A Horror Writing Idea Beyond My Reach

21 09 2022

Since I first read the article in 2017, I have been fascinated by YouTube marketing psychotic content to toddlers.

Did you read this article?

Something Is Wrong On The Internet by James Briddle

Or this more recent one from The Guardian?

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2022/sep/13/unboxing-bad-baby-evil-santa-youtube-swamped-creepy-kids-content

It talks about a bad thing brewing at Google. That bad thing would make a cool story idea.

It has body horror with the increasingly disturbing, dismembered videos. It has the occult via algorithms invoking a primal force. It creates a new mythos, one where Cognition is a destructive force.

I’ll explain how I see it. It is said that capitalism taps into the fundamental human drive toward survival (simplistic, but bear with me). It is said that babies see the world most clearly, without civilizing preconceptions. YouTube is letting these two primal qualities dialogue on a planet-wide scale with the merest filter of cartoons.

What zeitgeist will result? The adult world is already dealing with Identity becoming more fluid. Is some evolutionary force now easing us into swappable heads, swappable body parts, Frozen Elsa with chicken feet, Spiderman with a brain-belly? No matter the algorithm YouTube came up with, they had to fall back to creating “war rooms” to control increasingly disturbing videos.

One perspective would ask: is this content disturbed, or are we learning that post-humanism is a natural impulse? If there is an evolutionary goal, is our goal to surpass the flesh?

A spiritual perspective would remind that ads for “The Exorcist” often accompanied these videos.

My thoughts are half-baked. But there seems the germ of an idea that *by some design*, YouTube is invoking Something lurking beyond Consciousness. This Something is as eternal and fundamental as gravity, and it works to bring humanity back to a primordial precognizance. The results would look pretty damn cool. We would watch it for hours. Lose track of time. Forget to eat.

I want to make it a short story! Dangblastfurgozzlenamchazzlegumit!

Maybe from the perspective one of the content producers. They’d get a printout every morning from their computer, an AI which assembles a script based on scraping the most recent YT search algorithms. They would be puzzled, then amused, then be appalled at the script demands. But bills gotta be paid.

I'm noticing improvements. But there has been a physical cost.




Fungus and Mushroom Monsters Are Peaking, But This Whole Thread Is Pretty Icky

22 08 2022




OKAY, REVISIONS!

2 08 2022

I received critiques of the whole novel from Noble Fusion Eastern Court. I received critiques on the first few chapters from writers on the Online Writers Workshop, plus encouragement.

Writer and OWW organizer Judith Tarr wrote: “The bones of this chapter are solid. There are some vivid and memorable images, and the story moves rapidly forward. Olivia is a strong character; her motivations are clear. There’s no question about what she wants or how she intends to get it.”

Author Kate Tyte provided useful guidance: “I feel you could make some things clearer, simpler and more obvious. I was confused by the homunculous of Olivia’s lover, for example. You have good characters and conflict, but sometimes that gets a bit lost. Gretchen wants to be cured of cancer, and maybe to get back together with her boyfriend, and to get her life together. Olivia wants to find her lover, for magical purposes. The boyfriend wants to be famous. Can you focus on making those things the focus, and very clear, and not losing sight of them?”

I am incorporating these critiques into the chapters still to be posted on OWW. I’m sending updated drafts to my non-writer friends to get their advice.

Here are two AI renderings of key images in “Saints of Flesh”. The prompt on the second one was “cancer polyp jewelry”.

experimenting with chaos magic




Writers Groups Like My New Novel Darft (Draft)

12 07 2022

Yes it does say “darft”, I’m trying to generate some whimsy here.

Because things are going quite well. Everyone is following the sequence of events and understanding the cause/effect of the “magic system”. The darft tenses shift around and I have to fix that. The big reveal is shocking! The climactic resolution? It resolves five characters — five! — in one scene! And everyone is good with it! The characters are all likable and relatable!

The main characters are women. The women who are critiquing like the woman characters! I kept their motives as sex-free and guy-free as possible, and the critics really liked that.

What they seem to like: there is no villain, just people bumbling around making mistakes; the use of unusual settings like Ren Faires; taking risks with descriptions of emotions, getting as precise in their physical affects as possible; personal quirks that aren’t eccentric (showing reliable bias towards particular flavors, styles, tastes); keeping real-life branding and signifiers out of the story (I am reminded of a National Lampoon parody of Stephen King: “Pepsi!” he screamed in terror.)

This book is such a change from the previous book. “The Flesh Sutra” is a fix-up novel episodic, gothic, nudging on erotic (meter and rhyme accidental here, that was cheesy). “Saints of Flesh” is streamlined more like a novel with lots of ghastly stuff but literally no sex.

I’m still compiling reviews, but I dunno, maybe it’ll be off to agents/editors by the end of the summer?

I want to work on flash fiction for a while.





Prepping My Beta Readers

9 06 2022

As you already know, I have two writing groups who are reviewing the first finished draft of what I’m calling “Saints of Flesh”. One group has published authors and editors, the other has extensively well-read spec fiction fans. They would seem formidable advisors for shaping my novel. Problem though: none of them are horror fans.

So I am preparing my account on Online Writers Workshop. For every piece of writing submitted, I have to review three submissions by other members. That is done and I believe I have enough reviews to cover my whole novel.

Why Online Writers Workshop? They have editors experienced in horror. I’ve been a member of this site off and on for years, and I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing early works by Nicole Cushing, who has gone on to greater acclaim. The fellow members do not seem great in numbers or high in polish, but the editors of the site review everything submitted.

I am cynical enough to tell say this may be a good networking/promotion opportunity if those editors take a shine to my novel. But I’m glad to have the work out of my head. The process of submitting/publishing seems exhausting. I haven’t even revised, after all.

Friends of mine expressed interest in reading as well.

Still struggling with the alternate denouement. The finished one lacks body horror, you see, and I think bringing that back and incorporating some story elements would bring the endeavor to a more satisfying close.

Found a new podcast’s that agreeable in aesthetics and politics: Rite Gud with Raquel S. Benedict

It’s for advanced writers with a contrarian bent. Like me, the podcast has a problem with the industrialization of spec fiction, where everything has to be a series, has to pointedly have a demographic, seems to not express but assuage.

It talks philosophy and technique. Have a look at the guest list and topics to see if you’d like it.





NOVEL FIRST DRAFT DONE. You Know How I’d Been Spinning Four Subplots?

19 05 2022

I landed all of them. I resolved all of them in the same, one scene.

Hell yes, I rock.

The novel is at approximately 45K words. Second draft polishing to begin tomorrow.

Casualty count: two dead, perhaps to be resurrected in a new reality. One new god, who is a Bubbling Chaos of Flesh and Consciousness in a Silver Bowl. One character reincarnated. Two new supra-powered adepts of the new god, wreaking havoc.

This is Gothic, Flesh, and Cosmic Horror with religious subtexts.

I have started collecting the names of small indie presses. At the time, I’m not bothering with agents until I get a contract.





More Thoughts On WIP and Magick

11 05 2022

Currently figuring out the big climax. All the characters are in one location. I realized I could resolve the Doppelgänger character by having the protagonist realize her core personal conflict. But I’ve got unwieldy cursed tumors and a near-immortal antagonist. How do I deal with them? Rather than be overwhelmed, I waited. I gave myself space and took a couple of days off.

A random listening to the “Psycho Analysis” podcast about Frankenstein gave me an idea — maybe THE idea as to how to resolve them to gruesome satisfaction.

I’m starting to look at publishers and I’m feeling my chest clench again. So, one step at a time. Get it finished first.

It’s worth mentioning that when I began this novel, and was writing from Alecsis’s perspective, I was doom- scrolling seven websites every day, several times a day. My spiritual concerns were limited to “what version of Christianity will keep me out of Hell?” I gnawed at decades-old regrets. My mind had a constant drumbeat of “must do”, “get done”, and “be more”.

At the same time, I was painfully aware that I had only one life, maybe only one opportunity at anything, and I should NOT SCREW UP. Which made mistakes and learning curves difficult.

Now, writing from Olivia’s POV, I am down to doom-scrolling only political Twitter, still several times a day, but a vast improvement. I am accepting that I do not understand myself. I relax more in the moment and do more of what I enjoy. I am comfortable that each person is their own solitary religion, picking through everything that came before. I am a more comfortable and accepting person, and am trying to forgive my mistakes and misunderstandings.

Olivia quested after meaningful goals, while Alecsi worked toward redeeming a mistake that couldn’t be undone. Olivia and Alecsi had both killed Thomas, and both had pledged to improve the world to atone. But in time, Olivia settled into accepting what they had done and making the best of her situation. Alecsi still wanted to be perfect.

I wouldn’t have tried Olivia’s POV if it weren’t for my friends in Noble Fusion Eastern Court. Life dictates Art which guides Life.

Many people I know needed to change their lives so dramatically, they changed their names to allow for that radical growth. Patty put her traumatic childhood behind her by embracing her nickname Bunny. Al put his past behind him by using his middle name Randy. Pseudonyms allow exploration of personas uncomfortable for the artist. Artists performing under their own names talk about their “stage persona”, sometimes referring to that persona as a separate being. Performers talk about how the audience expectations shape their performances, even their performing styles.

This is all kind of Jungian. The story is outside and inside, waiting. It may not be an ingenious work, but it must be told for you to grow.





Is Writing Magick?

3 05 2022

As mentioned before, I am nearing the end of my first-ish draft of “Saints of Flesh”. My primary writing group Noble Fusion Eastern Court have been impressed at how I’ve kept a lot of plates spinning in the plot. The problem now is bringing the plates together while still spinning, stacking them together, then lowering them to the floor to rest in a satisfying manner.

Some days I look at descriptions of other books and think “damn, my stuff is a bit goofy”. Then I look at other books and think “maybe my book is supposed to be a little over the tops like these guys”. I can’t honestly say that I’m writing a book that I’d want to read. I am writing the book that is there in me right now.

There are so many small press publishers out there. I am encouraged by this because having read many small press through Kindle Unlimited, I know I have a solid book. We all know the trick with small press; get a publisher with a good track record. I had been interested in one publisher with a good track record, but then they published something controversial and now have gone to ground. I passed on going to the writers’ fest in Williamsburg VA because I have nothing to market quite yet and I have a reflexive aversion to try to work into existing social groups.

The good thing here is that I do enjoy writing every day. It’s becoming easier to focus on that. Writing has been fun lo these many years, but lately I’m wondering if my subject matter is harming my outlook.

I am anxious and depressed, less so than I used to be, but still it’s something I work on. I had quite an interest in writing humor. Over the years, though, as I discovered that good writing comes from the heart, I lost a lot of my mirth. Jokes still come when I talk with people, but not so much when I write.

Jokes were my way of distracting myself and being endearing to others. Placing a distancing TV frame around everything helped my anxiety. That frame is my earliest childhood memory. So I realized that joking was not so much a choice as a compulsion. Did I choose to daydream all the time? Did I choose to create? Maybe I did.

Humor has disappointed me in these past years. My stabs at sketch comedy and movie production lost their momentum when I needed to risk my ego by going to the next level. I could go on about how comedy in the U.S. relies way too much on improvisation, and how Lorne Michaels is killing creativity, and that I don’t laugh at movies because I can see the stitching in the fabric. I’m still sussing out how I feel, but it just may be that no one makes anything quite to my taste.

Horror became a means of being outrageous with catharsis.

I’ve realized that horror reinforces my anxious view of the world. Someone said somewhere that Horror is Fantasy for atheists, and I agree with that. Is writing horror bad for my health?

A last thing I have noticed: writing is cathartic, but it also helps to process problems at a less-than-aware level. Concentrating on Alecsi in “The Flesh Sutra” reinforced a doomed romanticist perspective. In this book, Olivia is more proactive and does a mind-bending amount of personal examination and growth. These reflect my states of mind during their creation. I would like to experiment with writing a Marty Lou for the purposes of hacking my own psyche, much like Grant Morrisson did with King Mob.





Nearing The End of Draft One, Here Is How My Supernatural Stuff Works

26 04 2022

I’m at 41K words into “Saints of Flesh”, a sequel novel to “The Flesh Sutra”. As I write, I’ve developed a working theory for superhuman capabilities, how they may be achieved, and how societies have appropriated stories of these abilities to support established religions. Join me, won’t you?

The Science of “The Flesh”

  1. Supernatural Ability Latent Within Humanity

Supernatural capabilities seem more created by discipline than by virtue. While discipline does encourage virtue, the powers of the holy seem prevalent among only a select few within those adhering to the discipline. Not all nuns come back as visions.

Superhuman capabilities can be learned. It follows that those predisposed to ability can have the ability enhanced through discipline.

Supernatural or numinous experiences can be provoked by specific stimuli. Magnetic fields, infrasonic sound, strobe light, extremes of exhaustion and pain, concentrated repetition of any type, etc. Religions use resonant spaces, patterns of color, group invocations, and other stimuli to create numinous experiences. These create changes in the brain.

Resistance to cold, heat, fire, fatigue, suffocation are well documented, as well as physical abnormality and genetic mutations that enhance these abilities.

Learned abilities and traits can be inherited genetically.

Generations studying an ability will create generations for whom that ability will be second nature or even enhanced beyond normal capability.

Genes can become latent or regressive.

The human record encompasses over forty generations.

Stories of the paranormal abilities have considerable consistencies that span cultures.

Stories telling of abilities outside these consistencies can be attributed to cultural propaganda.

An ability does not have to be understood by science for that ability to be valid.

Given these statements, we can assume humanity is capable of these abilities: survival of severe mutilation; resistance to fire, cold, suffocation, and electricity; precognition; post-cognition; generation of illusions; influence over people and animals; speaking with spirits; banishment of spirits; remote viewing; astral projection; levitation; bilocation; teleportation; communication with the dead; regeneration even of dead tissue; the curing of illness; revivification of the dead; reincarnation.

Many abilities did not make the cut: telekinesis, telepathy, pyrokinesis, walking on water, control of weather, invocation of earthquakes, creation of matter. These abilities are not generally found throughout the world’s folklore.

Note also there is a difference between a human exhibiting these abilities versus the invocation of an outside force; Moses (who may have not existed and may be propaganda) did not part the Red Sea, but invoked God to do the work.

This is not to say that humanity cannot learn new abilities. That happens in this novel.

This is where writing has led me so far. I’m half-persuaded that this is the truth.

2. How Is It Cultivated?

Supernatural abilities are most often associated with those engaged in sacred rituals or working in sacred spaces. What do these rituals and abilities have in common?

Sensory discipline: the deprivation or over saturation of sound, sight, or activity. Monasteries deprive acolytes of stimulation and force repetition to subsume the ego. Cathedrals and mosques subsume the ego by overwhelming the ego with resonant sound, colorful patterns, and ritual. I have tiny knowledge of shamanisms and other religions, but can make a case the use of drugs or frenzied activity redirecting consciousness.

Inspirations: being told that others have achieved the desired abilities.

3. Conclusions

By distilling the most effective sounds and color patterns, an “ur-sainthood” could unlock latent abilities.

4. But Godhood? And Reincarnation?

Just as science can be mistaken for magic, this ur-sainthood would be mistaken for a supernaturally empowered superiority.

Gods, devils, angels, demons throughout history and all over the world behave like really dopey people. Because these beings are really dopey people who have achieved this ur-sainthood. Religions are attempts to understand these unwieldy, even dangerous beings.

Reincarnation beliefs around the world implies a spiritual realm similar to the Akashic Field or an astral plane, that is a nil-space of pure consciousness. Religions are attempts to understand this realm.

These ideas aren’t new. How do they fulfill the needs of the story?

Two tropes in fantasy fiction bother me greatly. The first is “achieving ability without sacrifice”. Gandalf seems pretty well adjusted to wielding Godhood, which he wields by being born into power. Hogwarts students study books and wave their wands, which works because they were born into it.

IMO, this is bunk. It implies that by luck of birth, the reader too could be supernaturally enabled. It implies that such an enabled person could become well-adjusted within a “Third Age Muggle” world.

It is bunk because in reality, anyone who excels sacrifices anything resembling a normal life. Olympic athletes socially stunt themselves, become exposed to abusers, become the focus of mania and vitriol. Garth Ennis’ “The Boys” better reflects how Gandalf and Hogwarts would be treated in reality.

Related to that, supernatural “sacrifice” is always some variation of something the average bookish person would really want. Gandalf is a loner? Hogwarts keeps to themselves? How are these sacrifices? I cannot speak to other magic systems from other authors, but even if a magician is cutting off body parts to empower themselves, these pains are all voluntary. Did he really need that finger compared to rearranging reality itself?

The second trope that bothers me is “Devastation, Oh Well”. How much carnage have we seen in superhero movies, in both Stars Trek and Wars, in even the Potterverse, and dang no one seems traumatized or shunned. The best example to me is “Supernatural” where as the seasons progress the writers have to up the ante of shock by killing families, then filled diners, then hospitals, then entire towns. But to create pathos, the writers ran out of ideas except for killing every woman character (until the fans got po’d and the two sheriffs were spared).

My preference is for power beyond reason, my characters should suffer beyond reason. For the story to remain plausible, everything should be so small and personal that the world will not notice.

I did that with “The Flesh Sutra” and I’m truly enjoying doing that with “Saints of Flesh”.





At 32K On WIP and A Step Closer To Understanding My Purpose In Life

1 02 2022

Hi guys,

At this point, I’m working on the first fight between protagonists and the Big Bad (who is also a Big Reveal and even a Big Protagonist Insight, lotsa layers here). The protagonist will come out the worse for wear, as you do. I had no idea how to set up the Big Final Fight, which had to happen on the Protagonist’s turf for it to be meaningful and use these neato set pieces I am itching to use. It took a few minutes mulling while making dinner for the answer to appear: Big Protagonist Insight is that Protagonist and Big Bad want the same things, so yeah, Big Bad will want to seize Protagonist’s turf. With a little goading and insulting, Big Bad would charge in recklessly. A little trite, but it works.

Am I being too abstract?

The take-away here is by giving clear goals to your characters can fulfill plot needs more easily. “Motivation” is a basic detail, granted, but giving characters relatable motivations is more satisfying and provides more opportunity. The Big Bad could just be Evil and destroy just for the heck of it, but that would be lame. My Big Bad wants because it is a second-tier replacement for the Protagonist, and the BB knows that. Best to eradicate the Protagonist, be saved that painful reminder, and become a step closer to being the optimum replacement.

As in all things in life, what does this have to do with me?

When I started personal counseling (this phase of it), my counsellor stated the goal was to get me back to creating things the way I had as a child, scrawling stuff in the corner just to enjoy it. My past couple of years had brought me to realize my perception of the world was warped, my goals were warped by my perception of the world, and I daydreamed-imagined-created to avoid the world.

My perception was warped. I wanted relationships, experiences, growth, and I self-sabotaged because I thought the world barren of compassion. Knowing this, shouldn’t I push myself into new experiences? Aren’t my existing goals inherently flawed?

I grew up entertaining myself. It may have been a coping mechanism, but is entertaining yourself bad? Does I need a relationship? I’ve met only a few people in almost sixty years who “got me” and who “I got”. I’ve been sitting in Panera Bread and writing for almost ten years now. Have I been wasting my life?

I feel myself becoming more comfortable with my cloistered little self. I think that’s a good thing. Maybe it will help lead to other experiences.








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