They Tore Down the Zombie Car Wash

That old chestnut “write what you know” is one that I adhere to in a very broad way. I know the story. I know the characters. Anything I don’t know, I can learn later. Then I’ll know it for next time.

However, sometimes I take that advice more literally and write what I actually know. Like working in customer service. And I frequently set stories in my hometown. Now, the people who live here would probably argue that there’s nothing about this small town in the middle of a cornfield that’s worth writing about, but to the people who don’t live here, it’s an exotic locale.

Only a handful of people that I know who also know this town actually read my stories. In most cases, my friends who don’t read my work don’t read it because I don’t write what they like to read (a far from exclusive club since strangers feel the same way). So, there are only a few people who can actually pick out the real locations I’ve used in stories.

One of those locations is the Zombie Car Wash.

It wasn’t always called that, though.

It was an actual car wash (that I always used despite the other two in town) that happened to be down the street from the grocery store. There were only three stalls, two vacuums, and the back lot was lined with trees. Despite being able to see the rear lot of the grocery store right across the street and the house next door, it felt weirdly secluded. It was a great spot. I loved it.

I loved it so much that I made it the opening scene in my short story “Another Deadly Weapon”, which I published in the short story collection Yearly. I didn’t think much about it at the time until one of my friends, Natalie, read the story and it ended up scarring her for life.

You see, if you parked on the east side of the grocery store parking lot, you could see the car wash that I used in the beginning of the story. So, whenever Natalie went to the grocery store and would see the car wash, she’d half-expect to see a zombie stumble out of one of the stalls over there. She couldn’t not think of the story when she was there.

A compliment, indeed.

And it also led to us calling it the Zombie Car Wash.

So imagine my heartbreak when I turned down the road to go to the grocery store one day and saw the stalls down, the vacuums gone, and the lot empty. A landmark gone. It wasn’t just my preferred place to rinse the rural off of my vehicle; it was also a standing reminder that once upon a time I actually wrote something that someone couldn’t get out of their head.

At least the Zombie Car Wash will live forever in “Another Deadly Weapon”. So, if you haven’t read it yet, do so. And if you have read it, read it again.

In loving memory.

Writing–January Projects

January is going to be one busy, crazy month.

I’m rewriting/revising Spirited in Spite for a contest. The deadline is February 5th, but I’m going to try to have the novel done by January 30th. Yeah, considering most of the book has to be rewritten, there is no way this can end well. If I can get it in somewhat readable shape, I’ll be happy.

The contest is in three stages: pitch, excerpt, novel. I will declare this contest a success if I can get past the pitch stage.

Really, since there’s no entry fee, there’s nothing I’ve got to lose by doing this. The hard deadline, the goal, will help keep me focused. I’ve rewritten/revised one other novel, but I didn’t complete it in the sense that I would feel comfortable with sending it. I can’t imagine I can get this book perfect in about 30 days (okay, to be fair it’s more like 45 days since I actually started working on it in December), but what I will end up with when I submit my entry is going to be better and closer to finished than what I’ve got right now. There’s no reason for me to pass up the opportunity to really work on my novel revising skills in a specific time frame and with a definite goal.

There will be stress and frustration. Let’s just hope that it’s not so severe I end up pulling out my hair.

I’ve also got a few short stories that need to be finished from December. “Another Deadly Weapon” is done and ready to go. “How the Night Haunts” will be up on the blog shortly. The rewrites on “At 3:36” ended up separating the piece into two different stories, “At 3:36” and “Powerless”. “At 3:36” needs more work, but “Powerless” just needs some polishing up, I think. “Anniversaries” and the untitled short story need more work, too.

Aside from “Powerless”, every other story is going to wait in favor of the novel revisions. With “Powerless” done, I’ll have four stories (along with “Soul Sister”, “Playing Chicken” (the anthology it was going to be in was canceled), and “Another Deadly Weapon”) to shop around, which I plan to do in earnest. My goal is to submit a lot more short stories this year.

Let’s see how this all works out with my birthday and me being in Chicago for four days. Let’s just see.

Writing–Rejected Motives

It’s time to come clean about Rejected.

While it was true that I self-published those nine stories to gain some experience in self-publishing and marketing myself and that I did want to put those stories to readers on why they thought the stories might have been rejected, I had another motive for publishing those stories.

I spent several years writing, revising, and submitting those stories, wash, rinse, repeat. While working full-time, my commitment to those stories was usurped in favor of a paycheck and the time and energy it took to maintaining it. When I finally decided to make a break for it and try to put together my own income through odd jobs, I came back to those stories and frankly, I didn’t like what I saw.

It’s not that I didn’t like the stories or thought that after several months of ignoring them that they suddenly became horrible. It’s just I was looking to make a new start. I wanted to start this go-round fresh. These stories were not fresh.

So I looked at them, arranged them, packaged them, and published them as much to put them out for people to read and judge them as I did to clear my own writing slate. Fresh start.

Not all of the stories written on that board during that time were wiped from that slate and put into that book. One of them, “Another Deadly Weapon”, was still out, waiting to be judged (it ended up being rejected). “Soul Sister” was finished, but isn’t a horror story, so it didn’t really fit in with the other stories, all of which are horror. “At 3:36” and “An Active Sleeper” were junk and not fit for publishing. So all of those stories ended up carrying over into this new go-round.

The mental effect of publishing those stories has been a great one. Those pressing weight of those stories, needy for homes of their own, aren’t crushing me anymore. They’ve got their home. Now I’ve got room, so to speak, to create new stories to try to house. That mounting pile of rejection has been swept out of my mental house. Now I can get to building a new pile.

I can always publish a sequel.

Writing–December Projects

After spending a month (okay, it was more like three weeks) with a novel, December is short story month.

I have three new ones I’m looking to write. “How the Night Haunts” will be a freebie for a the blog. “Anniversaries” and an as yet untitled one have no definite intention yet, but I imagine I’ll be trying to submit them whenever I deem them ready.

I also have three old ones that are in need of revisions. I need to rewrite “At 3:36” with the new angle and fix the ending of “Another Deadly Weapon” because I’ve never liked it. And then there’s “An Active Sleeper”, which needs something, but I’m don’t know what yet. All I know is I don’t think I’m achieving the affect I want. I’m guessing that one is going to be the big struggle of the month.

All of that, plus working on getting Rejected on Kindle should keep me plenty busy this month.