Scary Snippets Christmas Edition Released

I’ve had a bounce in my step for awhile now what with getting some of my very short fiction out there in the world.  One of those putting-bounce-in-my-step moments was placing a short story called “Turkey Day” with the good folks at Suicide House Publishing for their holiday offering Scary Snippets: Christmas Edition.*

I received two copies of the book the other day and am looking forward to reading it.  All of the stories are very short (hence “snippets”), between 100 and 600 words.  Naturally, being a Lady of Chaos Undivided I went for excess and made sure I used all 600 words.

Reindeer is tired of being used as a book rest and thinks duck needs to take a turn.**

Monsters and mayhem, by a goodly number of authors, include such things as cannibalism (tasty presented of course), Yule Cat, Revenge of the Christmas trees, and I am pleased to report that mine wasn’t the only story with zombies.

I must confess that my zombies were an oblique feature rather than the main attraction of Turkey Day.  One possible theme for my story might be that people are just a little too hard to impress these days and it’s a damned shame.  Whatever the case, I’m one of those people (currently anyway) who usually looks for a theme after I’ve finished my work rather than when I’m writing it.

Bird thinks the Thanksgiving Day ones are the scariest for obvious reasons!

In other news, I was the dungeon master for a Dungeons & Dragons game yesterday, which went pretty well.  I haven’t DMed in many years and I was a little nervous going in, but everyone said they had fun and are looking forward to once again visiting the Enchanted Forest, so I’m pretty pleased.

Finally, I have a sorry little tale (pun not intended) about my cat catching a mouse.  That will be for next time.  I hope everyone had a nice holiday.

Christmas Bird Clip Art

*  Suicide House Publishing has since changed its name to Nocturnal Sirens Publishing.

** My mother made the little clothespin angel, which I thought was cute, and put it in this year’s Christmas box.  Thanks, Mom! 🙂

Book Review: Stories We Tell After Midnight

“Here, the shadows keep their secrets and the moon hides from deeds cast in her glow.  In these pages, the Fae walk as human, the dead burn with their anger at the living, the creatures that live in the dark places of the wrong zip code creep out of the shadows and into the kitchen.”  — Crone Girls Press

Stories We Tell After Midnight is the debut anthology of short, horror fiction from Rachel A. Brune’s Crone Girls Press.  This book was my bedtime literary companion for a few nights and I found it an enjoyable read.  The stories varied in length from flash fiction to longer short stories.  Like pretty much all anthologies, the quality of the tales varied.  Some of the stories were excellent, some average, and a couple didn’t work for me.  Even with the stories that I thought fell flat, I did appreciate that the authors were taking chances.

This authorial taking of chances is something that I haven’t seen much of with the short fiction I’ve been reading lately, and made for an interesting change of pace.  This is probably because I have been reading a lot of fiction online.  Such work often tends to play it safe for reasons such as restrictive terms of service and risks the risk of feeling sanitized or politically correct.

Stories We Tell After Midnight is a refreshing alternative and gives us none of that.

The stories “go places” I haven’t seen lately.  Children in dangerous situations, terrors that seem familiar from recent headlines, unsavory culinary habits and sexual manipulations, to name a few.  Brune chooses work by authors who can sojourn into this dark country but do so without crossing the border into bad taste, even if in one case the author does drag his toe along that line, in my opinion.

Sometimes, Horror has to sojourn down twisted, borderland roads.

I also enjoyed how the stories took place in different eras and places.  There were tales set during the mid and late-19th Century up to the present day.*  I liked how the horrors varied between the entirely mundane to the magical/supernatural, and I appreciated the magic realism that permeated many of these evocative settings.

My favorite three stories in no particular order were:**

  • “Kitchen Spirits” by Nicholas Belardes
  • “Gobbl’uns” by Thea Rachel Brune
  • “It Has to Cool First” by Carol Gyzander

I just realized my top three picks all involved food one of sort or another!

“Kitchen Spirits” by Nicholas Berlardes introduces us to the recently widowed Pascual, who is having nightmares of his “re-animated wife” and seeing “a thing with crab-like legs” with “a corpse-colored tongue” sampling dead rats in his driveway.  Mostly, he wants to be left alone with his sorrow, microwaved refried beans and Netflix.  He also doesn’t want anyone messing with his cat, Panchito.  I can understand that, though one feels sorry for him as a man who has lost his old life and his purpose.

I enjoyed Pascual’s internal dialogue as he tries to cope with his current existence and broken heart while “visions of corpses infected his mind.”  If that wasn’t enough, throw in a pesky, teenage neighbor, who was given to “blabbing about some monster-filled dungeon he’d concocted for his stupid geek friends,” while delivering warnings about “bad mojo.”

As Pascual becomes more disturbed, and the environs around his house more sinister and seemingly unclean, one wonders if the kid might not have a point.

I enjoyed reading how Pascual ended up reacting once the full horror of the situation was revealed.  He seemed very human.  What made this a real page turner, of course, was hoping the cat didn’t take one in the neck.  You’ll have to read the story for yourself to find out what happens with Panchito.

Sure, take a big bite but watch out for your fillings!

“It Has to Cool First” is set in late-19th Century Atlantic City where two young orphans, Jeremy and his younger sister, Mary, try to obtain work.***  Any work so they might survive.  Jeremy is particularly appealing for his indefatigable willingness to strive, despite his tender years, to secure the immediate survival and possibility of a bright future for himself and Mary.

They end up at the Keuhnle Hotel at a bakery run by the sinister Herr Holdermann.

I enjoyed how Gyzander led me down the magical realism rabbit hole through addiction to a horrific outcome where the last line brings the story full circle to a satisfactory, evil conclusion, but with more questions and the possibility for alternative futures I can spin out in my head as a reader.  Horror that is more of the same?  A long and complicated Revenge?  What do the other people in the town and associated with the hotel really know about the bakery?  You get the idea.

You get extra evil monster points for taunting the kid when you know he’s hooked!

“Gobbl’uns” is a story of childhood jealousies and monsters under the bed.  Poor Charlie, on his sixth birthday, has to deal with the fact that his parents are much more focused on the needs of his younger brother than they are with the horrors that might be lurking under his bed, despite his father’s “monster repellent.”

What appealed me to most about this story was the masterful job the author did in capturing the essence of young Charlie through an adult, third-person voice.  I smiled at Charlie making a protective picket of his stuffed animals against the monsters and by the end understood (and sympathized a little) with his sibling rivalry, even while things didn’t work out quite like how the boy probably imagined or hoped they would.

Stories We Tell After Midnight was a dark, attractive read.  The plots were straight-forward, the writing crisp, and the settings varied and evocative, which makes for good bedtime reading.  I would only give this book a miss if you are highly sensitive or easily triggered, in which case I would respectfully ask why you are reading adult horror in the first place?

Congratulations to Crone Girls Place for a solid, debut offering.  As someone who enjoys a bit of horror tourism, I look forward to seeing the tormented landscapes Editor Brune takes us next.

This is an unsolicited review for which I received no compensation. All graphics used with permission of Crone Girls Press.**** 


* Would have been fun to see a story set in some sort of dark fantastic or science fiction future, though the lack of this in no way diminished my enjoyment of the anthology.

** Honorable mention to Elizabeth Donald’s “In Memoriam.”

*** It is fun when an author pulls from history, especially when they don’t tell you they are doing so.  (Several of the stories do this.)  Keuhnle’s Hotel, where Gyzander’s story is set, was built in 1875 by the father of Commodore Louis Keuhnle, who puts in an early appearance in the story.  According to Wikipedia, Keuhnle’s in Atlantic City was a “prime meeting place for some of the time’s earliest gangsters, racketeers, politicians, and unscrupulous entrepreneurs.”  Sounds to me like it was a place where people really knew how to party!

*** This I swear as a Chaos Lady and a supporting adept of the October Egregore, and upon the holy tentacles of the Dark Gods’ minions who handle such oaths as well as the ghost of Commodore Keuhnle!

Gabby Novel: Night

I finished the next section of my novel, Gabby the Bug-Eyed Monster.  The title of this section is Night.

I decided to dispense with the idea of looking where I’d put the chapter divisions if the work were a traditional book.  Instead I’m looking at each section on Wattpad as its own chapter.  So this section is number four in the story.

I have another picture, though I haven’t worked it into the story yet but I plan on doing so fairly soon.  I experimented with including pictures in my Wattpad stories, but ended up taking them out because they apparently made it hard to load for phones, which caused a precipitous decrease in viewership.  I’m not on Wattpad necessarily to build a large viewership, because I don’t see myself having the time that it would take to do that, I don’t want to needlessly make it hard for people to view my work either.

Another offering by the talented Stefan Ljumov

I’ve been slacking off on moving forward with the story because I have had to give some attention to changes in my job situation.  The changes are good and will result in more free time, so I can work on the story more.  Wattpad has proven its worth so far.  In the past, this period of not working on the story would have probably caused me to consider abandoning the project in favor of the next shiny, new idea, but since I’ve put myself out there with it online, I find I still have the interest and energy to continue.

Finally, I started another WordPress blog.  This one is called Ann’s Physical Culture Journal and it is a place for me to keep track of my workouts and such.  I have enjoyed doing various workouts for years and have lots of old notebooks kicking around full of stuff that I have been doing from the 1980’s up until now.  This is the first time I have done a blog on the subject though.

I decided upon a separate blog instead of creating a section here, because I expect that I will be posting a lot and I don’t want to clutter this space up with lots of posts about lifting weights and such.  I want to keep the Immaterium primarily an arts space.

Finally, my husband has a lot of weight he needs/wants to lose and decided to start a Youtube channel where he does vegan recipes and every Friday posts a video detailing how his week went diet-wise, etc.  I’m proud of how he’s done so far — he’s lost 60 pounds.  So if you are interested in fairly easy-to-make vegan food and such check it out here.  Don mentioned, after I told him I was going to put out a link to his channel that a play list of the cooking videos is here.  I’ve (of course) eaten them all, some multiple times, and quite enjoyed them.  Having a husband who likes to cook is a beautiful thing.

 Gabby cover 125 wide for WordPress

Gabby: Last Shot (End of Chapter One)

I finished the next installment of my novel, Gabby the Bug-Eyed Monster.  This finishes chapter one and I achieved two of my goals: finish the first chapter and also finish with that wretched cave.  My first chapter was a bit over 5300 words, which means word count-wise I’m about 5% done.

The title of this section is Last Shot.  I decided that each of the subsections is going to be no more than two words.  I’m really only doing these chapter subsections because I’m doing this in an online format and need to break it up more than I would for a physical book.

Gabby by Stefan Ljumov

Steady but slow progress.  I’m looking forward to my schedule changing in October.  One happy consequence of that is I’ll have more time for writing on a set schedule instead of carving out some time here and there when I can, which doesn’t work very well for me in terms of completing long-term projects.

I have a pretty good idea where I want to go for Chapter Two, which will get me through the next few weeks of writing and give me some time to think about structure and plot beyond what I already have.  I have an idea for a sub-plot that I introduced the fleeting germ of at the end of the first chapter, and think I know where I more or less want to go by the end of the book though at this point that could still change.

Of course I can go back and fix structural problems and the like in a second draft at some point, but I would like to get as much right as I can on the first go.

The next section will go live on September 15, 2019.

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Gabby: Picture of Main Character

I thought it would be fun to have some drawings made for my novel that I’m working on, Gabby the Bug-Eyed Monster.  The other day this depiction of my main character arrived in my inbox, complete with the eyes on the arms, just as I hoped!

Gabby the Bug Eyed Monster as drawn by the talented Stefan Ljumov

I have the rough draft of the next section already done and plan on tinkering with it a bit before going live on Wattpad this Sunday, September 8th.  That will wrap up the first chapter.  The working title for the section is (without apology to Henry James!) Turn of the Screw Last Shot.

I’ve also been thinking about where I want to go with the story through the first quarter of the book.  That will be about 20,000 words or so, and since I’m already up to 4,000 that will happen fairly soon, even though it still seems like a lot to me.  Especially if things work out with my schedule as I anticipate and I have more time for writing starting in October.

A friend suggested playing some sort of cooperative space platform defense board game.  Hope to attend that soon.  It’ll be nice seeing some friends, who I haven’t gotten together with for awhile now, and (of course) gaming.

 

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Gabby the Bug-Eyed Monster: Eternity

I’ve managed to keep my schedule of posting new material every Sunday for my novel-in-progress thus far.  The latest bit went live yesterday and is titled, Prologue: Eternity.

The novel so far is located here.

“‘The Stars, Like Dust!’  Wait, I think that one’s taken.”

As the title suggests, I went back and did a little preface.  I figure that since I’m sharing a story pretty much as I write it, then if I’m going to write such a thing in such a way I should get any introductory bits out of the way early in the game.

I’ve noticed that I’m developing a tendency to work backwards a bit, editing and correcting things as I go along.  While it has been working so far it is early days yet and I think this could be a dangerous thing, when the story is longer, and could stall my first draft progress.  So in the future I’m going to make notes somewhere about things I need to correct once I’m done. I’ve fallen into that trap before with other projects and avoiding said trap is one object of this pantsing experiment.

I plan on writing a final section to wrap up Chapter One for next time.  While I’m doing that I hope to finalize in my own mind where I want to go with this for the first quarter of the story.

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Gabby: Blind Ants of the Outer Darkness

I posted the next installment of my novel-in-progress, Gabby the Big-Eyed Monster, this past Sunday, August 25, 2019.  The title of the new section is Blind Ants of the Outer Darkness.

The novel so far is located here.

The new section is a bit over 2100 words, which is about double the length of the first one.  I don’t want the sections to be too long and 2000 words or so is about the longest I will go.  In general   For the chapters I’m organizing it like this for now:

Chapter One: The Forbidden Cave
Blind Ants of the Outer Darkness
Next Section

Chapter Two: Whatever I call it.
Next Section
Next Section: and so on….

I’m planning on getting the next section up on Sunday, September 1, 2019, which will end chapter one.  I certainly have a long way to go.  I’m aiming at making this an 80,000 word novel and I’m at about 3100 words now.  Fortunately in October my schedule will change and I’ll have more time for writing.

I also engaged someone on Fiverr to draw a black & white picture of Gabby, the main character.  If I like the picture and I’m happy with how the project is turning out then I’ll probably have him do more illustrations for the book.

Gabby cover 125 wide for WordPress