I suppose that after the year we’ve all had, a “What have I been up to and why haven’t I been updating?” post is even more redundant than normal. But it’s my blog and I’ll cry if I want to, and all that.

I’ve been luckier than most in remaining employed full time, but quarantine depression has kicked my butt pretty darn hard. Finding the motivation to create and be witty has been nigh impossible. But as we near the one year mark of the pandemic lockdowns (California’s began mid-March), I’ve been trying to claw my way out of the pit of misery and back to something resembling a life. One vaccine shot down, one to go. I’ve been eating healthier and even found the motivation to start walking a few times a week. And so I look to the future and what I hope to accomplish.

I’ve felt more motivated to write and be creative and especially to immerse myself in good books than I have in a long while. I have a fat, happy stack of books to work through and I look foreword to sharing my thoughts about them with you. I’ve also been inundated with ideas for my own original fiction, and I’ll be sharing bits of my journey and thoughts about the craft of writing.

Camp NaNoWriMo

Are you an old hand at NaNoWriMo? Or someone who always means to join in the festivities during November, only to realize part way through the month that you totally forgot about it (and then exasperatedly tell yourself you’ll just try next year)?

Or perhaps you’re someone who’s never really given it much thought, but you need a fun activity to take your mind off the quarantine blues?

If any of the above apply to you, it’s time to fire up the old word processor and get to work for the month of July; Camp NaNoWriMo is officially here.

For the uninitiated, NaNoWriMo is a challenge held in November to write 50k words of prose in a month. It’s sister event(s), Camp NaNoWriMo, are held in April and July. They encourage you to pick any writing goal you wish. I like sticking to the good old fashioned 50K (it’s a big enough number for me to feel like a challenge, but not so big as to feel insurmountable). More seasoned writers may wish to aim higher, while total newbies might want to start off with something a bit smaller (Or not! Feel free to take the plunge if it sounds fun).

While the original NaNoWriMo was fairly strict about asking participants to start fresh with an original work of fiction, in recent years they’ve been inclined to encourage writers to work on whatever strikes their fancy, especially for Camp NaNo. Start a new book, work on an existing WIP, do some fan fic; it’s up to you. 

This year I’ll be splitting my goal of 50k words between two projects: A romance novella and a web serial.

The novella:

25k is pretty much my total word count goal for this project (Though I’m flexible; it could go as low as 20k or as high as 30k), so I’m hoping to have a complete first draft written by the end of July. In the event that I fall short, I have a few short stories on the back burner to make up the last 5k or so. I find that idea more appealing than trying to force myself to pad a story with extra scenes and/or descriptions it doesn’t need. 

The web serial:

While serials are traditionally released as they’re written, my stage fright compels me to have a buffer before I begin uploading chapters for public consumption. I think 25k words (about two and a half months’ worth of updates)  is a solid amount to find my voice, get the main cast of characters sorted, and tease out any early plot problems I might run into. 

Nothing quite compares to the experience of curling up in a dimly lit room, long after everyone else has gone to bed, with a good old fashioned scary story. When every flutter of a curtain glimpsed out of the corner of your eye makes your heart stutter, and the softest sounds heard in your quiet sanctuary make you spin around and peer into darkened corners.

On those occasions when you find an author who knows exactly how to write the specific kind of scary story you love most, it’s even more magical.

Darcy Coates writes horror, much of it revolving around young women in haunted houses (and often accompanied by a cat or two). They’re just my favorite combination of cozy and frightful, encouraging you to imagine yourself in the shoes of one of her heroines as things begin to take a dark turn. Here’s a curated selection of my most recommend titles from Coates:

The Haunting of Ashburn House

My absolute favorite is The Haunting of Ashburn House. Our heroine, Adrienne, inherits an old house atop a lonely hill as a gift from her deceased aunt Edith. Edith, we quickly come to find, had a lifetime of macabre secrets that still plague her home after her death.

What earned this book a place among my faves is the combination of an intriguing mystery (I prefer horror that plants a seed of curiosity rather than just throwing out random scares) as well as one of the more interesting and well done antagonists I can recall in this subgenre.

Haunted house stories can sometimes stumble once things progress beyond bumps in the night to actually describing the entity behind all those spooky phenomena; so often it’s a case of the ‘reality’ of the villain being ultimately less scary than what the reader imagined. In Ashburn House, the author crafted a truly scary reveal that was even better than what I’d been imagining at the beginning.

Next up is The House Next Door. Jo, our intrepid ingenue, witnesses the family next door The House Next Door flee into the night, never to be heard from again, after hearing blood-curdling screams. The house is sporadically occupied after that, and never for long. Then one day a young woman named Anna moves in, and Jo is torn between her budding friendship with the her new neighbor and her dread of Marwick House.

It’s an interesting take on the haunted house story. Rather than the main character being the one whose house is haunted, the story revolves around Jo wanting to be there for her new friend, who keeps inviting Jo over to the house she fears so intensely. Much of the tension is generated from watching someone else suffer and feeling powerless to stop it.

Finally, Ghost Camera is a shorter entry but it packs in plenty of Ghost Camerascares. Jenine stumbles upon an abandoned Polaroid camera (+1 for nostalgia) that turns out to be the worst discovery she’s ever made. The camera not only captures spirit images, but every snapshot she takes brings her closer to the ghosts’ attention, and they are not happy. This one is a little more focused and straight forward than the previous two books mentioned, perfect for someone who wants to get right down to the scares with a minimum of sideplots.


the quest begins

Writing is what I’ve wanted to do since 3rd grade. I’m turning 35 next month, and I’ve never written a book or submitted an article for publication. They say that deep down, procrastination is really about perfectionism. I, uh, must really want to be perfect?

But in all seriousness, I confess to putting too much pressure on my writing goals. When I try to sit down to blog, do a review, or write fiction, it’s never just about the project in front of me. It’s always about creating something so great it will be my ticket out of a frustrating day job. A path to the life I’ve always wanted.

With pressure like that, who could focus on the paragraph at hand?

As a pre-birthday promise to myself, I’m going to take the plunge and commit to getting words on the page on a consistent basis. 

This is cozy library. All things are possible, all quests are achievable…if you’re willing to put in the work. Quests aren’t supposed to be easy. 


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