I’m halfway through the first round revision on my second novel, According To Plan, I know my characters inside and out and I thought I knew basically where they came from, until.... Lucifer returned on Netflix. Mind you, my story is a psychological thriller with no fantastical elements, but hot damn, my MC looks a hell of a lot like Decker. Huh. I had even paddled through tons of stock photos to toss up on my virtual vision board and found some I liked, but when Detective Decker came back on screen I laughed to myself, ‘cuz there’s Laura! I thought. My Laura is a bit more athletically built I would say, but her main, almost too sharp, features are all there.
Their similarities end at appearance. Laura is more reserved, more book-smart than street smart compared to Decker’s rather outgoing presence, and there is no handsome devil trying to win my girl over—she wouldn’t like that, anyway. Still, I thought it was so funny that she must have been hiding in the back of my mind as I impatiently waited for the new episodes to drop. But now I know who to use when I’m doing my dream casting for the movie version. I hope she’s available ;)
My Laura vision board pic (left) and Detective Decker (right)
So, I decided to extend my birthday Excite sale to include the weekend so. . . It is currently up for just $0.99 (Amazon link: https://amzn.to/3wXSytt)
I have a couple *exciting* reasons for doing this:
1) A longer sale means more of you can grab it, and. . .
2) hopefully that will turn over into more reviews because. . .
3) I am considering sending out my WIP novel, According to Plan, to agents to give traditional publishing a go.
Now, it's a long shot, and one I'm not even sure I have the patience for—I am too excited (boy, I need a thesaurus) for it and I know that the agent/publisher/traditional route can take a LONG time. But, if I'm going to give it a shot I want to be sure my resume looks good, and having a debut novel out there with lots of reviews—that looks good. I will definitely have a time limit, I know I can self-publish to a pretty good standard so I don't see that as a 'second best' option. But with the reviews I am seeing from beta readers this one feels like something special. So, I'd like to see if there is any 'bigger' interest before I plow ahead on my own.
While cleaning I found more of my old notebooks and one had some early work from Excite in it. Stuff I had completely forgotten about. My notes are difficult to understand at best as my thought process takes place only about 40% on the page when I ask myself questions, so it was tough to decipher some of it, but I found my lists of names for the drug .
I’m going to share them since they are a fun insight into the process, but some of them are rough, as I believe I started the lists right at the beginning of the project. I learned the name of the drug just as Jon did; after a bit of consideration and bouncing ideas off of other people.
Some of the other names that little pink pill might have had:
Scorch—I’m not sure where this one came from; possibly early on I wasn’t sure what the ‘science’ behind it would be, so it just sounded cool.
Misfire—likely one about nerves misfiring while under the influence. Again early on, when I wasn’t yet clear on the science.
Glut—I was getting deep in research now, short for glutamate, a brain chemical that I decided would be integral in the pill
Neuro—it’s neurotoxic, so this one made sense to consider.
ReUps—more ‘deep science’ (aka maybe correct, maybe totally wrong) the idea that the pill was a re-uptake inhibitor
GRI—Jon’s technical name for it, and the one he suggests to Kat; Glutamate Re-uptake Inhibitor
Excite—our eventual winner; the pill is an excitotoxin in the end
Binder—there was a science reason for this one too, but my notes are scratchy. It had something to do with taking the complete sensory input from an event. Which was what I was going for the high.
I’m pretty sure at the time I thought many of these were better than they are, but GRI, Excite and Binder seem to be the final round trio, with stars around them. I wish my notes were clearer, I hardly remember that part of the process.
The only thing I came up with more of than names for Excite were covers—just like the drug names some are pretty bad. Made by myself or author friends trying to give me ideas, I'll share some of those here too. I'm very visual so I tend to make a mock-cover early on in the process. They change as the story does, so here is a visual tale of Excite.
Also to celebrate my birthday, the Excite ebook will be on sale for just $0.99 on amazon on June 28th!
I love to write a few different genres, and to me they blend together sometimes—or at least the initial ideas for the stories do. I’ve always been a horror fan. The creepy, strange, freaky stuff; not so much the blood and guts (that’s fine too though) My mother is a horror fan too so there were also Stephen King stories in my house. And as surprising as it was to have an 8th grade English teacher assign us Ray Bradbury short stories rather than the popular school standby of Fahrenheit 451, it was stranger to many that I had already read them. And loved them. October Country is probably my favorite collection for the views into the bizarre and eerie. The too dark for a Twilight Zone episode feel was my wheelhouse even back then.
I’d like to think that I can fit some of my stories into that vein (on a good, optimistic day) Funnily enough my novels have leaned toward a more traditional thriller narrative. I never really intended that but, using Excite as an example, the almost throwaway prompt that started it was something like ‘A doctor discovers how to counteract the placebo effect and the patient won’t stop screaming.’ Now, that screamed (hahahaha. . . sorry) horror, and I started writing it that way, but as I went on, I got more taken in by what might happen if it wasn’t so serious. What if they had some fun first? Thus Excite the crime thriller was born. My new WIP is similar, more psychological thriller, but thriller none the less. The shorts I am playing with- more horror and sci-fi, so the roots are still there.
I don’t think you have to be limited to one, or two, genres. If the story is good and dying to be told, I’ll tell it. When I was ghost writing I did a few YA’s and have played in sci-fi YA for myself as well. It’s all about what you focus on, I could take the same characters in the same plot and focus on the relationship instead of the party and it would be a romance. I’ll keep following the story and I hope you will come along for the ride!
I love visiting creepy places, haunted places, old buildings, anything of the sort. When my family vacationed in Pennsylvania I had to make a stop at Eastern State Penitentiary. While we weren't able to get a night time ghost tour the regular tour still ticked all the boxes for me. The self guided audio let you feel alone in the decaying halls even as other visitors milled about.
There were cells that you could step into, and feel the isolation. Although as an introvert, I kind of liked it in a strange way. I wouldn't want to be forced in there, but the quiet was appealing. The history of the place was obviously dark, but the original intent, a search for penitence of those incarcerated intrigued me.
At first it wasn't crowded, prisoners were kept anonymous so that when released there was no stigma round them. It wasn't a terrible system; until they lost that ideal and turned the place into an overcrowded dungeon where multiple prisoners were crammed into cells made for one.
In the end the visit inspired my short story Penance; it can be found here.
What kind of places inspire you? Stick around for more posts of my inspired locations.
I found We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson on a list of ‘great short novels’ I write short, and so was struck by this list. I wanted to see how the best do it, and Shirley Jackson is certainly among the best. I think though, my expectations were off going into it. The Haunting of Hill House has been on my TBR list since the series came to Netflix, and the spoiler-free reviews I read of Castle were intriguing—lots of ‘OMG that twist!’ So I was quick to pick up a compilation of this, along with her other short stories and Hill House.
First thing that threw me was the book itself. It is a literal conglomeration of her works, Castle is the last story in the book, and 300 pages into the volume, it starts back on page 1. Very strange, but anyway, back to content.
The first half of this was drawn out- I realize now that this short novel was not a novel written short but more of a novella written long. It’s atmospheric for sure, you are pulled into the daily life of the sisters, along with their monotony, and what we would call today some OCD and agoraphobia. They hide from the townspeople after Constance is accused of poisoning the family; she is deemed not guilty, but it still throws a dark shadow over her and her sister.
About halfway through, we get a shake up when cousin Charles visits and threatens to uproot their existence. The pace picks up and the sisters double down on their enclosed life. We see Constance give in even more to her sister’s rituals and fanciful imaginings. We do get the ‘twist’ but it doesn’t really hit. It was fairly unexpected, but the realization has very little impact on the story so, for me, it hardly mattered. I spent the last third of the book waiting for something that felt minor in the end, and that left me disappointed.
I’m not saying it was bad by any means. It is definitely an older style of writing, but I can see how she wanted us to feel the closeness of their lifestyle and almost make it seem normal until we realize just how not-normal it is. To join in their mental instability, I suppose. But it wasn’t what I had expected from other reviews. I’m all about correctly set expectations, and I missed the mark on this one. I'll give it three and a half stars- I was certainly engaged for the latter half of the book, but I don’t think that this is the work of hers to write home about. I still look forward to exploring the other stories in the book.
In school I was lucky enough to have lots of English teachers that encouraged creative writing. We wrote short stories, poems, memoir in many different grades (and thus with many different levels of quality) but I didn't have many teachers that taught us much about mechanics. I was on the cusp of the 'free writing' movement, by the time my brother hit middle school grammar rules had been thrown out the window and the feeling and intention was paramount. My teachers weren't that nutty, but there wasn't a big focus on where that comma should go.
I'll admit, that followed me. Sometimes commas feel like a mystery. I recall specifically my senior English teacher giving me a mini less on the back of an essay about semi-colons to get me to quit it with the run-on sentences. I love run-on sentences. In middle school I did have one teacher who would know 50 points (of 100) off our grade for a single offense. Luckily she split grade content/grammar. I got a lot of A/F's in her class. Obviously it didn't help because senior year I was just discovering the semi-colon. A lifesaver eventually. Thank god for Ms. Crago.
I realized that my big problem with those run on sentences was Latin class. I took six years of it, and let me tell you, those Romans liked a long sentence, and a comma (well they didn't have commas, but when you translated it, you used them). So Latin class was my grammar foundation. Id translate four lines and have just one sentence, and there it was correct. Back in English—not so much.
So, dear readers, if you find an extra comma that has escaped my edits; sorry, but blame the Romans.
Mixing it up this time with a short story collection. I stumbled across a list of best horror while procrastinating on FB (surprise) and 20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill was on it. My library had a copy, so I dove right in. I’m a slow reader, so I always start off collections with the shortest stories to get a feel for the author if I haven’t read anything else by them before.
The one page flash Dead-wood was an obvious choice—but it wasn’t a good opener. It was more style than substance, which is fine if it’s not all there is, so I ignored that venture and moved on. Last Breath, the next shortest, was right up my alley. A quick dive into a creepy setting with a ‘scientific’ bend and I knew this would be my thing. I can’t say much without giving it away, but the museum features a collection of ‘last breaths’ from people famous and not, and the doctor is always ready to show you around, or to keep collecting. Even so short there were a few different places I could have seen the story go and it did not disappoint. It was plenty to get me ready to pick my next victim.
Another of my favorites was Pop Art; it wasn’t horror by any means or even a thriller, but a strange alternate universe tale. In this world, some people are born inflatable. At first I tried to understand it in an earthly way; is this a ‘Bubble Boy’ type situation? But no, he is literally a plastic blow up person, filled with air instead of blood. Art can’t talk or make much for expressions, but he makes a best friend and they bond closely. Art often thinks about death and loves outer space. He’s eccentric beyond his plastic skin. It was a strange story, but one I couldn’t put down even once I realized it was not the genre I expected.
I finished, but probably didn’t need to, The Widows Breakfast. Another story that wasn’t particularity horror; maybe aside from the creepy last line. A homeless person is riding the rails after the death of his lover and stumbles upon a cabin in the woods with a widow and her children. She feeds him, gives him her husband’s old clothes and her kids play a creepy game.
The more of the book I read, the more I see Ray Bradbury influences and realizing that made me like the stories more. They are simply supposed to be odd; not necessarily all horror. I think having found it on a horror list set me up to dislike it, and it took quite a few stories to realize the better categorization.
Overall, it was a worth-reading collection, and I give it 4 stars. As always, some were stronger than others, but the range makes it so there is something for everyone who likes to venture outside the norm. Your faves might be some I skimmed, that’s what I love about shorts; they are an easy way to dig into lots of different styles and tropes.
I am of the Harry Potter generation. I went through childhood with no computer at home through grade-school, no cell phone until I was 16 and didn't send a text until college. What I did have was harry potter, waiting, as they were written to find out what would happen to everyone favorite boy-wizard. Ill admit, I didn't run out to buy the first book right away. My neighbor lent it to me after she finished, and my crappy reading skills and far too young to read brother had my mother reading it to us each night.
By the time we finished the second book was about to hit stands. We were hooked and my mother promptly started reading that one too. Then the waiting. At this point Harry and I were about the same age. I could read them myself if I wanted, but I was still a slow reader and the thickness of those hardbacks intimidated me. My mother kept at it, she jokes now that shes one of the few to have read every word in the series out loud. Until the first movie premiered we called Hermione 'Hermi' in my house, having no clue how to say her name. I think even after we kept it up.
I remember riding out of the arena after a group lesson in high school and debating if harry could in fact be a horcrux before the final book released. We were unsure but worried for what it would mean. I did read that last book on my own, stealing it away between my mothers sessions with my brother- she was too slow at that point and I NEEDED to know what would happen, how it would end.
And that is why, those months spent waiting, the nights huddled on the couch listening— that no matter what problematic things J K says, she can't take Harry Potter from me. I will openly disagree with her, but she can't take away the enjoyment and treasured time spent with my family that Harry Potter provided.
I think that there are probably plenty of authors whose ideas don't follow to current standards, we just aren't looking very hard at them. I doubt there are many classic works whose authors worldviews would even be remotely acceptable these days. Its not to say 'that was a different time' or 'everyone has their opinion' but I think that we can, and should, be able to separate art from its creator. Do you agree?
After going hard with a few thrillers in a row I needed something lighter and this YA choice popped up in my amazon first reads and I jumped at it. It's not something I would usually pull; if I'm reading YA it's usually supernatural or dystopia or something other than a sweet tale about kids at camp.
Camp Padua is a special camp for teens with issues and we quickly meet a cast of characters that run the spectrum from eating disorders, self harm and potential mental illness. Zander, our MC doesn't reveal why she has been sent to camp. But we know that something bad happened at her last swim meet. She meets a boy; Grover Cleveland - yes after the president- who is insistent that he loves her. Zander hates feelings.
I was quickly wrapped up in the quick pace and emotional range from the kids at the camp. We follow them through various activities and watch them come out of their shells. Zander meets a girl named Cassie who is mean to everyone. She has attended camp before and is friends with Grover. Their group also includes a compulsive liar who calls himself Alex Trebek. I won't spoil anything as despite the fairly low stakes for the majority of the book, there's a lot of secrets held by these kids and they are teased out wonderfully as they open up to each other.
It's a sweet story, but not without tension and a great read for both lovers of the genre and anyone willing to take a quick vacation to Camp Padua.
I rate it four and a half stars.