Through the Gaps has just published my story “Shapeshifter” about a werewolf sighting in France in 1601. For the first time I have three stories appearing simultaneously in one magazine: “Shapeshifter”, “Decision”, and “Sudan”. All are reprints of early works. Many thanks once again to the wonderful folks at Through the Gaps. Shown is a snippet from their current front page.
Month: April 2015
Bloody Good Writing Volume 2: Does Sex Sell?
Good article. It’s worth taking the time to read.
DOES SEX SELL?
Written by: Tom Leveen
Q: I am interested on your take of graphic violence or sexual content. Does it hurt or help in selling a story?
~ Matthew B.
A: So. Post two and already we’re diving into the good stuff.
Here we go. (As always, your mileage may vary with my response; take what you like, leave the rest.)
To answer Matthew’s question right away, I’d have to say that for horror genre novels, it’s unlikely that graphic violence or sexual content will hurt a potential sale to an editor at a legacy publisher (Random House, etc.). Violence, of course, is pretty common in horror, so it would have to be something really, really, really too graphic to get passed over by an editor of horror fiction. I won’t even try to define “too graphic” because every editor and every imprint will have a…
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Quote of the Day from Goodreads
As you may already know, I am on Goodreads quote of the day mailing list. Today’s I found particularly interesting on a couple of levels:
“Atticus told me to delete the adjectives and I’d have the facts.” Harper Lee
First, there is the literary perspective. Eliminating the adjectives and other modifiers from a story leaves you with the simple, cold hard facts, the bones, of the story. I have read several bits of writing advice that advocate keeping modifiers to a minimum and using nouns and verbs to their fullest by using them precisely, trying to match the exact word to its underlying concept. To my mind, that leaves one with the essence of the story.
Second, there is the deeper, philosophical perspective. Like with the literary perspective above, if you observe or learn of an event, if you cut away all the extraneous opinions and descriptors and other crap, you will have the cold, hard facts of the matter. This is echoed in Hannibal Lecter’s famous quote from Marcus Aurelius (though this is actually a paraphrase…at least in my copy of Meditations of Marcus Aurelius): “Read Marcus Aurelius. Of each particular thing ask: what is it in itself? What is its nature?”. It is also echoed in Hemingway’s remark made during an interview in The Paris Review: “The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shockproof, shit detector.”
Fiction on the Web will publish my short story “A Tale of Hell”
I just received word that my short horror story “A Tale of Hell” will be published by Fiction on the Web (www.fictionontheweb.co.uk) on May 24. Please check it out. “A Tale of Hell” is about a man who has a vivid dream of being in hell, but then strange things start to happen. Many thanks to Charlie Fish and all the other staff at Fiction on the Web who made this happen. “A Tale of Hell” was originally published by Midnight Times in 2006.
“Through the Gaps” will Publish my Story “Shapeshifter”
I just got the word that the wonderful folks at www.throughthegaps.com will re-print my story “Shapeshifter” in about a week. This is the third of my stories to be published by them in about a month. “Shapeshifter” is about a alleged werewolf sighting in France in 1601 during the height of the werewolf trials. I think it says something about human nature. The story was first published in 2003 by Ascent Magazine (www.ascentaspirations.ca). Please drop by Through the Gaps to add to their site visitation and readership.
“Through the Gaps” has published my short story “Decision”.
“Through the Gaps” (http://throughthegaps.com/art/decision/) has published my short story “Decision” about love and racism in the mountains of 1970’s eastern Kentucky. Many sincere thanks to the “Through the Gaps” staff for re-printing this, one of my favorite and most poignant stories. I love the illustration they chose, which has considerable emotional impact once you have read the story.
This story is definitely literary drama, not horror, but it is one of the first stories I wrote when I started writing and it demonstrates some of my basic principles in writing.
The “Through the Gaps” staff seem to have a real knack for picking illustrations. They did a superb job in picking the illustration for my story “Sudan”, which was published last week and, like the illustration for “Decision”, is particularly poignant once you have read the story.
Goodreads Quote of the Day from H.P. Lovecraft
Here’s another tidbit from those wonderful folks over at Goodreads:
The world is indeed comic, but the joke is on mankind.
April 17, 1926: On this day, H.P Lovecraft returned to his home in Providence, Rhode Island after suffering a few years in the “hateful chaos” of Brooklyn. He never moved away again
Recommendations from “The Ray Bradbury Theatre”
I was in the Navy for the entire time “The Ray Bradbury Theatre” ran in syndication (1985-1992). I happened to pick up a collection of 65 of its episodes yesterday while at the Hastings bookstore in Farmington. I have watched less than a dozen of its first episodes (circa 1986) so far, but two I recommend highly for their suspense and general spookiness: “The Banshee” starring Charles Martin Smith and Peter O’Toole and “The Town Where No One Got Off” starring Jeff Goldblum. I particularly enjoyed the latter where Jeff Goldblum disembarks a train in a town where the train normally does not stop and finds himself in a sticky situation, which he manages to resolve quite cleverly. Check them out if you get the chance.
This morning I have been going through all the daily updates I have been getting from Goodreads, but have not read. Here’s an interesting one.
“I am fated to journey hand in hand with my strange heroes and to survey the surging immensity of life, to survey it through the laughter that all can see and through the tears unseen and unknown by anyone.” –Nikolai Gogol
Goodreads notes: “Novelist and playwright Nikolai Gogol (born March 31, 1809) feared being buried alive. When his grave was exhumed, his body was lying face down, giving rise to the rumor that the author’s greatest fear had come to pass.” I read some of Gogol’s most famous works as an undergraduate and loved them. I need to re-read them just for the sheer pleasure of reading them. Gogol was an eccentric Russian (though born in the Ukraine) author/satirist of the early nineteenth century and is best known for his unfinished novel “Dead Souls” about a man who travels through the country buying up the dead. He is also known for his short stories, particularly “The Nose” a fantasy about a nose that detaches itself from its owner one day and takes on a life of its own and “The Overcoat”, a story about an impoverished government clerk (copyist, if I recall correctly), whose prize possession is a beautiful overcoat and who comes back from the dead to find it. He was known for being a satirist, rather than a writer of horror, but a few of his most famous works verge on what might be termed ghost stories or fantasy as can be seen above. He is a master author, however, and his works bear checking out no matter what your preferred modern genre is. Wikipedia has this to say about his style:
D.S. Mirsky characterized Gogol’s universe as “one of the most marvellous, unexpected – in the strictest sense, original – worlds ever created by an artist of words.” The other main characteristic of Gogol’s writing is his impressionist vision of reality and people. He saw the outer world romantically metamorphosed, a singular gift particularly evident from the fantastic spatial transformations in his Gothic stories, A Terrible Vengeance and A Bewitched Place. His pictures of nature are strange mounds of detail heaped on detail, resulting in an unconnected chaos of things. His people are caricatures, drawn with the method of the caricaturist – which is to exaggerate salient features and to reduce them to geometrical pattern. But these cartoons have a convincingness, a truthfulness, and inevitability – attained as a rule by slight but definitive strokes of unexpected reality – that seems to beggar the visible world itself. The aspect under which the mature Gogol sees reality is expressed by the Russian word poshlost’, which means something similar to “triviality, banality, inferiority”, moral and spiritual, widespread in some group or society. Like Sterne before him, Gogol was a great destroyer of prohibitions and romantic illusions. It was he who undermined Russian Romanticism by making vulgarity reign where only the sublime and the beautiful had reigned. “Characteristic of Gogol is a sense of boundless superfluity that is soon revealed as utter emptiness and a rich comedy that suddenly turns into metaphysical horror.” His stories often interweave pathos and mockery, while “The Tale of How Ivan Ivanovich Quarreled with Ivan Nikiforovich” begins as a merry farce and ends with the famous dictum, “It is dull in this world, gentlemen!”
10 Great Posters For Lesser-Known 60s Horror Movies
More visual horror treats for your tired eyes: 10 Great Posters For Lesser-Known 60s Horror Movies.
Publication Announcement: “Sudan” and “Decision”
I am very pleased to announce that two more of my stories will be published very soon, albeit as re-prints: “Sudan” and “Decision”. Both will be published by “Through the Gaps” (http://throughthegaps.com/). On their About page, they describe themselves as follows:
“Benjamin Choi founded Through the Gaps in 2014 with the help of his associate Raghav Mathur. From there, the site expanded to include over twenty original contributors releasing content in several unique categories on a daily basis. Here at TTG, we are dedicated to expressing opinions and starting discussions in a nurturing environment.”
In their submissions guidelines for fiction, they also note:
“We accept fictional stories of all genres. However, above all, we are looking for stories with a powerful message. More specifically, we are looking for stories with powerful comments on the state of our society and/or the human experience. Stories with a political or social message are the best examples of such a story. We are even willing to overlook subpar storytelling or weaker character development if we feel the story’s message is powerful enough.”
As noted, these two stories are re-prints of stories I wrote and had published long ago.
“Sudan” was first published in 2002 by Canadian on-line magazine “Ascent Aspirations, where you can still find it (www.ascentaspirations.com). It was based on a story I heard from a former US assistant agricultural attaché to Sudan, whom I happened to meet when I was touring Luxor, Egypt in 1989. If I recall correctly, we were splitting a horse-drawn carriage ride from the Hotel Jolie Ville, where we both happened to be staying, to the Temple of Luxor. As strangers do when they meet while traveling, we fell into a conversation starting with a basic introduction of ourselves, our professions, and how we happened to be in that locale. From there the conversation deepened and she told me this story that she had heard from two English nurses she happened to meet (I think) in Khartoum. The story was so poignant, that I remembered it for several years and when I started to write fiction. It was one of the first I developed into a short story. I have always loved the story and recently decided to resurrect it along with several others of my first works to see what I could get re-printed. “Sudan” will be published in about a week on the “Through the Gaps” website.
“Decision” is a very poignant tale as well. It was first published in 2004 by “Spoiled Ink”, an English hard-copy magazine based in Denmark. It is not based on any actual event. Instead it was an idea I developed while thinking about racism and how feelings about race have changed since I was a boy. I based it in Kentucky simply because that is the culture I knew as a boy, although the story is set in eastern Kentucky and I grew up in central Kentucky (for those not familiar with the state). I wanted to write a story, in a sense, like Hemingway did in his early short stories using the culture and background with which he was familiar. He could bring out the crunch of leaves as one went hunting or almost make the aromas of the forest almost come alive. So I endeavored to do the same. I don’t know exactly how I came up with the idea for the hunt that takes place. I may have been inspired by “The Most Dangerous Game” or a similar tale. I don’t think you can find “Spoiled Ink” any more. It may be defunct. If so, this will be the only place you will be able to read this story. It will appear in two weeks.
If you get a chance, check out “Through the Gaps” even before my stories appear. It seems to be a very eclectic, nurturing site with a lot of positive energy to it.
Considering the description of what they want as stated on their submissions page, I feel very honored to have my works published on their site.
Clive Barker ‘The Scarlet Gospels’ Advance Review
Good review: Clive Barker ‘The Scarlet Gospels’ Advance Review. As you can see in my comments, the review sounds fair, honest, and straightforward. Also, I enjoyed his comments on Barker’s other works. Unfortunately, I have read only The Hellbound Heart and Books of Blood, but I want to read the others as soon as I can dedicate the time to each. However, I already have a couple of dozen works on my “to read” list including those on my Goodreads “to read” list. It is unfortunate that Mr. Barker may be going through a down period, but many, if not most, authors and artists of all types do. What is important is how long the down turn lasts.
Publication Announcement: My Short Story “Ivan” will appear in “Infernal Ink”
I just signed and returned the contract for my short horror story “Ivan” to appear in the April, 2016 edition of “Infernal Ink”. “Ivan” is about a young serial killer in the making. I would like to thank the “Infernal Ink” staff for publishing my work. This is the first time I have had a new work published in over a year or more.
The idea for “Ivan” came to me while returning from Navajo Lake through an isolated stretch of road in a large canyon at sunset. It was a very spooky setting and I thought about what would happen if a family became stranded in country like that and, while looking for help, wandered onto the estate of a serial killer. The upshot of that story was that the serial killer trapped them in his basement only to discover he was trapped in his own basement with a family of werewolves. I submitted it to several publications, but was consistently turned down. One staff critqued the manuscript by saying that it was such a common story line, they were taking bets on whether the family would turn out to be werewolves or vampires at the end. I took my cue from that and gave my work an honest review and decided that they were right. So I changed the ending to one I thought would be completely unexpected, sent out the new manuscript to a publisher to which I had not previously submitted any work, and the story has been accepted.
Please note that the story will appear in 2016 vs. 2015. It will be worth the wait.
Again, many heartfelt thanks to the “Infernal Ink” staff, Hydra M. Star and Dave Lipscomb, for publishing my work.
Writing between the Lines
A thought occurred to me tonight as I was watching another episode of the X-Files. I was “reading between the lines” of a dialog between Scully and Mulder, when it dawned on me that part of the art of writing is to write between the lines, i.e. to construct a dialog so that the reader will be able to read between the lines what you want him/her to read. I always think of Hemingway’s short story “Hills Like White Elephants” when I think about talking around something or reading between the lines, because is the classic example. One of my earlier posts, “Talking about Dogs” is on this same subject, when I say that part of the art of writing is like talking about a dog, without using the word “dog”. Anyway, that’s my thought for the night.
Observations on the X-Files: Redrum, Season Eight, Episode 6
I recently purchased seasons 8 and 9 of the X-Files to complete my collection of the entire series. As you can note above, I am up to episode 6 of season 8: Redrum. No, it’s not based on The Shining or the famous line that sprang from there. This is a completely original script and I think one of the best X-Files. Why am I mentioning a Sci-Fi series in an article that should be about horror? This article is about good writing, whatever the genre.
I will endeavor to avoid spoiling the story for you.
As we all know, “redrum” is murder spelled backwards. This story is about a murder, but the alleged murderer finds himself traveling back in time to the day of the murder with the knowledge of how to prevent it.
I find the plot’s basic concept fascinating. A prosecutor (and friend of Agent Doggett) wakes up one morning to find himself in prison for the murder of his wife, about which he remembers nothing. As he is transferred to another facility for his safekeeping, he is assassinated. However, at that point time starts to flow backwards for him. Each morning he wakes up another day in the past (first he wakes up on Saturday, then on Friday, then on Thursday, etc.). With each day he learns a bit more about his predicament until finally he wakes up on the day of the murder and he has an opportunity to prevent it.
Unexpectedly traveling back in time is not a common theme, but it’s not rare either. I have to ask myself how Maeda and Arkin came up with the idea for this episode. Maybe it was based on amnesia; someone can’t recall his crime or immediate past and has to learn about it bit by bit, day by day, as the prosecutor does here. Maybe it arose out of a philosophical question such as “if we could travel back in time, we could change our future but would the ultimate destination be the same and all we change is the route we take to get there?” Maybe it was a thought that most stories show a protagonist going back in time to a certain point in time and then returning to the present; what if going back in time was not one big step, but several little steps. How could we change our lives in that case? What if as we traveled back in time, we knew as little about the past as we do about the future? We wouldn’t be able to convince those around us that we are traveling back in time, because we wouldn’t know any history to prove our story. They would believe us to be insane.
The whole scenario intrigues me. One man goes back in time for unknown reasons while the rest of the world around him proceeds as normal.
I have to ask myself what their creative process was.
This scenario opens up so many questions and possibilities. I love its originality. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend renting it as soon as possible.
We never find out what causes the protagonist to travel back in time. Like in a Stephen King novel, paranormal events happen out of the blue and at random. But according to Lovecraft’s theories of weird fiction, not knowing the cause/origin of a horrible event, makes the event more horrifying, because the event could happen to any one of us at any time.
A common principle of writing is “to suspend belief” (some say “to suspend disbelief”). In stories like this though, it is the natural laws of the universe that are suspended. Everything else, all the world/universe surrounding the event. is quite believable, which emphasizes just how weird the event is.
The story was written by Steven Maeda and Daniel Arkin. A quick search in Imdb shows that Steven Maeda has an extensive list of credits as either a writer or producer for such television series as X-Files, Lost, CSI:Miami, Helix, Lie to Me, and many others. Likewise Daniel Arkin has an extensive list of credits as a writer or producer for such shows as X-Files, Suits, Las Vegas, Alias, Medical Investigation, and others. I will have to watch for more shows with which either one is involved.