Calling for horror short stories written by authors with active Booktube/Authortube channels. I’m looking for a diverse group of authors for this first (possibly annual) anthology, so please don’t hesitate to submit.
Genre: Horror, including suspense, mystery, and weird fiction.
Theme: Local Haunts. Scary stories from your part of the world, including ghost stories, urban myths, legends, or wacky tales springing from your wicked imagination. Mature content is okay as long as it’s not too hardcore (email me with any specific questions at email@example.com).
Length: 1,000 – 7,000 words
Details: Please submit your story and other materials as separate attachments along with a link to your YouTube channel to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please use the standard submission format. For guidance see https://www.shunn.net/format/story.html.
Reprints okay, as long as you own the rights. English language only.
Pay: None. All proceeds will be donated to the literacy charity First Book. Each participant will receive a complimentary printed copy of the final anthology.
I know a TV show is exceptional (or at least exceptionally complicated) when I start rewatching from the beginning because I know I missed things. With Netflix’s German-language time-travel series, Dark, there is a lot to miss. But unlike some mind-bending shows—I love Twin Peaks, but yeah—this one rewards deep detective work. For this reason alone, it’s worth exploring its labyrinthine caves and complicated family trees.
I discovered Dark a few months ago when a few enthusiastic videos recommending the series randomly appeared in my YouTube stream. After the trauma of Games of Thrones, I was looking for a new show, so I checked it out. By the second episode, I was hooked.
The drama plays out across multiple generations, time periods, and even worlds (as the cliffhanger at the end of Season Two suggests) and yet never loses its laser-sharp focus. The show not only has beautiful acting, stunning cinematography, and a score that haunts one’s dreams, but also poses philosophical questions—Bookstrap Paradox anyone? Esoteric symbols show up on the cover of an 80s Heavy Metal album, in a hospital hallway, and tattooed on the back of a creepy (and sexy) priest named Noah. Latin quotes, Biblical and mythological allusions lend intellectual vigor to outlandish concepts, and yet it all works together in a neat, believable puzzle. This slow burn is worth the investment.
Am I gushing enough yet?
The show has been compared to Stranger Things. I can only judge by the first season—I stopped watching ST after that—but other than some of Dark taking place in the 1980s, it’s an entirely different show. The German ’80s has a more dour feel than the American one, perfectly exemplified by the nuclear power plant steaming on the horizon in many of the shots or just offscreen. This feels more like the 1980s in the nuclear disaster faux-doc Threads. There are 80’s pop songs in this show too, but they don’t exactly evoke nostalgia. A Flock of Seagulls never sounded so sinister.
A lot of the drama in Dark is centered around the personal relationships of the town’s inhabitants. There is a sense they are isolated, as well as miserable. Perhaps the looming apocalypse has already happened, and the incestuous citizens of the fictional Winden are the last to know. Each character suffers his or her own private drama, sometimes over multiple time periods. Wouldn’t we all love to go back in time to fix our worst mistakes? But in doing so, would we set into motion the very mechanism that allowed those events to occur?
Dark is filled with these types of questions. You’ll find yourself thinking about it long after the credit sequence when you must force yourself from watching just one more episode after a three-hour binge.
Aside from the German language (I recommend subtitles over the English dubbing), Dark may turn off some viewers because it’s impossible to do something else when you watch (like fold laundry or check your phone) without missing something crucial. Some have claimed it takes a higher intellect to get it. I would argue it just takes a certain level of attention. Like a masterfully layered game of logic, deep dives into the maze will yield satisfying eureka moments.
There’s a sense—and I pray the third season doesn’t prove me wrong—that the show is leading the viewer toward a tighter and more complex knot that will untie as long as we pull the right string. Searching for it is half the fun.
I’ve been horribly neglectful of my blog. There’s a reason for that. Since I began my YouTube channel last summer, all of my energy not spent on life and writing (and trying to maintain a crappy herb garden) goes into making two to three BookTube/AuthorTube videos a week. I’m having tons of fun doing it, but my weekly blog post has suffered.
So, while I’ve been not writing my blog (I will hopefully get it going again), I’ve been busy finishing my new novel, FASHION VICTIMS, which is coming out at the end of September. You may pre-order it now if you’d like (click the book cover below).
Fashion Victims is a psychological thriller about a New York fashion designer on the brink of a nervous breakdown who is about to launch the most important collection of his career . While he searches for his lost muse in the dungeons of an uptown sex club, a Seventh Avenue serial killer is terrorizing the fashion industry. Will the killer get too close to Len St. Michel before he can release his greatest creation?
Last night, while scrolling through Jezebel on my phone, I came across a story hot off the digital presses that immediately sparked my interest: a young poet named Ailey O’Toole, nominated for a Pushcart award (never heard of it, but it’s apparently quite an honor in small press poetry circles), was discovered to have plagiarized a good section of her work from several other poets, including an understandably pissed-off poet named Rachel McKibbens. Not only had O’Toole lifted lines nearly word-for-word from her work, she had the audacity to have one of those lines tattooed on her arm for a cool Instagrammable moment. Whoa! This takes it to a whole new level. It’s worth reading McKibbens’ Twitter response about the entire fiasco. O’Toole’s own Twitter page, alas, went poof overnight along with her other social media. Once the scandal broke, the one-star reviews and general vitriolic “reviews” of her work on GoodReads came down hard and swift. She lost her award nomination and the small press pulled her book.
This incident caused me to reflect on other great literary scandals. Let’s take a look, shall we?
Tomi Adeyemi and Nora Roberts
UPDATE: Looks like it’s a big week for lit scandals. A few days ago Tomi Adeyemi made a impulsive tweet that I’m sure she is regretting now (since deleted). In it, she accuses veteran bestselling romance writer, Nora Roberts, of stealing her title and cover art for Children of Blood and Bone. Nora Roberts’ dignified response to the accusation is worth reading.
JT LeRoy, was invented by a woman named Laura Albert, an artsy San Francisco housewife who couldn’t get a break. Albert was a talented writer, and a bit of a grifter. Between gigs as a sex chat phone operator, Laura wrote stories under her pseudonym and alter ego, JT LeRoy, a pretty blond teenage boy who was turned out by his truck stop prostitute mother and was now barely surviving on the streets of SF. Agents and critics were intrigued by his backstory as well as his gritty and sexually raw prose (a thing in the 90’s). LeRoy got a publishing deal and a legion of celebrity fans with whom Albert, using her sex chat skills, chatted regularly on the phone. She also recorded the conversations. To use as potential blackmail when the shit hit the fan? Albert kept the balls in the air for years by employing her sister-in-law to act as JT’s avatar, and even helped produce a film of the work, The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things. You ain’t kidding. Not even star and director of the film, Asia Argento (with whom the fake JT allegedly had an affair) knew the truth. This scandal comprises an enormous rabbit hole that rewards the deep dive.
How wonderful to have your book included in Oprah’s book club and get featured on her show! How horrifying to have it exposed as a work of plagiarism, then having to appear along with your pissed-off publisher on the same show for a public flogging. Thus was the fate of James Frey, whose 2003 “memoir” A Thousand Little Pieces about the author’s drug addiction, criminal past, and triumphant recovery, earned Frey the Oprah seal of approval. The glory was brief, however, when it was revealed that he exaggerated some of his “real life experiences.” He returned to the Oprah show with his publisher to offer an apology. The host and her mostly female audience fell on him like the Bacchae on Pentheus, tearing him to shreds. The beating was so severe that Frey ended up garnering some sympathy. Eventually he bounced back into literary obscurity. He still writes and probably continues to earn a decent living. One wonders if the scars have healed.
Romance novelist Faleena Hopkins was doing so well with her Cocky guy book series that she apparently bought the copyright to the word “cocky” and tried to sue other writers who picked up on the trend because Alpha sells. The entire thing blew up in Ms. Hopkins face and she was forced to retract her lawsuits and offer a sorry not sorry apology. I would post one of her many shirtless buff guy covers, but I’m afraid she sue me. Use your imagination.
Which reminds me…
I’ve been meaning to watch Can You Ever Forgive Me starring Melissa McCarthy about a literary forger. Girls gotta make a living.
The gal in the latest poetry scandal looks pretty young (dare I say millennial?). Hopefully she’ll take some time off, draft a few groveling apologies, find a good tattoo remover, and quietly work on her craft (or find something else to do) until it all blows over. Perhaps in her recovery journal she’ll write (in quotes!) the famous words of Stanislavski: Love art in yourself, and not yourself in art.
October 31st is horror fans’ official holiday. This year I’m celebrating by dressing up as my favorite screen character, Baby Jane Hudson. I guess I’ve entered my Grande Dame Guignol years. I embrace it. I look forward to scaring the children on my doorstep this year.
Below are a few of my favorite Grand Dame’s, proving that they still got it past their prime (youth).
Bette Davis as Baby Jane Hudson
According to B.D. Hyman’s exposé My Mother’s Keeper, Davis showed up at the set of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane still wearing her make-up from the previous day’s shoot and just added more. Davis’ willingness to take her performances to the extreme without any regard for her vanity is impressive. But her famous counterpart held onto her glamour with her manicured nails for dear life. For that reason and others, she’s my personal favorite.
Joan Crawford in Strait Jacket & Berserk
Wearing a fright wig reminiscent of her Oscar winning role in Mildred Pierce, Crawford’s post Baby Jane turn as a hatchet wielding harridan in Strait Jacket is a grande dame guignol classic. Unfortunately it’s not a very good film. Still, it’s fun to watch at least once, and I have to admire Joan’s dedication to maintaining her girlish figure at 60. Even more impressive is how glamorous she looks in the 1967 British camp classic Berserk. With her perfect make-up and hairstyles, Joan plays a sixty-something carnival barker who not only still looks good in fishnet tights she sets the carnival hunks’ hearts (and other anatomy) ablaze.
Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard
Billy Wilder’s 1950 classic may be the start of of Grande Dame Guignol cinema. These were the days when the mere thought of a fifty-year-old woman (and Swanson looks incredibly good) making it with a handsome young guy in his thirties was enough to generate horror. For the record, I’ve always found Norma Desmond much more desirable than the young and perky Betty Schaefe, and fortunately my husband agrees. I think there are plenty of men today who would “take the Vicuna.”
And finally, we can thank the ABC Movies of the Week from the 1970’s for some other great examples of Grande Dame Guignol, where older movie stars found work in television. Below are some fine examples. If you appreciate camp (and some damn good stories), you’ll find much to enjoy here. Many of these are available in low res on YouTube.
The other night my heart thrilled at the sight of an enormous harvest moon making wavy gold streaks on the river’s surface. I smelled the crisp scent of burning leaves in the suddenly chilly air and knew my favorite season had returned at last. In Pennsylvania we get the weather extremes, and as much as I love the hot summer nights, fall is my favorite and it’s here at last. To celebrate the season of the witch, I’ve put together a reading list to hit the sweet spots of Halloween haunts, #Victober (a cool BookTube trend of reading Victorian era books during the October month), some true crime thrown in to keep me up at night, Gothic romance because I’ll find any excuse to read those, and a crusty 80’s era horror paperback from a recent thrift shop haul.
The Witching Hour by Anne Rice. I have about 200 pages to go. This is a re-read. Halfway through this nearly 1000 page tome while I was reading all about the Mayfair Witches history in the Talamasca file that goes on forever and ever, I kept thinking why? Why did I do this to myself? This book is such a commitment, but yet I couldn’t abandon it. It slowly seduces as much as Lasher and the city of New Orleans does. Yes, I will reread the subsequent books in the series, Lasher and Taltos. And yes, I’ll ask myself why the entire time. Can someone please make a TV series of this already so I don’t have to read it again when I feel the itch?
Small Sacrifices by Anne Rule. Again, why do I do this to myself? I must have read this book three times since it came out in the late 80’s. Some video about Diane Downs came up in my YouTube feed the other day and the next thing I knew I was loading up the book in my kindle and for the past few days I could barely pull myself away. There is something about the way Anne Rule writes that elevates hers from other true crime books. She not only reports the facts, she finds the drama and digs in deep.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. This Gothic romantic classic was written in the Victorian era so I suppose it counts for a #Victober read. This is another reread, but it’s been a while. Also, I just got myself a beautiful Easton Press leather-bound copy: perfect for cozy reading by the fire (or space heater) with a cup of tea.
For a less literary Gothic romance choice, I plan to read Volume Two in the Dark Shadows book series. They’re super short and I can knock one out in a day.
For my 80’s horror paperback pick, I’m reading Soul-Eater by Dana Brookins. I have no idea if this is any good, but the cover is fantastic. Let’s hope the story lives up to it.
And finally. I plan to finally finish Mr. Clive Barker’s Books of Blood that have been withering in my kindle for months. I just completed volume five and the stories contained within were my favorite so far. Now onto volume six. I can do this.
So, here are my best laid reading plans that will probably so awry, but what fun are plans if you can’t break them? Happy reading.
It took me a long time to accept my Virgo birth sign. I remember wishing if only my mother had scheduled that C-section a few days earlier and I could have an outgoing Leo personality instead of this shy, bookish Virgo one. But then I happened upon this photo of Sophia Loren and I felt instantly better about being an earth woman.
As another birthday roles around this August (Virgo,not Leo) and I do my habitual yearly self-assessment, I observe the following: I got healthier (sobriety, meditation, diet & exercise do work), learned to filter out (some) lingering negativity in my life (about time, eh?), grew out my natural hair color for the third time, read 78 books, started a BookTube channel, helped to organize a local arts festival, and wrote like the dickens (not Charles, unfortunately).
My production for the year included: three novels in a YA series, one novella, a good rough draft of one novel and the start of another, a bunch of poems, five short stories, and nearly weekly blog posts. I also quit Facebook, got back on recently then promptly quit again, and spent a lot of time alone in nature. Through all of the ups and downs, self-recriminations, broken sobriety dates, and moments of quiet (at times despairing) contemplation, I wrote. I may have skipped my exercise date, but never my morning writing session.
I owe a lot of my prolificacy to Wattpad. I joined the site just a year ago and the interaction and feedback I encountered there really spurred on my productivity.
The Exorcist’s opening Iraq sequence is a masterclass in visual metaphors. By using only images and sound (the brief dialogue is in Arabic), a portending evil is introduced.
The scenes taking place in an ancient arid land (you can feel the heat) slowly lull the viewer into a hypnotic trance with its stark imagery. These symbols remain in the viewer’s subconscious and are called back in later scenes: the black cloaked women in the Iraq street scene and the white cloaked nuns in the Georgetown street scene, the demon face of the women in the carriage and “old altar boy” bum in the subway, animal images and sounds, all adding layers of complexity that the viewer absorbs and feels, but perhaps doesn’t consciously understand.
Many films today would forgo this prequel setup as being ‘too slow,’ but by taking its time and showing the ancient roots of the Pazuzu, demon of the wind, and the sense that Father Merrin has dealt with its evil before, the film gains more gravity and deep symbolic meaning that lingers in the viewer’s subconscious long after the shock values of the spinning head and silly spider-walk wear off.
Often this sequence is forgotten about by the viewer when they recall the film; but the symbols are planted, priming the mind to receive the rich and layered storytelling of a film that has stood the test of time for a reason.
A blood red sky shines down on the archeological site of an ancient spiritual temple ruins.
The best depiction of a borderline personality disordered individual ever committed to screen is Glenn Close’s Alex in Fatal Attraction. This Cluster B disorder (of which women are most afflicted) is marked by poor boundaries, impulsivity, and a violent reaction to any real or perceived rejection. At first these seductive femme fatales appeal to a man’s fantasy of the no-strings attached hot affair. The borderline’s lack of boundaries and amorality are a turn-on in the bedroom, but when the man tries to return, sated, to his wife or move on to a more appropriate girl (as in the case of Mormon boy, Travis Alexander), the borderline psycho bitch just won’t let go. She may, as in the case of Jodi Arias, at first subject herself to her lover’s diminishing returns and lack of respect (he famously referred to her as his three-hole wonder), but a girl can only take so much abuse. Her already dangerously damaged ego lies coiled like a cobra ready to strike. She shows up at his house looking cute and breezy—I drove from California to Arizona, but I just happen to be in town. He lets her in—hey, what’s one more lay? I can get her out of here in time for my trip with my new “virginal” girlfriend. Sorry lover. While you were showering off her stank, petite Jodi struck, and struck hard.
In the 1999 Anthony Mingella film The Talented Mr. Ripley, Gwyneth Paltrow’s Marge (much frumpier in the book) knows something’s up with her missing boyfriend, Dickie Greenleaf’s weird friend Tom Ripley. But her Cassandra like prophesies are pooh-poohed as (hormonal) women’s intuition, but she knows. She knows!
While the Covert Narcissist must depend on the kindness of codependents (like a vulture circling wounded prey), the Charming Psychopath’s hunting grounds are much higher on the food chain, and therefore he must be in top form. Like an Olympic athlete training for the event, he prepares his body, tastes, voice, and mannerisms to blend in, ingratiate, and win at all costs. His weapons are flattery, acquiescence, sympathy and understanding. He is an expert at infiltrating, blending in, acting the part of the supportive friend, and then suddenly you realize (too late!) that you’ve let a shark in the pool. Continue reading “Great Villains Part Two”→
When your knight in shining armor slowly changes into an Orc (you never saw it coming) you may be dealing with a covert narcissist. We can all see those bombastic braggadocios of the classic narcissist blaring their horns from a mile away, but the subtle ones who appear so shy, so harmless, so needy…Ah! Beware those sneaky bastards.
They inflict abuse by establishing a honeymoon period of love bombing, mirroring back your every wish and desire—at last someone sees the real you and gives you the validation you crave—followed by a slow period of devaluation: withdrawal of affection, radio silence on your accomplishments, poison darts of thinly veiled hostility, silent but deadly farts of disapproval. You become crazy and they become stronger, their narcissistic supply tanks filled while you are left drained and confused. If you have the misfortune of having one of these in your life, the best recourse is to run as far away as possible. The problem is that by the time (sometimes years, even decades) you’ve realized you’ve been slowly cooked over a rotating spit of negativity, they’ve infiltrated your friend group and perhaps your bank accounts and you’ve been drained of all your juice. But as long as you’re able to get away and recharge, there is hope.
There are many examples of the gaslighting psychopath in film and literature. Here’s one of my favorites (whoever made this video is a genius by the way):
Charles Boyer is portrayed as a more overt villain in the classic Gaslight, even if poor Ingrid Bergman is the last one to know.
As a woman in my mid-fifties, I’ve experienced the horror expressed in this classic moment of cinematic grand dame guignol. I started a YouTube channel recently, and I admit to spending as much time on my make-up, hair, and flattering lighting as I do my “content.” Like many Virgos, I’m vain. I can relate to that famous literary Virgo, Blanche DuBois, who once bemoaned about the “hard knocks my vanity has taken,” and she was only in her thirties at the time.
Vivien Leigh still looks damn good under the bare light bulb. My God, Tennessee Williams was a genius. Check in time at the Tarantula Arms. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Back in the 1970’s, my cousin and his wife lived in a run-down trailer in a rural part of the upper county where I would sometimes babysit their kids. My cousin’s wife, a dead ringer for Michelle Pfeiffer with enviable Farrah hair, loved to read, her taste leaning toward the sleaziest horror and true crime books. I spent many hours poring through her stack of paperbacks that included tales of killer kidnappings, rape scenes involving hapless pregnant hitchhikers in vast Oregon landscapes, a teenage mom whose baby was eaten by the family dog, and a fictional work (I can only hope) involving incest that was too grammatically challenged for even my thirteen-year-old sensibilities.
One memorable babysitting episode involved me reading some trashy “novel” while my cousin’s hound dog gave birth to a litter in the chair next to me, forcing me to put down the book about a family changed into demons inside a grain silo (if anyone remembers the title I’ll be eternally grateful) and play doggie midwife. Those babysitting nights alone in the trailer seeped into my nightmares and gave me a sleazy thrill, like the times I’d stay too late at the drive-in when “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” was the feature presentation, and the really creepy stuff would play after midnight. There were no trigger warnings in the 1970’s, and thus Trip With The Teacher became unfortunately seared into my teenage memory.
Reading Richard Laymon (this is my second time at the rodeo) gets me back in touch with that sick part of me that enjoys reading trash, but it also reminds me where to draw the line. I read The Cellar a few months ago, and as much as I love paperbacks from hell, the scenes from the rapist’s POV made me swear off Richard Laymon for good. But when my YouTube buddy, Peter Monn, included Laymon’s Endless Night in his popular Peter’s Book Club, I decided to give the prince of sleaze another try.
The book starts out good and scary when nubile (of course) teenager Jody’s sleepover at a friend’s house is interrupted by a crew of killers, known as the Krull, who break into the house wearing previous victims’ skins and start massacring everyone in sight. After Jody and her friend’s kid brother, Andy, manage to escape the Krull crew in a heart-stopping chase scene, the POV switches to one of the killer’s and that’s when Laymon really finds his writer’s “voice.” What follows are graphic descriptions of rapes and murders with a disturbing emphasis on the teenage victims’ suffering and lingerie. The word “panties” appears in the text a bit too often for comfort. Nipples run a close second.
I love a good, sleazy scare as much as the next horror hound, but there is something about Laymon’s work that goes too far, which is probably why he has such a loyal following.
I suppose his work gives a certain cheap thrill; I can’t say I’m a fan. Still, for the remains of this Sunday afternoon I’m reading The Endless Night till the bitter end. Then I’m taking a bath.
Postscript: I finished the book. The climax (hate to use that word) was even sleazier than I anticipated. I think I’ll pass on this author from now on.
I’ve finally recovered from last week’s whirlwind weekend at BookCon in New York City. It was my first time at BookCon, and I had a blast. I will be back. In fact, next year I hope to have a booth with my YA book series (three, maybe four books in) on display. Attending BookCon helped me to visualize that goal and break down the intimidation factor. Even when I sat in on the panel and listened to authors I admire like Cassandra Clare and James Patterson, I saw that they were just people who worked really hard to achieve their levels of success. It was inspiring to me as a writer, and I returned home feeling energized and ready to get back to work.
I was also inspired to see so many young people being excited about books. I hear a lot of griping about the proliferation of YA in the bookish community. I get that, and I have definitely felt the frustration of not being able to find good adult horror, for example, but to see teenagers clutching books and jumping up and down with excitement at the prospect of meeting their favorite authors gave this former English teacher a thrill.
My First BookCon Takeaway
Wear comfortable shoes. I was packing a few cute outfits, including a new pair of wedgie sandals, when I decided to throw in my sneakers (just in case). Well, I ended up wearing those sneakers and a pair of jeans the entire time. I must have walked twenty miles that weekend. The cute outfits and shoes I packed stayed in my suitcase.
Books are heavy. Next time bring the rolling suitcase instead of the shoulder tote and check it at the Javitt’s Center, not at the hotel on the East Side (especially when there were two parades going on that weekend).
Talk to more people. Full disclosure, I’m a bit of an introvert. Striking up conversations with strangers does not come easy to me; however, the few times I did work up the courage to talk to people I had a positive experience. I met indie writers just like me, excited to talk about their books. I must remind myself in these situations to make an effort to connect, to ask questions, and just relax.
Sign up early for workshops. I did manage to get into one workshop, which was great, but many of the events I was interested in sold out soon. This was a last minute trip for me so next year I’ll plan more carefully. There were a few things I missed just because I didn’t notice it on the schedule, like the Wattpad meet and greet. 😦
This was my first time ever attending any kind of CON, and I had such a good time I will probably be heading to the next Comic Con in my area. I found some horror comics at BookCon that I plan to devour on my living room sofa today. Happy reading!
I finally screwed my courage to the sticking place and started my BookTube/AuthorTube channel. I’m still working out the focus, lighting, audio, and awkwardness, but I started. I already have eighteen subs! Horrah! Watch, subscribe, like, and comment (if you feel like it).
While channel surfing last night looking for something “dumb but fun”, I was thrilled to see that The Craft had just started. I grabbed some popcorn (not really, I’m dieting) and sat back to enjoy one of my favorite teen flicks. Continue reading “Guilty Pleasures – The Craft”→
I don’t think about fairies much: maybe when I see a Maxfield Parrish illustration, A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Shakespeare opened and closed the door in my opinion), or hear a classic fairy tale or or read about those two young girls who photographed fairies and convinced everyone they were real (that was really cool btw). But I can’t say I think about fairies in the way I do about…say…vampires or even werewolves as standard literary characters.
After the success of Twilight, Vampires (and werewolves) have of course been done to death in young adult fiction. The necessity for coming up with something new produced a few mermaid series (I can’t help but think of drowning) and fairies—lots and lots of fairy stories.
If I thought of fairies at all it was as a tiny, gentle Tinkerbell creatures, or some scary “wee folk” people in the midst of bad DMT trips describe seeing (I confess to seeing a small elf chipping away at my brain during a bad fever once). But who knew that fairies could be so damn sexy, and mean? Continue reading “My Foray Into YA Fae”→
Around Christmas time of this year, I became inadvertently (and obsessively) drawn into a YouTube drama rabbit hole. While I was tuning into my favorite BookTuber’s Mr. Peter Monn, I discovered that the switchboards were flashing with all kinds of drama concerning Peter being accused of nasty things by a young YouTuber provocateur.
Here’s poor Peter in the midst of the chaos:
While lines were marked in the sand and online alliances formed, one name kept popping up as being one of the sources for spreading such vile gossip.
Since that dramatic event, things have calmed down and Peter seems back to normal (he posts about four videos a day about his life which is how I know this). I’ve since discovered many of these so-called drama channels, but no one does it better than Karina Kaboom. She alone has mastered the digital age’s version of Louella Parsons and Hedda Hopper. Continue reading “The Louella Parsons of YouTube”→
Responding to criticism is something writers are going to have to deal with eventually. How we navigate that response depends on the criticism itself, how we feel about the source of the criticism, and what the emotional tenor of our present mood is when we read that review or tweet. It can hit us in a sore spot and make us react…hmmm…let’s say less than civilly. Continue reading “Responding to Criticism”→
I have noticeably less distractions. Facebook used to be my default time filler. The problem was I could sometimes get pulled into a rabbit hole of reading posts (and savoring drama) that before I knew it two hours had past and I hadn’t gotten anything accomplished. This was one of the main reasons I decided to leave social media, and I see a huge difference in my productiveness. Continue reading “Life Without Facebook”→
Recently I’ve been dipping my reading time and my pen into the Young Adult genre. It’s through my obsessive viewing of booktube that I’ve been exposed to some very creative stories in the fantasy and science fiction genre.
Along with that, I’ve been abusing my Amazon prime membership by purchasing many of these books that have gorgeous, colorful hardback covers and dust jackets that look beautiful on my shelves. Since finishing book three of A Song of Fire and Ice, I’m taking a reprieve from adult reads and soaking up some YA loveliness.
Except that it’s not all lovely. Last week I read a heavily hyped YA science fiction adventure novel that is an object lesson in how not to write a book. I won’t mention it by title because its authors have already suffered enough abuse, but the mistakes they made can be a note of caution to every fiction writer. Continue reading “How Not to Write a Book”→
I think it was Stephen King in his great book “On Writing” who stated something to the effect that if you show up at the same spot and time everyday, the muse will do the same.
Okay, I found the quote. It’s much more articulate than my paraphrase (go figure):
“Don’t wait for the muse. As I’ve said, he’s a hardheaded guy who’s not susceptible to a lot of creative fluttering. This isn’t the Ouija board or the spirit-world we’re talking about here, but just another job like laying pipe or driving long-haul trucks. Your job is to make sure the muse knows where you’re going to be every day from nine ’til noon. or seven ’til three. If he does know, I assure you that sooner or later he’ll start showing up.” Continue reading “Good Writing Days”→
Writing is a solitary, at times lonely, occupation, which is probably why I decided recently to start a rock band. It’s been one of those things I wanted to do for years, so why not do it while I still have all my joints intact?
I’ve always loved rock and roll (I refuse to call it by that farty moniker classic rock) and I consider myself fortunate to have grown up during its heyday. Ten years ago I wrote and produced a popular web series about a 1970’s rock band called Gemini Rising. It won a Webby Honoree and was recommended by the Washington Post and the Boston Globe. I’d like to say it was picked up by HBO, but alas no. It’s still out there, however, to be discovered and enjoyed. I put a lot of heart into the writing of the show and in the original music, and it’s always the artist’s hope that these strong emotions will somehow resonate with an audience. Continue reading “Long Live Rock!”→
I still haven’t yet finished Infinte Jest (New Year’s resolution), but I’m a big fan of DFW’s essays. The late writer’s mastery of the English language, as well as his courage to experiment with it, truly puts him in a class by himself (along with Shakespeare, Joyce, and Wordsworth).
I try to keep a notebook by my side while I’m reading (even when it’s trash) so I can jot down words or phrases I like. Listening to DFW read his great (and hilarious) essay on the AVN porn awards, Big Red Son, had me pausing the video and jotting like crazy (and reaching for a dictionary). He’s famous for his long, but grammatically sound sentences and elaborately constructed footnotes.
Below are some of the juicy bits from Big Red Son (interesting phrases and word choices bolded).
“We pretty much all tune in, despite the grotesquerie of watching an industry congratulate itself on its pretense that it’s still an art form, of hearing people in $5,000 gowns invoke lush clichés of surprise and humility scripted by publicists etc.—the whole cynical post-modern deal—but we all still seem to watch.”
“He contrasts the woeful paucity of his own ejaculate with the concussive orgasms of certain well-known performers, comparing these men’s ejaculations to automatic lawn sprinklers and doing an eerie sonic impression of the same.”
“Treasure Island, with its intricate facade of decks and ringing and mizzens and vang.”
“The Harley-Davidson Cafe, with its tympanum of huge protruding hawg; Bally’s H&C, with its row of phallic pillars all electrified and blinking in grand mal sync.”
“A second-tier Arrow Video starlet in a G-string poses for a photo, forked dorsally over the knee of a morbidly obese cellphone retailer from suburban Philadelphia.”
“Several of the outfits defy basic precepts of modern physics. Coiffures are towering and complex.”
“Not unlike urban gangs, police, carnival workers, and certain other culturally marginalized guilds, the US porn industry in occluded and insular in a way that makes it seem like high school.”
This is ambitious writing that flies in the face of most writing advice, which is one reason why it’s so great. The best writers add to the language, stretch it to infinite possibilities. They also sometimes use adverbs. I’d hate to miss out on forked dorsally.
The Believers, a campy 1987 thriller directed by John Schlesinger and starring Martin Sheen, is a guilty-pleasure favorite of mine. So when I found The Religion by Nicholas Condé, the novel on which the film is based, I couldn’t resist checking it out.
The book is dated (New York has changed since the early 80’s), and the social distance between the white protagonist Cal Jamison, an anthropologist in the book, and the exotic Latino population did peak my PC meter a few times.
The same is true of the film (Roger Ebert justifiably called out the racist undertones when he reviewed it back in ’87). Appropriating religious beliefs for horror exploitation has gone out of favor, which is probably why we haven’t seen too many voodoo horror films since Angel Heart and The Serpent and the Rainbow (another campy fav).
But putting bad taste aside (this is horror after all), I thoroughly enjoyed both film and book, although the stories are very different.
I joined Wattpad in August kind of as a fluke. A Netflix show I really liked got canceled (Gypsy with Naomi Watts) and when I was google searching why, I found a Reddit thread where someone had posted a fan fiction story about what happens to Watts’ character and her lesbian lover after the show ends. Intrigued, I checked it out and discovered a site I’ve since grown to love. Shout out to you, @AnnaGold1 for bringing me there. I’m ashamed to admit I’d never heard of Wattpad, before then, but as soon as I joined I was hooked. It’s become my destination social media site since I defected from Facebook. And, I’ve found, a much more productive one.
I quickly made a profile for myself and put up a few of my short stories that no one read, then I eventually put up my two completed novels currently lost in the Amazon jungle. They got a few reads on Wattpad, but it wasn’t until I wrote a novella-length story that catered to a specific audience (YA) in a popular but not over-used genre (paranormal), and got a stunning cover for it (credits below), that my story got featured by the site without me having to submit a request. I didn’t quite understand it at the time, but this is considered grabbing the brass ring on Wattpad. That, and reaching the #1 spot out of millions of stories (mine is currently ranking at #5).
I also wrote what I think is a pretty good story that keeps the pages (or screens) turning. It’s something I try to do with all my fiction, along with a good twist near the end. Since I first posted it as a draft, I did quite a bit of polishing and editing: some of it formed from the comments I received from readers. Continue reading “Getting Featured on Wattpad”→
Multitasking may seem like a necessity in today’s world, but it’s a killer for creativity. I saw an interview with Patti Smith recently where she said that during her sojourn in Michigan she would use the early morning hours before her kids woke up for writing and studying. I’m an early riser too, and I need absolute silence (or Zen music) when I’m writing. People have different levels of tolerance, but anything that distracts your mental energy from focusing on the creative task is bad, and the internet is full of them.
When you get stuck on a sentence, it’s temping to open a window and kill some time, but I’ve found it’s better to stay with the thought and work through the problem. If all else fails, it’s probably smarter to take a walk or do something physical than to open the Daily Mail. It’s easy to get pulled into one wormhole or another and before you know it, hours have passed and you haven’t written one word.
Mind space distractions are killers to creativity, and certain people can burrow in there real good. My husband has a rule for his business. If he wakes up still thinking about some asshole on the job, he fires them. Now, most of us don’t have that luxury when it comes to our working lives, but how many of us have hung on to shitty relationships out of some warped sense of duty? I know I have. We all have bad moments now and then, but if someone is consistently obnoxious to the point where you are thinking about them too much, it’s time for the old heave-ho. It may sound harsh, but in order to create to your fullest potential your mind must be free from the petty dramas of life. Continue reading “Fostering Creativity – Part 7”→
There was this hippie dude back in the early 80s when I was in college, one of many older guys (anyone past twenty-seven) who pursued philosophy degrees part-time and tried to hook up with each new crop of freshmen girls. I doubt if this particular guy had much luck in that department considering his Bilbo Baggins appearance complete with pot belly, meerschaum pipe, and puffs of frizz crowning his bald pate (hey, you never know.) I don’t recall his name but I do remember he always wore the same faded t-shirt with an illustration of a dragon next to which were emblazoned the words: “I have abandoned my search for truth and am now looking for a good fantasy.”
This is exactly my creed as annus horribilis comes to a close. The stress of reading the “reality” of news stories has left me in shatters. One more article about my favorite actor digitally penetrating an unwilling someone thirty years ago will break me. One more smug shot of Trump making that hand gesture will send me to the loony bin. So I seek refuge in fantasy, particularly George (not your bitch) R.R. Martin’s ASong of Fire and Ice books, where murder, rape, incest, and torture is so much more palatable than reading about these topics in the Daily Mail.
I was late coming to Game of Thrones, but now after binge watching the entire oeuvre last year and just completing book two, I’m officially obsessed. I’ve found in fantasy the catharsis of watching my enemies burn with dragon fire when in real life I’m stuck with platitudinal memes extolling my self-worth in the face of “toxic friends.”
Now that my Wattpad writing career has taken off (The Ghosts of Dark Hollow is now featured on the site and gaining a little following), I’m considering trying my hand at the fantasy genre. To prepare for that feat, I’m checking out sword and sorcery tomes from the library and vowing to finally finish Lord of the Rings this year. Of the sixty-seven books I read this year (according to Goodreads) only seven were fantasy. I vow to change that in 2018 as well as read all those “fucking George Martin books.”
Fantasy definitely helps me deal with reality. Bring on the dragons.
They’re like friends I check in with nearly every day: my favorite BookTubers.
First up is Will, aka the BaldBookGeek. I’ve checked out other book vloggers, but Will is the one I always come back to because he keeps it real, whether he’s waxing poetic about his favorite YA author, bitching about his incessant sinus infections, or just telling it like it is in his latest rant, I sense it’s all coming from an honest place. Plus, I just adore his accent.
Well, I survived another NanoWriMo, although I must admit, I cheated. I continued writing a story that I had started a few years ago (about 10,000 words worth of notes and outlines). For that reason I’m not celebrating my “win.”
After guiltily Googling the topic I learned that I’m not the only one bending the rules. I look at it this way, Nano helped me write over 50,000 words of a novel I probably would have abandoned without that incentive. I didn’t finish it yet, but I got near to writing a loose mess of a first (or zero) draft and that’s something. For now, it’s shoved in the proverbial draw while I finish some other stuff.
I’m still a relative Wattpad newbie, but man, I love that site. Ever since I quit Facebook , Wattpad has been a productive way for me to keep focused on my writing while filling the social networking void. I really enjoy reading other people’s work and seeing what people have to say about mine.
Or is that part duh? This has been a tough one compared to last year’s. At least I have a pretty cover.
Note to self: never start a novel and then try to resuscitate it nearly two years later because your mojo will be buried so deep it will take a team of Egyptologists to find the tomb of your original inspiration.
Expanding that rather shitty metaphor (they are not my strong suit), I’ve learned this time around that writing is like digging (or shoveling shit depending on the day), and that you may find something unexpected during the excavation: a hidden underground spring, a dangerous fault line into your own psyche, or a diamond mind (still holding out hope for that one).
It’s become a rather tiresome cliché (was it Stephen King or a Twitter meme that started it?) that fiction writers are either plotters or pantsers, meaning those who plot out their stories versus those who write by the seat of their pants. Although my writing habits lean toward the former (I always outline), I’ve discovered with this project the rewards of pantsering only because I ran out of ideas at the 30,000 word count, meaning I had at least a 15,000 word gap to fill between where (basically nowhere) I was and the dramatic ending I envisioned.
So this morning I awoke before dawn as usual, put on my mood music, set my word count goal, lined up my liquids (coffee and orange juice), and started making it up on the spot.
Lo and behold I discovered a very cool subplot that magically reunited les enfant purdus of ideas I had abandoned in the ether many chapters ago (told you I write shitty metaphors). Long story short (at 43,000 it will be) I got excited about my story again, which is precisely the jet fuel I need to get to the 50,000 word count goal.
By letting go of control I found the joy of discovery, an important lesson to take with me as I move forward on my writing journey.
Stephen King was (partly) correct when he took a swipe at plotters. It great to have a map, but losing the path has its rewards. Sorry, the bad metaphors just keep coming today. I’ve already spent too much time at the keyboard and I’m in desperate need for some outdoor exercise. #nanoass
Something my husband and I have often discussed is how hard it was to have personal boundaries when growing up in a household with a lot of kids (he is one of twelve so he should know). As one of four kids I may not have had it so bad, but I still struggled with trying to establish an independent identity within a tight, at times dysfunctional, but mostly loving family dynamic.
When I was a little kid I was (like most American children at the time) a huge fan of the Monkees. I only got to experience the tail end of the Beatles just when they were breaking up—I went to see “Let it Be” in the movie theater when I was too little to really dig it. The older kids may have had who’s your favorite Beatle? , but we had a similar who’s your favorite Monkee? Not as cool, perhaps, but still….
While my sisters and my friends were swooning over Davy Jones, my favorite Monkee was Peter Tork. Like George Harrison, Peter Tork was the “spiritual” one, the sweet simpleton perhaps, but I could relate to him, plus he wore psychedelic banded collar jackets, and had his own personal guru.
One clip I watched from the late 60’s (maybe in the film Head? ) where Peter Tork said that he like to escape from the cheering crowds of adoring fans by wandering in the woods alone. I remember as a kid thinking to myself that Peter Tork really understood where I was coming from. It validated my own practice of escape.
This is a quote from Anne Rice who was told this by a teacher of hers and she found it useful and passed it on. A few days into my second nanowrimo writing marathon (while continuing to update a Wattpad story) I can relate to it.
I described my take on writing recently to a fellow writer as a painful obsession.
A painful obsession is perhaps analogous to a long distance runner (it’s been a long time since I’ve done any strenuous exercise so maybe that’s not the best example). All you have to do to stop the pain is to stop the activity, which is exactly what keeps you going.
Writing isn’t easy. This morning I awoke from a nightmare (I have them often, so much so that some mornings I awake feeling like I just ran a marathon which makes my statement in the previous paragraph rather fallacious). At 4:30 am I was drinking coffee and chasing away the demons by writing them all down. I find that the dungeon sex scenes flow easily under these circumstances; the love scene in the garden not so much, but still you push through. Whatever scene I’m working on I find it easier to do it early in the morning before the world rushes in with its distractions.
Sometimes it isn’t a nightmare that gets me up at 4:30 am but because I’m really excited to discover what my character will do next. That’s a good place for a writer to be. Continue reading “On Writing”→
I wrote a previous blog post (a bit tongue in cheek) a while back about my writing gurus. Since then, I read one of Derek Murphy’s books, the YA paranormal romance Shearwater. I left a pretty harsh review that may have inspired the author to record this video.
October is the month for all things horror, but since that is generally most (not all) of what I read, I like to focus on one specific sub-genre. This time around it’s vampires. I read Dracula last year. I recently finished, and reviewed, Twilight so that’s out of the way, thank God. So next up are two classics from the king and queen of horror literature: Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice and Salem’s Lot by Stephen King.
If a movie I’ve seen at least a dozen times (maybe more) since its release in 1984 can still get my heart racing and my palms sweating when the steely endoskeleton rises from the infernal wreckage of an 18-wheel fuel truck, I know that I am experiencing a great work of art, tested by the passage of time and an 80’s perm: a true classic.
Nothing delivers the punch quite like The Terminator directed by James Cameron. A rare combo of action, sci-fi, and horror, it is the perfect movie with something for everybody, including a convincing and heart-felt romance. Okay, I admit the cliche orgasm hand grasp and slow-mo release is corny, but still…it works. My God! It all works.
George Romero’s original Night of the Living Dead, the progenitor of the modern zombie horror sub-genre, opened the door on those canny, clawing, rapacious flesh-eaters. And, for this horror fan at least, he closed it too because whenever I find myself needing a zombie fix—not too often, maybe every few Halloweens—I pop in my old NOTLD DVD, sit back, and enjoy. My appetite sated.
But since Romero’s cult classic and subsequent franchise, the proliferation of zombie films, comics, graphic novels, television shows, and city-wide zombie crawls have proven that I am in the minority. Fans can’t get enough. Zombies are hot, zombies are funny (many of the most successful offerings are black comedies in the vein of Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland), and sometimes, as in the case of C.M. Saunders’ new novella, zombies are not what they seem.
Human Waste begins from inside Dan Pallister’s council flat (a form of UK public housing). As he peers out his ninth-floor window, he sees that they are everywhere: “Fucking zombies…horrible, shambling, rotting husks of humanity shuffling around, looking for brains to eat.” He’s not sure what exactly has brought on “the end of days”, but the world has been going to hell for a long time now. Now at last it’s here in the form of a full-blown zombie apocalypse. Continue reading “Indie Horror Review #6”→
About ten years ago, when Twilight by Stephanie Meyer came out in mass paperback, a friend loaned me a copy telling me that it wasn’t your average “chick lit”, that it was actually pretty good. A read a few chapters, and meh. I wasn’t into it. The girl meets boy plot seemed contrived, the prose just a bit too standard for a Gothic vampire story. Well, it appears I was wrong because as we all know, the book and series became a phenomenon. As a reader and a writer, I am curious (despite resisting it for years) to try to find out why.
It was with great anticipation that I pre-ordered Paperbacks From Hell by Grady Hendrix after seeing it mentioned on one of my favorite blogs Too Much Horror Fiction (webmaster Will Errickson writes the afterword and provided a lot of the spectacular cover art from his personal collection). I dedicated a weekend to plunging into this Quirk Books release, and it far exceeded my expectations on every level. Continue reading “Pure Joy Straight from Hell”→
I went in cold to see this in an empty (except for one couple, should I have asked them out for coffee?), freezing cold mall theater yesterday at noon and came out feeling seriously traumatized. After reading a Daily Mail article (a daily bad habit, but I tell myself it provides grist for my creative writing) describing Mother! by Darren Aronofsky as the worst film ever made, I just knew I had to see it—right now! Continue reading “Mother! Issues”→
Something my husband and I have often discussed is how hard it was to have personal boundaries when growing up in a household with a lot of kids (he is one of twelve so he should know). As one of four kids I may not have had it so bad, but I still struggled with trying to establish an independent identity within a tight, at times dysfunctional, but mostly loving family dynamic.
When I was a little kid I was (like most American children at the time) a huge fan of the Monkees. I only got to experience the tail end of the Beatles just when they were breaking up—I went to see “Let it Be” in the movie theater when I was too little to really dig it. The older kids may have had who’s your favorite Beatle? , but we had a similar who’s your favorite…