Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Secret to Writing Success is...

Scott D. Parker

The secret of success is constancy to purpose. --Benjamin Disraeli

That quote is engraved on a paperweight I have on my desk. I bought it from Levenger years ago as a daily reminder that my proclivity to procrastination would always hold me back. In the years that I didn't write, I would look at that quote, lament I wasn't writing, and them go do something else, sometimes--but not always--with guilt pangs.

Then I tried a writing streak in 2013. It lasted 255 days.

Today marks a milestone in my fiction-writing career: I match my longest writing streak at 255 straight days. With today being the 255th day of the year, I have also matched my goal of 2015 (so far): write every day. Not every day was a productive as the next. Some days were as little as 67 words. Other days I topped 4,500. Word count didn't matter. Only the writing streak.

If there's one thing that I can stress about writing it is the quote from Disraeli. The secret of writing success is just doing it, over and over, for a long period of time. The words add up. This may seem like slow going at the beginning, but before you know it, you'll have 1,000 words, then 10,000, then 50,000, and then 100,000 and beyond. The secret of success is constancy to purpose.

The simplest rule about writing is just keep writing and preferably, don't stop. The other piece of advice that I can give to any writer is to be able to write anywhere, anytime, anyplace that you find yourself. I do have a set time to write everyday (5:00am), but I carry my iPod around and write on it throughout the day. It has made all the difference in my writing life, and it just might be the thing that turns a frustrated writer into a satisfied writer.

Start a writing streak. Keep at it. The words will come and before you know it, you'll have a story, or a book. Then do it again. And again.

The secret of success is constancy to purpose. I looked at that paperweight for years and didn't really get what it was trying to say. Now I understand it. It is allowed me to tie my writing record today.

Tomorrow, I set a new record.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The South sure is full of cliches

By Steve Weddle

I've written a few stories based in Arkansas and Louisiana.

Sometimes people say southern lit has a tradition. Sometimes they say it's full of cliche. Sometimes they don't say anything because they're full of bourbon and despair. People are weird.

The Toast just posted a fun little "Ha Ha. Southern Gothic is so dumb, you guys, look at this" post. People who generalize are always jerks. (If you like the southern lit post, you'll enjoy the Every Scottish Novel one.)

Anyway, might be fun to take some of these here fancy talking words on the webbernet and turn them into some down-home stories. I reckon I might just fancy using one or two so as to write my own tellings of what folks are up to down to the store.
7. Best Not To Ask Too Many Questions About The Smell Coming From The Old Widder-Woman’s House On Yon Hill
8. No One Listens To What Old Pap’s Got To Say, On Account Of This Deformity, But I Say It’s You All What Has The Deformity, In Your Souls, I Knows What I’ve Seen
9. They Always Did Think Too Highly Of Themselves
10. We Bury Our Feelings And Our Relatives Alive
11. It’s Too Hot For Justice Today
12. I Drink Because This House Is Filthy And All The Servants Have Fled

Haha. Yeah. I say "yon" and "widder-woman" all the time because I'm from the south and my cousin-wife don't want me talking too uppity.

And yet. And yet. And yet. That #9 is something I could use. People thinking too highly of themselves. Is that a southern thing? Can people who write in Brooklyn coffee shops also think too highly of themselves? Thomas Mann made a living from writing novels that build up a family just to tear them down again. Was he from South Germany? I should prolly look that up, 'cause we never went in for none of that book learnin.

Number 12 is odd. Well, even. Fine, wiseass. You know what I mean. Drinking because a thing went wrong. Maybe that happens ni New York, too. Not the servant part, of course, seeing as how all them New Yorkers reckon everyone is their servant. But maybe one of them New York folks lost his beard balm and or his fancy mixed drink had cubed ice instead of crushed. Maybe she missed the boat what takes them from one island to another. And burying feelings? Hell fire, don't we all do that? And too hot for justice? Too hot? Hell, I once saw Ol' Man Varney's best cow catch far right there in front of the church. The minister then, this was back before we found out about him and the widder-woman what come from up to Memphis, he said somebody run fetch him some water and that's what we did and so we all sat down and had us some fine steaks and iced tea. Too hot for justice? Ain't never too hot for anything, 'cept Yankee bullshit.
2. There’s A Sense Of Malaise And Decay Hovering Over This Old Plantation; I Can’t Imagine What Lies In The Not-So-Distant Past That Caused It
Don't reckon I know, 'cept maybe some smart-ass from New York got hisself in a mess of trouble, then into the bottom of a well.
16. The Outsider Wore Shoes And A Smug Expression
Yup. That'll do it.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Flash Fiction Challenge: A Book Title Story

Yesterday I was looking at the book shelves and noticing how some of the titles linked up. Some of them linked up thematically, some literally, and others linked up in potentially interesting ways by using the same word(s).

Today's challenge: Write a story using as many book titles as possible (or makes sense). 1000 words or less. Any genre. You can post the story over at your place (make sure you leave the link here) or drop it here in the comments. On 9/21 I'll pick a winner. Prizes to be determined (there will be prizes).

This challenge was partially inspired by the following short film, Hell's Club. Check it out if you haven't seen it yet. A club where fictional characters meet and all hell breaks loose. Not only a great editing job but entertaining as hell too.

Any questions ask away. Not interested? That's OK, I'll be writing one no matter what.Help spread the word if you are!

Edited to correct the date.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Kristi Belcamino - Blessed Are Those Who Mourn - Chapter Reveal

My fourth book, Blessed Are Those Who Mourn, comes out in just a few weeks and my publisher is doing a first chapter reveal promotion so I thought I'd also share the chapter here.
If you like what you read and want more, there are buying links at the bottom. Here are some nice things reviewers have said about the new book:
"Kristi Belcamino knocks it out of the park with her best novel to date." 

"Reader beware: the emotionally fraught drama of this suspense-filled gem will tug at the most hardened heartstrings! A bravura piece of story telling by a stellar talent." 

"So much fast action, so much murder and mayhem this book flies to a thrilling conclusion."

And here is the back cover copy:
San Francisco Bay Area reporter Gabriella Giovanni has finally got it all together: a devoted and loving boyfriend, Detective Sean Donovan; a beautiful little girl with him; and her dream job as the cops' reporter for the Bay Herald. But her success has been hard-won and has left her with debilitating paranoia. When a string of young co-eds starts to show up dead with suspicious Biblical verses left on their bodies—the same verses that the man she suspects kidnapped and murdered her sister twenty years ago had sent to her—she begins to question if the killer is trying to send her a message.
It is not until evil strikes Gabriella's own family that her worst fears are confirmed. As the clock begins to tick, every passing hour means the difference between life and death to those Gabriella loves...
Chapter 1
The setting sun turns my family into dark silhouettes as I step onto the warm sand. The beach is nearly deserted, except for a lone figure walking north of us along the sand where the waves are crashing in from the Pacific Ocean.
A cool breeze makes me glad I trekked to the car to retrieve my daughter’s little lavender parka. We promised her we’d stay until the sun set.
Donovan’s back is turned, phone held to his ear. He’s pacing in his bare feet, his jeans rolled up, a scowl on his face from what he’s hearing. A murder. Every once in a while he glances back at Grace kneeling in the sand playing.
Grace has dug deep channels with a small red shovel, chatting to herself, weaving tales about mermaids and sea creatures and fairies. She bounces a plastic dinosaur along the sand, a prize won in kindergarten for reading two books in one week.
Everything I’ve ever wanted is on that beach—Donovan and our daughter, Grace. My own little family. My life.
I’m still far away, closer to the parking lot, when I see the figure walking along the shore is growing closer. It’s a man. His shadow, with its elongated arms and legs, stretches across the beach until it seems to take on a life of its own. Something about his movements seems angry and frenetic—instead of the wandering gait of a casual sunset stroll—and sets off  small alarms in my head. I walk faster, the sand seeming to reach up and grab at my ankles, slowing my progress.
Donovan’s pacing takes him in the opposite direction, away from Grace. He’s not paying attention to anything besides his phone call. The man is now closer to Grace, who seems alone on the beach, although Donovan is twenty feet away. Donovan squints up into the pink and orange clouds, raking a hand through his perpetually spiky hair.
The man’s path takes him straight toward Grace. My heart races. I can’t tell for sure, but it seems like he’s watching her. He walks at a determined clip, covering ground much faster than me in my flat, strappy sandals. I lean over in mid-stride and rip a sandal from one foot without stopping. Then I scoop up the other in one fluid motion.
Still, each step feels like my bare feet are being sucked into quicksand. I hurry, but feel like I’m moving in slow motion.
“Grace.” I shout, but my words are carried away on the wind. I’m breathless from fighting the sand tugging at my feet. The breeze, which has grown stronger in the past few minutes, whips my hair. Grace’s brown ringlets bob as she hops her plastic dinosaur around, not noticing anything else.
Donovan isn’t far from Grace, but now the man is closer.
At the same moment Donovan turns and sees the look on my face, the man reaches Grace. His long shadow falls over her small figure. She looks up with a smile and starts chatting. He leans down. His hand reaches toward her, his fingers millimeters from her arm. A wave of dread ripples through me. My feet feel cemented into the sand. My mind screams, but no words come out of my open mouth. Inside, I’m flailing and thrashing to get to Grace, but on the outside, I’m struck immobile.
The man reaches down and grasps Grace’s arm, turning her toward him, and the spell is broken. I’m on wet sand running, the scream caught in my throat coming out as a birdlike garble. I scoop Grace up onto one hip and take a step back. I gasp for air, but I can’t breathe. My heart is going to explode in my chest.
The man looks at me with surprise and for a split second, there is something in his eyes that sends panic racing up into my throat, but then the look is gone, as if I imagined it.
“Gosh. I’m so stupid,” he says in a nasally voice. He wipes his palms on the legs of his jeans, as if he is sweating even though the temperature is rapidly dipping along with the sun.
Donovan is at my side. “Gabriella, is everything okay?”
He’s used my full name and he’s looking at me instead of Grace in my arms. Guilt flicks through me. I’m not acting irrational or hysterical. A strange man walked up to our daughter and grabbed her arm. Any mother would react the same, wouldn’t she?
At first glance, the man seems boyish with his bowl haircut, baggy jeans, and sneakers. Up close, a few crow’s feet shows he is older. Maybe even my age—thirty. He has feminine pink lips, and piercing blue eyes, the color of the arctic sea. The collar of his black jacket is pulled up. His smile is all “gee, golly, shucks,” abashed and embarrassed but doesn’t reach his eyes. He paws at his jeans with his palms. He’s done that twice now. He’s nervous.
When he meets my eyes again, I realize that something about him seems off, something about his eyes, more than just their intense color. One eye is close to his nose and the other set far apart. It’s jarring and somehow unsettling to make eye contact.
“I’m so sorry,” he says in that same stuffed-up sounding voice. “What a knuckle-headed move. I should know better than to walk up to someone else’s kid like that.”
Donovan grips my arm.
“What’s going on here?” His words are clipped.
I’m panting, but finally able to catch my breath. Still, the words will not come.
“Your kid is so darn cute. She looks just like my little sister used to look. I just wanted to say hi to her and didn’t even think that was a total bonehead move to walk up to someone else’s kid when her parents weren’t around.” He gives an odd smile as he says this.
 “We were around.” Donovan says in a monotone, staring the man down.
The man looks down at the sand.
Grace is kicking and trying to get down. My knuckles are white gripping her.
“Ow, mama, you’re hurting me,” she says and tosses her curls in irritation.
Donovan shoots a glance our way before turning his attention back to the man.
 “You live around here?” Donovan asks, seemingly casual, but the muscle in his jaw is working hard. His dark eyes under thick eyebrows have narrowed and hold a glint of menace. In a second, it alters him from the man on the cover of the “Sexiest Bay Area Cops” calendar into something feral and dangerous.
The man meets Donovan’s eyes and for a second it looks like he is challenging Donovan to dispute his story, but then he looks down again and digs a sneakered toe into the sand, reinforcing my impression that he’s a kid not a man.
“Marin. Meeting some friends here in the city for dinner. Was early so came here to kill some time.  I didn’t mean to cause any problems. I just wanted to say hi to her. Maybe you’re over-reacting a bit.”
Donovan runs a hand through his hair. His posture relaxes. Instinctively—or luckily—this man has honed in on Donovan’s Achilles heel. We’ve talked at length about our tendency to be overprotective parents because of our jobs, me as a crime reporter, and him as a detective. Donovan has argued we can’t let this affect Grace’s childhood. We need to protect her, but let her grow up carefree. I agree. But it’s easier said than done.
We’ve, also, talked about my irrational fear that something will happen to Grace.
This man may not realize it, but he’s instantly off the hook with this one simple word—Overreacting.
“Why don’t you go head on out,” Donovan says, dismissing him.
“My bad, really. Wasn’t using my head. Have a nice night,” the man says and turns to leave.
I set Grace down and Donovan wraps his arm around me.
“You okay?
“I don’t know.” I don’t tell him that it felt like I was having a heart attack, that I couldn’t breathe or move. A stranger walked up to my daughter and I stood there, weak, helpless, frozen.
Donovan gives me a look before we both turn and watch the man’s figure growing smaller. We watch without saying a word. We stand there until the man turns and heads toward the wooden boardwalk bordering the road. He never looks back.
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