“What’s Inside” Goes Audio!

This is one of the most flattering things that has ever happened to me.

Last week I was approached by a voice actor interested in doing a reading of my short story, What’s Inside. I listened to one of his other recordings and signed on immediately.

It came out today and I am so excited to share it with you! Cody has his own voice, as does Mrs Chappel, and hearing the two of them together… I’m not gonna lie. I got goosebumps. (Or ‘goosey bumps’, as per one psychopathic little boy.)

So close your eyes. Settle in.

I think I hear someone screaming…

 

Check out Immunity Zero’s YouTube channel for this and other creepy stories, and watch for more collaborations between us in future!

A Love Letter, From Me to You

1000w

Thank you.

If you’ve ever read a single one of my stories, if you’ve come to be a friend online, if you found me two seconds ago and you’re wondering who the hell this chick is (hang around, I’m fun, I promise): thank you for being here.

I’ve been through some pretty dark days this past year. I won’t bore you with the details, but suffice it to say that for a while there I fell out of the loop. Stopped blogging. Stopped doing a whole lot of things. I’ve had a novel sitting here in maddening disarray for months because I just couldn’t get my shit together long enough to finish it.

Then you came along.

Those of you relentlessly hounding me for the next novel (and I say that with love).

Those of you who took a chance on some crazy author chick and let me be a part of your day, on FB or IG or wherever.

Those of you who are watching and waiting for me to fail (hi!).

Because of all of you, I’m not giving up on this writing thing. Because of you I’ve dusted off that tatty old manuscript and I’m ready to rock it. I’m going to jump back in with both feet and a head full of dreams.

So thank you. For everything. Let’s have some fun together, shall we?

-Stef

*image from uppercase mag

Writers: Try a Writing “Sketchbook”

But, you’re a writer, right? Not a visual artist. What the hell would you want a sketchbook for?

I got caught up in YouTube recently, one of those tangled webs of clicking random “suggested video” links, and I ended up somehow at videos of sketchbooks. Page after page, turned for the camera, sometimes with the artist describing their ideas or inspirations. They’re visual candy, and what struck me about them was the freedom of the artist’s sketchbook.

Trying something new, crossing it out, fiddling with styles and colours and composition. Knowing even before you start that whatever you’re trying may be a colossal failure, and doing it anyway. Scribbling out, starting over, playing with ideas. Not caring about the end product, because if it sucks you don’t ever have to show anyone. The sheer joy of a happy mess unapologetic on the page.

Which is why I’ve adopted the “sketchbook” model for writing.

Sitting in front of a cold, impersonal monitor watching a cursor blink doesn’t exactly rev up my creativity. The harsh glow of the blank screen offers little in the way of inspiration. Show me a white screen and I’ll show you boredom, frustration, and occasional panic.

But show me a blank page, put a pen in my hand, and it’s on. Scribbling (even the word, scribbling, describes a freer way to write than the measured clicks of keys) encourages experimentation. Stuck? Doodle in the margins. Plotting? Draw the path of the story. Flash of inspiration? Throw a key word in the middle of a page and weave a web of related points, characters, and themes all around it. Try writing in a different colour (though not red ballpoint, trust me. It’s a bitch to read later). Your “sketchbook” will become art all on its own; ink stains, wrinkles, coffee and crumbs all marking the times and places you fleshed out your story.

At some point, it’s likely you’ll want to type up your story, whether it’s for publication or just to see it in print. I resisted the sketchbook method for quite a while, since it’s double the work: first writing longhand, then inputting every word. It feels like a huge waste of time, if you miss the major benefit: You can always edit your work on the fly as you type it up. By the time your story’s down, you’ve already caught a lot of the simple errors of tense, missing words, and the like. You’re one draft ahead. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll find that the time lost to typing is more than made up by the extra output of a few scribbles here, a few paragraphs there. A notebook can be crammed in a pocket or purse and snuck out almost anywhere in moments of inspiration, which puts you way ahead of the game in terms of production. No booting up, no waiting for apps to load, just uncap a pen and go.

Try it out, and let me know: Does it work for you?

How To Procrastinate

Originally posted March 23, 2012.

Are you the type who methodically maps out your writing? Do you break stories or novels down into manageable pieces, finishing a self-imposed quota each day? Do you revel in knowing that your story or article will be complete well before it’s due?

You, my friend, are missing out on one of life’s little joys. I like to call it The Game of Procrastination.

It’s easy to play. First, and most importantly, you need a deadline. Those of you working on spec are lucky enough to have one built in, but for the indies you’ll have to make one up. (If you find yourself procrastinating on even setting a deadline, you are too advanced for this game. Move along.) You need a deadline, because you can’t tell you’re procrastinating until you have one looming over your head.

Now we begin.

Sit yourself down at your computer of choice. You might choose a laptop in a cafe; this is the easy way out. There will be a ton of distractions there, most of which won’t even feel like your fault. No. For this game you should be in the comfort of your own home. Boot up your word program of choice. Crack your knuckles if you need to. Roll your head on your neck. Begin.

Wait. Maybe you should pee first. You don’t want to reach your creative zone only to be interrupted by the rude call of nature. Okay. Now that you’ve taken care of that, begin. Begin, that is, after you’ve formatted your page. You’d only have to do it later so you might as well do it now. Now, try to remember that really delightful phrase you thought of when you were at your day job. What was it? Wait, didn’t you write it down? Maybe it’s still in your pocket. You’ve changed since you got home, though, so you have to dig the pants out of the laundry. The hamper is overflowing; take a quick break to go downstairs and start some laundry.

Pass the kitchen. Make some coffee. That’s what writers do, right? You are A Writer, and you deserve your vices.

Sit down while you wait for it to brew. No point in going up to your computer, only to come back down in five minutes. Efficiency, you are a paragon of efficiency. Notice a couple squirrels on the back deck. Begin to wonder about the connection between those squirrels. Are they siblings? Squirrely little lovers?

Coffee made and back upstairs. Write a line, question the spelling of “fuschia”, look it up online. You spelled it correctly! Congrats! But your Twitter tab shows updates. You should see what’s going on. Someone’s tweeting about a cultural event they’re participating in, and you begin to realize you don’t have a “culture” of your own, sure you know your ancestors originated in Europe but what does that mean, to you, as an individual in a melting-pot nation and you begin to realize how much you don’t know about your own country, for crying out loud, it’s a shame, and you go on Amazon…nay, Chapters.ca because you’re a Canadian, dammit, and you decide now would be a great time to learn about the War of 1812, so you write down the info for the book you want and make plans to buy it later and you’re proud of yourself for not falling into a WikiHole because you have WORK TO DO and your deadline is FAST APPROACHING.

Whew. Back to work. Write a paragraph.

This coffee isn’t strong enough. You’re still sleepy. Maybe grab a quick nap, so you can recharge your creative batteries.

Wake up hours later. Oops. It is dark out. Your deadline is midnight.

Jump on that idea you had, the one about the fuschia monster, and begin to bang the keys. Maybe you should shower. That’s where you do your best thinking. Check the time: you have three hours before your deadline. Okay, a five minute shower. The hot water is relaxing. A fifteen minute shower.

Back at your desk. Throw yourself into the story, try to hit that magical place where you’re seeing the story unfold in your mind’s eye and just capturing it with keystrokes. It’s almost there, dancing maddeningly just out of reach…Check the clock. You have two hours.

Pour it on. Your fingers move without you, like it’s them telling the story, not you, and it’s working, my God it’s working, and you lose yourself in it and you only remember to breathe because some part of your monkeybrain tells you to and you check the clock and it’s down to the last hour. Check your word count. You need twice as many words as you have, so you sit forward and tune out everything around you. The house could burn down around your chair and you would keep typing. You type faster than you even knew you could, and the images and the thoughts flow out of you and it’s like you’re not even there anymore, like the ideas are writing themselves, beamed down from some heavenly Muse and you just have to get the hell out of her way.

Clock check. Half hour. No time for full sentences.

Faster. Sweat prickles. Husband peeks in on the madwoman—Not now! I’ll be human in half an hour!—and you pound the keys and the monster attacks and your hero lives or dies but now is the time to wrap it up, seam the story together and you’re high on the feeling of it and you key the last words in with five minutes to spare.

But you did it. You beat your deadline.

Every time you do this, you tell yourself you’re crazy. Next time you’ll be one of those planners, one of those normal people who don’t kill themselves to race a deadline. You know even as you think it that it won’t happen.

Because you won.

The End.

I just finished watching What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? for the first time (I know, I know, shame on me). It was a great film, but what I liked best was the ending.

Spoiler alert for those of us who have been under rocks since 1962.

Okay, so the best part was the precise cut at the moment the cops run down the beach to check on Blanche. I loved it because the movie ended right before we find out whether Blanche is dead. We see a psychotic Jane spinning and dancing in the crowd, and the crowd moving away, and the cops almost reaching Blanche, then BOOM! It’s over.

Did Blanche die? If so, will Jane be going to prison? When Blanche told Jane that she’d caused her own accident, was Blanche only trying to befriend Jane so Jane would go get help?

I loved it so much because I love complex endings. I love not being told precisely what happened. I love it when the exact ending is left up to my imagination.

It’s something I try to do with my own fiction: take What’s Inside, for example. The story has an ending, in a way, but it’s up to the reader to decide what comes next. Some reviews wanted the story to have been longer, and I get that some readers enjoy complete resolution. But I like leaving an end or two untied.

The flirtation between “finished-enough” to be satisfying and left “unfinished-enough” to let the reader interact with the story is something that excites me as a writer. I want you left curious. I want to encourage you to participate in the story, to think about it long after you’ve put the story down.

It worked in the case of Baby Jane, and I hope it works in my stories, too.

Ya Gotsta Get Paid: E-Book Sales in America, For Non-Americans

If you’ve found your way here, you just might be a writer. You might be thinking of joining the glamorous world of e-book publishing.

If you wanna make this easy, make sure you’re from the States. Sell stories. Get paid. File your taxes. Boom! You’re done.

If you wanna make it interesting, be from anywhere else.

Welcome to the wild world of cross-border taxes. Exciting, no?

When I first started publishing, I knew I’d have to pay the Tax Man. No problem, I’ll worry about it later, it’s no big deal. But what I didn’t know, and you may not either, is that unless you file the correct paperwork with American-based publishers (Amazon, Smashwords, and the like), they’ll be withholding taxes from your sales right off the top. How does 30% sound? That’s money going to the IRS before you’ve ever seen it. Then, when you get your cheque, guess what? You’ll be paying MORE tax, this time to your own country.

The good news? If you’re in a country that has a tax treaty with the US, you can reduce or even eliminate withholding.

Now, you might be writing “for yourself”, with nary a thought of filthy lucre tainting your artistic dreams. How lovely. But if you don’t want any of your money, why are you selling in the first place?

Let’s be real.

So, what do you need? You’ll need to send a W-8BEN form to your publishers. And before you can file that, you’ll need an ITIN (takes up to ten weeks to get your number). And before you can file that, you’re gonna need a notarized copy of your identification: a passport works well here. Expect that to take another ten days. And the kicker is that the government doesn’t really walk you through the forms. (Though I remember reading that you can call a long-distance number for help, or contact your embassy…)

Luckily, I found someone who’s written up some great instructions, but before I tell you where to find them you need to know that neither she nor I are legal-types in any way. If you’re filing these forms yourself and you need more help, I’m afraid you’re on your own. Sorry ’bout that.

Good? Good.

Go here for ITIN instructions, and here for help with the W-8BEN. Again, I can’t promise anything definitive, but I can say that I used Angela’s instructions successfully.

E-publishing can be tough; don’t make it any tougher by giving away your hard-earned dollars.