Standalones Vs. Series

Hello, hello! How’s everyone doing this bright and beautiful day? Things here are pretty annoying. WordPress seems to have tinkered with its editor, so now the text appears super tiny unless I zoom my screen in, but the preview for the final post looks perfectly normal. We’ll see. It also froze and lost the entire paragraph I just wrote despite supposedly autosaving it. It’s nowhere to be found. That’s always fun. Otherwise, things are good. Dad, the neighbor, and I are scheduled for our Covid boosters tomorrow. We got appointments at our preferred pharmacy, so we don’t have to run all over town. It’s been a pretty painless process so far. Hopefully the actual appointments will be just as easy. But that’s not what I want to talk about. Today, I’m here to ramble about standalone books versus series and which I prefer as a reader versus as a writer.

Me when I lost my supposedly saved work.

As a reader, I’m not usually picky about whether something is a series or a standalone. Series tend to offer better chances for character development and a deeper plot, but they also run the risk of dragging things out. I love getting to know the characters over multiple books and seeing how they grow, who gets redemption arcs and who doesn’t, etc. Series also provide a chance for world building that you don’t get so much of in standalones. They’re more immersive a lot of the time. Not always, but often. The biggest drawback of reading a series (for me) is that I feel compelled to finish them even if I don’t particularly like them. It’s like I haven’t given them a fair chance if I haven’t read everything. I know that’s ridiculous. And I have plenty of series that I gave up on, but it still feels awkward to me. Now, if I love a series, the hardest part is the wait between books. I try to find series that are completed or close to it, but sometimes it doesn’t work out. The waiting is the worst.

Standalones also have a lot to offer. They can be quick, fun reads, but they can also be in-depth and wonderful. On the other hand, a lot of them feel thin to me, lacking in the plot or the character development or both. It just depends on the book. I also think some genres lend themselves better to standalones than others. Horror, yes. Epic fantasy, not so much (but there are some gems). And some genres dance around the line between standalones and series like it doesn’t exist. Cozy mysteries. Most of those series are written as multiple standalone books, so even new readers can pick up any book in the series and not be lost. But from a reader’s perspective, as long as I like the story and the characters, I’ll read anything. Series or standalone.

Reading-wise. Get your mind out of the gutter.

As a writer, standalone novels are hard. I don’t think I’ve ever finished one. Short stories and stuff like that, I can do. The last standalone novel I tried to write decided it wanted to be a trilogy. I haven’t finished it (book one still needs major edits before I can even vaguely plot out book two), but the plot is too much for one book. I can’t find a middle ground between short story and multiple books. It’s really weird. I’d love to be able to write standalones, but for now, my brain is stuck in series mode. Maybe I’ll find a way one day, but today is not that day.

Ah well.

What about you? What do you prefer to read, standalones or series? Why? If you write, which do you gravitate towards? As always, feel free to leave your thoughts or comments or questions here or on my social media pages! See you next week for my monthly book review.

Shameless Self-Promotion: A Twofer

Hello, hello! How’s everyone doing today? Everything here is about the same as usual. It’s going to be another pretty short post this week, I’m afraid. If you stalk me on social media, you probably know all of this, but I’ll post it here anyway. I have two announcements about publications I have stories in.

First, my flash fiction piece “The Water Horse” will be appearing in the silver volume of Dark Cheer: Cryptids Emerging! It’s coming out in February, but you can pre-order now at the links above. It will be an amazing collection. I also know at least one of the authors in the blue volume, so I think that one will be wonderful as well. Please feel free to spread the word!

Second, the ebook of Love Letters to Poe: A Toast to Edgar Allan Poe is currently on sale until Friday! My flash fiction piece “Poisoned Honey and Pickled Pigs’ Feet” is in that one. There are some other neat things going on with this sale. I’ll share the details below. Reviews are encouraged if you have a few seconds. And again, feel free to spread the word!

For a limited time only, Love Letters to Poe: A Toast to Edgar Allan Poe is on sale for 99 cents. The price will go up to $4.99 after this Friday, so make sure to snag your copy now! Here.

The editor teamed up with Literarily Illuminating for a special treat – purchase their Poe candles this week & get a complimentary copy of the anthology. Check out their Etsy store now before they sell out! Here.

Win Virtual Tickets to Poe Fest! Buy Love Letters to Poe: A Toast to Edgar Allan Poe by this Friday and enter to win! Additional purchases (buy a copy for a friend!) will count as additional entries. IMPORTANT: Email your proof of purchase to loveletterstopoe@gmail.com to enter.

That’s the end of my announcements! I’ll be back next week with our regularly scheduled book review.

Love Letters to Poe: Vol. 1

Hello, hello! It’s September 1st. Where has the time gone? How is everyone doing? Other than having to remember all of our doctor appointments, things here are good. This week’s post is just a short one. You remember when my story “Poisoned Honey and Pickled Pigs’ Feet” came out in volume 1, issue 8 of Love Letters to Poe? Volume 1 is coming out in its entirety (all 12 issues in one book) on September 20th. There will be both a print version and an ebook, so there’s something for everyone! Also, there will be a sale for the 20th through the 25th. Look forward to it on Amazon, Apple, Kobo, and other stores. For now, I’ll leave you with the recently revealed cover!

Wouldn’t that look lovely on your coffee table, desk, shelves, etc.?

Good News, Everyone

Hello, hello! How is everyone this beautiful day? Things are pretty much the same as they’ve been around here. Lots of slacking on all fronts. You know how it goes. Anyway, if you follow my personal Facebook, you already know this, but today’s post is just to let you know that my flash fiction piece “The Water Horse” will be appearing in Improbable Press’s forthcoming anthology. Right now, the only release details I have is that it’ll be coming in early 2022. I will post my usual shameless self-promotions when I know more. But I wanted to let everyone know that writerly things are still happening even though I’m slacking. I’ll be back next week with my usual end-of-month book review!

More Shameless Self-Promotion

Hello, hello! I know I already shared this news on my social media pages, but I do have some people who seem to only follow my blog, so I decided to put it here too. On May 28th, my flash fiction piece “Integrate” was released in a story swap between The Centropic Oracle (the lovely people who purchased and narrated the story) and the YouTube channel Let’s Read! You can listen to it here! You can also check out Published Work on my website to find anything you might’ve missed. I’ll be back next week with a proper post.

Tricking Myself into Writing

Hello, hello! How is everyone doing today? It’s a gloomy Monday as I’m writing this and I don’t really feel like doing much of anything. So, I decided it’s as good a day as any to write my post for the week. The problem? I have nothing to ramble about. I should probably be working on an actual story or writing my May book review post or something, but I don’t want to. I can do that stuff tomorrow. But I am slowly starting to write again, thanks to the new computer. I guess I can ramble about that. It’s one of those weird cripple things, so be prepared to give me your best “huh?” look.

Yeah, that look.

When I first started using a laptop (actually, any computer), my typing options were to either figure out how to make the keyboard work for me or use Dragon Naturally Speaking (a dictation program). I tried the latter and it was horrible. No matter how much I trained it, at least every other word was wrong. It was more trouble editing stuff than it was worth. So, I decided to use a backscratcher in my right hand and my left index finger to make the hunt-and-peck method of typing work for me. And I was good at it too. Fast enough to keep up with multiple Yahoo chat conversations in a timely manner at least. And accurate enough that I rarely had to fix any typos. It was less hunting/pecking and more just my own form of two “finger” typing. But all good things must end.

After I went through a few different wheelchairs and just as many computers, I eventually reached a point where typing became more difficult than it was worth. Basically, each new chair changed the positions of my hands, the ease with which I could reposition my arms, etc. and each new computer positioned its keyboard and touchpad slightly differently until it all combined to screw with my typing (slowed it down and made the position I had to maintain uncomfortable) enough that I looked for alternatives. By that time, Microsoft had started getting into accessibility features and had added an on-screen keyboard. I’m certainly not as fast with it as I was at typing, but it works well enough. It got me through Stonecoast and has helped me write the majority of the stuff I’ve written since then, so I can’t complain.

Don’t feel bad. Losing stuff like the ability to type is a normal cripple thing.

When this computer arrived, I decided to try typing again. The keyboard is just too pretty not to touch. So, a couple of weeks ago, I started trying to type for 30 minutes at a time. The range of motion in my left arm is absolute shit, which is to be expected. I can’t even reach the E, R, and G keys enough to press them anymore. The number keys (I used to be able to press 1-4 with my left hand) are completely out of reach. And I have to nudge my hand with my backscratcher in order to reach the Q and W. But for some reason, I have a better reach with my backscratcher than I used to, so it compensates a bit for the lack of use in my left hand. Hopefully, with practice, I’ll at least get back enough range of motion for E, R, and G.

Don’t get too excited. I’ve only done this 5 times so far. It’s annoying getting my hands into position, but that should get easier over time. My muscles tire out well before the 30 minutes are up, but I push through and it’s already getting better. I started at 75 words in 30 minutes and have increased each time (reached 245 words when I did it today). I can do 350ish words in a half hour with the on-screen keyboard, so if I can break that, I’ll definitely keep it up. Hopefully, my arms and hands will keep cooperating with me. I don’t fully trust them yet.

Idle Hands. They have a mind of their own. Am I the only one who remembers this stupid movie?

Anyway, in order to practice typing, I needed something to write, so I started a short story. It’s already 1,500 words long because it starts out as typing practice, then I’m in a groove, so I write a little more with the on-screen keyboard. But yeah. All this post is meant to say is that I found a way to trick myself into writing even though I have no motivation. Wootwoot!

What about you? Do you have any weird ways you trick yourself into being productive? As always, feel free to share your thoughts and comments and questions here or on my social media pages!

Another Round of Shameless Self-Promotion

Hello, hello! Can you believe it’s already May? But the good thing about May is that my flash fiction piece “Poisoned Honey and Pickled Pigs’ Feet” was just released in volume 1, issue 8 of Love Letters to Poe! You can buy a copy here with my story and three other lovely pieces, or you can subscribe to the newsletter to get a free copy of the first issue as well as weekly installments with stories from that month’s release and author interviews (mine goes out on the 6th, so sign up today!). I’ll also share a link to my story/interview on my social media pages Thursday or Friday for anyone who doesn’t sign up in time. And if you miss that, after the 6th just search for Love Letters to Poe wherever you get your podcasts and you’ll be able to listen to me read the story. No matter how you access it, please feel free to leave a review or rating on the GoodReads page!

Sorry for the short post. I’ll be back to our regularly scheduled randomness next week!

New Year, New Goals

Hello, hello! It’s another new year. We’re almost a week into it, so how’s 2021 treating people thus far? It’s been a mixed bag for me, but generally meh. I got some good news that I’ll share later. Aside from that, I started off the year with a rejection and am now up to three as I’m writing this (it’s just the 5th day of the year). Things have also been hectic for Dad because of some stuff with our neighbor that he helps out. So, yeah. I think meh is an apt description of 2021 so far. Anyway, since it’s the first Wednesday of the year and I have nothing to really ramble about, this is just going to be a yearly goal post.

I see a lot of people making vision boards and stuff like that for 2021, but I don’t really understand them, so I’ll just stick with written goals. But I think I’ll group them a little differently this year instead of just writing a random paragraph with multiple goals mushed together.

Writing Goals:

1. Write 3 short stories/flash fiction pieces. I need to replenish my stock of stories to send out into the slush void.

2. Finish the first draft of DS2. I lost steam on this one, but it’s not the story’s fault. I just need to suck it up and write words.

3. Dig out the sci-fi novel I stopped a few years ago because I couldn’t figure out how to fix it and see if I can rework it. I have a new idea that will require rewriting the whole thing, but it just might work. I’ll try, but I won’t force it if it fights me.

4. Pull out the “Lightning Bugs” novelette/novella that I haven’t worked on since Stonecoast (despite Nancy Holder’s cheerleading) and see if I can flesh it out and make it presentable. I’ve avoided it because, submission-wise, I don’t really know what to do with something of that length.

Shut up, Cass. I’m going to write. Soon.

Submission Goals:

1. Submit to two magazines or anthologies a week.

2. Query agents for DS1. I have about 10 to go on my list, but I’m at that point where I need to wait for responses before I can try other agents.

3. Query publishers for DS1. If I strike out with the agents, I have a few publishers I want to submit to before I debate trunking the book/series.

On my Kindle app, but yeah.

Reading Goals:

1. Read 35 books overall.

2. Of those 35, review at least 12.

3. Of those 35, I want at least 8 to be from my “want to read again” list.

Misc. Goals:

1. Finish the shawl of doom. This is entirely because I procrastinate too much, but I will finish the damned thing and move onto another project to procrastinate on.

2. Finish watching The Untamed. I don’t usually care about TV, but I’m behind on all of my foreign shows. It’s extremely rare for me to watch anything on my own (I’d rather read), but I will make time for at least The Untamed this year. I always need more adorable gay stuff in my life.

What about you? What are your goals for 2021? As always, feel free to share your thoughts or comments here or on my social media profiles!

Shameless Plug for Myself and Pseudopod

Hello, hello! How is everyone doing today? I have nothing to ramble about, so here’s a short post for the sole purpose of shameless self-promotion. As some of you know, I’m one of an amazing team of first readers for the wonderfully horror-filled podcast Pseudopod. In this past Friday’s (Dec. 4th) episode, I was lucky enough to write a review of The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror: Volume One (edited by Paula Guran). The review is at the end of episode 734, after the delightfully creepy story “Anatomist” by Couri Johnson and a review by Kitty Sarkozy of Couri Johnson’s collection I’ll Tell You a Love Story. I’m not one for reading out loud, so Graeme Dunlop narrated my review. You can listen pretty much anywhere you stream your favorite podcasts or you can go here! My review is near the end, so be sure to listen to the whole episode. And tune into episode 736 on December 18th for another review by me after a great story by Lee Murray.

Be A Writer They Said…

Hello, hello! Welcome to September. I suppose Thanksgiving and Christmas are some time next week with how fast time is moving. Before you know it, this year will be over and we’ll get to see what 2021 decides to throw at us. My hopes aren’t very high. But I’ve been in a blah mood anyway, so maybe I’m wrong and next year will be great. I’m in one of my burned out periods again. I haven’t worked on the novel in a while, so that’s not getting done this month. Oh well. I just pushed myself too hard too fast. Anyway, being a writer is exhausting. I thought I’d take this post as a chance to whine a bit. Sorry in advance.

Maybe, but maybe not.

And it’s true. Being a writer can be fun. Telling stories and reading and gathering with fellow writers to discuss writerly things can be amazing. But no one ever tells you that being a writer is so much more than writing. It’s the one thing I was disappointed about when it came to my MFA program: they glossed over everything included in being a professional writer that wasn’t writing or editing. I get it, it’s a writing program, but it would’ve been nice to be a little prepared for everything else. That one lecture on contracts and being told in our graduation semester that we needed to make a website didn’t quite cut it. I’m slowly figuring things out, though.

That website they randomly told me I had to make for my graduation semester? I had to design it myself because what beginning writer can afford a web designer? It has to be maintained and updated. And in order to make a website, you have to have content. Like a blog that you update weekly. And contact information. You can’t be a new anything nowadays without a social media presence. Those social media profiles need attention and updates just about every day if you want to keep your followers. It’s not exactly hard work, but all of this stuff takes up time. And if you’re popular and have tons of comments and emails to respond to, it could potentially get overwhelming. Sure, there are people you can hire for all that, but it costs money.

Yes, it can.

That’s not all. You also have to be an editor to your own work, a critic who can pull apart everyone else’s work and see what’s working and what isn’t, and a diligent student constantly improving their craft. After that, you have to sell your work and yourself to agents and publishers and readers alike. People have to like you to want to work with you, right? This usually entails submitting and querying lots of people who each have slightly different guidelines that you have to adhere to and getting told no by most of them. Then, if you’re lucky enough to make a deal, you have to pull on your lawyer pants and review every aspect of the contract to make sure everyone involved is getting a fair deal. It’s terrifying and exhausting and no one seems to want to talk about it all.

I know.

And to top it all off, there’s always someone pointing out that you should be actually writing, like everything else involved in being a writer doesn’t count as work. It’s enough to put anyone off writing for a while. But then you get the rare acceptance or encouraging note from a complete stranger or something like that and it’s all worth it again. So yeah, being a writer is exhausting and sometimes it’s fun, but it’s so much more than just writing. Be warned, then become a writer. It’ll be fun.

As always, feel free to leave your thoughts or questions or comments here or on my social media pages!