Writing Update and Newsish Bits

I let an entire week go by without an update, but I still don’t have any word metrics to share. It’s been a few days since I’ve written — I needed the weekend to rest, and with a lighter-than-usual freelance workload this week so far I’ve been taking advantage of that and the gorgeous weather (finally! It had been rainy/cloudy for almost a solid week and it was seriously triggering my SAD) to catch up on some housework. Also, recovering from the clock change, in which I’m sure I’m not alone. Stupid DST is stupid and disruptive.

But I’ve got a few bits of minor news/administrativa to share:

  • There are currently six chapters of my WIP available to read on Patreon.com. Chapter 7 will join them tomorrow. I’m thinking about changing the $1 option to only being able to read a month’s worth of posts at a time and adding a $2 option for complete access to the archives. So if you want to be able to read it all from the beginning for only $1/month, you should probably hurry up and get on that. And if you think limiting the $1 option is a terrible idea, now is your chance to lodge a protest.
  • The second issue of my monthly author newsletter went out last week. If you missed it you can read it here (you can also click here to subscribe so you don’t miss another issue).
  • I started a Facebook group to serve as a hangout space for fans of my books. Come check it out and don’t be shy!
  • Not actually news (yet) but I’m giving serious consideration to deleting my Twitter account. The why involves a long rant about everything that’s wrong with Twitter and how it’s a microcosm of everything that’s wrong with the world and I’m sure you already know if you spend any time on Twitter at all. At any rate, if you’re one of the teeny tiny handful of people who are used to chatting with me on Twitter, if you’re also on Facebook, you should consider joining the above group, where it’ll be a lot easier to chat me up.
  • I’m also looking into alternatives — I already have an Ello profile, but I haven’t done anything with it in a very long time. I’m open to suggestions.
  • This isn’t actually new, but did you know that you can read Dominion of the Damned for free on Kindle Unlimited or the Prime Lending Library? Well, you can. Also, Eucha Falls is perma-free pretty much everywhere e-books are sold.

In other news, I’m going to try to get back on the writing horse today. I’ve thought up a new scene that I’m quite enamored with but that doesn’t fit well into my current outline, so I’m going to find a sunny spot to sit with a printout of said outline to see if there’s a way to make that scene work. I also want to do some brainstorming and strategizing about upcoming writing projects and my career trajectory. I’ll let you know if that produces interesting results. But first, I’ve got a bit of business to take care of and some laundry to fold and put away, so off I go.

Blame it on the weather (a Monday writing update)

Happy Monday, campers!

I still don’t have any word metrics to share, because I’m still doing the longhand thing and I haven’t typed any of it up yet. I can tell you that I didn’t do any noveling over the weekend (although I did quite a bit of journaling). Actually, looking at the habit tracker in my bullet journal, I didn’t do any noveling the last four days. I’m not sure what happened to keep me from writing on Thursday and Friday, but it probably had something to do with April weather in the middle of freakin’ February sparking an early case of spring fever.

I did manage a certain amount of domestic productivity over the weekend (including finally bringing out the knickknacks that got put away to make room for Christmas decorations back in early December), but a lot of my weekend looked like this:

At any rate, I’m back on the horse as of this morning, having finished Chapter 10, Scene 1, which features a long heart-to-heart between the Wilson sisters that explores, among other things, Chris’s fear of close relationships with the living and Ron’s daddy issues. And the virtues of always checking for TP in public restrooms.

By the way, you can start reading this right now in serialized first-draft form on Patreon. The first three chapters are already up, with more coming later this week!

Short Story: The Cellar

Last week wasn’t a great week, especially for writing fiction. Pretty much every authoring or book marketing thing I’d planned to do past last Monday got devoured by runaway freelance projects . . . and this week is shaping up to be more of the same (actually this week’s getting off to a really rocky start thanks to eating something that didn’t agree with me during last night’s big sportsball game. Yay Broncos? Bleah).

In related news, I’ve gone and reactivated my Patreon page. By now you’ve no doubt heard of Patreon and have at least a vague idea of what it is and how it works, but in case you need the prompt, basically it’s a place where I will post exclusive fiction and other content on a regular basis and you can subscribe to read all of it for only one dollar per month, or however much your heart directs you to pledge. The purpose of this is to allow me to do more of what I was made to do — write fiction — and still be able to help pay the bills while doing it. If eventually enough people pledge to become patrons of my work, I’ll be able to cut back on freelancing (or possibly eliminate it altogether) and work full-time writing books and stories and creating content y’all want to read (while I’m sure some of you are absolutely riveted by articles like this and would love to see me spend many hours each week researching, writing and revising them instead of writing fiction, I kinda hope you guys are in the minority on that).

Currently the plan is to start posting every piece of fiction I write from here on out to my Patreon page for patrons to read. This will include beta (i.e., rough and unedited) versions of my novels, and exclusive short stories. Everyone who pledges will get to read that stuff, and provide feedback if you so choose. Higher levels of patronage will get extra perks, like discounts on books, signed copies and other goodies.

To kick things off, I’ve posted in its entirety the short story I wrote last fall entitled THE CELLAR (the same story I was calling “Cellar Witch” here on the blog while I was working on it) (oh, and the last time I tried to run a Patreon campaign I posted my short story SPOOKED, which is included in my collection MIDNIGHT SNACKS. It’s still there, so that’s actually two stories you’ll get to read if you sign up. And I’ll begin posting chapters of my current WIP later this week). Here’s a preview of that story. Hope you enjoy it.

***

THE CELLAR

by Jean Marie Bauhaus

 

“There’s a witch buried in the cellar.”

 

I looked over at the doors in the ground that opened into the storm cellar, then back at Randall. I’d only known him for about three days, but already I had figured out he was often full of bull. “Nuh-uh.”

 

“No, really,” he said, his face earnest. “You can ask my dad if you don’t believe me. He’ll tell you.”

 

I hadn’t met Randall’s dad yet; just his mom when she’d brought us a basket of cookies on the day we moved in. I had no idea whether Randall’s dad was as prone to making stuff up as Randall, but this was the first time he’d suggested that I verify one of his stories with an adult, so he must’ve been serious.

 

We were parked at the end of my parents’ driveway, straddling our bikes and munching on leftover welcome cookies. The cellar sat in the middle of the big, grassy yard, about fifty yards from the double-wide my parents and I now called home. It looked innocent enough, surrounded by puffy white dandelions, the metal doors gleaming in the late spring sunshine. My mom had been relieved when she’d seen it. This was tornado country, and she hadn’t been thrilled about the prospect of living in a mobile home, even though it was only supposed to be temporary, until our real house was built. The cellar promised us safety.

 

“How’d she get there?” I egged him on, eager to hear what kind of wild story he’d come up with this time. A wiry, freckled kid, tall for his age, Randall was the first kid my own age I’d met there, and with summer vacation just starting I figured it’d be three more months before I had a chance to make more friends. I’d decided it was better to go along with his stories rather than risk being friendless all summer.

 

His face lit up at the question. He gobbled the rest of his cookie and wiped his fingers on his shorts, then scooted his bike closer to mine and leaned forward, resting his arms on the handlebars. “There used to be a house here,” he said in hushed tones. “A two-story farmhouse, built there, over the cellar.” He jerked his chin toward the cellar doors.

 

“What happened to it?”

 

He held up a finger. “I’m gettin’ to that part. So anyway, this lady lived here, all by herself. This was a long time ago, before we were even born. Way back in, like, the ‘Eighties. Her name was Juanita Crabtree. People would come to her for herbal remedies and stuff. They didn’t have Whole Foods or places like that back then. My dad says she probably also sold pot.”

 

“So she was a hippie drug dealer,” I said, and shrugged. “That doesn’t make her a witch.”

 

“No,” Randall agreed, leaning even closer, “but then one year animals started dying. Cats and dogs at first, showing up all mutilated, and then cows. People got real scared, thinking there was a satanic cult around here doing animal sacrifices. And then a little kid went missing, and people really freaked out.”

 

A chill ran down my back, and I was suddenly glad we were in broad daylight, and not sitting by a campfire where this story would’ve been more appropriate. Randall might be full of it, but at least his stories were entertaining. “Did they find the kid?” I asked.

 

He shook his head. “He’s still missing. But around the same time, a bunch of other kids got sick with some mystery illness they couldn’t identify. A couple of babies died. And then someone found the missing kid’s shirt down there by the creek.” He nodded in the direction of the creek bed that edged our property. “It was all caked with blood.”

 

“That’s when her customers started coming forward, talking about stuff they’d seen in her house–pentagrams, black candles, tarot cards, that kind of stuff. This one lady said Juanita had offered to pray with her for her bad back, but the prayer wasn’t like any kind of prayer she’d ever heard. The lady got scared and left and never went back there again.”

 

My baloney detector was still going off, but I was too into the story to care. “So what’d they do?”

 

“The sheriff’s department got a warrant and brought dogs out to search her property. They found some weird stuff. Bird skeletons, cat skulls, jars full of cow’s blood. And that’s not even the scary part.”

 

“What is?” I realized I’d leaned closer.

 

Randall looked around, as if to make sure we weren’t being watched. Seemingly satisfied, he leaned back in. “They found a bunch of dolls, tied up all weird, with these little bags around their necks, filled with teeth, bones, hair . . . that kind of stuff.”

 

I shivered, and glanced uneasily over at the cellar. “Did they arrest her?”

 

“Yeah, but they had to let her go ‘cause they didn’t have enough evidence. So the people decided to do what the sheriff couldn’t.”

 

He stopped, then leaned back and stretched his arms. I got the feeling he was telling this story the same way he’d heard it told, pausing to let the drama sink in. When he didn’t start talking again right away, I took the bait. “What did they do?”

 

“A lynch mob came after her. They were gonna hang her–from that tree over there.” He pointed to the tall oak towering over the double-wide, where my dad had told me we could build a tree house later that summer.

 

“Did they?” I asked, not taking my eyes off the tree, trying to guess which limb had been used for the deed.

 

“No,” he said, and I let out the breath I’d been holding. “When they came, about forty people all together, she met them on the front porch and told them she could control the weather. She said if they didn’t leave, she’d call down a tornado to carry them all to hell.”

 

“What did they do?”

 

“They didn’t leave. Instead they dragged her off the porch and over to the tree. She was kicking and screaming the whole way, calling out words in some weird language nobody could understand. But that wasn’t all. As they strung her up, she called out a curse on the property so that nobody else would build here. She said, ‘A child must die so the house may stand.’” He repeated this last part in an ominous, creaky old-lady voice.

 

“Then a storm hit,” he continued, “and baseball-size hail started to fall, hitting people and knocking them out. They tried to gag her and finish hanging her, but she got away and tried to run for the cellar. Then somebody shot her.

 

“That’s when the tornado hit.”

 

He paused again for effect, and I leaned back on my bike and regarded him with skepticism. “You’re making this up,” I said. Despite the risks to my social life, I couldn’t let such a fantastic whopper go without comment.

 

“I’m not,” he said, his eyes wide and sincere. He raised his right hand. “I swear. You can look it up online. It was in all the papers, how a freak storm hit without any warning and a tornado only destroyed one house.” He pointed over at the cellar. “That house.”

 

“Yeah, right,” I said, but all the bravado had gone out of my voice.

 

“I told you, look it up! Anyway,” he went on, dismissing my unbelief, “most of the people were killed, but a couple of survivors managed to make it into the cellar right before the tornado hit. One of them was a friend of my dad’s uncle. They never found her body, and he told the sheriff that the storm must’ve carried her off, or maybe she’d survived and got out of town. But it was him that shot her, and then they buried her down there.”

 

I sat back and gripped my handlebars, taking a deep breath and letting it all sink in. “That’s a hell of a story, Randall.”

 

“I know,” he said, “but that’s not even the freakiest part.”

 

I steeled myself and asked, “Then what is?”

 

“People have tried to rebuild on this property three times since then, on top of the old foundation. Every time, as soon as the house was finished and the families moved in, a tornado would hit and tear it all down.

 

“The first time, it was a retired couple, and they were both killed. Then a young family built another house here, but not long after one of the kids died of some mystery illness. They moved soon after that, and another childless couple bought the place. Guess what happened after that?”

 

I didn’t answer; the question seemed rhetorical anyway, ‘cause Randall went on without pausing. “After that another family put a house here, this time with teenagers. Another tornado hit, and only the dad survived. He tore up the old foundation so that nobody would build on it again.”

 

I looked over by the cellar, at the area where the foundation must’ve been laid. The whole reason my parents had bought this property was that they planned to build there eventually. “So you’re basically telling me I’m gonna die.”

 

His eyes went wide, as if that thought hadn’t even occurred to him. Then he waved his hand as if to dismiss everything. “Nah,” he said. “I’m sure it’s all a coincidence. I mean, I don’t really believe in witches or anything like that. Do you?”

 

“Of course not,” I told him, but that didn’t ease the queasiness I suddenly felt.

 

“Anyway, I’m thirsty,” he said, changing the subject. “Wanna ride down to the gas station and get some pop?”

 

“Yeah, okay,” I said, grateful for something to take my mind off of the cellar. “Let me go ask my mom.”

 

***

 

The weather forecast predicted severe weather later in the week, so my dad decided not to waste any more time getting the storm shelter ready. After supper, we drove twenty miles to the nearest Walmart to stock up on supplies.

 

I hadn’t given Randall’s story another thought the rest of that day, but as we drove back home, it was starting to get dark, and I knew my dad was going to make me help him put everything away in the cellar. My heart sped up as I remembered everything Randall had said, and suddenly I really didn’t want to go down there, especially at night.

 

I didn’t dare tell my dad that, though. He’d just stopped treating me like a little kid that year, and I didn’t want him to start again. Instead I reminded myself that in just three short days Randall already had a track record of making stuff up. I told myself that tornadoes are way scarier than some old dead lady anyway, witch or no witch, and the cellar would keep us safe.

 

But when my dad parked the truck in the driveway and told me to grab a case of water and follow him to the cellar, I froze. I was still sitting there, trying to slow my heart and untie the knots in my stomach, when he startled me by pounding on my window. “Let’s go, sport!” he called, Walmart bags gripped in one fist and a cot in the other.

 

I took a deep breath, then opened the door and got out. I took my time getting the water from the back of the truck and crossing the yard to the cellar doors. By the time I got there, light flooded out of the open doors, and I could hear my dad humming an old Metallica song. Shaking my head at my own stupidity, I descended the steps and set the water on the dirt floor. As I stood back up, I couldn’t help wondering if that was the spot where she was buried.

 

“Sport!” Dad called. When I looked up I got the feeling he’d had to call out to me more than once. His face was covered with concern. “You okay, son?”

 

I shrugged. “I’m fine.”

 

He studied me a minute, then said, “You sure about that?”

 

I opened my mouth to say yes, but something made me hesitate. If Randall’s story was true, wouldn’t my parents have known about it before they bought the place and moved us here? I decided I needed to ask, but I had to do it in a way that wouldn’t make me sound like a ‘fraidy baby. So I just said, “Randall says there’s a witch buried down here.”

 

He laughed. “Randall. Isn’t that the kid who told you his dog is thirty years old? In human years?”

 

“Yeah,” I admitted. “I know he’s full of sh–crap,” I corrected myself as my Dad raised an eyebrow at me. “But he swore that we could look this stuff up. He said she cursed a bunch of kids and made them sick before a lynch mob finally killed her.”

 

Dad paused from arranging candles and batteries on a shelf and looked at me. “When was this supposed to be?”

 

“Back in the 1980s.”

 

“Ah.” He nodded knowingly as he took out his pocket knife to cut the zip ties that held the cots closed. “When you’re a little older, remind me to tell you about a little something called the Satanic Panic.”

 

“What’s that?”

 

He pointed the knife at me, along with a stern look. “When you’re older.”

 

Great. He was already talking to me like a little kid again. Still, I pressed on. Keeping my voice light, like I thought it was all a big stupid joke, I relayed the rest of Randall’s story.

 

“So did you look it up?” He asked as he arranged the cots along one wall.

 

“Nah,” I said, trying to sound like I didn’t believe it was worth the bother. I left out the part about my mom being on the computer doing her homework all day, even though that would’ve been an excellent opportunity to drop a hint about getting my own laptop for my birthday.

 

With everything apparently arranged to his satisfaction, my dad sliced open the shrink wrap on a case of water, took out a couple of bottles and handed one to me. He sat on the end of the middle cot and scanned the dirt floor. “So where do you think she’s buried?” He looked down at his own feet and stomped a boot on the floor. “Here?”

 

I stared at his boot and swallowed, hard. Then I did my best to laugh it off. “Nah,” I said again. “Like I said, Randall’s full of crap.”

 

Dad nodded, a look of approval on his face. Then he pointed at me with the hand that held the cap. “You remember that before you come and wake me up asking me to check your closet tonight,” he said, then took a drink.

 

“Dad, I’m not a baby.”

 

He grinned, and stood up. “I know. I don’t always like it, but I know.” He ruffled my hair, then jerked his head toward the stairs. “Come on. We’ve got time for a round of Sorry before bed.” Before I knew it, he was headed up the stairs in front of me. “Get the light,” he called over his shoulder.

 

I should’ve been right behind him, but my feet froze to the ground the second I realized he was leaving me down there on my own. I looked around, and suddenly the same cellar that had seemed innocuous and even kind of cozy while my dad was there looked sinister and unwelcoming, with stark shadows cast at creepy angles by the naked light bulb overhead. The area underneath each of the cots was dark, and I imagined (didn’t I?) something moving under there, deep in the shadowy space.

 

My heart sped up and suddenly my feet were all too eager to move. I reached up and yanked the light chain even as the rest of me was already moving toward the stairs. I thought I could feel something on my heels as I shot up out of the ground, but it was only my paranoia. When I turned to close the doors, nothing was there. Just a gaping, dark, empty hole.

 

I closed the doors, strung the chain through the door handles, and forced myself to walk at a calm pace as I headed back to the house.
***

Read the rest right now on Patreon!

Free at Last!

I have a laptop again! Thanks to my dear friend Erin Palette‘s quick thinking and organization efforts and the generosity of her Facebook network, I am now the proud owner of a 2005 HP tablet/notebook device. Yes, 2005, so it’s not exactly state-of-the-art, but it’s fine for writing, blogging, surfing, and light graphic design work. And it converts into a tablet — I think this was one of Microsoft’s early attempts to beat the iPad — so that’s fun. At any rate, it has liberated me from my husband’s desk and having to wait my turn on the desktop PC, so I am beyond thrilled and grateful.

And now I can get back to work on the whole author-publisher endeavor. Which I have already done by adding to the short story I’d begun before my old laptop’s screen burned out. And I also redid my Patreon page, where you can read said short story, which is a mash-up of a local ghost story and a terrifying dream I had a few months ago.

I’ve also been working on the outline and story world for the novel I talked about in my last post. I’ll start drafting it once this story is done — although I would like to write one more short piece for the collection I’m planning to publish around Halloween, so we’ll see how that goes. At any rate, pretty much everything I write from now on I plan to post as I go on my Patreon feed, and you can read it all for a measly $2 monthly pledge. Plus you’ll get other stuff too. Because I appreciate your willingness to toss a couple of bucks my way to help me do what I do, and I promise to make it worth your while.

In other news, Matt just had a birthday on Saturday. We spent it with my mom and her sister, who took us to a burger joint my mom used to frequent back in the 1950s. That was the best burger and onion rings and chocolate malt I’ve had in a very long time. Actually, it was the only burger and rings I’ve had in quite a while, and probably the first malt I’d had in about two decades. But it was delicious. At any rate, it was a lovely day.

How To Help Me Write Faster

Note: This post is a bit long, but if you consider yourself at all to be a fan of my books, please read to the end. Thanks.

I’d been kicking around the idea of doing a Kickstarter to fund the finishing and production of Intruder. At the rate I’m currently going on it, managing to squeeze in between 500 and 1000 words per week (on a good week), my thinking was that a Kickstarter, if successfully funded, would allow me to set aside some time every day to work on it without losing income, so I could actually get the book written this year. I also hoped to raise enough to have it properly edited and formatted by a pro, along with a professional cover design for both Intruder and Restless Spirits. However, I don’t think I have a large enough fanbase to come anywhere near the funding I’d need to pull that off.

So in researching other options, I took a deeper look at Patreon. If you don’t know what that is, Patreon is a crowdfunding site based on the old model of artist patronage. It allows fans to subscribe and contribute small amounts — as little as a dollar — on a regular basis to help support content creators and ongoing projects. I didn’t give it too much consideration at first because it seemed to be aimed primarily at YouTubers, podcasters and web comic creators, but quite a few writers are experimenting with it to fund their creative writing. Creators can either set it up as a tip jar, or they can set up a subscription model to accept payments in return for regular content and perks.

The latter model seems like a good compromise. I’m not really comfortable with the tip jar model, which would feel too much like living on charity. But a subscription model would be an exchange of money for goods. It would fill in the income gaps and allow me to set aside an hour or two each day to work on noveling. Not only that, but it would obligate me to do so — I’d not just be able to, but have to give my creative writing the same priority that I give to client projects.

But how does a subscription model work with writing a novel? I actually have several novels in my To Be Written queue — enough to keep me busy for years, even if I’m writing full time. So here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to serialize all of them for Patreon. If you decide to become a patron — which, again, you can do for as little as a dollar per installment (and you can put a cap on how many installments you’re willing to fund each month) — you’ll have access to each installment as I write them. You’ll also be rewarded with an e-book of the finalized book once it’s ready to publish. Higher levels of support will get you additional perks, including steep discounts on signed paperbacks and the opportunity to vote on which project you’d like me to write next. You can check out my Patreon page here to get all of the details, or just click the big shiny button below:

Become my patron on Patreon

If this takes off, I’ll figure out some more exciting rewards. For one thing, I’d like to be able to offer Google hangouts, but for that to happen I need to replace my computer with one that has a working webcam. But I hope to keep the lines of communication open with my patrons to figure out what they want so I can do my best to deliver.

And one more thing — even if you can’t (or just don’t want to) support my fiction in this way right now, some of the best support you can give me is word of mouth. Spreading the word about my Patreon page — and about my writing in general — will make you a Big Damn Hero in my book.

Thanks for reading. 🙂