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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.