Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Sample My Short Stories: A Taste of Dark and Dangerous Things

So, for the next two days (October 30-31), my friends and I are celebrating Halloween by offering our speculative fiction ebook anthology, Dark and Dangerous Things, for free on Amazon.

That's right, FREE.

But if that's not quite enough to convince to you to check it out, here's the start of my first short story in the antho, titled "Under New Management." It's tempted two readers already today. Let it tempt you too!


Officer Castro eyed me as he stirred another creamer into his paper coffee cup. I squirmed
under his dark, probing gaze, hoping he wouldn’t ask if I had skipped class again to hunt in the woods for the spaceship. Because I had. And I didn’t want to lie.

No one believed me about the ship, but I knew what I’d seen—a silver streak across the sky, streaming trails of dark smoke like a dragon crashing to earth. The spherical UFO went down beneath the forest’s canopy, where I couldn’t see it anymore. Moments later, I heard a series of booms and then the ground shook. The rest of the town heard it too, felt the shaking. But no one else had seen the ship. They didn’t believe me, not even when the alien walked into the diner’s front door, asking for work in broken English.

He was short, squat, about four feet tall, with shuffling flat feet and exceptionally long fingers. His silvery, scaled face looked like it had been squashed in by a giant fist. Calling him ugly would have been generous. I couldn’t understand why no one else was reacting. But as soon as I stuttered a confused question about his appearance, Mom pinched me and hissed in my ear, “Don’t be rude! He’s one of those short people, is all.”

Everyone in the diner was staring at me like I was the weirdo. Even Jim looked disgusted. I didn’t want to set my stepfather off, so I mumbled an apology and let him do the talking. He wanted someone to clean the bathrooms. The next thing I knew, poor Vergel, the silent crash survivor, was working in the diner as a lowly janitor. I was the only one who knew the truth.

(Well, my therapist knew. But when I told him, he asked if I ever hallucinated or heard voices. It was shaky at first. In the end we made a deal. I promised to work hard to “accept reality,” and he promised not to prescribe me pills. I also decided privately not to think too much about why no one else could see what Vergel really was.)

I pulled my thoughts back to Castro, who was still studying me. The burly Italian officer didn’t ask about the ship, the aliens, or even my therapist visits. He asked about the sign. “Michael, isn’t it time to take that down?” He tilted his head toward the ragged paper hanging crookedly on the wall, scrawled with big red Sharpie letters:

Under New Management

“Jim says it brings in business,” I muttered, “because customers like to help out a new guy.” Which was stupid. Everyone in town knew we weren’t new. But there was no arguing with Jim, who had a persistent delusion that this dumpy diner would make him rich one day.

“Speaking of Jim,” Castro said carefully, “how’s he been treating you and your Mom?”

I shrugged and traced the scratch marks worn into the weathered Formica countertop. What was there to say? The police came to our house every few months. Mom refused to press charges. Then the spaceship crashed, and I talked about it. Since then, Castro came in for coffee every day, asked about Jim and Mom, and sometimes about school. He thought I needed help and had a soft spot for kids with messed-up parents, like me. But I still didn’t want to talk to him about my stepfather. The truth was too uncomfortable.


Not bad, eh? And there's more where that came from. Go ahead... Download your copy on Amazon. Tell your friends. And after you read the anthology, review it on Amazon. I don't care how many or how few stars you give it. Just share your thoughts. Those reviews not only help me get attention on Amazon, but they help fellow readers decide whether or not to buy, and as a reader myself, I always appreciate knowing what other readers thought of the book.

And stay tuned, because I'm also getting ready to relaunch this blog on WordPress soon. I'll let you know more about that in a few days.

Thanks, and happy Halloween! Muahahahahaha!

The Chipper Muse

Copyright (c) 2013 by M.A. Chiappetta. All rights reserved.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Preparing for Nanowrimo and Writing a First Draft

Let's face it:  If you're participating in National Novel Writing Month, what you're really doing is writing a first draft of something. Could be fiction. Could be nonfiction. But it's a first draft. And Nanowrimo is a way to help you work on that first draft regularly enough to actually finish it. That's what makes Nanowrimo a clever idea.

I have lots of friends who like to participate in this writing event each November, and they're talking about it on their blogs, so this week, I'm linking you to what they have shared. Enjoy!

Twitter buddy Derek, (aka @wrytersblockDH), gives some great basic tips for how to kick off November:

Fellow Nano-ite Rebekah blogs on what to do if it's November 1 (or near enough) and you're not at all prepared for Nanowrimo:

Writer Jami Gold talks about what you need to plan for November:

Alexandra Sokoloff discusses how to choose what you'll write and more:

And Writer's Digest talks about the benefits of writing fast, which is what Nano is all about:

Now, you share:  We have a little over a week until November 1. How are you getting ready for Nanowrimo? Or are you not even participating with the rest of us "fools"? Let me know what you're up to!

Copyright (c) 2013 by M.A. Chiappetta. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Nanowrimo Tips and Resources

We're rapidly approaching November 1, which kicks off one of the most insanely fun writing ideas ever invented: National Novel Writing Month (also known as Nanowrimo). If you've never heard of it, or if you have but you've blacked it all out of your memory, Nanowrimo is an effort to write 50,000 words between November 1 and 30. If you reach that goal, you win.

Have I won, you ask? No. Then again, I write for a living at my day job, so I can only do so much writing at night. But I have learned some Nano-related tricks to help me reach a higher word count. And so, I offer up some great Nanowrimo resources for you as you consider whether you're going to enter November madness with the rest of us!


The official Nanowrimo Page - If you join no other page, join this one. It'll give you the official Nano updates, fill you in on local Nano groups in your area, help you find online writing buddies, and give you tools to keep track of your progress. It's a great feeling to see your word chart rise up toward the 50,000 mark.

Tips from Nanowrimo's Forums - includes research help, plotting, word count advice, an ideas bank to pick up characters and scenarios when you feel stuck, and more.

25 Things You Should Know About Nanowrimo - Chuck Wendig shares one of his classic 25 things lists. Yeah, there will be cursing. But Mr. Wendig is nothing if not honest and practical.

11 Ways to Prepare for Nanowrimo - Good advice to help you plan what to do before November 1 rolls around.


Writing a Novel Scene by Scene - A good general source of the types of scenes that make up a novel and how to approach writing them.

How to Get Ready for Nanowrimo - Basics from coming up with an idea, to working with characters, to planning out the plot

Media Bistro's Monster Links List - A long list of online links compiled by the kings of writing over at Media Bistro. Explore it in spurts. It's going to take a while, but well worth it.


Facebook groups

Generally, you have to request to join these groups. But if you like connecting with others through Facebook, then you definitely want to find a group to participate in, such as:

Nanowrimo 2012 group
Nanowrimo 2013 support group

Blog tools

Word count meter - You can add this widget to your blog so your readers can kick your butt when you fall behind. Or cheer you on when you soar above!


Nanowrimo's Twitter account - Why, yes, you can get the madness in 140 characters or less.
Nanowrimo Sprints - Get prompts to do word sprints (aiming to hit a set word count in a set time)
Nanowrimo Word Wars - More word sprints

Your local group may have a Twitter account too, and keep an eye out for hashtags that help you keep track of what others are saying. I don't have a list of hashtags to suggest. You know how they evolve. Just stop by #mywana, #amwriting, and the official Nanowrimo account to look for the hashtags others are using.

Now, you share:  If you have resources you have found helpful for writing in general, or specifically for Nanowrimo, share them in the comments for your fellow writers. And stop by the blog or visit me on Twitter at @chippermuse to let me know how your writing is going!

Happy November madness to you all!

And don't forget... If you want a taste of my fiction writing, check out the short story anthology that my writing buddies and I published recently. It's a collection of eight speculative fiction tales with touches of humor, tragedy, and horror thrown in to keep you reading. Buy it on Amazon here!

Copyright (c) 2013 by M.A. Chiappetta. All rights reserved.

Monday, October 7, 2013

What Is Publishing Success?

So, I had an interesting experience recently.

Three of my writing friends and I finished the short story anthology we were working on together, and it is now officially published on Amazon. (Yes, here's the link to buy Dark and Dangerous Things, eight short stories of dark fantasy for 99 cents, because I do have to market myself.)

But marketing isn't really what I want to talk about today. What I want to talk about is how we define "success in publishing." And here's why:

Here's the book cover. Done by a friend who fit
it into his schedule for free. Works for me.
I happened to see someone tweet about wanting to see what people were publishing on Amazon. I didn't bother to check out the Twitter feed, and just assumed (yes, you know what that makes of me) that the person wanted a reading suggestion. So, I sent the person a link to the book. As it turned out, this individual is actually on a crusade about why self-published books are bound to fail. I basically got a bitter sounding tweet back about how my book is ripe for the trash heap.

Here's what is interesting about this:

I never asked this person to define success for me. Or failure, for that matter. I've defined it for myself, and here's what it looks like.

Success right now is finishing a project that I started. Done.

Success is getting the book up online and seeing what the process is like for self-publishing so I can learn from personal experience what I think about the process and whether I want to keep it up. Done as far as getting the book up. In progress as far as seeing what I think of it all.

Image for one of my short stories
Success is meeting my publishing budget for this project, which my three friends voted to put at zero. Done. I proofed it myself. There are probably some things I missed, but I'm okay with that. My friend Donna did the layout. We know that's not perfect, but since this is the first time we've done this, we're still playing around with best practices. So we are both okay with uploading another version if we need to. Amazon lets you update your files. Works for me.

Success is at least asking a friend to create the book cover and related images rather than attempting to use clip art myself. Done. It's not a Michael Whelan professional cover. But it's better than what I can put together on my one. I'm okay with this.

Success is getting at least a few people to buy the book. Done. I've already had some people buy it, and I already have a review. One review is better than no reviews, and I know lots of self-pubbers with no reviews yet. This kind of thing happens. You put it up, and no one responds. You put it up, and some people respond. You put it up, and you become the next big thing. What can you say? You can't predict it. I've already beat the odds, in a way.

So, for me, this endeavor is already a success.
And here's the image for my
second short story.

I suspect the Twitter individual who was so negative to me defines success and failure differently than I do. But I have no grand delusions. I don't think I'm Ernest Hemingway. I don't expect to be the next JK Rowling (whose writing is okay and whose story ideas are inventive). I don't expect to be the next EL James either (whose writing isn't so okay but whose story ideas get women hot and bothered so she sells well). I expect to be a person who wanted to get my stories online so that when I meet people via Twitter and blogging who ask me if I have something they can buy, I can actually say, "Why, yes I do. Here's the link."

By that definition... Success.

Sure, it's disappointing to know that there are going to be some bitter people out there, who wanted self-publishing to make them rich and famous and want to tear the rest of us down because they didn't get what they wanted. But then, that's life. There are bitter people in all professions. But there are nice people out there too. You're the ones I'm going to focus on.

To those people who will be supportive of me even though Dark and Dangerous Things is probably not going to turn me into the next Amanda Hocking, I say thank you. You get it. It's not about making me rich and famous. It's about making connections. I like being connected to you, even if you don't buy my book. And I like hearing what you have to say, even if you think my writing can use some work. And if you do buy the book and like it, yes, I'm going to ask you to leave a review on Amazon. But hey, who wouldn't ask that?

But that's not why I blog...not to get reviews...not to get sales. No, I'm here because I like writing, I like people, and I like the Internet.

Buy the book here, or at least visit and say hi to it. I won't mind.

Happy writing!

Copyright (c) 2013 by M.A. Chiappetta. All rights reserved.