Friday, February 26, 2016

Horror List Book Review: The Red Tree

I'm reading through three lists of best horror with two friends (DeAnna Knippling andM.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 The Red Tree, by Caitlin R. Kiernan.


I struggled the entire way through this book. It was obvious Kiernan has writing chops. Yet, I didn't want to finish it.

Quick summary: A writer flees a bad history, including a lover who has committed suicide. She ends up in a small Rhode Island town, renting an isolated farmhouse. She's there to write her next contracted novel. She finds a manuscript about lore surrounding red oaks, like the giant one outside. Bad things happen to people around these trees. Lo and behold, bad things begin to happen to her.

Already, we have the novel about a novelist angle, which can be good when done well, or can be tiresome when done not so well. But it's also a journal, which is not a form of storytelling I'm particularly fond of.

She's entirely unlikable. I cuss like a sailor in real life (though I choose to try to keep it out of my professional world where possible), yet in the first couple chapters, I had been beaten about the head with profanity so much that I started skipping the words mentally. You know, like the word "said." Your mind glides right over it. Much like the word F*** in this book. She's a lesbian, which is great, except that she reminds us constantly that this is so. And don't worry, it helps to meet the F*** quota.

It was supposed to tell us she was a hard ass. A tough woman. Out there. A rebel. Ooooo, a rebel. Whoopty-freakin'-do.

She was a caricature. Profane, rude, whiny, obtuse, self-serving, self-pitying. 

A writer who hates her own writing. A writer who hates to have fans approach her, and who is rude to them when they do. The type of writer that acts like the nastier actors, and makes the reader wonder if their favorite author would behave toward them the way this woman does. (As someone who has run writing events, no, your favorite author most likely will not be rude, and will be flattered you want an autograph. Don't be afraid to approach them in a respectful manner unless they're in the middle of something.)

Not only does the character digress constantly, but she TELLS us she digresses constantly. Duh. We noticed. Please stop telling us.

She's pompous. I suspect a thesaurus was consulted regularly in the writing of this novel. Listen, I like big words. I use them naturally, because I've always been a reader. I get it. I do. Sometimes they just come out, because they're familiar. But no, this is more than that.

A second character, a painter, is introduced into the story partway through. Coincidentally, she also enjoys some girl-on-girl shenanigans. She's there to fight constantly with our narrator, to pick at her, and to create sexual tension so we can be reminded that, hey, she's a lesbian! 

It is hinted that the narrator is an inconsistent narrator. An untrustworthy one. Oh, who am I kidding. The narrator TELLS us she is untrustworthy. That she is filling in gaps, but that she couldn't possibly have such perfect recall. Blah, blah, blah. We're told this over and over again, too. "Why am I filling in these details? It must be because I'm a writer! My therapist says..."

The story is told as a journal, put together by the editor after the suicide of the author. So we go into this knowing she will have committed suicide. Bye-bye tension. Though, when well done, this could have upped the tension. We could have been wondering how it would happen. If she'd been likable, I would have been desperately hoping until the end that she wouldn't do it this time. But, no, I was just waiting for her to die, because it would mean the story was over.

Not only is it a journal, but she finds a manuscript written by a previous tenant, and starts typing bits of the research from the manuscript, which is nonfiction, into her journal. She feels compelled to do so. The information therein was interesting, but it was sometimes pages of this research, so rather dry. Its sole purpose was to tell us why we should be afraid. To build the nonexistent tension. We're told repeatedly what to expect via the manuscript. And it's all so obvious. Cliche riddled.

Oh yeah, have I mentioned it wasn't scary? Not at all? It's meant to be a slow build, I'm sure. Atmospheric, character driven. Only the character is a shitty person, and the atmosphere was meh. It took way too long to get to a point where it could possibly be scary, and by then I was so over the character that I didn't care what happened to her, or the artist in residence, who was just as unlikable. And the way the "scary" things were thrown out kept them from being creepy at all. The manuscript mentioned it had happened in the past. Therefore, we knew it was going to happen to the characters. Dun, dun, dun!

Please, folks, strong female character does not equal nasty, brash, derisive, holier than thou, and better than everyone else. It means human. Stop making your female characters so over the top so we can pretend we're reading about strong women. Make them real. That would be a nice departure.

I think I'm going to end my review here, because it's going nowhere constructive. I'm disappointed. And frustrated.

But here's the thing. I'd read the author again. This book may have been a fluke. Her actual writing was good. The sentence fluency, the flow. I was bored by this particular story, and I hated the characters (these are not women I would ever choose to be around, that's for sure), but that doesn't mean I wouldn't like one of her other books. This might have been a first book (I don't feel like doing the research to find out for sure). The plotting and pacing needed help. Especially the pacing. There needed to be more focus on the creepy things, the bad things, the things that could be. Instead, we were inside the narrator's head, hearing her annoying thoughts, and wishing she'd shut up, except she was the only one telling the story.


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)
6. The Year’s Best Fantasy: First Annual Collection (Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling)
7. Those Who Hunt the Night (Barbara Hambly)
9. Dead in the Water (Nancy Holder)
10. The Damnation Game (Clive Barker)
11. The Wolf's Hour (Robert McCammon)
12. Berserk (Tim Lebbon)
13. Best New Horror, Volume 1 (edited by Stephen Jones and Ramsey Campbell)
14. The Tomb (F. Paul Wilson)
15. Blood Meridian (Cormac McCarthy)
16. The Imago Sequence (Laird Barron)
17. My Soul to Keep (Tananarive Due)
18. World War Z (Max Brooks)
19. From the Dust Returned (Ray Bradbury) 
20. The Red Tree (Caitlin R. Kiernan)
21. In Silent Graves (Gary A. Braunbeck)
22. The Cipher (Kathe Koja)
23. Drawing Blood (Poppy Z. Brite)
24. The Doll Who Ate His Mother (Ramsey Campbell) 
25. Hotel Transylvania (Chelsea Quinn Yarbro)

The next book will be The Stranger, by Albert Camus. Fingers crossed.

Have you read Caitlin R. Kiernan? Is there one of hers you'd recommend? Have you read this one? What did you think? How do you define strong female characters? 

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Roland Stops by on an Anti-Blog Tour & Links

Today, I'd like to welcome Roland Yeomans to talk about his upcoming release, The Not-So Innocents Abroad. No worries, though! This is not a blog tour.

Welcome to my “DON’T YOU HATE BLOG TOURS?” Book Tour.

Shannon has been naïve, ah, kind enough to lend me her blog.

Book Tours. 

Are they dead?  Are they the Walking Dead?  Sometimes seemingly done-to-death concepts can sizzle if we do it in a new light.

As in: “Hey, the woman wants a green dress; turn on the green light!”

You ask, “What is there new to do?”  You aren’t asking that?  Well, I’m asking it for you because I’m your friend, because I want you to sell books …oh, all right … because I want to sell books.

Listen to super-agent Donald Maass:

“There are only TWO things that sell books…a good book and word of mouth. Period.”

Jeez, look at all those rolling eyes out there.  I hear you: “How do you get good Word of Mouth, for crying out loud?”  And, boy, have I cried out loud at that question.

Ever hear of Book Clubs, my friends?  Gee, thanks, some of you out there think I’m number one … but, guys, you’re using the wrong finger.

Oh, you’re using the finger you wanted?  Oops.

Book clubs are critical and wonderful influencers when it comes to talking up new books … ah, that’s WORD OF MOUTH for those of you finger-shaking critics!

It is why I included a substantial Reader Discussion Guide at the end of my latest book.  I know you want to know its title.

You don’t?  Well, I want you to know, so there!

For your own questions – ask the reader if the characters changed by the end of the book, has the reader changed by the end?  Were there memorable bits of dialogue?  Was there a favorite character?

You know your theme of your book.  Ask the reader what they thought the theme to be. My theme in my new book?

“My back; your knife.  My gun; your head.”  Not really.  You’ll have to read it to find out what it really is.

This March board the Xanadu, the 1st Air/Steamboat, on a honeymoon cruise for Paris and the Unholy Lands where death, betrayal, deceit, and murder reign supreme … and that is just in the newlywed’s bedroom!

The passengers?  An insane Abraham Lincoln, a crippled General Sherman, a vampiric Benjamin Franklin, a clueless Mark Twain, 11 year old Nikola Tesla, and his faithful black cat, Macak.

Cost of Passage?  Only $9.99! 

Want more?  Here is the music I listened to while writing the battle between the Xanadu and Captain Nemo’s Nautilus:

Thank you for stopping by on your book tour that isn't a blog tour, Roland!


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

Accepting Submissions:

Uncanny Magazine is seeking speculative fiction. 750-6000 words. Pays $.08/word. Deadline is February 29. Thanks to John Wiswell for the reminder!

Syntax and Salt is seeking magical realism for their first issue. Up to 3500 words. Pays $10 unless you win an Editor's Choice, which is $25. Deadline March 18.

Lit Select is seeking stories in the theme "What Went Wrong?" for Legendary Stories. 2000-8000 words. Pays $30. Deadline March 30.

Less Than Three Press is seeking LGBTQIA fairy tales for Fairy Tales Slashed: Volume 7. 10,000 to 20,000 words. Pays $200. Deadline March 31.

Cori Vidae is seeking erotica involving tattoos for kINKED. 3000-20,000 words. Pays in profit shares. Deadline March 31.

York Literary Review is a new literary journal. They accept fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, essays, reviews, visual art, and photography. No more than 5000 words. Pays £50. Deadline March 31.

Tayen Lane Publishing is seeking literary fiction for the 2016 Articulated Press Short Story Anthology. Up to 5000 words. They are also seeking science fiction for their Procyon Press Science Fiction Anthology 2016. This one is up to 7000 words. Pays $100, plus contributor copies. Deadline for both is March 31.

Truancy is seeking flash and short stories retelling fairy tales. Up to 3500 words. Pays $15.

Shattered Prism is seeking speculative fiction. 1500-5500 words. Pays $.06/word.

Clubhouse Magazine is seeking stories for 8 to 12 year old boys. This is a Christian magazine. Between 500 and 1800 words, depending upon type of story. Pays between $.15 and .25 per word.

Of Interest:

Chrys Fey and L. Diane Wolf have combined forces! You can get a full manuscript edit by Chrys and print & ebook formatting by L. Diane. They list the prices on this post, so there are no surprises. As a bonus, L. Diane's husband does cover design.

What do you think of Roland's non-blog tour book tour? How about his cover? Any of these links of interest to you? Anything to add? Any news to share?

May you find your Muse.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Do What You Want, Do What You Wanna'

If you're on Facebook you've probably already seen the posts about HuffPo bragging about not paying their authors. Not just stating they don't, but smugly saying it makes them proud not to.  Rather than repeat a lot of what's been online about it, I'll point you to two people who've already said it.

Wil Weaton
and Chuck Wendig (lots of language warning)

Two people who don't really need me linking to their blogs since they get plenty of hits already, but they each said it their own individual way, and thoroughly got the point across.

I'm going less drastic and saying to carefully weigh whether you give your work away for free. I've participated in challenges/publications for charities, and I have zero regrets about that. I'd do it again. I've also been published in a magazine that pays royalties, without having seen a dime, because the royalty share didn't hit the minimum. It happens.

What you should do is decide what works for you. However, if you're going to write for exposure, I recommend not doing it for a bunch of creeps who gloat about raking in money off the sweaty backs of their desperate writers. Quick, name a HuffPo writer! Can't? How much exposure are they getting then? Cracked pays their writers AND gets them exposure. Maybe head that way instead. Or one of a billion other places that pays their writers.

Try to bear in mind that if your work is good enough to be picked up by someone, it's good enough to be paid for. At the same time, there are a lot of magazines out there trying to get a foothold in the market, many of which start out as non-paying markets with the hope of getting enough sales to be able to start paying their writers. If you want to take a chance on a new magazine that needs that boost, perhaps because you love the idea of the magazine, you know someone involved with it, or you've read a copy and enjoyed it, go for it. Don't let someone talk you out of it with a blanket statement.

If you have a business plan that involves writing for exposure in order to reach the point where you can write for pay, I would recommend that you at least TRY submitting your work to a paying market (or several) first. You never know if your work is good enough to be paid for until you submit to qualifying paying markets. Though, again, if you want to submit to non-paying markets for different reasons, don't feel like you'll be a pariah for having done so. We fellow writers will not turn our backs on you when we find out you're writing for free. Despite editors like theirs, the writing community isn't like that. Usually.

Having said that, if you agree that writers should at least have the option of being paid for their work instead of being used like monkeys on typewriters for the likes of HuffPo, maybe stop submitting to them. And stop clicking on those HuffPo articles to read. It wouldn't hurt to show them that talking up bad business ethics can have a negative impact.

What are your thoughts on this? Have you heard of this already? Do you submit to non-paying markets? What has your experience been?

May you find your Muse.

Magazine,, David
Monkey,, OCAL

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Straight to the Meat: Links

Accepting Submissions:

Horror Tree is taking submissions for Nightscript, Volume 2. Strange tales. 2000-7000 words. Pays $30 and a contributor copy. Deadline February 28.

Independent Legions Publishing is taking submissions for The Beauty of Death. Horror. There are already big names attached. 4500-7500 words. Pays $100. Deadline March 30.

Pentimento is taking submissions for their journal. Essays and fiction written by someone with a disability, or someone involved in the disabled community (family member, caregiver, special educator.) Up to 6000 words. Pays $25 to $250. Deadline March 31.

MiFi Writers is taking submissions for Revolution. Speculative fiction and art. 2000 to 12,000 words. Pays $.01/word up to $50. Deadline March 31.

Chicken Soup for the Soul is taking personal stories for Dreams & Synchronicities. Up to 1200 words. True stories only. Pays $200. Deadline March 31.

All the King's Men is looking for stories matching the theme "sometimes it's impossible to mend what has been broken" and the background. No length constraints. You must pitch, not submit your piece. Pays $.04/word. Deadline March 31.

Tree Lion Press is taking submissions of speculative fiction for The Land of Dust and Bones. Weird Western stories. 500-10,000 words. Pays $5 advance, plus royalties. Deadline March 31.

The ND Review is taking submissions of prose. They like it to take on big issues. Pays a small gratuity that is not specified. Deadline March 31.

Kaleidotrope is taking submissions of speculative fiction. 250-10,000 words. Fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and artwork. Pays $.01/word for fiction and nonfiction, $5 for poetry. Deadline March 31.


DL Hammons has brought Write Club back. This is a writing competition where anonymous 500 word entries are put against each other, with readers voting on the winner. They're taking entries between February 1 and February 26. The contest begins March 7.

Anything to add or share? Any of these of interest?

May you find your Muse.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Eat Your Heart Out: Romance in Horror

I figure since it's the day after Valentine's, it's as good a time as any to discuss romance in horror. Horror is one of the few genres where romance isn't necessary, but that doesn't mean it's never involved. In fact, I realized that comedic horror tales seem to have a higher rate of romance in them than other types of horror. Hm.

Romance is used in different ways throughout horror. For instance, if we go to the slashers first, romance is often the cause of their downfall, spreading the message that premarital sex is bad...mkay? Of course, I'm stretching the definition of romance here, when it's really usually lust. Still, lust is plenty appropriate for the day after V-Day, too, right?

Premarital sex getting a person killed can't be mentioned without bringing up Scream. The final girl is always the virgin...until Scream flipped that on its head. Eventually. Watching anything with Jason, Michael, or Freddy means knowing who will die next. The moment they crawl into bed (or the back of a car, or a sleeping bag, or whatever else), it's go time. WAIT FOR MARRIAGE, KIDS!

Forbidden love isn't uncommon, likely because much of horror reflects real life, amplifying common issues as a coping mechanism and a way to ratchet up the tension. For instance, Candyman is based on a black man seeking revenge after being brutally murdered because he fell in love with a white woman. And what about Let the Right One In? A vampire's feelings for a human boy underlie the story line, even as brutality occurs. A lot of people can identify with falling for the wrong person.

But what about loving a monster? Dracula, Frankenstein, Cat People, and The Fly all involve a Beauty and the Beast sort of premise. In one, a vampire, another a shapeshifter, and in two of them, science experiments gone wrong. Valentine is along these same lives, but he's a psycho, plain and simple, not an actual physical monster. Be careful who you love. You know who else was a psycho? An American Psycho? Patrick Bateman. But he was charming, and he had nice business cards and groovy music choices.

In comedic horror films, the love story may be a major part of it - Shaun of the Dead, Warm Bodies - and the basis for their mission, or it may just be an underlying character development tool or cause for humor, such as in Tremors, Lake Placid, and Eight-Legged Freaks. It creates an impetus for the main character to rescue the damsel in distress, in many cases. At the very least, it gives the character more conflict, and adds tension to the story. Shaun must find his way across the city to rescue his girlfriend and get her to safety, giving him a reason to leave his house. Conflict = amped.

Love gone wrong is all over Hellraiser in disturbing ways. Need I say more? (By the way, Candyman is also based on a Clive Barker story.) And in Teeth, a young girl being taken advantage of repeatedly, thinking she's maybe with the right guy, discovers the error of her ways. In turn, the boys who wrong her discover the error of THEIR ways, often fatally. Speaking of which, in Jennifer's Body there's a similar story line, only there are no teeth in weird places. Just the normal ones.

And if you consider Anne Rice to be a horror writer (I don't, but she's usually classified that way), romance is oozing out of the pages of her books. Was she the first one to hearken back to Dracula with the attractive and seductive vampire? Probably not, but she sure brought that trope back to the forefront in her vampire novels. And, again, it's more lust in her tales than love or romance, but not always. Wasn't Louie always conflicted about love?

Finally, there are collections of stories combining love and horror. I Shudder at Your Touch and Love in Vein are the two that come to mind. And I've seen calls for horror erotica, though I've yet to read one.

The Stand exhibits the power of love for some of the characters. In fact, it's a strong component on the good side. There's romantic love, but also the love born of friendship and hard times. Their bonds keep them strong in the face of the bad side. If anything, the love and romance shown in this book are the most real of any of the ones I've mentioned above. A story with heart. A perfect read for Valentine's Day.

What's your favorite horror romance? Can you think of one I didn't mention here? Why do you think romance plays a part in some horror stories? Would you like to see it more or less?

May you find your Muse.

Heart by OCAL,

Friday, February 12, 2016

Horror List Book Review: The Year's Best Dark Fantasy & Horror 2010

I'm reading through three lists of best horror with two friends (DeAnna Knippling andM.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 The Year's Best Dark Fantasy & Horror 2010, edited by Paula Guran. 

First, I'm always going to enjoy an anthology of short horror unless it big time sucks. This didn't suck. Look at the names on there! One of those names wrote one of the top stories I've ranked so far in this challenge. These are heavy hitters in horror and dark fantasy.

There were a ton of stories in this collection. I was pleasantly surprised to see Boulder author Stephen Graham Jones in there. He's making these collections fairly consistently these days. It was actually a story I'd read before, likely in his own collection. 

Because there are so many stories, I'll touch on a few favorites.

Elizabeth Bear started the collection strong with The Horrid Glory of Its Wings. This one was well written and creepy, yet it had a lot of heart and a strong impact. A sick little girl meets a harpy. The reader is left to wonder if the harpy represented freedom or something darker.

I like a good revenge story - preferably one without insane amounts of torture and gore - and Suzy McKee Charnas delivers one with a fabulous ending in The Lowland Sea. The Red Sweat has come along, causing people to sicken and die, and spreading rapidly. A rich producer holes up in his mansion with a bunch of his employees, family, and lackeys. Told from a maid's POV, the ending delivers a sweet punch to folks who believe they're above everyone else, and are willing to tromp on those below them.

Michael Shea wowed me with language in Copping Squid. I wanted to quote half the contents of his story due to their beauty, yet the story was set in filth and squalor. The juxtaposition sang. "When he was a kid, he'd always felt sorcery in the midnight streets, in the mosaic of their lights, and he'd never lost the sense of unearthly shapes stirring beneath their web, stirring till they almost cohered, as the stars did for the ancients into constellations." p. 44. There were hints of Lovecraft, the story speaking of something deeper beneath the grimy underlayers of the city.

A Delicate Architecture, by Catherynne M. Valente, was my favorite story in this collection, by far. A twist on a well known fairy tale, but you don't know it until the end. And when that realization comes, it's amazing. This tale was delicate, lovely, and delicious, yet deeply sad. An origin story born of the ultimate back stabbing. 

Steve Duffy's Certain Death for a Known Person is a punch in the gut. A simple decision has a huge impact years later. It's easy to trade an unknown person's life for that of someone you know, but what happens when you discover you know them better than you thought you did? I read this one with growing dread until the moment my suspicions (really...certainties) were confirmed.

John Mantooth's The Water Tower was reminiscent of The Body/Stand By Me. Well written, heart felt, and with a subtle and sad shock at the end.

In The Porches of My Ears, by Norman Prentiss, felt like sleight of hand to me. Another gut punch. Most of the story is spent in a movie, with our POV character sitting with his wife behind a couple where the husband is blind, the wife telling the details of the movie via whispers they can clearly hear. She twists the ending to make it sad, though it was a happy ending. Prentiss then does the same thing to the reader, all in the last page or two. He gives readers a clue right at the beginning, then offers distraction up until the moment he dumps us on our heads.

The Other Box, by Gerard Houarner, hit me right in the Mom Place. The despair of a mother whose children are all stolen from her, one by one. Something magical behind it all. Her life crumbles around her, but her drive to get her babies back takes her to a dark, yet hopeful place. There's more hinted at, including a history with this particular magic, but we never know for sure.

Steve Rasnic Tem, someone frequently found in these collections, makes us look at one hand while the other produces the coin. The Cabinet Child is told like a fairy tale, but with a spin. First, we hear the wife's POV. She's sad and lonely, desperately wanting a child. The reader comes to resent the husband in staunch support of her. But then we see his POV, and are stunned by the other side. We end the story with a whole different knowledge than we began with. Another sad one.

Vic, by Maura McHugh, was another story utilizing dawning realization to tell the reader they already know this character. I can't say much without giving it away, but this story was well told and perfectly built up.

Michael Marshall Smith perfectly closed out the anthology with What Happens When You Wake Up in the Middle of the Night. Told from a child's POV (quite perfectly), the child asks his mom why she turns his light out after he falls asleep. He manages to convince her to leave it on, as long as he doesn't wake his parents up in the middle of the night if he wakes up. Only he does wake up, and his light is off. Not only is it off, but it's missing. A cautionary tale against turning off your children's lights at night. I also got a kick from it, because my kids have asked me this very question. Simple, brief story telling.

Since I point out the best, I should probably mention a couple I struggled with. Stewart O'Nan's Monsters must have been dark fantasy, rather than horror, but if someone had drawn a picture of me reading it, there would have been a giant question mark over my head. It felt like something I'd read in Reader's Digest. I kept waiting for the dark punchline.

The Brink of Eternity, by Barbara Roden was a bit dull for me. There was an interesting aspect in that it switches between articles about an explorer, and the actuality of what happened with the explorer, which was not, of course, what the article said. Still, I struggled, and considered skipping this one. 

Strange Stories From an Unfinished Film, by Gary McMahon was a story with promise that ended up irking me due to missing details. I get that they were missing to lend mystery to the story, but they actually ruined it for me.

That was harder than I thought it was going to be. Out of 39 stories, I ended up writing about 14 of them, anyway. And I was tempted to write about more than that. There were so many quality stories in here, so many authors I respect. There were stories that flipped genres on their heads. Ones with deep emotional impact. Ones that stunned me. There were also enough stories to last me a couple weeks, which is why these collections are so worthwhile.

Paula Guran did a great job putting this together. Even the ones I listed that I struggled with for one reason or another weren't badly written. They were just not my kind of thing. There are others who would probably enjoy those and dislike some of my favorites. That's the beauty of an anthology like this - something for everyone.

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 Dark Fantasy & Horror 2010 (Paula Guran)
6. The Year’s Best Fantasy: First Annual Collection (Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling)
7. Those Who Hunt the Night (Barbara Hambly)
9. Dead in the Water (Nancy Holder)
10. The Damnation Game (Clive Barker)
11. The Wolf's Hour (Robert McCammon)
12. Berserk (Tim Lebbon)
13. Best New Horror, Volume 1 (edited by Stephen Jones and Ramsey Campbell)
14. The Tomb (F. Paul Wilson)
15. Blood Meridian (Cormac McCarthy)
16. The Imago Sequence (Laird Barron)
17. My Soul to Keep (Tananarive Due)
18. World War Z (Max Brooks)
19. From the Dust Returned (Ray Bradbury) 
20. In Silent Graves (Gary A. Braunbeck)
21. The Cipher (Kathe Koja)
22. Drawing Blood (Poppy Z. Brite)
23. The Doll Who Ate His Mother (Ramsey Campbell) 
24. Hotel Transylvania (Chelsea Quinn Yarbro)

I believe the next thing I'll be reading is Caitlin R. Kiernan's The Red Tree.

Heard of any of the authors I mentioned? Did you read this one? How do you feel about twisted fairy tales?

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Whoops & Links

I realized about two days after the fact that I forgot to post for IWSG last week. Whoops! February snuck up on me. I can't make that post up, but skipping it also meant skipping my January stats, which I should still report.

My January stats are underwhelming, as I'm working on building back up the number of short stories I have to submit. Plus, I spent my short story writing time working on what has turned out to be a novella instead.

In January:

I submitted 4 pieces.
I got 4 rejections (not on those same pieces)
I've got 6 submissions pending.

Time to get those numbers back up!

Link time!

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

Accepting Submissions:

Transmundane Press has extended their deadline on After the Happily Ever After, an anthology of fairy tales after the end. 100-7500 words. Pay will be between $5 and $20, plus contributor copies. Deadline February 20.

Freak Tension is accepting submissions for Hybrid Moments: A Literary Tribute to the Misfits. Write a story inspired by a Danzig-era Misfits song. Up to 5000 words. Pays $.01/word. Deadline March 1.

Contrary is reading for their April issue. Poetry and fiction. Up to 1500 words. Pays $20. Deadline March 1.

Comet Press is seeking stories for Stiff Things, an erotic horror anthology. Make it dark and twisted. Up to 9000 words. Pays $.03/word. Deadline March 1.

New English Press is seeking stories for This Book Ain't Nuthing Ta Fuck Wit: A Wu-Tang Tribute Anthology. 2000-3000 words. Pays $20, plus contributor copy. Deadline March 1.

Slice Magazine is seeking short fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Up to 5000 words. Pays $75 for poems and $250 for stories. The theme for the upcoming issue is Distraction. Deadline March 1.

Horrified Press is seeking flash fiction and short stories for Detectives of the Fantastic Volume IV: Tales of Ghost Hunters and Paranormal Investigations. 2000-5000 words. Pays in royalties. Deadline March 13.

FunDead Publications is seeking spooky ghost stories for the anthology Shadows in Salem. 1000-6000 words. Pays $10, plus contributor copy. Deadline March 15.

Freeze Frame Fiction is seeking flash fiction, all genres. Up to 1000 words. Pays $10. Deadline for this issue is March 15.

Third Flatiron is seeking space opera and military fiction for Hyperpowers, an anthology. 1500-3000 words. Pays $.03/word. Deadline March 15.

How are your submissions going? Has this year snuck up on you, too? Any of these links of interest? Anything to share? 

May you find your Muse.

Image by OCAL at

Monday, February 8, 2016

How Long Would You Wait?

A friend recently asked me how long I'd wait in a horror movie for it to get scary before I'd give up on it. I didn't have a set amount of time before I'd walk out, though I believe he said he'd walk after twenty minutes, maybe thirty, if it wasn't getting to the point.

So how long is too long? I've never paid too much attention to the exact number of minutes before I get tired of waiting for something scary to happen in a horror film. Or for there to at least be tension. But I do notice if it takes too long to build up, and I get restless. I'm not quick to shut off or walk out of a movie. Nor am I quick to give up on a novel. If there is anything engaging about the story, I'll stick with it for awhile more.

The thing is, each horror movie (or story, or book, or...) needs to establish the main character or characters so you can empathize with them. Horror is not horror without some manner of empathy. This is an element people unfamiliar with horror miss. Empathy is a huge factor in horror. Without empathy, there is no fear. If the audience doesn't care what happens to the protagonist, the tension is already missing. No one's pulse is pounding. Their mouths don't dry out. They don't grip their seatmates. In other words, the creators have failed.

One way to start things with a bang, in order to hopefully keep the audience/reader engaged until the action comes, is to have someone die at the hands of the creature/killer right away. Someone who isn't integral to the storyline. This establishes what is to come, without taking away from the establishing of character. Horror based television shows, such as Supernatural, do this each episode. The audience is shown an intense scene where someone who is not a series regular is killed or harmed by whatever that episode's boogie man is. Then we bop on over to the brothers, who exchange entertaining or telling dialogue, and work their way to the monster. The tension and action build to the inevitable conclusion.

Boy, that made it sound boring, but it's an effective way to do things. It keeps butts in the seats and eyeballs glued to the page, while allowing for character development, which will draw the audience/reader in further and make them care about the main protagonist. Thus feeling the fear and tension, and having a vested interest in the main character's survival. It makes them want to root for the main character. And it makes hearts pound. Plus, that little glimpse of the Big Bad, whether we actually see them or not, gives a sense of satisfaction to the viewer/reader that something good is coming, and that they will not be disappointed.

Another way is to engage the viewer/reader in a different way. Humor is a common means of getting people to like a character from the beginning. In Tremors, we see these two friends, Val and Earl, harassing each other in a humorous way. We come to like them early in the film, and then things go very badly for them. Now we're worried about them and, ultimately, the rest of the townspeople. If someone can make you laugh, it is easy to like them. And if you like them, you care about them. Now you have a little leeway in introducing the Big Bad, and you didn't have to start with a frightening action sequence.

The emotion used to engage the reader doesn't necessarily need to be humor, though. You can start with something that tugs on the heart strings, for instance. A marriage or proposal, a baby, bullying, loneliness, you name it. Whatever will make the audience identify with the person they need to care about.

Of course, you can combine these, and other means, as well. The possibilities are endless. There are really only two rules that matter:

1. Give the audience someone to care about.
2. Give the audience something to fear. (Put the character in danger.)

Everything else is secondary.

How long will you wait for a movie to get scary? What's your favorite beginning of a scary film, TV show, or book? What draws you in?

May you find your Muse.

Psycho Shower Scene, by OCAL,

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

New Release - Devolution Z & Links

Hello! I ended up not being able to post on Monday, because my interwebs went down during the snowstorm. Not something that happens here often (it's Colorado...we tend to have wiring and such that can withstand the snow), so I'm  not sure if it was actually because of the storm or coincidental timing. Either way, I took an extra day off.

The February issue of Devolution Z is out, featuring my story Blue Sludge Blues! If you don't already hate port-a-potties, I hope I can nudge you along on your way with this one.

Available in print ($6.99) and Kindle ($2.99).

Also, this is what happens when the adults in a house both forget to take down the canopy on the back porch when Snowzilla (not to be confused with the Snowpocalypse) is heading our way.

That's gonna' leave a mark, eh? It kept our porch relatively snow free, though, seeing as how we got over a foot here in the foothills.

Now for some links! Bear in mind I am not endorsing any of these, merely passing them along. Always do your own due diligence when submitting.

Accepting Submissions:

Alex Shvartsman is putting together a reprint anthology of Funny Fantasy. 500-7500 words. Originally printed between 2005 and 2015 in a publication paying $.01/word or more. Pays $.02/word, plus contributor copy. Deadline February 29.

The Literary Hatchet is open for dark fiction poetry and prose. 1000-6000 words for short stories. Pays $5-$10, depending upon submission type. Submission window closes March 1.

Thema is accepting short stories, poetry, essays, art, and photographs with the theme Drop the Zucchini and Run! Fewer than 20 double spaced pages. Pays $10-$25, depending upon submission type. Deadline March 1.

Upstreet Literary Magazine is accepting poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. 5000 words or less. Pays between $50 and $250. Deadline March 1.

Body Parts Magazine is accepting horror, erotica, speculative fiction, essays, and art. The current theme is Grave Robbing. Up to 8000 words. Pays $5-$20, depending upon submission type. Deadline March 1.

Beatdom is accepting essays on the topic of politics for their next issue. 2000-5000 words. Pays $50. Deadline March 1.

Blog Hops:

The A-to-Z Challenge for April 2016 is open for sign ups! Post daily except Sundays throughout the month of April, following an alphabet theme of your choosing (or lack of theme, with topics in alphabetical order...your choice!).

C. Lee McKenzie, Christine Rains, and Tara Tyler are hosting the Winter Blahs Blog Hop. Post an encouraging meme between February 29 and March 4. That's it! There are prizes involved.

Of Interest:

The Daily News put out an article entitled CIA Posts Its Own 'X-Files' in Celebration of the Show's Return. They've split into into Mulder and Scully sections.

H.R. Sinclair shared an editing software for Windows called SmartEdit. It looks interesting.

How's your snowfall been this year? Any whoopses in your prep? Have you ever read Devolution Z? How do you feel about port-a-potties? Any of these links of interest? Anything to add? Submission news?

May you find your Muse.