Tale of a Story: Exposed

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The wonderful Jolene Haley has delighted horror fans with her fall author/illustrator showcase for years. It began six years ago with the dark carnival, then each year she has hosted hosted stories and art for themes of haunted house, harvest festival, haunted hotel, summer of screams (summer camp stories), dark seas, and this year urban legends! I found and started participating in the second year with the haunted house theme and had so much fun that I join in each year.

So today, my story is up on her blog for the…

Go read EXPOSED here!

I’ll wait, then we can talk about the fight that was writing this story.

Okay…so…when you sign up to participate in the #SpookyShowcase, there is no fear of rejection. Everyone gets to have their story posted. All the authors and illustrators are super nice and supportive. It is truly a wonderful time. Which is why I continue to add my words. No pressure, right?

Except there is.

I can’t just write a story and send it. I have to let it sit, revise it, let people read it, revise it…let more people read it! Because only after I am truly happy with it, will I send it.

The theme of urban legends made my choice pretty easy, I knew immediately what legend to pull inspiration from. Just miles from me, sits Bruick Road, and there are lights that appear, strange lights with no explanation. I’ve never seen them, but my creative brain began to ask questions. WHAT ARE THEY?

But…my stories need a theme. I need a main character, one who is struggling with something, who wants something…something that will link to these odd lights.

After a lot of pondering, I had a thread to hold onto, one that I could take and knit and weave and grow into a story, one about a past that won’t be forgotten, about how a victim can become a monster.

About how light will expose the truth.

And I had a title. Exposed.

Some stories write themselves. Some take a minute. This story haunted me forever.

The hints had to be subtle, but present. The reveal had to be easy, not dumped on one’s head like a ton of bricks. I wanted everything there, enough information so the reader could figure it out, so it could all come together in the end without a huge awful explanation.

Since finishing and beginning the query process for my MG earlier this year, I hadn’t written anything. Not a thing. My brain refused. Doing the showcase would certainly nudge my brain back into writing! It was tough. I struggled. It was too long. It didn’t make sense. Too many characters. Characters who weren’t all the way realized. Characters who needed to connect to the story.

After very helpful feedback (and a lot of me questioning whether I could untangle this complicated knot), I got the story to a place where I was happy.

And I sent it.

Today, Exposed is out for all to read.

If you read…THANK YOU! I hope you enjoy it. Please leave me a comment if you wish.

Tale of a Story: Freckles

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I can’t remember where I heard of an anthology looking for submissions about what clowns fear. Probably from my friends at The Midnight Society. Probably. They are on top of everything horror.

I decided to try and tackle the subject. We’ve all read the killer clown stories, but what do clowns fear? As usual, my brain spat out the strange not-so-good ideas…

Clowns are afraid of…

balloons?

kids?

bright colors?

UGH WHAT? Maybe I should give up and not write this?

Stories never solidify until I have a theme. What about that side of ourselves we don’t like, the part we hide, the part that we can’t get rid of…

And I drafted a creepy little tales of Freckles the Clown, the moment when he decides to face his fear, the man behind the mask.

But it doesn’t go well.

The first draft flowed pretty easily. Don’t you love it when that happens? I had a clear path and just wrote. After reading it to my writers’ group, I realized the reveal could be better…the tension could be upped. It didn’t take too long to get it where I wanted it. After another couple people read it, I knew I was good.

So I submitted it, thinking that it might not even be close to what the editor wanted. But I had to try. I liked this little story.

When I got the e-mail, I opened it, prepared for the rejection, but he was amused by my inversion of the killer clown trope and accepted it. Amused…he was amused. This is the best thing I had ever heard!

WOOHOO!

Anyway…edits appeared. I think he changed one punctuation mark and added another.  Easiest edits ever.

And I waited…an e-mail graced my in-box with news that he had everything ready to go and had found a cover artist.

Not too long after…the cover was sent.

Next I learned that it was to be released on Friday the 13th! Epic.

I got my copy today!

Seeing your name in print is pretty cool. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of it.

I haven’t had a chance to read all the stories yet, but I’m excited! For those interested in getting your copy…let me show you the new anthology BLOODY RED NOSE: 15 FEARS OF A CLOWN…

In a world filled with menace, dare to paint on a grin.

cover art by Henry Snider

The world is full of images of scary clowns: packs of grinning figures with knives plaguing towns; pom-pom clad serial killers; loners who like children in the wrong way.

But clowns can be a force for good: it takes a kind heart to put other people’s joy first; keeping children entertained is honest work; what better disguise than one that makes the villains laugh?

What if, rather than being childhood-spoiling serial killers, clowns were the victims or heroes of the story?

When all the children at a party are poisoned, an entertainer’s profession and past both make him a prime suspect.

An anti-corporate prankster discovers his guru might be just as callous as the capitalist world-view he claims to reject.

A clown attempts to redeem the image of his profession by saving a group of teenagers from a serial killer.

And twelve more stories of clowns facing humanity’s baser natures.

Find it on Amazon

On Kobo

At Barnes and Noble in either…

ebook 

paperback 

and

iBooks

When There are No Answers

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I started writing about fifteen years ago. Have I learned everything yet? Nope.

I stopped trying to learn everything. It’s impossible.

For me, writing began in a bubble. Just me and my computer and my crazy brain ideas. I never studied writing. I didn’t know any other writers.

Just me in my happy little bubble.

However, if being published is a goal, staying in that blissful bubble is…not going to work. With a brave poke, I broke free.

I listened, soaking in everything, then tried to force myself in this writer mold. However, not everyone out there agrees on what this mold looks like. So…

I’ve had people tell me to do this thing or that thing. I’ve seen tweets where people declare one way to do things.

THIS is how you write a query…a synopsis…a first chapter…

THIS is how to write…

THIS is what agents look for…

DO NOT DO…

ALWAYS DO…

Yup. That.

SO…here is THE ANSWER.

There is no answer.

There are rules. Sure.

These rules. Guidelines. A place to start. Then the path you take is up to you.

Critique partners can help. Beta readers can help. Comments can inspire your brain to take the best steps for you along that path. Comments can help you see your strengths and weaknesses.

Listen. Always listen.

Then do you. This is your art. Your voice. Your vision. Only you can decide what works and what needs to be destroyed with fire.

For not every comment will guide you in the right direction.

So, in the world of publishing where much depends on luck, opinions, and wishes, there is one thing that will keep you going.

Love what you do. Love the way you do it. Love the adventure, one that seems cloaked in darkness and pain, sure…but a journey!

If the process, the words, or the path feels wrong, then it probably is. Let joy guide you.

To a glorious adventure.

Staring at Something New: A Tale of Being Afraid

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A new idea. All bright and shiny…and incomplete and talking a mile a minute or completely silent and full of possibilities, or maybe all sorts of problems.

Some writers plot, they outline. Some start in with words. Some do a little of both. Some stare at the idea with fear that they won’t get it right and just can’t begin.

I like to live with an idea, wander around the new world until most of its incompleteness is complete. But I never know everything. I’ll start writing when I know enough…

BUT WHEN IS THAT?

I don’t know. I never know. Does anyone ever know?

I’m sitting at the edge of this strange idea. A few scenes have been revealed. I even have the first chapter jotted down, but not written. Because starting new things is hard. It’s scary. The story lives in my head, where it can be grand and fun and weird, until I start writing, then all hell can break loose. Do I really know how everything fits together? Nope. I’m circling the words like a great dragon. Waiting for…something. Some spark of inspiration…some big idea to tie it all together.

Or maybe, I’m simply procrastinating. That is entirely possible.

What I do know is that I need to let go of all the thinking and HAVE FUN. This idea screams for fun, a release of all things mundane and an embrace of everything fantastical and creepy. THERE MUST BE CREEPY.

Hopefully this is just the thing to work on next, to take my mind off the things I have no control over and set my mind free.

Hopefully.

To all out there writing and thinking and creating…

Keep going.

You are magic.

 

Writing, Writing, Writing…Or Not

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Hi.

I have a blog. I know this. Tis mine and I will do with it what I please, which, apparently, lately has been nothing.

Strangely, for a few months now, nothing is what I have been doing with creating of the new words. No new words.

I worked pretty hard to get my last ms ready for querying. Oh the joys of querying, I have missed you. When I started on the road to gathering rejections and self-doubt, I gazed at the blank page, at the stacks of notebooks full of ideas, at the shelved manuscripts waiting for help…and my brain shut off.

I see the tweets of the writers who go from one project to the next with reckless abandon. I see the people working on multiple projects. I APPLAUD THEM.

I…am not one of them. Nope.

My creative brain takes breaks. I let it. Because when I try to force it to think up all the made-up stuff, it shuts down. No more making up stuff for me.

I’ve learned to relax. Read. Do nothing. Watch the world pass. For eventually…the creative brain reawakens.

It’s happened again. After trying to force myself onto the next project and failing…I gave up. Let my brain off the hook.

And I have a new idea. Well, not new exactly. A short story I never wrote let me know that maybe it’s supposed to be a book. Perhaps that’s why I never wrote that story.

So, if you, like me, can’t seem to go from one thing to another…if you, like me, sometimes yell at yourself for not doing all the things all the time…if you, like me, have to let the ideas form on their own, I offer a giant cheer.

Writers work in their own way, making the world an interesting and crazy place. Find what works for you and do it. Don’t fight how your brain works…it never ends well.

I shall now go prepare for the sending of more queries. Send chocolate.

 

 

 

Tale of a Story: Voices

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Back in 2006 or 2007, or somewhere in there, I had an idea for a girl who could hear the thoughts of others. Her name was Lucinda…Cinda for short. So i wrote it. And it received an honorable mention from the Writer’s Digest short story competition. I was very excited.

I was so excited, I decided to submit it. Remember Leading Edge magazine from my last post? They published my story “Marked” (the story that didn’t place in the same competition), so I sent “Cinda” to them. It was rejected. Now, the wonderful thing about Leading Edge is that they send feedback from readers. I had comments on why the story didn’t work, which helped me rethink the idea, and I rewrote it.

And submitted it again.

It was rejected again with more comments. Though none of what anyone said clicked in my brain, so I set the story aside.

I went off into the world of writing and did many other things. My writing got better. My writing got darker. At some point, my gaze fell back to “Cinda”, and my creative brain had an idea. A bit of a darker idea, but I LIKED IT.

The whole story changed. I retitled it as “Voices”.

I submitted it to Leading Edge magazine. It had been a while, but I liked working with them, so WHY NOT. Of course, they had moved to e-mail instead of packing the pages off in an envelope, which is super nice.

And I waited. A year later, I sent an e-mail to ask for any updates. They replied that my story had been passed on to the editors. WHICH IS GOOD! Another year later, I inquired again. And got the same answer.

Okay. STILL GOOD. But I was done asking and thinking about it. Time to let it go. Nearly three and a half…maybe four…years later, I got an e-mail accepting “Voices” for publication, as long as it was still available.

Of course, it was available! EEEEEK!

I went through three rounds of edits, working with a wonderful editor, who gave great feedback and was excited every time I made changes, telling me that she was more thrilled with the story as we went. Well, after three-four years of growing as a writer, I made changes, because I wanted “Voices” to reflect my writing now, not three years ago.

And finally, “Voices” was released in issue 73! You can find it here.

I didn’t make the cover this time, but no biggie. My story is in there!

With some cool illustrations! And I got paid!

Publishing is a lot of waiting. A LOT OF WAITING.

Will I submit to Leading Edge again? Maybe. I do like them. I like their magazine. I like how they work. I’ll be prepared to wait, to forget about that submission and move on. I’ll remember that the longer I wait, the better the news will probably be. They get a lot of submissions. And only a few stories make each issue.

To all slogging through the world of publishing, you are not alone. With tiny victories, we will make our way along the path. A path lined with tears and sweat and, most certainly, smiles. We just can’t stop trying.

Tale of a Story: Marked

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*pulls blog out of the land of the forgotten*

HI!

I’ve missed my little piece of the blogging universe. So, I’ve returned to share past writing victory. My very first published work and how it came to be.

Back in the world before writing groups and critique partners and Twitter-writer-verse, I wrote a story called “Across the Purple Sands”…probably around 2007. I entered it in the Writers Digest Short Story competition. And it failed to place.

My mom and sisters read it (like I said this was pre-critique partners), and their comments got my creative brain going. I started it in the wrong place. THAT HAPPENS. A lot.

My mom also suggested that I change the title.

So I rewrote it. I added a new beginning. I set up the story and characters better. I changed the title to “Marked”. And I submitted it to a magazine. I took a chance.

I can’t remember how I learned of Leading Edge Magazine, but I sent it…in an envelope. Because that was a long time ago.

And they accepted it!

I vaguely recall screaming. And crying happy tears of disbelief.

I remember one round of edits, where they suggested a few changes and left it up to me what to do. In December of 2008, it was released in issue 56. They paid me actual money and gave me two contributor copies.
The cover? That is an illustration from my story. Dude. I made the cover. There is still one issue left, waiting to find a home here. This was pre-e-books, so only hardcopies exist.

 

To see my name in print was super great. The whole being a writer thing seemed…doable.

I get the magazine out every once in a while to remind myself that I can do it. Even when it’s just me sitting in front of my computer, I have the ability to put words together.

I’m good enough.

Never give up.

My Creepy Christmas Tree Experiment

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My post with The Midnight Society this week is all about my attempt at creating a creepy Christmas (Creepmas?) tree. However, the photos won’t load on the site, so I am posting them here! And linking the two. Well, I have to try something!

At the end of last year, I found a seven foot slim artificial Christmas tree on clearance and decided to try to make myself a horror-ish tree. What’s one more Christmas tree to set up? Right?

Last Halloween, I found a few items that I thought might help in my mission…

 

Finally, the day arrived and I dragged the tree up from the basement and set it up.

I have no plan here…just going to wing it…and added the lights.

Only, Halloween ‘purple’ lights are…well, pink.

NOOOOOO!!!!!!

Back to the beginning…

Luckily, I found some cool white lights shoved somewhere.

Much better.

 

If you cut out the eyes and put a hole in the bottom of these fun little skulls….

They fit over the light bulbs!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I like that!

Now, onto ribbon. I have ribbon on all my trees. So why not?

Eh.

 

 

Cutting it into strips helps…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Add the black, silver, and white ornaments…

 

Meh…

 

 

 

 

I found white netting…maybe that will add a ghostly feel?

Yeah…no…more bridal. I stripped it off.

At this point, I give up. I have no solid ideas and am throwing stuff at the tree hoping something sticks. BUT NOTHING IS WORKING.

Until I discovered three skulls. Three skulls that missed getting packed into the Halloween boxes. AND I HAVE AN IDEA.

 

 

 

 

A little paint and a few dowel rods…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Place them in the tree…LIKE A HAUNTED TREE!

 

 

 

 

Now to add to that…

 

In the dark, it looks pretty cool!

A good start…I have ideas on what to add next year. A little odd. I lot cool. Something different. Christmas needs creepy too.

 

 

 

Beware! Dark Seas Author/Illustrator Showcase is Live

Today, my short story Inheritance is up on Jolene Haley’s wonderful blog as part of her Beware! Dark Seas author/illustrator showcase, happening ALL MONTH LONG.

This is my fifth year participating. Stories for the themes of haunted house, harvest festival, haunted hotel, and summer camp have all come before, uniting authors and artists with creepy fun. I have fun reading the stories and seeing the artwork, we all celebrate together, no accepting or rejecting…just art.

A HUGE thanks to Jolene for doing this every year. For thinking up a theme, for gathering people to participate, for posting all these stories. She is the best. Seriously.

Anyway…today is my day.

So go read mine. Then stay a while and read a few others. Have fun. But BEWARE!

Inheritance

The Tale of a Story

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Today, a book is released into the wild. An anthology.

And my story Faithless is in it!

I wrote this story a couple years ago for an anthology looking for asylum stories. I read it in my writers’ group, and had mixed reactions. Some people liked it and one or two wanted something else. Something more…asylum residents getting out and killing. But I didn’t want it to be the usual asylum story. So I cleaned it up and submitted it.

It was rejected.

But, I liked this story. I liked that it was different. So I let it sit until I found another place to send it.

One. Two. Three rejections…and I would not give up. Faithless would find a home…somewhere.

And it has.

Not where I thought it would, not in the publication I wrote it for. That’s how it goes.

Publishing. An interesting world of you-never-know-so-never-ever-give-up. What are the editors looking for when they put together a line up of stories for an anthology or magazine? Only they know.

My story was rejected. More than once. I did wonder if the writing smelled like dog poop, or the story left the reader with a whole bunch of confusion.

But I believed in it.

Sure, rejections happen because a story isn’t well-written or doesn’t make sense. But they can mean that the words don’t fit, the story isn’t quite what they were looking for. And with all sorts of people submitting, the choices can be great and choosing can be difficult.

Here’s Schreyer Ink’s blog with submission facts about this book…for the curious.

So many submissions. Mine just a drop in the bucket. But it was chosen.

If you like the weird and creepy…go buy a copy of Twilight Madhouse Vol. 4 on amazon!

Enjoy Faithless, my story exploring faith versus religion in a future where praying can get you a room in the Asylum for the Religiously Afflicted and a visit from Tech MT.

And when you’re submitting, remember…rejections are not always a reflection of your writing talent.

And never ever give up.