Friday, October 30, 2015

Horror List Book Review: A Choir of Ill Children

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

This week I'm reviewing A Choir of Ill Children, by Tom Piccirilli. 

Finally, hallelujah, one I liked. It's been awhile. Piccirilli's writing style was lyrical. He used imagery to great purpose. The situation he set up was unique. He didn't have any crazy writing style that drove me nuts. The plot was intricate, involved. It took the reader back to the past in a circular fashion, dropping little hints along the way about the reality of Thomas's past. 

In A Choir of Ill Children, Thomas is a rich man (at least for the area), living with his three brothers, who are connected at the head, but have three fully functioning bodies. They often speak in chorus, with bits and pieces coming out in the fashion of the brother speaking. Each connected brother has his own personality, and you can tell who he's talking about by the way he acts, thinks, or speaks. 

They live in a southern town (this was quite southern gothic). Nearby are the bottoms, a swampy backwater area full of hillbillies (never called such) and granny witches. Because of his financial position, Thomas is looked up to, yet often reviled, by the locals, and they come to him with problems. 

Throughout this tale is a weaving of supernatural entities, dreams, and swamp magic. Thomas dreams his mother's dreams and listens (well, he hears, but doesn't necessarily listen) to the voices of the dead, who try to warn him of bad things to come. His brothers sometimes act as a living oracle. In Kingdom Come, not everyone stays dead.

I was bemused by the fact that everyone seemed to want to sleep with Thomas. Whether it was the money and power, I don't know. We never find out if Thomas is good looking, because he's the teller of this tale, and he isn't bragging, merely relating his day to day. It also became apparent that sex was power, and that there are forces trying to take advantage of this, both for good and bad.

Each character had a personality, and no one was without their flaws, including the local preachers, one of them his good friend who lapses into speaking tongues and having fits when around Thomas. I didn't find any character to be a caricature, despite them sometimes bordering on it. There was always a twist to the character that kept them from being outlandish. Thomas looked beyond the surface at people's intentions, their fears, and what drove them, often revealing things the reader wouldn't see on their own, and opening the reader's eyes to the fact that not everyone is what you expect them to be (in fact, few are). Those who at first came across as good, might do awful things in the end, and those you thought were crazy or bad, might surprise you.  

In terms of flaws, a handful of times Thomas would say what another character was thinking or feeling in that moment, abruptly taking us out of the current POV. At times, I wasn't entirely sure what was going on, but I felt this was usually lack of understanding on the POV character's part. Sometimes I didn't know what was real or dream. Yet I didn't mind it, because it lent itself to the story. However, in the very beginning, things were unclear, and I was wondering if I would dislike the book. But then it started becoming clear, as we moved forward and backward in time and got those snippets and clues I mentioned above. I believe this circular start was intentional.

I also felt like we could have felt more of what Thomas was feeling. It was never enough to take me out of the story, but in hindsight, there could have been more of his physical and emotional.

Now...was it scary? No, but it was creepy, surreal, and atmospheric. And it was a good read. I was certainly plunged into a different world.

This book was a little Lolita, a little Something Wicked This Way Comes, a little Hamlet, a little The Bottoms, and probably a little of five billion other inspired choices I could list if I wanted to sit here and do so. His writing wove a song I was happy to listen to, yet within the story was a lot of ugly that still matched the right notes. There was drug addiction, racism, murder, and jealousy, yet there was also love, friendship, and a desire for knowledge. I'll definitely check out more of his books. 

My new rankings:

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

The next book I review will be Dead in the Water, by Nancy Holder.

Have you read Piccirilli? Did you like it? Why or why not? Have you read southern gothic? What did you think? Do you enjoy surreal imagery, or does it annoy you?

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Horror Movie Quote Answers & Links

On Monday, I posted some horror movie quotes and asked folks to say which movies they were from. Here are the answers:

1. Get away from her, you b****. / They mostly come at night. Mostly. / Game over, man! Aliens
2. Beep beep, Richie. They all float down here. When you're down here with us, you'll float, too. IT
3. Psychos do not explode when sunlight hits them. I don't give a f*** how crazy they are. From Dusk Til Dawn
4. My mom is gonna' be so mad at me. / Don't blame the movies. Movies don't create psychos, they make psychos more creative. Scream
5. You're gonna' need a bigger boat. Jaws
6. Whatever you do, don't fall asleep. Nightmare on Elm Street
7. They're he-ere. Poltergeist
8. We all go a little mad sometimes. Psycho
9. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. / Heeeeere's Johnny! The Shining
10. It rubs the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again. Silence of the Lambs
11. I see dead people. Sixth Sense
12. Have you checked the children? When a Stranger Calls
13. What an excellent day for an exorcism. The Exorcist
14. I will not calm down! This is the second time I've been hit with a severed head, and I don't like it. Lake Placid

Bonus: Ding Cabin in the Woods

Okay, so that last one was a trick question. It's the sound the elevator makes before opening the doors and releasing pure mayhem. Not once, but twice. One of my favorite moments in a movie.

Now for some links. Bear in mind, as always, that I am not endorsing any of these, merely passing them along. Always do your own due diligence before submitting to a publication.

Accepting Submissions:

SpeckLit is accepting drabbles for their 1st Quarter issue. Speculative fiction. 100 words. They also accept drabble-length reviews. They pay $.05/word for fiction. Deadline November 30.

Chicken Soup for the Soul has several topics open for submissions right now. Two current themes are Military Families and Angels & Miracles. 1200 words or less. Pays $200. Deadline for these themes is November 30.

Crossed Genres is accepting fantasy and science fiction short stories with the theme Sword and Sorcery in the month of November. 1000-6000 words. Pays $.06/word. Deadline November 30.

Onspec is accepting poetry and visual art submissions. Poems should be 4-100 lines. Pays $50. 

Clarkesworld is accepting submissions of speculative fiction. Primarily science fiction and fantasy. 1000-16,000 words. Pays $.10/word for the first 5000 words, $.08/word after that. 

Nightmare Magazine is open for submissions of horror and dark fantasy. 1500-7500 words. Pays $.06/word.

Black Static is accepting submissions for horror and dark fantasy short stories up to 10,000 words. I'm unsure of exact payment, but it is a semi-pro market.

Lamplight Magazine is currently accepting submissions for their spring issue. Dark fiction. 2000-7000 words for short stories, up to 1000 words for flash. Pays $150 for short stories. 

Pseudopod is accepting submissions for horror and dark fiction. This is a podcast. 1500-6000 words. They also accept flash fiction. Pays $.06/word.

Of Interest:

I happened across the blog Six Questions For... where Jim Harrington interviews various editors, agents, etc. Some great info here. Search for the editor you're about to submit to, and see if there's an interview with them about what they like!

How many of the quotes did you get right? Are you submitting? Any of these of interest to you? Anything to share?

May you find your Muse.

Monday, October 26, 2015

The Listing Hop and Spooktoberfest.

It's been awhile since I participated in a blog fest, and since I missed the WEP, I thought some flash fiction was in order.

The Cover Girls are holding their 4th Annual Spooktoberfest this week. You still have time to participate between now and Wednesday. Your story must be 400 words or less, and include all of the following:

A set of eyes glowed from a tree ahead of Laurie, and she swept her flashlight across it, scaring an owl into flight. She placed a hand to her chest, trying to still her pounding heart.

Grandma's property was large and wooded, the sky dark except for a smattering of stars. She was on a mission for a Coke and some aspirin for her mom, who was back in the guest house over the garage, where they'd been staying since grandma died. Cold crept over her skin, and she pulled her sweater closer around her. Her gear and sprocket earrings snagged in her hair as it blew in the wind, and she disengaged them as she walked.

Ahead of her, the main house loomed. She picked up the pace, the night pressing in around her. Gravel scattered from under her feet, pinging off the metal of grandma's car parked to the side of the long driveway.

Surely her mother's headache wasn't worth this traipse across a half wild property in the middle of the night.

She clomped up onto the porch and dug the keys out of her pocket to unlock the door. Before stepping inside, Laurie swept a hand over the wall, trying to find the light switch. A spider web clung to her skin, wrapping around her fingers as they skittered across the crumbling wallpaper.

Light burst around her, and she blinked, squinting against the brightness. Her birthstone winked orange in the light, despite the web wrapped partway around it. She left the door open and walked down the hall into the kitchen, pausing to pucker her lips at the goldfish in the tank on the counter.

Laurie peered into the fridge, the light flickering. They hadn't cleaned this out yet, and a plastic container crouched in a corner. She pulled it out and pried the lid off, gagging at the stench of the moldy onion inside. Shoving it back into the fridge, she pulled out an apple and moved to the sink to wash it.

As she turned the water on, the lights went out.

She gasped and dropped the apple. The Twilight Zone Theme ran through her head, and she turned, pressing her back against the sink edge and feeling for a weapon of some sort.

A voice whispered, "Baby, is that you?"

Panic clogged her throat, and she had to clear it to speak.



This piece is exactly 400 words. Note: I figured the owl (nocturnal) and goldfish (aquatic) also covered animal.

And since I'm doing one blog hop, why not another? 

Bish Denham is holding The Listing Hop today, co-hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh. 

We can make whatever kind of list we want, so sticking with the horror theme for the month, I thought I'd list some of my favorite lines from horror movies, in no particular order (because if I try to figure out an order for them, it will take forever to write this post). Happy 8 years of blogging to Bish!

Try to guess the movies in the comments!

14 Best Lines From Horror Movies:

1. Get away from her, you b****. / They mostly come at night. Mostly. / Game over, man!
2. Beep beep, Richie. They all float down here. When you're down here with us, you'll float, too.
3. Psychos do not explode when sunlight hits them. I don't give a f*** how crazy they are. 
4. My mom is gonna' be so mad at me. / Don't blame the movies. Movies don't create psychos, they make psychos more creative.
5. You're gonna' need a bigger boat.
6. Whatever you do, don't fall asleep.
7. They're he-ere.
8. We all go a little mad sometimes.
9. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. / Heeeeere's Johnny!
10. It rubs the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again. 
11. I see dead people.
12. Have you checked the children?
13. What an excellent day for an exorcism.
14. I will not calm down! This is the second time I've been hit with a severed head, and I don't like it.
Bonus: Ding

How many of these lines do you recognize? Do you have a line from a horror movie you think I should have included? What's your favorite horror movie quote?

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Demon Heart & Links

Monday was release day for Demon Heart, the third novel in the YA paranormal Darkworld series, by Emma L. Adams, and I'm pleased to welcome her here today!

Can a demon’s heart of ice be thawed?

Ash may have escaped death several times, but now things are finally looking up. The doppelganger is gone, she’s dating Leo, and the Venantium are staying away from her – for now. But a new threat rises from the Darkworld, and only the fortune-teller knows the true extent of the danger they’re in.

Lucifer, a sorcerer who did the impossible and cheated death through escaping to the Darkworld, is on the move. Now his second-in-command, Mephistopheles the demon, is loose in our world – and will do anything to win Ash over to his side.

The Venantium fear a repeat of the Demon Wars, the demonic invasion that wiped out the Blackstone family. But there’s more to those events than the records reveal. When Ash finds the lost diary of Melivia Blackstone, she starts to dig into the past to find the town’s forgotten history – leading to a revelation that shocks her to the core.

Leo seems to be the only person Ash can rely on, yet can she truly open up to him, knowing what she is? Blackstone’s dark history is rising to the surface, and it seems even memory can lie. The worst betrayal waits around the corner, and Ash has to decide whether to trust Leo with her darkest secret, even when it has the potential to destroy them both…


Add on Goodreads

Fire sprang up all around me, orange flames licking at my skin. I flinched away from the writhing wall of fire, which cut off any chance of escape.

I stood in a large room, a bedroom. Through the haze of smoke I could see a four-poster bed, its feathery curtains ablaze. Flickering tendrils of fire ate away at the posh-looking furniture, smoke gushing out in clouds. On the wall opposite hung a magnificent, gilt-framed painting of a girl with long, curly black hair. As I watched, the paint peeled away from the background as the ever-spreading blaze devoured it. Underneath the roar of the fire I heard a whimper, and realised I wasn’t alone.

A girl crouched in the corner of the room, arms wrapped around her knees, apparently oblivious to the fire raging around her. I tried to walk over to her but a wall of flames barred my way, flaring out of the lush carpet.

"Stay... out."

 The girl raised her head, but she didn’t seem to see me standing there. She was older than I’d thought; her hunched position had made her look like a child, but she was probably around the same age as me. Her dark hair spilled from a bun, and her gown, similar to the one in the painting, was crumpled and stained, as though she’d fallen in the mud outside.

“Stay… out.”

 Her eyes looked right through me, and I gasped. They shone violet. A demon’s eyes.

 She doubled over, coughing. I tried to call to her to get out of the burning room, but it was like something had stapled my mouth shut. Dreaming. I’m dreaming.

“Stay… out!”

Happy Book Release Week, Emma!

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

Accepting Submissions:

FTB Press is seeking stories for their anthology Odd-isms. Add -ism to a word and make a story of it. 4000 words or less. Pays in royalties and a contributor copy. Deadline November 21.

Garden Gnome Publications is seeking stories for their Biblical Legends anthology series. The theme is Resurrections. Flash fiction, short stories, narrative poems, and novelettes. Pays token flat rates. Deadline November 23.

Black Books Publishing is seeking stories for their anthology Illuminati at my Door. They're also taking submissions for their Urban Fantasy Romance anthology Sugar Daddy Wanted: No Experience Necessary. 3000-10,000 words. Pays $50 + royalties. Open until filled. (They are also taking queries for novel length fiction.)

In Short Publishing Co is seeking short genre fiction. 3000-4500 words. Pays in royalties.


The Subtopian is holding their News Competition. They take stories from the news and ask you to write about the possible future imagined from them. 500-2000 words. Pays $25 + publication. Deadline for this set of news topics is October 31.

Of Interest:

Textbroker matches authors up with freelance writing jobs for pay. While I have not extensively researched it, I did find articles saying it was a legitimate freelance site. You'll want to research for yourself before trying it.

Writer Beware is a site that discusses various writing related topics and their risks to writers. I've specifically linked to a piece on crowdfunded anthologies, but this is a great site to explore overall.

This one's outdated, and he may have a newer one, but Dean Wesley Smith wrote a piece on the New World of Publishing. It includes tips and various information about being a working writer.

Bookbub put out the Ultimate Guide to Self-Publishing and Book Distribution Tools.

Kameron Hurley wrote a piece about The Cold Publishing Equations: Books Sold + Marketability + Love.

Any of these of interest to you? Anything to share? Publishing news? What do you think of Demon Heart? Have you read books 1 or 2?

May you find your Muse.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Who's On Your Bookshelf?

We've talked about scary movies the last two weeks, but what about books? After all, most of you reading this are writers.

I prefer my horror in short form these days, though it wasn't always that way. My first tastes of horror were in collections of urban myths and middle grade horror stories. I still remember a few of the stories in those first books.

After that, I quickly resorted to sneaking Stephen King and Dean R. Koontz books off my parents' bookshelves. Then I found more and more novels at the library. Ouida Sebestyen's The Girl in the Box has stuck with me since middle school. Given, this is likely considered suspense instead of horror, but as a pre-teen girl reading about a teenage girl being kidnapped and left in a dark hole with only a bottle of water and a typewriter, it was certainly frightening.

As a teenager, I returned to short stories, discovering the "Best of" collections. Ellen Datlow's name became synonymous with awesome horror short stories, followed closely by Stephen Jones. And roundabout I went. Novels to shorts to novels to shorts.

In reading through Nightmare Magazine's Best Horror list, I've come to discover that a lot of horror authors have a hard time keeping the suspense going enough to also keep the reader tense and on edge. With some of them, I've made it through three-quarters of the book before anything horror-related has happened. That's too long to set the scene before reaching the horror. Yet from this list, a book that isn't actually horror captured my attention and kept me riveted to the end, terrified at how it might end. The Handmaid's Tale appears to be listed as Literary (and Science Fiction, interestingly enough). But it's my #1 read on the Top 100 list, so far, and it has maintained that position for several months now. Given, I'm not counting the books from the list I'd already read, but I may reread those once I finish the ones I've never read before, and then we'll see where I rank them.

With short stories, the writer can pack a punch. There's just enough time to set the scene then wallop the reader with the horror. And it's possible to draw tension out without the in betweens getting dull.

Stephen King is, of course, a favorite author of mine, both in novels and short stories. I'm delighted that he's continued putting out short stories, despite having found success with his novels.

Stephen Graham Jones is a newer author, but one that puts out both novels and short stories. He's an excellent horror author with a very different voice, if you're looking for new authors. Zombie Bake-Off is a fun novel of his, and The Ones That Got Away is a great collection of short stories. Of those short stories, the one that will forever be in my head is "Father, Son, Holy Rabbit." The moment of realization is intense and heartbreaking.

And, of course, if it's short fiction you're looking for, who better than Edgar Allan Poe? It's been a long time since I read him, and I've been thinking about dusting off my big, fat collection of Poe's works. "The Tell-Tale Heart" is one of my favorites, and it's a piece I performed in high school.

Who are your favorite horror authors, both old and new? Your favorite novels? Short stories? Do you prefer short stories or novels when it comes to horror and suspense? Why?

May you find your Muse.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Horror List Book Review: My Soul to Keep

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

This week I'm reviewing My Soul to Keep, by Tananarive Due. 

I really wanted to like this book. There were historical elements that were fascinating, and I enjoyed how those were wrapped in with the story. I was intrigued by the storyline. However, the story was too much about emotions. Which sounds weird, probably, but what I mean is that we were in the character's heads way too much, and there was a lot about their internal struggles and, yes, their emotions at any given moment. There's character driven and then there's character infested. The plot felt secondary to me. 

My Soul to Keep is about an African immortal and the human woman he's married. She has no idea he's immortal or that he has lived many lifetimes. When he feels his secret is threatened, he shows a sudden lack of conscience and starts killing, devastating his wife in the process. 

The husband, David, is so sensitive and emotional that I pulled back from him right away. (And, yes, I would have pulled back from a female character who was the same way.) He was needy and possessive of his wife, and my abuse-meter was twitching. While he didn't abuse her (not in the classic sense, anyway), I was uncomfortable with his level of neediness and his discouragement of her pursuing a coveted career in publishing. He's not supportive of her career in journalism or her dreams. In addition, he keeps making decisions for her. Another thing that triggered the abuse-meter. He doesn't feel she can make the right decisions, so he takes that power away from her. He thinks he loves her, but I didn't see love in his actions. I saw desperation and selfishness. There was nothing about him that made him appeal to me. The first chapter is all about his emotional agony over their dog being seriously ill, so his level of sensitivity is established right off. Everything rubbed him raw, both emotionally and physically. Which, in turn, rubbed me raw.  

I couldn't feel empathy for David, and I could only sometimes feel empathy for Jessica. I wanted her to be strong and independent. She had all the makings. But allowing her husband to be controlling and discourage her from what she wanted bothered me. The fact that she saw no problem with his behavior also bothered me. While she does take their daughter and run when she realizes something isn't right, it took her a long time to get to that point. However, her character arc is significant, and she does learn strength in the end.

As often seems to be true these days, I preferred the secondary characters to the primary characters. Jessica's sister was the type of woman I wanted to see at the helm of the story. Jessica's friend and co-worker is a great guy with a sense of humor and the desire to encourage and aid her in her dreams. 

The biggest issue is that I was reading this because it's on the best horror lists. There were moments where I was horrified by the actions of David, because he kept targeting innocents, and because he did so soulessly. Due hit the softy in me, but it was the type of horror I feel when watching the evening news, not the kind I seek out for escapism. David wasn't scary; he was a selfish, needy ass. He was like Dr. Frankenstein, taking others' lives into his hands to experiment with them against their will, and without a Jiminy Cricket on his shoulder to tell him this wasn't okay. Everything was about what he wanted, how things would impact him. Blech. 

There are elements of the supernatural (outside of the immortality), but these are peaceful and comforting. They are not part of the horror. Religion and history are entwined with the storyline in wonderful ways. Seeing the history of the world from the eyes of a man who began time in Africa is a departure from the norm. History was a different place for someone of African descent, and rarely do we get to see that kind of world in this type of story. He traveled the deserts of the Middle East, he was a slave, and he was a jazz musician in a questionable time. To put this together with a tale of an immortal man was clever and intriguing, but not enough to carry the story through. It held so much promise that I think I fell too hard. Perhaps my review is doubly harsh because of that.

Her writing and description were strong, so it isn't that she can't write. It just wasn't the book for me. The pacing was far too slow for me. The plot was underdeveloped. The main characters were well developed, but not as likable as I needed them to be. And I was deflated from the eagerness I approached this book with. Those who enjoy character driven stories might see this book in an entirely different way than I do (it has excellent ratings), but I need more plot to keep me interested, and characters that make me want to invest myself in the story line. And I definitely need to feel like we're going to get somewhere with the story eventually. 

My new rankings:

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

If you are curious about any of the ranked books above, you can click on the title to read my review.

The next book I review will be either Dead in the Water, by Nancy Holder, or A Choir of Ill Children, by Tom Piccirilli. I have both standing by, but I'm reading Terry Pratchett for the first time, and we'll see what I'm in the mood for once I finish that book.

Have you read Tananarive Due? This book? How do you feel about character driven stories vs plot driven stories? Does neediness in a character turn you off?

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Fun With Funkos & Links

We're creeping up on Halloween. Almost halfway there!

Some of you know that I collect Funko Pop villains for each story I place. Last time I posted a picture, they were on one shelf, and it wasn't full. I got to add a few recently, so I thought they should say hi.

I can't wait to have to add shelves. Not sure where they'll go yet, but THERE WILL BE MORE SHELVES!

I just placed a short story in Space and Time Magazine yesterday. No release date just yet, but I'll let you know when it comes out. In the meantime, I'm awaiting release dates on two anthologies I have short stories in, as well as edits on a short story set to be released in a magazine next month. It's an exciting time! Now someone make me get back out there and writing again.

Alright, link time. Bear in mind that I am not endorsing these links, merely passing them along. Always do your own due diligence to research publications and contests before you submit to them.

I ran across a lot of October blog hops when I was visiting folks during IWSG, so this week's links are a tad blog hop heavy. They sound like a lot of fun!

Accepting Submissions:

Sky Warrior Books is taking submissions for the anthology The Dragon's Hoard, which will be edited by Carol Hightshoe. Speculative fiction involving dragons and their hoards. PG-13 rating. 500 to 7000 words. Pays in royalties. Deadline November 15.

World Weaver Press is taking submissions for the anthology Sirens. Speculative fiction involving sirens/Sirens. Up to 7500 words. Pays $10 and a paperback copy. Deadline November 15.

18th Wall Productions is taking submissions of novellas about Sherlock Holmes for a monthly series of novella releases that will then be combined into an anthology at the end of the year. 15,000 to 35,000 words. Payment in royalties. Deadline November 15. They're also taking submissions of short stories that combine urban legends and mysteries for their anthology All the Petty Myths. 3000 to 25,000 words. Pays in royalties. Deadline October 31.


Scarborough Fair and Minds Matter Magazine are holding a creative writing contest. Flash fiction, poetry, non-fiction. Cash prizes and publication.

Blog Hops:

Toi Thomas of the ToiBox of Words is trying out a new book hop for the joy of reading and writing. The first #BooktagsBlogHop begins October 19, and will be held the third Monday of each month. Choose a book, post the cover, include an excerpt and a write up of why you're sharing it.

Denise and Yolanda are back with the WEP (Write... Edit... Publish) Blog Hop Halloween Challenge. Post between October 21 and 23. 1000 words or less. Flash fiction, poetry, non-fiction, artwork, photos. This month's theme is Youthful Frights vs Adult Fears.

The Cover Girls are holding their 4th Annual Spooktoberfest. Post between October 24 and 28th. Flash fiction, 400 words or less. You have to use all 13 Scattergory items (found in the post) in your story.

Bish Denham is holding The Listing Hop. Post a list of your choice on October 26. Easy peasy!

Wittegen Press is holding the Share a Scare Halloween Blog Hop. Post October 31. Share a scary story, fictional or true; give away a book; create scary art.

Of Interest:

One Stop for Writers is a new resource available online. In their own words: One Stop for Writers is a powerhouse online library like no other, supplying writers with inspiration, education and unique description resources.

Any of these of interest? Anything to share? Will you be participating in any of these October blog hops? Have you heard of One Stop for Writers? 

May you find your Muse.

Monday, October 12, 2015

What's Your Favorite Scare?

When you're done here, go visit me at Yolanda Renee's blog, Defending the Pen. I'm giving away a free copy of The Deep Dark Woods, an anthology that includes my short story, The Blue Mist, to one lucky commenter.


You know that line from Scream? What's your favorite scary movie? While I'd love to hear that, too, I want to know what your favorite scare is more.

Do you like jump scares? This seems to be the focus of recent horror movies. It does manage to make a person tense when they spend the movie waiting for the jump scare, knowing it's coming. But is that a real scare?

Do you prefer the psychological buildup, where the truth slowly ekes into your brain, building your horror as it registers? No. No, they wouldn't do that. They couldn't do that. Please?

Or are you into torture, pain, blood-letting? Personally, this is my least favorite type of scare.

Does your favorite scare involve monsters? Isolation? The monster within? Do creepy crawlies do it for you every time? Have you ever considered what it is about your favorite scary movie that reaches you deep down?

I did a bit of a mini-workshop (not even that) at a Maker Faire this weekend. My hour was "Ask me how to make anything creepy." In preparation for it, I sat down to analyze what it is that scares people. Sure, clowns, spiders, and slashers scare people, but why? What is it about these different elements that scare people? We may be afraid that something is under our bed, but we all know there isn't really anything under there. So what makes us pull our feet in under the covers.

I broke it down into some basic elements. What is it we actually fear, beyond the surface scares we come up with?

Vulnerability/helplessness/violation of sanctity - No one likes to feel vulnerable, yet horror movies show us when we're most open to attack. They remind us that we're never safe anywhere, not even in the places we feel safest. In the shower (Psycho), in childhood (Poltergeist), when we're sleeping (Nightmare on Elm Street.) The thought of someone in our home, something under the bed or in the closet, is embedded deep within our psyches, because once our home is violated, where else can we go for safety?

Isolation/being trapped/claustrophobia - Something else people fear, even those who love their alone time, is true loneliness and isolation. In space, no one can hear you scream, right? Right. Being trapped on a space ship (Alien) or a ship (Ghost Ship) means there's nowhere to run. And no one is coming to save you any time soon. But you can still be on land and be isolated, such as in a deep, dark cave (The Descent).

Slightly askew/dissonance/humanoid - Our brains have been trained to notice things that are slightly off balance. Even when our conscious mind doesn't notice, our subconscious does. And notice that most of our classic monsters are based on things that are similar to humans or used to be mortal? Vampires (Dracula), werewolves (Silver Bullet), zombies (Night of the Living Dead), even clowns (IT). All of these are one step away from normal people. We fear that which is different, but we especially fear that which is different, yet reflects some element of ourselves back at us. It reminds us of our own mortality, the monsters within ourselves. And it lets us know how close our neighbor or our own selves are to becoming something Other. Even worse is when it is truly human, but there is something that sets it apart (Silence of the Lambs, Halloween). What sets you apart from them? How thin is that line?

The unknown/loss or lack of control - A fear of the dark is really a primitive fear of the unknown that hides away where we can't see it. The thought that something could be right in front of us, yet we can't see it. Something sneaking up on us. This one takes us right back to the caveman days, where the dark held many things that could kill us. Predators that waited until night to find their prey.

Creepy crawlies/nature gone wrong/forces of nature - This one is another primitive fear, born of days in the caves. Snakes and spiders, cockroaches and rats. Each of these things can get into the tiniest cracks, sneak up on us outside or inside. Then they can disappear without a trace (Arachnaphobia), leaving behind the hope that someone can find evidence that it was a spider bite. Or there are the big creatures, the scary things that are just too strong for us (Anaconda, Tremors, Lake Placid, Jaws). Nature is a scary beast. And something we have no choice but to contend with.

Change/science - People fear change, the lack of comfort and the things they know. Yet we deal with change all the time. Stories that deal with this show us dire change (I Am Legend). When it involves science, it shows us that the world can be graphically changed by our own hands. An escaped virus (28 Days Later), artificial intelligence that wants to see us wiped out (Terminator), a mad scientist (Re-Animator).

Pain/torture - The ultimate copout in horror, BUT something that definitely works to reach people. No one likes pain. (Okay not totally true, but most of us don't). We do what we can to avoid pain on a daily basis. The thought of being subjected to intense levels of pain and torture is terrifying (Saw, Hostel).

Of course, most horror depends upon a combination of these elements. I could have moved the movies I mentioned around all over the place, put them in different categories. No horror story depends solely on one type of scare. There needs to be an assault on our psyches to really freak us out.

So. What is your favorite scare? And your favorite scary movie? What tickles your psyche and scares the living daylights out of you? Why? What other categories do you think there are?

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

IWSG - Pushing Past Insecurities, Stats, & Links

It's the first Wednesday of October, which means it's time for the Insecure Writer's Support Group, dreamed up by the ninja himself, Alex J. Cavanaugh. This month, I'm delighted to be a co-host! My fellow co-hosts are  TB Markinson, Tamara Narayan, Stephanie Faris, and Eva E. Solar! 

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

You can still join! Just go sign up and post about your insecurities.

Sylvia Plath said, "The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt." Yet we creatives are constantly doubting ourselves. We'll never be without our insecurities, but we can continue pushing through them to write, to submit, to publish. Don't let your insecurities pull you down. Keep writing and keep getting your work out there, however you choose. It's the only way to make your writing dreams a reality.

Author Harper Rose Memes
As part of my monthly IWSG post, I like to recap my submission stats for the month to keep myself honest.

In September, my stats were as follows:

6 short pieces submitted
1 short story acceptance (into an anthology, publication date TBA)
7 rejections
10 pieces currently on submission
3 pieces awaiting revision

Don't forget about the Insecure Writer's Support Group Anthology Contest! The deadline is November 1. Find more details HERE.

Each Wednesday I post links for writers. Onward! Please bear in mind that I am not endorsing any of these links, merely passing them along. Always do your own due diligence before submitting to a contest or publication.

Accepting Submissions:

Milkfist is seeking short stories, flash fiction, art, poetry, and nonfiction. Payment is token, and varies depending upon submission type. $5 to $30. 

The Quip is seeking stories of all lengths and types. They are a comedic literary magazine. Up to 3500 words. Pays $50 and a yearly subscription.

Heck Magazine is seeking writing and artwork of all sorts. No strict restrictions. Pay is not specified, but it is a paying publication. 

Capricious is seeking short fiction and and essays. Speculative fiction. 3000-5000 words. Pays a flat rate of $50. 

Punchnel's is seeking short fiction, essays, poetry, multi-media, and more. They pay a flat rate of $10. Restricts vary depending upon submission type.

In Short Publishing Company is seeking genre fiction. 3000-4500 words. Pays in ongoing royalties.

Duckbill is seeking flash fiction and poetry. Up to 800 words for flash. Pays a flat rate of $5.

Blue Monday Review is seeking short works, flash, poetry, and artwork. Up to 3500 words for short works. Pays $.02/word for short works, with pay on other types of submissions varying.

The Dark City is seeking mysteries and crime stories. 1000-7500 words. Pays a flat rate of $25. 

Sub-saharan Magazine is seeking short stories, flash fiction, poetry, and artwork. They want stories featuring African characters and speculative elements. Up to 2000 words. Pay is $.01/word up to 1000 words, with varying flat rates beyond that.

What are your insecurities? How are you doing with submissions? Are you submitting? What inspires you? Are any of the markets of interest? Do you have experience with any of them? Any news to share?

May you find your Muse.

Monday, October 5, 2015

It's Halloween Month! Horror Movies & Shorts

Ah, October, one of my favorite months. Considering Christmas starts the day after Halloween, I like to get in my celebrating as soon as October starts.

To get in the mood, here's a list from Movies, Films, and Flix discussing "The Top 21 Horror Films of the 21st Century," as determined by a reader poll. There were a few that surprised me (What We Do in the Shadows and Mulholland Drive, neither of which are really horror), and a few I haven't seen (Trick R Treat, Martyrs, and The House of the Devil). There are also several I don't agree with. For example, I haven't fallen in love with It Follows the way many horror fans have. To me, there were a lot of issues with it, not least of which was how hard they worked to beat the message into the audience. Whatever happened to underlying themes instead of in-your-face themes?

Of course, any list like this is subjective. It did give me a few more movies to watch that I hadn't otherwise considered, so I'll have to check out the ones I haven't seen.

As a bonus, Moviepilot put together a list of horror shorts. You can check them out here. My favorites from the list are Night Night Nancy (despite some obvious flaws, like the actress's acting and the unrealistic way she reacts to what's going on) and Downstairs. I tend to prefer the evil of humanity more than monsters (though I love a good monster), but Downstairs had some excellent creepy moments and scares.

Looking forward to IWSG this week? I'll be co-hosting! If you're not sure what it is, look for Insecure Writer's Support Group HERE. Also, I'll be a guest on Yolanda Renee's blog, Defending the Pen, next Monday, the 12th. Come visit me there! In the meantime, I'm among great company, so stop by to see her other guests, as well. Christine Rains is there today.

Bearing in mind that this is 21st century only, are there any films you would have liked to see on the list? Anything you would remove or shuffle around? What was your favorite of the short films? Do you enjoy short films or does it need to be longer for you to get into it?

May you find your Muse.

Image by OCAL,