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!

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.