See us at Empire Books this Saturday

Happy Thanksgiving to you all in advance! I’m preparing a special traditional Thanksgiving dish that is a family recipe we call meat stuffing. My house smells like meat, potatoes, onions, and cloves. ūüôā Tomorrow I’ll take it with me to share with some friends my wife and I are staying with in Beckley.
Hey, if you’re in the Huntington area this weekend, stop by Empire Books & News on Saturday (Nov 25th). They are hosting their Annual Holiday Open House from 10 am to 10 pm as a part of Small Business Saturday. There will be a story time with Wonder Woman, music, tea, raffles, specials, and a bunch of West Virginia authors there to meet you and sign books! (So don’t spend all your money on Black Friday…) I’m scheduled to be there from 1pm to 4pm. Hope to see you there!
Click on the image below for more information on the event:
idvwjccl_400x400In other news, I’m preparing to write a Bigfoot novel, so if anyone out there has any sightings or stories, or knows of any Bigfoot expeditions coming up soon that I could join, email me:

Less than two weeks!

I hope everyone had a great July 4th celebration. Now that the commotion has died down a bit, I wanted to chime in to remind everyone that Little One will be available in thirteen days! (Lucky number, right?) Remember to check Amazon on the 18th. And if you have an ereader and want to get a head start, click here for a sneak peek (current mailing list subscribers should already have received the free preview. If you are on the mailing list but missed it, shoot me an email –
Little One ebook2

Coming up for fresh air and sunlight, and winning a #NGHW challenge

Well hello! Didn’t expect to see you standing there next to my hole! Wow, doesn’t the sun¬† hurt your eyes up here? So bright… I’ve been down there for so long, tunneling away…
I’ve been making good progress on my WIP. Today I passed the 50,000 word mark! And there is still plenty left in the story. I’m happy to be so sure that this will be my longest novel yet (When the Watcher Shakes is somewhere around 60,000 words, and Little One is around 55,000). At the beginning of this, I was really hoping that I would be able to make it to 80,000. Right now, I’m feeling that goal could become a reality in as little as a month! (And I still don’t have a good title! That’s okay, I usually don’t come up with one until after the story is finished anyways.)
But the real goal is not necessarily to reach a certain word count, but to tell a good story at a good pace.
In other news, I’m still competing in the Next Great Horror Writer Contest over at I can’t say that I’m really doing great overall, at least so far, but I am glad to finally say that I won the most recent challenge, which was to create a short spoof radio commercial script for a fake horror-related product. The judges really liked mine. You can read the script here:
If you want to read the top eight spoof commercials, here’s the link for that:
Alternatively, you can listen to their recent podcast episode, and hear my commercial acted out at the end!
Well, back to digging. I’ll see you again sometime soon, I hope.
A reminder to those interested: Little One will be released in July! You can mark your calendar and hope to remember‚ÄĒor you could just sign up for my email newsletter, and make sure you don’t miss it or any future publications!

Prologue to an unfinished work

I don’t know what will happen with this. I had been working on an idea for a novel set at the Moundsville prison, but this opening scene for a totally different story came to me the other day. I’m still keeping the prison novel in mind, but I think while this other idea has captured me I might follow it through and see where it leads. This is not part of my upcoming book, Little One, which I am currently finishing up and plan to publish in the summer. Soon I will share more of that. Until then, here’s the opening of‚ÄĒof what? A novella? Novel? I’m sure it will be longer than a short story. I don’t know where it will go and when it will end. Time will tell‚ÄĒor will it, if the watch is broken?
Continue reading

The Count of Monte Cristo is long

I’m getting close to the end of my current WIP’s first draft. I had hoped to have a 70,000 word manuscript to edit by the end of this month, but the story is starting to wind down already, and at this rate I’ll be happy to get to 60k (the final version of When the Watcher Shakes is somewhere around 60k words, in case you were wondering). That’s all right, since it’s still in the novel-range, but it’s still probably going to be on the short end, and I had hoped to bring something a little heftier to the table next summer for those of you that read through WTWS in one day.

I don’t want to give too much away this early, but a character in my new book (currently untitled) identifies a lot with her literary hero, Edmond Dantes. But it had been so long since I’d read The Count of Monte Cristo that I decided I needed to go back and reread Dumas’s famous and influential work again.

I have mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, it is wayyyyy long. The copy I own is just over 1,200 pages (I’m currently looking down the home stretch at page 1,040). And the print is not very large. I remember loving this book and tearing through it when I first read it, I think the summer of ’08 or ’09. And I guess you wouldn’t say that I’m slouching in pace this time, either. But there is just so much going on in this book. I think it suffered from being written as a serialized piece; it’s like every three chapters he pulls yet another plot point out of thin air to work into the story, like a J. J. Abrams TV series stretched longer than its run should have lasted. I often find myself thinking, Oh come¬†on, why didn’t Dumas just name this guy the Count of Deus Ex Machina? Also, the Count doesn’t really become a very likeable or identifiable character. If I didn’t feel like I needed such a thorough refresher, I probably would have given up by now.

On the other hand, this book is, of course, a classic, and there’s a reason it has stood the test of generations. Every night before I go to sleep, I reluctantly but faithfully return to this improbable tale, and somehow I still usually find myself stretching my bed time for “just ten twenty more pages.” Convoluted as the plot gets, Dumas does seem to keep track of most of it and tie it together completely as he goes, if not always believably. And there is some imagery in this book that just can’t be beat. Edmond’s escape from the Ch√Ęteau d’If is one of my favorite scenes in all of literature (Yeah, sorry, no spoiler alert–it’s been 172 years, you’ve had time–besides, at that point you’re only like 2% into the book).

But it turns out that I might just finish The Count at the same time as, or maybe even prior to, the finishing of my rough draft. It would be pretty cool to finish on the same day. My main takeaway from this experience? I wish I could write as fast as I read.

Reading List: "Politics and the English Language" by George Orwell

I found an old box of discarded books and fished out Eight Modern Essayists, edited by William Smart, noticing George Orwell in the Table of Contents.

Orwell is one of my favorite writers (in fact, his¬†1984¬†greatly influenced my direction in writing¬†When the Watcher Shakes), but I had not read any of his nonfiction. Being a writer, I was immediately drawn to “Why I Write”, which I would recommend to anyone wanting to understand more behind the man and his work. However,¬†I loved “Politics and the English Language” even more. In it Orwell decries what he sees as the English language’s decline into unintelligible jargon and vague, nonsensical circular sentences. His purpose is to show¬†how we obfuscate our¬†language in “defense of the indefensible” by softening starkly dishonorable politics with¬†“euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness.” As our expression becomes lazy and vague, he argues, so does our thinking, which¬†leads to even more lazy writing and speech, and so the¬†cycle spirals downward.

While Orwell is primarily¬†addressing political writers¬†here, and not necessarily fiction authors (“I have not here been considering the literary use of language, but merely language as an instrument for expressing and not for concealing or preventing thought”), his condemnation¬†of¬†unclear writing¬†and advocation for concrete, precise language is gold for any writer, whether he be a journalist, essayist, or novelist. He kicks the writing¬†crutches of jargon, dead metaphor, pretense, and passive writing out from our feet and tells us to learn to walk on our own effort, because that is the only way we’ll reverse the¬†destructive cycle.

After going into detail on weak kinds of writing, he gives some basic rules to writers to help cure our disease:

  1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

I would quote more¬†excerpts but I’m afraid I would only end up copying¬†the majority of the essay. Fortunately, you can read the essay in its entirety online. I guarantee it will improve your own use of language, and if you can do that, he says, you may also improve your and others’ thinking.

WTWS Cover Reveal!

I am supremely delighted to announce that the cover to my upcoming novel, When the Watcher Shakes, is finally ready for you to see! (If you were an email subscriber, this will be old news to you, since I sent you a peek at it earlier this month).
I’m very happy with the work by Design for Writers. You guys should consider them if you ever need some work done for yourselves.
Without further ado, When the Watcher Shakes:
Eh? eh? Whatcha think?
The dedicated book page is now updated with the cover, too.
The launch is going to be here before we know it! Sign up for email updates so you don’t miss it!

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I finished the Scrivener tutorial today…

I downloaded the free 30-day trial of Scrivener to see how it might help me in organizing and composing my next novel (no, I haven’t started on it…pooh on those 2016 goals–but I still have plenty of time!).
First loading it up, everything was foreign and overwhelming. Imagine loading up Microsoft Word for the first time, but with more features and less intuitive interface (note–it’s not a good thing to compare Scrivener with Word, since they are basically¬†meant for different tasks).
To give you a better idea of how confusing it is at first, let me tell you that I consider myself a pretty tech-savvy type of guy. I was raised on DOS, for crying out loud, and even that seemed easy enough for me to get a basic understanding of using some quick guides and trial-and-error. I even went through a MS QuickBASIC programming phase when I was twelve. I’m no dummy, in other words (even if Windows 8 makes me feel that way–Linux is easier to use than that garbage!). I’m not the type of person who has often needed to consult help files, but I knew if I was going to get anywhere with this, I needed something.
Fortunately, Scrivener comes with a built-in tutorial that is thorough enough to get you started and make you confident of your knowledge (but I realized as I finished the tutorial that there is so much more it can do that I haven’t discovered yet since I haven’t started using it for my own projects).
I just finished the tutorial today. I am totally stoked about this program (you can tell I started using computers in the late 90s¬†since I still say “program” instead of “app” most of the time). All the time I wasted writing my first novel¬†copy/pasting to re-order sections¬†and having to re-number every single chapter over and over when I would cut or add content is enough to convince me that I need Scrivener. And being able to reorder your chapters with ease is only scratching the surface of its capability! You can reformat your entire manuscript with nearly limitless possibilities, according to whatever formatting requirements you have to deal with! I can hardly wait to start using it, and I will certainly pay the measly $45 to extend the trial to the full licensed product (the features stay the same when going from the trial to the licensed program; the difference is that the unlicensed trial expires after 30 days). Forty five dollars?!? I paid more than that on a¬†dated¬†version of Office for Mac!
The only concern I have is how well it converts from its native formatting to Word. I’ve¬†read that you have to be consistent in your structuring, and if you do that, it should be a pretty smooth transition. But we’ll see. Otherwise, I’m totally onboard with this. I will be writing my next novel in Scrivener. I’ll let you know how it goes.
As of right now, though I haven’t started using it other than completing the tutorial, I would recommend this product, with one disclaimer: download the free version and go through the tutorial before you buy it. It isn’t for everyone. I would also go as far to say that if you only are writing short stories, while there is a lot of useful stuff in the flexible formatting features when you compile a project, I’m not convinced it’s really worth the money until you are writing longer, chapter-based projects. But it’s up to you if you want to get it for short works alone. Whatever you do, you have the opportunity to try it free for 30 days to decide whether you like it or not, without even entering any payment info, and that seems like a no-brainer to me. I would definitely take advantage of that rather than buying it up front and finding out that you don’t like it or it’s not worth the trouble of learning to use.
Also, as of this writing (3/2/2016), nobody from Scrivener has ever contacted me, provided me with any free products, or even knows that I exist (not that I wouldn’t appreciate any handouts, if any of you Literature and Latte people are¬†reading this). I’m only posting this because I think other writers might be interested in this and would benefit from my recommendation. Check it out, it’s free for 30 days! if you don’t like it, you don’t even have to cancel anything, it just cancels itself unless you opt in.
As for me, I’m opting in.
PS – I’m still not sure how to pronounce “scrivener.” Is it a long i or a short i¬†sound?
UPDATE (3/3/16):¬†It’s a short¬†i.