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.


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.

Sparked Image Thanks to @ChazztheJazz

For those of you not familiar with the YouTube guy known as “chazzthejazz” in most social networks (or Charles St. Micheal in his actual videos), he is a rather irreverent east coast actor. And while he leans more to the right as opposed to my left of center leanings, I get his sense of humor. Quite often it is obscenely off color, but then again… so am I. Follow along, it’s a windy road. Use the buddy system. Hold hands if you need to.

He has a schedule of events, one day being “Drinking and Smoking”, a video where he drinks, smokes (vapors) and talks about whatever strikes his fancy. This past week there was one where he was talking music and bands. Though he was part of a Queen cover band at one point, he told a story about a friend doing music in LA in the 80’s. If you want to get it straight from the tap, I’ll embed the video here. It is just under 30 minutes though.

For those looking to get straight to the point, in the mid 80’s, even though there were bands in every bar on the strip, you could step into any pawn shop on Sunset Blvd. and see the most amazing vintage guitars hanging on the wall. So, in theory, you could get a hell of a deal on a really sweet guitar. But that wasn’t it.

Each piece hanging on the wall represented the corpse of someone’s dead dreams. They came out to LA to break into music and were left with selling their piece to be able to eat, get home… so they could live. It hit me pretty strong considering the story of one of my favorite bands, Wayland. It had some parallels.

They had gone out to LA and were told they were a midwest band. They needed to tour. To play the midwest. They needed to live where their home was, the heart of their music. So they did. Phill’s white guitar didn’t wind up on the wall somewhere the memorial to the death of a dream.

manuscriptsWhy do I bring this up? Musicians aren’t the only one facing this. I was in a meeting with an editor here in town. His office is the attic of a three story house. And, as you would expect from an editor, the attic is filled with books, more books, a couple desks… some more books. You get the idea. I sat at one desk and he sat at the other. We talked over a length of bookshelves that held manuscripts. Two of them stood out to me. The name written on the page that bound them together catching my attention.

It really pressed upon me on the drive home. The well-known and prolific author whose name was on those manuscripts died recently. The man was gone from the world, but there his story sat, awaiting revisions. Awaiting print. They may decide to release it as is, it may get a polishing by someone else to ready for final release. The holder of his estate (his widow) may choose to leave it unreleased.

The thought of the last novel of this great writer potentially being unreleased reminded me of that Les Paul hanging on the wall of a pawn shop in LA. The final display of a lost dream. Though in this scenario, it isn’t the dream of the artist that is potentially lost and gone from the world, but the dreams of the readers that would be inspired by the last telling of a tale this man would ever do.

Of anything in the last couple years, this is the most motivating. I can think my writing is crap. If nothing else I need to have someone else tell me that. Because even if my stories fit a niche market and I need to self publish to get them out in the world, I’m fine with that. The idea that someone’s day could be lightened by the story of me doing horrible, horrible things to my main character, but it wasn’t… seems like a loss to me. A loss for both of us.

The music of Wayland, Halestorm, Bobaflex and others inspires a lot from my stories. They drive them. Their art fueling mine. What if somewhere, some kid would feel the same connection to something I write? That seems like the best reason ever to keep going. Doesn’t it?

Having problems staying focused? Unsure if the effort and time put into this art is worth it? Consider the potential loss to the other person and what potential to create they may lose by not having that inspiration. Sit your ass in the chair and write.

Stop planning. No more outlining. You don’t need Neil Gaiman’s fucking gazebo* (unless you are Kelly McCullough). Sit your ass down and write. I have heard the first million words you write are shit. Best to get them out of the way early.

*with compliments to Doyce Testerman on the quote

An Open Letter to @WJJO


Many of my posts over the last year or so have been about music. Something about setting up a playlist for a story I am working on just clicked. It kept my mind focused while writing, and gave a real cohesion to the project. At the same time I became more involved in the music scene around my home town. I went to more concerts than I had in decades. I went to a couple of Sound Lounges at WJJO, the local rock station. I petitioned the help of morning show newsperson (and fellow zombie fanatic) Dee in coordinating a rock playlist for Under the Hood. And I went to remotes the show did. Beer, swag and music? What’s not to love, right?

rockfestAt one of these (a scavenger hunt of all things) I won a pair of day passes to Rock Fest in Cadott, WI. This past weekend my wife and I took our day up there, getting a hotel room to avoid camping on site. This was an extraordinary idea, but I will get to that later. In short, we chose to go Thursday. The first two days had the bands I was most interested in, but Thursday had both Aranda and Halestorm. And while I had seen Aranda at the Acoustic New Year (I wasn’t kidding about hitting the local music scene), I had yet to see Halestorm live. And what with me using a couple of their songs on the second Hood Series project, it made sense that I should go to see them.

umbrella-rockfestI was a little concerned by the fact the weather report was showing a heat advisory, with the index pushing close to triple digits, and thunderstorms starting around the same time Halestorm was supposed to take the stage. And no, the irony wasn’t lost on me there. But as I had sat in the rain during Bratfest to see Wayland, I figured I could easily do the same for Halestorm. Also, we were paying for the hotel either way. So I packed an extra full set of dry clothes (just in case) and we drove up.

The drive was fairly uneventful. We stopped for gas and sodas. As we got closer, we stopped for coffee. My wife, getting her directions mixed up, told me to turn the wrong way for McDonalds. She loves their coffee. Me, not so much. But we were “up nort” as some of the folks up that way put it. Still, as we were going the wrong way anyhow, we stopped in to the cheese, liquor and antiques shop behind the gas station with the Arby’s in it. They claimed to have espresso. Surprisingly, they did and it wasn’t that bad.

rockfest-lightsWhy do I bring this up? I discuss this as only my wife can turn me the wrong way for coffee and wind up finding a vintage blowtorch and wrench for her steampunk costume. I am not even kidding. McDonalds would have been cheaper. Though, in her defense… the pieces she picked up were really awesome looking.

Getting to the motel at around 1:00, they had told us we could get our keys early so we can get in after the concerts. Of course they just allowed us to check in early since the room was open. Which was awesome. We got to unpack the truck, rest a bit and then head out to the show. They opened the gates at 3:00, so we had some time.

aranda-pointsIt was a pretty easy process to get in, get out wristbands and park for the day. And so we stood in line to get in. It was at this point I noticed the majority of the people were either in shorts and no shirt or women wearing bikini tops. That made the notice at the gas station that women had to wear something over their bikini tops make more sense. It made things painfully evident that the crowd was looking pretty similar to the crowds we used to get at Festa Italia. Crowds that I think we have lost the ability to draw in, but are working on bringing back.

Also, it honestly made me feel even more old than the grey in my beard did. 😉

aranda-singsRobin took her camera and went into the photo line to go up and take pictures when Aranda took the stage as the opening act. I stuck behind on the lawn with the camera bag. I figured the less space we took up there, the better chance she would have to take pictures. Turns out I was probably right. It was just before this we figured out that we should have brought camper chairs. In the immortal words of Rick Perry, “Oops.”

She came back to where I was standing on the lawn with a number of excellent shots. She wasn’t sure, but she thought that Gabe might have been hamming it up for the camera a bit. Which of course made for some of the best shots. During the rest of their set we picked up some water, grabbed drink tickets for the day and sat in the Leinies Lodge to listen to the rest of the set.

aranda-playsFast forward a couple of beers, several waters and Dickey’s BBQ later and we are spending a half hour between All That Remains (which was a pretty hard core set as well, much different than Aranda, but still good) and Halestorm sitting in the truck for the AC. No clouds on the horizon yet, so we may get lucky. Once heading back in to the festival to grab another drink before Halestorm takes the stage though we get hit by the wind. I don’t mean a breezy day wind, either. I am talking a “we’re not in Kansas anymore” kind of wind. Nothing damaging. At least not to structures.

halestorm-hitting-itThe storms avoided us, but what it did do is kick up the pollen. And around these parts, at this time of the year, that can totally mean snake weed. Not sure the scientific name, but it is a white ditch weed that had been used back before pharma-days to treat snake bites. In my case, it kicks me on my ass. Seriously, it is like zombie-boy kryptonite. By the time we were into Seether’s set I was in the middle of my worst allergy attack in a decade.

That said, Halestorm’s set was pretty awesome. Right before playing American Boys/Rock Show, she picked out a kid (probably around 8 or so) in the front area with his parents rocking out. Seriously, the kid was throwing up the horns and everything. Arejay brought out the “big sticks” during his drum solo. I swear it was like he was kicking the shit out of his kit with a pair of escrima fighting sticks.

joe-rockingRobin hung out and took a bunch of pictures (likely for longer than she should have, but that’s the reason you bring an SLR with huge ass lenses to the show). She didn’t get a picture of the “big sticks” but plenty of shots, including a couple with Lzzy playing in front of the drums, managing to get both her and Arejay in some shots. And most importantly, I was able to sit and watch them play the two songs on my Hood Series playlist for book two. Two of the three theme songs I set for my pissed off villain in the book.

Like putting the paddles to the muse.

lzzy-hornsEven with the allergy attack kicking my ass all the way to Sunday… (hell, I’m still recovering) I had a hell of a time. The people at WJJO have reinvigorated my muse and my love of music. Live music. There is a difference between good music and a band that puts on a show. And honestly this is one of the best prizes I have won from various contests and drawings. Ranks right up there with the Kindle Fire that is an invaluable tool for doing my reviews.

If you’re in the Wisconsin area (Madison specifically) and are into rock and roll, this is the station to listen to. It is also one of the places to check out for live music in the area. They book it, promote it and keep it going. Listen to them, support them, because art isn’t just photos, paintings and storytelling. It’s cupcakes, decorated and flavored to your theme or book. It’s live music, especially if it is a show and not just a band.

And to the staff over at JJO, I can’t thank you enough. See you at Band Camp!

Second Post! Playlists!

I know. Two posts in one day!

No, the sky isn’t falling. Hell hasn’t frozen over. The Seventh Seal hasn’t been broken. (Really Demi Moore is alive and well.)*

Basically, blame Melissa Olson. She is working on the follow up to her debut novel Dead Spots and was looking for songs that readers felt personified Scarlett, her protagonist. This had me considering music, and my playlists. Well, that and the fact that I had no idea that Macklemore and Lewis were playing in Milwaukee last night. How did I not know this?

But I digress. *deep breaths*

The problem here is that I read 1-2 novels a week. I read Dead Spots a while ago. Which means Scarlett is blending into a haze of protagonists from a lot of different other novels. This is part of the reason I don’t wait before starting the review as a general rule. Especially for Wicked Lil Pixie, as those are full reviews.

At the same time, I have been working with a number of go to bands that have been sitting on my playlists quite a bit lately. I’ll drop a few of them into the post here. Leaning towards ones with videos I can post, because who doesn’t like music videos?

Bad Ass Female Protagonists (or Villains)

For this I have been going towards Halestorm and In This Moment. The songs are rough, raw and have that growling female vocals that just scream (literally in some instances) power to me. So, I’m just throwing this out there for Melissa as this is what I remember without confirming by re-reading a chapter or two. These songs say “powerful female protagonist” to me.

Halestorm – Love Bites

In This Moment – Adrenalize Me

Halestorm – I Miss the Misery

In This Moment – Blood

Other Protagonists (mostly my male ones)

For the most part, I have songs that feed into a theme I am going for. In most of my stories the heroes have at least a bit of the feeling of being a freak. Not normal. To this direction, a lot of the songs lean towards being not normal or supporting the dual nature of a person. Which, when you think about it, is a lot of academic thought put behind the motivation and inspiration of a cool song.

Halestorm – Freak Like Me

Wayland – Welcome to My Head

In This Moment – Welcome to the Gun Show

Volbeat – Sad Man’s Tongue

Wayland – Reno (best video I could find – unreleased song – next album)

Volbeat – Still Counting

Honkeytonk Monster Hunter (inspiration)

In this instance I not only do a severe jump in genres, but this is a one-for-one. The artist singing these was the direct inspiration for the protagonist. Not much else to say here, other than… “That boy can sang!” 😉

Ben Dukes – Down in Flames

Ben Dukes – Old Fixer Upper


For the purposes of Melissa Olson, the top section on bad ass female protagonists works best. But it is far from the only playlists I work with. In an effort of full disclosure, most of my Halestorm and In This Moment songs are for my female villain/serial killer. But I stand by their uses. After all, the villain is the hero of their own story.