The virus infects stories, too.

I was reading a scholarly article about the use of addiction/ drug abuse as metaphor for the vampire films of the 1980s. As someone who came of age in that decade, it was understandable to turn the usual sex-addicted vampire of the (seemingly) sexually repressed 1950-60s, into the addict, blood field of the 1980s. In the Western world, at least, vampires tend to be the avatar for whatever suburban America fears the most – or what they’re supposed to fear the most. This is also the rise of the “Satanic panic” and “Stranger Danger” – two hammers that came crashing down on the “free-range” parenting of much of the 1970s.

Seriously, it was a strange and confusing time to be a kid.

While I don’t have all of Wound plotted out (usually an episode or three in advance) I often think about the underlying theme of the story – why has this plague resulted in a vampiric evolution of humanity? The methods of transmission are from the usual zombie/vampire tropes – the bite – but the variety of infection plays to a different idea. My original thought was a straight-up zombie story, but then Paul showed up, and he demanded something more. Something about him had to change, but more and more I have to think about what he’s losing, not just what he gains.

I’ve rounded the mid-point of Season 2 and am starting to develop where we’ll end at episode #50. What revelation comes to our small group? What questions will be answered? I’m not sure, at least right now. But this idea of disease as evolution is interesting to me – I think I’ll follow it a bit further.

On a completely unrelated note: should we call 2022 – Plague Year 2? I wonder.

Carol/Mrs. Collins: Tank

WOUND: The Characters

To be fair, sweetie, it’s just easier to tell you what happened.

Mrs. Collins

Carol Collins left a lovely 2000-square-foot home, with an inground pool and delicate landscaping, a sunny but secluded deck and three full-time household assistants when the bomb-dropped in Chicago. She’d waited a day, for her husband to return from his business trip. She wasn’t sure he would. She wasn’t sure he wanted to. She knew he had a layover in O’Hare, but didn’t know when or what day. Carol Collins took little interest in Robert Collins. She took only his name and his bank account. In return, she bore him two beautiful boys and allowed him his small pleasures elsewhere.

When Bob turned up, ragged and smelling of charcoal and blood, Carol made up her mind and smiled. She’d already packed her boys’ things and some money. In her Coach purse was the single gun in the house and both boxes of ammunition. She had no idea how to load the thing, or unlock the safety device, but Carol was still in the performance stage of her escape. Deep down she assumed her husband would take care of everything.

He’d tried. Oh boy, how he tried. By the time Carol made it to the top of the staircase she understood that Robert Collins had changed. Saying little besides “Carol” and “boys” and “ghaaarrrgrr,” he chased her up the wide staircase into the upstairs hallway. Her boys stood at the end, outside of their room, right where she told them to wait. Her sweet boys, Jake and Blake, the little rhyming scheme that she picked the moment she new they were two and that annoyed Bob every time she called to them.

Her boys. Not Bob’s boys. Not now, as if they ever were.

The hallway ran long in the big house and she had time to catch Jake’s eye – he’s always been the stronger one, emotionally – and yell, “Get me your bat.” With no hesitation, the nine-year-old ducked into the bedroom he shared with his brother. He returned with an aluminum baseball bat, the word EASTON emblazoned on the side. He tossed it forward and, to her own amazement, Carol Collins caught it.

She spun, bringing the bat around with her momentum and connected with Bob’s head. Her luck held as he stumbled in his pursuit and she was able to swing again, adapting her backhand for the metal bat and landing it solidly under his chin. Blood flung out of his mouth and his crushed jaw hung open. The initial hit knocked skin off his temple and soaked his Armani dress shirt – that was a birthday present, Mrs. Collins thought.

Bob took a knee and instead of raising his hands to his injured head, like a human, he lunged forward, like something else, grabbing at her legs as she shielded her boys. She swung again and again, missing here and there, but connecting more often until what remained above the collar of her husband’s shirt was nothing more than a lump of grizzle and matted hair.

It was quite the messy divorce, Mrs. Collins would later say.

At no point did she tell her boys to run and hide. If she had to do this, they had to watch. Carol understood the world had changed, and they were going to change with it. They brought their most important belonging downstairs and showered in the small bathroom off the kitchen. They ate in silence and packed as much food as they could. Carol had the boys check for anything else – on the first floor – that they would need while she siphoned gas from Bob’s SUV into her van and two spare cannisters she found in the garage. The lingering tast of fuel in her mouth felt like a choice.

As the distant sounds of sirens tore through Pittsburgh, Carol, Jake and Blake left quietly in the dead of night and headed south. Her brother was just over the border in Kentucky. Perhaps he could take them in for a bit. Perhaps he could help her with this gun. There was a lot of things she needed to learn in this new world and there was no way she was going to let it take her boys.

You can read more about Carol in Wound exclusively in Kindle Vella.

A Whole New Year

Obligatory New Year’s Post is Obligatory

I’m not making any drastic changes heading into 2022. I think there’s far too much pressure on resolution and sweeping realignments that set people up for failure, especially someone like me that needs an external structure to succeed, but is neglectful in seeking one out. I could use a writing buddy or two heading into the new year. I remember how fast I made friends in online forums at the beginning of the ’00s and now, social media makes it so much harder, at least for me.

No! This is not the lonely writer post!

What I have done is reorganize my goal and tasks around three (four) simple BIG ideas. I have three major goals (three is a magical number – four goals if you count my “Personal” category) and I call those major goals – “BOSS”. Yes, these are my Gohma, Dodongo, and Barinade of my life quests. Every task I put into my calendar has to fit under one of these BOSSes or it’s not really worth my time.

Screenshot of my partial Notion database

I break things down even further, having separate MINIBOSSes for each BOSS. This gives me a way to see what areas within each BOSS I’m putting my time into and if there needs to be adjustments. I do all this in Notion using databases. Originally, I tried to limit my MINIBOSSes to just three per BOSS, but I found that, at least in my “Active Writer” boss, I needed a few more areas, such as “Working on Craft” and “Marketing.” The most important MINIBOSS here is “Finish Current Projects” because that’s where I have the most trouble. I have a separate database for Writing Projects and I try not to add anything to it unless the concept is completely clear to me. Everything else goes in a “idea” file.

This year I want to really lean into the idea of changing my “environment” instead of myself. Instead of acting as if my process, or my thinking, or my existence is a “problem,” I’m focusing on how I can create the space (physical and mental) where I will thrive. Coming up with this organization system has been key in this. I don’t feel the pressure to get everything done every day (my daily list is just things due “today” and “before” – and I’m purposefully not setting tasks with “priorities” because, in my mind, they’re all important.)

As for the writing, here is the plan:

  • I’ll be continuing all of my Vella series (one of them ending in late winter.)
  • Finishing up my first thriller novella, Chatterbox, to give away as a thank you for signing up for my newsletter (so look forward to that!)
  • I need to find a copy editor that I can work with on a regular basis. I’ll start searching in a few weeks. (I’m open to suggestions if you know of a good one.)
  • I’m planning on publishing some flash fiction on here and then compiling them as I go into anthologies
  • I’ve outlined the first two novels in a psychological thriller series to be published by the summer. More info coming soon!
  • The Shape of Us Mysteries first novel, Pedigree, is moving along and I hope to have that ready to go by March, April at the latest.
  • My Woodlawn College romance will get a sequel (Secret Title) to be released in Kindle Unlimited with the novella form of the series, Art History. No timeline on that yet.
  • Hopefully other opportunities that I can’t even see yet.

So that’s where things stand. I have the organization down and some of the systems in place and very optimistic goals. But I feel that now I have a better understanding of who I am and how I work and with that, can better give myself the grace to make adjustments.

May we all find some comfort in the new year and pinpoints of hope to help light the way.

Hey! Listen!

Navi

I want to love Kindle Vella

Earlier in 2021, Amazon launched their new serial platform, Kindle Vella. What? You haven’t heard of it? Well, it’s no wonder. Amazon’s been taking the phrase “soft launch” to new levels. While there have been some impressive ads spotted in the wild, the larger Amazon-verse doesn’t seem ready to acknowledge it’s own version of Radish, Wattpad, or Royal Road. For new writers, like myself, pulling new people into an unknown, untested, pay-as-you-read app has been a bit of a struggle. For established writers, their cup overfloweth.

Wow, this sounds bitter. It’s not!

See I enjoy writing in this format and originally started my series, Wound, at Tapas and Webnovel. The thing is, it was hard to get traction there as well. Horror isn’t the hot genre (isekai, LitRPG, and romance sub-genres take the top spot) but I felt a little more noticed. When I heard about Vella (which requires exclusivity or paywalls) I made the jump. I think I made the right choice, but I still wonder. If I had built up a following elsewhere, would they have followed me to this platform? I’m honestly not sure, because I’m not sure Amazon knows what they’re going to do with Vella.

At least they really haven’t said.

Where is it?

Well, you can access it online and read stories that way, but the interface for web reading leaves a bit to be desired. It’s clearly formatted for mobile viewing and even the way the chapters are listed is unusual.

Maybe it’s just me, but I expect to go down the left column first, then the right.

Your Kindle app is the best place to read your serials, since you can receive updates when new chapters are released. I follow and read several serials and this is the best way to experience them – and probably the way it’s intended. Yet, buried within the Kindle app, which I don’t use much on my phone for reading novels, it feels very hidden. I would think that Amazon would release a new stand-alone app just for Vella, but I’m not sure that’s in the cards. If they really wanted to take on the other big serial players, an app that delivers a similar experience would be essential, right?

Heading to the main Kindle Vella page will give you some clue as to the best performing genres, what’s trending, and the “Top Faved” section – which doesn’t’ seem to change much each month. As a writer it’s discouraging but that’s on me to write a better story. As a reader it makes the page feel stagnant if those favs never change. Since I’m following stories, those appear on top, but “Popular Tags” is right below and they don’t line up with my interests. I would think something along the lines of “Also Boughts” – like “Stories with Similar Tags” would encourage more discovery on my – the reader’s – part and, hopefully, serve up my story to more potential readers of horror, etc.

Also, there’s no horror genre. That should be changed.

Anything else you don’t like?

Well, I don’t like the long review process when fixing a typo in a story. I don’t like that I have to schedule at least four days out if I want to get ahead and not miss a release day. I don’t like the opaque bonus payment structure. I think without a concerted effort by Amazon to market Vella, most of the clicks will come from authors trying to help other authors (outside of those with established audiences) and will ultimately fizzle away.

Which sucks, because I really like writing my stories. I just wish I knew how to help people read them.


Handy links to read the first three episodes (free) of my Kindle Vella stories:

  • Wound (Horror) Post-apocalyptical, survival, vampires
  • Phone, Keys, Claws, Teeth (YA Paranormal) High school, family secrets, werewolves
  • Art History (MM Romance) Childhood friends, enemies to lover, academic intrigue!

Fearing the story

I want to write a short story, really short, like 1,000-words short, to submit to a publication. I think I have a good idea (that’s the easy part) and I’ve even started getting the first 150-200 words done (that’s 1/5th of the story) but I’m stuck. I know where the story is going, but I’m afraid to write it.

It’s not the subject matter that scares me, it’s not even a scary story. But the idea of taking that next step – submitting – that’s hard. When I upload my Vella episodes, it’s with little expectation that anyone will read it. That’s not being negative, but a nod to the reality of the now. I don’t worry about people not liking what I’ve written. I just want some sort of feedback.

Which is why submitting this tiny little story after finishing is so scary. I may get what I really want. Then what happens? Do I feel good about it? Bad? Get better? I don’t know. I’ve submitted stories before (and been rejected) and went along with my day. There’s nothing special about this publication or this story. It’s just weird now.

I’m weird now.

I think part of the issue is that I feel the need to write in the dark, not tell my family what I’m doing, because I fear that doing so will kill what little motivation I have. (Hence the pen name. Hidden.) I really want to write this story today and the only thing stopping me is me.

I mean, even this blog post is an avoidance tactic.

I want to do it, but I feel like I’m not happy enough to do it. I’m depressed, frustrated, annoyed. I should approach my writing with enthusiasm and hope, not fear and secrecy. I have made a prison out of rules that I wrote myself.

At least I wrote something.

One more paragraph and then I’ll put on the noise-cancelling headphones and try to focus, try to get out ~1000 imperfect sentences and then tweak them into something better, shinier, something that, when I reread it, will fill me with enthusiasm and hope. Because that’s the part I always forget.

It’s the writing that makes me feel that way, not the other way around.

Ah, that’s what this blog post was for. Understood.