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In Search of DIY

So I tried to do some DIY plumbing the other day.  It didn’t work out the way I hoped:  easy, simple, straightforward.  Just like in the YouTube videos.

Instead I found myself having a breakdown.  Tears, self-recriminations, the whole bit.  I was a terrible person who never should have tried.  (I’m 43.)  And the only way to solve this was to deal with some jackass who was going to sneer at me for screwing things up, because obviously I was always going to have screwed things up.

I know my parents loved me, growing up, but they weren’t actually encouraging, especially when it came to me doing things that were stereotypically male-oriented.  Fixing stuff?  Not my purview.  That’s how they were raised, though.  Everyone had a place and a role—and you better train for that role and no other.  Their biggest challenges have always been having to adapt to changing or not-so-clear-cut roles, something I find hard as well—but not as hard as they have.  (I usually end up crying a lot at pivot points, then changing my approach and moving on.)

It feels weird having to think of myself as someone who attempts DIY projects.  I keep catching myself going, That’s someone else’s job.  You’re just support crew.  Go cook, clean, take care of the garden, raise the kid, run the errands, organize all the things…

And honestly there were a couple of days where I was so anxious about dealing with the plumber coming to fix what I screwed up that I was numb.  Nothing to see here.  Just move along.

The guy was nice, polite, funny, and willing to let me watch him work.  “Engineering on the fly,” he called it, and it was.  He also tried to charge me $10,000 and two goats.  “No more first-born children for me,” he said.  “They offered me too many teenagers.”

In the end, I had to admit to myself that it never was a DIY project.  I leaned on Lee for his experience and emotional support (and raw muscle strength in one spot).  I leaned on my daughter Ray for emotional support, too.  I leaned on three different plumbing places, one of which admitted that he wouldn’t be able to fix the leak because of weird parts being involved.  (He admitted he couldn’t do something!  I was impressed.)  I leaned on the Internet to find reviews of places recommended by women, and to find the original YouTube videos covering the process.  I leaned on the kindness of strangers who just wanted people to know how to fix their own plumbing and were willing to do a lot of work to post videos about same.

Not DIY.  An experiment.  Not a failure:  a process where I drew in the resources I needed to get the job done, and where I shifted roles throughout that process.  The process didn’t fail because there were obstacles at some of the steps.  The process succeeded because I cried, changed my approach, and moved on.

I can live with that.




Review and Interview Up: Jeremy Hepler’s THE BOULEVARD MONSTER

I did a review and interview of Jeremy Hepler for his horror-thriller novel, The Boulevard Monster, for Ginger Nuts of Horror.  I liked and recommend it if that’s your thing.




You say that I am a madman. You say that I am dangerous. You say that I am the one who has been abducting women, slaughtering them, and burying their corpses all around this city for years. You are wrong, because only part of that statement is true…


I know that you probably won’t believe me. Not now. Not after all that has happened, but I need to tell my side of the story. You need to know how this all began. You need to hear about the birds, but most of all, you need to understand…


You can find the book for purchase here.

Marketing Brainstorming: Priority Order

Because it’s me, I keep trying to figure out how to systematize some kind of approach to book marketing.  I’ve been working a lot on various things with greater or lesser success, and I worked out a general idea of what marketing is and does; click here for more explanation.  But that’s kind of complex, which makes it a difficult place to start.

So this morning I was trying to work out some obscure point of what a retention campaign was and how I might be able to approach it (longer story than I want to get into here), and I sat down to journal it out.  Some good stuff popped out.

Hint:  None of this is easy.  I’m just trying to sort out how to prioritize.

The priority order for an organic (rather than planned out from the start) marketing strategy might go like this:

  1. Content.
  2. A place to call home that you can control.
  3. Connections between stuff.
  4. Your brand.
  5. Tweaking and leveling up on the previous items.

1. Everything goes back to content.  If you don’t have content, you can’t sell stuff.

  • Content that you create in order to sell under your own name, and for which you retain rights but can license.
  • Content that you create in order to promote yourself, that you control (blog posts).
  • Content that you create in order to promote yourself, that you don’t fully control (social media, blog tour posts).
  • Content that you create that you don’t control but you still have credit for (freelancing work with credits).
  • Content that you create that you don’t control and don’t get credit for but that can still build a reputation (ghostwriting).
  • Content that other people create about you or your work, to promote you.  Don’t pay for this; it will come back to haunt you.
  • Content that you pay for and control (ghosted work).

2.  A place to call home that you can control.

  • A website with its own separate domain name and an independent hosting service.
  • A website that falls under a free website platform (WordPress, LiveJournal, Blogger, oh my god I’m dating myself aren’t I?).
  • A social media platform that really isn’t separate from other users on the same site (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.).
  • Nothing, you don’t have a website, social media, or anything else set up.

3.  Connections between stuff (more info here).

  • Direct contact information.
  • Resume, bio, bibliography.
  • Link to what you have for sale on website.
  • Link to what you have for sale on social media.
  • Link your website and your social media.
  • Direct outreach on website (newsletter).
  • Links between everything that isn’t your website, prioritizing your newsletter.
  • Free promo via third parties (blog tours, giveaways, Goodreads events).
  • Paid promo via third parties (ads, contests).

4. Your brand.

  • What do you make and who you make it for and why (sub-brands okay).
  • Research to find out where the market says that is now and find out how to make yours fit but stand out (80% like everything else; 20% catchy and different).
  • Start back at the beginning of item 1 and make sure all elements fit your brand or that you expand your brand to fit what you’re selling.

5.  Tweaking and leveling up.

  • Keep writing content.  Keep studying so you can write better content.
  • Improve existing content, especially covers and blurbs, as you improve.
  • Check with customers to make sure you’re still providing what they want (reviews, private emails and comments, public comments, polls/surveys, sales numbers).
  • Check that your brand and the market still are in sync (80% in sync/20% different).
  • Keep up with marketing methods to see if there’s anything you can do that produces high benefits at a low cost (usually, this is early adopters/first big wave adopters who see the biggest benefits, which is why you want to keep up).
  • Check for broken or inefficient connections (e.g., boot newsletter subscribers who aren’t opening their emails).
  • Check to make sure your brand still feels comfortable and lets you write what you want to write.

Obviously, you can’t do all this stuff in order.  Sometimes you just have to put a mental pin in something and move on.  But this at least sums up what I know at this point.  As you go through iterations of this list, things will have more or less importance than you see here–for example, it’s hitting me now that branding is way more important than I thought.  But then I already have books for sale, a website, and social media set up, and I can tweak my branding stuff for all that.  If I tried to do my brand first and my writing later…I might write something that didn’t fit to brand, and then where would I be?

If you liked today’s post, please sign up for my newsletter!  Free books are involved, so why not?

Book Review, Horror: The Boulevard Monster, by Jeremy Hepler

You can find Jeremy Helper’s book The Boulevard Monster on Amazon and in print.

Disclosure: I received a review copy in exchange for an honest review.

So once upon a time there was this guy. He meant well. Or at least…51% well over 49% ill. On average he meant well. And then he made a mistake. One teensy, tiny little mistake. But clearly not one that shifted the balance the other direction. Clearly he’s still a good guy. Who at least still means well.

One teensy, tiny little mistake after another, and he’s not sure where he is anymore. Did he mean well? Or ill? Or something else? Is ANY of this his fault? Surely not all of it is his fault…

You’ve read that story before; it’s the classic tale of a life gone wrong. Almost always, for reasons that vary from book to book, it was already going wrong anyway, before the monsters and uncanny stepped in.

What sets The Boulevard Monster apart is the warmth that fills the pages. Unlike many of the anti-heroes that carry out their own self-destruction, aided by the supernatural, bad luck, and Very Bad Men, our hero Seth Fowler is actually, genuinely likable, not just a self-justifying jerk of an unreliable narrator. He spends his time caring for other people, trying to make their lives a little easier. He has fond and even delightful memories of the past; he is grounded in solid realities rather than ambition and drive. When the time comes for him to make an ethical choice (at the very beginning of the book), he makes it without hesitation: in fact it’s his ethical choice that gets him in trouble. When he digs himself deeper and deeper into gray and then black areas of morality, you know that he’s making a very clear-cut choice between bad and worse. The mistakes he makes are the ones that we all make every day, out of the desire to help our loved ones, or prevent them from coming to harm. And his family is actually worth it.

This is no whiny, self-centered character who you secretly wish would get a two-by-four-sized clue stick to the side of the head. This is a genuinely nice guy, which gives the classic tale a lot more impact than I expected. I couldn’t hold myself back and go, “Well, if only he’d admitted that he was wrong here, here, and here, then he would never be in this place.” There was never a moment where I could say that. The actions that the character take throughout the novel have nothing but admiration and sympathy from me. Even during Seth’s worst moment, I went, “Ahhhhh…I’d have at least been tempted.”

The ending, in my opinion, nailed it. I’d like to see more in this universe, too. Recommend.

Journal: Self-faith, self-promotion.

Last night I delivered a writer craft talk for Pikes Peak Writers.  Usually what happens with this kind of thing is extreme anxiety before the talk, then beating myself up afterwards.  I was very anxious beforehand, but it went well, and on the way home I just focused on not punishing myself.  “You didn’t do XYZ correctly,” went the self-talk, but I examined it and found that it was really about the fact that I tried.  Not that I wasn’t perfect, but that I had put myself forward at all.

Ah, yes.  Midwestern upbringing strikes again.

This morning, I’m still struggling with the dread that something terrible is going to happen to me.  From the end of the journaling this morning:

Self-promotion is going to have to become a rather strenuous, ill-balanced exercise in self-faith.  I did this!  I believe in it!  Exercise:  working out weak muscles that are wobbly and shaky.  Getting done and feeling nauseous.  You can believe in yourself in one aspect and not others, the same way you can overwork one set of muscles and the other won’t magically become strong (just out of wishing they would).  And getting out in the real world and doing [ things that require self-faith] is never quite the same… Upping the weight of self-faith, upping the reps. Planning ahead for days with no willpower.

So at least for a little while, I’m going to write down my “self-promotion” tasks as “self-faith” in order to remind me that it’s not just my work that I’m putting in front of others, but my freedom to be an actual person with free will and a chance of success that I’m building up.  Strength.

Today!  If you like this post, please “follow” me on Amazon.  Unless you’re anti-Amazon, and then just follow me somewhere else.  Because [deep breath] I’m pretty awesome.

Journal: Snippets

This was a particularly rich journaling morning, but it’s mostly short snippets.

Cognitive dissonance is one of the most terrifying things I know.  I should make a monster out of it.

[For men,] 50 = the year of the patriarch, where you have to come to grips with the fact that you’ll never be one.  That’s the “middle aged crisis.”

Can you even write a thriller pantsing?  [A few names of authors I have heard that do so] do it.  So it’s probably a function of internalizing so many [thriller] plots.

Wanted: co-writer.  You must be able to: make maps, edit, and plot.  Worldbuilding a must.  Me:  Characters, dialogue, and filtering the scene through character POV.  What we will fight over:  plot.  Fame and fortune await!

[Playing with a plot idea, discovering that I’m injecting a lot more tropes in it than usual, probably because I’ve been studying tropes lately] Studying tropes is giving my subconscious permission to use them more.  Cheesily?  Hard to say.  I can’t write fast enough to keep up with all my good ideas, and this trope thing is only making it worse.

I’m not joking about the co-writer thing, by the way.  It would be a BLAST to work with someone who handed me a juicy high-fantasy world to work in at this point.  However, it’s gonna have to be 50-50 royalties deal…

If you enjoyed this morning’s post, look around for a good high-fantasy GM that you know that loves worldbuilding and hates having their players screw things up…and email me with their name 🙂

Journal: Some mornings I have a bit of an issue with making sense

I’ve been journaling a fair amount lately, but a lot of the stuff I’m journaling about is probably not for public consumption.  Like, I wrote some a little bit about the fact that readers are going to see the cover and blurb on whatever you write, so of course the first big plot twists aren’t going to be all that surprising, but it was in such a scattered way that it’s kind of nonsense.

What does the reader know?  More things, more stuff.  They know the cover & blurb–so they know more of the secrets.  Well, you do what you have to.

See what I mean?  Makes no sense.

But when I got the garble cleared out and put the journal down, things became more clear.

Another thing I wrote about was a couple of people who have inadvertently come out to me as being pretty damn sexist, and I came to the conclusion that I had better keep an eye on them (and maybe not get so involved in some projects).  That’s been on my mind lately.  “Am I burning too many bridges?”  And then I realized, “Wait…shouldn’t they be giving a shit about burning their bridges with me?”

But I think I’ll let that ruminate before I write it–a lot of gobbledydook this morning.  Like this:

Also, one more heartbreak–one more sexist asshole dickweed guy.  “You can save them!” No, you can’t.  They can climb out of the hole, or they can’t.

Anyway, if you enjoyed this morning’s hurbleburble (although I’m not sure how), please take a look at my book, The Clockwork Alice, which is a historical steampunk/fantasy intended to produce a thoughtful, yet turn-around-in-circles-until-you’re-dizzy effect.



Journal: A bunch of bad ideas. Or evil ones.

Today’s blog post is brought to you by…

Cheesy horror tropes. I was coming up with title ideas for cheesy horror stories…at one point I caught myself going, “Why am I writing this? Who’s gonna read these anyway? Who cares?” See if you can spot it 🙂

1. Don’t Go into the Basement. 2. Let’s Split up. 3. The Final Girl. 4. (He Had a) Bad Childhood. 5. The Monster in the Mirror. 6. Don’t Look Behind You. 7. Push the Bell & Run Away. 8. Double Dog Dare You. 9. What Could Possibly Go Wrong? 10. Why’s Calling? 11. People Suit 12. Rubber Mask. 13. Things That Go Bump in the Night. 14. Don’t Go to Sleep. 15. A Knock at the Door. 16. Don’t Touch That. 17. The Forbidden Room. 18. Don’t Do That One Thing (I Told You Not to Do). 19. Who’s That at the Door? 20. The Thing in the Basement. 21. The Skeleton in the Closet. 22. Scream and Run. 23. What Happened to Your Face? 24. Night of [All] the Monsters. 25. Good Friends Help You Move. 26. A Dish Best Served Cold. 27. Red of Tooth and Claw. 28. Bad Choices. 29. Don’t Leave the Garbage Out at Night. 30. Taking Out the Garbage. 31. Don’t Make a Face (Or It Will Stick That Way). 32. The Guy on the Other Side of the Street. 33. The House Next Door. 34. The Cabin in the Woods. 35. What’s in the Attic? 36. You’re It. 37. Bad Luck. 38. It Was a Dark and Stormy Night. 39. Good Neighbors. 40. The Accident. 41. Born This Way. 42. The Rats/Spiders/Birds/Bats/Ants, Etc. 43. Unquiet Ghosts. 44. The Town Where All the @#$% Happens. 45. Suburbia. 46. Quaint Little Tourist Trap. 47. Tourist Trap. 48. Homeschool. 49. Unsupervised. 50. The Babysitter. 51. Nightmares. 52. Don’t Step on a Crack. 53. Girls Always Go to the Bathroom Together. 54. Split Personalities. 55. The Devil You Know. 56. Things That Go Bump in the Night [this is apparently the sequel, since I already listed it]. 57. Loose Ends. 58. Don’t Throw the First Stone. 59. What’s in the Sewers. 60. Best Friends. 61. The Chosen One. 62. The Devil’s Daughter. 63. Back from the Dead. 64. The Haunting. 65. ESP. 66. Telekinesis. [Note: someone wanted to know the first Stephen King book one had ever read; mine was Firestarter.] 67. Poltergeist. 68. The Little Old Lady (Who Has Like 50 Cats). 69. The Cathouse. 70. The Thieves who Broke into the Wrong Damn House. 71. On More Monster Just Trying to Make It. 72. Cubeville. 73. Guilty Conscience. 74. But I’m Not Wrong. 75. Expect the Unexpected. 76. The (Werewolf) Pet Sitter. 77. Now You Know. 78. The Divorce (Splitting up Secrets). 79. The Squirrels in the Attic.

I didn’t run out of ideas, just out of page. One of the things that was interesting was that changing the phrasing slightly caused a completely different idea to come into my head, for example, “Don’t Leave the Garbage Out at Night” vs. “Taking out the Garbage.” One is more “If you go outside, the monsters will get you or do SOMETHING to your garbage,” and the other is, “We killed a guy and now we have to get rid of the body.”

If you liked today’s journal, check out Chris Fox’s Write to Market, which is what started this train of thought.

Journal: I’m not going to even mention the name of the book

Being both sick and feverish and in manic mode is not pleasant.  I did get a haircut.  The conversation ended up with me encouraging the hairdresser to start talking to her daughter about sex earlier rather than later, because it’s better for the information to be coming from you…I’m not really sure how we got there.  The details are kind of foggy.  But!  Haircut, no tears, success.

I wrote half my journal before I went to get the haircut, and half after.  “Get a haircut” kept coming up in the writing and I finally just broke off and got it done.  When I got back the thoughts were a lot more settled.  For some reason what came up was a rant about this writing book I’d tracked down at the library because it sounded interesting.  Then I read this:

Motherhood is a creation.  It is the beginning of immortality.  Perhaps this is one of the reasons women are less inclined toward philandering [and, or so it is implied by the author, creating stories] than men.

The greatest injustice imposed upon a mother is when her grown up children, out of sheer love and consideration, keep their troubles from her.  They make her feel unimportant.

As you might imagine, I stopped reading about this point.

This is so sexist that I’ll grieve every time I [try to read this book].  How is this person going to tell me how to write a story when he doesn’t think I’m fully human?  what stories can he even tell?  Having birthed a child did not satisfy my need to create.  It slowed me down, granted–and if [a lack of need to create] is how you wanted to read the situation, you could.  But I stopped being fully human for a while there, because it took everything I had to deal with my child.  I was carefully trained to turn my essential nature off.  That is not the same a having satisfied the need to create.  That was being exhausted and brainwashed into compliance.


I am not a magic breeding machine who is “satisfied” by my daughter’s mere existence and her desire to have her every whim be my command.  There’s nothing essentially holy or uplifting about it, no more so than some guy leaving behind an unwanted child after a one-night stand.  Or do guys get some special glow after they’ve impregnated someone?  Someone, tell me, was your need to create satisfied?  Were you like, “I was going to be a world-famous novelist, but now…?  I’m good.  Someone else take my place at the table.”

I thought not.  Screw that guy; I’m not even going to mention the name of the book.

If you liked the journal today, please check out my historical crime novellas in the Smoke seriesHow Smoke Got out of the Chimneys is the first one.

[Shakes fist at the author of that book.]


Journal: The (ugly, unwanted) heart of the story.

This morning…a little bit downhill on the viral front.  I broke out the new gin and peach bitters last night and I feel terrible this morning.  It’s like I can’t believe that the same thing that happened to me last time (drinking even a little alcohol while I’m recovering causing me to be completely wiped out the next day) won’t happen to me this time.  And of course my inner voice is no help.  “What are you, some kind of alcoholic?”

And yet so much of my life has been, “Well, it’s been six months since you got screwed on that front.  Why not try it again?  Instead of swearing that you’ll never do it again.”

So if it’s a choice between, “Poke the boundaries and have something negative happen” and “Never poke the boundaries at all,” I have to go with the former.  But I also feel like I should be able to find a middle way that doesn’t involve being dehydrated and miserable in the morning.

This morning:  working on a story idea that I was stuck on.  Plot usually doesn’t cause me problems, but when it does, they’re doozies.  However, I backed up and went, “This isn’t actually a plot problem, but a story problem–I don’t know what the heart of this story is.”

This story is stupid and I don’t understand it!  What am I struggling with here.  Plot.  A series of logical events.  I don’t like being railroaded [by my plots].  “Now, we have to look for the killer.  It’s a whodunnit!”  But it’s not a whodunnit.

I’m struggling with keeping the reader in mind.  Tell myself a story, tell someone else a story.  I’m telling nobody a story, I’m just back at the stage of not even being able to figure out a logical sequence of events.  Yay.

What is the heart of this story?

Once upon a time, a writer had to seek revenge.  It was a horrible thing.

(Please note that I generally hate revenge stories and was both amazed to see myself writing these words and yet knew that’s exactly what it was, too.  I cut a bunch of story specifics here on the revenge plot.)

You don’t contain a berzerker by force.  You contain one by erasure.  The “Mama Bear” is the true face, not the comforting mother.  Story idea:  A female serial killer who kills the people who hurt her kids, over and over and over.

I couldn’t figure out what the heart of that story would be, and decided to move on this morning to the one that I’m already invested in.  If you’d like to claim the idea of the female serial killer who kills the people who remind her of the asshole who hurt her kids, feel free.

If you liked the blog, today I’d like you to check out my horror/dark fantasy short story collection, A Murder of Crows:  Seventeen Tales of Monsters & the Macabre.  Since I seem to be on a revengeful rampage and all this morning.

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