You’re Going To Fail NaNoWriMo

It’s that time of year again! The end of National Novel Writing Month! You did everything you needed to do before November started. You planned, detailed, timelined, researched, noted… everything you had to do to prepare for the coming month. November came and BAM! You were off, writing your little fool heart out!

And then life happened and you ran out of gas just before the finish line. Or perhaps right out of the starting gate. I know, it happens to the best of us. It happened to me, just now. The month isn’t over yet, but I can already see my demise just ahead, on the left.

This is my third NaNo. The first two I did, I wrote my 50K by the sixteenth day of the month. Had I continued at that pace, I would have hit 100K words before the end of the month, but I wrote what I had to to win, and left it at that. I even wrapped my stories up in 50K instead of just writing until I could write no more. As much as I was ready for those, I wasn’t.

You see, I went into them trying to win NaNo. That was my goal. If I got something good out of them, awesome. If not, whatever. I won NaNo. I didn’t completely get the message just right. Yes, I know it’s all about quantity over quality. Yes, I know it’s all about writing without stopping to edit or smell the roses. But I missed one huge important lesson.

It’s not about winning NaNo.
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Grey Matter Press: Open Call for Submissions

Now Accepting Short Story Submissions
There are real-live monsters all around us.
All you have to do to find them is open your eyes.

For our next anthology of horror, MONSTERS (this is the working title and is likely to change), we’re looking for your best original horror fiction that investigates the evil that lives among us—the monster that is man.

MONSTERS will include a selection of dark fiction focusing on ‘man as monster.’ We are looking for your most horrifying, most dreadful, most frightening tales that highlight the creatures that haunt your nightmares, or even those who may live down the block. For this anthology we want your dark, chilling, character-driven tales portraying the deadliest monsters of all—mankind.

For more on this and the submission guidelines, click here!

NaNoWriMo 2014 Excerpt

It looks like for the first time in 3 attempts I’ll be losing NaNo. I really like the story I’ve written and I can’t wait to get it all trimmed up and ready to be read. But, there wasn’t enough story there to fill 50,000 words, and I’m not going to keep a bunch of junk in it. I might write a bunch of junk just to hit the 50K, but it will of course all be removed before publishing the story. Even still, it’s a fun read and it has been fun to write.

When I had planned out the story before November, I had a beginning planned that I liked. Beginnings and ends are hard to do for me, so having a beginning already planned was nice and made me look forward to writing the story that much more. Recently, however, I wrote something else just to help fill space, a separate part of the story that doesn’t include any of the main characters in the story, and it turns out that it would make a better beginning than the one I had.

With that said, here is that beginning. It hasn’t been edited yet, but it is the official beginning to the story that I’ll be calling Suburban Legend.
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Book Review: Skin

My dad and I trade books every now and then. For the most part, we have the same tastes and we introduce each other to interesting stuff. Only once has he read something I suggested and not liked it, and that was Hawkes Harbor by S.E. Hinton. Recently my dad recommended Skin, by Ted Dekker.

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I tried giving it a read and made it about 30 or 40 pages in before I started getting sick of it. I pushed forward though, because the story was interesting enough and I wanted to see where it went, but by page 90 I had to call it quits. The writing was terrible and the editing, if there was any done at all, was horrendous.

This is the first time I’ve read a book my dad recommended and didn’t like it. I only gave it one star on Goodreads. I also read an interesting review there by someone who pointed out other stuff I didn’t, that was equally as bad.

In it, Jenn says:

Took this book home hoping I’d found another Stephen King, or at least a poor man’s Dean Koontz.

Koontz he is not. King he definitely ain’t.

The characters are not likeable; their backstories are cookie-cutter and very little time is devoted to their development. “I escaped a cult and now I’m afraid to touch men” “She used to be a child model” “He dabbled in the occult for a while” “His mom thought he was ugly” Very vague and doesn’t generate any emotional connection or intrigue.

I kept hoping this book would get better, but after the first line, it just kept getting worse. In case you’re curious, the first line is: “When the rain isn’t so much falling–be it in bucket loads or like cats and dogs–but rather slamming into the car like an avalanche of stone, you know it’s time to pull over.” Even that’s not thrilling, but it generates the expectation that we’re going to have a first-person narrator who is at least maybe a little sarcastic. This did not happen. It’s all third-person, sometimes to a confusing degree (Which “she” are you talking about, Dekker? Quit making us guess!).

I kept hoping we’d find out that these characters had some deep dark secret that connected them all, but the way in which they are really connected was pretty stupid (and also predictable). The “science” used to explain their experiences is pretty much a deus ex machina and was not believable at all. Maybe Dekker was trying to be tricky, but there are so many ridiculous hints dropped that I’m guessing most intelligent readers will be like me and guess who the “killer” is the second he is introduced, then dismiss him because surely no author of a so-called thriller would make it so moronically obvious, then find out, nope, you were right in the first place and Dekker is just a hack after all.

The killer has some kind of obsession with “ugliness” that the book never really explains, although it spouts some inane, vague, generic drivel that Dekker apparently THINKS is explaining. I can tell that Dekker thinks the book’s “message” is really mind-blowing, but it’s really not. In fairness, I didn’t realize Dekker was known for “Christian thrillers” until after I read the book, so perhaps he feels obligated to shove some sort of message in, but honestly it was not necessary for the plot and in fact may have irrevocably ruined an otherwise potentially salvageable story.

I have no idea what the hell is up with the ending. Maybe it’s supposed to be a cliffhanger. On the other hand, the characters seem to know what happens next and “what they have to do,” but I sure as hell didn’t get it, so maybe there is a convoluted explanation that can be found only in the brain of Ted Dekker. All I know is that it made me angry and I wish there was a way to demand a refund of the hours I spent reading this book.

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Book Reviews: Joyland & Promise Not To Tell

Here’s a twofer. Buy one, get one free. BOGO.

Recently I’ve been racking up the books in my “read” column, which is great, because for a long time I felt like I had no time to read. It appears I’ve found that time, and I’m glad to have it back. The reason I’m reviewing both of these books together is, they’re both written in the first person and they’re both right around the same length.

First up was Stephen King’s Joyland.

joyland-coverI read some great reviews about this book at Horror Novel Reviews, and I can’t put it any better than they did. So if you want a great breakdown of the book, check those out.

As for me, I found the book to be perfect. What’s fascinating to me is how great of a storyteller Stephen King is, and how he’s not just a one trick pony. Sure, horror is his bread and butter, but when he goes off of that and into other areas, he seems truly at his best. Both of his Hard Case Crime books, this one and The Colorado Kid are amazing. The Eyes of the Dragon is another amazing story. All three are books I will read again, and I will get lost in again. All three have stuck with me, long after having finished them. More so than any of his other works.

Joyland, in particular, delivered on every level. When I absolutely had to put the book down, I was pissed. When it was over, I was pissed. This was something that ruled my day to day life while I was reading it. This is exactly how a first person story should be written. King took something as bland as a normal person’s day to day life and made it not only interesting, but riveting. It was like sitting with an old dude who had lived through it all and listening to him tell a story about his life. I still don’t want to believe this was fiction, it was told so well that SOMEBODY had to have actually lived it.

Do yourself a favor and pick this one up. There’s very little horror involved, as this is true to Hard Case Crime’s status quo. It’s a murder mystery. Even that is placed on the back-burner through much of the story, which is just about a college kid and his summer working at an amusement park, and the people he meets and how he lives his day to day life. And it’s so amazing.

I give this one an easy 5 out of 5 stars.
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“Fear Today, Gone Tomorrow” Now Available!

My story for this year’s 13 Stories Til Halloween has posted! Get your Halloween week started off right! Check it out now!

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A Picture is Worth 250 to a Thousand Words #3

Matt Roberts:

Like writing shorts? How about short shorts? Eat my shorts? Try this contest on for size! I’m done with the puns. And the rhymes… this time…

Originally posted on Shannon Giglio:

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Stretching our writing muscles here; you know the drill—it’s in the title. Write a short about the picture above and maybe win a prize—stories judged by me and my gifted hubby, author Peter Giglio. 250 – 1000 words. Deadline—Thanksgiving (American; that’s November 27th). What do you win? I don’t know yet—how about a $10 Amazon gift card?

What are you waiting for? Stories don’t write themselves—go!

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Trailer For 13 Stories Til Halloween 2014

It’s here! Check it out!

Five Things We Need More of in Horror Literature Today

Matt Roberts:

As I get ready to go over some edits and send in my second draft of my 13 Stories Til Halloween story (which is a ghost story, and that’s the only hint you’ll get!), check out HNR’s awesome write up of some things missing from modern horror. I couldn’t have written this better myself, and I couldn’t agree more with the five things listed here. We need them all! Where are they?

You’ll have to wait for 13 Stories to get my ghost tale, but for some awesome dark poetry, check out Shay Leigh’s Sins Within!

Originally posted on Horror Novel Reviews:

Written by: Matthew J. Barbour

Every genre needs new and exciting stories. Recently, we have seen an explosion in vampire and zombie literature; splatterpunk, once regarded as smut by the some of the most diehard horror aficionados, has gone main stream; and nowadays, it seems everyone is influenced by H.P. Lovecraft and constructing their own cosmic horror tales.  Truth be told, these trends are beginning to wear a little thin. Here are five things I hope to see more of in horror literature in the future.

The Ghost Story

A ghost is to horror like a knight is to fantasy. It isn’t required of the genre, but it is fundamental. The first thing that comes to mind when speaking of the horror is the ghost story. The roots of these stories intertwine with folk tales and legends as old as the earth itself.  However, their height in popularity appears to…

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Book Review: Asylum

With the recent event of dropping my cell phone in a glass of water, I’ve lost my e-reader and the current book I’ve been reading in the process. While waiting on the rice to hopefully do what it is rumored (and recently tested and failed) to do, I needed something else to read. With so many books in my back catalog of things waiting to be read, a friend of mine had just finished Asylum by Madeleine Roux and told me to give it a shot. So I did.

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My friend told me it wasn’t what she expected, as she likes really creepy stuff, like I do. Instead it turned out to be a YA novel and, while she was a bit put off by it not being as scary as she’d hoped, she liked it a bit. Of course there’s nothing wrong with good YA fiction, so I decided to give it a shot.

Being that it’s YA, it doesn’t take long to get through the 300+ pages, so I finished it in 2 days. When it started I wasn’t too attached to it, as page after page gave me what I expected, with easily predictable scenarios. But the longer I read, the more I liked it.

It wasn’t creepy to me at all, but it was a fun story. I enjoyed the characters, even if I’ve basically seen them all before in other YA books, and I enjoyed the story, which I’ve seen in a few other YA books. And even though the story played out how I expected, for the most part, it did give me a few nice twists and turns that helped push the story along and keep it fresh enough that I wanted to read more.
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