Friday, December 15, 2017

Horror List Book Review: Night Visions

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.)

This week, I'm making a change. Ranking the books has gotten increasingly harder, and I'm not even sure I'd still rank them the same anymore. Over the course of my reading from this list, I've learned a lot about the different styles of horror. As a lifelong lover of horror, I thought I had it down, but I hadn't been exposed to some of these styles before. Horror covers a lot of ground, and there's quite a bit of horror that isn't acknowledged for what it is, instead being categorized in a secondary genre (for example, a sci-fi horror story being classified as sci-fi, not horror). 

At the beginning of this process, I was opinionated on certain books not being horror, because they didn't follow the "rules" I had for the genre. If I re-read and reviewed them all over again, there would be some changes. To me, that says this whole project has been beneficial to me as a reader, but also as a horror author. It's been a learning process.

Instead, I'll be keeping track of the top ten. For simplicity's sake, the top ten will be novels and collections only, not anthologies. I'll still review the anthologies, but they will not place in the top ten.

Moving on, this week I'm reviewing Night Visions: In the Blood, edited by Alan Ryan. 


This is an unusual anthology, in that there are only three authors, each with several stories. There was a series of Night Visions anthologies done this way, but this was the first one. I'd love to see this formula continued today. It gave a larger taste of authors who were often found in the major anthologies of the day, but just one story at a time. The setup of Night Visions allowed readers to immerse themselves in each author's style, and to discover them in a way a single story didn't allow.

I'm not going to go into individual stories (mostly because I handed the book over to a friend before reviewing, which was a mistake, because I need to be able to thumb through the book and refresh my memory when it's short stories), but I can say my favorite author in the bunch was Charles L. Grant, followed by Steve Rasnic Tem, then Tanith Lee. They're each skilled, but the gothic style of horror Lee writes isn't my favorite, though it's gorgeous. Her stories were beautifully written, but they were slower paced and didn't end up interesting me as much as the others. Grant and Tem both wrote stories that were more straight forward. I think Tem and Grant wrote similarly enough for it to make sense that they were together in this anthology, but that Lee would have been able to shine more if combined with other gothic horror authors. Her style seemed more literary in its focus on the words and the style versus the more straight forward story. I think I would have liked her stories more if they'd been matched up with different authors, rather than at the end of this collection, with me firmly settled in to the previous styles.

Still, I loved the concept of this book, and I intend to check out any others I can acquire. There were some amazing authors collected in this series of anthologies. 

My Top Ten:

1. The Handmaid's Tale (Margaret Atwood)
2. The Girl Next Door (Jack Ketchum)
3. The Bottoms (Joe R. Lansdale)
4. Coraline (Neil Gaiman)
5. A Choir of Ill Children (Tom Piccirilli)
6. Needful Things (Stephen King)
7. 1Q84 (Haruki Murakami)
8. Those Who Hunt the Night (Barbara Hambly)
9. 20th Century Ghosts (Joe Hill)
10. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)

Next review will be of John Dies at the End.

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

Accepting Submissions:

WolfSinger Publications is seeking short horror stories for the anthology Haunted Hotel. 1000 to 7000 words. Pays $5 plus royalties. Deadline January 15.

Chicken Soup for the Soul is looking for personal stories in the themes Christmas and Holiday Collection, The Empowered Woman, and The Miracle of Love. Up to 1200 words. Pays $200. Deadlines are between January 10 and January 15.

Outlook Springs is seeking fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Pays $10 for poems, $25 for prose. Deadline January 15.

Myriad Paradigm is seeking short speculative fiction for the anthology Mind Candy 2.0. Prefer science fiction and aren't looking for anything too dark. Up to 5000 words. Pays $.06/word. Deadline January 15.

Of Interest: 

If you're looking for recommended word counts per genre, this Writer's Digest article by Chuck Sambuchino: Word Count for Novels and Children's Books: The Definitive Post.


And for those looking for horror to read, here's 25 Horror Readers on the Most Gut Twisting Book You Could Buy

Have you read any of the Night Visions series? Or anything similar? Have you read any of the three authors in this anthology? Any of these links of interest? Anything to share?

May you find your Muse.


Wednesday, December 6, 2017

IWSG - What Would You Change?

It's the last first Wednesday of 2017, which means this is the last Insecure Writer's Support Group of 2017! Are you guys ready for a new year? I'm not.


The IWSG was created by Alex J. Cavanaugh. Every month, writers post about their deepest writing insecurities and visit others' blogs to offer their support. Anyone can sign up by going to Alex's website and adding their blog to the linky list.

This month, I'm one of the co-hosts! Please be sure to visit my awesome and talented fellow co-hosts: Fundy Blue, Heather M. Gardner, and Julie Flanders.

This month's optional question is: As you look back on 2017, with all its successes/failures, if you could backtrack, what would you do differently?

I think I would have started working on self-publishing a collection of my short stories earlier, and I would have started work on the short story craft book I'm working on earlier, as well. Then again, I wasn't ready before, and it will happen all in good time. I'm tapering off on the insane amounts of research I've been doing in order to make everything go okay, and getting to the nitty gritty of compiling and formatting everything. Soon!

Every month, I do a recap of my submissions for the previous month for accountability. In November, I:

Submitted 9 short stories
Got 7 rejections
Got 0 acceptances
Sent 5 novel queries
Got 2 agent rejections

I currently have 17 short story submissions out. I suspect two of those publications have gone under, but they haven't made an announcement, and their sites are still up, but they haven't sent any rejections/acceptances in months, so I've submitted the stories I had out to them to other publications that take simultaneous submissions, and I've queried those two publications, but they haven't responded. Next step is to send an official withdrawal of my stories, but I may wait until after the new year (or until those stories are accepted, if that's sooner.)

Next up, links. Bear in mind I'm not endorsing these, merely passing them along. Always do your own due diligence when submitting to markets.

Accepting Submissions:

Carte Blanche is seeking all forms of narrative, including poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and photo essays. Up to 3500 words. Pays a modest honorarium. Deadline December 31.

Martinus Publishing is seeking short stories for Forbidden: Tales of Repression, Restriction, and Rebellion. 1500 to 10,000 words. Pays royalties. Deadline December 31.

Workers Write! is seeking short stories set in a cafe or dealing with the food industry. 500 to 5000 words. Pays $5 to $50. Deadline December 31.

Allegory is seeking speculative short fiction. Prefer 500 to 5000 words, but don't have a hard and fast limit. Pays $15. Deadline December 31.

Lethe Press is seeking speculative short fiction for an anthology. 4000 to 14,000 words. Pays $.05/word. Deadline December 31.

Dreaming Robot Press is seeking fantasy short stories that will appeal to middle grade readers (8-12). 3000 to 6000 words. Pays $.06/word. Deadline December 31.

Zombies Need Brains is seeking fantasy and science fiction short stories for three anthologies: The Razor's Edge, Guilds & Glaives, and Second Round: A Return to the Urbar. Up to 750 words. Pays $.01/word + royalties. Deadline December 31.

Hydra is seeking sword and sorcery short stories for the anthology Unsheathed. 7500 to 10,000 words. Pays $30. Deadline December 31.

Stephen Jones is seeking your best horror stories published in 2017 for Best New Horror Volume 29. No idea if it pays, but having your story appear in this would be huge. Deadline December 31.

Smoking Pen Press is seeking romance short stories for the anthology A Wink and a Smile. 1000 to 7000 words. Pays $25. Deadline January 1.

What are your insecurities? Would you change anything about this past year? Have you been submitting? Any of these links of interest? Anything to share?

May you find your Muse.


Thursday, November 30, 2017

ShaNo Wrap-up

It's the last day of November. A day when frantic writers everywhere are pounding away at keyboards, scribbling away at notepads, chattering away at voice programs, all in the hopes of finishing those last few thousand words to declare themselves NaNoWriMo winners.

So it's time for me to revisit my ShaNoShoStoWriEdSubMo goals for the month. I don't do NaNo proper, but I set myself the following goals for the month:



1. Create a business plan and timeline for the next year.
2. Finish Nuts! (horror comedy) (about 20,000 words) (Wrote about 3000 words)
3. Edit three short stories currently pending edits.
4. Write two new short stories. (STARTED 4 new, but did not finish them)
5. Submit newly edited stories.
6. Outline craft book.
7. Get all rejected stories resubmitted.
8. Send five more queries for Wendigo Nights. (current novel on submission)

All in all, I'm feeling pretty good. I would have liked to have gotten more new words written, but what I got done helped a lot with things I was stressing about, and frees my time up for writing this month. I was having trouble writing due to being consumed by figuring out my business plan, etc. I also got a lot of research done, which wasn't on the list, but should have been.

So WOOT!

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

Accepting Submissions:

Pedestal Magazine is seeking poetry for their next issue. Submit up to 5 poems. Pays $40 per accepted poem. Deadline December 3.

Mslexia is seeking poetry and prose with the theme Bewitched. Up to 2200 words. Does not specify pay. Deadline December 4.

Mason Jar Press is seeking short urban fantasy stories for Broken Metropolis Anthology: Queer Tales of a City That Never Was. Queer perspectives. Up to 6000 words. Pays $.02/word. Deadline December 7.

Fantasia Divinity Magazine is seeking short stories for Out of Your Shadow Anthology: Empowered Sidekicks. 500 to 10,500 words. Pays one-half cent per word. Deadline December 10.

Eye to the Telescope is seeking poetry for Arthuriana. They want anything Arthurian and speculative. Submit 1-5 poems. Pays $.03/word up to $25. Deadline December 15.

Love & Bubbles is a Kickstarter project anthology. They're looking for romance under the sea (not ON it). Up to 5000 words. Depending upon the success of the Kickstarter, authors will be paid between $50 and $300. Deadline December 20.

So how did you do with your NaNo goals? Whether you "won" or not, how do you feel about what you accomplished this month? Any of these links of interest? Anything to share?

May you find your Muse.




Friday, November 24, 2017

Horror List Book Review: The Girl Next Door

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 The Girl Next Door, by Jack Ketchum.


Before picking this one up, I heard repeatedly of people not being able to finish it, because it was so intense and disturbing. For me, that took the shape of not being able to put it down, because I needed to know how it ended for this girl, and there's no way I could walk away from it without knowing. I read it in a 24-hour time frame. The last book I read like that was The Exorcist, years ago, pre-kids, when I had the time to do that.

Inspired by a true story, The Girl Next Door is about a 16-year-old girl held captive and tortured by the woman charged with caring for her. Eventually, that woman's sons and various neighborhood children join in the torture and humiliation. The narrator is a boy living next door who witnesses much of the torture. He battles with transitioning between being fascinated and repulsed, confused about his feelings, defending his best friend (one of the sons), and alternates between putting the girl on a pedestal and loathing her for her helplessness.

The most disturbing part about this story is the utter helplessness and lack of hope. The book is set in the 50s, a time when the police weren't going to step in when a teenage girl said she was being punished a little too forcefully, when mothers believed a girl must be a slut and deserve punishment, when propriety dictated not digging into what your neighbors were doing, when kids were out all day without their parents necessarily knowing where they were or what they were doing.

This was well written, the pacing intense, the characters drawn well enough to engage the reader without questioning their behavior. The narrator is especially well realized. The depravity depicted is grotesque, horrific, and terrifying, because it starts out as a basic indignation that becomes pure, mindless hatred, the evil of jealousy and bitterness sucking down everyone within reach. Events escalate from semi-rational to all out insane and criminal, leaving the reader desperate for a satisfying resolution.

This story will certainly stick with me for a long while.

If you're curious about the real life story, which this loosely follows, look up Sylvia Likens, the name of the girl who was tortured. I wouldn't look it up until after you read the book if you're inclined to do so, though.

My new rankings:

1. The Handmaid's Tale (Margaret Atwood)
2. The Girl Next Door (Jack Ketchum)
3. The Bottoms (Joe R. Lansdale)
4. Coraline (Neil Gaiman)
5. A Choir of Ill Children (Tom Piccirilli)
7. The Year’s Best Fantasy: First Annual Collection (Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling)
8. Needful Things (Stephen King)
9. 1Q84 (Haruki Murakami)
10. Those Who Hunt the Night (Barbara Hambly)
12. 20th Century Ghosts (Joe Hill)
13. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)
14. Dark Forces (Kirby McCauly)
15. Swan Song (Robert McCammon)
16. Audrey's Door (Sarah Langan)
17. Dawn (Xenogenesis, Book 1) (Octavia E. Butler)
18. Wet Work (Philip Nutman)
19. The Stranger (Albert Camus)
20. Dead in the Water (Nancy Holder)
21. The Witches (Roald Dahl)
22. Psycho (Robert Bloch)
23. The Damnation Game (Clive Barker)
24. The Wolf's Hour (Robert McCammon)
25. Berserk (Tim Lebbon)
26. Prime Evil (Douglas E. Winter)
27. Best New Horror, Volume 1 (edited by Stephen Jones and Ramsey Campbell)
28. Flowers in the Attic (V.C. Andrews)
29. The Tomb (F. Paul Wilson)
30. Shadowland (Peter Straub)
31. Blood Meridian (Cormac McCarthy)
32. The Imago Sequence (Laird Barron)
33. My Soul to Keep (Tananarive Due)
34. Penpal (Dathan Auerbach)
36. World War Z (Max Brooks)
36. From the Dust Returned (Ray Bradbury) 
37. The Red Tree (Caitlin R. Kiernan)
38. In Silent Graves (Gary A. Braunbeck)
39. The Cipher (Kathe Koja)
40. Drawing Blood (Poppy Z. Brite)
41. The Doll Who Ate His Mother (Ramsey Campbell) 
42. Hotel Transylvania (Chelsea Quinn Yarbro)
43. Naked Lunch (William S. Burroughs)

I've also finished both John Dies at the End and Night Visions, so will be reviewing them over the next month or so.

Have you read this book or seen the movie it was based on? Have you read anything by Jack Ketchum? What did you think? Do you find the human monsters scarier or less scary than the ones with fangs and claws?

May you find your Muse.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Field Trip: Bishop Castle

In September I finally got the chance to take the kids to Bishop Castle, a castle in Colorado built by a single man, Jim Bishop. He's eccentric, as evidenced by signs all around the property ranting against the government, as well as this one-man mission to build a castle from the ground up, which started in 1969.

The castle has been pieced together with stones, metalwork, and stained glass, and features a giant metal dragon head that breathes fire (courtesy of a hot air balloon burner) and multiple towers. One of his children died during the building process in an unfortunate accident, and there were legal issues in the papers last year, but they seem to have been resolved.

Bishop Castle is located in the San Isobel National Forest, with gorgeous tree-filled vistas surrounding the castle. You'll see from the pictures that we were above the trees upon climbing the towers. The drive there was beautiful and peaceful, and we found a hole in the wall that served delicious BBQ and ice cream on the way home.

Read more about Bishop Castle HERE.




















I actually heard about the castle back in high school, when I was invited to a rave being held (illegally, of course) at the castle in the grand ballroom (the room with the big stained glass windows and arched ceiling). I didn't go, but signs in the grand ballroom indicate this rave wasn't a rare occurrence. The floor has been damaged by fires, and garbage was left behind after the raves.

By the way, look closely at the green-clad "angel" above. Recognize her face?

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

Accepting Submissions:

JMS Books is seeking erotic LGBTQ+ romance novelettes to be released individually as e-books with the theme Music of the Heart. 12,000 words or more. Pays royalties. Deadline November 30.

Down & Out Books and Michael Bracken are seeking private eye mysteries set in Texas for the anthology The Eyes of Texas. Ideal submission is around 5000 words. Pays in royalties. Deadline November 30.

Fantasia Divinity Magazine is seeking short stories about forgotten Norse goddesses for their anthology Forgotten Goddesses of Norse Mythology. 500 to 10,500 words. Pays a half-cent per word. Deadline November 30.

The Golden Key is seeking poetry and stories with the theme Revolutionary Things. Up to 3000 words. Pays $10. Deadline November 30.

Polychrome Ink is seeking stories of most genres from diverse writers. Pays $15-$40. Deadline December 1 for Volume V.

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

Crystal Lake Publishing is seeking quiet horror and dark fiction for Tales From the Lake Volume 5 (does NOT have to be lake themed.) Up to 6000 words. Pays $.03/word. Deadline December 1.

Slice Magazine is seeking short fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Current theme is Flight. Pays $75 to $250. Up to 5000 words. Deadline December 1.

What is the oddest tourist destination you've visited? Does your state have a castle? Ever been to it? What do you think of Bishop Castle? Any of these links of interest? Anything to share? 

May you find your Muse.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Remakes Blogfest: The Thing

Today's the Remakes Blogfest, hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh and Heather M. Gardner.


In this blogfest, we're supposed to choose a remake we liked and tell you why this was a good remake, unlike most of the schlock pouring out of Hollywood.

The remake I've chosen is The Thing. Released in 1982, The Thing is a remake of a 1951 movie called The Thing From Another World. Now a cult classic, the movie starred Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, and Keith David. Trapped in their Antarctic research station with something stalking them that can become anyone or anything, they must figure out who to trust.


Most people don't even know this is a remake, which tells you the first one was lacking. The audience has no idea who has been taken by The Thing and who hasn't. There's great suspense and horrifying visuals. Plus, I'm always a sucker for isolation horror. The scariest part isn't the creature itself, so much as the complete lack of trust they can have in each other. This isn't just a group isolated from the outside world, but a group isolated from each other, yet trapped in a small space together.

Here's a nasty scene from the film (skip it if you don't like horror or grody visuals):



Have you seen The Thing? How about the original? Do you think it was a good film? What's your favorite remake?

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

IWSG & ShaNoShoStoWriEdSubMo

It's time again for both the Insecure Writer's Support Group and NaNoWriMo, it being the first Wednesday of November. Only I don't do NaNo, I do ShaNo. More on that later.

There's a call for writing contest judges out. If you might be interested in being a judge for a writing contest, contact me privately through the "Contact Me" form to the left, and I will email you more specifics on what they're looking for.

IWSG! Held the first Wednesday of each month, the Insecure Writer's Support group is the brain child of Alex J. Cavanaugh. Intended for gaining and giving support for insecure writers. Anyone can join; just click on Alex's name and sign up.


Our co-hosts this month are Tonja Drecker, Diane Burton, MJ Fifield, and Rebecca Douglass! Be sure to stop by and visit them.

My insecurities this month mostly have to do with putting myself way outside my comfort zone and pushing myself into new things in the world of publishing. I'm buried in research right now, but excited to be trying new things. It's time to start putting together a collection of short stories I've gotten the rights back on, which I want to self-publish, and I want to do it right. I talked about that a bit last month. I'm also working on a craft book on writing, submitting, and marketing short stories. I haven't decided if I'll self-publish that or try to go through a traditional publisher first. Decisions, decisions. And, of course, I'm querying a novel for the first time, while still writing and submitting short stories. Shew. I feel like I sound busier than I actually am.

All of this is good, but overwhelming, new, and different. I can't wait to see what the next year brings! It's time for me to make a business plan and timeline.

That brings us to ShaNoShoStoWriEdSubMo. I've been doing this for years now. Instead of doing NaNoWriMo, I hitch myself to the energy created by everyone doing NaNo by setting my own goals for the month that make more sense for my career, seeing as how I'm not primarily a novelist.



Without further ado, here are my ShaNo goals:

1. Create a business plan and timeline for the next year.
2. Finish Nuts! (horror comedy) (about 20,000 words)
3. Edit three short stories currently pending edits.
4. Write two new short stories.
5. Submit newly edited stories.
6. Outline craft book.
7. Get all rejected stories resubmitted.
8. Send five more queries for Wendigo Nights. (current novel on submission)

Doable? We'll see. It's been a super busy few months, and I mostly want this to help me get back on track.

Each month at this time I do a summary of my submissions the previous month in order to keep myself accountable.

In October, I:

Submitted 6 stories
Got 1 acceptance
Got 7 rejections
Got 1 story shortlisted

I currently have 11 short stories on submission. There are several I need to turn back around and resubmit, but haven't had a chance, so the number's a bit low for me.

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



Accepting Submissions:

Splickety Spark is seeking topsy turvy romance stories for the theme Sadie Hawkins. 300 to 1000 words. Pays $.02/word. Deadline November 24.

Baltimore Review is seeking short fiction. Review editor's preferences for more information on what they're seeking. Pays $40. Deadline November 30.

Owl Hollow Press is seeking high-seas short stories from teens ages 13-19. Up to 7000 words. Will be published in the anthology Band of Misfits. Pays $30. Deadline November 30.

Primordial Magazine is seeking "stories and illustrations depicting plausible alien life." They also take articles and reviews on the topic. 1000 to 16,000 words. Pays $.01/word. Deadline November 30.

Ninth Letter is seeking short fiction (currently open for poetry and essays, too). Up to 8000 words. Pays $25 per printed page. Deadline November 30.

Chicken Soup for the Soul is seeking short essays with the theme Love Stories. Must have happened to you or someone you know. Up to 1200 words. Pays $200. Deadline November 30.

Things in the Well is seeking short stories for the anthology Behind the Mask: Tales From the Id. Must involve masks. 6000 to 10,000 worse. Pays $50. Deadline November 30.

What are your insecurities? Have you submitted anything this month? Are you doing NaNoWriMo or some variation of it? Any of these links of interest?

May you find your Muse.

*All artwork except IWSG badge came from clker.com, OCAL.