Can’t Sleep, The Clowns Will Eat Me

zombieland-clownOkay, so this isn’t as bad as it sounds. I actually have no issues with clowns. Any of them. I mean, I’ve a fan of zombie movies and if you’ve even been paying partial attention, those have clowns in them. A lot. Cannibal clowns. You’d think those would be the ones you’re supposed to be afraid of, right?

At the same time I have sleep disorders on my best days. And the last few weeks haven’t been my best days. Tuesdays and Thursdays are becoming the nights where anxiety takes hold because I know I will have trouble sleeping. And I am fully aware that the anxiety makes it almost assured I won’t sleep. Thanks. But last night wasn’t a day starting in the letter T.

Dreams have been waking me up lately. Like up to five times a night. Last night started innocently enough with a scene of being part of a police force strike on a criminal organization’s house. Only they knew we were coming. Lots of folks died. Horribly. And I watched it all.

dark_sci_fi_warrior_soldier_military_weapons_guns_mech_monsters_creatures_art_cities_buildings_battle_war_1920x1080Each time I woke and went back to sleep it got worse. Instead of the mob it was monsters. Zombies would turn to mutants, who would in turn morph to vampires. Eventually it was a mass attack from aliens or elder gods. Possibly both.

Cut to this morning, trying to get ready and out the door to write. Nothing is flowing. I am getting words down, but I had to fight for the 1200 or so I managed. And I know there’s no inspiration for my next story. My plan is to top out at 20 short stories (10 short of my 30 story goal) but around 55k in word count. Which means about 15k in the next 3 days. I was dragging my heels this weekend.

More so, with so many of my stories being ghost story adaptations or urban fantasy in nature, I am noticing a trend. There are a lot of stories dealing with death. So much so, that I am considering a story with the Grim Reaper as the central figure. Sort of a “one story to rule them all” thing. And now my dreams are following suit. Lots of death, and waking up wondering where my dog is.

The best description of this morning comes in the form of a television quote. Specifically one from Pam a couple episodes back in True Blood… “Yeah, kind of like getting kicked in the cooch by a Wallaby, ain’t it?”

Why post about this here? Maybe so I keep writing. Possibly it had something to do with no blog in the past week. Or maybe to serve as a reminder for those facing similar problems in their NaNoWriMo project (or similar deadline driven task). Take some time to process life. Hershel said, “We all have a job to do.” At the same time, the difference between 40,000 words in a month and 55,000 words isn’t that much. Had I been in the middle of a novel and not a collection of short stories, I might have thrown in the towel already.

And that’s not only allowed, but perfectly acceptable.

Day 7 and 8… hitting the wall

Day 7 and 8 stories are my real challenge. One of them really isn’t a fully formed story and the other will likely never see the light of day. Though I am keeping the opening line from Day 7 no matter what. It was a terribly good line from a song. One that will likely prompt several stories, or possibly a novel.

Hindsight being the better of my two visual-like senses, next time around I will start collecting improv comedy style prompts earlier in the process. Much earlier than the start of the challenge. It should eliminate running low on inspiration two weeks in.

That said, here is what I have to add to the tally…

Day 7 – Restless Spirits

A story about the lone living heir to a brewing empire. Haunted by his past and ancestors unwilling to keep quiet he turns to the alcohol that gave him his financial independence. As I said above, even if I never work this story into something finished and refined, I will be keeping the opening line: “I can’t drown my demons, they know how to swim.”

Day 8 – Wind In Your Hair

I had nothing to write about. This is a rough week for it all, so I wrote a story that was happening to me. An explanation of why I am a dog person and what that means as we are at the end of my black lab’s sixteen year life. More likely than not, nobody will ever read this piece. At least not while I’m still here.

Going Forward

The next couple days worth of ideas are there. Starting them shouldn’t be a problem now that I snaked out that clog in my creative pipes. Though if my instincts are right, I will be saying goodbye to someone before the month is over. No way of telling what that will do to my voice at the end of the challenge.

But, as Hershel said in the last season of Walking Dead…

“We all have a job to do.”

Week One @NaNoWriMo Insight

Okay, so it is past week one by a couple days. I’m still only through Day 6 on the stories though. Almost half way through my word count, but only 6 completed stories. Which means I’m maintaining my word count (ding) but falling short on a story every day (wah-wah). But there was something that came to me as I was trying to figure out what to write for Day 7.

Before I get into that, for those not following the page tabbed above for the 30 Days & 30 Nights project, here is the next two in the series and their stats.

Day 5 – Bury Me With My Guns On (2658)

Inspired from an insert I read on burial practices in the “wild west.” And a touch from the Bobaflex song. What do you want? It’s in my urban fantasy playlist I use when writing. Besides, who doesn’t like a good cowboy ghost story?

Day 6 – Deep Fried Deep Ones (5864)

This was based off of a real world article. In looking at it, I saw an application into horror. A place I felt I could play with some Lovecraftian stuff. Maybe not strict Lovecraft, but based on the concepts. Give me a break, we’re making this all up as we go along.

The Epiphany

The news piece Day 6 is based on is about a family of American tourists in Greece. They find a rare, 6 tentacle octopus (a hextapus), beat it to death on the rocks, and then cook it. The only reason they cooked it themselves is because the chef at the restaurant refused to. So yeah, a pretty horrible story. One that reinforces all the worst stereotypes of Americans. But its a contemporary story. And I can’t do contemporary.

Back in college we had an assignment to go down to the Kohl’s Grocery Store on campus and write a short story taking place in that location. No problem. Until the professor asked us to present them.

Another guy went before me. He wrote this heart-wrenching piece about a kid who moved to Wisconsin after being born in a third world country. The kid was given instructions to go to the market for food. He was even given a list. And the tale was about the differences in his world as opposed to ours. He picked up corn by the picture on the can (forget that the country he came from didn’t grow corn – or that fresh corn is offered in the produce section). He found the fish tank with the bass in it (I’ll give the benefit of the doubt that he was near a coastal region of his country). After grabbing a fish out of the tank, he beat it to death with the can of corn.

For me, this was still a piece of science fiction, because even in the 80’s parents didn’t send their grade school aged kid to the market alone to do the grocery shopping for the family. Much less if they were just moved into a different country. One that didn’t share a common language with them. The author had an explanation built into the story as for how the boy spoke such wonderful English, but still.

Then its my turn. Right after the GAN (Great American Novelist). I proceed to recite my story about Cthulhu stepping down into Kohl’s. One foot in aisle 4 and one in aisle 7. But, knowing the I.P. issues TSR was having with the Call of Cthulhu folks, I only hit to the fact it is him. You never see he tentacle-laden face. (Old Ones are tall, yo.)

Cthulhu (of course) brings insanity with him. The leprechaun from the box of Lucky Charms rolls off the box, calls out his intent to kill those bastard elves on the Rice Krispies box, and using his magic to summon a machine gun. Snap, Crackle and Pop spring from the box and take off running. And yes, the Lobster Tank (which was what actually resided in that tank) was a casualty as they came spinning around the end of the aisle and into the next.

Things return to normal as the gigantic feet lift up and take off into the sky again, but the store manager is left trying to figure out how those rolls of toilet paper were tossed all around, water from the busted fish tank soaking into them. Or who had cut the Lucky Charms guy as well as the Rice Krispie guys from a box and left them two aisles over. All three of the elves covered in a splattered bottle of ketchup.

What Does This Show?

I will never write the Great American Novel. Some people have that story in them to tell. I have horror in me. Fantasy, science fiction. I look at a bird house and wonder how many pixies live in there. And just what would they think of Pixie Stix? Would they be as horrified by them as I am?

So in future challenges like this, feel free to send me non-speculative fiction ideas. I cannot assure their safety however.

Now that flash fiction contest I am considering entering though. That one would be tough. One of the required elements you are given each round is genre. 😉

Day 3 and 4 of Camp NaNoWrimo

Okay, technically it is day 4 and 5, but the stories are Day 3 and Day 4. So far only two of my stories have hovered around 1700 words, so I am over on my word count, but only through 4 short stories. That leaves me two more to write to catch up. Game night is cancelled tonight though, so I have a chance to catch up.

Additionally I am getting into some of the strange suggestions. That means a bit more work to get into the stories and characters. Thanks to the first couple ideas I had, they keep skewing towards the ghost stories. Contemporary is just not in my wheelhouse. That considered, here is what I do have…

Day 3 – Unspoken Words: A story about two strangers who find themselves sharing a cabin for a week. IN addition to not knowing each other, they are dealing with a communication barrier.

Day 4 – Churro Don’t Tweet: This is more of an inside joke, so therefore a working title. It is the story set in the Los Angles of my Pretty Little Monsters series. One of their club girl friends has a miniature chihuahua named Churro as a “pet.” It’s actually her protector to her assigned by Wendy. We’ll see if I keep him as a skinshifter or make him the alpha of a pack of were-chihuahuas. All I know is I had the image of him looking like a younger version of Danny Trejo – like from Desperado. Thus the “Churro Don’t Tweet” title.

Not sure what days these will wind up being, but based off of the suggestions, I am going to do a Ghost in the Machine story (tiny necromantic constructs as electronic devices) and Deep Fried Deep Ones (spawn of the Old Ones caught and eaten by clueless American tourists).

Word Count: 12220

Completed Stories: 4

Camp NaNoWriMo: Day 1 and Day 2

So the concept that I had thought to use last November is the goal for this July. Camp NaNoWriMo is going to see the attempt at “30 Days and 30 Nights.” The idea is a compliation of 30 short stories over the course of the month.

In my last blog I started taking suggestions for writing challenges/prompts from people. WHich I will get to. But, as is my way, I couldn’t stick to that. A day prior to the start of the challenge my wife had me walking through the bargain books at the west side Barnes and Noble. This led me to the first story in my set – my Day 1.

The book was the Armchair Arnchair Reader: Haunted America. A collection of small blurbs on various ghost stories from around the US. For me, it was a checklist of various story prompts. Ideas just waiting to form. Such as…

Day One – The Contract

I had this idea formed from the little blurbs of the myriad mob realted ghosts in Las Vegas to give me the image of a guy. He was a hitman for the mob who took his job very seriously. In his mind, a professional always follows through on a contract.

You can likely guess where I went with this. I wrote his story on him and his quest to fill a contract. The lengths to which one man will go to honor his word.

The Problem

I went over Day One. A lot over. Like almost 5000 words by the end of it (without an edit). Almost three days worth of word count on a single story. Whichdoesn’t get me off the hook for the 1700 minimum for Day 2 or Day 3.

The Two-Pronged Assault

So I took the book again, and flipped randomly to a page. The one I came on was the two pages of this nearly 500 page book dedicated to Ed and Lorraine Warren. This is the couple that the movie The Conjuring was about. The movie my wife and I just watched finally the last night of camping (for me) this week.

The Problem

I just watched the movie. This wasn’t a writing spark or prompt. This was a fully formed story I had just consumed. Serendipity be damned, I couldn’t write about this without it influening me. So I used one concept from the story and brought it into my world. Let my mind play with it as I drank my coffee this morning. which gave me…

Day Two – The Fire Inside

This is the story of a guy with anger management issues. The entire thing takes place in his therapists office. Though I am not sure if this is a fully formed story or a character outline to help me definie a character. Time will tell. It could be a prequel. Tough to say.

Day Three

I am still considering Day 3. And Day 4 for that matter. With the 4th tomorrow I have a cookout to go to. A parade to attend. But I still have a story to write. Even if I am well into Day 5 according to my word count.

We will have to see where this takes me. So what have you been up to with your July? 😉

New Project: 30 Days & 30 Nights

Before I was a ghost, I was a badass vampire.

Before I was a ghost, I was a badass vampire.

It has been a while, but between Odyssey Con, book reviews, my own writing, and the day job… I haven’t had much time to think. Much less anything much to say. But things have changed.

Several items on my Bucket List are being driven into the realm of the impossible. Namely, Craig Ferguson is stepping down from his talk show. No matter how quickly I get my stories out, there is no feasible way for me to sell enough to warrant an invite on the show. And the harmonica challenge has been dead for a while. So, there’s that. In all honesty, there really isn’t even the time to go to LA and attend a taping of the show.

I once said to myself in those quiet moments of reflection, “the measure of a warrior isn’t in his victories, it’s in his defeats.” There’s no shame in missing out on those line items. It is not so much the destination, but the journey. Which means I may back up the site branding to The Journey I had been using previously. Because the journey that is my writing isn’t over. Not by far.

With that, I am asking for help from any who are willing to give it. I am starting a new challenge for the month of July. The idea is one that I had considered last November, but followed a market trend that didn’t pan out. So now I am following my heart.

The Challenge

Write a short story each and every day for 30 days. Each short story will have at least 1667 words to it, totally the 50,000 word goal for a NaNoWriMo challenge. If a story goes over 3334 words, it will still count as a single day. My goal is to have 30 short stories of 1700 words or more each. Enough for several anthologies, should I wish.

The Reason

I want to refine my short story writing. It is someplace where I have issues. My research in this has included picking up and reading more anthologies and watching videos on YouTube of slam poets. And then refining my watching of the videos to just the good slam poets. My search is for an efficiency of words, something poets are strong at.

Your Help

Short story ideas. Writing sparks. It could be as simple as a headline. Did you see a weird news headline that made you laugh? Share it with me. A picture that invokes your imagination? Link it. A single line of text that hooks you in (provided I’m not plagiarizing or breaking copyright laws). Or a song. Lord knows, I’ve had a number of songs that have sparked story ideas in me.

Link or post any story sparks, ideas or inspiring works of art below. I will pick one a day (or one of my own as I have been collecting them for a while in preparation) and use it. My intention is to post the spark I use each day. Maybe use a journal entry to outline the direction I want to take it.

The Offer

The month is over. Stories are edited. I have my collection.

I have no idea when I will get around to publishing them. Especially if there is no unifying structure between them. But in the event I use your idea or spark for a short story, you will become a beta reader for it. Once edited, I will send it to you for you to read. If you have feedback, send it along. It may change the final product. Tough for me to see that far ahead.

So… what you got? Hit me with your best shot. 😉

NaNoWriMo Prep – Non-Gazebo Edition

This is the first in my “get your ass ready” series of posts for my own benefit. Listing out what I personally need as a writer. You can attempt to follow my example, but results may vary. Or as I hear often enough in writing conferences to make it mantra… damn near dogma…

This is what works for ME. Find what works for you and run with it.

Bug-Out-Bag-homeThe first step in preparing a NaNoWriMo Survival Kit is pretty similar to setting up a Bug Out Bag for the zombie apocalypse. Identify what you need and start gathering them together. At one point all the stuff for my BOB rested in a single place. That only lasts for so long. Stuff migrates in Casa de Zombie. Usually not by my doing. Sometimes, but not usually.

There are two quotes that I have yet to get stitched onto my shoulder bag that I use for NaNo. Both form the Double Rainbow that is the theme of my writing experience in either NaNoWriMo or Camp NaNoWriMo. They are…

You don’t need Neil Gaiman’s Fucking Gazebo.

AND

Writing a novel is like making love to a gorilla. You’re not done until the gorilla’s done.

One was made PG in final edits (though the URL is still R), and the other is a quote from Craig Ferguson on novel writing. I am not PG, and I don’t choose who inspires me. So you get what you get.

neils-gazeboAs such, the two quotes present a dichotomy of sorts. Primarily, the act of preparing a Public Authorin’ Kit in itself is the definition of the gazebo. But at the same time is essential (for me) to succeed in the program. At least it isn’t building an actual gazebo. In additional, no matter what the challenge states, 50,000 words isn’t a full novel in my genre. Meaning that even once I hit that goal, “the gorilla isn’t finished.”

My plan is to get a nice bag set up with at least the gorilla quote after my first real sale. As I have a short story out there on submission, this could happen soon. But I won’t be holding my breath. For this year, I have my bag set out and ready to be stocked. I’ll be doing that this weekend since Halloween is pretty full this year.

After the pre-NaNo meet ups this week (also known as the Plotting Party), I’ll have an idea what I am writing. That means I will be able to load a playlist of music that will outline my story. Likely including the anthems for both the hero and the villain. Hell, in at least one of the ideas I am dancing with, those anthems may be the same songs.

I’m going out on a limb and will predict that the playlist for this project will contain at least one song from Wayland, one from Bobaflex, and probably one from Halestorm. In This Moment is a coin toss. Most of their music really needs a specific story or character to fit in. I’ve also been collecting up a lot of Nonpoint and Otep thanks to the influence of Biatch from the morning show. I may thank her by showing up at the station with donuts Halloween morning in my zombie clown getup.

So Step 1 is setting up the playlist, purchasing the music (if needed) and loading my iPod.  This is the kicking off point for all of my writing projects. At least the novel length ones. Poems and short stories are another issue entirely.

What music are you setting your story to? Or are you the kind of writer that needs quiet? Maybe experiment with it this NaNo.