Well, that was fun! How about s’more?

With my new book, Ghost Stories for the Brokenhearted, out into the world, it’s time to turn my attention back to writing. I can’t very well let this be the only book I ever write, right? Right.

I have two projects in the works: Spellbound and The Moonlight Market.

Spellbound (FKA: Uprooted and Project Samhain) is the YA novel I’ve been working on for a few years that was inspired by my children. The blurb goes a little like this-

After waking up to a world of Sleepers, four teens to work together and save the world from the zombie apocalypse. Also, they’re suddenly all witches, whether they want to be or not. And there’s a ghost. Kinda.

-Me, an arther

So, that’s probably going to need a little work, but the good news is that I have time to polish my elevator pitch. I’m halfway through the rough draft and the characters are demanding I fix a few issues before they tell me the second half.

Look, if you thought writing was about creating stuff, you’re wrong. Writers are mediums. We just channel the stories of people who haven’t yet existed and bring them to life. It’s like an exorcism, but in reverse.

Spellbound, though. It’s my passion project. It has all the elements I love about stories without cramming them in sideways to fit. It’s said that we should write the books we want to read, and this is my gift to 15 year old me.

I’m also working on my next collection of short stories, The Moonlight Market. Shorts are where my heart is most happy, as I’m a sprinter, not a marathoner. In this collection, all stories either take place in, or are based from, a supernatural night market that takes place in the Black Forest of Germany. Thanks to the Brothers Grimm, this area is already a common day treasure trove, but I thought I’d add my own stories to the lore.

Like the two Hillbillies who stumble in, thinking it’s a moonshiners convention, and cross paths with a clan of vampires.

One is considerably more likely to be finished than the other, but I’ll leave you all to take bets on which that will be. In the meantime, I have to get back to work. These last few months of dipping my toe into the publishing world have been fun, but my imaginary friends are calling me.

BTS: The End

The final short story in Ghost Stories of the Brokenhearted is aptly titled “The End.” It may be a bit irreverent but the working title was “Cream” and when you read it, you’ll understand why that was completely inappropriate and also a bit hilarious.

Remember all the way back to my BTS: Persephone Tries, when I said that I originally started writing one romance script before I gave up and wrote “Persephone Tries” in protest? This was that story.

As I mentioned, romance is not my preferred genre. It’s just…icky. So in order to try to do the assignment properly, I tried to take an unorthodox approach by setting the story in a crematorium.

I had just finished reading an article which detailed an average day inside a crematorium and it was beyond fascinating for me. I have no problem admitting that I have a great reverence for death and dead bodies, so this sort of thing is second nature to me.

Cremation? I can do that. Romance? No can do, hoss.

When I realized I’d get credit for “Persephone Tries” I shelved “Cream” and put it out of my mind.

As I was editing Ghost Stories, though, Kyle said “You’re missing one. Where’s the one in the crematorium?”

When I realized I only had six short stories for the collection, and had a barely begun first draft at my finger tips, I decided to finish “Cream.” Seven is my favorite number so it seemed auspicious to put that last effort into the book.

I finished “Cream” in a week, deciding at the last second to change the title to something that was too perfect to pass up, and added it to the manuscript. Not only is “The End” the last short story in the book, but it’s the sister to the first story, perfectly book-ending the collection.

This concludes my week of Behind The Scenes! If any of these stories pique your interest, the e-book is available for pre-order and the softcover is available to purchase now. Just check out my author page on Amazon for all the links you need to find my works.

BTS: Deep in the River

I don’t watch scary movies. Sometimes slightly spooky commercials will give me nightmares. I think I am a strong candidate for being considered a scaredy cat. To be assigned to write a horror script, then, was far, far out of my wheelhouse.

“Deep in the River” also began as a script. I had no idea what I was doing and wrote most of it peeking out from between my own fingers to see the screen, but the few people who were able to read the script all said the same thing: That’s some creepy stuff, man.

I even creeped out Kyle, and that’s saying something.

The setting of the story is one of my favorites, though. I love Victorian spiritualism, so to write a seance was a lot of fun. I enjoyed putting my own silly style and sense of humor into the earlier parts, but I knew it would eventually have to get spooky.

Evidently it’s that dichotomy that helps make it horror. I got another A on that assignment and couldn’t wait to get it in short story form to include in Ghost Stories for the Brokenhearted. It may be my favorite story I’ve ever written, but don’t tell the others that.

The final BTS will be posted tomorrow, talking about the very cleverly named last story of the collection, “The End.”

BTS: Department of Wrong Turns

I wish I had some kind of glorious back story for this specific short, but the best I can offer is that this is pulled purely from the deepest recesses of my brain. I sat down to write with no plan in mind and just let words flow as they wanted.

Earlier versions of “DWT” were obviously pure madness. It took a long time for me to whittle down what was chaos from what was actual story, but I’m pleased with what was left.

Consider it: What if you made one small, seemingly insignificant “wrong” turn and it put you on a completely different path for your life? And what if that choice was one where you chose to do the “right” thing, unsuspecting that it was ultimately the very wrong thing?

What if you get a chance to make it right by doing it wrong? Would you take it?

Tomorrow is “Deep in the River,” my first–and maybe last–horror story. See you then! In the meantime, don’t forget to pre-order your ebook of Ghost Stories for the Brokenhearted. Just days away from release!

BTS: The Tower

I walked into my professor’s office one day and saw that his office mate had a deck of Trivial Pursuit cards on his desk.

“What’s with the cards?” I asked.

“Oh, XXXXX likes to study them,” the prof answered.

And that’s how “The Tower” was born.

Stephen King says his books are written to answer a question. “What happens if a car gets possessed?” and all that. “The Tower” (mine, not his) was written to answer this question:

What kind of person studies Trivial Pursuit cards? I mean, honestly.

I’ll readily admit that my initial reaction was “Well, that’s just sad.” But the longer I thought about the question, the clearer the picture became.

“The Tower” is a vignette more than a short story, but I included it in Ghost Stories for the Brokenhearted because, well, he’s a man who is definitely haunted.

Tomorrow we cover “Department of Wrong Turns,” the fifth story in my collection! Have you pre-ordered your ebook or are you holding out for the softcover?

BTS: Forgotten God

If you’ve ever read anything I’ve written, you’ve probably read “Forgotten God,” for better or worse. It has been published twice in two different online literary magazines and when that happened, I was shoving those links everywhere. I’m happy to have been able to include it in Ghost Stories of the Brokenhearted as it explores the idea that perhaps you are the ghost. Would you know you were a ghost?

This is another case where the story behind the story is autobiographical. I legitimately did follow a man who looked like Osiris outside of an IHOP, and bugged him for a solid 10 minutes while he had his after-dinner cigarette. The story Osiris tells is the exact story I was told sitting on the sidewalk with a stranger.

If you know me at all, you know I don’t mind approaching people I don’t know and engaging them in conversation if I feel like they have a good story. My Osiris definitely did. Strange people I have come across have, also.

The rest of the story, though, is fiction. I’ve had many people read the story and then say something like “Oh, you don’t XYZ!” or “But you ABC!”

“Forgotten God” is written in first person but somehow people still see me, Nicole, as the narrator. I’ve never experienced that before, so, like the narrator, I tend to come out of discussions about that story with a bit of an identity crisis.

Who am I? Not the narrator.

Who is the narrator? I’ll never tell.

Stop back tomorrow when I’ll share the question that “The Tower” answers!

BTS: Vinyl

A few posts back, I mentioned that I took a not-for-credit writing course in 2016. Our assignment was to write something–anything–following the lessons our instructor gave, but we were capped at 500 words.

Five. Hundred. Words.

That’s not a lot, you guys, and to be able to tell a story, with an arc, climax, and resolution in such a short space? It’s not an easy task. So much so that I was the only one in the class who managed to pull it off. Others simply wrote a first paragraph, or first scene of a bigger story. It was this class that secured my love of writing short stories, and the challenge of writing microfiction.

“Vinyl” is my microfiction piece from that class. I think it’s considered creative nonfiction, considering I did, indeed, go through what is explained in the story. My favorite musician died and I had to come to terms with the fact that he would never sing again. I think we can all relate to the unique kind of mourning that comes after the death of a beloved artist. For that reason, I thought it would be a perfect fit to be included in Ghost Stories for the Brokenhearted. Enjoying that artist postmortem is a bit like having a visit from their ghost, wouldn’t you say?

Stop back tomorrow when I discuss my most popular, and perhaps least understood short story, “Forgotten God.”

BTS: Persephone Tries

The first story in my collection, Ghost Stories for the Brokenhearted, is titled “Persephone Tries.” I want to be honest that I am not a fan of that title, but I tried so many times to rename it and, well, Persephone said no. But let’s start at the beginning…

A few of the short stories in this collection started off as scripts. They were written (or started, at least) according to our assignments, which were to write a script in these genres: horror, comedy, romance, and… something else I can’t remember. Look, I’ll be the first to admit that I half-assed this class. Learning the formatting was the hardest part, and once I found a plug-in for Google Docs that did the formatting for me, it was a breeze.

Still, I got hung up on that romance script. I started writing one between a man and a woman, in the cheesiest of tropes, but with my own twist to it. I do not write romance. Blech. I’m an INTJ. Romance is gross and full of emotions and ew. Just ew.

When I hit the wall, I decided to take a break from that script and write myself through my own hang-ups with writing romance, in script form. When finished, I was proud of what I wrote and decided to hand that in to my professor instead of the romance script I had started earlier. I figured the worst he could do was hand it back and tell me to do it right, but he didn’t. I got an A.

I don’t have a lot of use for scripts but I didn’t want the work I did to just be shoved in a drawer. After some thinking, I decided the best way to keep these stories active was to re-write them as short stories. A little tinkering here and there to build a better story and voila! I had a format I could work with.

If you’re familiar with Persephone’s mythology, you’ll know Persephone has been through it, and goes through it again every dang winter. It was nice to show that little bit of struggle with heartbreak through her point of view.

Well, that’s the story behind “Persephone Tries.” Tomorrow, we’ll move on to the second story of the collection, “Vinyl.”

Behind the stories

Two weeks from today, the whole world will be able to purchase my new book, Ghost Stories for the Brokenhearted. To celebrate this momentous (for me) occasion, I wanted to share some “behind the scenes” information on the process that got me here. Not the boring, technical stuff (Google. Google like the wind.) but the stories behind the stories.

On Tuesday, August 25th, I’ll be counting down the release of Ghost Stories with a daily BTS, one for each short story in the collection. I’ll explain the history of the story, the thought process that went into creating each one, and maybe answer some questions you didn’t even know you had yet. Stay tuned! It’s going to be fun!

Today, let’s chat a bit about how I went from unpublished schlub to published schlub in the blink of an eye. I mean, it took a little bit longer, but it certainly felt like a blink because the hardest part was deciding to actually go for it.

A quick primer on my writing career: I have been writing since I was a kid. I still have a beat-up folder full of stories I wrote when I was 10-12, and MAN are they bad! But even as Wee Nicole, I knew writing was my calling.

Sadly, life got in the way, and I only very passively wrote anything for most of my adult life. I would participate in a NaNoWriMo here and there, but gave so little weight to what I wrote that I *gasp* deleted it all once the month was over. It was a silly hobby that kept me busy during my boring time as a military wife.

In 2016, however, I was listening to Elizabeth Gilbert’s podcast where she introduced her guest, Rayya Elias, as having had a “big life” after giving a grocery list of things Rayya had done with her life. It was beautiful, and exactly what I needed to hear in that moment. I declared right then that I wanted to also have a big life.

I immediately set forth to do as much as I possibly could. I took a SCUBA class, started studying Russian, and, among other things, took a not-for-credit writing class through a local university, and a bunch of other things.

Of all of the new things I jumped into, I only stayed with writing. Looking back, that should have been no surprise to me, but I was pumped enough to keep writing that I enrolled in college immediately. I wanted a degree in creative writing. I wanted to learn how to write well enough to be published and have my stories out for the whole world to read!

Fast forward two years–I had taken all the writing classes I could and realized an English degree wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on. There’s nothing I wanted to do that I couldn’t do without that degree. I’d been lucky enough to avoid student loan debt that far, but I couldn’t see the point in investing in a degree that there would be no return on. In spring 2019, I left school to focus on writing.

Problem was, writing is such a solitary activity. I’m an introvert and am totally good with being alone, but I got used to the support system I had in all of my friends from college. I love them all madly but only a couple could understand what I was going through as a writer. The ones who did had lives of their own and couldn’t be there to fill in when I needed someone to kick me in the butt to get writing.

I found my way to AuthorTube, the writing community on YouTube. It looked like fun and, hey, I had a recordy machine! So I signed up with my own channel and started posting.

Fast forward another few months–I had actually done LESS writing during my time on AuthorTube than I had done all of my years at college. The community certainly gave me lots of opportunity to write, with the live write-ins and word sprints and challenges and such. The problem was that I spent more time being social than being a writer. They were so good about being understanding when people couldn’t write for mental health reasons, or just busy life reasons, and I took too much advantage of that. Someone in my situation, (no job, no responsibilities past my front door) should not have been so lazy about writing, and that’s exactly what I was. Lazy. And the goodness of AuthorTube enabled me to be lazy. So, in December 2019, I said goodbye to the community and set out on my own to write.

Lemme tell you guys how much I wrote in 2020 before July–ZERO! There was exactly no writing! I wasn’t even properly editing! I would look through my files, opening stories to edit, closing them when my brain couldn’t focus enough to find issues, or when I found ALL the issues and got overwhelmed. I don’t think anyone could fault a writer for being a mess in The Year of Our Lawd 2020, but I was increasingly disappointed in myself. If I wasn’t writing, was I even a writer? Is that not THE ONE requirement for the job?

It finally occurred to me that my big ol’ block was because I had bogged down the processor of my brain. There were way too many tabs open. If I was going to clear my head enough to be creative again, I needed to close some tabs.

It was the middle of July when I started considering publishing a collection of short stories. It was the end of July when I finally set the goal of seeing it through by October 1st, 2020. That gave me two months to get the stories together, get them edited, and actually learn what it took to self-publish. I was excited! I felt rejuvenated spiritually! This was the right thing to do!

I was so excited that I completed everything on my two-month list in four days. Four. Days. That’s formatting, cover design, editing, you name it! I worked like I was possessed by a demon, but other writers know to take advantage of that flow when it hits because it’s a gift.

Rather than sit on my duff for two months while the publication date crept up, I pushed the release up to September 1st and opted to pass the month of August away by writing a new short story to include in the collection. That took about ten days to finish, complete with edits and beta readers, so I plugged it into the manuscript and that brings us fresh up to this exact moment.

There’s nothing left to do but get the word out that my book exists. I don’t have any delusions of making millions or being famous. I’d just be happy to break even, honestly. With the tabs of these stories now closed, I’m able to start looking both ahead and backwards. I have a YA novel that is about halfway finished (more on that in a later post!) and a new idea for a short story collection about a night market sprang to my head during brunch last weekend. I was able to write the first story in that collection a few days ago, and the second is already bubbling around in my brain.

This, my friends, is progress!

To market, to market

It’s official-ish. My book, Ghost Stories for the Brokenhearted, will be published on September 1st, 2020. That’s a whole month sooner than I originally planned but, hey, I was excited. I got all of the work done sooner. The e-book is available now for pre-order at the incredible low price of $2.99, and the softcover will be ready to purchase on or very close to that September 1st date for a reasonable $5.99.

With the last story >>thisclose<< to being finished, it’s time I turn my attention to marketing. I know, I shuddered, too. As an introvert, waving the thing I made in the faces of friends, family, and fstrangers, begging them to buy it, sounds like pure hell. Like, I told you once I wrote a book. From there out, it’s on you, man.

But that’s not how this crazy thing works. I have to build hype and get seen and make a newsletter and host gladiator-style fights to the death.

Oh man. I also need to figure out what to write when someone asks me to sign the book. I have to do more than just put my name in it, right? Like “Keep on truckin'” or something inspirational like that. Sheesh. Is it getting warm in here to anyone else? Can we open a window?

Marketing means planning, and planning I can do in my sleep. I can build a schedule and make lists like a pro. It’s the follow-through that gets me because, as we’ve covered before in this blog, I’m a belligerent jerk and when I don’t wanna, I don’t do-a. One day of not feeling all that social can turn into weeks of not talking to people, in general, and that’s no bueno when it comes to trying to get books in front of readers.

Oh man. I need to order author copies so I can start going to local bookstores and seeing if they’ll sell them. That’s…that’s more talking to people. That’s asking people for help. Seriously, is the air conditioner working? I’m breaking out in a sweat over here.

The thing is, people who are in your face trying to get you to buy things are annoying. I don’t want to be that person. I don’t want to annoy you into blocking me because you’re completely tired of hearing me talk about my book for the mumillionty-eth time. But, like, I need people to also understand that, while you may be thinking “Hey, did you hear Nicole wrote a freakin’ book? Did you hear? Because she definitely hasn’t been mentioning it constantly for the last month,” there is someone out there getting the news for the first time. And those people need to be filled in because they may really, really need to read what I’ve written for whatever reason in their lives.

Patience. Patience is what I’m asking for. I have a fantastic group of people supporting me through this terrifying and exhilarating endeavor, and I would never be able to do something so stupid without their belief that it isn’t stupid at all. (Seriously, I wonder about y’all sometimes…) I appreciate the people who have stuck with me all these years, supporting me as a writer, pushing me to see it through. And I would appreciate just a little bit of patience from everyone else as I blab to the world about this wee little book I wrote.

Let’s start here:

Every place I’ve gone to for advice on marketing has drilled into my head the importance of a newsletter. I tried that once and it was, well, it was not my favorite. I struggled to find something of substance to write that I didn’t already write here, so it felt invasive and redundant. Still, I owe it to myself to pull it together and do what the advice tells me to do.

So with much fanfare, I present to you *trumpets* a-my newsletter.

NEWSLETTER!!!!

Y’all just click that little linky-poo, input your email address of choice, and eventually I will send you an email that tells you stuff you probably already know, but I’ll do my best to make it worth the two seconds it takes to open the email and scan for something new.

Okay, enough about that. Back to work for me. These stories don’t write themselves! Thanks for sticking with me through this madness.