November 30, 2023

In Conclusion…

And here we are, in the final hours of NaNoWriMo.

I didn’t actively (or even loosely) participate in NaNoWriMo this year. Too much editing to do. But it’s been a productive month, and in a lot of ways that’s what this is all about.

Well, it’s not exactly what it’s all about.

Back at the start of the month, I said “NaNoWriMo” is a bit misleading because we’re not really trying to write an entire novel in a month. We’re trying to write the first draft of a novel in a month. A rushed, mistake-filled first draft at best.

And really… even that’s kind of misleading. Because what NaNoWriMo counts as a novel—a 50,000 word manuscript—is so small most publishers wouldn’t consider it. Even books in what are generally seen as “shorter” genres (like horror, romance, and mysteries, for example) have a low end of around 75-80K words.

So if the goal’s to get an even slightly passable first draft this month, pretty much everybody would fail. I mean, just in general I’m betting most folks who do NaNoWriMo don’t hit that 50K benchmark. That’s a lot of words in one month. Said as a professional who knows a lot of other professionals. It can be done, yeah, but it’s tough.

I’ll also take the next step and say half the folks who do hit said benchmark… well, their manuscripts probably need so much work they’re effectively going to be rewriting the whole thing in their next draft. Correcting. Cutting. Improving. Expanding.

Hopefully they admit they need another draft

Anyway, this is sounding so let me share two points I hope you’ll take away from this month of manic writing.

First, don’t think of this in terms of winning and losing. Think of it more like one of those mud run/ obstacle course things where the goal is just to get to the end. Yeah, someone’s going to get there first and someone’s going to get there last, but the big thing is getting there, even if it turns out it might take me a little longer than that guy. A friend of mine just did one of those races and she was nowhere near first but she finished the course and she was damned proud. I keep telling myself I want to run a marathon one day, but I’ve got no illusions about ever winning a marathon. I’ll be nowhere near the front of the pack, but I just want to know if I can do it.

So don’t worry about benchmarks or schedules. If you wrote new words this month, you did it! If you managed to write them almost every day this month—damn, you’re amazing. You did something most people just talk about doing.

Second, how much did you write? How many new words got put down? Twenty-five thousand? Thirty? Maybe twenty? Maybe forty?

Y’see, Timmy, what I should take away from this is how many words I wrote this month. because now, for future reference, I know how many words I can write in a month. In a month with a big holiday weekend, no less. Now I know exactly how long it’s going to take for me to finish that 100,000 word first draft. I’ve got a solid, attainable goal, and I know it’s attainable because I just showed myself how much I can write in a month.

So maybe you didn’t write the first draft of a book this month. But you proved you can write it. And if you can write a first draft—even if it takes two or three or six months—that means you can write a book. A finished, polished, ready-to-show-off-to-the-world book.

And that means you won NaNoWriMo. Congratulations!

Next time, I’m going to answer a question from the comments and talk about plotting.

Until then, go write.

And serious congrats again on winning NaNoWriMo.

November 29, 2023

November Newsletter

Okay, I’ve got a bunch of different things to tell you about this month, so this one’s going to be a bit longer than usual. Might be the longest one I’ve sent out. But I think you’ll find one or two interesting things in here.

Anyway, let’s dive into it…

First off, I’m still working on GJD. About halfway through at this point. Still planning to have this done before Christmas. Very happy with the changes. A few darlings have been killed, but that’s the way of this.

Darlings? Hell, I’ve deleted three whole chapters at this point. Seriously. But I also know I need to add some new chapters that should’ve been there before. And I know some of you are saying “Pete, you can’t just add and delete chapters at random! That’s not how structure works!” And you’re right, it isn’t. But there’s more to what I’m doing than just adding and deleting.

Trust me, I’m a professional.

Second, some downer news. Sorry. For the past two years I’ve been biting my tongue about what was supposed to be some amazing film news. Mostly because I know how fragile Hollywood things are up to a certain point, and I don’t like to talk about anything that might end up being nothing. Which is, y’know, what happened here…

Long story short, James Wan and Blumhouse were going to partner to do -14- and The Fold as a streaming series. And they were really excited about doing it. Yeah, I know. Like I said, biting my tongue. I think I told a total of maybe twelve people about it. And two of them were my parents, who immediately asked “Who’s James Wan? Is he an actor?”

And then the strikes happened. WGA and SAG together. Which—to be very, very clear—I 100% supported then and now. But the strikes meant a lot of projects were put on indefinite hold and this was one of them. Which meant a lot of studio folks had time to sit and think and rethink and overthink. And about a week after the WGA strike ended, my film agent got a short email saying (paraphrased) “Yeeeeaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh… we’ve decided no.”

So there’s that. Raise a glass to the cool series that could’ve been.

In happier news…

The Reinvented Detective anthology is going to be out in about a month. Really, it’s coming out just before the next newsletter. But you can head down to your friendly local bookstore and order a copy now. I have a story in it called “The Unassembled Victims” which is a loose tie in to GJD (see above) but also just a fun story about two mismatched detectives hunting a serial killer.

Joe Ledger: Unbreakable is out now! Right now! Like, you could go down to that bookstore we were just talking about and it’d be right there on the shelf. Or you could ask them to get it for you and you’d have it in a couple days. I’ve got a story in it that’s called, well, “Crossover Story” and like every title I’ve ever done you can read it a few different ways. It’s also me finally saying out loud something Jonathan Maberry and I have both made sly winks to in the past. I think you’ll like it a lot.

And speaking of which…

On Saturday December 9th, Jonathan, a bunch of other authors and I will be at Dark Delicacies in Burbank signing copies of Joe Ledger: Unbreakable. So if you’d like a signed copy, please stop by or get in touch with the store ahead of time (they ship!).

Also, since this is the only official signing I’m doing before Christmas, I’ll be signing and personalizing anything you want for the holidays that you order through Dark Delicacies. You want a signed copy of The Broken Room for that special someone? One of the Ex books? Paradox Bound? The Fold? Give them a call and talk to them. Just remember to do it soon, because if you want something they don’t have in stock, they need to order it in time for it to be there on the 9th (for me to sign).

And, yes, if you’re in the LA area on the 9th you can just stop by with something you already own. But please remember bookstore signing etiquette! Buy a book there if you want a book signed there.

Also, speaking of etiquette, next week I’ll be making my seasonal Black Friday offer over on the ranty writing blog if that’s something you might need this year. Probably looking at the same time frame for shipping, so I’ll probably have to cut that off on the 11th or so.

What else can I tell you about…?

Cool Stuff I’ve Been Watching– Tron: Uprising. Holy crap. I know this is like ten years old but I hadn’t seen it until now and holy crap! Also, Bob’s Burgers continues to be amazing. No Hard Feelings was surprisingly deep for such a shallow, sexploitation premise.

Cool Stuff I’ve Been Reading
Currently in the middle of Red Rabbit by Alex Grecian and really liking it. Next up is Democritus Brand and the Endless Machine by Cullen Bunn, JimmyZ Johnston, and Federico DeLuca.

Cool New Toys – Picked up Monica Rambeau from The Marvels. A trip downtown just before Halloween let me grab a Megalon ReAction figure from the Super 7 store. And maybe a week after that I lucked into the Target exclusive retro Spider-Man and a Transformers Legacy Evolution Snarl (seriously, why are some of these names so long?). And I also kickstarted Combat Creatures from Morphonauts, which I highly recommend if you like action figures or the ides of Battle Beasts crossed with Warhammer 40K.

I’m not going to lie. This has been a very stressful year for me. It’s basically been eight months of construction all around my home. Random noise. Random activity. Random changes that’ve spilled over onto my home. My productivity’s way down, and it’s been very hard to relax.

What this means (among other things) is I didn’t read a lot this year. No where near my usual. Not even two dozen books. And six of those were blurb books. So while I enjoyed most of them, reading them did have a slight “work” aspect to it that kept me from sinking in as much as I normally might. Always a good sign when I’m reading a book for a blurb and forget why I’m reading it because it’s just that good…

Anyway, it’s Cyber-Monday and, look, if you like artists, they usually get to make a lot more art when they have money. And then they tend to get money when people buy their art. So I thought—as I have in the past—I’d tell you about some of the books I really enjoyed this year. If you follow me on social media, you may’ve seen me blab on about some of these during the past year. And maybe now you can add them to your holiday wishlist or maybe pick one up for that certain special someone. Then you (or they) get some cool stories, those artists get some money, and the cycle can continue.

(also, shop locally if you can–that way money goes to you friendly neighborhood bookstore and back into your community)

Hellraiser: Bloodline by Peter Atkins– you may be familiar with the infamous “Hellraiser in Space” movie. What you may not know is it had a seriously fantastic script that was butchered by, well, all the usual suspects. Now you can read the original story and imagine the movie that should’ve been. Highly recommended for Hellraiser fans.

The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells– I didn’t get to read much this year, but I managed to catch up on all the fantastic Murderbot books, about the rogue SecUnit that’s (grudgingly) learning about emotions and friendship and multi-seasonal soap operas. And then a new book came out, like, two weeks ago (System Collapse) and now I’m behind again. But you can learn from my mistakes. Buy someone the whole set so they can read them all at once.

Shakedown by Scott Sigler – I got to read this one early and it’s one of those books where I have to just say I’m jealous as hell and I can’t wait for the next one. Basically it’s about an officer in a future war sentenced (wrongly?) to serve on a… prison ship? Experimental ship? Cursed ship? Who can say what it is. If you like military thrillers, this is for you. Sub hunts? This is for you. Sci-fi with a creepy edge? SO for you.

Walking the Dusk by Mike Robinson– this is another book I got to blurb this year, and another wonderfully creepy one. There’s just this fantastic sense of dread all through this tale of a college professor trying to remember one childhood summer with his big sister and his possibly imaginary friend, along with lots of pondering about identity vs memory, a personal favorite of mine.

Red Rabbit by Alex Grecian – not so much a weird western as more of a western with supernatural elements? I’m almost tempted to call it a period urban fantasy, if that makes sense? Whatever you want to call it, it’s a beautiful slow-burn of a book about an odd mix of characters who end up traveling cross-country to kill a witch. There’s still a few weeks left, but this is one of my favorite things I read this year.

Cult Classic by Stephen Blackmoore – very possibly the last Eric Carter book, but damn does Stephen stick the landing on this one. The recently-resurrected Carter is trying to deal with his reputation as one of the most powerful/dangerous mages in the country, a rookie cop with a rare magical knack, magical timeslips, and an actual Oracle who can see the future. I’ve been telling you to read these books for years, and if you’re shopping for one of those people who won’t start a series until it’s done… well, now’s the time to give them a big block of urban fantasy.

The Ghost Job by Greg van Eekhout– A freakin’ adorable YA tale of a team of dead kids who pull heists for various magical relics and artifacts. I heard Greg talk about this a year or so back and was hooked then. In all fairness, as I write this I’m not quite halfway through, but I’m loving it so far and Greg has a pretty solid track record, as far as I’m concerned (see also: Fenris & Mott), so I think you should just go for it and pick this up.

And that’s all of them from this year. Do you have any suggestions of your own? Drop ’em in the comments, please! Other than that… yeah, that’s all I’ve got for you.

Well, I mean, there’s all my books, too. I’d never object if you want to give someone a nice hardcover of The Broken Room or a copy of Paradox Bound or The Fold for them to stick on their shelves. Heck, on a related note, I mentioned I’m signing at Dark Delicacies on December 9th, right? Order something from them now and I can sign it for you (or someone else) then. Just give them a call.

And finally, if all this talk about buying books as gifts is getting you a bit depressed for financial reasons, may I wave you back towards the Black Friday offer. Maybe we should talk.

Anyway, happy Cyber-Monday. Hope something here caught your eye…

November 24, 2023 / 1 Comment

Black Friday X – Black Friday In Space

Eventually, all the franchises end up in space.

Well, I guess it’s time I gave the talk…

If you’re sort of new to my writing, me, and/ or the ranty blog, you probably don’t know that I went through a very solid bout of poverty on my path to becoming a semi-successful writer. I’d been making an okay living in the film industry, and when I moved to freelance journalism it was a little tighter but still livable. Then the economy crumbled in 2008 and the magazine I did most of my writing for started to flounder. Paychecks started to lag, and I pretty much had to blackmail the publisher for three of them (never got my last one). I had a few unexpected-but-completely-normal expenses (car repairs, a sick cat, a lost filling).

And then after about a year and a half of this… I had nothing.

And to be clear, I mean, nothing. Savings completely gone. Credit cards maxed out. My partner and I lived right at the federal poverty line for almost three years. In Los Angeles. We shopped pretty much exclusively at the 99¢ Store. Our phone got shut off. We had no internet at home, so we used the library’s wifi for everything (go libraries!), and while we were there we’d steal a roll or three of toilet paper (sorry, libraries). We didn’t turn the heat on for two winters in a row. Hell, for one assignment I had to beg an editor to loan me gas money so I could drive to a screening he’d asked me to cover.

Three years like that. Three. Years. Constantly stressed. Constantly feeling like crap.

Especially at the holidays.

The holiday season’s the worst when you’re poor. You can’t afford to buy gifts for family or friends. You can’t afford to travel. Hell, there were times we got invited to nice Christmas parties and had to skip them because we couldn’t afford to park where they were being held (friggin’ LA). Being poor at the holidays means you end up feeling isolated at a time when people are supposed to be coming together.

And I ended up feeling guilty about it, too. I spent time stressing about if maybe there was something else I could’ve done with my at the time floundering career. About the people I loved who it felt like I was neglecting. About what people thought about me, being so poor I couldn’t even get something for my significant other or my family.

Being poor means feeling like that all the time. Pretty much from mid-November to mid January. Nothing but guilt and dread and shame and self-doubt.

Being poor at the holidays absolutely sucks.

Now, all that said… I’m in a better position these days, and I owe a good part of that to all of you. Because for some reason you like these odd stories I tell. And if I can help some of you avoid feeling miserable this holiday season, I’d like to do it.

So here’s the deal. If you’re in that bad place right now, where you can’t afford to give gifts to your family or friends, send me a message at . I’ve got maybe a dozen random books, and I might be able to scrounge up two or three more if need be. I’ll scribble in one and mail it out to you (postage is on me, too). I’ll even throw in wrapping paper if you need it. If you know your gift-target would like a specific book, feel free to request it, but please understand I can’t promise anything, sorry (I have what I have). I’ll send them out for as long as the books last or December 11th-ish (for shipping reasons), whichever comes first.

It’s not much, I know. But it’ll be a gift you can give someone. And maybe you can feel a little less stressed and shamed at the holidays.

Again, this is for those of you who need some help getting gifts for others. The people cutting back on everything, pulling unemployment, and feeling like crap because they can’t afford holiday gifts for family or friends. This isn’t so you can recommend someone in a bad spot who might like a book. You could do that for them. Seriously, go buy them a book. And buy locally! Support your local bookstores

Also—almost every year two or three folks offer to help out with this. Thanks so much for the thought, but you don’t need to do this for me. You can go be fantastic people all on your own. I guarantee, there’s a toy bank or food bank or some kind of program within ten miles of you right now that could really use some help. And you could be the person to give that help.

And finally, I’m doing this on the honor system, so if you’re just trying to save some cash or score an autographed book from my limited supply… well, I won’t be able to stop you. Just know you’re a truly selfish, deplorable person and you’re taking away what might’ve been someone’s only bright moment this season. And Krampus will feed you to a squale because of it.

So… Happy Holidays.