Conversing with author Hunter Shea: on publishing horror.

Recently, I had the opportunity to interview rising-star, horror/thriller author, Hunter Shea. The event took place as part of his virtual book tour for his based-on-true ghost story, The Waiting. The segment of our conversation which focused on that story can be found in the post:

Interview with Hunter Shea: on THE WAITING and the true-life ghost-story that inspired the novella.

In our nearly two-hour long chat, however, we talked about a lot more than The Waiting. In the following five-minute portion of our conversation, we discuss:

* finishing a new novel
* Samhain Horror
* Hunter’s first book
* getting THE call
* writing & publishing pace

As both a fan and a writer of horror, I learned a great deal from the time I spent with Hunter … perhaps most importantly, I came away knowing that it’s crucial to persevere.

horror thrill author Hunter Shea tattoo

I found this pic while searching for images of Hunter Shea with which I could illustrate the video. We never discussed this tattoo, and I don’t think he even knows I have access to the photo. See what an efficient stalker I am? (*See note below.)

 

Hunter Shea: On Publishing Horror

*(This is the “note below.”)  Read: Am I a good social media user, or a creepy stalker?


Resolution Review | Manage your editorial calendar (and your life) for free, with MyToDos.

NOTE: WordPress.ORG bloggers apparently have access to an integrated free editorial calendar, but we dot-com-ers don’t. For us, there are plenty of paid options out there, but most are either geared toward a writing team, or expensive, or both. (And when I say expensive, I mean it. I would have been happy to pay a reasonable one-time price for a program with the features I wanted, but these puppies have high monthly fees I can’t afford.)

WHY YOU NEED AN EDITORIAL CALENDAR

An editorial calendar is used by bloggers, publishers, businesses, and groups to control publication of content across different media, for example, newspaper, magazine, blog, email newsletters, and social media outlets. — Wikipedia

Anyone who wants to be  an organized, successful, productive writer (and/or blogger) needs a decent editorial calendar. Bloggers need to plan content schedules. Authors need to track deadlines.  All writers need a system for keeping track of all the ideas that flit into their minds … because those beauties will flit right back out if they aren’t captured.

Unfortunately some of the best ideas for future blogs, stories or scenes appear precisely when it is least convenient to pin then down, when we are supposed to be fully engaged with the project at hand. In that situation, we open a notepad document or, worse, grab a scrap of paper to make a quick note. ‘Sounds fine, but it doesn’t work well in practice. Such notes get misfiled or go missing with alarming frequency, and we might as well have not had the brilliant thought in the first place.

WHY GOOGLE CALENDAR DOESN’T WORK FOR COLLECTING IDEAS

Even before I knew what an editorial calendar was, I was cobbling together the functionality of one from documents stored in Gmail or on Evernote and my Google Calendar.

I have been using Google calendar for years, to keep track of what’s going on with my family. Every member has access to it, and that means that idea notations are distracting clutter for everyone, including me. (Hey, you want that kind of calendar to tell you quickly who has to be at work or school and when, not that Mom might-maybe write about black-eyed children this month.)

In Google Calendar, there is a function to see a single calendar category, but after using that you have to click all the individual calendar categories, one at a time, to make them visible again. That’s a pain. Plus, it insists that you allot a particular date and time to a task, which doesn’t work for capturing ideas for future blog posts or short stories. I believe Google Calendar has made at least a token effort at creating a tasks section but it focuses on the accepted wisdom that a task must be given a particular due date … which isn’t quite what we need when we’re generating a list of future possibilities.

WHY LISTS DON’T WORK FOR PLANNING YOUR POSTING OR WRITING SCHEDULE

Until I found MyToDos, I used first Gmail, then Evernote to try to create organized lists of future posts. The problem there is that I shift things around ALL THE TIME. On a day that I intended to write about a horror-themed video game, I chose instead to write about Richard Matheson … and because it’s my blog, that was okay.

It mat not be hard to change the order in a list, but it’s really easy for listed items to become disassociated from dates, themes and schedules when you have to look back and forth between a calendar program and a list document.

WHY MYTODOS IS THE PERFECT FREE PROGRAM FOR BUILDING YOUR EDITORIAL CALENDAR

mytodos instructions free editorial calendar

From the site. Click to enlarge.

Even though MyToDos does not bill itself as an editorial calendar, it might as well have been designed to be one. The key is its emphasis on the TASKS rather than the dates. All tasks are entered into a project list. From there, they can be dragged to the calendar or to another project list. You can have an unlimited number of project lists, but only four of them show at any given time in the main view–

You know what? The easiest way to demonstrate the awesomeness of this program is to show you.

**Renae wanders off on a quest to learn how to do a screen capture video. Some time later, she returns with the goods.**

This video will give you an overview of the program:

NOTE, NEXT DAY: I intended to do a second video today, to show some of the tips and tricks I’ve learned from using the MyToDos program over time. Unfortunately, the screen capture program I used to make last night’s video seems to have become a useless brick overnight. (Does anyone know why CamStudio would work great the first time it’s used but then not at all on the second attempt? Is it a glitch or something?)

ANYWAY …

If I can figure out how to use MyToDos as an effective editorial calendar, you can.

There isn’t a lot of documentation on the site, but working with MyToDos is genuinely intuitive. As with any software, you need to learn to work within the confines of the program. In the case of MyToDos, it’s helpful to have a game plan ready as you go in, to help you find tasks easily in what may become long lists.

  • Carefully think about how to create a logical set of project lists. Refine as needed.
  • Don’t be afraid to make many project lists. It’s easy to combine or condense later.
  • REMEMBER that MyToDos sorts all items in a given list numerically and alphabetically.
  • To have numbered items appear in the correct order, use a two or three digit (as needed) notation, like this: not 1,2,3…8,9,10 but 01,02,03…08,09,10 – otherwise, 10 will sort ABOVE 2.
  • Use prefix codes to keep similar items together. I preface all my future Body Preservation posts like so:  BP | (recipe or article idea)
  • Don’t put anything on the calendar until you really mean to do it on a particular day. It’s easy enough to change things and move things around, but avoid clutter.
  • Remember that seeing an apparently “empty” day in the past on the calendar (when using the default view) is a GOOD thing – it means you did everything you set out to do.
  • EDIT: In the video, I say that you have to find a task in its home list, on the my todos tab, to mark it completed. ‘Just realized that if you DRAG AND DROP a task to the check mark icon next to the task entry box, it works great.

BONUS: REPEATING TASK REMINDERS

In my video, I forgot to show you an additional feature of the calendar view. On the PREFERENCES tab, you may set it up so that small, clickable icons will appear in the upper space of each day.

editorial calendar icon view

Screenshot. Click to enlarge.

Options include:

outside1 Outside : Go outside and get some fresh air, appreciate nature 

finance Finance : Pay your bills, balance your checkbook, get your finances in order

exercise Exercise : Take a walk around the office, walk the dog, get some fresh air

write1Write : Keep a journal, work on your book, post to your blog  

See? I told you it might have well been designed as an editorial calendar. 

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body preservation

This post concludes a five-part series called Resolutions Review. They will be accessible in the Body Preservation section of the blog. Other titles include:

1) Resolutions Review | Did you get control of your weight, fitness, money, and work issues? (Plus power poses.)

2) Resolutions Review | How “You Need A Budget” (YNAB) helped us save $1000 in less than 3 months.

3) Resolutions Review | How Spark People helped me lose 10 pounds in 11 weeks without dieting.

4) Resolutions Review | Write more with fun (free) productivity tools: Focus Booster, Write or Die, Camp NaNoWriMo, WriMoProg & progress meters.


Resolutions Review | Write more with fun (free) productivity tools: Pomodoro Challenge Timer, Write or Die, Camp NaNoWriMo & progress meters.

INTRODUCTION: A while back, I introduced this month’s series in a post called Resolutions Review: did you get control of your weight, fitness, money, and work issues? (Plus Power Poses.) Tackling this series a bit of a stretch for a paranormal-themed blog, but less so if you understand that I define the word paranormal broadly.

Para- / par-ə / Prefix. ”Alongside, near, beyond, altered, contrary to.” norma/ nawr-muhl / Adjective. “Conforming to the standard; usual; regular; natural.”

No matter how far I stray from topics like ghosts, cryptids and mysteries, I am always thinking about how to make life better and easier for my kindred. These articles will become part of a section of the blog I’m developing, dedicated to living a (moderately) paranormal lifestyle. body preservation There. That’s out of the  way.

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BREAKING THROUGH WRITER’S BLOCK

By now you probably know that I fell into a writing slump, in the wake of Halloween 2013, which inspired me to work on better managing other areas of my life.

Despite progress elsewhere, my writing recovery was admittedly slow as I trudged through this tough winter. Now, though, I’m happy to say that I’ve clawed my way up and out of the pit. I’m not yet  producing at full capability, but I’m getting there … partly thanks to tools I found on the internet which helped me improve my physical and financial well-being. (Click those links to see the previous posts in this series.) Getting a handle on those stressors freed up some energy and mind-space which I could then muster to attack my writer’s block.

To wage the battle, I again turned to the internet to search for tools and gadgets that would support my efforts and inspire me. I gathered all sorts of  things to try, rejected some, and settled into regularly using the best, most effective programs I found. Now, after a significant trial period, I can offer some recommendations to those of you who are looking for ways to streamline and smooth out your own routines.

If the advent of spring is inspiring you to revise, refine and recommit to your resolutions, check out the following list of work-management tools.

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OLD RECOMMENDATION: FOCUS BOOSTER

~ a simple timer widget for your desktop, designed to help improve concentration while working on a project.

docus booster screen shot

UPDATE: As of Aug. 2015, Focus Booster has been redesigned. (It now maintains stats and issues reports.) It has also been converted from free to paid by subscription. It has a 15 day free trial, after which it costs $2.99 per month or $29.99 per year. I have not trialed this new version.

NEW RECOMMENDATION: POMODORO CHALLENGE TIMER

~ a cell phone app with an attitude.

For some time now, I’ve been instead using a phone app called Pomodoro Challenge Timer. Toward the end of Focus Booster’s free version, it became buggy, so I went looking for something different. Most of the pomodoro technique apps I found were lacking personality. I very much appreciated the snarky attitude of the Pomodoro Challenge Timer when I discovered it. (You just need to read its description to understand.) As a bonus, it offered more tracking features than Focus Booster did at the time.

This app is free and can be upgraded for even more functionality with an in-app purchase of $2.99.

pomodoro

This timer was built to work with the Pomodoro Technique, which is really a complete productivity philosophy in itself. It involves dividing your work day into 25-minute chunks of focused time, each followed by a 5-minute break. This time segment is called a Pomodoro. After every forth Pomodoro, you take a longer break of 30 minutes.

To learn more about this effective time management system, visit: The Pomodoro Technique.

In short, Pomodoro Challenge Timer is a  fun, free app with a reasonably priced upgrade option. Go grab it and give it a try.

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WRITE OR DIE (NOT RECOMMENDED)

~designed specifically for writers who struggle with over-thinking and/or over-editing when they should be just getting words on a page.

Update: As long as I’m here in Aug. 2015, I want to let you know that I’ve given up on Write or Die completely. It has not improved since I posted the following review.

(WARNING: I am recommending ONLY the free version–and that halfheartedly.)

I’ve mentioned this program here at The Paranormalist before. When I found it, more than a year ago, I tried out the free version for a while, then bought the desktop version. I still use it on days when I just want to make a lot of words appear without worrying about editing. You can read about my first experience with the program in Write or Die – a productivity tool designed to overcome my personal writer’s faults.

write or die screen shot

I still believe The CONCEPT is brilliant.

Unfortunately, the execution of this program is less than stellar. I had to find work-arounds to make sure that nothing I typed got lost. (I have to remember to copy and paste my text into a WORD document before I exit the writing window, because I don’t trust the on-board save function.) The badge I referenced in my first article never did work properly. Otherwise, though, the program is both fun and effective so I knew I wanted to include an update and a cautious recommendation for it in this blog.

When I went to fetch the proper link for this post, I discovered that a new version, Write or Die 2, is available.

write or die

It’s supposed to have improved functionality and more options. The new version not only provides consequences  in the same way the original did, it offers two additional modes: reward and stimulus.

stimulusScreenshot

This is what it’s supposed to look like in stimulus mode.

Because I’m about to start a big new project, I was very excited. I purchased the desktop version immediately. (There was a code available for use by teachers, students and people who had purchased the first version, so I only paid $15.)

HUGE MISTAKE!

I should have read around the internet a bit before surrendering my money. This new version is not just a little buggy sometimes – easily half of the features don’t work properly or consistently. The good news is that I seem to be able to use it in consequences mode just about as reliably as I am able to use my desktop version of the first edition. (It seems to save a little better, though it won’t let me name the save file, even though it indicates that doing so is an option. I still don’t trust it.)

To make matters worse, it appears that the developer has abandoned both products – except for accepting payment, that is. It turns out that I’m a lucky one … most folks who are trying to purchase version 1 these days are not receiving their download links despite having made payment.

It’s a shame because, when it works, this program can help you generate huge blocks of text. Though I use it to create rough draft prose, I imagine it could be an effective tool for any kind of stream-of-consciousness brainstorming or journaling. I hope the developer decides to support his products and sends out bug fixes, but I’m not holding my breath. I will be staying on top of the situation and will update this post and make note in a future blog  if anything changes.

In short, DON’T BUY EITHER DESKTOP VERSION ON THIS PROGRAM, at least not right now.  In the meantime, it seems safe enough to use the program in its FREE, web-based incarnation. Go to writeordie.com, adjust the controls, and hit “try.” As long as you have internet, it works. To be safe, copy and paste your text to another program before quitting out of the writing screen.

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CAMP NANOWRIMO

~ a more flexible and self-directed version of November’s traditional National Novel Writing Month program.

This is great way to try NaNo if you’ve not had the courage to do it before. You set your own goal (between 10,000 and 100,000 words) which can be about writing a first draft, or revising a previously existing one. (Or about creating an outline for a new project, or anything, really, as long as you can figure out how to equate it to a goal word count in a way that makes sense to you.)

camp_moonrise_poster_main

The camp sessions happen in April and July. (This post was written when I was gearing up for the April 2014 session.)

Aside from the motivation provided by the word count graph that is integral to NaNo, there are other perks to becoming a camper. I’ve signed up to be in a “cabin” and I’m already enjoying the enthusiastic messages left by my camp buddies on our message board. (If you don’t want the distraction of social interaction, you can opt out of encabinment.)

camp tee

I know I’m not giving you very much any notice about this, but I would welcome companionship on this adventure. Because you can set your own goal, it’s entirely reasonable to spend the first several days of camp organizing and developing the project. (That’s what I’ll be doing.) If you want to see my camper profile, or check on my progress, you can visit me at: campnanowrimo.org/campers/theparanormalist.

I’ll be immersing in that project I wanted to tackle last November, before the slump set in so completely. (Yes, it is possible that the very contemplation of that project contributed to the writer’s block itself.) Now that I’ve had some time to think about it, and now that I’m doing better in general, and now that it’s spring, I think I’m ready to dive in.

2014-Participant-Twitter-Header-2

If you aren’t ready to do camp in April, but are intrigued by the idea, you’re in luck — there will be another session in July. Maybe we can meet up then.

In short, this is a fun, lower-stress introduction to the world of intensive writing and goal-meeting zeitgeist and you should come play!

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PROGRESS / WORD COUNT METERS

~  a fun way to visualize and acknowledge your accomplishments, and share information with supporters.

I’ll be doing A LOT of self-monitoring in this upcoming month and into the foreseeable future. It really seems to help keep me focused and on-track. I’ll be using both Camp NaNoWriMo and WriMoProg in April. Camp NaNo will help me with drafting the beginning of my new novel, and WriMoPro will help me with staying on top of my blogging and other writerly tasks. Each challenge has its own way of tracking progress, but it never hurts to add on a pretty graphic widget as well.

One particular progress meter –  the word count meter from Critique Circle – can be used for both challenges. This is another gadget that I’ve shared with you before, but it merits another mention for multiple reasons:

  • unlike other widgets, it can be displayed in a post or sidebar here at wordpress.com
  • it’s a beauty – simple, elegant and customizable
  • it’s easy to update, in that you click the image wherever it appears and update your count in a dead-simple form, then copy and past the generated code wherever you want it
  • during the month of November (but not during camp months) the meter can be directly linked to your NaNoWriMo graph
  • though it’s intended to track word counts, you can enter any number range which means it can be used to track hours

This is what my word count meter for April’s Camp NaNoWriMo looks like:

 

In short, if you have need of a progress meter that will work where others won’t, get it at Critique Circle.

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Now it’s time to get back to full-on writing. Wish me luck, Folks.