How to “Win” National Novel Writing Month

It has occurred to me that anytime I wrote a post about National Novel Writing Month (here and here…and here) in the past, I always used the acronym-ish title, which may have alienated anyone who didn’t know what NaNoWriMo was offhand. My apologies.

So…..about this crazy month, I’m kind of dying. Eerily enough, upon rereading my old posts regarding NaNoWriMo, I see that around this point in the month, almost to the day, was when I gave up the first year I did it. November 16th, you insidious beast.

Some writers say they don’t have time to write 50,000 words in a month, and maybe they really don’t. But if I’m being honest with myself, I do have the time. I have little snippets of time throughout my day, like if I choose to get up before getting ready for work at 5 or 6 AM. Doable, sure. But I like my warm, cozy bed more. Or maybe in that 1-4 hours after we put my daughters to bed at 8:30ish before I myself crash face-first, butt in the air into my padded room own bed. And I try, folks. I really freaking try. But it seems like some invisible force constantly stands in my way, preventing me from getting my fingers to the keyboard, or even more twisted, letting me get there and then laughing over my shoulder, making me wonder why I’m even doing this. And then the fear creates the writer’s block, and then you’re one of those a-holes calling yourself a writer but you don’t even write anymore, and then suddenly, flash forward to twenty years from now, and you’re wearing an A-shirt stained with Chef Boyardee and shaking your fist at the skies as you consume Stephen King’s 277th best-selling novel. I’m sure you feel the same. So here are some coping mechanisms I have been using this month to get by:

  • Let’s get the most obvious one out of the way: Don’t write a blog post in the middle of NaNoWriMo.
  • If you’ve consumed far too much coffee and it’s giving you jitters, tension, and higher stress levels, then you’re on the right track. Keep going. Just kidding, switch to green tea, yo. It lubricates your brain folds and helps you focus.
  • Reignite the fire. Were you excited about your novel before the month started and now you just feel like it’s work to get those words in? Find a cool pic for the cover, make a playlist to listen to while writing, fangirl on your shit, so that you’re excited again. Maybe even hold off on rewarding yourself with those things until you get your 1,667 words for the day. Reward yourself with some of the cool little badges NaNoWriMo.org offers.

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  • When you get to the point of holy-shit-I’m-10,000-words behind, it’s time to utilize that crafty little tool on your NaNo Stats sidebar at the bottom: Words Per Day to Finish on Time and reconfigure some things.

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In my case, I skipped five days. So, as you can see, my stats isn’t so great.

  • And finally, NEVER let yourself give up. I fought with this a lot this month. This is the first year I’ve attempted to do NaNo since becoming a mom, and I’ve got to admit, it is hard. But if you WANT it you have to WORK for it. You can’t give up. Even if you don’t “win” NaNoWriMO and achieve the 50K words you set out to do at the beginning of the month, you still end up with more words than you would have achieved this month for pushing yourself. So…hell yeah!

Have any preferred coping mechanisms with the obstacles in the way of what you want? We could use all the help we can get here, so please, share…

(P.S. Does this count toward my words for today?)

Posted in Writing | 7 Comments

10 Halloween Indulgences

This day is all about the mood. To set the mood, here are 10 spooky reads and movies for your Halloween enjoyment.

7 Spooky Reads

Classic Gothic

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

If you take your horror with a side of obsession and romance, then this powerful novel is for you. Whether you see vampires or just madness, this book has some dark and truly unsettling parts.

Contemporary Gothic

The Night Swimmer by Matt Bondurant

I listened to this book on audio, discomforted by the eerie setting and tone the whole way through. With its folk lore and Irish gangs, Bondurant firmly places you in a literary landscape you want to stay in forever and escape in equal measures.

Horror

Within These Walls by Ania Ahlborn

I read this book as a comparison to one of my own novels, and it was everything I hoped it would be. It is full of cults, ghosts, possession, and desperate measures.

Bird Box by Josh Malerman

The second most terrifying book I have ever read (after House of Leaves). I guarantee you have never read–nay! experienced anything like this!

Literary Horror

Night Film by Marisha Pessl

This is a good book for people who like mystery, thrillers, film, and of course, horror. Not to mention, the antagonist is very intriguing.

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Grim, gruesome, and gritty. I loved Camille’s tone. I loved the tone of the entire book. Such a satisfying mystery shot with horror and an ending that’s sure to make you reel.

Quirky Horror

My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix

This book was unique, and it really made me squirm in terror at times. I remain ambivalent about the end, but if you like horror and the 80s were part and parcel to your childhood, this is definitely worth a read.

3 Spooky Movies

The Witch (2015)

One of the best horror movies I’ve ever seen, subjectively speaking. Obviously, I want to be scared when I watch horror, and this one digs under you skin.

Goodnight, Mommy (2014)

A highly uncomfortable–but satisfying–foray beautiful cinematography, boyish adventure, and M. Night Shyamalan-ish twists.

The Descent (2005)

I can’t believe I’d never watched this until recently. It’s psychological and creature horror wrapped up in one edge-of-your-seat horror.

 

As a bonus, if you’re looking for a quick horror fix, check out my flash horror story, “The Wake”, which just came out, or my horror poem “The Insolubility of Nightmares”–my first published work from October three years ago.

Have you already seen these movies or read these books? What did you think (no spoilers, of course)? What horror novels or movies are you indulging in on this All Hallow’s Eve? 

Posted in Book Reviews/Critiques, Reading, Reviews and Recommendations | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Wake

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Image Source: southernghosts.tumblr.com

My flash horror story, “The Wake”, is out today in Jamais Vu, a Post Mortem Press newsletter. It appears alongside an interesting bit of history behind Mozart’s Concerto in C minor number 24,  some fun Halloween poems, and a tense labyrinthine story that seems to take place in an M.C. Escher drawing. I had the pleasure of encountering Post Mortem Press at the World Horror Convention last year, and I am ecstatic to be included in their revamped monthly newsletter. You can sign up to receive it by email here.

This story is a special one to me, as it is based on one of the outrageous stories my Grandma was always telling me. Have fun trying to decipher the fact from the fiction. I’d love to hear your thoughts on it. Click here to read “The Wake”.

Happy Halloween, Everyone!

Posted in Writing | 5 Comments

The Importance of Self Care

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“Sit and Enjoy” by Marc Benslahdine

This was a pretty large section in my Baby’s First Year book when we brought the girls home from the hospital. It’s so easy to put yourself on the back-burner in those simultaneously  manic and foggy first days and weeks. Funny thing is, self care isn’t really something you pay much attention to until you are no longer the center of your own world. Even now that the babes have grown a little, and we’re getting more than one hour of sleep a night, day-to-day life and trying to balance the demands of work and family has a similar effect on self care as two newborns did. As in, self-care is often relocated to the back-burner…again.

I have had neck tension and pain for the better part of the last two years. This morning, my alarm went off at six so I could go to the gym before work. I did what I often always do and turned off my alarm and tried to fall back asleep, but because I went to bed so early the night before, I really had no excuse. I got myself up and walked to the gym in the cool morning, while listening to Troye Sivan (like a more pop-y, romantic, less straight The Weeknd), and it felt good. As I let Sivan’s lyrics inspire me for my WIP and pushed my muscles, I actually felt the tension receding from my neck and shoulders.

Earlier in the week, desperate for something to relieve the pain, I set up a chiropractic appointment. I have horrible posture, and I work a desk job, so I am screwed at every turn with regards to my back. The thing is, I haven’t been to any doctor, chiropractor, dentist, or optometrist appointments since before I got pregnant. And after having my daughters–well, everyone who is a parent out there knows–I kind of lost myself in the first months. And whether you have children or a lot on your plate, in general, you have to reclaim yourself. Going to the doctor is damned important. If you have a tooth bothering you, or you think your glasses a may not be the right prescription anymore, by God, get thee to the ‘ist doctor, go!  You’re the only one there to take care of you, the only one who can know what you need and when you need it. Taking half an hour to go visit the chiropractor and an hour before I got ready for work to hit the gym reminded me of the importance of self care.

Maybe you don’t work out. Maybe that’s not how you relieve stress. Instead, take a ten minute walk or ten minutes to sit on your porch and read a book or ten minutes to go into your bedroom and unwind with some deep breathing. Just the fact that you’re claiming that moment for yourself could be all you need.

I am also learning that self care includes being good to yourself in your thoughts. You cannot constantly cut yourself down and expect to feel good  as a result. If there’s something you’ve been meaning to do or achieve, don’t belittle yourself for not getting it done. Instead, enjoy whatever you’re doing instead and make time to do the other thing. Take action rather than slinging internal verbal abuse at yourself. If you’re like me, you might have to constantly, consciously remind yourself to do this.

I know what you’re all wondering. Is the neck tension gone? I have one-year-old twins and I field complaints for eight hours a day at my job. What do you think? 😉

What are some of the ways you’ve slacked off on self-care? What have you done or can you do to take care of yourself?

 

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Stranger Things

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If you haven’t started streaming Stranger Things, you need to. Like, now. Still not convinced by that epic promo art? Then allow me…

Fellow Children of the 80s, if you cannot watch the opening scenes and credit sequence without feeling it strike a cord in the deepest pit of your stomach, then you might have been in a coma for some of your childhood. This shows speaks in the language of our yesteryears through the set, the clothes, the homes, and the technology (rotary phones and Christmas lights…just wait). It speaks the language of Stephen King–even if you never read any King, you were familiar with that language, because the movie adaptations of his books were just as influential as the novels themselves. Stranger Things is also fluent in 80s cinema, and you may recognize a lot of images, themes, and motifs. If you aren’t into that stuff, that’s okay. Maybe you’re like me and will just recognize those familiar things in the back of your mind, even if you can’t put your finger on why you love it so much. The show is rife with echoes of E.T., Goonies, alien film staples such as Alien, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and They Live, and a score–let me gush about the score for a minute–that takes cue from John Carpenter, which makes a huge impact on the overall tone. Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein, a pair of relative unknowns, know their shit and they liberally apply that knowledge. As for the Duffer Brothers, the genius creators, they are familiar with all of the above sources and paying hefty homage.

I gotta be honest, I fall in love with movies all the time, but TV shows have to work a lot harder to capture my heart without reservation. It was only after consuming the first season that, in my awed state, I went on a search for what it was that had so endeared me to this Netflix gem. After stumbling around the interwebs, I realized it was nostalgia. A thick, goopy layer of nostalgia poured like honey over phenomenal casting, an engaging, expertly simple story line, and a heavy atmosphere with a self-aware and direct aim.

Who Stranger Things is for:

Everyone: People who love iconic sci-fi, horror, adolescent adventures; Stephen King fans; Goonies fans. The setting plays a huge role in the show, so those who grew up in that decade will find a special place in their hearts for ST.

Please don’t disregard this show because you don’t consider yourself a sci-fi/horror fan. Stranger Things steps outside of its genre(s) to deliver something truly unique. How does it do this? Well, let’s see…

Why Stranger Things is awesome:

PLOT

A great story with a tight plot. As my husband pointed out, there is not a single wasted scene in the eight episodes. The story is so good that even without dramatic cliffhangers–a cheap device to keep viewers watching–you must keep watching.

CHARACTERS

The show is often described as being about the disappearance of Will Byers in small town, Hawkins, Indiana. While that is certainly what drives the plot, it’s such a watered down description in light of the life-like, deftly crafted characters.

My favorite character arc is Chief Hopper’s. Jim Hopper is the unexpectedly observant Chief of Police in this small town where the worst thing that ever happened “was when an owl attacked Eleanor Gillespie because it thought her hair was a nest”. But there’s also the double-shift-working, end-of-her-rope mom, Joyce Byers (Wynona Ryder), who will do anything for her children, including let the entire town think she’s insane. #NoRegrets

Then, you have the healthy dose of adolescent drama, via newly-elevated-to-cool status Nancy, her “what exactly are your intentions, young man” cool guy boyfriend, and social outcast, everyone-probably-thinks-I’m-responsible-for-my-missing-little-brother, Jonathan. And we mustn’t leave out the mute-when-it’s-convenient little girl who loves Eggos and has awesome but also truly terrifying superhero abilities.

I bet you’re wondering why would I compare a show with these characters to the Goonies? Well, it’s because of the trio of D&D-playing, sneaking-out and rule-disobeying friends of the disappeared Will. They provide a lightness of boy wonder and comedy that offsets the heavier themes of the show. But don’t let their jokes and scuffles fool you. They are serious about getting their friend back.

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With this motley cast, see why Stranger Things is for everyone? I don’t want to say too much, because I don’t want to give anything away. But I will say that even when these characters make mistakes, you forgive them, and you may even love them more.

INFLUENCES 

The long line of cinematic lineage it takes inspiration from–how can you not appreciate something so broad in scope and beautifully executed? [Potential spoilers in that film reference list–watch the show first.] There’s also covert pop culture references like Silent Hill and Scarlet Johansson’s 2013 Under the Skin.

MULTI-GENRE

Stranger Things has a little bit of everything: humor, heart, sci-fi, adventure, horror, and, of course, romance.

I’ve been on a hunt since mainlining the show for similar shows, movies, books, anything. These two lists suggest what to read and stream after obsessively binge watching Stranger Things. Again, watch the show before perusing these lists lest you be spoil’t.

A Reading List for Everyone Who Is Now Obsessed with Stranger Things

What to Stream After You’re Done Watching Stranger Things

Have you seen Netflix’s latest masterpiece? Why do you love it? If you haven’t seen it, what are you waiting for?! Or I guess I should ask, what are you watching instead? o.O

 

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