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.
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!
Hanging at the End Of
It was a typical day in Munsterville, the industrial city of 70,000 (give or take), with people on lunch break or hurrying to start second shift somewhere or running errands, the general business of a typical city running at its typical hum. The sky was blue and the day was warm without being oppressively hot like late summer had a tendency to be. And since this was a typical day in Munsterville, that meant that the city was living up to its jaunty nickname: Murderville. Weird deaths abound in Munsterville. And weird deaths require creative clean-ups, which was why the family business of Jones Cleaners had steady work.
Lu Jones sat in her parents’ office, eating a roast beef sandwich. Lu had agreed to “mind the store” during her lunch hour while her parents picked up some cleaning supplies. Her older siblings, Dru and Nico, were cleaning up the death scene of an elderly gentleman who’d died in his home and had gone undiscovered for over a week. Her younger siblings, twins Dash and Tag, were cleaning up the scene of a suicide by shotgun in an apartment. So, Lu was left to sit in the office and answer the phones as she ate her lunch while everyone else was out. It was purely as a favor; Lu was the only one in the family that didn’t work the family business, a bone of contention picked at every family gathering in which there were more than two Joneses, which happened multiple times a week, so that bone was cleaned of meat years ago. Instead of cleaning up death scenes, Lu investigated them. She worked as a death investigator out of the city’s coroner’s office. Same general area of the family business, but different line of work. Horseshoes and hand grenades, her family said.
Kicked back at the reception desk in the tiny front area of the office, feet up, sandwich in the process of being devoured, Lu nearly choked in her scramble to right herself when the door opened. They didn’t get many walk-in customers (she was really just there to answer the phone), but people did come in to pay their bills and Lu didn’t want to hear it from her mother that she was being unprofessional when someone did.
In strolled her brother-in-law, Detective Josh Carpenter, looking dashing and handsome as always. Truly, the man looked like he should be playing the lead in some big budget Hollywood action movie that called for a good looking, tough, but charming and sensitive African-American man instead of investigating curious deaths in a no-name city like Munsterville. How her goofy-looking white boy brother Nico ever landed him, Lu would never know, but the couple had been together for fifteen years, married for close to six of them.
“What are you doing here, Lu?” Josh asked with a grin as the door swung shut behind him.
There was no sense in Lu trying to recover her cool now. She picked up her discarded sandwich.
“Watching the phones for Mom and Dad while I eat,” Lu said, sitting back and kicking her feet up on the desk again. She took another bite of her sandwich and asked her question around it. “What are you doing here?”
“Hoping to catch Nico while I had a minute,” Josh said with a bit of a wistful sigh.
He sat down in one of the chairs on the opposite side of the desk.
“He’s cleaning an undiscovered scene.”
Josh made a disgusted face. Lu didn’t need to give him any details.
“Been busy?” Lu asked him, this time without a mouthful of sandwich.
“After that whole thing with the Harmon case, I feel like I’ve been on garbage detail.”
Winchester Harmon was a rich guy with a warped sense of humor who decided when he received a terminal cancer diagnosis to kill himself, make it look like a murder, and send a whole bunch of poor people on a wild goose chase. Josh had been lead detective on that case and took the whole thing very personally. Lu couldn’t quite blame him; she would have clocked Harmon for what he’d done if he hadn’t already been dead.
“You’re imagining things,” Lu said. “Your ego is bruised because that big murder case turned out to be a weird suicide practical joke thing. You really think the chief is going to hold that bizzaro twist against you?”
Josh looked at Lu like she must have been out of her mind.
“Have you met this woman?” he asked. “She does not take failure lightly and to her, this looked like a huge, public failure because we didn’t immediately conclude it was a suicide, not a homicide.”
“Oh, please,” Lu said with a roll of her eyes. She sat up, leaning on the desk with one elbow. “It was a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest. The gun was found half a block away under some bushes. It was staged to look like a murder and it was pretty convincing. It took an anonymous tip to sort it out. That’s how convincing it was.”
“That’s not how the chief sees it.”
“Well, she needs glasses. You did good work, you did it by the book, and anyone would say so. It was a weird case to crack.”
Lu ate the last bite of her sandwich and chewed it in a determined fashion. Josh shook his head, entirely unconvinced.
The tone of a pipe organ, mournful and funeral-like, emanated from Lu’s back pocket. She pulled out her cell phone. Before she could look at it, Josh’s cell chirped from the depths of his suit jacket. He fished around for it.
“Dead body at End Of,” Lu said, reading her text.
When I was younger, my two preferred career choices were either shark biologist or meteorologist with a specialty in tornadoes. Because I only like science when it wants to kill me. Okay, that’s not entirely true, but my interest in science could be the reason why I’m doing a few experiments this year.
Or calling them experiments, anyway.
I suppose it might be more accurate to call them challenges or resolutions, but I already make half-assed resolutions, so I don’t need any more. And I don’t like calling them challenges. I do challenging things and they’re tiring. I don’t want to be exhausted just thinking about these things.
So, instead, I approach them scientifically. Because I love the scientific method. Somehow, that doesn’t sound exhausting to me.
I hadn’t intended to do any experiments this year, but in the last few days of 2017 and the first day of 2018, three ideas came to me and I decided to act on them.
Experiment #1: 100 Days of Exercise
December was a disaster for me fitness-wise. I was only a few days in and I was like, “Yeah, I’m tired. Can we be done?”, which fed into the struggles I’d already been having with my exercise routine. During my reset week (the days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve), I watched a lot of videos of people doing things every day for 100 days: going to the gym, doing push-ups, making origami birds. It inspired me to do my own thing.
At least twenty minutes of exercise every day for 100 days. I’m hoping that this will jerk me out of my exercise slump and help me feel better so I won’t descend into another slump later in the year.
Experiment #2: Write a page a day
Yes, I already write a lot. Just about every day in fact. I write whole novels in November. But as it’s commonly said among writers (or maybe I’ve just read it a few times and now I think it’s common), if you write one page a day, by the end of the year, you’ll have a book. And I want to try that.
I picked one of the story ideas that I got towards the end of 2017, one that I really like, but have no idea when I’d write. This experiment solves that. Now, I don’t know if I’ll actually write 365 pages of this story; I don’t think I’ve ever written any story that was that long, even double-spaced. But I will write one page a day, every day, until it’s done. That works for me.
I can also use this as a warm-up page to help me get into my writing work on the days I’m feeling sluggish and a bit procrastinate-y.
Experiment #3: Write four sentences in four different languages
By virtue of Duolingo, I’ve been studying different languages. I started with Spanish, which I took two years of in high school, because I needed to brush up in order to teach it to my nieces for their home school curriculum. When I finished all of the lessons in the Spanish section, I started with French. I hated French, so I didn’t get very far before stopping for a while.
When I picked it back up, I added Russian to my languages because I’ve always been fascinated with their alphabet and wanted to learn to read it. When Duolingo offered Czech in beta, I quickly added it, too, since it has some similarities to Russian.
Yes. I’m insane.
To help my understanding and memory retention, I thought it’d be a good idea to actually write a sentence in each language every day. Just one sentence per language and it doesn’t have to be a difficult one. It doesn’t even have to be the same one. With Spanish, I can pretty much write whatever comes to my head, but with the others, I’ll probably be copying sentences from the lessons until I get more comfortable.
I have no idea if this will actually help me with learning my languages, but I figure it can’t hurt. It’ll also be a good use for one of my many, many notebooks.
I’m looking forward to doing these three little experiments. If anything, they’ll make my year a little more interesting.
Science must be served!