Good riddance, 2020! For sure, this year has not been the all-around best of times. However, writing-wise, I’ve actually been doing pretty good this year. According to my annual custom, I will review last year’s achievements, then make a few goals to shoot for going forward.
Okay, this is over a week late, which translates into about three months in Internet years, but I would be remiss if I failed to direct any interested parties toward Gwendolyn Kiste’s interview of me on her blog.
If you’re at all curious about my influences, inspirations, and my thoughts on recent and upcoming works (primarily my recently released novella, Unknowing, I Sink, and my upcoming novel, Schafer), you’ll want to take a look.
While you’re over there, please peruse the rest of Gwendolyn’s website. She is an incredibly talented and accomplished horror and dark fantasy writer, having won the Bram Stoker Award(R) three times, if I recall correctly. Her works include the Stoker-winning novel The Rust Maidens and her new novel, Boneset & Feathers, which I am currently reading.
It was quite an honor and pleasure to chat with her and talk about my humble writing.
Well, it’s official. The first draft of my fourth novel is D-O-N-E! Continue reading
Today, I broke 80,000 words on my work in progress. This was my original goal. In fact, it had been my goal when writing Schafer, though I only made it somewhere in the 70s on the first draft, dropping to 69.5k after revisions made it ready for submission. I’ve always been a little insecure about the short length of my previous books, so for me, it’s a pretty big deal to surpass this barrier.
I am very close to the end, too. I believe I’ll finish this first draft this week or next. While it’s likely that later revisions will shorten the manuscript, meaning it isn’t guaranteed the final book will end up past my goal, I’m very happy to have made it so far. I will be celebrating with some of the leftover birthday cake Emily got me (chocolate cake, peanut butter frosting, topped with peanut butter cups).
Though I still have a little more work to do on this draft (then a lot of work to do in editing and revision), I’m feeling very satisfied today and hopeful that this book isn’t going to turn into the disaster I feared (I always get scared in the middle of a project that it’s all going to implode and leave me with an unfixable mess—this has happened before).
I can see the finish line! Woohoo!
I’m writing this on my birthday. I am now 31 years old, young enough to still remain active and be considered “young” by a lot of folks, but old enough that my body constantly reminds me that I am no longer invincible.
It’s been a great birthday so far. I’ve taken the day off from writing. Two fried eggs and a pourover coffee for breakfast, a mango and some leftover stir fry for lunch. Since a little before noon, I have been smoking a rack of spare ribs in my Weber kettle charcoal grill. The weather has been mostly sunny, with a few large clouds that threatened to drop but so rolled on by. The temperature has hovered around 70 degrees F. Initially, I had some difficulty in getting the grill up to temp (supposed to keep within 225-265, aiming at 250 as much as possible), but now I’m over four hours into it and for the majority I’ve been able to keep it steady in the 250s. I’ve been reading the latest issue of The Atlantic and listening to the new Miles Davis collection Dad and Mom got me for my birthday, checking the grill temperature and making adjustments every twenty minutes or so. Today, I feel relaxed and happy.
Boy, 2019 was rough for me, for reasons which I will not detail in this post. But ever since I’ve started this blog, I’ve done one of these year-in-review/looking-ahead posts, so here goes. Please forgive my lack of pictures and GIFs—the internet connection where I live is exceedingly slow and unreliable, and I must avoid that kind of thing unless I’m at the library or coffee shop or some other place with high speed internet that won’t poop out on me in the middle of my work.
Last year I set some goals for 2019. I did not meet any of them (well, I sorta met one).
- Finish the Bigfoot novel – Nope.
- Find a publisher for Schafer – No. (but to be fair, this is not completely under my control)
- Write at least five stories – Yes…ish.
- Plan a successful WV Writers literary event in my region – No longer the Region 2 Rep.
- Pass the English Literature CLEP Exam – Haven’t taken it.
This Bigfoot story is becoming about as elusive as Ol’ Sassy himself (have I made that joke before? I feel like I’ve made that joke before). I did make some progress in the fall, after finishing a novella (more on that in a bit), but I ended up putting it off again. I came up with another book idea I was more excited about at the time. My wife and some other people also think it is a pretty good concept, so I decided to set aside Sasquatch in favor of this one while I have some enthusiasm and creative juices flowing (kind of a gross expression, right?). So, thanks especially to Emily and John Little for encouragement in making this decision and telling me there might be something special in my new idea. I’m already making quicker, steadier progress on that book than I had been on Bigfoot. I’m not totally scrapping that one, though. I have some really good writing already done for it, and if I can pull off the rest of the story well, I think it will be a good one. I’m just not ready to finish it, I guess. But I have a good feeling about the new book.
Still have not found a home for Schafer (a novel I wrote in 2017 about an evil hypnotist, though I have yet to hear back from a number of publishers, any of which I would be very happy to work with.
I had planned on writing at least five short stories in addition to finishing the Bigfoot book. This is the only sorta check-mark on the list. At the beginning of the year, I started on a short story that I just could not finish. While I wrote in fits and starts, and did not make quick progress on it, it continued to grow into something exceedingly strange, ungainly, and lovely. At last, in September, I wrote THE END on this little monster, which came out to 21,300 words. So, it’s the length of five short stories, even though it is a single novella.
This is actually kind of cool, as I have been interested in writing a novella sometime in the future—only I ended up actually doing it by accident. As my 2019 goals were otherwise unmet, I’m going to fudge this one and give myself the credit. A novella is cool, yo. I’m not sure yet when or how it will be made available to the public, but I have some ideas.
For a moment I was the Region 2 Representative for the West Virginia Writers, and had some plans for that which never panned out. Coincidentally, as of November, I don’t even live in Region 2 anymore.
English Lit CLEP exam hasn’t happened yet. Should be soon, though. Transportation issues are complicated at the moment.
I’m not going to get into all the reasons that 2019 was hard on me. One of them, however, was an unexpected job change for my wife and a move from Bartow to Parsons. Emily and I are glad we were able to stay in West Virginia (and we love being in Tucker County), but the last part of the year was extremely chaotic and stressful. I am surprised I don’t have any noticeable gray hair after all that happened (I did catch one or two strands during the ordeal, but they’re gone). We still don’t have it all figured out, but we’re getting used to our new situation, and are both extremely grateful to God for what we see as His quick provision in a very uncertain and desperate time. I try to use this website to focus on my fiction rather than religious commentary, but I feel I would be wrong if I did not briefly utter a quick word of thanksgiving here. Things could have looked much worse for us at the end of 2019. We are greatly relieved.
In fact, there were some very bright spots to 2019. I had a whole lot of fun at all the book events I attended. At the Lewisburg Literary Festival, I broke my total sales record for that event. Same at West Virginia Book Festival, where I should have brought more books—I sold out of Little One! I was honored to be guest at the Haunted Majestic this October, a haunted house boat floating on the Ohio River near Huntington.
And, like I said before, it felt good to write my first novella. It is a very weird story, though. Who knows what will happen with it.
I saw only one of my short stories in print for 2019, “The Puddle Girl of St. George” (ironically, my wife’s new job is located in St. George).
And while I only saw one story newly published, I received some really encouraging responses concerning other unpublished work about which I’m not ready to go into detail. Suffice it to say that I finished the year with greater confidence in my ability and the quality of my short fiction. I hope to have some more exciting, less vague-blogging news for you later this year.
Honestly, while I do have some writing goals to set forth, there is some practical, real-life stuff which is going to have to take precedence over my writing. But related to my continued pursuit of a profitable fiction writing career, I reckon the following are worthy targets:
- Finish the new novel (and maybe get a bit more done on the Bigfoot story)
- Get Schafer published
- Get the weird novella published
- Attend Camp Necon
Yeah, I already put down my deposit on Camp Necon. It will be my first time attending, and I’ve heard great things. This year, it will be held in Salem, MA, which is pretty cool, because I don’t think I’ve ever been to Salem.
Other than that? I feel like I’m forgetting stuff that should be in this post. But I gotta tell you, I’m too tired right now to care. Have a happy new year, everybody.
one more thing
PS — I haven’t drawn up a “Best of 2019” list yet, and I don’t know if I will—even less likely to do a “Best of the Decade” list. But I wanted to quickly recommend Michael Wehunt’s newest novella, Everything is Beautiful and Nothing Bad Can Ever Happen Here, published by Nightscape Press last September. You can click that link to buy it directly from the publisher, as a limited, numbered paperback, autographed by the man himself, Michael Wehunt, one of my favorite contemporary writers. Only 118 copies remain at the time of this writing.
OK that’s it. I gotta go make dinner. So long!
#AmWriting in Autumn
The leaves have been fantastic around here the last few weeks. We’ve had some beautiful blue-sky days lately, though they have been a bit warmer for my tastes. Even though I’ve been going through some really hard stuff lately, I’m doing my best to get out and enjoy the greatest season in West Virginia. I even got me a brand new set of overalls. Continue reading
I started working on a Bigfoot novel either early last year, or perhaps even in later 2017—can’t remember for sure. So far, my word count is somewhere around the 5k mark. Which is terrible, considering I’m pretty sure I wrote the first draft of Little One in less than three months. In January, I reviewed my goals and again committed to finishing this novel before the end of the year—not a lofty goal!
You know how much I’ve written on it since then? Zero. No, actually I do think I went back and changed a couple sentences. Switched a barred owl call to a screech owl, or something like that. What’s the deal, man? Am I still suffering from chronic writer’s block?
Well, not exactly. For one thing, I have been working at a specialty coffee shop in Elkins (TipTop, come check us out!), so I haven’t had as much time to write. Though I don’t work very long shifts (about six or seven hours in a day), the commute ads another two to three hours onto that. Since I’m not good at little spurts of writing without larger blocks of unstructured time, that means I almost never am able to come up with anything during the days I work at TipTop. Occasionally I’ll get a bit done before work, but it has never been more than three hundred words, and it usually is nothing at all.
However, I have not been as blocked up as I was last year. Though I have not made significant progress on the novel this year, I have been writing. In January I decided to start off by writing a short story to submit to Hinnom Magazine, very cool horror mag that is taking great strides in a good direction. (They have published my work twice before, see here and here.) I was aiming to finish the short story before their submission window closed at the end of February. A reasonable goal, you might think, despite the new job. I still get free days, and it shouldn’t take me a month and a half to finish a three to five thousand word story.
Well, turns out this “short” story doesn’t want to end just yet. It’s currently weighing in at over twelve thousand words, and doesn’t look to be finishing up extremely soon. Of course, I will try to cut much of the fat off of it when I finish, but now it is hungry, now I can only feed it until it is full. (I ended up sending a different, already finished story to Hinnom). So while I really wish I had more done on the novel, I am pleased to have broken out of that horrible funk I was in since at least the second half of 2018, when I struggled even to come up with 150 words in a day. I’m anxious to see where this novelette goes (will it become a novella?)—and I hope that it turns out good enough that those 12k+ words weren’t just a big waste!
Ok, so I guess the last couple years I’ve done an annual review and renew of annual goals set/met/failed. We’re already more than halfway through January and I haven’t written anything on my blog. Let’s see…
OK let’s look at those 2018 goals:
- Get agent/publisher – Nope. Still working on it.
- Finish Bigfoot novel – Again, no. I did write a bit more on it, but I made remarkably little progress.
- Write more short stories (at least five) – Yes! Though I wrote very little on my novel, I actually completed six short stories throughout the year, totaling over 20,900 words. Still not as much as previous years (if you count novels), but not a total failure, and a big win for the short fiction goal specifically.
- Attend StokerCon 2018 – Yeah, but I already knew I was going to do that.
The following comments do not necessarily describe events in chronological order:
My #1 desire of 2018 was to find an agent to represent my coming-of-age horror novel about a small town boy vs. a nefarious hypnotist, Schafer; alternatively, to find a small press accepting unagented submissions who would want to publish it. Unfortunately, so far I have not done either, though not for lack of trying. There are still good publishers out there that I am continuing to submit to. Maybe I’ll have better results this year.
I attended StokerCon 2018 in Providence, RI. It was both my first time at StokerCon and my first time in Providence. I blogged briefly about it and put up a few pictures when I got back. It was a huge encouragement to meet so many other creators and workers in the industry, and I hope to be able to attend again soon.
Some of you remember I announced that I was working towards my Master of Arts in Teaching. I am still gathering the required prerequisite undergrad credits that I didn’t get when I double majored in camping and theology. Last year I finished an Introduction to Linguistics online class through Rio Salado College. I also passed the American Literature CLEP Exam (thanks in part to Modern States).
The West Virginia Writers didn’t have a volunteer representative for the region I now live in (Region 2 = Pocahontas, Pendleton, Randolph, and Webster counties), so I signed up for that. I did try to get together a little kids’ writing workshop for our region, but, sadly, I wasn’t able to generate enough interest. Perhaps I misjudged my marketing skills.
I didn’t do too badly in terms of short fiction publications. “The Unknown Thing” was published by Australian-based Things In the Well Publications in one of their themed anthologies called Beneath the Waves: Tales From the Deep, which is available in both hardcover and paperback on Amazon. In June, I made a repeat appearance in Hinnom Magazine with “The Station Agent’s Wife, 1927”. I was later contacted by Max Ablitzer who was interested in producing one of my short stories for his new Horror Tales Podcast. I happily sent along “The Unknown Thing” when the rights became available. Max did his thing with it, and the sound effects and narration made for a pretty great episode (see Episode 4). In October, I published the short ebook Antique Bed: A Horror Novelette, which you can buy now for Kindle at only $0.99. Even though the BookBub ad and the discount is long over, I continue to see noticeably better sales numbers per week compared to before the ad.
If you think in terms of actual goals set and accomplished, it doesn’t look like a great year. However, some really cool things did happen to me last year, including a big boost in sales from a BookBub ad that helped qualify me for Active Member status in the HWA. In fact, gaining Active status was actually one of my 2017 goals, so I’ll count that win!
And this isn’t related at all to my writing career, but Emily and I visited El Salvador in September, which was amazing, so I just wanted to mention that and share a few pictures.
I’m still going to be sending out Schafer to publishers as long as I can find good ones to send to. I haven’t totally lost hope on that front. This year could be the year. Despite my false starts with it, I really think it is a good book—it is one of my favorite things I’ve made—and I really want it to find a good home.
I really need to finish this Bigfoot book. Like, really. So there’s that. However, I also have more going on in my life, including online school, doing a bit of writing for the local paper, and a new job at a coffee shop. Oh yeah, that’s something that happened last year I forgot to mention—I am now a barista at the new TipTop in Elkins (pics below taken from their Facebook page)!
It is great to serve that community and have fun making amazing espresso drinks, but it leaves me less time to write. We’ll see if I can squeeze in enough words here and there to finish a novel in 2019.
I’m hoping to get something cool going in 2019 to help increase enthusiasm for literature around these here parts.
In terms of my education, I still need to get some Literature credits on the cheap, so I’m going to try to pass the English Lit CLEP Exam. I’m more nervous about this one than American Lit, partly because I didn’t know what I was getting into with the American exam, and partly because I feel less comfortable with and am less interested in English lit than American.
Still trying to figure out what events I’ll be attending this year. Three of my go-tos that I’m pretty confident I’ll be at again are the Lewisburg Literary Festival, West Virginia Book Festival, and WV Writers Summer Conference. I’m still on the fence about some others. I really would love to go to Necon, but I’m not so sure I can swing it this year (and I’m not even sure registration is still open). More doable is Scares That Care, but I haven’t figured out my budget for stuff like that yet. We’ll see!
Since I mentioned vacations before, I’ll just say that El Salvador was an amazing adventure, but this year we are planning something a little cheaper and closer to home lol.
- Finish the Bigfoot novel
- Find a publisher for Schafer
- Write at least five short stories
- Plan a successful WV Writers literary event in my region
- Pass the English Literature CLEP Exam
I kind of already said this, but HAPPY HALLOWEEN! Here is the jack-o-lantern Emily and I carved this season:
October is the best month for a variety of reasons. You got beautiful fall colors, crisp, cool weather, and yeah, Halloween (see above). I got in some good mountain biking, had tons of fun at the annual West Virginia Book Festival, and got to meet up for coffee with an old friend at Taylor Books, which is a pretty great coffee shop/book store in downtown Charleston that I recommend.
Also, this month I released a new Kindle horror novelette, Antique Bed, which you can get on Amazon for only $0.99.
And just in time for Halloween, Horror Tales Podcast released their fourth episode, which is my story “The Unknown Thing”, previously published in Beneath the Waves: Tales from the Deep. Click below to listen (it’s free):
***EDIT: I was just notified that my story has been listened to over one thousand times already, in just a few days! Cool!
One experience I had that was not enjoyable this month was the Witch’s Brew drink at Starbucks. This purple monstrosity was so awful looking that I just had to try it. There is zero coffee in this drink (not that anyone expected it), and I could only take a few sips before tossing it in the trash.
As I don’t live in a town where there is trick-or-treating (or a town of any kind, for that matter), sadly, my house is not stocked full of candy (also, I guess they don’t always do trick-or-treating on actual Halloween anymore?). However, Emily and I have some pretty fun plans involving our traditional viewing of Halloween is Grinch Night and some caramel apples that are sure to ruin our teeth but be wildly tasty (ironically enough, last night I had a dream in which two of my teeth fell out for no reason).
So go enjoy the holiday, however you do that—consuming tons of sugar, watching movies, listening to Horror Tales Podcast, or reading one of my books (I guess somebody else’s book is fine, too). Remember that tomorrow candy will be dirt cheap.