared for this. Because I wasn’t thinking about that. I was just thinking about submitting something, getting some people to read a story, practicing my self-promotion, and then nothing coming of it. Because that’s what usually happens. But this time the usual didn’t happen. And now, here I am. Not ready.

Boy, those Mothra-butterflies are really feisty.

The truth is, nothing could still come of it. It’s entirely possible that my story is very nice, but not for them, and they’ll pass. And that’s fine. That’s a kind of rejection I understand. Considering that I’ve already accomplished more than I thought I could with this challenge, I’m more than willing to call this a victory. And honestly, my anxiety probably wouldn’t mind because right now it’s screaming in my ear, “What have you done?! You’re not prepared for this! Are you crazy?!”

To which I reply, “Of course.”

Because as unprepared as I feel that I am, as disconnected as I feel that I am without my laptop, because as overwhelming as I feel that all of this is, I’m game.

I’m already on the roller coaster.

Gotta finish my ride.

More Than Just a Story Challenge

The entry deadline for the Simon & Schuster Prose Challenge has passed. They’re supposed to announce the 50 best stories on June 21st, so I guess that reading/liking/reposting/commenting will still be happening in an official capacity until then (if the contest is a popularity contest, as most suspect, in which the more likes you get, the “best”-er you are). So, please, continue reading and liking and sharing “Take the 55 North” until then. And beyond then. My ego is always in need of boosting.

As much as I would like to be in that top 50 for the chance to get a Simon & Schuster editor to read my work (and I would really, really like that, make no mistake), I am happy that a more personal challenge has already been met.

I woke up the morning after the deadline to “Take the 55 North” having garnered 21 likes, 9 reposts, and over 370 reads. Six people left very lovely comments. This is may not seem like much, but for me, this kind of support is huge. I labor under the delusion that no one is interested in my writing, that I don’t write anything that anyone else wants to read. So to see numbers like that, it really encourages me.

It also encourages me to see how supportive people have been. In addition to people taking the time to read my story and sign up so they could leave a comment or a like or repost it, people were also retweeting my tweets about this challenge and sharing my posts over on Facebook about it.

I am not a very good self-promoter. I feel like no one gives a shit about my writing career and I’m just annoying them when I do any sort of promoting about it. With this challenge, I made a conscious choice to promote it -and, therefore, myself- more. Clearly, I didn’t do it to excess, but I did it much more often than I normally would have. I’m sure I annoyed some people. But many others also showed up to support me and that means the world to me. It showed me that I shouldn’t doubt that there are folks cheering for me.

So, thank you very much to everyone who supported me. If you signed up to give me a like, thank you. If you gave it a read, thank you. If you reposted it, thank you. If you left a comment, thank you. If you retweeted it, thank you. If you shared a post, thank you.

And if you’ve always done those things and will continue doing those things, THANK YOU!

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I appreciate it so much.

Because of you, this particular challenge has been achieved.

June Writing Projects

Last month was fairly easy. All I had to do was revise Come to the Rocks and outline season 2 of Murderville. Which I did.

But that left me with time on my hands. Like two weeks worth of time on my hands. Which meant that I needed to find a way to occupy my time. So, I ended up revising “Take the 55 North” for the Simon & Schuster challenge on Prose and then revised and posted another, related story called “Items Left Behind”.

And then I proceeded to drive myself crazy trying to come up with something to enter into the Writer’s Digest Annual Contest. I ended up writing the first 15 pages of a new script called Stateline, which is a rewrite of a short story I did years ago and decided that was the winner. Okay, not winner, but the one that I felt had the best shot at earning my entry fee back.

And then I wrote a little short story that’s set in the Murderville universe that’s going to serve as the teaser for next season. But you’re going to have to wait (and pay) for that.

This month is all about writing Murderville season 2 and hopefully giving it a title.

And because that’s the only thing I have planned to do this month, you know what happens if I finish early.

It’ll look like May all over again.

The next episode of Murderville: The Last Joke, “Finding Chester R. Ewins”, goes live June 13th. Become a patron, catch up on the last five eps, and be all set to read the latest. Reminder that $2 patrons receive bonus content, so treat yourself!

I Accept This Challenge

Earlier this month I entered a short story in a Simon & Schuster challenge hosted by Prose. The challenge is simple enough: Write a story, chapter, essay, whatever that’s 500-2,000 words. Prose will pick the 50 best entries, which will be read for consideration by Simon & Schuster editors. Neat, right? Certainly worth trying (let this be a nudge to other writers).

I was unfamiliar with Prose, so naturally I did a bit of research and poked around their platform. It’s like social media for stories and poetry. Kind of nifty. I’m thinking that I’ll stick around after the challenge. It looks like a good place to throw some freebies up, get some reads, network a little bit (laws knows I am terrible at that).

Speaking of social media, if you’re not following me on Twitter or if you haven’t liked my Facebook page, then you might not know that you can read the challenge stories. That’s right. YOU. For FREE.

I would recommend you start with mine, of course. You know. It’s easier to get started with something new when you’re familiar with someone already involved.

“Take the 55 North” was originally written last summer. I did a trilogy of these stories without really knowing what I was going to do with them. Earlier this year, I decided that they’d integrate quite well into an idea I have for this year’s NaNo project. A very toned and tightened version story was entered into the challenge in order to make the word count. It’ll be expanded during NaNo.

The competition is stiff. I’ve read a lot of good work so far. I encourage you all to read it as well.

But start with mine first.

May Writing Projects

Last month I decided to revise ALL THE THINGS. Well, not all of them. Just 15 short stories and pieces of flash fiction.

Except that I miscounted.

It was actually 17.

But, hey, good news! All 17 items were revised. Yay! All of the flash fictions stories are totally done. Of the four short stories I revised, three will need another pass, but the worst of them is over.

I, too, am shocked at my own productivity.

This month there will be…more revising. But only one story. I’m going to revise Come to the Rocks. I think it’s sat long enough. Time to see what I’ve got and if it’s as magical as I remember it. I’m going to guess no on that. They never are.

I’m also going to start outlining season 2 of Murderville. Right now I’m giving it a tentative green light as The Last Joke has been getting some positive feedback. I’m really hoping to hit the $25 goal before the end of it. So far the audience growth has been slow, but those reading seem to be enjoying themselves and that’s enough of encouragement for my ego.

Speaking of Murderville: The Last Joke, the next episode, “Puzzle Piece Pawn”,  goes live May 9th. Don’t miss out on the fun! Become a patron, catch up on the first four episodes, and tell your friends!

Writing–When Your Writing To Do List Horrifies Your Great-Aunt

I was talking to my roommate Carrie and my great-aunt at a family dinner on Sunday. Carrie mentioned that my writing to do list frightens her. I tried to explain to my great-aunt that I have A LOT of projects in various states and that I keep them organized in to do lists in One Note. I’ve got one master to do list broken up into categories.

-short stories

-current short story collection (which is different from the short stories list)

-The Storytime Jukebox (which is different from the short stories and short story collection lists)

-flash fiction project

-Murderville

-scripts

-poetry and essays

-novellas

-The Carpenter novellas (which is different from the novellas list)

novels

-The Outskirts novels (which is different from the novels list)

I actually didn’t even list all of the categories before I was stopped by the look of horror on my great-aunt’s face. She probably would have passed out if I told her what was on all of these lists.

I suppose to anyone outside of my brain, this seems like an overwhelming mess. It seems like a never-ending tidal wave of writing projects that threaten to drown me. It seems like a lifetime of work that I think I can do in a year. It seems like way, way too much. I suppose to someone who is not me, it seems like a bit of lunacy. Wouldn’t it be more practical to work on one project at a time, finishing it completely before moving on to the next?

Oh, wow, it would be really neat if I could do that. But I can’t. I’ve tried it and it turns out that it makes me crazy to not have a hundred projects in various states.

I have found that, for me, serious, intense focus on only one project at a time is not beneficial for me. Yes, I can sit down during NaNo and write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. I can write the first draft of just about anything in one go without issue. I can revise one the same way. It can be the MAIN project I focus on, but it can’t be the ONLY project I’m dealing with. My brain is just too full for that, too scattered.

Having so many projects in various states means that something is always getting started, something is always being finished, and something always needs some work. I never run out of projects to work on. Oh, I’ve emptied the writing to do list categories. I’ve only had a few projects going at once. But I’ve never looked at my whole writing to do list and seen it blank.

I never want to.

There’s a comfort in knowing that I always have some writing project to work on. I get bored very quickly when I’m not writing. I don’t know what to do with my hands! Even when I’m taking a break because I really want a break, I NEED a break, I’m sick of writing…I’d still rather be writing.

This horrifying to do list with all of its categories and all of its projects means I always will be.

New in the Storytime Jukebox- Notorious

Notorious

They looked at her with fear and pity, the ones that knew.  But didn’t everyone know?  Everyone in the neighborhood certainly did, but she was sure the whole city recognized her.  It had been in the papers and on the news for what seemed like years, her picture plastered everywhere.

But she didn’t hide.  She didn’t move.  As soon as she healed, she went back to her life, picking up where she left off.

She went back to work.  She shopped for groceries.  She went to the bars, refusing to avoid the one with the bad memories attached to it.  She stopped at the coffee shop and wandered through the bookstore.  She ate popcorn at the movies and giggled with girlfriends over dinner at restaurants.

But it felt as though her life still wasn’t being lived.  It was hanging in a suspended animation of sorts even though it had been YEARS since it’d happened.  She had insisted on staying in town and it was like that stopped the whole process of moving on right in its tracks.  Because everywhere she went, people stared.  She’d managed to move on, she’d come to terms with it, she’d gotten used to it, but they hadn’t.

***

This is a super short story, but there’s still plenty left to read. Stop by the Storytime Jukebox and drop in some coin.

April Writing Projects

Since the only writing projects I really needed to do last month was finishing the first drafts of Come to the Rocks and “August 8, 2015” (it turned out to be a short story!), I ended up with the last two weeks of March free. I ended up spending that time doing a little spruce up on the sidebar of the blog, making a few minor tweaks to The Storytime Jukebox (it is what it is, man), revising a short story called “Notorious” that will hopefully end up in the Jukebox, and writing ten flash fiction stories for a potential project that may or may not happen.

I’m annoying like that.

April will be the month of revision! I’ll revise “Grandma’s Funeral”, “A Girl’s Best Friend”, “Suicide Paris Green”, and “August 8, 2015”. I’ll also try to revise/polish “Notorious”, which will end up in the Jukebox, if all goes well.

And then there’s the matter of revising all of that the flash fiction for the potential project.

Yes, I’m going to try to revise fifteen stories all told next month. I don’t think I’m going to even come close to that, but if I can get a good chunk of them done, then I’m sitting pretty.

In a metaphorical sense, of course.

The next episode of Murderville: The Last Joke goes live on the 11th. $1 lets you read; $2 lets you read AND you get bonus content, like the special little ditty that will be dropping for the $2 patrons this month. Don’t miss out! Read the teasers for episodes one, two, and three, and then haul a little booty over to Patreon so you can read the whole thing!

How to Support Your Local Writer

Rainbow paper**Though I’m speaking as a writer and talking specifically about writers and writing, these things can be applied to any artist, really.**

Writing can be a lonely gig. It’s a lot of time spent in your own head, trying to capture the things you see in your imagination and translate them into words that you then put on the page. There’s not a lot that other people can do to help you get your work done (aside from leaving you alone and letting you work, maybe picking up some of the chores or fetching dinner once in a while). But there are many ways that you can support your local writer.

Buy their work. This is the most obvious way, and yet, it still doesn’t happen as much as you think, for several reasons. Not having the cash is one. Or the work might not be to your taste. You have no idea how many times I get told that people would like to read my stuff, but they don’t dig horror (and that’s the majority of what I write). I don’t take it personally, but it still sort of bums me out. But even if the work isn’t to your specific taste, it might be to someone else’s. You can rec it to them (more on that later) or, if you’re feeling bold, buy it for them. Force it upon them. Maybe they’ll never read it, but you still gave your writer a little coin and tried to get their work out. That means a lot.

Read and REVIEW their work. If the work is to your liking, buying it is great. But reading and reviewing it is HUGE. Notice the emphasis on reviewing. Naturally, the writer’s fragile ego is boosted to hear directly from your mouth how much you love their stories, but leaving a review tells LOTS of people. And the more reviews, the better. Places like Amazon and Goodreads give priority to books that have more reviews and makes them easier for customers to find. By leaving a review, you give your writer a shot at getting noticed by someone else. And it doesn’t have to be a full-on book report either. A rating accompanied by a couple of sentences about what you liked (or didn’t like; I’m a writer that digs honesty) is adequate.

Give them money anyway. Okay, maybe this one is just me and just because I’m currently without a day job, but I actually started doing this earlier this year. It’s not easy for unknown writers and/or self-published writers like myself to make much money off of their work. It’s a competitive market out there and carving a niche takes time, effort, and low low prices. This year I decided to no longer make it difficult for people to give me money. In addition to my self-published body of work, I’ve got the Storytime Jukebox and Patreon. I’ve also set up a tip jar of sorts through Ko-Fi. If you like what you read here or just want to give me some monetary encouragement without the commitment of owning any of my words, you can buy me a coffee. Three bucks doesn’t sound like much, but just the act of being acknowledged in such a way is a real boost. If you’ve got the money to give, find a way to give it.

Spread the word. Whether you buy their work or not, whether it’s your genre or not, let other people know that it exists! That your writer exists! I’ll say it again in bold and all-caps: SPREAD THE WORD! This is the most valuable yet inexpensive way to show support to your writer. Share their Facebook posts, retweet their tweets, link to their blog/website/author page, recommend them to friends and family and co-workers and strangers, surreptitiously add their work to people’s wishlists. Don’t keep your writer or their work a secret. Word of mouth is how fanbases get built. The bigger your writer’s fanbase, the more support they have.

The more support your writer has, the happier your writer will be.

And when the writer is happy, the work is a little less lonely.

March Writing Projects

green flowerConsidering the loss of my only day job, my plans for March haven’t really changed that much. Probably because I didn’t have any real solid plans to begin with.

Last month, I finished my latest round of revisions on (Vampires) Made in America, wrote the first drafts of two short stories, “Grandma’s Funeral” and “A Girl’s Best Friend”, and formatted Murderville: The Last Joke into an eBook novella. I also ended up writing the first draft of a short story called “Suicide Paris Green” (I told you I’d do something with that eventually) and published The Haunting of the Woodlow Boys as a stand alone novella eBook. And finally, I began writing the first draft of a story called Come to the Rocks, a story I thought would be about 4,000 words, but is now over 10,000 and headed straight for novella territory.

February was surprisingly productive.

This month I plan to finish writing the first draft of Come to the Rocks and start the first draft of another story that I really don’t know if it will be a short story or a novella. I love those kinds of surprises.

I’m also going to work on the Storytime Jukebox, try to make it a little more user friendly. I’d like it to be more popular, for obvious reasons, but I realize in order for that to happen, it has to be better.

Of course, anything I can do to boost my writing career will be happening this month in earnest. The ball, as they say, will start rolling.

The next episode of The Last Joke comes out on the 7th. Don’t miss out! Read teasers for episodes one and two and then become a patron.