Posts Tagged ‘short story’

Some days it’s harder to know where you stand than others.

Last month, a white supremacist went on a shooting rampage in Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. All of the victims were senior citizens and a few were Holocaust survivors. That they should live so long and survive so much, just for one hateful man to snuff out their lives, hurts and horrifies me and several other members of the Jewish community on so many levels. In my own response to the shooting, I mentioned I felt connected to the attack in a very personal way. I almost ended up living in Pittsburgh when I was a kid instead of Columbus. Imagine what mght’ve happened if I’d stayed there, and if my synagogue had been Tree of Life?

Since that horrific day, there have been more anti-Semitic incidents. None on the scale as the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, but still horrific. In Baltimore, a man interrupted a performance of Fiddler on the Roof, a play revolving around Jewish characters dealing with change and anti-Semitism, by shouting “Heil Hitler! Heil Trump!”; in Wisconsin, nearly an entire class of graduating high school boys threw up the Hitler salute for a prom photo; in Cleveland, flyers with links to a neo-Nazi website around Case Western University; and in Argentina, soccer fans rioted and shouted “Kill the Jews to make soap!” after a team composed of mainly Jewish players defeated the team whose stadium they were visiting.*

And that’s just the ones I know about. There are probably other incidents that have yet to reach my ears.

I know that what I and the Jewish people is nothing new or out of nowhere. Many minorities are facing discrimination and harassment right now, and it seems to only be growing. Regardless, all these incidents happening within such a short span of time, and after the Pittsburgh shooting to boot, have me on edge. It makes me wonder if this wont become a much bigger trend, where anti-Semitism becomes an everyday occurrence.

It makes me wonder whether or not it’ll be safe to stay in this country much longer. And if it should become too dangerous, where would I go? Canada? Europe? Israel? Would it only be a matter of time before more violence broke out? Before I had to flee from those who would see me dead just for being born a certain faith and heritage?

Still, I have reason to hope and to stave off the fear.

We’ve all heard the poem by Lutheran pastor Martin Niemoller, but it bears repeating.

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and i did not speak out–
Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.

While there are still plenty of people who aren’t willing to speak out,** I’ve had the pleasure of knowing plenty of people in and outside the Jewish community and the United States who will speak out against injustice. Many of them I’ve met through blogging and online interaction as well as face-to-face communication. They’ve reached out to me when I needed it and have stood up for me too. I know that well before things get too harsh to live safely in this country, they will come to my side and stand by me.

So if you’re reading this, I urge you to speak out when you see hatred and injustice. Right now it may seem like a struggle not worth going through with insurmountable barriers to face, but it can be done. By showing up to events, by giving to causes, by voting in every election (especially voting in every election!), by sending your voice out through the world to be heard, you can make a difference. And I urge you to do so. If not for us, for you. So you can say you fought to keep the world a little less hateful and a little more kind.

Thanks for letting me talk about this, my Followers of Fear. I know it’s shocking that some things scare me, but it’s true. I’m trying to channel that fear into the story I’m working on now, make it an even better story. Until then, keep safe and pleasant nightmares.

*This incident feels eerily like deja vu to me, because something similar happened to my school’s soccer team in high school. As some of you know, my high school was a Jewish day school, so all the students and half the staff were Jews. One day in my junior year, the soccer team won against another school, and the latter started shouting anti-Semitic names and rants at my school’s team. I don’t remember much beyond that it nearly came to blows, but it goes to show this isn’t a new thing or coming out of nowhere.

**The superintendent of the school district where those students gave the Nazi salute, for example, said she couldn’t punish them for their acts because of First Amendment rights and she “couldn’t be sure” of the intentions of the students. Seems pretty obvious to me, and people get fired or punished for things they say all the time!

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As many of you are already aware, I’m a big fan of ballet, and a lot of characters who are dancers or are familiar with dance are peppered throughout my story ideas. With so many story ideas involving ballet and my latest story finished up, I thought it was high-time to write one. This has been my project since Tuesday, and today I finished “Pas de Deux,” my first story to feature ballet and dancers as a major component.

“Pas de Deux” is about two young dancers who decide to test a legend at their dance academy. The legend says that if anyone dances a pas de deux, or dance for two, in a certain studio, they’ll both die. When they dance together and also reveal their feelings for one another, things in their lives take a turn for the darker.

This was a fun and interesting story for me to work on. Besides writing it in five days, which is something unusual for me, but because for a while I wasn’t sure what genre it was. At times it walked a tightrope between dark fantasy and psychological horror, and it could’ve gone one way or the other based on creative and word choices. In the end, I ended up going with psychological horror, as I felt that would make the story better and more memorable.

Using dance in a story as a major component was also something else. I’ll probably devote a post just to this topic alone, but there’s a trick to writing dance movements in a prose story that I had to discover through lots of research of said movements and then writing them into the story. Interspersing both technical terms and descriptions of the terms along with the protagonist’s own beliefs and observations about ballet was both a challenge and a little educational. If ballet shows up in another story (and knowing me, it will), I can use this experience for any dance sequences I want to write into the story.

But for now, I’ll let this story be for awhile. At sixteen pages and 4,622 words, I think it could get published in most publications, assuming that the dance-heavy and flowery opening and the quick second half doesn’t turn some publishers off. Hopefully with the right beta readers, I can get some good feedback for the story and make whatever edits I need to make.

In the meantime, I have plenty of other stories I want to write, so I’ll think about which one I’d like to write next, and maybe put out that post about writing dance sequences in prose fiction. So until next time, my Followers of Fear, goodnight and pleasant nightmares. I’m off to watch a scary movie.

I was nominated by my friend and fellow writer Kat Impossible from the blog Life and Other Disasters. She rarely nominates me directly for these things because she knows I don’t always have the time for them and because they don’t always apply to me, so when she can nominate me for one, I do try to do it. And the Rising Author Tag, to boot! It means so much that she thinks so highly of me, especially since she’s not a fan of horror and that’s mainly what I write. Danke, Kat! I really appreciate it.

Okay, on to the tag rules:

  • Thank the person who tagged you.
  • Answer the questions they came up with.
  • Nominate four people to do the tag (no tagging the person who tagged you originally).
  • Come up with 10 new questions for the people you nominated.

I’ve already thanked Kat for this, so I’m good on that front. Here are the questions she has charged me with answering.

What is your current WIP about and what is its status (plotting, writing, editing, etc.)?

Well, I’ve got a few stories that are in various stages of writing and editing. However, I think I’ll talk about Rose, as it’s probably the one I need to talk about the most! So if you haven’t heard, Rose is a novel I originally wrote in my senior year of college as my thesis. Last year I began the long process of editing and shopping it around, and Castrum Press, based in Belfast, North Ireland, accepted it for publication earlier this year. At this time, they’re looking it over to see how much more work needs to be done before we can talk publication dates.

As for what it’s about, Rose follows a young woman who turns into a plant creature (yeah, you read that right). She beomes that way when a young man claiming to be her boyfriend performs magic to save her life after she suffers a terrible accident. However, she starts to suspect that not all is as it seems, and as she looks deeper into her savior, she finds things out that will put them both on an unavoidable path of destruction.

Do you plot things out and/or outline, or do you just figure it out as you write?

With very few exceptions, I plot and outline my stories out before writing them. I find that trying to write by the seat of my pants leads to long pauses where I try to figure out what happens next and come up with nothing. When I plot/outline, I have an idea of where I’m going, which allows me to imagine out the story before I sit down to write it.

There are a few stories where I don’t need to outline, but the plot’s usually fully-formed in my head with those stories, so I don’t think it really counts.

What are some book ideas you want to write in the future?

I keep a list of story ideas I’d like to write in the future, so I don’t forget any good ones. I doubt I’ll get to write them all given how many there are (not to mention short story ideas), but I’d like to write stuff that people will remember for years to come. In the meantime, I’ve had some thoughts about what I’ll write after Rose and River of Wrath (the other novel I wrote) are out/in the process of being published. There’s one about a school haunting that appeals, as well as one partially inspired by the Salem Witch Trials, and a few more.

We’ll just have to see what feels right when the time comes, shall we?

Out of the characters you’ve written so far, which one’s your favorite?

I’m not sure I have a favorite. After all, these characters are like my own children. I can’t pick a favorite among my kids! Even if some of them are dangerous killers or demons or whatnot.

What’s your writing routine, if any? (location, time of day, snacks, music, etc.)

I usually write on my couch or at my desk with some sort of music playing in my earbuds. What sort of music changes pretty frequently. These days, it’s mostly the albums from various musicals. Not sure why, they just appeal right now. I also mainly write in the evenings, just because that’s when it’s easiest for me to write: no work, no dinner to prepare, no emails to answer. Obviously, if I’m able to write full-time one day, that’ll change, but at the moment it works for me.

Oh, one more thing: I always make a goal to write at least a thousand words when I sit down to work on a story, up from two hundred and fifty earlier this year. After that, it’s pretty easy to keep going, but it can be a challenge to get to a thousand some days. Still, I manage to do it, and it helps my output in the long run. Maybe someday I’ll be able to make a minimum of twenty-five hundred words a day (Stephen King’s minimum threshold, or so I hear). Fingers crossed that someday I can make all that and more happen.

Show your WIP’s aesthetic in images and/or words.

Kat did one with images that’s supposed to get to the basics of what she’s written, so I tried to do something similar. Once the book’s out, most of these images will make a lot more sense.

Who or what motivates you to write?

I think I would write even if it weren’t for anyone other than myself. I have so many stories floating in my head that I need to exorcise them through writing so they can get out of there. But at the same time, I write because so many people want to read my stories and I want them to read them, so I keep trying to get those stories out there and build my audience. With any luck, I’ll be able to get a lot of people interested in my stories and they’ll come back to them time and time again.

What do you find the easiest and hardest parts of writing?

The easiest is coming up with the ideas for my stories. There are so many ways to scare someone, they just pop into my head and become stories. Sometimes I have several ideas in a single day just going through my daily routine. The hardest, however, is staying on task. My ADHD sometimes makes it difficult to concentrate on getting my daily thousand-plus words out. Once I reach a thousand, that’s usually not a problem, but until I do, it can be difficult to stay focused.

Share a tiny snippet/excerpt from your WIP, if you’re comfortable.

Since Rose is still under renovations, so to speak, I’ll hold off for now. When the book’s a bit closer to publication, then I’ll give you all some excerpts.

 

And now for my questions for those I tag:

  1. Tell us about what you’re working on or recently released.
  2. Where in the process of writing are you?
  3. What is the most difficult part of writing the story at this point?
  4. What about your main character do you like the most?
  5. What is your writing process/routine, if you have one?
  6. Do you pants your way through a story, or do you plot it out?
  7. What are your characters’ musical interests?
  8. What’s next for you in terms of writing?
  9. If you could pick a narrator for your story’s audio book, who would you pick?
  10. Share an excerpt or snippet, if you’re comfortable.

And I tag my buddy Matthew Williams from Stories by Williams, Angela Misri from A Portia Adams Adventure, Ruth Ann Nordin, Joleene Naylor, and ANYONE ELSE WHO WANTS TO DO THIS TAG!

That’s all for now, I’ve got to get dinner on the table in a few minutes. Until next time, my Followers of Fear, pleasant nightmares!

It’s Thanksgiving Day here in the States, a day to be thankful for what we’re given (as well as gloss over some of the darker aspects of our nation’s early history). And as cliche and cringe-inducing as it is, I thought I’d take a moment to post about what I’m thankful for this year. Why? Eh, it just felt like something I ought to write about.

And with that established, what do I have to be thankful for? Well, plenty. 2018 has been a fucking good year for me. Yes, you read that right. 2018 has been a fucking good year for me. On a number of levels and in several areas of my life, it’s been good for me:

Writing. Obviously, things have been great on the writing front. Back in March, my novel Rose was accepted by Castrum Press for publication, which is a pretty big deal. Not only that, they pointed out the issues with the novel that gave me insight in how to fix it in rewrites. Right now Castrum’s probably looking over the manuscript, figuring out what else needs to be improved before we publish the book.

Not only that, but my short story “Car Chasers” was accepted for publication in the anthology The Binge-Watching Cure II from Claren Books, which will likely be out sometime in early 2019; I ended up writing another novel, River of Wrath, and I still get a kick out of all the craziness that came with writing it;* I’ve managed to increase the input so that I get a minimum of thousand words out rather than just a minimum two hundred and fifty; and I passed a thousand followers on my blog.

This is going very well for me lately.

Plus I’ve written a whole bunch of new stories and edited a few more over the course of the year. Hopefully some of them will get published someday. I’m really proud of them, an I would love for you to read some of them.

Work. My day job can be pretty demanding and stressful, but it’s very rewarding. In case you weren’t aware, I work for a supply organization in a sort-of HR position that involves helping employees with disabilities get accommodations so they can continue working, as well as helping to run programs that emphasize the different ethnic/specialty groups in the organization. A lot of people my age have trouble finding jobs, so I’m incredibly thankful that my work helps so many people and that I’m paid enough so I can keep afloat and put something away in savings. Hell, I got a really nice raise earlier this year, which has been really helpful for reasons I’ll get into.

And while I’m working there, I think I’ll continue to soar in the position. Last month, I led the effort to put on a program for National Disability Employment Awareness Month that was very well-received, and I’m being trained on a whole bunch of new tasks. Who knows? Perhaps I’ll soon earn the privilege to work from home once a week by this time next year, among other things.

Life. Ooh boy, life’s been good lately. My back issues have improved immensely this year, to the point that I don’t feel pain every day any more, and when I do it’s usually a dull ache. And of course, you may have heard that I recently got my driver’s license and my own car, which has been a Godsend in my life. Yeah, it’s another bill or two, but thankfully I can afford it. That, and a whole bunch of other things that I won’t get into (they’re a little too personal) have made my life frankly wonderful.

My car, the Unholy Roller. So glad to have a set of wheels of my own.

The people in my life. Including you. While I like living on my own and having my own space, I’m lucky to have a good group of people in my life. Friends to hang out with, family I can go to for advice and hugs, coworkers who help me out when I have a question and even make sure I get home okay when I get sick at work (that happened just the other day). And I’m thankful for all the people who follow me and my work and even read my stories when they’re published. Having so many people encouraging me every day and showing an interest in what I write is a big deal for me. So thank you, Followers of Fear. I’m thankful for you being part of my journey through life.

 

That’s all for now, My Followers of Fear. I’m sure I’ll have another post out before too long, but for now I’ve got to go get some cooking done for tonight. Whether or not you’re celebrating, Happy Thanksgiving my Followers of Fear, and pleasant nightmares.

*Not kidding, I never thought it’d be longer than twenty or thirty thousand words, but it ended up being sixty thousand! But the real crazy part is that I started that novel on October 29th, 2017 and finished it a year and a day later on October 30th, 2018. The novel takes place on October 30th and 31st, 1961. And I finished it at 3 AM, the Devil’s Hour, which is fitting as it’s a novel partially inspired by Dante’s Inferno. You can’t make this shit up!

Some of you may recall that back in 2015, I started writing a short story that was about a human Barbie doll. This story was inspired by a news article I read about a young woman in Russia who looked exactly like a human Barbie, all without any surgeries (as far as we’re aware), and with the help of her parents as well. The story boggled my mind, and I wondered what would cause anyone, let alone their parents, to want to try to pursue that aesthetic to such a degree. After all, studies have shown that if Barbie were real, she’d have a pretty miserable life because of how strange her body is.

Thus started my work on “A Project in Western Ideals,” (alternatively called “My Perfect Body” at one point), about a teenage girl who is molded by her guardian figure into becoming a human Barbie doll.

Problem is, I was never satisfied with the story I was producing. No matter how many drafts I churned out, I always ended up rewriting it or going back or stopping in the middle of writing to wonder why this story wasn’t clicking. This cycle continued on and off for three whole years, mainly off because I was working on other projects.

And then, a couple of months ago, I had an idea on how to fix the story. And then I began to work on it again and more ideas came to me. And finally, this story came into focus. It clicked with me, became better than average.

And tonight, I finished the damn thing. I finished a draft of “A Project in Western Ideals” I feel proud of, that I could show an editor and say, “It’s not completely ready for publication yet, but it’s a start, and I think it’s a good one too.” And at 49 pages and 14,062 words, it’s a decent-sized novelette too. That’s a bit long for some publications, but I think I might still be able to find a home for it. As this past year has shown, a lot of hard work and persistence can lead to amazing things.

But for now though, I’ll leave this story alone for a while. I’ll come back to edit it when I’m able to look at it with a fresh pair of eyes. In the meantime, I’ll work on a few other stories, and see what else I can produce.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Thanks for reading my late-night progress report. I’ll probably have at least one or two more blog posts out this week, so keep an eye out for them. Until then, time for bed. Goodnight, and pleasant nightmares to you all.

I’ve mentioned things like “Lovecraftian horror’ or “cosmic horror” before on this blog, but I’ve never really gone into what those terms mean. And given that someone on the Internet is probably wondering what those terms mean and I need a break from trying to figure out how to end a short story, I thought I’d take a moment to look over what it means when horror fans call something “cosmic horror.”

I actually summed up cosmic horror pretty well last month with a little joke that I shared on my social media. Here’s how it goes:

Knock knock!

Who’s there?

Yog-sothoth.

Yog-sothtoth who?

Your mind couldn’t handle the answer.

Now you’re probably confused by that joke. But in actuality, it summarizes what cosmic horror is pretty well. Namely, there are answers and truths to questions that the human mind can’t handle. And not just answers, but even beings, beings that don’t fit into any sort of recognizable mythology or concept of good and evil. In this sort of horror, humanity is the equivalent of ants in the grand scheme of things, and if they come across any of the things that they shouldn’t–beings of unimaginable size and power, truths that go against everything we’ve ever believed, abilities and technologies that seem blasphemous to human viewpoints–the very contact could kill us or drive us insane. And even if our minds survived in some recognizable state, we would be forever changed. And probably not for the better.

If you haven’t grasped why that’s so scary, let me use an analogy: imagine you’re a farmer living in England in 1066, and a man from the year 2166* comes by and tells you that the world isn’t flat, but round; that the Earth flies around the sun and not the other way around; and that space is a cold and mostly empty void rather than a sphere surrounded by God’s Heaven and angels. Well, you’d obviously think the man from 2166 was crazy. But then he takes you back to his time, and he lives on a ship orbiting the Earth. You see the round Earth below while you float weightless in space and see the dark void beyond Earth. And things like science, gravity, etc. mean absolutely nothing to you. And everything’s new and strange to you, lights too bright and shadows too dark, and the sounds you hear make no sense.

Can you start to see how this could tear at someone’s mind? That someone could be afraid of this?

A universe of incomprehensible beings and terrible secrets is the basis of cosmic horror.

And that’s why cosmic horror has been so popular since HP Lovecraft basically created it back in the early 20th century (which is why it’s also known as Lovecraftian horror). It basically takes the old Judeo-Christian concept of good vs. evil, God versus the Devil, etc, which is essentially a closed and somewhat understandable system, and throws it wide open to a universe where there are multiple forces, none of which are easy to grasp or empathize with, let alone categorize into good vs. evil.

But how do you write it? Well, it’s more than including big, powerful beings that drive people mad (though that is often a feature). They’re more a vehicle for the broader theme: a sense of helplessness, that the universe is big and dark and full of awful things, that humanity is inconsequential and our dealings with the big players never lead to anything good. That, and a sense of untapped mystery can’t hurt. Think the first two Alien films or a dark version of 2001: A Space Odyssey‘s aliens, and you might get the idea.

If you want a better grasp of cosmic horror, I’d suggest looking at some of Lovecraft’s stories.** I recommend The Temple, The Call of Cthulhu, and The Dunwich Horror. I also recommend checking out other writers who use cosmic horror, including Stephen King, Guillermo del Toro, and so many more. Heck, I’ve got a few stories that have some cosmic horror in them. If they ever get published, I’ll let you know.

Cosmic horror can be hard to wrap your mind around sometimes, but once you do, it can open you to all sorts of terrible worlds. And if you can stand what you find, perhaps you will delve deeper. Just be careful when you do. You might not be the same when you come up, after all.

Do you like cosmic horror? What cosmic horror works would you recommend to the unitiated?

*Assuming humanity lives that long, what with global warming and a rising population. You know it’s true!

**If you can stomach his racism. Yeah, I love his work and contribution to horror, but I hate what he believed. If he were around today, I’d either punch him, ignore him for being an asshole, or recommend he take some anti-anxiety medication, get some therapy and maybe some exposure to other communities.

You ever find yourself reading a story, particularly a horror story, and particularly one of the shorter variety, and it gets really tense? And then something terrifying is revealed? And then–that’s it. The story just ends there. And you’re like…what? What happens next?!

Yeah, this happens quite a bit in fiction, though I notice it more in horror stories than anywhere else. A famous example is Stephen King’s “Boogeyman.” The story follows a man who tells a therapist about how his three children were all killed by the titular entity. The therapist convinces the protagonist to come by for further sessions, but the moment the protagonist turns around, it’s revealed that the therapist is actually the therapist wearing a mask. And that’s how the story ends. No fight between them, no death. It just ends on that revelation.

Why? Why do authors do that? A story should have a beginning, middle, and end. Why does the end seem so abrupt? It can be really frustrating sometimes!

Well, I’ve done this myself a couple of times with my own stories, so I have a few ideas on that. One is to get the reaction I spelled out above. The “Oh my God, what happened next? Why is it stopping so soon?” reaction. Why? Because you’re more likely to remember the story with that reaction. You’ll keep thinking about it. Maybe you’ll even vent your frustrations to other readers, which may encourage them to continue reading. Or maybe you’ll continue the story from there in a fan fiction, one you may share with friends and blog followers. Or maybe you’ll finish the story in a blockbuster movie someday that pulls in millions of dollars at the box office (unlikely, but one can dream). The point is, the story ends that way because the author wants you to remember the story.

Another reason is that the author feels, for whatever reason, that’s a good place to finish the story. As my old high school English teacher Mr. Guinan would say, “A story is never perfect; it’s just done. You can’t do anything more to it to improve it, it’s just done.” In this case, the plot can’t be furthered or worked on anymore. To do anymore would be a disservice to the story and bring down quality. It’s just done, and that’s why the author finished the story at that crucial moment without giving the resolution a reader might be looking for.

And finally, the story might end there because the author themselves can’t imagine what comes next. They try, but for some reason, they can’t see beyond that critical moment: the reveal of the monster, the corpse under the stairs, the woman being pushed into moving traffic (man, I’m disturbed). It’s most likely the rarest reason, because authors generally have an idea of how a story will end when it’s published, but I’m sure it happens.

In any case, whenever an author does this, they don’t do it with any malicious intent. Authors often treat their stories like their babies, and want them to be the best they can be. So when you come across a story and it seems to end abruptly, don’t take it personally. Even if it frustrates you, just know that this is the author’s way of making sure their story is the best that it can be. Because if they’re not making sure their story is the best it can be, are they really doing their job?

At least blog posts don’t end that way. Imagine how frustrating it would be if you were reading a blog post, and it was getting to this important point, and then it just