I’ll See Someone (You?) At PhilCon!

15 11 2014

On Friday (my only day allowed from my Big Box job), I will be at three panels and a friend’s booklaunch at PhilCon: Philadelphia’s Science Fiction Convention. It’s the oldest running con in the US.

Keeping Morale Up During NaNoWriMo

13 11 2014

I hadn’t tried to work on NaNaWriMo, because my self-esteem isn’t great enough to handle anything resembling a competition. I know the purpose of NaNoWriMo is to kickstart your own work and keep a steady pace, and it is barely even a competition with yourself. Yet the reluctance was there.

This year, I started work on a novel in October, so by coincidence here I am in NaNoWriMo like it or not.

I decided to write the first draft long hand. Working that way for the first six chapters of “Flesh Sutra” felt comfortable. It got me back in touch with writing when I was in high school, when I wrote for pure enthusiasm and without my brain demanding I win acclaim for my effort.

So. I became discouraged with my output. I’m a 50+ year old man working on my feet all day. A few hundred words here and there for the last two weeks.

Gathered the pages together and arranged them in a binder. Lo and behold! 18,000 words?! Not counting the first chapter written in October! I estimate I’m 2/5ths through, maybe 3/5ths! A flush of pride and accomplishment!

My characters went off the track and discovered: an underground railroad for paranormal insurgents; a society desperate to ignore said paranormal in the rush to rebuild from its onslaught; the ingenious location of a paranormal spy; a theme reflecting our current cultural struggles.

Writing is a way to explore the uncomfortable. This story is helping me hash out our current mess in speculative fiction and society.

One side has dolts whose hearts are in the right, but has very few actual thinkers.

The other has good thinkers with practical opinions and observations. It also contains (to me) a stunning lack of self-insight.

Both sides have reflexive, simplistic dogmatists.

The best symbolism is accidental. Whatever comes out of the writing, it’s best that I’m surprised.

Meanwhile, have you visited http://theunjaydedbook.wordpress.com/ ? A nice guy and a good writer.

I’ve Submitted To The Stoker Awards!

4 11 2014

“The Flesh Sutra” has been submitted into the Novel and First Novel categories! I’m excited because I believe in a world filled with zombies, vampires, and subtle surrealities, “The Flesh Sutra” offers something deeper, more insightful, and vivid.

Keep your eyes open, as I plan to submit to the Compton Crook and the Shirley Jackson Awards.

Meanwhile, take a glimpse of something that weirded out the editors of Pseudopod. Click the image.

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A Free, Previously Published Short Story For You!

24 10 2014

You may know that I’m switching website servers and getting serious about making friends online.
I sold a short story to LORE before that publication went out of business.
If you send me your email address at timissocial at gmail dot com, I will send you this creepy, body horror tale featuring Olivia and Alecsandri from “The Flesh Sutra”.
I will also send you extra stuff once per month, both comedy and horror, and links to neat sites you may not know about.
That’s timissocial at gmail dot com.

A Great Article With Book Recommendations

21 10 2014

Reggie Oliver is way underrated, for example. He writes great suspense.

The Literature of Fear: 12 High-Quality Horror Books for Sleepless Nights

The Flesh Sutra

18 10 2014

“The Flesh Sutra” is a work filled with fascinating characters, surprising, sometimes horrific, events and a very sweeping, cinematic style.”
In Fin de siècle Boston, the mystic healer Alecsandri Keresh falls into the desperate embrace of his lover, Mrs. Olivia Spalding, as he is shot dead. In those final moments before the soul passes through the gateway of death forever, Alecsandri’s rage transforms his power and he forces his way back. But he does so through ghastly means and returns to life – as an abomination.

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Reading Ghost Stories As Research

15 10 2014

To prepare for a ghost novel I plan to write, I have read three contemporary ghost stories. “The Little Stranger” by Sarah Waters is the most classically gothic, set in a post-WWII English estate. “The Green Man” by Kingsley Amis takes the classical ghost story and updates it to swinging ‘60s England. Grady Hendrix brings the story to post-industrial Ohio to comment on our working world in “Horrorstor”.

“The Green Man” follows a traditionally alcoholic and rakish Amis protagonist as he runs a bed-and-breakfast in developing rural England. The character tolerates his family, drinks huge amounts of scotch, and works to connive ménage a trois with another man’s wife. He is turned into an anti-hero by his biting observations and the unsettling death of his father.
The B&B setting is haunted by a 17th century sorcerer. The protagonist’s obsession with the apparition drives the story to an end that’s more contemplative and less chilling. It’s an examination of death rather than the dead.
The book itself is only worth examination. The sorcerer is intriguing but Amis gives no thought as to what powers his work. Plot threads dangle and sway in the wind.
I found this useful only in how well Amis works with realistic characters.

I read “Horrorstor” all the way through in one sitting. I’ve enjoyed Grady Hendrix through Pseudopod.org’s readings of “Tales of the White Lodge Street Society”, farces in which a Carnaki-like adventurer spins tales of ghosts, booze, money, and racism. Hendrix also writes a very funny weekly takedown of CBS’ “The Dome” for Tor.com.
He brings his mix of morbid humor and social commentary to “Horrorstor”, a ghost story set in a furniture store styled like Ikea. As a ghost story, it owes more to Stephen King than M.R. James, with awesome effects over suspense.
I work in a Big Box store and sympathized with the young protagonist Amy in her retail job, dealing with customers, the cost of living, and corporate culture. In its own way, this book was its own cutthroat retail operation.
To keep the plot moving, Hendrix cut character development to the bone. For the plot to be plausible, he eliminated resources like custodial contractors, Asset Protection, and lighting to assist surveillance. To serve both humor and horror, the story effectively had two endings in which the villain is defeated but the innocent still suffer.
I’d like to be funny, chilling, and socially aware when I write. I like this book. It had some laughs and a few chills.

I learned that I want a conclusive ending and to keep as close to “real” as I can get. “Conclusive” can be tricky in the Gothic tradition, where hauntings could be ghosts, or hallucinations, or psychic projections onto reality. “The Little Stranger” by Sarah Waters uses artistic sleight-of-hand on the reader through limited and sometimes unreliable POV. A young man come of age in the shadow of an English estate, studies to be a doctor, and becomes physician and confidant to the estate family. The war has shattered the soul of the heir. The matron mourns a child long deceased. The independent daughter feels stifled by tradition. The house is falling into ruin. Who is setting the fires? Who is scribbling childish phrases in the most unlikely places?
Sarah Waters researches the hell out of her subjects. Her descriptions feel lush and full without slowing the plot. The suspense alone was enough to get me through the 500+ word novel, the first one of such length I had read in years.
From this book, I learned a couple of neat phrasings, and reinforced the idea of “adverbs should be placed after the modified verb, if they must be used at all.”

Overall, I think I gained only some focus through reading these novels. I discovered I want a conclusive, objective force powering the supernatural events. I gained a better sense of how to balance description and action. I still want to experiment with anomie versus physical isolation, and see if I can pull off the trick of “things walking in broad daylight”. I’ll be reading Peter Straub next, I think, and see what I can find.


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