Monday, December 24, 2012

Bonded by Blood V: Doomsday Descends

I just received my copy of Bonded by Blood V: Doomsday Descends and it looks terrific! It's a thick anthology, chock full of horror delights. There is nothing--NOTHING!--like curling up in bed with a buffet of horror stories during these long, cold winter nights, with the winter winds rattling the windowpanes.

The anthology includes my story, "Lard-Ass Larson," which is a good story for this time of year. If you've overindulged over the holidays and are thinking, "Gee. I'd give anything to lose a little weight," this story might change your mind.

Okay, on to this week's horror/fantasy/scifi links:

via @horrorfreaknews:
Upcoming Horror Movies 2013:

I hate to admit it, but I'm really excited about this one. I loved The Lone Ranger as a kid, and I love all things Johnny Depp (I don't care what anyone says, his Captain Jack Sparrow is an amazing character). I'm anticipating this is going to be like chocolate in my peanut butter: bliss! Add into that the fact that Depp will be playing Tonto? His character is going to be the "7 of 9" for ladies.
via @blastr:
New trailer hints the Lone Ranger's got a supernatural origin:

When I was young, I saw a picture of The Creature from the Black Lagoon sitting on a milk crate, smoking a cigarette. I've loved these "behind the scenes" pics ever since.
via @flavorpill:
Unexpected and Hilarious Behind-the-Scenes Horror Film Photos:

Best video EVER!
via @io9:
"Big Trouble in Little China" + Gangnam Style. John Carpenter approves:

via @sfsignal:
Table of contents: The Year’s Best Science Fiction, 30th Annual Collection edited by Gardner Dozois:

via @nprbooks:
The Year's Best Science Fiction Books Crosses Galaxies And Genres:

And this week's zombie links (because we can never get enough zombies):

via @io9:
Watch the entire Large Hadron Collider zombie movie—shot at CERN—online now:

via @flavorwire:
There Was No "Walking Dead" Christmas Special, So Fans Made Their Own:

I saw the photos that were circulating on the Net about Daryl's demise and my head almost exploded all over the wall. Thankfully, those were proven false.
via @fearnet:
Here is the FIRST look at the return of "The Walking Dead":

via @worldofhorror:
ABC Opts for New Zombie Series "The Returned":

And last but not least:
The Walking Dead official magazine

There will be no blog post next Monday (5th Monday of the month). I'll see you the first Monday of next year!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Story Structure

I've been busy working on a presentation about story structure for my local writer's group.

It was actually a pretty frustrating process because just like everything else that has to do with "writing advice" or "writing rules," there's a lot of conflicting information (I know, color you shocked, right?). One of the most frustrating things about it was that terms are sometimes used interchangeably.

For example: the hook vs. the inciting incident.

In the methods I learned from:

"The Hook" is something in a story that engages the reader and makes them want to read on. It's often a funny or interesting event that displays the nature of a character and raises a reader's interest in the character. It makes the reader say, "Hey! I like this guy. I'll spend 400 pages with him," or "This guy's messed up. I can't wait to see what kind of trouble he gets himself into next. I'll invest my time in the 400 pages to find out."

"The Inciting Incident" is the event that changes the character's life/presents a problem to be solved and is the event that really gets the story rolling.

A lot of the research material I looked at used the term "Hook" to mean the inciting incident. While I'm sure that the two can be the same moment (the moment that piques the reader's interest in the story can be the event that gets the story rolling), they don't necessarily have to be rolled into one.

The Stephanie Plum books from Janet Evanovich are a good example: most of them have an event in the first few pages that lets you know Ms. Plum is a bit of a . . . um . . . klutzy train wreck with a strange, strange life. That piques reader interest and makes them want to learn more about her. Then, a few pages later, there is some event (a murder, a skip, etc.) that actually starts the storyline for each novel. Hook and inciting incident as two separate events.

Okay, enough of my ranting. Here are some of the better links I've found on story structure:

NaNoWriMo Prep: Campbell, Vogler, the Hero's Journey, The Writer's Journey and Narrative Structure Cheat Sheet, by Alexandra Sokoloff

Adapting Story Structure for Any Project, by Lydia Sharp

Seven-Point Plot Outline for Genre Short Stories, by Wendy Wheeler

25 Things You Should Know About Story Structure, by Chuck Wendig

How to Structure A Story: The Eight-Point Arc, by Ali Hale

Story Structure in Short Stories, by Philip Brewer

Comparing the Story Theories of Michael Hague and Dramatica, by Glen C. Strathy

~ ~ ~ ~

See you next week!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Favorite Books and Short Stories

It's not been a good year for my goals. Not only did I not "win" NaNo, but I'm also going to miss my Goodreads 2012 Reading Challenge goal. If I'm really lucky, I might get one more book in before the end of the year, but that will still leave me five short.

Reading thirty-five books this year isn't bad. I've always been an avid reader, but it's definitely been cyclical, depending on how much free time I have. I'm pretty sure I didn't pick up a single book between 1991 and 1994. My reading was limited to whatever copy of People magazine the doctor's office had, and Newsweek and Time (usually while, *ahem* in the throne room). Those were the years my children were small, and reading (besides Goodnight Moon and the The Very Hungry Caterpillar) was a luxury I had neither time nor money for. Any money that was available for books, of course, went for kids books so they would grow up to be avid readers.

I will read just about anything, though I don't usually care for romance or erotica, nor hard science fiction. Horror is my favorite, of course. While I read a lot of novels, I prefer a good mixed anthology of short stories (I love a buffet).

My missed reading goal in this time of Auld Lang Syne got me thinking about some of my favorite books/stories . . .

I started reading "grown up stories" at a young age, but I do remember one
children's book I loved:

I checked it out from the school library so much, I don't think anyone else ever got a chance to read it.

The scariest book I've ever read:

My favorite anthologies:


My favorite novels:


Watership Down is a traditional book in our family. Every one of my children has a copy, and when the grandkids are older, I'll be giving them each a copy, too.

Classics I love:


Two of my kids not only count The Iliad and The Odyssey in their top ten books of all time, but they can both still quote them!

I have a lot of favorite short stories and novellas, but three of my "favoritest" favorites are:

"All Summer in a Day," by Ray Bradbury;
"The Lottery," by Shirley Jackson;
"The Long Walk," by Stephen King (writing as Richard Bachman).

And one of the most recent additions to my favorites list:

It has humor, and wordplay, and outrageous characters.

What about you? What books would you like to revisit during this time of Auld Lang Syne?

Monday, December 3, 2012

December Update

Alas, I did not "win" NaNoWriMo this year. With deer hunting season and my other commitments, there just wasn't enough time to write. I ended about eighteen thousand words short. I did, however, get my buck! Deer jerky for everyone!

I'm not abandoning the NaNo novel, however. One of the reasons I was able to rack up word count in spite of only writing a few days is because the story flows well; it's a page-turner to write (hopefully it will be a page-turner to read, too). It's horrific and suspenseful, too. During one evening of feverish writing, I was writing one of those "don't-open-that-door" scenes when my daughter, who was outside with our dogs, threw a snowball at my writing room window . . . and hubby nearly had to call the paramedics to revive me.

I think it will be a solid novel: strong plot, unusual characters, and zombies! But since I didn't have much time to plan it before NaNo, there are a few issues. For example, I have no idea how all the characters converge, and thus, how it ends. My plan is to spend a few days (maybe more), outlining the thing, and making sure the current cast of characters are the ones who are going to carry the story (one set of characters is rather weak right now, and I may have to replace them). Then I'm going to DecWriMo (and JanWriMo, if necessary) and see if I can get a coherent first draft. Then I can go back to working on my one true love, short stories.

In other news, Penumbra eMag's December "Utopia" issue includes my short story, "Comfortably Numb." Order your copy now!

See you next week!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Everything You Need for the Apocalypse

According to the Mayan calendar, next month is the end of the world. We know the date, but we don't what "apocalypse flavor" it will be (zombies? natural disasters? Bieber fever?). Just in case you're one of the lucky ones who survives it, here's a list of links and info that might come in handy.

Recipes for the Post-Apocalypse: How and why to eat rat meat by Lauren Davis

Wine pairings for the post-apocalypse: What to drink with rats, dog food, and more by Lauren Davis
(on a side note, I have a bottle of "Zombie Zin" stashed away, a nice little red wine specially created for a zombie apocalypse--see pic above).

Survival books to keep on your bookshelf in case of the apocalypse by Lauren Davis

Survival Kit - CMM Survival Tactical 1 Person Bug Out Bag w/ Crossbow & Gas Mask
(This actually has terrible reviews; I just like saying, "Bug Out Bag")

For those who like to travel light:
Zombie Apocalypse Survival Kit in a Sardine Can at

This one is on my bookshelf (I bought it--and the others I own--just for research; honestly!)
The Survivor Manual: An Official Book of the Hit CBS Television Show (based on US Armed Forces Survival Techniques)

And don't forget to catch as many episodes of "Man vs. Wild" as you can. I don't know if it will help you survive; I just like watching Bear Grylls get naked in the woods.

See you next week!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Links for Writers

Image courtesy of Phaitoon /

I'm trying to slog my way through NaNoWriMo and doing a terrible job of it. Rather than writing every day, my over scheduled November means I skip a few days, then have a marathon writing session to catch up; skip a few days, have a marathon writing session to catch up . . . One thing that this NaNoWriMo has taught me is that when I put my mind to it (and put the rest of life on hold), I can write one hell of a lot of words in a single day. It's not a pace I couldn't keep up with on a daily basis, not without buying new clothes every day so I can skip laundry or learning to love eating take-out out of Styrofoam trays.

But enough with the whining and onto today's info for writers.

Writing Metaphor, Memorable Characters And Horror With Chuck Wendig

And speaking of Chuck Wendig, if you need to amp up the conflict in your NaNo novel (or any other novel/story), here are
25 Ways to F**k With Your Character (or, Building Conflict One Cruelty at a Time)

The Big Three - Goals, Motivation and Conflict, by Florence U. Cardinal

Need help brainstorming your main character's goals/motivation/conflict?
GMC Wizard

Goal, Motivation, and Conflict by Susan Dennard

Using Invalid Beliefs to Show Character Growth by Sharon Clare

See you next week!

Monday, November 12, 2012

November After Hours

Welcome to another "After Hours" post.

For those new to the blog, the “After Hours” posts are more personal, get-to-know-me posts, kind of like “After the Catch” from “Deadliest Catch” without the death and maiming (er, hopefully without the death and maiming, anyway).

And now for the “After Hours” questions.

1) If you could eat only one meal the rest of your life, what would it be?

Texas Roadhouse Dallas Filet (mignon). It's like crack to me.

2) If you owned a CB radio what would your "handle" be?

Captain Quirk.

3) If you could have had the starring role in one film already made, which movie would you pick?

Alien, of course. I’d love to be Ripley.

4) Describe your "good china," whether you actually own any or not.

<Picks self up after rolling on the floor laughing>. We didn’t even bother registering for china when we got married, we just knew it wasn't going to fit our lifestyle. And now, after years of raising kids and pets, we don’t even have any matching plates. I think I still have one left from the “country” set I bought (little houses and red designs-on-a-barn) right before we were married; I have two of the set decorated with grey roses we bought around our one year anniversary; one of the white ones I bought years later when our plate inventory was dwindling; a couple of the black ones (though one set was flat dinner plates, and the other was slightly curved, so even though they’re black, it’s obvious they are from different sets . . . well, you get the picture.

My family has always cared more about what's on the plate than the plate itself. As long as I'm making my uber-delicious Fettuccine Alfredo, they'd eat it off off butter-tub libs if they had to.

5) When are you happiest?

It's hard to nail down one thing that makes me happiest; there are lots of things that fill me with bliss: when I’m camping/hunting/or just generally out in the woods; when I’m writing; when a really good book sucks me into its story world; when I’m snuggled under a blanket with hubby watching TV while a blizzard howls outside; anytime I’m visiting Kentucky, etc. I'm either an incredibly happy person, or just easily pleased. Not sure which.

6) What's worse, extremely cold weather or extremely hot weather?

Extremely hot weather. I can add more clothes when it’s cold, but there’s a limit to how much I can take off without getting arrested.

7) Chocolate or vanilla?

I like chocolate, but I don't love chocolate. I prefer vanilla ice cream and angel-food cake.

See you next week!

Monday, November 5, 2012

November Update

One month into the new posting schedule and so far, so good, ha-ha. Of course, this month is one of the busiest of the year, so we’ll see if the posting schedule survives it. This month is deer hunting season and turkey hunting season, so I'm going to be out in the woods as much as possible.

And as if I wasn't over-scheduled as it was . . .

I put my short stories aside to work on the fantasy novel that’s been dogging me for years (Macha Mong Ruadh). I had been making good progress on a major revision, but on October 30th, the muse came fluttering by and sprinkled inspiration dust (or something) on my head . . . and now I’m doing NaNoWriMo (write a 50K novel in a month). Just what I need: another novel collecting dust, waiting for revision, making me feel guilty about ignoring it. But, when the muse gives a gift, I hate to turn it down.

Part of the problem is my fickle muse: Cletus the Redneck Muse. Here's a rare picture of him:

See what I have to work with? I wonder if it's possible to be assigned a new muse.

So now I will be spending the month of November working on a zombie-apocalypse novel. It’s still early, so I can’t say for sure how it’s going to turn out, but so far, it’s been absorbing to write—I keep getting caught up in the story. So hopefully it will be as much of a page-turning read as it has been a page-turning write.

In other news, my story “Comfortably Numb” will be in the December "Utopia" issue of Penumbra Emag. I’m proud to say that it will be my second story published in the magazine (which makes them the best magazine ever, in my opinion). ;)

Wish me luck, and check back next Monday to see if I keep to my schedule or if I spend November curled in the fetal position, weeping, while Cletus throws Pork Rinds at me.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Lions, Ewoks, & Zombies...Oh My!

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick /

Warning: Spoilers Ahead

Of course I've been completely engrossed in the new season of The Walking Dead.

The first season was all about the zombies and the new post-apocalyptic world. The second season was mostly about making us care about the characters. This season is all about killing characters off, now that we care!

I'm stunned by the changes in Rick. No more Mr. Nice Guy, no more "let's give them a chance." It's not a bad thing, by any means, but I really was expecting Rick to let the prisoners live, even after the "lead" prisoner made some pretty blatant attempts on Rick's life. I thought it was "Randy" all over again. So I was pleasantly surprised when Rick just up and killed the guy.

Things haven't changed with Lori though, obviously: giving a dead man mouth-to-mouth in the zombie apocalypse . . . really!?! "Oh, you're dead and you're probably going to turn, but I think I'll just put my face really close to yours and see what happens." I think her character is too stupid to live. Of course, she does get bonus points for her delightful honesty in voicing her fears about the baby (what was it she said? Something about the baby dying and tearing out of her?).

I can't wait to see what happens in the next episode.

In other spec-fic news . . .

Free Reads, compiled by Regan Wolfrom for SF Signal:

Membership: 1258 men, 12 women ;)
Trekkie dating site will help you find the Vulcan of your dreams

Aw, so cute:
The Ewoking Dead

Upcoming book:
You’ve never seen the Wizard of Oz like this before

I admit it: I haven't seen any of the Paranormal Activity movies, but we all know that as a movie heads into the "IV" and "V" and greater iterations, it tends to get lame and overdone (Resident Evil, anyone?)
[Spoiler] Paranormal Activity 4 Explained


Paramount Announces Paranormal Activity 5


See you next week!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Links for Writers: NaNo, Loglines, Synopses, and More

Image courtesy of winnond /

Here are some helpful links I've come across this week on Twitter, at The Muse Conference, and while surfing the web (aka, procrastinating about my novel).

Have a book you are marketing or about to market? Solid advice at The Bookshelf Muse:
The Path To 10K In Sales: Strategy, Luck & Mistakes

How to maximize your email list (includes a pdf checklist):
The Ultimate Guide to Writing Email Updates (Your Fans Actually Read)

Ready to make your debut as an author?
Building Your Author Platform, Part I
Building Your Author Platform, Part II

How's your logline? Get feedback:
Logline It!

The 5 elements of a good synopsis (and story)
A "Secret" Formula for Creating a Short Synopsis for Your Book

This is also a good test for the planning stage of your NaNo novel:
Six Tests of a Solid Story Premise and Eight Ways to Write One

Speaking of NaNo:
NaNoWriMo: 5 Tips On How To Get Ready

And more NaNo preparation:
How to outline your story for National Novel-Writing Month – checklist

And if you haven't come up with an idea for your NaNo novel yet:
10 Tips for Generating Killer Science Fiction Story Ideas

See you next week!

Monday, October 8, 2012

New Posting Schedule

Image courtesy of luigi diamanti /

I'm experimenting with a new posting schedule. I'm not promising anything, because you know how flaky we artistic types can be. But, if all goes well, the new schedule will be:

1st Monday of the month: "From the Desk of" (the familiar monthly update);
2nd Monday: "After Hours" (a meme or some other type of "getting to know me" post);
3rd Monday: "For Writers" (a post with handy links or info for writers);
4th Monday: "For Readers" (a post with info on the latest releases in horror/fantasy/sci-fi movies or books, or my opinion--for what it's worth--on the latest book/movie I've read/seen).

And, since I know someone out there is thinking it: if there is a fifth Monday, there will be no post, because no person should have to put up with five Mondays in a single month! It's just wrong.

And now, welcome to the first "After Hours" post!


1) Describe what you're looking forward to doing this autumn.
Autumn is my favorite season. Not only does it hold my favorite holiday (Halloween, of course), it’s also hunting season. Plus, it’s the spookiest season of the year, even without Halloween: cold dark knights, bare trees creaking in the window, leaves clattering across the road like a bone necklace rattling.

2) How many rings before you answer the phone?I’m not a slave to the phone. I’ll let the machine pick up if answering is inconvenient (sometimes even when it’s not). I’m the same way with a ringing doorbell. It drives everyone around me crazy, because they seem to think if someone’s calling/knocking, you HAVE to answer. Not me. My home is my castle, and I decide who I went to talk to and when.

3) What is the first thing you think of when you wake in the morning?“Aw, shit” (I’ve never been a morning person).

4) If you won a million dollars, what would you do with it?Probably spend most of it on books, or an isolated cabin on acres and acres of land. I’ve always aspired to be a hermit (see item #2).

5) When trick-or-treating as a kid, was there any kind of candy that you didn't like to get?I’ve always been a fussy eater. I didn’t like anything that had peanuts or peanut butter in it (I was not a peanut-butter sandwich kid). I didn’t like licorice. One of the candies I hated the most was that candy that has licorice at the center and is covered in two kinds of coatings: one looked like the kind of plastic that coated wires (but was pink or white), and the other was like little gravel all over the candy. I'd groan every time I found it in my Halloween treat bag.

6) Why do you live wherever you live?Entirely by accident. My parents dragged me back to North Dakota from New York when my father retired. While I was in the process of working two jobs to earn enough to move back to New York, I met my husband. I’ve been here ever since.

7) When was the last time you spotted an unwelcome visitor (i.e., bug, rodent, etc.) in your house?
I have cats, so unwanted visitors are quickly devoured (hmmm… that would make a good sign for my door; see #2). In the fifteen years we’ve lived in our home, we’ve only had one mouse dumb enough to come in. I heard him squiggling around under my bed one evening and, by noon, he was on my pillow . . . with his feet in the air and one of my cats (Cairo) sitting beside him, purring, as if to say, “Look what I have for you momma.” I was so proud, I rolled the mouse in catnip and gave it back Cairo to enjoy (we want to encourage that mouse-killing behavior, of course).

See you next week!

Monday, October 1, 2012

October Update

Okay, where did September go? I feel like Rip Van Winkle, but I KNOW I didn't sleep through it because I'm still way too tired to have slept that much. I can't complain, though, because now it's October, the best month of the year with the best holiday of the year.

October also marks the return of the best show: The Walking Dead.

AND, the return of the annual The Muse Online Writers Conference.

So good riddance September, and hooray for October.


On the writing front, I have a couple of new stories I'm working on, and I'm STILL working on my ethereal fantasy short. It's like a recipe that's just not quite right yet--it still needs a little something . . . just what that something is, I haven't figured out.

On the reading front, I'm currently reading Robert McCammon's Swan Song. I'm enjoying it (how could I not? It's nuclear-apocalyptic fiction), but I do find myself getting distracted by the number of writing "rules" it breaks. For example, I know today's writers are cautioned against using omniscient point-of-view, and when it is used, writers are cautioned to limit POV to one character per chapter. But in Swan Song, the POV varies from paragraph to paragraph. I can't say I'm a fan of the method.


That's all my news. Go enjoy something scary!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Mid-month tidbits

The final edit on my short story, "Leech Lake," is almost complete, and the story is almost ready to be sent into the world to find a home.

The ethereal fantasy short story I was working on is not going as well. There's still something missing . . . something I can't quite put my finger on. It's still in first draft form.

And, as usually happens, while I was swamped, trying to finish two drafts and a revision for a deadline, a new story popped into my head. I tore myself away from the other stories for a few moments and wrote a rough draft/outline for the interloper story. I'll come back to it after I finish the current two and see if it is worth continuing on, or if it should go in the "maybe someday this will be a story" file.

Don't forget to check out my latest published stories:

"Lard-Ass Larson" is available in the "August Augmentations" issue of SNM Horror Magazine;

"Homeland Security" will be available in the collection, "A High Shrill Thump" from Third Flatiron Publishing on September 1st.

And, last but not least: two pictures to share. The first is my new puppy, who's now 4 1/2 months old.

Roscoe Pascal
Momma's little hellhound

And this is a picture of one of my kids, on her way to a "Creatures of the Night" party. She does her momma proud:

Momma's little carnivore

Now go read something creepy, and I'll see you next month.

Monday, August 6, 2012

August Update

Although I'm hoping to bring the blog back to at least a weekly posting schedule (instead of this pitiful monthly posting schedule), I don't see that happening this month. I'm currently juggling three stories (two in the drafting stage and one in revision), and two of the three have looming deadlines. Ah well, perhaps next month the once-a-week format will return (unless I actually get off my tuchus and get back to work on revising the novel).

On the publication side of things, I have two new releases:

"Lard-Ass Larson" is available in the "August Augmentations" issue of SNM Horror Magazine;

"Homeland Security" will be available in the collection, "A High Shrill Thump" from Third Flatiron Publishing on September 1st.

Be sure to check them out!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Summer and the living is easy? HA!

By some small miracle, I finished the two stories I was working on and sent them off just in the nick of time. There's nothing like a looming deadline to really amp up your productivity!

I'm almost always overscheduled, but June was the busiest month I've had in a while. I've been focusing on puppy training and making sure I get my writing done because, let's face it, job one is writing. When time comes at a premium, the writing comes first and the blog and social media have to fall like headshot zombies.

I actually have a written hierarchy (I know: it's geeky; but it appeals to the accountant in me).

In definite order of importance:
1) Writing
2) Reading
3) Writer's group
4) Main social media (blog and Twitter)
5) Second-level social media (Facebook)
6) Third-level social media (Tumblr, etc.)

The month of June saw all of them suffer. I even missed a writer's group meeting!

So what's in store for July? Probably more of the same chaos, but at least I'm not going to be trying to write two brand new stories by the end of the month.

I have one short story that I want to revise/polish and get sent out for a July deadline, and a story I'm thinking about writing for an August deadline. Meanwhile, I have ten stories submitted that I'm waiting to hear back on.

So maybe July will actually be a slow month!

Monday, June 11, 2012

"Crazy Busy" is the new normal

In spite of life being crazy busy with the new puppy, I managed to get my zombie fairytale story polished and sent off well before the deadline.

My next project will be a little different: this time, the monsters are your neighbors. I'm currently working on a short story about middle America and its reaction to "the war on terror." The anthology I'm targeting closes at the end of the month, so I'm crunched for time . . . again. Good thing I do my best work under pressure.

The presentation I gave on writing horror seemed to go over well with our local writing group. I think everyone had fun exploring their dark side. Eventually I might turn these presentation into some sort of ebook for writers.

I also found a new well of creative inspiration: prompts on Twitter. I set up Hootsuite to collect any tweets that come through with the hashtags: "writingprompt" and "prompt," so now I have a stream in Hootsuite that's exclusively prompts (though the occasional complaint about friends who are chronically late occasionally shows up in the stream). If you find yourself staring at the blank page, you might want to check out those tags!

Now I've got a whole slew of prompts waiting to spark my muse . . . I just have to make the time to use them!

~ ~ ~
Recently finished reading:

The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror

The Zombie Survival Guide, by Max Brooks

Currently Reading:

The Help, by Kathryn Stockett

Monday, June 4, 2012

New addition

Although I did great for the whole first part of the month of Story-A-Day May, the last week was a bust. I think I got a story done for the last Monday of the month, but nothing for the rest of that week. Oh well, there's always next year.

Part of the reason the last week was so busy was because we were preparing for a big anniversary weekend. We planned on spending the evening at the casino in Hankinson on Friday (our anniversary), coming back Saturday, and then taking my parents fishing on Sunday. And we did all that . . . with a slight addendum.

Every time we go south, it's become a tradition to stop in Fargo and play with the puppies at Great Pets. I was especially looking forward to it this time because I lost my dog to a brain tumor a few months ago. Hubby had asked if he could get me a dog as a present for our anniversary, but I told him, "No. I'm not ready for another dog. Besides, I'll never find another dog I love as much as I loved Missy."

So, we stopped at Great Pets on Saturday, and they had a BUNCH of puppies. I decided to stop and play with one litter they'd just gotten in (about 10 pups). After I played with them a few minutes, hubby asked the storekeeper if we could take one out and play with it in the puppy area. I picked a black, block-headed looking girl pup to play with (thinking she would be the least likely one to tug on my heart strings). As the lady grabbed that one, she also grabbed another black pup. If one pup is fun, two is a blast, right?

And then something unexpected happened . . .

I fell in love with that second pup, the one I hadn't even asked to play with. Something just clicked.

And this is my new pup, Roscoe Pascal.

I really don't know how this happened. I wasn't even a dog person before my dog Missy. Now I'm a dog person, but I'm a hardcore "purebred-German-Shepard-and-always-girl-dogs" kind of dog lover. Or I was.

He's 1/4 Shar Pei, 1/4 English Bulldog, 1/4 Boxer, 1/4 Springer Spaniel (how does THAT happen?). He's jet black with four or five white hairs on his chest and a cinnamon-colored ticking on a few spots on his back. And when he looks up at you, his floppy-jowls and down-turned mouth make him look like a Grouper fish.

And I adore him!

So now I'm trying to juggle "writing time" with "puppy-time." I can't wait until he gets a little older and I can be working away on my latest manuscript in my writing room with him snoring peacefully on a blanket in the corner.

For now, though, I have to work in my writing time during his naps.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Story-A-Day Progress, Week 4

Still going strong on Story-A-Day May . . . but (and I never thought I'd say this) I'm ready for some revision!

It's not that I haven't loved focusing on writing new short stories. I'm just getting impatient. I have projects I put on the back burner this month that I'm ready to get back to work on. And I'm anxious to work on revising some of the stories I've written this month.

I've had a great time with Story-A-Day May, but I'm glad it's drawing to a close.

~ ~ ~

Last week's Story-A-Day stories:

May 21st: "Spring Break" (apocalyptic horror);

May 22nd: "Jellyfish Summer" (horror);

May 23rd: "Tropical Getaway" (horror)-- I hate the title, love the story;

May 24th: "The Truth Hurts" (psychological horror)-- be glad you can't read minds;

May 25th: "Everybody Needs a Hobby" (horror).

~ ~ ~

Recently finished reading:

The Dry Grass of August by Anna Jean Mayhew

Currently reading:

The Year's Best Fantasy & Horror 2008

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Special Edition: The VBA Award

I received the Versatile Blogger Award from KG Arndell, dark fantasy writer! Thanks so much, KG!

The rules of the award state that you need to nominate 15 other blogs AND tell seven things about yourself.

The 15 Blogs I pass the award on to:

1. Coffee Spoons:  Devan Burton  (

2. Electric Shock:  Nicole Easterwood   (

3. Alex Carrick’s Blog  (

4. The League of Extraordinary Writers   (

5. 1st BOOKS: Stories of How Writers Get Started:  Meg Waite Clayton (

6. L’Aussie Writer:  Denise Covey  (

7. Fi's Magical Writing Haven  (

8. Practicing Writing:  Erika Dreifus  (

9. Kelly Hashway  (

10. Mystery Writing is Murder:  Elizabeth Craig (

11. The Bookshelf Muse  (

12. Writing Spirit:  Julie Isaac  (

13. Kristen Lamb’s blog  (

14. Jolina Petersheim’s blog  (

15. Start Your Novel (


Seven Things About Me:

1. I never learned to swim. I've learned to float (not tread water, just float) well enough I probably wouldn't die in the water, as long as I was rescued before I sunburned to a crisp. It explains why so many of my horror stories involve water.

2. I used to run a shelter for unwanted ferrets and I invented a variant of the "Duck Soup" cure for ailing ferrets--but I call my miracle cure "Beefcake" after a product Cartman uses in an episode of South Park.

3. I once had a buck charge me while I was out deer hunting. My gun was empty at the time, so I was going to turn it around and bonk him on the head with it. Luckily, it didn't come to that.

4. I worked on a road construction crew one summer, years and years ago, and I had more brushes with death that summer than I've had the entire rest of my life . . . so far.

5. I collect winged felines: cats and lions, etc., with bird wings and bat wings.

6. When I was ten or eleven, I turned the extra room in my parent's house into a nature museum, full of fossils, animal skeletons, fur and feathers, all appropriately labelled with their genus and species names.

7. I went through a Madonna-phase as a teenager (but hopefully all the photos were lost when we moved).

Thanks again for the award. We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog posts!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Story-A-Day Progress, Week 3

I'm still going strong on Story-A-Day May.

Last week's stories were:

May 14th: "Reality Bites" (horror);

May 15th: "The Isle" (horror)-- definitely going into the revision queue because it freaked me out just writing it;

May 16th: "Infestation" (horror)-- I needed a shower and a can of Raid after this one;

May 17th: "Every Seven Years" (horror)-- another bug story;

May 18th: "Father Goodman" (horror).

In addition to doing Story-A-Day-May, I'm also trying to finish a short story for a looming anthology deadline, revise two other short stories, AND work on a presentation on "writing horror fiction" for our writer's group. Whew!

~ ~ ~
Recently finished reading:

Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen

Currently reading:

The Dry Grass of August, by Anna Jean Mayhew

The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror 2008

Monday, May 14, 2012

Story-A-Day Progress, Week 2

I made it through another week of Story-A-Day-May. This week's stories were:

May 7th: "The Piper" (horror);

May 8th: "Paul Bunyan & the Zombie Winter" (weird horror-comedy-folk tale; no way I'm finding a market for this story!);

May 9th: "Little Green Men" (horror with a dash of sci-fi);

May 10th: "Cold Snap" (horror);

May 11th: "Deja Vu" (horror);

I like at least two of the stories ("The Piper" and "Cold Snap") and I'll probably put them in the revision queue for June. But first I have to get through May!
~ ~ ~

Recently finished reading:

Currently reading:

Monday, May 7, 2012

Story A Day Progress...And Ponies

The first week of Story A Day is over and I did pretty well. It wasn't easy, of course, and I had to burn the midnight oil a few times, but I did it. Of course, I admit that I'm one of those people who always has more things to do than I have time for, and my "to do list" is rarely ever complete.

The stories I wrote this week are:

May 1st: "SALIGIA" (horror);

May 2nd: "Solstice" (fantasy, but with a little sci-fi crossover);

May 3rd: "The Emperor's New Clothes" (psychological thriller);

May 4th: "Human Error" (apocalyptic horror).

I'm only doing Story A Day on a Monday through Friday basis, so I took the weekend off and went fishing.

This year, I remembered to stop and take photos of one of my favorite "points of interest" around the lake. It's some sort of a horse ranch, which is unusual enough in my area, but what makes these horses really interesting in how unusual they are. They are bigger than most ponies I've seen, but they are very stocky and square-jawed, have ridiculously thick manes and tales, and grow one heck of a winter coat, which you can see some of the remnants of in the picture. Some of the others had more of their winter coats left, and it's really woolly and makes them look almost prehistoric.

One of these days, I hope a rancher is out there working when I come by on my way to the fishing area. Then I'll be able to find out more about these horses. For now, I will have to be satisfied just admiring them from a distance.

Monday, April 30, 2012

This month: Story A Day!

Ugh. Trying to find my way around the new Blogger layout. Blogger doesn't go through drastic changes very often, so I can forgive them. Facebook, on the other hand, is a constant source of frustration. It seems like they change the site layout and function at least weekly!

Enough griping. On with the update!

Story A Day starts tomorrow and I can't wait. I love the idea of writing a short story a day.

I completed the challenge successfully last year, loved every minute of it, and even had one of the stories published: "Amazing, Incredible Sea Mongrels." I wrote a very rough draft during last year's Story A Day and then set it aside for several months. After I picked it back up and turned it into a decent first draft, I heard about the call for submissions for the upcoming Penumbra "Animals" issue. So I did a few rewrites, polished it up, and sent it off.

This year I will be following the same plan as last year: write one story a day, Monday through Friday. That means at the end of the month I will have twenty-three short story drafts (if I'm successful).

In June, I'll look over what I have (as well as revisit last year's stories), and see if I've got anything I want to work into a finished, polished story. I hate to admit it, but (except for "Sea Mongrels") I've neglected last year's stories. This year I plan to do better and try to get at least two or three of them finished and (knock on wood) published.

I'll be posting updates here on the blog to let you know how it's going.

Currently reading:

Empire of the Summer Moon, by S. C. Gwynne

Badass Zombie Road Trip, by Tonia Brown

Monday, April 16, 2012

Great tool for revison: WordTalk

Almost every bit of revision/editing advice you see will include: read your story out loud. It definitely helps, but I still miss stuff when I read my own stories out loud. The best solution is to find some nice volunteer to read your story out loud to you, but nice volunteers aren't always available when you need them.

The solution?

The WordTalk program. It's a free Microsoft Word text-to-speech plugin that reads your story to you. As soon as I heard about it, I had to check it out (I need all the help I can get with the revision process).

Like all the best laid plans, though, getting to use the program took a little blood, sweat, and tears (most of which was my own fault, of course).

I knew right from the start that it wouldn't work on my "main" computer (the computer I use for the Internet) because it doesn't work with Microsoft Word 2010 if your operating system is Windows XP (but it will with Vista and Windows 7).

So I planned to install it on the old computer I use as a "server" for all my writing files. However, I forgot that the computer has no speakers because I had given them to my daughter (after all, why would my server need speakers?) Of course, I didn't remember until I had already installed the program on the server and was attempting to test it out (and wailed, quite embarrassingly: "Why doesn't this program work?" Um. Duh, the program works fine on computers that HAVE speakers). Let's just keep this part of the whole episode our little secret, shall we?

I moved the program onto my memory pen and installed it on my laptop (where I actually do my writing). Then I got the error message: program needs a Microsoft NET framework. What is that? I have no idea. But I know it's an update that was auto-installed on the computers that are hooked up to the Internet. However, my laptop has never connected to the Internet because I wanted it to be absolutely secure. It doesn't even have antivirus on it because why would a computer that's never going on the Internet need antivirus? It definitely doesn't have any wireless capabilities (it's older than dirt) and I don't think I even ordered a modem for it when I ordered it!


So I had to install it on my daughter's computer to try it out. Hey, it's only fair: she has my server's speakers, after all.

The program is pretty simple and clear cut. You pick from the three available voices and click a button to have it start reading the story. The robotic "Emergency Broadcast System" voices are distracting, but you do get used to it. And it really does help to have "someone else" reading your story to you, even if it's in a robotic voice.

For me, the biggest advantage it has is that it makes my "flotsam" problem jump out. When I edit, I sometimes leave part of an old sentence behind when I cut. When I read the story, my eye skims right over that extra word; when robotic voice reads the story, that extra word jumps out and hits me over the head.

For example, I might have a sentence like: "She turned the corner and but ran into him." My original sentence read, "She turned the corner but didn't slow down," and I decided to change it to, "She turned the corner and ran into him," but I left an extra word (or sometimes two) from the original sentence in there. This program helps you catch those extra words.

I also sometimes forget to change my verbs and do silly things like leave an "ing": "He smiling the whole time." My original sentence was: "he was smiling the whole time," and I wanted to edit it to, "he smiled the whole time," but I dropped the "was" and forgot to change the verb. This program helps you catch those inconsistencies, too.

Other times, I stutter and write a word twice. I can't tell you how many times I've come across sentences like this in editing: "He ran into the the house and slammed the door." I don't know how it manages to happen so often, but it does. And the spelling/grammar checker underlines it, but I still miss it. My eyes just skim right over it. This program helps you catch those, too.

I've already used it on a couple of stories, and I think it really does help make the revision process easier. And you can't beat the price: FREE! I've now made it a part of my regular revision process. I'd recommend you give it a try and see if it works for you.

Download WordTalk here.

Monday, April 2, 2012

March wrap-up

Time for a monthly update!

  • The April issue of Penumbra is out! It includes my story, "Incredible Sea Mongrels." And yes, my name is spelled wrong, lol. It happens, especially with a name like Kezar. I've seen it spelled Keyzer, Keiser, and Kaiser, but this is the first time I've seen it as Kazar. The fearless leader of my local writing group faces a similar problem, but for her, it's her unusual first name that causes confusion. Anyway, go buy a copy of the issue! You can get it in pdf format, Kindle, ePub, or Mobi.

  • I attended a writer's workshop given by Linda Lein last weekend. It was so awesome that I now want to enroll in the college where she teaches so that I can take more of her classes.

  • I attended a writer's workshop given by the local college this past weekend. It didn't quite turn out as planned, as we had some . . . uh, boisterous attendees who loved to talk and discuss each and every point, comment, or topic for ten minutes or more. We had a packet of materials we were supposed to get through, but we only finished two pages in the hour-and-a-half that had been reserved for the workshop. I felt bad for the nice gentleman running the workshop, because you know he probably feels things got out of hand and off course, but he did a great job of trying to wrangle things back on topic. They just had him outnumbered. :)

  • I finished up my alternate-history-with-zombies story by the deadline and am very pleased with the way the story turned out. Hopefully I'll be telling you where you can pick up a copy to read very soon.

  • The first "heads-up" emails went out for Story-A-Day-May. This is one of my favorite challenges because it focuses on short stories: write one short story a day for the whole month of May. I, of course, will be signing up again this year.

That's all the latest news. I find myself in the very strange predicament of not having a single story in the works right now, so it's time to sit down and face that blank page and figure out what's next!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Credibility is everything, even in fiction

Credibility can make or break a story. When a reader comes across an obvious inaccuracy, an inconsistent detail, or an out-of-character action by a main character, they are jolted out of the story.

You might be thinking: but how do I maintain credibility when I'm writing about incredible stuff? Through realistic facts and details, and maintaining consistency.

1. Facts must be true (or explained, if they aren't):

For example, I'm writing an alternate history story of the Indian Wars. Before I did my research, I had the cavalry using muzzle loaders. During the revision-fact-checking process, I discovered that the cavalry should be using Henry repeating rifles. Would most people have noticed the difference? Maybe, maybe not. But it was a factual error that could have killed the story for anyone who has a good knowledge of history. Unless, of course, I've explained why they aren't using the kind of rifles they were supposed to (Aliens came back in time and stole all the people who were inventing more modern rifles--a la The Terminator--and projectile technology was thus set back a hundred years).

2. Details have to be consistent:

If you've created a fantasy world, it can certainly have blue cows. It's your world, it can have what ever you want! But then the cows should always remain blue on that world, and if they change color later, you'll need to explain it (they change colors with the seasons?). And if you call a sword a Tspat on page 12, you can't call it a Zbek on page 425 (without an explanation, anyway);

3. Character behavior has to be realistic and consistent:

Throughout a novel, a character should change, but their behavior should be consistent with wherever they are in their transformation. If your character is going to grow from coward to courageous, they shouldn't be rushing into a burning building while they are still in the coward stage. Also, their behavior should be consistent for their demographic-type.

Number three is best explained using an example from The Walking Dead.

During the finale of The Walking Dead, I found myself yelling at the TV again. No, not "Look out Rick, there's a zombie behind you." I've been yelling, "Damn it, Lori, put a leash on that kid!"

Throughout most of this season, a lot of problems for the characters have involved or been exacerbated by a wandering child name Carl. It adds more conflict for the storyline, but it's also caused a credibility problem:

1. It's the frigging zombie apocalypse. What kind of mother would even let a kid out of their sight? Dad's got an excuse: he's busy saving the world. But mom? I'm sure there's a lot of laundry to do, but make the kid help and keep an eye on his wandering butt.
2. Carl has already been shot once. Sure, he hadn't been wandering alone that time, but still! They are aware that danger exists even when zombies aren't around. Again, what kind of a mom . . . ?
3. They have already lost a child from their group, and she had a good excuse for wandering off (zombies in hot pursuit).

So the character of Lori is a great example of a character acting inconsistently with her type. She's a mom. Mom's are supposed to protect their children. Instead, she lets him wander through the zombie apocalypse. And every time Carl wanders, I get jolted out of the story.

But not being credible can do more than jolt the reader out of the story: it can cause people to make fun of you. Check out these two links:

Rick and Lori have a little chat

10 Reasons Why The Walking Dead Should Just Kill Carl, by Marina Cockenberg

And yes, the #KillCarlAlready hash tag is real, and it gets a lot of use, but that's not the kind of publicity you're looking for.

So remember: even though we are creating incredible worlds, we have to make sure the stories remain credible.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Coming soon: Amazing, Incredible Sea Mongrels

My newest horror short, "Amazing, Incredible Sea Mongrels," will be in the April issue of Penumbra Magazine.

Remember those ads in the back of the comic books? Exploding cigarettes, fake dog poo, amazing sea mongrels? A little fishbowl of brine shrimp seems harmless enough, but sometimes nostalgia can be deadly.

The story was inspired by a news photo of a creepy-crawlie brought to the surface as it clung to a deep-sea submersible. Somehow, my mind jumped to the old ads in the back of the comics and a story was born!

If I had to write my story creation process as a formula it would be:

healthy dose of imagination + dash of paranoia + some outside stimuli (like a photo)

A nice mathematical representation of my story-creation process!

And speaking of story creation, I'm currently in the editing phase on my latest project, an alternate-history horror short . . . with zombies, of course! I absolutely hated history when I was in school, but I love alternate history--and everything's better with zombies!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Misplaced modifiers...and commas...and apostrophes...

I've been reading a lot of self-published e-books lately. They have taught me a lesson for my own writing:

If I ever self-publish, I'm hiring an editor!

It's tough to edit your own writing. No matter how diligent you are, it's almost impossible to catch all your mistakes. That's why it's nice to have a second, third, or thirty-third pair of eyes to look everything over.

I've abandoned some of the self-published e-books I picked up, not because plot was thin or slow, not because the characters were flat, but because they were almost impossible to read due to poor editing. I'd get a few pages in and find myself yelling, "Didn't you bother to edit this at all?"

Of course, some of them probably didn't.

I remember a few years ago when a girl posted this message to a Yahoo writer's group I belonged to:

"Dec 3rd:  Hey! This was my first time trying NaNoWriMo and I won! Yay! Now I need to find out who I send this to so it can get published."

I kid you not. She "wrote a novel" in November and was looking for a publisher the first week in December. All those people that take ten years to write a novel? Pshh! They're just slackers. I can't even imagine what they're wasting all that time doing [tongue firmly in cheek].

However, whether one hires a professional editor or not, the first line of defense is always the author his/herself. It's important for a writer to have at least a basic knowledge of grammar and usage.

I started giving myself a grammar/usage refresher course a few months ago, mostly because of commas (blast you, vile punctuation mark)! I noticed I was starting to sprinkle commas on my pages like a rabbit with a digestive disorder.

I also did it for the ellipses. I literally spent three days trying to find out the ellipses rule for dialogue: if a character's thoughts trail off in a piece of dialogue, is it ellipses only? Ellipses with a period? Ellipses with a space and then a period? Etc., etc., ETC.!!! I tried looking it up in my reference guides, I Googled it, and I went to grammar sites until I wore out my mouse. I found lots of info about ellipses and omitted words, but I couldn't find much on ellipses and dialogue . . . and what little tidbits of info I did find contradicted each other. I even started paging through some books by published authors to find out how they handled ellipses, and, as usual, I couldn't find any examples (I know they are there; I KNOW I've seen Stephen King do the dialogue-trailing-off thing, but I couldn't find it when I needed it).

So, I decided I would pick up a style guide (Chicago Manual, used by the book publishing industry) and some grammar/usage guides and do a little self-study.

It's already helping. I'm already stingier about handing out commas. Of course, reading all these dry textbooks has put me into a comma . . . I mean: coma. Oops.

But even with my refresher course, I plan on having anything I self-publish thoroughly edited by a nice grammar-Nazi. If someone abandons a novel I've written, I don't want it to be because the comma-fairy left muddy footprints all over my prose; I want it to be because the zombies scared them so badly they couldn't keep reading.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Time is the Enemy; I'm Setting Priorities

Writing has been an uphill battle for the last six months or so because life has been chaotic. I've had to squeak in writing time wherever I can, and I've had times when I went a week or two without writing a single word.

In late summer, we found out my mother's cancer had reoccurred in her chest walls, so she would be facing another round of radiation and radio-sensitizing chemotherapy;
In the fall, my father-in-law had a medical scare (tumors covering his kidneys);
In early winter, my husband had heart problems.

All these things led to worry, over-filled schedules, single parenting while the other spouse took care of their parent or recuperated, tight finances . . . it's not an environment that fosters creativity or allows for a lot of free time (or even time to think, some days).

And now . . .

Well, for now, I'm simplifying my life. You'll notice the Spec-Fic Friday posts are conspicuously absent? I'm budgeting my time, and (for now), Friday's posts are low on the priority list. I'll do them if (when?) I have extra time.

You see, my dog is dying. Right now, she takes high priority in my schedule. I'm still writing, I'm still spending time with family, I'm still working out (so I don't end up with my own health crisis, for the love of Pete) . . . but some of the extra stuff (like two blog posts a week) have to be trimmed out for a while.

I know. You are saying to yourself, "WTF!?! She's cutting stuff out of her schedule to spend more time with her dog???"

One of the things people "in real life" know about me is that I love animals even more than I love zombies, but the relationship between me and my dog goes beyond that. I've always loved almost all animals . . . except dogs. Cats, bunnies, mice, ferrets, horses, etc. But not dogs. I just wasn't a dog person.

Sure, we had family dogs. Hubby was raised very much in the old school, "kids need dogs" way, and he brought that into our family.

To be honest, I hated most of them. There was only one I ever liked, and that was simply because of the depth and breadth that she loved my hubby and my kids. I, on the other hand, was chopped liver. If an attacker broke in and threatened the kids or hubby, I knew she'd die protecting them. If an attacker broke in and threatened me, I knew she'd hustle hubby and the kids to safety and come back for me IF there was time.

When she started to get old and we knew her time was short, I knew that as soon as she passed, hubby would want another dog. And since she was a very, VERY well-behaved dog, I came up with the idea of getting a puppy while she was still alive so she could help train her replacement (I know . . . a little cold and practical, but like I said, I wasn't a dog person).

What I didn't expect was for that puppy to become my best friend. I swear, she can read my mind. I couldn't have built a robot dog as perfectly matched to my personality; Missy is a canine version of everything I need in a best friend. Peas and carrots, that's what we are. Since Missy came along, I can't watch I am Legend without choking up (you know the part I'm talking about). She's the Sam to my Neville.

But now, after only a short seven years together, Missy's dying of a brain tumor.

So . . .
If Missy wants to play Frisbee, I'm playing Frisbee;
If Missy wants to eat cheeseburgers and french fries and cotton candy, then I'm eating cheeseburgers and french fries and cotton candy;
If Missy wants to curl up with me and take a nap, with my arm slung around her neck and her legs thrown over my back, then I'm taking a nap;
If Missy wants to stand outside and marvel at snowflakes the size of pennies fluttering down silently around us in the hush of a winter afternoon, then I'm marveling.

Every moment we have left together, we are making it count.