My favorite horror stories

Happy Halloween! I couldn’t let this holiday go by without sharing some of my favorite scary stories. So, I’m bringing you this bonus post, in case you needed some suggestions of what to do tonight.

These are my personal favorite books, listed in order from worst to best. If I’m leaving out some classics, it might be because I didn’t read them, not necessarily because I didn’t like them. Hell, it might be because I didn’t like them, I don’t know. Feel free to ask me in the comments.


All the Goosebumps books, by RL Stein

Okay, so these aren’t really what I’d call scary. But the sheer number of books that Stein has written is horrifying. The man’s got to live on an IV with a colostomy bag or something.

I’m including these books as a whole because they were my introduction to the horror genre. I read Goosebumps books voraciously, so it was a good thing there were a lot of them. I even read the knock-off series called Shivers. It was to Goosebumps like Mad TV was to SNL. Darker, edgier, and not nearly as well known. Anyway, it would be dishonest in a big way not to give a nod to this influential series on this list. If you’re wondering, my favorite was The Barking Ghost.

The Stand, by Stephen King

Buckle up, there’s going to be a lot of Stephen King on this list. The Stand is, just to be clear, a time commitment. Of course, I had to read the Author’s Preferred Text, so it was actually longer than the original. If you haven’t read it, read it now. It’s long but amazingly rich.

Hearts in Atlantis, by Stephen King

The only reason this book isn’t listed higher is because it’s really stretching the bounds of what I’d consider horror. There’s a small tie into King’s Dark Tower series, which I hated, but that’s not really what it’s about. It’s about the Vietnam war. It’s hard to explain. Do yourself a favor, and read it.

Amityville Horror

I love this book, love everything about it. And I love what it has to say about what really scares us. If you haven’t read Stephen King’s Dance Macabre, he has a great explanation about the financial squeeze and money scares that a lot of this book and movie are really based on.

From A Buick 8, by Stephen King

This is such a cool book, about a young man whose police officer father is slain in the line of duty. He’s hanging around the police station when he finds an old Buick in a back garage. When he asks the old timers why its there, the story that comes out is terrifying and moving.

Misery, by Stephen King

I’m a writer, of course, this is my favorite Stephen King book. Annie, the antagonist, is terrifying. She is believably crazy, believably dangerous. And she certainly sticks in one’s memory. And, I do want to include a quick side note about the movie. If King is the king of horror, it’s clear that Kathy Bates is the queen.

Stepford Wives, by Ira Levin

What, you haven’t read this book? Stop reading this blog post and go read it right the hell now. Trust me, the movie is nothing like the book. The main character is a happy, intelligent woman who is caught in a nightmare in which she can trust literally no one. Especially the people closest to her.

The House Next Door, by Ann Rivers Siddons

Not a lot of people know about this book. Those of us who do know it have been left haunted by it. When you imagine a haunted house, it’s normally an old house, a creepy old house in which something terrible happened years and years ago. But what if the house is brand new and welcoming. It seems to almost lure people into it.

Read the book, is what I’m saying.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this list of horror books I have loved in my life. But now I want to hear from you. What is your favorite scary story? Let us know in the comments below.

Happy Halloween.

Harold spent most of his son’s life protecting him from the man in the woods, while his neighbors lost child after child. Then, after a deadly car crash, he has to take his sixteen-41HYCw0DTHLyear-old granddaughter into his home.
Then a reality company starts building a new neighborhood in the heart of the woods, placing hundreds of children in harm’s way.

Guest post by Chloe Hammond and CH Clepitt

Today, I’m bringing you a guest story by Cloe Hammond and CH Clepitt. If you enjoy their work, please check out their books. Have a great day, guys.

Chloe Hammond have teamed up again, to bring you the next installment of their Darkly Dreaming, I Wore Heels to the Apocalypse crossover. This one is set at the end of Everything is Better with a Cape, and you will find our protagonists in the South of France. Note, this is set out like a play script, to give a sense of immediacy.

Missed the first installment?

Layla: Hey, Rae, is that Kerry over there sunning herself and muttering to her badger, who’s doing a really bad job of hiding itself in the flower beds?

Rae: Oh yes! Shhh, she hasn’t seen us.

Layla: So what’s your plan of action this time genius?

Kerry: You know, you aren’t very inconspicuous…

Badger: Well, we’re in France, no-one’s trying to cull me here.

Kerry: No… but they might try and get me committed…

Rae: I don’t know. I wasn’t expecting to see her here. Persuasion didn’t work very well last time.

Layla: Just compel her! Rae: That’s immoral!

Badger: Is that those two women from the pub? You know, the ones who smell like death…

Kerry: I don’t know, I didn’t sniff them.

Badger: You nearly licked them.

Kerry: Oh, be quiet, badger! I did not!

Layla: I don’t understand why you are so determined it has to be her? Wait til the apocalypse starts and there will be people queuing up for your ‘sanctuary’.

Rae: you saw how kick arse she was. How resilient. We want the best blood stock to establish the breeding program. And, I like her.

Badger: They’re looking at you like they want to eat you!

Kerry: They are not! Oh for god’s sake, fine. Wait here a minute. [standing up and walking over] Morning ladies, didn’t we meet before?

Rae: [whispering] Shit! She’s coming over. What am I going to say?

Layla: hmph. Tell her how much you like her.

Rae: HI KERRY! Ahem, would not have expected to see you here. What a delightful surprise?

Layla: have you got that delicious chap with You?

Kerry: You mean Tyrone? Um, no… he stayed behind. My partner’s work brought her here, and I sort of tagged along. I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your names…

Rae: R…

Layla: I’m Layla, this is Rae.

Kerry: [holding out her hand] Hi…

Rae: Ah, no. Um. We don’t do touching. You er, wouldn’t like…

Layla: HAA HAA HA! Ignore her. She’s just a bit funny about germs. So, Kerry, I heard some whispers about zombies. What exactly did you see?

Kerry: [rolling her eyes but visibly relaxing]. It wasn’t zombies, it was government spy cams disguised as zombies, seriously, that’s what it was… and the bloody government got away with it by wiping… [there is a gush of wind and the badger is there]

Badger: What are you doing? You aren’t supposed to remember any of that!

Kerry: Huh? What?

Badger: Are you drunk? What’s wrong with you?

Rae: [Between her teeth] F*ck off badger. We need to know this.

Layla: But are you sure they were government spies?

Badger: That’s it, I’m getting help. [whizzes off]

Kerry: Yes, the chap from the government told me so, right before he sent me to wipe my memory… Wait… who are you?

Rae: Oh don’t worry, we’re not from the government. We’re worried about what they’re hiding.

Layla: Just spit it out Rae, you’ve got about 5 minutes before that bloody badger gets back with that vicious woman. If we are still committed to not killing people we need to be gone before she gets here.

Kerry: [snapping out of the compulsion] I’ll end you both before you get near her.

Rae: Don’t fret no one is hurting anyone. I’m just worried about the future. I think the government are covering up more than they told you. I think some of those zombies were real. That explosion did something bad to the environment. And it’s spreading.

Kerry: [Suddenly interested] Like what? I mean, if you’re really interested in an investigation… [studying them] How do I know I can trust you?

Sam: [appearing out of thin air] Kerry! The badger said you were in trouble. Oh, you two again. What do you want?

Layla: OK. Listen. We heard something bad. Some of those government spy zombies were really zombies. The government is trying to keep it hushed up, but it’s spreading. Am I telling you anything you don’t already know Sam?

Sam: [kissing her teeth] No. It’s actually why I’m in France. Well, that, and [glances at Kerry]. Anyway. Why are you interested? Zombies not edible?

Rae: No they aren’t. Which is going to make things very bad for survivors.

Layla: Very bad indeed.

Sam: We need to find the root of the virus, synthesis an antidote and prepare for… well, whoever’s behind it has resources. How big’s your team?

Kerry: That and what?

Sam: Not now, Kerry.

Kerry: Why not?

Sam: Because it’s personal! Jesus!

Layla: [Leaning forward and narrowing her eyes] You hadn’t told Kerry any of this had you Sam? You were going to keep this from her? Wow I see what you meant Rae.

Rae: Eh? Ow! Ah [catches on] Oh, yes. Very untrustworthy. Not really how you want to approach a real apocalypse is it? With someone you can’t trust. Did you know you were being dragged around while she looked for a cure to a situation you’d been programmed to forget?

Kerry: [Looking at Sam] Um… no… [unconvincingly] I’m very cross with you about this.

Sam: You absolutely should be. I completely understand if you need to storm off. Now. Um, right now, I’d understand.

Kerry: Well, um… screw you then? [Hurries off]

Sam: Not the best way to enlist my help, ladies…

Rae: [to Layla] go and get us a drink. Quickly. Now, Sam you are a sensible lady. Let’s drop pretences. You know who we are. You aren’t supposed to, I’m supposed to kill you or turn you for knowing. But I won’t for as long as keep your mouth shut and don’t tell anyone. Layla and I don’t eat human. But we know a lot of vampires that do. And we are worried about the future. To be brutally honest, we don’t think you’ll get a cure in time.

Sam: I have a very good team behind me. Speaking of…

Ms Meles: [lands next to her] I thought I heard something dodgy. What’s going on Ethereal?

Sam: Vampires, Ms Meles, they want to help us with our zombie problem.

Ms Meles: Sounds like the makings of a very strange buddy movie.

Rae: Well, I don’t think there’s much we can do about the zombies, they’re springing up all over the place. I’m thinking more long term than that. As Sam so astutely pointed out, vampires can’t eat zombies. And vampires are very partial to human. They can also be a bit brattish about long term planning. In other words, they don’t. I’m thinking we need a sanctuary. Several breeding pairs, hidden in a farm, protected by my Pride. I want to offer Kerry a place. I’m being very selective about who I choose and she’s very resilient.

Sam: She’s not breeding with anyone but me, and I don’t think that’ll help you!

Ms Meles: You want to farm humans?

Badger: [Returning] Great, I know some lovely well fed dairy farmers you can start with!

Ms Meles & Sam Together: Quiet Badger!

Rae: You, as a species, aren’t going to survive on your own. You’re too vulnerable. And Sam, I hate to break it to You, but biology is going to intercept that plan. I would offer you a space too, but I know people like you, you won’t be able to resist sacrificing yourself on the front line. Wouldn’t you like to know she’s safe while you fight?

Ms Meles: Oh piss right off! I… She’s not a child. And not a bloody brood mare either!

Badger: So, that was a no to the dairy farmers then? What about Tory ministers? They may be too old to breed…

Rae: Badger, do you really want a future peopled by Tory spawn? I’m talking about an ark here. The only humans to survive the end of the world! No one else will be hidden away an protected by vampires. Sam, I thought you loved her, I thought you’d be happy she would survive.

Badger: That certainly is a fair point. OK, here’s a thought. How about we train dogs to herd the zombies towards the next Tory Party conference, two birds. Surely not even zombies could survive that?

Ms Meles: Badger, will you let up?

Badger: I will when they do.

Ms Meles: [facepalms]

Sam: I love her. And she’ll be fine, she can take care of herself. You can help us with the zombies, or you can go. You aren’t farming us.

Badger: What if someone wrote to Number 10 about the existence of vampires? You’d have to do something then, wouldn’t you?

Ms Meles: Will you stop?!

Rae: Badger, I’m 100% with you on proactive politics. Have you not noticed the recent increase in ‘accidents’. [Smiles fancily]. I’d be delighted to support any future plans you have. And you are of course welcome at the sanctuary. We can invite a lovely lady badger too if you like? Sam, I’m disappointed in you. Of course Kerry can fight off the zombies, that’s why we’re offering her a place. It’s the hordes of ravenous vampires that will descend afterwards that she won’t be able to survive.

Badger: She’ll survive, she has me. Now, leave these two to it, we may not have a zombie problem. Let’s us go hit a wine bar and chat politics.

To be continued…

We would like to state that neither author actually condones the use of zombies or vampires to solve your political problems. That’s what the ballot box is for. Whilst we have mentioned Tories here, other political parties are available.

You can buy <a href=”“>Darkly Dreaming by Chloe Hammond on Amazon</a>.  I<a href=”“> Wore Heels to the Apocalypse by C H Clepitt is available in paper, ebook and audio</a>. Search the authors for more.

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A writers team

This came up twice in the last few weeks, so I thought I’d devote a whole blog post to it.

We don’t write in a bubble. You’ve heard me say this a hundred times, and you’ll hear me say it a thousand more. Normally when I say it, I mean that we are members of the human race, the world will influence our writing, and our lives will influence our writing.

That’s not what I mean today, though. What I mean is that no book goes from writer to reader without a team of other people getting involved. Even as indie writers, we can’t bring our stories to life alone.

Sure, some of my books were complete self-jobs. But they’re not as good as the ones that I got other people involved with.

So today, I want to talk about the team of people who help me publish my books. If you’re a reader, you should know that you have a lot more people to thank for your favorite books. If you’re a writer, you should be developing a team like this for yourself. Because we really don’t write in a bubble.

Beta readers

This is the first team a writer builds. In some ways, it’s the easiest. In many others, it’s the hardest.

Beta readers are the first people you show your work to before you submit it or show it to your editor. These are friends, family and fellow writers who agree to read your book and give you their honest opinion.

Building a beta writing team is hard. You’re basically asking your friends and family to take a piece of my soul and tell me why it blows and how hard. Oh, and you’re asking them to take the time to read your stuff. Sadly, most adults don’t think they have time to read a book. (I’m working on a course about this, by the way. We have time to read, but we don’t. I’m going to help people fix that.)

Anyway, I’m getting off topic. A good beta reader needs to love you enough, to be honest with you. They need to be someone whose opinion you respect, and who has the time to commit to reading a manuscript. Maybe a long one, too.

I generally try to give my book to five people. I want to get a varied opinion, and I want to make sure that if a few people need to bow out I’ve still got at least a couple of people reading until the end. A few of my beta readers are writers, one is a fan of the Woven series. (Or, just really good at humoring me.) But I try to get one person, at least, who hasn’t read any of my books before. I want to know if someone could just pick up this book, and read it by itself.

Fellow writers

Listen to me when I say that making friends with other writers is the single best thing you can do for your career as an indie writer. The list of things that you can do to help each other out is never-ending. In my writing group, we share markets looking for short stories. We do blog swaps and guest posts. We talk about the craft of writing, the difficulties of world building. I’ve been able to ask writers I respect if they would read my books and give me blurbs for the covers. Best of all, I’ve made friends, real friends who value writing as much as I do. Fellow writers might also share your work.

If you want to make writing friends, you have to be a good writing friend first. Offer more than you ask for, and don’t get pissed when someone has to say no to you. Because it’s going to happen, people are busy.

But making good writing friends will do more than help your writing. It will enrich your life. It’s great to spend time with people who speak the same language as you do.

Your editor

One of the perks of being a traditionally published writer is that they provide you with an editor. This is the most important member of your team. They work almost as hard you do on your book, and they help make your book way better than it would be without it.

If you’re an indie writer, then you’ve got to find an editor on your own. This can be pricey, but it is totally necessary. It might take you some time to find the right editor for you, but you’ve got to do it. I’m still looking for one.

Your cover artist

I had a great cover artist, but unfortunately, he’s no longer in the business. I need someone new if anyone knows someone.

Cover artists will render what’s in your brain on real, brilliant color. And a good cover may not be the only thing that will sell your novel, but it’s a pretty big tool. So find someone that you connect with, and try not to lose them!

Your friends and family members that share your social media promotions

Getting shares and likes on social media may seem like an ego booster and nothing else. And by and large, it is. But it’s also getting parts of your sales funnel in front of new readers. So if your friends and family are willing, get them to share your social media like crazy. Consider these people your auxiliary marketing team.

It’s important to remember and acknowledge the people who help make our books as wonderful as they can be. It takes a long time to establish this support system, but once you do it’s going to improve your stories.

broken-patterns-001In Devon’s world, magical work is as common as turning a pot or fletching an arrow. What isn’t common is a man with thread magic. When Devon finds that he is a seer, weaving prophetic tapestries, his family tries to keep it a secret.
But the family can’t hide Devon’s visions after he predicts a devastating plague in the dragon lands of Coveline. He travels there to help the dragon queen save her people.
Meanwhile, Devon’s sister Lenore joins the Church of Singular Light. As Lenore learns to serve, and falls in love with her city, she discovers a dark underbelly to the church.
Lenore fights for her city, and Devon rushes to find a cure to the plague, while an unseen enemy raises an army to destroy Septa from within.

Preparing for NanoWrimo, 2018

As many of you know, I’ve come to the realization that I can, and will be, doing NaNoWriMo this year.

The event has been around for a good amount of time now, and like anything else, it has its fans and its detractors. I’ve heard the arguments against the event. There are some nasty pieces out there, complaining that Nano does nothing more than flood the fiction field with hundreds of crappy novels that are poorly edited and rushed. I’ve heard other writers say that it makes no sense to rush your creative process by trying to compete to make 50,000 words in a month.

The first argument is actually really insulting. Just because I write 50,000 words in a month doesn’t mean that I’m going to just toss it out. Any decent writer will take those words and rewrite them. NaNoWriMo isn’t about finishing a novel in a month. It’s about getting 50,000 words on the page in a month. It’s about maybe finishing a rough draft. I say maybe because my last novel topped out at 97,942 words. People who actually participate in NaNoWriMo know this.

But if you don’t feel like you get anything out of Nano, that’s fine. If you’re already churning out words on the regular, awesome. I am too, actually. No writer’s block here.

I do Nano for two reasons. One, to push myself because I like a challenge, and to join in the loving camaraderie of my fellow authors.

Here are two things you learn about writing that you think you already know, but you don’t really grasp until it’s happening. One, there is no one holding you accountable to write another book unless you’re in a contract. If you want to work today, that’s great. If you don’t there’s no one who’s going to make you. Unless you’re living off your writing money, there are no overt negative repercussions to not writing. There’s no one checking your weekly word count, and giving you a stern but loving talking to if you don’t get it done.

That can cause some serious motivation issues, especially if you’re just starting to write. Once you’ve been at it for a while, hopefully, you learn the self-discipline that is vital for being a successful writer. Or maybe you’re like me. Sure, I mean to write every day. But some days it just doesn’t happen. Some days I’m busy, damn it. You all know I have a full-time job in addition to selling my books. The NaNoWriMo challenge makes me stretch to make a certain number of words every day, no matter what. And it works. I’ve never entered NaNoWriMo or NanoEdmo and not won. (The official NanoEdmo, by the way, is in February. I and some author friends of mine have been doing NanoEdmo in November for a couple of years because we wanted to participate with everyone else, but didn’t have a rough draft to work on right then.)

The second thing you learn about writing is that it is lonely work. You aren’t writing with a team, you are writing alone. Even if you have a support team, the writing itself is solitary. Participating in big challenges like NaNoWriMo makes me feel like I’m really a part of the writing community. And that feels pretty great. I like feeling like I’m part of something, not just out here on my own typing my little stories.

Now, it’s the middle of October, and if you’re going to participate in NaNoWriMo, you’ve got some work to do right now. I’m in the middle of doing the same work. So, yay working together!

Step one, take a look at your schedule and map out any commitments or plans you have for November that might keep you from writing.

For me, that includes a three-day mini vacation, book launch, and Thanksgiving. I know that I won’t be writing while I’m on vacation, and won’t be able to write a much during the day before, during and after the holiday. So if I were to just write the prescribed 1,667 words a day, that’s not going to happen.

You might have any sort of responsibilities, and before you make a commitment to 50,000 words you need to see what other commitments you’ve already committed to.

Step two, finish up any projects you have going on right now.

I’m working on a novella right now, and I’d like to get it wrapped up before I start on my next novel. I also might get some extra blog posts done so I can spend November writing almost nothing but my new novel.

Start by making a list of anything you’ve been working on. See what you really should be getting off your plate before you start a new project.

Step three, make your game plan for Nano.

I posted my own game plan recently. It was based on the previous steps we’ve already discussed. I took a look at the days I’ll for sure be able to write, and then divide by 50,000 goal by just those days. I’ll also make sure that all of my pre-writing is done before November first.

Now, my plan is based on writing every day except for while I’m on vacation. Yours should be based around whatever it is you have going on in November. Maybe you’re the main cook in your house and you live in America, so you’ll be pretty busy for Thanksgiving. It’s all very personal. Just make sure you’re being realistic about what you can do.

Step four, let people in your life know what you’re doing.

This is a step that I think a lot of people overlook. Writers may write by themselves, but we don’t usually live by ourselves. And even if you do live by yourself, your life is still intertwined with other people.

So if you’re going to commit to doing NaNoWriMo, maybe you should, I don’t know, let people know you’re going to do that.

If you’re living with someone, let them know that you might be a little busier than normal this month. Depending on your relationship and home structure, they’ll probably be perfectly happy to help you out with this. At very least, they can be warned not to hinder.

It can also help to have a few people who love you enough to keep you accountable.

Step five, brainstorm, make an outline and get any pre-writing research done.

Writing is so much more than getting words on the page. During NaNoWriMo, that’s what we’re focusing on, but most of us need to pregame a little first. Now, I don’t do a ton of research, but I do do a good amount of outlining and brainstorming. I want that as done as possible before November first. So I’ll be spending the week before getting that done.

Step six, get your supplies.

What do you need to write? I need composition notebooks, coffee, Marvy Le Pens, and lots of oven dinners so I can handle dinner on my nights to cook easily.

Whatever it is you need, make sure you lay in a good supply before November first. Yes, you can use this as an excuse to buy a bunch of stationery supplies.

Here’s the thing you need to understand most about NaNoWriMo; it’s fun. Challenges are fun, doing challenges with other people is fun. Writing is fun. I mean, if you’re not having fun, what’s the point. There are way easier ways to make money, after all. If I just cared about making money, I’d go do something else. But writing is the most fun thing I do. So I love NaNoWriMo because I get to do my favorite thing for longer than I usually do for a whole month. It’s like when a new game comes out and half of my friends drop off the planet for three days until they beat the damn thing. NaNoWriMo, my writing brothers, and sisters, is our game launch. Let’s have fun with it, and try to beat each other’s high score.

By the way, if you ever doubt that NanoWrimo works, here’s my first NanoWrimo project.

In Devon’s world, magical work is as common as turning a pot or fletching an arrow. broken-patterns-001What isn’t common is a man with thread magic. When Devon finds that he is a seer, weaving prophetic tapestries, his family tries to keep it a secret.
But the family can’t hide Devon’s visions after he predicts a devastating plague in the dragon lands of Coveline. He travels there to help the dragon queen save her people.
Meanwhile, Devon’s sister Lenore joins the Church of Singular Light. As Lenore learns to serve, and falls in love with her city, she discovers a dark underbelly to the church.
Lenore fights for her city, and Devon rushes to find a cure to the plague, while an unseen enemy raises an army to destroy Septa from within.

Today is the last day to sign up for the 10 Days of Lists event

Hey, guys. I just wanted to let you know that today is the last day to sign up for the 10 Days of Lists event. If you’ve been on the fence, let me give you – reasons to sign up.

  1. It’s free.
  2. If you’re doing NanoWrimo this year, it’s the perfect way to figure out what you’re going to write about.
  3. You’ll learn a strategy to write deeper, more meaningful work.
  4. You’ll have a tool that will hep you figure out what you really want to write about.
  5. It’s going to be a lot of fun.
  6. If you’re not doing NanoWrimo, it’s a chance to start fleshing out a creative life.
  7. If you’re not even a writer, you might learn a new skill for journaling.

If you haven’t signed up yet, click here.

See you tomorrow.

The power of telling people you’re a writer

If you’re reading this then you’re probably either a writer or you want to be a writer. That’s awesome. Being a writer is a tough life, a solitary life.

And, apparently, it’s something that lots of us are doing in secret. Oh sure, you’ll have the wannabes tell you, “Oh, I’m writing a book.” Sure you are, sweetie, just like you’re training to be in the 2020 Olympics. Lots of people say they’re writing a book.

How many people introduce themselves as a writer?

I do. I tell people what I do for a living, too, but that’s secondary. My name is Nicole Luttrell, I’m a writer. I started this blog out by telling you so, four years ago.

Today I want you to say it. No more hedging, no more playing around. Stop wanting to be a writer, and write. And tell people you’re a writer.

Here are five reasons you should start introducing yourself as a writer today.

It feels good

It really does, once you get used to it. Say it in front of the mirror if you need to, to get accustomed. I am a writer. I am also many other things, but I am a writer. It feels really good to own who you are.

It’s honest

I could tell you about my day job. It’s a good job, and I like it. I help people and I work for a company I respect. But at the end of the day, that job isn’t what I want to be known for. It’s not who I am. It’s what I do to keep the lights on.

What I am is a writer, and I should be honest about that. To be dishonest in this world is just not sustainable.

It gives people the opportunity to understand you

Having a writer in your life is a confusing thing. We do a lot that requires explanation and understanding.

Why are you reading five newsletters every morning?

Why are you looking up bullet wounds?

Why are you staring at that stranger in the coffee shop?

Why are you asking me about different kinds of commercial planes?

Why does your notebook need to come with us on the canoe trip?

Why are you up at five in the morning, blaring classical music?

Why are there five hundred index cards on the living room floor?

Why are you always typing something on your phone?

Why have you stopped dead in the store to pull out your notebook, that person almost ran into you.

Friends and family should understand that you are a writer. You are going to do weird things that are part of being a writer. Because when you’re a writer, you’re a writer all the time. It’s not something you do just when you’re at your computer. You’re always listening to people as they walk by, to hear a snippet of their conversation. You’re always seeking out new stories, new circumstances, new ideas. You’re always working out plot issues in your head, or thinking the best writing question of all, what if. You’re never not writing, and that can be hard for a nonwriter to understand. If you teach them to understand this about you, it will be easier.

Why is my spouse taking notes on the conversation the couple in the next booth is having? She’s a writer.

It opens up people to help you

A beautiful thing has happened to me since I’ve started telling people I’m a writer. They want to help me. My friends and co-workers who understand what I do are more than open to talking to me about things they know about. Maybe it’s because they want to help. Maybe it’s because they like it when people listen to their experiences. Maybe it’s just because we all like being asked questions about ourselves. Whatever the reason, my wonderful friends will answer just about any question I ask.

Letting people know what you’re aiming for in life means that if they can help you, they will. Being open and honest about being a writer has meant that other people around me have declared themselves writers as well. Like the manager of my bank, or a friend at work. We can now reach out and help each other, and I don’t know that that would have happened if I wasn’t so loud about being a writer all the damn time.

The universe is listening

Okay, I’m going to get a little moon child, crystals and chakras on you for a minute. But I think this is totally true, and I’ll fight you on it.

When you are open and honest about what you want from life, and when you’re working towards it, the universe will listen, and it will open up opportunities for you. I’ve stumbled upon so many little things to help me along this writing journey. I have found myself in the right place at the right time to end up on podcasts or get a chance to write pieces for places I didn’t ever consider. I’ve been blessed to have friends in this little community who have been well placed to help me. I’ve been blessed to have the road made easier before me in my writing career.

I don’t think this was because I’m some fantastic writer whose words must be read. I believe it’s because the universe is listening to us. And if we are ready, to be honest about what we want, who we are, and what we’re willing to do to combine those two things, then it’s ready to help.

So start today. When someone asks what you do, tell them you’re a writer. Be prepared for followup questions, everyone’s fascinated by this. Say you’re a writer even if you don’t really believe it yet. Especially if you don’t believe it yet. Because if you say it often enough, you’ll start to believe it yourself.

pablo(2)Don’t forget, we’re starting the 10 Days of writing challenge on Saturday October 20th. Have you signed up yet? Join us and find your deepest, truest writing.

Sign up here now.

AA is now available on Smashwords

I’m super excited to tell you that my collection on Smashwords is growing. AA, easily my most popular short piece to date is now available there.

Josey was new in town, working two jobs and reeling from her divorce. She needed a lot of things, but most of all she needed a meeting. She finds one in the basement of her local library. But the meeting that she finds isn’t the one that she’s expecting.

I’m so glad to be able to share this story with anyone who wasn’t able to get it before. I love being able to share my work with everyone, and that’s why I’m taking all of my works wide.

If you’re wondering, here’s a list of other books of mine available on Smashwords.

Broken Patterns


This list will be growing slowly over the next year, I’m glad to say. Please check out other great books on this platform, too.

Giving and taking criticism

For something as integral to the writing business as criticism is, I’ve spent very little time talking about it. I don’t really know why it’s never come up before. Maybe because it’s such a sensitive subject, giving and taking criticism.

When we write, we bear our soul on the page. It can be, Hell no, it is incredibly daunting to show those pages, then to other people. I’ve published two novels, three novellas, two collections of short stories, one collection of essays. I also post blog posts here twice a week. Even so, I had a moment of complete panic just the other day, when I sent the newest Science Fiction book to my beta readers. I mean, it’s one thing to put books out on the internet. I won’t ever meet most of you, but my beta readers are different. I know them intimately, and now I’ve given them a bit of my soul to judge and then give me feedback on.

On the other hand, I’m also being asked for the first time in my rather short career to critique the work of other authors. It’s a privilege that I don’t take lightly.

Now that I’ve seen both sides of the coin, I want to share my thoughts with you. I want to talk about taking criticism gracefully and giving it well.

Taking criticism.

When someone agrees to critique your work, be grateful to them. We all have limited time, and a thousand places it needs to go. Time a beta reader or other critique partner spends reading your book is time they could be picking up their house, spending time with their family, or working on their own passion projects. Maybe they’re going to really enjoy your book and it’s a pleasure for them to read it. But honestly, you’re not giving them your story because you think they’re really going to love it. You’re giving it to them because you know it’s not ready for the world yet and you’re asking them to help you get it ready. This is not pleasure reading their doing. This is the literary equivalent of asking your friend if they can see your underwear through your leggings when you bend over.

But what if we’re dealing with someone who’s opinion you didn’t really ask for? I mean, I know I go on and on about reviews on social media, but not all writers do. And all writers, eventually, get that one bad review on Amazon or Goodreads. In those cases, be courteous. It does you no good as an author to lose your temper and get into an online fight with someone who didn’t like your book. If it’s appropriate, thank them for taking the time to read your book. If not, don’t say anything at all.

I’ve been listening to Skimm’d From The Couch a lot, and one of the interviews that hit me most was a COO who used to work for Hooters. (Which is actually a great company for women, by the way. Who knew?) But she said, when receiving criticism, come from the position that they’re right first. You can always correct that later. But if you start out saying, maybe they’re right, and actually listening to what they have to say, you run far less of a risk of coming off as an asshole if you’re actually wrong. You might learn something you needed to know. And if you are right, then you have a way better leg to stand on. You’ve heard, really heard, their concerns. And that makes someone far more likely to hear your response.

Don’t always assume they really are right though. At least not all the time. Look, I know I just wrote three paragraphs about being nice to people and listening to their opinions about your work. But sometimes an opinion is just that. Unless you’re writing nonfiction and someone points out a factual error, or if someone noticed that you changed a character’s name halfway through the story, they are giving you their opinion of something you wrote.

Maybe they don’t like your genre. Maybe they don’t like your naming structure. Maybe they’re offended by your word choice. That’s fine, that’s their opinion. Maybe it’s something you need to consider.

And maybe it’s fucking not!

There are people who want to help you be a better writer. There are people who make whole careers of critiquing work, like the Nostalgia Critic, and their good people doing a cool thing with their time. Then there are trolls. There are also failed writers, and wannabe writers who haven’t put in the time and dedication to put a few books out there. There are people who have never gotten past the hurdle of writing a book, or of publishing it. Maybe they even got that far but got some negative feedback of their own. Whatever reason they have for being an asshat online, you might be their target today. Learn to weed out the trolls, and listen to the critics.

One way to learn the difference is to read reviews of books you like, and books you don’t like. You’ll start to see a pattern with the trolls, and you can spot them better when they come after your own work.

Avoiding trollish criticism is one reason to get multiple opinions if you can. There are a few others, though. If you’ve got five pairs of eyes on a piece, they’ll catch more than just one pair. You’ll also be able to overcome the biases of just one beta reader. Stephen King talks about this in his book, On Writing. If you have three people reading your book, and they all say chapter eight sucks, it probably sucks. If some liked it and some didn’t, you’re probably good.

Giving Criticism to other authors.

All writers need to be generous with criticism when they can be. I for one am always looking for beta reading buddies. (Seriously, reach out if you want to swap manuscripts. I’m not hard to find, there’s literally a contact me page.) Critiquing other writers work is a learning experience worth your time to start with. And, you’re helping your fellow author. We should all be looking for ways to help fellow writers in this business. It’s one of the nice things about writing. So if you can offer honest criticism, please do.

I would advise any beta reader or critic to come first from a place of kindness. We might all love reading or watching a review of something bad, but that’s not how we come to a criticism for a friend or fellow author. That’s how we come at someone who has put out a poor piece into this world who either hasn’t done the work the research properly. We do that, in short, to entertain an audience with something that failed to entertain us.

A fellow writer asking you to beta read a book is doing the work. They’re putting in the effort to not put out bad writing. So be kind to them. Assume they are doing their best.

Always praise what should be praised first. There is rarely if ever a piece that is just pure trash from start to finish. Maybe someone’s descriptions are shitty, but they have great dialog. (Me. That’s me.) So start with what’s working. Because most authors don’t think anything’s working.

That doesn’t mean we’re not going to talk about what’s not working, though. I mean, that’s really why someone asked you to beta read. Criticize gently but honestly if you don’t know the person well. “This piece here, it doesn’t feel honest. This dialog doesn’t sound realistic.” These are specific issues in specific areas that, ideally, can be approved upon.

You’re not doing a writer any favors by ignoring things wrong with their piece. And, if you know the person, you probably know the level at which they can take criticism. So you know what level of honesty they can handle. You might tell an acquaintance that the description needs work. You might tell your best friend that they were obviously watching American Horror Story while they wrote this because they weren’t paying any attention.

You remember earlier we were talking about how little time everyone has? Don’t agree to critique someone’s work unless you honestly have the time to take. This is going to vary wildly with the seasons of your life. I would never, for instance, think to take on a beta reading project when I’m getting ready for a launch, or already working on multiple books and just had edits dropped on my lap. This is going to take time, and you’ve got to commit to it. The worst thing you can do to someone is agree out of courtesy, then never get around to actually reading the piece.

You can also tell someone, “I’d like to read your piece, but it might take me a week or a month to get back to you. Is that alright?” Be honest about what you can and can’t commit to, is what I’m saying. That can really go for anything in life, but especially when your timetable will impact other people’s timetables.

Finally, when you’re beta reading, understand that maybe a piece isn’t meant for you. Sometimes you’re just not that into a piece. Even a whole genre. I, for instance, don’t like westerns. I will probably not agree to beta read a western because I will inherently not enjoy it. If I’m already irritated, I’m not going to give the book a fair shake.

I hope that this has helped you with giving and taking criticism. If you did enjoy it, please feel free to like and share this post. It’s greatly appreciated. And feel free to tell us in the comment section what you think about giving and taking criticism.

We’ve got five days until the start of the Ten Days of Lists Challenge. Are you signed up pablo(4)yet? Don’t miss the chance to deepen your world building and dig into yourself to find what you really want to write about. Sign up here now.

Just one more week until the 10 Days of Lists Challenge begins

Hey guys. Just a quick reminder that the 10 Days of Lists Challenge is just a week away.

If you want to deepen your writing, and get to what burns in you, then you need to take this course.

If you want to write truer, more honest charactes, then you need to take this course.

If you want to write worlds that seem real enough to step into, then you need to take this course.

Did I mention that it’s free?

Click here to sign up. See you there.


Keep the love of reading as a writer

So, I was listening to a podcast the other day and heard probably the saddest thing I’ve heard in quite a long time. An author, whose name I won’t give, said that it was hard for him to read for pleasure anymore. He said that between writing and editing, as well as editing for his publishing company, he just didn’t want to read anymore.

Imagine that, losing the love of reading. Reading is why I became a writer. Reading brightened my childhood, and still gives me joy to this day.

That being said, when we work with words all day, they can get old. It feels like every story is the same, at times. It can feel like writers, eventually, can see everything coming.

And yet I read, almost every day. I still love reading, and I pray I always will. But I’m too realistic to think that what’s happened to the aforementioned author might not happen to me. Here are things that I do to keep my love of reading alive.

Reading outside of our genre

I write speculative fiction, and I love reading it. I also love reading historical fiction and biographies. I also read political books and historical nonfiction.

Every genre has a certain feel. It doesn’t matter the writer or the story. A horror story is a horror story. And no matter how much you like horror stories, you can get sick of them eventually. It’s just like food. I love coffee, but sometimes I’d like a cup of green tea.

Yes, you should read your genre. But you should also read as widely as possible. If not to fuel your own writing, but to be happy and read things that make you happy.

Reading books you’ve already read

While I’ve tried to avoid this year, I still reread a few books. I’d run into a snag, trying a few books that I really just didn’t like. This lead to me finding other things to do during times I would normally read. Like scrolling through Instagram. Instagram has a place in my day, and it needs to stay there.

There are some books, or rather series, that I come back to over and over. Series of Unfortunate Events, Harry Potter and the Chronicles of Narnia. They are a joy, they suck me in every time I read them. And I cannot help but love them every time.

If you’re having trouble finding time to read, go back to a book that you loved. Read it again. When you’re done, you will likely find yourself searching for something else to read.

Reading without worrying about age restrictions

Yes, I’m sure you’ve noticed that some of the books I mentioned were kids books. I don’t care. I read a book that I want to read, and I don’t care much if it’s not for adults. I’ll read Harry Potter in public, and I don’t care a bit.

Read what you want to read, even if it’s for kids. Books are written to be a joy.

Reading other forms of work

Read biographies. Read historical books. Read poetry, blog posts, essays. Read everything you want to read.

I think, when we count up how much we read, we only intend to include novels. But what about the mountain of reading we do every day? I read newsletters, blog posts, and tons of micro-fiction. Don’t discount that sort of writing.

Don’t be afraid to put a book down if you don’t like it.

Nothing will suck the fun out of reading like a boring book. I have no patience for a boring book, and I’ll put one down in a second. I pray that my books are never boring. They’re not perfect sure, but I hope they’re never boring.

So what do you think? What was the last book you read for pleasure? Let us know in the comments below.

What’s the best way to start world building? How do we reach deeper into ourselves as pablo(4)writers? Join us for the 10 Days of List writing challenge from October 20th to the 30th. Sign up now.

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