The days, weeks and months keep sailing past; here it is November already. What a whirlwind this year has been! Here are just a few notes on what's new in my little corner of the world.
The wedding went off, if you'll pardon the pun, without a hitch this past weekend. It's still kind of surreal, to be honest. After nearly a year of plotting and scheming, it just sort of crept up on us. But it was a wonderful day, a beautiful ceremony, and a great time was had by all. There were a million cool photos taken, but I think the one below, taken by my talented buddy Biff, might be my favorite. It really captures the essence of the two of us and how we interact.
Hot on the heels of getting married, we're off to WordsFall this weekend. As I mentioned in my last post, I will be teaching a workshop on short story writing. I'm looking forward to it as a fun experience and an opportunity to meet and network with more of my fellow writers. On a related note, my friend Kellie Underhill has just launched a new podcast. One of the topics she touched on in the inaugural episode was... WordsFall! I was very pleased to participate in this project, and look forward to future installments. You can check out episode one here.
Yesterday I decided, somewhat spontaneously, to participate in NaNoWriMo. For those who aren't aware, that stands for National Novel Writing Month. It takes place once a year, and the challenge is to write a novel (50,000 words) in the month of November. I have no idea if I can do that, but we're going to find out. I've had an idea kicking around in my head for a while, and I figured this might be the inspiration I need to actually tackle it and find out if it's novel-worthy. This is also at least in part to get me writing something again. Aside from some short stories, I haven't written much of consequence since I finished with the novel back in the spring. The time has come to put this creative break behind me and get back on the horse, so to speak.
That about covers the highlights, for the time being at least. More to come as events unfold - and events are always unfolding around here!
It's October already! The days are getting noticeably sorter, the nights are getting colder, and with each passing day it takes just a little longer for the sun to warm things back up in the morning. October has been a busy time this year, and even though it's not even half over, the chaos has really only just begun.
First, on the writing front: Not a lot of actual writing going on around here the past little while, admittedly. I'm filling the gap with another group of great students, however. My current class is a really fun and engaging group, many of whom have pleasantly surprised me with how quickly and confidently they've taken to the things we've discussed in our sessions this far. I have promised not to steal any of the characters and scenarios they've created - a promise I will somewhat reluctantly keep!
Also, for those keeping track of such things, my wedding day is rapidly approaching. Sixteen days, to be exact. I haven't mentioned a lot about the wedding in this space, but I'm looking forward to it (obviously, of course). Aside from the wild notion that I've convinced Sheryl that marrying me is a good idea, due to our shared love of all things off the wall the wedding is going to be a bit... different. It's a Halloween-themed masquerade - right up our alley. I don't want to put up too many spoilers here since there's been talk of a live-streaming feed online, but let me just say from the feedback I'm getting from friends and guests everyone is as excited as we are.
I'm also very excited about this year's Wordsfall, which I'm counting in here even though it isn't technically until November. The 3rd and 4th, to be exact. I'm excited because I'll get the chance to meet some fellow writers and other members of the Writers Federation for the first time, and also because they have asked me to offer a seminar which I was thrilled to accept. Details can be found here for anyone looking to attend but hasn't signed up yet.
Speaking of writing classes, it's not too early to sign up for the next session which starts in January.
That's all I've got for today. I'll do my best to post at least once more before the end of the month.
September is in full swing: the kids are back in school, the leaves are (against my will and vehement protests) starting to change color, and it's time for another of my renowned writing courses. Well okay, maybe not renowned, but certainly eagerly anticipated. By all accounts, a good time is had by everyone that comes out for these classes, and hopefully this fall will be no exception.
In any event, this month marks the debut of "Crafting the Short Story". In a slight departure from my previous horror writing workshops, this one will focus more specifically on the art of the short story. Why the change-up, I've been asked. Well, there are a couple of reasons for this. Horror is a small but cozy niche market, and the number of people interested in reading it, let alone writing in it, is relatively small. In an attempt to avoid over-saturating the market with waves of horror writers, this class will be offered sporadically, and Crafting the Short Story will be interspersed as well.
Short story writing is a different sort of animal from novel or poetry writing; different, in fact, from essentially all other writing forms. What sets it apart? Why is it so difficult to write good ones? What allows you to develop strong characters and gripping plots in such a limited space? These answers and more await you in the hallowed halls of academia!
I'll be offering two sessions this year - a fall session starting on the 25th, and a winter session that begins in January. You can go here for more information.
It's the last day of August, and there's just one more day until the Labour Day weekend signifies the end of summer. I'm sitting here at the keyboard, still in the midst of an angry and defiant battle with cable providers that I've done my damnedest to pit against each other in a battle to the death, but (at least temporarily, with less-than-stellar service) we're back online. Today also marks the three-week anniversary of our move to the new house. I'll have some writing-relevant news in the next post, but in a post earlier this month I indicated that I would, at some point, have a little something to say about my take on the move. Well, today's the day.
Sheryl and I came here earlier this month, from the house in which I spent the last seventeen years. It was originally my grandparents' house, and I spent the first four years of my life in there, too. If you take into account the vast amount of time I spent in there during my childhood and early teen years until both grandparents were gone, it's safe to say I spent over half my life in that house. That tiny, cramped house with the odd floor plan and all of its quirks. I lived in a few other places during the ensuing years, but in the end I kept coming home, and there I stayed until three weeks ago.
I moved in there seventeen years ago, a little over a year before my first marriage kicked off. In the grand scheme of things that was a short-lived experiment, and I think it's appropriate that I'm no longer living there now that the starting point of my second marriage is less than two months down the road. New life, new wife, clean slate, sort of thing. But first wife aside, over the years I shared that space with a couple of others who came and went; in fact, the only constant is my old dog, who I brought home as a tiny puppy about a year after I moved back in there, and who is now a senior citizen wandering around the new place, gamely trying to figure out the lay of the land.
I spent many years during that span alone in that old house - well, sort of. I was the only living human inhabitant, is what I mean to say. I have reason to believe that one of my deceased predecessors was (is?) still lurking in there, and made him/herself apparent from time to time. There's an interesting tale behind that statement but it, too, is another story for another day.
One of the biggest things I'm still trying to get used to is the lack of noise in the new place. I don't mean to suggest it's silent in here - far from it. The dog paces incessantly, the cats dash up and down the hallway like their lives depend on it, and there's been a steady stream of workers putting the finishing touches on various things around here. But the floorboards don't creak in familiar ways, there are no stairs that squeak to let me know which one is being stepped on, and I can't hear the old furnace as it rumbles to life in the basement. The size of the rooms is different here, which means the acoustics are "off". The hum of the refrigerator sounds echo-y. The trickle of the filters in the fish tank sound strangely hollow.
I'm not complaining by any means. I'm slowly but surely settling into the new place and, like my old dog, getting a feel for new surroundings. It's only been in the last couple of days that I've had much of a chance to really spend much time in here and start to get familiar with the aura of the place. There's a lot more room to spread out in here, which delights the resident animal kingdom greatly. But the old place was like an old pair of tennis shoes: broken down and not much to look at any more, but comfortable in a way that something new can never be. I like to think that the reason the new place sounds so hollow and open by comparison is that it isn't filled to the brim with memories yet. It'll take some time, but we're working on that part.
The dog days of summer are upon us, and even though I haven't had much to say in this space recently, rest assured I've been staying busy.
The biggest thing occupying my time in recent weeks has been the move to the new house. While I slaved away at the office Sheryl was busy boxing and transporting stuff to the new place, right up until Thursday when we spent our first night together in the new place. Unfortunately, thanks to my internet provider dropping the ball, we're without internet, cable and home phone service for some undetermined time. We are not going away quietly by any means, but in the interim I'm writing this from the big armchair in the old place, where we still have service. It's convoluted and inconvenient, but it is what it is. And hopefully a short-term solution.
In terms of actual writing news, I've been reaping the fruits of the winter's work... sort of. Some of you will recall the frenzy of creativity that took place in this very house during the snowy months. To recap, I plotted, wrote, edited and finished a novel, a novella and a number of short stories, all before the snow melted. Now, in the middle of what I'm calling a creative recharge (code for "I'm not working on much of anything right now"), I've been sending all of these completed works to various places in the hopes of placing them in good homes. I'd be thrilled to see some of this in print in 2018. Fingers crossed!
I'm just looking around at the empty rooms and walls no longer adorned with art, no bookshelves sagging under the weight of our extensive (and, as I've been recently reminded, very heavy) collection... not much at all, in fact. I'll post something soon in regards to my take on leaving the house I've spent so much of my life in. For now, with this post in the books and my laptop fully charged once again, I'm leaving home... to go home. Happy Saturday, folks.
Happy Saturday (or Friday maybe, depending on your time zone)! Just a few quick notes today, starting with my first sale in a little while. My absence from the market of late has been largely due to a lack of submissions lately, since my attention has been focused on finishing off my new novel and wrapping up some other unfinished business. I touched on the details of this a little bit in my last post. I'll get more specific on this sale later on, once the contract's been signed. For now, suffice it to say it's one of my favorite stories, and a market I've enjoyed working with in the past.
This actually got my juices flowing a little bit, to the point where my desire to see my name in print inspired me to look into a couple of other markets that might be suitable for some of my recent pieces. Whether hit or miss, to be chronicled as events unfold.
Speaking of finishing my new novel, I've... well, finished my new novel. All edits, beta reading, and last-minute nips and tucks have been completed, and it's all wrapped up in a nice, neat and, if I do say so myself, gripping package. Now it's time to start the next step: the selling stage. I'll delve into this process a little bit in a future post here since it's a crucial part of the writing game that often goes overlooked by all other than the tireless writers themselves.
On a somewhat related note, earlier today my ruthless editor wrote an excellent piece that offers a behind-the-scenes look at how the creative process and dynamic works in a two-writer household. It's definitely worth a look.
That's all for now. I'll keep you posted along the way on how things shake out. As always, thanks for following along in this space. Enjoy your weekend!
It's been another week of tweaks and edits here in my happy but chaotic home. With yet another round of edits nearly completed on the ever-present novel, I also took great satisfaction in putting the final finishing touches (final finishing? Is that redundant?) on three short stories and the novella, Putting Down Roots. Those four pieces are now off the monumental "to-do" pile, a massive scrap yard of unfinished creations that constantly begs for my immediate attention.
At the beginning of this year I made a conscious decision to work my way through some of the cool story ideas I'd scribbled down but never finished, and actually finish some of them. As many as I could manage to get done, I would. It's been kind of fun to look through my notes and remember the thought processes that led me to think "hey, what if..." and write it down for future use. Some may never see the light of day, but thanks to some gentle prodding by my ruthless editor, most of them stand a much better chance of coming to fruition.
I realized recently that it's been a while since anything new has appeared in print anywhere. This, despite the fact that I'm in the middle of perhaps the most creative phase of my life. That's partly because, frankly, I haven't really tried to sell much of anything lately - four submissions this year, to be precise. And it's also partly because instead of churning out a bunch of short works, I've been working on one long piece. But it's also because, truthfully, I've neglected that last coat of polish on an awful lot of my work, and my focus lately has been on cleaning up the old mess before starting a new one.
A rule of thumb I use on submitted works is that, if you send something out more than a few times and nobody shows enough interest to bite, then maybe that piece isn't good enough in its current state. Perhaps it needs a little more work before it's really ready for public consumption. So with those shorts and the novella out of the way, and the next round of fixes for the current novel not quite ready to go, I started on a new/old project and began still more editing, this time on my first novel, The Shadow Realm. That one, some may recall, was started in 2015 and took until nearly mid 2016 before it was written and edited to my satisfaction. Several submissions and rejections later I decided to let my ruthless editor take a stab at it. Her discerning eye caught several things mine did not, and so I am in the process of polishing that novel once again.
I say immodestly that my work is much stronger and tighter than ever before, and even more so with another pair of critical eyes on everything I write. Ultimately the market will be the judge of that, of course, but I can say that when I look back over some of the stories I've written in the past, both published and "slush pile", I see many ways in which my newer stuff is far better. I'm working on turning these updates into a more regular habit, so if that sticks I'll keep everyone in the loop as things keep rolling along!
This long overdue post is just a little note to keep everyone up to date on what I've been up to. As noted in my previous post, back in April I put the finishing touches on my new novel. It was written in two months and change, and when it was all said and done I was really happy with how it had turned out. I feel, with all modesty, that it's a far superior book to my first effort (which, to date, has yet to be picked up by a publisher, though I'm still shopping it around). So, first draft completed. That was step one.
The time since then has been devoted to the first round of edits after my ruthless editor set upon it with tooth and claw and handed it back, thoroughly dissected and rendered. I have to admit that when I opened up the newly edited document, I scanned through and saw an inordinate amount of work ahead of me and my first instinct was to close it again and forget for a while that I'd written it. I actually did do that, for a week or two. But then I cracked it open again, with a break to work on other things under my belt, and took a look with fresh eyes. And then, I went to work on fixing everything.
Yesterday I put the finishing touches on round two. I have to say, it felt nearly as nice as finishing the first draft had. Writing the novel gave me a huge sense of accomplishment, but working through extensive edits and coming out the far side with something even better was just so cool.
At this point, anyone who's written before is rolling their eyes and silently telling me to suck it up, welcome to the club, this is how it goes. I know this, of course. Nobody ever gets it right on the first pass, and obviously I'm no different. And truth be told, the editing process isn't over yet. Now that I've fixed and tweaked and polished, it goes back and falls under the editor's scrutiny once more, undoubtedly to reveal numerous (ideally fewer, and less grievous) errors. My plan is to bust my tail on getting the final product ready to begin submitting by August. I've got my eye on a publisher that i like, and feel this is a good fit for. I'll keep you posted on the process as it continues to roll along!
Today's entry is a follow-up to my last post, in which I described some of the process of writing my current project. In that post I mentioned the differences between working on this project and the last one, notably the difference in timelines between the two.
Today is two days short of the ten week point from which I began. And as of today I have put the finishing touches on my second novel: The Man, The Myth, The Legend.
This one is a pretty stark departure from my first offering, The Shadow Realm, which was more of a paranormal horror/thriller. For this novel I branched out and went in a totally different direction with a horror/western hybrid. Set in 1830s Texas, a tiny frontier town is overtaken by a small band of otherworldly outlaws. Their only hope for survival is a legendary gunslinger whom nobody is certain even exists.
So, today the first draft is done. Ten short weeks brought me from start to finish. The fun part is over. Now come the edits, fixes, tweaks, rewrites and that dreary stage during which you start to get really sick of your work and just want it over with.
And then, on to the next thing. Which is what, exactly? In my case, final edits on a novella I wrote several years ago and put aside until recently, entitled Putting Down Roots. The Cassels family purchased an old Victorian house in the suburbs of Greenville, South Carolina that has an ancient tree in the back yard with a taste for flesh.
I'm also back in the classroom soon. Two weeks from Monday, on April 24th, is the first class of Crafting the Short Story. There are still spaces available for anyone who wants to learn more about story writing, character development and more. Feel free to share with anyone you think might be interested.
Thanks for reading. Until next time!
Why haven't you posted anything in nearly two months, I've been asked. This is a space for keeping people up to speed on what you're doing, after all. Well, here's a little glimpse into where I've been hiding this winter.
I don't know what came over me.
Just after Christmas - December 29th, according to my notes - I scribbled down the first inklings of a story idea that came to me. I had been, I should point out, in the process of outlining a novel at that time, and had been for a month or so. That's sort of how I work: I get an idea, let it germinate for a while, then start taking notes to see if it makes sense to carry on with it or not. This idea made me scrap the other novel and focus entirely on the new one.
I did this for about a month. I'd add notes or the outlines of some key scenes. I started seeing some of the characters in my head, and I gave them names. I saw my setting - a dusty little town named High Water, Texas and the bleak surrounding landscape. Everything was falling into place nicely, to the point where I decided it was time to compile everything and see what I had so far. My better half transcribed all my hand-written scrawls and hieroglyphics into word documents, saving me countless agonizing days' worth of work.
The results were, to say the least, disheartening. My month of plotting and scheming had amounted to 7,700 words, about the length of some of my longer short stories. It felt like an awful lot of effort for that little to show for it. But I couldn't stop; I was too immersed in this story, and now it was time to go to work. It was January 29th, a month later to the day.
I rarely write on the weekends, since those days are reserved for doing stuff with friends or watching movies or just hanging out with Sheryl and the animal kingdom that lives here with us. That adds up to 29 actual writing days from then until today.
Today is March 9, not quite a month and a half later. I'm to the point where I take all of my individual chapter documents and paste them into one large manuscript. Today's word count? 45, 413 words. Take away the 7,700 from the kick-off point and we have an average of 1,300 words a day.
For some, that's not a huge amount. For some others, it's many times more than their normal daily average. There are no right or wrong approaches, but suffice it to say I normally fall into the latter category. My first novel, The Shadow Realm, took roughly 13 months to write, and another three to edit. This time, I've got roughly two thirds of the first draft done in a month and a half. It's hard to say exactly how long a novel will end up being, but I'm basing this estimate on how the story is unfolding and how much I think I have left to tell.
Stephen King famously once said "I believe the first draft of a book - even a long one - should take no longer than three months, the length of a season." I would read that quote and chuckle to myself. Yeah right, I'd say. But my approach to this novel is a lot different from the first one, which I guess in hindsight I could call a learning experience. While I'm proud of that one, I was thoroughly sick and tired of every aspect of it by the time I'd finished it. Well over a year into the process I just wanted to be done with it.
This time around I'm less preoccupied with polish and perfection, and more interested in getting the story out. There will be ample time later to fix and patch the holes, and buff out the rough spots. This time around, I think I understand far better what I need to do in order to churn out a quality piece. And at the risk of being immodest, this novel is a killer. I'll drop some hints and teasers in this space as the process winds down and we approach completion. For now, it's back to the grindstone.
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