Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Epiphanies From Deconstruction - Horror

I did a workshop for Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers recently that made me look at how I thought of horror and reanalyze it in an attempt to help others understand it more. As I've delved deeper into the genre, I've expanded my own definition of it. Problem being, I see the same original, narrow view that I've left behind reflected in others' views on horror.

I frequently get comments like "I don't read/watch horror" or "I don't enjoy horror." But then there will be an exception to that. For example, "I don't enjoy horror, but I really liked Coraline/The Handmaid's Tale/Hunger Games/Stepford Wives/Planet of the Apes/Flowers in the Attic," etc. Right now, some of you are reading this and saying "Stepford Wives wasn't horror." Wasn't it? If Get Out is horror, Stepford Wives is, as well. Both look at subjugation and internal, unconscious biases in a frightening way that puts others in harm of losing themselves.

We've pigeonholed horror by defining it by one aspect, and each of us has a different aspect we define it by. Some might think horror is all slashers and gore. Some think it has to involve a monster. Sadly, even known authors of horror deny writing it, because they fear turning off readers and limiting their audience.

Interestingly, the Horror Writers Association pinpoints when this narrowing of the genre definition occurred: the 80s. And they blame it on one specific work: Stephen King's Carrie.

You see, horror wasn't a genre until sometime in the 80s. Even now, it's just a subgenre of fantasy, technically, but then we've split fantasy out into subgenres like dark fantasy and urban fantasy, as well, both of which can contain elements of horror.

The real trouble began when the publishing industry started trying to pinpoint the formula that made Carrie such a big hit. They then tried to duplicate that success by seeking similar stories. Suddenly, literature that met the definition of horror was pushed to the side, targeting this very specific form of horror to make sales and get movies made.

If you want to read more about this, put much better than I can, go to the HWA site.

A second problem we writers, specifically, have is that we're taught to pigeonhole our own writing to sell it. Pick a genre. You can't put "historical romantic mystery with speculative elements" in a query letter; you have to narrow that down. Where is it most likely to be put on a shelf? Well, with true horror, in the widest definition possible, it can go on many shelves.

Where would you find The Lovely Bones? Not in horror. Not even in fantasy, even though there are speculative, even supernatural, elements. It's a touching story, but it's also horrifying. There is clearly dread and horror brought out in the reader. What is NOT horrific about a little girl being raped and murdered then forced to watch from beyond the grave as her killer and family become involved in an intricate dance full of risk?

Where would you find The Hunger Games? Not under horror. It's a YA dystopian. But guess what dystopians are? A form of horror. Again, I ask you what is not horrific about children rounded up and forced to fight to the death for the entertainment of the wealthy?

Horror, in its purest form, exists to elicit darker emotions from its readers. That does not always have to be fear, though that's a strong thread, and is frequently present. It can be despair, horror, alarm, terror, disgust. It can be existential dread. It can be unfulfilled hope, brought to a crushing end. It can make you question society, your neighbor, or even your own morals. What it does not have to do is make you fear the creature under your bed (though it's completely legitimate if it does so).

What you'll often find in horror is that the things that scare you aren't the monsters, even when they exist. In The Shining, the ghosts are the least frightening part. The fright factor in The Shining has more to do with Jack's backslide into alcoholism and mental illness. It has to do with the sense of isolation and helplessness his family feels. The horror of a man coming after his wife and child with an ax is far more impactful than a lion shrubbery or a naked ghoul in a bathtub. At our base, we fear those close to us being able to harm us. Even more so, we fear our capacity for violence and wrongdoing. We fear hurting our loved ones, whether by causing physical harm or mental harm.

I realize I won't convince anyone with one short post. But I ask that you think about the wider implications of horror and try looking at things with a slightly different eye. Just because it was not slapped with a label of HORROR, does not mean it does not play in that particular playground. You may truly not like horror, but you may also just not like the narrow definition of horror you've been presented with. Either is legitimate.

Even I, a longtime fan of horror, didn't see it in its full scope. If you've read any of my horror list review posts, you know that I've said about many of the stories that I didn't feel they were horror. Now I know that they were, and that they existed on that list because they impacted someone emotionally in all the right ways. As a result, I'll go forward with a new set of eyes when reading the stories from Nightmare Magazine's Top 100 Horror Books.

Link time. Bear in mind that I'm not endorsing these, merely passing them along. Always do your own due diligence before submitting to a market or contest.

Accepting Submissions:

Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores is accepting flash fiction and short stories in the speculative fiction genres (minus horror). Pays $.06/word. Deadline June 28.

The Threepenny Review is accepting short fiction and poetry. Word counts vary per type of submission. Pays $400 for story/article, $200 for poetry. Deadline June 30.

Subprimal is accepting flash fiction and poetry. Up to 750 words. Pays $20. Deadline June 30.

Alban Lake is accepting horror short stories concerning the Ancient Ones for The Mad Visions of al-Hazred. 3000 to 10,000 words. Pays $25. Deadline June 30.

Chicken Soup for the Soul is accepting short pieces for My Crazy Family. Up to 1200 words. Pays $200. Deadline June 30.

Inklings Publishing is accepting short fiction, nonfiction, and poetry for Perceptions: Bullies. This is an anthology for kids. Up to 5000 words. Pays $20. Deadline June 30.

Broken Eye Books is accepting weird fiction set in Miskatonic University. Must involve the Cthulhu mythos. 3000 to 6000 words. Pays $.08/word. Deadline June 30.


Helen: A Literary Magazine is holding their Visual Prompt Quarterly Contest. Poetry, fiction, nonfiction, or experimental. There are three images, and it can contain one or all of them. $25 prize. Deadline June 30.

How do you define horror? Have you looked at any of the mentioned stories as horror? Do you find yourself pigeonholing horror into narrow definitions? Are any of these links of interest? Anything to share?

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Functional Nerds, Cover Reveal: Marked Beauty & Links

I was interviewed by The Functional Nerds podcast. Check it out after you've read the rest of the post! ;)

I'm pleased to be participating in S.A. Larsen's cover reveal for Marked Beauty. Without further ado:

Title: Marked Beauty
Author: S.A. Larsen
Publisher: Ellysian Press
Release Date: October 2017

Uncovering hidden secrets can sometimes kill you . . . or worse, steal your soul.
Anastasia Tate has a secret. She can feel the emotions of others through their life energy auras. Not a welcome gift for a teenager. Especially when a sinister presence begins stalking her.

Viktor Castle also has a secret. He’s tasked with protecting humanity yet cursed by an ancient evil to destroy it.

After Viktor saves Ana’s life, her abilities grow stronger. Drawn together, she senses Viktor has answers to lifelong questions. Only he shuns her at every turn, knowing he has saved her only to put her in more danger.

As Ana struggles with her attraction to Viktor, he tries everything to bury his unexpected feelings for her. But they must find a middle ground. For only together can they combat the dark forces threatening both their lives . . . and their souls.


About the Author
S.A. LARSEN is the author of the award-winning novel Motley Education, the first book in a fantasy-adventure series for middle grade readers. Her work has appeared in numerous local publications and young adult anthologies Gears of Brass and Under A Brass Moon by Curiosity Quills Press. Marked Beauty is her debut young adult novel. Find her in the land of snowy winters and the occasional Eh’ya with her husband of over twenty-five years, four children, a playful pooch, and three kittens. Visit her cyber home anytime at

Connect with her on Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Blog | Goodreads

This is a #hashtag giveaway, where two lucky winners will receive a FREE eBook of Marked Beauty upon its release.

To participate:
  • Share one of the premade images via Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Or write up a blog post using one of the images.
  • Include #MarkedBeauty in your description.
  • Optional for extra entry: include Add to Goodreads (with link) in your description.
***Posts MUST contain the hashtag #MarkedBeauty for entry into the giveaway or we won’t be able to find you.

Pre-made tweets (you add the image)

"A lust 4 life energy. An ancient curse. One soul's journey thru death 2 find the cure." #MarkedBeauty #CoverReveal

"Uncovering some secrets can kill you, or worse ... steal your soul." #MarkedBeauty #CoverReveal #YAlit

An ancient race. A timid girl. And a journey to the in-between. #MarkedBeauty #CoverReveal #YAlit

The giveaway begins May 17th and will be open until May 23rd. Winners will be announced May 24th via social media.


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

Accepting Submissions:

A Murder of Storytellers is accepting short fiction pieces about the rebellious dead for the anthology The Misbehaving Dead. Up to 10,000 words. Pays $15 and a contributor copy. Deadline June 13.

Arsenika is accepting flash fiction and poetry for their summer issue. Up to 1000 words. Pays $60 for fiction, $30 for poetry. Deadline June 15.

18th Wall Productions is accepting short Lovecraftian stories for their anthology The Chromatic Court: Tales of the Lovecraftian Arts. 4000 to 16,000 words. Pays 5% gross profit quarterly. Deadline June 15.

Pseudopod is accepting short horror/dark fiction to be put out on a podcast recording. Pays $.06/word.

What do you think? Have you participated in a hashtag giveaway before? Going to now? Any of these links of interest? Anything to share? 

May you find your Muse.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Horror List Book Review: Wet Work & Links

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 Wet Work, by Philip Nutman.

This novel came with the back story that it began as a short story he had published, that someone requested he flesh out into novel form. It also included the short story, which was an interesting departure from the novel (in other words, it wasn't just the short story with a whole lot of details filled in.)

This is a solid zombie novel, and very different from the typical ones. In it, the zombies are self-aware and thinking, though some of them haven't made the change successfully. Of the successful ones is our main character, Corvino, a special ops agent who happened to be on an op when all hell broke loose. 

We track several characters other than Corvino, including a man who is herded up with other non-zombies in order to feed a group who have taken over the government. He's a police officer who sticks around initially to help, but ends up running with other officers when it's obvious the police can't do anything against the new menace. You see, not only do the dead come alive again, but any sort of bug or virus is accelerated, so that the common cold kills within a couple days and turns its victim into a zombie, too. This is probably the most damaging part of what happens after the comet sets things in motion.

It's somewhat obvious that Corvino was the original focus of the short story, but the other characters are well fleshed out, as well. The pacing is good, marching us forward until we see what awaits the characters we're watching. Society breaks down, with those who are well committing crimes, looting, raping, etc.

The female characters were mostly incidental, so it was guy-centric. One POV character is female, but she wasn't as well fleshed out as the men. I didn't feel like I knew her well, so it seemed to me she was unnecessary as a POV character, especially considering the end (which I won't give away). However, she wasn't a harpie or the stereotypical female character one often sees; she was just unnecessary as POV, and would have been fine as a secondary character.

It was also clear he struggled with romance/sex, but it isn't a story killer.

All in all, I have little to say. This was an action-driven approach to zombies, one that took them in a different direction than the usual, and there are compelling mysteries involved that Corvino must figure out. Definitely a worthwhile read, especially if you like the zombie sub-genre.

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. Needful Things (Stephen King)
8. 1Q84 (Haruki Murakami)
9. Those Who Hunt the Night (Barbara Hambly)
12. Dark Forces (Kirby McCauly)
13. Dawn (Xenogenesis, Book 1) (Octavia E. Butler)
14. Wet Work (Philip Nutman)
15. The Stranger (Albert Camus)
16. Dead in the Water (Nancy Holder)
17. The Witches (Roald Dahl)
18. Psycho (Robert Bloch)
19. The Damnation Game (Clive Barker)
20. The Wolf's Hour (Robert McCammon)
21. Berserk (Tim Lebbon)
22. Prime Evil (Douglas E. Winter)
23. Best New Horror, Volume 1 (edited by Stephen Jones and Ramsey Campbell)
24. Flowers in the Attic (V.C. Andrews)
25. The Tomb (F. Paul Wilson)
26. Shadowland (Peter Straub)
27. Blood Meridian (Cormac McCarthy)
28. The Imago Sequence (Laird Barron)
29. My Soul to Keep (Tananarive Due)
30. Penpal (Dathan Auerbach)
31. World War Z (Max Brooks)
32. From the Dust Returned (Ray Bradbury) 
33. The Red Tree (Caitlin R. Kiernan)
34. In Silent Graves (Gary A. Braunbeck)
35. The Cipher (Kathe Koja)
36. Drawing Blood (Poppy Z. Brite)
37. The Doll Who Ate His Mother (Ramsey Campbell) 
38. Hotel Transylvania (Chelsea Quinn Yarbro)
39. Naked Lunch (William S. Burroughs)

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

Accepting Submissions:

Contrary is seeking short fiction, poetry, and commentary. Pays $20. Deadline June 1.

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

Page & Spine is seeking poetry, essays, flash fiction, and short fiction. Pays $.01/word. Deadline June 1.

Compelling Science Fiction is seeking sci-fi short stories. 1000 to 10,000 words. Pays $.06/word. Deadline June 1.

Pickman's Press is seeking Lovecraftian horror for their anthology Corporate Cthulhu. 2000 to 7000 words. Pays $.03/word. Deadline June 1.

Helen Literary Magazine is seeking short fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry. Pays $2 to $5. Deadline June 1.

Fantasia Divinity Magazine is seeking short fiction for the Goddesses of the Sea anthology. 500 to 15,000 words. Deadline June 5.

Have you read this? What do you think of aware zombies? What would people do with societal and mortal restraints removed? Any of these publications of interest? Anything to share?

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Gaaaaaaaaaaaaah - IWSG

The day isn't over yet, so I'm squeaking in my IWSG post. This would have been the first one I missed since I started doing it. YIKES!

Anywho, it's the first Wednesday of the month (I think it's Wednesday...), which means it's time for the Insecure Writer's Support Group, created by Alex J. Cavanaugh.

Anyone is welcome to join in. Simply click on Alex's name above and sign up then post on the first Wednesday of the month. You can avow your insecurities or give reassurances to others if you happen to be having a great month.

Our co-hosts this month are Nancy Gideon, Tamara Narayan, Liesbet @ Roaming About, Michelle Wallace, and Feather Stone! Stop by and say hi and thank you.

I'm just coming off a weekend at Pikes Peak Writers Conference, so I'm feeling exhausted, but not as insecure as I might otherwise be. I did a solo workshop on short stories there, plus a loosey-goosey panel on volunteering and a panel with some fellow short story authors, which was a lot of fun. I usually sneak a peek at the surveys people fill out at the end of my workshops to see what they had to say, but didn't get a chance, so now I'm floating in insecurity about whether my workshops were helpful, though I did get lots of positive feedback on the short story panel.

Speaking in front of people isn't something I come by naturally, so while I have more confidence in it than I used to, it's still stressful and causes plenty of insecurities. I hate to bore people. So hopefully I did okay.

Moving on to my stats for the month of April. It was a slow month, so my stats are sparse.

2 rejections
1 note sent out to everyone who had submitted that the editor needed a break, so it's not really a rejection. I've pulled it and will submit elsewhere.

That's it. Don't worry, it should pick up in the month of May.

In other news, I queried an agent at PPWC, and he asked me to send him the first three chapters. I'll be sending that out in the next week. Fingers crossed it goes somewhere!

Also, speaking of conferences, I found out this past week I've been accepted as faculty at Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold Conference in September. WOOT! It will be my first time there, and I'm looking forward to it.

Since I'm posting so late, I'm skipping the open submission links for this week, so I can get this post out there! As treasurer for Pikes Peak Writers (only for the next week, though!), my real work began the moment the conference ended, and I've spent several nights working until 4 AM, including the night of the conference. All this after being at the hotel from Wednesday forward working. I'm so tired, people! But I'm trying to get everything closed out so I can hand over a nice, pretty bundle to the new treasurer.

I'll try to do a summing up of the conference next week!

What are your insecurities? Are you comfortable speaking in front of people? How were your submissions this month?

May you find your Muse.