Saturday, November 27, 2021

NaNoWriMo 2021 - Week 4 Encouragement: Congratulations, Honest Assessment, and the Future

Scott D. Parker

Well, as of yesterday, NaNoWriMo 2021 has only four more days. As nice as it was to start the month and our novels on a Monday, we actually have until this coming Tuesday to reach the 50,000-word mark.

I reached that milestone last Sunday, about 36 minutes into my 76-minute writing session (yeah, I kept track of the time and the exact word count). As of yesterday, I’m up to 61,667 words and I still have a bit to go. Not sure how much, but I’m going to keep going until I get to The End. I kept track of the total minutes written so far and they add up to 35.5 hours. It’s moments like this when I superimpose a month’s worth of writing in spurts of 60-75 minutes over a typical day job of 40 hours a week and start to wonder what it would really be like to have a day job in which I wrote fiction for 8 hours a day. I know that it would not be a one-to-one comparison, but I still think about it. Maybe one day.

So, how are you doing? Did you get to 50,000 words? Did those 50,000 words correspond to the end of your novel or do you still have to keep writing to get to The End? Did you fall short? Don’t worry. I’ve done all those things and more.

Depending on your answers, you should do two crucial things.

First, if you finished, CELEBRATE! You have just written a 50,000-word novel. Celebrate. Tell people about it. Post about it on Facebook. Tweet your accomplishments. Open a bottle of champagne. Seriously on that last part, do it. Ever since I completed book 2, I have sprung for a bottle of bubbly to celebrate. It is a monumental thing if you have written a novel, especially if it’s your first.

Second, if you did not finish, do not beat yourself up or chastise yourself. Do not do those things. They do you no good and, in all honesty, they hamper your next writing effort. Believe me. I know this one all too well. It wasn’t until January 2013 when I again looked at the past year of not writing and finally turned myself around. I didn’t chastise myself like I had on previous New Year’s Days. Instead, I analyzed what had kept me from writing. Once those things were identified, I was able to skirt around them, avoid them, and I became a much more productive writer.

Now what?

Well, you’ve got to ask yourself a question. Did you participate in NaNoWriMo 2021 just to say you have written a novel, or did you do it because you want to keep writing stories? If it’s the former, good for you. Print it out, bind it if you want, display it proudly, and mark it off your bucket list. Mission Accomplished.

But if you found you enjoyed the process and kept doing it, you must keep writing. Seriously. Maybe NaNoWriMo 2021 took a lot out of you. That’s okay. Take a break for sure. Revel in your success. But make a plan--today--that you’ll start your next book on a certain day. My suggestion: New Year’s Day.

Now that you know you can write a novel, do it again. What better way to start a new year than with a new novel. I’ve done it the past few years. It’s a great way to get past the inevitable doldrums I often get in January. It’s like the hangover for all the holidays we celebrate the last 62 days of a year. Make a plan to start a book, and then write that next book. I’ll leave it up to you whether or not you decide to make January 2022 into a NaNoWriMo, but make a plan.

Ideally, you’ll finish your next book by 31 January 2022. Then, do it again. The best way to make it as a writer is to keep writing regularly. The ‘regularly’ is the key part. Writing is a muscle. It needs to be exercised to keep it in shape. And here’s the cool part: the more you do it, the easier it becomes.

Even if you don’t do a true NaNoWriMo of 1,667 words a day, shoot for 1,000. That’s the goal of veteran writer Kristine Kathryn Rusch. In two months, you can have your next book written. Or a novella in 31 days.

Just keep writing. Make it a habit. If you do, you’ll discover the joy of writing, the ease of writing, and it’ll likely make you happy.

Right now, revel in your celebration: NaNoWriMo 2021 is almost over. Congratulations. Now, don’t wait another eleven months to write your next book

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Loose Thoughts on...vampires.

 By Jay Stringer

Midnight Mass sent me on a bit of a Vampire fiction binge. I'm sure the season helped. It gets dark in Glasgow this time of year. I've said it on here before, but once the end of October hits, Scotland has a way of reminding you that we're on the same latitude as Moscow. There's an inky quality to the darkness here. A thickness. It seeps in, if you let it, and my tastes tend to turn towards horror when the skies get dark. Asking questions like, do we create monsters in the shadows because we're scared of the dark, or did we learn to be scared of the dark because that's when the monsters came? 

But from Midnight Mass I started listening to the audiobook of Salem's Lot. And watching a lot of vampire flicks and TV shows. Some worked. Some didn't. I became fascinated trying to spot the patterns. 

The thing that's easy to forget about Dracula is what a modern novel it was. A century of seeing it as a period piece, as Lugosi, Lee, Hammer Horror, wigs and capes. But when the book came out it was a contemporary story, about a very modern town being met by a very old problem. Van Helsing was a doctor, a scientist. The book was epistolary, made up of journal entries and -if memory serves- a transcription from a wax recording. Today it would be a book made up of blog entries and a podcast. If it was a movie it would be found footage, webcam maybe. 

And so that's the first thing that I think is needed. The story needs to be set now, and needs to feel like it's about now. Period piece vampire fare just doesn't do it for me. An old threat in an old world. 

This is related to the second key point. Science. Medicine. The story needs to have some form of scientist or doctor trying to figure out the rules. Whether they succeed or fail, the collision of science and mystery is key to the genre. 

What we know vs what we don't. 

There needs to be some form of fellowship formed. We face our own personal demons alone, but to survive in one of these stories we need to believe in something bigger than ourselves. It doesn't need to be god, but it needs to be something, or somebody. We need to put a team together. Which leads right into a final act twist that is also key. A change in genre. No matter what the story has been up until this point, no matter how dark or light, how scary or funny, to really succeed a vampire story needs to turn into an adventure in its final act. The race of the fellowship against time, against the sun, chasing down the Count on horseback, or by car, or on a daring raid into a spooky house. Some vampire fiction tries to subvert or ignore this aspect. It aims for nihilism, or loneliness, or a conspiracy-style open ending. But we need that spirit of adventure and teamwork. 

But I also keep thinking about an element I would be interested in subverting. 

As I said above, the battle between what we know and what we don't is key to this genre. And folklore by its nature is about us providing some rules to life, about figuring things out. The vampire usually enters the story with a sense of those rules. Once they turn up, certain questions about the universe are answered. And, more importantly, the vampire already knows those answers. They know their place in the pecking order. They know their rules, their mythology, their purpose. They tend to know all about the history of their species, and what their powers are, and how.

But I'm interested in finding the human level of that. Where are the atheist vampires? The ones who have as little real sure knowledge of the universe as we do. Sure, they have ancient books telling them their creation myth, just as we do, but beyond faith what do they really know? Why do they get to be so sure? I'm interesting in thinking about a story of vampires who have no more understanding of the meaning of life (or death) than we do. They wake up, they exist, they feed, they sleep, they occasionally look up at the sky and wonder what's up there. Some of them can be religious, some not. Some have carried out experiments and studied to know how their biology works, most haven't. They're just creatures existing on this planet and getting by day by hunting. 

I might have a story in there, fighting its way out. 

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Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Under the Thumb

 by Scott Adlerberg

In this spot back in March, Rock and a Hard Place Magazine co-editor Roger Nokes guest blogged with his piece explaining why the magazine (co-editor Jay Butkowski) was putting out a call for a special themed anthology called Under the Thumb: Stories of Police Oppression.

None other than S.A. Cosby took on the role of the anthology's editor, and in that March piece, he explained the anthology's goal:

“I think the main objective of this anthology is to demystify the cop story in crime fiction. We are trying to invert the usual perspective when it comes to a crime story. A deconstruction of the police procedural that examines the world through the eyes of characters who are usually voiceless. We’ve all read a police procedural that uses the suspects as simply props for the story of an officer who 'bends the rules' to get things done. Too often we don’t consider the cost of this kind of indoctrination. Stories are our myths and our myths become our reality. But it's a reality shaped by a worldview that disavows the truth of people from marginalized communities and underrepresented cultures. I like to say writers are liars who seek the truth. That’s what we are doing with this anthology. Seeking the truth. No matter how much it hurts.” 

Well, the anthology has now been released, and it has a stellar lineup of writers.  There are stories by Travis Wade Beaty, Andrew Case, Hilary Davidson, Hector Duarte Jr., Michael Downing, Jeffrey Eaton, Michael A. Gonzales, James D.F. Hannah, Zakariah Johnson, Preston Lang, Bobby Mathews, Mike McHone Richie Narvaez, Oluseyi Onabanjo, James Queally, Keith Rosson, Jeff Soloway, Joseph S. Walker, and Tim P. Walker.

Crime fiction, as ever, is a great vehicle to explore the power disparities of the world and the flaws and problems inherent in the systems of human justice, and I'm eager myself to see how these different writers approach all this.  There should be a lot to dive into.

Proceeds from sales, by the way, go to The New Jersey chapter of Black Lives Matter.

You can get Under the Thumb: Stories of Police Oppression right here.

Monday, November 22, 2021

Flash Fiction Challenge...Julia Brugh


Julia Brugh is one of the newest members of RVA City Writers, having joined us during the pandemic and soon taking part in our virtual readings. She writes dark fiction with an eye and voice for unreliable narrators, ghost stories, and gothic tales centered in Appalachia. She and her husband, Mark, co-authored the book CIVIL WAR GHOSTS OF SHARPSBURG from History Press, a great read for a stormy night.

In addition, on the first Friday of every month, the Brughs host Happy Hours with Back Porch Cocktails on Facebook Live! Friends gather and chatter over a cold or warm cocktail created by the supremely talented and creative Julia Brugh. The drinks are perfect for the season and the conversations stretch from best rock tunes featuring flute or banjo, to favorite karaoke tunes, or Top 5 “Coming of Age” movies. Bueller? Bueller?

For now, let’s settle in and read Julia Brugh’s flash fiction challenge piece. What is the challenge? Write a fifty-word flash. That’s it. However, the story must incorporate three randomly selected words and revolve around a single, overall theme. The words have been drawn and shared; letter, afford, and yard. The theme is despair.

Tit For Tat
By Julia Brugh

The old woman cursed me after I recorded her in my yard. I couldn’t afford not to.

She’s internet gold-screaming about noise-waving some letter around.

Said I’d cut off my nose to spite my face.

She was right, but I’m okay.

It barely bled,

and I went viral.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Cover Reveal: Dangerous Consequences

It's here. The cover for Dangerous Consequences, book five in my Sheriff Hank Worth series.

It’s definitely the most “daytime” of my covers, with a a bleached-out, sinister quality that I love.  The others were at night or under cloudy skies. Here’s a look back at them. 


Hank Worth Book One

Hank Worth Book Two

Hank Worth Book Three

Hank Worth Book Four

I’ll have a Dangerous Consequences release date for you soon. Stay tuned!