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.

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.

Trying to do too much?

I’m the queen of great ideas and bad follow through.

I’ve been watching/listening to a lot of videos about writing, craft and business, and I’ve come to realize that I’m not only putting the cart before the horse, but I don’t even have a horse, or a cart, or a road, or a place to go. Outside of my three Kindle Vella series, I’m a bit scattered, even though I’ve talked about various projects here before.

I’m the queen of great ideas and bad follow through.

I think that’s why the Kindle Vella series appeal to me now. I’d had a hard time finding a following on other serial sites and, while, the market seems dominated by steamy romance and LitRPG (neither of which I write) I decided to take a gamble.

Then I quickly became overwhelmed. And started having new ideas. Then over-overwhelmed.

The natural step after over-overwhelm is paralysis and then I get into a funk and don’t do anything at all. You can give me plenty of planners, systems, motivation, even people to sit with me while I work, but I won’t know where to go. And the one thing I’m bad at is the one thing I need to be good at: finishing my shit.

I even started a NaNoWriMo group focused on Finishing Our Shit Stuff and then abandoned it after a week or two. (Sorry, y’all. It’s not you. It’s always me.)

I’ve been thinking about all the half-finished, partially-started pieces I have saved and wondered if I could dedicate myself to finishing these pieces and putting them out there, whether indie publishing them under this pen name or submitting them to publications under another. Who knows? But it’s a challenge that I have only failed in the past.

Nowhere to go but up, as they say.

What I am doing now is reassessing each week what tasks actually get me moving forward. Writing is always a Definitely. Other things, not so much. So, more writing. (Yeah, I’ve been here before and this time may not be different, but there’s only one starting place and that’s where the starting starts.)

Good luck to me. Good luck to you.

WOUND: The Characters

I try to write character-driven stories. When I’m reading, my immersion level increases dramatically when I can identify with a character. I don’t have to be similar to them in any way (and that’s my privilege talking) but that connection really drives the reading experience, and therefore, that’s how I like to write.

The physical description is only important to me if it drives the story. I tend to do minimal details and let the reader color in the visual person. I want their personality to come out in their dialogue and choices: what path do they take, what questions trip them up, etc. I think this is closer to how we get to know people in real life, and it’s a hell of a lot more fun.

For my Vella series, WOUND, I have a set group of characters that I use for point-of-view and a set point that are not. When I started season two I wondered if I should switch from one group to the next, but I worried that if any readers connected with, say, Carol, in season one, they may resent not hearing from her until season three (there are five planned in total). So I’m sticking with my four originals…that is, unless something happens.

I did want to take time to dig deeper into their stories (for research and for fun) and thought it might be interesting to post it here. Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be sharing some ideas and backstory of my characters in WOUND, point-of-view and other. I’ve also made some great picrew images of them, to help me paint their personality on their faces.