Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Late Night Walkspirations

If you've been around this blog for awhile, you know I like to take late night walks. Really, I like to take walks and hikes whenever possible, but there's something special about the night. I don't have to risk having to stop and be social, or walk the long way around a group of people. No one's dog tries to jump on me. There's no dodging of bicycles. And sensory-wise, it smells and feels wonderful. Especially in the summer when it's so hot during the day that a walk isn't realistic.

On these walks, interesting things sometimes happen. They can be the impetus for a story, because the little things one sees can be translated in multiple ways. For example, the other night there was a car parked, running, outside a house at nearly midnight. There was a window A/C running in that house, so I didn't realize the car was on until I was right on top of it. The passenger window was open, and a teenage girl was sitting in the driver's seat, giant doe eyes staring at me as I walked by. I started wondering what she was doing there. Waiting for a friend who was sneaking out? Waiting for a friend to gather her things and leave an abusive situation? Perhaps she was supposed to be watching the house while the owners were on a trip, and was freaked out at the late hour. Maybe it was completely above board, and her car-mate just had to run inside really quickly. Or perhaps her mom was in labor, and she'd been told to start the car and pull it around while her parents gathered necessary items.

It could have been a billion different things, but letting the mind wander on something like this is a great exercise in writing. Even better if you go home afterward and write a story after choosing one of your theories.

The next night, I went for a walk earlier. Probably closer to 10. On this walk, I came upon a darkened house, the garage door wide open, two cars parked inside. This happens more than you might think. I always make an attempt to knock on the door to get someone's attention to let them know. The problem with this house was that it was in a cul-de-sac on a mostly moonless night, and none of the houses in the cul-de-sac had any exterior lighting on. It was pitch black, trees swaying in the wind, so I couldn't hear anything beyond the rustling. They did have two exterior lights that were on, but they were flickering and only barely giving off a dirty glow. I'm always a little jumpy approaching a front door like this at night, because the possibility exists that someone armed may come to the door or that something nefarious has already occurred inside, and that's why the door's open. This particular house had an inset door, so I had to walk around, past a tree and a giant shrubbery, into the alcove that held the door.

Ultimately, no one came to the door, no interior lights turned on, so I continued on my walk. As I stepped off the porch, lights flickering to either side of me, a rabbit burst out of the shrub at my side and startled me. Heart pounding, I kept going. I had just rounded the corner out of the cul-de-sac when I heard voices. I paused to figure out where they were coming from, and there were two men exiting a house together. They headed to a locksmith's van parked on the street. One was telling the other, "Yeah, she called and said she needed the lock popped out tonight. No idea why."

Both of these last two items could inspire a story. One might be an obvious tale of horror (the flickering lights, exposed dark house, home invasions, robberies, all manner of awful things), while the other could go in any possible direction really. Who needs a locksmith to pop a lock out at 10 PM? One could easily run with it, writing mystery, suspense, literary, women's fiction, horror, you name it. It's all fodder.

Speaking of mystery and suspense, if you're ever writing something about a burglar, robber, or other criminal who might break into homes, go for a night walk. I'd recommend after 11 PM, when most people are sleeping (disclaimer: only do so if it's safe in your area, and be sure you take whatever necessary measures to be safe and/or take a friend.)

You see, I realized the other night that I'd inadvertently cased the neighborhood. By now, I know who leaves a main level window open, who leaves the garage door open a smidge for a cat (often more than a smidge--if a toddler can walk under the door without ducking, anyone can get into your garage). I know who has a window A/C unit that's so loud they wouldn't hear someone breaking a window or picking a lock. It's obvious who has kids, and sometimes even where their bedrooms are, because of a pink nightlight or stickers on the window (which made me evaluate what my kids' windows look like to someone standing on the street). I know where the darkest areas are, because several neighbors in a specific spot don't put on exterior lights. And all of this data is in my head, not because I intended to put it there, but because I mark places where, for instance, someone might hear a call for help. I pay attention to who's awake and who has a bedroom window open for the same reason. Obviously, I pay attention to where it's darkest, so I can avoid it or at least be aware of it.

There's even a house I will cross the street to avoid, because they have a huge delivery-type truck with no business information on it parked on the street, and in their driveway is a big van with the old logos painted over and no windows. Of course it's all probably harmless, and they've started their own business, but it's been years, and there's no logo on the big truck still. So when I'm letting my mind wander, there are many reasons a person might have big vehicles with no windows or identifying marks.

I also know where several police officers live, so I'd know to avoid those houses if I were a criminal. And probably the ones within their view and hearing. (Of course, not being a criminal, those are the houses I'd make a point of going to if there were a problem.)

In this particular neighborhood, the wildlife is the biggest concern on night walks, as we have several larger predators that hang around, including mountain lions. I always used to hear coyotes at night, yipping and yelping away while they cornered a deer or other prey animal. (I haven't heard any this year, so far, and I'm afraid it's because of mange, which was going around.) Would one take similar precautions if it wasn't regular wildlife they were trying to avoid? What about monsters? Zombies, vampires, cryptozoological beasties?

No matter when you take a walk, there's always a chance you'll happen across random inspiration for stories based on the things you see. I tend to get story breakthroughs while on walks, and frequently I get home with at least one idea for a new story. There's something about moving your feet and freeing your mind that gets it brewing. So if you're stuck or looking for inspiration, try a walk or a hike and see if it works for you. But be sure to take note of even the mundane, as it might factor into new ideas or background details for stories you're already writing.

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

Accepting Submissions:

Outlook Spring is seeking poetry, fiction, and non-fiction tinged with the strange. Up to 7500 words. Pays $10 to $25. Deadline July 15.

Helios Quarterly is seeking fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and art for their September issue. Current theme First Contact & Conversions. Up to 1500 words (unless a serial story). Pays up to $.03/word. Deadline July 15.

Third Flatiron is seeking slipstream short fiction for the anthology Strange Beasties. 1500 to 3000 words. Pays $.06/word. Deadline July 15.

Franklin/Kerr is seeking post-apocalyptic and dystopian horror. 2000 to 8000 words. Pays $5 per 1000 words, plus royalties. Deadline July 21.

Splickety Havok is seeking holiday mashups for their October edition: Holiday Cauldron. 300 to 1000 words. Pays $.02/word. Deadline July 28.

Aliterate is seeking literary genre fiction. 2500 to 8000 words. Pays $.06/word. Deadline July 28.

Do you like to go for walks? Do you find them inspiring? Seen anything strange on a walk lately? Any of these links of interest? Anything to share?

May you find your Muse.

*Pedestrian, by AA,
*Haunted House, by Chrizz4,
*Burglar, by OCAL,
*Small truck USPS postal service, by OCAL,

Friday, June 16, 2017

Horror List Book Review - 20th Century Ghosts

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 Joe Hill's 20th Century Ghosts.

This is a collection of short stories, at least one of which I'd already read in one of the Year's Best type anthologies. It would probably be a good collection for someone wanting to dip their toes in horror, but not wanting anything too extreme. A lot of these stories are haunting (though only a couple were supernatural in nature, despite the name). Some of them linger more on the fantasy end than the horror end.

An example of one that leaned toward the fantasy end (though it was decidedly still horror), was "Voluntary Committal." In this story, the POV character's brother is special needs. He builds an involved maze out of cardboard, full of rooms and decorations, but the tunnels ultimately lead somewhere no one comes back from.

Even more out there is "Pop Art," in which the POV character's good friend is a balloon boy, picked on by the other children. And yes, he's really inflatable. This one was whimsical and full of heart.

Probably the most viscerally disturbing was "You Will Hear the Locust Sing," where a young boy turns into a locust with a taste for people.

"My Father's Mask" is very "Twin Peaks"/"Twilight Zone." Creepy and odd.

The title story (20th Century Ghosts), was sweet and supernatural. I grew in movie theaters since my mom managed several, and I have a special fondness for the world.

All in all, it's a good collection with a lot of diversity in subject matter, although many of the stories revolve around youth and have younger characters. The stories range from sweet to horrifying. Surreal to gritty. Familiar to bizarre.

My new rankings:

1. The Handmaid's Tale (Margaret Atwood)
2. The Bottoms (Joe R. Lansdale)
3. Coraline (Neil Gaiman)
4. A Choir of Ill Children (Tom Piccirilli)
6. The Year’s Best Fantasy: First Annual Collection (Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling)
7. Needful Things (Stephen King)
8. 1Q84 (Haruki Murakami)
9. Those Who Hunt the Night (Barbara Hambly)
11. 20th Century Ghosts (Joe Hill)
12. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)
13. Dark Forces (Kirby McCauly)
14. Dawn (Xenogenesis, Book 1) (Octavia E. Butler)
15. Wet Work (Philip Nutman)
16. The Stranger (Albert Camus)
17. Dead in the Water (Nancy Holder)
18. The Witches (Roald Dahl)
19. Psycho (Robert Bloch)
20. The Damnation Game (Clive Barker)
21. The Wolf's Hour (Robert McCammon)
22. Berserk (Tim Lebbon)
23. Prime Evil (Douglas E. Winter)
24. Best New Horror, Volume 1 (edited by Stephen Jones and Ramsey Campbell)
25. Flowers in the Attic (V.C. Andrews)
26. The Tomb (F. Paul Wilson)
27. Shadowland (Peter Straub)
28. Blood Meridian (Cormac McCarthy)
29. The Imago Sequence (Laird Barron)
30. My Soul to Keep (Tananarive Due)
31. Penpal (Dathan Auerbach)
32. World War Z (Max Brooks)
33. From the Dust Returned (Ray Bradbury) 
34. The Red Tree (Caitlin R. Kiernan)
35. In Silent Graves (Gary A. Braunbeck)
36. The Cipher (Kathe Koja)
37. Drawing Blood (Poppy Z. Brite)
38. The Doll Who Ate His Mother (Ramsey Campbell) 
39. Hotel Transylvania (Chelsea Quinn Yarbro)
40. Naked Lunch (William S. Burroughs)

Have you read anything by Joe Hill? Did you see the movie "Horns?" Did you know he was Stephen King's son when you first read him or was it a pleasant surprise later on?

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

IWSG: The Dangers of "Just," Podcast, & Links

It's IWSG day! I almost posted last Wednesday, thinking it was June already. Luckily, I caught myself just in time.

Before I jump into IWSG, I was interviewed again, this time by Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. I'll be speaking at their writer's conference this coming fall. Mark Stevens was great fun to talk to, and we discussed Deconstructing Horror, my post and the workshop I'd recently done for RMFW. You can find the episode 86 podcast for Rocky Mountain Writer HERE.


Now onto the Insecure Writer's Support Group, which takes place the first Wednesday of each month. Created by Alex J. Cavanaugh, this is your chance to air some insecurities and offer support to your fellow writers.

This month's co-hosts are JH Moncrieff, Madeline Mora-Summonte, Jen Chandler, Megan Morgan, and Heather Gardner!

Anyone is welcome to join. Just sign up at the website linked above.

My insecurities frequently lead me to add the word "just" to things I say. "I just write short stories." "I just write horror." "I've just been published in short stories." "I've just been published x number of times." "I'm just a writer."

"Just" is a completely unnecessary modifier, and definitely an unnecessary self-judgment. What I've learned in the last year or so is that no one else is using that word when they speak about what I've done, so why am I?

I know I'm not the only one who does this, as I've frequently caught other writers doing so. So to all of you who do the same in an attempt to lower yourself before someone else can (which would hurt far more, yes?) stop using "just" to describe yourself. You're not "just" a writer, poet, etc. You ARE a writer, a poet, a screenwriter.

It matters. We shouldn't be diminishing ourselves. Instead, set lofty goals. Then meet them. And own them.

The optional question of the month is whether I've ever said "I quit," and what brought me back to writing if I did. At this point, no, though there have been times I've considered it. At the same time, over a decade ago I tried to submit a couple short stories. They were rejected, which back then meant my manuscript returned in the SASE I'd sent with it, and a several page listing of submission guidelines and possible reasons for rejection. I submitted two stories, each to one place, then gave up once the rejections came back. It wasn't conscious; I simply didn't bother to submit anymore. Plus, I was working full time and attending college, all while going through some serious medical treatments, which included surgeries, so even if they'd been accepted I wouldn't have written and submitted more until years later, when I did so anyway. I did still fiddle around with writing when I had the down-time. There just wasn't much of it, and since I hadn't decided to make a career of it, I didn't make it something I MADE time for.


Each month I post my stats for the previous month to keep myself accountable.

Submitted 6 stories (1 to a publication I was requested to submit a story to)
Got 7 rejections.
Not much going on this month!


Now for some links.

Accepting Submissions:

The Literary Hatchet is accepting dark short stories, poetry, art, and essays for their next issue. 1000 to 6000 words. Pays up to $10. Deadline July 1.

Red Room Magazine is accepting dark extreme horror and crime fiction short stories. Up to 4000 words. Pays $.03/word. Deadline July 1.

Spring Song Press is accepting fantasy short stories, preferably noblebright ones. Must address the theme "Still Waters." 2500 to 10,000 words. Pays $.01/word. Deadline July 1.

The Lascaux Review is accepting literary stories, poems, and essays. Pays $100.

Ember: A Journal of Luminous Things is accepting flash fiction, short stories, poetry, and creative non-fiction. Must be appropriate for ages 10 to 18. They also take submissions from kids 10 and up. Up to 12,000 words. Pays $.02/word.

Black Ice Magazine is accepting Cyberpunk speculative fiction. 1000 to 6000 words. Near future. 1000 to 6000 words. Pays $5 to $10.

Strange Fictions is accepting short speculative fiction, poetry, reviews, and essays. 1000 to 10,000 words. Pays $5 to $10.

Do you find yourself qualifying your successes? What are your insecurities? Any of these links of interest? Anything to share?

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Epiphanies From Deconstruction - Horror

I did a workshop for Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers recently that made me look at how I thought of horror and reanalyze it in an attempt to help others understand it more. As I've delved deeper into the genre, I've expanded my own definition of it. Problem being, I see the same original, narrow view that I've left behind reflected in others' views on horror.

I frequently get comments like "I don't read/watch horror" or "I don't enjoy horror." But then there will be an exception to that. For example, "I don't enjoy horror, but I really liked Coraline/The Handmaid's Tale/Hunger Games/Stepford Wives/Planet of the Apes/Flowers in the Attic," etc. Right now, some of you are reading this and saying "Stepford Wives wasn't horror." Wasn't it? If Get Out is horror, Stepford Wives is, as well. Both look at subjugation and internal, unconscious biases in a frightening way that puts others in harm of losing themselves.

We've pigeonholed horror by defining it by one aspect, and each of us has a different aspect we define it by. Some might think horror is all slashers and gore. Some think it has to involve a monster. Sadly, even known authors of horror deny writing it, because they fear turning off readers and limiting their audience.

Interestingly, the Horror Writers Association pinpoints when this narrowing of the genre definition occurred: the 80s. And they blame it on one specific work: Stephen King's Carrie.

You see, horror wasn't a genre until sometime in the 80s. Even now, it's just a subgenre of fantasy, technically, but then we've split fantasy out into subgenres like dark fantasy and urban fantasy, as well, both of which can contain elements of horror.

The real trouble began when the publishing industry started trying to pinpoint the formula that made Carrie such a big hit. They then tried to duplicate that success by seeking similar stories. Suddenly, literature that met the definition of horror was pushed to the side, targeting this very specific form of horror to make sales and get movies made.

If you want to read more about this, put much better than I can, go to the HWA site.

A second problem we writers, specifically, have is that we're taught to pigeonhole our own writing to sell it. Pick a genre. You can't put "historical romantic mystery with speculative elements" in a query letter; you have to narrow that down. Where is it most likely to be put on a shelf? Well, with true horror, in the widest definition possible, it can go on many shelves.

Where would you find The Lovely Bones? Not in horror. Not even in fantasy, even though there are speculative, even supernatural, elements. It's a touching story, but it's also horrifying. There is clearly dread and horror brought out in the reader. What is NOT horrific about a little girl being raped and murdered then forced to watch from beyond the grave as her killer and family become involved in an intricate dance full of risk?

Where would you find The Hunger Games? Not under horror. It's a YA dystopian. But guess what dystopians are? A form of horror. Again, I ask you what is not horrific about children rounded up and forced to fight to the death for the entertainment of the wealthy?

Horror, in its purest form, exists to elicit darker emotions from its readers. That does not always have to be fear, though that's a strong thread, and is frequently present. It can be despair, horror, alarm, terror, disgust. It can be existential dread. It can be unfulfilled hope, brought to a crushing end. It can make you question society, your neighbor, or even your own morals. What it does not have to do is make you fear the creature under your bed (though it's completely legitimate if it does so).

What you'll often find in horror is that the things that scare you aren't the monsters, even when they exist. In The Shining, the ghosts are the least frightening part. The fright factor in The Shining has more to do with Jack's backslide into alcoholism and mental illness. It has to do with the sense of isolation and helplessness his family feels. The horror of a man coming after his wife and child with an ax is far more impactful than a lion shrubbery or a naked ghoul in a bathtub. At our base, we fear those close to us being able to harm us. Even more so, we fear our capacity for violence and wrongdoing. We fear hurting our loved ones, whether by causing physical harm or mental harm.

I realize I won't convince anyone with one short post. But I ask that you think about the wider implications of horror and try looking at things with a slightly different eye. Just because it was not slapped with a label of HORROR, does not mean it does not play in that particular playground. You may truly not like horror, but you may also just not like the narrow definition of horror you've been presented with. Either is legitimate.

Even I, a longtime fan of horror, didn't see it in its full scope. If you've read any of my horror list review posts, you know that I've said about many of the stories that I didn't feel they were horror. Now I know that they were, and that they existed on that list because they impacted someone emotionally in all the right ways. As a result, I'll go forward with a new set of eyes when reading the stories from Nightmare Magazine's Top 100 Horror Books.

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

Accepting Submissions:

Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores is accepting flash fiction and short stories in the speculative fiction genres (minus horror). Pays $.06/word. Deadline June 28.

The Threepenny Review is accepting short fiction and poetry. Word counts vary per type of submission. Pays $400 for story/article, $200 for poetry. Deadline June 30.

Subprimal is accepting flash fiction and poetry. Up to 750 words. Pays $20. Deadline June 30.

Alban Lake is accepting horror short stories concerning the Ancient Ones for The Mad Visions of al-Hazred. 3000 to 10,000 words. Pays $25. Deadline June 30.

Chicken Soup for the Soul is accepting short pieces for My Crazy Family. Up to 1200 words. Pays $200. Deadline June 30.

Inklings Publishing is accepting short fiction, nonfiction, and poetry for Perceptions: Bullies. This is an anthology for kids. Up to 5000 words. Pays $20. Deadline June 30.

Broken Eye Books is accepting weird fiction set in Miskatonic University. Must involve the Cthulhu mythos. 3000 to 6000 words. Pays $.08/word. Deadline June 30.


Helen: A Literary Magazine is holding their Visual Prompt Quarterly Contest. Poetry, fiction, nonfiction, or experimental. There are three images, and it can contain one or all of them. $25 prize. Deadline June 30.

How do you define horror? Have you looked at any of the mentioned stories as horror? Do you find yourself pigeonholing horror into narrow definitions? Are any of these links of interest? Anything to share?

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Functional Nerds, Cover Reveal: Marked Beauty & Links

I was interviewed by The Functional Nerds podcast. Check it out after you've read the rest of the post! ;)

I'm pleased to be participating in S.A. Larsen's cover reveal for Marked Beauty. Without further ado:

Title: Marked Beauty
Author: S.A. Larsen
Publisher: Ellysian Press
Release Date: October 2017

Uncovering hidden secrets can sometimes kill you . . . or worse, steal your soul.
Anastasia Tate has a secret. She can feel the emotions of others through their life energy auras. Not a welcome gift for a teenager. Especially when a sinister presence begins stalking her.

Viktor Castle also has a secret. He’s tasked with protecting humanity yet cursed by an ancient evil to destroy it.

After Viktor saves Ana’s life, her abilities grow stronger. Drawn together, she senses Viktor has answers to lifelong questions. Only he shuns her at every turn, knowing he has saved her only to put her in more danger.

As Ana struggles with her attraction to Viktor, he tries everything to bury his unexpected feelings for her. But they must find a middle ground. For only together can they combat the dark forces threatening both their lives . . . and their souls.


About the Author
S.A. LARSEN is the author of the award-winning novel Motley Education, the first book in a fantasy-adventure series for middle grade readers. Her work has appeared in numerous local publications and young adult anthologies Gears of Brass and Under A Brass Moon by Curiosity Quills Press. Marked Beauty is her debut young adult novel. Find her in the land of snowy winters and the occasional Eh’ya with her husband of over twenty-five years, four children, a playful pooch, and three kittens. Visit her cyber home anytime at

Connect with her on Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Blog | Goodreads

This is a #hashtag giveaway, where two lucky winners will receive a FREE eBook of Marked Beauty upon its release.

To participate:
  • Share one of the premade images via Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Or write up a blog post using one of the images.
  • Include #MarkedBeauty in your description.
  • Optional for extra entry: include Add to Goodreads (with link) in your description.
***Posts MUST contain the hashtag #MarkedBeauty for entry into the giveaway or we won’t be able to find you.

Pre-made tweets (you add the image)

"A lust 4 life energy. An ancient curse. One soul's journey thru death 2 find the cure." #MarkedBeauty #CoverReveal

"Uncovering some secrets can kill you, or worse ... steal your soul." #MarkedBeauty #CoverReveal #YAlit

An ancient race. A timid girl. And a journey to the in-between. #MarkedBeauty #CoverReveal #YAlit

The giveaway begins May 17th and will be open until May 23rd. Winners will be announced May 24th via social media.


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

Accepting Submissions:

A Murder of Storytellers is accepting short fiction pieces about the rebellious dead for the anthology The Misbehaving Dead. Up to 10,000 words. Pays $15 and a contributor copy. Deadline June 13.

Arsenika is accepting flash fiction and poetry for their summer issue. Up to 1000 words. Pays $60 for fiction, $30 for poetry. Deadline June 15.

18th Wall Productions is accepting short Lovecraftian stories for their anthology The Chromatic Court: Tales of the Lovecraftian Arts. 4000 to 16,000 words. Pays 5% gross profit quarterly. Deadline June 15.

Pseudopod is accepting short horror/dark fiction to be put out on a podcast recording. Pays $.06/word.

What do you think? Have you participated in a hashtag giveaway before? Going to now? Any of these links of interest? Anything to share? 

May you find your Muse.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Horror List Book Review: Wet Work & Links

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 Wet Work, by Philip Nutman.

This novel came with the back story that it began as a short story he had published, that someone requested he flesh out into novel form. It also included the short story, which was an interesting departure from the novel (in other words, it wasn't just the short story with a whole lot of details filled in.)

This is a solid zombie novel, and very different from the typical ones. In it, the zombies are self-aware and thinking, though some of them haven't made the change successfully. Of the successful ones is our main character, Corvino, a special ops agent who happened to be on an op when all hell broke loose. 

We track several characters other than Corvino, including a man who is herded up with other non-zombies in order to feed a group who have taken over the government. He's a police officer who sticks around initially to help, but ends up running with other officers when it's obvious the police can't do anything against the new menace. You see, not only do the dead come alive again, but any sort of bug or virus is accelerated, so that the common cold kills within a couple days and turns its victim into a zombie, too. This is probably the most damaging part of what happens after the comet sets things in motion.

It's somewhat obvious that Corvino was the original focus of the short story, but the other characters are well fleshed out, as well. The pacing is good, marching us forward until we see what awaits the characters we're watching. Society breaks down, with those who are well committing crimes, looting, raping, etc.

The female characters were mostly incidental, so it was guy-centric. One POV character is female, but she wasn't as well fleshed out as the men. I didn't feel like I knew her well, so it seemed to me she was unnecessary as a POV character, especially considering the end (which I won't give away). However, she wasn't a harpie or the stereotypical female character one often sees; she was just unnecessary as POV, and would have been fine as a secondary character.

It was also clear he struggled with romance/sex, but it isn't a story killer.

All in all, I have little to say. This was an action-driven approach to zombies, one that took them in a different direction than the usual, and there are compelling mysteries involved that Corvino must figure out. Definitely a worthwhile read, especially if you like the zombie sub-genre.

My new rankings:

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

Now for some links, since I didn't post on Wednesday. Bear in mind that I'm not endorsing them, merely passing them along. Always do your own due diligence before submitting.

Accepting Submissions:

Contrary is seeking short fiction, poetry, and commentary. Pays $20. Deadline June 1.

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

Page & Spine is seeking poetry, essays, flash fiction, and short fiction. Pays $.01/word. Deadline June 1.

Compelling Science Fiction is seeking sci-fi short stories. 1000 to 10,000 words. Pays $.06/word. Deadline June 1.

Pickman's Press is seeking Lovecraftian horror for their anthology Corporate Cthulhu. 2000 to 7000 words. Pays $.03/word. Deadline June 1.

Helen Literary Magazine is seeking short fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry. Pays $2 to $5. Deadline June 1.

Fantasia Divinity Magazine is seeking short fiction for the Goddesses of the Sea anthology. 500 to 15,000 words. Deadline June 5.

Have you read this? What do you think of aware zombies? What would people do with societal and mortal restraints removed? Any of these publications of interest? Anything to share?

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Gaaaaaaaaaaaaah - IWSG

The day isn't over yet, so I'm squeaking in my IWSG post. This would have been the first one I missed since I started doing it. YIKES!

Anywho, it's the first Wednesday of the month (I think it's Wednesday...), which means it's time for the Insecure Writer's Support Group, created by Alex J. Cavanaugh.

Anyone is welcome to join in. Simply click on Alex's name above and sign up then post on the first Wednesday of the month. You can avow your insecurities or give reassurances to others if you happen to be having a great month.

Our co-hosts this month are Nancy Gideon, Tamara Narayan, Liesbet @ Roaming About, Michelle Wallace, and Feather Stone! Stop by and say hi and thank you.

I'm just coming off a weekend at Pikes Peak Writers Conference, so I'm feeling exhausted, but not as insecure as I might otherwise be. I did a solo workshop on short stories there, plus a loosey-goosey panel on volunteering and a panel with some fellow short story authors, which was a lot of fun. I usually sneak a peek at the surveys people fill out at the end of my workshops to see what they had to say, but didn't get a chance, so now I'm floating in insecurity about whether my workshops were helpful, though I did get lots of positive feedback on the short story panel.

Speaking in front of people isn't something I come by naturally, so while I have more confidence in it than I used to, it's still stressful and causes plenty of insecurities. I hate to bore people. So hopefully I did okay.

Moving on to my stats for the month of April. It was a slow month, so my stats are sparse.

2 rejections
1 note sent out to everyone who had submitted that the editor needed a break, so it's not really a rejection. I've pulled it and will submit elsewhere.

That's it. Don't worry, it should pick up in the month of May.

In other news, I queried an agent at PPWC, and he asked me to send him the first three chapters. I'll be sending that out in the next week. Fingers crossed it goes somewhere!

Also, speaking of conferences, I found out this past week I've been accepted as faculty at Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold Conference in September. WOOT! It will be my first time there, and I'm looking forward to it.

Since I'm posting so late, I'm skipping the open submission links for this week, so I can get this post out there! As treasurer for Pikes Peak Writers (only for the next week, though!), my real work began the moment the conference ended, and I've spent several nights working until 4 AM, including the night of the conference. All this after being at the hotel from Wednesday forward working. I'm so tired, people! But I'm trying to get everything closed out so I can hand over a nice, pretty bundle to the new treasurer.

I'll try to do a summing up of the conference next week!

What are your insecurities? Are you comfortable speaking in front of people? How were your submissions this month?

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Time Has Come & Beta Readers

You may remember I had beta readers look at my novel this past year. I wrote a post about how to work with beta readers for Writing From the Peak, the official blog of Pikes Peak Writers. You can check it out HERE.

As of today, I'm at the Marriott in the lead up to Pikes Peak Writers Conference, where I'll be working as staff AND presenting some workshops. Plus, I'll be selling and signing books. So my husband made me a friend to take.

Turns out there's a bigger one on its way, but he'll be dropping him off at the hotel after I'm already there.

My younger cat is not a fan.

She actually wants to eat it.

3-D printers can make all kinds of cool things, eh? Given, my facehugger pales in comparison to building organs with a 3-D printer. Still, I like it. He and his older brother will be at my signing table.

Have a great week, and I'll see you next Wednesday for the IWSG! Hopefully with some fun news from PPWC. In the meantime, here are some links. Bear in mind that I'm not endorsing them, merely passing them along. Always do your own due diligence before submitting.

Accepting Submissions:

AGNI is accepting fiction, essays, and poetry. Pays $10 per printed page. Deadline May 31.

One Story is accepting short literary fiction. 3000 to 8000 words. Pays $500. Deadline May 31.

Baltimore Review is accepting fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction. Pays $40. Deadline May 31.

67 Press is accepting flash and short fiction. Up to 5000 words. All genres. Pays $25 + royalties. Deadline May 31.

Recompose is accepting speculative flash fiction and poetry. Up to 1100 words. Pays $.06/word. Deadline May 31.

Nashville Review is accepting fiction, poetry, and nonfiction. Up to 8000 words. Pays $25 to $100, depending upon submission type. Deadline May 31.

Chicken Soup for the Soul is accepting short submissions for the theme Positively Happy! Up to 1200 words. Pays $200. Deadline May 31.

CASFWG is accepting short fiction for the anthology When You're Strange: An Anthology of Strangers. Up to 7500 words. Pays $15. Deadline May 31.

Any of these links of interest? Anything to add? Publishing news?

May you find your Muse.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Surprise Book Release! - Maski, Upcoming Workshop, & Links

For anyone Denver adjacent, I'll be doing a workshop for Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers next month!

Saturday, May 13, 2017 - 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. - FREE
Location: Sam Gary Library, Denver

Deconstructing the Horror Genre - Everyone has their own definition of horror, but it's often oversimplified. The genre extends beyond jump scares and slashers. We'll break horror down to its base elements to learn how to build a solid horror story.

Hope to see you there!

Joylene Nowell Butler's new book Maski: Broken But Not Dead releases today!

Where does the surprise come in, you ask? Joylene had an injury that has her stuck in the hospital right now, unable to partake in the launch of her new book. L. Diane Wolf, her publisher, set this surprise release up for her! We can only hope to have a publisher like this in our writery lives.

EBook release date: April 18, 2017

Maski: Broken But Not Dead
By Joylene Nowell Butler
Psychological Thriller
$4.99 eBook ISBN 9781939844385

An IPPY Silver Medalist!

To the Breaking Point...

When Brendell Meshango resigns from her university professor position and retreats to her isolated cabin to repair her psyche, she is confronted by a masked intruder. His racial comments lead her to believe she is the solitary victim of a hate crime.

However, is all as it appears? After two bizarre days, the intruder mysteriously disappears but continues to play mind games with her. Taught by her mother to distrust the mainstream-based power structures, and with her stalker possibly linked to a high level of government, Brendell conceals the incident from the police. But will her silence keep her safe?

Then her beloved daughter, Zoë, is threatened and Brendell takes matters into her own hands. To save Zoë, Brendell searches for the stalker and confronts not just a depraved madman but her own fears and prejudices.

Purchase Links:

“Joylene Nowell Butler gets straight to the story, taking you from one happening to the next and keeps you turning the page.” - Martha A. Cheves, author

“A psychological thriller filled with suspense, action and drama...” - John Bell, 93.1  CFIS-FM: Prince George, BC

“Riveting and beautifully written. You won't be able to set it down.” Judith S. Avila, author

Joylene, Métis, is the author of Dead Witness, Broken But Not Dead, and Break Time. She and her husband and their two cats reside in Canada for the summers and Nayarit for the winters. They believe life should be an adventure.

If you'd like to help get the word out about Joylene's new book, you an tweet the following:

Available now! Amazon-  B&N-  iTunes-  @cluculzwriter


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 to any market or contest.

Accepting Submissions:

Inklings Publishing is accepting short stories for the anthology Eclectically Heroic. Up to 7000 words. Pays $25. Deadline April 30.

Lamplight is accepting short stories in speculative fiction. Up to 7000 words. Pays $.03/word. Deadline May 15.

The Lorelei Signal is accepting short stories, poems, and flash fiction in fantasy. Up to 10,000 words. Any female characters must be strong/complex, not just victims for the rescuing. Pays between $2.00 and $7.50, depending upon submission type. Deadline May 15.

Pedestal Magazine is accepting poetry in the theme of "War." No length or genre restrictions. Can submit up to 5 poems. Pays $40 per poem. Deadline May 21. (Does not start taking submissions until May 1.)

Cloaked Press is accepting fantasy short stories for their annual anthology Fall Into Fantasy. 2000 to 7500 words. Pays $10 + possible royalties. Deadline May 25.

National Lampoon is accepting humorous articles. Up to 1500 words. Pays $70.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

IWSG - Beating Self Doubt & Links

It's the first Wednesday of April, which makes it time for the Insecure Writer's Support Group, created by Alex J. Cavanaugh.

The IWSG is open to anyone who would like to participate. It's a place to air your insecurities, and a way to hop around and lend your support to others. Click on Alex's name above to go sign up.

This month's co-hosts are  Chris D. Votey, Madeline Mora-Summonte,Fundy Blue, and Chrys Fey! Be sure to stop by and say thanks for their hard work.

This month's optional question is Have you taken advantage of the annual A to Z Challenge in terms of marketing, networking, publicity for your book? What were the results?

The years I participated in the A-to-Z, I wasn't yet published, so no, I didn't use it for any sort of marketing.

For those of you participating in the A-to-Z right now, I hope you're having a great time! I actually might be able to do it next year, so I'm already considering what I might like to do.

As far as my insecurities, I've been low the last few months, suffering quite a bit of self-doubt, and judging my writing harshly. As a result, I didn't finish anything new for a good part of that time, but I recently broke through it and started enjoying the process again. I'm also being flooded with ideas. Sometimes you just have to soldier through the downs until you can reclaim your love of the writing again.

The first Wednesday of each month is also when I go over my stats for the month, so here are March's stats:

5 submissions
6 rejections (1 personal)
0 acceptances
1 publication

I currently have 9 pieces on submission.

I've gotten a lot of editing done this month, so that's good!

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

Accepting Submissions:

Strange Horizons is accepting speculative fiction short stories. Up to 10,000 words. Pays $.08/word.

Red Sun Magazine is accepting speculative fiction short stories up through novella or serialized. They prefer 3000 to 5000 words. Pays $100 for short stories. Other pay varies.

The Flash Fiction Press is always accepting flash fiction. All genres. 250 to 1200 words. Pays $3.

Occult Detective Quarterly is accepting fiction, non-fiction, and artwork. They want stories about those who investigate the odd and supernatural. 3000 to 5500 words. Pays $.01/word.

Phantaxis is accepting short stories, flash fiction, and artwork in science fiction and fantasy. 1000 to 15,000 words. Pays $.01/word.

Daily Science Fiction is accepting speculative flash fiction. Up to 1500 words. Pays $.08/word.

Of Interest:

The Guardian put out an article entitled Rise of Female Monsters Shows Horror Movies Are Not Afraid of Big, Bad Women.

What are your insecurities? How do you pull yourself out of a slump? Have you submitted any stories this month? Are any of these links of interest? 

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Cutting Out Time & Links

Editing is not my friend.

I can write pretty much anywhere, with or without distractions. I can write to music or watching television. I've written at Chuck E. Cheese, surrounded by insane munchkins hyped up on pizza and sugar.

But editing? I need silence or instrumental music when I'm editing. I need fewer distractions.

What I've discovered is that I edit better out of the house. Somewhere else, where I won't freak out about the house being messy or worry about what I need to make for dinner. Where the kids can't ask me questions. So I've started treating myself to happy hour at a quiet local restaurant each week to make time for editing. They say write drunk, edit sober, but I prefer to write sober and edit with a glass of wine (not drunk). And maybe a salad or appetizer. Or pie!

The point of this is to find a way around the issues or blocks you run into. Find a way to take the less pleasurable parts and make them fun. Or at least a nice change. For some of you, it's the editing that's an issue. For some it's the writing. For others it might be design or marketing. Make it fun, make it routine, make it relaxing. I'm grateful I have a place to go where they don't mind me being there taking up a table (I would leave if it was busy enough for the table to be needed, and I do leave once it gets busy), and where I can be comfortable, treat myself, and get some work done.

If you don't have a restaurant or coffee house to go, maybe there's somewhere outdoors, like a park. Perhaps there's a local hotel with a lobby bar where they won't mind you taking up space at a table or comfy sofa in the lobby to write/edit.

Now for some links.

Accepting Submissions:

Carte Blanche is accepting fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and photo essays. Pays a modest honorarium. Deadline May 1.

The First Line is accepting fiction and essays for their summer line. Up to 5000 lines. Must start with the line "The plan suddenly made sense." Pays up to $50. Deadline May 1.

Afrocentric Books is accepting diverse fiction for their steampunk anthology Afrosteam. Must have a main character of indigenous African descent. 1000 to 7500 words. Pays $.01/word. Deadline May 5.

The Dark City is accepting short crime and mystery fiction. 1000 to 7500 words. Pays $25.

Litbreak is accepting short stories, novel excerpts, essays, reviews, and poetry. Up to 12,000 words. Pays between $25 and $100 depending upon type of submission.

Confingo is accepting short stories, poems, or art. Up to 5000 words. Pays £20.

Where have you found to get some quiet time away from home for work? Do you write or edit there (or something else)? Any of these links of interest? Anything to share?

May you find your Muse.

*Image Glass of Wine 2, OCAL,

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Defining Horror, News, & Links

Well, hello! Apparently, I'm going to take a couple weeks off, retroactively. Who knew?

I'm deep in edits for the novel I want to pitch at the upcoming Pikes Peak Writers Conference, with a goal of pitching then getting that sucker out into the world. Whether I get a "send it" or not, I'll be submitting to agents following the conference in April. Exciting!

At the same time, I'm working on writing the next novel, plus finishing a bunch of short stories I started recently.

I was notified today that the paper issue of Cheapjack Pulp is now available on Amazon, and the ebook will be available there this Friday, but can be pre-ordered now. You can find both available formats HERE.

While I was working on getting that added to my Amazon Author Central account, I happened across the Audible version of my short memoir piece, "Grandma's Leather Sofa." I didn't realize it was available! For those of you who don't enjoy horror, this is one of my few published pieces that isn't horror. It's available for purchase HERE. It's read by Hallie Ricardo, who has quite a few audio books under her belt (I was scanning through her credits.) It's so cool to hear my story read by someone else like this. And the person who designed the cover did a great job! I need to see if I can find out who it was in order to give them proper credit, but for now I'm not sure. Also, this is the first thing that's only under my name, rather than a magazine or anthology where it's a bunch of us, so if you're so inclined, a review would be lovely.

Speaking of reviews, I just found one on one of the magazines I'm in that specifically calls out my story. Yay!

I was recently involved in a conversation on Facebook about horror movies. The question was whether a horror movie that's PG-13 can be a good film. As conversations do, this one metamorphosed into other related topics, and I noticed that different people define horror differently. Given, I've noticed this before (and also...duh). A few examples: 1. People disagree on whether Aliens is horror or adventure sci-fi (I believe it's both), 2. I've been told by several folks (all male) that The Handmaid's Tale isn't horror (it sure is if you're a woman.)

I tend to define horror more broadly than some. For example, I consider many dystopians to be a form of horror. Handmaid's Tale is more appropriately a dystopian, but the ramifications are terrifying. Atwood doesn't just show a different world, she tells us how it happened and makes it look so easy. There is a feeling of helplessness inherent to the story, and I think women aren't so far removed from the days they couldn't bank or own property or vote that the possibility of being put back in that place isn't scary.

When exploring whether something is horror, or can be treated as such, one of the first questions to ask is what you get from the story. Horror doesn't just exist to provide jump scares (which exist as a release valve in many cases, much like comic relief does, a bleeding off of pressure/tension). There's a place for jump scares, just as there's a place for gore, but often horror exists to cross lines its creators can't cross otherwise. I don't mean fantasy fulfillment, but rather a means to address issues that are hard to talk about. Metaphor is used heavily in horror to represent other things, whether fears or current issues/affairs. Horror tends to be timely, even if it's not obvious that this is so.

Despite what I said above, there can also be an element of fantasy or wish fulfillment. Why else would "revenge porn" exist? I Spit On Your Grave and The Last House on the Left are extreme examples, but there's often a more discreet usage of it. What about the character in horror films or books who "gets theirs," even though they're technically also victims of the Big Bad? Who doesn't cheer when Paul Reiser's character gets his in Aliens? We shouldn't be rooting for the bad guy, yet we do when the not-so-good guy is a jerk who we feel has earned it. This one's easy to trace. How many times in a week does someone do something to you that you wish they'd pay for? That guy who cut you off on the freeway. The woman who stole your parking spot. The dude yammering away on his cell phone during the movie. We deal with minor irritations like these on an almost daily basis, and it feels good to see karma visit someone, even if they didn't do anything to you personally.

This is an example of horror letting you enjoy the dark within yourself. We all have something dark or inappropriate, possibly even shameful (though much of what we feel this shame over is something others might not see as wrong at all). Exploring it through story is as freeing as seeing someone pay for their wrongs.

Horror blurs the lines, pushes back, tests society. It takes norms and dashes them on the ground. It scares us, but if it's really good, it makes us think, to evaluate ourselves and those around us. The good stuff sticks with us long after our initial experience with it. It creeps around our synapses and randomly nudges them.

So what is horror? Horror is psychological. Or it's gory. Or it's tense. Or it speaks to a frightening future. Or. Or. Or. All in all, horror is what scares you, even if that scare doesn't involve one monster. Horror is what makes you think about the things you'd rather not. Horror is a claw reaching out from under the bed, the neighbor down the street, the twisted future, a sick man, a vengeful woman, a ghost, a harmless clown (or a harmful one), history, a mystery. What scares me won't scare you, and vice versa.

In short? Horror is what you define it as, even if your definition is different than mine. That's clear as mud, right?

How about some links?

Accepting Submissions:

Blackbird is accepting poetry, short fiction, personal essays, and plays. Up to 8000 words. Pays after publication, but doesn't specify pay amount. Deadline April 15.

Helios is accepting fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and art. Current theme is Redux and Progression. Word count varies per type of submission, as does pay. Next submission period is April 1 to April 15.

Third Flatiron is accepting short fiction and flash humor pieces in the theme of Cat's Breakfast (sci-fi and satire). This is intended as a tribute to Vonnegut. 1500 to 3000 words. Deadline April 15.

18th Wall is accepting short stories and novellas for Their Coats All Red. Strange fiction set in the high Victorian era. 4000 to 16,000 words. Pays royalties. Deadline April 15.

Hashtag Queer is accepting short stories for an LGBTQ anthology. I couldn't get their submission guidelines page to come up, so have no further information other than the current deadline of April 30.

The Timberline Review is accepting short stories, creative nonfiction, essays, poetry, and flash fiction. Up to 5000 words preferred. Pays $25. Deadline April 30.

Cohesion Press is accepting short fiction for SNAFU Judgement Day, an anthology of post-apocalyptic military horror. 2000 to 10,000 words. Pays $.05AUD/word. Deadline April 30.

Afrocentric Books is accepting short fiction for Afromyth, a mythical fantasy anthology. Main character must be of indigenous African descent. 1000 to 7500 words. Pays $.01/word. Deadline April 30.

How do you define horror? Have you ever had a story come out and not known it right away? Any good reviews or news? Any of these links of interest? Anything to share?

May you find your Muse.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Cover Reveal - Dark Winds Rising

Today I'm welcoming Mark Noce to The Warrior Muse for his cover reveal of Dark Winds Rising!

Dark Winds Rising is the sequel to my debut novel Between Two Fires, and comes out with St. Martin’s Press December 5th 2017! Today is my cover reveal for the next book in my historical fiction series set in medieval Wales. A big thanks to St. Martin’s Press for the great cover art!

Dark Winds Rising (synopsis)
Queen Branwen finds her world once again turned upside down as Pictish raiders harry the shores of her kingdom. Rallying her people once more, she must face her most dangerous foe yet, the Queen of the Picts. Ruthless and cunning, the Pictish Queen turns the Welsh against each other in a bloody civil war, and Branwen must attempt to stop her before her country threatens to tear itself apart. All the while Branwen is heavy with child, and finds her young son’s footsteps dogged by a mysterious assassin. Branwen must somehow defeat the Picts and save her people before the Pictish Queen and a mysterious assassin threaten to destroy their lives from the inside out.

About the Author

Mark Noce writes historical fiction with a passion, and eagerly reads everything from fantasy to literature. Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, he’s an avid traveler and backpacker, particularly in Europe and North America. He earned his BA and MA from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, where he also met his beautiful wife. By day, he works as a Technical Writer, having spent much of his career at places like Google and Facebook. When not reading or writing, he’s probably listening to U2, sailing his dad’s boat, or gardening with his family.

Dark Winds Rising is his second novel in a historical series published by St. Martin’s Press. His debut novel, Between Two Fires, (also published via St. Martin's Press) is available wherever books are sold. Learn more at or connect via his newsletter or blog.

Between Two Fires: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Macmillan

What do you think? Great cover, isn't it? 

May you find your Muse.