Friday, December 14, 2018

Horror List Book Review: The Dark Descent


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 Dark Descent, edited by David G. Hartwell.


This sucker ran 1011 pages, with the final story going right up to the last page, so it took me awhile to get through it. Although that's also partially due to the fact that many of the stories are older, with slower pacing and more elaborate language, which slowed me down, too.

In this anthology, Hartwell traces the history of horror, with stories going back to the likes of William Faulkner, Walter de la Mare, and Algernon Blackwood. The stories went through the mid-eighties, with stories by Stephen King, Clive Barker, and Dennis Etchison, with many more in between. Instead of going in date order, he split the book into three parts: The Color of Evil, The Medusa in the Shield, and A Fabulous Formless Darkness.

The middle slumped for me, with many of them being older, more literary horror stories. I found that I enjoyed the classic ghost and haunted house stories, but others in that era left me unsatisfied. The other two sections were livelier, and the closing story was a strong finish.

As big as this book was, it would take me forever to do a full, real review of this, so what I'd like to convey, in general, is that this is a magnificent collection of stories to read if you're fond of the horror genre or work within it. I may not have loved every story, but I learned a lot about the history of horror and how it's been shaped and changed through the years. There was a lot more cleverness in some of the older stories compared to the harder twist ending we employ now (though the twist was strong back then, too). I got to read classics I wouldn't have read elsewhere. It was a strong set of stories, and they all deserved a place in the history of horror.

Some of my favorites:

"A Little Something for us Tempunauts," by Philip K. Dick
"The Beckoning Fair One," by Oliver Onions
"What Was It?" by Fitz-James O'Brien
"The Beautiful Stranger," by Shirley Jackson
"The Willows," by Algernon Blackwood
Mackintosh Willy," by Ramsey Campbell
"The Signal Man," by Charles Dickens
"Crouch End," by Stephen King
"Seaton's Aunt," by Walter de la Mare
 "The Repairer of Reputations," by Robert W. Chambers
"The Yellow Wallpaper," by Charlotte Perkins
"Born of Man and Woman," by Richard Matheson
"Good Country People," by Flannery O'Connor
"Dread," by Clive Barker
"Josh Charrington's Wedding," by E. Nesbit
"If Damon Comes," by Charles L. Grant
"The Bright Segment," by Theodore Sturgeon
"There's a Long, Long Trail A-Winding," by Russell Kirk
"The Whimper of Whipped Dogs," by Harlan Ellison
"The Summer People," by Shirley Jackson
"The Reach," by Stephen King

I think it would have been nice to have them in date order to really suss out the changes and trends, but with this many stories, it probably made sense to split them out differently. It had to have been quite a job curating all of these stories. Some no longer had copyright, but most did. And I discovered authors I'd heard of, but never really read, who I'd like to read more of.

My Top Ten stands:

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)


I'm not sure which book I'll be reviewing next.

Have you read this collection? Are any of these stories familiar to you? Would you read a 1000+ page book of short stories?

May you find your Muse.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Bookstores Bouncing Back?

Book stores are dying! That's been the word online for ages. Yet I recently saw an article stating small bookstores are making a comeback. Colorado has quite a few, with the most well known being Tattered Cover in Denver.



My children's school did a fundraiser recently via Barnes & Noble. They got a percentage of sales from everyone who mentioned the fundraiser at the sales desk. The store was full, with long lines for purchase, which is often true when I go there. Given, I'm going there far less recently, out of frustration for the long missing horror section. A few years ago they had one. Now there are some horror authors mixed into other sections, such as literature, mystery, and fantasy, but there are many major horror authors whose books are nowhere to be found. I can no longer get the "Best of" anthologies I seek out each year, which has driven me to Amazon for those purchases. It also makes it a lot harder for me to browse and find new horror authors I may not be familiar with, which also means I'm missing out on seeing new horror.

In other words, the biggest brick and mortar store around has lost my business, for the most part. In a time when horror is selling like gangbusters, they aren't selling it. I don't understand the business decision, but at least they have plenty of room for non-book items now...



But back to the smaller bookstores. I'm loving the news that they're coming back. Is it frustration with Amazon? I know a lot of authors are trying to spend their money elsewhere due to issues with the company, but what about readers? Are the bookstores making a comeback ones that have cafes or other extras to pull people in, or are they just good old-fashioned bookstores? I'm curious to hear if small bookstores have opened in your area, and what they're like.

The ones I know of in Colorado Springs sell a combination of used and new books. One of those is really good about hosting authors for book signings. And when I go to Estes Park, they've got a small bookstore that sells all new books, and doesn't focus on non-book items at all. 

Or could it be the same mentality that's driving people to move mom and pop restaurants. Big chain restaurants are giving way to smaller, more diverse restaurants. Perhaps it's an overall desire to return to simpler things instead of giant monopolies.

Now for some links. Bear in mind I'm not endorsing these, merely passing them along. Always do your own due diligence before submitting. (It's a short one today).

Accepting Submissions:

Helios Quarterly Magazine is seeking fiction, poetry, and nonfiction. Up to 1500 words. Pays $.02/word. Deadline January 15.

18th Wall Productions is seeking stories expanding upon Wells' The War of the Worlds for their anthology War of the Worlds: Absolute War. 4000 to 20,000 words. Pays in quarterly royalties. Deadline January 20.

Nonbinary Review is seeking poetry, fiction, and essays inspired by Clive Barker's Books of Blood. Up to 5000 words. Pays $.01/word. Deadline January 23. 

What do you think? Have you visited a bookstore in person recently? Where do you buy most of your books? What's behind the changes? Any of these links of interest?

May you find your Muse.

*Buchladen Buecher, Wikimedia Commons, Kintaiyo, 11 April 2006
*Eslite Bookstore in Taichung Chung-yo Department Store, Wikimedia Commons, Essolo, 11 December 2006

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

IWSG - Writing Spaces & Links

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


The purpose of this group is to out your writing woes, gain support from fellow writers, and give support to those who need it. All are welcome to participate. Just sign up HERE. Post on the first Wednesday each month and hop around to visit others. We recommend trying to visit twelve new blogs and meet some new people!

This month's optional question is: What are 5 objects we'd find in your writing space?

How about some photos?

You'd see my Funko Pops (each one represents a short story sold).


Movie posters and artwork (the xenomorph was created by my friend Jade as a 40th birthday present last year).


Pictures of loved ones.



(I've got pictures of my parents awaiting frames.)

Badges/nametags from events where I've presented.


My library lamp.


And a bonus of my super sloppy shelves, which include craft books, contributor copies, and lots of horror stuff and personal objects (plus photo albums and my X-Files collectors cards from the 90s).




Last month I titled my blog post The Little Things then completely forgot why I'd titled it that way. What I'd intended to post was a little story about exciting small things that happen in writers' lives. So I'll tell you this month instead. As writers we deal with a lot of rejection, so we have to celebrate the little things when they come along. 

One of my neighbors, who I didn't know very well, but we were friendly, asked my husband if I was a writer. She'd done a search on Amazon for horror short stories and found my anthology. Having no idea it was me, she'd ordered it on Kindle and read it. When she got to the end, she recognized my headshot. Ultimately, she ended up ordering a stack of signed books to send out to friends and family, which is probably the coolest experience I've had as an author, so far.




I know the holidays are hard on a lot of people, so I did a post last week about depression and some coping methods for those who might need it. At the very least, know you're not alone.



Okay, it's time for submission stats. Each month, I run through the stats for the previous month to keep myself accountable.

In November:

6 rejections
1 withdrawal (they had zero activity on Duotrope for the last year, and I wanted to submit the story elsewhere)
0 acceptances
6 submissions

Right now, I have 10 short stories out on submission.



Don't forget that this is a WEP month! WEP and IWSG have joined forces. 




Next month is IWSGPit! Get ready to pitch to editors and 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:

Bad Dream Entertainment is seeking humorous horror stories for an anthology. 1500 to 8000 words. Pays $.06/word. Deadline December 31.

Unlit Press is seeking stories on the theme of Darkness for the anthology Curse the Darkness. 3000 to 10,000 words. Will pay about $100 (payment is in pounds). Deadline December 31.

Zombies Need Brains is seeking fantasy and sci-fi stories for three different anthologies: Portals, Temporally Deactivated, and Alternate Peace. Will pay a minimum of $.06/word with further royalties once earned out. Deadline December 31.

Cantabrigian is seeking literary fiction. Up to 8000 words. Pays between $20 and $50. Deadline December 31.

Chicken Soup for the Soul is seeking stories about angels. Up to 1200 words. Pays $200. Deadline December 31.

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

What are your insecurities? What is something cool that has happened to you as a writer? What are your submission stats for the month? Any of these links of interest? Anything to share?

May you find your Muse.

*Artwork by OCAL, clker.com
*Photos by me

Monday, November 26, 2018

Depression in Writers

Edgar Allan Poe famously suffered from depression, but he wasn't a rarity. Authors are among the most likely professions to have issues with depression. Yet we often dismiss it as being part of our creative process. Some even fear treating it in case it impacts their writing.


I've seen a trend as the weather changes to cold, with night falling earlier and earlier. Writing friends who've sunk into depression. A change in tone on their blogs, Facebook pages, and in-person interactions. Seasonal Affective Disorder runs rampant this time of year, and for those who suffer year-round depression, the change in seasons can deepen it.

I'm someone who suffers moderate depression all year, with severe anxiety and PTSD. I also come from a family in which Bipolar Disorder is common, though I have been lucky to avoid it, so far. After decades of learning and employing coping mechanisms, I finally went on a mild anti-anxiety medication to help with the side-effects of my PTSD after a downward spiral was triggered by a fairly minor incident related to the initial cause. I was incredibly resistant to using medication for this, which is why it took so long. It took feeling completely out of control of myself and my life, constant panic attacks throughout the day, and beginning a withdrawal from normal life events, though I kept forcing myself forward. In the past, I made it through a combination of PTSD and Postpartum Depression on my own, and I was proud of that, but why did I put myself through it in the first place?

I say all this so you know you're not alone. No one can tell you everything will be okay, but there are ways to get through the harder times. Sometimes it takes admitting there's an issue. Seeking out that one person who can reach out to you. Maybe it's a friend or family member. Maybe it's a doctor. Below you'll find some coping mechanisms and options that might help.

1. Get some sun. As writers, especially those of us with day jobs, small children, disabilities, or some other reason that keeps us out of the sun, it's important to try to get as much sun as you can. Even if it involves sitting on your porch, resting in front of a window (I know it's super cold some places), going for a walk around the block, taking a hike, or even driving around on a sunny day. If you absolutely can't get outside, maybe check out one of those natural sun lamps.

2. Journal. A lot of writers already journal. It can help vent frustrations, fears, etc. and get the poison out. It can also help you track it to see if there are particular patterns or triggers.



3. Exercise. A walk is good exercise. It doesn't have to be anything intensive. If you want more than that, you can join a gym, do home workout tapes, join an adult sports group or team in your area, or even find short workouts (including ones intended to be done at your desk) online. I love 30 Days of Yoga workouts by Bad Yogi, found on YouTube. Her yoga workouts are brief, usually about 10 minutes, give or take. The main thing is to get active and get away from your desk, even in short bursts if that's what it takes.

4. Socialize. Find a writer's group or an online community (if you're blogging and visiting other blogs, you're already ahead of the game on that one.) Attend workshops and writing social events. We writers tend to lock ourselves away from people to focus on our writing. It's a solitary pursuit. We forget to see our friends and family. We forget to get out of the house and do something other than work.



5. Tell someone. Find someone you trust to talk to. Admit what's going on. Seek help. If you don't have someone in your life you trust, consider telling your regular doctor and getting a referral to a mental health professional.

6. Positive Reinforcement. As authors, we often punish ourselves when we don't feel we're being productive enough. We talk down to ourselves. We judge ourselves. We try to harden ourselves against rejection, but it's hard to deal with constant rejection. Instead of beating yourself up or having unrealistic expectations for yourself, consider setting small, realistic goals and rewarding yourself for achieving them. You can reward yourself with a movie or an outing with friends, buy something small when you reach higher goals (like the Funko Pops I buy for each short story sale), treat yourself to a special treat or diet cheat day, etc. You know yourself best, so you know best what rewards will matter and what to strive for that's achievable, but somewhat challenging.

7. Consider medication. Only if you're comfortable with it. Do you avoid it because of a stigma attached to it? Things others said? Or have you researched it and it's not for you? I avoided it because I have severe reactions to medications, and I was afraid of what type of reaction that would be when it's for something meant to treat my brain. Every medication they put me on for the permanent migraine I have (I've had it 8 years now) had horrific side effects, and many of those medications doubled as treatments for ADHD, depression, OCD, seizures, etc. My rule was nothing mind altering. Nothing with severe side effects. Nothing that made me feel numb or caused me to shut down in any way.

If you can find something that helps you (or, most likely, a combination of things), it can help you through those harder times. As writers, depression can keep us from being productive. It can taint how we see our work. Sometimes small steps are all the help you need. Sometimes you need more intensive help. No matter where you are in this, I wish you luck, and hope you can find whatever helps you most.

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:

Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores is seeking fantasy, science fiction, myth, legend, eldritch, and fairy tales. 1000 words and up. Pays $.06/word. Deadline December 28.

Sigil House Publishing is seeking short stories of any genre or combination of them. 2000 to 15,000 words. Pays $10. Deadline December 31.

Carte Blanche is seeking short fiction, memoir, and personal essays. Up to 3500 words. Pays a modest honorarium. Deadline December 31.

Workers Write! is seeking stories and poems in educational settings for More Tales From the Classroom. 500 to 5000 words. Pays $5 to $50. Deadline December 31.

Allegory is seeking speculative fiction short stories. Prefer works between 500 and 5000 words, but will consider stories outside that range. Pays $15. Deadline December 31.

Zizzle is seeking stories for both young and adult readers. 500 to 1200 words. Pays $100. Deadline December 31.

Split Lip Magazine is seeking literary or mainstream fiction, poetry, and memoir. Word counts vary depending upon type of submission. Pays $5 per printed page. Deadline December 31.

Fireside Magazine is seeking short stories, poetry, and nonfiction. Up to 4000 words. Pays 12.5 cents per word. Deadline December 31. (Note: Does not open until December 15).

Horror Queen Media is seeking witch stories for Vex No More. Up to 5000 words. Pays $.02/word. Deadline December 31.

Have you dealt with depression? What have you found helps you? Are any of these links of interest? Anything to share?

May you find your Muse.

Images:

Edgar Allan Poe: By Unknown; most likely George C. Gilchrest, Samuel P. Howes, James M. Pearson, or Andrew J. Simpson, all of Lowell, MA - http://www.daguerre.org/images/2008sympos/consignor4a-medium.jpg and http://www.getty.edu/art/gettyguide/artObjectDetails?artobj=39406, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31269051

Aerobics Clip Art: CLKER.com, OCAL

Meeting Clip Art: CLKER.com, OCAL

Medicine Jar Clip Art: CLKER.com, OCAL

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Writer Nation Interview & Birthday Fun

With everyone in the U.S. (including me) ramping up for Thanksgiving tomorrow, I wanted to do a light post to share some birthday fun and let you know about a podcast interview with Writer Nation that just went live.

Yesterday was my birthday. Sometimes it's an entirely different week than Thanksgiving, and sometimes it's two days before! Like this year. I had volunteer work in the evening, and while I was onstage, I got surprised by friends with a clown bringing me donuts. Apparently, my husband knew ahead of time, and he still got me a cake, so between my birthday and Thanksgiving, I'm not weighing myself for the next week.


And because my friends know me so well, the clown was bloody. I even got some on the announcements I was in the middle of when the clown arrived (who was my friend's daughter, by the way, because the doughnut place I'd been wanting a doughnut delivery from only does it in October).



I got to go out with a couple friends after the event and get some wings (way more appropriate for sticking to my keto diet, which I blew straight out of the water yesterday). It was a nice way to celebrate turning 41.

And then I found out my podcast interview with Writer Nation was going live today, which was also fun! My interviewer is a writing friend who also happens to share my birthday, so the timing is perfect.

To listen to the interview, which runs about half an hour, and features discussions of writing while also being a work-at-home mom (WAHM), sentient bouncy balls, Longridge Writer's Academy, fangirling, middle school operas, and my first ever short story submissions, click HERE. This was actually my first podcast interview done in person! The rest have been via phone or Skype, so this was a new experience for me. There's a lot of laughing. You'll see how easy Jenny is to talk to. She also runs the Writer Nation Facebook group, and is a super busy working mom and writer. She's had the most fascinating job, and gotten to be part of some monumental things this past year that have left me in awe. I hope you'll check it out!

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:

Iridium Magazine is seeking short stories, essays, and art. Must feature QUILTBAG+ content. Up to 5000 words. Pays $.03/word. Deadline December 15.

Copper Nickel is seeking poetry, fiction, and essays. Pays $30/printed page. Deadline December 15.

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

Matter Press is seeking fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, mixed media, and visual arts for The Journal of Compressed Arts. Pays $50. Deadline December 15.

Otter Libris is seeking stories about submariners lost at sea and what might be happening if they're still out there. This is for Still on Patrol. 3000 to 10,000 words. Pays $25. Deadline December 15.

Smoking Pen Press is seeking stories about supernatural beings for Vampires, Zombies, and Ghosts, Oh My! 1200 to 6000 words. Pays $20. Deadline December 15.

Infernal Ink is seeking H.P. Lovecraft inspired erotic short stories for Lustcraftian Horrors. 2000 to 10,000 words. Pays $25 or royalties. Deadline December 21.

The Puritan is seeking interviews, essays, and reviews. Pays $100. Deadline December 25. Also check out their call for Editors in Residence.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Are you doing anything for Thanksgiving? Do you get to see family? Would you love it if a clown delivered your doughnuts or would you run screaming? Any of these links of interest? Anything to share?

May you find your Muse.


Friday, November 16, 2018

Horror List Book Review: The Resort


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 Resort, by Bentley Little.

Bentley Little has a formula that's worked for him for quite some time. He takes a normal person (or family, in this case), sticks them somewhere seemingly normal, even idyllic, then all hell breaks loose. Things go terribly wrong. That's precisely what happens here.

A family goes to a resort in the Arizona desert. They've gotten a deep discount. Weird things start happening right away, including getting back to their hotel room to discover someone else is in there. The management has to convince this someone to let them in long enough to get their things, and they're given a new room.

The little things build for quite some time, and we see different POVs, but this family provides the bulk of the POVs. The adults are having one set of experiences, while the kids have others. The vacation sounds great until everything goes nuts.

When it goes nuts, it goes full Lord of the Flies in the Overlook Hotel nuts. Animalistic behavior takes over some of the residents of the resort, and it's normals against psychos. There's full on violence and odd sexual behavior. The family tries to escape, but the resort throws barriers in their way.

I had certain expectation for a Little novel, and they were met. However, the ending was overly simplistic and the violence and behavior over the top. Still, I accepted the behavior until being disappointed in the end. I would have liked to see a real resolution.

Expect absurdity, violence, and odd, over the top characters if you read this.

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 book I review will be Dark Descent, edited by David G. Hartwell.

Have you read The Resort? How about a different Bentley Little novel? Are you a fan? 

May you find your Muse.




Wednesday, November 7, 2018

IWSG - It's the Little Things & Links

Happy November! My second favorite month after October. It's the first Wednesday, which means it's time for the Insecure Writer's Support Group, created by Alex J. Cavanaugh.


Alex created the IWSG to lend support to fellow writers. Anyone can join. Simply click HERE and sign up via your blog (or participate on Facebook!). Post your insecurities and inspirations, and visit your fellow bloggers to lend support and advice.

Our co-hosts this month are  Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor, Ann V. Friend, JQ Rose, and Elizabeth Seckman! Be sure to stop by and tell them thanks for co-hosting.

Our optional question of the month is: How has your creativity in life evolved sine you started writing?

Since I started writing, I've expanded my horizons and trying things I hadn't attempted before. I've gotten involved in writer's groups, and everything those led to. I've worked on cool projects like writing fantasy pieces inspired by music, and had writing published in different genres, such as YA, horror, mystery, humor, memoir, and fantasy. The more I stretch the muscles, the more ideas I have, and the more I want to try out new things and dabble in other art forms.

My insecurity this month really just has to do with not having gotten much writing done recently. Too busy! I'm trying to fix that with ShaNoShoStoWriEdSubMo and having some write-ins with friends since November is a much calmer month than October. October was stifling, both time-wise and creativity-wise, but it's time to get back to work!




We're running a contest for the February WEP theme, and there are only a few days remaining to enter!

Rules: Submit your idea for a WEP February theme by November 12 to admin@insecurewriterssupportgroup.com. Nothing so U.S. culturally bound. Should have wide appeal.

Prize: Feature in the December newsletter for the winner. And, of course, the winning theme will be the official February WEP theme!

Deadline: November 12. Winner announced in the November newsletter on November 28.  


And the December theme is as follows:





Each month I post my submission stats for the previous month on my IWSG post to keep myself accountable.

In October:

5 submissions
1 rejection
0 acceptances
12 pieces currently on submission



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:

Narratively is seeking personal essays/memoir that delves deeper than the usual. 2000 to 3000 words. Pays $300.

Perihelion is seeking science fiction. 2500 to 7000 words. Pays $.01/word.

Rivet is seeking poetry, nonfiction, and literary short works. 15 to 15,000 words. Pays $25.

Automata Review is seeking short works that explore new spaces. 1000 to 6000 words. Pays $25.

The Sea Letter is seeking short fiction, poetry, and photography. Up to 7500 words (1000 for poetry). Pays $25.

Craft is seeking short fiction, flash fiction, craft essays, interviews, and book reviews. Up to 7000 words (1000 for flash fiction--other types of submissions have different limits). Pays $100 to $200, depending upon submission type.

Crimson Streets is seeking pulp of various genres. 800 to 6000 words. Pays $.01/word.

Daily Science Fiction is seeking short science fiction. 100 to 1500 words. Pays $.08/word.

Unshattering is seeking science fiction and fantasy that show the way back to a livable future. Also seeking poetry, memoir, and art. Up to 4500 words. Pays $.10/word.

Aotearotica is seeking erotica. Poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. Up to 3000 words. Pays NZD$50.

What are your insecurities? Have you sent in an entry for the WEP theme? How has your creativity changed since you started writing? Did you submit a story for the anthology? Are any of these links of interest? Anything to share? How were your submissions this month?

May you find your Muse.