Western Wednesdays—OUTLAW TRAIN by Cameron Judd

Outlaws, fugitives, rustlers, bank robbers, and all other villainous, adventuring characters roll through the small towns of the Old West in nearly every Western. But it’s not every day you encounter a Middle Eastern carnival—a travelling show full of the strange and unusual as well as the mythic and legendary—come to town in old time Kentucky.  Cameron Judd challenges the rough and tumble cowboys of the Old West with just such an outfit, led by a showman whose true ends are veiled by the stagecraft he orchestrates in Outlaw Train, an awe-inspiring Western blended with exotic mystery.

And what Judd does so well in this prologue is to provide the calm before the storm, to portray the mundane details of a mundane meal at the local saloon, with patrons harping about nothing in particular, taking for granted these peaceful days of their lives. And then, enter Professor Percival Raintree and his outlaw train…

Happy Reading,
Allison Carroll
Dorchester Publishing


Bug Otis looked past Ben Keely toward an obese man who sat in the far corner sloppily eating from a bowl of potatoes, beef, carrots, and onions. “Dry stew,” the proprietor of the place called that particular dish, the specialty of this dank and dirty dining establishment in the backwoods of western Kentucky. Most days, including this one, it was the only dish served.

Bug, a very skinny man with leathery, furrowed skin and bulging eyes that accounted for his nickname, swiped a filthy sleeve across his mouth and sighed.

“Lordy, Lordy,” he said. “I’m just like my old daddy, I reckon.”

“How so, Bug?” Keely asked. “I remember your father well, and you ain’t like him at all. You’re your mother all over again.”

“Yeah, but my old daddy, he always said it made him hungry to watch a fat man eat. And I’m the same way.”

Keely looked back over his shoulder toward the man Otis was watching. He turned back again, amazed and repelled. “Bug, are you trying to tell me it makes you hungry to watch that big old boar back there slopping himself?”

Bug frowned. “Well … yeah. Don’t it you?”

“You’re a sick man, Bug. Sick in the mind. Loco, as the Mexicans say it.” Keely tapped a finger against his temple.

Bug looked annoyed. “We’re all different, I reckon, but that don’t mean I’m crazy. Hell, Ben, me and you been different since we was boys.”

Ben Keely took a bite of corn bread and didn’t reply. But Bug was right. Ben always had been different from not only Bug, but most of the folks he’d grown up among. Didn’t think like them, act like them, want to be part of them for longer than he had to. Which, he supposed, was part of what had driven him away from home so early. He’d gone west when he left Kentucky, because that was the direction a man went in the post–Civil War United States of America if he wanted to get to something new and better and bigger. Always west. Ben had crossed the Mississippi with no firm plan to ever make a return trip. And until the death of his father two weeks back, he’d not done so. Once free of Kentucky, he’d settled and stayed in the little town of Wiles, Kansas, hiring on as town marshal (nobody else had wanted the job, and he’d been willing to lie about his credentials) and trying to forget his past.

Not that he’d had a bad life growing up. Good parents, intelligent, his father a schoolmaster and devotee of history, his mother educated as well. They’d raised him and his sister, Bess, with a respect for learning, a tolerance for difference, and a belief that they could rise above their narrow little backwoods world. The world is big, Ben’s father used to tell his children. Don’t let anybody keep you small in a world this big.

Ben had left home at age seventeen, hoping that big world his father talked about really was out there, and had wandered about for years looking for it. Sometimes he believed he’d found it, but most times had to admit that life as a town marshal in a little railroad stop Kansas town was not much bigger or better than the life he’d left behind in Kentucky. A more open landscape, certainly, a broader view and more distant horizon … but the world right at hand, the streets he trod while making his rounds, the saloons he dragged rowdy drunks from, and the simple little jailhouse where he kept his meager office and locked up his prisoners, these were as small and strangling as anything he’d left behind in Kentucky.

Ben was distressed when he pondered that he was living a mostly solitary life at a time when his youth was beginning to pass away. Before he knew it, he’d be halfway through his thirties, still unmarried, still tied down to an unproductive and unpromising job he’d intended to keep only for months, not years.

Ben refocused his attention on his food, trying not to hear the disgusting mashing and gulping noises made by the obese eater in the corner. For his part, Bug couldn’t resist staring hungrily at the hideous spectacle. Each round of observation brought him back to his own bowl of beef, potatoes, and onions with invigorated appetite.

Ben picked at his food and tried not to feel queasy.

Bug finished his victuals, wiped his forefinger around the bowl, and noisily sucked the finger clean. With that, Ben’s appetite died fully and he simply stared into the remnants of his food.

“You ain’t going to finish that?” Bug asked.

Ben shoved his bowl across the table. Bug’s eyes were all but bulging out of his skull. “You letting me have this?”

“Enjoy it, Bug. I’ve had my fill.”

At that moment the outer door opened, spilling murky sunlight into the dim interior of the log building from the drizzly, gray day outside. The muted backlighting allowed Ben a relatively clear view of the unusual man who entered.

He was clad in loose brown trousers that were tucked into high boots. Not the cattleman’s boots Ben saw so frequently in Kansas, but moccasin-styled boots that were strapped to the calves, nearly to his knees, canvas trouser legs plunging into them. His shirt was big and loose and made out of highly worked supple leather, styled like an old hunting shirt. The man’s face was smoothly shaven and had an olive tone that might have been Indian, Egyptian, or Mediterranean. Hard to judge in the light.

Oddest of all, the man wore a turban. Ben had seen pictures of turbans before in some of his father’s history and geography books that showed images from the Far East and the biblical lands, and he knew similar headgear had been worn by Indians in the region years earlier, and in times past by older slaves farther south. Ben did not know which kind of turban he was seeing here. Whatever it was, it was nothing he would have expected to encounter in rural Kentucky.

Bug noticed Ben’s distraction and turned to investigate. He gave a soft grunt. “Huh! Man’s got a rag tied around his head! And look there at his ears.”

Bug had noticed something Ben had missed. The edges of the stranger’s ears were discolored … blue. Tatooed, Ben decided. But the door closed, the light became as dim as before, and he couldn’t see clearly enough to verify it.

“Wonder who that is?” Bug said a little too loudly. Ben wished he hadn’t. He had an inexplicable bad feeling about the new arrival and didn’t want to draw his attention. Too late. The stranger heard Bug and looked in their direction.

But he didn’t approach. He found a table close to the door and sat down. Mutton Smith, who ran this establishment, came around and informed the stranger that the only item on the menu today was dry stew, but by gum, if you had dry stew available, what else could you want anyway? The man nodded to confirm his order. One more dry stew coming up.

At that moment, Bug stretched his legs and accidentally kicked over a closed crockery jar that sat under the table near Ben’s feet. It clunked and rolled. Ben bent to the side and quickly grabbed it, setting it on the tabletop.

“I be damned, Ben!” Bug exclaimed loudly, staring at the jar. “That’s the Harpe head jar, ain’t it! I didn’t know you had brung that with you!”

At Bug’s words, the man in the turban suddenly turned his full attention toward Ben and Bug’s table.

“Ain’t no call to tell the whole world about it, Bug,” Ben said, noticing and not liking the stare he was getting from the turbaned man. Something unnerving in it. “Keep your voice down, would you?”

Bug answered as loudly as before. “Hell, Ben, that there jar of bone ain’t no secret around here! Everybody knows that the Keely family has Harpe’s head! That’s been printed in newspapers before! I ain’t saying nothing everybody don’t already know.”

The man in the turban rose and walked toward their table. Ben tensed and put his hand on the jar, at which the man’s dark eyes were staring. It roused in Ben a strangely intense protectiveness toward his possession. This was a family heirloom, something his father had prized for its historical value and closely guarded all his life. The contents of the jar were unique and irreplaceable, and if they had no inherent monetary value, they were of value as a relic.

The turbaned man reached the table. Ben and Bug looked up at him, silent and unwelcoming. Bug studied the newcomer as if he were an oddity, a man with three heads or four eyes.

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Pardon the Interruption—Shakespeare vs Dr. Seuss

While both beloved icons in their own right, Shakespeare and Dr. Seuss hold court at opposite ends of the poetic spectrum. These two sovereign bards come face to face from across the ages and push the limits of civility in this Epic Rap Battles of History video.

See who comes out on top in this clever, if not a little absurd, definitely NSFW, rap battle after the jump.

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Casting call + giveaway!

Put on your director’s hat and send that assistant off for coffee, my dear blogging lurkers! It’s time to break out those resumes and get the camera rolling—we’re kicking off this Monday morning by casting your favorite books! As an avid film aficionado, I confess I’ve always indulged in literature with something of an eye for show business. If I were to direct the book adaptation, who would I cast in the leading roles? (This is all a bit of fun, of course—purely for entertainment purposes and my own wishful thinking.)

Ever since I first embarked upon the romance genre by traversing the pages of the Sylph series, I can’t seem to shake the stunning world out of my mind. Now, my soft spot for The Shattered Sylph and the rugged ruffians Leon and Ril begs that I cast them first—which is the most difficult! L.J. McDonald’s characters are so thoroughly layered that fitting any one actor into the role feels a bit constraining. I’ve finally settled on the film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991). Go on, laugh! I’m certainly finding this amusing. Kevin Costner as the battle-worn warrior and Christian Slater playing the sarcastic, youthful right hand simply fit the bill, in my opinion. They have to work well together in order to fend off the opposition after all! Their at first strained relationship matures into one of trust and respect, mirroring the struggles of Leon and Ril.

Let me tell you, casting A Lily Among Thorns was equally challenging! Rose Lerner’s unlikely characters are worthy of catapulting an acting career into stardom. A hero with an eye for excellent tailoring and a staunchly independent business owner for a heroine? It was quite by accident that my final decision manifested itself in the form of Becoming Jane (2007), the film starring James McAvoy and Anne Hathaway, where the roles simply fell neatly into place. The scene where hasty confessions are made in light of the danger that is ever looming reminds me of Solomon and Serena’s late night rendezvous, coupled with a spy plot that will leave you reeling. Their quirky chemistry is undeniable, and who better to set the regency period ablaze?

Don’t think I’m letting you off easy! How would you cast your favorite book if you were in the director’s chair? I promise I won’t laugh. :) Reply to be entered to win a prize package of $20 worth of books in the genre of your choice!

Signing off—

Jillian, The Zombie Intern

Doppelgängers, duplicity, and dowries, oh my!

Whether it’s tales of long lost siblings finally reuniting, blood relative rivals plotting against each other, or kin that declare they are anything but akin, readers can’t get enough of scheming twins! And so we commemorate today’s date (11/11/11) by delving into fascinating duos of popular literature. Explore the often heartwarming, sometimes tragic, and always complex relationships shared by the twins of these galvanizing novels.

As mentioned in my post regarding literary bromances, Rose Lerner’s A Lily Among Thorns explores the gaping void that arises when one twin passes. Elijah’s death weighs heavily on Solomon, who’s always relied on the special bond he shared with his twin brother. Will Solomon be able to persevere without the much needed support of his brother by his side? Or rather, will he find his own inner strength, and subsequently, be met with a pleasant surprise?

In Anna DeStefano’s Dark Legacy and Secret Legacy , the starring roles feature a pair of twins who must work together in order to preserve their family’s psychic legacy. The very fabric of their relationship is tested with the threat of betrayal all around, begging the question—can they trust in each other? With chaos surrounding them, the Temple twins must find solace and strength in each other to win the day, and their lives. (This makes for a lovely parallel with Lerner’s parted Hathaway brothers!)

Two sets of twins for the price of one! Deborah MacGillivray satisfies any double fixation in her series, The Sisters of Colford Hall, where the heroes and their heroines both happen to be twins! With devastating charm and an oath to avenge the death of their father, the Mershan brothers have every intention of wooing the Montgomerie sisters, the granddaughters of their enemy. Why not flirt with the idea of an entertaining revenge plot? That was entirely rhetorical and you know it.

Don’t forget to make a wish at 11 PM tonight! :)

Signing off—

Jillian, The Zombie Intern

My NaNoWriMo Adventure Continues!

Hey All,

We’re officially eleven days into NaNoWriMo! Wow, I can’t believe we’re almost to the halfway point! At first, I didn’t have a clue as to what I was going to write about. I polled friends and family, and received some crazy, and some legitimate ideas. Apparently, procrastination is my middle name, because I finally settled on a protagonist and genre the night before NaNoWriMo began. I’d call that cutting it close! But, I still made it. Now, let’s see how Teagan, a high school freshman caught up in her bestie’s lies, deceit, and eventually murder, will fare in my novel.

While I love writing my novel, it’s been difficult to balance work and writing. It doesn’t help that I have to write during the best month of football (Go Giants!), and when all of my favorite sitcoms are on (Glee and Modern Family). I’ve really had to hunker down, but I’m proud to report that I have 9,028 words written! Luckily, I have a long commute to and from work, so I jot down ideas, important plot points, and sometimes paragraphs in my notebook. Yes, I’ve gotten quite a few glances and stares as I scribble furiously on the subway. Something tells me these NYC commuters have seen weirder, though.

I haven’t averaged the 1,670 words a day, like I wanted. Luckily the NaNoWriMo community offers many different ways to motivate its participants. Check out NaNoWriMo’s Pep Talks for encouragement from authors. These talks really helped push me. Also, there are events all over the country for participants to attend. There’s nothing like a face-to-face writing session to keep the creativity flowing. For those of you who can’t get to a NaNoWriMo session, check out some of Nathan Branford’s motivational tips—he’s an agent and author based out of San Francisco.

I’m determined to meet the goal of 50,000 words in thirty days. I’ve got a game plan set. I foresee some issues arising once it gets closer to Thanksgiving. Between fried turkey and Turkey Bowl football, I probably won’t be doing too much writing. So, I’m hoping for a couple of rainy weekends because it gives me an excuse to stay inside and write! I’ve stumbled across a few roadblocks, but luckily the NaNoWriMo community is tight-knit and rallies behind one another. How do y’all remain motivated during NaNoWriMo? Leave some comments here to share with the Dorchester Community. Until next time, NaNos…keep writing!

Thriller Thursdays: From the Set of House of the Rising Sun

The gritty, action-packed House of the Rising Sun continues to blow readers, and now audiences, away! The critically-acclaimed debut thriller from former special agent Chuck Hustmyre is now a major motion picture starring Hollywood heavyweights Danny Trejo (Sons of Anarchy), Dominic Purcell (Prison Break), and Amy Smart (Crank). Check out these pics from the set, read an excerpt from the book, watch the trailer, and share our enthusiasm for this thriller success! And if you’re looking for the perfect stocking-stuffer for that thriller lover in your family, House of the Rising Sun is available in trade paperback, e-book, and Blu-ray/DVD!


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The life-defining moment of a hero, the catalyst that molds the man and sets his life course, is never so powerful as when it manifests in childhood. His path inevitably becomes a tightrope, one precariously balanced upon through adolescence and into adulthood until fate, as she always will, tips the scales. Spur award-winning author John D. Nesbitt forges just such a character and just such a moment in this tension-fraught opening to Stranger in Thunder Basin. Can justice and vengeance cohabitate in a man’s heart? Will they destroy him or set him free? Find out in Stranger in Thunder Basin.

Happy Reading,
Allison Carroll
Dorchester Publishing

Chapter One

From the beginning there rose a memory ancient as blood.

The long, cold wind had quit blowing, but the sun was still shut out. Under a gray sky, the dunes of snow lay hard packed—domed and smooth on the windward side, ridged and sculpted on the leeward. The boy could walk up on top of a drift and, it seemed to him, stand in the sky. When Pa-Pa stood on the next drift over, he looked taller than ever.

All morning, Pa-Pa dug walkways from the cabin, first to the outhouse and then to the barn. Pa-Pa worked with a steady motion, carving out snow and tossing it to one side or the other. Orly the dog watched, looked up at Eddie. Pa-Pa was quiet, no sound but the slice of the shovel and the thump of the snow when it landed. At one point on the way to the barn, the passageway was higher than Eddie’s cap.

Pa-Pa worked on. When he cleared the door of the barn, Eddie and the dog followed him inside. The air was as thin and cold as outside. The horses whoofed and snuffled. Pa-Pa gave them grain from a burlap sack, hard pale sliding seeds that he called oats.

Pa-Pa carried the round-headed shovel and the square one. Eddie walked beside him, and Orly trotted ahead. A big drift lay across the road. Pa-Pa said he was going to have to clear it out before they could go anywhere. He started digging, first with the square shovel and then with the round one. He began on the right and worked across, then went to his right again and cut deeper into the drift, carving out slabs of solid white cake. As loose snow gathered at his feet, he scooped it up and tossed it as well.

Now with his shovel he held a big square piece in front of Eddie’s eyes. It was cleaner than lard, cleaner than the whitest ice cream. Then he tossed it, and it fell apart when it landed.

“I’m sure you’re wondering why I throw it all to the right side here.”

Eddie looked at him without saying anything.

“Well, I don’t want the wind to blow it back in. If I throw it to the left and a big wind comes, all the loose and crumbly stuff’ll fill in, and I’ll have to come back tomorrow and do the same thing.”

He stabbed the shovel in the snowbank and took a deep breath, then opened and closed his hands. The creased leather gloves looked like part of him, as did the canvas coat and the sweat-lined hat. Pa-Pa, solid and tall against a gray sky, his weathered face like deer hide, his silvery hair flowing to cover his ears and touch his collar. He took another breath and went back to work.

Eddie rolled in the loose snow, tumbling with Orly and teasing him. Above, the gray sky went everywhere, and Eddie could not tell where the sky ended and the world began. Here below, his coat was a dull black, and his mittens, itchy as the coat, were dark gray. Orly was black and white, but the white was almost yellow compared with the snow.

“Here,” came Pa-Pa’s voice. “Stand up. You’re gettin’ too much snow on you.”

Eddie felt himself being pulled up in the scratchy coat. Pa-Pa took off the stocking cap, shook it out, then pressed it back over Eddie’s ears. With his leather gloves, he brushed the dry snow off the boy’s coat, turning him one way and the other. Eddie felt snow melting on the back of his neck, then a relaxing of the coat.

“I wonder who this is.” Pa-Pa’s hands let go.

Across the top of the snowdrift Eddie could see a man on a horse—a dark, narrow shape against the bleak background. Pa-Pa held the shovel at rest and watched the rider come closer. Sound carried as the horse’s hooves rose from the snow and punched in again.

The stranger came to a stop on the other side of the drift. Both horse and rider loomed dark. Wisps of steam floated from the animal’s nose and mouth. The horse’s body carried a dull color between black and dark brown. A lighter brown showed along the edges of the nose, the forehead, and the ears, while the mane and tail ran to pure black. The rider wore a flat-brimmed, flat-crowned black hat, dull with old dust. He had a narrow face with a long, thin nose; a pair of beady, close-set eyes; and thin lips. The lower part of his face, tapered, lay in shadow-like stubble, and a dark neckerchief covered his throat. He wore a scratchy-looking coat the color of a burned-out fire log.

Pa-Pa’s voice came out in the cold air. “What can I do for you?”

The thin lips moved. “I’m lookin’ for Jake Bishop.”

“That’s me.”

The stranger cast his beady glance at Eddie, then back at Pa-Pa. “Need to talk to you. Just you and me.”

“The kid’s no harm.”

“Little pitchers have big ears.”

“I said he’s no harm. Tell me what’s on your mind.”

The stranger came off his horse, slow and stiff-like. When he turned around, he had his coat unbuttoned and his gloves in his left hand. “I’ve got a message. Not for the ears of little boys.” With his right hand he touched the hem of his coat.

Pa-Pa turned to look at Eddie. “Here, sonny,” he said, reaching into his coat pocket and bringing out a piece of pale, hard candy. “Take this, and go get me the hatchet I use to split kindling.”

Eddie looked up into his face and saw nothing to understand.

“Here, take it, and go get me the hatchet.”

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Pardon the Interruption—LOVE WITHOUT BLOOD

“[A] highly entertaining and unique take on the vampire genre….the story comes together very nicely for a fast-paced read.” —RT Book Reviews

 “Love Without Blood is exciting from the first page with a unique writing style and fascinating build-up…”  —Fresh Fiction

“[Fans will] enjoy a fun look at a General Hospital filled with vampires, who like humans, some are moral and others psychpathic preditors.”—Midwest Book Review

John Everson: NaNoWriMo winner and inner-critic squelcher!

Packed with drama, suspense, and even a prize t-shirt, the NaNoWriMo challenge entices the best of us. John Everson tells all in this full spread companion post to his snippet of writer’s block advice on last week’s NaNoWriMo series. Did you know that most of his second novel, Sacrifice, was written during the NaNoWriMo of 2002? John is living proof that all aspiring writers should try tackling so worthwhile a challenge.

Now sit back with that double espresso, clear off the empty energy drinks from your desk, and settle in for a true success story.

Throughout the ’90s, I was mainly a horror short story writer.  I published dozens of short pieces in scores of tiny magazines and anthologies, and they were fun and easy to knock out— a couple hours on the weekend and they were done. But over the course of five years, I had also slowly developed (over many stops and restarts) my first novel, Covenant. I finished the first draft in 2000, and spent the next couple of years trying to sell it, being rejected, going back and trying to polish it some more, then sending it out yet again.

By the end of 2002, I still had not sold that first novel, and hadn’t started a new novel in the 2+ years that Covenant had been languishing on many slush piles. All writers know that the worst thing you can do is finish a project and then wait for it to sell before starting the next one. You need to get back on the horse. And it had really been seven years since I had started a novel project, since Covenant was begun in 1995. I knew I needed to either decide that I was just going to stick with short fiction, or I had to begin a new novel, whether the first one ever sold or not.

I needed a kickstart.

Someone steered me to NaNoWriMo that fall. The group wasn’t quite as ubiquitous in 2002 as it is today—it was just three years old—but it was growing in leaps and bounds each year. I liked the fact that, unlike many writers critique groups, it was strictly a solo challenge. You either made your 50,000 word deadline or you didn’t. People could join together at coffeehouses and commiserate or cajole each other, and there were message boards to help connect, but you didn’t need to. I’m a pretty independent creature in that sense and wasn’t interested in the community aspect of the challenge. I just needed the writing challenge. And the hard deadline.

Just one problem. My day job pretty much owned me the first week of November 2002, because I had to work a convention (anyone who’s staffed a national convention knows that after those 14-16 hour days, there is nothing left of you but a husk that needs sleep).  So I began my NaNoWriMo challenge already exhausted and a week late… leaving me just three weeks to write 50,000 words.

And in October 2002 I didn’t even really know what I wanted to write about. But while I was out of town during that start of November, I figured it out.

I wanted to do a really stupid thing—I wanted to write a sequel to my first novel, the book I couldn’t sell!  I had a whole different kind of story I wanted to explore within the world of the first book, so I knew the second novel, while a sequel, had to be self-contained, in case the first book never sold.

Somewhere on or around November 8, 2002, I wrote the first chapter of Sacrifice. I realized quickly that in order to meet the November 30th 11:59 p.m. deadline, I had to average more than 2,200 words per day for the next three weeks. The admonitions on the NaNoWriMo website were key to achieving that—edit later, write now.  I still find myself whispering that advice to myself today when I start slowing down on a project.

Squelching your inner critic is probably the hardest thing a writer can do. The inner critic is the voice in the back of your head that says everything you’ve just written… or wrote yesterday…or are about to write is utter tripe. Your inner critic can make you stare at a blank screen for those few precious hours you have allocated for writing, or it can make you waste 45 minutes wrestling with a single sentence or paragraph that just doesn’t feel right.

Your inner critic is your biggest enemy to rampant productivity. And rampant productivity is what NaNoWriMo is all about.

So I dug in. I wrote before work. I wrote after work. I probably wrote at lunch sometimes. And during every session, I had to keep saying, “don’t worry if it’s crap— just get your 2,200  words down today.” It’s the same sentiment as the movie adage, “just get the shot, we’ll fix it all in post.”

I didn’t have an outline when I started the book— this was a seat of the pants endeavor. I really only had a vague idea of where it all was going. But every couple days I took a few minutes to “backwards outline” what I’d done before, so I remembered the crazy things I was coming up with so I could tie it all together later. Because when you’re forcing that word count, you come up with all sorts of weird ideas and plot departures at 11:45 p.m. that you don’t even remember writing  the next morning.

In the end, I got 50,000 words of Sacrifice written (about 2/3 of what the final novel would become) in three weeks, working right up to the last minute. I uploaded my file, and it was validated. I have the t-shirt to prove it!  I also was sick with a horrible cold for the next two weeks because I had burned the candle at both ends for so long.

But it was something I wanted to prove to myself I could do. I proved that I didn’t need to take five years to write a novel. I worried that I’d written 50,000 words of crap, and honestly, it was months before I re-visited the project to find out. When I did, I  spent 2-3 months writing the other 40,000 words, and found to my surprise that I actually didn’t need to change much in that first half. By gagging my inner critic and just forcing myself to write and not critique, I’d set loose creativity that might never have surfaced if I’d tortuously over-thought the book. I honestly think that Sacrifice is the better novel of the Covenant-Sacrifice duo, though it was written the fastest of any of my books.

I’m now finishing up my 6th novel, and I have to say, I still think Sacrifice may be my quickest moving book. And that’s got to relate in part to the environment it was written in.

So what happened to the books? Covenant won a Bram Stoker Award for a first novel thanks to a small press release in 2004, and both Covenant and Sacrifice were sold in a two-book deal to Dorchester’s Leisure Books imprint in 2007 and released in mass market paperback in 2008 and 2009 respectively. It was a happy ending!

I’ve never taken the NaNoWriMo challenge again. I don’t need to—I know I can do it. And I still use the lessons I learned that month to this day.  I don’t write books in a month, but I’ve never taken over a year to produce a novel again.

NaNoWriMo taught me how to silence—or at least stifle—my inner critic. If you just start running, you don’t have time to study and get lost in the cracks in the sidewalk!

Now if that story doesn’t inspire you to tackle NaNoWriMo with four weeks to spare, I don’t know what will!

Signing off—

Jillian, The Zombie Intern

When writers hit a wall (and no, I don’t mean the fourth-wall)

Four days into NaNoWriMo and everything is moving swiftly. Your characters are championing outrageous obstacles, your setting is a dizzying hybrid of dystopian delight, and you know this is the month everything falls into place.

And then, inexplicably, it happens.

Your inspiration loses steam and you’re left wondering if that pesky, sprite of a muse will ever return in time to fill the 1,670 word deadline for the day. Worry not, travel-worn bloggers! Four of Dorchester’s authors detail how they address these concerns, and thus, offer writers a bit of advice. We thank Rose Lerner, Graham Masterton, Caitin Rother, and John Everson for their time!

Rose shares her own experiences with traversing alternate writing channels as a way to alleviate the block itself.

I had [writer's block] for a long long time after my mother died.  But the thing is, it wasn’t really writer’s block.  It was historical romance block, because that was always something I shared with my mother.  I wrote A LOT during that time, but I wrote romantic fanfiction for TV shows.  I was able to get excited about that because there was a built-in community and audience to share it with.  And when I was finally ready to dive back into historical romance (or rather, fall flailing back in: it didn’t happen naturally, it took a giant shove), my writing muscles weren’t rusty and I’d learned a lot in the meantime.  So I think if you’ve had writer’s block for a while, you need to sit down and figure out why.  What’s missing now that used to get you so excited?  Is there something else you still feel that way about?  Give yourself permission to write whatever the heck you want.  Keep writing and practicing your craft.  Give yourself time—but do force yourself to come back to your original idea every so often and see where you’re at.

Good luck, everyone!

Graham takes the straightforward approach when it comes to his craft!

I was trained from the age of 17 as a newspaper reporter and then spent the next 10 years being a magazine editor, and in those jobs you simply don’t get the time or the opportunity for writer’s block because you are always working against a deadline.

Nowadays I have more ideas for books and short stories than I will ever be able to complete in my lifetime.  I know some writers like music in the background, but I prefer silence.  All the sound comes from inside my head.  My advice to anybody who wants to write is just to write, whether you feel in the mood or not.  I currently have two protégé writers, and I am very hard on both of them.  Get on with it.  Stop being pretentious and get something down on the screen, even if you delete it all later.

After detailing her busy writing schedule earlier this week on the blog, Caitlin elaborates on how to combat the nasty writer’s block bug.

[...] I honestly don’t have time to have writer’s block, but if I do run into a wall, I simply switch gears and either mull the problem or let my subconscious work on it until I’m ready to give it another shot.

Last but by no means least, the following is an excerpt from John’s successful foray into the NaNoWriMo challenge, which kick-started his second novel back in 2002. Tune in Monday for details!

Squelching your inner critic is probably the hardest thing a writer can do. The inner critic is the voice in the back of your head that says everything you’ve just written… or wrote yesterday…or are about to write is utter tripe. Your inner critic can make you stare at a blank screen for those few precious hours you have allocated for writing, or  it can make you waste 45 minutes wrestling with a single sentence or paragraph that just doesn’t feel right.

Your inner critic is your biggest enemy to rampant productivity. And rampant productivity is what NaNoWriMo is all about.

How do you weather the tides of inspiration? Reply for your chance to win a nifty tool every writer needs to succeed! Or rather, throw at their monitor when the going gets tough. I know I certainly need one of those.

Signing off (believe in me who believes in you!)—

Jillian, The Zombie Intern


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