On a Black Horse

Esther Cobb takes revenge with a stranger on a black horse.

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I’ve become somewhat enamored of the old west and old west style story telling since starting Deadlands. Initially I used it to mimic a serial style, but I liked its ‘roaming the earth’ aesthetic and enjoyed the desert imagery, the vast lands filled with mystery. I started this story when I had the clear image of a man in all black, with long black hair, face hidden beneath a black hat, on a black horse. Because of its similarities to Deadlands, I never really intended to make it a full length story, so this is the first and last we will ever hear of Esther Cobb and Grisham. If you’re also interested, I made a playlist specific to this story over at 8tracks you can listen to here. If this story gives you a desire for more old west horror, there’s a bonus story for Deadlands up for Halloween that you can read here.

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Black Magic Swing

In 1925, Quentin DeLacey attends a seance.

Like Miles to Go, this is sort of the beginning of a larger story. The true secret of this is that I read the origin of Frank and Sadie Doyle in the Thrilling Adventure Hour, mainly that Sadie was intended to be dead at the beginning of the story, with Frank being a bitter and drunk widower. It was the acting of Paget Brewster that kept Sadie alive and made Beyond Belief one of the best segments on the Thrilling Adventure Hour. I liked the idea of an old jaded man dealing with a lot of emotional issues with a lot of younger people running around annoying him. I’ve been looking for many excuses to write something set in the 1920s, so here we are.

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Miles to Go

Miranda West runs away from home late one night and finds herself on the absolute worst road trip.

Initially I was going to put out one story over the course of October, but I struggled too much with writing it and have a few other projects going on at the same time, so I’ll save it. Instead I’ll be posting three short pieces every other week throughout October to give you something spooky to read this Halloween.

I’d been playing around with the concept of a horror road trip story, which I’ve now outlined in three different versions. This vampire filled one sort of sprung out of nowhere, the first part, which will be the section below, written in pencil while I was at a training for work. The opening scene of a young woman stopping in a gas station in the middle of the night only to find everyone dead appeared very clearly in my mind. I’ve written more since then, but I have so many projects and I’m attempting to focus on the few I have a drive to finish, that it’s only been touched when I have the capacity to think about it. But I do enjoy this initial pieceĀ and am posting it for your reading pleasure.

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Mood Boards and Concepts

When creativity is at a minimum, we turn to other sources.

I’ve been in a bit of a slump lately. I started this blog to give myself some accountability in my writing, so I could work and focus on projects like I need to. Unfortunately my depression an usual avalanche of ideas makes it difficult to focus at times, and lately I’ve been struggling. I’ve been trying to come up with something I would update regularly here. Not something on a schedule, or anything concrete, but a story I could add a few thousand words to, slap it up here, and consider myself a content creator. Of course, since I have so many ideas, it was hard to choose one, and to help my creative juices flow I ended up making a few mood boards.

 

Ghost Girls Moodboard

Ghost Girls

Ghost Girls was a concept I came up with while over at my Fear Street blog. There were several aspects to my fake pitch for a Fear Street TV series I liked, mainly a Scully/Mulder dynamic between a girl who’d experienced things and another girl who’d been Scooby-Doo’d. I bumped them up to college age, and added a few more aspects: a conspiracy, no concrete proof that the supernatural is real, a haunted house. I don’t know if I’ll ever come back to these kids, but I had fun making a spooky board for them.

 

Dracula Drive

Dracula Drive

A story I’d started working on back in high school was that of a high school that suddenly had an influx of monsters and creatures out of a horror movie, and a girl reporter went around collecting everyone’s stories. A little while later I revisited, gave it a more concrete plot, a time travel element, and focused on each generation’s fear of the future. The story came a little to close to Men and Monsters purely because of its monster mash element, and I ended up dropping it for a long time. When I came back to it, I worried the frivolity of it had gone out, and I reconsidered Dracula Drive as a monster hop. Now everyone’s a vampire, a werewolf, a catwoman, a mummy, and they all do normal 1950s teen stuff. I worry, of course, about its resemblance to another popular franchise about monsters going to high school, and honestly I have such a soft spot for the original concept that I’m not quite ready to change it, but I’m a little proud of this board.

 

Adventurers Academy

Adventurers Academy

This story came strangely easily to me. I’ve wanted to do an adventurers style story for a long time and have come up with at least three different crews and eventually rejected them all. The idea of an adventuring school was a fun one, Harry Potter-esque while stealing more from D&D than other fantasy stories. I wanted it to be kind of fantasy punk as well, with the students dressed in a median between modern fashion and renaissance faire, and allowing them to talk like humans instead of Ye Olde Speech. The concept is fun, colorful, and I found a good team to work with, so I dashed this together to give myself some inspiration.

Disidia

Five factions make up the city of Disidia, and chaos reigns.

There are two things I’ve always wanted to do: urban fantasy where the world feels fully realized, and a society or system of factions that fans can claim allegiance to. I want those factions to be even, where there are good and bad traits on each, and no one is purely the Bad Guy Gang. This concept I’d been messing around with, and though I don’t have a solid plot hammered out for it yet, I’ve had a lot of fun crafting the different gangs and giving them each a story so they can be involved on equal levels. I have no idea when I’ll return to this concept. It’s been something I’ve fiddled with while working on other projects, but I wanted to make something with it so I wouldn’t forget.

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Men and Monsters (Excerpt)

An excerpt from a love letter to the Universal Monsters.

I’ve had an awful lot of fun lately taking concepts I started a long, long time ago and revamping them. It’s shown me how much I’ve grown as a writer, and how much experience I’ve accumulated. This story started as something very different. It started a long time ago. But in reviewing the concept, I considered a few things: 1) I liked the idea of a gaslight horror mystery, and the Victorian era became an easy ground to sow these seeds, and 2) I’d grown up on the Universal Monsters, so I included more characters to better match the traditional monster lineup. This became a love letter to things I adored, from monster mashes, to goofy ahistorical histories, to the only classical literature I enjoyed, to the things I longed to see more of in fiction. This is the story I’ve dedicated my time to finishing and will begin editing soon, so I thought I’d give a little sneak preview.

Men and Monsters

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On Writing

My goal for 2016 was to have a book finished and edited. At the time I’d been working on an idea I really wanted to do but was struggling with, and I had a second story I’d played with that was 100% Things I Liked. But the second story turned out to be so easy to write, and so I drafted up a plan. 150 words a day, 1000 words a week, marked on a calendar until I finished it. I bought a planner so I could mark my progress every day. I used my habit app to track it. I finished it two months early.

The issue I’ve found with writing, besides it just plain being hard, and keeping one idea in my head is impossible, is the scope of it. I want to write books. I don’t write in chapters, and I have a concept from beginning to end plotted out. But it’s so hard to start with the first thousand words, look at outline, and imagine the finish line. It’s so hard to sit down and write.

Doing Deadlands is one of the smartest things I’ve ever done for myself. Bimonthly is easy, because I start them with four months of time to write, 8000 words being the general goal, and I can finish within three months and edit within one. It means each segment is its own story from start to finish, but still part of a bigger story. I can explore characters, introduce new elements, and change things, but each chapter is its own thing. It means every two months I have a goal, a fairly easy goal in the grand scheme of things, and I get instant gratification when I finish that goal. It’s done. There’s a complete story. And it means I have to work. I set schedules. I made playlists. I gave myself a responsibility.

Writing feels like climbing a mountain most of the time. You start off easy with the concept and the characters, it still feels fresh and new. As you reach the middle everything starts feeling convoluted, you start second guessing everything, and you lose sight of the finish line. When you finally reach that point, it’s a breath of fresh air. I started thinking of writing like this. Each word is one step forward. A sentence isn’t much, but at least you’ve moved. One word at at time, until you have a paragraph, until you have a scene, until you have a story. It becomes easier.

150 words is a paragraph. 150 words is practically nothing. Some days it’s a struggle. Some days getting out three words seems like an effort, but you can write a paragraph and that be done. The story has moved forward another inch. Some days it’s a breeze. Some days you can knock out 500 words with one keystroke, and suddenly you’re ahead.

I’m going to start editing in August, which is a beast of its own, but at least I completed something. At least I reached a goal. If you struggle to write, if you don’t feel like you have time to write, if writing seems a lofty ambition you’ll never reach, try 150 words a day. Try 50 words a day. Try to write a sentence every day. Suddenly you have a paragraph. Suddenly you have a scene. Suddenly you have a story.

And right now, 150 words a day is incredibly hard. Summer is my busy season, and I don’t have an extra minute at work, and at home I’m too tired. But I’m still getting out my bimonthly story, and I’ve found Sunday morning I can usually write unbothered. I’ve started writing 1000 words just on Sundays. It’s worked. It’s become easy.

Find a method. Make it work for you. Make it your responsibility. It’s the only way anything’s going to get done.