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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Woman In Horror: Editor and Author Jeani Rector

Grave Events book cover with photo of aged human corpse.
Photo Credit: The Horror Zine



To close Women in Horror Month, I’ve asked editor and author Jeani Rector to be my guest blogger for this post. Jeani is the founding editor of the online literary journal, The Horror Zine. Her latest novel is Grave Events which released last September. She was elected Best Magazine/e-zine Editor by Preditors & Editors three times: once in 2012, again in 2013 and then in 2014. I’m proud to say she is a fellow Sacramentan and so resides in the Sacramento area.

Jeani presents us here with a very intriguing article that breaks the stereotype of horror as a man’s genre. And now heeeere’s Jeani . . . !

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WOMEN IN HORROR
by Jeani Rector, Editor
The Horror Zine
http://www.thehorrorzine.com

“What’s a nice girl like you doing editing and writing horror?”

This is the reaction from some when I explain what I do. “Women in horror” is a difficult concept for some. We are perceived as more submissive than men, and…well…nice. And many do not view the horror genre as “nice.”

In reality, women in horror have been a vital life force in horror since its inception. Remember that Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein. And we all know the impact that Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House had on the ghost story crowd.

The concept of horror has unfortunately been stereotyped for many people by slasher and gore films.

I am not saying that slasher and gore are not horror. I am saying that slasher and gore are only one sub-genre of horror.

So let’s ask: what is horror?

People are attracted to horror books and films because it is similar to riding a roller-coaster: you get excitement and thrills, yet you know deep down that you will land safely because it is all pretend. Horror is fun without consequences.

There is something visceral and ingrained in people to seek out the morbidly fascinating. Reading a horror story or watching a film often makes us more appreciative of our own calm existence after vicariously experiencing a protagonist’s fears.

According to Glenn Sparks, Ph.D, a professor and associate head of the Brian Lamb School of Communication at Purdue University, one reason for the appeal is how you feel after the movie or book. This is called the excitation transfer process. Sparks’s research found that when people watch frightening films, their heart rate, blood pressure and respiration increases.

“After the film is over, this physiological arousal lingers,” Sparks said. “That means that any positive emotions you experience—like having fun with friends—are intensified. Instead of focusing on the fright you felt during the film, you recall having a great time. And you’ll want to come back for more.” [1]

A misconception about horror is that some people erroneously equate it with Satanism. While there are books and films that contain the concepts of Heaven and Hell (think Blatty’s The Exorcist), in no way do you see the horror genre promoting or endorsing devil worship. In fact, most of the time, good triumphs over evil in the end (think Stephen King’s The Stand).

How did horror get its start?

Filmmakeriq.com states: “Monsters, murderers, demons and beasts have been around since antiquity, and ghost stories have been told round camp fires since we learned how to talk. But the roots of filmed horror were an extension of a genre of literature that got its start in the late 1700s: Gothic Horror. Developed by writers in both Great Britain and the United States, the Gothic part of the name refers to pseudo medieval buildings that these stories took place—think of a old castle on a dark and stormy night—gloomy forests, dungeons and secret passage ways.” [2]

A good place to learn about how the horror genre came into being is the film A History of Horror (also known as A History of Horror with Mark Gatiss), a 2010 three-part documentary series made for the BBC by British writer and actor Mark Gatiss. It is a personal exploration of the history of horror film, inspired by Gatiss’ lifelong enthusiasm for the genre.

Horror is a genre in fiction, yet it comes with many sub-genres.

Here are my preferred sub-genres of horror:

Ghost: This is one of my favorites. Ghost stories depend upon atmosphere. Often in a film, the ghost is never seen, but is replaced by tension. (Drummer Boy by Scott Nicholson or The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson)

Monster: Another favorite. The monster can be made to be sympathetic or evil. The Bride of Frankenstein is a perfect example of a sympathetic monster.  In my opinion, it takes more talent to make a monster sympathetic than evil. (Jurrassic Park by Michael Crichton, Jaws by Peter Benchley, and of course Frankenstein by Mary Shelley)

Alien: Horror marries sci-fi. (The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury or the film Alien)

Zombies: Used to be part of the monster sub-genre, but are now so popular, they have their own category. Same with vampires. (anything by Joe McKinney)

Psychological: Often contains the element of surprise. When done well, this category is very effective in the tension and suspense elements. (Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris or Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane)

The above sub-genres are why a nice girl like me does what I do. These categories take talent to create good character development and an effective plot-line. They do not rely on shock but require an actual story.

Here are other sub-genres that are not my favorites but are popular nonetheless:

Splatter-punk: Gore, gore, gore, and hardcore, hardcore, hardcore. Does not rely on plot, but on shock.

Killer: Lots of stalking and usually revolves around a female victim.

Slasher: Like splatter-punk but without the hardcore. Slasher often revolves around teenage victims and doesn’t need a plot, which is why they can re-make Friday the 13th ten billion times.

What writers can be considered today’s “masters of the macabre?”

Ranker.com lists Ramsey Campbell, Clive Barker, James Herbert, Richard Matheson, and Robert McCammon as their top five. [3]

While those names certainly are deserving of the top five (especially Ramsey Campbell), I would like to include some more modern horror masters of my own:

Joe R. Lansdale: Mr. Mojo writes in a folksy, southern voice that makes you comfortable before he bites you with surprises. My favorites are The Bottoms and Lost Echoes.

Joe McKinney: McKinney is becoming the reigning King of the Zombies. Don’t miss his Dead World series.

Scott Nicholson: Just as McKinney is King of Zombies, Scott Nicholson is King of Ghosts. I loved his authentic Drummer Boy and let’s not forget his best-selling The Red Church.

Lisa Morton: This Bram Stoker award-winner writes non-fiction about the history of Halloween, but her new mystery series Netherworld is fiction at its finest; combining 19th century sleuthing with the paranormal.

John Farris: Oh my god, you have to read Son of the Endless Night. Talk about good versus evil. This one is probably the scariest book I have ever read. It is a mixture of demons and psychological terror.

Susie Moloney: No one does character development better than Susie Moloney. Her characters feel like your neighbors, or worse, your own family. Try The Dwelling, A Dry Spell, or if you like witches, The Thirteen.

Bentley Little: The beauty of Bentley is that he takes average people and thrusts them into not-so-average situations. That makes the reader think, “This could happen to me.” I like his The Association and The Haunted.

Stephen King: Well, of course, I have to include the King of Everything. I grew up on Stephen King. Favs are The Stand and Salem’s Lot. I will always prefer early King over his later stuff.

So there you have it: why a girl like me edits and writes horror like that.





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Don’t forget to check out the neat work at TheHorrorZine.com! 

Until next time . . . 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

5 Shorts by Female Authors of Fear

February is Women In Horror month and that includes female authors of fear. Most of what I’ve been reading in celebration of this month has been short stories that fall into the science fiction category but they also overlap with the horror one. Many of them contain mutant monsters and psychotic killers. These five stories come from either of two anthologies that I checked out at the library several weeks ago (and renewed recently). And so here is . . .


A List of Female Authors’ Fear Stories

One of the stories is by Octavia Butler and comes from a book entitled Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse, edited by John Joseph Adams. The term “zombie” has almost become the equivalent of “apocalypse” in a lot today’s sci fi and horror. However, I’m not sure if there are any zombie stories in this book since I’ve only read two contributions so far. But, sorry zombie fans, the Butler story is not a zombie one but is still a good one. 

Butler’s story is called “Speech Sounds” and is set in a time after the world’s institutions have fallen and all is anarchy. The closest things to infrastructure are buses, run by independent contractors who’s services are unreliable (sound a little like some of today’s bus systems?), and mercenary cops. And where there’s no unifying law there’s bound to be mad killers which you’ll definitely find in this story. Not to mention, universal communication has broken down making these murderers even more monstrous when they speak in seemingly non-vocabularic sounds. The story lives up to Butler’s literary appraise.

The four other stories are from the second anthology I checked out. There had been no story in it that I had intentionally been looking for. I just happened to come across it while searching for the Butler story that I was looking for to read in honour of Martin Luther King Day. But that’s the great thing about libraries: you often come across titles you weren’t originally looking for that seem so intriguing that you check them out. This anthology is called The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination also edited by Adams. The title caught my eye so much since I’ve always been a big lover of the mad scientist character which has been so closely associated with modern horror (early 20th century and on). I grew up on old horror movies involving mad scientists, including the numerous Frankenstein movies (both Hollywood’s and England’s Hammer Studios’).

Painted portrait of Mary Shelley.
Credit: Wikimedia Commons


Speaking about movie adaptations of classic novels, I have to pay at least a small tribute to the one who started the Frankenstein myth: Mary Shelley. She is truly a woman of horror since her famous novel gave life (pun intended) to a monster myth that would eventually permeate all the way into pop culture, a pop myth written by a female author during a time (late 18th century) when women writers were almost unheard of. 

But now for the anthology’s stories that I’ve been reading for Women In Horror Month:

“The Last Dignity of Man”, Marjorie M. Liu: This story is themed off of the super hero/villain character which is becoming a trend in sci fi novels and short stories today due to the big comic book nerd craze going on for the last 5+ years. (I in no way intend this to be demeaning, since I’m a comic book nerd myself.) The story is about a young bio engineer exec who is obsessed with Superman’s nemesis, Lex Luthor. The story involves mutated, waste-eating worms that the government uses under conspiracy but these worms will eat anything if desperate enough--even live humans. This story’s protagonist and even the secondary character who he befriends were both really well developed making them lovable to the reader. 

“Harry and Marlowe Meet the Founder of the Aetherian Revolution”, Carrie Vaughn: This is a neat steampunk suspense-thriller. It’s not only set in an alternative Victorian England like typical steampunk stories are, but the main characters are two of Queen Victoria’s grandchildren: Harry (short for “Harriet” I assume) and Marlowe. The story is mostly through Harry’s point of view and so she investigates the lab of a criminal scientist who is under house arrest. But it’s not an electronic manacle (“brace” as they call it in today’s “humane” language) that binds him to his home. Instead it’s a fence that’s electrified by an aetherian device. The horror in this story? I don’t want to create a spoiler but I can guarantee you that horror is inhuman enough for any sci fi-horror fan.

“Laughter at the Academy”, Seanan McGuire: This is a story that involves a two in one menace of horror: a psychotic killer who is a mutant and is psychotic because of. The psychosis is caused by an epidemic of a sort that infects geniuses for some reason, including scientists. The plot was very clever, keeping me on edge and wanting to read more.

“The Mad Scientist’s Daughter”, Theodora Goss: The daughters of several of classic literature’s mad scientists gather in this story to form an all-girls’ club as support in their struggle with their paternally abusive past. Even Sister Hyde show’s up in this one. So far it’s been interesting but I’m in progress of reading it so I can’t say exactly how good it is yet.


Some Updates

Speaking about comic book super heroes and villains, the literacy program, 916 Ink, that I intended to donate to during Christmas finally replied back with the greenlight to send them my comic books for their kids. So I was more than happy to do that and so that’s what I did last week. I want to make sure that kids in my community/home area of Sacramento are given a chance to experience creative writing and literature through the speculative mediums that they otherwise would not be encouraged to do because of their disadvantaged, socio-economic backgrounds.

The staff at HorrorAddicts.net had asked me if they could include a couple of my articles in an anthology they’re putting together. I said I would be delighted if they did. The staff has always been encouraging of me and my work and I was more than happy to give them my consent. So I sent them my revised copies today. The anthology is supposed to release sometime this year. I’ll keep you updated on further details as they come in.

I’m aware that today’s Valentine’s Day, and even though I don’t celebrate the holiday (mostly for political reasons related to excessive commercialisation) I still want to wish you readers out there who do celebrate it a Happy Valentine’s Day! As I said, I don’t celebrate the holiday, but my critique group wanted each of us to write a story with a love theme. My story was a horror one where Cupid is a monster of a sort, as in an evil god. Sadly, I was trying to write it too close to the meetup time and didn’t finish it. I’m not really good with writing stories based on prompts although I do plan to finish the Cupid story eventually. When? I don’t know at this time, but when I do finish and publish it I’ll let you know.

I’ll try to have more on Women In Horror and female authors of fear next time.

Until then . . . 

Sunday, February 1, 2015

A Writer’s 3 New Year’s Resolutions


I apologize for not posting for the past two weeks. My schedule has been filled up with more client projects than before and I’m just learning the details of a new platform I’m doing freelance blogging for (not my own blogging, but clients’). I’m trying to get things settled with these projects so I can go back to posting here once a week again.

The first month of a new year has just flown by! Can you believe it? I said in my last blog post that I would have a list of my New Year’s resolutions for writing and so you’ll find it below. But I think I would like to look back on key points from last year before looking ahead, which is partly what New Year’s is about: looking back so you can look ahead to see what you can do better. And so it goes along with the Roman myth of Janus, the god with two faces: one face looks forward while the other looks back.

Looking Back At 2014


2014 was a great year. Besides selling several copies of The Fool’s Illusion, I sold my first one to be displayed in a brick-and-mortar bookstore, the Avid Reader in downtown Davis. I started my first novel ever. It’s actually a novella but my longest fiction project yet. I don’t count Fool’s Illusion because that’s an anthology and so consists of several short stories I did as separate projects to begin with. I also don’t count a 90 minute screenplay I wrote with a friend several years ago (that I don’t think ever got filmed, at least not yet) since screenplays are not primarily made to be read by a mass audience.

I didn’t quite keep this resolution from last year: to write a new short story at least every two weeks. However, I think I did write more short stories in 2014 than in any other year. I plan to make that resolution follow through completely this year.

Looking Ahead to 2015: New Year’s Resolutions



A zombie head with a gaping mouth.
Looking A Head.
Photo Credit: OpenClipart.org



My first resolution is to make precise deadlines for my writing projects, and this includes both fiction and non-fiction but more so fiction. When I’m writing fiction I’m doing it more for myself than when I’m writing my non-fiction journalism projects (which I’m doing for specific clients or sources such as Examiner.com), so I don’t feel as rushed. But when I take advantage of that luxury of flexibility it means less books written and published in a life time. As a creative writing instructor told me during my junior college years, your writing will be as successful as your self-discipline.

So I’m going to not only set deadlines on a calendar but also break up each project into, what one source I write for calls, milestones. Therefore I’m going to set deadlines for aspects of a project. For example, I’ve set an August deadline for the completion of my next book of short stories  but I’ve also set up early deadlines for phases of the production. Therefore I have deadlines for phases such as the final revision of each story and for the cover illustration. Within the cover illustration project, I’ve set deadlines when to have particular concept sketches done such as a February 20th deadline for the final concept sketch. I’ll probably post that sketch here.

My second resolution is to make a blog for topics other than those of writing and literature. Yes, you will likely see a new blog of mine this year sometime. (I don’t know when yet. I still have to apply my first resolution to that one.) I’ve noticed that the Fantastic Site has been getting visitations to posts on writing and reading fiction more than posts on other topics. So to accommodate for those visitors who are more into the other blog posts--which are mostly on topics of other types of pop culture such as movies, TV and video games--I’m going to create a new blog for those topics.

Bear in mind, those of you who are into other types of popular culture such as movies and anime, that, because writing and genre literature are my main subjects, I probably won’t be posting at the second blog as frequently.  But at least there will be a place where you know you will find posts on those topics you enjoy most. If you have any ideas for the new blog then please let me know in the comments box. I want to make sure you’re getting your time’s and bite’s worth!

My third and final resolution for this new year is to finish at least the first draft of my novella, a space opera. I don’t like leaving projects unfinished unless they are totally not going anywhere. But because I have had so much on my hands since December, I’ve put the novella on hiatus, a hiatus I’ll have to end soon if I want to keep that resolution. I’ll keep you updated on that.

The Now


I just got done with an oral proofreading of my current short story that I’m sending off for critiquing. One of the best ways to search out mistakes or short comings in your stories is to read them aloud. If it sounds good out loud as well as when you read it silently (in mind) to yourself, you most likely have a winner. Maybe not a bestseller, but a winner of some sort. In my opinion, the best stories are those that can be read both silently as well as verbally. After all, the very first tales were told out loud and so a story should read good both silently to the reader as well as orally to an audience.

And so now I am going forward into this new year to work these projects that you’ll hear more about. It will be a very busy year for me.

Again, have a Happy Year of 2015 and . . .


Until next time. 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

New Year Post: What This Writer Did for the Holidays

I was going to write a New Year’s resolutions post but I got too far behind in my other writing projects during the holidays. It would take a while to explain the resolutions I have planned for this New Year of 2015. I fell behind on several things including my most current short story I’ve been working on which was supposed to be completed, including revisions, by the last day of 2014. After that I would still have to distribute it to my critique group as my beta audience.

But I wanted to start the year with a new post so even though I’ll make this post short I’ll tell you what I did for the holidays. Christmas Eve day I worked on the above short story. I admit that I’m a slow writer. Not everybody writes at the same pace like not everyone walks or talks at the same pace. But that evening I went to a couple relatives’ houses to celebrate. Christmas Day, I went to church (Mass as us Catholics call it). In the evening I went to my aunt’s for dinner where we opened gifts. One of my gifts was a really nice key chain decorated with a transparent glass “egg” of a sort which contained an ocean floor scenery including a sea horse, really beautiful.

New Year’s Eve: generally, I don’t go to New Year’s Eve events. Too many people use the holiday for an excuse to get drunk and act stupid rather than stay in that holiday spirit of wishing people good and love for the new year. So I stayed home and watched SyFy Channel’s Twilight Zone marathon like I do every New Year’s.

A Roman numeral clock dial with fireworks in a black background.
Photo Credit: OpenClipart.org


The next day I was getting bored as hell even though I had said to myself that I was just going to kick it and continue watching the Twilight Zone marathon and do some reading. So around 3:30 I took off in my Chevy Classic (Malibu) and drove to Target to put some of my Christmas gift money to use. I bought a frame I had been meaning to get for some Ralph McQuarrie Star Wars concept art that I bought at a Star Wars convention back in May of last year. (The convention was May the Fourth Be With You, held in West Sacramento, California.) The scanner wouldn’t read my cheque so I ended up having to go back another day to pay in cash. I don’t use my card there due to that security breach they had a year ago. Then in the evening I went to my aunt’s house for dinner.

Oh, yeah! I think I said in the last post I would let you know which charity I decided to donate to as my holiday donation. I donated to the Toys for Tots Literacy program. I felt it was better to give to them directly than through an organization for reasons I won’t go into here. 

Other than the above, I just got plenty of reading and writing done, trying to catch up on both. I’ll have a post of my New Year’s resolutions next week.

Have a Happy New Year! And


Until next time . . . 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Holiday Greetings and Charities

A skull wearing a Santa Claus Hat.
Happy Hallow-Days, Every Body!
Credit: OpenClipart.org


We’re only days away from Christmas and I haven’t even got all my cards out or shopping done. (Sound familiar?) Although I do have all my decorating done, including my Haunted Holiday Mansion scene. No doubt this is the busiest time of the year and you don’t have to be Santa Claus to feel it; I’ve been feeling the stress of it all week. Some of that stress is coming from trying to choose a charity to donate to for this holiday season.

I wrote to one nonprofit organisation based here in Sacramento about donating some comic books to its literacy program for kids. It’s called 916 Ink.  They have a big comic book writing workshop program there for the youth they serves. 916 Ink provides creative writing classes for these kids to help improve youth literacy. They even compile the kids’ writing into anthologies they publish and sell in which the proceeds go to the program.

Well I wrote to the program and offered to donate kid-friendly comics keeping in mind that kids learn best to write by reading (as well as writing itself, of course) and this includes comics. I believe I even told them this in the email. This was over a week ago. They never got back to me. I know they take monetary donations so I would be willing to give them that, I was just trying to give away some extra comics that I have.

Another nonprofit comic book organisation that’s taking donations is Reading With Pictures. However, I believe they’re only taking monetary donations. This organisation encourages schools to put comic books in their curriculum to make literacy fun for kids. Now I’m not saying that kids should be limited to reading picture based materials such as comic books. But comic books are still a part of literature and art even if they have been traditionally known to be simple in storytelling and illustration. They are a part of pop culture from which most of us first learned how to read and were introduced to art right up there with our parents reading bedtime stories to us.

I also considered donating to Galaxy Press’s holiday cause which is a book drive they are doing through Toys for Tots. Galaxy Press is the publisher that puts out The Writers and Artists of The Future annual anthology that collects the winning stories and illustrations from each year’s contest of the same name. They are taking monetary donations to give free copies of pulp science fiction writer Ron L. Hubbard’s books to disadvantaged youth to encourage them to read more. That’s a really great way to donate to a cause while educating youth on classic pulp fiction from an older era making it fun to read. The problem with their charity project is that they are only taking donations by credit card and so offer no options that I could see on their website for other forms of payment. And I may need to pay by cheque.

Also here in my home Sacramento, the Children’s ReceivingHome of Sacramento is taking both toy donations as well as monetary ones to purchase Christmas gifts for the kids they serve, who many of are from abusive parents and broken homes. The cause is called the Angel Fund. Another one here in town, called the Sacramento Children’s Home who serve the same kinds of kids, is also doing a similar drive.

I also thought I should announce the charitable cause of a fellow science fiction writer, Beth Revis, who writes the Across the Universe series of YA books. She’s doing a drive where if you purchase her book, The Body Electric, she will donate a percentage of the sales to World Vision which is an organisation that helps impoverished families of third world nations.

So as you can see, I have a list of charities to choose from to donate to so I’ll be busy doing that for the next day or two. I’ll let you know the one I choose in the next post. I just wanted to make it known that this holiday season isn’t about getting what we want; it’s not about impressing our loved ones with expensive gifts that we get at big discount prices; it’s not about us authors making sales on our books through holiday promotions, even though we do take advantage of the season for that. These things aren’t the core meaning of the holiday season. The core meaning of the holiday season is love which is demonstrated in giving to the ones we care about, and that includes our fellow human beings who are in need. If there’s no other time of year to show our care for the world’s societies then let the holiday season be that time to care and do what we can to help make the world a happier place.


Happy Hallow-Days!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Holiday Writing and the Interdependence of Character Building and World Building

I apologise for skipping last week’s blog post. I’ve been trying to post a minimum of once a week. But because last week was Thanksgiving it got really busy with the usual holiday stuff (including that stuff called stuffing): Family gatherings, festive meals, and long visits.

I hope everybody had a great Thanksgiving. I did, with the exception that my aunt’s black cat got into the pumpkin pie and ate a hole near the middle and down to the bottom of the pan making it into a pumpkin donut pie! And no, I don’t take that as proof that black cats are bad luck, nor is my aunt a witch (though she dressed as one at Halloween). But so what if she were? In fact, I think black cats are one of the nicest looking breeds on the planet and may adopt one myself one day.


A cartoon black cat stands on top of the number thirteen.
Credit: PDClipart.org



I didn’t get as much writing done as I wanted to, as much as I love my parents staying over during holidays. It’s a little tougher to work on my projects when relatives are here since my flat isn’t very big and so most of my writing space is between the kitchen and the living room (the two bordering each other). And so I don’t have a separate room I write my stories in. So I had to rearrange my writing time. Each day, I would get up extra early by an hour or two before my parents normally get up which is between 8:30 and 9. Unlike most mornings when I would first meditate and then eat breakfast, I skipped those two (delaying them to a later part of the day) and got to work immediately.

During these early morning writing sessions I either worked on my novella (of which I’m still at the rough draft level) and a YA short horror story that I plan on including in my next fiction collection. I chose these two projects for that time slot because I work on my fiction best when I’m alone. My non-fiction and articles I can do easily enough with other people around, but when I’m writing a draft of a fiction work I need to be alone in order to create that otherworld-feeling around me and take that writing journey that allows anything to happen. Kind of like mysticism, isn’t it?

The above horror story I’ve been working on is at the planning stage. I wrote the first draft almost a year ago and pulled it from my filing cabinet for revision only about two or three weeks ago. I outlined the story last week and am now on character building (or character development) which only yesterday I discovered may take a little research because of, let’s say, mythic connections some of the characters have. No doubt, the story will change even if in the slightest because the characters’ traits are going to have to determine their actions which in turn will determine the story. I also discovered yesterday that because of the characters’ mythic connections I would have to work on world building simultaneously. So I’ve been realising much more how interdependent these story elements are.

Along with my new short story collection, I am preparing to sketch some ideas for the cover illustration. You’ll see them soon enough in upcoming posts. As far as the final sketch goes, I plan to have a revealing of it here at the Fantastic Site sometime by the end of February (2015).

I forgot to tell you in the last post, if you liked the Far Out Fantastic Finds bonus that I provided,  please let me know in the box (either in the last post or in this one) and maybe I’ll make it a monthly thing, a kind of newsletter of the weird and wonderful.

Until next time . . .


Saturday, November 22, 2014

Book Themes and Fantastic Finds

A vulture in a perched position.
How would you like this bird for Thanksgiving dinner? It will probably have you first.
Photo Credit: PDClipart.org


This post is going to be mostly a list of highlights of what’s been happening with me during the week, so don’t be surprised if you don’t find a unifying theme. Speaking of which . . .

I just started planning my new short story collection. Unlike with a novel, which consists of one main story arc, it’s hard to plan a book of short stories if you’re basing it on several different stories that you hadn’t necessarily intend to include in a collection. I rarely write my short fiction with a theme in mind for a larger work. So, when I plan a book to include my stories in, I have to look for a common theme that runs through several of them. Besides that, I need to make sure the theme runs through enough of my stories to total a sufficient number of pages to make self-publishing the book worthwhile.  When I finally have a theme and if only a small number of stories fit it then I have to write more stories based on that theme.

In the case of the present collection I’m planning, a couple days ago--after what seemed hours of reviewing the stories I had already written--I finally came up with a theme. This lead to a tentative title for the book. The theme is hidden things--things such as buried corpses, lost ancient tombs and corporate conspiracies to take over the world. The potential title of the book: The Hidden. I’m aiming to have the book out (of hiding) by summer of 2015.

Speaking about hidden things, they’re no longer hidden when people find them. So I’d like to list some interesting things I found recently. Found out about, that is. (These things had been hidden from me by nobody or nothing but my own unawareness of them, by the way.) So I’ve decided to call this list. . .


Far Out Fantastic Finds


Afrofuturism: I found out about this African science fiction movement when I was looking at the website for a British convention called Sci-Fi: Days of Fear and Wonder which is going on now across seas from where I’m at, so unfortunately I can’t make it to it this year since I’m not in a position to travel that far. But the con is featuring an event there called “Inside Afrofuturism” which is a conference of African science fiction writers, directors and other artists. Afrofuturism is a movement by black people exploring and expressing their race and heritage through science fiction and fantasy in all mediums. Even though this term is unheard of by most people, the movement has really been going on since the 1960s with Samuel Delany’s work and Jazz/funk musician Sun Ra’s who actually did a movie in the early ‘70s that I saw a clip of and seems really neat; it’s called Space is the Place. What I feel is so great about finding out about this literary and art movement is that it shows that science fiction and fantasy is not really the all-white genre that it’s been made to seem. I can somewhat relate to this because, even though I don’t look it to most people, I’m a minority of colour myself (I’m half Mexican).

John Scalzi was born in Fairfield, California. What’s so fantastic about this find? It’s fantastic to me because I was born only a few miles away in the Sacramento Valley (where I reside today) and so it’s great to know that there’s another big name sci fi author who once lived here in my home area (the other one being Kim Stanley Robinson, who still lives here). I found this out when I was searching the ‘Net for a Thanksgiving theme to add to the post since the holiday is already next week. And I came across Scalzi’s Thanksgiving prayer, a sci fi style one. You can read it here. If you’re not religious (I consider myself more spiritual than religious, really) then just consider it a sci fi/fantasy themed prayer, fantasy because of a magical god named Jehovah. So just consider it a fun, entertaining piece but please still be thankful even if not to any deity. We have a lot more good things in this country than most of us give credit for.

George Lucas’s new film, Strange Magic, was inspired by Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This is an animated fantasy feature coming to theatres this January. However, it doesn’t look that fantastic to me as far as appeal goes. The movie blends modern pop music with the fairy world, taking too much of the otherworldliness effect away. Since some of the numbers are from the late ‘60s/early ‘70s, it makes me wonder if the soundtrack is a knock-off of last summer’s Guardians of the Galaxy. So is that the best Lucas can do since he left Star Wars? And he’s always said that he planned to go back to doing what he always wanted to: making art house films!

That’s it for now. If I don’t see you here again before next weekend, then have a Happy Thanksgiving and don’t eat too much bird. Plenty but not too much. Also watch out for zombies. They will be looking for people for their Thanksgiving dinners and I doubt turkey is the main course.

Until next time . . .