Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

2019roundup

Overview

The end of the year is always a good time to take stock of accomplishments of the past year and reflect on upcoming goals.

In general, 2019 was packed with exciting books, TV and movie releases in horror and other genre fiction. There are plenty of lists out there detailing some of the standouts (here and here, for example). Overall, the wealth of genre stories hitting mainstream audiences is encouraging for those of us who toil in realms of the fantastical and strange.

Personally, this was a productive year of writing for me. I wrote a number of short stories in 2019 as well as two novellas. With a demanding full-time job and wild two-year-old to take care of, I found it more important than ever to carve out writing time.

Before having a kid, I was a little worried that balancing my attention between my job and offspring would result in zero time for writing. This year proved the opposite. I realized that my increase in writing is not despite caring for a two-year-old but, in part, because of it, contrary to what many assume (including myself at one point). Being a parent forces you to manage time better and appreciate mindfulness: you multitask like crazy and value solitude so more. When I had all the time in the world to write I produced very little; now that writing time is more precious, I’m forced to focus and make the most of my writing time. 

Having a kid is like strapping a ticking clock to your head; the list of to-dos is endless and time is always short. At the same time, you relive your own childhood again through their eyes. This heightened sense of mortality and reduced free time makes me write more urgently. And when your identity is consumed by parenthood, writing (or any other passion) is a way to replenish the self that day-to-day living can wear down.

Aside from parenthood, three things of note helped my writing kick up a notch this year:

1. Writing Workshop

I was accepted into the 2019 Borderlands Bootcamp, where I connected with other authors for an intense weekend of beta reading and story feedback in Baltimore. This genre-focused writing workshop featured instructors Tom Monteleone, Douglas E. Winter, F. Paul Wilson and Ginjer Buchanan. I can’t stress enough how helpful this was for me to get myself in gear, accumulate helpful feedback on a scifi novel-in-progress, and continue to experiment with and refine new short story ideas.

2. Flash Fiction Writing Community

From the workshop, I connected with fellow writers and started doing a low-pressure, weekly flash fiction contest at various points throughout the year, run by the talented Donna J. W. Munro. Participating in this forced me to write (and complete!) a number of short stories. It also seeded the idea for a Labyrinth-inspired novella, “The Final Hour,” about a captive forced to rule a goblin realm.

3. NaNoWriMo

“National Novel Writing Month” is a worldwide effort that happens every November. Free to participate and open to everyone, NaNoWriMo is an online and in-person community where writers aim to finish a novel (50k words) in one month. Something as simple as a collective word-count tracker helped me outline and draft a story idea I had been kicking around for a while. While I fell short of the 50k goal in one month, I accomplished my personal goal: to write at least a few hundred words nearly every day of the month and complete a second novella/novel, a weird west horror adventure.

Additional factors that helped boost my writing:

4. Outlining

For a long time, I’ve written without a formal outline (“pantser”) but for NanoWrimo 2019 I tried the snowflake method of outlining, created by physicist and author Randy Ingermanson. This method was a perfect middle ground for me: not as detailed as notecards but focused enough so I didn’t get hopelessly lost in the weeds. This method helped me stay on track on my fantasy adventure western story and find a path through the difficult middle spots.

5. Local Writing Community

As always I am thankful for the group of local writers through the Horror Writers Association and other writing groups, as well as the San Diego treasure Mysterious Galaxy, a bookstore haven for genre writers and readers.

Year-End Roundup

As for my numbers, in 2019 I wrote 14 new stories and had 7 acceptances. Reprints in 2019 included “Better Halves” to the debut issue of Macabre Museum magazine in October and “A Dusty Arrival” in Uchronia: Alternate Histories & Alternate Worlds, available this month.

New stories accepted in 2019 included “Vermin” in Unnerving Magazine; “Protection” in Frozen Wavelets issue #1; and “Cup of Holiday Cheer” in Christmas Lites IX, all published in 2019. Two new stories were also chosen for publication in 2020: “Minor Malfunction” in Running Wild Press Anthology of Stories, Volume 4; and “Maternal Bond” in a soon-to-be-announced anthology.

In addition to the 14 new stories (two of which are novellas), I pitched, wrote and published three fiction-related essays in Aurealis Magazine throughout the year: “What’s Next for the Weird West,” “A Horror Renaissance,” and “Legendary Women of Horror.”

I am incredibly grateful for the writing and editing community, particularly in the areas of genre fiction. I am also indebted to friends and family who provide support in this tough craft. I hope the coming year leads to new stories that provide respite, intrigue or food for thought.

Happy 2020! 

 

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Keep writing! Keep reading!

 

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My nonfiction essay titled “What’s Next for the Weird West” is available in Aurealis Magazine’s last issue of the year, along with excellent speculative stories, essays and reviews.

This essay explores one of my increasingly favorite areas of fiction. I cover some of the crossover aspects of weird west fiction along with new and must-read books, and why the time is ripe for a resurgence in this fun genre.

Editor Dirk Strasser writes about this issue of the award-winning Australia-based monthly SF/F magazine:

We always like to go out with a bang in the last issue for the year and Aurealis #126 is no exception. In this bumper issue we feature ‘Marked for Life’, J.R. Schuyler’s powerful tale of blood magic, snowbeasts and transformation, Stephen Higgin’s quirky and enigmatic ‘Cradle’, and the dark science fiction of Eric Del Carlo’s gender and identity exploration story ‘Flesh of the Other.’

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Excerpt from “What’s Next for the Weird West” is below:

“Howdy, partner.”

A figure silhouetted in a hat and dusty jacket bursts into a bar. Poker players and prostitutes scramble as the loner saunters in, steely eyes prepping for a showdown.

The scene is all too familiar in Wild West stories, which usually incorporate iconic characters ranging from outlaws, gunslingers and law-keepers. On the frontier, where one must keep their wits about them and where anything goes, the stoic cowboy hero archetype helped set the foundation for some of today’s superheroes and modern American fiction. But the Weird West genre offers a fresh take on the iconic—and often overused—imagery and caricatures of the Wild West.

The Weird West genre—where Wild West elements mash with other genres ranging from horror, scifi and fantasy—has been around as long as the Wild West itself though never fully in the limelight. Something about the unknown wilderness invites more speculative wanderings; infusions of werewolves, demons, ghosts, aliens, magic and otherworldly elements seem right at home amidst wild mountains, endless desert and a vast, unforgiving landscape.

Issue #126 also finishes with reviewers’ picks of the best speculative fiction in 2019. 

To read the full essay and other pieces in this issue, visit here.

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Looking for a holiday gift for the reader in your life?

Christmas Lites Volume IX  is a collection of holiday-themed tales with all proceeds going directly to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Stories run the gamut from horror to cozy, so there’s something for everyone.

My horror story, “Cup of Holiday Cheer,” about a seasonal coffee drink gone terribly wrong, is included.

Editor Amy Huntley describes the collection as follows: 

Thirty-six stories to give you your holiday fix. Thirty-six times to get a Christmas chill or a warm, fuzzy feeling. This group of authors have come together for the 9th year in a row to help support the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. In the coldest of times, the warmth of the heart can bring hope to many who are in need this time of year. Read shorts from your favorite authors and discover new to love. Spread some holiday cheer this season!

You can order your digital or print copy here.

My micro horror story (~200 words) “Protection” is now available in the online version of Frozen Wavelets issue #1, a newly launched speculative flash fiction and poetry magazine based in Scotland.

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About Frozen Wavelets, from Editor Steph P. Bianchini:

Frozen Wavelets is an e-zine of speculative flash fiction and poetry, offspring of The Earthian Hivemind. We exist because we believe there’s not enough out there that specialises in this exquisite and peculiar format, not because it is not worthy of attention but because the genre fiction market logic overall doesn’t favour it. This is our contribution to give voice to writers and poets who love it as much as we do, and who keep writing it nonetheless.

TOC of Frozen Wavelets issue #1:

She Sleeps (Annie Neugebauer)

The Sea Bride (Deborah Davitt)

Protection (Kc Grifant)

Alien Evening (Kim Whysall-Hammond)

At the Frayed Edges of The Night (Isabel Cañas)

Bulgarian Grass – Българска Трева (Margarita I Serafimova)

Shell (Sonora Taylor)

The Wishing Clock of Gassytown (Deborah Wong)

Moon Catcher (Beth Cato)

Our Flesh Was Bred for This (Octavia Cade)

Sparse Wavelets (Colleen Anderson, Stewart C. Baker, Anatoly Belilovsky, Marc Criley, Pat Tompkins, Dawn Vogel)

Read more about the contributors here or visit the Patreon page here.

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I’m pleased to share that my New England-based quiet horror story, “Better Halves,” which first appeared in the Lovecraft eZine, is reprinted in The Macabre Museum‘s debut issue. 

Creators Sara Tantlinger, Chandler Morrison, Dan Coxon, Hailey Piper, Marge Simon, Sam Rebelein and others share their dark and twisted visions in this strong debut of stories, poems and artwork.

The quarterly horror literary journal and “digital museum of terrors,” edited by R.R. Trevino, is described as follows:

Imagine walking through a dark museum. A painting, basking in the soft light from a sconce, catches your eye. You approach, drawn in by its unparalleled beauty and raw power. Standing there, in front of the painting, you are mesmerized, changed in some profound way.

This is the feeling The Macabre Museum aims to evoke in its readers. Each piece we publish, whether it be fiction, poetry, or art, promises to claw at your heart and lie festering in your soul. Our art, like all good art, is timeless, has staying power, and is terrifying in its beauty.

Click through for the full version of the NSFW cover and/or to purchase via Amazon or support the Macabre Museum on its patreon page here.

 

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My weird western tale “A Dusty Arrival” is cited in this excellent guide Writing Speculative Fiction: Creative and Critical Approaches by Eugen Bacon. Bacon, PhD, is a computer scientist and award-winning writer and editor. Her book is a useful resource for anyone looking to start writing or learn more about speculative fiction.

From the publisher:

In this engaging and accessible guide, Eugen Bacon explores writing speculative fiction as a creative practice, drawing from her own work, and the work of other writers and theorists, to interrogate its various subgenres. Through analysis of writers such as Stephen King, J.R.R. Tolkien and J. K. Rowling, this book scrutinises the characteristics of speculative fiction, considers the potential of writing cross genre and covers the challenges of targeting young adults.  It connects critical and cultural theories to the practice of creative writing, examining how they might apply to the process of writing speculative fiction. Both practical and critical in its evaluative gaze, it also looks at e-publishing as a promising publishing medium for speculative fiction.

This is essential reading for undergraduate and postgraduate students of Creative Writing, looking to develop a critical awareness of, and practical skills for, the writing of speculative fiction. It is also a valuable resource for creators, commentators and consumers of contemporary speculative fiction.

Check out this helpful guide with tips for aspiring as well as veteran writers in genre fiction at the link.

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I’m happy to announce that my nonfiction article “Legendary Women of Horror” appears in Aurealis Magazine‘s issue #119, alongside of two other essays, “Suffer the Little Children: An Analysis of Parental Horror in Stephen King’s Early Fiction” by Kris Ashton and “Worldbuilding: The Bad and the Just Plain Ugly” by Amy Laurens.

The issue of this esteemed Australian monthly SF/F magazine is rounded out with three fascinating stories by Gordon Grice, Michelle Birkette and Chris Walker, as well as reviews and excellent art.

Aurealis Magazine, founded in 1990, and, in 1995, instituted the Aurealis Awards for Excellence in Australian Speculative Fiction. This issue was edited by Michael Pryor, an award-winning writer and prolific novelist.

I begin “Legendary Women of Horror” with a nod to the master, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley:

Over 200 years ago, Frankenstein’s monster lumbered across the minds of readers around the globe. The tale of Victor Frankenstein and his monster’s anguish tapped into fears about science, nature, and both the power and helplessness of humanity.

After a brief historic overview and discussion on why diverse viewpoints are particularly important in the horror genre, I dive into some of the cutting-edge modern horror writing by women today, as well as highlight two key efforts to showcase women’s work: a social media movement that happens every February called Women In Horror (which just celebrated its 10th year) and a website and comprehensive directory called Ladies of Horror Fiction.

To read the full essay and other pieces in this issue, check out #119 here, for just $2.99.