Friday, October 12, 2018

Horror List Book Review: The Collector


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 The Collector, by John Fowles.



This is an excellent book. It's slow and non-violent, purely psychological horror. It's told in multiple parts, with each of the characters well developed, though not necessarily likable. The first part is from the main character's point-of-view. He is an outcast, lonely, but fascinated by a woman. He buys a new place and sets up a soundproof room for her before kidnapping her and locking her in. He wants to experience her, be near her, watch her, but he has no interest in sex.

He has collected her.

The next part is from her POV. We get some insight into her reactions throughout her captivity, which we've previously seen from his POV.

Each of the POVs were distinct from each other. Though the pacing is slow, the story drags you in and pulls you along, mostly by holding the terror over you due to your own expectations and fears. As the reader, you hope for some awareness from the main character, some understanding from him that what he's doing is wrong. A sense of morality or hope. His neutrality and blandness are part of the horror.

This one has finally moved my top ten around:


My Top Ten:  

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

The next review will be for The Resort, by  Bentley Little. After that, Dark Descent.

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:

Unlocking the Magic is an anthology seeking fantasy involving characters with mental illness. The focus is on realistic portrayals of the mental illness, not magic born of it. 3000 to 6000 words. Pays $300. Deadline November 1.

The Literary Hatchet is seeking speculative fiction flash, short stories, art, poetry, etc. 500 to 6000 words. Pays $5 to $10. Deadline November 1.

The First Line is seeking fiction and non-fiction essays with the first line, "As she trudged down the alley, Cenessa saw a small..." 300 to 5000 words. Pays $25 to $50. Deadline November 1.

Thema Literary is seeking short stories, poetry, essays, and art with the theme The Critter in the Attic. Up to 20 pages. Pays $10 to $25. Deadline November 1.

Spring Song Press is seeking steampunk short stories for Steam and Lace. 1000 to 10,000 words. Pays $.01/word. Deadline November 1.

Are any of these links of interest? Have you read The Collector or anything by John Fowles? What did you think? Anything to share? Have you been submitting?

May you find your Muse.


Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Self-Publishing Business Checklist

A friend about to embark on the beginning of her self-publishing journey asked me for a checklist for first steps. I figured if I was going to put it together, I might as well make it a blog post. Anyone with something to add to the checklist, feel free to do so in the comments!


  • Decide whether you will be a sole proprietorship, LLC, S Corp, etc.
  • Decide whether you want a press name, in which case you need to file for your "DBA" (Doing Business As) with Secretary of State (search already existing business names on the site first)
  • File for your EIN at IRS.gov
  • Create a separate business account (once you have your EIN)
  • Sign up for a Square account
  • Sign up for a PayPal account separate from your personal one
  • Create files for any business related documents/receipts/forms
  • Keep track of startup expenses, which are tax deductible
  • Budget self-publishing and business start up costs--what is your break even point?
  • Figure out the price of your book/s once you know the production costs
  • Figure out where you will publish (Amazon, Smashwords, Lulu, Lightning Force, Ingram, etc.) and open accounts with them
  • Get a sales tax license for city and state
  • Purchase ISBN numbers from R.R. Bowker (cheaper in bulk, and you will likely need at least two for each book, as each format requires its own)
  • Contract book cover, editor, etc., as needed
  • Research/complete formatting--ebooks are formatted differently than paperbacks, plus different POD sites may have different requirements (Smashwords has additional formatting instructions beyond what's required by Amazon, for example)
  • Decide on front matter (keep it simple and brief), including any disclaimers
  • Decide on back matter, such as bio, thank yous/acknowledgments, website/social media links
  • Upload final cover/formatted book
  • Order a proof and carefully review the ebook after uploading
  • Make it live once it's ready!
Some resources I found helpful:

Books:
Websites/Articles:
I threw this together pretty quickly, so I'm sure I forgot something. Like I said above, feel free to make further suggestions or link to resources you liked in the comments.

And good luck!

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

October? Impossible! IWSG

October is my favorite month, hands down. Fall, spooky things, Halloween, sweaters, gorgeous colors in the leaves, pellet stove, and the ability to actually cook real food without spending a fortune on air conditioning or simply roasting. Yay!

Since it's the first Wednesday of October, it's time for the Insecure Writer's Support Group.


Created by Alex J. Cavanaugh, this group exists to seek and lend support to fellow writers. Anyone can sign up. Simply click on Alex's name and enter your blog on the link list. Make sure to visit this month's awesome co-hosts:

Don't forget about the IWSG Anthology Contest!


Guidelines and rules: 

Word count: 3500-6000

Genre: Young Adult Romance

Theme: 
Masquerade
A Masquerade can be a false show or pretense, someone pretending to be someone they aren't. It can be a ball, a fancy dress party, it can be a mask. Open to interpretation.

Submissions accepted: September 5 - November 4, 2018

How to enter: Send your polished, formatted (Double spaced, no page numbers), previously unpublished story to admin @ insecurewriterssupportgroup.com before the deadline passes. Please include your contact details, your social links, and if you are part of the Blogging, Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter IWSG group. 


We've had some entries already, but we want more, more, more! If YA Romance isn't your genre, this is an excellent opportunity to stretch yourself and try something new.

This month's optional question: How do major life events affect your writing? Has writing ever helped you through something?

For me, I've found that if there's a major negative life event occurring, my creativity buries its head in the sand. When we evacuated during the Waldo Canyon Fire and were staying at a hotel, people kept saying, "I bet you've got tons of writing time!" Sure. Only I was stuck in a one bedroom hotel room with my terrified children, had no idea if my home was still standing, or my parents', or my friends'. I was too busy figuring out next steps, like where to go if the house was gone. Whether my husband's workplace would still be standing. All that jazz.

When my dad was diagnosed with ALS, I froze up for a few months. No writing. No desire to write, because I didn't have the emotional energy.

I can't say writing has helped me through anything. It's helped me cope with things afterward, but my creativity seems to disappear when my emotional energy is low. That's okay, because I always eventually get back to it, and get to exorcise it through the stories that follow.



Before I get to this month's stats, a couple cool things happened this month.

First, Strangeful Things made women in horror trading cards, and I'm on one! If you're attending the Women in Horror Film Festival, check out the Strangeful Things table. They've got some horror goodies, including these bonus trading cards.


And I discovered this awesome Ladies of Horror Fiction website, which includes a directory of female horror authors. And I'm on it! Exciting!

Also, I was interviewed over at Wonderland Press.



Okay, stats for the month. For those who haven't visited here before, I go over my previous month's submission stats to keep myself accountable.

In September:

3 submissions
1 acceptance
2 rejections
2 publications (Fright Into Flight and Society of Misfit Stories, Volume II
1 other (I've assumed it is rejected since I haven't heard back)



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

Accepting Submissions:

Nonbinary Review is seeking literary pieces with the theme Dante's Inferno. Up to 2000 words. Pays $.01/word for fiction and nonfiction. Poetry and visual art are paid differently. Deadline October 24.

Flash Bang Mysteries is seeking flash mystery and suspense. 500 to 750 words. Pays $20. Deadline October 31.

Atlantean Publishing is seeking British folklore fiction and poetry. Short story to novelette length. Pays one penny Sterling per word. Deadline October 31.

Horroraddicts.net is seeking short horror pieces for Kill Switch, a tech horror anthology. Think Black Mirror. 2000 to 7000 words. Pays $10. Deadline October 31.

Chicken Soup for the Soul is seeking stories with the theme Life Lessons From the Dog. Stories should be personal and written in first person. 1200 words or less. Pays $200. Deadline October 31.

Shenandoah is seeking short stories, essays, poems, etc. Up to 8000 words. Pay varies. Deadline October 31.

Our Loss Anthology is seeking fiction or poetry dealing with sadness and loss. Up to 8000 words. Pays in royalties. Deadline October 31.

Can you write when things are tough? Does it help? Have you submitted any pieces this month? Care to share your stats? Are you going to submit to the IWSG anthology? Any of these links of interest? Anything to share?

May you find your Muse.

*artwork by clker.com, OCAL






Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Guest Post - Swirl: How Being Mixed Race Informs My Writing

Jessica McDonald is a Colorado author (though she currently resides in Japan). Her first novel, Born to Be Magic, the first in the Council Witch series, is coming out soon, so she's stopping by for a visit. In addition to being a friend, she's also a fellow mixed race/part-Cherokee author, and she addresses how that informed her book.

Here's her Kickstarter Link if you want to check it out: Born to Be Magic

Swirl: How Being Mixed Race Informs My Writing
By Jessica McDonald

When I was young, I didn’t understand the concept of being mixed race. Part of my family was white, part of my family was Cherokee—it was as simple as that. I didn’t particularly grasp why I was lighter skinned than my relatives, or what it meant when I was told to say I was white. But when I was eight years old, my school held a re-enactment of the 1889 Oklahoma Land Rush. The white kids played settlers. The Native kids played dead on the ground. I didn’t know where I belonged. I asked my teacher where I should go, and she asked me, “Who do you want to be?”

Loaded question for a second grader.

Fast forward some decades and that question, “Who do you want to be?” has defined my life. Because I’m white passing, I didn’t identify myself as Native for a long time. I felt like I wasn’t “Indian enough.” But my mom took me to ceremonies and sweats and taught me our history, and I didn’t feel right in the white world either. Navigating the choppy waters of racial identity proved harder than I thought. If I said I was white, I felt like I was denying an entire side of my family. If I said I was Native, I felt I had to prove it—like there was some invisible checklist to certify my Nativeness. My mother died when I was 16, and my grandparents had passed on before her; with their loss I suffered a cultural loss as well. I no longer had anyone to guide me in my search for identity. I had only stories, and a sense of belonging to two worlds and also being a fraud in both of them.

This search for identity is a central theme in my writing, and I don’t think you have to be mixed race for it to resonate with you. We’re all searching for acceptance, we’re all searching for our truth, we’re all ships sailing through a storm. In my debut novel, BORN TO BE MAGIC, the protagonist, Rachel Collins, walks this line between human and witch. She craves normality while defining herself supernaturally. It’s these contradictions, these conflicts, that inform the process of developing our identities.

Rachel is a ley witch, a rarity among her kind, and is somewhat shunned for being too dangerous. Simultaneously, she cannot set aside that which makes her different in order to be completely human. In much the same way, I could not set aside my Nativeness to be completely white, nor could I set aside my whiteness to be completely Native. I had to blend the two, to create a world of my own design, where I could stand on solid ground instead of having one foot on the platform and one foot on the train. Rachel’s story is about finding that world, about carving out a definition of self that is uniquely hers.

My experiences are neither completely Native nor completely white. I walk through the world with white skin, but I bear the weight of the tragedies that befell generations before me. I move through a modern world with ancestral knowledge. I know that I may be rejected by either of my two halves, and therein lies the most important point: The search for identity cannot begin outside the self. To reconcile those conflicts, we must turn inward. One of my favorite indigenous artists, Frank Waln, puts it best in his song “Good Way”:

“You’ve been waiting your whole life to find out who you are
These people judge your skin but still they fail to see your scars
Everything you’re looking for out there is deep inside
Your heart is like an ocean when it’s open deep and wide.”

In my novel, Rachel has to learn this lesson the hard way. She constantly rejects authority while craving its acceptance. She shuns a “normal life” but refuses to fully embrace her witch status. She wants to live in the middle of the Venn diagram of supernatural and human, and doesn’t know how to create that space for herself. It’s her journey of self-identity that serves as her central internal conflict.

Themes of identity and belonging also feature in my other works. My nonfiction essays have largely centered on the representation of indigenous peoples and the conflicts faced by mixed-race persons. While everyone goes through a self-discovery process, my experiences provide me with unique perspective. For Rachel, she encounters people who help her decide her identity for herself. For me, it was reconnecting with the indigenous communities and adoptive families that allowed me to meld my two worlds. I still have fear of being a fraud; I still have fear that I’m missing my Indian card; I still feel somewhat out of place in white spaces. But I’ve taken that inward plunge, and I’ve found a way to bring my two halves together. This allows me to take characters on the same journey, one that I hope will offer comfort and insight to those that journey with them.




Rachel Collins isn’t sure sarcasm is an actual method of self-defense, but she keeps testing the theory. On paper, she’s an agent for the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, but in reality, she’s a ley witch, and as a deputy working for the High Council of Witches, it’s her job to keep the supernatural in line and protect humanity from the things they don’t know exist. It’s dangerous, and not just because a Walking Dead reject might eat her face. If she uses too much power, she could become a monster herself. 

It's all magical forensics and arresting perps for dealing with demons until Rachel’s brother disappears, kidnapped by someone sending her a very particular message. Defying the Council’s order to stay off her brother’s case, Rachel hides her witchy identity from the demon hunter Sean—which definitely has nothing to do with how hot he is—and strikes a deal to save her brother. Unfortunately, their plan risks corrupting Rachel's soul, a grievous offense in the eyes of the Council. Now she’ll have to prove she’s not hellbound—or suffer the same brand of justice she used to serve. 


About Jessica McDonald: Writer, speaker, geek. Jessica writes urban fantasy and YA, and is a purveyor of real-life magic. Powered by caffeine, ridiculousness, and charm. Proud indigenous. 


Jessica splits her time between Japan, where she is currently an English teacher, and Denver, where she spent many a year as a marketing director. She has owned her own company, designing promotional campaigns for both authors and businesses. She earned her Master’s degree from the University of Denver and holds undergraduate degrees from The Pennsylvania State University, and has worked for everything from political campaigns to game design companies. She has published original research on online user behavior, and presented to national conferences on how social media really is more than just cat videos. Her recent presentations have included using fandoms as an in-road to STEM for girls and diversity in media.

When she’s not writing or working, she spends time exploring Japan; playing with her two cats and dog; playing the cello; gaming; doing outdoorsy stuff; and avoiding adult life as much as possible. A two-time Zebulon Award winner, she is currently working on her sixth novel, a DinĂ©-inspired YA paranormal called SKY MARKED. She belongs to Pikes Peak Writers and Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, as well as the crucial-to-her-success critique group, Highlands Ranch Fiction Writers.

Find her on Twitter at @coloradojess, Facebook, Instagram at @coloradojessica, her blog, or on her super geeky roleplay Tumblr. Or possibly all of those at once.

Thank you, Jessica! Your story hits close to home, especially when you talk about having a foot in each world and feeling like a fraud in both. The quote from Frank Waln is perfect. 

Jessica's book will be released soon. Looking forward to it!

What life experiences have shaped your writing? How much do you see yourself reflected in the characters and worlds you create?

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

IWSG - Publishing Path, Stats & Links

It's the first Wednesday of September, and the last summer IWSG until next year!


The IWSG, or Insecure Writer's Support Group is a monthly blog gathering created by Alex J. Cavanaugh, where we address our insecurities and support each other. Anybody can join. Just click on Alex's name and sign up! Then post on the first Wednesday of each month and hop around to visit other IWSGers.

This month's co-hosts are  Toi Thomas, T. Powell Coltrin, M.J. Fifield, and Tara Tyler! Be sure to stop by and visit them!

The optional question is: What publishing path are you considering/did you take, and why?

My publishing path started with short stories. I started experimenting with them then submitting then getting published, and they completely sucked me in. Now I'm looking at trying to get a novel traditionally published.

My insecurities right now are centered on which project I should be putting the most effort into. I've done a poor job querying my novel, so no new queries out this month. There are two novels I need to finish, and since I can't decide between them, I just work on other things. Plus, I have a craft book on writing, submitting, and marketing short stories outlined, but I haven't started writing it yet.

And then there's the siren song of short stories. I sit here doubting these longer projects, so I avoid them completely, working on short stories instead. Because they make me happy.

What I need to do is choose one long-term project, buckle down, and finish it. In the meantime, I keep beating myself up about my failure to do so, and keep writing short stories. Which means I'm still working, still getting things done, but I'd like to finish these other projects, too.


Submissions for the next IWSG anthology open today!

Word count: 3500-6000

Genre: Young Adult Romance

Theme: 
Masquerade
A Masquerade can be a false show or pretense, someone pretending to be someone they aren't. It can be a ball, a fancy dress party, it can be a mask. Open to interpretation.

Submissions accepted: September 5 - November 4, 2018

How to enter: Send your polished, formatted (Double spaced, no page numbers), previously unpublished story to admin @ insecurewriterssupportgroup.com before the deadline passes. Please include your contact details, your social links, and if you are part of the Blogging, Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter IWSG group.

Judging: The IWSG admins will create a shortlist of the best stories. The shortlist will then be sent to our official judges:
Elizabeth S. Craig, author
Elana Johnson, author
S.A. Larsen, author
D.L. Hammons, Write Club founder
Gwen Gardner, author
Kelly Van Sant, Red Sofa Literary Agency
Kristin Smith, author

Prizes: The winning stories will be edited and published by Freedom Fox Press next year in the IWSG anthology. Authors will receive royalties on books sold, both print and eBook. The top story will have the honor of giving the anthology its title. 


Each month I post my submissions stats to keep myself accountable. This month is a good one! After a lull in publication (I got a bunch of short stories accepted this year, but many of the releases were slated to the end of this year, starting in September), I've got stories in two anthologies releasing in September. More on that below. For now, my stats for August submissions:

Short Stories
3 stories submitted
2 rejections (one after a short listing of almost a year, which left me incredibly disgruntled and disappointed)
1 acceptance
10 submissions pending

0 new novel queries sent
1 novel query pending


Time for my good news!

I've got a short story in Flight Into Fright, an all female horror anthology. It just released yesterday! Purchase links can be found here: Fright Into Flight.


I also have a story in the upcoming The Society of Misfit Stories, Volume II. These are novellas and novelettes, so it's a big collection. Pre-order link is on Amazon, with release on September 15.


I'll also be participating in a signing later this month. Books and Brews will be a multi-author signing, with small presses selling books. This will be Thursday, September 27, 6-8 PM, at Peak to Peak Tap & Brew in Aurora. Other participating authors are Chuck Anderson, DeAnna Knippling, Stace Johnson, J.L. Forrest, Jamie Ferguson, Jim LeMay, Lou J. Berger, Mario Acevedo, Rebecca Hodgkins, Richard Friesen, and Wayne Foust.


Now it's 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: 

Feral Cat Publishers is seeking odd short fiction for Bubble Off Plumb. 1000 to 5000 words. Pays $.03/word plus royalties. Deadline September 30.

Red Room Press is seeking horror short stories for American Psychos: A Serial Killer Anthology. 3500 to 5500 words. Pays $100. Deadline October 1.

The Last Line is seeking flash fiction and short stories. Must have the last line "I will visit again if I am ever back this way." 300 to 5000 words. Pays $20-$40. Deadline October 1.

The /tEmz/ Review is seeking fiction, poetry, and reviews. 1 to 10,000 words. Pays $20.

Grasslimb is seeking poetry, prose, reviews, and art. Up to 2500 words. Pays $5-$70, depending upon type and length of work.

Folded Word is seeking fiction, poetry, essays, and more. Pays $5.

Flash Fiction Magazine is seeking flash fiction. 300 to 1000 words. Pays $40.

Tough is seeking crime short stories. 1500 to 7500 words. Pays $25.

Craft is seeking fiction and non-fiction. Up to 7000 words. Pays up to $200.

New Reader Magazine is seeking fiction, poetry, memoir, and more. Minimum of 500 words. Pay starts at $10.

What are your insecurities? How have you done on submissions this month? Is there anything you've been needing to do, but haven't been able to? Any of these links of interest? Will you be submitting to the IWSG anthology? Anything to share?

May you find your Muse.



Thursday, August 30, 2018

The Time Has Come - CreateSpace Dissolution

In case you haven't seen it yet, CreateSpace is officially transitioning to Amazon KDP. They're going in waves, so you may not have received notification yet (I haven't.) From what I've seen, people are getting an email when the transition has been enabled on their CreateSpace account. Some people are also getting notifications that their pricing will be changing, or that there is some other issue (for example, unsupported languages) that needs to be dealt with.


For the most part, the claim is that it will be an easy transition. The training video they have up shows three simple steps. Here's hoping!

If you haven't heard of this yet, here's their information on the topic: CreateSpace and KDP to Become One Service

When they started offering paperback services on Amazon then phased out author services on CreateSpace, most authors saw the writing on the wall. Those of us published in anthologies put out by small publishing houses had already been impacted by the beginning of the migration when we could no longer purchase author copies using a discount code on CreateSpace, sending the publishers scrambling to contact their contributors to let them know what alternative they might be offering. The fact that Amazon didn't have something in place to take over this mechanism doesn't bode well. Making the move easy on authors and small publishers, the very people who used the services CreateSpace offered, doesn't seem to have been a priority.

If you're like me, you've been quietly dreading the inevitable shutdown of CreateSpace. I've had great experiences with customer service at CreateSpace. On the other hand, there are always complaints about Amazon's author services, but perhaps that will improve with this growth. The claim is that they'll be printing the books in the same place, on the same machines, as CreateSpace printing. Though that raises the question of why certain printing services and types of books will be going up in price if it's the same machines and setup.

Bear in mind that if you're published with a small publishing house, magazines, etc., many of them will be impacted by this, too. CreateSpace is where many of them print up and distribute their books and magazines. They'll have to transition just like those of us who are independently published.

I've seen people saying they won't move their books over, and won't leave until they're forced to. Personally, I'm afraid if I don't do the migration myself, something will get messed up and there'll be nothing I can do about it. I'm also frustrated that we'll have to move to the Amazon pay structure, which means we get paid 60 days after the money comes in, rather than 30 days. This was my best month since right after the book launch, and now it looks like I probably won't see that money for two months. Add that to the fact that complaints have been made of Amazon payouts not matching reports, and it's looking a tad dismal. At least I could depend upon CreateSpace having trustworthy reports and payouts.

We, as authors, have had to weather quite a bit of change in recent years. This is just one more thing to adapt to. And we'll do it, like we always do. Hopefully, this change turns out to be a good one.




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:

Splickety Magazine is seeking stories with the theme Christmas Abroad for their December issue. Young adult. 300 to 1000 words. Pays $.02/word. Deadline September 21.

The Puritan is seeking literary fiction, essays, poetry, and interviews. Pays $20 to $100. Deadline September 25.

Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores is seeking fantasy and science fiction short stories and poetry. 1000 words and up. Pays $.06/word. Open for submissions September 21 to 28.

Chicken Soup for the Soul has two topics closing for submissions on September 30: Grandparents and Mom Knows Best. Up to 1200 words. Pays $200.

World Weaver Press is seeking dieselpunk and decopunk combined with fairy tales for Grimm, Grit, & Gasoline. Up to 7500 words. Pays $.01/word. Deadline September 30.

Nashville Review is seeking fiction, poetry, and nonfiction. Up to 8000 words. Pays $25 to $100. Deadline September 30.

Voices of Tomorrow is seeking stories from kids age 13-18 years old. Speculative fiction. Up to 5000 words. Pays $20. Deadline September 30.

Heroic Fantasy Quarterly is seeking fiction and poetry about heroic fantasy. Up to 10,000 words. Pays $25 to $100. Submissions open for the month of September.

Augur is seeking fiction, graphic fiction, and poetry in the realm of literary speculative fiction. Up to 5000 words. Pays $.02/word. Submissions open for the month of September.

Less Than Three Press is seeking post-apocalyptic stories for Life After All. 8000 to 15,000 words. Pays $150. Deadline September 30.

What do you think about the move? Have you gotten your email yet? Will you be waiting until they force the move? Any of these links of interest?

*Blue Eyed Scared Face, by OCAL, clker.com
*Angry Eyes, by OCAL, clker.com

Friday, August 24, 2018

Horror List Book Review: A Scanner Darkly


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 A Scanner Darkly, by Philip K. Dick.


I really had to stew on this one for a bit after I read it and just let it sink in. Ultimately, I rated it better than I would have had I done my rating and review right away.

At first, I thought, huh, this is more sci-fi than horror. Of course, as it simmered in my brain it was obvious where the horror lived within the story. It follows a cop named Fred who is surveilling a junkie drug dealer named Bob. Mixed into the stream of consciousness thoughts of the narrators, who are fried on the drug Substance D, we discover Bob and Fred are the same person, only they don't know that most of the time.

The horror of the story lives within the twisted brain of the cop who took on a dead end position where it was expected he'd dabble in the very drugs he's trying to track and stop. Not only that, but it turns out there's more behind the story than one might expect. Who are the real bad guys?

Dick's writing has elements familiar in the writings of Hunter S. Thompson, Ken Kesey, and William S. Boroughs. In his end comments, we learn he's used his own experience with drugs to write the often confusing and random discussions within. In fact, the end commentary is a horror story all its own, listing the friends who've died or been dangerously impacted by their drug use. Philip K. Dick is on that list.

This style of writing isn't for everyone, but the story is solid, the subject matter disturbing in a very real world sort of way. There's nothing gory or visceral here. The horror is in the stark sadness of one man's devolution, the cost of his career.

My top ten stands.


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)

Have you read A Scanner Darkly? What did you think? Read anything else by Philip K. Dick? Seen the movie?

May you find your Muse.



Monday, August 20, 2018

Keeping it Real

I attended a great dinner with other writers this past week. There were eight of us, and several folks asked questions to get feedback from the others, which is how this group works each month.

One of the things that came up while answering a question was that we, as authors, judge ourselves harshly, but something that makes this worse is that we're seeing a flawed image of how everyone else is doing due to the nature of social media. Most people post the good things, but not much of the bad. (Guilty!) We don't see other people's losses, only their wins. Which makes it look like they're doing way better than we are, which further compounds our insecurities and makes us feel like failures.

This isn't going to change any time soon, but it's something we can all try to be mindful of. We all know we shouldn't be comparing our successes and failures to those of other people, but it's hard to avoid since it comes naturally to many of us.

And, for the record, I post my submission stats each month on my Insecure Writers Support Group posts. I can assure you I get far more rejections than I do acceptances. To give you a more realistic view of it, here's a summary of my submission stats since January:

Total submissions sent out: 36
Total acceptances: 9
Total rejections: 24

Note that the numbers won't line up, because I had some out for submission already at the beginning of the year, and have a bunch pending now. Also bear in mind that I had a higher rate of acceptances this year over last year, and that those numbers are atypical. Last year I got 80 rejections and only 6 acceptances for the entire year. I submitted a total of 95 times for the year, so I sold 6 out of 95 stories submitted in 2017.



I've also been querying a novel. So far, I've gotten 2 requests for the first 50 pages, both rejected after I sent them. Plus 14 rejections and 5 I've assumed rejected after no response.

Persistence matters more than a lot of other factors. I send a story back out within a day or two of getting a rejection.

Anyone who thinks I don't get discouraged is dead wrong. I frequently get discouraged. Some rejections hurt more than others. The stories I think will be The Ones fall flat once submitted. The ones that seem like a hard sell often sell the quickest. I definitely don't have it all figured out yet, and I've been doing this for several years.

Don't get discouraged. Don't compare yourself to other authors. Don't beat yourself up when you don't perform quite how you think you should. Instead, set realistic goals for yourself and celebrate the wins, even the small ones.

Do you find yourself in a slump and beating yourself up too often? What do you do to get out of it? Do you track your submission statistics?

May you find your Muse.


*Sad Scarecrow, clker.com, OCAL
*Quality Control: Rejected, clker.com, OCAL

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

August W.E.P. - Change of Heart

It's time for Write...Edit...Publish! It's been a long time since I participated, and I'm excited to be jumping back in.



Speaking of first times, it's also the first time I've done W.E.P. in conjunction with IWSG, now that the two have paired up!

The theme this time around is Change of Heart.


An Uninvited Guest

Jenny sat in her understated sedan, her cell phone held up to her ear. The house she watched existed in a flurry of activity: cars, bikes, kids, their friends. It exhausted her just observing them. Imagine living such a busy life, constantly running errands, driving kids places, picking them up. The single life worked out perfectly fine for her.

As usual, things calmed down at the Harris residence as dusk fell, everyone settled in for dinner and homework. It would only be a few more hours before the beds filled and the other rooms emptied, the youngest kids slipping off first, followed by the older ones in a stairstep of bedtime routines. Finally, the adults would drift off to bed, their bedroom light blinking out around 10:30.

At midnight, Jenny would strike. The serpent in the fold.

Her instructions were to make it look like a burglary gone wrong. She'd scoped out the house when it was empty (not an easy feat with a family of six living there). She'd gathered various possible weapons from inside the home: an old cord from a no longer used landline phone, a kitchen knife, duct tape and a wrench from the garage, and a few other items that probably wouldn't get used. Better safe than sorry.

The light went out right on time.

The night sounds of suburbia drifted through the windows while she waited for midnight. Crickets, distant car rumblings, leaves blowing in the breeze. The pleasant scent of grass drifted on the air currents.

She studied the house. At night its flaws weren't so visible. She could no longer make out the faded paint or the bald spots in the lawn. It looked almost flawless in the low light. Other than the gentle drift of the shrubs and the tree's branches,  nothing moved. Every door had been locked multiple ways, the windows properly closed and locked.

Every window but the basement one she'd broken yesterday to ensure it couldn't be closed. Chances are, they hadn't noticed it yet. If by some miracle they'd fixed it, she had other means of egress.

Her phone indicated it was 11:58. Close enough.

Jenny looked around to be certain no one hovered outside. Her car hid within a long line of cars, all parked along the curb, gaps left at driveways just in case the norms decided to go for a late night spin. The lights were out in every house. Even the exterior lights had been shut off by most of the residents. Didn't they know people like her took advantage of the darkness?

With no sign of humanity observed, she quietly exited her car, grabbing the messenger bag she used as a kit for these jobs. She'd turned off the dome light in advance, so she didn't draw attention to herself. Instead of trying to be sneaky, she strolled up to the house as if she lived there. Digging through her pockets, she expressed frustration through the climbing of her shoulders and her rigid movements. Hopefully, anyone watching would figure she'd forgotten her key.

The phantom key left unfound, she stepped off the porch and moved around to the back of the house, remaining tense, hands waving in the air as if she were ranting. In the darkness at the back of the house, she slowed, no longer putting the act on. Time again for caution.

She found the window still broken. No attempt had been made to fix it or block it closed, which told her they likely hadn't noticed it yet.

The cops certainly would when examining the crime scene.

Her pulse only now accelerated. Now came the time where everything could go wrong.

From her bag she pulled out a pair of leather driving gloves and put them on. She eased the window open, going slow to ensure it didn't creak.

No creaks.

Feet first, she eased herself through the window then reached out for her bag, from which she extracted her flashlight. She moved through the basement with quick, silent feet. Walking up the left edge of the wooden steps kept them from making any noise save a gentle squeak here and there. The door at the top of the stairs stood partially open, and they kept it well oiled, so it slid open without a sound.

The kitchen stood empty. As did the living room. It took no time at all for her to climb the stairs to the second floor, where all the bedrooms stood. Two of the doors were closed--the teens's rooms. Two others let out faint, amber lights, indicating night lights. The fifth was at the end of a hallway, the door open, no light spilling from it.

With any luck, none of the children would awaken, and she could be in and out in ten minutes. There were to be no casualties other than Mr. Harris.

She slipped into the master bedroom, easing the door shut behind her. Padding across the room, Jenny reached the foot of the bed. She crouched, waiting for her eyes to adjust the rest of the way. The bed shook gently as one of them adjusted their position.

Her pulse pounded raucously, and she breathed gently to calm it.

A small voice whispered, "Mommy?"

Jerking her gaze to the door, she saw it remained closed. Panic-adrenaline assaulted her veins. Where the hell was the kid?

Then the bed stirred again.

A woman's voice whispered, "Hush, go to sleep, baby boy."

Goosebumps rose on Jenny's arms.

This wasn't the deal. Traumatizing a grown woman by killing her husband beside her was a price she was willing to extract, but not this. This little boy didn't deserve to watch his dad die, to witness something most adults went a lifetime without seeing.

She slumped down to a seat at the foot of the bed, waiting for them to fall asleep so she could make her way back out the way she had come.

993 words.
MPA



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:

Gypsum Sound Tales is seeking horror/sci-fi short stories for Thuggish Itch, an anthology. The theme is Scientific. 1000 to 5000 words. Pays $5-$10 AUS. Deadline September 14. (You also have one more week to submit to their all-genre anthology, Colp, with the theme Sky's the Limit.)

18th Wall is seeking adventure, pulp, thriller, mystery, horror, and other speculative fiction tales for Overdue: Tales of Mystery and Adventure Returning History's Lost Books to Circulation. This is a shared universe collection. 4000 to 20,000 words. Pays quarterly royalties. Deadline September 15.

Corpus Press is seeking non-themed horror short stories. 2500 to 4500 words. Pays $.03/word. Deadline September 15.

Gehenna & Hinnom is seeking weird fiction and cosmic horror. 250 to 3000 words. Pays $30-$50. Deadline September 15.

Eye to the Telescope is seeking poetry in the theme of Witches. This will be edited by Ashley Dioses, who did a guest post on horror poetry for me in February! Submit 1-3 poems. Pays $.03/word. Deadline September 15.

Arsenika is seeking flash fiction and poetry. Up to 1000 words. Pays $30-$60. Deadline September 15.

Did you participate in WEP? What's your interpretation of a change of heart? Are any of these links of interest? Anything to share?

May you find your Muse.

*artwork clker.com, ocal

Friday, August 10, 2018

Horror List Book Review: Shadows


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 Shadows, Edited by Charles L. Grant.


This collection is made of subtle horror, for the most part. There weren't any I hated, but there were some that left feeling pretty neutral. My favorite two stories were both by the same author, and that was Ramsey Campbell. Two others that stood out to me were The Butcher's Thumb, by William Jon Watkins, and Picture, by Robert Bloch.

I really don't have much to say. The type of horror found in this collection isn't really my favorite, so it doesn't stick with me. If you like quieter horror, you'd probably enjoy this collection. It's a strong group of successful horror authors, most of whom I've enjoyed other stories by.

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 A Scanner Darkly, by Philip K. Dick.



Wednesday, August 1, 2018

IWSG & Two Exciting Announcements!

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



The IWSG exists to provide support for writers online. Get support, give support, meet fellow writer/bloggers. Just click on Alex's name above to sign up then post on the first Wednesday of each month. Be sure to visit others to lend your support, too!

Speaking of which, this month's co-hosts are  Erika Beebe,Sandra Hoover, Lee Lowery, and Susan Gourley! Be sure to pay them a visit.

This month's optional question: What pitfalls would you warn other writers to avoid on their publication journey?

Honestly, everything that's happened has been a learning experience that's gotten me to where I am now. The only thing I can think of right now is to not let anything you learn or experience deter you from your writing journey. It's fine to take a break and digest things, but always come back to your art.


Before I jump into the announcements, it's time for my monthly submissions. Each month for IWSG, I post my submissions stats to keep myself accountable. In July:

6 submissions
2 acceptances
4 rejections
11 currently on submission



We at the IWSG have a surprise for you this month. We're announcing the anthology theme a month early!


The 2018 Annual IWSG Anthology Contest

Word count: 3500-6000

Genre: Young Adult Romance

Theme:

Masquerade

A Masquerade can be a false show or pretense, someone pretending to be someone they aren't. It can be a ball, a fancy dress party, it can be a mask. Open to interpretation.

Submissions accepted: September 5 - November 4, 2018

How to enter: Send your polished, formatted (Double spaced, no page numbers), previously unpublished story to admin @ insecurewriterssupportgroup.com before the deadline passes. Please include your contact details, your social links, and if you are part of the Blogging, Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter IWSG group.

Judging: The IWSG admins will create a shortlist of the best stories. The shortlist will then be sent to our official judges who will be announced September 5.

Prizes: The winning stories will be edited and published by Freedom Fox Press next year in the IWSG anthology. Authors will receive royalties on books sold, both print and eBook. The top story will have the honor of giving the anthology its title.






There's more! The IWSG is partnering with WEP (Write...Edit...Publish). You can participate on your blog or Facebook. Let's have some fun!

WEP posts are the third Wednesday of every second month, so the next posting is this month.

This month's theme is Change of Heart. Some suggestions for the theme are as follows:


  • a commitment made when a prospect looked attractive, 
  • a decision on a course of action, and then regrets and reluctance to follow through,  
  • an engagement, a date, a diet plan, a chore someone said they’d do and didn’t follow through,  
  • a strip poker-game. Or maybe a gamble with super-high, panic inducing stakes, 
  • a break for independence that once made, gives pause for second thoughts,
  • a bolt for the grass-always-greener pasture and then wanting to vault-n-turn right back,
  • a broken relationship where one/both parties regret the loss
  • something offered, then withdrawn.  
And now for the links. Bear in mind I'm not endorsing these, merely passing them along. Always do your own due diligence before submitting.



Accepting Submissions:

Splickety Publishing Group is seeking flash for Spark with the theme of Lab Coats and Love Letters. 300 to 1000 words. Pays $.02/word. Deadline August 24. 

Qommunicate Publishing is seeking short fiction with the theme Geek Out. Queer meets geek. Up to 5000 words. Pays $5 per printed page. Deadline August 31.

Rogue Blades Entertainment is seeking fantastical crime noir for Crazy Town. 3000 to 7000 words. Pays $25. Deadline September 1.

Goblin Fruit is seeking fantastical poetry. Pays $15. Deadline September 1.

Blood Bound Books is seeking horror short fiction about furries (either Furries or anthropomorphic critters) for Burnt Fur. 1500 to 7000 words. Pays $.03/word. Deadline September 1.

Barnhouse is seeking poetry, fiction, nonfiction, essays, and flash fiction. Up to 2000 words. Pays $20. Deadline September 1.

Will you be submitting to the anthology? What's your advice to new writers? Do you take part in WEP? Have you submitted anything this month? Any of these links of interest?

May you find your Muse.

*Flourish One, Horizontal Clip Art by OCAL, clker.com


Friday, July 27, 2018

Horror List Book Review: Stepford Wives


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 Stepford Wives, by Ira Levin.


This is one that we all probably know the story of, whether we've read it, watched one of the movie versions, or none of the above. I'm surprised it took me this long to finally read it. It should be noted that, like Bubba Ho-Tep, I believe this is a novella, not a novel. 

Stepford Wives is a clever and frightening bit of satire. Like The Handmaid's Tale, I'm sure it's more horrifying for female readers than male, because it gets to the root of gender imbalance and how tenuous our current hold on things really is. How easy it would be to lose it all and become powerless again, controlled by the men in our lives. (If you'd like a good horror film that shows a bit of when this happened in real life in Iran, watch Under the Shadow on Netflix. Though there's a paranormal element, the real horror is the female main character having to adapt to living in a completely different world where she's become a second class citizen and can't even flee her home without a head covering on without being chided and threatened for it. It's chilling.)

The premise is technically absurd, but that's part of the satire. And Levin makes it convincing. He never goes into the nitty gritty details of how any of it's being done, but he doesn't need to.

 I expected the main character's husband to already be a sexist jerk at the beginning, but the thing is, he supports Joanna in her feminism, in her drive to fight the good fight. He supports the fact that she isn't a perfect homemaker, and that her photography career is worthwhile. And that's what makes it so hard to understand when the signs start pointing to him wanting a perfect Stepford-style wife, who does nothing but please her husband, clean the house, cook, and take care of the children. I actually found his turning to the dark side far harder to stomach than the concept of perfect wife-bots, but that's probably because the dread of having one's husband turn on them despite a seemingly good marriage plants seeds of doubt. It hurts to read, really. Just like The Handmaid's Tale.

This is a fairly light read, quick, witty, simple. But there's so much buried beneath the surface. Definitely a worthwhile read, even if you feel you already know the story.

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)

No idea what book on the list will be next.





Monday, July 23, 2018

Featured on Horror Addicts!

Instead of a post here today, I'm referring you over to HorrorAddicts.net, where I'm the featured author. There's a theatrical reading of a portion of my story The Blue Mist, the first story in Blue Sludge Blues & Other Abominations, by two talented actors!

Podcast with theatrical reading, podcast host Emerian Rich (theme: cursed animals): Click here

Narrator: H.E. Roulo
Jim, the Prospector: Sean Young



Accompanying interview by Naching T. Kassa: Click here

Such fun to have this done! I hope you enjoy.

May you find your Muse.