From Inkpunks.com: “Your Cover Letter and You”

The blogger on the banks of the San Juan River, Farmington, NM, 2013
The blogger on the banks of the San Juan River, Farmington, NM, 2013

The other day I found and posted a good article on submitting to magazines.  Today I found a good article on cover letters (via Nightmare Magazine) at Inkpunks.com.  In my experience, this is some sage advice.  I recommend highly that you visit Nightmare Magazine, peruse their guidelines, and then follow their link to the Inkpunks.com page on cover letters.  As with Jersey Devil Press, I recommend visiting both sites and maybe submitting something, if the sites are to your taste and if you think your work is to their tastes.  Below the article I have posted an example of one of my own cover letters and give a few comments on it.

 

Your Cover Letter and You

The following is a slightly modified repost from my personal blog, http://inkhaven.net.


Submitting to short fiction markets can be very scary for newcomers, and there is a whole lot of confusing advice out there. I’m here to help.

First, though: you guys with the long lists of publications, who have your editors on your Christmas card lists and are now submitting reprints and selling rights I’ve never even heard of, you can wait over there in the bar. And you too, you newly-minted pros who have been doing the submission/rejection slog for a few years now–you should go buy those other guys drinks and network a little. We’ll come join you in a minute.

The rest of you, huddle up.

We’re going to talk about our cover letters today: those things that we agonize over, that First Impression that we are all SO WORRIED about. Do I sound like a real writer? Did I rank high enough in that contest entry? Do my college credits count as professional credits? What about my work as an astrophysicist, that surely qualifies me to write SF, doesn’t it?

Stop worrying.

I will tell you a secret: when submitting fiction to SFF markets, your cover letter is meant to do THE EXACT OPPOSITE of what it’s supposed to do in the rest of the world.

I’ll explain.

Out There–in the job market, academia, whatever–your cover letter is meant to impress. You are expected to drop names. You are supposed to include the most tangentially related accomplishments you can think of. You are meant to inflate it with every credit you can muster. Out There, cover letters become masterful works of fiction: spells cast to cloud the reader’s perception, to convince them to trust us and believe that we are the right person for the task. It is absolutely natural to assume that the same holds true when writing a cover letter for an SFF market.

Natural, but wrong.

The information on the internet reinforces the myth of the Inflated Cover Letter. You’ll see this perfectly reasonable-sounding advice given to writers on a regular basis. Sometimes it’s even in the submission guidelines of your favorite publication:

– Include your publication credits

This is terrifying to a new writer who doesn’t have any. We want to do it right, so we wrack our brains, thinking we have to put something there. Do I include my high school newspaper experience? What about that essay I published in our local Arts & Entertainment paper? I placed 15th in that one fiction contest–that means I was better than the other contestants who placed lower, right?

I know! It’s a horrible mental knot that we tie ourselves into, but the answer is really very simple: Leave it out.

If you do not have semi-pro or pro publication credits, anything less is not a substitute for them. This includes college courses, workshops, contests, university publications, and anything else that did not pay you Actual Money of at least 3 cents/word. Those other things are not examples of professional quality work, and including them can actually hurt you if the reader has a low opinion of any of them.

There are exceptions: there are fanzines with immaculate reputations; a contest that comes to mind that is considered very credible in the field; workshops that most of us would give our eyeteeth to get into. You know which ones those are, if you’ve published in them, placed in it, or attended them. If not, don’t list lesser ones.

And then there’s the advice that sends us all into sweating fits of anxiety:

– Explain why you’re the best person to write this story

No. Stop. Just…NO.

I’d seen this advice treated on the internet as general wisdom for years, but it never made any sense to me, not for what I was writing. What comes of this ABSOLUTELY TERRIBLE advice are sorrowful, worry-filled cover letters that say things like “I’m a stay-at-home mother, but I’ve been reading SFF for as long as I could read, and have taken several creative writing classes at Local Community College.”

When an agent at a conference offered it up again to the workshop I was in, I seized the opportunity to clarify. I said approximately the following:

“WTF. I’m writing about DRAGONS/WIZARDS/ZOMBIES/VAMPIRES/SPACESHIPS/ALIENS. I do not have direct experience with any of those things. I’m the best person to write this story because…I have an active imagination?”

He changed the subject. It was almost as if he himself didn’t know why he was advising it. Or it might have been my demeanor, which was admittedly exasperated. Either way, my class didn’t get an answer.

What I’ve since learned is that it’s advice that came from non-fiction publishing, where yeah, your experience with your subject matter counts. It does not scale to SFF short fiction. Ignore it. STOP WORRYING. NOW.

One more thing you want to leave out of your cover letter is what rights you’re offering. If you read the guidelines (and you DID read the guidelines, and followed them TO THE LETTER, didn’t you?) you know which rights they’re buying. They are not going to negotiate with you on that. Including it tells the reader that a) you didn’t read the guidelines, and b) you are concerned that the publisher is going to steal your rights from you. They’re not. It’s okay. They’re professionals.

That’s what not to include in your cover letter. Let’s talk about what you should include. You’ll be shocked. Seriously. This is the easiest, most worry-free thing you have ever done. It never needs to take up another cycle in your brain that would be better spent making art. Ready?

Dear Sue Doe, [Editor’s actual name. Many editors are INCREDIBLY PICKY about this. My boss is not, but many are. If there are many editors and sub-editors, use the name of the highest-ranking editor.]

Please find attached my short story “Epic Tale You Totally Want To Buy” (2500 words, Fantasy) for your consideration. [Title. Word count. Genre if market accepts more than one. If they only accept one genre, do not submit a different genre to them. Natch.]

My work has previously appeared in Realms of Fantasy and Fantasy & Science Fiction. [THIS IS OPTIONAL.] I am a graduate of the Odyssey Fantasy Writing workshop. [ALSO OPTIONAL.]

Thank you for your time and attention.

Regards,

Jane Smith
123 Main Street
Smalltown, PA 12345
jane.smith@somewhere.com
123.456.7890

THAT’S IT. That’s all. Do not inflate. Do not be clever. Do not include a bio unless the guidelines specifically ask for one.

So here’s the point: in the rest of the world, cover letters are meant to impress. In the SFF world, they just need to not bias the reader against you.

Look, we’re already up against how the reader’s day job went, how much sleep they got, whether their kids are driving them crazy, the state of their general health, their financial troubles, and whether or not their relationship is working. We’ve got a LOT working against us. As new writers and budding professionals we do not want to add to that.

I’m going to keep hammering these numbers home: 400-600 submissions PER MONTH. 2-5 available slots PER MONTH. They are not looking for reasons to love your words; they’re looking for reasons to cull them from an overwhelming pile. Do not give them a reason to doubt your ability before they’ve even seen your story. Let the work speak for itself.

So tell them what they need to know and tell them nothing that they don’t. Click Send, and update your submissions spreadsheet.

Now go take your rightful place over there in the bar with the rest of the writers. It’s where you belong. You earned it.

(And then get to work on your next story.)

Phil Slattery Cover Letter Example

This is the format I generally follow, but I will be modifying it, when appropriate, according to the Nightmare Magazine’s Guidelines.

Dear Editor(s), [I use this if I cannot find the editor’s name.]

Please accept my story for publication. It is entitled “Alien Embrace” and it is 4,954 words long. It has not been previously published and it is not being submitted elsewhere at this time. [The three most common questions editors have in my experience is word count, is the story being submitted elsewhere, and has it been previously published.  Therefore, I make these part of my cover letter’s boilerplate and state the answers up front in their own paragraph.]

Bio: Phil Slattery is a native of Kentucky. He has traveled extensively and currently resides in Aztec, New Mexico. His fiction has been published in Futures Mysterious Anthology Magazine, Ascent Aspirations, Medicinal Purposes Literary Review, Dream Fantasy International, Wilmington Blues, Möbius, Spoiled Ink, Midnight Times, Six Sentences, Sorcerous Signals, Every Day Fiction, Flash Fiction World, Through the Gaps, and Fiction on the Web. More on his writing can be found at www.philslattery.wordpress.com. His twitter handle is @philslattery201. [The Nightmare guidelines are great advice if you have been published at semi-pro or pro rates, but I have not been yet.  Therefore, I list where I have been published, unless the editor states not to.  I never know if or which any of my previous publication credits will impress an editor, so I list them all.  After I start being paid regularly at semi-pro or pro rates, then I will whittle these down.  I always write the bio in the third person, so that the editor can simply copy and paste it into place. ]

Sincerely,

Phil Slattery

I keep this standard format and a few variations in a Word file and update it whenever something else of mine is published.  If I have to modify it substantially for a particular editor, then I keep that format on file as well, in case someone else wants it that way.

Bottom line:  the best advice I can give for formatting a cover letter and what to include in it is to read carefully what that editor wants and follow it to a T.  If the editor is not specific, then the above guidelines are a good, solid, professional way of introducing yourself and stating what most editors want to know.  I have found that the easiest way to be published is to make it as easy as possible for the editor to publish me.

Thoughts?  Comments?

Publication Announcement: “Warehouses and All”

The blogger hiking in the Bisti Wilderness near Farmington, NM.
The blogger hiking in the Bisti Wilderness near Farmington, NM.

Around 8:30 tonight I sent off a bit of nanofiction entitled “Warehouses and All” to Beechwood Review, hoping to hear from them in 1-2 weeks.   I went to the grocery and when I returned about 9:15 I checked my e-mail to find that it had already been accepted.   The editor, Richard Heby, commented “Touching, sharp, very good Phil! I’ll accept it for issue 2.”

The story is based on a story told to me by the assistant agricultural attache to Sudan (though the story is set in Somalia), when I happened to meet her on a tour to the temple of Luxor, when I was stationed at the US embassy in Cairo in 1989.  “Warehouses and All” was first published in Six Sentences (www.sixsentences.blogspot.com) on September 22, 2009.

I do not know when issue 2 will come out, but issue 1 was for Summer, 2015.  I assume issue 2 will be out soon.

Many thanks to Mr. Heby for accepting my work.

Thoughts?   Comments?

 

“Behind the Curtain” at Jersey Devil Press

At "A Literary Affair" charity dinner in Farmington, NM, as Herbert West, September 12, 2015.
At “A Literary Affair” charity dinner in Farmington, NM, as Herbert West, September 12, 2015.

This I share with you tonight for entertainment and because it addresses one or two issues affecting writers in general.

I was searching for somewhere to publish a very short work (probably nanofiction) of mine tonight and I came across the submission guidelines at Jersey Devil Press.  I love guidelines that show a sense of humor and a free spirit while being straightforward and honest and theirs does just that.   They also offered more detailed guidelines, which I found a quite enjoyable read.  I also found that these guidelines do not provide just good advice for their own publication, they provide good advice that any author submitting to any publication would be wise to heed:  advice on formatting, staying away from overused topics, good taste, sensitive subjects, etc.  As they use at least one or two examples that touch on horror, I thought I would post the part on their selection process tonight for your perusal.   If you have a chance and the time, check out their guidelines on their website and the rest of the publication as well…and maybe submit something as well…and maybe give them a pat on the back for a job well done.

By the way, I ended up not submitting to them, because my story did not meet a requirement.  That’s why I read guidelines.

Thoughts?  Comments?

 

Behind the Curtain

We thought we’d take a moment to shore up our submissions guidelines and give you a little peek into our selection process.

First, our goal: To publish stories non-writers would actually want to read. We prefer funny, weird, and, above all, entertaining; sober melodramas generally don’t fly so well with us. There are certainly exceptions, but that’s largely because they’re exceptional.

Second, previously published works: We accept them, but we want to clarify that a bit. By “previously,” we literally mean “previously.” If it’s currently published, i.e. something that is available online elsewhere, or if it’s part of the book you just released, that seems a little greedy to us. If it’s only on your own personal website or a forum or something, though, don’t sweat it.

Accepting and rejecting story submissions is, by nature, subjective. Short of grading them entirely on quantifiable variables, like the number of adverbs or something, there’s not much we can do to change that. So, to level the playing field a bit, we thought we’d give you a little heads up regarding our own personal peeves and predilections.

Also, a pre-emptive apology to anyone who thinks we’re singling out their story: We’re not. Not a single theme mentioned below is a one-off. These are all popular, repeat offenders that we’re simply not that fond of.

Eirik’s list of things that should be stopped forever:

Vampires. I think Twilight is stupid. I’m sorry, but I haven’t been even moderately interested in vampires since “Angel” got cancelled.

Mob stories. If the entire story is just two guys talking in “goomba” speak, please don’t. I’ve met people with mob ties in real life and they’re generally assholes. And, honestly, you’re never going to out-Soprano the Sopranos.

College professors seducing/being seduced by young, nubile co-eds. What college did you go to where this was actually happening? In general, any regularly used plot line in a porno is a no-no.

Thinly veiled drug metaphors. You think drugs are bad. We get it. We don’t care. At the very least get a thicker veil.

Monica’s justifiable grounds for homicide:

Male writers writing female narrators. While it’s not impossible to do this, the vast majority of men writing women don’t seem to have ever talked to a woman before in their life. If your female narrator is shallow, stupid, and unable to do anything in her life that does not revolve around men, don’t send it.

And if you’re reading this thinking, “Well, of course she’d think this, she’s a woman,” then YOU’RE THE FUCKING PROBLEM. You can keep trying, though, if you really want to. Interesting side note, Monica once stared at a man with such disdain that he actually BURST INTO FLAMES. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

Stereotypical minority characters. This kind of goes hand in hand with the above. If you’re writing a black man, try actually talking to one. It’s 2010, people. We shouldn’t be getting offended anywhere near as often as we do by the way people are treating characters of various backgrounds.

Unanimously awful topics:

Erotica. Actually, this one doesn’t bother us, but we’re never going to publish it. If you want to keep sending it though, for our own personal amusement, knock yourself out.

Rape. No. Bad. We don’t really need there to be any more rape in the world than there already is. Monica would also like to clarify that any sort of sexual act perpetrated without both parties’ consent is rape. Again, we’re surprised how often people don’t seem to know what the fuck they’re writing.

Relationship drama. While this seems to be a staple of literature, it is also very often boring as all hell. If your story’s just two people moping around, maybe find somewhere else to send it. If they’re doing it while juggling cats, though, you’ve got our attention.

On the flip side, here are a few things we wouldn’t mind seeing more of:

Strong female voices. We know you’re out there.

A light-hearted view of the world. Fiction does not have to be so God damned grim.

Truly bat-shit insane fiction. If you’re worried that what you just wrote is too ridiculous to be published, send it.

Again, please don’t take any of the above personally. We’re simply giving you a glimpse into our own tastes. We’re not saying that the themes mentioned above are bad or shouldn’t be written about (well, we’re not saying it about most of them anyway), but simply that we’re really not that interested in them. Your story about a bunch of mobsters being raped by vampires may very well be the best story about mobsters getting raped by vampires ever written. It may deserve to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. And we may even say as much. But it doesn’t mean we have to like it.

Besides, there are plenty of other fish in the sea. Of course, you better make damn sure you read THEIR submission guidelines before you start sending shit. I don’t want to get blamed for a rash of vampire stories getting sent to a site looking for memoirs and poetry.

But if your heart’s still set on submitting to JDP, head on over to submishmash

Publication Announcement: CCQ has accepted “Sorcerer”

Farmington, New Mexico, March 20, 2015
Farmington, New Mexico, March 20, 2015

A few minutes ago I received an e-mail saying that my short story “Sorcerer” has been accepted by Creepy Campfire Quarterly.  It will appear in their third issue, which will appear on July 20, 2016.   Please check them out and buy a copy or two.  Also check them out on Facebook.  There are several users with a name containing “creepy campfire”, but theirs is Creepy Campfire Quarterly.  Their Facebook address is  https://www.facebook.com/Creepy-Campfire-Quarterly-CCQ-1580122065546001/timeline/.  Their website is http://www.emppublishing.com/creepy-campfire-quarterly.html.

This marks the first time I will be paid for my prose (not a lot, but enough to know my work is appreciated).

“Sorcerer” is a tale of horror and revenge about a modern day sorcerer who comes out of retirement to take a unique vengeance on the callous Don Juan who seduced and abandoned his daughter, who dies during childbirth.

Many thanks to Jennifer Word and her staff for publishing my work.

This is the sixteenth time “Sorcerer” was submitted for publication since I first sent it out on December 29, 2012.   Persistence pays off.  However, I feel lucky that this was only the 16th time.   I know a lot of stories have to be submitted many more times before they finally see success.   I think I have at least a few that surpass sixteen submissions (though I haven’t compiled the statistics yet).

Thoughts?  Comments?

Review of “The Vampyre” by John William Polidori

John William Polidori 1795-1821 (from Wikimedia)
John William Polidori
          1795-1821
    (from Wikimedia)

Today I finished reading “The Vampyre” by John William Polidori.  Polidori was a friend of Lord Byron and wrote this story during the famous writing contest between Byron, Polidori, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Mary Shelley, in which Mary Shelley wrote the initial draft of “Frankenstein” (see my post on Polidori and “The Vampyre” dated July 12, 2013).  Tonight I wrote up a quick review for Goodreads, which I have pasted here for your enjoyment.  I gave the story three stars out of five.

“The action was somewhat fast moving and the ending unexpected, but the plot is rather simple and the narration is hampered by a lack of dialog. There are probably less than five lines of dialog in the entire story of 9,223 words (I copied and pasted the story from the Project Gutenberg version minus the “Extract of a Letter from Geneva” and the “Extract of a Letter Containing an Account of Lord Byron’s Residence in the Island of Mitylene” into Word then used their word count feature). One interesting aspect of Lord Ruthven’s (the vampire) character is that he cannot survive on just anyone’s blood; he has to feed only on the blood of those he loves. That would make an interesting twist to any vampire tale. As the Goodreads summary notes, this is also the start of the motif of the vampire as aristocratic seducer. While this story is probably of mediocre quality at best for today’s literary audiences, it is interesting from the perspective of literary history as the origin of today’s vampire stories and all the cultural offshoots that have sprung from those (such as the Goth movement). Bottom line: it’s worth taking the time to read, especially if one has an interest in the historical basis for today’s horror literature and the vampire subculture.”

Thoughts?  Comments?

 

Physical Descriptions and the Atmosphere of the Mind

Relaxing by the front yard firepit on a chilly New Mexico evening circa 2013.
Relaxing by the front yard firepit on a chilly New Mexico evening circa 2013.

I was sitting here writing a short story when it occurred to me that most characters in classic fiction seldom have detailed descriptions of their physical characteristics.  In fact, many have none at all.   If they are described, it is usually in a broad, general way, unless there is some detail the author wants to bring out that reveals something about the character.   While this is a good technique for lean, muscular writing, it also has the benefit of not limiting how the character appears in the reader’s mind.   For example, here is the initial description of Victor Frankenstein when the narrator’s ship rescues him in the arctic in letter 4 (which functions in essence as part of a preface):

“Upon hearing this he appeared satisfied and consented to come on board. Good God! Margaret, if you had seen the man who thus capitulated for his safety, your surprise would have been boundless. His limbs were nearly frozen, and his body dreadfully emaciated by fatigue and suffering. I never saw a man in so wretched a condition. We attempted to carry him into the cabin, but as soon as he had quitted the fresh air he fainted. We accordingly brought him back to the deck and restored him to animation by rubbing him with brandy and forcing him to swallow a small quantity. As soon as he showed signs of life we wrapped him up in blankets and placed him near the chimney of the kitchen stove. By slow degrees he recovered and ate a little soup, which restored him wonderfully.

“Two days passed in this manner before he was able to speak, and I often feared that his sufferings had deprived him of understanding. When he had in some measure recovered, I removed him to my own cabin and attended on him as much as my duty would permit. I never saw a more interesting creature: his eyes have generally an expression of wildness, and even madness, but there are moments when, if anyone performs an act of kindness towards him or does him any the most trifling service, his whole countenance is lighted up, as it were, with a beam of benevolence and sweetness that I never saw equalled. But he is generally melancholy and despairing, and sometimes he gnashes his teeth, as if impatient of the weight of woes that oppresses him.”

Very little is said about Frankenstein’s physical state except where it reveals something about his state of mind or gives an idea of the hardships he has suffered in pursuit of his creation.    Because the physical description is so minimal,  the reader may envision Frankenstein in any physical form that he wants or whatever is easiest for him to envision (there is a difference between what we may want to envision and what is easiest or most natural for us to envision).  Frankenstein could be short and dark-haired and dark-complected or tall and blonde and sunburned.  Later on, we learn his family is from Geneva, therefore the reader could envision him as whatever his stereotype of a Swiss man from Geneva happens to be.

Using minimal physical description is therefore an advantage to the author, because it allows the reader to more easily visualize and thus more easily experience the story vicariously, i.e., it allows the reader to more easily immerse himself in the story.  We have all experienced the feeling of being completely immersed in the world of a novel, what Henry James called “the atmosphere of the mind” (see the definition in the Lexicon of Horror) and that is a feeling I want my readers to experience.

Thoughts?  Comments?

The Guardian’s “Comment is Free” on Horror Movies

mod 130419_0008I was surfing the Internet just now, looking for websites where I can comment, and came across The Guardian’s “Comment is Free” section filtered down to their comments on horror movies (http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/commentisfree+film/horror).   They seem to produce an article on horror films about every 5-10 months, but the articles are interesting and are worth checking out for a different perspective than what one usually encounters (at least in the articles I read).   The two articles I read today from The Guardian are “Why Zombies are the Coldest Comfort” by Catherine Shoard and “Why the Human Centipede II bugs me” by Sarah Ditum.  Unfortunately, the replies for both were closed, so I will state my opinions here.

As a novice writer of horror and as someone who has read a considerable amount of what might be termed “classic horror tales” back to its beginnings as a genre, Shoard’s article puzzles me.  She seems to take the viewpoint that what makes a horror movie enjoyable is that we can feel safe while watching it.  She states near the beginning of her article:

Zombies are a threat it’s easy to rationalise. They are unlikely. For this reason, plus issues with speed and intelligence, they are not especially scary. They are essentially a pest control problem with metaphor potential. Even squirrels run quicker… So their presence as a backdrop in a soap such as The Walking Dead provides just the right boost in tension for viewers to convince themselves they’re a long way from Emmerdale (or whatever the Mexican equivalent might be). The Walking Dead is a show that – like Pret a Manger – innovates exactly the right amount within a set formula.

Later, she adds:

More even than with comedy, the director encourages the audience into a specific response; if they don’t elicit it, they have failed. So those who are best at scaring us also make us feel we’re in a safe pair of hands.

And then there’s her conclusion:

Life is frightening. Horror works because it gives us something quantifiable to battle: you know where you are with a zombie.

It seems that Ms. Shoard is saying that the reason we can enjoy zombie movies is because we can feel safe in watching them, because zombies obviously don’t exist and are therefore not a threat and because we are so far removed from them.   The second statement is perplexing as well when she states “that those who are best at scaring us also make us feel we’re in a safe pair of hands.”

Ms. Shoard doesn’t seem to understand that one of the basic principles of horror according to H.P. Lovecraft, a universally recognized master of horror of the last 200 years is “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.”   This is a consistent theme in the horror genre since the days Horace Walpole and the beginnings of the gothic novel.  What makes for great horror is a blending of suspense and fear.  A writer of horror, be it short story or novel or a movie, does not want his audience to feel safe.  He wants them to feel that if they put down the book and walk out of the building, they may be snatched up by Cthulhu or encounter their former neighbors rising from their graves with a ravenous hunger for the living.  It’s been a long time since I have read an article this inane.  I hope it is a long time before I read another.

I will agree with her on one point:  more than with comedy, the director does encourage the audience into a specific response and if they don’t elicit it, they have failed. However, Ms. Shoard doesn’t seem to know what that response is or how to go about achieving it.

I could go on deconstructing this article ad nauseum and reducing it ad absurdam, but I have better things to do with my morning than to antagonize Ms. Shoard.  I have nothing against her personally; I just find her opinion in this instance to be off-base and out of touch with the basics of the horror genre.

The second article I read was Sarah Ditum’s “Why the Human Centipede II bugs me”.  The teaser to this article sums up the paradox Ms. Ditums explores nicely:

The horror-porn sequel dampens my anti-censorship urges, but banning such films risks losing more intelligent offerings.

I could go into an extensive examination of this article line by line, but, as much as I would love to do that, as I said earlier I have other things I have to accomplish today.  However, I encourage everyone with an interest in or an opinion on the extremes of gore and bad taste in horror films today to read this article.  It is quite well-written and it does a good job of getting to the essence of the problem:  yes, there are films out there today that are so vile and repulsive that we would be better off to ban them for the good of society, but by limiting what is available to the public, we run the risk of losing more intelligent fare that has to deal with these issues.

Personally, I have never seen any of the human centipede films, because the concept is so obscene that I cannot bring myself to watch them and I cannot see any reward or point in forcing myself to do so.  As anyone who reads my blog with any regularity  knows, I am not a fan of gore for its own sake and I am not a fan of anything tasteless.  A lot of people would probably see a vague hypocrisy in this, but those people are ones who perceive horror only as sensationalist, teenage slasher films and do not have a profound knowledge of its history and of its breadth or of the underlying, eternal principles of great horror as in the quotation above from Lovecraft.   But that is my taste in what I feed to my mind via my eyes.   I will not apologize for it, because I have nothing for which to apologize.

Contemplating what I said in the previous paragraph brings me to another interesting perspective.  Perhaps examining the wide range of opinions and viewpoints on this controversial topic reveals something about human psychology.  I am not sure of what that would be, but I am sure it would make for an interesting thesis for someone’s Master’s degree.  A line and motif from one of my favorite TV shows of all time, “Millennium” (starring Lance Henriksen, ran from about 1998-2000) is “This is who we are.”  Somehow, thinking about the ongoing discussion on this controversial topic, I get a subjective feeling that, for better or worse, this is who we are.

The bottom line for this portion of today’s blog is that I find myself of the same viewpoint as Ms. Ditum and I encourage everyone to read her article, whatever your viewpoint on gore in modern cinema (whether of the horror genre or not).  It may just broaden your perspective.

Thoughts?  Comments?

Types of Horror

Grand Guignol poster  from grandguignol.com
Grand Guignol poster
from grandguignol.com

Just now, I finished pasting Stephen King’s famous quotation on the three types of terror into my page on “Thoughts on Horror from the Masters” and I remembered that yesterday I was trying to remember the quotation, but could only recall a vague impression of it.   Thinking on that impression now, I think that it was just as valid and true a one as the one by Mr. King, but simpler, more compact, and easier to remember.  The concept is (I’ll refine this a little for the sake of clarity):

The three most common types of horror are:  suspense (knowing someone runs the risk of decapitation at any moment), terror (seeing him/her being decapitated), and disgust (watching the head roll down the stairs).

I don’t think this idea should replace Mr. King’s by any means, but should probably be viewed as a simplification of his rather lengthy statement.

There are also probably a hundred more different flavors (i.e. variations of the sensation) of horror but these are the three that seem to me to be the most common, at least in movies and other popular media.

Thoughts?  Comments?

Now Seeking Publisher for Short Story Collection and a Poetry Collection

With Iced Tea, Farmington, New Mexico, March 20, 2015
With Iced Tea, Farmington, New Mexico, March 20, 2015

I am now seeking a publisher for a collection of my short stories that have been published to date and also one for poetry I published back in the 80’s and 90’s.  If anyone familiar with my works has a recommendation for one or both, I would love to hear it.   All my published prose is listed on my Published Works page as is most of my published poetry.  However, I do have a lot of unpublished poems I would like to include in the poetry collection for a total of about 80-90 poems.  Of course, I have several as yet unpublished short stories that I can include in the short story collection, if I need to beef up the word count for the collection.

Please contact me via this website, if you know of a potential publisher or if you are a publisher and might have an interest in publishing my works.

“Dream Warrior” to be re-printed by “Fiction on the Web”

Farmington, New Mexico, March 20, 2015
Farmington, New Mexico, March 20, 2015

Today I learned that my story “Dream Warrior” will be reprinted by “Fiction on the Web” on October 9, 2015.  Many thanks to editor Charlie Fish and his team for reprinting one of my favorite stories.

“Dream Warrior” is about a young Hispanic man who learns the ways of Aztec sorcery from his grandfather so that he can take vengeance on those responsible for his girlfriend’s death.  Mr. Fish calls it:  “A confidently written and powerful revenge tale – excellent storytelling“.

Please visit “Fiction on the Web” at http://www.fictionontheweb.co.uk on October 9 and check it out.