Friday, January 12, 2018

Horror List Book Review: John Dies at the End

I'm reading through three lists of best horror with two friends (DeAnna Knippling and M.B. Partlow), posting reviews as we go. (For more information, including a list of the books, see this post.)

This week I'm reviewing John Dies at the End, by David Wong.

This is going to be another brief review, because I actually read the book months ago, forgetting it was on my list, and gave it away at a Halloween book exchange, so I can't even reference it. Whoops!

"John Dies at the End" is an oddball journey with Lovecraftian themes. There are some real creepy moments, but also a lot of humor. This was originally published online, if I'm remembering right, and the spelling and grammar shows it, but the voice of the author is enjoyable enough to ignore that (for the most part). David Wong is not only the author (a pen name), but the main character, and he's relating to you in first person what occurred when he and his friend John got dosed with soy sauce, a drug that does insane things to their brains. Suddenly, they're seeing things in a whole new way, things that others can't.

It's juvenile and raunchy at times, but still funny. It's crazy and random. I figure it's worth a read for the fact that it's different than other books out there, though you won't come away feeling like you've read great literature.

As I've changed my ratings to only keep a Top Ten, nothing has changed this week. My Top Ten are still:

My Top Ten:

1. The Handmaid's Tale (Margaret Atwood)
2. The Girl Next Door (Jack Ketchum)
3. The Bottoms (Joe R. Lansdale)
4. Coraline (Neil Gaiman)
5. A Choir of Ill Children (Tom Piccirilli)
6. Needful Things (Stephen King)
7. 1Q84 (Haruki Murakami)
8. Those Who Hunt the Night (Barbara Hambly)
9. 20th Century Ghosts (Joe Hill)
10. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)

Not sure what I'm reading next, but I've got a stack, so yay!

Have you read this or seen the movie? What did you think? Will you be reading the sequels?

May you find your Muse.

Monday, January 8, 2018

2018 Goal Setting & 2017 Review

I haven't had to date any checks yet, but the title of this blog post briefly threw me, so I'm expecting some incorrect dates coming up.

Now that it's a new year, it's time to review my goals for last year and see how I did. Much like last year, I set the goals then never looked back at them, so let's see how it went.

In 2017, I submitted 95 short stories.
I sold 6 short stories.
4 short stories were released.
I still have 12 stories pending that were submitted in 2017.
I withdrew 5 stories from consideration.
I had...are you ready for it? 80 rejections. Yeesh. Still not up to 100 rejections yet.

My goals for 2017, set back in January, were:

  • Final revision on Novel #2
  • Query Novel #2 in April at PPWC
  • Finish Novel #3
  • Write at least one new short story per month
  • Finish current pending revisions
  • Continue to book speaking/signing opportunities (so far, I have 1 definite and 2 possibles)
  • Evaluate Novel #1 to see if I want to continue pursuing it or trunk it for now
  • Continue submitting short stories - aim for 100 rejections and 12 acceptances this year
  • Write for at least two themed issues or anthologies that are outside my normal comfort level
Not too bad! I not only finished Novel #2, but am currently querying it. I queried it at PPWC and got an ask, but I've never heard it back since submitting it, so that's a no. I wrote at least one short story per month, with one a week for a short time, and finished the revisions I had pending by the end of January.

As far as appearances, I ended up appearing at 7 events, all of them so much fun! I've booked one so far for 2018, with some additional possibilities. Though I did not reach 100 rejections and 12 acceptances, I made the effort. And I wrote several stories outside my comfort zone, both of which were accepted! One has already been published, and the other is coming out in the coming year.

That leaves the things I didn't accomplish: finishing Novel #3 and evaluating #1 to see if I want to trunk it or move forward with it. Those will continue as goals this year.

For 2018, I'm setting the following goals:

  • Write a short story or flash piece each week (this is majorly pushing it for me, but I'm going to try.)
  • Read at least one book each week.
  • Finish Novel #3.
  • Start Novel #4.
  • Continue submitting short stories (aim for 100 rejections and 12 acceptances.)
  • Write short stories in at least three genres.
  • Write more nonfiction.
  • Query craft book.
  • Self-publish short story collection.
  • Evaluated Novel #1 to see if I want to pursue or trunk (though it's obviously trunked for now.)
  • Take more pictures.
  • Send workshop proposals to one conference new to me.
Of course, these goals are all well and good, but they are also fluid. I'll see what continues to be realistic, and I'll allow life to change things as needed. And, hey, I finished the short story for week #1, so yay!

Now for links. Bear in mind I'm not endorsing any of these, merely passing them along. Always do your own due diligence before submitting.

Accepting Submissions:

The First Line is seeking flash and short stories that start with the line, "Leo massaged the back of his neck, thankful the meeting was finally over." Open to all genres, including nonfiction and poetry. 300 to 5000 words. Pays $5 to $50, depending upon story type. Deadline February 1.

ChiZine is seeking alternate history short stories for Other Covenants: Alternate Histories of the Jewish People. Open to all submitters. 500 to 15,000 words. Pays $.08/word CAD. Deadline February 4.

Subprimal is seeking poetry and flash fiction. Word counts vary. Pays $20. Deadline February 15.

Electric Athenaeum is seeking sci-fi and fantasy short stories, articles, poetry, and interviews with the theme "For Future Generations." 3000 to 10,000 words. Pays 50 GBP/story. Deadline February 15.

Circlet Press is seeking erotic stories inspired by Edgar Allan Poe. 2000 to 8000 words. Pays $25 for the e-print, and a possible $25 later for print. Deadline February 15.

Any of these links of interest? Did you set goals for 2017? How did you do? How about 2018? Most importantly, are you working your dream?

May you find your Muse.

*New Year Flags by OCAL,
*Dart Board image by OCAL,

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

IWSG - 2018 & Flaming Crimes Blog Hop

It's the first Insecure Writer's Support Group of 2018!

Created by Alex J. Cavanaugh, the IWSG's purpose is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

To join, simply sign up by clicking on Alex's name above and adding your name to the linky list. Then post the first Wednesday of each month and visit your fellow bloggers to lend your support.

This month's co-hosts are Tyrean Martinson, Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor, Megan Morgan,Jennifer Lane, and Rachna Chhabria!

This month's optional question: "What steps have you taken or plan to take to put a schedule in place for your writing and publishing?"

I used to be able to keep a writing schedule, but it's simply not realistic for me anymore. The closest I have to a schedule is that I try to block out either a full Saturday or Sunday for writing time. I fell off that schedule over the holidays, but am hoping to get back to it once the kids are back in school. Other than that, I write at night when I can.

Next week I'll be doing my annual wrap-up and goal setting.

Before I get to the links and my December submission stats, it's time for the Flaming Crimes Blogfest!

What is something ridiculous you would save if there was a fire?

I did actually have to pack up to flee a wildfire (Waldo Canyon), and I was trying to remember if there was anything weird I packed. I can't remember anything weird, but I did take four tiny urns I have with the ashes of family members. Actually, I forgot them at first, but a friend who came to help us evacuate grabbed them for me. I figure some people would think having them in the first place was weird, let alone evacuating with them.

Series: Disaster Crimes #4
Page Count: 304 
Digital Price: 4.99 
Print Price: 16.99
Rating: Spicy (PG13) 


BLURB: Beth and Donovan are now happily married, and what Beth wants more than anything is a baby. Her dream of starting a family is put on hold as fires burn dangerously close and Donovan becomes a victim of sabotage.

Donovan escapes what could've been a deadly wreck. Their past enemies have been eliminated, so who is cutting brake lines and leaving bloody messages? He vows to find out, for the sake of the woman he loves and the life they're trying to build.

Amidst a criminal mind game, a fire ignites next to their home. They battle the flames and fight to keep their house safe from the blaze pressing in on all sides, but neither of them expects to confront a psychotic adversary in the middle of the inferno.

Their lives may just go up in flames…

About the Author: Chrys Fey is the author of the Disaster Crimes Series, a unique concept blending romance, crimes, and disasters. She’s partnered with the Insecure Writer’s Support Group and runs their Goodreads book club. She’s also an editor for Dancing Lemur Press.

Author Links:


Stat time! Each month I post my submission stats to keep myself accountable. In December I had:

6 submissions
5 rejections
1 withdrawn from a market I think has gone under
0 acceptances (until the 1st of January, but that's for next month!)
Sent 0 novel queries (I won't be again until February because of the rush of NaNo submissions.)
0 novel query rejections
I have a total of 12 submissions out for short stories
I have a total of 5 novel queries out to agents


Now for some links. Bear in mind I'm not endorsing these, merely passing them along. Always do your own due diligence when submitting.

Accepting Submissions:

Carrion Blue 555 is seeking work inspired by "The Garden of Earthly Delights." Accepting fiction, poetry, plays, and other formats you might want to try. Up to 7000 words. Pays a half cent per word. Deadline January 31.

Nashville Review is seeking fiction, poetry, and nonfiction. Up to 8000 words. Pays $25 or $100, depending upon submission type. Deadline January 31.

NonBinary Review is seeking poetry, fiction, essays, and art that relate to "The Little Prince." Up to 5000 words. Pays $.01/word. Deadline January 31.

Hyperion & Theia is seeking fiction, poetry, and art with the theme Rebus. Word limit varies per type of submission. Up to 7499 words for short stories. Pays royalties. Deadline January 31.

Nightscript is seeking strange tales for Volume IV. 2000 to 7000 words. Pays $20. Deadline January 31.

The Writers Circle is seeking short stories and poetry for their anthology. 500 to 10,000 words. Pays in royalties. Deadline January 31.

Alchemy Press is seeking horror short stories that pervert reality for their Book of Horrors. 3000 to 6000 words. Pays .5p/word. Deadline January 31.

Do you have a writing schedule? What's your writing insecurity? How does Chrys's new book sound? What about that cover? Any of these links of interest? Anything to share? Are you submitting?

May you find your Muse.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Horror List Book Review: Night Visions

I'm reading through three lists of best horror with two friends (DeAnna Knippling and M.B. Partlow), posting reviews as we go. (For more information, including a list of the books, see this post.)

This week, I'm making a change. Ranking the books has gotten increasingly harder, and I'm not even sure I'd still rank them the same anymore. Over the course of my reading from this list, I've learned a lot about the different styles of horror. As a lifelong lover of horror, I thought I had it down, but I hadn't been exposed to some of these styles before. Horror covers a lot of ground, and there's quite a bit of horror that isn't acknowledged for what it is, instead being categorized in a secondary genre (for example, a sci-fi horror story being classified as sci-fi, not horror). 

At the beginning of this process, I was opinionated on certain books not being horror, because they didn't follow the "rules" I had for the genre. If I re-read and reviewed them all over again, there would be some changes. To me, that says this whole project has been beneficial to me as a reader, but also as a horror author. It's been a learning process.

Instead, I'll be keeping track of the top ten. For simplicity's sake, the top ten will be novels and collections only, not anthologies. I'll still review the anthologies, but they will not place in the top ten.

Moving on, this week I'm reviewing Night Visions: In the Blood, edited by Alan Ryan. 

This is an unusual anthology, in that there are only three authors, each with several stories. There was a series of Night Visions anthologies done this way, but this was the first one. I'd love to see this formula continued today. It gave a larger taste of authors who were often found in the major anthologies of the day, but just one story at a time. The setup of Night Visions allowed readers to immerse themselves in each author's style, and to discover them in a way a single story didn't allow.

I'm not going to go into individual stories (mostly because I handed the book over to a friend before reviewing, which was a mistake, because I need to be able to thumb through the book and refresh my memory when it's short stories), but I can say my favorite author in the bunch was Charles L. Grant, followed by Steve Rasnic Tem, then Tanith Lee. They're each skilled, but the gothic style of horror Lee writes isn't my favorite, though it's gorgeous. Her stories were beautifully written, but they were slower paced and didn't end up interesting me as much as the others. Grant and Tem both wrote stories that were more straight forward. I think Tem and Grant wrote similarly enough for it to make sense that they were together in this anthology, but that Lee would have been able to shine more if combined with other gothic horror authors. Her style seemed more literary in its focus on the words and the style versus the more straight forward story. I think I would have liked her stories more if they'd been matched up with different authors, rather than at the end of this collection, with me firmly settled in to the previous styles.

Still, I loved the concept of this book, and I intend to check out any others I can acquire. There were some amazing authors collected in this series of anthologies. 

My Top Ten:

1. The Handmaid's Tale (Margaret Atwood)
2. The Girl Next Door (Jack Ketchum)
3. The Bottoms (Joe R. Lansdale)
4. Coraline (Neil Gaiman)
5. A Choir of Ill Children (Tom Piccirilli)
6. Needful Things (Stephen King)
7. 1Q84 (Haruki Murakami)
8. Those Who Hunt the Night (Barbara Hambly)
9. 20th Century Ghosts (Joe Hill)
10. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)

Next review will be of John Dies at the End.

Now for some links. Bear in mind that I'm not endorsing these, merely passing them along. Always do your own due diligence before submitting.

Accepting Submissions:

WolfSinger Publications is seeking short horror stories for the anthology Haunted Hotel. 1000 to 7000 words. Pays $5 plus royalties. Deadline January 15.

Chicken Soup for the Soul is looking for personal stories in the themes Christmas and Holiday Collection, The Empowered Woman, and The Miracle of Love. Up to 1200 words. Pays $200. Deadlines are between January 10 and January 15.

Outlook Springs is seeking fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Pays $10 for poems, $25 for prose. Deadline January 15.

Myriad Paradigm is seeking short speculative fiction for the anthology Mind Candy 2.0. Prefer science fiction and aren't looking for anything too dark. Up to 5000 words. Pays $.06/word. Deadline January 15.

Of Interest: 

If you're looking for recommended word counts per genre, this Writer's Digest article by Chuck Sambuchino: Word Count for Novels and Children's Books: The Definitive Post.

And for those looking for horror to read, here's 25 Horror Readers on the Most Gut Twisting Book You Could Buy

Have you read any of the Night Visions series? Or anything similar? Have you read any of the three authors in this anthology? Any of these links of interest? Anything to share?

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

IWSG - What Would You Change?

It's the last first Wednesday of 2017, which means this is the last Insecure Writer's Support Group of 2017! Are you guys ready for a new year? I'm not.

The IWSG was created by Alex J. Cavanaugh. Every month, writers post about their deepest writing insecurities and visit others' blogs to offer their support. Anyone can sign up by going to Alex's website and adding their blog to the linky list.

This month, I'm one of the co-hosts! Please be sure to visit my awesome and talented fellow co-hosts: Fundy Blue, Heather M. Gardner, and Julie Flanders.

This month's optional question is: As you look back on 2017, with all its successes/failures, if you could backtrack, what would you do differently?

I think I would have started working on self-publishing a collection of my short stories earlier, and I would have started work on the short story craft book I'm working on earlier, as well. Then again, I wasn't ready before, and it will happen all in good time. I'm tapering off on the insane amounts of research I've been doing in order to make everything go okay, and getting to the nitty gritty of compiling and formatting everything. Soon!

Every month, I do a recap of my submissions for the previous month for accountability. In November, I:

Submitted 9 short stories
Got 7 rejections
Got 0 acceptances
Sent 5 novel queries
Got 2 agent rejections

I currently have 17 short story submissions out. I suspect two of those publications have gone under, but they haven't made an announcement, and their sites are still up, but they haven't sent any rejections/acceptances in months, so I've submitted the stories I had out to them to other publications that take simultaneous submissions, and I've queried those two publications, but they haven't responded. Next step is to send an official withdrawal of my stories, but I may wait until after the new year (or until those stories are accepted, if that's sooner.)

Next up, links. Bear in mind I'm not endorsing these, merely passing them along. Always do your own due diligence when submitting to markets.

Accepting Submissions:

Carte Blanche is seeking all forms of narrative, including poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and photo essays. Up to 3500 words. Pays a modest honorarium. Deadline December 31.

Martinus Publishing is seeking short stories for Forbidden: Tales of Repression, Restriction, and Rebellion. 1500 to 10,000 words. Pays royalties. Deadline December 31.

Workers Write! is seeking short stories set in a cafe or dealing with the food industry. 500 to 5000 words. Pays $5 to $50. Deadline December 31.

Allegory is seeking speculative short fiction. Prefer 500 to 5000 words, but don't have a hard and fast limit. Pays $15. Deadline December 31.

Lethe Press is seeking speculative short fiction for an anthology. 4000 to 14,000 words. Pays $.05/word. Deadline December 31.

Dreaming Robot Press is seeking fantasy short stories that will appeal to middle grade readers (8-12). 3000 to 6000 words. Pays $.06/word. Deadline December 31.

Zombies Need Brains is seeking fantasy and science fiction short stories for three anthologies: The Razor's Edge, Guilds & Glaives, and Second Round: A Return to the Urbar. Up to 750 words. Pays $.01/word + royalties. Deadline December 31.

Hydra is seeking sword and sorcery short stories for the anthology Unsheathed. 7500 to 10,000 words. Pays $30. Deadline December 31.

Stephen Jones is seeking your best horror stories published in 2017 for Best New Horror Volume 29. No idea if it pays, but having your story appear in this would be huge. Deadline December 31.

Smoking Pen Press is seeking romance short stories for the anthology A Wink and a Smile. 1000 to 7000 words. Pays $25. Deadline January 1.

What are your insecurities? Would you change anything about this past year? Have you been submitting? Any of these links of interest? Anything to share?

May you find your Muse.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

ShaNo Wrap-up

It's the last day of November. A day when frantic writers everywhere are pounding away at keyboards, scribbling away at notepads, chattering away at voice programs, all in the hopes of finishing those last few thousand words to declare themselves NaNoWriMo winners.

So it's time for me to revisit my ShaNoShoStoWriEdSubMo goals for the month. I don't do NaNo proper, but I set myself the following goals for the month:

1. Create a business plan and timeline for the next year.
2. Finish Nuts! (horror comedy) (about 20,000 words) (Wrote about 3000 words)
3. Edit three short stories currently pending edits.
4. Write two new short stories. (STARTED 4 new, but did not finish them)
5. Submit newly edited stories.
6. Outline craft book.
7. Get all rejected stories resubmitted.
8. Send five more queries for Wendigo Nights. (current novel on submission)

All in all, I'm feeling pretty good. I would have liked to have gotten more new words written, but what I got done helped a lot with things I was stressing about, and frees my time up for writing this month. I was having trouble writing due to being consumed by figuring out my business plan, etc. I also got a lot of research done, which wasn't on the list, but should have been.


Link time! Bear in mind that I'm not endorsing these, merely passing them along. Always do your own due diligence before submitting.

Accepting Submissions:

Pedestal Magazine is seeking poetry for their next issue. Submit up to 5 poems. Pays $40 per accepted poem. Deadline December 3.

Mslexia is seeking poetry and prose with the theme Bewitched. Up to 2200 words. Does not specify pay. Deadline December 4.

Mason Jar Press is seeking short urban fantasy stories for Broken Metropolis Anthology: Queer Tales of a City That Never Was. Queer perspectives. Up to 6000 words. Pays $.02/word. Deadline December 7.

Fantasia Divinity Magazine is seeking short stories for Out of Your Shadow Anthology: Empowered Sidekicks. 500 to 10,500 words. Pays one-half cent per word. Deadline December 10.

Eye to the Telescope is seeking poetry for Arthuriana. They want anything Arthurian and speculative. Submit 1-5 poems. Pays $.03/word up to $25. Deadline December 15.

Love & Bubbles is a Kickstarter project anthology. They're looking for romance under the sea (not ON it). Up to 5000 words. Depending upon the success of the Kickstarter, authors will be paid between $50 and $300. Deadline December 20.

So how did you do with your NaNo goals? Whether you "won" or not, how do you feel about what you accomplished this month? Any of these links of interest? Anything to share?

May you find your Muse.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Horror List Book Review: The Girl Next Door

I'm reading through three lists of best horror with two friends (DeAnna Knippling and M.B. Partlow), posting reviews as we go. (For more information, including a list of the books, see this post.) To see the books I've reviewed so far, you can view the list at the end of this post where I rank them.

This week I'm reviewing The Girl Next Door, by Jack Ketchum.

Before picking this one up, I heard repeatedly of people not being able to finish it, because it was so intense and disturbing. For me, that took the shape of not being able to put it down, because I needed to know how it ended for this girl, and there's no way I could walk away from it without knowing. I read it in a 24-hour time frame. The last book I read like that was The Exorcist, years ago, pre-kids, when I had the time to do that.

Inspired by a true story, The Girl Next Door is about a 16-year-old girl held captive and tortured by the woman charged with caring for her. Eventually, that woman's sons and various neighborhood children join in the torture and humiliation. The narrator is a boy living next door who witnesses much of the torture. He battles with transitioning between being fascinated and repulsed, confused about his feelings, defending his best friend (one of the sons), and alternates between putting the girl on a pedestal and loathing her for her helplessness.

The most disturbing part about this story is the utter helplessness and lack of hope. The book is set in the 50s, a time when the police weren't going to step in when a teenage girl said she was being punished a little too forcefully, when mothers believed a girl must be a slut and deserve punishment, when propriety dictated not digging into what your neighbors were doing, when kids were out all day without their parents necessarily knowing where they were or what they were doing.

This was well written, the pacing intense, the characters drawn well enough to engage the reader without questioning their behavior. The narrator is especially well realized. The depravity depicted is grotesque, horrific, and terrifying, because it starts out as a basic indignation that becomes pure, mindless hatred, the evil of jealousy and bitterness sucking down everyone within reach. Events escalate from semi-rational to all out insane and criminal, leaving the reader desperate for a satisfying resolution.

This story will certainly stick with me for a long while.

If you're curious about the real life story, which this loosely follows, look up Sylvia Likens, the name of the girl who was tortured. I wouldn't look it up until after you read the book if you're inclined to do so, though.

My new rankings:

1. The Handmaid's Tale (Margaret Atwood)
2. The Girl Next Door (Jack Ketchum)
3. The Bottoms (Joe R. Lansdale)
4. Coraline (Neil Gaiman)
5. A Choir of Ill Children (Tom Piccirilli)
7. The Year’s Best Fantasy: First Annual Collection (Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling)
8. Needful Things (Stephen King)
9. 1Q84 (Haruki Murakami)
10. Those Who Hunt the Night (Barbara Hambly)
12. 20th Century Ghosts (Joe Hill)
13. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)
14. Dark Forces (Kirby McCauly)
15. Swan Song (Robert McCammon)
16. Audrey's Door (Sarah Langan)
17. Dawn (Xenogenesis, Book 1) (Octavia E. Butler)
18. Wet Work (Philip Nutman)
19. The Stranger (Albert Camus)
20. Dead in the Water (Nancy Holder)
21. The Witches (Roald Dahl)
22. Psycho (Robert Bloch)
23. The Damnation Game (Clive Barker)
24. The Wolf's Hour (Robert McCammon)
25. Berserk (Tim Lebbon)
26. Prime Evil (Douglas E. Winter)
27. Best New Horror, Volume 1 (edited by Stephen Jones and Ramsey Campbell)
28. Flowers in the Attic (V.C. Andrews)
29. The Tomb (F. Paul Wilson)
30. Shadowland (Peter Straub)
31. Blood Meridian (Cormac McCarthy)
32. The Imago Sequence (Laird Barron)
33. My Soul to Keep (Tananarive Due)
34. Penpal (Dathan Auerbach)
36. World War Z (Max Brooks)
36. From the Dust Returned (Ray Bradbury) 
37. The Red Tree (Caitlin R. Kiernan)
38. In Silent Graves (Gary A. Braunbeck)
39. The Cipher (Kathe Koja)
40. Drawing Blood (Poppy Z. Brite)
41. The Doll Who Ate His Mother (Ramsey Campbell) 
42. Hotel Transylvania (Chelsea Quinn Yarbro)
43. Naked Lunch (William S. Burroughs)

I've also finished both John Dies at the End and Night Visions, so will be reviewing them over the next month or so.

Have you read this book or seen the movie it was based on? Have you read anything by Jack Ketchum? What did you think? Do you find the human monsters scarier or less scary than the ones with fangs and claws?

May you find your Muse.