Consulting Credit

Happy Halloween. I hope you enjoy this creepy little piece.

Shadows scare people because they don’t know what might be lurking in them. If we paid attention to them, they wouldn’t be so mysterious. The things that lurk there are dark, not invisible.

I’m quite familiar with shadows. I look in them, I hide in them. 

I create them. 

I waited outside the campus library, blending into the shadows in a gray coat and dark jeans. I must have looked like any other college student, idly flipping through Instagram while I waited for a friend so we could walk home together. It’s much safer for women to walk together than alone. 

Soon I saw what I was looking for. The one who caught my eye was probably a senior. His face was buried in his phone, typing one-handed as he adjusted his backpack. Everyone tells girls to watch their surroundings. No father takes their son aside to discuss keeping themselves safe in public. That helps me.

I turned off my phone. Without its glow, I vanished.

The further we got from the library the fewer people were around. I spent this time watching the man. Why had I chosen him? I don’t ever know. There’s just something about some people. A discoloration in their aura, perhaps. A scent they give off. Or maybe it’s just the timing of it all. He came out when it was dark enough to be safe.

Either way, the time was now.  

“Excuse me,” I called.

The man jumped. “Oh, sorry,” he said. “I didn’t see you.”

“Can you help me? My dog got out, and I think she’s in this construction up here.”

“Oh, sure,” he said. Of course. “What does she look like?”

He pocketed his phone and walked ahead of me. Such a gentleman. 

“She’s a terrier mix. White with brown spots. Her name’s Trixi.”

Of course, he called out the name, “Trixi!” 

I did the same. 

There was a scratching sound from a room near the back, where the walls were finished.

Again he took the lead. I waited until I could close the new door behind us. The loop of wire went around his neck most satisfactorily.

The man tried to yell, but it came out strangled, gurgling. I pulled him down. Something moved in the shadows, but I ignored it. There was an ax there, waiting for me.

One good blow to the head was enough to make sure he couldn’t move Then I could use my smaller tools at my leisure. Plyers, fiberglass, matches. It was over too quickly, but most good things are. There was still the cleanup. I had a good little electrical saw to slice up the remains, and a barrel of lye at the ready. 

As I worked, someone moved in the shadow. A woman stepped out.

She’d worn heels and her little business suit. How foolish. But at least she’d remembered to dress in colors for the shadows.

“Great, this is really some great stuff,” Sophie said. She was scratching down notes on her notepad. She nearly glowed in the shadow. 

“Really, I can’t thank you enough.” She held out her hand to shake mine. A smear of blood transferred from my flesh to hers, standing out against her pale skin. 

“We have to get you consulting credits on the show. I couldn’t write it without this experience.”

“That would be great,” I smiled. Maybe I’d even score a visit to Hollywood out of it. People go missing in the shadows there all the time.

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The five best scary books I’ve read this year

Halloween is almost here, and there’s no better time to curl up with a good scary story. I’ve been spending as much time as possible this month with some ambient videos playing, a hot mug of chai tea, and some great books meant to terrify. So today I wanted to share with you the five best scary books I’ve read this year. If you’re looking for something sinister to read this Halloween, you could certainly do worse than these. 

Lore, Wicked Mortals by Aaron Manke

This is the same content as the podcast of the same name. Which is to say it’s delightful, educational, and eerie. I learned a lot about some truly sinister people. Some of it I already knew. I do co-host a true-crime podcast, after all. But there’s always more to learn. Sadly, there’s always another monster in man’s form to learn about.

Miss Peregrine’s School for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

I’m forever behind the times with this sort of thing. But that just means I get to discover great stories on my own time, so whatever. 

Miss Peregrine’s is about a young man named Jacob, who finds out that all the stories his grandfather told him in childhood are very much real. Soon it becomes clear that he found these strange, wonderful children just in time to save their whole world.

I speed read through all three of these books in a matter of a week. They aren’t spooky in the traditional sense. But they’re dark and well written. The tale is imaginative. I love the characters, and I appreciate the ending. If you haven’t read these books yet, give them a chance.

Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King.

This was recently made into a tv show that is now on my list. 

The story is told from two points of view. A retired detective who can’t let go of his last case named Bill Hodges, and the perpetrator of the said case named Brady. Brady stole a woman’s car and killed a crowd of people waiting outside a job fair. But that was just the start. Now he wants to go out in a blaze of gore and blood.

I haven’t read the next two books in the trilogy yet. But they’re next on my tbr list. 

Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff

I have no idea what I was expecting when I started this book. I think I anticipated something much like American Gods, exploring the dark corners and superstitions of the world. And there is some of that. But it’s also about magic made real, the struggles of the black community, and being tough as hell for your family. It’s about a man named Atticus, who learns that he has a magical lineage. And some would do anything to use that magic for themselves.

Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury

Halloween Tree is a book I wish I’d been introduced to as a child. But as an adult, it’s firmly on my yearly Halloween reading list now. It’s about a group of boys who go out trick or treating, only for one of them to be snatched up by the wind and propelled through time. To find him, the boys must travel through the history of Halloween. And it’s a chilling, wonderful history. A trick and treat all in one.

The book itself was only a treat. If you haven’t read it, grab a copy and treat yourself. 

That’s it for my list. So now it’s your turn. What’s the best scary story you’ve read this year? Let us know in the comments. And come back on Sunday, Halloween, for a bonus post. See you then. 

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Preptober, Week Four

We’ve reached the last week of Preptober, writing fam. It’s time now for the final step before actually writing your novel. 

It’s time to create your outline. 

I have no time for pantsers. Those of you who don’t believe in outlines may go on your merry way. Enjoy your writer’s block and unsatisfying endings. That’s right, I said it. Fight me in the comments if you like.

So let’s get down to it. Don’t worry, this doesn’t have to be done in one day. We’ve got more than a week. 

I sometimes find myself getting a bit overwhelmed when I start an outline. By this time I’ve got pages and pages of freewriting, notes, and ideas. It’s a metric shit ton of content that may or may not make it into my novel. So take your time. Don’t try to sort out everything at once. It’s like a puzzle. You don’t drop all the pieces on the table and start shuffling. You take one piece at a time and see where it might fit.

Also like a puzzle piece, it’s best to start with the edges. Or, to drop the analogy, start with the things you know (for now) you want to write. If I’m feeling too overwhelmed, I’ll pick just one thing. One thing I’m sure I want to have in the story. Often it’s the ending. We’ll talk about that more later. But it’s important to have two kinds of scenes to start. You need load-bearing scenes that move the story forward, and you need scenes you’re really excited to write.

Now that you’ve got a start, you can start connecting dots. What has to happen to make these scenes pay off. If someone is dying in the last chapter, what caused that? If we’re looking for a treasure, we need to have a treasure map earlier. 

I want to caution you again to not put too much pressure on yourself. Remember that your outline is written in ink, not stone. I always reach a point when writing a rough draft that I have to stop and redo my entire outline. And that’s fine. Remember, the point of writing an outline isn’t to figure out your whole story. It’s to start giving you an idea of the shape of it. Honestly, you might not have the whole story until your third or fourth draft. Maybe even more. So yes, put time and effort into your outline. But remember, you’re not married to it. 

While this isn’t for everyone, I insist upon knowing my ending before I start. Even if it might change dramatically. I still have to have an ending before I start writing. It’s the finish line at the end of the trail. When I’m lost in the weeds, and I’m not sure what should be happening, it’s the North Star. My ending is often the first part I write. And if you’re wondering, I already know the ending of my Nano project this year. 

Finally, I’ll leave you with a reveal. This year I won’t be writing a novel. Those of you who’ve been loving the first season of AA will be thrilled to hear that I’ll be writing the second season. These episodes will be longer, darker, deeper. 

What are you writing for Nanowrimo? Let us know in the comments. 

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Preptober, Week Three

It’s week three of Preptober, and it’s finally time to start writing! 

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I suggest a whole week at least of brainstorming before starting a novel. Maybe this is just my method. But my method’s gotten me four published books, so I guess it’s working for me.

That being said, how you chose to free write can vary dramatically based on your writing style and personality. Today I want to talk about some tips for making the most of your brainstorming Preptober week.

Freewriting is your best friend 

Being a student of Natalie Goldberg, I firmly believe that freewriting is the best way to get to the core of a project. So every day for the next seven days I encourage you to free write about your novel project.

Do it by time

A lot of people like to free write by time. This is pretty simple, you set a timer and write for that set time. I like doing this myself, among other methods.

Do it by number

That being said, I also love a numbered list. I’ll write lists titled 20 things that can happen in this book. Or, ten jobs my character might have. Twenty ways this character’s voice is different from the other character. Whatever I can think of.

Now is the time for writing exercises

I love a good writing exercise. And during the brainstorming session, I do a ton of them. It’s a way to understand my world better before I dive into it for 30 days. There are tons of different writing exercises if you’re interested. I would definitely suggest checking out the Writing Excuses podcast for some starters.

Don’t stop for an entire seven days

If you’re anything like me, you’re going to want to jump the gun. After about three or four days of freewriting and exercises, I’m feeling like I’m ready to start working on my outline. Maybe even dive into my rough draft.

Over the years I’ve learned to ignore those feelings and keep freewriting for the entire week. 

Yes, you probably have some great ideas. Yes, it’s exciting to start a new project. Yes, nothing feels like progress until it’s words on the page. 

Keep free writing anyway. 

The reason is simple. You are going to want as much raw thought on the page as you can get. When I’m writing I refer back to these freewriting notes often. Even better, I’ll surprise myself as I free write. As I dig further and further into the story, I uncover things I might never have thought of. It will benefit your book to give yourself as much time as possible to play on the page.

It doesn’t matter in the slightest if your ideas are bad

If you are going to be writing pages and pages of freewriting, some of your ideas are going to be bad. I know we often say there are no bad ideas, but I think we all know that’s bullshit. Saying there are no bad ideas is like saying there are no worms in any wild cherries.

Wild cherries are still worth picking and enjoying, still warm from the sun. 

So what if all your ideas are bad?

Spoiler, they’re not. We’re always our own worst critics. We are always going to be hard on our work, even if it’s good. Even if it’s great.

Trust me when I say that your ideas are worthwhile. Yes, some of them are going to be bad. But not all of them. Not even most of them. 

I hope you have fun during your week of freewriting. I know I will. Remember, writing is supposed to be fun. So have fun with it. And I’ll see you back here next week for the final task of Preptober. 

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Preptober, Week Two

We’re one week into October, and one week into our Nanowrimo prep. If you missed last week, here’s a link to get you started. 

In week two, we once again have just two tasks.

1. Set up your project on the Nanowrimo website.

2. Make sure you have all the physical things you’ll need.

Okay, don’t freak out. Yes, I’m suggesting you announce your Nano project on the website this week. Note that I didn’t suggest that you know what your project is going to be. You don’t have to know the title, or even what genre you want to write in. 

You can literally label your project anything you want, and not be tied to it at all. You can just put untitled project number 69 if you want. It doesn’t matter.

So, if it doesn’t matter, why am I telling you to do this? Because it’s a concrete action that you’re taking towards your goal of writing a novel. You can see it right there on the screen, and so can everyone else. You are locked in now, you’re writing a novel. It’s on the internet.

Now, it’s time to consider some physical considerations. You don’t need a lot to be a writer. Just something to write on, and with. 

If you’ll be writing your novel on paper, consider what kind of paper you want. I like college-ruled notebooks and le pen felt tips.

You can of course type it. This is easier because you can check your word count without having to count the whole damned things. So if this is the way you’re writing, get yourself a word processor and play around with it a bit. I like Dabble, but there are tons of options.

Another thing you’ll want to consider is where you’ll be writing. Do you have somewhere at home to write? Do you need to go to a coffee shop or library? Do you need a desk, lap desk, or just a better chair? 

Think also about the little things you might need but not think of. I, for instance, like to outline things on index cards. Even if I’m typing my novel, which I’ll be doing this year, I still need pens to brainstorm on paper. 

I’m not saying these are all things you’ll need. But I am saying you should consider how you want to write, brainstorm, and do all the other things related to your project. Make a list, grab what you’ll need, and get ready to start writing. 

That’s it for this week. See you again next Friday when we get into some actual writing.

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Preptober, Week One

Alright, it’s the first day of October. And this month is dedicated to exactly two things in my house. Celebrating Halloween as hard as possible, and getting ready for Nanowrimo. 

So this year I’m going to take you along for the ride with me, in a four-week course that will let you hit the ground running on November first. I’ve done Nanowrimo or Nanoedmo every year for the last eight years. And I never lose.

Why don’t I ever lose? Because I plan my life and my project in such a way that failure is not possible. 

If you’re with me, we’re starting today. This week, you have two tasks. 

1. Make your plan of action.

2. Get your people together.

Let’s break these down.

Make your plan of action

Especially if you’re new to the whole novel-writing thing, you need to make a plan for how this is going to happen. Because it’s sure as hell not going to happen by accident. Especially if you have other responsibilities. Like, you know, a life.

So you’ll want to ask yourself these questions. 

When am I going to write?

What projects do I need to wrap up before November to make space for this?

Are there any days I know right now I won’t be able to write? What days will I work ahead or catch up?

What are the other obligations that I still need to meet like work, school, finals, or home care?

What I’m saying is this. You are going to have excuses aplenty to not write. Get rid of those excuses by planning for them, not succumbing to them.

Find your people

This is broken down into two groups. Who are you writing with, and who is supporting your writing?

Do you have any friends, online or IRL who want to write with you? Nanowrimo is always better when you have other people participating with you. Start talking to your buddies now, and see who’s going to join you.

More important even than that, though, is your in-person support team.

Who’s going to help you out during November? My support team is my husband, who will help me out with the house and give me space. My best friend, who will be there for emotional support. And my group of friends, always ready for weird questions at random moments. 

Make a list of your support team. Ask them if they’re ready for that. Let them know what you’ll need of them. Do you need your mother-in-law to watch the kids an extra hour a week? Do you need your wife to make dinner on a night that would normally be yours?

You need time to prep. Your support system does too. And if you’ve got to do something extra to support your loved ones in return, best to know that early. 

So that’s it for this time. You’ve got a week for these two tasks. I’ll see you back here next week for a new assignment. 

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