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NaNoWriMo – Prioritizing Writing

When it comes to my work schedule coinciding with NaNoWriMo, November, not April, seems to be the cruelest month.

I’ve participated in the novel-writing contest five times and “won” twice, although I completed all of those books eventually.

So with no one pressuring me except myself, I shouldn’t despair too much about my lagging performance in this year’s NaNoWriMo project, a gothic romance inspired by my love for V.C. Andrews titled Black and Blue Ivy.

Still, as always when I find myself in the middle section of any work in progress, frustrations set in. I’ve written enough to know those imaginary gremlins mocking me from computer screen, tempting me to scroll through Facebook or Instagram to “relieve some stress,” are part of the process.

I was definitely seduced by this beautiful new cover by Consuelo Parra.

Still, I have to concede it would have been far smarter to just complete my horror novel, Carni, instead of starting an entirely new project. Shamefully, I admit to being seduced by shiny object syndrome, the erroneous belief that a new project will not yield any of the angsts and frustrations I inevitably encounter any time I sit down to write, that somehow the words will effortlessly flow from brain to keyboard, perfection from start to finish. Of course, that’s pure folly which I’ve now discovered as I’m struggling to keep up with the daily word count of my new project while Carni (a killer clown ironically) taunts me from the sidelines.

 

Does it matter that no one is watching (or caring) and my mental gymnastics are mine alone to suffer?

Not really.

I am usually, creatively that is, quite productive, and although I write most days I do take off and then. For example, it doesn’t seem quite fair to force myself to remain in my monk’s cave and write when accepting a lunch invitation seems the better option. If wine is included then all bets are off.

What NaNoWriMo forces me to do (again, no one’s watching), is to make writing a priority, and therein lies the lesson.

Because of NaNoWriMo, I’ve stuck to an (almost) daily writing schedule despite being extremely busy. I don’t want to get overly confident and jinx myself, but even if I take Thanksgiving Day off, I think this year I just might cross the finish line.

How about you? Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? If so, feel free to add me as a buddy. We can spur each other on through the final stretch.

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New Novel Inspirations – Carnival Horror

The new novel I’m working on, titled Carni, will be my first attempt at writing carnival horror, a sub-genre that includes killer clowns, freak shows, and tunnels of love leading straight to hell.

My story is set in South Jersey, specifically Burlington Island, 300 acres of wilderness wedged in between Jersey and PA on the Delaware River. The island has an interesting history that I’m using as a springboard for my creepy carnival story.

Burlington Island from the PA side

Called Matennecunk by the Lenape natives, the island became the location of New Jersey’s first recorded murder when two Dutchmen were slain by Lenape braves in 1671. No, my story will not include an “old Indian burial ground” filled with vengeful ghosts. I think that cliché has been done to death by now. That’s not to say I won’t be using established genre tropes because I always do. Creepy clown anyone? But I will be attempting, in my own way, to give them a fresh merry-go-round spin.

Island Beach Amusement Park

What inspired my story, besides the island itself, was that it was once the location of an amusement park called Island Beach. Judging by the old photos, it was quite a popular attraction. A fire in the 1920s ended the fun, however, and the island changed hands and purposes. It is currently owned by the state of New Jersey and is used for mining sand and gravel, thus the man-made lagoon at the island’s center. Clean-up efforts persist to this day, as do occasional exploration into the rusty relics of the island’s past lives. I’ve never set a foot on its banks, but I hope to soon. I want to absorb its essence for my story. I’ll probably absorb plenty of mosquito bites and Poison Ivy as well, but it’s all in a day’s work.

I begin my story with the fire at the carnival and who set it (all fictional). My villain is the Island Beach mascot called Carni, a killer clown inspired by Coney Island’s Steeplechase Jack—can’t tell me that grin isn’t creepy, and Alfundo, the Dorney Park mascot featured on this wonderful sign I remember from visiting Dorney as a kid. A fire in the mid-1980s destroyed most of Dorney’s original small-town charm, but the park is still there.

Dorney Park’s Alfundo
The Dorney Park fire

Creaky wooden rides erupting into sudden flames, roller coasters becoming derailed, creepy clowns with Glasgow grins, that persistent legend of the kid who lost his arm in the fun-house machinery—these are what adds those extra chills to the carnival thrills. As part of my story mapping, I’m not only recalling my own fond memories of being deliciously scared at carnivals and amusement parks, but I’m also revisiting some carnival-themed works like Dean Koontz’s The Fun House and classic horror films like Freaks and Carnival of Souls. From the unsettling strains of the calliope to the rough-trade roustabout who just might mess with the gears on that ride, there is always danger lurking within, and just outside, the midway’s colored lights. Isn’t it fun!

My latest video, adding to the discussion.