Monday, November 1, 2010

When the Going Gets Weird, the Weird Turn Pro

So I took a break from the blog. 'Bout a month or so.

I stepped back from posting when I realized just how much I dreaded updating my journal. I'd open the dashboard, pull up a new post and sit there, chewing my lip, my guts twisting. What the hell am I going to post about today? I'd think. The whole motivation behind this blog got mixed up with a business-minded attitude about myself and my writing. Instead of journaling about my life as a writer, I was building my "platform" in the most efficient way I could think of.

Which was what undid me, I think. Efficiency sucks. Ha, no... don't look at me like that. It sucks the creativity out of my brain. It turns music into numbers and poetry into words on a page. This stopped being my journal and started being an ongoing resume... every time I posted, I'd wonder what a potential agent or editor's opinion would be of the entry. If I was putting the right words out there. The right thoughts. The right face - that is, the face of the next published horror writer! Cue the trumpets.

Well... sorry, screw that, guys. The nature of art has nothing to do with business. I could go at this concept all soapbox-style, but you I'm sure you know what I mean.

I want to record my journey as a writer, from the small place I'm in now to the vast undiscovered country of the future. How my process works. Current projects. Learning about myself and my craft. This life experience from my little corner of the writers' universe. I took the last month to figure out why I never wanted to post anymore, and I've realized I can't turn this into a business in my brain. I have to just live my life and tell my stories. Everything else will follow along.

Hopefully you will, too. Come back soon.

P.S. I was Raoul Duke (Hunter Thompson) from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas for Halloween. Picture above. I rocked it. That is all.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Celebration: The Release of CassaStar!

I'm coming out of my brief blogging hiatus to let you guys know what a special day it is today - Tuesday, October 19th is the release date for Alex J. Cavanaugh's novel, CassaStar!

I've been eagerly awaiting this novel for months. Check out this awesome book trailer:




Congratulations on the book release, Alex, and I wish you the best! May your sales be plentiful - I know I'll be buying my copy very soon!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Music Monday: Lizzy Ross

This weekend I had the distinctive pleasure of a quick road trip to Durham, NC to see Lizzy Ross perform. Lizzy just released a new album, Traces, in June. Her sound is technically alternative rock... but it's hard to categorize what I heard on Friday night. Her music is a delicious hybrid of folk, jazz, rock, and blues, with clever lyrics and riffs impossible to resist dancing to.

The venue was a private little gathering spot out in the country, and as the sun went down, tiki torches blazed and strings of tiny Christmas lights twinkled under the stage rafters. As the evening deepened, the music became more and more intoxicating, with the band effortlessly spinning out tracks from the new album like "Wedding Cake" (a fast-paced song with a playful sound but a serious subject) and "Cross the Cuyahoga" (an ambitious track that alternates between a driving beat and a lyrical chill-out chorus). More and more people got up to dance as the show went on, and it was remarkable how easy it was to get lost in the music with complete strangers - the sound just took us all over, and we gave in happily.

I was reminded a bit of KT Tunstall with some of her songs, and Norah Jones on others, but it was about the time Lizzy busted out a cover of Chocolate Jesus by Tom Waits that I knew she had her own style and sound. It's obvious she's worked hard to become as good as she is, and even though the show was a small one, she and her band played their hearts out. They finished up with a great couple of songs - the bluesy, dance-hall crowd pleaser "Bones" got the audience up on its feet and out on the dance floor, and Lizzy treated us to a solo version of the title track from her new album, a bittersweet, poignant song about remembering love and having the hope to try and claim it one more time.

I really enjoyed the show and would definitely go see Lizzy again. I bought a copy of her new album, Traces, and I've already been listening to it this weekend. I'd highly recommend if you're in the Durham, NC area sometime in the next couple of months trying to make it to one of her shows. You'll have a great time. Here's a video of her performing her song "Bones" at the Festival for the Eno in July.


Bones from Lizzy Ross on Vimeo.

Happy Monday! Hope the new music makes it a little easier today.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Your Short Fiction: Keep Your Chin Up!

We've had a productive week, haven't we?

You polished up your short fiction, found a market to fit the piece, sent it off with an awesome query letter and have logged all the info in your submissions tracking database. Now there's just one thing left to do...

Wait.

Yeah, it's one of the hardest parts of the job. Your creations have flown the coop and are being reviewed by editors... so now you have to be patient and wait to hear back from the markets you've contacted. Usually it's a matter of weeks... but it can be months before you hear back. And I'll be honest... often, you don't hear back with good news.

But if you keep trying, if you believe in yourself and your talent, if you refuse to give up... you'll get there, eventually.

Remind yourself, when you receive a rejection, that this is a huge numbers game. The more rejections you get, the closer you are to getting published. After all, they can't all say no. Take the criticisms and suggestions offered and review them carefully. Remember, if they took the time to give you the pointers, that means your story impressed them in some way. Don't give up, try again.

And then one day, you'll open that email that says "we really liked this story, and we want to publish it in our upcoming issue". What a party there will be! I better be invited!

In the meantime... You can do this. I believe in you!

If you'd like to discuss more about getting short fiction published, feel free to comment. Have a fantastic weekend, my friend!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Your Short Fiction: Queries and Organization

You've polished your short story, searched through likely markets and found the one you think would work best for this particular piece. Now you're wondering how best to ask someone to read what you have to send.

Short and sweet is always best, in my opinion. Remember, editors get hundreds - if not thousands - of submissions a month. They don't need to know about your whole history. And you don't really have to tell them what the story's about, because they're going to find out anyway when they read it. Mention places you've been published, but stop when you get to five or six. Make sure to mention an award if you've been given one. Tell them a little about your current projects if you like. But seriously, keep the letter as short and to the point as possible. Here's a submission letter I sent to Apex magazine, so you can get the idea:
Good evening,

After reading through a few issues of Apex, I believe I've crafted a story that would fit well within your market. I'm excited for my work to run the Apex editors' gauntlet, and hope my work will be well received. Please see attached for my short horror piece, "Knights of the Road".

My short fiction has been published in Fissure magazine, Sinister Tales, A Cappella Zoo, Morpheus Tales, and moonShine Review. I've also finished the first draft of a horror novel, Blood in the Orchard, and am currently up to my elbows in the thorny process of editing that work. I'll be attending KillerCon in Las Vegas, NV this year and hope to find an agent for my book.

Thank you so much for your time, and especially for your consideration of my dark fiction.

Best Regards,

B. Miller
http://bmillerfiction.blogspot.com
http://twitter.com/bmillerfiction
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Greenville-SC/B-Miller/125194602349
Remember, editors are just people. Treat them with respect, like they're another person on the other end of the connection instead of a faceless email, and don't be afraid of them.

Keep track of where you send each and every story. If you're using the submissions tracker on Duotrope's Digest, this is a no-brainer. It keeps all the information you need on hand. If you're not, that's okay, too. Make yourself a spreadsheet that includes AT LEAST these criteria:
  • Market name
  • Date sent
  • Story name
  • Market web address
  • Notes section 
You can add any kind of criteria you like, of course, from word count to story genre to email address of the editor you sent it to. You can also make your spreadsheet as detailed or as simple as you like. The thing to remember, though, is that you MUST check this sheet regularly, just to keep an eye on things. Don't be afraid to query on a story that's been out there for a long time. Duotrope normally lists the average response rating for a market, but even if you don't know that information, I would query after six months. Your query letter should be as short and sweet as your first one, if not more so. Here was mine to Dark Discoveries when they held on to my story, "Watched", for over seven months:
Good morning,

Just wanted to touch base with you on the status of my story, "Watched". I sent it out for your review on January 7th. I know things must be hectic for you, and I hope I'm not being a bother. Would you please let me know at your convenience where the story stands? Thank you so much for your time and consideration.

Cheers,
B. Miller
Be confident. You're a professional, remember? Not only do you have talent, but you have dedication and determination. You have every right to be corresponding with these editors and asking them to take a look at your work. You've been working hard, and you've got something to show for it.

All right, that's enough for the day. Get your letter together, make sure your ducks are in a row, and then do what you've been putting off for... how long now?

Hit send, my friend.  

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Your Short Fiction: Finding a Market

So now you have an edited, polished story you're ready to send out into the world.

Don't be freaked out. Remember, this is what you signed on for. You're a writer, remember? The hard part's over - the story's already written. Now you just need to find someone as enthusiastic about your fiction as you are.

One of the most user-friendly and useful tools I've found on the internet for finding fiction markets is Duotrope's Digest. Duotrope is free, and it offers an online organization tool for tracking your submissions. All you need to do is plug in what you want in their nifty search form, and you have literally dozens, if not hundreds, of markets to choose from for your short fiction.

So here's the question: how do you choose?

Take a look at the acceptance ratings, first. This can be found on the market's listing page on Duotrope. The lower the acceptance rating, the less likely your piece is to get placed. If you've never published anything before, try something with a high approval rating. Big markets like Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction or Weird Tales probably aren't going to publish a first-time writer. Be realistic in your goals; remember you have to get your chops before you can move up the ladder.

Narrow it down to a few markets. Now, visit their websites. Take a look at whether or not they accept simultaneous submissions - that's the practice of submitting your story to more than one market at a time. Many markets are okay with simsubs, but some aren't. Make sure your formatting matches what they require in their submissions guidelines. Also keep in mind how the market accepts submissions - not everyone accepts emailed stories. If you're not willing to shell out the postage, toner and paper, make sure to only research markets who accept electronic submissions.

Most importantly, take the time to get familiar with the type of material offered by the market you're researching. If they have PDF issues or excerpts available on their website, read them. Look on the shelves of your local bookstore for those small markets, if you can find them. Try to gauge if your work will be a good fit for the market, and if your fiction fits with the kind of publications this market is known for. Before you know it, you'll find a market to fit your work.

Now that you've selected a market to submit to, you're almost ready to send it out! Tomorrow we'll cover the short fiction query letter, plus keeping up with your submissions in the field. If you've got any questions or comments about finding a market for your work, feel free to comment!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Your Short Fiction: Polishing

The first step to getting your short stories published is to make sure they're a marketable product. Thousands of stories are submitted to markets on a monthly basis, so it's incredibly important that your work shine when it gets in the hands of a potential market editor.

First, check the spelling and grammar of your piece. Do NOT rely on your word processor's spelling/grammar checker to do this for you! If you type "Jenny was Eric's best fried in high school", the spell checker won't catch the misspell in the word "friend". But you can bet the market editor will catch it, and they WON'T be impressed. If you've looked the story over a hundred times or you're not comfortable with your level of skill in grammar, ask a friend or a writing partner to look over the story for you. A fresh pair of eyes will see mistakes you've overlooked.

Now that you're relatively sure everything's spelled and said correctly, go over your prose and look for passive words and phrases. "Ellen was singing" can easily become "Ellen sang". Also look for words like "that" and "had". Cut as many of these as you can. The same goes for words ending in -ly. KILL YOUR ADVERBS!! This will make your prose cleaner and tighter, and read faster. The vast majority of editors out there are looking for a quick read.

Now take a look at the story as a whole. Is there a beginning, middle, and end? Can you summarize what happens in a few succinct sentences? Are your characters believable?

Once you've completed these steps, it's time to format your piece. Most markets call for "standard formatting", which (loosely) consists of these rules:

  • Double-spaced text
  • 12 pt. Courier or Times New Roman (stick with the TNR; courier is usually accepted more in overseas markets)
  • The title, centered and bolded, just before the story begins
  • Numbered pages on the bottom right-hand corner of every page except page 1
  • A small header at the right hand top of each page except page 1 that says your last name and the name of the story
  • Indented continual paragraphs
  • Your name and contact info (mailing address, email address, phone # if you want to include it) at the top left corner of page 1
  • Word count at the top right corner of page 

I usually compose in standard formatting to save time later. Remember, not every market uses these rules, so make sure you check the submission guidelines for the market before you send it off. We'll go over more on that tomorrow.

Once you've completed these steps, print your story out and read it one last time. Give yourself a fresh "lens" to read through - try to imagine your ideal reader for this piece as you read. Pick a friend, a colleague, or someone else you'd like to share your genius with. Try to read it from their perspective. What do you think they would think of your words?

Okay. That's enough for today. Polish, polish, polish... now take a deep breath and a few steps back. We'll find a home for that perfect short piece tomorrow. If you've got any other polishing tips you'd like to share, please feel free! We learn new things every day. 

Monday, September 20, 2010

Your Short Fiction!

Let's talk about those unpublished short stories you have.

You know, the ones in that file. The ones you haven't sent out? Yeah, THOSE stories. I have a question for you. Why haven't you sent them out?

Don't look at me like that. I mean.it. Seriously! Some of those are really good. You know they are. And if you send them out, circulate them around, you never know, someone might pick one up and publish it.

What's that? So what? So what?! Here's what: the more short stories you have published, the more credits you have. The more credits you have, the more likely an agent, editor or publisher is to give you the time of day. Plus, some markets submit really good stories for awards... and if you've won a short fiction award, you're all the more attractive to a potential connection that's a few rungs higher up the industry ladder... know what I mean?

I understand you're nervous about it. But don't be! Remember, the only thing they can say is "no". And you have to start getting rejected if you're ever going to get accepted, remember? So let me go over some things with you this week to help you along the way of getting some of your short fiction published. We'll talk about polishing and formatting, finding markets to publish your work, cover letters, keeping yourself organized and dealing with rejection. Any other aspects of short fiction publishing you'd like to discuss? Just let me know in the comments today.

I've missed you guys and am so happy to be back at the helm of my blog. Full speed ahead, the week's laid about before us in a sparkling swath of possibility!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Three... Two... One... Novel Away!

I sent the files for Blood in the Orchard to the agent on Friday of last week.

Whooo! I'm happy it's out, and it's in good hands. Of course, I'm nervous, but I've developed a knack for forgetting about work that's out in circulation. I don't think I'll be obsessing about the fate of my MS for the whole 2-3 months the agent will take to get back to me.

He asked for the first four chapters, an excerpt starring the monster/creature of the book, and a full synopsis. I'd never done a synopsis for a novel before and had no idea how difficult it could be! I finally just went through the book, chapter by chapter, and hit all the high points in the synopsis (following the agent's advice from the panel I posted about last week).

The synopsis is definitely a tool I'll use directly after finishing the first draft of the next novel. Right away I could see huge pieces of the story I could carve out and still leave most everything relatively intact. One of the only sticking points the agent had about my book is how long it was. The finished first draft was 124k, and in editing I'd dropped it down to 119k... but he said that as a first time novelist I really need to be shooting for 100k or less. The reason, he said, is strictly economic... once the book surpasses 100k words, the printing prices jump. Which makes for a more expensive book at the end of the whole process... and in the end, a less attractive book for your potential reader. If no one knows your name, they're much less likely to spend $25-$29 for your 115k-word novel than they would $17-$21 for your 90k-word novel. So I need to find some fat to trim... and once I really buckled down on the synopsis, I found a few places I could cut. Mainly, any time I had a hard time figuring out how to explain a particular scene, I asked myself how important it was to the story, or if it was just writing for the sake of expressing my voice. Often it was the latter of the two.

So now I'm in the final edits of the MS, changing up a few things so I can have a polished copy if the agent wants to read the rest of it. And my baby is in someone else's hands... all I can do is send it out there with the best of my heart, and hope it won't come back too banged up.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Queries and Book Proposals

Last week at KillerCon I attended a great panel called "Writing Queries and Book Proposals that Sell!". It was an hour-long, interactive talk from an established horror agent, and it was by far one of the most informative panels I sat in on. I knew this was something YOU'D be interested in, dear reader, so I took good notes for you and am here to report back on the info I collected.

The agent stressed that one of the most important things a writer can do is RESEARCH the person they're querying. Agents are listed out there on websites all over the place (two that immediately spring to mind are agentquery.com and writers.net), and they're not shy about what they want and don't want. Most of them list on their profile what they're looking for, how they accept submissions, and basic guidelines for submitting. A writer who sends out blindly is going to do nothing but irritate the agents they send to and eventually give themselves a bad name. Customize your query to each individual agent before sending it out. DO NOT, under ANY CIRCUMSTANCES imaginable, send out one query to a crapload of agents at one time. They WILL notice the mass email and delete it immediately without even opening it (yes, the agent running the panel said this himself).

I think the thing to remember here is that agents are people just like us. They're not machines, they're not some data monster that eats pages and spits out rejections. Treat them with respect and professionalism, and you'll get the same in return. I found this out on a first-hand basis when I had my pitch on Friday. After we sat down and got into our conversation, I forgot I was talking to an agent (well... mostly). We just talked like regular people discussing a book. Which is what, if I'd given myself some perspective, all I could've expected in the first place. Pitches are not some test you have to pass! They're a professional conversation with a person who may or may not be interested in what you have to say.

When you create your pitch, try to remember that terminology such as "this book is Harry Potter meets Twilight!" doesn't really impress anyone in the publishing industry, and is really used more in film terminology and movie pitching. Give the agent 3-4 short, well-written sentences about your book. This is NOT a synopsis - we'll get to that later. This is just enough to get someone interested in hearing more about the concept.

Before I started all this research on the pitch, I didn't know what the difference between a pitch, a query, and a proposal was. What I've learned is this: a pitch is a face-to-face meeting with an agent or publisher where you immediately have an in to try to sell your book. A query is a one-page letter (or email) sent to an agent or publisher in attempt to interest them in a book proposal. And a proposal is a lot of things rolled up into one:

  • A short blurb about the book's overall story. Don't go over five sentences. Make it tight and short, with little sentences like punchy jabs. Don't get into huge detail here; you're only trying to get them to read on and see what the actual story is like.
  • About the author. Include works you've had published that fit within your genre from major markets. Let the agent know what you've been working on, but don't inundate them with dozens of names of minor markets. They need to know if you've gotten an award for your fiction, not that your cousin Danny has published four of your stories on the printing press in your garage. Tell just a little about the publication credits you've received, but don't go overboard.
  • Synopsis. This is, plain and simple, an outline of your story set into paragraph form. Give the high points of the story, remembering the Red Queen's advice to Alice the entire time: "Start at the beginning, and when you get to the end, STOP." The synopsis must have a clear, recognizable arc, and make sense from start to finish. This is like a map you draw after you finish the book, including all the turning points in the story. DO NOT leave out the end. The agent will want to know you're capable of wrapping up a story with a satisfying ending. Leaving them with a cliffhanger will do nothing but turn them off.
  • Partial. This is the first fifty pages, first four chapters, or first 10,000 words of your novel. DO NOT send more than this. An agent can tell immediately if what you've sent is too long. If you're right in the middle of a scene, take it to a logical stopping point and cut it off. The important thing to remember about those first fifty pages is that you MUST have introduced your main characters by the time your reader/agent gets to the end of them. If you haven't, you're probably not going to have a very successful novel on your hands. Be extra-careful of typos and grammar snafus in these pages. Make sure it's as polished as it can possibly be. 
  • Marketing info. This is potentially dangerous territory, so tread softly where you go. Don't make a lot of outrageous claims about how many copies your book is going to sell. That's for the bean counters in the publishing agencies to tally up. Do, however, include a list of other books similar to yours in the same market segment; books which have done reasonably well in the marketplace, or books the agent or his firm have published. 

Networking is essential. You have to have a good rapport with agents and publishers to get ANYWHERE nowadays. Remember, there are over 300,000 books published a year in America alone. You stand a much better chance of getting yours published if you have some contacts in the business. How can you network? You can go to a convention like I did... or if there's not one in your area or it's out of your price range, try finding agents on social networks like LinkedIn or Facebook, or checking out some of the message boards on the publishing websites you're interested in. Listen to conversations, and insert yourself into threads as you see fit. Before you know it, people will know who you are. 

One more tip from our panel agent: if you're at a loss on finding agents or editors, check the acknowledgement sections of the books you're emulating. Most authors will list their agents and editors in the acknowledgement page, and this is a great jumping off point for you to do more research on a person that may be able to help you on your way to getting published!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

KillerCon!

KillerCon was a great first-time conference experience. Absolute aces. I made amazing new friends, networked, got my name out there. I passed out business cards. I befriended the editors of at least three horror markets. I met so many writers... artists who inspire and astound me, new names on the playing field, experienced authors who had plenty of advice to offer - it was just a matter of asking.

KillerCon had a lot to offer, and here's a little bit about the different aspects of the conference:

Panels - Nine panels were offered at this year's KillerCon. There was a great variety of topics, from women in publishing to shapeshifters in horror fiction. Informative and interesting, and they offered the chance to ask questions and add to the conversation on most panels, as long as there was time. I took some great notes on the query letters and screenwriting panels, and I will post those here later in the week, if you're inclined to know my thoughts.

Prose - Between panels, writers read from their works. I listened to amazing prose from Brian Lumley, Adam Pepper, Michael Louis Calvillo, John Skipp, Cody Goodfellow, and Tananarive Due. It was a thrill to listen to these authors and have the opportunity to ask them questions about their work and their careers. There wasn't a single boring or bad reader and I wish I'd had the opportunity to sit in on every single reading there was.

Pitch - My pitch session was with an established horror agent, and it went really well. He seemed impressed with my concept, and asked for the first few chapters of my novel, plus a synopsis. He also asked for an excerpt featuring the monster of the novel, once he found out what the monster was. Hell of a nice guy; he set me at ease immediately and we had a real conversation that lasted much longer than the initial pitch session was supposed to - we talked for half an hour or so instead of the customary ten minutes.

Parties - After ten and eleven hour days of working, it was time to party. I had a great time mingling with everyone and talking about a little bit of everything, from writing to books, music, movies, and moonshine. Anything under the sun (and some things that aren't) came up over the two nights we had together. Saturday evening never ended for me, because a group of us stayed up forever - no kidding, three of us never went to bed. It was fulfilling to spend time with other writers - people who understand who I am and where I am in this process of crafting my career. And it was effortless. I clicked immediately with several people, and I'm looking forward to discovering and developing those friendships.

Particulars - The staff was dedicated to making sure everyone had something to take away from the experience. They had a snafu with the original conference hotel on the first day, but they worked hard to overcome the difficulty and make sure everyone was accommodated. The Stratosphere was a stellar hotel for a convention. The KillerCon attendees were welcoming and happy to talk with me, and I made a lot of new friends this weekend. I'm looking forward to seeing most of them again at KillerCon 3, if not at World Horror Con in 2011.

Them's the basics. Now - I know you've got questions, kids. Lay 'em on me. I'll be posting more this week on the panels I attended, and I had some really great ideas for an upcoming contest and a blog hop, too. I missed y'all and am glad to be back; now it's time to get to work!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Back in the Land of Sweet Tea and Free Internet


Howdy, y'all!

I'm back on the east coast after my trip to Vegas for KillerCon! I had a fantastic time, made lots of new friends, and had a wonderful pitch session on Friday. I'm in Atlanta at the moment, staying with a friend. Tomorrow I head back to Greenville and I'm so ready to get back. I've got a lot to work on and it's exciting!

Thanks so much to everyone who sent good vibes and encouragement my way! It really paid off. Expect a full report tomorrow on the convention!

See you back here tomorrow! I can't wait to fill you in on what all happened at the convention, but I gotta crash for now. I can't keep my eyes open. I'm wiped out!

Have a fantastic Monday!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Ready... Steady... Go!

KillerCon is this week! Whoooo!

I've been working on getting the novel edited, and putting a pitch session together. After a heated debate with my writing partner, I've decided to put the cut first section back into the novel. It's not my job to hack and slash at the prose; hopefully I'll have an editor interested in doing that. At this point, I feel the need to just back away before I do serious damage to the novel.

The pitch session has been worrying me, but I've finally wrapped my brain around it and done my best to stop being so damn stressed about it. I'm determined to enjoy the conference and relish it for exactly what it is: a chance to network and make new friends in the horror writing community, as well as get some pointers and suggestions for how best to query agents and editors about my manuscripts. Anything else is just gravy, at this point. It would be awesome if my book is a hit with an agent or an editor at the conference, but it's not something I'm going to obsess about. Especially if that would keep me from having a good time at the con.

So now I'm counting the hours, minutes, moments until it's time to go. I keep going over checklists in my mind, making sure I haven't forgotten anything. I finally finished the one-sheet for the pitch and it looks good, as far as I can tell. I feel like I'm stumbling around in the dark making this stuff up as I go along, but I'm sure everybody feels that way the first time.

I'll give you guys a full report when I get back... in fact, if I'm able to blog from the hotel I'll probably post something at the end of the week about how everything is going.

What are you looking forward to this week?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Proverb of the Month is...

"If you can do something about a situation, don't worry about it. And if you cannot do something about a situation, don't worry about it." 

This is a lesson I'm still striving to learn, but it's sinking in. Slowly.

I've been absent for a few days; my apologies, y'all. I'm just trying to get my head on straight before the conference next week. I've never been to a writing conference and of course I've never had a pitch before, so I'm understandably anxious. I took a break for a bit so I could collect my thoughts and breathe. 

Now I'm a week away from the con, for better or for worse. In one week, I'll be heading to Atlanta to make my flight. A week from tomorrow, I'll be in Vegas, checking in to the hotel. A week from Friday... pitch time. But it's all right. After some time away and a long talk with an old friend (who's also an artist), I feel better. Stronger. And ready. As much as I can be, anyway.

I sound grim, don't I? Heh heh heh... Well, I am a horror writer. But don't worry; the excitement will be back. I'm just glad to be past the worst part of these pre-con jitters - what I believe to be the worst part, anyway. I missed you guys while I was away. Hope the world's been good to you while I was gone.

I'll be around more in the next few days, and I'm sure the exuberance will return. For now, I'm just basking in the relief of letting go all of that worry I've been trying to process. Tomorrow, we get back to the warm-wet-puppy excitement of it all.

Until then...

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Like a Freight Train


Here it comes.

In two weeks my bags will be packed and I'll be on the road to KillerCon. I start the journey with a road trip to Atlanta, 'cause it was a LOT cheaper to fly out of ATL instead of Greenville. I'm crashing with a friend overnight, and then heading on to Vegas.

I've been working hard on my manuscript, but I don't know if it's gonna be done. I'm really concerned that it's not going to be in a shape that I'm comfortable with showing, and that kinda freaks me out. Especially since I have a pitch session FOR the novel coming up. I mean, I'm sure everyone attending KillerCon - especially the agents and editors manning the pitch sessions - are professionals, but I'm sure you know how hard it is to shake that Oh-my-God-I'm-in-front-of-the-class-and-where-are-my-PANTS feeling.

The last few days I've been in a standstill, like the doe who's found herself unlucky enough to be caught on the train tracks as her death approaches in a rushing growl of thunder and steam. I open the manuscript and look at it. I know the beginning HAS to be rewritten, but...

Sigh. I HATE buts.

I'm grateful to have found KillerCon, but I wish it was in October like my original timeline called for. Then I would have a finished, polished product to take with me to Vegas. Something I would know is the best work I could possibly give to a prospective agent.

Oh well, wish in one hand, spit in the other, see which one fills up first.

Fellow writers, when you go back through your edits, is it hard to read your own prose? Do you sometimes question whether or not you should subject another human being to experiencing said prose? I know I sure am this week... as I hear the train whistle in the distance, I know there's not much time left to get my shit together.

Send me some good productivity vibes huh? Thanks guys.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Perseid Meteor Shower

I wish I could somehow orchestrate a huge blog meetup this Thursday. Tap into the science fiction of Star Trek to transport whoever wanted to come see the Perseid meteor shower with me that evening.

The Perseids are a meteor show that comes about because of Earth's orbital progress through a comet's debris field (in this case, it's comet Swift-Tuttle). They're called the Perseids because they seem to emanate from the constellation Perseus, which is also known as the Seven Sisters... and some of you may be amused to note that the name of this constellation in Japanese is Subaru... which is why the Subaru logo has seven stars in its design.

I LOVE meteor showers. I'm a big old geek. Astronomy fascinates me... I'm far too mathematically challenged to deal with the physics of the science, but I love thinking about the stars and planets, and our place in space (hey, that rhymed!). I'm one of those weirdos that VOLUNTARILY goes to an educational planetarium show, just because I love looking at the night sky so much.

And then add in the excitement of a meteor shower... which is, basically, a whole night of guaranteed shooting stars... and I'm in heaven (no pun intended). Every shooting star is a wish granted, a little magic sprinkled into the world, and man do I ever need some magic this month.

I know a great place to watch it, too. There's a little turnoff on highway 276 just before you get to Caesar's Head state park. It's a really fun twisty-turny-windy road that goes up and up and up through the mountains... although I do prefer driving during the day because the scenery is incredible. At night, though, there's no lights or any cars on the road, and once you get to Bald Rock, you can see for miles in three directions.

Here's a picture of the view from Bald Rock: 



It's the perfect place for stargazing... I went there last December when the Leonids came to town. It was amazing, I saw a fireball in the sky. I also made a hyoooooge thermos of hot chocolate (like, a damn half gallon of hot chocolate - I swear!) and when we got too cold we made a fire on the mountain and ate s'mores and drank hot chocolate and my God, weren't we the kings of creation on that particular evening...

Ah, pardon me, I'm rambling... I'll get back to writing about writing tomorrow, I promise.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Surfin' Saturday

Howdy, all!

On a whim I've decided to share with y'all some funny and/or interesting stuff I found around the internet this week. A lot of people really liked the turtle I posted yesterday so I thought I'd share some other stuff too!

I think I may have mentioned once or twice how much I love Star Wars, so it was a given for me to share SeƱor Vader!

Do you know about the LHC project? LHC stands for the Large Hadron Collider, and it's one of the most interesting projects out there! The scientists working on the LHC are trying to isolate the particles that are responsible for starting our universe! What's even cooler is that they've found a way to turn the sounds of decaying particles into music! Check it out here.

This is kind of a long entry, so I'll put the rest behind a jump. Click "read more" to see the rest of this week's findings!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Century Post!

So this is my 100th post to this journal! Whooo!

I'm pretty proud of what I've accomplished with this blog in the last eight months. I've posted consistently, documented my journey as a first-time novelist, and made some great friends along the way. And some of you must like what I have to say, because I now have 144 followers! I can't believe it!

Thanks to every single one of you for your kindness, support, and positive energy you've sent my way. I never expected anything like this when I started this blog. I'm overwhelmed at the amount of amazing writers and bloggers I've met since I started this journey.

And the journey is just starting to ramp up... with KillerCon on the way (don't worry, I'll be giving you a full report *salutes*), other conventions to plan for, editing on the novel close to being finished, a new novel to research and start a timeline for, short stories to polish and/or compose, a website to launch (later this month!), and a whole lot more... I hope you'll stick around for what's coming up next.

And as for other things coming up next, remember that Pay it Forward contest I had a couple of months ago? The winner was Karen G from Coming Down the Mountain. I bought a copy of her book (as per the contest prize rules) and expect to finish it this weekend! So keep an eye out for my review next week, and I'll also be posting an interview with Karen!

There's a lot of stuff to work on this weekend... finalizing business cards for KillerCon, working on the edits for the novel, practicing for the contest at the convention, finishing up Karen's book and writing a review, getting short story submissions ready for upcoming deadlines. I'm so looking forward to the days when I can do this full-time and not cram it into weekends. But until then, I'll just keep on going for as long as I can and try not to get in this guy's predicament:



Sometimes I feel like this when I am editing... Almost there, almost there, almost... wait a sec... WHAT needs to be revised again?! Where am I in this book, anyway?!

I'm sure y'all can identify. ;)

Have a FANTASTIC weekend, friends!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Stoker Weekend

I found another horror writing conference - Stoker Weekend next June. It's about the same price as the other conferences I've found, and the guest of honor is OH MY GOD Peter Straub!

Yeah... Peter Straub! The dude who wrote Floating Dragon? And Ghost Story? And In the Night Room? Okay, okay... and YES, yes yes yes, The Talisman and Black House with... ah... my writing hero, Stephen King?!

Oh yeah that guy. ;)

Guess how I found out about this one? I became friends with KillerCon on Facebook. Through that friendship I became friends with Cutting Block Press. On one of their posts earlier today, someone commented that horror writing conferences were really starting to pick up, now with KillerCon and the WHC and Stoker Weekend.

Stoker Weekend? I said to myself.

Roughly fifteen seconds later I was having a joygasm as I looked delightedly at the home page of another horror writers' convention I want to attend. There's a ridiculous amount of cool stuff happening at this conference - yes, OH MY GOD Peter Straub is gonna be there, but there are also workshops, meet and greets, readings, a "pitch-a-thon"... man it sounds like a blast!

Now I needs to get to penny pinchin'...

Everything seems to be slowly falling into place, it took signing up for KillerCon for this to open up the way it has. Y'all wish me luck... I feel like I might be going down a rabbit hole soon.

The gent frowning at you at the top of this entry is none other than Bram Stoker himself, BTW. ;)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Pitch vs. Synopsis

I took a screenwriting class a couple of summers ago, and on the first day the teacher explained the concept of an "elevator pitch" - that is, if you were a screenwriter suddenly stuck in an elevator with a movie executive, would you be able to summarize your idea in the length of time it takes to go ten floors?

I was enchanted with the concept - what a great idea! I thought, never realizing how frickin hard it could be to condense a complicated story into less than three minutes of conversation. I'm hoping my trouble with summming the story up in just a few words is because my head is inside the novel and I'm unable to hold it far enough away from my perception to really give it a concise definition.

Does that even make sense?

I'm worried the reason I'm having trouble is because the novel's too complicated - and then I wonder, is it possible for a novel to be too complicated, if it's written well?

In any regard, I've made headway on the synopsis, at least. It's what I first thought of as "the pitch" for the book, but it's really too long for that. I sent it to my writers' group and they are going to help me make it really tight. Gail has already said it needs some scrubbing, so I'm hesitant to post it here... Oh, don't look at me like that.


Okay, okay, how about we compromise with the first paragraph of what I've come up with? I'm pretty happy with that, at least.
Blood in the Orchard is a horror novel set in the fictional Southern town of Brookston, South Carolina. It is the story of a family torn apart by the death of the talented artist Kate Spivey, a beloved daughter, sister, and wife – and how the two men who loved her most struggle with the grim supernatural consequences of her passing.

What do y'all think?

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Perfect Pitch

The schedule of events for KillerCon has been updated, and man am I excited!

There are a lot of different things that tickle my fancy on that list, but what I'd like to talk about today are the pitch sessions being offered by the con. The sessions are free; I just need to send the info about my book to the committee so they can pair me up with an appropriate editor/agent.

So now I'm finally struggling with what I knew was going to be a real sticking point for me: the pitch for my novel.

I did some research and found a couple of great articles here and here, but I feel like I've just scratched the tip of the iceberg here. Do you guys have any advice for a good pitch, or any links you'd like to direct me to? I will be happy to list them in a future post for everyone to see. One of the things I'm really proud of with this blog is the fact I've been documenting as much as I can about the process of the first novel - from conception to execution, planning, promoting, and (hopefully, in the future) publishing. I want to share as much information as I can with fledgling writers like me, so hopefully it'll be just a little easier for the next person in line.

I've been tinkering with the pitch. I wrote a few paragraphs, but what I've been finding as I read more about this process is that the pitch itself needs to be no more than four or five sentences long. Anything longer than that and it's considered a synopsis, I think. Anybody have experience with this?

I'm going to write more about this in the days and weeks to come. Any and all advice/help/suggestions you may have are more than welcome. Tomorrow I'll post what I have so far on my pitch, and I hope you'll tell me what you think and offer some constructive criticism.

Have a fantastic Monday, my friends!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Alex J. Cavanaugh - Giveaway SPECTACULAR!

My cool friend Alex J. Cavanaugh is having a contest on his blog for the next two weeks! He just announced it yesterday. The prize is a copy of his upcoming science fiction novel, CassaStar, and, as Alex puts it, "a big feature here for the winner."

You should get right on over there and check it out! Click here to check out Alex's blog entry for the contest, complete with all the details!

And in case you're wondering about CassaStar, here's the book trailer! Take a look at this!

I can't WAIT for this book to come out!

Congrats on the 200 followers, and the upcoming release of your novel, Alex!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Contest Practice, topic: Murder in the Igloo

I was able to get a little farther tonight, at least it felt that way. I was also able to get all the words in this time, and even before the halfway point, I think. I also increased my word count by almost 100 words, which is absolutely true even though it sounds like CRAZY TALK. Wonder if that'll be a continuing trend or if it was just a fluke.

Ending is rushed, but... serviceable, I guess. I liked the way this one turned. Today's prompt was given to me by Jemi Fraser, via a comment on Monday's entry. Thanks for helping me practice for the contest, Jemi! I really appreciate it. Her prompts were:

Topic: Murder in the Igloo
Words: snow, blubber, knife, bear, sun
Leadoff sentence: see below (first sentence)
Did you know polar bears are all left handed?

The Inuit trader's words echoed in Reese's head as he worked his way across the snow from the sled to the igloo's nearly-buried entrance.

I found that out the hard way, the man had said, back in the last town before the ice cap took over what little lush tundra was left in this late month of November.

Reese had stopped to stock up on supplies, buying a new range knife and half a pound of blubber to feed to his dogs. While he was there, the one-eyed fur trader had decided to get friendly and strike up a conversation about bear hunting.

But Reese wasn't interested in hunting bears. He was a hunter of men.

He'd followed the blazing trail laid down by the sun across the icepack for the last sixteen hours. Disorienting, how it just hovered on the lip of the horizon like a rolling, bloody eyeball.

What was it the trader had told him? "I took the bear's right paw, that was the custom," the man had said in his strange accent. "He was a man-eater. But it angers the spirits to kill such a great animal. Better to take its paw so it may have the chance to live, and have learned to stay away from men."

Bullshit is what it sounded like to Tom Reese, but the farther he got out here the more he thought about the bear in the trader's story and how it reminded him of Garrity, the man he'd come all the way out here to kill.

He'd lost his arm in the firefight, but that wasn't enough for Montano. The old man had sent Reese to the end of the world to finish the job of silencing the traitor forever.

Reese pulled himself back to the present, crunching across the pink-tinted snow. Garrity wasn't here, he was sure, but there would be something here that led him to Garrity. He was very close now.

Which was all the more reason to be careful.

The bear took my eye, the trader whispered in Reese's memory as he began to methodically clear the igloo's entrance. He could have taken my life. I was lucky.

Lucky, Reese thought, and that was exactly the moment when the yellow, furred paw burst out of the snow beyond the opening and clawed across the back of his arm.

Reese jerked backward in surprise, barely feeling the ragged gouges in his flesh. Blood poured over the nylon of his blue parka, but he was oblivious.

All thought was lost to him when he saw the creature pulling itself out of the snow, widening the hole he'd made.

Garrity must have left it for me, he thought, horrified. Days ago.

And God, it must be hungry.


I wrote the last three paragraphs of that in a literal frenzy. This is bare, unedited stuff, let me tell ya. I could barely read my chicken-scratch. And my hand was KILLIN ME, friends. Still, it felt good to get it done. I want to keep doing this as much as I can, because it's REALLY good practice. I want to have this process down pat before I go to Vegas.

Gonna have to take the timer out of the equation because I keep staring at it, and I want to start getting a feel for how long fifteen minutes is without constantly looking at the timer to see how much time's left. Wonder if they'll let us keep a watch?

If you'd like to leave me a challenge, please feel free. What did you think of this one?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Contest Practice, topic: The Living Dead


Howdy. Thanks to those who submitted a few prompts for contest practice for me yesterday! I have the first attempt ready. I definitely need to practice more at this. I managed to get about two paragraphs from the end. Right now, I'm just going to post what I was able to write. I may try to finish it later.

I chose Cruella Collett's prompt first, mainly because it was the first one to hit my inbox. Her prompts were:

Topic: The living dead
Words: shortcut, bushel, fist, tureen, mangrove
Leadoff sentence: see below (first sentence)
"Don't look back!" Gerda Aldrin said, as the last conscious look in her eyes faded into a blank stare of nothingness.

Christopher choked back a sob and transferred his baby sister to his other arm. They'd been running for nearly thirty-six hours now, and Elsa was heavy for a two-year-old. Christopher was exhausted.

And he was only eleven.

"Come on," he said to his sister. She blinked at him with sleepy eyes.

"Ma?" she asked.

"No, mom has to stay here," he said, and the black reality of that truth rolled over him like a boulder made of fear. He switched her to the other arm again - it wasn't much of a help - and pushed past the mangrove trees, on into the deeper swamp as quickly as he could.

Before their mother had a chance to open her eyes again and reach out for her children, dead fingers clutching, teeth clicking together like the ball bearings in Christopher's broken skateboard.

An hour later, Christopher gently lay his baby sister down on a dry hummock of swamp grass and looked around. He'd been sure this was some kind of shortcut, but now in the darkness - and through the shifting gray scrim of exhaustion threatening to bludgeon him into unconsciousness - everything looked the same. He sat down beside Elsa and punched at the ground, not realizing how mucky it was.

A hand closed over his fist.

Christopher jerked backward, eyes popping, mouth drawn down into a silent scream. He kicked at the mound rising out of the squelchy black mud. Eyes opened in the dirt, one bleary with mud, the other a clear and questioning blue. The bump of its rising head looked like an upside-down soup tureen, handles for ears, smooth dome of brow curving back for what seemed like forever.

Christopher grabbed his sister, shaking her out of her thin sleep. She began to wail immediately. Chris clamed down on her arm as hard as he could and her little mouth turned into a perfect "o" of pain.

"Else!" he screamed, crying out again as the creature in the muck - once human just like them - pulled him closer.

"RUN!" he cried.

OK, so that's what I came up with for the first attempt. I left out one of the words (bushel; it was coming in those last two paragraphs), and I wasn't able to get to the ending. Close, but no cigar. My hand was singing frickin Ave Maria by the time I was done, too... I think I need to do this more than once a night... but I gotta work up to it. I had a lot of fun with this, though. It was weird - no planning, no thought, just launch into a story while the clock is ticking... but it was fun. More will follow in future entries, I'm sure.

What do y'all think? I know what I think: MORE PRACTICE!!

If any of you would like to leave me a challenge, please feel free. I only need a horror-related topic, five random words, and a leadoff sentence to start. I'll take care of the rest. Thanks to Cruella for this great beginning to a new path!

Monday, July 26, 2010

A Call to Writers

Exactly one month from now I'll be getting on the plane to go to Las Vegas for KillerCon. WHOO!!

If there's anyone out there reading this who'd like to attend the con and meet up there, please let me know in comments or by shooting me an email (or Tweet, or whatever social media poison you prefer). I'm traveling by myself and I would love to hang out with some blogiverse friends... Regardless, I hope I can make some new friends at the con. I don't want to spend the whole weekend by myself.

I'm also wondering if you guys can help me with something. KillerCon is having an on-site writing contest. The convention committee gives the assembled contestants five words, a horror-related topic, a leadoff sentence, and fifteen minutes. The contestants have a sheet of paper and a pen. After the fifteen minutes is up, they compare entries and choose a winner.

I want to enter this contest, but I'm a little nervous about writing it longhand for a couple of reasons. First is the physical side - because of a car accident two years ago, it's very difficult for me to hold a pen for any length of time. Five minutes is hard. Fifteen minutes is torture. But the more I practice longhand, the easier it gets to do.

The other side is how much slower my hand is at writing my thoughts as opposed to typing my thoughts. My typing speed is on average around 90 wpm, so it's a LOT faster to type than it is write longhand. Which means I don't write as well longhand, because it feels clunky and it's difficult to get up to the speed I want to write at.

So here's where YOU come in. I need to practice this longhand coming-up-with-stories-on-the-spot thing. If you will, leave five words, a topic, and a leadoff sentence in the comments of this entry. I'll time myself and try to do one each evening. Since it'll be hard to get more than a page or two out over fifteen minutes' time, I can post the best pieces on my blog. It won't be entirely spontaneous like the contest will be, but at least I'll be getting some practice at quick invention, along with strengthening the muscles in my hand for quick writing.

What do y'all think? Can you help a fellow writer out?

I hope each and every one of you has a fantastic last week of July. :D

Friday, July 23, 2010

Working and Working and...

Thanks to everybody who commented on Tuesday's Summer in the South entry. I posted one of those last month as well, and I hope I'm not being tiresome, but I'm working on a little project... at least one entry a month detailing whatever season it is, and how it relates to the South. June, July and August are my summer entries. September, October, November are autumn... December, January, February winter... March, April, May spring. Then next year I want to read them all in succession, maybe make a little story out of them. What do y'all think?

I've been working on editing again after being away for over a week. I was my sister's "hospital buddy" as she had surgery last week, and I wasn't able to do anything with the book while taking care of her... then when I finally got some time for myself again, a strange apathy had stolen into my muscles and bones, and all I wanted to do was read Stephen King stories and avoid my needing-to-be-pruned novel. I was able to get back into it last night, though, and I got another twenty pages or so carved out. Hopefully this is a sign that the struggle is lessening.

And my treacherous muse continues to taunt me with good ideas for short stories, ideas I would MUCH rather be working on instead of editing the novel. Currently I'm working on a steampunk short, for the upcoming steampunk deadline at Fissure magazine. I've already been published in Fissure, but I've never written a steampunk story, and I thought it would be fun to try my hand at it... and of course, it's yet another way to avoid the work that needs to be done on the novel. Gah!

Then there's the "death and shoes" short that still needs to be edited, and a host of other short pieces I could be working on to send out... but the novel just hangs over my head like a little raincloud made of pages. I want it to be DONE. Especially before I head to Vegas next month for KillerCon. I want to get the edited copy out to my first readers so I can have a clean copy to push to agents ASAP. Of course, I'd also like a mansion built out of ice cream sandwiches, and my very own pony. We'll see how it goes.

How are y'all doin? Anything exciting going on in your neck of the woods? Got any advice for me, to help me stay on task with the editing? How 'bout plans for the weekend?

Hope y'all have a fantastic Saturday and Sunday.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Summer in the South, II

July.

The pomp and circumstance of the Glorious Fourth has receded like outgoing tide and all that's left is the flat dull surface of superheated asphalt. June's hopeful beginnings lie deep in the past, dreaming in shady pools of memory. Now it's July, down-to-business summertime. Every day is the same: A stretched-out cavalcade of heat and humidity, punctuated by the occasional evening thunderstorm.

Tempers are short. Businesses crank up the A/C, even at 2 AM. Store windows are filmy with condensation, transforming everyday clear-cut interiors to surreal fogscapes. Old men sit on intersection corners beneath unraveling beach umbrellas, selling sugar-baby watermelons and boiled peanuts off their pickup trucks' rusting tailgates. Fans turn lazily on front porches; an ice-choked glass of sweet tea with lemon is the only thing that satisfies.

Children easily found just two weeks before, lustily parading in freedom from organized education, are nowhere to be seen. They hide in the air-conditioned shadows of their houses, their friends' houses; when their mothers shoo them outside to play they cluster in any air-conditioned spot they can find: shopping malls, grocery stores, bowling alleys, swimming pools, libraries. Even though they won't admit it to each other, part of them aches for the long, climate-controlled hours of school.

It's not just the kids. Everyone is off the streets, out of the sun, in the A/C; at 3 in the afternoon everything is bright and hot and still. There's not a car on the street, not a moving shadow to be seen. Outside the bees and butterflies have become true monarchs and the people have given quarter to the elements, for now. The only sad souls out in this oven of an afternoon are those who have to be, and when they make eye contact with each other, a silent plea seems to pass between them - is it five yet?

Mimosa trees are wilting, losing their color and scent; the few blackberries left on bushes are picked over by birds and baked in the heat, nothing but rounded clumps of coal clustered on the briars. In contrast, crepe myrtles bloom in florid hues of red and pink and purple. Trees - only a month ago vibrant and green with new summer gloss - are a tired and uniform shade, blending into each other like one huge organism.

The day drags on and heads into evening; all the while, sunlight hours grow imperceptibly shorter with each passing day. Softball games are won and lost. The tantalizing smell of grilling meat floats in the air of every subdivision. Sprinklers run endlessly - hish-hish-hish-hish-hissssssshhhh... A yellow rind of moon rises in the darkening sky. The evening star hangs on the lip of the horizon like a wet beauty mark. Everything is sleepy, soporific. Everything is slow.

Everything is summertime.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Soundtrack of your Life Blogfest

I'm participating in Arlee Bird's Soundtrack of your Life blogfest today. If you get a chance, swing on over to his blog and check out the cool list of people who are taking part in this one.

So I've been thinking about this a lot over the last few nights. Wendy commented that her soundtrack would be super long - multiple CD's, hundreds of songs - and I most sincerely concur. Over the years I've had many "Quintessential B" playlists, and if I put them all together for this blogfest, you'd be reading a LONG time. So, I decided to narrow it down to the top ten songs which I hold nearest and dearest to my heart - at this particular moment in time. I hold no illusions that this list will never change.

Hell, it might change in the next fifteen minutes.

Narrowing it down to ten was hard, but fun. I listened to a lot of music and rejected so many songs... this was a great project, especially since it falls on a Music Monday! I've posted a few lyrics and an explanation for each song, and I hope you guys enjoy reading about it as much as I enjoyed making the list. Thanks, Lee, for hosting this cool blogfest.

Without further ado, and in no particular order...

The Quintessential B List

The Pixies - Where is my Mind?


"With your feet on the air and your head on the ground..."

Some songs stay with you through your whole life, and I guess if I had to name any one song that was my "theme song", this would be it. I've loved the Pixies since I heard them in high school, way back in 1991... Yep, I'm old. "Where is my Mind?" became a generational anthem when Fight Club used it for its ending credits, but it was one of my anthems long before the movie ever came out.

Night Moves - Bob Seger


"Ain't it funny how the night moves... when you just don't seem to have as much to lose... strange how the night moves... with autumn closin' in..."

My sister once referred to Bob Seger in general and this song in particular as "mother's milk", and I agree. I grew up with Bob Seger and every time I hear this song it comforts me, while reminding me how lonely it is out there for everyone, at one time or another.

Pearl Jam - Oceans


"Hold on to the thread; the currents will shift. Guide me towards you - know something's left, and we're all allowed to dream of the next time we touch..."

I have loved this song from the moment I heard it in 1992, and it is one of the most romantic songs I've ever heard. Helps me remember that love comes from everywhere, and never to give up hope on the people who love you - and the people you love.

Arcade Fire - Wake Up


"And children, don't grow up... our bodies get bigger, but our hearts get torn up. We're just a million little gods causin' rainstorms, turnin' every good thing to rust. I guess we'll just have to adjust..."

Sometimes you need an epic song to help you remember why your life is epic. Try it. Cue up this song. Close your eyes. Listen to the music. Think about your life. You'll see what I mean.

Kings of Leon - Arizona


"And I go... stand up to a giant, say that I'm a fighter... too drunk to remember. Too drunk to..."

The lyrics combined with the soulful Southern rock sound of this song make it one of my new favorite entries in my "quintessential B" list. Every artist needs a song or two they can get inebriated to, right? This is one of mine.

Cursive - From the Hips


"We're from our best when it's from our hips. It's from our hips, we don't give a shit... it just feels good, and that's no sin. It's the only way to feel alive, the closest thing to being born again..."

I love the philosophical thoughts behind the lyrics of this song, and what it says about relationships. When we start talking and thinking, we start screwing things up. Go with what you feel. Your heart knows best, friends.

Gossip - Lesson Learned


"I guess I'm lucky 'cause I learned a long time ago, I used to try to be somebody else but now I know. People like you make me know that I don't wanna be stuck in a scene that only puts me down and judges me."

INDIVIDUALITY IS CLUTCH, people. I am awesome. You are awesome. WE ARE AWESOME. Please don't buy into someone else's definition of who you should be. Ever.

Murder By Death - As Long As There Is Whiskey In The World


"I have loved, and I've lost all that they gave me. They all try to save me, but I'm seein' this thing through..."

Yes, my drink of choice is whiskey. And as long as there is whiskey in the world, things aren't quite as bad as they seem.

The Murmurs - Genius


"She's got something to say to the world. She wants to know if she could tie it up... She's kinda freaky. She's kinda weird. She's kinda freaky... but I dunno..."

Someone very special to me once told me this song made her think of me, and I was touched. Now whenever I hear it I think of that time, and it feels kind of like a theme song for me. I'm eternally grateful to that girl for introducing me to this tune.

Fleet Foxes - Blue Ridge Mountains


"My brother, where do you intend to go tonight? I heard that you missed your connecting flight - to the Blue Ridge Mountains, over near Tennessee."

I grew up going to the Blue Ridge Mountains - both of my grandmothers, aunt, uncle and cousins all lived in Waynesville, NC - and I have a strong connection with the Blue Ridge Mountains. This song helps me remember their beauty, mystery, and serenity.

I hope y'all enjoyed my list, and I can't wait to take a look at yours! Have a great week, friends!

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Soundtrack of Your Life

On Monday, Arlee Bird is hosting a blogfest called The Soundtrack of Your Life. Here's what he says about it:
This coming Monday June 19th you will have the opportunity to join us in sharing the songs that have special meaning in your life. Tell us the songs that describe what you were going through at different stages of your life. Tell us about the music that tells something about you. Create your own soundtrack and post it on your site on Monday. If you like, tell us why you chose those songs.

I'll be participating in this blogfest, and I'm looking forward to sharing my songs with you. I've actually had many of these "soundtracks to my life" playlists over the years, and I want to go through the ones I have saved and pick out my favorites.

What about you? Will you be participating in this cool blogfest? I'd love to read about the songs you pick to describe yourself.

Have a great weekend, friends!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Left Turn at Albuquerque

I've switched tactics and decided to focus solely on Jack as the main protagonist of the novel. It's what I should've done in the first place, but I got so caught up in creating Dan's backstory that I thought he was supposed to be the main character.

Blood in the Orchard (working title) began as a short story that I just couldn't get right. I loved the monstrous creature in the short, but had no idea how it came about. I realized finally, after about two months of tinkering with it, that the reason I could never get it right was because my readers had no reason to care about the characters in the terrible situation I'd put them in.

That's problematic, because for me, the real root of good horror is identifying with the character in some way and caring about what the heck happens to them in the story. I started thinking about where that monster came from, and why. What it represented. How it was conjured into being. And suddenly I realized the damn thing was just too fricking long to be a short piece.

So I put it aside for about six months and didn't think about it at all. But then in August... it came swimming out of my imagination again, and I took the plunge. And now here I am, almost a year later. The first draft is finished and my first readers' polished copy's birth is in sight.

Anyway, back to Jack. I realized the story really is about him and how he changes through the book. When we first meet him, he's closed-off and somewhat reserved, especially with his emotions. He feels guilty a lot, about things he can't control. He's only got one close friend and he keeps himself from getting romantically involved with anyone.

Over the course of the story, Jack changes into someone who has to let himself feel, because he just doesn't have a choice. He's fallen in love with his dead sister's best friend, and his brother-in-law has gone insane, and a whole bunch of crazy shit goes down, but at the end he realizes he has to embrace and acknowledge not only his own special abilities but also the great amount of love in his heart for his family, his friends, and his town.

That's the story I want to tell you. Dan is important, yeah. But he's not the main character. At this point, he's not much more than glorified window-dressing, something I can use to make the readers feel sad or scared. I'm grateful for the character - for all my characters - and I like him, but I'm starting to recognize his value as a creative tool.

So, this is where my focus is going... for now. Ever watch those old Bugs Bunny cartoons where he ends up somewhere he shouldn't because he didn't take that fabled left turn? Well, hopefully that's Albuquerque up ahead... because I'm definitely turning left, kids.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Along for the Ride

Travel plans are falling into place, and I'm starting to get really excited about KillerCon at the end of August. You know you're still not a grown-up when the question "aisle or window seat?" gets you all giddy.

Window seat, please... :D

I am so excited about the prospect of meeting other horror writers and participating in workshops for the craft. There are going to be authors there to offer lots of helpful insight, and a dealer's room with all kinds of goodies for sale. Two contests, mixers and meet-and-greets, and three nights in Las Vegas! I mean... if that's not daydream fodder for the next few weeks, I don't know what is.

In other news, I'm about 20% of the way through the editing of the MS. I added a handy-dandy progress tracker to my sidebar, if any of y'all are interested.

I'm really hoping I can get this done in my original timeframe, but I just have no idea how long it's gonna take. I keep finding things that need to be rewritten, or added on to flesh out a concept. As I've said many times before, I'm just making this up as I go along, and it's kinda hard to gauge how fast this will go since I've never really done it before.

The work has, however, progressed famously since I realized I needed to scrap almost the entire first section of the novel (about 30 pages or so). I don't lament this at all; I look at the removed section as backstory that I will probably dip into later to beef up other parts of the book. It's good that it's written because it gives me a clear sense of exactly what happened, and that allows me to use foreshadowing and drop little hints here and there as to what's going on.

This is a fun process, but an exhausting one. So far, I definitely prefer composing to editing. But it's a necessary part of the writing process and I am throwing myself into it full-on like I have everything else.

I'm just happy I have you guys along for the ride. :)