Monday, February 8, 2016

How Long Would You Wait?

A friend recently asked me how long I'd wait in a horror movie for it to get scary before I'd give up on it. I didn't have a set amount of time before I'd walk out, though I believe he said he'd walk after twenty minutes, maybe thirty, if it wasn't getting to the point.



So how long is too long? I've never paid too much attention to the exact number of minutes before I get tired of waiting for something scary to happen in a horror film. Or for there to at least be tension. But I do notice if it takes too long to build up, and I get restless. I'm not quick to shut off or walk out of a movie. Nor am I quick to give up on a novel. If there is anything engaging about the story, I'll stick with it for awhile more.

The thing is, each horror movie (or story, or book, or...) needs to establish the main character or characters so you can empathize with them. Horror is not horror without some manner of empathy. This is an element people unfamiliar with horror miss. Empathy is a huge factor in horror. Without empathy, there is no fear. If the audience doesn't care what happens to the protagonist, the tension is already missing. No one's pulse is pounding. Their mouths don't dry out. They don't grip their seatmates. In others words, the creators have failed.

One way to start things with a bang, in order to hopefully keep the audience/reader engaged until the action comes, is to have someone die at the hands of the creature/killer right away. Someone who isn't integral to the storyline. This establishes what is to come, without taking away from the establishing of character. Horror based television shows, such as Supernatural, do this each episode. The audience is shown an intense scene where someone who is not a series regular is killed or harmed by whatever that episode's boogie man is. Then we bop on over to the brothers, who exchange entertaining or telling dialogue, and work their way to the monster. The tension and action build to the inevitable conclusion.



Boy, that made it sound boring, but it's an effective way to do things. It keeps butts in the seats and eyeballs glued to the page, while allowing for character development, which will draw the audience/reader in further and make them care about the main protagonist. Thus feeling the fear and tension, and having a vested interest in the main character's survival. It makes them want to root for the main character. And it makes hearts pound. Plus, that little glimpse of the Big Bad, whether we actually see them or not, gives a sense of satisfaction to the viewer/reader that something good is coming, and that they will not be disappointed.

Another way is to engage the viewer/reader in a different way. Humor is a common means of getting people to like a character from the beginning. In Tremors, we see these two friends, Val and Earl, harassing each other in a humorous way. We come to like them early in the film, and then things go very badly for them. Now we're worried about them and, ultimately, the rest of the townspeople. If someone can make you laugh, it is easy to like them. And if you like them, you care about them. Now you have a little leeway in introducing the Big Bad, and you didn't have to start with a frightening action sequence.

The emotion used to engage the reader doesn't necessarily need to be humor, though. You can start with something that tugs on the heart strings, for instance. A marriage or proposal, a baby, bullying, loneliness, you name it. Whatever will make the audience identify with the person they need to care about.

Of course, you can combine these, and other means, as well. The possibilities are endless. There are really only two rules that matter:

1. Give the audience someone to care about.
2. Give the audience something to fear. (Put the character in danger.)

Everything else is secondary.

How long will you wait for a movie to get scary? What's your favorite beginning of a scary film, TV show, or book? What draws you in?

May you find your Muse.

Psycho Shower Scene, by OCAL, clker.com

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

New Release - Devolution Z & Links

Hello! I ended up not being able to post on Monday, because my interwebs went down during the snowstorm. Not something that happens here often (it's Colorado...we tend to have wiring and such that can withstand the snow), so I'm  not sure if it was actually because of the storm or coincidental timing. Either way, I took an extra day off.

The February issue of Devolution Z is out, featuring my story Blue Sludge Blues! If you don't already hate port-a-potties, I hope I can nudge you along on your way with this one.


Available in print ($6.99) and Kindle ($2.99).

Also, this is what happens when the adults in a house both forget to take down the canopy on the back porch when Snowzilla (not to be confused with the Snowpocalypse) is heading our way.


That's gonna' leave a mark, eh? It kept our porch relatively snow free, though, seeing as how we got over a foot here in the foothills.

Now for some links! Bear in mind I am not endorsing any of these, merely passing them along. Always do your own due diligence when submitting.

Accepting Submissions:

Alex Shvartsman is putting together a reprint anthology of Funny Fantasy. 500-7500 words. Originally printed between 2005 and 2015 in a publication paying $.01/word or more. Pays $.02/word, plus contributor copy. Deadline February 29.

The Literary Hatchet is open for dark fiction poetry and prose. 1000-6000 words for short stories. Pays $5-$10, depending upon submission type. Submission window closes March 1.

Thema is accepting short stories, poetry, essays, art, and photographs with the theme Drop the Zucchini and Run! Fewer than 20 double spaced pages. Pays $10-$25, depending upon submission type. Deadline March 1.

Upstreet Literary Magazine is accepting poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. 5000 words or less. Pays between $50 and $250. Deadline March 1.

Body Parts Magazine is accepting horror, erotica, speculative fiction, essays, and art. The current theme is Grave Robbing. Up to 8000 words. Pays $5-$20, depending upon submission type. Deadline March 1.

Beatdom is accepting essays on the topic of politics for their next issue. 2000-5000 words. Pays $50. Deadline March 1.

Blog Hops:

The A-to-Z Challenge for April 2016 is open for sign ups! Post daily except Sundays throughout the month of April, following an alphabet theme of your choosing (or lack of theme, with topics in alphabetical order...your choice!).

C. Lee McKenzie, Christine Rains, and Tara Tyler are hosting the Winter Blahs Blog Hop. Post an encouraging meme between February 29 and March 4. That's it! There are prizes involved.

Of Interest:

The Daily News put out an article entitled CIA Posts Its Own 'X-Files' in Celebration of the Show's Return. They've split into into Mulder and Scully sections.

H.R. Sinclair shared an editing software for Windows called SmartEdit. It looks interesting.

How's your snowfall been this year? Any whoopses in your prep? Have you ever read Devolution Z? How do you feel about port-a-potties? Any of these links of interest? Anything to add? Submission news?

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

[Mostly] Wordless Wednesday - Obligatory Elk & Links

As you may know if you've been around here for awhile, whenever I go up to Estes Park, I have to get an elk picture. They're everywhere up there. Walking through town. Grazing by the side of the road. Wandering through Rocky Mountain National Park. I caught these guys grazing near Sheep Lake (where the bighorn sheep graze--I have yet to see any bighorn sheep in RMNP.) Apparently, bull elks get along better than male deer?





Now for some links. Bear in mind that I am not endorsing these, merely passing them along. Always do your own due diligence when submitting to markets or contests.

Accepting Submissions:

Less Than Three Press is open for LGBQTIA stories about zombies. 10,000-20,000 words. Pays $200, plus contributor copies. Deadline February 29.

Otter Libris has a couple open projects taking submissions. Inclusive Cthulhu is basically a Lovecraftian anthology with characters or ideas against Lovecraft's personal beliefs. The second one is The Trouble With Bob, which is adults only. BOB is "Battery Operated Boyfriend." So they want stories about sex toys with a mind of their own. Both projects should be 3000-10,000 words. They pay $25, plus a contributor copy. Deadline February 28.

Crystal Lake Publishing is taking submissions of modern urban legends (ones you make up, not ones already told) for the anthology Tales From the Lake: Volume 3. 2000-4000 words. Not horror-specific. Pays $20 and a contributor copy. Deadline February 29. 

Parsec Ink is looking for speculative fiction for Triangulation: Beneath the Surface. Up to 6000 words. Pays $.02/word, plus contributor copy. Deadline February 29.

Bundoran Press is looking for science fiction for Lazarus Risen, an anthology. Up to 10,000 words. Pays $.04/word CAD. Deadline February 29.

Contests:

Yolanda Renee has joined the Son of a Pitch team. This is a pitch contest involving your query letter and the first 250 words of your manuscript. There are several editors and agents who will be scouring the finalists for new writers. Starts February 15.

Spiritfirst.org is holding their 7th Annual Spirit First Poetry Contest. Your poem must have a theme of meditation or mindfulness. No entry fee. Cash prizes, with first prize of $200. Deadline February 29.

Of Interest:

eNovel Authors at Work posted about the changes Amazon is making in February. 

Have you heard of the flogometer? On Flogging the Quill, you can submit the beginning of your story for a flogging. Be prepared for negative feedback along with the good. It sounds like they can be pretty harsh on there. By the way, the person being flogged at this link is a friend, and the person I heard about this from. He got a high score for his flogometer. 

BookBub is a resource for authors (and a place to get discount books for readers). My understanding is that you pay x amount, and they will distribute your ebook to their subscribers. How much you pay depends upon the genre and the bargain price of your book. I was looking this up for a friend, so figured I'd pass it along since I've heard good things about it.

What animal do you have in your area in abundance? Any of these links of interest? Anything to share? Publishing news? Will you be taking part in Son of a Pitch?

May you find your Muse.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Mulder's Back!

Come on. Dish. Who watched X-Files last night? Did anyone miss it because the football game went late?



My husband and I were excited for their return, as brief as it will be. We always watched the original together. It was the one show we recorded. (On VCRs, kids. That you had to program, hoping all the while that it would do what you programmed it to do. And if you hadn't watched other recorded shows yet, you might have to sacrifice one in order to find a tape to record it on.)

I had heard that early reviews for this first episode weren't good, so I went into it not sure what to expect, and figuring that maybe it wasn't as good as the others will be, because this is the episode that brings them back and establishes their new ordinary world, plus whatever it is that brings them back. I wasn't disappointed, though the alien topic was always my least favorite part. I'm a monster-of-the-week girl, which stands true for Supernatural, too. Bring me a gruesome baddy, and you'll make my week. (Except the fluke worm. Keep the fluke worm.And the Peacock family.)



Still, it was good. I'm looking forward to the next one (tonight). 

Speaking of aliens, I also finally saw The Martian. It was a good movie, and now I want to read the book. Matt Damon did a great job, and this is coming from someone who isn't a Damon fan. 

With this film and Gravity, does this mean our attention is returning to space? It seemed for awhile that space wasn't in our collective conscious anymore. Not for those over school age. Few movies and television shows were reflecting it, though there was a period where they were huge. Is it that people burned out on the topic? 

Wikimedia Commons

We scrapped aspects of the space program during this time, something that made me sad. But now I've heard there are launches from Florida occurring this year, so are we fully back in? Was it ditching our space exploration that made folks scramble to learn more, and to dive back into what was a childhood love for most kids? I'm not sure which comes first, progress in space exploration or fiction blooms about space. Either way, I'm happy it's coming back around. 

Now give the planet Pluto back.

Did you watch X-Files? What did you think? Will you be watching the next episode? What did you think of them adding Joel McHale? Do you follow the space program? Were you sad when they retired our ships without plans for more? Which do you think comes first, interest in the space program or increases in space fiction?

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

[Mostly] Wordless Wednesday - Mammoth Skies & Links

We went to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science this week, hoping to see the temporary Sherlock Holmes exhibit, but it was sold out. Luckily, we have a membership, so it didn't cost us anything (other than 2 hours worth of driving, round trip). The kids still had fun visiting their favorite exhibits (one on the human body and one about space,) and when we left, the sun was starting to slip behind the Rockies. Denver is farther from the mountains than we are in Colorado Springs, so the view is different than I'm used to. No spectacular colors, but it was still pretty. Canadian geese were flying around a nearby lake, honking and gossiping. The nearby clouds were backlit by the rays of the dying sun. And it was fun imagining the mammoth was really there. Could you imagine the sight of a real one of these beasts among the skyscrapers, trumpeting out its call?




Now it's time for links. Bear in mind that I'm not endorsing any of these, merely passing them along. Always do your own due diligence in researching markets before submitting to them.

Accepting Submissions:

The Lorelei Signal is open to fantasy. Because the twin magazine, Sorcerous Signals closed, they have changed to not requiring female main characters, though any female characters must not be window dressing. Short stories, flash fiction, and poetry. Up to 10,000 words. Pays $7.50 per short story, $3 per poem/flash. Current reading period ends February 15.

Lillicat Publishers is open for science fiction short stories for the anthology Visions IV: Space Between Stars. 3000-8000 words. Pays $25. Deadline February 15.

Lightspeed is open for science fiction short stories for People of Colo(u)r Destroy Science Fiction, a special edition. They are also running a kickstarter to finance this project. If they are successful and reach a certain point, they will open up People of Colo(u)r Destroy Fantasy and People of Colo(u)r Destroy Horror. Up to 10,000 words. You must be a person of color to submit. I'm not sure what the pay is, but it is paying. They're also seeking artwork, which will be paid for. Both the kickstarter and the submissions close February 19.

Ninth Letter is open for literary fiction, poetry, and essays. Up to 8000 words. Pays $25 per printed page. Current deadline February 28.

Blyant Publishing is open for short fiction of any genre for their quarterly anthology blAekk. The current theme is nationality. 1000-2000 words. Pays £10 to £20 depending on length. Deadline February 28.

SpeckLit is open for speculative fiction and reviews. Drabbles only, so 100 words. Pays $.05/word. Deadline for this quarter is February 28.

Vine Leaves Literary Journal is looking for prose, poetry, and script vignettes in any genre. Pays $5 AUD. Current deadline is February 28.

Nosetouch Press is open for horror short stories for the anthology Blood, Sweat & Fears: Horror Inspired by the 1970s. 3000-10,000 words. Pays $25, plus contributor copy. Deadline February 29.

Contests:

Escape Pod is holding a flash fiction contest. Science fiction. No more than 500 words. Three winners will be paid $30, and their stories presented on a podcast. Deadline February 15.

Blog Hops:

The WEP Valentine's Edition details have been posted. You can submit in all kinds of ways, be it flash fiction, poetry, non-fiction, artwork, or photos. Up to 1000 words. Sign up and post between February 17 and 19th.

What creature from the past would you most want to see now? Any of these links of interest? Anything to share? Publishing news?

May you find your Muse.

Monday, January 18, 2016

2015 Post Year in Review

I've never done this before, but I thought it might be fun to go through my 2015 posts and see which were my favorite. Some are my favorite because they were fun to write, while others made the list because they had helpful information. Then there are the ones that helped me work through something, so I'm including those, too.

January 12

Contest & Submission Nitpicks 101: Standard Manuscript Format

January is the month I usually end up writing something about writing contests. The reason? It's when I'm judging for one. Whether you're entering a contest or submitting a piece to a publisher, you need to know SMF.

January 26

Psycho Horror Lovers Unite

This one was about confronting those who say people who enjoy horror, whether viewing, reading, or writing, are horrible people. It's especially important to me again right now, because an acquaintance made a comment that bothered me after the Planned Parenthood shooting up the road on Black Friday, basically implying that those who commit these sorts of crimes are the people who watch or read media involving violence. Other than being an ignorant statement, it put me on the defensive wondering how many other people I know view what I do as creating real human monsters? And how many view me as lacking human empathy, simply because I write horror and enjoy some Die Hard? Despite my hard feelings, the post was fun to write, and it showed in its humorous subject matter.

March 2

Author Headshot Tips

In which I give tips for those seeking author headshots. Pretty straight forward.

March 16

Good News & Amazon Central Author Account

This post was about setting up my Amazon Central author account, with information on how to do so for anyone else who needs to.

May 4, 11, & 18

Diversity vs. Exclusion
Diverse Authors vs. Diverse Characters
Writing Diverse Cultures

This was a series of posts exploring calls for diversity in writing. There were some great discussions here and on my Facebook page in response to the posts, which I enjoyed. It can be a taboo subject, and I was initially afraid of posting anything, but I ended up glad to have done so.

June 8

My Pledge

This was my simple pledge not to attack reviewers, even if they break my heart. It was in response to an author who had a meltdown on Goodreads and stepped over some lines, becoming a joke on the internet.

June 29

Critique Group Panel Discussion

This was a summary of a panel on critique groups I participated in. There was a lot of great information on the panel, with several different types of critique groups touched on.

July 6

Making Your Blog Your Author Website

This was written while I was researching using my blog as an author website, rather than setting up a separate one. I found a lot of great information on what was recommended for author websites, and was able to pass that along.

August 3

New Magazine Release & Magazine Submission Tips

In this post I gave tips on market research, submitting short stories and tracking them.

August 5

Why We Do It & Links

This was an Insecure Writers Support Group post, but it was one of the positive ones, all about why we keep writing and submitting, despite the lows that come with it.

October 12

What's Your Favorite Scare?

This one is all about what scares you, and why.

December 7

Experiments in Writing - Killer Critters

In my goals at the beginning of this month, I mentioned experimenting with my writing. Well, I tried out a new genre last month, and this was about diving into that.

What was your favorite of the posts you put up this year (feel free to link to it!)? Did you have any great conversations on your blog that stuck with you? Have you ever been able to work through something troubling you by posting about it?

May you find your Muse.

Horror - By Roberto Ferrari from Campogalliano (Modena), Italy (Horror  Uploaded by russavia) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Community by OCAL, clker.com


Friday, January 15, 2016

Horror List Book Review: World War Z

I'm reading through three lists of best horror with two friends (DeAnna Knippling and M.B. Partlow), posting reviews as we go. (For more information, including a list of the books, see this post.) To see the books I've reviewed so far, you can view the list at the end of this post where I rank them.


This week I'm reviewing World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, by Max Brooks.


While I found the format and the idea for this intriguing, I didn't end up enjoying it. In fact, it was a little bit of a struggle to get through with my limited reading time. 

This story is told as a series of interviews with various survivors of the war, making a lot of them military from different countries. A compelling idea, but I found that the voices blurred together. It's hard to pull off that many characters, so instead of having individual voices, they were cliched in many cases, and often similar. 

I was distracted by the fact that out of all these many characters, only five or so were female. It took awhile to get to the first female, to the point that I thought perhaps the story was that all women had been killed in the war somehow. It could be he was wary of accurately portraying a female voice. Whatever the reason, it was something that I found irksome after awhile. Especially when the male voices all started sounding the same.

It was obviously well researched (or so it seems--I didn't fact check). There were some great details that spoke to the locations, characters, careers and such. To me, it was fun to have the whole world involved, though South America's presence was sparse. He theorized how different countries would respond to the same threat, and how the different cultures and laws might complicate things.

There was no classic arc, but the story progressed from the very beginning of the virus, through its development and fighting it, to afterwards. A couple characters were repeated at the end (I think? There were so many characters, but I'm pretty sure we revisited certain characters again), but we didn't overall see character development. 

With each section covering a specific time period, there was no real mystery or buildup of tension. The first section I was drawn into was an interview with a military veteran who was caught in a situation where they had to try out old fashioned tactics against enemies that didn't feel fear or pain, and they discovered their weapons weren't working the way they expected. There was finally tension in this section, and I read through that interview quickly.

Another section that interested me was bittersweet, and one of three interviews that hit me emotionally. It was an interview with a Chinese soldier serving on a sub. The commander made the hard decision to disappear into the ocean with his men and any family they could smuggle out, in order to save lives. This was another tense section, and it ended on a sad note.

A lot of the story felt like a commentary on politics, world relations, greed, military ineptness, and more. There was a certain respect for soldiers, but not for those leading them. I'm not big on blatant political commentary in my fiction, but it was well thought out, even if I was quickly over it. This played itself into the horror of the story, especially culturally. 

All in all, not a hit for me, but the idea was a good one. The follow through just didn't do it for me, except in some specific interviews featured in the book. 

My new rankings:

1. The Handmaid's Tale (Margaret Atwood)
2. The Bottoms (Joe R. Lansdale)
3. Coraline (Neil Gaiman)
4. A Choir of Ill Children (Tom Piccirilli)
5. The Year’s Best Fantasy: First Annual Collection (Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling)
6. Those Who Hunt the Night (Barbara Hambly)
8. Dead in the Water (Nancy Holder)
9. The Damnation Game (Clive Barker)
10. The Wolf's Hour (Robert McCammon)
11. Berserk (Tim Lebbon)
12. Best New Horror, Volume 1 (edited by Stephen Jones and Ramsey Campbell)
13. The Tomb (F. Paul Wilson)
14. Blood Meridian (Cormac McCarthy)
15. The Imago Sequence (Laird Barron)
16. My Soul to Keep (Tananarive Due)
17. World War Z (Max Brooks)
18. From the Dust Returned (Ray Bradbury) 
19. In Silent Graves (Gary A. Braunbeck)
20. The Cipher (Kathe Koja)
21. Drawing Blood (Poppy Z. Brite)
22. The Doll Who Ate His Mother (Ramsey Campbell)

23. Hotel Transylvania (Chelsea Quinn Yarbro)

Did you read World War Z? Did you prefer the book or the movie? What about his other zombie book? Is it any good? Which is better?

May you find your Muse.