Thanksgiving Wrap-Up and Fake Deadlines

Well, Thanksgiving has come and gone, and I’m giving thanks for not reclaiming the sixteen pounds I’ve lost in the last month or so.  I’d give more thanks, but I’m already out of leftovers, and that bums me out something fierce.  Seriously, if anybody I had dinner with has some of that sausage stuffing left, I will pay you for it.

And Now… Fake Deadlines!

Let’s face facts… I don’t have some multi-book deal with a major New York publishing house.  I don’t even have a one book deal with Schlub Publications.  I’m writing on spec (as in speculation, as in “You might never get paid for all this hard work!  Ha!”).  That’s no reason to get lazy, though.  Writers write.  Otherwise, they’re just those assholes who sit around and talk about their great idea they’d love to write but they just haven’t found the time but seriously it’s the best story ever and if I ever find the time to write it I’ll make A KAJILLION DOLLARS!

So the answer for me is to write everyday.  Sometimes, however, I work myself into such a manic state over my writing that I inflict fake deadlines on myself.

For instance, I’m finishing up a project right now.  2000 words a day (about ten pages or so) should let me finish it by Friday.  Even if it doesn’t, though, I have to finish the book (which I’m writing on spec, you see) Friday night.  That’s the fake deadline I set for myself.  See, I promised somebody I would get back to them on something “within two weeks.”  I need the nine days that fake deadline will leave me.  Sure, I could leave the book for a week and come back to it, but why do that when I could convince myself to just plow on through?

Once I finish that certain something for that certain somebody, I need to knock out some short stories.  Ten days on those, tops.  Another fake deadline.


So I can plot and write the first draft of a Young Adult horror novel by the end of January (yet another fake deadline).  This gives me the two months before World Horror to polish the novel I’m finishing this week (final fake deadline).

But what does all this internal pressure give me besides intestinal problems?  Well, it give me a sense of purpose.  It might also lead to this conversation come Friday night…

Shawna (Who is kind and understanding and would never really do this): Are you still writing?

Me: Yeah.  Gotta meet deadline.

Shawna: For what?

Me: For me.  It’s a deadline I set for myself.

Shawna: That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.  Get your ass out here and spend time with me!  You shouldn’t be avoiding me on a Friday night.  We never do anything anymore!

Me: We went out last Friday!  We saw The Mist, remember?

Shawna: I told you I was going, and you asked to tag along!

Me: But I paid!

Shawna: Damn right, you did!  So, are you coming out or not?

Me: One hour?

Shawna: Go eat a dick.

And that, my friends, is the world of fake deadlines.

The Dregs of Humanity

No, this won’t be about some politician or actor or musician or religious figure or even that mail-carrier that keeps tearing the pages of your latest copy of Rolling Stone.  Instead, I will be speaking today of the two worst examples of humanity that I’ve ever seen in the living, breathing flesh.  I saw them both on the same night, less than five miles away from each other.

With any luck, they did not meet, fall in love, and breed.

A few weeks ago, I found myself in Barnes and Noble on a Friday night.  Let’s set aside the fact that I think this is an exciting way to spend a Friday night, though.  We have more important things to worry about at the moment.

So I’m standing in the fiction section, facing all the Jack Ketchum and Brian Keene books before moving on to the Piccirilli’s, and two teenage girls run up to the book shelf next to me.  The following conversation takes place…

Girl 1: This one here.  You have got to read this book!

Girl 2: No.

Girl 1: C’mon!  It’s, like, the best book ever!  I’ll buy it for you.  Just read it!

Girl 2: I said ‘No.’

Girl 1: Well, why not?

Girl 2: Because books suck.

I ran to the Piccirilli’s before I could be tempted to beat the little twit with a Dark Tower trade paperback.

Twenty minutes later, I’m still thinking about how much I hate that girl.  At the same time, I’m stopping by a nearby Walgreens to grab some chips.  I grab a bag of said chips, muttering the entire time about how I hope that ignorant bitch ends up working a donkey show in Juarez until she’s old and gray, then head for the checkout counter.

Where I spot subject numero dos.

Another teenager, male this time.  Skinny and shirtless, his baggy jeans hitched down just above his knee.  He’s wearing a ski cap for some dumbass reason.  His face begs to be punched.  Just once, but really hard.

I get behind him and wait.  He doesn’t have anything to buy.  Ah, he wants smokes.  Fucking figures.

So, he reaches the counter, and I get to listen to another brilliant conversation…

Human scum: Which cigarettes are cheapest?

Cashier: I don’t know.

Human Scum: Can you check?

She checks.  After a moment, she turns around holding a pack of something that looks like it dropped out of the Marlboro Man’s asshole.

Cashier: These are two bucks.

Human Scum: Fuck! Two bucks?

Cashier: Yeah.

Human Scum: Anything cheaper?

Cashier: No.

Human Scum (sighing like he just found out his puppy has a terminal illness): Fine.  A pack of those.

Cashier: That’ll be two dollars.

And the Human Scum pays with a hundred dollar bill.

That’s a right. A. Hundred. Dollar. Bill.

Now, I don’t know about you fine folks, but I can count the amount of times I’ve held a Ben Franklin on one hand.  Fuck, if you chopped off four of the fingers on that hand, I could still make the count. 

People, we are being overrun by idiotic, half-dressed teenagers who refuse to read and use large bills to make small purchases they don’t think they can afford.  Something must be done about this.  Something drastic.  Maybe these kids should be forced into a life of horrible servitude, performing jobs nobody wants.

Teacher: Class, this is Jimmy.

Class: Hi, Jimmy.

Teacher: Jimmy masturbates pigs for a living because he thinks books are lame and he doesn’t know how to wear a belt.

Class: Can we read now, please?

Accelerating toward the cliff

If you read enough interviews with writers (or better yet, get to talk to them), sooner or later you’ll hear them describe some project where they knew the beginning and the end when they started, but didn’t have much of a middle.  I used to think there was a bit of bullshit to that.  Now I know better.

The first time I wrote a novel, I used an extensive outline.  The damn thing was five pages or more, all of it taped to the wall of my office.  I deviated from it a bit, but only a little.  Of course, later on a much more talented writer would give me a bit of advice so obvious I had to rewrite the whole damn story from page one.  The write that new draft without a net, and it was a fantastic experience.

Now, I tend to write longer pieces without an outline.  I have a list of characters and maybe a few paragraphs, but that’s all.  Most of my plotting takes place in my head, where it stays until I’m ready to write it out.  Writing just feels more exciting that way.

Well, I’m knee-deep in such a situation again, slightly more than halfway through a novel that I know the beginning and ending of, but am a little lost on the middle.  Hell, I’ve had the book’s final scene etched into my brain for six months or more.  When it comes time to type it out, it’ll happen in a mad torrent.  That’s probably four weeks away, though.  Right now, I’m in the middle, and things are getting interesting.

Shit, they’re getting very interesting. 

See, my heroes (who are really bastards, but that’s beside the point) are running toward this point in the story that’s like a cliff.  They’re either going to have to stop before the get there or learn to fly.  Now, I’m not sure what they’re going to do yet.  I better figure it out soon, though, because I only have a day or two before I have to know.  I have to steer these people toward salvation or damnation, and I honestly don’t know which is better.  It’s thrilling, but it’s also a little terrifying.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Writing is waiting.  Writing is problem solving, decision making.  Writing is a whole lot of things, and sometimes it’s the most fun when it’s a bunch of people accelerating toward a cliff, wondering if they can fly.

STAPLE! Registration Open!

When I’m not busy alienating both friends and strangers who have enough money to buy stuff like Rock Band, I’m helping with the organization of STAPLE!, a indie comics con here in Austin. 

Here is you STAPLE! news…

Hey everybody!

STAPLE! The Independent Media Expo is back for its
fourth annual show! Come out Saturday March 1st, 2008
to a new location – the Monarch Event Center next to
Highland Mall – This
exciting new venue occupies the site of the former
Lincoln Village Theater in the Lincoln Village
shopping center in north central Austin. It’s been
completely remodeled and refurbished into a lovely new
spot just perfect for a bigger and better STAPLE!

We are very pleased to announce a very special guest
for STAPLE! 2008 – BRIAN WOOD! Author of Channel Zero,
Couriers, DMZ, Demo, Local, Supermarket, and the
forthcoming Northlanders (available December 5th),
Brian has made his mark as an influential and eclectic
pioneer of independent comics creation. We are very
honored and excited to have him appear at STAPLE! For
more on Brian go to

And if you’d like to start making your own mark, you
can be an exhibitor at STAPLE! Exhibitor registration
is now open and tables are available at $65 for an
eight footer and $35 for a half – cheap! They always
sell out fast so to get yours now go to

STAPLE! The Independent Media Expo is the Southwest’s
only convention for independently produced comics,
zines, graphic arts and animation. The fourth annual
Expo is Saturday, March 1st, 2008, 11am-7pm at the
Monarch Event Center in Austin, Texas. Admission is
STILL only $5 at the door! For more info go to

Thanks! Hope to see you there!

If you buy Rock Band, you’re an asshole.

So, the makers of Guitar Hero are putting out a new game, Rock Band.  Basically, it’s Guitar Hero for four players. It includes vocals, drums, bass guitar, and lead guitar.

Sounds kinda cool.

Then I learned the game costs $170. 

So let’s get this straight, because I’ll only say this once.  If you pay $170 for one video game, without splitting the cost with three friends, then you deserve to have your neck stomped into a fleshy paste.  Examine your priorities, shithead.

The end.

Rebecca has eyes like dead raspberries

Damn, I’m tired today.  I feel like I only got an hour or so of sleep.  Amazingly, it’s not entirely the fault of Shawna’s dogs: Greta and Boris.  Sure, they woke me up at five so they could be let out.  They never try to wake up Shawna, but that’s because they’re her dogs and they like her better.  Luckily, I was able to act like the 65 pound German shephard standing on my chest hadn’t woken me, so Shawna climbed out of bed, muttering the whole way.  Maybe this is a good thing, and we’ll finally be able to lock the dogs out of the bedroom at night, which I’ve been promoting for six months or more.

But no, I cannot blame Greta and Boris, or even the cats Sadie and Simon, who Shawna lets me lock up at night because they irritate her (dog people…sheesh!  love you, Shawna!).  Nope, I’m tired because I was up until about one in the morning writing, and I never even left my bed.

See, I keep a notebook on my bedside table, and it’s full of little ideas that come to me as I’m laying down to fall asleep.  I don’t know why my brain tends to kick into overdrive at that particualr time, I just know it irritates me more than the cats irritate Shawna.  I probably irritates me more than my bedside lamp irritates Shawna (which is why I usually read in the other room for an hour or so before deciding whether to risk climbing into bed with her or just sleep in the guestroom).  When I’m ready to sleep, I want to sleep, dammit!  I don’t need some muse nudging my skull, saying, “Wake the fuck up and scribble notes about crazy celebs killing each other for shits and giggles.”

But shit like that happens, and it happens with startling regularity.  The Thursday before Halloween, when I had friends coming over to watch horror movies the next night, I spent half the night scribbling notes for a story called Firewater that had popped into my head just before the first relaxing moments of slumber.  I wanted to go to bed, but I had to get cracking because I loved the idea so much.  In fact, it will be my next project (you can pick such things when you’re not contracted for jack or squat).

Last night, Firewater bit me on the ass again (and no, I wasn’t drinking).  I was lying in bed, ready for some shut-eye, and I started thinking about the story and the voice I wanted to tell it in, sort of a gumshoe by way of wino thing.  So, I’m thinking about this voice, and an incredible sentence materializes in my brain, so clear I can see it through tiny whisps of night fog.

Rebecca has eyes like dead raspberries.

Maybe that sounds dumb to you.  It sure did to Shawna, who when I told her about it said, “Okay,” in a voice that really said, “Sweet Christmas!  I live with this weirdo?”

Yes you do, my love.  And I ain’t going.

Anyway, there’s always a chance that sentence doesn’t do it for you.  Personally, I think it’s the best line I’ve ever written, and it doesn’t matter that, until last night, there wasn’t a character in Firewater named Rebecca.  You can’t bet your own sweet fuck there is now.  Hell, I stayed up until one in the morning creating her.  The muse doesn’t tolerate those who forget to pick up what she drops for them.  You better be on the ball, or she will come back and break you in half.

So that’s today’s look into the writing proccess.  I hope you enjoyed it, and I hope you learned something.

Oh, and if you try to steal that sentence, I will gouge out your eyes.

Happy Wednesday, everybody!

Preparing for year’s end (the broke writer shuffle)

Ah, the life of the struggling writer.  The parties! The food!  The flirtations with high society!  The group of nubile college coeds who arrive every Saturday at eight o’clock wearing business suits and shoulder holsters (I never said my fantasy life was a safe one)!

Okay, so the parties are at a friend’s house, and I usually stand quietly in the corner, thinking about stories.  And the food comes in the form of discount grocery off-brands.  Also, the closest I ever came to flirting with high society was when secret service told me to cross the street in front of the Governor’s mansion.

You probably don’t need me to tell you the coeds were fake, right?

Yeah, the life of the struggling-to-get-noticed writer is more along the lines of working eight hours a day, running home to eat, spend time with the girlfriend, and trying to get your writing done before The Office comes on at eight.  Strong odds are you’ll have to either watch The Office later or you’ll be writing again once its done.

Maybe that’s not as interesting, but there are always perks.  For instance, my cat likes to walk across my keyboard now and then, leaving grains of kitty litter between the keys.  And sometimes Shawna sneaks up behind me and punches me in the skull for no reason, screaming “Who’s the Boss?” at the top of her lungs.  Then she tells me I’ve been Tony Danza’d.  She loves me.

I don’t know about my fellow struggling writers, but this is one of the busiest times of the year for me.  I call it the “Nate pays for next year” season.  See, I attend at least two cons a year, and I have to worry about paying for those.  For me, that works best if I pay as soon as possible.  In the last month, I’ve sent off checks to both the World Horror Convention in March and Necon in July.  In a few weeks (once I’ve worked some overtime), I should have enough cash to get my airfare for March.  With any luck, these expenses will then allow me to claim enough on my tax return for me to afford March’s hotel and July’s airfare.  I know there are plenty of folks who can wait until the last minute and pay for everything.  Good for them.  I am not one of those people.

So it’s busy right about now.  Then you add in a few factors, like the novel I’m about to cross the halfway mark on and the fact that I need to buy at least one Christmas present, and you’ve got a recipe for human combustion.  Maybe it would be easier if I got to relax come January, but that’s when I have to start getting my ducks in a row for World Horror, preparing pitches and begging people to room with me.

Of course, the first time I sell a novel I will declare all of this worth it. And then I’ll do it all over again.