Monday, November 28, 2011

Real Life Fear

One of my favorite movie lines is from Diary of a Mad Black Woman. When the main character (who's just spent the night on Madea's couch after being thrown out of her mansion by her husband of eighteen years) runs into an old friend in Madea's kitchen. The friend, now a drug addict, is twitchy, pale, and gaunt. After she leaves, the main character, stunned, asks Madea, "What happened to her?"

Madea pauses and says, "Life."

Life happened to our family this month when hubby (who's only forty-two) had a heart attack.

We were stunned. He has almost no family history of heart attack, he's not super-overweight (just pleasantly chubby), and his job, though not strenuous, involves a lot of walking (so it's not like he rides a desk all day).

We were on day three of deer hunting when it happened. We hadn't seen any deer so we were planning on going wide the very next day. These last few years, deer hunting has been tough. We put on a lot of miles and end up in some very remote places. Luckily, that day we were sticking fairly close to home.

We happened to be scouting a slough only ten miles from home when two deer came up out of the valley. The promptly jumped back down into the valley when they spied our truck. Hubby decided they had probably laid up just over the ridge, so he decided to go take a look. My fun meter was already pegged out, so I decided to stay in the truck.

He went over the hill, spooked up the deer, and got a shot off at one--but missed. He climbed back up out of the valley and returned to the truck. "Take me home," he said. "My chest hurts."

I took him home and he had a sandwich. After half an hour, his chest still hurt . . . and the pain had spread down his arm and up his neck. After that, things happened fast.

First they did an EKG and blood test. Everything was normal, but they decided to keep him overnight. I expected to return the next morning and bring him home (everything was normal, right?), but when I arrived, they were doing an ultrasound on his heart.

In the middle of the night, the enzymes in his blood spiked, indicating tissue death. He'd had a heart attack (the enzymes don't show up in the blood until hours after the heart attack, most of the time).

So now they were scheduling him for an angiogram, where they inject dye and look for blockages. Halfway through the angiogram, I was informed they found a blockage. His angiogram had become an angioplasty where they feed in a wire and place a stent! Afterwards, when I went back to see hubby, he said, "Did they tell you what happened?"

I said, "Yes, they found a blockage," thinking it couldn't get any worse.

But no, it can get worse: not just a blockage, it was an 80% blockage . . . in a forty-two year old man!

So this month has been full of doctor appointments, cardiac rehab, and extra-long shopping trips (we've had to rethink and replan our whole grocery list--it's not easy eating healthy).

He's doing better now and back at work. I told him if he ever scares me like this again, I'm going to have them revive him and then kill him myself.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Horror, Fantasy, Sci-Fi: Spec-Fic Friday, Nov. 25th

Next, after Prometheus?
Ridley Scott Reveals New Details for Blade Runner Movie

Bruce Campbell Talks Evil Dead Remake: No Ash

Why, oh why!?! Gimme back my Bruce!
Bruce Campbell's Cameo in Oz Has Been Cut

From io9:
10 Crazy Scifi Plot Devices That We’d Like to See

Booksellers’ picks of the year: science fiction and fantasy

Now we're on to reboots of reboots of reboots . . .
Godzilla Reboot Finds a New Writer

10 Modern Must-Read Sci-Fi Masterpieces

Love these . . . but my fear of commitment keeps me from getting one (forever is a mighty long time). It took me 38 years to get my first tattoo and it'll probably be another 38 years before the next one.
Freaky Zombie & Monster Tattoos

Not a lot of info here, yet. Just enough to pique our interest.
AMC Developing Science Fiction TV Series, ‘Thunderstruck’

There's an app for that:
Get Popcorn Horror on your phone

Have a great weekend!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Where I Find Story Ideas

I'm often asked how I come up with story ideas. Actually, people usually ask, "Where do you come up with these weird ideas?"

I rarely have a shortage of ideas. Since I write horror, dark fantasy, and science fiction, my version of story creation usually involves taking a prompt/headline/situation and asking:

1) What is the worst or weirdest thing that could happen with this?

2) How could this threaten humans/humanity?

3) How could an alien race use this to their advantage?

Prompts are great for story creation, you just have to twist them around to the kind of writing you like to do. For example, this prompt from Toasted Cheese prompt calendar:

Write a story or poem based on an old wives' tale

The first old wives tale that popped into my head, I hate to say, is the one boys were told when I was younger: you'll get hairy palms if you self-gratify (do they still use this old wives tale?). So let's say the old wives tale is true. How will that affect the dating world? Will someone invent a pill to make it stop? Or will a whole new salon-industry develop catering to men's special shaving needs? Does it happen to women, too? This would make a great comedy-fantasy!

Or how about this one (the origin of which I've forgotten):

A cross-country train trip opens your eyes to another way of life.

Maybe the train rider meets hobos and decides to become a drifter. Maybe the hobos are really vampires. Our rider still decides to join up with them. Or maybe the hobos are a superior race of being, the "parents" of all humanity, and they've gotten so fed up with how badly we've turned out they've given up on us and are all now living a simple, unfettered life away from their disappointing children

News & Headlines
Sometimes I uses headlines and news articles. Like this one:

Butt Injection with Fix-A-Flat Leads to Arrest

There are lots of stories with this one! Maybe there's a new product call "Fix-Your-Flats" that's a home breast-enhancement product. Or maybe there's a whole seedy underground of "MacGyver-like" body enhancements and augmentations. Or maybe an unintended consequence of this sort of body modification is that the people who have it done begin to mutate (or turn into zombies) thanks to these foreign chemicals being injected.

Or I use nature-related articles. Like this one:

Seaweed's Chemical Weapons Killing Corals

Sound familiar? Change it to "Plants" Chemical Weapons Killing "People," and you've got the premise for the movie The Happening.

Or how about this one:

New Life-Forms Found at Bottom of Dead Sea

Hmm. What kind of life forms? Maybe a new parasite that gets a taste for humans and is inadvertently transported to a larger body of water where it thrives? Or maybe a nice, highly-contagious microbe that starts a world-wide pandemic (especially since we'll have zero immunity, since the thing has just been floating around in the bottom of the water for eons). You can get lots of great stories out of this one!

Mashup Situations
And sometimes I use mashups, taking a normal, everyday situation and putting in a horror character as the protagonist. A lot of my comedy falls in this category. For example:

A vampire having a "mid-life" crisis;

A zombie forced to take a job at a large retailer;

Satan trying to learn how to use social media.

What kind of soccer mom (or hockey mom) would a werewolf be? What if Bigfoot's stock portfolio tanked and he had to go get a job instead of living his life of leisure in the big woods? What if your company was bought out by another and your new boss was a Harpy . . . literally?

Stories are all around us. The key is to take a kernel--a prompt, a headline, a situation--and let your imagination run wild.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Horror, Fantasy, Sci-Fi: Spec-Fic Friday, Nov. 18th

I had no idea they were planning a sequel, but it sounds like they are beyond the, "Hey maybe someday we oughta" stage.
Beetlejuice Sequel Requires Michael Keaton's Return?

Coming to theaters in January:
Underworld Awakening: Extended Theatrical Trailer Released

More information on the Evil Dead remake:
Evil Dead Remake Logo Treatment and Synopsis

Ron Howard says not to hold your breath for that Dark Tower movie

How cool is this? First Mr. Depp gets to work with Keith Richards and now Alice Cooper!
Alice Cooper and Johnny Depp Will Appear in Dark Shadows

I think the poster where you can't quite see the girl (just her hand writing in the drops) is spookiest.
Have a great weekend!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Why Rejection Doesn't Matter

One of the toughest parts about being a writer is dealing with rejection. Statistically, it's unavoidable. But it can be a career killer . . . if you let it.

Rejection fills us with self-doubt. You get that little slip of paper or short, terse email and you think:

This story sucks;
my writing sucks;
I suck!

Why am I even doing this? Am I crazy, or a glutton for punishment? Who am I kidding, anyway, thinking I could be a writer?

The fact is good stories, good writing, and good writers get rejected. It could be the story isn't a good fit for the market, or the story just didn't click with that particular editor/first-line reader . . . but it might work for the next one, or the next one after that.

The perfect example is the recent batch of critiques I've gotten from my critique group. While it has, as expected, led to some great suggestions for improving the story, it's also proven that taste is subjective-- a great lesson to remember when those rejections start coming in.

For example, I had one critiquer who actually said:

"I wasn't going to critique this story at first because I didn't think I could do it without being hurtful." Ouch. The person went on to say that they thought the story was puerile and juvenile and lame.

The next critiquer said it was the funniest thing they've read in a long time and it actually made them laugh out loud.

Even one specific joke in the story had readers divided: half of them liked it, half didn't. It was a small-penis joke with a George Costanza "shrinkage" reference, and women found it funnier than men (go figure).

But the point is, not everyone liked the story. I feel like I'm on the right track with it, since it had about a 75% "I enjoyed it" rate, but I know what I'm going to face once I finish polishing it and send it out:

if I send it to an editor who has the same taste as "puerile & juvenile" guy, it's going to get rejected;
if I send it to an editor who has the same taste as "I laughed out loud" guy, then there's a good chance it will be accepted.

The battle is finding that editor: laugh-out-loud guy (or gal).

When it comes back rejected (as it inevitably will), I just have to remember to tell myself, "Nope. That wasn't the guy," and send it back out again.

As further proof that it's all subjective, I pulled a boneheaded move and sent another story to the same magazine twice. It's a rookie mistake and my face is red (and I still haven't figured out how it happened), but I'm glad it happened. The first time, the story came back with a typical form rejection, "Not for us." The second time it came back with, "Not for us but a great story. Please send more." What??? It makes no sense, but who cares! I'm sending them more, lol!

So don't let rejection get you down. Keep sending the story out until you find "that guy"-- the guy who gets your story. It may take a while, but he's out there, somewhere, and it's up to you to find him (or her).

Until you do, remember what they say about opinions: opinions are like a**holes, everyone has one.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Horror, Fantasy, Sci-Fi: Spec-Fic Friday, Nov. 11th

A lot of my friends wanted to be rock stars when they grew up. Now they can.
Alice Cooper Debuts 'Nightmare' Mobile App

I think I read the first book in this series . . .
The CW to adapt Kim Harrison's The Hollows for TV

Books that straddle the genre line (and a good example of how it's sometimes hard to classify spec-fic stories)
The Intersection of Science Fiction and Horror

Adds a whole new spin to family game night!
The Walking Dead board game

You know, I think I'm pretty okay here, at least in winter. Zombies would surely lose locomotion at -40 degrees, don't you think?
10 real locations that will help you survive the zombie apocalypse

Don't get excited about the title of this article. There's no new horrible creature on the horizon; Mr. King is branching into historical fiction with a tale about the JFK Assassination.
Stephen King's New Monster

How cool is this! I would love to go see this show. I'm a big fan of H.R. Giger, too (naturally), and I loved the small showing and print sale of Giger art I got to see in San Fransisco years ago.
Triptykon Frontman Displaying 'Death Mask' Art

More info on the upcoming Evil Dead remake.
Plot details from the Evil Dead remake

This is a great list to check out for movies you might have overlooked or to remind you of the movies you used to love (horror movie nostalgia night, anyone?)
io9's 50 Scariest Movies of All Time

Don't forget, if you're looking for a good zombie read pick up a copy of Zombidays: Festivities of the Flesheaters. It also makes a great stocking stuffer for the zombie fans in your life!

Have a great weekend!

Monday, November 7, 2011

What's My Line?

Two buzz words in the writing profession right now are "brand" and "platform."

For those unfamiliar with the terms, brand is the word or phrase that tells the buying public what to expect from you, and your platform is where you stand to throw your brand at everyone (figuratively speaking, of course, though standing on a platform and throwing books at people might work. The subsequent lawsuits for head trauma would probably zero-out any profit gained from such an event, though).

For example, Stephen King's brand (at least until recently) has been horror. It's what people expect from him. John Grisham's brand has been legal thrillers.

I've been thinking about my brand lately, and believe me, coming up with a brand (and catchy tagline to represent my brand) isn't as easy as it sounds.

I write in three main genres: horror, fantasy, and sci-fi. I write so very little sci-fi that it probably doesn't matter if I leave it out of my brand.

So okay. I write horror and fantasy. Makes it more succinct.

BUT, now there's the problem of how big the fantasy genre is. There's a HUGE difference between the humorous contemporary fantasy I write and sword and sorcery fantasy. Somebody looking for a book like Lord of the Rings is not going to be interested in my story about the vampire having a mid-life crisis, but they are both "fantasy."

So instead of just saying I write "horror and fantasy," a more apt description would be:
"I write horror and humorous contemporary fantasy . . . and occasionally sword and sorcery fantasy or sci-fi."

Ick. That's not catchy at all!

Of course, if you want to complicate things (like they need complicating), some classification systems list horror as a subset of fantasy. So I could just say, "I write fantasy." But most people looking to read horror aren't going to head for the fantasy section.

Sigh. What's a writer to do?

Okay. How about, "Horror and Dark comedy," since most of my fantasy is humorous urban/contemporary fantasy? It clears up the whole sword and sorcery expectation. And it's certainly better than "horror and horrific comedy," which just makes it sound like I write bad comedy (which I certainly hope it isn't).

My warped brain next came up with, "Shits and Giggles." It fits! But I don't think it's appropriate and a lot of people won't get it.

Side note: for a while, I wrote under my initials, "B.M. Kezar." Then my husband said he didn't like it because "BM" made him think of "Bowel Movement." I almost kept it, because I think that's a very appropriate name-association for a horror writer, don't you think?

I finally came up with:
"Monsters and Magick"
"Zomedy Writer"

Zomedy writer is nice and catchy, but it's one of those things that needs explaining (I write about zombies and monsters, and I write comedies that often have monsters as main characters: zomedies). And having people read my tagline and saying, "I don't get it" is not the reaction I'm looking for.

I think Monsters and magick is more descriptive because most of my horror involves creatures and "magick" makes one think of the fantasy genre. . . but again, it doesn't take into account that most of my fantasy isn't sword and sorcery and that it's usually comedic.

Then I came up with "Wicked and Witty," but "wicked" makes it sound like I'm writing erotica (and won't erotica fans be disappointed when the only heavy breathing in my stories is from people running away from zombies?).

"Nightmares and Necromancy"? Ick.
"Shivers and Smiles"?
"Ghouls and Gags"?
"Monsters and Mirth"?
Ick. Ick. Ick.

So what's a poor spec-fic writer to do? How does one turn: "Horror (usually with monsters), humorous contemporary fantasy, sometimes sword and sorcery, and sometimes sci-fi" into a short, catchy brand tagline?

I'm still working on it.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Horror, Fantasy, Sci-Fi: Spec-Fic Friday, Nov. 4th

Are you ready to go Geek?
Geek 101 -- A Primer for Your Entry Into Geek Culture

The chest-burster bride and groom cake is my favorite!
18 beautifully grotesque horror cakes far too disgusting to eat

Check out Zombie Spock: "Live long and . . . eat brains!"
Vader, Spock, Spidey and 26 other sci-fi icons as rotting zombies

These make me wish I was an artist. This page is huge, so it takes a while to load.
120+ Epic, Stunning, Creative & Scary Zombie Design Inspirations – Illustrations, Art, & Photography

Best news EVER! Wonder if they can get Bill Murray and Woody Harrelson to at least do cameos?
Fox Developing a Zombieland Series

My state gets "Invading Canadians." Try and find a parking spot around here on the weekends and you'll know it's true.
Map of the United States of Scary Things

Picks Of The Week: Science Fiction Books

Dang! Shoulda had this list sooner. My kids saw most of these . . . wait . . . that actually explains a lot. ;)
Horror Films that Scar Children

And if you think your stomach is strong enough:
The Most Disgusting Horror Movies
I loved Jeff Goldblum's "Brundlefly," especially the inside-out baboon. I haven't seen the rest of them. I don't think I want to.

That's it for this edition. Have a great weekend!