Miscellany

The Monster Within!

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This Saturday is the launch party for Enigma Front: The Monster Within, the third short story anthology in the Enigma Front series by Analemma Books. Not to brag (okay, I’ve been told I have to brag because this is my platform and such) but I’m proud to have had a story in each of them.

In The Monster Within, my story is a Y.A. horror called “A Budgie Named Karloff” about a girl whose pet bird becomes possessed by a demon. It’s darkly silly and sweet, very different from the historical body horror of “They Split Apart” which I contributed to the first Enigma Front, or the apocalyptic ghost story “The Red Bulb” in Enigma Front: Burnt, both of which are still available in the links above.

This time around, I was also on the editing team, something I’ve never done before and found rewarding. There are some wonderful writers in this instalment, 22 in all. I can’t recommend their stories enough. If you enjoy them as much as I did, please consider giving an Amazon review. It’ll help all of us out.

Cheers,

Erin

Monster Rises front cover

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Aurora Nomination!

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I just downloaded the voter package for the 2017 Aurora Awards, which means I’ve got lots of reading to do before September. If you are a member of the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association (CSFFA), you should get cracking on that. If nothing else, it means a bunch of free new books that you don’t have to return to the library.

Also, and I’m excited for this, the Enigma Front: Burnt anthology, which contains one of my stories, was nominated. The Auroras are a nation-wide award. Woohoo!

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Also, for all you Calgarian readers out there, a whole bunch of local authors were nominated for their work. We hardly had any representation last year, so this is big. Even if you’re not a CSFFA member, the books are well worth reading. Check out the list.

typing types of types

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I took a fun personality quiz yesterday, which is part of a publicity campaign for the second edition of Monsterhearts, a table-top roleplaying game about teenage monsters. You can think of it as an exploration of some of the overarching metaphors in Buffy The Vampire Slayer, that high school is hell, that the changes you go through can be scary and new responsibilities can be both a gift and a burden. There’s another metaphor here too, that feeling like you’re different from everyone else can be alienating. You can feel monstrous, either less than or more than human, sometimes both. I’ve played Monsterhearts first edition and I’m looking forward to taking the new one for a spin.

Here’s the quiz: Which Monsterhearts Skin Are You? I got this result. Given all the options, it doesn’t entirely surprise me:

MonsterheartsFae

This got me thinking about character types in general. I’m currently working on a young adult horror novel and while it’s not based on Monsterhearts, I did take its archetypes into consideration. There’s a character in my novel named Bruno (at least that’s the name I have for him right now) who is absolutely a reflection of The Fae, and yet he and I are completely different.

To be clear, I’m not a fan of using archetypes for real world people. The worst is the whole “there are two kinds of people” thing. No. Introvert vs Extrovert? Optimist vs Pessimist? Male vs Female? Gay vs Straight? Fight vs Flight? I’m not even a fan of the Myers-Briggs Indicators, which claims there are 16 types. Sure, people do have personality traits that they like to stick with and archetypes are handy short-forms for clusters of traits, but the minds of real people have enough flexibility to make rigid categories unhelpful.

Here’s Bruno, who would get the same Monsterhearts quiz results as I did:

  • Extrovert
  • Pessimist
  • Cis Boy who presents like an androgynous glam rocker
  • Straight
  • Fight
  • ENFP: The Campaigner (Myers-Briggs)
  • Couldn’t care less about quizzes except to gently tease those who do
  • Knight of Cups (tarot)
  • Rowlf the Dog (Muppets)
  • Samantha (Sex and the City, which I didn’t watch but that quiz was everywhere for a few years)
  • Star Wars
  • Gryffindor (Harry Potter)
  • The Sorcerer (D&D)

And here’s an oversimplified and unhelpful summary of me:

  • Introvert
  • Pessimist
  • Cis Woman tomboy
  • Bi/Pan (one reason why the “two types of people” thing bothers me so very, very much)
  • Flight, until I get home and develop a plan or at least a better long-term response
  • INFP, the Mediator (Myers-Briggs)
  • The type who overthinks her answers on quizzes, especially when it comes to questions of personal values. Beliefs do vary from person to person, but we don’t always act according to our beliefs. We try and we fail and we try again and we adjust based on what we learn and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Are we supposed to answer those questions as “should” or “do”?
  • Temperance (tarot)
  • Fozzie Bear (Muppets)
  • Miranda (Sex and the City)
  • Star Trek
  • Ravenclaw (Harry Potter)
  • The Rogue (D&D)

This entire post makes me sound like a total curmudgeon who pretends to hate quizzes but secretly loves them. Quizzes are great, especially the ones based in nerdy fandoms. I take them with a grain of salt though, something to bring out flavours rather than define an entire dish. However, there are certain personality-related questions floating around that deeply intrigue me, even for real people. The first:

If sentient aliens land on your front lawn, what do you do first: aim your gun or offer friendship?

and

If you find yourself meeting your exact double, do you (given only two options) fight or, um, fool around?

I find these interesting because the reasons for someone’s choice may not be obvious at first glance. You might be tempted to see the alien question as a matter of Optimist vs Pessimist. Those who think we should aim our guns first may believe that the those who would offer friendship first are naive. As I mention above, I consider myself (unhelpfully) a pessimist, and yet I would start with the friendship thing. For me, the real question is “Which horrible fate would you risk: becoming a victim or becoming a villain?” Likewise, the doppelganger question might not be a matter of whether or not you like yourself. It could mean “Which do you prize the most: personal autonomy or being understood?” Maybe those who answer differently from me have other questions in mind.

Bruno, by the way, would aim the gun and hold very still, refraining from firing until he knows more, sharing inappropriate jokes in the meantime with anyone listening. As for his double, Bruno would tackle it, destroy it utterly, and then carry the secret of what he’s done to the grave. He’d never allow conversation about himself to get that heavy, at least not until an All Is Lost turning point near the end of a story arc. Even then, it would have to be well-earned. At least, I hope I can earn the right to force his emotional hand at some point. Bruno’s never going to go through either of these scenarios any more than he’s Samantha or Rowlf the Dog or a literal Fae, but it gives me a sense of how he handles obstacles, and because he’s a product of the imagination (and of too many hours inhaling books and movies and tv) that is a helpful thing.

Fitting In: Historical Accounts of Paranormal Subcultures

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I have a short story and it’s in an anthology by the publisher with the single coolest name, aka Mad Science Journal. The anthology is called Fitting In: Historical Accounts of Paranormal Subcultures.

fitting-in-ebook-cover

My story is called “The Face on the Wall, and the Chainsaw”. It’s about a century-old tree made newly human, who discovers all the hatred and compassion of humanity. He also discovers pizza. Check it out!

https://www.amazon.com/Fitting-Historical-Paranormal-Subcultures-Scientist-ebook/dp/B01MPYH4XB/ref

face-wall-chainsaw

This anthology launched on October 31, but I wanted to wait to announce this until a) everyone was done filling Facebook with pictures of costumed kiddies and b) my computer was back from the repairs place. But now you know. Now you know.

3-day 1/4 novel

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I spent the past weekend starting the first draft of a new* novel, using the rules of the 3-Day Novel challenge. The last time I tried 3-Day Novel I only got 20,000 words done, and a story that was completed but not at all usable except to cannibalize aspects of it into other projects. This time I got 24,000 words down, with legible sentences and paragraphs and chapter headings, etc. It’s an organized 24,000. I was actually editing a teensy bit as I went along and I had a separate file open to keep track of names and places and other details for continuity. I’m not including that other file in my word count.

My goal for the weekend was to surpass 20,000 words but my goal for the entire novel is 85,000. I’m just past the quarter mark of the word count and I’m conveniently also just past the quarter mark of my loosely-planned plot. I’m enjoying the characters. They are taking the story in directions I didn’t know they would go.** These directions feel pretty good.

Last time, I felt completely burnt out afterwards for days. Keeping that experience in mind, I planned to work on other things this week. Surprisingly, I feel energized. Last night I actually considered setting my other plans aside and devoting the rest of the week to completing the novel at the same pace. Locking myself in the office and guzzling down whole pitchers of tea for days on end, however, with walking to the bathroom as the only exercise, is probably not the best thing for the human body. So, I’m sticking to the schedule.

What I don’t have right now is a title. UNTITLED Y.A. doesn’t quite cut it. I’ll think of something.

To be continued…

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*actually based on an idea that I tried to turn into a novel a few years ago and had to abandon, but all of the characters and much of the setting have changed.

** characters hijacking the plot is something a lot of writers talk about as some higher ideal (as if understanding their desires and fears isn’t enough) but from what I’ve seen, it can lead to self-indulgence bordering on wankery. I hope like hell that’s not what’s happening here. Only time and beta readers will tell.

 

Review: The Wizard Killer

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Title: The Wizard Killer Season One
Author: Adam Dreece
Genres: post-apocalyptic fantasy serial

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The Wizard Killer is a popcorn adventure with gunslinging, glitchy magical tech and a hard-suffering hero in a world gone to hell.

The protagonist definitely has the sardonic edge of John McClane from Die Hard (as another reviewer pointed out) The setting is a bit closer to Mad Max and its scattered communities of survivors scrounging off each other and the old world’s leftovers. Normally I find combining magic and tech a questionable choice, but it works here because this magic is a difficult and often costly resource.

Although the book (Season One) is short and the chapters fly by, I suggest reading it in instalments, since the tone is a little uneven sometimes between chapters. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that each chapter is its own episode. In any kind of serial a tonal shift between episodes is expected. Kudos to Dreece for keeping this up week after week. I look forward to finding out what happens Season Two.

Available HERE

Official page at AdamDreece.com

Another NaNoWriMo Done

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Well, not “done” done. I’m still planning on attending a couple more write-in events that the local chapter of NaNo organized, but I’ve got my 50K words, which is the general goal.

I’ll admit that I’m a little disappointed in myself that it took me until the 26th to reach that 50K. In my first year, which was also my first novel, I got it done in twelve days. I wasn’t finished the story until November 25th of that year, but by then I had 111,199 words. Waaaaaay too long for the story I was telling. I’ve talked about this one before on the blog, so feel free to scroll down to wherever, or click backspace, or check Facebook or whatever you want to do.

I’ve tried to rework that first novel several times, most recently this past summer. It was a mess, which I guess is to be expected since I tried to type as fast as I could think (with occasional tripping over pinky fingers) and I apparently think in scattered meanderings despite working from an outline. I also refused to use the backspace key during that first draft. Thus the enormous word count. Since then, I have changed the format. I have changed the tense. I changed the era when the story took place and then I changed it back again.

Eventually, I figured out that the problem wasn’t even the type-as-fast-as-you-think prose. There were weird little moments from that which I would definitely keep. The problem was in the initial concept. After a few months of setting it aside, I think I know how to fix things so that the logic is up to my satisfaction, but it requires a choice that will affect the message I’m sending out. For the record, I’m not a fan of stories that exist to send a message, but every story has a message whether you want it to or not, even if the message is “the world is a weird and frightening place.”

In my second year of NaNoWriMo I was trying to do multiple projects at once and got my word count in, but the only thing I really completed was a 10K sample that I was using to apply for a job writing a novel series. A good exercise probably, and I can mine some of it for future use, but I didn’t get the job. The short stories I can definitely use, and I got a good dent in each of them, but I haven’t gotten around to finishing them up. I’ve written, completed, and rewritten other stories in the meantime. Should probably get back to these ones in the new year…

In my third year of NaNo, last year, I got the 50K in on day 20, and finished at the end of the month at 84,470. So much more reasonable, and it’s a project that I can definitely work with. I was doing rewrites for this one in summer and early fall, and I think I only need one more pass with it before I feel comfortable letting someone else read. I even pitched it to an editor at a respected medium-sized publisher who is interested enough that she told me to send it when it’s ready. Still, there were many moments in the first draft where I was writing as fast as I was thinking up words and it got weird in a not terribly useful way, as opposed to an entertaining way. I can definitely make it ready for the world, though.

This year’s NaNoWriMo, I decided to take a completely different tactic: make the sentences decent from the get-go, even though it means the number of words on the page are significantly fewer than the numbers of words that I actually typed during that time. It takes way longer, twice as long as that first giant blurt of novel three years ago. I’m now also doing more research more as I go, rather than leaving it to fix later. This new project is going up onto another blog, piece by piece, starting in January. When the time comes, you can read it here: TerribleTarot.com

Technically, my new site / NaNo project is not a novel but a humour blog with a smattering of characters and ongoing stories. If it were a book, I’d put it in the humour section rather than the fiction section.

I’m not worried about terribletarot.com being ready for January. I’d start uploading right away but I suspect drawing in new readers would be harder to do around the Holidays. There isn’t as much to do in January. People will be sitting at home trying to pay off their bills and fulfill their New Years resolutions and looking for new ways to procrastinate, which is what blog reading is for.