Am I haunted? Or just going crazy?

AM I HAUNTED? OR JUST GOING CRAZY?
Guest Post by Lacy Sereduk

darkness
“The evil is coming…” says a voice in the darkness.

Something woke me up, last night.  Not the usual creepiness that comes at night.  Not my kids.  I don’t really know what it was; it was like a night terror experience but it wasn’t terrifying — almost calming.  This was a whole new way to wake up for me.  But, being who I am, I laid there and tried to go back to sleep until my brain made it clear that it wouldn’t let me.  My brain likes to think about food pretty much all the time.  So, not being able to vanquish the visions of a late-night snack, I got up.

My room and the house was quiet and dark because it was just after midnight.  I quietly opened my bedroom door; slowly so as not to bump anything behind it.  Just as I’ve got it three quarters of the way open, a voice, on the other side of the door, whispers, “Damnit.”  I’ll admit it: I jumped.  I turned away from the voice, toward the switch, and flipped the lights on, expecting to find one of my kids had just been caught (and now this is serious because of the language).

Turning back to the room, there’s no one around.  Just the quiet stillness of our house at night.  Experiences like this aren’t very new to me so I just furrow my brow and search out a treat.  However, this got me thinking back down a path that I’ve thought a few times before.  Am I haunted?

A few weeks ago, I had come home and saw an old man in my driveway.  I was driving my husband’s truck, so, pulling into his parking spot, I watched the old man walk in front of my own truck.  I waited, expecting the man to come around the other side.  He looked like he was dressed for church: black suit, black tie, white dress shirt.  He was very thin, old, and had a good amount of short white hair on his head.  Maybe he’s going to the front door of the house?

I waited.  I reached forward and shut the truck off and still I waited.  I waited until it was completely clear that the man had just *poofed* into non-existence and would not be rejoining reality on the other side of my truck.  For hours, I wracked my brain, trying to figure out where he could have gone, where he could have come from, why I would have thought I even saw a man.  This wasn’t the first time that I’ve seen someone that shouldn’t be there and most likely won’t be the last.

I wrote my first novel, Discernment, because of what I see at night, under the cover of darkness.  The things that come into my room (or wherever I’m sleeping), the shadow people that haunt me, and the monsters under the bed.  Having the night terror disorder, in and of itself, is enough to drive someone to crazy way faster than they’d have arrived on their own, BUT, I don’t think I’m crazy.  So, if I didn’t accidentally fall off the planet for a minute, while sitting in my driveway, that leaves me to wonder: other than being haunted, what else is there?  A strange link to a parallel universe?  My brain showing me a memory, out of the blue, and accidentally getting it crossed with my optic sensors?  I don’t know.  If you do, I’m all ears.

I love hearing feedback from readers about their own experiences and their own stories.  Have you ever seen someone that you were positive was standing right there and then they disappeared?  Have you ever walked into a room and heard a voice without a body that belonged to it?  Ever woken up because you had an eery feeling that someone was watching you?  Trust me, there’s no judgement here if bumps in the night freak you out just a little.

* * *

lacy_sereduk

LACY SEREDUK is an Idaho native and enjoys long walks on the beach, reading, coffee, and video games. Her hope for her book, Discernment, was, originally cathartic, as a way to ‘get out’ some of the demons that have haunted her from childhood. With her published novel, she now hopes to help other sufferers know that they are not wholly alone in their fight toward the light.

Lacy Sereduk Online: BlogAmazon | Goodreads | Discernment I | Discernment II

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Discernment by Lacy Sereduk

Discernment

by Lacy Sereduk

Giveaway ends August 04, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Why Yawatta Hosby Loves Writing Thrillers

WHY I LOVE WRITING THRILLERS
Guest Post by Yawatta Hosby

the_texas_chainsaw_massacre_image
Image: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

Here’s a secret: I love horror movies. I’m talking Saw, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Friday the 13th, Wrong Turn, basically anything that’s gory and disturbing. I also love suspense movies that have betrayal and mind games, like Mindhunters, Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer, and Straw Dogs. I’m not going to lie—I have to watch during the daytime. Even so, I end up getting nightmares for two weeks straight.

Being interested in those types of movies naturally led me to wanting to write those types of books. At first, I was too terrified of reading horror or thriller books until a few years ago. In movies, you’re warned that something morbid is popping up by the creepy music in the background. In books, not so much.

That’s what I admire about the thriller genre. There are no warnings when a scene or image will make readers jump out of their seats. It’s fun creating scenarios that will give readers goosebumps. In thrillers, you’re allowed to make characters unlikeable. For me, the villains are very fascinating to write. It’s a good feeling when readers send you messages of how much they despised a person in your story and was looking forward to their karma. Or to receive messages that they fell in love with a person in your story and wept about the outcome. That means readers felt passion for your book, and you can never go wrong with that.

I write books in different genres, without using a pen name, but I’m confident that I’ll always find my way back to creating thrillers. In fact, I have a couple of books I’m hoping to publish by the end of this year:

  • Plenty of Fish is a short story. A stranger approaches a local celebrity. It’s definitely not a love story. Is he crazy? Lonely? Dangerous?
  • My novella is about an obsessive man willing to do anything to get the family he deserves.

I’m hoping these two stories will be published next year:

  • The sequel to One By One, revolving around Detective Brown’s daughter. (Some people have hinted that they’d like to see the story continue, so I’m up for the challenge). :)
  • A story about a crazed ballerina who terrorizes her younger sister because she feels that her sister is responsible for their brother’s death.

For all the writers out there, why do you create thrillers? For all the readers out there, why do you love scaring yourself?

Keep smiling,
Yawatta Hosby

* * *

With a desire to escape every day life, YAWATTA HOSBY creates stories. She’s always had a fascination with psychology, so she likes to focus on the inner-struggles within her characters. Her short story “Room For Two” is published in the online literary magazine The Write Place At the Write Time (Spring/Summer 2013 edition).

Yawatta Hosby Online: Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Amazon | Goodreads | Interview

Gritty YA Fiction

GRITTY AND THE ‘MIKI RADICCI’ SERIES
Guest Post by M.E. Purfield

girl_gun

Gritty is not always good. Traditionalists, fundamentalist, and Goody-Goodies do not like gritty. I’m not positive why. Maybe it undermines what dead generations taught. You see, gritty is a rebellion. It’s dirty, violent, and transcendent. In storytelling, gritty is the extreme setting and obstacle a main character may go through. And if you follow traditional storytelling where a main character reaches the light of change at the end, gritty can be a great dark tunnel.

Gritty is most commonly associated with the city, drugs, and crime. Before I came up with my Miki Radicci series, I had already written three stand alone Young Adult novels. Two of them took place in the city and all three had an element of crime to the story. So making a gritty series was a no-brainer. But why did I do it?

My background is vanilla. I grew up white suburban middle class. I was forced to do all the things my parents and society expects me to do. I hated most of my childhood. I hated being one with the crowd. Reality was a boring prison. To escape I immersed myself into horror and crime films and fiction. If I was born to be rebellious then writing gritty fiction is hardwired into my soul. I get off on it. I like to push buttons, upset the traditionalists, fundamentalists, and the Goody-Goodies.

Basically, I’m a dick.

Basically, I love my freedom.

The Miki Radicci series is a young adult, urban, noir, fantasy. The grit comes natural, but there’s always a conscious level I try to adhere. Primarily, my anti-hero main character is gritty. You can either love her or hate her. Based on reader reaction, that is exactly what people do. The funny thing is, they love her and hate her for the same reasons.

Miki is sixteen but an emancipated, self-sufficient artist. She doesn’t live under her parents’ roof or control. Miki is also an alcoholic. Her best friend is a former bum boy who now goes to school and lives with Miki. She is also a bit of a criminal herself. She makes fake identifications and is handy with picking locks.

All those traits are conscious and planned to make her gritty. She goes against the traditional teen girl who follows what her parents say and want; who has plans for college; who is dealing with a boyfriend or best friend or whatever.

Another conscious step for grit is her psychic ability. Miki can psychically feel another’s pain or death. Murder and violence is scary. I wanted to go against the norm that violence looks cool. When the reader experiences Miki’s pain or death, they should not enjoy it. The words should jumpstart a dread in their imagination that will upset them.

Her psychic ability also works on another level. It expresses Miki’s hero side. Because of the pain she feels from others, Miki becomes a vigilante and avenges the victim’s assault or death. Her ability defines her good core. I consciously try not to make it part of the plot or a thread in the series. You will not find out why or how she got it. There’s no final fight between good and evil.

So there you have it. Love me, hate me, that is the grit of Miki Radicci and I. It’s a rebellion. It’s a way of life. It is who I am. And I hope it is who you are too. Or I may piss you off.

* * *

M.E. PURFIELD has done some script work for low low low budget films and even directed a few shorts. When it comes to writing novels, his strengths lie with Young Adult fiction, contemporary and noir fantasy. When not practicing the art of Potty Mouth, he spends his time raising his son, being married, watching horror films, and listening to punk music.

M.E. Purfield Online: Website | FacebookAmazon | Goodreads

Write About What You Know

WRITE ABOUT WHAT YOU KNOW
Guest Post by Benjamin King

noir_female

Image by Frank Miller

I wrote about angels. I wrote about the Roman Empire. I wrote about hoboes riding trains. No one understood what I was trying to say. Then I remembered a Mark Twain essay I had read long ago and dug it out and studied it again. It’s a convincing argument that William Shakespeare never wrote the masterful dramas attributed to his name. He couldn’t have written them, and Mark Twain explained why.

A short paraphrase of what he said is, “A butcher can’t talk lawyer talk and make it sound convincing.” Whoever wrote the plays was intimately familiar with the inner workings of the royal courts of Europe, and that didn’t mean butchering calves by the Thames River or holding horses outside a London theatre that catered to rabble, which were William Shakespeare’s only qualifications.

Twain was right you know. And I realized he was right and started writing about what I knew – really knew – and it paid off. I was fortunate in that respect, because the things I knew best were exciting things and things that a lot of authors write about anyway. And yet, many of them get it wrong.

You see I was raised on a small mountain farm that might better be described as a mini-ranch. Horses, ponies, mules, cows, pigs, rabbits, chickens, squirrels – every animal, tame or wild – was either a playmate or a possible target. I had two other lucky circumstances that influenced me from the age of three. My parents were musicians and readers. My father read strictly westerns because he also loved guns.

Everyone has absorbing interests – things we are deeply involved in – and those are the things we learn the most about. For me it was horses, guns, and guitars, in that exact order. As an adult I’ve loaded, shot, and cleaned hundreds of firearms.

It’s hard for me to accept an author of Larry McMurtry’s caliber allowing one of his principle protagonists to carry a Colt’s Dragoon revolver for 800 pages without ever having him load it with the necessary black powder, lead balls, and percussion caps. I don’t think Larry knew the difference between that particular weapon and one that shoots pre-packaged metallic cartridges, or maybe he thought no one else did.

In the first book of my series about a young country singer and guitar player, When a Lady Lies, I use a symbol that enhances the mystery – a collection of old pistols. Those guns are in my mother-in-law’s gun cabinet. I’ve cleaned them and shot them and can describe one so accurately you feel it in your hand. In the sequel, I switch to percussion pistols and have both the victim and the falsely accused protagonist portrayed as Civil War era gun enthusiasts. I own one of those, too.

I was lucky. I absorbed volumes of exciting material without really trying. It was part of my environment. If you want to write murder mysteries or psychological thrillers about guns and the way they operate and feel and have no real experience to draw on, there is a ton of online material you could read. But I suggest you take the time to go to a gun store, explain your situation to the owner, and have him let you hold a real one in your hand. It’s a powerful feeling. Who knows? You may end up on the firing range, which would enhance your writing to the Nth power.

* * *

BENJAMIN KING is a writer, world traveler, sculptor, and professional musician. He had his first country song published in 1971 and followed that with numerous magazine articles, a volume of short stories, and a future-fantasy novel. His colorful characters are drawn from the eventful life he has pursued.

Benjamin King Online: Website | SW | FacebookAmazon | Goodreads | Interview

Writing about Guns in Fiction

START WITH HAND SIZE (for Matching Handguns to Characters)
Guest Post by Ben Sobieck

gun_popart

Image by Andy Warhol (1981-2982)

My father in-law bought a .40 caliber Smith & Wesson semi-automatic pistol the other day. It’s a nice handgun for sure. It fits comfortably into his holster. The lightweight design makes it a breeze to wear. The caliber is exactly the one he wanted. Even better, he bought it at a terrific price. So why does he hate it?

As it turns out, my father in-law didn’t shoot the pistol before putting down the dough. He pulled the trigger for the first time at our recent trip to the gun range. Thing is, his hands are too large for the grip. This made it difficult to shoot, and his accuracy suffered as a result. (Although, hey, I’m no dead-eye myself.)

What does this have to do with writing fiction? It highlights an important point about matching handguns to characters. Some writers get caught up in gender, caliber, availability, gun type or looks when selecting a handgun for a character. While those are important factors, I wouldn’t recommend starting with those things.

Instead, start with hand size. How small or large are the character’s hands? Smaller hands should go with smaller handguns. Larger hands would go with larger handguns.

By “small” and “large,” I mean the physical dimensions, not the caliber. There are small handguns that fire large calibers, and vice versa.

Most handgun manufacturers seem to agree with this approach. They break product lines down by size first, then address the other features. Smith & Wesson, for example, offers small, medium, large and extra large lines of revolvers (called J, K, N and X). Each of those sizes (called “frames,” as in “J-frame” or “K-frame”) comes in small and large calibers.

With the hand size identified, start picking out similarly-sized handguns suited for those other important factors, such as caliber.

There’s plenty to consider. That’s why I developed a step-by-step process to making the right match in my book, “The Weapons for Writers: A Practical Reference for Writing Firearms and Knives in Fiction.” It’ll hit shelves in late 2014 from Writer’s Digest. Pre-orders are available at Amazon now if you feel like saving a buck ahead of time. (http://www.amazon.com/The-Weapons-Writers-Practical-Reference/dp/1599638150)

* * *

BENJAMIN SOBIECK is the author of “The Weapons for Writers” (Writer’s Digest, late 2014), the Maynard Soloman detective series and numerous short stories graffitied throughout the Internet and crime anthologies. His website is CrimeFictionBook.com.

Benjamin Sobieck Online: WebsiteAmazon | TwitterGoodreads | Interview

My Take on Horror

* Note from Jess: The Horror Writers Association has a great page that seeks to define horror fiction. In this post, author Michael Robertson Jr. — who writes horror and suspense novels — shares his thoughts on what the genre means to him.

MY TAKE ON HORROR
Guest Post by Michael Robertson Jr.

horror

Image from eBooks @ Adelaide

Let’s examine some things I’ve written about. Ready? Here goes: Grief-driven Serial Killer alter egos, snow monsters, lost identity, dueling spirits deep in the mountains, alien-possessed children, phones that ring to the past and expose gruesome murders, playing poker for your life, carnival games that’ll make you lose your lunch—these are just a few.

Now, think hard. What do all these things have in common? Anybody?

Hint: Nothing at all.

That’s just it: I don’t have regular central themes, I don’t have a formulaic approach to my new projects.

My catalog is a mosaic of ideas, a splattering of genre-crossing plots that all have been derived from one simple thought: What if?

That’s where nearly every story I’ve started (and not always finished) begins. I see something, hear something, read something, and then think to myself “What if X happened instead?” or “What’s the most unexpected thing that could happen now?”—and if the resulting idea would be a worst-case scenario for most anybody, something that might make somebody’s skin crawl or make them pray it never happens to them, I start to build on it, see If I can get a full story out of it.

This can be as simple as an argument between spouses resulting in death, or as random as bringing your kid home from day care and an hour later he eats the cat.

What if you went to the dentist and when the hygienist accidentally nicks you with the sharp thing she bends over and sucks the blood out of your mouth with her own two lips?

I just thought of that. Hmm, might have something there…

Face it. What-If’s are the root of all of YOUR fears. Think about it. What if you lose your job? What if your burglar alarm goes off in the middle of the night? What if there’s a strange person hanging out by your car in the parking lot when you get off work late? What if you fail that big test? What if the plane crashes? What if the doctor calls to discuss your test results? What if your credit card gets declined?

See? All what-if’s.

Now, I write fiction, so yes, my what-if’s are a little far-fetched, a little (okay, often times a lot) exaggerated and ridiculous. I thrive off the uncertain and unpredictable, but the opening question is still there, the basis for the horrific events I write down.

What If?

What if I never get another story idea? That scares the hell out of me.

* * *

MICHAEL ROBERTSON JR.’s books have been downloaded over 80,000 times on Amazon.com. Rough Draft, a horror novel and newest release, has been in the Top 100 horror rankings. He lives in Virginia where he’s currently working on a new novel and trying to keep himself from thinking his next idea is a better one.

Michael Robertson Jr. Online: Website | Blog | Amazon | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

Science Fiction Noir

* Note from Jess: ‘Noir’ can be defined as a “genre of crime film or fiction characterized by cynicism, fatalism, and moral ambiguity.” In this post, writer Richard Levesque shares his thoughts on the connection between science fiction and noir — which I certainly appreciate as a fan of cross-genre work!

INTO THE DARK: The Science Fiction/Noir Connection
Guest Post by Richard Levesque

noir_alley

Image by Pspynett

The running man darts past a streetlight, casting a long shadow across the wet pavement. He glances back and then ducks into an alley, pressing himself into the darkness as he catches his breath and listens. He thinks he’s safe, but from the other end of the alley a new shadow moves. There’s a moment’s recognition when he sees her, but his relief fades instantly when he realizes there’s only one reason she’d be here in this alley at the same time as him. He hears someone running up the street toward the alley, and he knows he’s cornered. There’s no choice but to shoot his way out, but who to shoot first? The woman is only a few steps away. He can smell her, can practically taste her. But he knows why she’s here, so he pulls out his laser cannon and blasts her into eternity.

Wait.

What?

Laser cannon? Wasn’t that supposed to be a snub-nosed .38?

Well, yes. If this were a 1940s detective novel or a 1950s film noir, that is. But it’s not. This is science fiction, and yet the story and characters have a lot in common with the kinds of hard-boiled crime fiction found in literature and film over the last 70 years or so. We still have the tough protagonist who lives on the edge of society and sometimes does bad things but always in the name of getting to the truth and shining a light on the darkness that’s just below the surface of seemingly respectable society. Along the way, he encounters a femme fatale, crooked cops, deadly mobsters, lots of dark interiors and shadowy exteriors, and even more disillusionment.

Face it: there are murders and crimes in science fiction; there are mysteries that need to be solved and shady characters who will stop at nothing to keep their secrets hidden. When these characters and situations emerge, science fiction blends with hard boiled noir.

The blending of SF and noir goes back a long way, maybe even to Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. Most SF fans probably think more readily of Blade Runner, though, or at least the original theatrical release of that film with the Sam Spade-style voiceover. There are a lot of other examples, among them William Gibson’s “Burning Chrome” and Jonathan Letham’s Gun, with Occasional Music. More recently, the development of deco-punk and diesel-punk have added to the SF/noir canon.

science_fiction_noir

“Neon City” artwork by Vladimir Manyuhin

But why blend SF and hard-boiled mystery? For me, the connection just seems natural as they’re my two favorite genres to read, and because I’ve spent a lot of time reading and writing about LA and Hollywood history and culture. When I started writing, I put my two loves together to end up with Take Back Tomorrow (a time travel novel set in 1940 Los Angeles) and Strictly Analog (about a down-and-out private detective in a near future, dystopian LA).

If you think about it, though, there’s also a logical connection. Look at science fiction from the early twentieth century—the pulpy, genre stuff in Amazing Stories, Astounding, and so on rather than more highbrow SF from Orwell and Huxley and Olaf Stapledon. In those pulp stories, the science fiction hero was a slightly disguised version of the cowboy or frontiersman, the hero of much of the popular fiction from the century before. That Western hero—the trailblazing loner who came into town, kissed a few shady ladies, blasted holes into the bullies trying to boss around the hard-working homesteaders, and then rode out again to explore the edges of the known world—managed to get bifurcated in the twentieth century. In one form, he became the private eye—still righting wrongs, messing with the wrong women, and always ending up alone after risking life and limb to make better the society that had somehow rejected him, or which he’d turned his back on voluntarily. And in his other form, he became the science fiction hero—exploring the galaxy and making future worlds safe for space colonists, taking on aliens and androids alike.

Great examples of these transplanted cowboys would include Northwest Smith in C.L. Moore’s stories, or John Carter in Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Mars series. There was a lot less disillusionment in those heroes; they were a lot more like their cowboy granddaddies than their jaded detective cousins. And yet the two are not much different; it’s the settings that change, and the weapons—snub-nosed .38s for one, laser canons for the other.

By the 1950s, the science fiction hero became a little darker, a little less pulpy. You can find the noir-themed beginnings of cyberpunk back there in the writings of Alfred Bester, in particular his novels The Stars My Destination and The Demolished Man, both crime novels set in the future with anti-hero characters and a tough, gritty tone. By the time we get to the 1980s and William Gibson’s Sprawl trilogy, the blending of science fiction and noir had reached a peak with characters occupying as risky a landscape as anything Philip Marlowe or Sam Spade had to navigate.

It only makes sense that the bifurcated cowboy would rejoin himself in the form of the futuristic detective or private eye. Like all good literature, science fiction tends to reflect the culture that creates it. Maybe we’ve reached a point where we’re less optimistic about our future than SF writers in the 1930s were, less hopeful that technology will get us out of our binds or that the monsters (real or imagined) will be defeated with a good right cross and some superior intellect. But if our heroes are growing darker, their situations bleaker, their outlooks more pessimistic, we’re still entertained, caught up in the fantasy that there’s still someone out there with enough guts to do what’s right even at great personal cost.

femme_fatale

Image by DualProdigy

…The femme fatale drops to the concrete, smoke rising from the big hole in her chest. The hero pauses over her corpse just long enough to say goodbye to the girl he thought she’d been. Then he runs off into the night, knowing his safety is only temporary…like ours.

* * *

RICHARD LEVESQUE has spent most of his life in Southern California. For the last several years he has taught composition and literature, including science fiction, as part of the English Department at Fullerton College. His first book, Take Back Tomorrow, was published in 2012, and he has followed it with other science fiction and urban fantasy novels, novellas, and short stories.

* Check out his short story, Walk A Mile — available for free on Amazon!

Richard Levesque Online: Website | Blog | Amazon | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads