Samantha Arthurs

author, reviewer, here for a good time

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My Writing Process

This whiteboard rules my life.

For me the writing process begins with a simple idea or a thought that catches me off guard. Every now and then these ideas just come to me out of nowhere, completely unprompted and just right there at a moment’s notice. More often than not, however, something in the world around me triggers a story idea that I otherwise wouldn’t have come up with on my own. It can be something as simple as a place I have visited, other times it is brought on by a person or an emotion evoked from a situation. I’ve written several stories before, including two full length novels, after experiencing a sudden and devastating loss in my life. While I tend to write best (in my opinion) based off of actual experiences, I think I prefer those stories that just came on suddenly and take shape all on their own. They feel like things I’ve worked that little bit harder for, if that makes any sense at all.

It’s everything that comes after the initial idea that requires all the work and effort. I used to try and be the type of writer who gets an idea, sits down, and just starts writing without anything to go on. After a while though my story would be all over the place with no real direction to lead the way, and that would result in frustration and a lot of unfinished pieces. It took me a couple of years to figure out that I’m just never going to be that kind of writer and that it’s okay. Everyone is different, and I just had to find a way of doing things that worked for me.

After I get that first glimpse of a story idea, I write it down. If I don’t write it down I’ll forget it promptly, which is what I absolutely don’t want to do. I keep two different notebooks with me at all times, and a pen on hand too. The smaller notebook is for “jotting”, which is just where I pen down the quick flashes of ideas, thoughts, or lines that help me piece together the puzzle. The larger notebook is for “plotting”, where I start to layout the stories bare bones and what steps I need to get to in order for it to be worthy of publication. It can be a little bit overwhelming when I first begin, but all those steps and details also keep me motivated to get to the end, which is what I’m always trying to do.

Once I have the basics down, I start the oftentimes grueling process of doing a layout for the story. It’s here that I start to create the characters and the location(s), because those are my preferred jumping-off point. I can’t put the characters into situations just yet, because I have to first know who they are. I think about the story I want to tell, what the context is, and go from there. I give them names, ages, places of birth, backstory information that might come in handy later, and what they look like in my head so I know who I’m writing about. Location is a huge thing for me too, I often shape the entire story around a central location, so getting to know the main setting is very important to me. It seems like a lot at the time, especially when I don’t know much of anything else about the story yet, but it’s what I need to get going.

From there I consider how long I want the story to be, or at least what my end goal is as far as word count goes. I don’t always reach the desired word count, and other times I exceed it (which is rare, I won’t even lie), but it’s another motivating factor for me. Once I kind of have any idea of the scope of what I’m trying to write I put together a layout of each chapter as a sort of guide to get me to the climax of the story. This takes a considerable amount of time usually, and if it’s a story that requires historical or accurate real-world context it can take even longer. This is also the point where I do my research on things that will be included in the story, and flesh out the characters and the place a little bit more. It is also almost a given that at some point in the story I will deviate some from the layout I created, by thinking of things I want to include or how I want to flesh out this plot point or that scene there. When that happens it’s perfectly okay, it doesn’t throw me off at all, I just have to watch myself and make sure I’m not straying too far from the storyline I want to convey.

I’m one of those people who can knock out the first draft fairly quickly if it’s a story that I’m totally immersed in. It’s the rest of it that gets me big time. I’m not a good self-editor, and I have a hard time picking up on my own flaws. I have friends who thankfully beta-read/edit/critique for me and me for them, so that works out pretty well. It’s just all the tedious stuff that comes with working a first draft into a properly good novel that gets me big time, but I try my best!

Everyone has a different writing process, and I think they’re all pretty fascinating! What’s your process like? Did you go through a lot of trial and error before figuring out what works best for you? Let me know!

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The One Where I Talk About Genres

As a writer I have found that it can be very easy to pigeonhole myself into one particular genre. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, most writers have one very specific area they excel at, but I never wanted to be like that. I’ve always wanted to be able to write all sorts of different stories, to put myself out there even if I don’t feel entirely comfortable. It’s hard though, I can admit that, to be able to pull that off with any sort of finesse. I admire those who are able to cross genre lines easily, and I wish very much to be amongst their ranks.

My writing usually tends to lean towards young adult, which is fine because those are the books I prefer to read. I find that young adult books are more honest and raw than a lot of “adult” novels tend to be, and anyway I like what I like so what can you do? I also tend to write things that are, at best, mildly depressing and not quite romantic but riding a very fine line in that direction.

I have always been interested though in trying to write horror novels, since those are also books I very much love to read. I became a constant reader of Stephen King at a very young age, and it just snowballed from there. I have recently come up with a few ideas for horror type novels, and I’m finishing the initial planning stages and starting to get into the realm of finally writing them.

It is honestly pretty scary.

The act of writing them, I mean. The scare factor of the future books is yet to be seen.

I first attempted to write a horror novel during NaNoWriMo a few years ago, and gave up about midway through out of frustration. It wasn’t that the idea wasn’t there, it was just that I couldn’t seem to get it come out to my satisfaction. I also went in blind without much to go on, which was a huge mistake on my part.

I have since learned from that mistake, believe me. I’m more interested these days in fleshing out an outline for the story to follow, where I put my ideas into a sequence by chapter and therefore have something to work from. I find I do better that way rather than flying blind, though things are subject to change with my varying whims. It’s still better than nothing, and I’m much more productive in that regard.

I just hope that my outlining needs and my desire to write something out of my “norm” works out for me at least marginally. I don’t want to contain my creativity in a box it can’t escape from, though I do like the things I have written as of late. I want to branch out, to see what I am capable of. If it doesn’t work out, well, that is okay too. I at least know then, and I don’t have to keep wondering what I might have done.

Do you guys ever feel like that? Like you’ve trapped yourself in a box you can’t get out of? Have you broken the cycle? Did it work out for you?

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NaNoWriMo: An Update

So…I actually finished the required 50K words for NaNoWriMo on November 7th this year! Iknow it seems like a lot, but I’ve actually done Nano faster than this before. One of my very first years I hit 50,000 words on the 6th of November, and then just kept right on going. It’s not often that I get into this great writing jags, though NaNoWriMo has been good to me in recent years. I’ve done some of my best writing during November, and I’m hoping that this current novel works out much the same.

Once I hit the 50k mark I slowed down a little bit and ease up the pace. I have to write a bunch of historical letters that go in the novel as well, and those will take more time. I just wanted to get the initial meat of the story taken care of so that I can focus more on the things that will take a lot more time. This novel will also require some extensive editing and probably quite a few re-writes as well, as it’s set in both past and present and requires some historical accuracy on my part.

If you’re doing NaNo this year how is it going for you? I love cheering on other writers, and you’re always welcome to be my NaNo buddy! 

November is such a crazy month in general, but even more so this year for some reason. There’s a novel to write, Thanksgiving to plan for, Christmas shopping to start, and a new Maggie Stiefvater book to read and review (which I already did). Not to mention on my end there are also vet appointments, car trouble, exhausting from daylight savings time, and just general life grievances.

I don’t want to adult anymore. Is it too late to get off this ride?

This post was intended to just mark my NaNo progress. Please forgive me!

One idea I have going right now is that if I finish working on the first draft of The Heart of War before the end of the month, then I might jump back into A Shark In Lola’s Pond. That story was just getting good when I decided to take a little breather/hiatus, so there’s no time like the present to get back into the thick of it. I guess we’ll see how this all shakes out!

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NaNoWriMo 2019 is here!

Day 1 kickoff write-in!

We are officially 4 days into National Novel Writing Month, though I have neglected to blog about it yet. That’s because I’ve been busy with writing! I’m currently creeping on up 20k, and is it’s just now past midnight I’m fresh into day four so that number will change very soon. This is my 14th NaNo, and so far the novels I’ve written during November have been published twice, with a third on the way.

NaNo has been admittedly good to me.

Instead of delving to deeply into my novel tonight, I wanted to post a q&a that I found on the NaNo boards. First though, let’s take a peek at the results to a “who do you write like” quiz:

I am inclined to believe that this is fake news.

What was one of the darkest moments in your writing life? It actually happened fairly recently. I’m no stranger to rejection, having submitted two different novels at two different times to a whole host of publishers and agents. Rejection itself doesn’t bother me, my skin is too thick for that, but this past year I had a publisher string me along and then ditch me and it felt awful. I had actually submitted my latest novel to them for consideration, and while I won’t name the publishing house here, suffice to say that they’re a pretty big distributor of young adult romance type fiction so I was very excited when they wanted more time to look over my novel. Weeks went by, the holidays came and went, and I finally reached out to them. They told me they still needed a little bit more time, and I gave it to them. More time slipped away, weeks again, and I contacted them yet again. They told me they would reach a decision soon.

Ultimately out of the blue one day, after a few months of back and forth, they send me the rejection letter. Like I said the rejection didn’t sting, but their waste of my time and getting my hopes up did hurt. Quite a lot, actually, and to make matters worse they then critiqued my story and told me what they didn’t like. It’s a young adult novel with a little bit of romance, but mostly it focuses on one of the MC’s depression and how he struggles hard to try and overcome it. They told me, more or less, that it was just too heavy and I should use the secondary characters more to lighten the mood and add some more fluffy aspects to it. That is not the novel I wrote, that is not the message I was trying to convey, and finally I decided to scrap traditional publishing and just publish the novel myself. While it worked out for me in the end, I really took a hit from the experience. I also knew at that point that I have to write what makes me happy, what stories I feel I need to tell, and that I can’t and won’t compromise my ideas for anyone else even though they would have taken a resubmission and, likely, published it in the traditional way.

What do you feel that you struggle with now, as a writer? I struggle with editing, and I always have. I’m just not good at it, and I dread doing it. It’s not that I don’t want to re-read my own stories, I do, but I have a hard time seeing what needs to be changed and whatnot in my own writing. Spelling errors and all that I’m fine with, but being able to see my writing from a new perspective enough to “kill my darlings” is just…hard. It’s the worst part of the whole process for me by far.

What would you say to someone who hates their own work? We’ve all been there, and you have to eventually let it be. If you love to write, then that is what matters, and as long as the act of doing it makes you happy then you have to shake off the rest. I always second guess my own writing, I never feel especially confident, but at some point I realized that I love doing this and that if I want to keep doing it I have to not be so self-deprecating. I had a pep talk with myself, and I decided that if I like what I’m doing then it’s okay to enjoy it and feel good about it. It’s easier said than done, by far, but just try your best to believe in yourself because you’re happy and fulfilled and to hell with the rest of it.

What do you wish someone told you, before you began to actively pursue writing? I wish that I had known that I never had to measure up to anybody else, but for a long time I tried to do just that. It took years of writing in different mediums to realize that I don’t have to be like this person or that person, or write as much as someone else, or in the same style as someone else. I had to develop my own way of doing things, find my own inner voice, and I never really knew that was an option for a long time. Part of that stems from just having a competitive nature, I always want to be on par with everyone at least, but you can’t do that. Once I let that train of thought go I was able to be a better writer, since I was only trying to please myself and not anybody else. I think everybody needs to know that you aren’t alone, and you can engage and interact with other like-minded writer types, but you don’t have to put yourself up against them. We can all coexist in the writing world without feeling like we’re being inadequate if we don’t do x, y, and z.

What do you do when you feel “blocked”, or “unmotivated” about writing? I simply take a break. If I’m feeling stuck, or if I’m at a point where I’m feeling a little bit burnt out, I stop for a while. Sometimes it’s a few days, sometimes it’s weeks. I don’t like to force myself, because that’s when my writing starts to lag and when I start to feel down on myself about it. I would rather take a break when I truly need one and produce better work when I’m feeling motivated again than to force my own hand and come out with a heap of rubbish.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve received, that never fails to motivate you? Someone out there needs your story. Whenever I’m writing something, I tell myself that if I can just finish this and turn it into a real book, that it may help someone out there in the world somehow. Maybe it just makes their day better because they enjoy the story, or maybe there’s a plot element that they can identify with that helps them in some way or another. Books and words have changed my life many times over, and if I can just give one person out there that same feeling then it’s all worth it. I want to write the book that someone needs at that moment in their own life, and it makes me feel better to think about that and it definitely pushes me forward.

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The Life List Item 25: Visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

This has been on my Life List since the park was first announced 9 years ago. I knew that this was a place I had to eventually see, something I needed to experience, and this year I finally made that happen. Before I delve into the experience itself though, we have to first explore a bit of backstory so hang with me! It’ll be worth it, I promise!

I discovered Harry Potter in high school, after the publication of book two but before book three came along. I fell in love with those books and everything about them, from the settings to the characters. It just all spoke to something inside of me as a fantasy lover, and I found myself absolutely engrossed in Harry Potter and his world. Some of my other high school friends were into it too, so we’d talk about them, go to book release parties, and collect HP related goodies. It was a time in my life too when I needed a crutch thanks to my grandfather passing away, and JK Rowling provided that for me without even knowing it.

Flash forward a bit to college, where my love of Harry Potter reached new heights. I started to roleplay and write fanfiction about the HP-verse, and I met a lot of great people. Eventually, as time went on, I would meet two of my now closest friends, Mandi and Shell, who also loved Harry Potter and were likewise writers in the same universe. This was how we met and bonded, over a strong love of Harry Potter, and that is how we became so close. Without Harry and JK Rowling I wouldn’t have gotten so close to them, we wouldn’t have had such a huge thing in common, and we may not have stayed friends.

Harry Potter has given me so, so much. Which may sound strange to some, but it’s nonetheless true. Without Harry Potter, who knows where I would be?

So when the time came to figure out our vacation plans this year, the idea of going to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter was brought up and it just sort of took off on its own. We wanted to see Hogwarts, experience Diagon Alley, put ourselves right into this world we loved so much. So we booked tickets for Universal Studios and Disney World, and then had to wait about eight months. Then, suddenly, it was September and we were really going!

I’ll save you all the details of the drive down and whatnot, and get right to the good stuff. We had made matching Hogwarts Alumni t-shirts with our house names on the back, the four of us (my sister came along too) each representing a different Hogwarts house. I’m a Gryffindor for those keeping track at home! We decided to start at Islands of Adventure and then take the Hogwarts Express over to Universal Studios, since we were also doing HHN and this logistically just made the most sense. So the very first thing we saw as we got deep into the park from a distance was Hogwarts, and I think my heart stopped from joy at just seeing it!

The tears didn’t begin until we actually stepped into Hogsmeade and there was Hogwarts, looming large and looking so real right in front of us. That was the moment we all teared up, because we were actually there! After 20 years of books, friendship, storytelling, and memories we were finally at a place that represented who we were as friends and people, and it was breathtaking. I know it’s just an amusement park, but it felt like so much more than that! It felt like fate finally being justified, and finally acknowledging that this was something that had brought us, and kept us, together.

Needless to say after that we hit the ground running! I picked the end of September to visit the parks because supposedly it’s the off season, and I picked well! The ride wait times lingered at about 20 minutes, so we were able to get on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey right away. We were even more in awe as we walked through the line that snakes through Hogwarts, admiring classrooms, talking portraits, and “snow” falling from the ceiling. The ride itself was so good, and it felt like we were really inside one of the books or movies! We then got on the Buckbeak coaster, which is small but still a lot of fun!

We drank butter beer and peered into shops before we caught the Hogwarts Express, which is also fantastically done! I mean it was just so nice, and it felt like really being on the train to Hogwarts. From there we made our way into Diagon Alley where we enjoyed good food at The Leaky Cauldron. We did a little more shopping and more riding, deciding to buy our souvenirs during our return trip the next day.

We were highly entertained by Stan outside The Knight Bus, which is also super cool looking, and I had a major fangirl moment over 12 Grimmauld Place because Sirius Black is my #1 favorite character in the series. Seeing Kreacher in the window was so cool! I ate pumpkin pasties, drank a tongue tying lemon squash, and bought myself something nice to sit on my bookshelf with my ever glowing collection of Harry Potter books. I just let myself be a kid again, enjoying this thing that I loved so much, and let me tell you that it was totally worth it.

If you’re a fan of Harry Potter, or are just interested in seeing something cool, I highly recommend you go if you haven’t before. You won’t regret it, not for a second. My sister has seen all the movies but she isn’t a real fan of HP and even she had a really good time there. Just make sure to go at a time of year when the crowds aren’t super excessive, or you’ll find yourself spending the whole day waiting around in lines. Other than that though, there is no downside whatsoever!

Life List Item: Complete

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National Novel Writing Month 2019

It’s late October, which means we are just a little over a week away from November 1st and the start of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) 2019. I know that NaNo is a bit of a controversial topic at times among writers, so I’ll just make my stance perfectly clear right now: I love NaNo, and nothing and no one will change my mind about that fact. I mean I do understand why some people don’t like it and don’t participate, to a point anyway, but I’m definitely pro novel writing month and I think that people who want to participate should do so with gusto.

I started participating in NaNo in 2005, and the only year I’ve skipped out of fourteen was 2008. Some projects have been really good and I’ve polished them up after the fact, while others were total failures that I never even finished. My attempts have been more prolific in recent years, as my two currently published books and one that is in editing to be published this winter were all written during the month of November. The deadline is a big motivating factor for me, as is working with groups of writers toward a common goal. I see nothing at all wrong with strong motivation if it leads to a good finished product.

I wrote the first draft of Endless Numbered Days during NaNoWriMo 2009. The book didn’t get published for several years, and I spent that in between time writing other works and editing the novel. A Crooked Mile was written for NaNoWriMo 2017 and its sequel, A Different Shade of Blue, was written last year in 2018. I consider A Crooked Mile and Blue to be two of the best things I’ve written, a lofty comment coming from a very self-deprecating author. There are even novels I started during NaNo that I have just recently completed or have on reserve to complete in the coming months. I just recently finished Bookish, which started as a full length NaNo novel in 2012, and I just redid the outline and research for The House At the End of the Lane, which I started in November of 2014.

There is just something inspiring about writing an entire novel in the month of November, and knowing that people all across the globe are doing the same thing. A lot of folks who turn up for the event only write in November, setting aside that particular month to make their writing dreams come true. Others, like myself, write all year round but use November for an additional push to get something together even if it is just a very rough first draft. It’s more than just putting words down too, it’s an entire community of like minded people who can share their thoughts, frustrations, words of wisdom, triumphs, and failures. That, I think, is what makes it such an extraordinary thing. It lets you know that you aren’t alone, and that there are so many others out there just like you who are going through the same thing.

I’ve already started researching my novel for this November, and I have the layout all ready and waiting for me to dive in. I’m excited for write-ins and word sprints with my friends, and meeting new people on the NaNo message boards. I can’t wait to see how my novel this year takes shape, and if I’ll struggle more than in recent years. It’s a novel based in both the past and the present, so I think the history chapters will slow me down a bit more than I’m used to. I’m excited for the challenge though, and I’m just excited to get to do it again this year.

No matter how you feel about NaNoWriMo, for a lot of us it’s an exercise in how far we can push ourselves as writers. For all of you participating this year, I wish you the best of luck! Don’t get down if you find yourself falling behind, and don’t beat yourself up if you don’t finish in 30 days. The important thing is to get your ideas in motion, to start working on the story you want to write. If any of you wish to friend me on nanowrimo.org my username is Sammah, and I’d love to be buddies with you to help cheer you on!

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The Life List Item 80: Attend Halloween Horror Nights

As a horror fan, going to Halloween Horror Nights is something I have always wanted to do. I grew up with scary movies and television shows, staying up late on weekends to watch Tales from the Crypt and Monsters on the SciFi Channel. I was reading Stephen Kings from far too young of an age, and thought there was nothing better in the world than a good scare. I also love a good haunted house, and so the massive event that is HHN had always appealed to me, I had just never really gotten around to going.

That all changed this year.

We went down to Florida for vacation, primarily to visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but I know a good opportunity when I see one. After a lot of waffling we finally bought tickets for Horror Nights while there was a deal going on where you bought one night and got a second night free. Perfect! From the minute we bought the tickets I dug into my research for the event, watching videos of past houses and waiting eagerly for Universal to announce all the houses (mazes) and scare zones for the year. Let me tell you, I was not disappointed!

Because we were visitors already at the park who held a ticket for the event, we got to do something called Stay and Scream. Basically that just means if you’re already in the park and have the ticket for Horror Nights, you never have to leave. This allows you to line up right away, and typically they let you in about 15 minutes early or so before the regular crowd filters in. It was really nice to get to just hang around and not have to go in and out, and it was also cool because we got to see them setting up some of the bigger props (like cars) in the scare zones. Mostly though this allowed us to knock out two of the biggest houses (Stranger Things and Ghostbusters) right out of the gate so we didn’t have to wait in those lines once the general public was allowed in.

I had booked this vacation at a very specific time of year because it’s considered the off-season and the crowds are minimal. This turned out to be true, and it worked in our favor immensely. We were able to ride all the rides we wanted during the day because the wait times were so low, and it even allowed us to get in a couple of rides during HHN while also getting in all the houses that we wanted to see. It was great!

We manage to do seven of the ten houses, and we could have easily have done the remaining three had we wanted to. None of us had a real interested in the three remaining houses though, so we skipped them. Those were US (a movie none of us had seen, but that we knew the premise of and were not into it), Yeti: Terror of the Yukon, and Nightingale’s Blood Pit. We had thought about doing Yeti, but in the end decided pizza fries were more important. Can you blame us?

Allow me now to rank the houses we DID visit, though they were all great and this was an admittedly hard list to do.

  1. Killer Klowns From Outer Space: The night before our first round at HHN I made my friends watch this movie. I love it so much, but I knew the house might make less sense to someone who hadn’t seen this campy classic. Shell had seen it years ago, but Mandi never had and so we watched it in our hotel room. I adore this cheesy 80’s gem, and being a fan just enriched the experience of this house. There were some good jump scares, but mostly we were laughing and having a good time. The boxing clown even broke character when I yelled out that he’s my favorite, and he came bouncing over to me with his gloves up. It was so fun! I also got to have my picture taken with some of the clowns on the second night we were there, and had a custom boxing clown shirt made. This house was my favorite of them all, though it wasn’t the scariest. My sentimental nature knows no boundaries!

2. Universal Monsters: This house was SO cool! It was a re-imagining of all the classic movie monsters we know and love, giving them a more terrifying and modern update to their looks that really enhanced the scare factor. This was one of the only houses that actually got me! I got scared by the Phantom of the Opera at the end when he came out from behind a black curtain that looked like nothing more than a dividing wall. The Wolf Man in this house was also SUPER crazy looking and just very, very well done. The costumes were excellent, and the overall experience was a good one.

3.  Ghostbusters: They did this house in honor of the 35th anniversary of the original film, and it delivered! All the scenes were taken straight from the movie, as were all the lines that the scare actors “spoke” during their scenes. While it wasn’t scary at all it was fun, and a really great house if you’re a fan of the OG movie like me. I think we all liked this one quite a lot, and it was one of the biggest houses of the year. The wait time was always an hour+, but because of stay and scream we got into the line before it really started and were able to get in and out fairly quickly.

4. Graveyard Games: This is a totally original house with a pretty cool premise to it. It’s about two teenager who are desecrating a cemetery, and how the spirits are fighting back. It was a beautiful house with lots of incredible sets, and the overall vibe was really there. The original houses are pretty cool because they can do what they want and get more creative, and I really appreciated that with this house.

5.  Stranger Things: Okay, so…it wasn’t that great. I mean I wasn’t as impressed as I had hoped for. I’m putting it at number five because I’m such a huge fan of the show, but in all honesty it should probably be at the back of the pack. Sorry, Stranger Things, but you just weren’t all that great. This year they combined seasons two and three, and while they had a ton of great moments to work with they just sort of dropped the ball and picked the safer, more bland scenes. Which maybe that was for a reason (monetary perhaps?) but there was so much more they could have done.

6.  Depths of Fear: Another original house with a pretty cool concept! In this one a research submarine has been taken over by these weird sea creatures, and it gives the illusion that you’re trapped under water. There were some cool moments in this house, specifically toward the end, and they again did a great job with the costumes and the scenery!

7.  House of 1,000 Corpses: This house was not bad at all, but was rather small. I’m not a fan of Rob Zombie’s movies, but Mandi is and so I went along with her while the others sat it out. The line to get in moved fast though, and it did have a nice visual appeal outside to get you amped up for the interior. I never actually finished watching this movie, I didn’t like it at all, but the house itself was pretty cool looking inside. Visually it gave me enough that I was able to be entertained, and it went scene by scene through the movie (or at least that’s what my friend the fan told me). So while it ranks here at number seven, know that it’s just because I’m not a fan and had no idea what was good and what wasn’t!

The scare zones were all great, except for Vanity Ball which just didn’t do it for me. The pizza fries were good, and so was all the merchandise available. It was hard not to spend all my money here, believe me!

Now that I’ve been I know I’ll go back again and again. We’re already talking about next time we go and where we want to stay and everything. That’s how you know it was a good time!

Life List Item: Complete

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Beware the Autumn People…

…and I am definitely an autumn person, through and through. I’m also a very well read person, especially when it comes to horror. This time of year is when I really shine, my personality more or less doesn’t full come to maturation until September, and that is also when people start to ask me about my fall/October/Halloween book recommendations. I also get asked about movies, but for the sake of my sanity and yours, let us stick with books.

I’ve compiled here some of my favorite Halloween/horror/spooky books for anyone who is looking for some recommendations and doesn’t know where to start. Keep in mind these are personal favorites, so any and all opinions are my own and you are not obligated to believe me in at all. I’m just out here trying to help, like a spooky avenger. I’ll break the list down a little for those who have particular tastes, in hopes of making life easier for all. Let’s get this started!

Just out here, living my best Halloween life…

Haunted House Novels

Haunted House stories are by and large some of the most popular of the genre. There is just something creepy about being trapped inside a home, or any sort of secluded home-type place, with something unknown and/or supernatural. It feels like a fitting place to being. My recommendations are:

  • The Shining by Stephen King: A classic, and a book that should not be missed! It’s the best of the best of King for me, and it’s a good jumping off point for horror lovers and those who may want to start reading King.
  • The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson: This is not my favorite Jackson book, but it’s still good! It’s a classic, a staple of the genre, and you’re hurting nobody but yourself by skipping it!
  • The Turn of the Screw by Henry James: A short story that will have you questioning yourself as much as governess in the story. Is the house haunted? Is she crazy? The only way to reach your own conclusion is by reading it (and don’t just wait for the movie).
  • Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill: Sometimes in a story, the person who lives in the place is responsible for what’s happening inside of it. Thus is the case with this novel, which gave me a few good chills the first time I read it.

Other Paranormal Novels

You can’t really lump all paranormal type novels around the haunted house trope. Some are bigger than that, too different, and rooted out in the wilds of the world. Is there anything creepier than being alone in the woods? Yes. Being alone in the woods at night. I’m just sayin’….

  • The Ritual by Adam Nevill: When I read this book, it gave me the ever loving creeps. I mean I was having some serious chills, it was fantastic! This book won’t be for everybody, but I promise that at least the first half is bound to get you in the mood for all things spook.
  • IT by Stephen King: I couldn’t make a list without this book landing somewhere. It’s another classic by the master, and it takes some serious dedication to get through. It’s over a thousand pages, but it’s worth it, I swear!
  • Pet Sematary by Stephen King: I’m a King fangirl, could you tell? This is another oldie but goodie that is guarantee to make you squirm. It isn’t just the premise of the book either, but the way King weaves the story here. Loss, love, family bonds, childhood fears, this book really has all of it and then some.
  • The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty: I’m going to assume that this one doesn’t need an explanation.

Real People Doing Bad Things

Serial killers, unsuspecting victims, real world situations. Is there anything worse than the stuff we see on the news? Some of these books are based on real events, some are entirely fictional. All are creepy because of what they represent (the worst of humanity).

  • The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum: Don’t read this if you’re easily disturbed, and I mean that. This book is based on a real crime, and a lot of the details are true to what happened in reality. It’s incredibly graphic and horrific, and if it doesn’t upset you then something is very wrong.
  • A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay: This book blew me away the first time I read it! You can’t really figure out what is going on, if she’s telling the truth or not, but it’s pretty messed up no matter what side of the coin you land on.

Supernatural Creatures

Creature features don’t scare me, but I do love these novels anyway! They’re fun, kitschy, and sometimes just weird enough to win me over big time.

  • Interview With the Vampire by Anne Rice: If you’re going to read a vampire novel, make it this one. It’s the best of the best, the top tier, nothing will ever be better. Forget sparkly teens and just go right for Louis and Lestat and spare yourself.
  • Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry: This book is the first in a series, but I’m a person who doesn’t normally get into zombie novels (I do like graphic novels though) so if I put it on here you know it’s pretty good. Also if you love it, there are more and the series as a whole isA+!
  • Dog Days by Joe McKinney: Is a werewolf? Is he just crazy? I never quite decided by the end, but I do know I loved reading about it!
  • Suffer the Children by Craig DiLouie: This one was really great, and I put it here because I don’t know how else to describe it. Kind of like zombies, but not so it was better. Just trust me!

No Spooks Here

If you want to get into the spirit of things, but don’t really like to be scared, these are books that fit the genre but that aren’t scare at all. They’re just good, fun reads with a bit of tension and all the other best stuff.

  • Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon: This man is a brilliant writer, and this book is one of his best. It will fill you up with nostalgia and surprise, and if you’re like me you won’t be able to put it down.
  • Bird Box by Josh Malerman: I think everyone saw this movie on Netflix, but that film does NOT do justice to the book. Not even close.
  • Anything at all by Edgar Allan Poe: The man can do no wrong, and provides the best spooks that aren’t spooky!
  • The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving: You can’t go wrong with this story, ever. If you haven’t read it, shame on you so get to it!

For The Kids (or the adults who like those books as much as I do)

We don’t discriminate here based on age (or anything else). These are books I love as an adult human, that I also loved as a kid. So read them with your kids, or by yourself! It works no matter what!

  • The Halloween Tree & Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury: His books are timeless classics, and I love them just as much now as I did when I was a kid. Trust me, you can’t go wrong.
  • Scary Stories To Tell in The Dark by Alvin Schwartz illustrated by Stephen Gammell volumes 1-3: These. Are. The. Best. These compilations of short stories, poems, and truly horrifying pictures still enthrall me as a grown up human being. Share them with your kids, pronto!
  • In A Dark, Dark Room by Alvin Schwartz: If the Scary Stories books are too much for your littles, start here! They’re for younger kids, and are more tame.
  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman: A really, really great story written for middle school aged kids. I read it as an adult (it…you know…came OUT when I was an adult) and still loved it!

I’m going to stop there, at the risk of overloading you. Let me know if you read any of them, or share your favorite horror novels with me too!

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The Word Count Problem

Does anyone else struggle sometimes with word count? Or do you not consider word count at all on your initial draft of a novel?

For me it can be a bit of a problem, which is the absolute worst. When I’m in the planning stages for a new novel one of the first things I do is consider the type of story I’m trying to tell and then set a preemptive word count. This is usually between 60-70k words depending on the genre, though I’m generally satisfied with where I’m going once I hit 50k. I guess it’s conditioned in me to try and hit the 50 mark because of all my years spent doing NaNoWriMo, and I know that if I get that far I can add between 5k-10k in editing as I fix scenes or add in things that I think are detrimental to the story.

Lately though I seem to be struggling with my word count, and it’s driving me a bit loopy. The novel I’m currently working on the most is in its final chapter of the first draft, and I’m about 4k below 50,000 words at the moment. I’m doing everything I can to make myself drag it to that finish line at minimum, but I’m not sure I’m going to make it. I had set an original word count at about 60k, so I’m falling WAY short of where I wanted to be on the first draft. It’s a sinking sort of feeling, and it’s really making me second guess what I’m doing here. This book is the fourth, and final, in a series and I’m starting to wonder if it was necessary or not. Am I struggling to get there because the story isn’t one that really needed telling? Am I just not feeling this character in this new setting? I have so many questions, and I hate doubting myself on top of everything else.

As the storyteller I thought it was necessary to wrap up her story, to give her and the people who enjoy reading about her real closure. I wanted to show her struggles now that she’s an adult out in the world on her own, and how she’s coming to terms with finding who she is. But perhaps she was best left behind as the teenage girl she was in the first novel. It’s hard for me to come to grips with that, believe me.

I’ve hit the word count wall before though, it isn’t a new thing. I’ve just never been quite unable to reach where I want to be for that first draft. Rag & Bone hasn’t hit the high count I have set for it either, but that’s because I haven’t edited it yet either. I realize that not all novels are going to be the same length either, that some books just have more to say than others, but I want to at least give them enough depth and bulk to make it worth the readers time and money.

Maybe I’m just overreacting too. That is entirely possible. My anxiety is singing loud and proud lately, and it does often impact what I’m doing and how I’m working.

So let me know what you guys think! Do you struggle with word count? Do you set goals for yourself or do you just write until the draft is finished and then worry about things like word count as you work on your second, third, and fourth drafts? I’m curious to know if anybody else feels this way on the regular or if it’s really just me.

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August Wrap-Up

I can’t believe that August is over! That is so crazy! I wanted to do a wrap up post for the month, just to cover what I consider to be my successes and my failures. I feel it helps me to write those things down, and to understand what adjustments I need to make in my writing schedule.

I always start each and every month with a spreadsheet that lays out what I want to accomplish, as I’ve posted here before. I have word count goals for each novel I’m working on, as well as a bunch of editing goals for things I’ve already finished. As per my usual, however, things eventually went off the rails when I became hyper focused on just one project. That being said this tunnel vision of mine allowed me to complete a very rough first draft of Then She Grew Up (title change to be announced soon), which was really nice. That’s one more thing off the list, so check on that!

I also completed a full read-through of Before That Winter, which I hadn’t done since I wrote the first draft. I want to get it all into one new document to see if my word count changed at all, and then I’ll hopefully start on a second draft which is going to be much more in-depth. Also on the horizon is printing out a copy of A Different Shade of Blue so I can do hardline editing that way. I always do better at catching mistakes if I have a printed copy, that’s for sure. Once I’ve done that I’ll hopefully have the edits in from my great editors, and can start the process of final drafting it!

All in all I consider August to be a success as far as writing and editing go. Did I accomplish everything on my spreadsheet? Absolutely not, but I made a lot of headway and I’m not going to shirk that. Editing is my least favorite part of the writing process, it’s so difficult for me to edit myself and to go through everything with a fine tooth comb, so even a good read-through and picking out small errors in a total document is a win I will gladly accept.

September-October are going to be more difficult months, however. I’m going on vacation at the very end of September, which means I’ll be stagnant for a full week. The following week I’ll have company, but I’ll be back at work where I can hopefully get in some writing. In October then I have a slight break for a couple of weeks and then I have more company coming in. We’ll be hosting a huge Halloween party and getting that ready the week of, but then comes NaNoWriMo which excites me! Last year we did a fun write-in on November first, and we really got in a good count. I’m hoping to do that again this year, especially if I have all my research completed for the project I’m saving for it.

My main goal right now is to get A Different Shade of Blue out before the end of the year. In December it will be nine months since I published A Crooked Mile, and I want to get the second book out while people are still thinking about it. I have no slated release dates yet for the other two books in the series, especially considering I just finished the fourth and last. I have some other books completed too that I would like to release, and one of them requires illustrations so it’s slow going.

I think that about does it for this post though! Did you guys have a successful month of writing? Did you read anything good? Let me know!

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