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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Ah, my favorite holiday, when all things spooky reign!

I love handing out candy and seeing all the different costumes. Though in recent years, it seems creativity has slipped a little and most tykes come to the door in a plastic, store-bought Buzz Lightyear costume. I remember the year I glued cotton-balls to my face, then had my mother apply some sort of brown goo. When the goo was combed into the cotton balls, it made them "shag" and presto! I was a hairy werewolf (boy did it hurt taking those cotton balls off, but it was a small price to pay for such a great costume).

I love shutting off the lights and watching the non-stop horror movies. I'm looking forward to the premiere of AMC's "The Walking Dead." I'm a big fan of zombies.

And every now and then, the weather is nice enough on Halloween that I can go out in the backyard and have a nice, old-fashioned, Halloween bonfire (really just a couple of logs in a copper backyard fire-pit, but hey, I live in the city-- you've got to make do with what you've got).

And did you know: the government has a Halloween page?
USA.gov Halloween Page
So why isn't it a national holiday?

Whatever your holiday traditions (or anti-traditions), I hope you have a safe and happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Alecsander's Empire

This is an excerpt from a story that originally appeared in Loving the Undead: An Anthology of Romance. . . sort of, published by From the Asylum Books and Press. It was published back when I was using the pen name "Doug Graves." The book is out-of-print, but I'm hoping to get my hands on a copy to give away on Facebook. Stay tuned for details.

"I should have married Richard!"

Yes, you should have, he thought. He sipped his coffee, refusing to let her draw him into an argument.

"Just look at this place." She swung one meaty arm wide. "Everything's falling apart! The front burner on the stove is out, the garbage disposal's broken, the front window is cracked, the table is wobbly . . ." She reached out and gave the table a shake, sloshing coffee from his cup. "Richard could fix anything." She glared at him. "What can you do?"

He watched the coffee puddle make a run for the opposite side of the table. You forgot one: the trailer is starting to list starboard. He looked up at her and shrugged. "I'm doing the best I can with what I've got."

She scowled and snatched a roll of paper towels from the counter.

He watched her as she eased her bulk, groaning and popping, down to mop up the mess. Her hair was grey and thin, her scalp showed through in places. She didn't even bother to take it out of curlers anymore. She had taken to wearing only shapeless housedresses, which was a good thing, considering she didn't have a shape anymore. Now he understood why they called them "muumuus." And she sported more facial hair than the werewolves he hung around with in the wild nights of his youth.

The wild nights of his youth . . . he sighed and watched her struggle her considerable bulk out from beneath the table. Is this behemoth really the same beauty I met on that wild night, so long ago? The memory of that night could still raise his hunger: her long, red hair spilled in ringlets across the pillow, her skin milky-white as fine porcelain, her figure lithe and trim, swelling in all the right places beneath the sheet. He had already overindulged that evening--blood and cheap whiskey--and so he had seduced the great beauty he had stumbled upon. Four months later, she had hunted him down at his favorite jazz club and informed him she was with child. It wasn't until she was pregnant with their second child and packing on pounds like a sumo wrestler that he had an epiphany: was it even possible for a vampire to sire children?

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: Horror Movies

I popped over to Teen Word Factory to check out the post on Horror movies (how could I resist)!

When I was younger, my favorite scary movie was The Blob. The idea of a creature that could pretty much get to you no matter what (under the door crack, up through the drainpipe) was heart-stopping. To this day, I don't like to look at the gap under a door.

Now my favorite horror movies are the Alien series (I know--technically sci-fi) and John Carpenter's remake of The Thing (when that blood screamed, I screamed right along with it).

I haven't been too pleased with some of the more current horror movies. For example, I waited YEARS for Stephen King's The Mist become a movie, and was fairly pleased with the result . . . until the ending. The new ending ruined the whole thing for me.

But I do like:
Pitch Black (sci-fi, I know; but if it involves non-technological scary monsters, it's horror to me);
28 days/weeks later;
Resident Evil;
and I also enjoyed Sweeney Todd, Sleepy Hollow, and Zombieland, though I count them more as black comedy than horror.

What are your favorites, and which ones do you wish you'd never seen?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Don't date him; he reads Koontz

I found an interesting post here: http://www.therejectionist.com/2010/10/bookclub-love.html

I find the idea of a dating site based on literary selections interesting, but I just don't know how well it's actually going to work.

We all know that there's already a lot of "fiction" on dating sites; can there really be that many blond-haired, blue-eyed single women with perfect figures or that many tall, dark, and handsome single doctors? And why the heck does that photo of the single hunk have "goodlookingstockphotos.com" watermarked in the lower corner. Now single people have to worry that their potential date is padding their reading list? Does Biff really spend his evenings wrapped in a Snuggie, reading and re-reading Dante's Inferno?

And how much can you really tell about someone from their reading list. How could you "make a match" through it? My favs list includes everything from Stephen King to (I swear) Canterbury Tales; Janet Evanovich to (I swear) Shakespeare; Gone with the Wind to (I swear; wait, this one makes sense) Edgar Allan Poe. So what would be my match? A romantic punk rocker with a sense of humor?

What do you think of a literary dating site? What about your reading list-- what do you think a "potential mate" could tell from your list?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I think I found the problem, Jim

Whether you "believe in" global warming or not, there's no arguing that the planet has seen better days. And this is a good indicator of the problem:

New Snub-Nosed Monkey Discovered, Eaten

Yep. That's right: new species discovered moments before it became the blue-plate special.

Bob: "What is that thing?"
Ray: "I don't know. I ain't never seen one before."
Bob: "Whaddya reckon it tastes like?"

I saw the same sort of reaction in a news story a while back. I've lost the link, but it was about a "giant bug" creature that was found attached to a submersible that was hauled back up out of the ocean. The thing looked like a giant pill-bug (or "roly-poly" bug, as we used to call them). The comments that followed the picture started out as, "whew! that thing is ugly," and "That's frightening;" but not long after, the comments shifted to, "I wonder what that would taste like with a little butter and garlic."

So that's our problem: the world is just too doggone tasty!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Cameras Steal Your Soul

This "author photo" thing has my head spinning. I have never liked any photo of myself (I often used the excuse "but everyone knows cameras steal your soul" to get out of taking photos), so I knew it was going to be hard. But it turned out to be more difficult than I had anticipated.

When taking a photo for your business card, you want to look the part: if you're a CPA, you want your business photo to look like you are a CPA; if you're a real estate broker, you want your business card photo to like you are a real estate broker. If you're a writer, you want your business photo to look like . . . what?  . . . Hemingway?

How on earth does one project the message "I am a writer" through a photo? With the other business cards, the message you want to send is pretty straightforward: I'm professional, reliable, diligent with your finances, you can trust me to find you a house, etc. But what message is a writer trying to send: "Hello. I'm really good at making up stuff"?

Maybe there is a way to "look author-ly;" perhaps stare into the distance pensively, as if mulling the meaning of life. Maybe break out a smoking jacket with leather patches on the elbows. How about a nice handcrafted pipe as a prop?

Even worse, my author picture had to project the image of a HORROR author. Now how does one manage that? I hung up my black lipstick years ago. I don't have anything pierced (even my ears are boring: each is only pierced once). Should I have perched a crow upon my shoulder? Held a bloody knife (I can see that going over REAL well on the Internet).

I finally gave up and just decided to look like me. What does a horror author look like? Like me, that's what.

I did decide that the black and white photos look a little more "author-ly" than the color ones. The color ones tend to look like they were taken in the backyard--which they were--while the black and white ones look more like they belong on a book jacket.

So what's your opinion on author photos? Have you seen an author photo that made you scratch your head and say, "THAT guy wrote this?" Or how about those of you who are authors--how did you do your author photo?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Another test post

Just another test post to make sure I've set up my feeds correctly. I'd hate it if I cross-mojonated a link and ended up blowing up the Interweb.

The Worst Writing Advice EVER!

There's a great interview here:
http://margaretfieland.com/blog1/2010/10/20/interview-with-author-and-editor-linda-barnett-johnson/

The point that really jumped out at me was Ms. Barnett-Johnson's dislike of the old writing advice, "write what you know." I completely agree. "Write what you know" is the single most damaging (and most oft-repeated) bit of advice writers get. Nothing can crush creativity quite like that statement!

If you took the "advice" too literally, there would be NO speculative fiction (fantasy, horror, sci-fi), because all spec fiction is imagining the unknown. The whole genre of spec fiction would cease to exist!

My current work in progress (spec fiction, by the way) is set in western North Dakota. I have visited the area, so I am slightly familiar with it. But I wouldn't say I "know" the area; that's what Google is for. Thanks to some research, I was able to discover that the characters in my book are going to have to drive almost 100 miles to find a McDonald's, Burger King, or Starbucks (which is an important plot point). If I wrote only what I know, then all my characters would be in Eastern North Dakota where you're never more than 20 miles from a McDonald's. But thanks to Google, anything I don't know, I can find out.

And ignoring that old chestnut of writing advice seems to be working for me. Almost every short story that I've had published has a MALE lead character. So I don't even write in my known gender, lol.

So what do you think? If you're a writer, what's the worst piece of writing advice you've gotten?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Is Your Neighbor Scarier than Godzilla?

In a previous post, I mentioned that I am going to write an old-fashioned monster novel for NaNoWriMo. One of the dangers of writing such a novel is that there may not be a demand for it when it's finished. I mentioned in the previous post that most of the recent horror movies keep the monster at such a plot distance that the monster isn't really scary (and actually becomes a secondary element to the plot) or else the monster isn't a "monster" per se, but instead is a psychopath or a ghost/poltergeist. And maybe that's what horror aficionados want these days. The big trend in horror during my childhood was animals mutated by nuclear radiation (Them!, Godzilla, etc.). That trend reflected society's fear of nuclear war. Maybe today's horror movies are about psychos because our biggest fear is each other, lol. Maybe creatures just aren't that scary anymore, considering the mayhem we humans inflict on each other every day.

I hope not. I'm still a big fan of monsters! My hope is that fans of horror movies have become a separate group from fans of horror books, and they just want different things.

What do you think? What is your reading preference: "psycho" horror, "zombie/vampire" horror, or "scary creature" horror?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Cryptozoology

I spent an hour or so browsing cryptozoology websites last night, part of the research for my work-in-progress. Whether you consider cryptozoology a science or an art (art as in the study of mythology and lore), it's fascinating. On one hand, how can bigfoot exist when no hard evidence has been found? On the other hand, if bigfoot doesn't exist, then why are the legends so cross-cultural (almost every continent has a version of bigfoot).

And what about National Geographic Animal News? http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2010/10/photogalleries/101006-papua-new-guinea-species-tube-nosed-bat-science-animal-pictures/   New animal species are discovered with surprising regularity. Perhaps crypto creatures are out there and we just have found them yet.

There is a bigfoot legend in Kentucky, where my family is from (one of the "monster-hunter" type shows recently did an eposide on it). I personally know people in Kentucky who claim to have seen it. One witness claims the "thing" was watching from a rock on the side of a hill while her sisters played in the valley, not far from the field where she herself was working. The thing had long, shaggy, cinnamon-colored hair, and was laying on its stomach on the rock, watching the small children play. When it looked over and noticed the older sister watching it from the field, the thing stood up on two legs and walked back into the woods. 

Another witness I know said that his coon dogs we're making a wild noise in the woods one night, like they had treed a raccoon--but the noises were extra loud and extra vicious (not just the usual baying). Worried that they might have cornered a bear, he grabbed his gun and went to check on them. He found them not too far from the house, dancing around a thing he said looked like a giant orangatang. The dogs would jump at the thing and the thing would just swat them out of the air. As he drew closer, gun raised, the thing grabbed one of the dogs, stuffed it in it's jaws, and ran deeper into the woods (on two legs), the dog screaming the whole way.

I'm not sure what to think about these accounts. These are people I know well and know are credible people.

So what do you think? Could bigfoot be real?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Muse doesn't come with office hours

I had a little bit of a tough night last night. I laid down, tossed and turned for a few minutes . . . and an idea relevant to my latest work came into my head. So I hopped out of bed, grabbed my notebook, jotted a few notes. Then I climbed back in bed. Two minutes later, I had another idea for my work-in-progress. I hopped out of bed, grabbed my notebook, and jotted some more notes. Back into bed. Five minutes later, I had an idea for a new short story . . . you get the picture. I was in and out of bed twenty times over the next three hours.

I'm not going to complain (too much) because those little tidbits of inspiration are a gift. I'm not one of those writers who believes that you have to sit around, waiting for the muse to show up. I believe that you have to work for inspiration and even if you aren't feeling creative, you need to sit down in that chair and write. However, I'm certainly not going to look a gift horse in the mouth and turn down the muse when she does arrive . . . even if it means losing a little sleep.

My husband, however, can complain. Can you imagine having to sleep next to someone who's in and out of bed that much (booklight flicked on . . . booklight flicked off . . . booklight flicked on)? Oh, the sufferings of a writer's spouse!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Internet Book Recommendations--Helpful or Or Not?

I had an interesting conversation with a friend recently on the subject of recommending books. I read a lot of fiction and a lot of non-fiction books on the craft of writing. I originally designed my website with a "Recommendations" page, and I've started a bookshelf at Goodreads.

But is there really any point?

How many times have you bought a book with great reviews on Amazon.com and yet you ended up disappointed? It's hard enough to recommend books to people you know, much less strangers on the Internet. I can't even count the number of I've recommended a book to a friend and they've ended up asking me afterward, "You liked this?" (as if I'd made them read something typed out by a bunch of monkeys on crack).   

The problem is, even if you know the person, taste is difficult to pin down. For example, my two favorite novels are The Stand by Stephen King and Gone with the Wind. Could the two books be any more different? The Stand falls under my "taste" (I generally enjoy horror novels), but Gone with the Wind doesn't (however you categorize it: I don't read romance, I don't read historical fiction, I don't read chick lit). And even if you stick with my tried-and-true taste, horror, there are stories and even writers that I don't like in the horror field. So I could pick up the latest five-star horror novel and still end up feeling like I've wasted my money.

In spite of it all, Internet recommendations still have value. They can help narrow down the field a bit. Rather than having an infinite number of books on our "to be read" lists, we can keep it down to a few dozen based on the recommendations (or a few hundred books, in my case; I'm an overachiever). And the most important function is that the recommendations might force us out of our usual genre/tastes and cause us to find something that we love and might have missed had we not taken the chance on it. Case in point: the Stephanie Plum series from Janet Evanovich. I would never have read the first one, One for the Money, if it hadn't been for a friend insisting that I'd love it. Turns out, the friend was right, and I'm now the proud owner of the whole series (sixteen books!--no monkeys on crack).

So recommend away; just don't be surprised if you end up with a recommended "clunker" every now and then.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Step One: Check!

Okay, I've decided what I'm going to do for NaNoWriMo this year: an old-fashioned monster novel. What do I mean by old-fashioned? I started thinking about "scary monsters" and the movies I've seen them in. My list of scariest monsters includes the xenomorphs from the Alien series and old classics like The Blob. And then I realized, I haven't seen a scary monster in a while. Most of the movies of late have been about vampires and zombies. And when there is a monster (District 9 or Independence Day) it's either held at such a distance that it's not scary (it's really secondary to the plot, as in Independence Day) or made so that we sympathize with it. So that's what I mean by old-fashioned: it's going to have a monster that is the center of the plot, the sort of book that makes you wonder, "what was that movement I saw out of the corner of my eye?" (which is what I was TRYING to say in explaining why Independence Day and District 9 don't count--they didn't have that "spook" factor).

Step 2, of course, is coming up with a monster. Not as easy as it sounds. Step 3 will be coming up with the people that you're going to root for and will (we hope) defeat the monster (or not). And steps 4 thru 912. Much work remains to be done!

Monday, October 18, 2010

NaNoWriMo

Now that the Muse Conference is over, it's time to start thinking about NaNoWriMo--short for "National Novel Writing Month." The point is to begin on November 1st and then (taken from the NaNoWriMo website): "to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30."  Most novels, of course, are longer than 50,000 words. But by the time you reach the 50,000 word mark, you've got at least half of the novel done.

The one year that I was able to participate, I did "win" (reached the 50K mark); but I haven't done much with that novel since. It proved to me, though, that it can be done. I planned to try NaNoWriMo again in subsequent years, but something else always seemed to get in the way (okay, I'll admit, I know what gets in the way: deer hunting season, which takes up a big chunk of the month of November; I guess I have my priorities).

This year, I plan on trying NaNoWriMo again. Before the month begins, you can plan and outline your novel; you just can't begin writing until November 1st. There's certainly no danger of that for me--I don't have the first clue what I'm going to write. So these next couple of weeks, I'm going to be brainstorming an idea for what to write during NaNoWriMo.

If you're interested in my progress, you can find me on NaNoWriMo under the id "nightwriter." If you're interested in giving NaNoWriMo a try yourself, you can check it out at http://www.nanowrimo.org/

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Website is finally "Live"

After much hair-pulling and grinding of teeth, the website is finally live. You can see it here:

http://www.brendakezar.com/

I'm still not sure if I'm completely pleased. At the Muse Online Writer's Conference, the advice on web pages was fairly equally divided.

One school of thought felt the site should be as simple and clean as possible. It is (in all reality) an on-line resume and thus should look presentable, professional, and polished. Keeping it simple also means it will display correctly for people using older browsers, and will keep the pages from taking forever to display for those who have slow internet connections.

The other school of thought felt the site should have pop and pizzaz. It should be visually interesting to catch the reader's interest and draw them in; lots of graphics, lots of animations, lot of goodies and fun stuff.

I went with the simple school, partly because I agree with the logic and partly because it's easier for me to "code" and get the site up where people can see it. Plus, there's the example set by the "biggies":  if you look at the sites of most of the big authors (I used Stephen King as my reference site), their sites are pretty simple in design. They have some scripts and banners and such, but the layout is usually simple and uncluttered, and the color is usually limited to "just a dash" (King's color scheme is black text on a white background). If simple is good enough for the biggies, then it's good enough for me. 

Of course, I can add some jazzy scripts and fancy banners and stuff later. The important thing is that it's out there, waiting for readers to drop by.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

2011 Muse Online Writers Conference

I almost forgot: sign-up is open for the 2011 Muse Online Writers Conference. If you are a writer, this conference will have something you'll find beneficial. There are pitch sessions with publishing houses, lots of classes full of useful information, and lots of networking. You can sign up here:

http://themuseonlinewritersconference.com/forum/

Just scroll down to the bottom block where it says, "I am attending the 2011 Conference (VOTE in the Poll) and follow the instructions in the thread. It's easy as pie to sign up, and the conference is phenomenol. My big focus this year was taking classes on marketing and building your author brand. I also took classes on descriptive writing, creating memorable characters, and writing sizzling love scenes. I'll still be sifting through the info I've collected during the conference WELL into 2011!"

Friday, October 15, 2010

I hate building websites

I spent a week building a new author website, inspired by the Muse Online Writers Conference to finally develop a web presence for my writing. I perused hundreds of design templates, modified them to fit my needs so I could see which would work best, chose one, and worked on the content.

Today I uploaded the website to my host. The first glitch was that the nameservers wouldn't change, so my new website wasn't visible. Magically, that problem is resolved.

I almost wish it weren't.

The new website is a mess. It looks great on my two older computers, but it is all messed up on the newest computer (so obviously, something in the design doesn't work in new browsers).

So it's back to the drawing board. I can either: a) tweak the old design and see if I can make it work (and I really, REALLY like the design;); or scrap that design and try one of my "second-best" choices.

It's all a matter of how much more time I want to spend on this. An author does need a web presence, and the website is VERY important. But more important is writing-- creating an inventory of works. So when does one draw the line and say, "enough is enough-- I need to quit fooling around with this website coding and just get back to writing!"

Ironically, the problem that I THOUGHT I would have with the new website was with the form-mail command. On the contact page, there is a little form that allows visitors to send me an email. That form is controlled by another file on the host's server. So if the commands don't match up, then the form won't work. If there was going to be a problem, that's where I thought it would be. Nope. Form-mail works perfectly. The rest of the website, however, is a mess.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Birth of the New Blog

Thanks to the Muse Online Writers Conference, I'm finally getting around to developing a REAL author website and social media sites. I don't know how I'm ever going to be able to keep up with all these new-fangled things (FaceSpace? MyBook? Twittle? Oh my!) but I'm giving the old college try. If I'm lucky, you really can teach an old dog new tricks.