Friday, July 13, 2018

Horror List Book Review: Ghost Road Blues

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.)

This week I'm reviewing Ghost Road Blues, by Jonathan Maberry.

This is the first book in the Pine Deep trilogy. Unfortunately, there's no real resolution of story in the first book, which is frustrating, because it leaves everything hanging. What I like to see in a trilogy or series is a resolution of a significant plot arc at the end of the book, with other plot lines unresolved for the next book(s).

Maberry creates characters you can really like and characters you can really hate. The evilness of the bad guys is significant, with no real redeeming features. This struck me, because I was recently on a panel where a psychologist who had worked in a mental health facility looked out at the audience and said something along the lines of, "I envy those of you who think that bad people are merely evil." They were less scary to me when all these awful people were just pure evil and tied to the main plot. There wasn't a gray area with them.

I liked the character of Crow, our main good guy. And Mike, a kid whose POV we see through. The women are lackluster characters (you can keep telling me Val is a super strong woman, but when she spends most of her time crying, freaking out, and being rescued, you've just disproven that.) Up until she was put under duress, I liked Val. Even after that, I was still rooting for her, but I got frustrated with the character at times. She's smart, she's loyal, she's determined, and she's strong and capable, but when Crow's around, she loses that. She exists to be rescued by men in the story.

Something that bothered me was that the main "monster" is hidden from us in this first book. The supernatural is brought into the story early enough, but the something more being hinted at (we don't know for certain what it is, though a blurb on the next book gave it away--whoops) feels like it's coming in way too late in the storyline. There should have at least been seeds planted earlier.

However, having said all that, Maberry can really paint a scene. I became deeply embroiled in the setting. The pacing is also good, and the setup such that I want to see it all resolved. While this wasn't my favorite book, it drew me in and I didn't hate-read it.

My Top Ten remains the same.

My Top Ten: 

1. The Handmaid's Tale (Margaret Atwood)
2. The Girl Next Door (Jack Ketchum)
3. The Bottoms (Joe R. Lansdale)
4. Coraline (Neil Gaiman)
5. The Bridge (John Skipp and Craig Spector)
6. A Choir of Ill Children (Tom Piccirilli)
7. Needful Things (Stephen King)
8. 1Q84 (Haruki Murakami)
9. Those Who Hunt the Night (Barbara Hambly)
10. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)

The next book I review will be Stepford Wives, by Ira Levin.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Existentialism and Horror Stories

I've got a guest today here at The Warrior Muse who was willing to approach horror fiction from a different angle. Please welcome Jason Dias, PsyD, a guy who's uniquely qualified to talk about the psychology behind enjoying horror.

I’m an existential psychologist. Among other things, that means I study the importance of our awareness of death to our mental health. Freud, because he lived in particularly sexually repressive times, imagined repressed sexuality to be at the heart of neurosis. Existential psychologists imagine repressed knowledge of death does the same thing.

Ernest Becker wrote a compelling treatise on the topic. In The Denial of Death, he makes a case that reminders of our mortality (death salience) damage our self-esteem. If everything you do will be dust soon, what use doing anything at all? Then, to repair our self-esteem, we join in-groups and necessarily create out-groups. Becker was trying to explain Nazis. He ended up explaining a lot of stuff that didn’t end with Paris Peace Treaties.

You’re right to be suspicious. Nobody should accept theories as facts without a bunch of data. Luckily, there is a wide and deep pool of data on the topic, experimental evidence showing that people exposed to death salience (for example, a picture of a graveyard) do indeed endorse more nationalism and racism on surveys. Check out this book, for example, full of experimental evidence, and only the tip of the iceberg: Handbook of Experimental Existential Psychology

Now what in the heck does any of that have to do with horror?

We all know death is everywhere. It’s on the news. It’s in the hospital we pass on our way to work. In the traffic report on the radio. We spend all day burying our fear of death. That fear attaches to other stuff. It causes problems. But we can go to the movies and watch a horror movie – and there engage with the fear of death in a controlled setting. We let the beast out of its cage for some exercise. Then the movie is over.

If it’s a good film, it lingers with us. We feel the dread… and we know why we feel the dread. The important part of Becker’s equation is repression: feeling dread without knowing why. You see the horror on the screen then take that unease with you for a while, and you can name it.

Even better is a good horror book. Short stories, novels, whatever. There you can sink into the experience of each character, build empathy for them, fear for them. Ideally, even understand the monster or the villain. Death becomes a little closer and a little less terrifying, because we can sit with it while nothing bad happens to us, and understand the experiences more deeply.

Me, I love to introduce ambiguity. Does the protagonist make it out alive and sane? Well, maybe. Because getting comfortable with ambiguity is a great treatment for fundamentalism of all types.

When I say fundamentalism, I mean starting with premises and working backwards through the evidence; this is as opposed to radical acceptance, which requires starting with the evidence and arriving at good-faith conclusions.

Writing horror is a public service. The horror writer engages with death. With horror, torment, disgust, terror, fear, angst, revulsion, ambiguity. We o it so those who are willing can join us in these spaces and come out of the covers or the movie house a little more ready to live in a world where death is a fact of life.

Jason Dias is a doctor of clinical psychology with fifteen years of experience working with developmentally disabled adults, four with people in severe states at the psychiatric hospital, and nine doing international psychology. He is co-founder of the Zhi Mian Institute for International Existential Psychology, an organization helping Chinese psychotherapists to acquire counseling skills and develop professional infrastructure.

Additionally, Jason writes. His credits include web journals and articles for The New Existentialists and A New Domain, two book chapters about existential psychology, a book of poetry and several novels and anthologies. He worries that academic writers spend too much time writing for journals only read by people who already agree with them and tries to get big ideas out in other formats.

Jason lives in Colorado Springs with his wife and son and keeps mostly to himself.

Thank you, Jason! Jason was my editor on the Necro-Om-Nom-Nom-Icon, and has several stories in it, as well. And I'll never argue with anyone who says writing horror is a public service. Rarely do I get assigned positive reasons for writing what I write...

Now for some links. Bear in mind I'm not endorsing these, merely passing them along. Always do your own due diligence before submitting.

Accepting Submissions:

Willow Press is seeking literary and genre fiction in one of the following themes: perfection, lust, or risk. 800 to 1000 words for flash, 4000 to 5000 words for short stories. Pays $10 to $30 CDN. Deadline August 12 (July 22 for theme of perfection).

Human Noise Journal is seeking short stories, poems, and essays. Up to 10 pages. Pays $30. Deadline August 15.

Zsenon Publishing is seeking stories for the A Punk Rock Future anthology. Up to 6000 words. Pays $.06/word. Deadline August 15.

What do you think about what Jason said? What does horror do for you? Do you find it a safe reprieve? Any of these links of interest? Anything to share?

May you find your Muse.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

IWSG - Goals, The Horror Fiction Review, #IWSGPit, and Links

It's the first...wait, Tuesday? Yep, we're posting today for the Insecure Writer's Support Group, because tomorrow's the 4th of July. Typically, we post on the first Wednesday of the month, but we make an exception for the Fourth! IWSG is the brain child of Alex J. Cavanaugh, created to seek and gain support from fellow insecure writers. You can sign up by clicking on Alex's name and adding your blog to the list.

Quick note before we begin. If you didn't receive your IWSG newsletter this month, go HERE to sign up again. You may have been purged if you missed the GDPR message asking you to opt in. If you try to sign up and it says you're already signed up, shoot me an email so I can look into it. And if you've never signed up? Now's a great time! Click on "HERE" above and sign up. It only takes a few seconds!

Another note: #IWSGPit is July 19! Get your Twitter pitches ready. Over 1000 agents and publishers have been invited to watch the feed that day, and several authors found homes for their books in the January #IWSGPit!

The co-hosts this month are Nicki Elson, Juneta Key, Tamara Narayan, and Patricia Lynne!

The optional question is What are your ultimate writing goals, and how have they changed over time (if at all)?

I don't know if I have an ultimate writing goal. I have a series of smaller goals, like getting a story in a Best Horror of the Year collection and getting a novel traditionally published. Looking at big future goals both excites me and scares the crap out of me. I want to be a recognized author, but I also know I lose some of my freedom then. Plus, I have this perpetual fear of having too much attention.

Speaking of getting attention, Blue Sludge Blues & Other Abominations was reviewed on The Horror Fiction Review. Check it out!

Each month I review my submission stats for the previous month to keep myself accountable. Here are June's stats:

Short Stories
0 rejections
0 acceptances
3 submissions
1 invitation to submit
Currently on submission: 12, with 2 short listed

1 rejection
1 request for 50 pages
Currently out to: 2 agents

Now for some links. Bear in mind I'm not endorsing these, merely passing them along. Always do your own due diligence before submitting.

Accepting Submissions:

Body Parts Magazine is seeking horror in the theme of Aliens, Apocalypse, and Armageddon for their fall/winter edition. Up to 8000 words. Pays up to $20 for fiction. Deadline August 1.

The First Line is seeking flash fiction beginning with the following sentence: The window was open just enough to let in the cool night air. Up to 5000 words. Pays up to $50 for fiction. Deadline August 1.

Jolly Horror Press is seeking humorous horror stories for Don't Cry to Mama. It needs to be about something your mama may have told you not to do. Up to 6000 words. Pays $25. Deadline August 1.

Cemetery Dance Publications is seeking short horror and dark fiction for their magazine. Up to 5000 words. Pays $.05/word. Deadline July 5.

Flapperhouse is seeking surreal works. Up to 5000 words. Pays $.01/word. 

The Baffler is seeking humorous pieces. Pays a token amount.

What's your insecurity? Do you have long term goals you're willing to share? What are your submission stats for the month of June? Any of these links of interest? Anything to share?

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Murder at the Marina - A Book Launch

The word summer brings on happy memories for a lot of people, and a generally positive reaction. I'm old enough that summer to me still means playing outdoors all day with my friends, whether we were riding bikes, putting together a game of kickball, hiding in the dusk while we played Kick the Can or Ghost in the Graveyard, or building a fort in the woods. What was important was being outside and playing with our friends. It didn't really matter what we chose to do that day.

As a parent, summer now means nagging the kids to follow my limited electronics rules and trying to find ways to get them outside. But it has its positive attributes, too, as it always will in some way. Summer means reading on the back porch after work. It means adventures with my kids (so far, we've gone to the Pioneer Museum, the Museum of Mining and Industry, Dinosaur Ridge, and Miramont Castle.) It means late night walks in the cool, crisp desert mountain air. It means outdoor concerts and drive in movies. And eating outside until the yellow jackets overpower us.

For Mollie McGhie, it means dealing with a murder at the marina...


A dilapidated sailboat for your anniversary—not very romantic. A dead body on board—even worse.

Mollie McGhie is hoping for diamonds for her tenth wedding anniversary. Instead, her husband presents her with a dilapidated sailboat. Just one problem—she doesn’t know anything about boats, nor does she want to.

When Mollie discovers someone murdered on board, she hopes it will convince her husband that owning a boat is a bad idea. Unfortunately, he’s more determined than ever to fix the boat up and set out to sea.

Mollie finds herself drawn into the tight-knit community living at Palm Tree Marina in Coconut Cove, a small town on the Florida coast. She uncovers a crime ring dealing in stolen marine equipment, investigates an alien abduction, eats way too many chocolate bars, adopts a cat, and learns far more about sailing than she ever wanted to.

Can Mollie discover who the murderer is before her nosiness gets her killed?

A Mollie McGhie Cozy Sailing Mystery #1

Buy Links

Murder at the Marina—A Mollie McGhie Sailing Mystery #1

Release Date: June 21, 2018

Print ISBN 978-1-7321602-1-7
eBook ISBN 978-1-7321602-0-0

Available at:


Author Bio & Social Media Links

Ellen Jacobson writes mystery and sci-fi/fantasy stories. She is the author of the “Mollie McGhie Sailing Mystery” series. She lives on a sailboat with her husband, exploring the world from the water. When she isn't working on boat projects or seeking out deserted islands, she blogs about their adventures at The Cynical Sailor.

You can connect with Ellen on:

Now for some links. Bear in mind I'm not endorsing these, merely passing them along. Always do your own due diligence before submitting.

Accepting Submissions:

Willow is seeking "uncommonly honest and stories and art" with the theme "Perfection." Pays $10-30 CAD. Deadline July 22.

NonBinary Review is seeking poetry, fiction, essays, and art based on The Wind in the Willows. Up to 5000 words. Pays $.01/word. Deadline July 24.

Splickety Havok is seeking stories with the theme "Skeletons, Slashers, and Succubi." Up to 1000 words. Pays $.02/word. Deadline July 27.

Jersey Pines Ink is seeking short horror stories for Crypt-Gnats. Up to 3000 words. Pays $5. Deadline July 30.

VQR is seeking non-genre fiction, poetry, and nonfiction. Up to 9000 words for nonfiction, 8000 for fiction. Pays up to $1000. Deadline July 31.

Martian Migraine Press is seeking humorous stories about Cthulhu mythos fans for Innsmouthbreathers: Cautionary Fables of Mythos Fandom. Up to 5000 words. Pays $.03/word CAD. Deadline July 31.

Flash Bang Mysteries is seeking mystery/suspense flash fiction. 500 to 750 words. Pays $20. Deadline July 31.

Are you looking for a good summer read? What are some of your fondest summer memories? Have you read a Mollie McGhie mystery before? Any of these links of interest? Anything to share?

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Denver Comic Con Recap

I spent this past weekend at Denver Comic Con as a panelist. With nine panels, I spent quite a bit of time researching and making notes in advance, and binge watched Black Mirror for a second time to have the episodes fresh in mind (which proved to be a darned good thing!)

The last two years I've only been a panelist in the literary track, which tends to be less busy than actual fan panels and the like. This year, the literary track had picked up in several spots, and because I'd proposed some non-literary panels, I got to experience the craziness that is the science fiction/fantasy track. The below two pictures are of the Black Mirror audience--eeek! They were a fun bunch.

A note to authors. If you're ever proposing panels to any type of fan con, try to mix up the literary panels with more fan based ones. You'll have a better chance of having your panels picked up, and you'll get to meet folks you might not have otherwise. And many of them are readers!

My first panel was 80s Resurgence in Books and Movies (non-literary track) with Veronica R. Calisto, Patrick Hester, David R. Slayton, and Fleur Bradley (pen name F.T. Bradley). We talked about shows like Stranger Things, long awaited sequels like Tron 2, and reboots like Magnum P.I. Why are the 80s so popular? Technically, we should be on a resurgence of the 90s now, according to the past patterns (Happy Days came out in the 70s and was about the 50s; That 70s Show came out in the 90s; Wonder Years came out in the 80s and was about the 60s and 70s, etc.). Instead, we're still hitting the 80s hard in our media. Among stories we wanted to see rebooted were Buck Rogers and Knight Rider.

Panel number two was Letters Written From Hell - The Horror Writing Process, with Patrick Hester, DeAnna Knippling, Emily Godhand, and Jason Dias. The big question was whether we were demented, and what about our readers? The diagnosis? Totally sane. In fact, even saner than people who don't partake of horror, because we get to exorcise the dark part of ourselves.

Panel three was How to Write Diversity, with Veronica R. Calisto, David R. Slayton, Emily Godhand, Emily Kay Singer, and Jason Dias. In general, it came down to being respectful, getting to know people from marginalized groups, asking at least one person from the marginalized group to beta read for you, and doing your research. The best thing about the panel was that, though we did talk about racial diversity, we covered much more than that, including neuro-divergence, LGBTQ+, mental illness, and physical disabilities.

The fourth panel, which was my final one for Friday, was Favorite Horror Tropes, another non-literary one. On this one, we had Veronica R. Calisto, DeAnna Knippling, Emily Godhand, MK Sauer, and Stace Johnson. We had a lot of fun talking about our favorite horror tropes, such as the happily-ever-after-just-kidding ending or switching to a silhouette view to show something without the gore or cheesy CGI. Among the last favorite? Saying a haunting is because it was built on an Indian burial ground and killing the minority character first.

Saturday I only had two panels, which was a nice break. I had one in the morning then two back-to-back at the end of the day. (Friday I had three back-to-back, which was insanity.) The first panel of the day was Creating Believable Monsters, with Matt Bille, Fleur Bradley, DeAnna Knippling, and Stace Johnson. Matt writes about cryptozoological creatures in his fiction, so he had a different idea of believable monsters than the rest of us. What it boiled down to for most of us was that the characters had to believe in the monster for the reader to believe, and basing the monster's makeup on already existing fears could be a shortcut to reach the reader. Xenomorphs were by far the winner of the monster that stuck with me the longest category. Yay for xenomorphs!

Next was Why You Should Have Villains of All Stripes, with Veronica R. Calisto, David R. Slayton, Fleur Bradley, Jason Dias, and Eneasz Brodski. By far, the favorite villain put out recently was Killmonger from Black Panther. A couple Stephen King characters came up, as did Magneto. What we most wanted was for villains to be strong opponents, to be intelligent and equal to the good guy, and to have something redeeming about them. This makes for a stronger villain.

The final one of the day was Not Just Novels - Writing Different Lengths, with Fleur Bradley, DeAnna Knippling, Jason Dias, Carolyn Kay, and Stace Johnson. We talked about everything from flash fiction to short story to novelette/novella length, why it was a good idea to try out different lengths, and what we enjoyed about playing with shorter fiction. It was a small audience, but one that seemed very interested in the topic, and I hope they'll pursue shorter works.

Sunday was the last day of DCC, and I only had two panels, but they were vast hours apart (6 hours, to be exact), or so it felt. The first one was First Steps in Self-Publishing, with Patrick Hester, MK Sauer, Stace Johnson, Marla Newbrough Bell (writes under MJ Bell), and A.M. Burns. We covered the basics of establishing yourself as a business, getting ISBN numbers, resources for self-publishers, and who you need to hire (editor, cover design, formatter).

And now we get to my last panel of the con: Black Mirror and the Evils of Technology, with Veronica R. Calisto, DeAnna Knippling, David R. Slayton, and Stace Johnson. We discussed how Black Mirror wasn't about fear of technology so much as fear of what people will do to abuse technology, and how we humans aren't evolving as fast as our technical capabilities are. We talked about the fear of microchipping people and designer humans, plus our favorite episodes (Nosedive was mentioned several times--the one where the woman tries to get her social media rating up, running into humiliation after humiliation--as was Arkangel, the one about the mom who chips her daughter and can keep her from seeing things that might bother her, as well as seeing through her eyes and monitoring what she's doing.) I couldn't believe the energy that late on day three of the con, but they gave me the energy to make it through and drive home to Colorado Springs through a rainstorm.

I was stressed out about the weekend, not being naturally outgoing, but enjoyed hanging out with friends, as well as having great conversations about topics I'm deeply interested in. I love presenting on panels, and tossing ideas around with others, even when we disagree. It's a great way to learn more about various topics.

The view from my hotel room. Down and to the right is 16th St. Mall.

My hotel was on the 16th Street Mall, which is a long stretch right in the middle of downtown with cobbled streets, no cars allowed (except to cross at intersections), and tons of shops and restaurants. I'd intended to walk down to the Tattered Cover bookstore since I so rarely make it up to Denver, but I never really had the time. It's a great spot for people watching. I tried several new restaurants, which I'm all about when travelling, including Boney's BBQ, Stout Street Social, and Sam's No. 3. I'd recommend all three, though the service wasn't great at Boney's. I'm a sucker for good BBQ and sweet tea, though.

Time for links. Bear in mind I'm not endorsing these, merely passing them along. Always do your own due diligence before submitting.

Accepting Submissions:

The Literary Hatchet is seeking dark fiction, poetry, and prose. Up to 6000 words. Pays up to $10. Deadline July 1.

Coffin Hop Press is seeking dark and noirish holiday stories for Baby It's Cold Outside. Crime stories only. They're also seeking stories of stupid criminals for Knucklehead Noir. Up to 5000 words. The holiday one pays $150 CAD; the stupid criminals one pays $.03/word CAD. Deadline July 1.

Whimsically Dark Publishing is seeking short stories with the theme Deteriorate. No genre limits. Up to 8000 words. Pays $30. Deadline July 1.

Broken Eye Books is seeking urban weird fiction for Nowhereville: Weird is Other People. 3000 to 7500 words. Pays $.08/word. Deadline July 1.

Spring Song Press is seeking fantasy short stories for Oath and Iron. 1000 to 10,000 words. Pays $.01/word. Deadline July 1.

Independent Legions is seeking horror short stories for Monsters of Any Kind. 3500 to 5000 words. Pays $100. Deadline July 10.

Third Flatiron Anthologies is seeking speculative fiction short stories for Terra! Tara! Terror! Up to 3000 words. Paying market, but they don't specify how much. Deadline July 15.

Gehenna & Hinnom Books is seeking weird fiction and cosmic horror. 250 to 3000 words. Pays $30. Deadline July 15 (opens July 1).

Spider and Ladybug Magazines are seeking stories for kids in the theme Our Diverse World. Up to 1000 words. Pays up to $.25/word. Deadline July 15.

Why do you think the 80s is still so popular? What would you like to see brought back or rebooted? What's your favorite Black Mirror episode? How about your favorite horror trope? Least favorite? What new technology are you afraid of? What new tech are you looking forward to? Any of these links of interest?

May you find your Muse.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Horror List Book Review: Bubba Ho-Tep

I'll be at Denver Comic Con this weekend! If you're attending, stop by and say hello! My panel schedule is as follows:

  • 80’s Resurgence in Books and Movies — Friday (6/15/18) from 11:00am - in Keystone City - Mile High Ballroom DCCP4
  • Letters Written from Hell - The Horror Writing Process — Friday (6/15/18) from 1:30pm - in Room 405
  • How to Write Diversity — Friday (6/15/18) from 2:30pm - in Room 405
  • Favorite Horror Tropes — Friday (6/15/18) from 4:00pm - in Coast City - Mile High Ballroom DCCP4
  • Creating Believable Monsters — Saturday (6/16/18) from 12:30pm - in Room 405
  • Why You Should Have Villains of All Stripes — Saturday (6/16/18) from 4:30pm - in Room 405
  • Not Just Novels - Writing Different Lengths — Saturday (6/16/18) from 5:30pm - in Room 405
  • First Steps in Self-Publishing — Sunday (6/17/18) from 10:30am - in Room 405
  • Black Mirror and the Evils of Technology — Sunday (6/17/18) from 4:30pm - in Room 605

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.)

This week I'm reviewing Bubba Ho-Tep, by Joe R. Lansdale.

This is actually a novella, not a novel. And it was a lot of fun. I'm sure I could find issues with it if I sat down to analyze plot, etc., but I'd rather not. This was a quick read with an opening line that will tell you whether this is something you want to keep reading or not.

Elvis is in a retirement home, having lost his ability to step back into his life after he had someone else take it over for him before promptly dying on the toilet. Something weird starts scurrying through the halls at night, devouring the souls of his fellow retirees. Turns out it's a mummy, but not your usual sort.

This is a touch raunchy, quick paced, and the characters are distinctive. It's also a cheese-fest. As proof, the movie version starred the delightful, and often cheesy, Bruce Campbell as Elvis. Don't read it for depth and introspection. Read it because it's a ridiculous romp.

Last time I checked, this was available on Amazon for $.99.

I'm tempted to put this in my Top Ten, but I'm leaving it as is, because the books currently there have more substance than this one.

My Top Ten: 

1. The Handmaid's Tale (Margaret Atwood)
2. The Girl Next Door (Jack Ketchum)
3. The Bottoms (Joe R. Lansdale)
4. Coraline (Neil Gaiman)
5. The Bridge (John Skipp and Craig Spector)
6. A Choir of Ill Children (Tom Piccirilli)
7. Needful Things (Stephen King)
8. 1Q84 (Haruki Murakami)
9. Those Who Hunt the Night (Barbara Hambly)
10. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)

The next book will be Johnathon Maberry's Ghost Road Blues.

Have you read this? Seen the movie? What did you think?

May you find your Muse.

*Flourish One, Horizontal Clip Art by OCAL,

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

IWSG - Spend a Little Time With Your Friends & Links

It's the first Wednesday of June, which means it's time for the Insecure Writer's Support Group, created by Alex J. Cavanaugh!

Before we hop into the IWSG, a quick notice that, due to the American holiday 4th of July, the next IWSG posting date will be TUESDAY, JULY 3 instead of Wednesday, July 4. We'll return to the first Wednesday of the month in August.

Announcing the genre for the next IWSG anthology! We'll be looking for stories under Young Adult Romance. The theme will be announced in September, with submissions open September 4 to November 4.

Onto the event itself! Our co-hosts this month are

The optional question of the month: What's harder for you to come up with, book titles or character names?

I don't typically have an issue with character names, though I do have a tendency to give women "S" names and men "B" names for no good reason, and I try to monitor myself on that. Titles are a different beast. We're not friends. I think titles are a definite weakness for me.

For my insecurity this month, I want to address something I talked about on Facebook briefly. In the last few months I've been to memorials for two local writing friends. I regret not having had better conversations with them while they were alive, and the fact that I learned things at their memorials I feel like I should have learned while they were alive. So I'm going to quote myself here: 

"It's a reminder to slow down sometimes and meet for coffee/tea/wine and pick each other's brains. Or skip a session at a convention/conference to cob a squat in the lobby of the hotel or convention center and chat. Or go out for dinner with a small group of people where you can hear each other talking and have some great conversations. I'd rather learn neat things about my friends while they're here on Earth than learn them at their memorials. I want to laugh WITH them about their funny stories, not after the fact."

When you're at conferences and events, give yourself permission to slow down and sit down with a friend or acquaintance to talk. I know it's hard, especially when you're maybe also a speaker or event volunteer, but you're not going to regret taking that time. You may very well regret not doing so.

Before I post this month's submission stats, I was interviewed over at Horror Tree by Selene MacLeod. Horror Tree is a great resource for markets seeking horror submissions, too! Check out my interview to learn a bit more about my writing and my recent horror collection, Blue Sludge Blues. She asked some different questions than I'm used to, which was fun, as I'm often answering the same general questions.

Now for my May stats. I post the previous month's submission stats on IWSG to keep myself accountable and make sure I'm working the business.

Short Stories
6 submissions
1 shortlisting
4 rejections
11 currently on submission

5 queries sent
1 ask for first 50 pages
3 rejections

And, finally, time for some links! Bear in mind I'm not endorsing these, merely passing them along. Always do your own due diligence before submitting.

Accepting Submissions:

Electric Lit is seeking short stories for Recommended Reading. 2000 to 10,000 words. Pays $300. Submission window only open June 18-24. They are also seeking poetry and flash as of today. I didn't see an end date, but it looks like it will be a narrow window. For everything they're seeking, see their page.

Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores is seeking science fiction, fantasy, fairy tales, and related short stories. 1000+ words. Pays $.06/words. Deadline June 28.

Splickety Magazine is seeking pieces with the theme of Senioritis. 300 to 1000 words. Pays $.02/word. Deadline June 29.

Three Penny Review is seeking stories, articles, and poems. Word restrictions depend upon submission type. Pays $200 to $400. Deadline June 30.

Allegory is seeking speculative fiction short stories. Preference is given to stories between 1000 and 5000 words, but they'll consider shorter or longer works. Pays $15. Deadline June 30.

Less Than Three Press is seeking novelettes about the holidays (ALL the holidays) that are LGBTQIA+ focused. Any sub-genre. 15,000 to 40,000 words. Pays royalties. Deadline June 30.

Furplanet is seeking anthropomorphic short stories for The Rabbit Dies First. And, you guessed it, the rabbit must die first. All genres. 2000 to 12,000 words. Pays $.01/word. Deadline June 30.

Alban Lake Publishing is seeking stories about Antarctica and the things that hide there for City in the Ice. 3000 to 10,000 words. Pays $25. Deadline June 30.

**Flourish One, Horizontal Clip Art by OCAL,**

Do you intend to enter the IWSG contest? What are your insecurities? Do you take time at writing events to chat? Any of these links of interest? Are you submitting stories? What were your May stats? Anything to share?

May you find your Muse.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Horror List Book Review: The Drive-In

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.)

This week I'm review The Drive-In by Joe R. Lansdale.

When you scroll down, you'll see that Joe R. Lansdale's The Bottoms is one of my top ten so far in this reading challenge. However, I wasn't overly fond of The Drive-In. I went in prepared to love it, as I love his voice. It just didn't do it for me.

From what I can tell, the primary reason I didn't enjoy it all that much was the fact that I didn't care about the characters. It didn't matter to me. The narrator lost me because he goes into shock and zones out during a portion of the story, and everyone goes off their rockers. In fact, the friend that takes care of the narrator during his shock is the closest I come to caring about anyone. He's a good guy, keeps his head, controls the situation where he can, and lets things go if he can't control them. So I guess I cared about one character.

The Drive-In is about a bunch of people stranded at the drive-in after a freaky comet with a face leaves behind a black substance that surrounds the drive-in like some kind of foam filling agent and burns through anyone that tries to go through it. Chaos ensues, anarchy reigns, and things get crazy.

Super crazy. The Popcorn King is the pinnacle of crazy.

At first, I thought this was going to be a Lord of the Flies-style examination, wherein we observe society breaking down when they realize they only have so much food and they're trapped in this dark world for who knows how long. Perhaps that's why what actually happened didn't appeal to me. I like a bizarro, freaky horror piece as much as the next person (okay, probably more), but I wasn't prepared for it in this case. Perhaps this would have been easily solved had I read the description of the story, but since I've agreed to read this entire list and review it, I usually go in without having read what the story is about. Sometimes this works in my favor. Sometimes it doesn't.

Instead of a gradual breakdown, we speed-surf through the initial breakdown and then we screech to a halt and watch the already crazy antics take place. There are supernatural elements. Aspects of this vaguely reminded me of Stephen King's writing, but they didn't quite fit.

My top ten remains the same.

My Top Ten:

1. The Handmaid's Tale (Margaret Atwood)
2. The Girl Next Door (Jack Ketchum)
3. The Bottoms (Joe R. Lansdale)
4. Coraline (Neil Gaiman)
5. The Bridge (John Skipp and Craig Spector)
6. A Choir of Ill Children (Tom Piccirilli)
7. Needful Things (Stephen King)
8. 1Q84 (Haruki Murakami)
9. Those Who Hunt the Night (Barbara Hambly)
10. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)

My next book will be either Bubba Ho-Tep, by Joe R. Lansdale, or Ghost Road Blues, by Johnathon Maberry.

Have you read this? How about the rest of the series? Are you a Lansdale fan? What did you think of this one? 

May you find your Muse.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Author Platform: Accessibility on Social Media

I've noticed a lot of authors with Facebook pages and other forms of social media don't mention they're a writer or provide any helpful information that's easily accessible on their accounts, and this is a mistake. If your social media is intended to be part of your author platform or has anything to do with book advertising, etc., you should have information regarding yourself as an author readily available to those who might be seeking you out. What's the point in making it a mystery? You want to be accessible!

Here are a couple things you should have available for possible readers or even fellow authors:

A lot of the friend requests I get are from people who have a bunch of mutual friends who are authors, but they have nothing written under their intro or on their "About" page. That's two strikes right there. If I'm in the right kind of mood, with a bit of time to kill, I'll scroll through their posts to see if I can identify whether this person is an author, book reviewer, or why it is they might be sending me a friend request. Many of them have their page locked down so thoroughly that I can't figure anything out from that, either, so how am I supposed to know if they're just spam accounts? Well, I don't, so I delete that friend request.

At the minimum, you should have something brief under the "intro" section, which shows up on the top left of your profile. Example: Mine says "Horror and fantasy short story author. Fan of all things creepy." It conveys what I do and what I'm interested in. No mysteries here!

You can also update your job on the "About" page, and you should link to any other social media you want people to see, such as your blog and/or website. I have links to my website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, and Pinterest.

Consider making some of your posts public. If that's something you prefer to avoid, pick a couple that you feel will be representative of you (book release posts or updates on writing or anything random about writing) and just make those public. This means someone checking your page will see you're a writer/author.

Have cover images, author photos, etc.? It's a good idea to have those visible to the public, as well, either in your cover photo, profile photo, or visible on your timeline.

This one's easier. Say something about being a writer or about your work in your profile information showing under your name. If your "handle" is not your name, be sure your actual name shows up on your profile somewhere so you're searchable. If you have a book cover, it's good to have it as your banner.

This is where you really must have some personal information, and there are plenty of places to do it. It should be clear on the front page somewhere who you are. If your name is not in the title, be sure it's visible on the front page. Write a visible bio that includes any pertinent writing details. Make sure there is a visible way to find any books you may have out. Mine are listed along the side of my blog, as well as in a publications tab.

It's a good idea to have a few types of tabs with information. For instance, I have an about me with some random facts and pictures, a publications tab that lists all my available publications and where to buy them, a media kit tab where information about me can easily be grabbed (long bio, short bio, my social media links, headshots, and how to contact me), and an appearances tab so people know where I'll be signing and/or speaking. All of these hopefully make me more accessible and save people some legwork.


See the IWSG blog for a brief post about GDPR that includes information on how the IWSG is dealing with it and a few links I found helpful in getting the IWSG newsletter GDPR compliant.


Horror Addicts have put out another collection! Here's the press release below:

Music has the power to soothe the soul, drive people to obsession, and soundtrack evil plots. Is music the instigator of madness, or the key that unhinges the psychosis within? From guitar lessons in a graveyard and a baby allergic to music, to an infectious homicidal demo and melancholy tunes in a haunted lighthouse, Crescendo of Darkness will quench your thirst for horrifying audio fiction. is proud to present fourteen tales of murderous music, demonic performers, and cursed audiophiles.
Crescendo of Darkness includes:
“Audition” by Naching T. Kassa
This could be a guitarist's ticket to the big time, if he survives auditioning in a ghoul-protected graveyard.
“Circe’s Music Shop” by A. Craig Newman
A music store owner, who won’t be bullied into submission, teaches two hitmen the meaning of pain.
“Last Lullaby” by Emerian Rich
An opera diva is haunted by a dangerous secret which threatens to end her career and her life.
“Loved to Death” by Sam Morgan Phillips
Death explores his dream of being a rock star, but can’t avoid his purpose when a young woman forces him to live up to his destiny.
“The Music Box” by Daphne Strasert When a mom finds her childhood music box, she unleashes a tragic horror on her family, dooming them to repeat history.
“While My Guitar Gently Bleeds” by Benjamin Langley A rock musician is visited by an undead band member and forced to pay for his crimes against rock ‘n’ roll.
“Six String Bullets” by Cara Fox
The pull of a busker’s song becomes too much for a young woman to resist.
“Lighthouse Lamentation” by R.A. Goli
A lighthouse keeper helps a mysterious guest, but the stranger’s haunting sea shanty might drive him mad.
“Solomon’s Piano” by Jeremy Megargee
A grieving husband builds an unnatural piano, but can his music raise the dead?
“They Don’t Make Music Like That Anymore” by Kahramanah
A musician’s obsession with creating a masterpiece leads to him discover why they don't make music like that anymore.
“Become the Music” by H.E. Roulo
A cellist would do anything for her child, even give up music, but that might not be enough to stop a curse from consuming her baby.
“Keep the Beat” by Calvin Demmer
A young girl questions why her tribe plays the djembe drums every night and finds it may be more than just a tradition.
“The Legend of Crimson Ivory” by Sarah Gribble
An audiophile finds a legendarily sinister demo at a used record store and decides to play it, despite his friends' warnings.
“A Whisper in the Air” by Jeremiah Donaldson
Employees at a job find solace in playing music on break, but a haunted melody draws in more than just new musicians.
Crescendo of Darkness
Direct link:
Edited by Jeremiah Donaldson
Cover by Carmen Masloski Press

Let music unlock your fear within.

Have you maximized your social media? Do you have information that's readily accessible for those searching you out? Have you gotten your page and newsletter updated to be GDPR-compliant?

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

See You Later, Alligator; After Awhile/A While, Crocodile

I was recently a showcase author at Mountain of Authors, an event put on by our local library district. Mountain of Authors was my very first writing event years ago, before I got involved with Pikes Peak Writers. It's a great event for unpublished writers, newly published authors, and indie authors. The event is held in one room, with some combination of panels and single speaker workshops, and goes from 12 to 5, with a keynote speaker at the end of the day.

Aside from educating writers, they provide opportunities for authors to sell their books and for writing groups of various types to give out information. All of this, and it's completely free! Just one more wonderful element of support in Colorado Springs for local authors.

It was good to get out and see members of the writing community, especially as we lost two local authors in the last month or so, a painful hit to a close-knit community. I met a lot of people, many of whom stopped by to chat, and I hope I helped a couple burgeoning writers who had questions about submitting short stories and that sort of thing. Selling some books was a wonderful bonus!

As an amusing aside, I had to put Chucky away, because people kept asking if it meant I wrote horror for children. No, I absolutely do not! I know better than to take him with me to events now, at least. He'll stay in my office where he belongs.

Okay, words, words, words.  If you missed the previous posts on this topic, they were Already vs. All Ready and Alright vs. All Right.

On to today's words. What's correct, awhile or a while?

This one's tricky, because they are both correct descriptions of a passage of time. However, their usage varies a bit. This is one I really have to think through when using the words.

Technically speaking, awhile is used as an adverb and a while is used as a noun. But technical speaking doesn't help me in this case, because I haven't diagrammed sentences since eighth grade.

There are other technicalities we'll get to, but the way I find it easiest to suss out the difference is to place the "what word could you replace it with" game.

When "a" and "while" are separated, while is a noun, so the sentence is using while as a noun. If that's so, you could then keep the "a" and replace "while" with a word like bit, hour, week, year, spell. In other words, another passage of time.


I want to sit down for a while.
I want to sit down for a bit. (abit isn't a word)

I haven't seen him in a while.
I haven't seen him in an hour. (anhour isn't a word)

Another way to look at is if you can qualify it as a three-word phrase, like for a while, in a while, after a while (crocodile), it should be two words, not one. As in, it is part of a prepositional phrase, a preposition being for, in, after, etc.

When awhile is one word, there should be a different noun in the sentence already and it should not be part of a prepositional phrase. It would be replaceable by another adverb, not a noun. Adverbs are words like quickly, quietly, patiently or anywhere, there (adverbs of place) or always, sometimes (frequency adverbs), etc.


He watched awhile.
He watched silently.

I want to dance awhile.
I want to dance sometimes.

Note that you can change a sentence slightly and have to change the word. Let's switch up example sentences:


He watched for a while.
He watched awhile.

Notice that when a while is used, there is a third word directly involved in the phrase: for. When awhile is used, it follows a verb: watched.

Clear as mud?

Before I jump into this week's links, I wanted to let you know about C. Lee McKenzie's new book!


By C. Lee McKenzie

Pete’s stuck in medieval England!

Pete and his friend Weasel thought they’d closed the Time Lock. But a young page from medieval times, Peter of Bramwell, goes missing. His absence during a critical moment will forever alter history unless he’s found.

There’s only one solution - fledgling wizard Pete must take the page’s place. Accompanied by Weasel and Fanon, Pete’s alligator familiar, they travel to 1173 England.

But what if the page remains lost - will Pete know what to do when the critical moment arrives? Toss in a grumpy Fanon, the duke’s curious niece, a talking horse, and the Circle of Stones and Pete realizes he’s in over his young wizard head yet again...

Release date – May 15, 2018
Juvenile Fiction - Fantasy & Magic/Boys & Men
$13.95 Print ISBN 9781939844460
$3.99 EBook ISBN 9781939844477

C. Lee McKenzie has a background in Linguistics and Inter-Cultural Communication, but these days her greatest passion is writing for young readers. When she’s not writing she’s hiking or traveling or practicing yoga or asking a lot questions about things she still doesn’t understand.

Time for links. Bear in mind I'm not endorsing these, merely passing them along. Always do your own due diligence before submitting.

Accepting submissions:

Existere is seeking prose, poems, graphic art, photos, and postcard stories. All genres and forms of art/literature welcome. Up to 3500 words. Pays a small honorarium.

The Arcanist is seeking fantasy and science fiction flash fiction. Up to 1000 words. Pays $50.

Zealot Script is seeking short stories and poetry that introduce a new world. Submissions of any length. Pays $10.

Factor Four Magazine is seeking flash fiction and art. Up to 1500 words. Pays $.08/word.

Mystery Weekly is seeking mystery short stories. 2500 to 7500 words. Pays $.01/word.

Do you have trouble with awhile vs. a while or do you find it simple? If you have trouble, did this make it any clearer? Any of these links of interest? Anything to share?

May you find your Muse.

*Image Alligator Clip Art, OCAL,