Let me start off by saying this: I love NaNoWriMo. I’ve participated twice in the last four years, and each time I felt myself challenged, excited and creatively supercharged with each passing day. The process of writing in 30 days a full 50,000 word or more novel is exhilarating to say the least. So this post is not a knock to the event at all. In fact the event is still a very huge presence in my writing in the month of November.
However, for any authors out there who are not participating or can’t participate in the event, know that it is ok. You do not have to participate in the event to be a great writer in life or even just in the month of November. I struggled for a couple weeks on whether or not I wanted to participate in this year’s event.
Am I participating?
So many factors came into play when it came to my ultimate decision. I am working four jobs right now, all of which take up a lot of my time. In addition to this, I have responsibilities at home that take up even more time of my day, so by the time I get to the point where I have time to write, I’m either exhausted or have very little time to write, only getting a few hundred words in at most. I also have a project I am deeply committed to, but I am already at over 40,000 words. I’m not sure how many more words my project will end up taking on, but I don’t want the pressure of having to write another 50,000 just to satisfy the goal of NaNoWriMo and writing more than I really needed. Each story is unique (as many of you writers know), and should not be constrained by word counts for the sake of statistics. It usually sacrifices the story and flow of the novel overall as a result. I started coming up with an outline for a short story anthology I want to write to create a whole new project to work on, but with all of the other factors in play, the timing for NaNoWriMo 2018 just didn’t feel right.
So I decided ultimately to hold off for the year. I felt at first like I was failing to join the writing community or failing to be the best writer I could be. Then I started to ask myself: why? My day jobs consist of writing. I have a whole project I’m in the midst of working on that will include more writing. I’m neck deep into the world of writing. Why should I feel any less of a writer just because I’m not participating in the event.
There is no shame in taking your own path when it comes to writing. Whether you have an existing project, a project that doesn’t require 50,000 words or more or already is near that goal, you don’t have to commit to an event to feel like a great writer. The best advice I can give to a writer is to just be you. Write what you love, and write it on your own terms. Whether it takes you a month or ten years, don’t let anyone else tell you, (although, unless you are writing the next great novel, ten years is a bit long. Just kidding). Even I am still growing as a writer, and learning that you cannot rush the creative process or a project as a whole. To anyone participating in NaNoWriMo, good luck to you guys and I wish you well. I look forward to reading some of these projects in the future, and to interacting with you guys throughout the month as we all write alongside you. To everyone else, be you, and write on your own terms.
What do you guys think? Does this help any of you writers out there? Do any other authors have advice for anyone not participating in NaNoWriMo? Leave your comments below and be sure to share this post on your social media sites.
Check out my latest review of Firstborn by Tosca Lee here! Also grab your copy of my first two YA novellas in the Nightmare Academy series here!
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.
Today is a special treat my friends. I was recently sent an advanced copy of the highly anticipated sequel to one of my favorite thrillers in the last few years, The Fourth Monkey by J.D. Barker. This time around the author has published The Fifth To Die, a thrilling ride that explores the continuing hunt for the deadly 4MK. Here’s the synopsis:
In the thrilling sequel to The Fourth Monkey, a new serial killer stalks the streets of Chicago, while Detective Porter delves deeper into the dark past of the Four Monkey Killer.
Detective Porter and the team have been pulled from the hunt for Anson Bishop, the Four Monkey Killer, by the feds. When the body of a young girl is found beneath the frozen waters of Jackson Park Lagoon, she is quickly identified as Ella Reynolds, missing three weeks. But how did she get there? The lagoon froze months earlier. More baffling? She’s found wearing the clothes of another girl, missing less than two days.
While the detectives of Chicago Metro try to make sense of the quickly developing case, Porter secretly continues his pursuit of 4MK, knowing the best way to find Bishop is to track down his mother. When the captain finds out about Porter’s activities, he’s suspended, leaving his partners Clair and Nash to continue the search for the new killer alone.
Obsessed with catching Bishop, Porter follows a single grainy photograph from Chicago to the streets of New Orleans and stumbles into a world darker than he could have possibly imagined, where he quickly realizes that the only place more frightening than the mind of a serial killer is the mind of the mother from which he came.
This book was incredible. Of course as with all my reviews this will be a spoiler-free review. However I can honestly say that author J.D. Barker has mastered how to write the perfect sequel, upping his game greatly to create an even more intense, thrilling and engaging story than The Fourth Monkey. Delving deeper into the killer’s past, Detective Porter finds himself drawn into the twisted world of 4MK in ways no one can ever imagine, unless of course you’re J.D. Barker.
The way the story takes readers into the minds of everyone involved in the case, from new investigators and the team you came to know and love in the first novel to the killer himself and the newest victims who have to face the very heart of darkness and evil alone. It’s a powerful and explosive story from the first page, showing the way everyone was affected by 4MK’s surprising actions in the first novel and how just when you thought you knew the limits of this killer, he takes things so much further. By the end of the story your heart will be racing and you’ll be on the edge of your seat, gasping for breath because you got so enraptured with the twist ending that you forgot to breath.
Overall I loved this story. It was so fun and thrilling to take part in, and the entire time I was reading it I kept asking myself when someone is going to make a movie or show about this story. The tale of 4MK and those hunting him is the modern day serial killer story we’ve been waiting for, and makes for the perfect summer thriller read. In J.D. Barker we’ve found a spiritual successor to the incredible Stephen King, taking the characters of the everyday man and transforming their lives into one of a kind adventures and thrill rides that only these one of a kind authors could come up with. If you haven’t preordered your copy yet, be sure to do so now. The Fifth To Die by J.D. Barker comes out July 10th, 2018, so grab your copies today!
Barker was born January 7, 1971 in Lombard, Illinois and spent the first fourteen years of his life in Crystal Lake, Illinois. A staunch introvert, he was rarely seen without a book in hand, devouring both the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series by the age of six before moving on to classics such as the works of Dickens and Twain. The discovery of Shelley, Stoker and Poe fueled a fire and it wasn’t long before he was writing tales of his own which he shared with friends and family. These early stories centered around witches and ghosts thought to inhabit the woods surrounding their home.
At fourteen, Barker’s family relocated to Englewood, Florida, a climate better suited to his father’s profession as a contractor. He attended Lemon Bay High School and graduated in 1989. Knowing he wanted to pursue a career in the arts but unsure of a direction, he enrolled at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale where he later obtained a degree in business. While in college, one of his writing assignment found its way into the hands of Paul Gallotta of Circus Magazine. Gallotta reached out to Barker and asked him to join the staff of 25th Parallel Magazine where he worked alongside the man who would later become Marilyn Manson. Assignments dropped him into the center of pop culture and by 1991 Barker branched out, interviewing celebrities for the likes of Seventeen, TeenBeat, and other national and local publications. In 1992, Barker syndicated a small newspaper column called Revealed which centered around the investigation of haunted places and supernatural occurrences. While he often cites these early endeavors as a crash course in tightening prose, his heart remained with fiction. He began work as a book doctor and ghostwriter shortly thereafter, helping others fine tune their writing for publication. Barker has said this experience proved invaluable, teaching him what works and what doesn’t in today’s popular fiction. He would continue in this profession until 2012 when he wrote a novel of his own, titled Forsaken.
Stephen King read portions of Forsaken prior to publication and granted Barker permission to utilize the character of Leland Gaunt of King’s Needful Things in the novel. Indie-published in late 2014, the book went on to hit several major milestones – #2 on Audible (Harper Lee with Go Set a Watchman held #1), #44 on Amazon U.S., #2 on Amazon Canada, and #22 on Amazon UK. Forsaken was also nominated for a Bram Stoker Award (Best Debut Novel) and won a handful of others including a New Apple Medalist Award. After reading Forsaken, Bram Stoker’s family reached out to Barker and asked him to co-author a prequel to Dracula utilizing Bram’s original notes and journals, much of which has never been made public. The novel, titled Dracul, sold at auction to G.P. Putnam & Sons, with film rights going to Paramount. Andy Muschietti (IT, Mama) is attached to direct.
Barker’s initial indie success drew the attention of traditional agents and publishers and in early 2016 his debut thriller, The Fourth Monkey, sold in a series of pre-empts and auctions worldwide with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt set to publish in the U.S. and HarperCollins in the UK. The book has also sold for both film and television.
Barker splits his time between Englewood, FL, and Pittsburgh, PA, with his wife, Dayna.
Interview for Claire Gem, multi-award-winning author of contemporary romance, women’s fiction, and supernatural suspense.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?
I’m a native New Yorker who grew up in a small town about 60 miles northwest of Manhattan. Mother of three, I’ve been married to the same wonderful man for 39 years. I think it’s why I chose romance as my genre—I’m living it, so I feel qualified to write about it.
I’ve always loved to write as a form of expression. Therapy, really. In the seventh grade I had an excellent English teacher who took me aside one day and said, “You have an exceptional talent for writing. Don’t waste it.” I never forgot her words, and they inspire me and give me confidence to this day.
But I’m dual-sided: by day, I work in the field of scientific research. When I come home from work, I let the creative side of my brain come out to play. I didn’t start writing seriously until about ten years ago, when the business of life and raising children allowed me the extra down time to nurture the passion.
What inspired you to write your book?
Spirits of the Heart is set on the grounds of an abandoned mental asylum that really exists in the town where I grew up. I remember as a child feeling very haunted by the majestic old buildings and wondering what went on inside them. When I was about eighteen, I dated a young man who was a nighttime security guard at the facility before it closed down in the 1990s. He became my inspiration for Miller, although he and Miller are nothing alike.
When I decided to write the book, my sister (who is a photographer and still lives in the same town) spent a day driving around the mostly abandoned campus, taking pictures for my cover and book trailer. That’s when I decided on Talcott Hall—mysteriously, two weeks after that photo session, the building caught fire and burned to the ground. A local fireman took the fire photos and gave me permission to use them.
What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?
In every one of my books I try to address real life, big issues and show how my characters overcome them. Miller lives in the shadow of his alcoholic father and beats the addiction himself. Laura learns to accept her parents’ divorce and her father’s new choice of a mate. By the end of the book, both characters have not only fallen in love, but have grown as individuals.
What drew you into this particular genre?
I have always been fascinated by the paranormal, and really do believe in ghosts—spirits trapped between this world and the next. For some strange reason, I love to wander in old graveyards—it’s called taphophilia. The histories of the lives commemorated there intrigue me. So, it’s only natural I would choose to write supernatural suspense.
If you could sit down with any character in your book, what would you ask them and why?
That’s a difficult question because in developing my characters, I get to know them so well that I know what all their answers would be. It’s my way of making them real. To me, they become real people who I actually miss when I’ve finished writing the book. My process of character development involves me asking them every question I can think of—by the time I’ve written The End, I know them intimately.
6) What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?
I’m active on many social media sites but have found Twitter to be my most helpful. I have 21.6K followers, and it’s easy for me to put up snippets from my books with buy links, or teasers from the book I’m working on next. I have my Twitter account linked to Facebook, so my ~1000 Facebook fans automatically see what I post on Twitter as well.
7) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?
READ. Whatever genre you want to write in, read as many books as you can. I also highly recommend listening to audiobooks. I always have three books going at the same time: one in print, one in eBook, and one on audio. I believe an aspiring author can learn something different from consuming the same book in different formats—what you see with your eyes will be different from what you hear with your ears. I have some titles I have listened to and read multiple times. I learn something different every time.
Also, write what you are passionate about. At one time an editor at a conference suggested I write something in the YA genre because it as “hot” at the time…I’m not a fan of YA, and just couldn’t muster up the enthusiasm to write something I didn’t love. If you are passionate about what you write, that passion comes through on the page. If you love it, there will be other readers who will love it too.
8) What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?
I just completed another supernatural suspense, CIVIL HEARTS, which is set in an abandoned antebellum home in rural Alabama. The idea for this book came to me in a dream, as many of them do. My heroine is a widow whose husband died from a dreadful form of brain cancer, and the hero suffers from epilepsy. The house my heroine buys is haunted by a Confederate soldier who’s come home from war looking for his bride.
Next is Sirens of Salt, another idea that came to me in a dream. This one is set on the Atlantic coast of Florida and revolves around some theories I have about the mysterious underwater stones off the island of Bimini. I’m in the research process right now . . .
On June 24, 2016, THE REAPING will be available in both
print and e-book format. To celebrate the release, the first book in the
DREADLAND CHRONICLES series, ALL ROADS
LEAD TO TERROR will be free from Friday June 24, 2016 until midnight Sunday
June 26, 2016. There will also be a second chance weekend on July 16 & 17
to give those who missed the first free weekend a chance to enter the drawing.
Anyone who downloads a free copy of All roads lead to terror
and leaves a review on Amazon.com before midnight on August 20, 2016,will be
entered into a drawing for a one of a kind candy jar to take place on August
21, 2016. Full details about the giveaway can be found here:
Man is no longer alone at the top
of the food chain.
From the East a new threat to a struggling civilization
emerges, spreading across the land like a cancerous stain, leaving in its wake
the shattered remnants of a species teetering on the brink of extinction.
After the dead walked and society crumbled, mankind
struggled back from the brink of extinction. Having fled the cities, the
survivors lead a more pastoral lifestyle, while the cities to the east stand as
silent monuments to the former progress of man.
But they are not empty.
Not only did mankind leave behind the trappings of his
progress, but the creatures of the night that once fed along the shadowy edges
of a well lit world. Inhabiting that twilight space between day and night, between
what is real and imagined, between dreams and nightmares.
In Bryn Mawr Window is infected when he is bitten by a
Reaper. As he struggles against the rising bloodlust, viewing his friends as a
potential meal, they set out to the East in the search of a cure.
Along the way they learn more about the nature of the world
they inhabit, their own past, and the part they each play in a potential
future. Crossing paths with a shadowy figure who leaves small tokens from each
of their own history. Little objects that carry powerful emotions linked to
major changes in their past lives.
In the nations former capitol they are confronted by the
master who reveals the cold truth about the cosmos as he prepares his own army
of the undead to enslave what remains of mankind.
The horrors of the
past meet the brutality of the present.
On the day of his birth the dead walked and society
crumbled. His mother took one look at him and pronounced him Meat. He survived,
Fourteen years have passed and obscurity means survival in an increasingly
dangerous world. For the survivors compound at Bremo Bluff that obscurity is
threatened when a savage band abducts a group of children from the compound.
Accompanied by his three friends Window, Einstein, and Billie-Bob, Meat embarks
on a quest to rescue the children. A journey that will lead them into
adulthood, with a brief detour through the Dreadlands, as they confront the
harsh reality of a brutal world beyond the barriers that had served to protect
In the dead city of Richmond they will confront that savage cult of children
who worship a creature of the night. These creatures, once considered the
nightmare imaginings of a fevered mind, are now awake in a world where the
population that once served as their food source has been reduced.
They heard her before they saw her, whistling a soft tune, a
haunting melody that was anything but upbeat. Like a funeral dirge best
shared during the procession when the casket takes its final journey to the
grave. From around a bend in the small stream the sound came, competing with
the babble of the water rushing over smooth stone, and the restless voice of a
soft breeze that stirred what leaves remained, their dead bodies chattering
against one another like skeletons dancing a frenzied jig.
Cautiously they approached the sound, coming upon an old woman kneeling on the
bank as she washed clothes in the cold waters of the stream. Her calloused
hands were red with the cold, and as they rounded the bend she pushed herself
to her feet with the help of a gnarled cane, tilting her head to one side like
she could hear their footsteps on the grassy bank.
“I been waiting for you boys to find me. Mama said you would be around,” she
said as the hem of her long dress caught in the moving water and the fabric
drank its fill. She wore a black shawl stretched across her shoulders, her
white hair in stark contrast as it rested against her back.
“Don’t be bashful now, I know you’re out there, I can smell ya.” She turned her
head to look in their direction, the cataracts coating her eyes capturing the
sunlight to lend them a silvery appearance. Her face was a road map of
wrinkles, each one denoting a different emotion, the lines radiating out from
her narrow lips ready at a moments notice to punctuate a smile or a frown.
Window moved past the others, following the narrow strip of brown grass that served
as a bank to keep the stream on its course. She blinked several times as he
approached, taking a hesitant step back as he got closer, his six two frame
towering over her diminutive five three posture.
“He got to you, didn’t he boy?” She said with a faint quiver in her voice. It
was obvious she was frightened by Windows sudden movement, but at the same time
she carried herself like one who was prepared to meet her end. She reached out
with one hand, and gently caressed Windows cheek like a mother comforting her
“How did you know we was coming?” Window said.
She smiled then, relaxing her grip on the walking stick she used to keep
herself upright. “Mama told me back when I was a young un. She said, Sophie,
you help them four boys when they come, you wait right there, don’t go running
off, cause they’s gonna need your help.”
“How long ago was that?” Window said.
“All my life I’ve known, and I’ve waited, cause mama told me I had to. From the
time I was a wee child running barefoot down to old man Winner’s little store,
I’ve known of you.”
“But that was before we were even born,” Window said as the others joined them
and the old woman tilted her head to each in turn.
“You can see us?” Billie-Bob said.
She laughed then, her voice filled with a joy that helped push back the chill
of the late fall day, offering a brief respite from the cold as a spreading
warmth filled each of them at the sound of her merriment.
“Everything that has been, and is yet to be, has been writ down for those who
know where to look,” she said before turning to look in Billie-Bob’s direction.
“I can see you with my heart, and that’s all I need. I can see your pain, you
did something you thought was bad, but it wasn’t. Sometimes we are pushed to do
things we otherwise would not do, for these things we can’t be held
accountable, least ways not to ourselves. Where each of you are going you need
to leave your guilt behind, it’s the only way you will survive, the only way
the world as we know it will continue on its way.”
“What good is this world?” Einstein said, “why should we worry about letting it
continue on its way.”
The old woman reached over and touched Einstein’s cheek, “I feel your pain son,
but sometimes we have to know loss before we can know joy. It’s the way of the
world and it won’t do us any good to fight it. You can’t see that now, but you
“Can you help us?” Meat said.
“That’s why I’m here,” she said as she took Windows hand into her own, “he’s
got something very bad in him,“ she said as she nodded at Window,
"they calls them reapers, I can see it hunkered down next to his soul,
trying to hide from me. I can’t help with that, but I know what you need to do.
Let’s go inside where we can talk.” She looked around, searching the woods
around them for other intruders, the boys followed suit, finding only the empty
When they turned back a small cabin stood behind the old woman. It hadn’t been
there before, Meat was sure of it, it was like it had materialized right out of
the forest behind them.
About the Author
Unlike other writers who knew they wanted to write the
moment they became self aware, Richard’s path to taking up the pen followed a
more leisurely route.
As a child he wanted to be a fighter pilot, later he thought
it would be neat to be a rock star. Unfortunately, as an introvert, he was not
suited for the stage. Once he gave up the guitar, much to the relief of his
parents, he turned his attention to making movies.
Armed with an 8mm movie camera, several rolls of aluminum
foil liberated from the kitchen, and the spare bed sheets, he filmed his first
masterpiece. The story was about a space ship crash landing in the woods behind
his house. His sister starred as the damsel in distress while his little
brother, wrapped like a mummy in the spare bed sheets, chased her through the
His career as a famous director ended before it even got off
the ground when on opening night his mother recognized the missing bed sheets
and aluminum foil resulting in his
grounding for the remainder of that summer.
A voracious reader, he believes writing is the most intimate
form of communication possible. The reader permits the writer access to their
mind, and the readers reality dissolves as they focus on the narrative of the
tale being spun.
His love of the macabre was sparked at an early age when he
would sit on his grandmother’s porch listening to her tell ghost stories.
During the summer he and his cousins would sleep in his grandmother’s back
yard, within sight of the abandoned haunted house next door, and spend the
night scaring one another with gruesome tales of shadowy creatures that went
bump in the night.
During his life he has played a series of roles, husband,
father, son, and lover, but his favorite by far is grandfather. He and his wife
of twenty plus years have raised four children, and helped raise eight
grandchildren. They provide a secure home to a yellow lab named Max and a cat
who will answer to either Flame or Furball. His loving wife, Dena has
experienced first hand the exasperation of living with a writer whose mind has
a tendency to wander at the most inappropriate times. Yet she manages to keep
his feet firmly planted on terra firma.