August Writing Projects

Welcome to the Dog Days, in which I realize the year is more than half over and I feel like I’m standing in the carnage of a whirlwind. It’s at this point in the year that I assess my progress on my goals and realize just how off-track I’ve gotten.

This year feels like the whirlwind was a little bigger, the carnage a little more scattered, and the track in the next county.

Part of the reason for this is my penchant this year to come up with great new ideas and then act on them which results in less energy invested in the projects I planned on doing.

Which is something I did again last month.

After revising/polishing “August 8, 2015”, “A Girl’s Best Friend”, and “Suicide Paris Green”, revising/polishing an old story called “Nix ’96”, adding “Summer Rot” to the Freebies section, posting “Erin Go Bragh” and “There and Not” in the Storytime Jukebox, releasing paperback versions of Gone Missing and The Haunting of the Woodlow Boys, submitting Come to the Rocks, and writing my $25 Patreon goal, I started working on a new project called The Star Reader. Right now I’m writing it as a script, which I’m going to use as an outline to write it as a novel. Basically, I have the skeleton of the story and this way is a good way to sketch out the idea with dialogue so I don’t lose any of this story that’s been bombarding me.

I’m going to keep working on it this month and I’ll hopefully finish it. I think the novel version will be my NaNo project this year, but don’t hold me to it. I may start on that as soon as I’m finished.

Last month, I also started reading (Vampires) Made in America in preparation for one more (hopefully last) round of revisions. There’s not much that needs to be done at this point, so once I’m finished, I’ll see about finding some beta readers who can give it a look.

I’m also going to revise Murderville Season 2. Give it a title and such. And if we hit the $25 goal on Patreon this month, I guess I’ll be revising that, too.

And if I’m lucky, my brain will give me a break from great new ideas. At least for this month.

The last episode of Murderville: The Last Joke goes live on August 8th. But it’s still not too late to become a patron. $1 lets you read, $2 gives you access to bonus material, like a teaser for the next season that’s coming out at the end of the month. And there will be a full teaser episode for season 2 in October for all patrons. You don’t want to miss out!

New and Newish Things

As you know, my laptop crashed last month leaving me in quite the lurch and limbo, necessitating the purchase of a new laptop.

Without a steady day job and two months of no sales, let’s just say that the purchase was an incredibly painful one.

So, here are a few potential salves for that financial wound.

First of all, “Summer Rot”, which used to be over at Suburban Fool, is now available in the Freebies section. It’s quite different from most of the stuff I write and even though it’s a freebie, I think it’s still worthy of a read.

There are two new stories in the Storytime Jukebox, “There and Not” and “Erin Go Bragh”.

“There and Not” is a short little ditty about a man who has trouble trusting his senses. “Erin Go Bragh” is about a terrifying night swim. If you were around for the very beginning of my self-publishing exploits, then you’ll recognize “Erin Go Bragh”. But it’s been out of print for years, so it’s time for a revival.

For those new to this show, the Storytime Jukebox is a pay whatever endeavor. Pay whatever you want and get the story/stories you request.

I’ve also launched paperback editions of Gone Missing and The Haunting of the Woodlow Boys. Consider this testing the waters of Amazon’s new paperback option. The lack of Kindle sales recently and the fact that neither of these stories has sold well as ebooks makes me wonder if they might work better as paperbacks. It’s worth a shot, anyway.

Of course, if $5.99 is too pricey for you, both are still available as ebooks. Gone Missing is only $1.99; The Haunting of the Woodlow Boys is still only $0.99 AND you can also find it in Ghostly, which is also $1.99.

In old news: there’s always time to become a Murderville patron. There’s one more episode of The Last Joke left (plus a bonus episode later in the year) and I’m working on a fun reward for the next goal.

And, of course, if you don’t want to buy any of my work or become a patron, or if you already have, you can always buy me a coffee.

Any help would be very much appreciated, so spread the word!

Murderville: The Last Joke–Episode 7

To Find a Crime Scene

Drew tried to find Chester R. Ewins.  He searched the name after work for three nights.  Pam was unable to help in the investigation.  She was swamped with bookkeeping work, spending most of her time hunched over rows and rows of numbers laid out on the kitchen table, muttering to herself about the values of basic math and calculators.  Drew left her alone for the most part, only bugging her to make sure that she ate the dinner that he usually found in the crock pot when he got home and to pull her away from the table at night when it was time for bed.  As soon as he got his wife away from her work, Drew did his best to get her to relax and unknot her brain, staying up later than he really should to make love to her and make sure she was going to sleep and not sneaking back out to the kitchen to work because she would.  When Pam was dealing with a bookkeeping mess like this, that’s what she was prone to do; Drew had to rescue her from herself before.

Add to this the impending family dinner that they were forced into hosting and Pam was teetering dangerously close to overload.  Drew was dragging ass himself, but he’d run himself into the ground to make sure his wife was well away from the edge of that cliff.

As a result, Drew hadn’t mentioned anything about his fruitless search.  There was really no reason to add to the weight she was already carrying, even if it was the light weight of finding nothing.

Because that’s what Drew had.  Nothing.

It seemed that Chester R. Ewins didn’t exist.  Despite being a city of 70,000, there wasn’t one person in any directory that Drew could find that had that name.  Not even close.  If he widened the search to the state or the country, he came close, but never exact.  By the second night, Drew began to believe that whoever pawned the watch used a fake name, but Drew just had to be sure.  He spent one more night of searching before he gave up.  Chester R. Ewins as an actual person was a dead end.  He had to be made up.  But who did it?

Drew came home from work to find the kitchen table free of the bookkeeping mess and a full dinner going on the stove and in the oven.  Pam, the beautiful, happy, carefree woman he’d married ten-plus years ago, was singing in the kitchen as she stirred whatever was in the pot on the stove.

“Who are you and what have you done with my surly wife?” Drew asked with a grin.  He walked over and kissed her on the neck, feeling her shiver beneath his lips.

“Your wife has been freed of her torment,” Pam said, smiling at him as she turned and kissed him on the lips.  “I finally got that mess straightened out, they paid me extra for all of the hard work, and I didn’t have any other work to do today.  So to celebrate the end of my torture, I cleaned the house for that stupid family dinner next week.  And I made you a wonderful dinner because I appreciate the way you put up with me when I’m at my worst.”

“Food is a great way to show me that you appreciate me,” Drew said, going in for another kiss.  “Among other things.”

They would have gotten carried away and perhaps carried down to the bedroom had Pam not pulled away and said, “The cheese sauce is going to burn and you smell like dirty socks.”

Drew laughed, gave her one last kiss, and hurried down to the bathroom to hose off the day’s grime.  When he returned, he found that dinner was ready and he had a plate waiting for him on the coffee table in the living room; Pam sat on the couch with her own plate in her lap.

“I’m tired of looking at the kitchen table,” she said, patting the spot on the couch next to her.  “Besides, this way we can cuddle and eat.”

“My two favorite things,” Drew said sitting down next to his wife.  He kissed her again and then picked up his plate, balancing it in his lap.

Pam had gone all out: baked chicken, homemade macaroni and cheese, green beans, and rolls.  She usually saved this sort of cooking for Sundays when she had the time and the energy to use that time.  This was a true mid-week treat.

“So, tell me,” Pam said as Drew shoveled mac and cheese into his mouth, “did you find out anything about Chester R. Ewins?”

Drew shrugged as he chewed.  As soon as he swallowed, he spoke.

“Yes and no.”

“How definitive.”

“I found out that nobody with that name exists, at least not in Murderville,” Drew said, taking a drink of iced tea.  He cleared his throat.  “Somebody pawned that watch, we know that, but he gave a fake name to do it.”

“So, who do you think did it?” Pam asked, tearing apart her roll.

“I still think it was one of his business buddies,” Drew said with a shrug.  “Doing that revenge joke thing, giving a fake name so he wouldn’t be caught.  But I don’t know which one of them did it.  I guess I’d have to go back to the pawn shop to get a description from that employee.  Of course, that probably wouldn’t help me much.  Most of the business guys that I saw at the funeral looked like Winchester Harmon.  They’re practically interchangeable.  My only hope would be that it was the young guy that did it.  Or one of Harmon’s sons.”

“It’s probably a dead end anyway,” Pam said.  “You said that the pawn shop guy said something about it being a joke.”

“Yeah, that’s what it feels like this whole thing is,” Drew said with a chuckle.  “One big joke.”

###

Wanna read more? Check out the Murderville page to find out how.

July Writing Projects

June was certainly an interesting month. My primary goal was to get the first draft of Murderville Season 2 written and I did it, though it didn’t happen nearly as easily I thought it would. I was all set to be finished early, before my trip with my roommate to Chicago to see a couple of Cubs games, when disaster struck.

My laptop crashed.

Though I regularly back-up my work, I hadn’t yet backed up Murderville Season 2 (or a few other things). With my laptop dead and my hard drive looking lost, I was feeling pretty hopeless. I bought a new laptop (ouch) and, at a friend’s suggestion, a hard drive enclosure. Luckily for me, I was able to fix the hard drive on my old laptop enough to salvage my work. And I did end up finishing the first draft of Murderville Season 2 before the end of the month.

Still doesn’t have a title yet, though.

This month I plan to do another round of revisions on “August 8, 2015”, “A Girl’s Best Friend”, and “Suicide Paris Green”. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get them completely finished this month (as in polished and pretty), but it’s looking more and more likely that I won’t have the next short story collection out before the end of the year. I feel like I’ve got a hundred things going and I’m not gaining ground on any of them right now.

That’s the risk I run working on more than one thing at a time, but my brain isn’t wired to focus on a single project at once. The risk is usually worth it.

This month I also might try shopping Come to the Rocks. When I started writing it, I figured it was guaranteed to be another self-publishing venture, but after revising and polishing, I think I might see if there’s any good fits out there. Novellas are a hard sell and I imagine that novellas featuring lesbian mermaids, the bisexual women who love them, and the murderous plots developed to keep them safe might be an even harder sell, but there might be a small press out there simply aching for it. Besides, it’s been ages since I’ve even tried to shop something of mine. I might as well dust off those underdeveloped skills and see what’s what.

I’m also struggling to come up with a new $25 goal for the Murderville Patreon. I’ve had some suggestions and I’m mulling them over, but so far, I haven’t decided on anything yet.

Ah, the pressure to make good. It’s the pressure that squishes me quicker than any other.

But! The show goes on and there are only two episodes left! Episode 7 of Murderville: The Last Joke, “To Find a Crime Scene”, goes live on July 11th. $1 gets you a read, $2 gets you access to the bonus content. Don’t miss out just because I haven’t decided on a new goal reward yet!

Murderville: The Last Joke–Episode 6

Finding Chester R. Ewins

For Pam, the crock pot might have been the greatest cooking invention of all time.  She could throw dinner in it in the morning when she was fresh and her mood was shiny.  That way, when she was sitting at the kitchen table glowering at the work she was forced to bring home with her because some of her bookkeeping clients’ attention to detail was similar to that of a tornado, Drew could still come home to a good meal despite the fact that Pam was in no mood for anything but flipping the kitchen table in frustration.

Today’s mood was further aggravated by the fact that she’d been fielding phone calls all day from her family and Drew’s family about having their monthly “big family dinner” at Pam and Drew’s house.  Pam knew that they were long overdue for their turn to host that nightmare, but she felt like they should be exempt from it until they at least made their last car payment.  It wasn’t that they didn’t have the money to feed everyone -these dinners were always potluck- it was that no one else in their immediate family had been hit hard by the sudden downshift in the economy.  Everyone else had cruised right along without so much as a blip on their financial screens.  And the support they gave came in the form of the most unhelpful advice imaginable.  Pam loved her family, of course, and she felt very grateful to have Drew’s family as her in-laws because they were wonderful people (all except Drew’s sister-in-law Daisy, who decided that Pam should be her rival for some weird reason that Pam didn’t understand or care about), but damn could they be tone deaf.

If we could just get that reward money…

But that wasn’t going to happen.  At least, not before the family dinner.  Not with Drew only able to check pawn shops on his lunch hour and Pam unable to do much of anything except crunch numbers.  Not with all of these little bits of information that didn’t seem to go together or make sense.

Pam heard Drew barrel into the house, front door slamming shut, and her mood darkened at the noise.  She was nowhere near finished with this mess of books and now her husband was home.

“Hey, Pam,” Drew said, coming in to the kitchen.  Pam could feel his energy, bouncing waves of it, and it made the black cloud over her head rumble.  At this very moment, she had no idea how anyone could be happy after a day of work without alcohol nor did she understand how grown adults didn’t know how subtraction worked.

Drew kissed her on the temple and then looked over her shoulder at the spread of papers and numbers.

“Rough day at the office?”

Pam glared at him, but sighed at the sight of his dirty face, the little hint of a sweet smile under the grime.  She shook her head and went back to her numbers.

“It is a wonder how high schools unleash people on society without the basic knowledge to add, subtract, or a work a damn calculator,” she said.

“If they did, you wouldn’t have a job.”

“Ha ha.”

Drew made his way to the counter and checked the contents of the crockpot.

“Smells good,” he said, replacing the lid.

“It’ll be ready in about half an hour,” Pam said.

“Are you ready for a break?” he asked.

Pam sighed irritably.

“My day has been filled with breaks.  I haven’t been able to complete a thought without my phone ringing because our families insist that we have the family potluck here this month.  Your mother has been driving me crazy and she’s had help from the consummate pro that is my mother.  And on top of all of that, your dingbat of a sister-in-law has been bugging me about what I’m going to make for the potluck so we don’t make the same thing.”

Pam didn’t have to look at Drew to know he was rolling his eyes.  Daisy did this every family dinner, trying to figure out what Pam was making so she could make the same thing and make Pam look bad.  Pam started telling her she was making one thing and then would make another because it was an easy way to make Daisy mad enough she wouldn’t talk to Pam and Pam would get something she wanted to eat, but didn’t want to make at the potluck.

“I finally told her that I was making pulled chicken so she’d stop calling me with suggestions and questions.  I’ll make pulled pork.”

“So, we’re really having this thing at our house?” Drew asked, pulling out the chair next to her and sitting down.

“Unless one of us dies or the house burns down, neither of our mothers are accepting any excuses,” Pam said bitterly.  “If I’m feeling generous, I’ll clean before they come over.  But right now, I’m not feeling too hospitable.”

“Well, listen, I need you to stop and listen for a second,” Drew said.

“I really can’t right now, Drew,” Pam said.  She’d been looking for the source of this major number mess and she was sure she was getting close.  She didn’t want to stop now.

“Please, Pam.  It’s really important.”

Pam knew that tone of voice.  Drew wouldn’t relent until she paid attention to him.  With an irritated sigh, she put her finger on the column to mark her place and then looked at her husband.

“Guess what I found out?”

“That your wife doesn’t like to be stopped in the middle of her work to play guessing games?”

“Close!” Drew said cheerfully and Pam rolled her eyes, smiling in spite of herself.  “I found Winchester’s watch.”

Pam’s eyes widened and her jaw dropped.  Her shitty mood completely disappeared in favor of total shock.

###

Wanna read more? Check out the Murderville page to find out how.

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!

Murderville: The Last Joke–Episode 5

Puzzle Piece Pawn

The brain tumor information was both intriguing and possibly important, but neither Drew nor Pam could figure out where the information fit into Winchester Harmon’s murder, if it fit at all.  Pam wasn’t sure that it did, but Drew thought it must.  To Pam, it looked like it was a puzzle piece from a completely different puzzle, but it had the same color scheme of the puzzle they were working.

And then came the Sunday paper.

Since Winchester Harmon turned up dead on Pam and Drew’s front step, the police had been very mum about the investigation other than saying it was on going, they were doing everything in their power to solve the case quickly, and, of course, offering the reward for any information leading to an arrest.  But when Pam retrieved the Sunday paper from her corpse-free stoop (she didn’t want to admit that she kept expecting a fresh body to be delivered with the paper every time she opened her front door in the morning, but she did), she settled back in bed next to her lightly snoring husband, opened it up, and found a whole bunch of investigation information splashed all over the front page.

Anonymous sources, the only kind you would expect in an information leak like this, were quoted as saying that though police didn’t think robbery was a motive since Harmon was found with all of his cash, although his very expensive watch was missing.  The motive was still unknown, though the police had questioned the family and the mistresses.  The Frenchman wasn’t mentioned specifically, but there was something about Harmon owing money to a “golf buddy”, though it was said that the family were aware of this debt and didn’t consider it noteworthy, but police were looking for the unidentified buddy anyway.

And then there was the will.

Winchester Harmon’s will seemed to be a source of contention with his family after a reading with the lawyer.  According to the anonymous source, everything apparently went as expected until the end when the lawyer said that there was still a portion of the will remaining but that couldn’t be read.  The family reportedly became indignant about this little secret and boy, was it secret.  None of them had expected it.

Be careful of that money, Pam thought as she sipped her coffee.  No shit, Revolution Dude.

Pretty salacious for the front page, but Murderville did love a good, rich mystery surrounding a death and Winchester Harmon’s certainly played into that.

Pam was on her second read of the article (she didn’t want to miss any potential information) when Drew woke up.  He rolled over and snuggled into her side.  Pam stroked his hair absently.

“Morning,” she said, her eyes glued to the article.  She was almost finished.  “You want some coffee?”

“Do you come with it?”

“Always.”

“Yes, please.”

“Okay,” Pam said.  She finished the last lines of the article and then sat the paper on her husband’s hip.  “Read that while I get you a cup.”

Pam returned to the bedroom with Drew’s cup of coffee to find him sitting up in bed, hunched over the paper, reading intently.  She put the cup on her nightstand next to her own and then climbed gingerly into bed, not wanting to disturb Drew.  Pam sipped her cup of coffee and waited for her husband to finish the article.

“What do you suppose was in the will?” Drew asked, looking up at her.

###

Wanna read more? Check out the Murderville page to find out how.

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!

Murderville: The Last Joke–Episode 4

The Holistic Side of Death

Pam and Drew exchanged information that night while sitting together on the couch, eating a bag of tortilla chips and a jar of homemade salsa for dinner.  They picked every little scrap of conversation apart looking for any clues as to who might have killed Winchester Harmon.  Drew insisted that the Frenchman was out as a suspect since he was too keen on collecting his debt, but it did open up the idea that someone else could have killed Harmon for a debt owed.  Pam couldn’t rule out any of the mistresses, really, and neither did Drew, but they both agreed that of the three, the sexy one would have been the least likely murderer.  Her affair with Winchester Harmon was almost as much of a business deal as she claimed Winchester Harmon’s marriage to his wife was.  Murder is bad business when you work in affairs.

By the time they went to sleep that night, all they really had was a suspect list, a couple of possible motives, no evidence, and no hint as to why a very wealthy man would be in such a questionable neighborhood at such an ungodly hour.

And then their little investigation was once again relegated to the back burner by the demands of life.  The lunch Drew’s bosses made him and the rest of the crew go to demanded overtime to make up for it; meanwhile, Pam found herself suddenly inundated with her freelance bookkeeping clients having one number emergency after another requiring her to work much longer hours to untangle their various messes.

When Pam woke up on Saturday afternoon, she rolled over and looked at her husband and realized it had been two days since she’d last actually spoken to him.  All they’d done was sleep in the same bed for a few hours at the same time and though Pam occasionally talked in her sleep, she wouldn’t count that as an actual conversation.

She wanted to wake up Drew and get as much time as she could with him before some sort of emergency cropped up in life that took either her or him away, but instead, she let him sleep, knowing he was exhausted from the past two days of work.  It was a miracle that the foreman wasn’t making the crew work on a weekend, but the trade-off was starting an hour earlier and then working two hours later.  There was the illusion that the money would be worth it, but Pam did books for a living.  She knew that money was already spent long before Drew brought home the paycheck.

Pam double-checked the weekend schedule (she didn’t work weekends and Drew had no birthday parties requiring his magical skills scheduled) and decided to let Drew sleep as late as he wanted while she cleaned the house as quietly as she could.

By noon, the house was clean, Drew was up, and lunch/breakfast was had.

By two, Pam and Drew were cuddled up contentedly on the couch, each of them reading their own book.  When someone knocked on the front door, Pam almost considered not answering it.  By the way Drew tightened his arm around her, she knew he was thinking the same thing.

Pam answered the door anyway.

She was greeted by a huge floral arrangement, an array of puffy yellow, white, and orange flowers in a huge vase.  Pam stared at it for a second in startled confusion.

“Hello,” came a voice from the other side of the flowers.  “Is this the Bendixen residence?”

“Yes,” Pam said, straining to see around the flowers.

The flowers moved to one side, revealing two handsome young men, both of them blond, bearing a striking resemblance to each other as well as someone else that Pam couldn’t quite name.

“I’m Alexander Harmon,” said the man holding the flowers.  “This is my brother Nathaniel.”

Pings of recognition went off in Pam’s brain.

“Oh, yes!  Winchester Harmon’s sons,” she said.

“That’s right,” Alexander Harmon said with a well-practiced, professional smile.

“Our mother wanted us to come by,” Nathaniel said.  He projected a much stiffer persona.  Pam figured him to be older.  “She wanted to thank you for being so kind in sending the sympathy card and coming to the funeral.”

“Oh, that’s not necessary,” Pam said, remembering how Carolyn Harmon initially confused her for one of her husband’s mistresses.

“It’s the least we could do,” Alexander said and there was something about the tone of his voice that made Pam think that the least was still too much for the likes of them.

“That’s very kind.”

Alexander offered her the flowers and Pam took them, not surprised at how heavy the huge arrangement was.  She shifted the arrangement to her hip like it was a toddler.

“Our mother told us that you were the one that found our father,” Nathaniel said.  He showed no emotion, but Alexander suddenly looked very solemn, if not a little uncomfortable.

“That’s right.”

“Where?”

Pam hesitated a second.  “Right where you’re standing.”

###

Wanna read more? Check out the Murderville page to find out how.