January 8, 1931

The Great Depression began with the crash of the New York Times Stock Exchange in October of 1929, and no place in the western world was left untouched by the occurrence.

This included the town of Cross, Massachusetts.

While the pain of the financial collapse was not felt as keenly in Cross as in other places, it was nonetheless felt.

Mr. Otto Jones, formerly of Idaho, moved to Cross in 1930 to live with his sister on her small farm. Otto was a kind and generous man, and an avid hunter. His ability find game kept not only himself and his sister supplied with meat, but some of their neighbors as well.

Like his sister, Otto was a stranger to the town, its customs, and the places one should not tread.

While he knew that Gods’ Hollow was not a place to trespass in, he did not consider hunting to be trespassing.

In January of 1931, Otto realized great flocks of Canadian geese would spend days in Gods’ Hollow. He knew that he could fire rounds quickly enough to bring down a fair few and that the meat from those birds would go a long way to helping some of the poorer families stretch out their dinners.

On January 7, Otto went to Gods’ Hollow and shot dozens of birds. That evening, he and his sister plucked and dressed them, then on January 8, they delivered them to their Church in Pepperell. The fresh meat was gratefully received, and the birds were distributed to those families in need.

The first person who ate of the flesh was the local pastor in Pepperell when he had a bit of it for his afternoon lunch.

He was dead by four o’clock.

By the time the church realized the meat was poisonous, 19 people had died.

Remorse claimed Otto, and he blew his brains out in Gods’ Hollow that same evening.

#CrossMassachusetts #horror #scary #death #flashfiction #shortshort #writerofinstagram #unsolvedmystery #hunting #depression #secrets

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Resolutions

So, did you make any resolutions for 2019?

I have to confess. Usually, I don’t make any sort of resolutions. The main reason is, of course, because I don’t ever stick to my resolutions, and if that’s the case, then what’s the point to begin with? I’m not especially masochistic, so there’s no need to torment myself with daily reminders of what I have failed to do.

I have enough of those without adding to my burden.

This year, however, I did make a resolution, and it’s fairly simple: I resolved to write more of my own material.

And so far, I have done just that.

Whether it’s only 300 words a day, I still write it.

I didn’t set a minimum, and I didn’t set a maximum. It’s straightforward: just write.

I know I’ve said that before to other writers when they ask how to get going with their writing, how to increase their strength and endurance when it comes to getting their thoughts down on paper. Well, I’ve taken my own advice.

It’s been working out well.

I have a new idea for a short novel, and possibly a photo album/history book of my mythical town, Cross. In addition to that, I’m going to revisit a few short stories that were pushed by the wayside when I was working more than sleeping.

But I’m in a good place with my writing. I average 80K to 100K a month, and I work one full-time job and one part-time job, which is pretty decent. Life has slowed down a bit, and I appreciate that.

I’m using this new rhythm to put some structure into my writing schedule and making sure that I’m creating the best material I can.

If you’ve got the writing bug, remember, it is never too late to start your own schedule. For me, it’s a few hundred words a day and editing that much as well.

And for right now, that’s all I need.

 

#writing #writingresolution #resolution #succeed #success #drive #focus #determination #writer

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Where do you write?

     This isn’t a metaphysical question.

     Take this as literal, because that’s what it is.

     We should all have a special place we can call our own when it comes to writing. It doesn’t matter if that place is your local coffee shop, or your dining table, or just the breakroom at work. So long as you have a refuge, you can retreat to for your writing.

     My own place is in the basement of my house.

     My youngest son and I share this space. We have our Lego bricks (in dozens of well-organized containers) on shelves and in drawers. My writing area, however, is not nearly as organized.

     I have my desktop and monitor crammed onto the desk. On top of the desk, behind the monitor, is a small bookshelf, onto which I have placed all my Steinbecks and some of my history books. Other books, graphic novels, militaria, and paperwork are scattered around. From where I sit right now, as I write this, I can reach out and grab a cold cup of tea, a cold mug of coffee, some bills, a fossil of a fish, and a statue of the Buddha. I can also turn off my portable heater, grab a book on the German army during the Weimar Republic, or turn on my shredder.

     All this is comfortable.

     All this is familiar.

     And it allows me to sink into my writing.

     I know where everything is for when I need it.

     If I feel like listening to music while I write or edit, the headphones are there. If I need names for characters, the names of authors leap out at me.

     This is what helps me write. This familiarity, this ritualistic pattern I follow when I make my way to my battered Victorian chair, sit down and prepare to shiver in the chill of the basement, my heater valiantly doing battle with the New England winter.

     Find your place, that safe place where you can create and forget everything but the passion you have for writing.

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December 26, 1859

     Murder is nothing new. Nor is the effort some go to hiding the body – or bodies – of the slain.

     Mathias Cooper traveled from England in 1840 and found work on the marina in Cross, repairing the barrels on ships replenishing their stocks.

     One ship, in particular, the Sea King out of Newburyport, Massachusetts, preferred to have its barrels built and repaired by Mathias. His uncle Elbridge, it turned out, was the ship’s master, and after work, the two would drink long into the night.

     In 1859, inspectors from a shipping insurance firm from New Bedford, MA arrived to investigate the repeated loss of life aboard the Sea King. They were unable to ascertain anything from the folk at the marina, but the suspicions of the townspeople were raised.

     Gentle inquiries were made, and soon it was discovered that the Sea King had a habit of losing new sailors in Cross. These losses were chalked up to the wandering nature of most young men, but as the older members of Cross continued their investigation, they discovered a far more sinister practice.

     Mathias Cooper made at least one new, larger than normal barrel for the Sea King every time she put into berth.

     On December 26, 1859, nephew and uncle were questioned directly and with force, and the newest barrel was opened. The fresh corpse of an unknown sailor was removed from the barrel, and the body was given a decent burial in Cross Cemetery.

     Mathias and Elbridge Cooper were placed in the barrel, alive, and they were buried as well.

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Branching Out

     Jobs often offer something terrible: security.

     Mind you, security can be absolutely wonderful. I worked – full-time – as a trash-man for seventeen years, and the safety of that position (the steady pay raises, the health insurance, the vacation days, and the sick days), kept me there. So did my attitude at the time. I had a chip on my shoulder, and it took a debilitating injury for me to realize that I had done my family and myself a disservice by staying in a job that I hated – and one that had no possibility of growth – for almost two decades.

     For the past three years now, I’ve had the distinct pleasure of working as both an editor and as a ghostwriter. I’ve been able to fine tune my writing with the help of some exceptional editors and my publisher. While I intend to remain with this company for as long as possible, I’ve discovered that I have put my own writing on hold, much to my own detriment.

     So, I’m branching out. Or going back to my roots. However you want to look at it. The point is, I am at last able to recognize when I need to do something, and I have the confidence to do it.

     And that means getting back into writing my kind of story. A little horror. A little fantasy. A whole lot of ‘what the hell’ was that?

     Now, I’m not telling you to drop your job and run for your writing space. Far from it. What I am suggesting is that if you love to write, if you are driven to write regardless as to whether anyone reads it or not, then it’s time to start focusing on that.

     Carve a little bit of time out of the day for yourself. Don’t cut into family time, or those precious few moments with your spouse.

     If you are an early riser and you function best first thing, then set your alarm a little earlier.

     If you’re like me, and the night brings out the best in your writing, then stay up a little later than you would.

     Time for you to work is there, you just need to find it, and stick to it.

     I know you can do it, so, go ahead, start writing.

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Pacing

     Several years ago, I made the transition from part-time freelancer to a part-time ghostwriter. While I’ve discussed working within the constraints of someone else’s ideas concerning good writing, I haven’t talked about all the particulars.

     And I can’t in a short format such as this.

     What I can do, however, is take them one at a time.

     Today’s focus is pacing.

     I had a terrible time with pacing originally. Personally, I want a story to develop in a certain way. More organic than formulaic. I think most of you reading this can agree with that. Writing out a specific iambic pentameter for chapters leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. Especially when you’re a fan of letting your characters grow and change with the story.

     And that is all well and good when you are doing your own thing. I have plenty of stories where the development of a character or the climax of the tale takes a long time to achieve.

     If you’re working as a ghostwriter, then you need to think about pacing. You need to set your pacing so that you can put it on a graph where A stands for action, and B stands for anything else. Basically, when you lay out your chapters in front of you, you should have a rhythm, like so: A B A B A B…

     Ad nauseum ad infinitum, as the Romans were wont to say.

     Should you find yourself working as a ghostwriter and creating thrillers of any sort, keep this pacing in mind. Rev the engine, let it idle; rev the engine, let it idle. Not only will this keep your readers excited, but it’ll make your boss happy too.

     And, best of all, it can help you with your own writing.

     Speaking of which, time to do a little more of my own.

Keep writing!

     Nicholas

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Giving Them Horror to Remember

           What makes a building scary? What makes it ripe for a haunting? Is it the structure’s location? Is it the history of the place?

           When the phrase ‘haunted house’ is mentioned, there’s a certain expectation on the part of the reader. The reader, rightly or wrongly, believes that the house should be a house. A home. A structure where someone once lived. Generally, this means that the building should have the appearance that we are familiar with. If it is an older house, it should be a Victorian, perhaps Edwardian. Should the setting be in the South, then we believe it should be a grand old plantation. Further up into New England, we expect farmhouses or cottages at the least. In the cities, we look for tenement buildings. Out west, entire towns of false-front buildings. And on the West Coast, we expect beachfront villas.

           But what about those in-between places?

         What if in the city it’s not an apartment building, but a rundown garage? Or if it’s the seacoast, why not part of a marina? In a New England town, why not an old store?

          Horror and terror shouldn’t be confined to stereotypes, no matter how comfortable that might make a reader feel. Because no matter how much they might enjoy the ghost story or terrifying tale, if it doesn’t push them, at least a little bit, then they’re not going to be moved by the story.

           Yes, a haunted Victorian is interesting. Yes, it could even be disturbing if there was the ghost of a cannibal in it.

           But can such a structure compete with an old corner store, if the same sort of tale was told in it? We expect something horrible to exist within the confines of a Victorian. How about the closed down bar at the end of the street? Do we really expect some hideous entity to be patiently waiting in the cellar? Or beneath the bar?

           No, we don’t. And it’s there –  when we challenge the reader’s expectations – that we will succeed in the main goal of storytelling: giving them something to remember and to reflect on.

           Scaring them is easy.

           Making them remember why they were scared a year or two down the road, that’s the real challenge.

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What drives you to succeed?

     Is it a need to be the best at your chosen profession? Is it a contrariness in your nature, to make certain that all who doubt you will have to eat crow?

     Are you obsessed and can do nothing other than what you’re doing?

     For me, I’ve always been driven to succeed with my writing. I like to tell stories. Some of them are true. Most aren’t. I’d like to be known for the truths I tell. I’d like to be admired for my ability to write about historical events. The fact of the matter is I can’t. When it comes to writing military history, I need to know everything.

     Absolutely everything about a subject before I feel comfortable enough to write intelligently about it. If there’s a document out there, I need to read it. Someone who lived it? I need to speak with them about it.

     But just as I’m driven to know everything about an historical subject, so too am I driven to write my stories. This focus in regards to my fiction is both good and bad, like so many other qualities in a person.

     The pros, well, I want the story to be the finest I can craft before I set it free into the wild.

     The cons, well, I want the story to be the finest I can craft before I set it free into the wild.

     Do you see the dilemma?

     I’m sure that you, as an equally driven individual, can see it as easily as I do. And so we come to the real question: what do we do about it? When can we let go of the story and say, ‘Go then, and do what you will.’?

     That has always been the most difficult part of writing fiction, deciding when the story is ready to go. I’ve been fortunate in finding a few magazines and publications that have been willing to take a chance on me. But it took a long time, and it requires drive and focus.

     Focus on what you want, and drive yourself toward it.

     There’s no guarantee of success. There’s no guarantee of greatness.

     But there sure as hell isn’t if you never try.

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A Lesson from Ghostwriting

     Years ago, I was in a bar in Groton, Connecticut, shooting pool with a friend of mine. I told him I finally got an acceptance letter for a story, and he asked me what I would do if they wanted me to edit some of the material. Would I say ‘No,’ and keep true to the art of the piece?

     My answer was, ‘What do you want cut?’

     This was said partially in jest, but three years ago I began working with a small publishing house as a ghostwriter, and that answer is what I say on an almost daily basis.

     When you’re a ghostwriter, you check your ego at the door. Sure, you can bring along your emotional baggage because that’s what helps you as a writer. But your personal hang-ups, what you will and will not write/edit, those you leave behind. If you can’t do that, then you should find another writing job.

     When I began my ghostwriting work, it was with complete freedom. But as the books were published, readers came back with what they liked and didn’t like, and the publisher requested the necessary adjustments. For instance, I can’t put curses or swears in. No vulgarity it all. This was the first challenge for me.

     It wasn’t a challenge in a writing sense, but an ego sense. I know how certain people speak, and how liberally they use the ‘F’ bomb. But that wasn’t what the readers wanted, and the publisher is creating a marketable product for the broadest audience possible.

     So, what do you do when presented with a new rule that requires you to remove vulgarity?

     If you want to keep your job, you remove the vulgarity.

     Removing it wasn’t difficult, and the benefits have been tremendous.

     Since I can no longer rely upon certain words to represent a character’s frustration, I have to think of other ways to convey that sense and emotion. This has allowed me to grow as a writer and to increase my skillset.

     Stay tuned, everyone, I’ll have more on writing soon.

Keep writing!

     Nicholas

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On Writing

     Writing is often an extremely personal act, a way of exposing some part of yourself to the world. Most often, your readers don’t know what part of a story is yours, but you do. This is why so many writers fear the act of submitting a piece for review.

     What is difficult to learn – and accept – is the fact that a rejection of your writing is not a rejection of you.

     Contrary to popular belief among writers, editors are not sitting at their desks, rubbing their hands together and considering the many wonderful (and truly terrible) ways in which they might tear apart your work.

     Editors are professionals. They deal with you, the writer, in the same manner they want to be dealt with. Professionally.

     They look at your piece to see if you’ve followed the formatting guidelines set out by their publication. They look at spelling, storyline, style, all of it. And if it doesn’t fit, it is not a personal attack.

     J.K. Rowling submitted Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone to scores of publishers. Charles Bukowski had reams of rejected poetry. Robert Frost first became well-known in Europe. Herman Melville’s Moby Dick was panned at the time of its printing.

     The point is, taking rejection personally, is like taking an act of nature personally. There’s no reason to. Sure, it’s disappointing – and often a blow to our ego – but you keep writing. You keep submitting.

     Writing, like anything else, requires practice. The more you work at it, the better you get.

     Keep writing, everyone!

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