Officially, this is the last blog post on the website for the year. Yay! We somehow made it through 2020, everyone! Of course, there are still two days left, so I shouldn’t jinx us. Let’s move on…
In 2021, obviously more books are on the way. I will talk about 2 of them now.
One, the first books I’ll be releasing in 2021 is WHEN WORDS GROW FANGS – as chosen by Chase Connor Books readers in this poll. All three books offered up gave each other a run for their money, but WWGF won out in the end by a handful of votes.
Soon, I’ll be able to announce a release date and more information about Jude and his fight for justice. Until then, I can’t really say much else…other than this is kind of a return to my YA roots. I think anyone who loved JUST A DUMB SURFER DUDE, GAVIN’S BIG GAY CHECKLIST, or A SURPLUS OF LIGHT will enjoy this one as well. Here’s hoping, right?
The second thing I want to mention is this:
Though I’m offering little information about the story at this time–I may have already written quite a few chapters in the first draft. Although, as a hint, one character might accidentally confuse another character for a sex worker–and things happen. The story also starts off with a jerk off scene and the main character describing a porn video he’s watching. So, it’s going to have plenty of spice!
Also, for funsies, here is everything else in the works:
In 2021, I also plan to revamp the Chase Connor Books newsletter, become less resistant to certain things–like Twitter Fleets–and work my butt off on becoming a better writer so that the readers will enjoy their purchases even more.
Since May of 2018, all of the readers and my fellow writers have made this writing and publishing journey interesting and joyful. As a writer, I hate to say it, but I don’t have words for how wonderful that makes me feel. Well, maybe I have the words, but they would never seem good enough.
Regardless, I appreciate you all more than I could ever explain and you will ever know.
In case we don’t “talk” before, I hope you all have a wonderful New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, and we all go into 2021 together happy, healthy, and hopeful.
Be kind to each other and yourselves. Make the world a more beautiful place.
Okay. I know it’s not actually Christmas. It’s only December 22nd–but this will be the last time that we “talk” here before Christmas Day. Thus, this is the official Chase Connor Books Christmas Blog Post.
Christmas holds a special place in my heart (even if Halloween is still number one) because of family memories, snow, lights, food, friends, and love. I love the cold, snowy weather–even if I am always complaining–I love holiday meals and decorated cookies and shiny gifts wrapped up in bows and Santa and reindeer and lights and the look of joy and wonder on everyone’s faces.
Mostly, I love that it’s a time of year when everyone wants to spend time together. Or, at least, they feel obligated to spend time together?
This year, things being what they are in 2020, spending time with loved ones isn’t a reality for many of us. Safety and keeping everyone healthy is more important, right?
Because of the situation we find ourselves in this year, it will probably just be my husband and me for the holidays. Not that I mind–I love any bit of time I have him all to myself. However, we will miss seeing all of our friends and family and being able to give them hugs and sit down to a meal together.
Regardless, because it will be the two of us, we still want to do things that make us feel festive. Things that bring out the holiday spirit. Things that bring us joy.
Get your minds out of the gutter.
What we will be doing is cooking lots of delicious, hearty meals together. Baking cookies. Watching Christmas movies. Being snuggly in front of the fire. Dropping tins of cookies off on loved ones’ porches. Watching silly Christmas movies with popcorn and treats. That kind of thing.
Now, I’m writing this post on December 6th. By the time you’re all reading this, we will have already done a lot of these things. It’s now December 22nd and there are only a few days left until Christmas. It’s almost getting too late to plan anymore Christmas activities.
Or is it….?
Today, I thought I’d include a few of my favorite Christmas activities/goods that you can participate in/make with only a few days to go. They don’t require a ton of planning–maybe a quick trip to the store–and will definitely put you in the holiday spirit. Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, some of these things are still so much fun during the winter holidays!
Chop the chocolate into tiny chunks and place in a heatproof bowl.
Heat the cream over medium-low into it is simmering.
Pour cream over the chocolate and let sit for 2-3 minutes.
Add the vanilla and stir until everything is combined and chocolate is melted.
Let cool until you can cover with plastic wrap (the wrap should touch the surface of the chocolate).
Sit in the fridge for 1 hour to overnight.
Remove from fridge and scoop by 1 tablespoon portions and roll into balls with wet hands to keep from sticking.
Roll chocolate balls in nuts, sprinkles, crushed pretzels, cocoa powder (or whatever your imagination conjures), and refrigerate until ready to eat!
Christmas Morning Breakfast Casserole
2 lbs ground pork sausage
2 large leeks, sliced and rinsed free of sand (or 1 cup of sliced scallions, whichever you can find easily)
1 large loaf of crusty, rustic white bread, chopped into bite-size cubes (about 8 cups)
6 large eggs
3/4 cup heavy cream
16 oz Camembert cut into cubes (or shredded cheddar–who’s going to stop you?)
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 tsp fennel seed
salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
In a large skillet, sautee your leeks, adding salt, pepper, cayenne, and fennel seed. raise heat to medium-high and add sausage, cooking until done.
Liberally butter a 9×13 casserole dish with tall sides and layer the bottom with bread cubes.
Spread the sausage and leeks mixture over the bread, then sprinkle the cheese evenly over the top.
Mix your eggs and heavy cream together thoroughly, then pour over the casserole.
Either cover the casserole with foil and put in the fridge overnight, or bake right away at 375 for 45 minutes.
This is best if you prepare it Christmas Eve and bake it Christmas morning, but making and baking on the same day is fine, too!
Favorites Christmas Movies
Okay. You don’t all really need help here. However, these are my absolutely favorite movies that SAM and I have to watch every Christmas season! MAKE SURE TO HAVE YOUR POPCORN READY!
A Christmas Story
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (cartoon version)
Die Hard (I know, I know)
L’apprenti Père Noël et le Flocon Magique (The Magic Snowflake is the English version)
A Charlie Brown Christmas
L’Apprenti du Père Noël (Santa’s Apprentice)
Little Women (1994)
When I wrote this blog post, all of these were available on one streaming service or another, so they should be easy to find and watch. Most of these are very common Christmas movies, too!
Lastly, if you’re interested in Christmas songs that put me in the holiday spirit, here’s a Spotify playlist for all of you!
So, these things, other than Réveillon (which is usually an appetizer, soup or stew, roast of some kind, roasted vegetables, breads, cheeses, nuts, desserts, fruits–it’s the most elaborate meal we have all year) these are some of the things I love most at Christmas.
From me, SAM, and our fur-baby, I wish you all the merriest of days. I hope your life is full of light, love, happiness, and health.
Almost every book that I’ve ever read has had a protagonist and an antagonist. Sometimes they are the same person–like a person who creates the tornado that is destroying their life (see: The Catcher in the Rye), but often there is a very clearly defined hero and a very clearly defined villain. Tropes abound in the hero/villain world of fiction writing. Bullies, crooked politicians, evil sorcerers or witches, a demon, an adult who just doesn’t get the teenage main character. There’s a lot to choose from if a writer goes trope-y with their villain.
There’s also the choice between going realistic or camp with a villain when one writes a story. We’ve all seen the man in the black suit and top hat, twirling his moustache between his fingers as he ties a woman in white to the railroad tracks.
Campy villains can be a lot of fun. Over the top, evil for the sake of being evil, and deliciously fun, they can really make a story pop if they’re done well. One of my favorite campy villains is Ursula from The Little Mermaid. The fact that Ursula was inspired by the drag queen Divine probably explains the campiness. She’s sassy, voluptuous, witty, and deliciously evil. She can belt out a tune, too!
Bestill my little gay, fluttering heart.
However, campy villains don’t work for most realistic fiction. They should be reserved for fantasy, sci-fi, and horror novels. Usually. Nothing I ever say is 100% across the board accurate…
Regardless, when creating a realistic villain for realistic fiction, the first thing an author needs to do is figure out one thing.
What is the villain’s motivation?
I’ve said it before–and it’s not an original thought–but no villain sees themselves as the villain. They think that what they are doing is the right thing and the hero is the actual villain. Again, this is for realistic fiction. For a campy villain, well, they probably know they are evil and just don’t give a fig. They’re in it for the evil, so they don’t care what people think of them.
Realistic villains, however, think they are trying to do what is right–according to how they see the world through their own lens–and the hero should be stopped at all costs.
So…why does the villain think the way that they do? Are they a racist villain? What made them racist? Are they homophobic? What made them think LGBTQ+ people are bad? Do they want to stage a political coup? What about the current government makes them think they can do better? Are they a thief trying to steal their way to a better life? Why are they poor? Do they hate rich people for some reason? What happened in their past to make them hold their current views?
A realistic villain needs as much backstory as a hero.
Even if a villain’s complete backstory isn’t detailed in the text of the story, the author needs to know why the villain is the way they are and why they make the choices they make. A villain just running amok causing chaos and destruction can be fun…but they’re not as interesting.
To create a realistic villain, I often think about people in my life that I have had difficulties with in my personal and professional lives. Why did they do the thing I felt wronged me? Why do they feel they can treat other people they way that they treat them? Can I take why I feel like the hero and see it from the “villain’s” perspective–ya’ know, put that thing down, flip it and reverse it?
The first villain that comes to mind that I can understand is the alien from, well, Alien. Astronauts on a tug ship encroach on her territory, the alien needs to survive and reproduce–it’s the alien’s instinct. It’s a top of the food chain type of situation. The alien isn’t a villain if you’re a similar creature. If you’re a human, she’s a hot damn acid spewing mess that needs to be destroyed. Kill or be killed is how the alien lives–something a human doesn’t understand…yet another alien would.
Or how about that dickhead hunter who kills Bambi‘s mom? He’s just out trying to get some deer meat for winter. In his mind, he’s surviving and doing what he’s been taught to do growing up. However, to the rest of us that see the devastation that one bullet causes–we feel he should be set on fire and put out with a shovel, right?
Mr. Potter from It’s A Wonderful Life? He’s been blinded by his eternal search for more and more riches. He doesn’t see how wrong it is to amass more and more wealth even as those around him fall further and further into poverty. He’s just trying to “win at life.” He may even see the poor people around him and fear that he will experience the same fate, so he continues to amass wealth to avoid that fate?
So, a realistic villain needs to have a clear motivation that a reader can understand. Something that, even if they hate the villain down to their bones, they can sympathize with as they read. Sure, the alien is killing a lot of mostly innocent astronauts on a tug ship, but that’s its nature. It’s just trying to reproduce and survive. You can’t totally hate the alien. If you had to choose between killing or being killed…what would you choose?
Trigger Warning – depression and mental illness will be discussed in the following post.
Impostor Syndrome. Maybe you’ve heard of it? Who am I kidding – if you’re a writer in the Writing Community on Twitter, you’ve heard someone use the phrase at least once. Maybe you’ve even used it yourself.
No one really knows, it seems, why this phenomenon presents itself–or why it seems to be so widespread. However, it’s important to note that lack of self confidence and Impostor Syndrome are distinctly different issues.
Impostor Syndrome is about not being able to internalize and own successes–things a person has achieved through talent, hard work, and perseverance.
Lack of self confidence is about feelings that a person doesn’t have enough talent or lacks the ability to achieve something in the first place.
The two are often confused.
Regardless, I don’t think I’ve ever experienced Impostor Syndrome because I’ve never felt like a fraud for people liking something I’ve done. I know all of the blood, sweat, tears, lack of sleep, and disregard for my own health that have gone into a lot of my work. So…while I sometimes am surprised by *how much* some people like a particular work of mine, I don’t feel like a fraud for it being enjoyed.
Self confidence, on the other hand, is something I struggle with all day every day.
No matter how many novels I write or art I create, I always wonder if it was a fluke. Do I now lack the ability to write something else that is equally or more enjoyable to readers?
I know I come off as an ebullient, friendly, silly guy–for those of you who follow me on Twitter.
Let me be really real with all of you. I have really bad days–as far as writing goes–fifty percent of the time. Maybe 60 to 70 percent. Tears are shed. I feel like an idiot. Some days the words are a jumble in my head. I confuse words. I mess up on grammar and spelling and sentence structure. I can’t make dialogue sound right. I can’t summon a character’s “voice.” I try and I try and I try and I try and I end up sitting there, a hot, steamy mess in front of my computer wondering why I bother.
I get into really dark moods.
I don’t talk about it a lot (read: ever) but I struggle with clinical depression at times. I would like to assure everyone reading this that I have never had the most severe symptoms. It’s something those closest to me are aware of, but I generally keep it to myself (and my therapist). It comes from past trauma, bullying, and not knowing how to stick up for myself for a very long time.
For better or worse, I’ve always slapped a smile on my face and soldiered on.
I’ve also been guilty of pretending that my depression doesn’t exist when asked about it.
I don’t recommend this to anyone and it can be very frustrating to those closest to me when I do this. Frankly, I make no apologies. We’ve all been in situations where we’ve had to slap bandages on problems so we could get from one day to the next. Luckily, I’m starting to realize that I’m at a point in my life where bandages aren’t a good solution and it’s safe to admit that I am going through a difficult time. I’m safe, I’m secure, I love and am loved…things are great. Depression just tries to convince me otherwise.
So, when I’m having an “I suck as a writer” day, melancholy or full-on depression can start to find its way in through the cracks. It’s funny how one can trigger the other. Those are bad days.
Yet…I slap a smile on my face.
Why? Well, one, I know that a therapist is just a Zoom call away. Two, I don’t find comfort in discussing it with just anyone. Three, I know that all of these things my brain conjures up are not true. It’s a biological issue or chemical imbalance. It’s not The Truth. It’s not who I am–it’s what I feel.
I have depression. I have my stories.
One is the albatross around my neck and the other is the wings on my back.
So…who am I?
I’m a husband. A fur-father. A storyteller. An artist. A creator.
I. Am. A. Writer.
A biological issue or chemical imbalance doesn’t negate those facts. A lack of self confidence doesn’t change those facts. They’re just hurdles to overcome. Bumps in the road. I can’t say that they aren’t giant fucking hurdles or enormous fucking bumps at times (saying “fucking” is fun)–nor can I say that I don’t reach out for help when it is needed–but it’s important to remember that they are just another fact of my life.
I lack self confidence. I have depression. But I’m a writer.
These things have to coexist often whether I like it or not. Will I have to deal with these issues for the rest of my life? Probably. Does that worry me? Not really. I mean, it sucks and I don’t like the thought of knowing that I will probably deal with depression and lack of self confidence forever, but it’s not like I have a choice.
It’s a fake smile and cheerful attitude or the entire day in bed.
It’s hard to write books while curled up on your side. I’ve tried. Besides, my dog likes going outside and being fed, my husband misses me, and there are things to accomplish.
That’s my reality as a human being and a writer.
How my depression presents itself is not universal. The methods I use to deal with it are not for everyone. What I’ve said here is about me–not everyone who has depression.
Now, I feel as though I should have some answers for you about Impostor Syndrome, lack of self confidence, and dealing with mental illness. The answer is the same for all of them.
Ask for help if you’re able. Don’t ignore being unable to internalize and own your successes. Don’t ignore thoughts that you’re not good enough. Certainly don’t ignore symptoms of depression. Even if you think it’s silly to feel like an impostor as a writer–this can be the symptom of a bigger problem. Maybe it’s not, but it still needs to be addressed in a safe, secure, and healthy way–like with therapy or medication.
There is no shame in that. It doesn’t make you a failure or a bad person or unlovable or unworthy.
Ignoring your problems–no matter how minor you tell yourself they are–is not healthy. Accepting you have a problem and doing whatever you can to get help for it is the healthy thing to do.
Depression–and mental health problems in general–make it hard to ask for help because of how it makes a person feel like they’re the worst human ever. Might I suggest finding someone you trust, telling them what you deal with, and asking them to keep an eye on you. They can reach out when you seem to be struggling and aren’t asking for help. This time of year (hence the timing of this post) is one of the worst times of the year for people struggling with depression, so asking for help and having a buddy is so important.
I’ll probably never write about this again (*whispering out of the corner of my mouth* or even mention it) because this has been incredibly uncomfortable for me. However, I want anyone who might relate to this to know you’re not a mental health unicorn. Many of us struggle. More than we like to admit. Some of us find it helpful to discuss it openly and others like to keep it between themselves, their closest loved ones, and their therapist/doctor.
Regardless, my fellow writers, I hope when you ask yourself who you are, you have two answers.
“I am a writer.”
“I am a person who can ask for help when I need it.”
It’s December. National Novel Writing Month is over. I’m relieved to see it go and sad that it’s over. Isn’t that always the way during the holidays?
So, to recap, I started writing the manuscript/first draft for POSSIBLY, TEXAS on November 1st, with a 50k words goal in mind. On the 19th, I hit that goal by 102+ words. Then I took a little break to tweak other projects and to work on my bookshelf insert diorama (which is well underway and will be the subject of a later blog post).
However, I’ve written a few more words here and there on POSSIBLY since the 19th, and it looks like I ended NaNoWriMo with 65k-ish words. I’m not unhappy in the slightest.
I’m still passionate about this story, I think it’s going to be a great story for YA/Lit Fic readers, and I was actually very pleasant during November and didn’t lose my sanity. What more could I want?
While I have no idea when this book will be published, I know that one day it will be, and I’m already excited for that day to come.
Additionally, after some betas and my developmental editor read the first 50k words, a new cover was proposed by my imprint.
If I’m to be totally honest with all of you – this got my hackles up. I mean, I MADE A COVER THAT I WAS PROUD OF! WHY DIDN’T THEY THINK IT’S GOOD ENOUGH????
However, I put on my big boy pants, sucked it up, and kept an open mind. I’m glad I did. This guy right here *points down* is pretty sweet.
This is a cover that would make me pick a book up in a brick and mortar store to actually read the blurb. Or click on it online to see what it’s about. That’s what a book cover should do, right?
We have the blue/teal clapboard siding of a building in Possibly (the fictional town I created), the wooden sign visitors see when entering, it looks Americana-ish…it’s a great cover.
I can say that because I didn’t make it. HA!
Regardless, I’m proud of the story, I’m proud of the cover, things have gone well and I foresee them continuing to go well with this project.
Having filled you all in on my last week of NaNo, there are a few things I’ve learned along the way. Not just as a writer, but as a person.
I don’t know why this NaNo was different for me than the one in 2018 – maybe it’s because the subject matter is much lighter? It could be that I’ve done NaNo before and it doesn’t feel so new and urgent? Maybe my life has changed dramatically since 2018? Maybe I’m just 2 years older and I’ve removed the stick from my butt? Who knows?
When NaNo 2020 started, I decided immediately that I wouldn’t take it too seriously. I would focus on my passion and enjoyment for what I was writing, and everything else would just have to be okay. I wasn’t going to worry if I wrote just a few words everyday. I wasn’t go to get disappointed if things didn’t go according to plan. I was just going to be kind to myself.
And it worked.
I truly enjoyed the experience. I had some laughs at the ridiculousness of some situations. I let myself just be creative and go with the flow. And I found myself enjoying writing and creating like I did a decade ago when I first got serious about writing.
To be honest, when I first decided I would participate in NaNoWriMo 2020, I was concerned that I would stress myself out like I did two years ago when I participated for the first time. Luckily, that wasn’t the case.
So, I’m just going to keep taking deep breaths, take the art (but not myself) seriously, and keep on swimming.
Also, in case you weren’t aware, MAGIS AND MANIACS: AND OTHER CHRISTMAS STORIES is out today. It’s a Christmas short stories anthology released by The Lion Fish Press and features 4 stories from yours truly – “A Christmas in Pajamas,” “A Surfer’s Christmas,” “Frank,” and “The IT Guy.” Check it out! It’ll definitely get you in the mood for the holidays.