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.

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!

How to Support Your Local Writer

Rainbow paper**Though I’m speaking as a writer and talking specifically about writers and writing, these things can be applied to any artist, really.**

Writing can be a lonely gig. It’s a lot of time spent in your own head, trying to capture the things you see in your imagination and translate them into words that you then put on the page. There’s not a lot that other people can do to help you get your work done (aside from leaving you alone and letting you work, maybe picking up some of the chores or fetching dinner once in a while). But there are many ways that you can support your local writer.

Buy their work. This is the most obvious way, and yet, it still doesn’t happen as much as you think, for several reasons. Not having the cash is one. Or the work might not be to your taste. You have no idea how many times I get told that people would like to read my stuff, but they don’t dig horror (and that’s the majority of what I write). I don’t take it personally, but it still sort of bums me out. But even if the work isn’t to your specific taste, it might be to someone else’s. You can rec it to them (more on that later) or, if you’re feeling bold, buy it for them. Force it upon them. Maybe they’ll never read it, but you still gave your writer a little coin and tried to get their work out. That means a lot.

Read and REVIEW their work. If the work is to your liking, buying it is great. But reading and reviewing it is HUGE. Notice the emphasis on reviewing. Naturally, the writer’s fragile ego is boosted to hear directly from your mouth how much you love their stories, but leaving a review tells LOTS of people. And the more reviews, the better. Places like Amazon and Goodreads give priority to books that have more reviews and makes them easier for customers to find. By leaving a review, you give your writer a shot at getting noticed by someone else. And it doesn’t have to be a full-on book report either. A rating accompanied by a couple of sentences about what you liked (or didn’t like; I’m a writer that digs honesty) is adequate.

Give them money anyway. Okay, maybe this one is just me and just because I’m currently without a day job, but I actually started doing this earlier this year. It’s not easy for unknown writers and/or self-published writers like myself to make much money off of their work. It’s a competitive market out there and carving a niche takes time, effort, and low low prices. This year I decided to no longer make it difficult for people to give me money. In addition to my self-published body of work, I’ve got the Storytime Jukebox and Patreon. I’ve also set up a tip jar of sorts through Ko-Fi. If you like what you read here or just want to give me some monetary encouragement without the commitment of owning any of my words, you can buy me a coffee. Three bucks doesn’t sound like much, but just the act of being acknowledged in such a way is a real boost. If you’ve got the money to give, find a way to give it.

Spread the word. Whether you buy their work or not, whether it’s your genre or not, let other people know that it exists! That your writer exists! I’ll say it again in bold and all-caps: SPREAD THE WORD! This is the most valuable yet inexpensive way to show support to your writer. Share their Facebook posts, retweet their tweets, link to their blog/website/author page, recommend them to friends and family and co-workers and strangers, surreptitiously add their work to people’s wishlists. Don’t keep your writer or their work a secret. Word of mouth is how fanbases get built. The bigger your writer’s fanbase, the more support they have.

The more support your writer has, the happier your writer will be.

And when the writer is happy, the work is a little less lonely.

Murderville: The Last Joke–Episode 3

The Mistresses and The Frenchman

Pam sat alone at the bar in the Green Light, doing the books there on this Wednesday afternoon like she usually did because Wednesdays were dead (she and Rusher the bartender were the only ones in the place) and the office felt too isolated.  The bar had the typical warm ambiance of a dive.  There were TVs mounted on the wall at each end of the bar as well as in the corners across the room.  The bar top and tables only looked as clean as the generations of glass rings staining the wood would allow, which most people didn’t notice because the peanut shells and bits of pretzel salt from the ever present bowls were a nice distraction.  There was a jukebox to one side of the room, an updated digital kind that the boss had recently splurged on.

The door of the bar opening startled Pam and she watched the woman who came in stroll to the bar and sit down at the opposite end of it.  Rusher the bartender, who looked like he’d come out of the womb with a martini shaker in one hand and the knowledge of a perfect draft pour in his head, moved down the bar to serve her at a pace that matched his last name.  She was a traditionally attractive woman with long dark hair and a figure with just the right amount of curve to it.  Her low cut blouse accentuated her breasts in a way that made Pam envious.  Sure, she was well-endowed herself, but even in a bra her breasts lacked the perkiness required to pull off that look.  The woman made Pam think of Carolyn Harmon accusing Pam of being one of her husband’s mistresses.  If Pam had to pick out what she thought his ideal mistress would be, it would be the woman sitting down at the end of the bar.

The woman ordered a vodka tonic and then turned away from the bar to watch the door.

Rusher served her and then moseyed at his usual pace back down the bar to where Pam sat so he could lean against it and resume their conversation.

“Don’t think I’ve ever seen you move so fast to serve someone,” Pam said with a smirk.

The friendly jab didn’t faze Rusher.

“Don’t think I’ve seen a prettier woman in here on a Wednesday afternoon.”

“I like how you say that like I can’t rec to the boss that you should take a pay cut for the greater good of the business.”

Rusher laughed.  “Jealousy isn’t a good look on you, Pam.”

“Who said I was jealous?”

“If you’re not jealous, then why are you squinting at her like that?”

Pam checked the configuration of her face.

“I’m not squinting.”

“You’re looking hard at her.”

“That’s because she’s the prettiest woman I’ve ever seen in this dive on a Wednesday afternoon.”

Rusher laughed again.

“And I’m wondering who she’s waiting for.”

“How do you know she’s waiting for someone?”

“She’s watching the door.”

Rusher lightly slapped Pam’s arm with his bar towel.  Pam was happy it was dry for a change.

“Curiosity will get you in the end, Bendixen,” he said.

“So I’ve been told.  But being curious at a distance is pretty safe.”

“Uh huh.”

The front door opened, spilling a shaft of almost too-bright daylight into the bar, cutting the cool dimness with all the harshness of a semi-sharp knife.  A blob of shadows morphed into two women, who blinked almost in unison as the door closed behind them, their eyes struggling to adjust as they looked around.  One was tall, blonde, and, like Pam, overly voluptuous.  She wore a brightly colored dress that matched her equally bright lipstick.  She was pretty in a youthful sort of way, the kind of pretty that would linger as she aged before one day giving it up in a rush.  The other was an athletic black woman dressed like she was either coming from or going to the gym, yoga pants and a t-shirt, her natural hair in a poof held away from her face with a headband.  She was a strikingly good looking woman.  One look at her told Pam that if the woman wore a little black dress, a touch of mascara, and the slightest hint of lipstick, there wouldn’t be a man in her presence not in love.

The black woman caught sight of the woman at the bar first and elbowed her companion.  The two made their way over to her.

Pam watched as they sat down next to the woman already at the bar and Rusher hurried down the bar much in the same way he’d done before to take their orders.  The athletic woman got a screwdriver; the blonde ordered a Cosmo.

Rusher set their drinks in front of them and then shuffled back down the bar.

The three women sat together, but didn’t speak, a thread of tension stretching between them.  This wasn’t three girlfriends meeting in a dive bar on a whim to begin a fun little girls’ afternoon.  This was some kind of meeting with an uncomfortable agenda that no one really wanted to approach.

“Hey,” Rusher said, jerking Pam out of her thoughts.  She looked over at him.  He smirked at her, like he caught her daydreaming.  “I need a break.  Can you cover for me?”

“Yeah, sure,” Pam said, forcing the fog of speculation out of her brain.  She gathered up her work.  “I can’t believe that you’d dare take a break with three pretty women sitting at your bar.”

Rusher laughed.

“They’re nursers.  I’ll have plenty of time to observe and serve.”

“Right.  Let me just put this in the office.”

Pam walked out of the bar and hurried to the office, ditching her paperwork on the desk, stopping long enough to lock the office door before hurrying back to the bar.  She was afraid she might miss some development in the live action soap opera happening.  Pam forced herself to slow down just before hitting the bar area, strolling casually back behind the bar.

“Okay, you’re good,” Pam told Rusher.

“Thanks, Pam,” Rusher said and he produced a pack of cigarettes from under the bar.  “I’ll be back in fifteen or twenty.”

“Okay,” Pam said and Rusher disappeared down the hallway, no doubt to go out the backdoor to smoke since the boss frowned on employees smoking out front.  Pam didn’t know how it could possibly ruin the look of a dive bar, but apparently it did.

The three women still sat the bar, nursing their drinks, not looking at each other, not speaking.  The tension, though, had changed somewhat, like it was about to break.  Someone was going to say something and they were going to say it soon and for whatever reason, Pam wanted to hear it.  Bookkeeping for a bar was surprisingly boring.  This looked like it could be interesting.

Pam moved down to the middle of the bar, looking like she was trying to get a better view of the TV mounted on the wall at the end of the bar where the three women were sitting, but really it was so she could catch any snippets of conversation that might come floating her way.

She didn’t have to wait long.  It seemed that Rusher’s absence uncorked whatever was shaking up in the bottle they all held.

“So, now what do we do?” the blonde asked.

###

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

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.

(Sort of) New Release! The Haunting of the Woodlow Boys

The Haunting of the Woodlow Boys

Okay, so this isn’t exactly a new release. You can find this novella in Ghostly. However, Ghostly isn’t selling well and I really like this story and I want it read. By releasing it as a stand alone, I’m hoping to a) get more people to read it and b) convince more people to purchase Ghostly and give all of those stories a read.

You can get this eBook on Smashwords,  Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, and iBooks.

Writing Without a Day Job: The Adventure Begins

coinsChild learnin’ has come to an end for me.

This was not entirely unexpected (no need to go into details), though the timing was sooner than I anticipated.

What matters is that I am without a day job of some kind for the first time in six years.  I view this as both a blessing and a challenge. The challenge, obviously, is to pay my bills while also finding a new day job to help supplement my income, especially since I still haven’t replaced the floorset side hustle yet.

The blessing, though, comes in the form of opportunity. When I lost my floorset job, I chose to see it as a push from the Universe to really focus and promote my writing career. I’ve taken tentative steps in doing that. It’s still not something I’m entirely comfortable with. Without any day job, I have the opportunity to really push myself, to make writing my sole focus day job, at least for a little while.

I already had some projects in the works that were in this spirit. They’re going to have priority in the next couple of weeks, that’s for sure. Selling my books, getting patrons for Murderville, making the Storytime Jukebox better, all of that is going to be key. It’s the side of the business that I admit to not working hard enough on because I don’t want to be annoying. I don’t want to be a walking commercial, a constant promotion that ends up being tuned out. But considering how very little I do of it right now, I think a moderate increase wouldn’t be too over the top.

Also, I can no longer use the excuse of not having the time/energy to promote myself. Got plenty of it in the immediate future! No reason not to use some of that free time/free energy to cultivate and utilize some new promotional skills.

The point is that as optimistic as I am, it is highly unlikely that I will be able to survive without a steady day job of some kind. Most writers can’t. However, while I am looking for that new day job, I can take the time to elevate my writing career to a new level. That’s something long overdue.

So, here’s to the next adventure.

Endings are new beginnings and all that.

Murderville: The Last Joke–Episode 2

Eavesdropping at a Funeral

Thursday, three days after finding Winchester Harmon dead on their front stoop, Pam and Drew arrived home from their respective jobs at the same time, an unusual occurrence.  Bear honked as he drove away, Drew shambling up the front walk to meet Pam on the stoop.  He gave her a tired kiss and she pulled the mail from the mailbox before unlocking the door, the two of them going in the house.

“What do you want for dinner?” Pam asked as she sifted through the mail in her hand.  She dumped her bag on the nearest chair she passed.

Drew collapsed on the couch.

“I don’t care,” he said.  “I’m not sure I have enough energy to chew it.  I hate sheetrock.  Hate it.”

“I know, baby,” Pam said automatically, but not without sincerity.  She stopped suddenly in the kitchen doorway and Drew heard her mutter, “Oh shit.”

Drew’s dead muscles surged with a new life.  The only reason that he could think that Pam would be muttering any swears while looking at the mail would be a bill that they didn’t need and couldn’t pay.  Adrenaline got him to his feet before he even knew he was moving.  Fight or flight in response to a bill.  Seemed perfectly reasonable and not at all the result of continued stress.

“What?” he asked, crossing the living room in several large steps.  “What is it?  What now?  Who wants money now?”

Pam turned and looked up at him, holding up a card.

“We’ve been invited to Winchester Harmon’s funeral,” she said faintly, in total disbelief.

“His funeral?” Drew asked, confused.  He took the card away from Pam and looked at it.  “Who sends invitations to a funeral?”

“Rich people, apparently,” Pam said.  “Just another way to extort status.  A guest list for a wake.”

Drew looked over the invitation.  It was addressed to both of them and indeed asked that they come to the funeral service that was going to be held on Sunday.  They’d found Winchester Harmon dead on their doorstep on Monday.

“Why would they invite us?” Drew asked, looking the card over and over again.  He couldn’t believe it.  It didn’t make sense.  “How did she even know we found her husband?”

“Well, I did send Mrs. Harmon a condolence card,” Pam said.  Drew looked up at her and she ducked her head a little, sheepish.  “I told you I was going to.  It only seemed like the nice thing to do.  I guess she decided to invite us to the funeral because of it.”

“That must have been a carefully worded condolence card,” Drew said.  “We found your husband dead on our lawn.  Sorry for your loss.”

Pam smacked his arm.  “Good gravy, Drew, I have more sense than that.  I was very tactful about explaining who we were and why we were sending a card.  I wanted to make sure that we weren’t just some weirdos that like to send sympathy cards to rich widows.”

“You say that like it happens all of the time,” Drew said with a smirk.

“It could,” Pam said and she smiled sly at him.  “I wouldn’t know.  I’m not a rich widow.”

“And I am happy for that,” Drew said, kissing her.

Drew felt his weariness return and mingle with mild desire.  His wife had that effect on him still.

“So, what do you think?” Pam asked.

“I think I want to skip dinner and take you to bed while I’m still awake,” Drew said, kissing her again.

Pam giggled and pulled away a little.

“I mean about going to Winchester Harmon’s funeral.  Do we go?”

Drew thought about it for a minute, rubbing his wife’s back while he considered it.

“Sure,” he said.  “Who knows what kind of information we might get by mingling with family and friends and acquaintances.”

###

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