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!!!

October 5

Will I finish Bang Up today? I might. To get this book done, I have to put in a “solid” day of work. Not a “ridiculous” day of work. Not a college student “Oh, God, why did I wait until the day before to start writing this term paper?” all-nighter. Not something where I’d post my word count and you’d go “OMG STRAND YOU ARE A MACHINE!!!” Just, y’know, a solid, full day of work.

Mindy Has To Die (the feature film adaptation of my novella Stalking You Now) had its world premiere last night, and it went……I dunno. I haven’t heard anything or seen any pictures. The audience might still be giving it a standing ovation. I have a few friends in Ireland, but they’re all at the bottom of Ireland and the film was shown at the top, so aside from writer/director George Clarke and producer Kenny Martin I’m not 100% sure who might have been lurking in the audience.

UPDATE: I’m told that the screening went great and that there was much laughter.

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