Friday, November 28, 2014

Horror List Book Review: Coraline

I'm reading through three lists of best horror with two friends, posting reviews as we go. (For more information, including a list of the books, see this post.) So far, I've reviewed Poppy Z. Brite's Drawing Blood, Robert McCammon's The Wolf's Hour, and Laird Barron's The Imago Sequence. This week, I'm reviewing Coraline, by Neil Gaiman.


The version I read, borrowed from the library, was an anniversary edition. It had a snippet at the beginning about Gaiman's inspiration for the story, which was a fun addition, and gave me some insight into the details behind it.

I liked this. A lot. I'm surprised I hadn't read this before. Of course, I'd seen the movie, which I enjoyed, so I was wary of liking the movie better. However, they're pretty close, and both are wonderful.

Coraline's parents are busy people, wrapped up in their own worlds, so she spends her time exploring and playing on her own. Everyone she interacts with only barely listens to her, and they never really hear her. If you've ever had your name mispronounced, especially if it happens habitually, you'll know how she feels when it repeatedly happens to her. While I've always been called Sharon instead of Shannon, Coraline gets called Caroline. I automatically had that internal urge to correct them when they called her Caroline. I think I would have appreciated that part of the storyline as a kid.

The story takes a turn when Coraline begins seeing shadows and hearing someone moving around the house. A locked door magically unlocks. On the other side, she finds a flipped world that looks much like the real world, and is inhabited by twisted versions of the people in the real world. Things seem better in this version of the world at first, with people paying more attention to Coraline and calling her by the correct name. Then things begin to change. Through it all, Coraline is clever and polite. She faces some freaky things, like her Other Mother and Other Father, alternate versions of her parents possessing buttons instead of eyes, and she remains brave throughout, acknowledging that bravery doesn't mean you aren't scared. A great lesson for kids. 

By the end of the story, not only has she been shown how important her family is to her, I'd like to think her parents learned the same thing.

Gaiman creates a unique girl who is easy to identify with. The alternate world is creepy and well realized, the atmosphere surreal. Yet there's something about Gaiman's writing in this that makes it feel comfortable and intimate, like he's directly telling you a scary story. The dialog is witty. There's a solid creep factor throughout, with some scary moments, things that would not only be frightening as a child, but that adults can identify with, as well. 

Basically, I don't have anything bad to say about this story. I'm glad I finally read it. The version I read had illustrations that fit the mood perfectly. I enjoyed it as an adult, and part of that was because I could still identify with being a kid in a world that looks down on them, humors them, condescends to them. She was so lonely, yet not in a self-pitying kind of way. 

From the adult perspective, it made me look at how I interact with my kids. Am I paying them enough attention? When they speak to me, do I really listen? Often, the answer to that is no. Much like the adults in the story, I'm so often deeply engaged with myself, my work, my troubles, that I give them the attention I have to, but don't always see the people they are, and let myself set aside my work, my finances, my b.s., and just enjoy hanging out with them.

For kids, they get to see that other kids deal with these same issues, and they maybe get some insight into the fact that it doesn't mean adults don't care, just that they're preoccupied. They see this girl using her imagination, being strong, brave, and polite, using her wits to problem solve and get out of trouble. It shows her caring for and worrying about other people, not just herself. 

All in all, I found it delightful. I'm looking forward to reading this with my kids. When the book I purchased gets here. :)

My next review will be Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale.  

Have you read Coraline? Seen the movie? Which did you prefer? Did you enjoy either or both? Did you read it as a child or an adult? Have you read a book that made you look at yourself, maybe your parenting or another aspect of your life, and re-evaluate?

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Happy Turkey Day (Tomorrow) & Links

As I spent the evening at urgent care to see if my daughter had a fractured finger (she didn't), I didn't have time to go through photos for [Mostly] Wordless Wednesday, so I'm going to jump right into helpful links.

Courtesy of Marty Palecki, clker.com
Well, almost right into it. First, to my fellow U.S. folks, an early Happy Thanksgiving! I'll be hosting my family this year, and we should have quite the crowd (as always.) We're a boisterous (read: loud) bunch, but it should be fun. I have some turkey day questions for you below the links. I'd love to hear about your Thanksgiving plans. We're barbecuing a turkey for the first time ever, and hoping it goes well. I'm trying out a couple new recipes, but sticking with a lot of the same ones we have each year, as well, like mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce, etc. My husband, who I call Clark Griswald this time of year, is looking forward to decorating the house for Christmas, which I refuse to have happen before Thanksgiving. Thus, each year he writes "Decorate House" on the calendar for the day after Thanksgiving. In an attempt to get into the spirit this year, I've already searched out some fun decorations for Skip Skellington. I'll have to share pics of the decorated house and my skeletal co-pilot next week. (Or the week after...next Wednesday's post is looking to be a full one.)

No matter what you're doing tomorrow, I hope you have a wonderful day!

Accepting Submissions:

Vitality is looking for prose, poetry, and art with LGBT characters, though the focus of the stories should not be on LGBT issues. Genre fiction preferred. Deadline December 20. Pays $.05/word for prose, $50 for poetry, $75 for art. They're also seeking illustrators and cover artists.

Parenthetical is open for poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and artwork. Deadline December 21 (though they have rolling deadlines.) Token payment of $15. Word count varies depending upon type of submission.

Chicken Soup for the Soul has several collections closing for submissions soon. Topics include Dreams & Premonitions, Inspiration for Nurses, Support for Therapists/Mental Health Professionals, and Time to Thrive. Most of these close on December 31, but the nurse collection closes November 30. Pays $200.

Red Moon Romance has three anthologies open for submissions. Topics include Too Alpha to Handle; Sexy Secret Santa; and Demons, Imps, & Incubi. Deadline December 31 for all. Pays in royalties. Romance.

Dappled Things is open for fiction, poetry, art, and book reviews. This is a Catholic literary magazine, though they don't require submissions to have religious content. Unsure of pay.

Bloodbond is seeking short stories, articles, poems, artwork, reviews, and more. These should be related to vampires, werewolves, and shapeshifters. Up to 8000 words. Pays $20 for short stories, and varying amounts for other types.

Whole Life Magazine is looking for well researched stories on health, the environment, and many other things related to this. 800-1100 words per article. Pay varies from $25 to $200, depending upon article type.

Contests:

Really Slow Motion: Of Mist and Magic is a contest that combines music and flash fiction. Brought to us by Samantha Redstreake Geary, Epic Music Vn, and Really Slow Motion. Listen to the song selection and write your own re-imagining of a classic fairy tale in 500 words or less. Deadline December 15. Winner will appear in the anthology. A variety of other prizes are being rewarded, as well.

Of Interest:

The Write Life put out an article on The 100 Best Websites for Writers in 2014. There are links for bloggers, for writers wanting to freelance, for making money as a writer, for creativity, etc.

Writer's Circle put out an article on 6 Free Writing Podcasts. If you're not like me and are able to pay attention to someone talking, these can be a great resource.

Any of these of interest to you? Have you submitted to any of these publications in the past? Anything to share? What are you doing for Thanksgiving? Do you have any Thanksgiving traditions? Do you always have turkey? What special foods do you only pull out for the holidays?

May you find your Muse.

Monday, November 24, 2014

ShaNo Update, Week 3

Hey, hey, hey, it's the end of the third week of ShaNoShoStoWriEdSubMo! One more week to go. This is where I stand on my goals:

Writing

Write 1 new flash fiction piece
Write 1 new vignette (still trying to fully figure out the form)
Write 2 new short stories
Write at least 5000 new words on WIP #2
Write at least 2700 additional words to the above goals

Editing

Edit 2 flash fiction pieces awaiting editing
Edit 3 2 short stories awaiting editing 
Edit at least 5 chapters of WIP #1

Submitting

Re-submit pieces currently awaiting submission
Submit newly edited pieces from above (Submitted the one short story and the flash fiction pieces I edited)
Re-submit rejected pieces

I added two goals: Write at least 2700 additional words to the above goals and Re-submit rejected pieces. I've completed the re-submission, but that goal will open back up if I get any rejections this week. And yes, the one I was so sad about on Wednesday was among those re-submitted. The 2700 words additional are because of a meme I posted on Facebook this week. 100 words per like, 27 likes.

As you can see, I have a lot of goals remaining for completion this week, but the kids are out of school, so my time available could go either way. I don't have to play chauffeur all week and I have no events other than some write-ins. Then again, I have a few things I want to do with them over the break, so we'll see. 

My writing goals were on top of a bunch of to-dos not related to writing, so I've had to balance them. Anything remaining at the end of the month carries over into December. I do this each year to get back into better habits, not to add stress onto the holidays, and I'm happy with what I've accomplished, so far, and hyped for the rest of it. 

Next week I intend to let you know how I did in closing out ShaNo, then review what I need to do to complete the goals I set for 2014 last December, so I can hopefully close out as much of that as possible before the end of the month. 

How are you doing with NaNo, your other goals, or with your overall writing for the month? Kicking butt and taking names or taking it easy over the holidays? Have you reviewed your annual goals to see how you've done? Do you plan on doing that? Do you set annual goals?

May you find your Muse.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Rejection & This Week's Links

I was hoping to have good news to share today. I'd been short-listed for an anthology and knew today was the day I'd hear one way or the other. Unfortunately, I got the rejection email instead of an acceptance. But I took a few hours to mope, and I've already resubmitted that story and several others. So I guess that's good news.

I'm working on major sleep deprivation at the moment, so for [Mostly] Wordless Wednesday, meet Skip. He's my co-pilot.


Now for some links, just a few hours late, yeah?

Accepting Submissions:

Vandercave is seeking humor. Fiction, non-fiction, poetry, or illustration. Deadline for first issue is December 17. 1250 words or fewer. Pays $10.

The Puritan is looking for fiction, poems, essays, reviews, and interviews. Deadline for the winter issue is December 25. Pays $15-$50, depending on submission type.

Simian Publishing is seeking submissions for their anthology Apotheosis: Stories of Survival After the Rise of the Elder Gods. 2000-7000 words. Submissions close December 31. Pays $.03/word.

Mocha Memoirs Press is seeking steampunk submissions for Avast Ye Airships!, and anthology. 1500-6000 words. Pays $10 per story. Deadline December 31.

The call is out for the Year's Best Weird Fiction anthology. They are seeking the best of your weird fiction published in 2014. Reprints. Deadline December 31. 17,499 words or less. Pays a minimum of $.01/word and 2 contributor copies.

Darkhouse Books is taking submissions for their anthology of historical fiction. Historical crime and mystery fiction. Deadline December 31. 2500-7500 words. Royalty share.

Infinite Acacia is seeking submissions for their anthology Infinite Urban Fantasy One. 1000-17,500 words. Flash fiction, short stories, novelettes, novellas. Deadline December 31. Pays $.01/word.

Another Dimension Magazine is seeking stories of 1000-3000 words. Horror and dark fantasy. Pays $.03/word. Submissions for Issue 1 close December 31.

Contests:

The Were-Traveler is holding a Shinigami Stories contest. Some element of the Grim Reaper must be in the story. Flash fiction or short story. First prize is $15. Deadline December 20.

Blue Mountain Arts is holding a Poetry Card Contest. Deadline December 31. First prize $300, plus publication on their site.

Any of these of interest? Anything to share? Publication news? 

May you find your Muse.


Monday, November 17, 2014

ShaNo Update, Week 2

I'm feeling pretty good about my progress with ShaNo this week! Better than the first week.

To recap, here are my goals for ShaNoShoStoWriEdSubMo:

Shiekh Tuyin & Iyo, clker.com
Writing

Write 1 new flash fiction piece
Write 1 new vignette (still trying to fully figure out the form)
Write 3 new short stories 
Write at least 5000 new words on WIP #2

Editing

Edit 2 flash fiction pieces awaiting editing
Edit 3 short stories awaiting editing (1 short story edited, 2 left)
Edit at least 5 chapters of WIP #1

Submitting

Re-submit pieces currently awaiting submission

Submit newly edited pieces from above (Submitted the one short story I edited)

I also made a breakthrough on a short story I was working on. It was inspired by one odd sight that disappeared when I did a double take, and I found that I had no idea where I was going with it, though I liked the way I'd set it up. Finally, finally, FINALLY, today I figured out where I wanted to go! I'll be attending a write-in we're having tomorrow, so I intend to work on this story to see if I can't finish it up for my next critique group submission.

I've still got a lot to do before the end of the month, but getting any of this done is something I'll be happy with. Plus, I'll have an update on submissions/rejections that will feel much better than last month come IWSG time.

What writing goals have you met this week? What goals do you have for yourself next week? Where are you in your NaNo word count? Have you had a breakthrough lately?

May you find your Muse.


Friday, November 14, 2014

Horror List Book Review: Imago Sequence

I'm reading through three lists of best horror with two friends, posting reviews as we go. (For more information, including a list of the books, see this post.) So far, I've reviewed Poppy Z. Brite's Drawing Blood and Robert McCammon's The Wolf's Hour. This week, I'm reviewing Laird Barron's The Imago Sequence.


The Imago Sequence is a collection of short stories (and the title of the final short story). The first thing I noticed was that he seemed very introspective about age. Perhaps this is just because the first story dedicated a lot of attention to age. The male characters tended to be fighting on, despite their age, or dealing with life changes, whereas the female characters that focused on age tended to be evil hags or a bit of a joke (that joke holding something evil behind it). Not always, but there was a tendency. I'm not sure this would have stood out to me so much if DeAnna Knippling hadn't mentioned it in her review of this book first. Would I have, or was it a case of the Oracle telling Neo not to worry about the vase he broke? I couldn't tell you. I was so curious, though, about where he was when he wrote these that I looked up his age and when the book was published. (His thirties, if they were written around when the book was published, but with a short story anthology, there's no guarantee, and I don't have the time to research individual short stories--that's crazy talk.)

His stories didn't lay out the monsters for the reader most of the time. In fact, some of them left me thinking long after I'd finished reading them, just to process what I'd read and how it had ended. For the most part I liked this, though at least one left me scratching my head instead of intrigued. One of my favorite stories was so beautifully written, yet was the one that left me puzzled about the ending. I'm pretty sure my subconscious will work it out eventually.

I've seen H.P Lovecraft mentioned a lot in connection with Laird Barron, and I can see why. He delves into the surreal, ancient horrors. These stories don't just focus on the age of the characters, but also on the age of evil. Inevitably, each antagonist is ancient, hearkening back to something long ago, something wild, an all-devouring force. And a force it is. No monsters, no serial killers. Forces. Something in human form may lead them to their doom, but that doom isn't so much an entity in most cases as a power.

Barron's protagonists are well drawn inasmuch as we get to know a little about them as individuals, but it strikes me that this was necessary, because each character felt much the same on reflection. As I was putting my notes together, I could remember each story and each male protagonist (they were all male), but they were very similar to each other, at least in voice. The exception to this being probably that main character of Shiva Open Your Eye and the main character of The Royal Zoo is Closed.

One thing I can say for his characters is that they never just lie down and wait to die. No hapless victims thrown into a story to be eaten or tormented. No, they fight their damndest to get out of whatever has befallen them. 

Though the characters are similar on the surface and in voice, he skillfully weaves what we need to know about them into the narrative. The same can be said about his settings, which are laid out for us nicely in most of the stories, once again weaved into it so we aren't just sitting there while he describes what everything looks like. I had a distinct image of the setting in almost every story, and he has left pictures in my head since my reading, courtesy of the strength of some of his scenes.

I'm not sure how best to review a collection of short stories, so I'll break down the stories a little bit while trying to avoid spoilers.

Old Virginia - An older man, crotchety and washed up, is tasked with guarding a group of scientists as they conduct some manner of experiment out in the woods. Someone's messing with them in small ways, but who is it? Rival scientists? The government? Or something darker and older? This is one of the stories where age played a major role, both with the main protagonist and the crone who is part of the experiments. We see that a man who appears washed up still has fight and intelligence in him, and learn to never underestimate anyone.

Shiva Open Your Eye - This one once again features an older man who is deceptively decrepit. A contest of wits and wills ensues between him and another man. This one lost me a bit to boredom. There was so much word play, the POV character ranting on and on about his history, that my attention wandered. The words were delightfully grotesque and oddly beautiful at times, but without anything of interest being said, it just wasn't enough for me. In the end, it didn't come full circle for me. I wasn't clear on what even happened to bring the situation to a close.

Procession of the Black Sloth - A man is sent out to Hong Kong (IIRC) to investigate espionage undercover. On the way there, he sees a strange sign that things aren't going to go well. Once there, an odd witchcraft seems to be afoot, and he falls more into a frightened irrationality as he tries to figure out what's going on. This was an interesting read, with a classic sort of story behind it. We plunge into confusion with the protagonist, trying to figure out along with him what's happening. The ending was a bit forgettable after the rest of the story, though. This was a story where women of advanced age were a bit of a mockery, though it was the characters doing this mocking, not to be confused with the author (maybe?).

Bulldozer - I never figured out what the title referred to on this one. But I enjoyed this story. It followed a Pinkerton man in pursuit of a strongman with a stolen book (stolen from PT, himself) of some importance. The Pinkerton man is responsible for getting that book back. Set in the Wild West (my favorite era, as some of you probably know), we ride along with a man who has gotten himself in way over his head. The setting is well realized in this one, with a variety of interesting Wild West characters crossing his path. The only females in this story were ladies of the night, but I guess at least they weren't described as crones? This story is discombobulated at times (hallucinogenic?), sending us into a mental maelstrom with the POV character.

Proboscis - This was one of my favorites. The protagonist is a bounty hunter, having had to change his life. He begins seeing things, sensing something wrong, but he doesn't share it with his compatriots. The evil in this is insectile, leading him to the isolation of the Mima Mounds (also mentioned in at least one other story). The buildup is slow and steady, a taunting of the protag who gets sucked back in no matter what he tries to do to get away. As with some of his other stories, there is a bit of dissocation that occurs, a pulling back from the story and becoming confused, which serves to show us the mindset of the protag.

Hallucinogenia - An older man and his child bride make an unscheduled stop, only to be sucked into something horrific that follows them home, him wounded, her with severe brain damage. He can't remember what happened, but he can sense that it's not over. He's wealthy, so he throws money at it, hiring an investigator to find out more about the place their accident occurred. But even as he delves into it, it gets closer to him. This story was excellent at showing us a great evil without actually drawing a beast to go with it. Though there's never a physical presence, it looms there, just out of sight, creeping up on him. A P.I. makes an appearance in this and one other story, making me wonder how many of Barron's stories he's been in. I did find this story too long, checking my progress to see how close I was to the end. I think the buildup could have been more quickly paced.

Parallax - This was another of my favorites. A man gets a severe migraine and wakes to find his wife missing. The police think it was him, and they, as well as the press, begin hounding him. The more they hound him, the more he doubts himself. I was drawn into the story, unable to figure out what might have happened to his wife. The twist ending was interesting, and had me asking questions long after the story was done. I'd write them here, but it would give away the story. About half of what I jotted down in my notes consisted of questions I asked once it was done.

The Royal Zoo is Closed - I don't remember what this one is about. Seriously. I just went and looked to see if I could find what it was about, and found nothing that clued me in. So I won't tell you what it was about, but simply tell you what I jotted down on my little bedside notepad (I do most of my reading to wind down at bedtime.) I wrote that it was beautifully written, that I had the urge to read it out loud to feel the words coming from my mouth. But it became a constant onslaught of words, a battery. And I was confused at the end, because there seemed to be no end. Maybe I should read it again.

The Imago Sequence - A man becomes compelled to search out a series of paintings for a friend (who has the cash to fund it.) But his search leads him into something he didn't expect. There's something going on with these paintings, something deadly (at least to the rich.) I don't really have anything new to say about this one, because it followed the patterns of the other stories. 

Overall, I liked this. It was thought provoking and held powerful imagery. However, the voice of the characters was often the same and I think some of the stories traded actual story for an impression. Pacing was mostly good, but a few of them were too slow or meandering for me. And I'm not sure what to think of his female characters or his take on women. His stories were like a comfortably bumpy road, with the bumps exactly where I expected them to be. Rinse, repeat. Having said that, I feel he's a strong writer, and one that probably improved after this, seeing as how it's an earlier set of his works. I'm surprised they selected this as his best, rather than later collections or novels. But the general impression it left for me was favorable, rolling about in my head for probably awhile to come. I'll be looking into other works of his to satisfy my curiosity.

Also, this is the first book that I think truly belonged on a list of horror. I didn't look at this and wonder what caused them to put it on this particular list like I did with the last two. There was a solid creep factor in many of the stories, and all were obviously horror.

My next review will be of Coraline, by Neil Gaiman.

Have you read Laird Barron? What did you think? Have you read this collection? Did you agree or disagree with what I've said here? 

May you find your Muse.









Wednesday, November 12, 2014

There be Gold in Them Thar' Hills & Links

I posted some photos from our tree tour when the fall color change started hitting the aspens, but I don't think I posted pics of the mine outside Cripple Creek that we visited. This one just sits out in the open at the beginning of Shelf Road, so anyone can climb around on it. (We did not climb around in it, but did walk around it. Preserving history, yo.) Here are a couple pics.




That last photo is up behind the mine, looking toward Shelf Road (Canon City is on the other side of it; it's an old mining road between Cripple Creek and Canon City.)

Now for some links. Always do your due diligence before submitting to a publication. I have not researched these, so am not personally recommending them, just passing the news along.

Accepting Submissions:

Mslexia is looking for submissions for their 65th Issue, with the theme of Earth Songs. This is for one of their prose and poetry issues. Deadline December 9. Pay not specified. Check further below on their page for article submissions information.

Innsmouth Free Press is open for submissions for an all-woman Lovecraft anthology, She Walks in Shadows, from November 15 to December 15. Short stories inspired by Lovecraft and featuring females. Up to 4000 words. Pays $.06/word, Canadian.

Knock Your Socks Off Art & Literature is open for submissions for KYSO Flash Issue 2 through December 15. 751 to 1000 words. Pays $.10/word. They are also looking for poems, parables, and allegories. They want evocative works that balance music and meaning.

Freeze Frame Fiction is open for submissions of flash fiction in any genre through December 15. Pays $10/piece. 1000 words or less.

Sorcerous Signals is open for submissions through December 15. Fantasy. Short stories (up to 10,000 words), poems, and flash fiction (up to 1000 words). Pays $5 for short stories, $2 for flash and poetry.

Inkstained Succubus Press is seeking submissions for their Somewhere Out There anthology. Science fiction. Deadline December 15. 5000-10,000 words. Pays in royalties.

Contests:

Samantha Redstreake Geary brings us another opportunity to blend words with music. Of Mist and Magic asks for your freshly realized fairy tales, set to The Eternal Rest of Ronin. 500 words or less. Prize is publications in the anthology, digital copy of the album, and signed cover art. Deadline December 1.

Phoenix Photo & Fiction is holding a short story contest and a flash fiction contest. Deadline December 14. First prize is $50 CAD for short stories up to 1500 words and $20 CAD for flash fiction up to 300 words. Also see their page for guidelines for their regular submissions.

Of Interest:

For my fellow short story authors out there, here are 22 Common Problems Associated With Short Story Submissions, from Amanda Pillar, editor, posted on Alan Baxter's site.

If you want to use lyrics in your writing, Anne R. Allen has passed along tips to getting the rights in So You Want to Use Song Lyrics in Your Novel? 5 Steps to Getting Rights to Lyrics.

Any of these of interest to you? Did they miss anything in the short story article? Have you ever used lyrics in a story? Anything to share? Publication news? Ever visited an old mine?

May you find your Muse.