We’ve been unbelievably cold in Northern Virginia. The kind of cold where it gets in through the windows and sucks the heat right out. We haven’t hit much higher than a wind chill of 12, and it’s been a wind chill of five right at dawn.

My writing woes are critical voice. I decided to take “Killing Critical Voice” and confirmed that was my problem pretty fast. Right now I’m rooting out all the areas where critical voice takes control.

The first one? Word count.

It’s insidious. If you deal with writers online at all, they all talk about having word count goals, writing a certain number of words a day. They have elaborate spreadsheets to track word count.

Me? I set a word count goal, critical voice takes charge. If I track word count, critical voice tut-tuts at every entry, saying, “I have to monitor the word counts, how many pages the chapter is, and inform her when she’s not making that goal.”

It started with the first novel. I’d never tried anything that big before, and I didn’t know what I was doing. At the time, traditional publishing was the only game available. I thought a novel was 50K, which was freaking huge as it was. Then someone told me the bottom number was 90K.

So I fixated on word count. It became the goal of the novel, not enjoying writing it. Every bump up was a cheer. Every bump down was horrifying.

Cycling added to the problem and I stopped doing it for a while. My creative voice took out the garbage critical voice shoved into the story to make word count. Then critical voice wrestled control back because the word count dropped.

Even though a book can be shorter under indie, everyone still focuses on the metrics. Setting a daily word count goal and checking the box on hitting your numbers. Last week I looked at a book called The 12 Week Year for Writers: A Comprehensive Guide to Getting Your Writing Done. A lot of it is about charting out your progress in 12 weeks and grading yourself on it (I think it’s the reason I decided to take Killing Critical Voice).

It’s everywhere!

So I shall be working on figuring out how to give the critical voice a Gibbs head slap. I also have to identify four more areas critical voice has been romping around in.

Meanwhile, I put another collection up for preorder with a February 22 release. It’s called Ring Twice for Ghosts. The first two stories are from The Great Challenge.

A ghost runs through a cemetery in Ring Twice for Ghosts.

Five twisted tales of ghosts from the beyond…

In Teddy Bear Man, Nanette Perry fears placating a haunted house as her marriage crumbles. Can she solve the puzzle in time?

A Silver Honorable Mention from Writers of the Future.

Abby Gregg inherits a ship graveyard. Facing family pressure, she must make a decision that will change her life forever in Gregg Bay.

The house with the strange stones in the yard frightens Maricruz. Dark secrets hide in those stones, chilling secrets in The Stones Next Door.

In Map-Mage, Pap and his mage partner Ariana investigate the mysterious death of a mapping team. But when a pirate ghost threatens them, they must risk it all to uncover the truth.

Much to his family’s embarrassment, Marc never had showy magic like fire, levitation. Instead, he cleans magic residue. Now he faces his greatest cleaning challenge—a ghost! Find out how he tidies a ghost in Magic Tidying.

If you like ghosts, read these exciting stories for paranormal thrills and chills!