Oh, The People You’ll Meet

For the last half of April I found myself doing something I haven’t done in quite some time: assuming the Clark Griswold role in an honest to goodness family vacation. I loaded up the wife and child, and we drove over 1,500 miles (one way!) to the Pacific Northwest. We went whale watching in Puget Sound (north of Seattle), went to several beach towns in Oregon and Washington, then took the scenic route home. But this isn’t a vacation post. It’s still (pretty much) about writing—but that’s not to say I won’t force you to look at some of my vacation photos along the way.

A gray whale having some fun in Puget Sound, WA

There was some writing advice I heard once. I think it was Chuck Palahniuk, but it could’ve been Craig Clevenger (I’m pretty sure I read it at the fantastic website Lit Reactor, regardless). Someone asked what advice they would offer to young writers, their definition of young being late teens to early-to-mid twenties. Their advice? Travel. Go places, have experiences. Keep writing, obviously, but get out there and just do stuff. Ride a motorcycle across the US. Backpack through Europe, as cliché as that sounds. Whatever you can afford to do (in terms of both cash and time), get out and do it while you’re still young and have nothing holding you down. The experiences you have, and the people you encounter, will inform your writing for the rest of your life.

Cannon Beach, OR as seen from Ecola State Park

Now, the irony for me personally is that I read this advice when I was well into my 30’s, with a spouse and a full time job. Backpacking through Europe was not in the cards for me. I still took the advice to heart, however, and whenever I can I try to get out and do things if an opportunity presents itself. So when we were planning our route home from Washington and realized we could drive through Yellowstone National Park, it was a no-brainer. It was the first time for both my wife and I, and I was downright giddy as we made our way toward the park’s entrance.

One of the last places to stop before entering the park proper is a little cluster of shops and stores (and bathrooms!) that looks almost like a little town out of the old west. We decided to be the ultimate tourists and stop to peruse the shops. After all, how does anyone know you went to Yellowstone if you don’t have Official Yellowstone Merchandise to prove it?

I entered a store and started browsing the shirts, hats, magnets, etc. looking for just the right item that spoke to me. While I shopped, I heard customers being rung up by a particularly friendly cashier. He was probably in his mid 60’s, not too tall, a little scruff on his face, and about half a dozen different bracelets on his left wrist. He was incredibly polite, and just the right amount of conversational—he knew how to time his chit chat with customers, and wrap it up just as the transaction was over.

As I laid my items down, he greeted me with the same kind words I’d become accustomed to hearing during my time in the store. After exchanging pleasantries, the cashier volunteered information I hadn’t heard him tell anyone else: he is a full time RV’er, and he criss-crosses his way across the country year round until Yellowstone starts to see warmer weather, then he starts his part-time job as cashier through the end of the summer. I met the gentleman on his third day back, as it turned out. He told me this was his fifth summer working the store, and he thought it might be his last. He said he was ready for a change, and would probably put down stakes somewhere else next summer. I found this truly fascinating, and would’ve asked him tons of questions if I could have, but instead I bid him a pleasant summer and wished him luck in next year’s adventure.

Couldn’t help but think of this movie while talking to him

I told my wife about the encounter, and I have not stopped thinking about the man since. The things he’s seen, both before and after he began traveling full time. The circumstances that led to him making the decision to do it in the first place. Why on earth he was just so darn friendly. Will he be a character in a future story or book of mine? Probably not, if for no other reason than that I just don’t know enough about him. Will a character be based in part on him? Quite possibly. In just the few minutes I spent talking (listening, more like) to him, his personality—his aura, if you will—made such an impact that I’d be surprised if I didn’t call on that memory in the Yellowstone gift shop at some point in the future.

A bison chilling at Yellowstone

So I guess my unwarranted writing advice—or is it just life advice?—is the same as I recalled above. Get out and do things. Have experiences, meet people. I know it isn’t always easy, especially if you’re not a young whippersnapper. Hell, my last vacation of any kind was seven years ago, so believe me when I say I get it. But do it anyway, because you never know what might happen or who you might meet, and no matter what happens it’s worth the effort.

Another whale (or is it the same one?) says goodbye and thanks for reading!

I Got a Writing Gig!

To anyone who follows this blog (something I naturally recommend all of you do), I may have been sounding like a broken record lately. For the past several posts, I mention at some point how I haven’t been very productive lately—not writing much, I need to get busy with my writing projects, woe is me, etc. You can imagine my surprise when, a couple weeks ago, I applied for—and was offered—a recurring writing gig. Paid, no less!

Let me backtrack for a minute. Way back in the days of yore (aka the 90s) I got into pro wrestling. Like, really into it. I had a circle of friends who were into it, and we’d get together to watch the monthly pay-per-views, sometimes even the weekly shows, and just had an all around blast. I even wrote once about my fondness for pro wrestling on this very blog (read that here).

But, life happens, as it is wont to do, and gradually the circle of friends drifted apart. Add to that a significant other who wasn’t too into wrestling if it wasn’t a social affair, and a general decline in the wrestling product available to me (WWE), and eventually wrestling was no longer something I watched. It was just a fond memory from the old glory days of youth. But then, about a year or so ago, a new coworker started who was into wrestling. We got to talking, and it didn’t take long for me to be bitten by the bug again. Pro wrestling is going through a bit of a resurgence, and there’s never been a better time to be a fan (I’ll save the “you all should give pro wrestling a chance” schpiel). Plus, with the internet and streaming, it’s never been easier to watch a variety of wrestling promotions—you’re not limited to the WWE Universe (which is what they consider it, akin to Marvel) anymore.

I tell you all that to tell you this. A couple of weeks ago, I was browsing Facebook when I happened upon an ad for a page I follow, called The Signature Spot. The ad said they were looking for contributors to write a piece or two a month, and it was a paying gig. I reread it a second time, and thought it over. I had been whining about not being productive with my (fiction) writing, and here was a chance to get paid to write about a topic I enjoyed a great deal. It seemed a win-win, so I went ahead and sent in my resume.

Wheeler Yuta tries to choke out Jon Moxley on the 04/08/22 episode of AEW Rampage

I got the gig, and my first piece went live on Friday! If you’re so inclined, you can read it here. It’s a bit of alternative history, wondering how things could’ve gone differently if a certain wrestler hadn’t left the company he was in for WWE. I’m currently working on my second piece now, so it might be a little early to comment, but I will say this: between having an assignment, a deadline, and getting paid, I feel productive with my writing for the first time in a long time. Plus, The Signature Spot has pretty impressive reach, so knowing a pretty good amount of eyes are seeing what I’m writing is really rewarding. In the long term, I’m hoping this also gets me used to writing regularly again. Gotta get back into that habit!

I guess part of the reason for this post was just so I could brag into the void that I got a paid writing gig, but also I just thought maybe some of you out there (voidians? voidiots?) might like to see that if you keep your eyes open there might be opportunities that present themselves, even if it’s not something you ever thought you’d see yourself doing. Who knows, it might be just what you needed.

A little joke for the fellow old folks

Let Me Tell You About the Most Valuable Book I Own

A quick disclaimer: this isn’t a story of me finding a first edition copy of The Great Gatsby or Moby Dick tucked away in my parents’ attic, or stumbling upon a rare, out of print pressing of a Stephen King book at a garage sale. This is a more personal story.

If you’ve followed the saga (by which I mean my last post) of my struggles to be productive and actually get off my butt and write, you know that I’ve been trying to kick myself in the pants and get motivated to mostly no avail. I am still making some progress, though (yay!). A couple weeks ago I was reading over what I have so far in my current WIP, and was hung up on a character name—I was unhappy with the name of my antagonist, and even more unhappy with my attempts at renaming him. Then I was struck by an idea: I’ll name him after a character in one of my friend Mike’s books.

The last book Mike published.

Mike was a good friend of mine, and the lead vocalist for the first band I was ever in. He was smart, funny, weird, and incredibly creative. As friends sometimes do, we drifted apart after the band broke up, but reconnected some years later on social media. To my amazement, just as I was thinking that I should start taking my writing more seriously, I discovered that in the time since I’d spoken to him last, Mike had gotten a job as a high school English teacher—which is commendable and impressive enough in its own right—but he had also been steadily writing (and publishing!) short stories and novels under his full name, Michael Louis Calvillo. When we were in the band and hanging out all the time, he never talked about writing that I can remember. Neither did I, for that matter. We were both in our early 20s, having fun in a band, and had a wealth of other interests. But when I saw the list of books he’d published, I wasn’t all that surprised. He was far too creative a person—he had to have an outlet for all that creativity, and once the writing bug bit him, it bit hard. Unfortunately, Mike passed away in 2012 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. I remember how surprised I was at just how hard his passing hit me. And how hard it still hits me, for that matter, but I digress.

But back to my WIP. I hit the internet to look up Mike’s books and see if any of his characters had names I’d like to use. I didn’t find any, but I did find something a bit troubling: almost all his books have gone out of print. Of the 7 novels and short story collections he published, only 3 are still available for purchase. They had all been published by small, independent publishers, and as is sometimes the case with indie publishers, all but one of them has gone out of business. I’m not sure how to explain what happened next.

Something came over me then. A sudden sense of desperation—paranoia even. See, the books of Mike’s that I’ve read were ebooks, and those were no longer available either, and of the three still with physical copies available, they were in extremely limited quantities. It felt almost like his legacy was vanishing before my very eyes. I HAD to buy one, to have and hold in my hands. Of the three, one of them seemed like the one, out of all his books, that Mike was most proud of. It was his second novel, about two couples struggling with addiction—one to heroin, one to eating human flesh—titled As Fate Would Have It (a prolonged love letter). When I saw there was a hardcover edition of AFWHI for sale, I jumped on it without a moment’s hesitation. It took a little while because the seller was located in the UK, but Saturday I found it on my doorstep.

It was listed as used, but to call it in “like new” condition would be an understatement. The spine even made that satisfying crackling sound when I opened the book. And I neglected to mention the best part: it’s signed.

It may seem silly, but having this book in my possession means a lot. I’m looking forward to reading it and refreshing my memory of just what a wild, far out imagination my friend had. There are three people I consider the biggest influences on me as a writer, and it goes without saying that Mike is one of the three. I’m hoping having a little piece of his writing legacy around helps change my mindset and makes me want to write again.

I’m a bit of an odd duck when it comes to books (and most other things, but that’s another story). I’m not hugely sentimental about books, and I’ve never had a massive collection. After a fairly ugly split with my first wife, I had to leave a lot of things behind, including most of my book collection. I did, however, box up the small collection of books that meant something to me—the first few Stephen King books my parents bought me when I was first getting into him as a kid (another of my Three Great Influences), a handful of my favorite paperbacks from other writers I admire (namely Elmore Leonard and Scott Smith), and various books on the craft of writing (especially Wonderbook by Jeff VanderMeer, which I will never stop recommending). I now have
As Fate Would Have It (a prolonged love letter), and I believe that may just trump them all.

I’d love to hear about any books you own that mean a lot to you, or the book you’re on the hunt for, the one you just have to have. What’s the most valuable book you own?

And one last thing: I’d be remiss if I didn’t share a link directing you to Mike’s amazon page. As I said, only three books are available for purchase, but I can guarantee you that any of the three will give you an odd (and I do mean ODD), captivating thrill ride like no other. The man was truly one of a kind.

Sorry about the terrible picture quality

Of Struggles, Failures, and Redemption (Hopefully)

I’ve never really been sure how many people actually “follow” my blog. The number of followers on the homepage, while not fabricated, is the number wordpress came up with by counting my Twitter followers as followers of my blog as well. I appreciate the effort of trying to make me look more popular than I really am, but I know 2800+ people are not reading my blog. I say all of that to say this:

If you’re one of the few who does follow me and read each new post as it’s published—and a heartfelt thanks for that, by the way—you may be wondering how NaNoWriMo turned out for me. Or maybe, judging by the radio silence on here since the second week of October, you’ve already put the pieces together. In short, it did not end well. After that last naïvely optimistic post about getting back on track and hitting the 50k word mark by the end of the month, I hit some more roadblocks: one physical (Covid), one mental. December came and went, and now here we are, three weeks into January and although my physical state has improved, I’m still struggling to get over the mental hurdle and get writing again.

I’ve managed to at least look at my current WIP and give the 5k or so words that are there some tweaking, and I’ve had some good ideas to make the story more interesting, but I haven’t done any writing of real substance since November, and that was brief. But then, scrolling on Twitter while successfully procrastinating (not to brag, but I’m pretty good at it), I saw a tweet that provided a glimmer of hope.

If you’re asking yourself who the heck Josh Stolberg is (and you very well may), here’s his abbreviated bio on Twitter: “Writer of such Oscar bait as Piranha 3D, Jigsaw, Sorority Row, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Spiral & the upcoming Saw X. Director. Photographer.”

The responses to his tweet were more enthusiastic than he expected, so Stolberg later tweeted that he would create a Google doc and share the login info with anyone who wanted to log their daily word count along with him. Just comment on the tweet (click here to go straight to it), and he’ll DM you the login info. I’m hoping this might be the thing to kick me in the butt and get me going again, because I’ll tell you what…once you’re in a rut, getting out is h-a-r-d hard. And like a lot of problems, the only real road block is me.

So tell me, you wonderful writerly warriors (I’ll work on the alliteration), if you started NanoWriMo, how did it go? Did you finish the project, and are you currently editing away like mad? And equally important, if you’ve ever found yourself unable or unwilling to write, what ultimately motivated you to start back up?

As for me, here’s hoping the writer of Piranha 3D will do the trick. Happy writing, folks!

Six (Six Six)Super Spookytime Suggestions!

Hey all! Decided to change things up a little, since next week I’ll (hopefully) be cranking out astronomical word counts for the start of NaNoWriMo. Until then, seeing as how it’s the las week of October, I’d be remiss if I didn’t toss out some horror recommendations if you’re not sure what to watch to keep you in the scary spirit. I’m listing the poster/thumbnail , with a very brief review underneath. I consider these all to be worth your time, but I’ve organized them from least favorite to favorite. Here we go:

The Conjuring 3: The Devil Made Me Do It (HBO Max)

You pretty much know what you’re getting with The Conjuring movies by now, so you probably already know if you’ll like this one or not. Kudos to the writers for shaking up the formula a little bit, as this one earns my favorite critique: “It’s fine.”

Halloween Kills (Theaters/Peacock)

Another where you pretty much know what to expect going in, the biggest variable in a lot of the Halloween movies is whether or not they’ll cut the mustard for horror fans. Again, this movie is fine. There was a lot of dialogue that I found downright atrocious, but the action and gore made up for that in the long run.

Censor (Hulu)

A very solid and very original horror film out of the UK about a film censor who starts to lose her grip on reality (or does she?). It’s short, it will mess with your head, and it has an overall look/style that makes it stand out. Can’t wait to see what the folks behind this one do next.

Saint Maud (Hulu)

Another striking film debut about someone questioning reality, Saint Maud walks the line between horror and slow burn psychological thriller, but I’m not concerned with splitting hairs—it’s close enough for me. Another film that’s very short, what I liked most about it is the way it built tension and unease, and a final scene I absolutely adored.

Midnight Mass (Netflix)

You’ve probably heard about this one, the third Netflix limited series from the apparent reigning champion of horror right now, Mike Flanagan. His take on The Haunting of Hill House was nearly a masterpiece as far as I was concerned, but The Haunting of Bly Manor didn’t really do it for me. So where does Midnight Mass stand? I’d put it between the two, closer to Hill House. It meanders and drags in places, but I’d say it mostly lives up to the hype.

30 Coins [30 Monedas] (HBO Max)

30 Coins has been out for a while, but I’m just getting around to watching it now and whoa…this show is something. I’m actually only three episodes in, but that’s enough to know that (barring a truly dismal ending) this show is head and shoulders above much of the horror out right now. A tale about a mysterious priest, Judas, and a collection of coins (guess how many?) that could end Christianity. The first episode alone got three genuine “WTF”s from me, which is quite a special achievement.

There you have it, hopefully something to keep you spooked for the remainder of the month. Be safe, have fun, and Happy Halloween!

Sonder, or: Everyone Has a Story

NaNoWriMo in T minus 10 days and counting…those of you participating, are you ready? Personally, I’m *almost* right where I want to be on November 1st. I want to be prepared, but not too prepared. I like having a little wiggle room in my plot and my outline, because one thing a lot of you may already know: your characters can surprise you. Your story may take on twists and turns you never thought about until you sit down and get into the nitty gritty.

Speaking of characters, there’s a word I discovered a few years ago. It’s one of my favorite words: sonder.

sonder

n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.

Cool, right? And do you see the correlation to characters? I hope it’s clear, but if it’s not it basically boils down to this: characters are people (they should be, anyway). They have backstories, motives, flaws, etc. that make them relatable, and relatable characters are what it’s all about!

Image of just Because you are a character doesn't mean that you have character.
The first quote about character I could think of.

I’ve seen other writers suggest doing things like interviewing their characters to learn more about them, but that always seemed…a little corny to me, I guess, although I wouldn’t be surprised if I still try it someday. But the other day I stumbled upon a different suggestion that ties into the notion of sonder—switch protagonists. It makes you look at your story from a little different angle, and makes you think about other characters that you may have been neglecting when it comes to fleshing them out and making them more interesting. I usually try to be thorough when it comes to fleshing out my antagonists, but I’ll admit I can forget about side characters sometimes.

The suggestion to switch protagonists comes from Scott Myers’s great Go Into the Story column on The Blacklist website. (Side note: do you all look to screenwriting resources for writing tips, too? Granted, the format is different, but most of the storytelling tips apply to novelists and writers of short stories as well. Myers’s column if a treasure trove of helpful advice, and I can’t recommend the YouTube channel Lessons from the Screenplay highly enough. Also almost any book on screenwriting by Syd Field). So, give it a shot, let me know what you think!

I’m also open to suggestions, what tricks to you have for making sure your characters are lifelike, three dimensional people that readers can relate to?

Writing Residencies: Who’s Done Them?

So here we are, three and a half weeks until November and the kickoff to NaNoWriMo. If you’re participating, are you ready? If it were beginning tomorrow I’d be in okay shape to start on my project, but I’m really trying to get everything laid out storywise so that when the time comes I can just write (and write and write and write).

Thinking about how much writing I hope to be doing in November got me thinking about something I had investigated a little at one point in time, but forgot about—writing residencies. As a writer with far too little time to dedicate to writing (as I assume many of you are, as well), writing residencies sound almost too good to be true. You expect me to believe that, if selected, I can go off to a (usually) remote location, surrounded by other writers/artists, and I’m expected to just…write? Like, that’s it? What every writer dreams of? What’s the catch?

This looks beautiful and tranquil, but there is a 100% chance I would send my laptop plummeting to the ground below.

Well, as I (a complete novice to the world of residencies) see it, there are two “catches”. First, the odds do not seem to be in your (or my) favor. It’s unclear just how many applications these organizations get for residency, but in many cases they only accept one to two dozen writers a year for their programs. That being said, you’ll never get into the residency you don’t apply for, right?

Second, and what I consider to be a slightly larger issue, is money. Most (though not all) residency programs have an application fee—although most that I’ve researched are fairly modest, in the $20-40 range. *Game show announcer voice* BUT THAT’S NOT ALL! There are other costs to consider as well. For example, travel. Almost none of the programs cover travel to their location. So, for example, if you live in, say, California, and get accepted into a residency in Florida…then it’s time to flex those Hotwire muscles. Other things to consider include: feeding yourself while you’re there, how you’ll get around should you want to leave the grounds, and, in some cases, the nightly fee. That’s right, some residencies charge nightly just like a hotel or Airbnb. And that’s all assuming you’re able to get time off work (paid vacation time, if you’re lucky), as residencies vary from 1-2 weeks up to a few months.

However—and I cannot stress this enough—every residency program is different. YOU HAVE TO DO YOUR RESEARCH! Some cover meals, but not travel. Some give you a stipend for food and expenses for the duration of your stay. Some have no application fee. Some even give you access to a car so you can see the sights while you’re there! It’s a lot like finding a publisher or an agent: you just have to find the one(s) that are the right fit for you. But if you find one that fits your life, and you get accepted … man, oh man, does it ever seem like utopia.

The Porches Retreat, in rural Virginia.

The vast majority of information I’m giving you was found in this article from The Write Life. It’s over a year old, but the links are still good. You’ll just have to visit the sites for their most updated information. I myself have their list narrowed down to about 10 or so that make sense for me. Most of them don’t accept applications again until early next year, but there are a couple coming up soon, so I have to get cracking! As for you all, have any of you ever been accepted into a residency program? Was it everything you’d hoped it would be?

Calling All Worldbuilders

I don’t know how some of you do it. Worldbuilding is really something else, and I’m having a little trouble with it.

I’m sitting here, “working” on one of my projects (staring at the screen and thinking a lot) before NaNoWriMo is upon us, and it’s my first story that requires any real worldbuilding. All of my previous work has been pretty deeply rooted in the real world, with maybe a couple of otherworldly exceptions. I had foolishly thought worldbuilding would never be something I’d have to think about much because fantasy and sci-fi are not really in my writing wheelhouse.

While based in the real world, this story involves reapers. Not The Grim Reaper, per se, but more like a global network of reapers. Figuring out how they operate, where they go and why, what they look like and why, etc. has got me a little stymied. With the rough draft I kept it pretty simple, but now as I try to tighten everything down and ensure everything makes sense, I realize I have some unanswered questions to…well, to answer.

* I did not build this world

Due to circumstances partially beyond my control, I’ve found myself moving 4 times in the last 5 years. As you can imagine, things have a way of getting shuffled around. As such, I’m going to have to go on a hunting expedition through my garage and basement for a buried treasure: Wonderbook by Jeff VanderMeer (author of the Southern Reach trilogy—the first of which, Annihilation, was adapted into a film). I’ve written about my love of this writer’s guide to “creating imaginative fiction” before, as it’s far more engrossing than your typical all-text book. Full of wonderful, fantastical illustrations and more advice than you can shake a stick at (from a who’s who of authors to boot), Wonderbook is an indispensible resource for nearly any writer. As it happens, it’s also the only book I own (other than novels) that can help me understand how to build my little reaper-infested world for my own book.

If you don’t own it, buy it

In the meantime, however, while I look for my buried treasure, if you have experience worldbuilding I’d love to know how you got good at it. Was it just by doing, or did you read anything (instructional, novels, or otherwise) that helped you figure out what to do?

NaNoWriMo, Who’s With Me?

I’ve got a secret.

I’ve never done NaNoWriMo. I did it in spirit one year, but it wasn’t “official”. But first, let’s back up a step—just what the heck is NanoWrimo, anyway?

If you’re reading this, you’re probably a writer. As such, you may already know, but if you don’t, NanoWriMo is the official shorthand for National Novel Writing Month, which lasts through the month of November. In fact, if you listen closely on the morning of November 1st, you’ll be able to hear the pouring of coffee, the uncapping of pens, and the clacking of keyboards all across the country.

Image courtesy of NaNoWriMo

The goal of NaNoWriMo is, as you may have guessed, is to help you write a novel in a month. More specifically, 50,000 words in 30 days. That breaks down to 1,666 words a day (if, of course, you write every day). Does that sound like a lot? I’ll let you in on a little secret: it’s not. Provided, that is, that you go into it at least somewhat prepared. Which is why I’m blogging about it six weeks in advance—in this one instance, at least, there IS a method to my madness.

Now, don’t get me wrong—you can complete NaNoWriMo with little to no preparation. There’s a good chance, however, that what you’ll be left with on December 1st is a mountain of unintelligible garbage THAT YOU WILL THEN HAVE TO EDIT.

As for me personally, I’ve decided to give NaNoWriMo an honest shot this year because between you and me and the fencepost, I need a shot in the arm and a kick in the butt. I’ve written painfully little in the past year, but have ideas and partially written projects coming out the wazoo. I feel like I’ve lost my mojo, and am more than willing to try NaNoWriMo to get it back. I reviewed my WIP’s and settled on the one I think is the best bet for me: A supernatural horror/thriller that will (potentially, hopefully) be the first in a series. I outlined the beats of the story and even started a rough draft, but something just wasn’t…right. But now, I have a month and a half to make sure my plot is tight and everything is ready for me to sit down on November 1 and just…write. Naturally, it’ll still have to be edited (no amount of planning/outlining can eliminate that), but hopefully it won’t be the arduous task it could be.

Last Chance! Women In Media Late Entries Close Today! - B&T

So, what do you do if you decide to give it a shot? Well, NaNoWriMo has a website where you can sign up—for free—to get pep talks, resources if you get stuck, a nifty project tracker, find buddies, etc. that help thousands of writers get through the month successfully. Or, if you’re more the loner type, you could…well you could just write. Start the 1st and write your 1,666 words a day (more some days, less others) and find yourself putting the finishing touches on a novel over Thanksgiving weekend.

Those of you who have participated, what was your experience like with NaNoWriMo? Do it every year, or did it once and never again? Whether you use the official website or toil away in solitude—hell, even if you don’t finish the 50,000 words in 30 days, you’re still a writer. Just keep writing.

Good luck!

You Think You Know Anxiety? Get Blurbs for Your Book

A couple of posts ago, I casually declared that the rewrites/edits for my upcoming novel would be done “in the next couple weeks!”

Fool. Moron. Idiot. Buffoon.

Finishing those edits took longer than I anticipated (luckily my editor is beyond patient and told me to take my time, so as to ensure quality), but they are being turned in this week. Yay! There will still be more edits to come I’m sure, but they will be small things—typos, the errant comma, etc. That means that it’s time to look ahead. We have cover design, marketing, and one thing that I’ve been encouraged to pursue sooner rather than later: Blurbs.

You probably already know, but for those who don’t, blurbs are the little quotes praising your book (or sometimes just you) coming from either your contemporaries, a prestigious reviewer (The New York Times, for example), or other such luminaries. We’ve all seen them (although whether we actually read them is another story):

“The greatest story about competitive duck racing ever told.” — The New Yorker

“A tale of lovelorn Postmates drivers that will have you gasping at the final page!” —Reader’s Digest

Those are obviously fake, but there is one I’ve always remembered: “I’ve seen the future of horror; his name is Clive Barker.” —Stephen King

I don’t have to tell you the kind of weight a quote like that carries from Uncle Stevie. Clive Barker has even spoken about how that simple blurb changed his life completely. So all I have to do is go on Twitter and ask Mr. King nicely for a blurb, and I’m all set!

No, of course not. But the process of getting blurbs can seem almost as ridiculous. To a large degree, it amounts to this: contact authors you (hopefully) know, and that have some relevance to your genre, and ask politely. What if you don’t know any authors to ask? Good luck. That’s the importance of networking, people!

As for me, I don’t know how it’s going to go. I’ve got a list of about 10 authors I’m friends with on Facebook that I plan to ask. Of those, I’m almost certain 3 or 4 will say no (but I’m asking anyway because I’m big fans of theirs). Another 2 or 3 are somewhat likely to say yes. The others, well…I just don’t know. There are two that I would be floored to get blurbs from, both because I hold them in high regard, and they are well known in the world of dark fiction. I’ll keep you posted!

What about you, do you read blurbs? Do they make you more or less likely to give a book a shot?

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