creative writing

Roaches and Horrors

I've hated cockroaches for a long time.

I think I was twelve years old when we visited our cousins in Las Vegas. They had a huge backyard with a pool, garden, and a three story wooden fort. We were playing in the fort and pulled a roll of carpet from under a table. The thing swarmed with roaches, and those white ones, the ones which had just shed their skin looked like cockroach ghosts. I had see nothing scarier in my few short years of life.

Eight years later I was a missionary in South Africa, specifically, in Durban. Hot, humid, subtropical and loaded with bugs. The boarding we stayed in  was in a large room below the main house and would get so stuffy during the day that we left doors open on both sides of the room at night, to let the air blow through.

The cockroaches flew. We would hear them fly over our beds at hit the walls, I could barely stand it.

I didn't want to let these six legged demons take over my life, so I took the offensive. In the evening when we would come back to the boarding, I would grab my fly swatter and position myself in the middle of the room and give the word to turn on the lights. I would chase the little beasts around the room until, after a few weeks, there were no more waiting for me inside the boarding.

I hunted them down outside. I would hang around drain pipes and gutters with my fly swatter and flash light swatting my retribution on any unfortunate enough to get within reach.

I no longer fear them. Three years in Hawaii eased me of my last few 'willies'.

I now know more about them and their behavior than ever before. Not form up close and personal contact, but because I wrote a short story where my two main characters are cockroaches. That story is done, at about 5200 words and has been submitted to an anthology. We'll see where that goes.

Right now, before I begin my major rework of 'Fly Paper Boy', I am rewriting an old horror story I wrote for the Great Hites podcast, about four years ago. It's for the 100th episode of The Horror Addicts Podcast 100th episode. Emz has asked those of us who have participated in various ways to do a five minute recording of the scariest thing we could think of.

"The 23rd Horror" gave me the willies back when I first wrote it. I'm editing it down to just five minutes and changing the POV to First Person Past. This way the narrative move must faster than the original story and we get a stronger emotional response from the main character. You'll be able to find it at when their 100 episode is released. There you'll hear my voice and benefit from vocal emphasis that I feel when I'm writing but am unable to put into the story carry completely with written words.

Anyway, a few weeks later, I'll post the story here.

Writing Excuses Podcast, Oct 14, 2013

I was listening to the Writing Excuses Podcast yesterday. If you are trying to write genre fiction at any level and you haven't found this podcast, you really need to. Here's the link:

I found it because I'm a Brandon Sanderson fan. But, there are four authors who are all intelligent, imaginative, and humorous. 

There was a question about "organic" writing. Also known as "seat of the pants" writing, if you're not familiar with the term, it's when you just  start writing with an idea, not really knowing where it will go. Really, even with organic writing, you should have an ending in mind before you start writing to give your plot some direction, but some organic writers don't even have that. The question was, what do you do to keep your plot moving, when you're an organic writer, and you don't know where to go next. 

Brandon suggested something that I really liked. He said to imagine what's the worst thing that could happen to your protagonist, of course while moving the plot forward, and what is the best thing that could happen. Then figure out how to make it look like the worst thing is going to happen and have her/him overcome in it a way that no one will expect.

I know Brandon is very "Architectural" in outlining a story, which is the opposite of organic. Mary, on the podcast, is more in between the two extremes. But, she does lay out what she wants to happen in each chapter. Someone else also mentioned that a person doesn't need to write linearly. If you're an organic writer and you're stuck, move to another section and write, even if it's far down the eventual plot line. In writing that part you might find how to bring the two pieces together.

In preparing for Nanowrimo this year I am going much more extreme in my planning than I have in years past. My first three Nanos were very organic. My second year I found myself writing myself into plot circles. I got more than 65K words written but never finished the story. 

Last year was the first time I really had an outline of the whole book, but as usual got off on enough organic tangents that I was still interested in the story as it developed. Sometimes the plot twists which are best are those unexpected ones which surprise you as you write them.

This year I am world building and character building the heck out of it. I've got tectonic plates, weather and ocean current patterns. I have races with differing values and leaders with conflicting political intentions and hidden agendas.

I think my fear in the first few years was that I would get into it, write a story, finish and not have enough words. I find that much less of a concern now. In fact, this may be the year that I have too much story for one book. We'll see.

If you're a Nanowrimer, I'd love to be a writing buddy with you so that we can encourage one another. Here's a big surprise, my Nanowrimo name is Norvaljoe. Look me up. I follow back anyone who follows me.

Here's the link: 


Nanowrimo 2013

I just signed up for 2013. 

This is my fifth Nano in a row. I had only just begun to write when I started my first on in 2008. When I finished that one, I had 51,000 words of garbage. I tried to rewrite it a year ago and got bogged down trying to stay in-sync with what I had written before, but that was way too hard. I just completely started over. 60K words later I got bogged down again. I'll probably start that one over again, someday....

This year I'm basing the novel on a short story I wrote during the summer about the Pig-Frog, or Pariah. I've been world building the heck out of it, (A lot different than my first Nano, when I essentially had an idea of how I wanted to start it and ran with it.) 

I have a good idea of how the story will go through the first half and most of the events toward the end, but I need to work out a little more conflict and a twist or two. There is a blerb and a piece of the short story on my Nanowrimo site.

If you do Nanowrimo, too. Let me know so we can be writing buddies.  

My site is: 

I've started my own website.

Any surprise I named my website, ""? 

I started writing five years ago with my first entry to the 100 Word Stories Weekly Challenge, which is now at It seemed that most people who participated used some kind of pseudonym.  I didn't know, at the time, that a lot of the people participating were from Second Life, and those were their character's names. But I went ahead and used my alter ego of many years and submitted my story under the name of Norvaljoe.

Two weeks later, I tried to change to my real name, but Lawrence Simon, who ran the weekly challenge, just wouldn't let it die. Since that time I have usually referred to myself as Philip 'Norvaljoe' Carroll when writing, allowing readers, or listeners, both old and new to recognize me.

Please bear with me as I learn to make this website more beautiful. It's taken me three weeks to get this far. So, it may be a while before it looks truly refined.