Friday, December 30, 2011

Know Your Goals, 2011 Edition

**Amazon has dropped their price on the Kindle edition of Generation Dead:Stitches to $2.69! That is less than a Venti coffee, I think. don't know how long that price will last, so get yers today!

People who know me well know that I am somewhat fanatical about the setting and achievement of goals. This personality quirk (some would say defect) appears to be at odds with the generally unfocused and haphazard nature of my day-to-day personality. But every year, the week before New Years' Eve, I enter into a ritual of self-reflection where I meditate for long hours on where I am and where I would like to be in life. At the end of this process, I leave the incense filled sweat lodge of my office with a list of goals for the coming year. Every night when my head hits the pillow, i will mentally review this list of goals. This nightly review isn't just a recitation; I will try to bring in sensory detail about the goals I'm shooting for--what it feels and looks like to work towards them, to achieve them, etc. I do this every night, without fail, no matter how tired i am or how many martinis, espressos, or snarky GoodReads reviews I've had before bedtime. And then I fall asleep. Eventually.

I end up thinking about these goals often, consciously and subconsciously, throughout my days. I keep a daily journal, and often I will comment upon some real-world (real, at least, to me) aspect of these goals, and then at the end of every month I check my progress and write a status update for each goal.

Please understand I'm not recommending these practices in a sort of motivational, self-helpy kind of way, or in an instructional "do this and and the secrets of the universe will be yours" sense. I'm not even suggesting the practice is sane. All I'm saying is that it is what I do, and it seems to help me get some positive results.

I had fifteen goals for 2011. Thought about them every night. Every single night, without fail. The Goal Police would be right to point out that not all of these goals meet the SMART criteria necessary for proper goal setting (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time bound). some, you may notice, might actually be just bordering on my sphere of influence. Ah well. I'll work on that for 2012

Here's how I did in terms of accomplishment.

1. Write Three Generation Dead Short Stories
I ended up writing four. Earlier in the year, a reader asked me why there weren't any Generation Dead ebooks. I asked the same question of my publisher, and offered to do a new story for each ebook. After they were out, another reader asked if the stories could be available separately, because she already had all of the books, so I suggested to the publisher that we bind them up and that I would write another new story to include. Stitches was the result; a project that I hadn't even thought of in 2010. Now readers are asking for a physical book. Did I mention I love readers?

2. Write Three Non-Generation Dead Short Stories
I should have this completed by the end of tomorrow.

3. Write Two Novel Outlines
My novel outlines usually end up around thirty pages long. I completed this goal.

4. Finish a Draft of Teenage Monster
This is a novel I began working on last year. I finished the draft and my agent and I are working on it now.

5. Finish a Draft of Another Novell
Top secret. I finished this goal.

6. Deliver Break My Heart 1000 Times to Hyperion
Done. Wrapping up the final edits. We're on track for a Fall 2012 release. I'll post the cover before long.

7. Undisclosed Business Goal
Accomplished, but I can't tell you about it! Sorry!

8. Have a Project Optioned for Film
Accomplished. More about that in the new year

9. Collaborate on a Comic Book Project
Not accomplished. I've had many conversations with my pal Matthew Dow Smith about this, and we keep talking about it, but he is a very busy man drawing Doctor Who and working on a number of thrilling writing projects. Maybe next year

10. Undisclosed Family Goal

11. Increase My Internet Presence
Okay, I'll admit that one is kind of vague, which is probably why I consider it not accomplished. I have a few more blog followers than before, but I blog less. I'm on Twitter, but have very few people following (hint,hint). I'm not on Facebook as much, and I didn't do as many interviews or guest blogs as in years' past. But...I'm really okay with all of that. Weird.

12. Get my Office Together
I'm about 80% to goal. I have half of it painted, most of the necessary equipment is there, I have some art on the walls, it is looking and feeling comfortable. Another round of painting and a trip to IKEA and I'll be all set.

13. Read 100 Books
Arbitrary and doesn't speak to quality, I know. Too bad. I read a hundred and fourteen and will probably finish another tonight.

14. Lose 10% of My Body Weight
Accomplished! Lost 12%, actually. Next year my goal will be a running goal vs. a weight loss goal--I ran 812 miles this year. Running, swimming, basketball and a little weight lifting helped me hit this, because I still eat like a piggy.

15. Undisclosed Financial Goal

So of my fifteen, I hit twelve, made a great deal of progress on one, and failed on two. Not a bad year at all.

I'm looking forward to seeing what targets I will have for myself for 2012....

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Stitch #4: Purpose Statement

Last year I was happy to be involved with the Dear Bully project, which was put together by my friends Carrie Jones and Megan Kelley Hall. The initial idea for the Generation Dead series came out of my reaction to watching a television show about bullying in schools, and many of my story ideas for the world of GD involve some aspect of bullying. "Purpose Statement" is one story directly in that vein.

I foresee myself writing stories about pretty much all of the more peripheral characters in Generation Dead--since writing Stitches I've written one about Mal--and I've wanted to do a story about Popeye since introducing him in Kiss of Life (Tak will take his turn at bat soon also; I think there could be a whole book about him!) and "Purpose Statement" grew out of that desire.

It is one of the darkest tales in the whole series, but Popeye is one of the darkest characters I've written. I realize now that Margi's appearance in the story was to try and bring some light into that darkness. Popeye is one of those people who always feels that the world is against him, but unlike most people, he prefers it that way.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Stitch #3: My Dead Heart

I'm sure I wasn't the only one that felt that Tommy and Phoebe had some unfinished business to attend to after Tommy hit the road in Kiss of Life. "My Dead Heart" is where their story picks up again.

I love working with different points of view; the Generation Dead novels have featured many different POV characters (only one character has been a POV character in all three books--do you know who?), but Tommy, oddly, has not been one of them, so I really wanted to have him take center stage in his homecoming story--especially because he hasn't blogged in a long time!

Sunday, December 25, 2011


Don't forget to save $3.19 of your Amazon, B&N, or iTunes gift cards so you can download Generation Dead:Stitches! And eat a few candy caaaaaaanes!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Stitch #2: Doll Parts

Writing this story was like scratching an itch--I'd left poor Sylvia in pieces at the end of Kiss of Life, and then she ended up on the cutting room floor (pun intended) in Passing Strange after I'd excised a long chapter that more fully resolved her situation than her brief cameo in the final book hinted at. I wasn't pleased with making the deletion at the time, but in retrospect the cut made more sense for the novel, and "Doll Parts" was the easiest of the four stories to write. I knew the tone I wanted, I knew the beginning the middle and the end, so all I needed to do was try to get the order of the words right.

My first publications for pay were horror short stories, and "Doll Parts" is similar in tone. And yes, for those of you who are aware of my worshipful love of Mystery Science Theater, the initial inspiration for the story did come from a movie they spoofed called The Brain that Wouldn't Die. That, and the idea that the existence of zombies would provide all sorts of challenges and opportunities to our medical community, some of which would not be approached with good intentions.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Stitch #1: How's Life

My first writing sale, as in "I send you a story, you send me money", occurred two years before I sold Generation Dead. Although I had a number of stories "on the street", it was the only sale I made that year. I was paid seventeen dollars and thirty-one cents; the publisher paid by the word, much like the pulp magazines of old, a detail that somehow made the transaction seem more concrete and legitimate to me. They paid me on publication via Paypal, so I didn't have the thrill that I've often read about of making the lonely trek to the mailbox on the corner and finding the payment envelope within, but Then again I had the money. I then set for myself a business goal for my writing: I would try and double my writing income every year, so that the following year I would need to make $34.62, the next $69.24, then $138.42, etc. Doing the math out for ten years helped me feel like I had a pretty spectacular career on the horizon. I sold some horror stories and a horror music column the following year, enough to beat the $34.62 goal, and the year after that I was given a contract for Generation Dead and Kiss of Life, a contract that was worth quite a bit more than $69.24, so hooray for setting goals.

While working on those two books, I did not write any short stories. I wrote a few ideas down--I've got a roomful of story idea featuring GD characters-- but it wasn't until I was invited to submit a story to the Kiss Me Deadly anthology that I actually wrote one. I was thrilled with the way "Many Happy Returns" turned out, and writing it rekindle my passion for short stories. Writing the stories that ended up being included in Stitches was a pure pleasure, a nice break from working on novels, and a great opportunity to write different types of stories (one of the Stitches is a straight-up horror story) as well as explore some of the character relationships in a deeper way than I was able to in the novels.

"How's Life", the first story in the collection and the first of the four that I wrote, comes directly from that impulse to explore relationships. One thing that nagged me in the novels was that I didn't take more of an opportunity to work with Margi, especially how she worked to overcome the fear and loathing she has at the start of the series for zombies. It doesn't come out on the page as much as I would have liked, but in Kiss of Life especially I wanted to juxtapose Phoebe's instant acceptance of Adam with Margi's initial rejection of Colette. "How's Life" is a story of the emotional work that friends sometimes have to do to strengthen their friendships.

There was a song echoing in my mind when I was writing the story, "What is Life" by George Harrison. Perhaps wrongly, I've always assumed that song to be about the love between friends and not romantic love, and its tone and the sentiments express match closely what I hoped to convey in my story. Catch me in the right mood and I get all choked up listening to that very beautiful song.

I almost used his title as my title, but then I thought that "How's Life" was something Margi or Colette would be more likely to say to each other. I instead adopted George's no question mark technique in the title; omitting the question mark makes his song a declaration and I've always been in love with that semantic nuance.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

I Saw My Skull

I've only had real stitches once in my life--23 of them. Fifteen years ago or so I knocked heads with a guy while playing basketball. I split my forehead open; he got a concussion. Smashmouth athleticism! I literally could see my skull in the curving wound above my left eye; I touched it with two of my fingers. I was a gory mess. 'Cause guess what? Head wounds bleed a lot.

I was conscious and joking around, on an adrenaline high because of all of the slam dunks I'd been throwing down. About have a dozen medical staff gathered around to watch the doctor stitch me up, probably just because it was one of those cool non-life threatening wounds. I never took the Percocet they gave me.*

Stitches the book has nothing to do with that harrowing experience. I called it that because the stories link or "stitch" the novels together; "How's Life" occurs after GD but before KOL, "Doll Parts" happens after KOL but before PS, the last two happen after PS and before...??? Plus I liked Stitches as a title because I picture some zombies as being stitched up, Frankenstein-esque, sewn together by hands less skillful than those that stitched me.

Over the next few days, I will blog about each of the four stories in Stitches, now out at fine ebook sellers everywhere.

*This story is actually mostly true. Except for the slam dunk part.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Generation Dead:Stitches

Out today in ebook! iBook,Kindle and Nook!

"How's Life"
"Doll Parts"
"My Dead Heart" (Exclusive to this collection!)
"Purpose Statement"

This one is dedicated (or is that deadicated?) to YOU. It's true! Buy a copy if you don't believe me!