Becky's Horror Story.

Harmon's toe fell off.

There it was, sitting on his carpet, while congealing blood slowly leaked out of the stump where his big toe should have been. He stared in disbelief, utterly shocked at the sight. A definite ache was coming in waves from the top of his foot up to his knee. He convinced himself to think through his predicament. He'd heard of plenty of smashed toenail cases, where the nail eventually died, disconnected, and left a black and bruised toe behind... maybe this would be the same.

Now he was almost certain he'd seen a monster down the alley behind his apartment last night. He'd stumbled back, and fallen into a puddle of … goop... wearing nothing but sandals. Harmon could see his back of trash out the bedroom window, still sitting on the ground by the dumpster where he'd left it in his haste. He remembered the breath he'd taken, convincing himself just enough that he'd watched one too many horror films that month. He'd gone inside, quickly kicked his sandals into the front closet, and gone to his room, not even turning out the lights. He'd been able to get to sleep, but had not been able to go back out in the dark.

Eyes. He remembered red eyes, and shiny sharp claws the size of his head.

Harmon shook his head to clear his mind and quickly reached with his left hand for the corded telephone on the desk to call for a ride to the hospital. He felt a sudden pin prick at his wrist that made his gasp in pain. The prickling spread like electricity across his wrist and through his palm as he watched with his own two eyes a black ring form where his watch should have been.

Panic rose from Harmon's stomach to settle in his chest and around his lungs. Struggling to breathe in and out, he watched as the skin around his wrist bone peeled back wetly and his flesh was eaten way by an unseen force. Exposed white bone began to crack and pop, splitting away from his arm. His voice caught in his throat; his fingers went limp and his hand severed itself from his arm before his eyes to rest on the dresser, leaving him with a burning stump in mere seconds.

Harmon stared wide-eyed, and released an uncontrollable shout of fear as he reached over with his remaining hand to pick up the severed limb, now oozing red blood into the light wood of his dresser.

Leprosy, zombification, and Apocalypse by aliens all crossed his mind as he raced with his hand out the bedroom door and down the hall. As he ran past the bathroom, his right knee cap popped with such force he was thrown to the ground with a yelp. Unsuccessfully, he tried to catch himself with his severed limb. Harmon's cheek bone fractured at the impact, and his face rushed across the carpet.

White hot fury raged in his left hip where he heard a sickening creeeeeak followed by a slurrp, like tearing apart a cooked chicken leg. Screaming filled his ears as he dragged himself across his living room carpet, reaching, stretching for the front doorknob. There was a throbbing more intense than he'd ever felt in his life. His entire left leg now lay askew, detached six inches away from its rightful place at the base of his hip; the skin on his thigh blackened and bloody, tiny veins and muscles still attached to his body. Following with his eyes a trail of blood from his bedroom, he turned to see his right leg maimed at the knee, laying down the hall ten feet behind him.

Blood squirting from his missing appendages and stumps, moans and grunts spewing from his mouth, Harmon collapsed on his back mere feet from his dead bolted front door. Too weak to speak or call for help; too drained of blood to lift his head. Searing pain filled his side, and a warm wet feeling spread from his stomach.

A soft scraping sound came from the coat closet. Slick, wet sounding footsteps made their way across his entry way just outside Harmon's blackening vision. Seconds passed with Harmon listening to a thick drip, drip, drip like a leaky faucet, just inches from his head. Something breathing hoarsely and deeply.

Harmon felt his life seeming from what remained of his body. Darkness continued to fill his vision, and all he could feel was dull, cold pain. No time to wonder why.

The last thing he saw was the monster chewing on his severed hand.

I'm radically less interested in Art than I used to be.

First off, this post is a little disjointed, and I can't be held responsible for bad grammar and spelling. (I wrote it over the course of three days, shoved in between studying.)

Long before I ever thought of being a writer, I was an artist. Before I read books for pleasure I was teaching myself to draw and fumbling around with techniques (with horrible results). I eventually began to develop some skill to go with my talent, and over the years, I produced some pretty good stuff (in my humble opinion). For a very long time I thought visual art would be my calling. Once I got my first computer and copy of Photoshop, I began to teach myself computer animation and graphic design. Later, while performing vocals in my deathcore band, I taught myself to make t-shirt and other merch designs, including two CD covers.

All seemed to point to a computer graphics/animation career, and I hoped to go to college for a degree in it some day. After my band... well, disbanded, I fell out of practice, as show posters and merch designs had been my main source of work. Somewhere along the way in the ensuing years, I also fell out of love with it. This crazy idea of writing a story pushed it from its place at the adult's table then kicked it in the kidneys.

And I'm glad it did.

Right now I'm in college, working on my generals. One of my current classes is Art History 2720, and I hate it. I can't remember an exam I have feared so much as the one I just took. I'm no slob when it comes to retaining information and so on, but the amount of specific detail the professor demanded within an hour class is, quite frankly, insane. All I want to do is write, and anything that takes me away from that is a waste of time (or so I feel). Math I can handle (shockingly enough), as it only requires practice and knowledge of formulas and methods (you can't mess that up). Art History and my (shudder) Philosophy class require a different kind of brain power. And it's not just the frustration of connecting ideas and concepts, or simply memorizing dates, it's doing things the instructor's way, or the highway. It's all about their interpretation, even when it's blatantly wrong or out of context (looking at you Philosophy Professor).

I suppose it's mostly a matter of what I'm willing to place importance in, and while I know deep down that college is important, it just feels like a waste of time. Not just a waste; it is actively taking away from my ability to work on the dream of being a writer. I have no time to practice, no time to edit, and certainly no time to actually write the fiction. The only reason I continue with college is the fact that I can't simply rely on writing to support me. I'm not so egotistical as to imagine that I can "make it" or get published. It's only a dream so far, and dreams don't put food in your mouth. But if I use college as my back up plan, is it really worth it if it wholly prevents me from pursuing my dream?

Why can't I dream of being a doctor?

First, a wonderful little recipe....

I don't have much time today, but I wanted to share a recipe, then a bit about TSS (my book The Sometimes Sword). As some of you know, I'm a huge fan of a site called, run by the strange Chuck Wendig, a freelance game writer, screenwriter, and published novelist who makes me chuckle more often than anyone else. His blog contains a ton of different subjects: interviews, writing advice, lists, etc. Recently he has taken to posting recipes that he proudly deems "NSFW". I highly recommend them, as they are as hilarious as they are tasty. (Caution: if you aren't into crude language, stay away. Also, did I say "as" enough in that sentence?) The latest recipe was a sausage and apple pasta with a butter cream sauce which he titles "This Recipe Will Autumn Your F*@!ing Socks Off". And yes, before you ask, it did. My socks, and my stomach, were quite satisfied. I don't know that I've ever tasted something that immediately resulted in a loud "Wow". Seriously, go look it up.

To the point of this post however, I really wanted to chat briefly about TSS. It's times like these that I can actually be grateful I'm not a published writer with a reputation, deadlines, and so on. I've been thinking a lot lately about my writing, to the point that I seem to have confused myself. I need to stop thinking about what I should be doing so much, and just write what I enjoy. Some of you might have seen my blog post describing my reasons in shelving The Sometimes Sword indefinitely, and while I still think my reasons are warranted, I think I may have jumped the gun in deciding to move on.

Those of you who have read any or all of TSS know that there is a lot left to do in order to make it a smooth, cohesive novel with a satisfying middle and ending. Part of the reason I felt like it was a waste to continue on with it was the the sheer amount of work that needed to be done to it, and not knowing where to start. It's overwhelming to look at a 400 page book and try to figure out what's wrong with it and how to fix it.

Like I said above, I am so glad I'm still an amateur, in that I can change my mind when I need to and go back and forth between books without a publisher telling me I'm a moron. As of right now, I am once again picking up The Sometimes Sword, but in a different way. Instead of trying to fix existing material, I will begin stripping away entire sections that aren't up to scratch, then rewriting them the way they need to be. This will include the entire ending, and the first few chapters of the book for sure. I intend to rebuild them from the ground up, altering the very framework of the book in the process. This will mean a lot of material going into cold storage, and even more brand new material added in its place.

First order of business is demolition. I am planning a time with my alpha readers to sit down for several solid hours and take the book apart. Becky and I did this to a small extent a few weeks ago, but I want to dive deeper and identify the good and bad. I want go over specific sections and determine what needs to be chucked out. If it ends up being whole chapters or the entire last half of the book in the trash, so be it. (If there are sections that have a good premise, but are written badly, we will create a framework in which to rewrite them.)

Next I want to begin arranging scenes that might be good (but in the wrong places) into a different story, establishing a recognizable arc, character and plot wise. I want to examine theme with everyone, and make some diagrams for fluctuations in character development and conflict. One of my main focuses in doing this will be to establish a defined moral, or why the story is significant. (Why should the reader care about this? What will they take away? etc.)

As far as my new book goes, I am still going to continue work on it as I can. I am excited by some of the ideas and characters I've created, but I can't let TSS die. I've worked too hard, and my readers have worked to hard to not meet my goal of submission by January. So going forward, I will have two projects, but TSS will take precedence.

Difficulty writing, and what I need to do about it. (Suggestions are welcome.)

Lately I've been having a hard time sitting down to write. I've written about this before, I know, but it has since become worse, to the point of complete stagnation in my writing. As some of you know, I recently decided to shelve The Sometimes Sword, of which I was on the third draft. You can read about it here. I have started work on a new book, but I find myself wondering sometimes if I'm really cut out for this. I have always heard (and I have said myself) that a writer has to slog forward, and just do it. It's good advice for sure, logical and all that. But it misses an important point. What if you can't slog forward, because you can't seem to put your fingers on the keyboard? What if every time you sit down you feel sick, and ashamed? What if so many doubts clog your brain that you can't seem to recall any words other than self-recriminations?

Can I really call myself a writer when I let two, three months go by without actually, you know, writing? Thankfully as of today I started once more on writing the actual words of my new first draft, but how long will that last? How long until I look at what I've done and start hating it?

My goal right now, and it feels so inadequate, is to write at least once a week. This is a far cry from 5 pages a day like my last book. But with school and work I'm mentally exhausted every night. (I hate you Philosophy 1200.) It feels like writing would be a bad idea most of the time. I rationalize that the stress isn't worth it, that I as an adult can choose to do what seems to be the easiest thing in the evenings, and if that's not writing, then so be it.

Somehow, I know that's all wrong. I know it is. But it persists. Does anyone have suggestions, or even similar thoughts? I want to hear about them, and maybe what you are doing to overcome them.

How I build my characters. (Feel free to use this if you like.)

I wanted to share what I have been developing over the last couple of weeks (with the help of my wife). Specifically character sheets. This is a document I am creating for my protagonist, and some other important characters. I didn't start out with a form like this, but rather converted an already completed character sheet, replacing the items with question prompts ( you don't get to read about my protagonist, sorry). Having a clearly defined person when I start is extremely helpful, and I look forward to getting these new, fully fleshed-out characters on the page. Hopefully this might help spark some things to consider in your own characters.

All About ________
  • Gender
  • Age
  • One-word Personality Type
  • Body Type
  • Skin Color
  • Hair Length/Color
  • Clothing
  • Eye Color
  • Facial Shape
  • Height
  • Possibly weight
  • How do they act in relation to others?
  • What they think of themselves
  • How do others think of them?
  • Whose company do they enjoy?
  • What do they think about their society
  • What gender roles do they fall into?
  • What gender roles do they break away from?
  • What do they believe in?
  • What is their occupation?
  • What makes them unique at it? (ex: uses only knives to hunt dangerous game, etc.)
  • What is their level of education?
  • What kind of people of the opposite gender do they like? (This can be important if you have a romance of any kind.)
  • What are some special abilities? (Magic, cunning, etc.)
  • What was growing up like?
  • How did they do in school (if they attended)?
  • What was their family like?
  • Did they get along with their parents/siblings?
  • What are their current views/memories of growing up?
  • Were there any traumatic/impactful occurrences in their past? How did this affect them?
Character Arc:
  • What do they learn by the end of the book?
  • Why is it important that they learn it?
  • Find a few more things that will change in the character over the course of the book.
Where does the character start out at? What are their beliefs at the beginning when we first meet them? How do they act? Are they immature, too mature, rude, timid, etc?

This is where things need to change. Questions need to come up, and obstacles challenge them. The character begins to find that their beliefs aren't necessarily true. Confusion and conflict follows.

Everything comes to a head. The character needs to take in what they have learned and questioned to save the day. The best character arcs will incorporate what they have learned into the outcome of the climax. Have Johnny realize that his mother's death can't torture him forever, and he has to move on or he'll never kill the Evil Magic Dude, etc.

This is where you wrap everything up. The reader sees the character reflect on the journey, and what it has done to/for them. This doesn't have to be a perfect, tidy package. If your story calls for a sad or unfinished ending, that's fine, but make sure the character is different in the key ways you listed above.

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).

So most of you might know what NaNoWriMo means, but for those of you who don't, it stands for National Novel Writing Month, and it takes place in November each year. NaNoPlaMo isn't really a thing, its something that Chuck Wendig made up, and I adopted. It stands for Nation Novel Planning Month, and it's what I want to focus on today.

First, some more about NaNoWriMo. The whole deal is that a whole bunch of writers (anyone really) commit to write a 50,000 word novel between November 1st and November 30th. It's somewhat official, in that you sign up on their website and if you succeed in the 50k words challenge, you win (you win nothing, really, but that's not the point). It's an interesting idea, and I've heard that it helps a lot of people actually finish a draft for the first time. While I don't have much interest in actually pursuing it this year (some of you might remember that I wrote The Sometimes Sword first draft, which was 60k words in 25 days, back in April), I did want to use the idea and frenzied atmosphere (internetsphere?) of the event.

The other day, I was reading on where Chuck was discussing the pros and cons of NaNoWriMo. In the blog he mentioned that many writers go into November with the idea that a starting gun goes off, and they then have to sprint to the end of a race, full tilt. He pointed out that, as NaNoWriMo isn't really a rule-based contest, there is nothing preventing thought and deliberation from taking part. This is where NaNoPlaMo comes into play. What if, instead of a sweaty mob-rush to the ribbon, there was a steadier, perhaps tea-and-crumpet filled stroll along a beautiful scenic forest path?

What I mean by this, is that a challenge to write a 50k-word novel has it's merits, but if you don't write something with potential to be more than that, it was a waste of time. Chuck pointed out that a smart writer would use October as NaNoPlaMo, or a month in which to plan your 50k-word book. Once you have it planned, go ahead and sprint through November, finish that first draft, but be prepared to keep working at it. Write a second draft, expand it as much as it needs.

But back to the reason I'm writing about this. I intend to write my new book's first draft in the space of two months (yeah, I know, it's not NaNoWriMo, but I already explained about that), to the tune of about 80-90k words. I will be participating in NaNoPlaMo in the month of October, making sure I have a solid foundation, thereby cutting down the amount of rewriting and revising I have to do (cause I seriously hate that stuff).

What about you? Have you ever done NaNoWriMo or are you planning to?