Do you know Krampus? The dark side of Santa. The one who punishes the naughty by throwing them in his sack. You better watch out, for Gothic Blue Book VI: A Krampus Carol is out now and waiting to share tales of this creature of the season.
And my story “The Path” waits for you too.
Edited by Cynthia Pelayo and Gerardo Pelayo, Gothic Blue Book VI is out now for Kindle and paperback. With 31 stories and poems, there’s one creepy Krampus tale for each day of December.
When I saw the call for submissions for this, I knew I wanted to submit something. I loved the whole idea. But what to write?
Initially, I wondered about the story of Krampus coming to get someone. But that felt wrong.
Then I thought of one of my favorite Christmas movies…Krampus. I thought of the final scene in that movie, where the family is trapped by Krampus in a snowglobe…that snowglobe sitting on a shelf with so many others. That scene always sends my mind humming with creative wonder. What does happen to those taken by Krampus?
A snowglobe on a shelf? Or something else?
Then the character of Grayson spoke up…about his life, his struggles, his anger. And I began to uncover this ten year-old’s situation. I carefully extracted the reason he was taken by Krampus…and where he ended up after a trip in Krampus’ sack.
Many decisions are reactions to emotions. Anger being the strongest. Unfortunately, dealing with the consequences of those actions can be difficult, traveling the path created can only lead to darkness.
Over 150 people submitted. I didn’t think my little tale stood a chance. When I got the acceptance e-mail, from Krampus’ personal assistant, left me honored and feeling extremely lucky. So, here’s your reminder to try. Always try. Never give up.
I can’t wait to read all the stories and poems.
Look out in December, as I read one a day and blog about them. Buy your own and read with me!
Earlier this year, a person from my writers’ group decided to get authors together and publish a mystery anthology. Introduce fans of certain authors and genres to a wonderful world of words they might not find otherwise.
And she asked me to contribute! Not that I have “fans”…seriously, some of the authors in this anthology have several books out. But a chance for me to put more of my weird out into the ‘Verse was tempting.
However, as I prepared to e-mail back a “yes, I sure will”, I paused. For the word MYSTERY stared at me with its little beady eyes. Mystery? I don’t do mysteries. To help connect the different genres and styles, we would use the game of Clue as inspiration, each choosing a color, murder weapon, and room.
How could I pass up the opportunity? I told her I would try to come up with an idea, claimed purple (Prof Plum) and a candlestick in an attic (because creepy lives there), and my brain chewed on all sorts of thoughts.
But that darn mystery part.
I don’t read, watch, or write mysteries, so have no idea how to plot one, not that plotting is really my thing anyway.
As my creative gears began to turn…I wondered if maybe I do watch mysteries…
I love horror. Horror everything. It’s October right now and my house is covered in skulls. I watch many horror movies, some of my favorite include haunted houses…ghost stories.
And aren’t those mysteries? A spirit remains, a secret trapping them in a pocket of emotion, wrapped in an unresolved moment of their life. The 1980 film The Changeling (really good movie!) did an excellent job of giving clues to solve the mystery of the ghost.
So…all I had to do was create a past and present, two timelines linked by similar stories and emotions. Because I love when everything ties together! Once I knew who died and how, all I had to do was leave clues in a very ghostly manner for the poor twin teen girls who visited the attic, well, were drawn to the attic…
This was my first attempt at dual POV, wanting to give the tale from two different perspectives. One twin connected to the ghost and overcome by the leftover emotions that mirror her own. The other, the protector, the one fighting for freedom from what resides in the attic, and maybe freedom from something else as well. As they learn what happened in the past, they start to deal with new feelings and thoughts that had crept into their minds after they moved. But can they rid the attic of the ghost before the ghost sinks its invisible teeth into them?
I’m not telling.
And here it is!
Blurb from Amazon: Murder comes in 7 different genres. By 7 different authors. Are you a fan of courtroom drama? In the anthology’s first story, Abraham Lincoln defends a friend’s son against a charge of murder. For lovers of speculative fiction, Jason Fogg dissolves into mist to sneak through open windows and snoop for clues. How about a cozy? Jazzi, Jerod, and Ansel discover a dead body while renovating a kitchen, dining room, and half bath. Have a craving for a Regency? Lord Peregrine and his wife, Elizabeth, use their sharp minds and quick wit to solve a murder at a garden party. Need a bit of literary fiction? A young, lonely widow must deal with the theft of a valuable butterfly collection. And what about a little psychological horror? Twin sisters discover that their attic is haunted by not one, but two ghosts. Last, but never least, the anthology concludes with a historical mystery. A young, newly married knight is accused of murdering his obnoxious host at a holiday gathering in his castle.
I struggled to write this story. And I worried that my ghost story sitting among tales penned by more established authors would cause readers to ask what the heck that story was doing in there?
A few reviewers have chosen mine as one of their favorites, which surprised and delighted me. Thank you to everyone who picked up this book and enjoyed the seven tales of murder. Seven very different tales. I finally sat and read them and found each story, from cozy, to regency, to a little paranormal fogginess, to historical, held a new, engaging voice and a fun tale of whodunnit. There is something for everyone in Murder They Wrote.
Once again, it’s time for the Spooky Showcase on the wonderful Jolene Haley’s blog. Every fall she sets a theme and invites authors and artists to write and draw anything they like and, throughout the month of October, Jolene posts them. And we all read and enjoy and celebrate all the art. This is the eighth year for the showcase and my seventh year participating. Links to my stories are on my blog’s SHORT STORY ACHIEVEMENT page.
This year’s theme was twisted fairy tales.
Through October, a new story or work of art will be posted to make the month more fabulous.
Today is my turn!
With the theme announced last summer, I immediately thought of a story I wrote years ago. One that received a place in an anthology, now out-of-print, and one that never became what it could be.
That story was “Together”. Based on the tale “Snow White and Rose Red”, the story explored someone with a voice in their head, one that certainly wasn’t real. As the story unfolded, Rosalie learns to accept Red’s voice and becomes stronger. It was fine, but there was always parts of it I didn’t like. So, here was my chance to rewrite it!
The original “Snow White and Rose Red” told the tale of sisters, who were always nice and, in the end, were rewarded for their continued kindness even in the face of evil.
So to twist it, I added in a little darkness. Because being nice is fine, but what about those moments when you can’t…or won’t be kind.
Rosalie’s mom always says to be nice, be kind, be good. If you aren’t you’ll be punished. So Rosalie tries because she’s scared by something in her mother’s voice, some terrible secret that lurks in her mom’s past. But there’s that voice in Rosalie’s mind. One she knows is real. One that takes over…because her fingernails are painted red and she didn’t do it, because her car radio is tuned to loud music and Rosalie didn’t do that either.
As the voice grows stronger, telling Rosalie to stand up for herself, to fight, Rosalie resists, insisting to be good. That she has to be nice.
And there is a deep dark secret in Mom’s past. But you’ll have to read it to find out.
Being kind matters. But fighting for yourself and others does too.
Jolene is one of the best people I know. She’s always supportive and always ready to fight for you. Participating in her showcase each year has been a pleasure and honor. Joining the spooky showcase means being a part of the writing community at its best, sharing words and ideas, spreading the joy. Everyone is welcome.
Go read her blog. Her author/illustrator showcase is coming up soon! This fall we are twisting some fairy tales. A fantastic time to cheer other writers and support each other.
She co-wrote a great book with Brian LeTendre honoring all the things we love about serial killer stories. Go read Harrowed…if you dare.
You will never meet a nicer, more supportive, harder working, talented individual than Jolene. When she invited me to become part of The Midnight Society, I never imagined being a part of such a great group, and we owe it all to her. THANK YOU, JOLENE!
So, let’s have a party. In true Midnight Society fashion.
Submitted for the approval of The Midnight Society…
A party. A celebration. A dark and magical kinda night.
In a great location.
And lots of fun guests.
He remembered the pizza! YES!
Jolene, you do so much for so many. We appreciate you more than you know. Go have a creeptastic day that is all about you.
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.
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.
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…
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!
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.
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.
To all out there writing and thinking and creating…
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.
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.