Cover: Wither and Other Stories

This fall, I’ll be releasing another small collection of short stories called Wither and Other Stories. While I have some finishing touches to do on the collection itself, I’m thrilled to be able to share the cover with all of you:

Wither and Other Stories
Art by Doug Puller.

The cover features excellent artwork from my frequent collaborator and friend, Doug Puller. He is hard at work illustrating Volume 1 of Wretched Heroes, the graphic novel which I co-wrote with him; and I’m glad he had time to bring his talents to this collection.

The collection will be available in ebook and paperback form. Below is the full cover that will appear on the paperback, minus the description and author bio (two of the pieces that need finishing touches):

Wither and Other Stories
Art by Doug Puller

I anticipate publishing this collection in October, just in time for Halloween. It will feature four short stories: Wither, Nesting, Smoke Circles, and We Really Shouldn’t. It will also have the first chapter of my next book as a bonus. I can’t wait to share all of them with you this fall.

If you just can’t wait that long, I do have another collection of short stories available now: The Crow’s Gift and Other Tales, available in ebook and paperback form. If you’ve already purchased or read it, I’d appreciate it if you left an honest review on Amazon — or, if you’d rather write a review on your own blog or website, please send me a link. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Finally, please add Wither and Other Stories to your shelves on Goodreads if you’d like to read it.

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

(Still miss you, Tom)

I finished the first draft of my second book a little over two weeks ago. I’m making myself wait to do my readthrough from beginning to end. It’s been pretty hard. I haven’t felt huge urges to write, but I find myself daydreaming about the story and thinking about whether or not certain passages work. Normal, but I also want a month of a clean break, so I can return to it with the freshest eyes possible.

In the interim, I’ve been occupying myself with other projects. Proving that time is a flat circle, I’m revising the short story that I first wrote during my interim period between drafting and revising Please Give.

I received Wither back from my editor earlier this winter, but left it alone while I worked on Without Condition. I’ve been using the waiting period to go through the revisions a little at a time. The story originally started with a broken timeline, divided by stanzas of a poem and the occasional asterisk. The universal feedback I received, from my editor to my writers group, was that this was confusing as all hell. They liked the plot and saw the story’s potential, but no one knew what was happening or when.

This is why it’s so important to not only get feedback before you publish or submit, but a wide range of feedback. If everyone’s saying the same thing, then it’s a thing that needs to be fixed. So, I’m fixing it — and I’m really pleased with how the story is coming together now. It still amazes me how a story can change for the better with even the smallest of fixes, like a reordered paragraph.

In addition to revising Wither, I’ve been keeping the pump primed by casually writing a new story. I haven’t decided if it will be a short story or a novel, or even if I’ll continue working on it after I’ve sent Without Condition to my editor. It’s a story that crept up on me after a dream I had, one that asked for my attention in place of the short story prompts I’d set aside for this resting period (sorry, other stories — soon, I promise). I’ll see where it takes me. For now, it’s begun where my past two novels began to take shape: when my protagonist meets a man. The working title is Someone to Share My Nightmares.

I’ll be picking up Without Condition in two weeks. Until then, I’ll be waiting — and with a couple new projects under my belt, maybe it won’t be so hard after all.


Last year, I was a little less patient during my waiting period between drafting and revising Please Give. I developed the 5 Stages of Feelings about being done with one’s draft. This mostly still applies, even if I’m calmer about it.

I first mentioned Wither in May of 2017. I also mention We Really Shouldn’t for the first time. Both stories, along with two flash pieces, will be in my next short story collection, Wither and Other Stories.

I also had quite a few coals in the fire around this time last summer. The novel-in-progress I mention there is tabled, and will likely remain that way. There may be life yet, though, for Gods into Demons, even though I haven’t worked on that in months.

Done!

The first draft of my second book is done! After six months of work, notes, and daydreams, Without Condition currently sits at 85,000 words and 304 pages.

This one took a while to get going. I got the idea right as I got Please Give back for revisions. I wrote down a lot of notes, 90% of which ended up getting tossed as I wrote the book. I wrote new notes, made new characters and scrapped a lot of others. I wrote and wrote on some days, and stared at a blinking cursor on the others. But in the end, I got it done.

I’ll share more about the plot and when I plan to publish it in the coming months. It’s currently sitting unopened and untouched in a folder, where I plan to leave it for a month before doing a readthrough from beginning to end. But for now, it’s done. The first draft of my second book in as many years is done.

It feels good. In fact, it feels a lot like this:

ahh real monsters
barry gif
celebrate chuckee cheese
pratt happy

Progress Report: SO CLOSE

I’ve been absent from the blog because I’ve been trying to finish the first draft of my second book. I wanted to check in, say hi, and let you all know that I’m SO CLOSE. I only have three bracket notes left to write out, and then I’ll be done, done, done! *does a dance*

It’s been a longer process than I anticipated, from conception to finish. Last summer, when Please Give was out for edits and I was wondering what to write next, it took me a long time to settle on the next book. I had a lot of ideas, many of which I began to write, but then got stuck. I wrote some short stories, and started one short story that slowly grew into a novella. Even the novella got stuck.

Then this idea hit. It hit me as a short story — and hit me right as I got Please Give back for revisions. I decided to write down some notes (something I’ve been classically averse to). My notes told me this wouldn’t be a short story. It would be a novel — and it would be my next one.

I finished Please Give, opened Word, and began to write — slowly. It came to me in flashes, in passages I often forced myself to write, which was a much different experience than Please Give. I had to make myself stop writing that one. This one, I had to constantly tell myself to keep going.

I kept going — and I’d find myself surprised at how it came along. I cheered when I crossed the 50,000 word mark. I got closer and closer. There were times I thought I was close, then just had to add something else. I’m still being careful to avoid the trap of never stopping. But I see a stopping point ahead, and it feels really good.

I’ll be sure to celebrate in proper GIF form once it’s done. Thank you all for following along!

What I’m Reading: True Crime Time

First, my second book — I’m almost finished with the first draft! I think I can safely say I’m 3/4 done. I’m hoping to finish by the end of May, and use June and part of July as a resting period to finish revising the stories in my upcoming short story collection.

In between work on my own books, I’m still trying to read each day. I have read a couple of good true crime books (which, without revealing too much, have also helped me along with Book #2). I recently read I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by the late Michelle McNamara. I admit I was not familiar with her blog or her work until after her death in 2016. I read the book before they caught the suspected Golden State Killer last month.

The book was an interesting read about McNamara’s attempt to solve the mystery of who was responsible for a series of murders and rapes in California. Without a known criminal to detail, most of the book was accounts of the murders and accounts of the cops’ attempts to find him; as well as her own. It was an interesting read, but I did find myself thinking it got repetitive after awhile with no known suspect to bring all the murders together. There was no villain to get to know — just his crimes. It’s understandable why this was the case, but now that there’s a suspect in jail, I hope the book will be rereleased with an addendum from Patton Oswalt, Paul Haynes, or Billy Jensen, all of whom helped finish the book McNamara left behind. I would buy and read it if they did.

Shortly after (though not right after — I need breaks between true crime stories), I read a classic true crime novel for the first time: The Stranger Beside Me: The True Crime Story of Ted Bundy by Ann Rule. This was the polar opposite of I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, for not only did Rule (and the public) know that Bundy was responsible for a slew of murdered girls, Rule knew him personally. They’d worked together at a crisis center, and remained friends and confidants even as he was being investigated.

The Stranger Beside Me was fascinating. Rule did an excellent job with something that’s very hard to do: she wrote about Ted Bundy’s human side without glossing over the atrocity of his actions or the fact that he was not a good person. One of the passages that struck me the most was from the FAQ she added to the revised edition I purchased:

Q: Was Ted Bundy really nice … underneath?
A: No.

I really appreciated how quick she was to shoot down any notion one might have to try and gloss over who he was. Rule spoke of their friendship, and spoke to how she thought he was broken and how she wished he could’ve been committed or had some sort of treatment that would’ve saved others and himself; but she never made him out to be a martyr or a nice person. She knew who he was, and she wrote about what she knew.

Despite my lifelong fascination with the macabre and my interest in stories about killers, true crime was never really on my reading radar. Reading two true crime novels in a short period of time, I’d say that’s mostly still the case. I’m interested in these stories, but the format can grow tiresome when every other chapter has yet another story of someone getting killed. There are only so many times I can read a variation on “Jane Doe was really excited to live a full life. She didn’t get to” before I want to say, I get it. It’s like reading a really long episode of Unsolved Mysteries. The first couple accounts at least are necessary, because it establishes what the killer did and how they did it. After awhile, though, it’s understood that there is a killer and these people we’re being introduced to will be killed. It no longer feels suspenseful or shocking after that. It feels tedious, and almost feels exploitative.

This is why I’m a little more fascinated with stories about other things to know about the killer. What were they thinking? What were they like before? What’s going on with the friends and relatives and partners who love them even after they’ve been exposed? What did people know about them and yet not associate with them becoming murderers? What can we learn from all this?

A story I feel does this really well is My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf. It’s a graphic novel written by one of Dahmer’s childhood friends. While his violent crimes are mentioned, they’re not shown or depicted over and over. Rather, we see Dahmer as a teen, one with violent habits that are ignored and psychological issues that the adults in his life dismiss as growing pains. The book ends with him picking up his first hitchhiker. We all know what happens next — and in my mind, it’s more effective to leave it there.

I’m taking a small break from true crime, as I do; but if you have any recommendations, please let me know in the comments!


I’m no stranger to serial killer stories — my short story, All the Pieces Coming Together, tells the tale of a man who’s found a place so perfect to hide the bodies that there isn’t anybody to hide. You can read it for free. It’s also included in my short story collection, The Crow’s Gift and Other Tales.

Last summer, I read and discussed The Girls by Emma Cline. It’s a story of a girl who’s drawn into a cult reminiscent of the Manson family. I think it’s going to be a movie soon. I recommend the book despite its flaws.

Thanks for reading!

Progress Report: Inching Ever Closer

I am writing from the airport, about to head off on an anniversary trip to Montreal with my husband. I denoted this time in my writing agenda to not write — it’s a vacation and I should take a break. Still, with an hour to go before my flight boards, I decided to cheat a little and finish up the last couple paragraphs needed to finish a chapter in Book #2.

With my work this morning, I crossed the 80,000 word mark. While I still have more to write (and more to trim later on), this is the word count I see the final piece being close to. It made me smile to see 80,000 words and almost 300 pages in my master document. Back in December, I had maybe 30 pages and a lot of doubts on whether I’d be able to settle down and write this thing.

I’m somewhere between 2/3 and 3/4 finished. I’m at the point where all remaining pieces are either in bracket notes, scratch notes, or outlined — no mysteries, no unresolved questions. nothing except pages I need to fill. It’s both exciting and scary. I’m a little nervous about the prospect of finishing, as I’m always nervous that my notes, thoughts, and outlines won’t turn out well once I actually write them. But overall, I’m excited. Another book — another finished book! And one that I’ve stayed excited about since thinking it up! It’s always a nice feeling.

I originally set a goal to finish a draft by today. Even in March, I suspected that wouldn’t happen. I set a new goal for the end of May, and I think I can reach that one. The finish line is getting close. This could actually happen.

It’s a good feeling.


Here’s where I was this time last year: celebrating a finished first draft of Please Give, which I finished before last year’s anniversary trip to Miami.

I did find the time to write a quick poem in Miami and post a picture of the beautiful beach.

I was also coming to terms with how it feels to have a finished draft.

Thanks for reading!

Happy International Short Story Month!

It’s International Short Story Month! I honestly didn’t know there was a month dedicated to short stories until I saw #ShortStoryMonth on Twitter the other day. But now I know, and now I’m going to celebrate it. *throws confetti*

As you know from my writing, I’m a fan of short stories. A lot of my ideas begin as short stories, and a lot of them end up staying that way. While there have been a few times I’ve gone in with an intended length (heh), I prefer to start writing and see where it ends up. My gut has done a pretty good job of telling me when something needs to keep going and, most importantly, when something is finished.

I also enjoy reading short stories, though I don’t always gravitate to them as quickly as I do to novels. I’m more inclined to read a book of nonfiction essays than a collection of short stories. My biggest shortcoming here is the speed at which I read. I read quickly and I often find short stories to be over just as I’m starting to get pulled into them. I’ve had to train myself to not read through them too quickly, and I’m glad I did. Some of the stories that have stuck with me the most have been less than 5000 words.

I am celebrating Short Story Month on Twitter by recommending one short story a day in an ongoing thread. I’m also trying to find some short stories to read between the novels in my “To Read” queue and my work on my own novel (which, interestingly enough, began as an idea for a short story). If you have any recommendations, please share them with me in the comments!

I also hope you’ll read a few of my own short stories this month. My first collection, The Crow’s Gift and Other Tales, is available for Kindle and in paperback on Amazon. It features four stories and is perfect for a quick read.

Art by Doug Puller

Purchase The Crow’s Gift and Other Tales on:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble

You can also read one of my stories for free: All the Pieces Coming Together, which was the first story I wrote for The Crow’s Gift and Other Tales; and also the first story I wrote in several years when I returned to writing in 2016.

Art by Doug Puller

Read “All the Pieces Coming Together” for Free

Happy reading, everyone!