October’s Book Club of the First’s Pick

Good morning.

Here’s a little something to whet your appetite for October’s Book Club choice, The Strain, by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan. I’m on page 145 and I love the pacing, love the level of description when it comes to gore. I write dark fiction with its fare share of gore, but so many are written with much too much if you know what I mean. Also, this isn’t your every day vampire story. At this far in the book there isn’t even a mention of that being the premise of the story.


I’ve heard there is a great audio version available (I saw it on Amazon and at our library, both in CD and Audible) read by Ron Perlman. That is an excellent way to join us if you’re too busy to sit down and crack open a book.

Here’s Amazon’s Review:

Amazon Best of the Month, June 2009: Who better to reinvent the vampire genre than Guillermo Del Toro, the genius behind Pan’s Labyrinth, and Chuck Hogan, master of character-driven thrillers like Prince of Thieves? The first of a trilogy, The Strain is everything you want from a horror novel–dark, bloody, and packed full of mayhem and mythology. But, be forewarned, these are not like any vampires you’ve met before–they’re not sexy or star-crossed or “vegetarians”–they are hungry, they are connected, and they are multiplying. The vampire virus marches its way across New York, and all that stands between us and a grotesque end are a couple of scientists, an old man with a decades-old vendetta, and a young boy. This first installment moves fast and sets up the major players, counting down to the beginning of the end. Great summer reading. —Daphne Durham

Book Description

The visionary creator of the Academy Award-winning Pan’s Labyrinth and a Hammett Award-winning author bring their imaginations to this bold, epic novel about a horrifying battle between man and vampire that threatens all humanity. It is the first installment in a thrilling trilogy and an extraordinary international publishing event.

The Strain

They have always been here. Vampires. In secret and in darkness. Waiting. Now their time has come.

In one week, Manhattan will be gone. In one month, the country.

In two months–the world.

A Boeing 777 arrives at JFK and is on its way across the tarmac, when it suddenly stops dead. All window shades are pulled down. All lights are out. All communication channels have gone quiet. Crews on the ground are lost for answers, but an alert goes out to the CDC. Dr. Eph Goodweather, head of their Canary project, a rapid-response team that investigates biological threats, gets the call and boards the plane. What he finds makes his blood run cold.

In a pawnshop in Spanish Harlem, a former professor and survivor of the Holocaust named Abraham Setrakian knows something is happening. And he knows the time has come, that a war is brewing . . .

So begins a battle of mammoth proportions as the vampiric virus that has infected New York begins to spill out into the streets. Eph, who is joined by Setrakian and a motley crew of fighters, must now find a way to stop the contagion and save his city–a city that includes his wife and son–before it is too late.”

The first chapter is even available on Amazon if you are on the fence. Boom. Look at that.

Looking forward to next month!


NaNo No Go Go

This one goes out to you NaNo folks! This is super long so sorry in advance.

Look at the date! I can’t believe I’ve gone this far into the month of October without shouting out about NaNoWriMo.

For the un-anointed, thats short for National Novel Writer’s Month, which is a writing event that takes place during the month of November. The intention is to give birth to 50K words, basically a novelette.There aren’t any rewards other than little images you can use on your social media, however just the process of writing is pretty rewarding in itself.

So here we are on October 22nd and I’m so buried in rough drafts of stories ready to be fleshed out, short stories that have been started, and manuscripts in their final phases of development, that I have NO SPARE TIME to devote to NaNo this year. But IF  I were to participate the badge would look like this:


It’s almost sad. But not quite.

There is a multitude of beauty in NaNoWriMo. Not only can you use it as an excuse for alone time: Sorry, I’m busy tonight, I have to get my words in. But if you use it right, you’re creating a rough draft that is quite voluminous, so you are ready to dig in and sculpt it for the eleven months that follow, leading up to the following November. You could, if you were that kind of person, even write a new book every year, and finish it in between.

I’ve participated every year except one since 2007 or so. Sadly, they have a new website and it erased my previous contributions, so I can’t confirm the date. But I think that’s right. Some years I got crap, other years I got gold. What kept me going was not just the hope for gold, but the thrill of writing unhindered, without worry of having to edit or be judged for that matter. It’s quite exhilarating.

Anyhow, I thought I’d share some tips and tricks for those of you in the thick of it. If you want to use this for plain old traditional writing, you’d have to make some variations (like pay attention to your family more for goodness sakes!) but it would work too.

So here we go:

Make a schedule. Here’s my *pretend* nano schedule. Keep in mind when I’m NaNo-ing that the writing portion is more like 1 – 2 hours a day, every stink’n day. When I first started it was 3 hours, so I shared that here, but on a good day I write on average 2000 words an uninterrupted hour now, so things have improved. As you can see there are lots of empty spots on this schedule. We’ll get to those soon.


Set a goal for word count. For an on-time easy-peasy NaNoWriMo month, 1667 words a day will do it. More on that in a minute. Here’s a snapshot of my Excel spreadsheet.


Write all the time, even when you’re not scheduled to. All of those blank spots? When I’m on NaNo (or yeah, on deadline,) all of those times when I’m left waiting for a kid or a dinner timer to chime? I’m writing. Constantly. Or doing the business of writing, which you are hereby relieved of for NaNo month. When you do this, you’ll get ahead in your word count. Trust me you want this. Really bad. There will be viruses. There will be whiney friends/relatives/kids/animals who need attention. There will be Thanksgiving. You will need some word padding. Find them here.

Don’t let yourself read more than the last paragraph, or the last chapter if you’re a speed reader. If you let yourself, you will get stuck in the very destructive mind frame of: this needs to be fixed before I can write more. The problem with that is that you’ll never get to the end. I have seriously met folks who have been writing their book for ten years. No joke. So do yourself a favor and just stop it already, don’t re-read unless it’s to catch you up on where you were at.

Editing is a huge no-no. See the above paragraph. Editing will slow you down and quite possibly give you writer’s block. You don’t need that.

Know your genre. I say this because once upon a time I wrote an entire story thinking I was writing Women’s Fiction. It never went anywhere. The story was flat. Years later I looked back at it and realized it was supposed to be a dark comedy/thriller. Now I can see where it was supposed to go. See? This step is hard when you’re just starting out, but try anyhow.

Know the age group you are writing for. This one might be a no brainer for you. It might not. I have a potty mouth. I write sexy and sometimes grotesque. My writing does not lend to YA. I didn’t know this about myself until I wrote quite a bit. But again, give it your best shot. Get to know yourself and you’ll know what your age group is.

For speed of writing, you’ll need these tools.

  • Thesaurus – seems like cheating, and I’ve heard those advise against it, but sometimes when you’re speed writing you just get stuck and your brain says one word but it means another. Like voluminous instead of voluptuous or vice versa. Or you keep saying something is cute and you need some more ideas. Boom.
  • Dictionary. For spelling, duh. Well, sometimes. But in this case, the pressure of writing will do funny things to your brain. What’s that thing-a-ma-jig called that you put your foot on and make the wheels go? Is it a snowboard? No?
  • Caffeine. Because duh. We could add alcohol too but it puts me the fuck to sleep. Same with marijuana. So for the sake of remaining pure, we’ll stick with this.
  • Carbs. Also a no brainer. Cookies. Cupcakes. Doughnuts. French bread. Brownies… I could go on but I’m making myself hungry. These things fuel your writing. Seriously. So you’re a health nut you say? Make them high protein with healthy sugar/fats. But still, carbs are a must.

Pantsing -vs- Plotting

There is a huge debate about who is right: Pantsers or plotters. I don’t have an answer for you here. However, promise me you won’t just stop reading this if you’re one or the other. There is some important stuff you’ll need here to start.

Character sketches. What happened to your protagonist(s) and antagonist when they were five to make them who they are today? What’s their family life like? What’s their psychological bend? Funny quirks? Favorite swear words?

Setting profile. Sometimes it will be really simple and it’s in a real place and all you have to do is look it up on Google maps. Others it’s made up. In that case you might have to draw it up so that when you’re describing a scene it makes more sense.

How does your story begin? I know I know, you’re a pantser not a plotter! You don’t need this. Well, you might not need it on paper, but you do need to be able to envision it in your brain. Repeat this to yourself as you read on. The most important part for you pantsers is that you can see each of these plot points inside of your head.

What’s the inciting incident? This is called so many different things in so many different books. It means the point where the story begins, and not page one… that’s different. The event that turns your character’s world upside down and now they have to spend the rest of the book trying to put it back to normal.

Do you know the climax? This one might be asking too much of you at this point, but if you have it the story might flow easier.

What’s the end? Secret: I often write the first scene or three, then the inciting incident, followed by the end before I go and do the rest. It feels like cheating, because then I know a lot about the story before I think I should but boy does it help.

Now for the plotters: If you could put all of this in an outline form complete with plot points on real actual paper, ala Save the Cat or any other, you are more than golden. Trust me, the outline will change a bazillion times as you write, but it’s helpful when you’re getting off track.

I want to point out there are at least 681 THOUSAND books out there on how to write a book, so my post here is extremely lean in providing information. If we really wanted to, we could get all kinds of wrapped up in a character’s, even each of the scene’s Goal(s), Motivation and Conflict. An entire book has been written on that. So we’re gonna bypass it.

But this should be enough to get you started.

If that isn’t enough homework for you, (Ye gads are you seriously asking for more? Really?) Here are some chewy books that will help, in addition to the NaNo website I’ve hot linked up on the top of this blog.

Good luck NaNo-ing!

Book Club Update

The book club, if you hadn’t noticed, is kind of a bust. Folks wanted me to set it up, so I did. Over on Facebook we have a page where we communicate and I’ve been reminding people to read their books, giving updates and such there.  But it’s been kind of one-way. Well, three or four way really? But you get the picture. I have been posting the book club posts here so that my non-FB friends can participate too, but there doesn’t seem to be any energy behind that one.

Anyhow, I’m not much into self flagellation (in public anyway,) so I’m going to give it one more chance to make this a go before I make it a FB page only thing, and leave it there, without doing the actual book club-y questions. Cheerleading all by yourself is a mute point if you know what I mean.

A note on how I pick the books that *I* bring to the table. I’ve long been a stalker of librarian blogs when I’m looking for new reads. Many of the books I’ve shared and asked if anyone wants to read came from those adventures. It’s pretty cool but I’ve yet to hear a single person complain about a book I’ve requested – including my friends who don’t read horror. Oh wait I take that back, I have one friend who doesn’t care for ghost stories and she *may* have balked at a few, but that’s okay. The folks that have actually read my picks have been very happy.

I’m currently reading the October book, Strain. It’s kind of disgusting in a good way. I was trying to explain the difference between splatter horror (it’s a thing) and what del Torro wrote, and I came up with this: He writes more clinical, less visceral when it comes to blood and guts. For me anyway, it makes it easier to read. I’m about halfway through that one, and I’m honestly shocked. Every time I sit down to read it, time disappears and huge chunks get read. Another beach read, as it turns out. Laugh if you want, but I’m enjoying it.

That’s it for now.

I expect the October 31st (ha funny, just realized we’re reading a horror story for a Halloween) to be the last thread for book club here. Do not fear I cannot stop babbling about books so there will be threads here and there about my faves over time.

See you soon.


September Book Club Time!

Yay! It’s Harry Potter Book Club of the First time! So if you haven’t finished reading yet: don’t read the threads. Well, maybe even this post, though I’m only sharing very generalized opinions up here.

An apology: I’m a bit in love with JKR and the Harry Potter franchise so bear with me here. You guys probably know I was skeptical about reading this book. In fact, I wasn’t going to do it. So glad that you guys made me do it.

I’ll start with my happy opinions:

  • Are you a Harry Potter fan? You have to read this book. Just say’n.
  • I loved dancing with my old favorite characters and now have new favorites. Slightly shocked about that.

And then a little not happy:

  • I didn’t like the way some characters were written, and I didn’t love reading a play.
  • I wanted more of a JKR feeling when I was reading. However, it did come through at times, for which I’m grateful. This is really when the story started coming alive for me, but it came a little late in the story for my taste.

Other than that… Bravo! So can’t wait for the Fantastic Beasts movie, and the three other books that are slated to be written. Also, I’m dying to go to Harry Potter World at Universal Orlando now.

Below I’ll post my questions. Please feel free to add yours as well! (Rubbing my hands together.)

Lastly: Sorry to put the blog up a day early. I’ll be out of the country this weekend. I love saying that ha ha. Sounds like a big deal. It’s not when you live three hours from Canada though lol.

This is gonna be good🙂.


Garden Gnomes and Book Club

Hello September!

I live in an eclectic town that is plum full of characters. My current favorite looks like a garden gnome. Hardly a day goes by without seeing one of the many interesting faces that live here. If you’re like me, it’s almost torture, in that every time I see one of them my mind starts spinning. It goes one of two ways. Either I can see them in one of the stories that I’m chewing on, or I start creating a story around who they are and what they are doing there.

Writing is going well, even though I never feel like I do it enough. How could it not go well with all of the great material my fair city is providing :-)? I think I’m almost done polishing Bliss. Long story short, I ended up tearing it apart with my Critique Partner’s (CP) comments, and then I put it back together again and cleaned up the fallout. It was so freaking hard, and yet, at the same time, much easier than doing it all on my own. I’m very satisfied with the results. Soon, after one more CP run through, I’ll be moving on to querying.

I’m actually so close to that being done that I’m dreaming about the next step for Glitter, which is in the beginning stages at 52K words. I guarantee it will have more than one of my neighborhood characters in it. Exciting I tell you.

Meanwhile back at the castle I’m happy to say that I’ve finished September’s Book Club read: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I’ve started the Book Club blog complete with questions, and will schedule it to go up on September 30th. Woot! That gives you FIVE days to read it. 5. You can do it! Have you ever wondered how many of the characters from the Harry Potter series were weirdos wandering around Edinburgh, Scotland? I am now. Anyway, read it, send me book club questions if you want them to go up with the blog, and come participate!

Now that Potter is finished, I’m moving on to The Strain, October’s Book Club pick. I’m about 140 pages into it. So far I’m really enjoying it. A quick heads up: the TV series under the same name butchers the heck out of the book. Anyway, October’s Book Club Pick will be the next blog to go up.

Happy reading!