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31 Days of Spoooktacular: The Gauntlet

Way back in the beginning, you may recall that I said that 31 Days of Spoooktacular was part of how I planned to force writing to become a habit for me. Writing has always been something I do sporadically, intermittently and with no true pattern. Even over the course of this year, where I’ve given myself the goal of writing ten entries a month, which I have done so far, I don’t evenly space those entries throughout the month. Usually they’re all shoved in at the end of the month and then I go on another, three week long sabbatical.

But with 31 Days of Spoooktacular, you get one entry a day, every day, for 31 days. And that’s great for me and great for you and everyone is happy, except for people who aren’t so interested in me writing about horror day in and day out. But, if you remember, I said that in order to successfully form a habit, you have to do it for around 70 days. I need to continue to write every day for another 30 days (and some change) before it becomes rigidly locked in as something I just do as an impulse.

It just so happens that there’s an event for the entire month of November that dovetails so nicely with my needs. That’s right, I’m doing NANOWRIMO. Again. But this time, I’m picking up that gauntlet and I am slapping NANOWRIMO in the face with it. I am going to write a 50,000 word novel and then some. The way I see it, I’ve been in training for NANOWRIMO this whole month, a light workout to get me into shape for what’s to come.

And by the end of it, I’ll be the better for it, I think. I’ll have mastered a skill that has eluded me almost my whole life; the ability to stick with something through to the very end. I’ll work on a project, sometimes very close to the ending point and then just sputter out, within spitting distance of the finish line.

But not this year. I can feel it. I have the idea that I want to write about. I have the tools to write it. And here, on October 24th, I think I’ve managed to prove that I have the ability to sit down in front of the computer everyday and put words to screen and keep going long after the point in which I should have stopped.

I have never written a novel, though I have tried. For me, just finishing one, even it’s terrible, will be a triumph of sorts. I’m looking forward to the challenge.

31 Days of Spoooktacular, for all of it’s goofiness and beer tasting and horror conventions, is just the beginning.

-D-

PS Check out my profile here and cheer me on all next month. Or not. It’s fine.

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The Death of a Year

Let’s see if I can remember how to do this.

We’ll start with an opening sentence and take it from there.

Oh hi! I don’t really know if there are people who still read this. It’s been about, oh, two months since I last updated. I’ll make the assumption that everyone who reads my blog assumed that I had died over that little break. Well, I’m not dead. Far from it.

I’m here to do what’s likely to become the annual tradition around here. I’ll weep about my failures over the last year and make promises to do better next year.

Actually, you know what, let’s do this up right. Let’s not talk about failures. It’s boring, it’s whiny and no-one likes reading that. Let’s do the opposite of that. So here it is. My top five list of awesome shit that I did.

5. I killed three bookstores and a nationwide bookstore chain in the process. Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Dylan, that’s…not such a good thing.” But it had to be done and I made sure it gone done smoothly. No one died, product got sold and there are people all over the city with Borders bookcases in their homes cause I did my job like a ninja. A retail ninja. And I did while remaining sane.

4. I submitted a whole crapton of stuff to be published. None of it got published, but that’s not the point. After a few years of sitting around and not doing anything with my writing career, I actually got out there and started things up again. It’s awfully hard for me to get going once I’ve stopped doing something (see: this blog), but by God, I did it.

3. I read a metric-crapton of books. For those of you who use Imperial measurement, a metric-crapton is a lot of books. Every book I read helps me be a better writer. You know what else helps me be a better writer?

2. I started writing stories again. I hadn’t written a new piece of fiction in almost a year and I finally got back up on that horse. But! The biggest piece of news from the previous year?

1. I self-published a book. It’s still there on Amazon and for even cheaper now. You should go buy it if you haven’t done so already. And, if you want it in paperback, then, holy crap, you have that option now too. There’s people out there, right now, reading my work. Bam.

So that’s sounds like a pretty well seized year. Sometimes I’m pretty bummed about how a year went and I’ve been feeling that a little bit the last couple of weeks. But, you know, looking at that list there, I think I can live with how 2011 went. I’m ready for even bigger things next year.

Just…please, no more store closings.

Dylan

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Writer’s Commiseration

Writing has never been a group thing to me. I don’t track down other writers to talk to them about the process. I don’t go to forums and chat about plotting and character development. I don’t hang out in coffee houses with other writers and discuss the finer points of the gerund. That’s just not what writing is to me. The very idea of talking about a first draft with a total stranger is akin to discussing bodily fluids with someone you met on the bus. And if you think that’s a needlessly gross analogy, you’ve never read one of my first drafts.

And NANOWRIMO is all about the sharing. NANOWRIMO is the guy on the bus who tells you waaay too much about what’s going on and it’s really hard to get used to. I’ve been writing like I always do: head down and eyes on my own paper. I didn’t watch the little videos. I didn’t read the letters of encouragement. I didn’t go to the forums.

But then I needed to procrastinate, so I watched a video or two and some of the tips were helpful and the cheery attitudes were helpful. I started going to the forums and reading other people’s posts and winced once or twice when I read horror stories of lost pages and falling behind the deadline and struggling to catch up. And I identified with it. I’ve lost work before, whole passages lost to the aether. I know that awful feeling in the pit of my gut when I realize I have to rewrite something and it’s never going to be like the original words and it won’t ever be as good.

And it’s weird, because I’m feeling a sense of belonging. I feel like these people understand the annoying problems of writing, the little triumphs and the depressing feeling when you realize you’ve been writing utter shit for an entire day. So I’m trying to reach out. I’m trying to get involved in a…community. There have been a few tentative posts, awkward attempts at saying, “HI I WRITE THINGS TOO BFFS?”

I still don’t know how I feel about all this touchy-feely, “let’s hug cause we write” thing, but I’m going to at least try. I’m going to try and stop being a curmudgeonly hermit grump. Maybe I’ll even start a forum thread.

God forbid.

Dylan Charles

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Filed under Writing: Novels, Stories, Blogs and Comics

NANOWRIMO

This year I’ve decided to write a novel for NANOWRIMO. I’m so out of touch with writing fiction that I figured the best way to get back into shape is to try and write 50,000 words in less than a month. It’s like if you decided you wanted to start running every day and figured the best way to do that was to run the Boston Marathon tomorrow.

The only problem is that I’ve already lost two days. I need to really get into gear if I want to make the deadline. By day nine, I should have 15,000 words. Guess how many I have. If you guessed zero, you’d be right!

So check on my progress and cheer me on here. Hopefully this won’t be a bitter failure that I”ll need to drink to forget.

Wait, I need to start this on a more positive note.

Yeah! Gonna write me a book in a month! Whoo!

Dylan Charles

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Tales of the Whispering Mad and the Mis-Dead: Now in Paperback!

You may remember that I have a book, which is available on the Kindle.

Now, everytime I tell people that I have a book and it’s only on the Kindle, they tell me, “But I don’t have a Kindle.” To which I respond, “Then buy a Kindle and then buy my book!” This never goes over well.

So! I’ve come up with a solution. You can now buy my book IN PAPERBACK. No ereaders required, you just go online, order the book and it arrives in the mail, in paper form. Truly, a miracle in modern technology.

Go HERE to buy my book in dead tree form.

Go HERE to buy my book in electronic radioactive form.

Some day, I might even get around to putting it on the Nook.

Dylan Charles

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The Newest Book

Since it’s been a while, let’s talk about the book. No, not that book. The newest one. The one that hasn’t been written yet.

I’m…extremely tentative about this one. I want this one to be perfect.  I want the table of contents to work properly. I want the formatting to sparkle. I don’t want there to be a single typo or blemish. This next book feels…important. And, if I know anything about me, I shy away from all things important.

Important decisions are to be put off to the last minute. Important events must be ignored until the day they happen, at which point one must sprint through them as briskly as humanly possible. Important emotions must be stuffed into a little box, covered with cement and then buried six feet under ground.

So I’m a little daunted by this book, is what I’m saying. I have five of the six stories that I need, because (as previously mentioned) six is a good number. And the other five stories are in need of some serious work. Well, two need serious work, two need massive overhauls and the fifth is fine. And the sixth I just started writing last night.

So it’ll be a while before the book comes out, assuming that I can get over being daunted and overwhelmed by the sheer importance of this project. This book means something to me, more than the last. The stories in my first book are part of before. I think they’re good horror and I think you should buy the book and read them, if that’s your thing.

But the stories in the next book haven’t ever been seen before. They’re new, both to me and you. They’re something I’ve never done before. They’re part of a continuous universe, a whole world that I’ve been creating over the last six months and still creating. As I type this, I’m expanding the world a little more, going beyond the boundaries I set in the first five stories.

So, I hope you enjoy it when it comes out, because these might be the best stories I’ve ever written.

So far.

Dylan Charles

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Tales of the Whispering Mad and the Mis-Dead

After months of (sporadic) work, it’s done. The book is done.

You can read it on the Kindle.

You can read it on your computer.

You can read it on your iPad or your iPhone.

Fact is, you can read my book for the low, low price of $2.99. It’s at LEAST an hour’s worth of entertainment; even more if you’re a slow reader. And it’s riproaring good fun.

So buy my book. And when you’re done, tell other people to check it out too. Cause, here’s the deal: ya’ll are my advertising, every last one of you. And the more people who buy this book, the more likely it is that I can do this fulltime and put out another, even better book much sooner.

And if horror’s not your thing, tell that friend you have who digs horror. You all have that one friend who watches the Friday the 13th movies way too much or who REALLY digs Clive Barker. Tell them about Tales of the Whispering Mad and the Mis-Dead. Spread the word, tell your friends. Blog reviews. Tweet the links.

Go forth my minions and spread the gospel!

And read my book.

Dylan Charles

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Book Review: Area 51 by Annie Jacobsen

I’ve never been a fan of the idea that the government is hiding space aliens from us. Partly it’s because the people who espouse this particular brand of paranoia always strike me as two hairs away from batshit insane. Mostly though it’s because I’ve never seen any good evidence for it. I haven’t seen good evidence that any U.F.O. is alien in origin. The locus of most of these theories is the mythical military base Area 51, a place I’ve wanted to know more about, but without having to wade through five-hundred pages of paranoid rambling.

So when I heard that Area 51 was less a book about alien ships and cigarette smoking government agents hording alien corpses in the basement of the White House and more about the actual history of the base, I decided to give it a chance. I was hoping for a grounded, well researched book based on history and not just baseless conjecture and that’s exactly what I got.

Jacobsen does a great job of tying together the multiple points in history that led to the creation of Area 51 and following its role in the American government throughout the years. It’s where the Blackbird and drones were developed. It’s where they reverse engineered the MiG and finally figured out how to beat the Ruskies’ plane. During the later half of the 20th century, Area 51 lurked in the background of history, quietly doing its part. It’s a very levelheaded book. It’s as if Jacobsen wanted to counteract the hysterical paranoid tone that usually surrounds Area 51. She manages to strip a top secret military base of most of its mystique and does it methodically, piece by piece.

Throughout the book, Jacobsen raises several points about the scariness of the lack of government accountability for black ops projects, such as when government scientists nearly blew a hole in our atmosphere with nuclear tests that accomplished nothing scientifically. She acknowledges that the government most certainly does not need to tell the public everything, but that there’s a problem when even the president doesn’t have access to records.

My one problem with the book is toward the very end. After teasing the reader for the entire book with the secret about what really happened at Roswell, she reveals what happened with a flourish of melodramatic camp that is better suited for The X-Files than for what was a very reasoned and grounded book. She talks about secret Soviet plans to undermine the United States, which involves a devil’s pact between Mengele and Stalin. She talks of an anonymous man who speaks in cryptic comments and refuses to reveal everything he knows. It’s such an abrupt departure from the rest of the book that I have trouble believing what she’s saying. The whole chapter feels like she’s inserted herself into a Tom Clancy novel.

Aside from that one brief departure, Area 51 is a great history of the most talked about secret in modern U.S. history and I recommend it to any modern history buffs.

Dylan Charles

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Book Review: The Long Fall by Walter Mosley

Walter Mosley has been one of my favorite writers for a while now. I’ve only read one of his science-fiction novels (The Wave, good read),  but I’ve read a goodly portion of his mysteries. His stories are always uniquely his, even the ones that take place in a cliche-raddled genre like Detective Fiction.

And this is especially true in The Long Fall, the first in a series of books about Leonid McGill. McGill is a New York based private eye and an ex-boxer, so he’s already rife with qualities that make me happy. He’s trying to make up for his less-than-angelic past and stick to the straight ‘n’ narrow. Unfortunately, everyone around him seems hellbent on making sure that doesn’t happen.

While the main mystery is not something that’s going to stick with me past the end, Mosley’s strong point here is the cast of characters and the relationships between them all. Leonid and his son Twill, Leonid and the cop Carson Kittredge, Leonid and the ex-hitman Hush; Leonid and his “friends” frequently steal the spotlight from the mystery.

In fact, this novel seems more like Mosley is setting the stage for Leonid McGill. He’s introducing the characters and elements that will define this world. Which makes me want to read the second (and soon to be released third) novel all the more.

Out of all the characters Mosley has created, none have been quite as likeable or as enjoyable to follow as Leonid McGill and I’m definitely going to continue to follow the series.

Dylan Charles

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Where did all the bookstores go?

Bookstores, the ones built of brick and mortar anyway, are in serious trouble. The two big heavyweights, Barnes and Noble and Borders, are suffering and they’re struggling to survive.

Given that Amazon.com now sells close to 50% of all book sales in North America, it looks like the only place someone might see Barnes and Noble or Borders in ten years will be online, if at all.

Big name bookstores are looking less and less viable, at least, in their current incarnation.

This really isn’t news for anyone who’s been paying attention. Online bookstores, which cut overhead costs and cut book prices, and the popularity of ereaders are doing their damage. What’s shocking to me is how little emotion I feel about it.

It is sad that these stores are in trouble. I don’t want to see them go out of business, if only for the sake the employees who work there, but that’s about the extent of my emotional involvement. I believe it’s inevitable that the brick-and-mortar megabookstore will cease to exist at some point. Over the next ten years or so, they’ll exist in a very limited capacity, dotting the landscape like aging woolly mammoths.

The bookstores that will survive, I think, are those locally owned, used bookstores. They peddle in wares you can’t so easily get and they offer people the ability to browse in a more visceral way. That might be enough to keep them going.

My apathy comes not from a hatred of books. I love books. I want people to read lots of books, all the time. Society needs books and ideas and the written word to stay healthy. But, to that end, anything that gets people books is a good thing. Anything that makes the process easier and quicker is a good thing. Online bookstores mean you can find what you want quickly and get it (eventually). Ereaders cut that time even shorter.

There are changes, big changes coming to the book selling industry, but those changes are the result of more efficient systems taking their place. It’s not the death of books or the death of bookstores. It’s just the next step in their evolution.

Dylan Charles

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