Rising from the cold, dark ground…

It’s been a very difficult week, the kind that invites depression to not only visit but to take up residence. Three rejections in email on stories I had high hopes for were a significant part of that.

My wife was my anchor, listening and helping me see my way out of the mire, and I am grateful, as always. She pointed out some of the good in order to lessen the impact of the negativity that surrounded me.

One example was the release of the 2018 Association of Rhode Island Authors (ARIA) anthology, which contains my Twilight Zone inspired tale, “The Dot”:

anthology

My copy is slated to arrive tomorrow, which will go on the shelf with my other published works.

Another helpful item was the response I got to that homework I had to do this past week, the final writing assignment in my Advanced Horror Writing course:

I like this a lot—you have a very readable style and it all turned on an interesting twist you didn’t overly telegraph but that still made perfect sense in context.

You went a little “off script” from the strict progression of the bullet points, and that’s actually a really good thing! Even if this were your own simple outline, what I call in my shorter Horror Intensive course “just enough outline to get you writing,” you still need to give yourself permission to have a better idea and follow the story where it ends up wanting to go.

One thing I would look at, though, is the whole beginning scene with the Uber driver, which establishes that John is a retired priest but otherwise concentrates a lot on the details of taking an Uber, and the driver never comes back into the story. I’d get John to the B&B sooner, and so into the “weird” sooner as well.

This is good stuff, though, Bob, and I hope you got a lot out of the course. Thanks for doing all the work—now get back to writing!

Cheers,

Philip Athans
Athans & Associates Creative Consulting

I appreciated his comments and critique quite a bit. For those not familiar, Phil Athans is a long time industry professional, and a seriously good author as well. He disproves that old comment, “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.” 

Phil does both, and he does them quite well.

On the strength of that, I spent some time this morning working and revising that assignment, shaping it into a story that I’ve titled “Dead and Breakfast”, which comes in at about 3350 words complete, just a little longer than the 3000 word assignment limit. I was debating whether to publish that in its entirety here or to offer it to Steph and Stuart at The Horror Tree for future inclusion in their Trembling With Fear column, but it exceeds their 1500 word Flash limit by more than double, so that’s not going to be an option, I’m afraid. I’ll have to settle for advertising for them with the shirt I’ve ordered until I write something new that fits within the word limits.

HT shirt

For the moment, at least, I’m going to set that story aside, let it simmer and percolate a bit before I decide its fate. I’ll want to revisit and revise it with fresh eyes before choosing anyway, so that’s best.

Time to take a short break then deal with the annual benefits elections for my day job, our yearly excursion into the principles of paying more to get less.

And you thought that only happened in politics…

Sleep well…

Homework to be done…

I’m currently taking a course titled “Advanced Horror Writing” at the Writer’s Digest University, as I firmly believe you should never stop learning, and I want to improve my own work. Philip Athans is the instructor, and he is very good, for anyone who might be considering taking a course on their own.

Looks like an interesting assignment for the week ahead… I have to write a short story up to 3000 words following these guidelines:

Below are vague bullet points describing bits of basic action. Take those bullet points as an outline and write a short story (up to 3000 words), with your own characters, setting, and other specifics. The first set of bullet points should put the emphasis on suspense (long sentences in the fewest number of paragraphs—no breaths, anxiety). The second set should invoke a sense of terror (short sentences, sentence fragments, multiple short paragraphs—hyperventilating, panic).

SUSPENSE:

POV Character is dropped off at the door of the home of a Friend.
POV Character and Friend haven’t see each other for a very long time.
The house is not what POV Character expected.
POV Character is shown to a bedroom.
The next morning, Friend asks POV Character if anything disturbed them in the night.
Friend says that someone else who lives in the house often wanders around at night.
Friend reveals a distrust of this other person, who argued against Friend’s efforts to remodel the house.
The previous owner of the house was rumored to have kidnapped children.

TERROR:

Strange noises are heard in the house.
A decision is made to search the house.
A hidden space is discovered in which lurks a monster or the One Weird Thing.
Efforts on the part of POV Character to resolve the issue.
And the banned words list from Session One still applies!

afraid
alarmed
fearful
fearfully
frightened
frightening
horrified
horrifying
nervous
panic
panicked
panicking
scared
scary
shocked
shocking
terrified
terrifying
terrorize
terrorized

The banned words have to be avoided to make the story show those emotions in a more visceral form, rather than just say something is scary.

I’m planning on writing a first draft today, as this assignment is due one week from tomorrow. If I can get a solid first done today, I’ll have ample time to revisit, edit, and tweak it to where it needs to be, then turn it in on time.

Maybe I’ll post the finished story up here next week on the blog? Could be, we’ll see.

But for now,

The-sparrows-are-flying-again

Sleep well…

Perfect…

The house is quiet, the sounds of laundry being done in the basement muted. The dog is curled up in his bed, clearly dreaming about a chase, his rear legs twitching. My writing laptop is back on my lap in this recliner, and the spirit of Halloween fills the air.

Is there a better time and place to write than this? I don’t think so…

I’ve just finished work on two brand new short stories, one of which began as a homework assignment for the course I’m taking and the other one a combination of two recent ideas I had.

I like them both, one a bit more than the other perhaps, but… they both do their jobs, and that is the goal, after all.

My novella, “Spirit of the Dead”, went live yesterday on Amazon, and is offered free from today through Halloween. My goal is to hopefully earn some good reviews and draw attention to the rest of my work.

Spirit Paperback Cover

This will be available on Amazon as a Kindle book, and will be offered at booksellers in paperback via Lulu. My first ever self publishing venture, and while I fully expect to make mistakes along the way, I hope to learn from them for the future.

I’ll take the lessons I learn from this and implement them for the next release I’m planning, a collection of 13 short stories…

Thirteen Front

I foresee this also being available in both Kindle and paperback formats, and may seek local distribution at a nearby bookstore as well, one that features work by local authors.

I recently made a little progress on the novel too… not a lot, mind you, with all else going on, but it’s still being worked. All things in due time, as they say.

I should soon see the Association of Rhode Island Authors 2018 Anthology being released, which features my story “The Dot”, my copy of Trembling With Fear Year One will be arriving tomorrow with some of my work in it, and the recent release of “Trappe’s Rest” in EconoClash Review # 2 has already earned praise in its first review.

Good stuff indeed!

And now, it’s time to get back to work on final edits for the two new stories…

Sleep well…

 

And we’re off…

As promised… or was that threatened?  I can’t remember now…

In any case, I spent this gray, rainy morning setting up the release of my novella, “Spirit of the Dead” on Amazon Kindle, and also as a paperback available at most booksellers.

Spirit Paperback Cover

It will be available on Amazon by Halloween, which was my primary goal, and the paperback will follow later on, after I’ve received and approved the proof copy I ordered this morning.

Although I’ve been grateful to have been accepted and published by so many different publishers now, I wanted to expand my horizons and learn first hand how self publishing works, and now I’ve successfully started that with this release.

It is a good story, and came about in different parts, which are represented in the book by different dates, all events occurring in Carson’s Mill, RI.

Looking forward to watching this process as it continues!

Sleep well…

He came home…

home

Oh. My laptop, that is. My laptop is back, complete with a new motherboard and working as good as new, that’s who came home. And less than 24 hours after it arrived, I knocked out 1500 words on a rewrite assignment ( rewriting a Lovecraft piece from my own POV) for the Advanced Horror Writing course I’m taking. The rewrite was a breeze because this laptop is perfect for writing on.

So, yes… he came home.

Who’d you think I meant?

Sleep well…

Bad stretch of road…

Downer, as we used to say in the ’60’s… I went to Best Buy to pick up my new laptop, back from repair, only to be told they tested it when it came in and it still has the same problem and won’t take a charge.

Needless to say, it’s gone back to their repair center, and I am bummed.

I’ve become very used to writing on that laptop, set it up perfectly, and enjoy the hell out of the keyboard, which is the very reason I bought it. I can work on my desktop, as I’m doing right now, but it isn’t the same.

We become used to our own way of doing things, and when everything is just right, the flow is natural, organic. I’d compare it to taking photographs with a camera you know so well that all your concentration is on the composition in the viewfinder, everything else happening naturally without the need to think about it.

That’s how well I’ve bonded with that laptop…

hpspectre

I hope they get it right this time, and get it back to me in a reasonable amount of time.

On a more positive note, I went to see the new Halloween movie on its opening weekend, and I was positively impressed with it. I wrote an opinion on Facebook:

I really enjoyed the new Halloween… let’s see if I can do this without revealing too much for those who haven’t seen it yet.

Michael Myers is more brutal than ever, and Jamie Lee Curtis is the epitome of a woman’s inner strength as Laurie Strode, Survivor. She’s sacrificed everything in her life in order to not only be prepared, but to also prepare her daughter, firmly believing that Michael is not done yet.

And, she’s right. Michael isn’t done by any stretch of the imagination, and his age (now 61) doesn’t slow him down at all. He’s a juggernaut, tearing through anything (or anyone) in his way as he heads to his ultimate goal.

There is one nit that I’d pick, though… the doctor that took up Michael’s care when Dr. Loomis died leaves a LOT to be desired in general, and his actions in one crucial scene stretch “Suspension of Disbelief” much too far, even for the most ardent Halloween fan.

Despite that scene, the character of Dr. Sartain is distinctly unlikable, and makes the memories of Donald Pleasance’s “Sam Loomis” all the more valuable to those of us that sat in theaters when the original first came out.

Beyond that nit, this is a solid story, a worthy successor to John Carpenter’s 1978 original, and brings closure to a saga spanning four decades. The final showdown between Laurie and Michael is one for the ages, and is more than worth the price of admission.

Yes, I have made space on the Blu-Ray shelf in anticipation for its eventual release… this one bears more than a single viewing.

If you’ve read this far, you need to turn off the computer, put the phone on your pocket, close the tablet, and GO SEE HALLOWEEN!

You can thank me later…

Halloween-2018-1000-97

So, I guess I’ll continue enjoying the season, watching the horror films they take out of the closet every October, jot down any new ideas that come my way and wait for my laptop to come home, as Michael did, so I can get back to work.

Sleep well…

 

Trembling With Fear

As those who follow my work know, I often contribute short stories and hundred word Drabbles to Steph Ellis and Stuart Conover for the Trembling With Fear column at the Horror Tree.

For the entire time I’ve been writing horror tales, I’ve found their site to be the best resource of all for finding markets and publishers to submit work to. I’ve had a few stories published in a number of print publications courtesy of all the hard work Steph and Stuart do for us.

There are a few different ways to help support them in their efforts. They do have a Patreon open, my fellow writers can submit their work to be included on the site to help attract new readers to the page, and now we have another option.

twf-cover-kindle

Steph and Stuart have compiled the contributions from a wide variety of authors into an anthology volume, which will drop at Amazon on Tuesday, October 16th. You’ll find short stories, one hundred word Drabbles, and dark poetry within this book, providing a wealth of reading in small, snack sized portions.

(You know… kinda like Vampire bites.)

I’ve pre-ordered my copy, and if you’d like to join me and get one for yourselves, here’s a convenient link for you. Click on over and get your copy today, won’t you?

Trembling With Fear – Year One

Sleep well…

Not the same…

Wow. We do get used to our stuff, in my case, a keyboard.

I’m typing this on my old Dell Inspiron because my HP Spectre had to go in for service, as there is a problem with the charging circuit. Adapter seems OK, battery checks good, but it won’t charge, so in it went.

It’s covered, so no cost for the repair, but the downtime… there’s the issue.

I bought that laptop on the strength of the keyboard, you see, even went out of my way to get to a store that had one on display so i could try it before telling the clerk I’d take it.

It didn’t take very long at all for me to acclimate to that keyboard, and to like it much more than the mushy feel of this Dell. By comparison, it’s like posting a sign in the shop window:

sorry sign

I tried writing a bit on this today, but… it’s just not happening for me.

Luckily, I have a TBR list to catch up on, and with it being October, no shortage of horror offerings to choose from to watch, so it appears I’ll be in standby mode for a while.

Just a little while, just till my Spectre is back on my lap, where it belongs.

Till then… sleep well!

Busy Day…

A busy day, but a good day. Started off with hot coffee and my favorite breakfast, courtesy of my wife, and then Steph and Stuart at the Horror Tree posted a brand new short of mine titled “Test Case” in today’s Trembling With Fear column.

It’s about a Baby Boomer, not quite Archie Bunker (but would enjoy a beer or two with Archie) trying to understand and make sense of what he’s become… well, click the link above and you’ll see.

As we speak, I’m in the process of setting up a new office computer. Giving these old peepers a rest, I went with the HP Envy 27″ All-In-One, with some serious specs under its hood.

HP-Envy-All-In-One

(I’ll do a photo of my desk once the dust settles…it’s all wires and computers at the moment.)

Once the parade of updates finishes, I’ll stage a network transition of all my programs and files from the Dell laptop I’ve been using in the office and hope it will finish by the time I have to start work in the morning. It’s getting crowded in there at the moment.

Once the transfer finishes, I’ll work with the new HP, and correct the inevitable glitches as I find them. It’ll be a week or so, I expect, and I’ll leave the Dell laptop “as-is” until such a time as I know I won’t need anything further from it. At that point, I’ll do a factory restore on it to return it to its new state, and find a home for it.

I’ll hope to get some writing done during the transition, especially with a seed of a new idea for a short story clanking around up there, but I’ll play it safe and at least jot some notes down while the transfer is taking place. That way, I won’t lose it if (when) I have to go into full geek mode to facilitate a smooth move onto the big boy.

Whoops, heard a sound from the office… updates should be completed, let’s go and stage the transfer!

Sleep well…

 

Almost there…

I had the good fortune of having my novella, “Spirit of the Dead” read by an author whose work I respect, and took her advice, expanding on the original work. It hasn’t quite reached novel proportions, but as a novella, has filled out nicely. (Thank you, Steph!)

That story is now in the hands of a group of readers, folks I do not know personally, but are avid readers and fans of Stephen King’s work. I felt they were in a good position to offer critiques, given that background.

Waiting…

That’s the part I hadn’t considered before embarking on this journey, yet it is part and parcel of every single piece of work. Write that first draft, then wait, step away so that the read and edit will occur with fresh eyes. Rinse and repeat. Then, once it’s ready, send it off into the world and (you guessed it), wait for feedback, whether from advance readers or the publishers to whom you’ve submitted.

I need to get better at the waiting part, I must admit.

In any case, once I get, digest, and consider the feedback from those folks, I’ll make any necessary last minute changes and prepare for an entirely new learning experience.

Self publishing! Yes, “Spirit of the Dead” will be my first foray into the publishing experience, which will expose my most significant weakness. I am no marketer, and never have been. That will be an obstacle to content with, that’s for sure.

Haunted Hut

Once Spirit is out there, I’m planning to follow it up with a collection of my short stories, titled “Thirteen”.

Thirteen Front

I’ve cobbled together thirteen of my short stories that seem to play well together, and created this collection, which will also be released by year’s end. I hesitate because a couple of these stories are currently out as submissions to various publishers, and I want to give them a fair opportunity before I publish it out from under their feet, so to speak.

Fair is fair, after all.

While I don’t think Mr. King has anything to worry about, I do feel my work is worth a read, and honestly believe folks who enjoy horror and the original Twilight Zone will find something to like between these covers. I’ve had the good fortune of having my work appear in numerous print publications, on various websites, and also narrated on podcasts.

So, I want to get it out there and see how it fares on its own merits…that is my immediate goal.

In the meantime, I’m also working on my first attempt at a novel while all this is going on… when the Muse speaks, I try to listen and pay attention.

As always, sleep well…