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!

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.

February Writing Projects

roseIt’s a short month, so naturally I’m going to try to accomplish several things.

Though I managed to write a poem a day last month, I need to finish the revision of (Vampires) Made in America. I probably would have finished it last month, but I was in Chicago for Cubs Con the weekend of my birthday. Oh, I still worked that weekend, but just not as much as I would have if I was home. Another factor is that I’m adding chapters, so writing the new content is taking a little bit longer.

I’m also going to write the first drafts of two new short stories for the next short story collection, “Grandma’s Funeral” and “A Girl’s Best Friend”. I’m anticipating these to be somewhat difficult because it’ll be such a gear shift and the ideas have been sitting around for a while so I’m worried they’ve lost their freshness. I’m sure I’ll be able to get some kind of a first draft for each of them, but I’m anticipating an extra effort for some unfortunate shit. Thank goodness I like rewriting/revising so much.

I’m also going to be formatting Murderville: The Last Joke into a novella eBook, which will be available to my patrons at the end of the year. I will also be giving my $2 patrons their first freebie this month. So, if you want to get it on that, check out the Murderville page.

Also, the next episode comes out next week. Check out the preview of the first episode and then find out how to read the rest.

New in the Storytime Jukebox–Land of the Voting Dead

Land of the Voting Dead

Miriam Showalter opened the heavy wooden double doors to the unseasonably warm November morning.  Sunlight streamed in, golden so early in the morning and so late in the year.  Miriam lodged the doors open with heavy wooden doorsteps that her husband Gene had carved thirty years ago to replace the ones that the previous twenty years had worn out.  Back then they’d been horses’ heads, like pieces on a chess board, and Gene had spent his days in the fields planting corn and beans.  Now all of the features, the delicate detail that Gene spent hours squinting at and refining, were worn smooth and Gene spent his days as a pile of ash in a brightly polished urn.

Miriam finished pinning the doors open and dabbed the sweat away from her brow with the tissue she kept tucked under her watch.  She could have taken off her cardigan, but she was no fool.  Just because she worked up a sweat, just because the sun was shining, just because they were having a late warm up didn’t mean that it wasn’t November.  Miriam wasn’t catching her death today.

From the front doors, Miriam walked across the dark wood floor, the insolated soles of her shoes barely making a sound in the open room, past the long table and single folding chair (with a many-times patched, pink cushion that she’d made about the same time Gene made the horse head doorstops) that she’d set up when she first got there, and down the back hallway where the sunshine couldn’t reach.  There was a storage room on the left, a bathroom on the right, a door at the end, and not a window in sight.  The light was still on in the storage room.  Miriam walked in, wrinkling her nose at the heavy musty smell and the lingering scent of something that just couldn’t be placed, but Miriam knew what it was.  She’d leave the doors open all day long.  That’d chase most of the smell out.  The place just wasn’t used enough to get rid of it entirely.

Another table and a stack of folding chairs sat against one wall.  There were several miscellaneous cardboard boxes along the wall opposite the door.  It seemed that there were more every year, but Miriam had no idea who brought the boxes or what was in any of them.  Shoved off to the side were two voting pedestals that stood like misshapen patio umbrellas, their dingy little screens separating six little cubicles, their little desks hitting Miriam just under her bust as she wheeled them out one by one into the main room, positioning them on opposite sides of the less than great hall and locking their wheels into place.

Miriam dabbed away the sweat from her face and replaced the tissue under her watchband.  She checked the time.  Russell Sims would be along any minute with the vote box.  That’s what Miriam called it.  It’s where the votes went after people were done filling in the circles with a special black pen.  That wasn’t the proper name for the thing, but Miriam didn’t care.  People gave stupid names to things anyway.  “Vote box” was accurate enough.  It wasn’t like anyone was ever going to quiz her on it.  They probably didn’t know the correct name for it either.

Russell showed up in his old truck that had the most ineffective muffler still attached to a vehicle and left it running as he wheeled in the black vote box and a cardboard box full of ballots on a dolly.

“You gonna be alright on your own, Miriam?” Russell asked as he positioned the box next to the table according to Miriam’s hand gestures.

“Yes, of course.  I’ve been dong this longer than you’ve been alive,” Miriam said.  “Just put the ballots on the table.”

“They’re supposed to be in a secure location.”

“They’ll be fine.”

Russell set the box on the end of the table.

“You got your voter book?” he asked.

“Picked it up this morning.”  Miriam opened the ballot box.

Russell looked around, unable to decide if he should put his hands in his pockets or not.  “Anything else you need while I’m on the get, Miriam?”

“No, no, Russell, I’m fine,” she said without looking up, dismissing him with a flutter of her hand.

“Good.  ‘Cause they’re on the move,” Russell said, hurrying toward the door.

“Of course they are,” Miriam said.  “They don’t like to be late.”

Russell said a hasty goodbye at the door and Miriam gave him another wave.  She listened to his truck roar off into the morning.

Miriam busied herself by testing all of the magic black pens as she placed them at the voting pedestals.  She opened up the voting book, took out a stack of ballots and a roll of “I Voted” stickers from the cardboard box, and retrieved her “voting stick” from the storage room.  Miriam sat down with a sigh, the cushion deflating beneath her, a delicate ache creeping up her legs and along her spine.  She waited.

The first voter of the day shambled in right at eight.  A trail of dirt followed him, falling from the cuffs of his pants and the pockets of his jacket.  Miriam grimaced at the sight.  She forgot to bring the broom out from the storage room.  Sighing, she got to her feet.  Miriam flipped the book to the correct page as he staggered to the table in a less than straight line, his eyes half-open, a faint scent of rot preceding him.  Miriam knew Douglas Kless when she saw him even if he had been dead six years, in part because embalming had improved over the years (Douglas had hardly moldered at all), but mostly because Miriam was always good with names and faces, even decomposed ones.

“Morning, Douglas,” she said, even though she knew he wouldn’t respond and honestly wasn’t sure if he heard her, but that was no different than when he was alive.  She liked to be polite.

With one hand, Miriam held out a pen for dead Douglas Kless, killed by a brain aneurysm on his way home from a movie, and with the other she pointed to the place in the book Douglas was supposed to sign.  Douglas took the pen with clumsy fingers and his hand dropped down to the book.  Somehow he formed something that looked like a “D” on his space.  He dropped the pen.

“Both sides, Douglas.”  Miriam flipped the ballot over and back before handing it to him.  She put a sticker on his lapel.

Douglas Kless stood there for a minute, blank and swaying.  Miriam picked up the “voting stick”, a stubby, faded blue broomstick, and prodded him with it.  Douglas started walking, feet dragging along the hardwood, to the voting pedestal.

The doorway darkened with the arrival of several more voters.

In Chicago, the dead voted in spirit.  Downstate, they voted in body.  At least in this town they did.  They voted until they were so rotted, so decayed that they couldn’t claw themselves out of their graves and shamble to the polling place.  It’s why Miriam’s husband Gene had himself cremated.  He had enough trouble deciding whom to vote for while his brains worked; God only knew the trouble he’d have once they stopped.

Miriam felt the same way.

***

Wanna read the rest? Head on over to the Storytime Jukebox and drop in some change.

It originally appeared in the anthology Zombidays: Festivities of the Flesheaters, which is currently out of print.

September Writing Projects

Yellow flowersI have a Patreon. I can’t say that I’ve made much use of it because I felt weird and undeserving to have people give me money like that. But with the success of the Storytime Jukebox, I decided that if I have it, then I really should put it to better use.

So, I’m going to spend the month working on a project just for Patreon. I’m taking an old idea for a TV show (I was going to use it to practice script writing, outlined it, and then never went back to it) and turning it into a serial of sorts. Each story, which ideally will be posted once a month, will be one “episode”.  I’m going to work on the first few stories this month and see where it gets me. If everything goes well and it looks like it’s going to come together well, then I’ll redo my Patreon around it and get it all going.

If not, no real loss. I’ll still have the Patreon and I’ll have some stories written that I could use for something else. Remember, I never throw anything away. Hoarding dead stories and marginal ideas has proven quite useful to me.

Speaking of stories, I’ve been working on a trilogy of short stories. I came across a call for submissions for a series of connected anthologies. Though the deadline for the first one has passed and I’m not sure if I’m going to submit for the other two, I at least seized upon an idea that I’ve had for a while, and with a little bit of direction from the submission requirements, got something going.  Again, it’s one of those things that I don’t know what’s going to come of it, but I’m enjoying it and in the end, at some point, it’ll be useful.

I’ve got a bunch of old stuff on the To Do List of Doom, but this month, I’m going with this new flow.

August Writing Projects

sunIt’s August and I’m thinking I’ve hit the dog days of summer. Or maybe it’s just a bit of floundering on my own part because I’m not sure what I want to do this month.

I finished the revisions on Open Christmas Eve so, while not spectacular, the script is long enough to not be considered bullshit and I’m good with that. I no longer feel like a fraud, just a hack, and that’s my default, so it’s fine.

I also got the Storytime Jukebox up and running, which was a thing that I wasn’t sure I could or should do, but in the end I felt like I didn’t have a choice. The response I’ve had in the few days it’s been up is more than I actually hoped for and I hope it continues. I so appreciate the help.

It’s times like these, when the malaise and scatterbrainedness hits me, that I’m glad I have an epic To Do List of Doom. I may not know exactly what I want to work on, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have plenty of options.

So at some point during this month I will probably-

-Revise a couple of more stories for the jukebox and/or

-Write the first drafts of some short stories for the next anthology and/or

-Finish the first draft of one of my other test scripts for practice and/or

-Something else I can’t remember even though I just looked at the To Do List of Doom like four minutes ago.

Yeah. The scatterbrained malaise is that bad.

But August won’t be. I will be productive.

I will get at least one thing done.

I wonder what it will be.

The Storytime Jukebox

worldartsme.com

***UPDATE***

My goal has been reached!

My undying thanks to those that contributed to the Storytime Jukebox, whether you put money in it or shared the link or sent me positive vibes. You are all wonderful, your generosity is overwhelming, and my appreciation is eternal. The bills will be paid and the writing lights will stay on! Hallelujah!

I’m going to keep the Storytime Jukebox going. The immediate need for it has passed, but it turns out that it’s a nice little niche to stick the odd story that has no home in and give it a chance to be read if someone is willing to pay a nickle or a dime or a quarter. Another crucifix against the Count Income Interruptus.

Once again, I can’t thank everyone who supported me enough because just saying “thank you” doesn’t seem sufficient. But know that those two little words come directly from my heart.

***

***UPDATE***

I’m about half-way to my goal. Thanks to everyone who has helped me out so far!

To celebrate the milestone, I’ve added two novellas to the Storytime Jukebox: The Haunting of the Woodlow Boys from Ghostly and The Monster in the Woods from People Are Terrible. Both contain an author’s note that’s exclusive to the Storytime Jukebox.

So, if you haven’t got either of these short story collections or if you have and you’re dying to know where I got the ideas for these novellas, shine up your nickles and drop them in the machine!

***

Let’s be honest about the nickels and dimes here: 2016 has not been a prosperous one for me. I’ve experienced a lot of income interruptus with both of my day jobs. Considering that they’re not exactly high-paying to begin with, any kind of money-flow hiccup is felt (and the biggest of all is coming very soon). The repeated hiccups this year have me feeling like I did during that one softball game as a kid when I got drilled in the same spot on my hip three at-bats in a row. That bruise didn’t heal until school started.

Well, to carry the analogy as far as I can before it gets ridiculous, my money bruise has barely even begun to heal and I’m facing another pitcher that wouldn’t mind dinging me.

In an attempt to earn the money I’m needing, I’ve set up this Storytime Jukebox. It works on the same basic principle as a regular jukebox: You pay what you want and I send you a story (or stories) of your choice from the list.

The goal is to raise $150 by the end of August. I know it doesn’t sound like a lot, but right now to me, it’s an incredible sum. I’m hoping this is the way to do it, or at the very least, help. The money is to keep the lights of my writing career on, so to speak (blog renewal, Microsoft Office renewal, etc.).

This is a new venture for me and I’m sure there’s lots of room for improvement. Any constructive feedback is welcomed.

So, if you’d like to help this broke writer in exchange for some pretty good stories to read, I’d very much appreciate it.

And as always, sharing is caring. The more people know, the better the chances of me reaching my goal.

July Writing Projects

FireworksSo, the novel fell apart spectacularly, but I can strip it for parts. And I did finish the 99 novella. I have no idea what I’m going to do with it. It may end up being one of those personal writing projects, something I needed to do just for me. And that’s cool. I do not mind those sorts of projects because they free up brain space. June wasn’t a total waste.

This month I’ll revise Open Christmas Eve. And by revise I mean make it longer because it is really short for a script. All part of me feeling less like a fraud about my contest entry that will probably not win anything.

Speaking of contests, the short story I entered into a contest earlier this year did not win, so I’m going to put that loser to the side and do something else with it later. But still, buy my stuff and tell me I’m pretty because my ego hurts.

And speaking of short stories, that’s going to be my main objective this month. I have an idea for a new short story collection, so I’ll be writing and revising with the aim of starting that. I’ve also go another idea for a different short story project that I’m not sure I’ll be able to pull off, but hey, I gotta try. That will be mostly revising short stories that I’ve never been able to find a home for.

July looks to have a whole lot going on.

Who needs summer vacation?

April Writing Projects

Yellow flowersRemember last month when I said that I was forcing myself to revise two short stories that needed a lot of work and I didn’t like them and it was going to take me forever and everything was terrible?

Yeah, that was all nothing but an empty whine because I ended up getting them both done in about two weeks. I didn’t anticipate that, but it happened, and I’m happier for it.

And since I got them done so quickly, I just moved right on to the next big revision, The Haunting of the Woodlow Boys, which I’ll continue working on this month. I’ve got over half of it done already, but it’s the last third or so that really needs a lot of work and rewriting. I’m going to take my time with it. It’s the last story in the still-untitled ghost story collection that needs major revisions. Once it gets done, that whole thing should come together pretty quickly.

In side project news, if you follow me on Twitter (you probably shouldn’t because I’m terrible) or read the tweets that come up on the blog, then you know I’ve been referencing five outlines. First I talked about finishing them; now I’m talking about writing synopsis and fifteen pages. It’s possible you might be wondering what the hell I’m talking about.

(It’s also possible that you don’t give a shit, and that’s also valid.)

I’m going to try my hand at the Writer’s Digest Annual Writing Competition again. Nine years after winning 10th place in the genre category and a few failures in other categories since then, I’ve decided to try my hand at the script category. I’ve only written a script once before for Script Frenzy (which they don’t do anymore), so I’m looking at this as a personal challenge that’s going to cost me a $25 entry fee.

So what’s the deal with the five outlines? I took five ideas that I had and outlined them. Now I’m writing the first fifteen pages and synopsis (the requirement for the entry) of each one to see which one I think is the strongest entry. Then I’ll take the one I think is strongest, polish it all up, and submit it. Is it a lot of extra work to do it this way? Yeah, probably, but it gives me some practice. Am I cheating by only doing the first fifteen pages? Yeah, probably, but I will finish whatever one I submit for sure. It just won’t be done by the deadline, which is in May. I only have one more outline that needs fifteen pages and a synopsis written, so I’ve got plenty of time to get this done. I find script writing to go very quickly for me.

Which means I’m probably doing it wrong.