The Dread and Fear of the Ocean

While on a trip down to Florida years ago, we had the benefit of staying in a hotel right on the ocean. The sand dunes ended only a foot away from the wall of the hotel. It was beautiful, but there was also a sense of urgency to it. In a few years it was likely the ocean waters would rise enough to flood the bottom floor of the building. At night a lightening storm blew in from the ocean, and we turned out the lights to our hotel room and sat staring out with the window open to our balcony.

Photo by Nicolas Jossi on Unsplash

The ocean was completely black and it was too dark to even see the sand or the waves crashing in the distance. All we could see was emptiness. In the intense blackness the roar of the ocean was like a train that wouldn’t stop. Not even flashes of lightening would illuminate the water below or hint at the thrashing waves. In that moment, it was easy to imagine how terrifying it would be to see a dinosaur emerge from the sea to snatch its prey. It was easy to imagine how a ship would get misdirected and crash against unseen rocks. It was easy to see how dangerous it would be out on the ocean in that storm.

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of respect and adoration the ocean gives. It is both beautiful but at the same time dangerous.

In a separate post I made about creepy corridors, I briefly talk about how vulnerable it can feel to be on a boat in the middle of the ocean. At night when I slept listening to the motor of the ship humming in its belly, I wondered what I would do if the engine stopped, or if I would hear the squeal of metal, or if the alert sounded in the middle of the night. Needless to say it took some time to sleep the first couple of nights. During the day the ocean provided a beautiful picturesque paradise and I absolutely adored being able to watch the ship break through the waves. At night however it could be alarming to look out during a storm and see only empty ocean in every direction. (The stargazing, however, was incredible.)

Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash

I loved going to the beach, going on cruises, and appreciating the ocean (back when I could), but it’s good to have a healthy respect for it too. Movies and pictures don’t quite grasp the chilling emptiness that comes from looking out at a black, stormy ocean and realizing that anything could be out there.

Or maybe that’s just my love of monsters talking…

Do you have any creepy stories about the ocean that you’ve experienced? Do you know of any other places you want me to tackle in my horror analyses? Let me know below!

Speaking of monsters, I recently wrote a horror short story with mermaids and pirates titled “The Mermaid’s Kiss”. Expect to see more about it soon. Make sure you subscribe to my mailing list to get all the latest updates about my writing including a sort-of-secret project I’m working on.

Organization Ideas Using a Bullet Journal [#AuthorToolboxBlogHop]

Real talk, this week authors. I wouldn’t be nearly as productive without my bullet journal.

This weekend I’ve taken part in a panel with Next Chapter Con, I attended a meeting with our local Horror Writers Association Atlanta Chapter, I setup my next mailing list post set to come out September 19th, and chatted with some readers via email. That is a lot to keep track of for one weekend, and that’s not even everything on my to-do list.

A quick note before I begin. This post is part of the Author Toolbox Blog Hop, a series where authors help authors through all aspects of their author career. I highly recommend clicking on the image above and going to check out all the other amazing blogs in this circle.

Now this isn’t the first time I’ve talked about the benefits of using a bullet journal as an author, but looking down at my long to-do list and everything I’ve done this weekend, I think it bears repeating. Down to it’s most basic description, a bullet journal is a DIY to-do list to help keep track of goals, habits, lifestyle, etc. The beauty of it is that you can tailor it completely to your needs, unlike an organizer you buy and have to fit to your needs.

Above is a screenshot from one of my trackers. I used it when I got the first round of developmental edits back for Chosen, book 3 of the Stolen series. Now these are usually the edits that require the most changes for me. Sometimes they can require whole scenes to be removed or added, or even whole sections of the novel to be rewritten. I find this first stage to be one of the hardest parts of the editing process. Having a tracker in my bullet journal and adding a few cute stickers helps me to stay on track. I bubble in a circle when I’ve knocked out that many pages. I added a turtle at the bottom to remind me that being “slow and steady” is okay.

On this next example, I’ve listed out books that I’ve been inspired to write. (Sorry it’s blurred out, but there are some major spoilers on those pages!) Some of these may become future works in progress, some may never see the light of day again, but this is perhaps the most prized portion of my bullet journal. These pages actually came from last year’s bullet journal. I cut them out and pasted them in here, and then added more to one of the book ideas this year. It’s wonderful to be able to slowly build on these ideas as I get more inspiration for them, and bring the pages with me each year. I can slowly build on these concepts and return to them again and again. Right now I have four full pages dedicated to book planning.

You’ll also notice I’ve got tabs on the side of this bullet journal. I keep track of everything from Mailing List ideas, to wordcounts for works in progress, to my annual word tracker that I’ve included below. I’m a little behind on filling it out, but I’ll catch up soon.

Each year I change around the layout, add some sections I may or may not use, and get a better understanding of what I need to personally stay organized and on top of my goals. It certainly isn’t a perfect system, but it’s such a huge improvement from the stress and constant feeling of being overwhelmed that I had before I began using it. I can stay focused on my goals, encourage myself with my progress, and remind myself of why I’m doing this.

If you have never used a bullet journal, simply look up #bujo on Instagram, Pinterest, or Youtube. There are tons of ideas out there that might suit your needs. As an author, it’s been indispensable and I can’t even imagine how I would organize the multitude of things I keep track of now without it.

Here are some things I also track with my bullet journal which has made me very happy this year despite all the craziness going on:

  • Habit Tracker for cleaning, self-care, and productivity.
  • Movies and TV shows I’ve watched.
  • Books I’ve read.
  • Quotes I love.
  • Stories I have finished.
  • Music I love.

A bullet journal can be anything you need, whether for fun, physical and mental well-being, or for your author career. Do you have ideas on what you would use one for? If you keep one, I’d love to see pictures! I’m always inspired seeing how people use theirs.

Telepathy is Hard [#AuthorToolboxBlogHop]

There’s been a sense of dissonance with my author groups that I’m part of lately. So many of my friends used to be pushing toward that next book, that next project, the next book festival, and getting excited about what was coming next. Now though so many of them are despondent when they look at their author career, and it really isn’t surprising why.

Some of us have been in quarantine for over three months even while others are able to go freely where they want. Many authors I’ve spoken with are in the same boat, either due to their own health issues or for loves ones. Then the protests began and the excessive use of force from police departments kept me glued to live feeds every evening near curfew to see what would happen, to keep an eye out for people on the ground. I had friends get involved in protests who had to run away from tear gas and rubber bullets. Still the violence hasn’t stopped. Just the other day a police officer killed a black man for falling asleep in his car here in Atlanta. There’s a constant sense of outrage and desperation right now that’s impossible to miss.

It’s difficult to write when your heart is bleeding for the world around you. It’s difficult to put aside your fears and worries when you see all the people risking their lives daily to be heard.

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

Stephen King called writing telepathy. After describing a scene, he writes the following in his book, On Writing.

This is what we’re looking at, and we all see it. I didn’t tell you. You didn’t ask me. I never opened my mouth and you never opened yours. We’re not even in the same year together, let alone the same room… except we are together. We are close. We’re having a meeting of the minds. […] We’ve engaged in an act of telepathy.

I think back to this concept regularly when I’m struggling with my writing. Creating a scene or a character for readers to identify and care for is an act of telepathy, and if an author has a hard time expressing the image they have in their head, or worse yet, if they have a hard time even picturing the scene they want to convey, then static comes across the line. Readers pick up on that static, whether they realize it or not. They feel the loss of focus or a character doing something that doesn’t make sense. They feel that discontinuity.

When the world feels like it’s on fire, authors can have a hard time channeling their minds into words. It’s understandable that there’s static. It’s understandable to get frustrated because it’s too hard to focus and the words won’t come out. It’s okay to feel like the characters aren’t behaving properly. It’s impossible to extract writing from the time and place that it was written. As creators of worlds, people, and locations, authors need to be aware of the static that gets in the way and allow it to exist. Sometimes the static is there for a reason.

Somehow over the past couple of months I found the mindset to write a book, Chosen, the last book in the Stolen series. I finished writing it a month into quarantine and finished editing it after the police violence at protests began dying down last week. I focused my outrage and pain into my novel, into my characters, and into scenes which ended up being eerily similar to the scenes I read about online. I had characters house protagonists despite risking their lives to do it. I had enemies hide behind their military troops. I had powerful characters admit that they were in too much pain to carry on in battle.

Basically I allowed the real world to infiltrate my book world in a way that expanded the world. I allowed some crossover, but only if it made sense. I channeled the emotions I felt from hearing these stories and from watching these horrors. Sometimes I realized the crossover was happening as I wrote the book, but other times I didn’t realize it until I was editing.

I know that the writing process is very different for everyone, and that we all have different ways of coping with the stress going on in the world, but I hope that hearing how I have come to terms with it helped. Chosen was meant to be written during this time and it is truly reflected in the storyline.

My advice is to listen to that static and see if it can push you in the right direction. See if it’s trying to encourage a change of direction or a change in a character. I hope you find a way to continue your craft despite the difficulties we are dealing with now and on the long road ahead.

A Bittersweet Ending

The last month or two have been crazy, both with the world in general and in my very busy writing corner. It’s led me to be a little behind on posting here, but I’m hoping to fix that! So first up some announcements.

Updates on Chosen

I have officially turned in my fully written and fully edited copy of Chosen, book 3 of the Stolen series! Somehow through everything that has been going on, between the COVID-19 outbreak and all the violence and tears of the last few weeks, I was able to focus and finish this book. It really is a culmination of years of work since I first started writing Stolen in 2013. That’s a good seven years of work to get here, and wow, what a ride!

Shaleigh has grown so much throughout the books, but so have the other characters too. Each one of them have grown into their unique selves and I’m really happy with that. I’m so excited to share the final chapter of this emotional trilogy with everyone.

However it’s also bittersweet. I’ve fallen in love with these characters and the world, and it’s going to be very difficult to let go of them. I’ve had these characters in my head for years, so it’s difficult to just let go of them. However I also have a very full plate of other books in my brain that also want attention.

In Progress

Speaking of… the next book I’ll be tackling is Colton Fen’s novel, currently titled Descent. It’s the first of the Colton Fen series and Night Feeders is going to be book 0.5. This book has had an ongoing facelift and I’m going in to work on it more with a long list of to-do items to tackle.

After that, I’ll be working on the long-awaited sequel to The She-Wolf of Kanta, which I plan to make a full-length book. I have a whole outline figured out and plan to write the entire book long-hand. I’ve already started writing on it, but it still has a long way to go to reach completion.

There are the projects I’m comfortable sharing now, but there are a bunch more I’ve hinted at during interviews or in chats that are on the horizon. So expect to hear more announcements and progress updates as I go.

The Seeking is now available to pre-order!

I’m thrilled to share that The Seeking is now available to pre-order on Amazon! This dark young adult horror novel has already had reviews come in on Goodreads, and I’m thrilled with the feedback so far! This book features weird creatures, a diverse cast of characters, and terrifying monsters.

How Long Did It Take?

Image of cactus and typewriter from Florencia Viadana on Unsplash

“How long did it take you to write that book?”

This is something I hear from people often. They ask how long a book took to write, and regardless of what you tell them, there’s usually a nod and an unspoken understanding. What they take away from the answer depends on what they’re really asking. Sometimes they ask out of curiosity, but sometimes it’s because they’re trying to decide if their work is worth trying to complete. Sometimes they’re judging themselves for writing too quickly or too slowly for what they see as a standard speed.

Let me just take a moment to say: it doesn’t matter.

The speed of your first draft does not determine how good it is or whether it’s worth publishing. You can take thirty days or thirty years to write it, and it will still need to be edited, proofread, and formatted. It will still need to be shopped around to publishers, reviewed, and marketed.

One of the things I love as a reader and as an author is that every book has its own story from inception to landing in your hands. Sometimes its been written in fits and starts over decades. Sometimes it was trunked, or buried away somewhere and abandoned, before being dusted off and given new life. Sometimes it’s written in a month and given a few months of editing before being published. All of these methods are completely valid and absolutely normal. There is no right speed for crafting a book.

Do you know what every book has in common? It was finished.

Now, I don’t mean it’s perfect because there is no perfect book, but it is pushed as close as it can be before being allowed to fly on its own. Art is all about striving for that impossibility, for making the story match the pictures you have in your head, but it will never completely match up, and that’s okay. As long as you can create a similar story in the heads of your readers, that’s the real win.

So to all those people working on a book slowly over time, or to those hopping from one partially finished manuscript to the next, remember that finishing it is the only real requirement. Even thirty minutes a day, or even a week, is all it takes.

You can finish it, I promise.