Merry ChristmaHanukwanzaNaNo Or: Why NaNo in November was a TERRIBLE Idea.

Halloween is over and with it your Very Good Excuse to wear that hairless boner costume. Candy sits in half-eaten piles on your counter and in your bed (I promise we won’t tell). The sunny days of Autumn have been replaced by “snow/rain” mixes in the forecast and a cloud cover that’ll last until April.

That’s right. It’s November. For REAL. For most of us, that makes it National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Last I shouted obscenities at you and called it a blog post, I told you all I’d be participating.

I lied.

No, that’s a lie.

I didn’t lie, so much as change my mind because NaNoWriMo in November is the most insane, terrible, MASOCHISTIC idea ever.

Allow me to let you in on a little secret. When retail stores set out their Christmas decorations bright and early on November 1st, it’s not JUST because they want you in that frenzied, buy everything NOW while it’s at a LOW, LOW COST as soon as possible. It’s also because the holidays STAMPEDE toward us at a pace that’s immeasurable in this dimension. Blink, and you’ll find yourselves sitting across from Great Aunt Marge who likes to make kissy faces at your husband (or wife, whatever) after a few glasses of the cooking sherry.

Throw in the bullshit of first snowfalls, school vacations and–CHRIST HELP ME–three goddamned birthdays in the span of a month and that leaves just enough time to take a healthy shit and MAYBE eat a granola bar or two.

Today, I talked briefly with a friend of a mine about how writing is a stress reliever. And then my mind went to that dark place where NaNo-ers pound the keys, sweat pouring down their faces, caffeine IVs plugged into veins and snaked around catheters and MY GOD… It turns something I enjoy into something to be FEARED. Talk about TRAUMA.

Even now as I sit typing out this MEANINGLESS clutch of wordy things, my mind wanders to the laundry I haven’t done in almost two weeks.

I’m not saying NaNo is a bad idea. I think–for MOST writers–a deadline is necessary to motivate them. The community surrounding NaNoWriMo is the most supportive, cheerleading bunch of fuckers I’ve ever come across. The endless back-patting, face-smacking, coffee-filling wonderful is, well, wonderful.

Let’s just save it for another month, maybe?

Like January, when we’re all stuck inside because if we were to step foot out the door, our nose hairs would freeze and our insides would shrivel from the biting wind.

Or even February. Still cold as a holy mother fucker then, AND there’s the added bonus of blowing off a holiday no one likes because, you know, you have WORDS to write, god dammit.

See? You’re liking my idea already. Let’s see how many people we can bribe/threaten to joining us in the land of BASIC FUCKING LOGIC.

I’ll NaNo Your Wrimo

How you doin’? *wink*

I see you over there with your laptop and triple espresso heart-attack drink and baby the way you twist your face in complete despair over the idea that may or may not work this year… it just GETS to me. Lets sit across from each other, completely ignoring the other except in silent acknowledgement that we may or may not live through this. Then, later, when it’s all over, we can share a bottle of wine and plot the death of that BIOTCH Renee Miller for making us do this crapola AGAIN.

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It’s like she hates me or something.

Whatever. I won’t even talk about the project I’m going to work on because, honestly, I have no fucking clue. Nothing feels right. When November 1st comes along, I’ll close my eyes and point and hope to whatever deity is listening that it isn’t shitty.

But who am I kidding? Of COURSE it’s going to be shitty. That’s the thing of NaNo. Shitty writing in 30 days of HELL. (And those of you who say that what you write during NaNo is flawless, I have a cliff I’d like to push you off of show you). Last year, I didn’t even get past the 5k word mark in the project. It’s the PRESSURE, man. Ride my ass with a word count whip and I promise I’ll collapse before we see any rising action.

Sure, we could assume that this year will be different somehow. But then we’d be OPTIMISTS. *shudders*

To those of you participating of your own free will, I salute you. I will also put you out of your misery should you ask nicely, because I care. For now, buckle those chastity belts, hook up the caffeine IV, and get ready for the longest titty twister of your life.

Let’s NaNo.

It’s Here, and It’s Beautiful – REAPER Cover Reveal

Guys.

Last night I got the best email since signing with Melange Books to publish my book, REAPER.

You remember REAPER – it’s the one I bitched about for months because Renee guilted me into doing NaNoWriMo with her. Yes, in the end she was right, but we won’t tell her that.

If you’ve forgotten (and how DARE you), here’s a blurb to jog your memory:

The Department of Creative Death and Ironic Punishment. This is where writers go when they die.

Oz, an employee of The Department, is mostly content doling out death from his ancient typewriter, until he wins the office lottery. The prize? A new assignment – to return to the world of the living as a Reaper.

At first, Oz sees this new assignment as a blessing. He is given a body and a second chance at life, but then, during a lesson with a surly, seasoned Reaper named Bard, Oz is forced to watch a childhood friend die. Shaken, Oz questions his willingness to do the job he’s won.

With each new lesson, Oz begins to wonder if the job of Reaper is really a prize or a punishment.

Anyway, after months of agonizing over the fate of my first ever big girl publication, I have a cover.

And, guys? I fucking love it. I know you will too.

 

BEHOLD:

 

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(More) Lines To Be Inspired By

There are three days left in this month from Hell we call National Novel Writing Month.

If your’e participating this year, yay!

If you’re not but are writing anyway, also yay!

If neither apply to you, still yay! Because tomorrow is Turkey Day and turkey always warrants a yay.

As a final push toward the finish line, here are 5 more lines that have inspired me. Enjoy them. Or don’t (party pooper).

From GONE GIRL by Gillian Flynn

I feel a queasy mixture of relief and horror: when you finally stop an itch and realize it’s because you’ve ripped a hole in your skin.

From BY NIGHTFALL by Michael Cunningham (Literary master, this guy)

The family of women really ruined this poor kid, didn’t they? Who could survive having been so desperately loved?

And

The Mistake is coming to stay for a while.

From STRIP TEASE by Carl Hiaasen (a new favorite author of mine)

If you know your stuff, you could work a guy all night and get every last dollar out of his wallet. You didn’t have to blow him or screw him or even act like you might. A girlish smile, a sisterly hug, a few minutes of private conversation – Urbana Sprawl said it was the easiest money in the world, if you could get past being naked.

From THE LONELY POLYGAMIST by Brady Udall

[Sex] freaks him out. Which probably has something to do with his growing suspicion that sex is behind everything, that it is what drives adults to act in strange, unpredictable ways, that it lurks in places it should not belong, in church sermons and evening meals and daily family prayer, that it is responsible for the unreasonable number of brothers and sisters he has and is therefore responsible in some way for the state of his confusing and miserable life.

Go forth and make words, wordsmiths! 

40,000 Words: The Unsung Milestone

Today, I reached 40k words in my latest WIP, SACRIFICIAL LAMB CAKE.

But, Katrina, NaNoWriMo rules EXPLICITLY DICTATE that in order to win, one must write 50k words.

First, author (and personal hero) Chuck Wendig has some choice words about “winning” NaNoWriMo. You can read them here.

Second, screw you. SACRIFICIAL LAMB CAKE was started back in September. If you want to get technical, I started the project back in 2010. It has since been rewritten 3 times. Third time’s the charm, right?

The point is that reaching 50k words is great and all, but there’s something to be said for hitting 40k words in a project. At 40k words, you know where your book is going. You see the potential in it and you’re excited. Typing that 40,000th word means that you WILL finish the project. You see The End peeking over the horizon and it’s fucking beautiful.

If you’re participating in NaNo and on November 30th, you’ve “only” got 40,000 words, you win. Don’t abandon your book. It still needs you.

So, if you need me I’ll be over here stuffing myself with leftover birthday cake and cheap wine. I’ll share if you’re nice.

Lines to Be Inspired By (because they’re better than anything I’ll ever write)

I’m one of those writers that rarely blogs but writes in her journal DAILY. My most recent moleskin is packed with things like interesting tidbits about psychology, family trees of infamous English rulers from the 12th to 18th centuries, fun facts (example: the dot above a lowercase “i” is called a tittle – I know, mind BLOWN), and lines from books I read that grab my eyeballs from their sockets with a frightening voracity.

In the spirit of NaNoWriMo – an event I recently decided to put off until December because life and because reasons and because you can’t tell me what to do – I want to share a few of these favorite lines with you in the hope that they inspire you the way they inspired me.

From THE KINGS AND QUEENS OF ROAM by Daniel Wallace 

So Helen remained and discovered in her sister’s absense what love and the loss of it is; she discovered both at the exact same time. It’s not just a feeling; it’s a real think inside of you made of paper-thin glass, and when it breaks the shards move through your blood and cut you to pieces.

 

From CASE HISTORIES by Kate Atkinson

Women seemed to him to be in possession of all kinds of undesirable properties, chiefly madness, but also a multiplicity of physical drawbacks – blood, sex, children – which were unsettling and other.

And

Sometimes she wanted to eat Olivia, to bite into a tender forearm or a soft calf muscle, even to devour her whole like a snake and take her back inside her where she would be safe. 

 

From I WEAR THE BLACK HAT by Chuck Klosterman

It’s not intelligence that people dislike; it’s the dispassionate application of that intelligence. It’s the calculation. It’s someone who views life as a game where the rules are poorly written and designed for abuse.

 

From BURIAL RITES by Hannah Kent (Note: This is a phenomenal debut novel by a young author with extraordinary skill.)

After the trial, the priest from Tjorn told me that I would burn if I did not cast my mind back over the sin of my life and pray for forgiveness. As though a prayer could simply pluck sin out. But any woman knows that a thread once woven is fixed in place. The only way to smooth a mistake is to let it all unravel. 

 

From DORA: A HEADCASE by Lidia Yuknavitch (Thoroughly fantastic novel.)

Then it’s her lunging at me inside the jeans donut, knocking me down to the Nord floor, it’s her lying on top of me and kissing me and I hope I die right that second. Her hair down on my face, her skin rain and trees her hips pushing against mine her dagger of black stone hanging down and touching the hollow of my neck. Let her neck-rock stab me and kill me. Please let me die like this. I shiver and pant and almost cry. 

 

From HUMAN CROQUET by Kate Atkinson

I wished to go by Carterhaugh, to kilt up my skirts, forfeit the fee of my maidenhead and walk on the wild shores of sexual passion.

 

From DOUGHNUT by Tom Holt (This guy is great. If you like humor in your fiction, you’ll fall in love).

The world is an unfair place. Blow up just one multibillion-dollar research facility, and suddenly no one wants to be your friend. Except me, and I’m dead. You, on the other hand, are going to have a really amazingly good life, thanks to the bottle.

 

From HOPE: A TRAGEDY by Shalom Auslander

Such is life, he thought as he unfolded the wooden attic stairs: you get to a point one day, where you are hoping to find crap; where the best possible outcome of all possible outcomes would be the discovery, Praise Jesus, of a pile of shit.

 

From THE END OF ALICE by A.M. Homes (If you haven’t read any of her novels, it is your DUTY to pick one up and devour it.)

Again, I try and imagine the graciousness of a girl, her spacious slit, the womanly wound that can swallow me whole. How odd it must be to have at your center a great gap, a poisonous pit.

And

The audience looks directly at me and recognizing my visage from its halftone reproductions is entirely atitter. I am the first pervert, the first lover of youth they’ve had on the show. I am honored. I am touched. When I think no one is looking, I touch myself. 

 

Now, go forth and create, word nerds. 

The 25,000 Word Curse and How I’m Learning to Break It

With Halloween just around the corner, I thought I’d share a secret with you non-writer types. If you’ve ever tried to scare a writer through “conventional” means, you soon found out that the writer species is so jaded, so obsessed with the unusual, that monsters and beasties of the dark have no outward effect. 

However…

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If you lean in closely, so close that only they can hear what you say and whisper these words: vast middle, you will see their skin prickle and shivers of terror pulse through their body.

As writers, we all have that point in our WIP’s that we feel the wheels begin to slow, the burst of genius flare less frequently, and the words come in useless couplets. Mine, as you may have guessed, begins at around the 25,000 word point.

It never fails.

With my novel, REAPER, once I hit that cursed word count, it was like the power went out in my head. It’s my head, so I knew where everything was (including that freaky bastard that likes to hide in the darkest corners), but without the light, I fumbled through my thoughts in search of the ones I needed. What started as a sprint out of the gate because a slow, agonizing crawl across upturned thumbtacks. It became so disheartening that I abandoned the project to pursue a new shiny idea (which, of course, led straight into the ground and now sits, molding, in my “NO FUCKING CLUE” folder). It took a month before I was able to swallow my anxiety and dive back in. 

Later, I hit the same wall with a WIP called THE BOOKSELLER. And now, with my current and longest-running perpetual WIP, SACRIFICIAL LAMB CAKE, I find myself at 26,327 words with dry mouth and a broken light bulb. 

If I told you that I wasn’t tempted to walk away from it in favor of plotting my NaNoWriMo project, I’d need an army of sexy lady firefighters to put out my pants. Actually, now that I think about it…

No. No fire ladies. Words. (Dammit).

Unlike THE BOOKSELLER, I haven’t completely hit a wall with this one. I know where it’s going and I can see it taking shape with each few excruciating sentences. I know my characters. I know the story. I know that it’s going to be great – if I could just fucking finish it. I’m a sculptor with a tiny hammer hacking away at a mountain of marble. Each time I get angry enough with it to throw it in a fire, I pep talk myself, using REAPER as an example. I wrote it. I polished it. I sold it. I proved to myself that I’m fully capable of creating something fantastic, so now there are no excuses. Only frustration.

Each day, I do something, change something, in order to try to relieve some of that frustration. Below are 5 things I’ve discovered help me get through the writing day. Maybe they’ll help you, too.

1. Realize that no two writers are created equal and that there is NO RULE that says you have to finish in an allotted amount of time. Get a feel for your own pace and keep with it. It will change every day, and that’s perfectly fucking fine.

2. When writing at night stopped doing it for me, I changed up my routine, opting for mornings at a coffee shop. A change of scenery has a HUGE impact on how the brain works. Now that I’m slowing again, I’m looking for a new writing spot to relight that spark.

3. It’s not the end of the world if you don’t write something that day. Granted, if you’re knee deep in a project, it’s unlikely you’ll go the entire day without at least scrawling a note on the palm of your hand while sitting at a red light. BUT, if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. There’s no reason to punish yourself for it. You know those times when you can’t for the life of you remember the answer to a question that’s been plaguing you all day and then – BAM – it comes to you at three in the morning? That’s because you stopped bashing it to a pulp and let your subconscious sift through the brain cave. Writing works by the same principle. 

4. Work on something else. I don’t mean abandon the project; I mean allow yourself to explore ideas completely unrelated to what you’re primary focus has been. It’ll allow your subconscious to do the sifting AND you don’t have that guilty feeling for being unproductive. For me, my side project has been hashing out my NaNo book. It’s been fun and I’m looking forward to writing it.

5. Blog about it. Or, if that’s too much like writing for your fragile psyche to handle, email or call a writer friend and vent about it. If there’s a particular plot issue making you homicidal, they’ll work through it with you.

There they are. If you have ideas to add, please do. We could ALL use the help. 

 

NaNoWriMo Version 2.0 (download for update)

Last year about this time, my friend Renee and I decided to conduct an experiment. We would participate in NaNoWriMo so that we could bash it properly and with brain-splattering facts at our disposal. 

Boy did that bite us in the ass.

Renee and I both wrote novels as a result – she “finished” 50k within the required 30 days. I did not. I did, however, manage to finish, demolish, rebuild, polish, and submit a book called REAPER which was picked up by Melange Books early last month (look for it next fall.) 

Don’t misunderstand – the process was ANYTHING but simple. I started with a detailed (kind of) outline, but still found myself rehashing the plot when I was already thousands of words behind. I hated every second of it. The pressure was maddening! It didn’t help that every day greeted me with a feed filled with tweets by other NaNo-ers who COULD NOT STOP TALKING ABOUT HOW MUCH FUN IT WAS. They’re all fucking liars. Really. Writing is fun. NaNo is torture.

But guess what. I’m doing it again because deja vu and karma are sleeping together now. And because Renee possesses magical voodoo powers of persuasion.

This time, I’ve got a little less than a month to prepare and I think I’m ready, which of course means I’m not. I’m knee deep in the first draft of another WIP, SACRIFICIAL LAMB CAKE, which needs to at least be close to finished by the time November 1 comes around. Provided there’s no major disaster between now and then… No, I’m not even going to say it. 

Anyway, here’s a very brief synopsis of what I’ll be writing about – I’m calling it THE EVENING HOUSE:

Her name is Blythe Evening. She grew up on the Shoshone Duckworth Reservation in Nevada, but left when she turned eighteen. Being trapped on the Res wasn’t something a free spirit like Blythe was prepared to face. 
 
Years later, her (barely legal) brothel is on the rocks. Sure, according to Nye County law, her establishment is on the up and up. But with mounting registration fees, girls skipping their tax payments, and having to navigate the treacherous waters of having her “unique” girls medically examined on a monthly basis, it’s getting harder and harder to keep her head above water. When officials from the tax collector’s office show up to The Evening House with an official notice to shutdown, Blythe goes to visit an old friend – a shaman by the name of Bud Firehorse – not for guidance (she doesn’t believe in all that mystical, vision quest crap), but for the best whiskey this side of the Rockies. 
 
Drunk, she spills her issues to Bud and he gives her the same advice he’s been giving her for nearly two decades: go on your vision quest. Find your spirit guide. According to him, Blythe’s life has been destined to go downhill since her refusal of her guide’s help. Against her better judgement, she agrees to go on the quest. 
 
Early the next morning, severely hungover and high on the shaman’s special peyote, Blythe wanders the wooded area surrounding the Res. She’s gone for nearly 12 hours when the hunger and peyote deliver a punch to her mind. She collapses and dreams of the Snake guide. 
 
Snake, like all reptile guides, is despondent, violent, and prone to abnormal mood swings. But Snake is also the guide for change. Rebirth. At daybreak the next day, she is collected by Bud and Blythe tells him what she’s seen. He doesn’t seem hopeful.
 
When she returns to The Evening House, Blythe comes across a woman with scaly skin and a forked tongue – it’s her guide, Snake, and she’s here to help… or so she says. It doesn’t take long for Snake to turn Blythe’s life upside down, forcing her to have to not only try to save her business, but also to save Nevada from Snake.
 
Hope you all are as excited as I am. By that I mean take cover.
 
The end is Nye. 
 
(See what I did there?)

I Think I’m Getting… The Fear

Yesterday began what is damn close to being the final edits to REAPER. You remember that one – the book that NaNoWriMo forced out of me like ipecac? The two most competent Beta Readers I know got back to me with some fantastic tweak notes and I’m putting them to good use. After this, it’s final touches and BAM – I’m ready for serious, no holding back submitting.

But then today I had a NERVOUS FUCKING BREAKDOWN.

Out of absolutely nowhere, as I sat down to continue work on the edits was, “Jesus butt-fucking-christ I am a TERRIBLE writer. Who in their write mind would read this garbage? This? THIS is what I’m expecting people to publish?”

And then I cried. I cried for a fucking hour with a Harry Potter movie in the background and gummi bears melting in my hand. It was when the snot ran like a faucet that I had a thought.

I have The Fear.

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The fear that I just might fail. That after all this work (7, possibly 8 long months) on ONE BOOK that’s at SUCH an awkward word count that I STILL don’t know whether to call it a novel or novella, that I’ll get rejected. Rejected like whoa.

Of course I’m going to get rejected. We ALL do. (And if we don’t, we’re fucking LIARS).

So when I do get that first rejection, you can be DAMN SURE I’m going to post that shit loud and proud above my desk.

After the whiskey. Cause whiskey.