Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Stories of the Week for August 28, 2013

I should have a new Author Interview to post early next week, as I sat down for a very fun chat recently with Claire C Riley, a lovely and talented writer from England. She's the author of the vampire novel, Limerence, as well as the author of the soon-to-be-released anthology, Life Ever After. She's also written Odium, a zombie novel, which will be released this October.

As for myself, I finally finished the first draft of my environmental horror story yesterday. Turns out, I was right near the end, and had already written most of the ending down in note form. I just had to write out a few sentences to join everything together and wrap it all up with a scary little bow.

And I'm happy to say I've managed to keep my 5 pages a day streak intact for the Middle Grade novel I'm working on, as well. I'm currently on page 79 and still trucking along.

I can't say much about it yet, but as a hint, here's one of the things I researched yesterday: 

There are some great pictures of the church here, and learning about places like this is one of the things that I like the most about doing research. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Cold Reception for New Young Adult Properties?

It's interesting and slightly surprising to see the rather chilly reception that Young Adult properties seem to be getting at the movie theaters lately. Is the bubble bursting? Was there ever a bubble to begin with?

Is it too much to expect for every YA property to rake in 70 mil in its opening weekend?  Well...Probably.

According to, the latest YA film, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, came in 3rd at the box office in its opening week, behind a movie in its second week of release (Lee Daniels' The Butler), as well as a movie in its third week of release (We're the Millers). The top movie of the weekend only took in 16.5 million. You might think that would be easy competition.

With how The Host underperformed (26 million domestic, according to Box Office Mojo), and how Beautiful Creatures did (only 19 million), it makes me wonder if studios will start to be a bit more gun shy about investing their money into YA adaptations.

The only successful YA films I can think of off the top of my head have been Twilight and The Hunger Games (I think Harry Potter and Percy Jackson were geared more toward the Middle Grade audience), though I'm probably forgetting a few.

Divergence is still coming up, and it will be interesting to see how that does.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Stories of the Week for August 21, 2013

The photo I chose for this week is a picture from a petting zoo. I think it's a calf, but it might as well be a puppy dog, since it's so adorable.

Anyway, on to the writing update. I've been completely monogamous with my writing this week, as one project has consumed most of my spare time.

I mentioned it a few weeks ago in a previous update. It's a Middle Grade book which sprung up from a twist on a concept in Neil Gaiman's Stardust, as well as with the issue of apartheid. Turns out, the story did change a lot from the original idea, as I ended up dropping the Stardust thing entirely (I'll probably use it for a future story, though, as I really like the twist I came up with on it). The apartheid idea is still in play, but in a scaled down form.

Last Wednesday, I was on page 2 of the book. Today, I'm on page 44. I'm not sure how fast most writers work, but for me, that's a heck of a lot of pages in one week.

The goal is 5 pages a day, which I've managed to stick to for now. I've also written up a full outline for the book, which I find helps keep my word count from getting too out of control, and also keeps me from running out of ideas later on.

I almost always have to write a couple of different outlines as I go, as concepts evolve and the characters change once you get to know them. I always used to write by the seat of my pants, having little to no idea where the story's going.  It helped the story feel organic, but I often ended up hitting a wall when I did that, and stopping somewhere in the second act, not knowing how to wrap up the plot. With an outline, you have more of a vision of the overall story, and you can work within and adapt that vision much easier, I find. 

The Movie of the Week for this week is Lawless, starring Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf, and Jessica Chastain.  For something based on a true story, it did stretch the limits of plausibility at times for me, but I highly recommend this movie.  I love the setting (it's about Prohibition-era bootleggers), most of the characters, and thought it had some excellent performances, particularly Tom Hardy's gruff but strangely lovable Forrest Bondurant.  Jack's romance subplot was one of the weaker parts of the movie for me, and Jessica Chastain's character could have used more screen time, but I found myself getting really drawn into this world and its characters.  

Arbitrary rating: 5 stars. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

HarperCollins writing contest

If you're already thinking about self-publishing your book, and if your book's got a killer first line, you may want to look into this contest. 

Here's the link for the full article on the Authonomy Summer Competition. In a nutshell, HarperCollins and their sponsors will award one winner with a book cover, a review from one of the HC editors, a book trailer, and an epresskit. 

I'm not sure what that last one is, since my eyes often glaze over whenever I see an "e" or "i" in front of a word, but it could be useful, I suppose.

If you're interested in entering, you'll need to comment on the competition's page with the first line of your book.  The catch is, you need to have an Authonomy account to enter, though it's free to join, and it can be a good site for writers who are interested in giving and receiving feedback. 

I've been a member for almost a year now.

The deadline for entries is September 8th, 2013.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Stories of the Week for August 14, 2013

I believe I said I'd have the environmental horror story finished by this week, but, um...a dog ate my homework.  This week has been a busy one. 

Between drawing the cover for my new hard-boiled detective story, taking my first stab at self-publishing, watching the Star Trek reboot, listening to podcasts on classic horror movies,  rewriting a query letter for a young adult science fiction novel I've been working on, banging my head against a wall trying to figure out how to digitally sign a story contract in Microsoft Word (before finally realizing that my Microsoft Word Starter program doesn't actually support such a feature...thanks, Microsoft), and then signing a different story contract for another company through Docusign (which was surprisingly smooth and easy after the previous debacle), I haven't had as much time for the nature story as I would have liked. 

I've also started writing a post for a friend's blog,, which I should be sending to her soon.  The post is centered on experimentation, and I'm not talking about what may or may not have happened to people in college.  I'm talking about story experimentation. 

I got the idea for the post after my slightly experimental new story, Crushed, was accepted by DarkFuse for their “Horror d'oeuvres” subscriber-based site, which focuses on horror flash fiction. 

I signed the contract they sent me last night (the aforementioned Docusign one), and the story is scheduled to appear on their website on September 6, 2013, and hopefully later in an anthology. 

I'll let you know when the post on her blog goes live.

Oh, and the Movie of the Week for this week is JJ Abrams' 2009 Star Trek, which I watched for the first time on Blu-Ray this week.  I thought it was excellent, though I could have done without a preteen Kirk in a rather ridiculous car chase scene, which seemed to belong more in Thelma and Louise than in an otherwise thoroughly entertaining sci-fi movie.  And the much talked about use of lens flare didn't really bother me.  I'd heard the director used it to make the CG less noticeable, and to draw the viewer into the screen more, and it seemed to do as advertised. 

Monday, August 12, 2013

HarperImpulse is open for submissions

It's not quite my genre, but HarperImpulse is calling for submissions. You can read more about it here

If you're a romance writer, it might be worth checking into.  They also have a writing competition going on now, called Winter Wonderland, where they're asking for holiday themed romance books (apparently just Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year's.  My dream of publishing my President's Day romance novel will just have to wait a bit longer, I suppose). 

The deadline for entries is October 16, 2013. 

Featured Book of the Week:

The book of the week, where I'll be featuring fun and interesting books from around the web.  Here's the first one I've selected.  Like zombies?  Well, then I have the book for you:

“With his novel, The Dead Civil War, Kenneth W. Cain has put his finger on the pulse of a nation at war with itself.  Born of political ennui and hand-wringing frustration, this book is a chilling glimpse into an America on the ropes.  Tough and honest, The Dead Civil War has got some serious teeth to it.  Think Patrick Henry goes to Zombieland, because that’s what Cain has in store for you!” – Joe McKinney, author of MUTATED and INHERITANCE

A struggle for power arises in the United States and leaves the world in desolation. Strange creatures arise from the ash of battle and travel in packs. What is left of humanity gathers in small groups, trying to outlast the terror they know as reality. Of these, a fractured couple rediscovers each other and they must face the truth of Allen’s secretive past. They must confront the man who played his hand to make this all happen. Will America learn from its mistakes?

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The 12 Steps of Self-Publishing. Step 1: Deciding Whether to Self-Publish.

I've just self-published my first ebook, and it's now live on Amazon for 99 cents.  It's the noir story I referred to in one of the previous Stories of the Week, and is titled Even the Pretty Ones.  Deciding to go forward on my own wasn't an easy choice, and I've resisted the urge to self-publish for quite a while now. 

One of the main reasons for my hesitancy was my unfamiliarity with how the system works.  Basically, I don't know an "epub" from a tavern. 

It turns out, the process was both easier than I thought, and much more difficult.  In this series of blog posts, I'll go through my experience step by step, in case others are considering a self-pub crawl, but are as intimidated by it as I was. 

Step 1: Denial... Oh, wait.  That's for something else.  I meant to say, Step 1: Deciding Whether to Self-Publish

I'm always quite slow to adapt to technology (I still have a flip phone, for instance), but even I had to admit that the publishing model isn't quite like it used to be.  I don't expect I'll suddenly flip out and start self-publishing all of my stories and every book I write, but it's definitely a viable option these days.  I used to think there was a stigma associated with self-published books, but that doesn't seem to be the case anymore.  It could be due to the "50 Shades of Grey" phenomenon, or it could just be because that's the direction the industry is headed in. 

There are still benefits to the old model, though.  It's pretty nice when an editor thinks enough of your book or your story to want to share it with their readers.  It's not only a decent ego boost, but it's also something you can put in a list of credentials for the next time you submit to a publisher or an agent. 

And it's also nice not to have to do all the promotion yourself. 

Frankly, though, even if you get published by a traditional publisher, the author is still expected to do the lion's share of the promotional legwork.  Particularly if you're not represented by one of the big boys.

As for the main reason I chose to self-publish Even the Pretty Ones: well, I was tired of searching for noir magazines to submit to.  Most of the noir markets I found seemed to have either dried up or weren't currently accepting submissions.  The ones who were accepting often wanted stories that were the wrong word count (places that pay by the word seem to like stories with very low word counts...) or they only offered a token payment. 

So I figured, what do I have to lose by putting the story out myself?  Plus, it would give me a chance to test out the self-publishing waters. 

Those waters have always looked rather murky and daunting from where I've been standing, but maybe that's simply because I hadn't yet dipped my toe into the sea.

Stay tuned for Step 2, which I'll be posting in the next few days. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Stories of the Week for August 7, 2013

Much like buddy cop movies and boy bands, Stories of the Week is back. 

Not a ton of story news to report this week.  I've gotten a bit sidetracked from the environmental horror story I started last week.  I'm over 2500 words into it, and nearing the ending, but it seems I've gone and started another project.  As if I don't have enough  projects in the works already, I decided I needed one more on my plate.  This time, a Middle Grade novel.

For the new book, I was toying with an idea of writing a spoof about a wizard called Harriet Porter, who attends a school called Toadhorns...but then I remembered that I'm deathly afraid of lawyers.  So I decided to scrap the idea and work on something completely different, but still in the realm of magic.  It's partly inspired by one of the concepts in Neil Gaiman's brilliant Stardust, and partly inspired by apartheid. 

Only the first page has been written, but I'm already finding the main character to be quite fun to write.  She's got a bit of moxie, this one. 

Once again, the weather's pleasant here, so no "Beat the Heat" tip.  Instead, I thought I'd try out something different:

"Movie of the Week."  The Good Night, starring Martin Freeman, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Simon Pegg.  An incredibly slow first twenty minutes, during which I wondered what I'd gotten myself into, but I kind of loved this movie once it got going.  It deals with one man's attempts to descend into his dreams instead of facing up to reality.  But can he find the satisfaction he's looking for, or is he only pushing away what really matters most?

More news and nonsense next week, when I should have my nature story completed. 

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Adventures in Streamlining

I've been reading a book on blog design (“Blog Design for Dummies," fittingly enough.  I still don't understand most of what it's talking about, though, which makes me think I may need a book called “Blog Design for People Who Were Born Yesterday.”)

One of the main things it talks about is making your blog easier to navigate.  It mentions the "three clicks rule," where you don't want to make your readers click more than three times to get to the info they're looking for.  To that end, I've made a few changes to the blog format:

1: I took most of the links out of the sidebar and added them to their own page on the site. Aside from lessening the clutter, the links now have spiffy new pictures attached to them.  Well, some of the pictures are spiffy, anyway.  Others will need to be replaced with higher-res images. 

2: I added the Amazon Slideshow Widget to the blog, to make it easier for readers to get to my novel.  It was surprisingly quick to set up.  You simply choose the books you'd like to add, choose the style, colors and sizes (I went with basic black), then paste the code they give you into your blog.

3: I streamlined the Labels menu, so people can find topics that might interest them (like the game show interview I did with author Jaclyn Aurore.).  First, I changed it to the cloud format, so the labels with the most posts attached are easier to see.  Then, I went through and deleted some of the clutter labels.  For instance, I had the label "synopsis" for one of my posts, which seems a little silly, now that I actually think about it. 

4: I tweaked the "About the Author" page to make it a bit cleaner.  Now that the site is somewhat easier to navigate, I didn't feel the need to include quite as much junk there. 

I'm still learning as I go, but so far, I'm quite happy with the changes. 

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Ten Minute Flash Fiction Experiment: Door to Door

Here's a little flash fiction experiment of mine, inspired by a recent encounter with a door-to-door salesman that left me scratching my head.  I was going to mention it in a quick tweet ( @michaeldmatula ), but I decided to give myself ten minutes to write it out as a mini story instead. 

Hope you enjoy it.

A pair of crisp knocks. Low voices outside my window, carrying on a conversation. Not wanting to be bothered, I wait ten seconds, expecting them to go away on their own.  I hear the voices again. I stop writing, toss on a more presentable shirt and go answer the door. Two men are standing on the porch. Squarish types. One's middle-aged. They're both wearing button-up shirts. Ties.

I leave the screen door shut. No point getting too chummy.

A pamphlet is shoved towards the screen. The man on the left says some words I don't bother to commit to memory. I'm already preparing to say, “No thanks.”

The other man then utters a phrase that manages to stick to my brain like newsprint on Silly Putty. “We're going door to door, asking people, 'How long would you like to live?'”

I'm speechless for a moment. It sounds more like a threat than a conversation starter. “No thanks,” I end up saying, my powers of speech returning. “I'm not interested.”

I let the door close.

I wonder what the hell that was all about.