October 15 (Merrimack Valley Halloween Fest)

Well, the Merrimack Valley Halloween Book Festival more than lived up to the hype. Because of the significant drive involved, it could’ve easily been a “Well, that was fun, but probably not something we’d do again,” event, but we’re already planning for October 12, 2019!

(Planning = Putting the date on my calendar. I mean, I’m not packing or anything.)

As previously mentioned, the drive up from Georgia to Massachusetts suuuuuucked. My wife Lynne Hansen and I left a day early so that we weren’t driving alongside Hurricane Michael, but it still rained almost the entire way. A 10-mile stretch right before Baltimore may have taken two hours to get through. But at the end of it, we got to have dinner with Norman Prentiss and his husband Jim. Energized by my burger, I drove a couple more hours, where we stopped for the night at a gross motel.

Eventually we did make it to Haverhill, Massachusetts. With a whole extra day in New England, we made a trip over to Salem. The city is absolutely terrifying in October, although I’m referring to trying to find a parking spot. We had lunch of deep-fried full-bellied clams, which is a bonus value because your meal includes what the clams ate.

We had an early dinner with Tony Tremblay, and Diane and John Buja, who were all joining us in staying with John McIlveen, who had generously offered to let us lurk in his home for the weekend. We ate light, because many of the authors would be gathering at the McIlveen place that evening, and I’d heard whispered tales of the legendary food John’s wife Roberta would prepare for such events.

Oh, yeah, the legend was real. The chicken wings alone were mythic.

Some of the less intelligent authors hung out on the outdoor porch, which was a very nice porch but a) outdoors, and b) in Massachusetts in October. I come up to Rhode Island for Necon every year, and there were so many familiar faces that this was like a mini-Necon with way better food.

The next day was the big event, the Merrimack Valley Halloween Book Festival, run by Christopher Golden. This was the fourth year. The premise was pretty simple: Over 60 horror authors sat at tables in a library. There were panel discussions upstairs in a surprisingly large auditorium.

And it rocked! I’ve done many, many events where you get to know your neighbor very well because you’re kinda just sitting there waiting for somebody to take pity on you and approach your table, but this had a constant flow of people, and they were there to buy books! I sold a lot of books and signed a lot of books that people brought from home. Plus this event was the launch of Hark! The Herald Angels Scream, which contains my story “Good Deeds,” so I signed a bunch of copies of that, too.

I was on a lively panel discussion about how horror sneakily infiltrates other genres. I meant to bring up the fate of Gus Fring on Breaking Bad, but forgot.

The enthusiasm level was crazy. Scares That Care is also filled with passionate readers, but that’s a three-day event and this was only six-and-a-half hours, so there were no dead spots. There really weren’t even any slow spots until maybe the final hour, and that was only slow compared to how it had been before. I’d been told this was how the event would go, but I was still surprised at just how flat-out great it was. Keep in mind that I once did an event called Asylum Tampa where the guy at the next booth asked me when the vendors room we were in opened to the public, and I told him it had been open for the past forty-five minutes.

It’s really all about the energy of an event like this. Again, it was basically just rows of tables with authors behind them. (Note that I am not for one second suggesting that coordinating an event like this is anything less than a nightmare. I know what our kind is like.) But the energy was fantastic. Everybody was having a great time. Many people spoke of spending too much money, and for them I am grateful.

After that, it was off to sate our ravenous hunger. We returned to John McIlveen’s home for a low-key evening, went to bed early, and set the alarm for 5:30 AM. We were unhappy when the alarm went off, but it was time to depart.

Because the weather and traffic didn’t suck on the way back (minus one significant delay, where the heavy fog, light rain, and red taillights gave a pretty good visual approximation of driving into Hell) we said, screw it, let’s try to get home tonight. We took many short breaks but no long breaks, and arrived home at 1:45 AM.

Thanks to everybody who helped work on this event, to all of my author friends who attended, and to all of the wonderful readers. It was freaking awesome.


October 11

Whoops, my October 9th update didn’t post, but it wasn’t all that exciting.

After exactly one day of working on the new novel, my writing schedule got thrown off by having to leave a day early for the Merrimack Valley Halloween Book Festival to get ahead of Hurricane Michael. Even without driving alongside a hurricane, the weather sucked and the traffic sucked and the 1200 miles (divided between two days) did NOT fly by. But we made it!

Tomorrow we’re going to drive over to Salem to ignite a few witches, and then Saturday is the big event! 60+ horror authors crammed into a library! Be there!

October 8

So Bang Up is written, edited, and off to my bloodthirsty crew of test readers. The best part of self-publishing is how accelerated the pace now becomes. If this were one of my traditionally published books, I’d be saying “Watch for Bang Up, coming to a bookstore near you October 2019!” Instead, it’ll be out this month.

I’d love to sit back and bask in the glow of a job well done, but my To-Do list is…not short. And I want to dive right into the next novel even though it would be very easy to wait until next week when I’m back from the Merrimack Valley Halloween Book Festival.

So, back to work…

October 7

Response to yesterday’s post was extremely enthusiastic, by which I mean I received this reply:

“Stop sending me your emails! Unsubscribe does not work! I have tried countless times. Please make it stop!”

I was going to explain that I have no control over people who subscribed to e-mail alerts to my website then were later filled with remorse over their decision, but I did some poking around and it turns out that I DO have the power to unsubscribe people. So I manually removed her from these updates and her saga had a happy ending.

Today I’m spending all day going through Bang Up. I’m not going to share chapter-by-chapter updates, but if anything interesting/amusing comes up during the process, I’ll post it here.

UPDATE #1: I have literally gone through the opening of this book dozens of times. Dozens. I’ve just discovered a missing word on the first half of the first page. That’s how the proofreading process works, ladies and gentlemen!

UPDATE #2: I spoke too soon about the happy ending. I got a rage-filled response from the lady about today’s post, so apparently unsubscribing her didn’t work on my end, either. I tried again.

UPDATE #3: Six chapters down. Really, nothing in the way of interesting behind the scenes tidbits to share. I cut a few paragraphs because they set up something that ultimately never paid off. Nobody will miss them.

UPDATE #4: Thirteen chapters down. So far the only mistake I’ve found is the one on the first half of the first page. Typos should increase a bit as I get further in the book. With a one-word change, I realized that a casual reference in Chapter One could play into a casual reference in Chapter Thirteen. Few readers will notice it, but it’s a nice little bit for those who do.

UPDATE #5: One character calls another. The character answers, “sounding sleepy.” A couple of lines later, we find out that he’s standing in line at the grocery store. While I was writing I changed my mind about him being woken up by the phone call but didn’t get rid of him sounding sleepy. Moments like these are difficult to explain when editors catch them.

UPDATE #6: D’oh! Chapter Fifteen has a throwaway version of a joke that’s much more elaborate later in the book. Chapter Fifteen now has one fewer joke. RIP.

UPDATE #7: I stopped posting updates in favor of trying to get this book done before 2:00 AM. Sorry about that.

October 6 (Part II)

Several years ago, I started a blog series where I planned to cover, in great detail, the process behind my novella Kutter as I wrote it. A beginning to end look at the creation of the book. But I fell way behind in writing it and quickly abandoned this idea.

Now I’m trying again. We’ll see how it goes.

The novel I intended to do after Bang Up isn’t the one I’m writing. That’s been pushed back a book or two. That novel has a much larger scope, while my next book is fairly intimate, and they’re both in the “creature feature” genre, so it made sense to swap the order.

As I said in Part I, the concept is “zombie animals.” But I didn’t say to myself, “You know what I should write about? Zombie animals! KA-CHING!” The inspiration was a small character moment that occurred to me out of nowhere last month, one that involved a big burly guy revealing vulnerability in what I thought was a sweet and funny way. Mostly it was one line, “But I don’t even know how they work!” (referring to a baby) that appealed to me.

I thought that if this moment was in the first chapter of a novel, the reader would like this guy right away. And if I can find a way to make you root for a main character very quickly…well, he’s somebody I should put in huge amounts of horrific peril.

I brainstormed more ideas about this guy and decided that he’d be perfect for the “under siege” genre. A burly, no-nonsense, off-the-grid survivalist guy and his (now 18-year-old) niece, trapped in their cabin in the woods by the danger that surrounds them.

What kind of danger? Screw it, why not zombie animals?

I’m definitely not the first person to come up with the idea of zombie animals, and it wouldn’t be the big marketing hook of the novel. To me, it’s like saying “I’m writing a werewolf novel!” I might not even keep that idea. It’s still early.

Anyway, I wrote 442 words of that story while on vacation (not even getting to the “But I don’t know how they work!” line). I came up with a very loose structure for the book that’s essentially two parts: “How do we keep them from getting in?” and then “How do we get to safety?” I have a strong idea of how I’m going to do all of the character setup, but not many details beyond that.

I have the Women in Horror Film Festival today, Bang Up tomorrow, and on Thursday I’m beginning the long-ass drive from Georgia to Massachusetts for the Merrimack Valley Halloween Book Festival. That leaves Monday through Wednesday to get a good start on this book. However, when I’m in the final stages of writing a novel, a lot of other stuff gets ignored, so I’ve also got a lot of catching up to do during those three days. Most likely, I won’t fully dive into this book until mid-October.

But you can read all about the process here!




October 6 (Part I)

Yep, I finished Bang Up last night. Some authors feel a little sad when it’s time to say goodbye to a book, sort of a postpartum depression. I am not that type of author. I assure you, when I finish a novel, I am 100% “Woo-hoo!!!”

Not that it’s time to say goodbye to Bang Up. I’ve still got work to do. But, honestly, not a TON of work. There’s a school of thought that you should plow through your first draft and never look back–focus on getting the book done. You can fix it later. (See: James A. Moore, my collaborator on The Haunted Forest Tour.) Truthfully, when I talk about writing to the new generation of authors, that’s the advice I give. You can get so caught up in editing yourself that you don’t make any forward progress.

But it’s not my process. I revise constantly as I go. So the file “Bang Up.docx” on my laptop isn’t significantly different from Bang Up, the novel that will be on your Kindle  soon.

I do keep a separate file “Bang Up Notes.docx” for things that, for whatever reason, I don’t want to address until the book is finished. Sometimes it’s a full page. Usually it’s less. Typically it’s not “This needs to be fixed” but rather “Keep an eye out for this on the final pass.”

For example, one note is to focus on “who knew what and when.” The finale involves individual characters learning things that everybody else knew many chapters ago, and I need to make sure all of that is consistent. I’m pretty sure it is, but that’s something for me to keep in mind when I go through the entire book, beginning to end.

Bang Up is a comedy. And I tend to be a greedy joke hoarder until I type “The End.” Once the book is done, I can accept that the book can stand to lose a few jokes and still be sufficiently funny. Crappy jokes have, in theory, already been cut. The ones I’ll lose on the next pass are the jokes that I find delightfully amusing but that I know deep in my heart need to go.

Then it’s off to my team of test readers.

On Sunday, if any of it seems interesting, I’ll post non-spoilery updates on the tweaks I’m making as I do my “final” (meaning, not final) pass on the book.

Now that this book is nearing the end of the creative process, it’s time to begin the process on the next one. Hint: zombie animals. Watch for Part II of my October 6th update probably before you realized there was a Part I.


Bang Up is done!!!

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