Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Horror List Book Review: Swan Song

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 Swan Song, by Robert McCammon.


Unless I missed it while scanning back, it's been since June that I reviewed one of the books from the horror list. Yikes! But I've read other books in the meantime.

First, I need to say this was another loooong one. Nearly 919 pages. It took me awhile to get into it (about 240 pages, if I'm remembering correctly, which is about the time I went, "Oh, now it's getting interesting.") I didn't care for all the setup, and it at first seemed like it was going to be too regimented and militaristic due to the focus of the story at that time. It did get more interesting, however, and the momentum built continuously from there.

Interesting side note: I was reading this when the North Korea tweet occurred, and people were talking about nuclear attack. Why is this interesting? Because the story is about Russia (it was written in the 80s) nuking the entirety of the U.S. from ships. They hit all the big cities. All infrastructure is wiped out, and the survivors (barely) are forced to help themselves, rescue themselves, deal with the effects of the blasts, find food, find water that isn't tainted, etc. It was a timely reading.

While it's a good book, McCammon does a lot of head hopping, even within paragraphs, and I found this wearing. For the most part, it was easy to follow who the new POV character was, but there were many times I had to go back and re-read to figure out why an action had come from someone I didn't expect it to. So how many head hops did I miss because nothing triggered me to think something was wrong? There were A LOT of POV characters. We saw into the heads of both villains and hapless heroes. 

The characters were interesting, though the bad guys were edging toward caricature. The good guys were mostly highly likable, though, and it was those people who kept me reading, because I needed to finish out their stories.

If you like post-apocalyptic, this is one hell of an apocalypse. We meet the characters just before everything goes down, ride through the nuclear attack with them, and then see their progress for, I think, seven years. It's quite similar to "The Stand" in that it's an examination of good vs. evil in dire circumstances, with characters journeying across the U.S. to the place of their final countdown. There is also an element of magic woven throughout, with several of the characters having the ability to see each other and even a bit of the future using magical items. Plus, the big bad guy is somewhat magical, as is the major good guy (Swan). 

If you can muck your way through the beginning, the rest of the book is worth the read. I happened across an online discussion about the book while I was struggling to move forward, and this was repeated over and over. It gets better.

My new rankings:

1. The Handmaid's Tale (Margaret Atwood)
2. The Bottoms (Joe R. Lansdale)
3. Coraline (Neil Gaiman)
4. A Choir of Ill Children (Tom Piccirilli)
6. The Year’s Best Fantasy: First Annual Collection (Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling)
7. Needful Things (Stephen King)
8. 1Q84 (Haruki Murakami)
9. Those Who Hunt the Night (Barbara Hambly)
11. 20th Century Ghosts (Joe Hill)
12. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)
13. Dark Forces (Kirby McCauly)
14. Swan Song (Robert McCammon)
15. Dawn (Xenogenesis, Book 1) (Octavia E. Butler)
16. Wet Work (Philip Nutman)
17. The Stranger (Albert Camus)
18. Dead in the Water (Nancy Holder)
19. The Witches (Roald Dahl)
20. Psycho (Robert Bloch)
21. The Damnation Game (Clive Barker)
22. The Wolf's Hour (Robert McCammon)
23. Berserk (Tim Lebbon)
24. Prime Evil (Douglas E. Winter)
25. Best New Horror, Volume 1 (edited by Stephen Jones and Ramsey Campbell)
26. Flowers in the Attic (V.C. Andrews)
27. The Tomb (F. Paul Wilson)
28. Shadowland (Peter Straub)
29. Blood Meridian (Cormac McCarthy)
30. The Imago Sequence (Laird Barron)
31. My Soul to Keep (Tananarive Due)
32. Penpal (Dathan Auerbach)
33. World War Z (Max Brooks)
34. From the Dust Returned (Ray Bradbury) 
35. The Red Tree (Caitlin R. Kiernan)
36. In Silent Graves (Gary A. Braunbeck)
37. The Cipher (Kathe Koja)
38. Drawing Blood (Poppy Z. Brite)
39. The Doll Who Ate His Mother (Ramsey Campbell) 
40. Hotel Transylvania (Chelsea Quinn Yarbro)
41. Naked Lunch (William S. Burroughs)

I'm not sure which book I'm reading next, but it may be by Robin Cook.

Have you read Swan Song? Did you like it? Was the beginning hard to get through, or did you not have the same problem?

May you find your Muse.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Dead & The Rich - More Georgetown Photos & Links

Last week I posted photos of homes and statues around Georgetown, a still thriving silver mining town in the mountains of Colorado. I'd intended to make it a two-parter, with photos of Guanella Pass, the lake, the mine, and the cemetery today, but it turns out there are too many cool cemetery photos to share, so it will have to be a three-parter.

Today's all about the graves.

When you pull up to the Georgetown Alvarado Cemetery, a small, tidy cottage stands beside the wrought-iron gate. Immediately next to the road are multiple graves behind a small fence. A marble gravestone sits beside an original wooden cross. Some graves are fenced in, some have accompanying benches for loved ones to relax.

If you've never seen a mountain cemetery, this one fulfills the image. Brush, wildflowers, and aspens grow from the graves. This is no suburban mowed crab grass resting place. It's wild and beautiful, surrounded by the Rocky mountains and pine trees. I was even warned Moose like the area, though I was disappointed to not see any. 

Some of the graves have been patched and repaired. Some gravestones rest on their sides. Moss of green and rust grows in the cracks. And there are even graves where the ground has cracked or sunken in. 

While this is an active cemetery, with gravestones exhibiting years in the 2010s, the photos I'm sharing with you are of graves with years in the 1800s and early 1900s. There are recognizable names, including the Guanella family, Louis Dupuy and his wife, and a Clear Creek County sheriff, who also happened to be a WWII vet. I haven't shared photos of their graves, though I did photograph them.























I only had an hour to wander through the cemetery, so there were areas I missed, including some of the older ones. I hope to visit again in the fall, when the aspens have turned golden. Maybe I'll even get to see an elusive moose.

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

Accepting Submissions:

Arsenika is seeking flash fiction and poetry. Up to 1000 words. Pays $60 for fiction, $30 for poetry. Deadline September 15.

Writers Resist is seeking poetry, fiction, nonfiction, essays, and other forms of writing that must express resistance. Up to 2500 words. Will pay $10 for the first 100 pieces accepted.

The Quill is seeking poetry, prose, and creative nonfiction in all genres. Up to 20,000 words, but under 10,000 is preferred. Pays up to $45, depending upon length.

Every Day Fiction is seeking flash fiction in all genres. Pays a token $3.

Islanded Quarterly is seeking poetry, prose, and photography about being islanded (see their website for a definition). All genres. 1500 to 5000 words. Pays between 15 and 45 pounds.

The Sunlight Press is seeking personal essays, fiction, and photography. Up to 2000 words. This is a paying market.

Blindspot is seeking fantasy and science fiction. Up to 10,000 words. Pays $.08/word.

Gathering Storm Magazine is seeking short fiction with any of the following themes: The only thing to fear is fear itself; never take candy from strangers; it's just a bunch of hocus pocus; and things that go bump in the night. Up to 2000 words. Pays $25 for short stories, $10 for poetry. 

Ever wandered through a cemetery? What stuck out to you or struck you about it? Any of these links of interest? Anything to share?

May you find your Muse.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Georgetown Ghost Town Writing Retreat, pt 1

This weekend I attended the Georgetown Ghost Town Writer's Retreat. Georgetown is a small town that grew up around silver mining in the Rockies. Unlike some of the old gold mining towns that have become run down or are known more for gambling than history, Georgetown is well cared for and bustling with tourism.

The retreat was pleasant, but I actually only attended two workshops and a movie night (Dead Awake), where the director was present to do a Q&A afterward. Aside from that, I spent the weekend editing in my room, wandering around playing tourist, and hanging out with fellow writers.


I thought it would be fun to post some of the over five-hundred photos I took while I was up there. Today, I'm focusing on the houses and buildings in town. Next week, I'll post photos from the cemetery, train ride, and mine tour.

Before I jump into the photos, I have a couple pieces of news. First, I'll be presenting a two-hour workshop on short stories this Saturday for Colorado Springs Fiction Writers Group. More information can be found under the "appearances" tab. I always love talking short stories, and especially hearing afterward from people who have begun trying their hand at it!

Second, I placed a flash fiction piece this week. Yay! It will be published in October. More information can be found under the "publications" tab.

Third, today's my anniversary! 21 years! Happy Anniversary to my hubby.



All right, photo time. There were a ton of neat houses and buildings from the 1800s, mixed in with some newer buildings. Those buildings on the historical register had plaques or small round signs with the years they were built, including homes people still lived in. It was easy to get lost in history wandering around. As a wild west buff, I even got my share of cool downtown buildings that looked like something straight out of the wild west.

This first house was falling apart. It was nestled between several well kept houses, but this one's yard was overgrown, the porch sagging, and some of the siding peeling off. It looked like someone had loved it once, but maybe they passed away with no one to leave it to, after years of not being able to maintain the property.




The flowers that had sprung up in the overgrown yard were purple, white, and yellow, mixed in with the brown leaves of downed branches, and the faded green of various weeds.

Below was one of the well maintained houses. I'm not sure what year was on the historical marker. There was metal work along the eaves that looked like it dissuade any smart bird from landing there. It looked like the tops of wrought iron gates.


There was an old Presbyterian church with gorgeous stone siding and antique fixtures. It was built in 1874 of native stone.




Below are some random photos from around downtown. 













It was a perfect mix of old and new, well preserved and crumbling. The townspeople (and those working there from surrounding mountain communities) were proud of the town, and eager to share stories of hauntings and history with the hundred or so authors who descended on the town. There were a lot of things I didn't get to do, like tour the electricity museum that included Tesla's involvement, or visit one of the historic houses to tour its hallways and hear about its ghosts. I plan to go back up with my family and visit everything I missed.

Next week, gravestones, silver mines, and locomotives!

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

Accepting Submissions:

Chicken Soup for the Soul is seeking personal stories with the theme "Miracles and More" and "Stories of Redemption." 1200 words or less. Nonfiction only. Pays $200. Deadline August 31.

Silver Empire is seeking stories in any genre with the theme "Stairs in the Woods." Must be about a random detached set of stairs. 3000 to 20,000 words. Pays in royalties. Deadline August 31.

Digital Fiction Publishing Corp is seeking horror reprint short stories that appeared in professional or semi-professional short story publications. 3500 to 7500 words. Pays $.01/word. Deadline August 31.

Spider is seeking submissions of children's stories with the theme "Spaceships and Superheroes." Fiction, activities, poetry, recipes, etc. Geared toward ages 6-9. 300 to 1000 words. Pays up to $.25/word. Deadline August 31.

Twelfth Planet Press is seeking short stories about "gender as it relates to the creation of artificial intelligence and robotics" for the anthology "Mother of Invention." 500 to 5000 words. Deadline August 31.

Goblin Fruit is seeking fantastical poetry. Pays $15. Deadline September 1.

Red Ferret Press is seeking BDSM short stories for the anthology "Knotted." Up to 10,000 words. Pays 1/2 cent per word. Deadline September 1.

Independent Legions Publishing is seeking short stories about death by water for the anthology "The Beauty of Death 2: Death by Water." 4000 to 5000 words. Pays $100. Deadline September 1.

Mofo Pubs is seeking apocalyptic erotica short stories for the anthology "Apocalypse." 1000 to 5000 words. Pays $.01/word. Deadline September 5.

Fantasia Divinity Magazine is seeking short stories about mythological creatures for the anthology "Menagerie de Mythique." 500 to 10,500. Pays 1/2 cent per word. Deadline September 5.

Ever visited a ghost town? How about one that was still thriving? Any neat towns you love to wander through and/or photograph? Any of these links of interest? Anything to share?

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

IWSG - Expectations, New Release, Stats, & Links

It's the first Wednesday of August, which means it's time for a gathering of the Insecure Writer's Support Group, created by Alex J. Cavanaugh.


IWSG was created to lend support to writers and allow them a place to share their insecurities among friends. Anyone is welcome to participate. Just go to Alex's website above, go to the IWSG tab, and sign up. Then post on the first Wednesday of the month and visit fellow posters.

Our co-hosts for August are  Christine Rains, Dolarah @ Book Lover, Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor, Yvonne Ventresca, and LG Keltner! Be sure to stop by and visit as thanks for co-hosting.

The optional question for August: What are your pet peeves when reading/writing/editing?

The first thing that popped into my head was using the word "till" instead of "until" or "'til." I have far more pet peeves, I'm sure, but I can't think of them right now. However, anyone who's been a critique partner knows this annoys me. (That, and not using proper manuscript format.)

One of my insecurities this month involves a problem I never thought about. Expectations. And not mine. I've started hearing from people who enjoy my stories, and it actually freaks me out, because now I over-analyze everything due to fear of letting people down who've liked other stories.

Obviously, this is a good problem to have, but it's hard not to let it paralyze me sometimes when going to push "send."

Now for July's stats:

I submitted 16 pieces.
0 acceptances.
12 rejections.
Currently have 14 pieces on submission.
I have three stories pending submission.
My goal is to have 20 pieces out at any given time, so I'm getting there.
1 publication.


My short story "Faceless" is in this month's Dark Moon Digest! Available from Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing and Amazon in e-book and paperback.

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:

Litmag is seeking short fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Up to 15,000 words. Pay varies, depending upon type and publication medium, but is between $250 and $1000. Deadline August 15.

Radix Media is seeking fiction, personal essays, and poetry for Aftermath: Explorations of Loss and Grief. 500 to 3000 words. Pays $.06/word. Deadline August 15.

Tyche Books and Rhonda Parrish are seeking fantasy short stories for Fire: Demons, Dragons, and Djinns. Up to 7500 words. Pays $50 CAD. Deadline August 15.

Splickety Publishing Group is seeking flash fiction for Spark with a theme of Picture Perfect. 300 to 1000 words. Pays $.02/word. Deadline August 25.

Fantasia Divinity is seeking fantasy and dark fantasy for Autumn's Harvest. 500 to 10,500 words. Pays half cent per word. Deadline August 25.

Dark Moon Digest is seeking horror short fiction. 1500 to 7000 words. Pays $.01/word.

The Centropic Oracle is seeking science fiction and fantasy. Up to 6500 words. They take flash fiction and short stories. Pays $.01/word CAD.

Misanthrope is seeking fiction and essays. 1000 to 5000 words. They give a nominal payment, but don't state specifics.

What are your insecurities? How are your stats for the month? Any submissions? Acceptances? Any of these publications of interest? Anything to share?

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

In a Rut? Change it Up

Recently, I got myself into a bit of a rut. I wasn't finishing the short stories I was starting. I didn't feel like editing. Was it perhaps a summer rut? Too many other things to do? Or just plain boredom.



I can't answer those questions, but I can say that I broke the rut by changing things up. I get the Authors Publish Magazine e-newsletter, which comes with a weekly issue including a listing of themed publications closing soon. One theme caught my eye, so I committed myself to a Saturday of writing until I'd finished the short story to their specifications.

Over the course of several hours, I wrote a 6000 word short story to the theme. I set it aside for a couple days before editing (the deadline was coming up, so I didn't have much time to leave it.) Then I submitted it!

I've now done this for five weeks, and I got my writing mojo back. Whatever the reason for the blah attitude, I worked my way through it.

This exact solution may not work for you, but others might. Take a photography break, draw, do a logic puzzle, read a book instead of writing one for awhile, dance, listen to music, lie out in the sun. Figure out what kind of break you need. Or find out how to change up what you're doing to bring some creativity back into it.



For me, it was probably the fact that it's summer, and I tend to want to be outdoors whenever possible. By doing the short story in a few hours, I freed up the rest of my Saturday, and made it so I wouldn't feel guilty if I did other things during the week. If you can figure out your actual issue, it will be easier to find a solution. But if you can't, no worries. Just find something that challenges you or helps you relax away from whatever else is going on. I'm always a fan of a challenge.

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

Accepting Submissions:

Ladybug is looking for children's fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and activities with the theme Our World. Ages 3-6. Up to 800 words. Pays up to $.25/word. Deadline for this theme is July 31.

Spider is looking for children's fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and activities with the theme Fantastic Fantasy Beasts. Ages 6-9. Up to 1000 words. Pays up to $.25/word. Deadline for this theme is July 31.

Black Beacon Books is looking for short horror and mystery for their anthology Shelter From the Storm. 3500 to 7000 words. Pays .01 pounds per word. Deadline July 31.

NonBinary Review is looking for poetry, fiction, and essays with the theme The Tales of Hans Christian Anderson. Up to 1000 words. Pays $.01/word. Deadline July 31.

Upper Rubber Boot Books is looking for short dark speculative stories for their anthology Sharp & Sugar Tooth: Women Up to No Good. Must be an element of horror. Must be about women and something culinary. Authors must be female, non-binary, or other marginalized sex or gender identity. Up to 5000 words. Pays $.06/word. Deadline July 31.

Empyreome is looking for short speculative fiction. Prefer fantasy and science fiction. Up to 10,000 words. Pays $.0025/word. Deadline July 31.

What do you do to get out of a rut? Or writer's block? Does the same thing work each time, or do you have to try something different? Any of these links of interest? Anything to share?

May you find your Muse.

Bored Avatar, by OCAL, clker.com
Dancer, by OCAL, clker.com

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

IWSG - Consider Yourself & Links

It's the first Wednesday of July, which means I need to get my behind in gear and do some fun stuff with my kids before summer's over.

Oh yeah, it also means it's time for the Insecure Writer's Support Group, created by Alex J. Cavanaugh.


All are welcome to join. We support each other in our insecurities. Just post the first Wednesday of the month and sign up on the list. Then be sure to bop around and visit other insecure writers.

Our co-hosts this month are Tamara Narayan, Pat Hatt, Patricia Lynne, Juneta Key, and Doreen McGettigan!

I've been in a slump for awhile that I'm finally coming out of. I was too busy, too tired, too depressed. I finally cut my losses and gave up a responsibility that had nothing to do with family or income, and it not only fixed the personal slump, but my writing one. It even improved some health issues. So what I want to talk about today is scrutinizing what you allow to weigh you down. It's hard to tell people no, and if you can't be everything to everyone, it can feel like you're letting people down. But at some point you have to look at what's best for you. For me, being stressed and overwhelmed, and constantly putting other people and responsibilities first, wasn't working anymore. Of course, I'm a mom, wife, sister, and daughter, and that means I have plenty of responsibilities that don't revolve around what's best for me. But the unimportant things, even though they meant something to me, too, needed to go for my health and well being. It's also better for my family, as they get more of my time and attention, too.

I see a lot of people who say they don't have the time or energy to write. Cutting out unnecessary responsibilities, ones that we keep because we feel like we owe it to someone, can help with that. A lot of the time, there's time, but no energy. Everyone has a finite amount of energy, and when it's all expended elsewhere, especially on something that doesn't make you happy, there's not enough left over for the things that do mean something or make you happy.

My recommendation is to step back and look at your time sucks. Day job, family, etc. are important (though there are probably a lot of people who could step back from some family responsibilities that aren't vital or important, as well), but there are often things outside of those categories that can be scaled back, if not cut entirely. Do yourself a favor and look into it if you're struggling.

#


My stats for the month of June:

7 submissions
2 acceptances (WOOHOO!) (1 due out this month, 1 in October)
6 rejections (1 especially nice one, with great feedback)
11 pieces currently on submission

#

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

Accepting Submissions:

Left Hand Publishers is seeking speculative fiction, mystery/thriller, western, and some literary fiction for their anthology Beautiful Lies, Painful Truths. 4000 to 8000 words. Pays $25 per story, plus contributor copy. Deadline July 28.

Blyant Publishing is seeking short stories for an anthology. The theme is Beginnings. 1000 to 2500 words. Paying market. Deadline July 30.

Carina Press is seeking royal themed romance novellas for an anthology. 25,000 to 40,000 words. Pays in royalties. Deadline July 30.

Franklin/Kerr Press is seeking science fiction for the anthology Into the Unknown. Must involve new worlds and civilizations. 2000 to 8000 words. Pays $5 per 1000 words, plus royalties, plus a contributor copy. Deadline July 30 or until filled.

VQR is seeking poetry, short fiction, and nonfiction. 2000 to 8000 words for fiction. Pays $200 to $1000. Reading period ends July 31.

Martian Migraine Press is seeking weird fiction for Chthonic: Weird Tales of Inner Earth. 1500 to 7000 words. Pays $.03CAD/word. Deadline July 31.

Room Magazine is seeking poetry, fiction, and art for a family secrets theme. Pays $50 to $150. Deadline July 31.

The Pulp Horror Book of Phobias is seeking horror stories involving a specific list of possible phobias. 4000 to 6000 words. Pays $50 plus an e-contributor copy. Deadline July 31.

Sirens Call Publications is seeking horror for Mental Ward: Stories From the Asylum. 4000 to 8000 words. Pays $25 plus a contributor copy. Deadline July 31.

What are your insecurities this month? When was the last time you stepped back and evaluated your responsibilities? How about the last time you put yourself first? Any submission news for the month? Any of these publications of interest? Anything to share?

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Late Night Walkspirations

If you've been around this blog for awhile, you know I like to take late night walks. Really, I like to take walks and hikes whenever possible, but there's something special about the night. I don't have to risk having to stop and be social, or walk the long way around a group of people. No one's dog tries to jump on me. There's no dodging of bicycles. And sensory-wise, it smells and feels wonderful. Especially in the summer when it's so hot during the day that a walk isn't realistic.



On these walks, interesting things sometimes happen. They can be the impetus for a story, because the little things one sees can be translated in multiple ways. For example, the other night there was a car parked, running, outside a house at nearly midnight. There was a window A/C running in that house, so I didn't realize the car was on until I was right on top of it. The passenger window was open, and a teenage girl was sitting in the driver's seat, giant doe eyes staring at me as I walked by. I started wondering what she was doing there. Waiting for a friend who was sneaking out? Waiting for a friend to gather her things and leave an abusive situation? Perhaps she was supposed to be watching the house while the owners were on a trip, and was freaked out at the late hour. Maybe it was completely above board, and her car-mate just had to run inside really quickly. Or perhaps her mom was in labor, and she'd been told to start the car and pull it around while her parents gathered necessary items.

It could have been a billion different things, but letting the mind wander on something like this is a great exercise in writing. Even better if you go home afterward and write a story after choosing one of your theories.

The next night, I went for a walk earlier. Probably closer to 10. On this walk, I came upon a darkened house, the garage door wide open, two cars parked inside. This happens more than you might think. I always make an attempt to knock on the door to get someone's attention to let them know. The problem with this house was that it was in a cul-de-sac on a mostly moonless night, and none of the houses in the cul-de-sac had any exterior lighting on. It was pitch black, trees swaying in the wind, so I couldn't hear anything beyond the rustling. They did have two exterior lights that were on, but they were flickering and only barely giving off a dirty glow. I'm always a little jumpy approaching a front door like this at night, because the possibility exists that someone armed may come to the door or that something nefarious has already occurred inside, and that's why the door's open. This particular house had an inset door, so I had to walk around, past a tree and a giant shrubbery, into the alcove that held the door.



Ultimately, no one came to the door, no interior lights turned on, so I continued on my walk. As I stepped off the porch, lights flickering to either side of me, a rabbit burst out of the shrub at my side and startled me. Heart pounding, I kept going. I had just rounded the corner out of the cul-de-sac when I heard voices. I paused to figure out where they were coming from, and there were two men exiting a house together. They headed to a locksmith's van parked on the street. One was telling the other, "Yeah, she called and said she needed the lock popped out tonight. No idea why."

Both of these last two items could inspire a story. One might be an obvious tale of horror (the flickering lights, exposed dark house, home invasions, robberies, all manner of awful things), while the other could go in any possible direction really. Who needs a locksmith to pop a lock out at 10 PM? One could easily run with it, writing mystery, suspense, literary, women's fiction, horror, you name it. It's all fodder.

Speaking of mystery and suspense, if you're ever writing something about a burglar, robber, or other criminal who might break into homes, go for a night walk. I'd recommend after 11 PM, when most people are sleeping (disclaimer: only do so if it's safe in your area, and be sure you take whatever necessary measures to be safe and/or take a friend.)



You see, I realized the other night that I'd inadvertently cased the neighborhood. By now, I know who leaves a main level window open, who leaves the garage door open a smidge for a cat (often more than a smidge--if a toddler can walk under the door without ducking, anyone can get into your garage). I know who has a window A/C unit that's so loud they wouldn't hear someone breaking a window or picking a lock. It's obvious who has kids, and sometimes even where their bedrooms are, because of a pink nightlight or stickers on the window (which made me evaluate what my kids' windows look like to someone standing on the street). I know where the darkest areas are, because several neighbors in a specific spot don't put on exterior lights. And all of this data is in my head, not because I intended to put it there, but because I mark places where, for instance, someone might hear a call for help. I pay attention to who's awake and who has a bedroom window open for the same reason. Obviously, I pay attention to where it's darkest, so I can avoid it or at least be aware of it.

There's even a house I will cross the street to avoid, because they have a huge delivery-type truck with no business information on it parked on the street, and in their driveway is a big van with the old logos painted over and no windows. Of course it's all probably harmless, and they've started their own business, but it's been years, and there's no logo on the big truck still. So when I'm letting my mind wander, there are many reasons a person might have big vehicles with no windows or identifying marks.



I also know where several police officers live, so I'd know to avoid those houses if I were a criminal. And probably the ones within their view and hearing. (Of course, not being a criminal, those are the houses I'd make a point of going to if there were a problem.)

In this particular neighborhood, the wildlife is the biggest concern on night walks, as we have several larger predators that hang around, including mountain lions. I always used to hear coyotes at night, yipping and yelping away while they cornered a deer or other prey animal. (I haven't heard any this year, so far, and I'm afraid it's because of mange, which was going around.) Would one take similar precautions if it wasn't regular wildlife they were trying to avoid? What about monsters? Zombies, vampires, cryptozoological beasties?

No matter when you take a walk, there's always a chance you'll happen across random inspiration for stories based on the things you see. I tend to get story breakthroughs while on walks, and frequently I get home with at least one idea for a new story. There's something about moving your feet and freeing your mind that gets it brewing. So if you're stuck or looking for inspiration, try a walk or a hike and see if it works for you. But be sure to take note of even the mundane, as it might factor into new ideas or background details for stories you're already writing.

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

Accepting Submissions:

Outlook Spring is seeking poetry, fiction, and non-fiction tinged with the strange. Up to 7500 words. Pays $10 to $25. Deadline July 15.

Helios Quarterly is seeking fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and art for their September issue. Current theme First Contact & Conversions. Up to 1500 words (unless a serial story). Pays up to $.03/word. Deadline July 15.

Third Flatiron is seeking slipstream short fiction for the anthology Strange Beasties. 1500 to 3000 words. Pays $.06/word. Deadline July 15.

Franklin/Kerr is seeking post-apocalyptic and dystopian horror. 2000 to 8000 words. Pays $5 per 1000 words, plus royalties. Deadline July 21.

Splickety Havok is seeking holiday mashups for their October edition: Holiday Cauldron. 300 to 1000 words. Pays $.02/word. Deadline July 28.

Aliterate is seeking literary genre fiction. 2500 to 8000 words. Pays $.06/word. Deadline July 28.

Do you like to go for walks? Do you find them inspiring? Seen anything strange on a walk lately? Any of these links of interest? Anything to share?

May you find your Muse.

*Pedestrian, by AA, clker.com
*Haunted House, by Chrizz4, clker.com
*Burglar, by OCAL, clker.com
*Small truck USPS postal service, by OCAL, clker.com