Friday, October 31, 2014

Horror List Book Review: The Wolf's Hour

I'm reading through several best of/scariest horror lists with a couple friends, M.B. Partlow and DeAnna Knippling. You can read more about this challenge and the books on it here. The first book I did was Drawing Blood, by Poppy Z. Brite. The second book I read was The Wolf's Hour by Robert R. McCammon.



I don't understand why this is considered horror. It struck me more as a thriller with paranormal elements. Basically, it's James Bond if 007 were a werewolf. It's set during WWII. Secretly Russian Michael Gallatin is working for the British, and we find in an action sequence in the beginning that he's a werewolf, tasked with getting information from behind enemy lines. He's soon sucked into a bigger, tougher mission, contacting a man who is part of the underground rebellion in France to get information he's concealing. But getting into France is tricky if you aren't a Nazi, and this man is being watched, because the Nazis are aware he has this information and is trying to get it to the underground.

Much like Bond, Gallatin has good luck with the ladies, despite occasionally smelling like a wet dog. He's big, he's hairy, he's tough, and he's in control. He is determined to stop a mystery assault against the Allies, but with only a little information to go on, he first has to go through many adventures.

There were violently chilling moments, such as when Boots (think Jaws, but with big metal boots instead of teeth) stomps someone to death. Another moment that stuck out to me was when Gallatin was making an escape with a dead man locked around his throat, dragging him down. Yet another involving one man hunting another. But to me, these elements didn't make it horror. And, of course, there are elements of WWII and the Holocaust that are real-life horrific, but even these didn't make this particular story horror. Maybe it's just because he's a werewolf.

There's a parallel story line through much of the book that gives us his origin story. It bounces back and forth between his origins as a werewolf and his current mission. His origin story doesn't stay restricted to that, though, sporting a separate set of conflicts from the main premise of the story.

One note on writing style I need to throw out is the prevalence of head hopping in this book. I don't know if that's typical of McCammon's style, as I haven't read any of his other books yet, but I swear we hopped into the heads of most characters, even characters who were just in a brief scene. It might leap between three people in three paragraphs. While it was almost always immediately clear whose head we were in, this began to get to me during my reading. Would I have noticed it if it wasn't so pounded into writers' heads that head hopping is a no-no? I have no idea. All I know is that it was bothersome to me through the course of my reading.

The first two books I've read have made me wonder if I have the wrong idea of what defines horror. What's the purpose of horror? To scare you? To make you think about something that disturbs you? The Horror Writers Association defines it as such: "Webster's Collegiate Dictionary gives the primary definition of horror as "a painful and intense fear, dread, or dismay." It stands to reason then that "horror fiction" is fiction that elicits those emotions in the reader." (There's much more to their description, which you can read here.) Wikipedia quotes J.A. Cuddon as saying horror is "a piece of fiction in prose of variable length... which shocks or even frightens the reader, or perhaps induces a feeling of repulsion or loathing." 

The problem is, there are a lot of things that can cause fear, loathing, dread, and dismay that don't get classified as horror. Since it's part of this book, what about the Holocaust? Anything I read about it makes me feel all of the above, despite being nonfiction, not horror.

So is it the purposeful attempt to make the reader feel that way? When someone writes about a real life serial killer, are they merely trying to educate, or do they also want to illicit your visceral reactions? What separates that from horror then? The fact that it's real life? Can horror only be fiction? 

Obviously, I don't have any big answers for this. But there wasn't an aspect to The Wolf's Hour that I found to be horror. I liked the story. It was well written, though the head hopping was a distraction for me. The characters were engaging and interesting. The pacing was well done, not so frenetic that it wears out the reader, but not slow either. The story line was solid if you like espionage, intrigue, and action. If you're a James Bond fan, you'll like this. But if you're sitting down to read something to freak you out, I wouldn't recommend it. Not for that purpose. Read it because you want a story of a werewolf helping the Allies against the Nazi forces, but not because you think it will give you the late night willies.

Next up for me is The Imago Sequence, by Laird Barron. 

Have you read The Wolf's Hour or other books by Robert McCammon? I'm looking forward to his Swan Song, which is also on the list. What did you think? Has the list given you any ideas?

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A View From a Room & Links

While at Mile Hi Con, I pretty much lived in the hotel, other than having dinner out both nights. We didn't have a bad view from the room, though. Here's a narrow shot of the building across the way (we could also see part of the Rocky Mountain range and a lot of changing trees mixed into neighborhoods.) I liked the way it reflected the buildings in it.


Don't forget that next Wednesday is Insecure Writer's Support Group time! If you've been thinking about participating, now's a good time to jump in.

Now for some links. Bear in mind that I am not personally recommending these publications. I am merely passing along information I've come across. Always do your due diligence before submitting to publications and contests.

Accepting Submissions:

Unsolicited Press is seeking short fiction, creative non-fiction, poetry, and artwork for The Fictioneer. Deadline December 1. (They take year-round submissions, but have specific reading periods, so your piece will sit around until the next reading period if you send it in after the deadline.) Payment will be royalties if they turn a profit.

Taking the Lane is looking for stories for Bikes in Space. Piece should be about 1000 words. Deadline December 1. Seeking diverse perspectives. Payment not specified.

Leap Books is taking submissions for their anthology Beware the Little White Rabbit. YA, 4000-6000 words. Must include a protagonist named Alice and a stuffed white rabbit. Deadline November 15. Pays $50.

The Southern Review closes for unsolicited fiction and non-fiction December 1. (Unsolicited poetry through February 1.) 8000 words or less. Mail submission only. Pays $25 per printed page, $200 maximum ($125 for poetry), plus 2 issues of the magazine you're featured in and a year-long subscription.

Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly is looking for short stories. Romantic science fiction. 2000-7500 words. Deadline December 1. Pays $.02/word.

The Masters Review is taking fiction and narrative non-fiction up to 5000 words for New Voices. Emerging writers. Pays $.10/word up to $200.

Nightmare Magazine has opened to fiction submissions. Horror and dark fantasy. 1500-7500 words. Pays $.06/word.

Contests:

MicroHorror is holding a micro-fiction contest. 666 words maximum. Deadline October 31. Prizes not yet announced. Publication for all publishable stories.

Of Interest:

This being Halloween week, I thought I'd pass along a Flavorwire article on The 50 Scariest Short Stories of All Time, by Emily Temple. Thanks for passing this along, DeAnna! The best part about this list is that it links to where you can read some of these stories for free online. So go read some scary short stories!

And here's a Short List of 20 Things You (Probably) Didn't Know About Stephen King. What scares the King of Horror?

Any of these of interest to you? Anything to add or share? Publication news? Are you considering posting for IWSG next week?

May you find your Muse.

Monday, October 27, 2014

MHC and Marketing

I attended the annual Mile Hi Con up in Denver this weekend. This was my third year attending. It didn't seem as busy to me as it usually is, which was pleasant, though probably not for folks trying to sell books, artwork, and other products. I didn't run into many of the interesting characters I've run into in the past, which was odd, but there were still plenty of costumed folks.


This year I focused more on fun than on the learning aspect. Yes, I still attended panels, but not as many as I have in the past. One I attended was on the future of the publishing industry, but all four panelists basically agreed on what was going to happen (traditional publishing won't die, but it will be diminished, and e-books are The Thing for the future.) A panel who all agree is dull. There was a side conversation that began that raised interesting questions, though, and that was how to find ways to assure readers a self-published book is quality. Reviews on Amazon and Goodreads have been bought in the past, and the argument we've all heard about self-publishing is that the original gatekeepers in the form of agents and editors are lacking when someone self-publishes, and sadly, the bad creeps through with the good. So how do we reassure the reader that this book they're considering buying is good, outside of reviews that might not be trustworthy? Will there be a professional organization set up to do this? To provide a guarantee that there was a thorough editing job?

Another panel was on world building. It was helpful to hear the approaches different authors take to it. Do you build your world first? Is the story contingent on your world, the world contingent on your story, or a combination of both?

There were several panels I was disappointed with or bored by (or both,) so I won't mention those here. Then there were several I liked that weren't intended as learning ones to begin with, such as my friend Patrick's podcast and a Meet the Toastmaster one, where her critique group presented with her. There was some good discussion of critique groups, and it was good to see one where the members have all found some manner of success (some of them quite a bit.) Our critique group has really just begun, and we all aspire to be in the same situation as this critique group.

All in all, I had a great time with friends, including two I shared a room with this time. I finally got to see the midnight showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show. I've seen the movie multiple times, but never with a bunch of a people. Plus, we got to introduce two people to the movie for the first time, which is always fun.

Question mark by Mohamed
Ibrahim, shared by Gayane
Since Mile Hi Con is all about panels, I figured I'd ask a question of you guys related to a panel I've set up for the November Write Brain this month (a free monthly workshop put on by Pikes Peak Writers.) It will be a panel on marketing, author platform, and book launches. I'd like to have questions prepared in case the audience doesn't ask enough. What questions do you have on marketing, platform, and book launches? If I end up asking one of your questions, I'll post the answer here for you, as well (or, if we record it, I will post a link once it's ready to go, so you can see the panel.)

The panel is November 18, so if you think of questions before then, post them in the comments and I'll keep track.

Have you seen Rocky Horror with a group of people? Have you seen it at all? Love it or hate it? What questions do you have about marketing, launches, and platform? How do you feel about "quality checks" being put in place for self-published books? How do you do world building?

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Tree of Life Book Trailer & Links

Today's [Mostly] Wordless Wednesday is the Tree of Life book trailer!


You can purchase Tree of Life, which includes my story set to the musical piece Turning Point, at Amazon. Only $.99 for the collection, and all proceeds go to the Downey Education Fund, which was set up for Tina's boys.

Now for some links.

Accepting Submissions:

River Styx is accepting submissions by mail through November 30. They accept short stories, poems, plays, and essays. Payment is in the form of cash, plus contributor copies, plus a one-year subscription.

Wolf Willow Journal is accepting submissions for their winter issue, with the theme star-crossed lovers. They accept flash fiction, short fiction, non-fiction, photography, and artwork. Pays cash depending upon type of submission. Winter issue deadline November 30.

Vine Leaves Literary Journal closes for submissions to their January issue November 30. Prose and script up to 800 words, poetry, artwork and photography. Pays 3.50 EURO per edition.

Bad Dream Entertainment is open to submissions of short fiction, novellas, novels, and articles. Submissions close November 30. Dark speculative fiction. This is a paying market.

ZYZZYVA is accepting submissions of non-fiction, short fiction, and poetry through November 30. Also, artwork. Payment is not detailed, and they only accept mailed submissions.

The Future Fire is seeking short works for their anthology, Accessing the Future. Deadline November 30. Speculative fiction. 2500-7500 words. Pays $.06/word.

The Knicknackery is accepting poetry, short fiction, non-fiction, and artwork. All genres. Token payment.

Cracked is looking for writers for their humor site. Paying market, though payment is not specified. Cracked is free to read, so you can research the types of articles they accept.

Strange House Books is accepting your weird flash fiction for Strange Story Saturdays. Pay is not detailed. Open submissions.

Contests:

The Hermaneutic Chaos Literary Journal is holding their first annual Jane Lumley Prize for Emerging Writers. Deadline November 30. This year entries must be poetry. It will alternate each year between poetry and prose. First prize is $300 and publication.

What do you think of the Tree of Life trailer? Any of these links interest you? Anything to add? Publication news?

May you find your Muse.


Monday, October 20, 2014

Lizzie Lilac and the Left Socks Book Tour & the Survive & Thrive Blog Hop

If you're here for the Survive & Thrive Blog Hop, my entry can be found below Lizzie Lilac and the Left Socks.



Today I welcome Cheri Chesley and K.C. Rose. Their children's book, Lizzie Lilac and the Left Socks, released this month. Welcome, ladies!

Authors: Cheri Chesley &  K.C. Rose
Book Title:  Lizzie Lilac and the Left Socks
Book Genre:  Children's Books
Release Date: October 2014
Tour Host: Silverbow Promotions

In honor of all breast cancer survivors, warriors, and those they’ve left behind.

A few years ago, K.C. Rose and I got some devastating news: a sweet friend and mother had an extremely aggressive form of breast cancer. Since I had just launched my first novel into the world, I decided to donate all my royalties for a period of months to the family to help them fight this horrible invader. But it wasn’t enough—we knew we could do more. That’s where the concept of the Lizzie Lilac book was born. This book is not only dedicated to our friend (who is now cancer free!!) and her family, but also to all the families who struggle with this disease. K.C. and I make no profit from sharing this story—everything we raise will go to the Huntsman Cancer Institute in Utah to help them help others.


Thank you for being part of our fight. 


Poor Lizzie Lilac. When one of her favorite socks goes missing, she is determined to find out where all the missing socks go. What she learns is definitely more than she expected.

You can purchase Lizzie Lilac and the Left Socks at Amazon.

About the authors:

Cheri Chesley believes in miracles and the magic of books in everyday life. When not writing, she can be found reading the dictionary for fun or devouring any of the many books in her library. She lives with her husband and numerous children in Waurika, OK. Look for updates on her latest works at www.cheri-chesley.com.

K.C. Rose is the pen name of one of Cheri Chesley’s lovely daughter, who currently enjoys reading books about fairies, writing stories, singing, and performing. She lives with her family and was the guiding inspiration for Lizzie Lilac and the Left Socks—including coming up with the concept, naming characters, and approving all rewrites.



The Survive and Thrive Bloghop is hosted by Stephen Tremp, Michael Di Gesu, Diane Wolfe, and Alex J. Cavanaugh. And it's meant to bring awareness of disease prevention and early detection regarding medical conditions that may be averted or treated if caught in the early stages.

What I'd like to talk about is heart attacks in women. Why just women? You'll see in a moment. 

The symptoms of a heart attack have been fairly well publicized in the past. These symptoms include:


  • Chest pain, usually in the center of the chest, that lasts more than a few minutes
  • Pain in other areas, such as the arm, jaw, back, neck, and stomach
  • Shortness of breath
  • Other symptoms, such as cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness


Chest pain and arm pain are the two symptoms we hear most about. What they weren't discussing a decade ago, and which I haven't noticed being mentioned these days either, is that women's heart attack symptoms are often outside the normal symptoms mentioned for men. Women often don't suffer the chest pain as a primary symptom. Instead, they will frequently experience flu-like symptoms, including:


  • Pressure or pain in the abdomen
  • Dizziness, fainting, lightheadedness
  • Upper back pain
  • Extreme fatigue


Just over a decade ago, I was putting together a huge surprise party for my parents' anniversary. I'd secured the venue after much research, and I had friends and family flying out from Oregon and California to take part. I called my grandma (my mom's mom) to see if she'd be coming out, as well. Her voice was weak. She told me she wasn't feeling well. She thought it was the flu shot she'd just gotten, and she asked me to call her the next day. 

When I called her the next day, she still sounded awful, but she said she'd been to the doctor the day before, and they'd told her she was dehydrated. They shored her up with some I.V. fluids and sent her back home. She said she was just so tired and weak, that her stomach was upset, and that she was having "stomach issues" (code words for her for diarrhea) and nausea. They told her she'd feel better the next day. She told me she'd call back when she felt better and let me know if she could make the party.

I had to stop by my parents' house the next day. I drove up and parked, but before I could get inside, my mom ran up to me. She'd gotten a call from a hospital in Oregon. My grandma had suffered a heart attack. A friend of hers had shown up when she didn't hear from her, as they'd had plans, and she'd found her on the floor, too weak to move. We were told it was bad, and that we should get out there immediately to say goodbye.

My mom and I flew to Oregon from Colorado that night. My mom's terrified of flying, and our big plane only took us to Portland. We had to get a tiny plane to take us to the mountains, where my grandma lived. (If you've not ridden on a prop plane with someone terrified of flying, you haven't experienced flight.) Her friend picked us up at the little mountain airport and took us directly to the hospital. There, the doctor told us she had suffered multiple heart attacks over the course of three days, and that her heart was in shreds. She wouldn't make it. 

She was conscious and able to talk to us. We slept on chairs in her room that night, as it was late. The nurses slipped in a couple times and put heated blankets on us because it was freezing cold in the room. The next day, my grandmother requested we take her home so she could die in the house she and my grandpa had built. 

In the end, she only lived a few more days, but she lived those final days on a hospital bed in the living room of the mountain home she loved. My mom and I cared for her, and were able to spend those final days with her. My uncle and aunt were able to come up to be with her the last two days, as well.

The truly unfortunate part in all this is that, not only were the symptoms of a heart attack overlooked, but her doctor had taken her off Atenolol, a heart medication she was already on for known heart problems fairly recently, due to surgeries she was having. A simple checking of her medical records should have shown this, and she should have been put back on it after the surgery. Where the error occurred, who knows. Did her doctor not write that he'd taken her off the drug? Did the emergency doctor not check through the records thoroughly? Either way, with a woman in her 70s, it should have been a consideration. Sadly, the chest pain didn't set in until it was too late. Ultimately, she did report pain that felt like an elephant sitting on her chest, but it was close to the end when that occurred. (Her words about this not long before she died later caused me to burst into tears during the movie Something's Gotta' Give, when he reports it feeling like an elephant on his chest.)

Had they treated her for a heart attack after the first one, instead of telling her she was dehydrated, I'm told there was a chance she could have survived. But after three, she stood zero chance.

Make sure the women in your life know that the classic movie symptoms may not be true for them. Especially if they are at known risk for heart problems. The American Heart Association has a lot of good information. Personally, I also recommend knowing what meds they're on, and following up if the meds get changed. It could make a difference.

Thank you again to Cheri and K.C. for stopping by on their blog tour. Be sure to sign up via the Rafflecopter giveaway. And take care of yourselves and your loved ones!

May you find your Muse.


Friday, October 17, 2014

Horror List Book Review: Drawing Blood

Remember my post about working my way through the Nightmare Magazine's Top 100 List? (Plus another list, and now we've found another list with more recent books on it. You'll find my updated list of books read from each list at the end of this post.)

The first book I read was Poppy Z. Brite's Drawing Blood, because that's the first one I found at the library. I also thought I'd already read it, but it turns out I hadn't.

First, let me say that I enjoy Brite's writing. I already knew this from having read other books by her. She writes dark, lush, fertile words, setting scenes that are simultaneously putrid and beautiful. Her characters are fully fleshed out, not the cream of society, but relate-able.

Despite the characterization and rich words, it was slow going for me, and took me awhile to get through. I kept waiting for the horror. It does start with a bang (or a pow...a slam?) when the main character's father murders his family, leaving Trevor alive, then kills himself. Then it segued into a romance between the two main males in the story, Trevor and Zach. I kept waiting for the scary stuff to begin, but it didn't come around until about 50% (on Kindle) of the way through the book. Even then, it was few and far between. One scene here, with something minor. Another here, maybe escalated a little. Quite frankly, there was more sex than there were scares. There were also far more joints smoked than chills given. I tired of reading about them getting stoned, taking shrooms, etc. Especially when one of them did so with a concussion, while on the run from the law. Really?

clker.com, Wendy Owens & Netalloy
It simply didn't do it for me. The scares weren't all that scary. They were dark, yes, but not frightening. This is a haunted house story on the one hand, psychological horror on the other, but neither is as developed as I would have liked to see it. It was more character driven than plot driven, by far, which could have lent itself to the psychological aspects. But it didn't. Following a man who is crawling into the recesses of his dead father's mind to find out why he spared his life and left him behind could have been blood curdling, but it fell short. I wasn't drawn into that portion of the story. And the haunted house? Meh. There was only one time anyone really felt in jeopardy from spirits, and it was fleeting.

One other problem I had was the ease with which the unusual was accepted. Zach accepts everything he's told. His boyfriend tries to murder him, and he instantly buys the reasoning behind it and calmly deals with it. This is someone he's just met. Furthermore, each person they tell about the events occurring buys them instantly. I didn't find that believable.

All I can conclude is that it made the list for the beauty and depth of the writing, not because it's particularly scary. It was cotton candy--pretty, with good elements, but not filling. It's worth a read if you're okay with the explicit sex scenes, but if it's fright you're looking for, well, let's just say I read this in the dark while my husband was on a business trip, and it didn't faze me in the least.

Note: I should point out that this was only her second book, as far as I'm aware. I'm sure she's improved quite a bit since then. Still, this is one of the books that made the list.

Updated list of books I've read from the THREE lists:


clker.com, Ted & OCAL
American Psycho
The Bad Place
Bag of Bones
Best New Horror, 1st Edition
The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe
Dracula
Drawing Blood
The Exorcist
Floating Dragon
Flowers in the Attic
Frankenstein
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Grimm's Fairy Tales
The Haunting of Hill House
Heart-Shaped Box
I Am Legend
Interview with the Vampire
It
Joyland
Jurassic Park
The Least of my Scars
Lightning
Lord of the Flies 
Lost Boy Lost Girl
Love in Vein
Needful Things
Night Shift
Nos4atu
Odd Thomas
Pet Semetary
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Red Dragon
Rosemary's Baby
Salem's Lot
The Shining
The Silence of the Lambs
Skeleton Crew
Something Wicked This Way Comes
The Stand
Strangers
Sunglasses After Dark
The Vampire Lestat
Velocity
Watchers


Have you read Drawing Blood or any work by Poppy Z. Brite? What did you think? Did you check out the new list to see what you'd read on it?

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Muddy Pig is a Happy Pig & Links

Further to the autumn season pictures, I've got pictures from a harvest festival we attended at Rockledge Ranch last week. This was just a piece of antique farming equipment in a field that I thought was cool.


The kids and I watched a pig meticulously digging a hold in the mud, much like a dog pawing at its bed to get it comfortable. In the end, the pig immersed itself in the mud and let out a contented sigh, again like you'd hear a dog make when it settles down for a nap.




Awwww, comfy.

Now for some links.

As always, please bear in mind that I'm not personally recommending any of these links. I am merely passing along information I've come across that I think might be helpful to others. Always do your due diligence before submitting to a publication or contest.

Accepting Submissions:

Everywhere Now Press is looking for your poems, creative non-fiction, memoirs, and essays on death for their anthology Death Where the Nights Are Long. Deadline November 1. Pays $250 on acceptance, another $250 at publication.

Unlikely Story is doing a bonus mini-edition in addition to it's usual three editions each year. This one is the Journal of Unlikely Coulrophobia. Don't know what that is? It's the fear of clowns! (I love clowns.) They're calling for flash fiction up to 1038 words. Reading period closes November 1. They pay $.06/word.

Ticonderoga Publications is seeking speculative fiction stories about kick-arse women for their anthology Hear Me Roar. 2500-7500 words. Deadline November 5. Pays AUS 2.5 cents/word, plus two contributor copies. Open world-wide.

Sky Warrior Books wants dragon stories The Dragon's Hoard anthology. Sci-fi or fantasy, as long as there's a dragon. Deadline November 15. Pays in author share. 

Ruminate Magazine is reading for their spring issue through November 15. They are only taking poetry, visual art, and reviews for this issue. Pays $15 for poetry and artwork, and $15 per 400 words for reviews.

Martinus Publishing is open for submissions to their We Were Heroes anthology. 1500-10,000 words. Pays in royalties. This anthology is open until filled.

Writers Weekly seeks articles on making money as a writer for WritersWeekly.com and The Write Markets Report. Approximately 600 words. Pays $60 per article.

Contests:

Bold New Worlds is a speculative fiction short story contest for high school students. 1000 words or less. Deadline November 10. Cash prizes.

The Lindenwood Review is holding a flash fiction contest. Deadline November 15. 50-750 words. Winner receives $50, publication, and contributor copies.

Blog Stuff:

The 2014 Realms Faire is coming up, and M. Pax needs your help. November 10-14. Various people are hosting parts of the Faire. It's meant to get you exposure/visibility. There's the Joust, the Soak-a-Bloke or Drench-a-Wench, the Stockade Brigade, Dueling Bards, Riddle Me This, Phasers, Dragon Hunt, and Wisdom of the Creative Realms.

Have you hit any harvest festivals? Have any good ones in your area? Any of these links of interest to you? Anything to share? Publishing news?

May you find your Muse.