The semi-finalists will be announced in a couple of weeks. Keep your fingers crossed for me!
ScreenCraft has released its 2015 Horror Screenplay quarter-finalists list, and I'm proud to announce my screenplay Agoraphobia has made the first cut! Click here for the full list of quarter-finalists.
The semi-finalists will be announced in a couple of weeks. Keep your fingers crossed for me!
Today, guest author Heggelund Hansen is here to promote his recent release, Beneath. He will be giving away a $10 Amazon or Barnes and Noble gift card to one random visitor. Use the Rafflecopter link below for your chance to win. For additional entries, leave a comment and stop by other stops in the tour. Click here for a list of participating blogs.
Heggelund Hansen: Why I love killing cats
I find it important, with a title like this, to begin by saying that I’m not talking about physical cats. I’m not particularly fond of cats, but neither do I loathe them, and I would find it just as hard to exert violence toward a cat as to a human being. That said, the title of this post wasn’t chosen for its suitability as click bait, although it serves that purpose well.
It is said that curiosity killed the cat. This is a fantastic proverb, for many reasons. One of which is the way people react when they hear it as a warning, or a threat. In both cases, one has to consider the worst case scenario that can rise from satisfying one’s curiosity, but even then it will be difficult to lay off.
This is probably why crime stories become so popular. The reader is presented with a mystery, and if it is compelling enough, the reader cannot get this mystery out of their head. What makes the story all the more compelling, is how likable the main character is, and how high he or she is willing to raise the stakes to understand the mystery. Because of this, one could say that all mystery stories really contain two mysteries, the second one being if curiosity really kills the cat.
I’m a huge fan of mystery stories myself. Sherlock Holmes is probably my favorite character of all time. Not because of his amazing set of skills, nor that he managed to function so well despite being a cocaine addict. The reason why Sherlock Holmes is such joy to read, lies in the bizarre and seemingly impossible cases he is hired to solve. There are, however, two things I don’t particularly like about the infamous detective. The perpetrator is always a mundane and boring human being, and you can always bet on the fact that Sherlock will make it through the mystery more or less unscathed. Put another way: curiosity never kills the cat.
While quenching your curiosity in Eldritch City might not always lead to death, doing so will always come at a high cost. I think this make stories interesting, especially if the main character is likable. In addition, there are things in Eldritch City which could exist anywhere else. This marks a potential for mysteries which will keep the reader guessing, while never really understanding the danger the main character is exposed to.
Until it’s too late.
About the story:
Nine years have passed since the tragic and mysterious deaths of Mr. Phillips and his daughter. A new clue surfaces, one which the lead investigator will follow to the brink of insanity.
To whoever reads this: I feel that I must apologize if what you find on these pieces of paper appears to be nothing more than a collection of near-indecipherable words. I can assure you that I have tried everything I can think of, and yet I cannot keep my hands from trembling. This, however, is only a symptom of my much greater problems.
I cannot eat, or sleep, or even close my eyes for longer than the briefest of moments. I feel as if I’m about to lose my mind, but I’m clear enough to realize that I have to get this story off my chest, before it consumes whatever sanity I have left. Unfortunately, the only recipient I can trust with a story as bizarre and horrible as this are the same pieces of paper upon which these words are written.
About the author:
Robin was born on a cold winter night in Oslo, Norway, 1989. Growing up, he was always fond of telling stories, leading people to wonder when, not if, he would move on to writing stories of his own. Inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft, he wrote his first short story, 'Beneath', in 2015.
For more about Robin and his works, check out his blog and Facebook page.
I really enjoyed this collection, which contains stories that range from creepy to downright chilling. Most take place in the South, offering a sense of dark mystery especially haunting for those like me who've never personally visited the region. Overall, the stories show sides of both magic and humanity that are as disturbing as they are intriguing.
"The Watered Soul" 5 stars
A man seeks out the woman who cursed him with immortality and has left him a tortured soul. Dark and immersive, this story pulled me in from the first line.
"Doc Buzzard's Coffin" 5 stars
A policeman is in for a terrifying surprise when he interrupts a spell. The plot is satisfyingly unique, leaving me guessing through most of the story.
"9 Mystery Rose" 5 stars
A man seeks out a way to revive his dead wife in order to ask her a single, selfish question when cosmic justice steps in.
"Hand of Glory" 4 stars
A prosecutor uses supernatural means to gain confessions from the guilty.
"Hag Ride" 5 stars
A woman gets more than she bargained for when she seeks revenge on her cheating husband in this beautifully sensual and equally dark tale.
"Homegoing" 5 stars
One of the few stories featuring human monsters, this story is both bittersweet and disturbing.
"With the Turn of a Key" 5 stars
A man's fantasy relieves him of his hellish marriage in this story that would have fit well as an episode of The Twilight Zone.
"Path of the War Chief" 5 stars
Well written, this bizarre tale follows the journey of an unlikely tribal chief in search of regional peace.
"Since Hatchet Was a Hammer" 5 stars
This is the most memorable story for me, capturing the repercussions of domestic violence in a way that is both poignant and haunting.
"Rhythm" 4 stars
A man seeks revenge on his cheating wife, playing with forces that would have been best left alone.
"The Choking End" 5 stars
A woman gains more information than she asked for when she seeks out a boo-hag for a means to dig up her mother's enchanted grave.
It's rare to come across a collection that doesn't include at least one mediocre story. Not only are all of these worth reading, but nearly every story is excellent. The language is visual and atmospheric, with the strength of voice that only shines through the most seasoned of writers. I recommend Spook Lights to readers who enjoy subtle, psychological horror, folklore, and cosmic justice.
I received a free copy of this collection in exchange for my honest review.
She’ll point out every little mistake. She’ll scream at you for using comma splices and split infinitives. She has no tolerance for fragments and run-ons. Today, she’s taken over the Cerebral Writer, and hate her if you will, she does know her grammar (and she only wants to help). Today’s lesson: understanding the difference between participles and passive voice and when it's appropriate to use them.
Participles in Progressive Tenses
I’d like to begin by pointing out a common mistake: that all constructions using certain helping verbs (am, is, are, was, were) are passive. This is not the case. Many participle constructions also contain uses of these words but are not passive. For example:
It was going over there.
The above construction uses the participle phrase “It was going over” to create the past progressive verb tense. This is an active construction. “It” is acting (going over there), not being acted upon. A passive equivalent of the sentence would be:
It was being taken over there.
See the difference? In the first example, “it was going” is different than “it was being taken” (by someone).
However, this kind of construction does weaken the prose when used without a simple verb tense construction to play against. Using “It was over there” on its own weighs down the prose. However, if you anchor it with a simple tense adverbial clause using “when,” “while,” “as,” “since,” “because,” and the like, you create a reference point that makes the progressive relevant:
It was going over there when I last checked.
Just like with passive voice, use progressive tenses sparingly … but don’t cut them out completely. There is a place for both. You just have to know how to use them and do so with purpose.
Now, a Bit of Advice on Passive Voice
If you’ve done any amount of writing and received any reasonable amount of feedback, you’ve received at least some advice about the so-called evils of passive voice. “Never use it,” many will say. Real writers use only strong, “active” prose.
Well, I’m here to tell you there is a place for passive voice. Beyond technical writing and scientific papers, which typically call for enough passive voice use to make any hater’s head spin, there are a handful of instances where passive voice is warranted. (See what I just did there?) ;-)
These are the most relevant examples:
· When the object doesn’t need mentioning or would create redundancy:
· The papers had already been corrected.
· When the subject is unknown:
· The bathroom was occupied.
· When you want to focus on the object more than the subject:
· The fire had been started by an arsonist.
· When you want to pull your readers in to a character’s feeling of helplessness or lack of control:
· Her hands had been tied behind her back.
· When you want to add a deceptive tone to the prose:
· He swore he was nowhere nearby when the car was stolen.
While you might have readers who also do not know the rules, there is always a chance that editors, agents, or reviewers reading your work do. If you take the time to know and understand these rules, your writing will be sharper and you will be able to present it to the world with confidence and skill.
Until next time, my pretties! (Insert evil cackle.)
Today, guest author S.S. Segran is here to share about new release, Aegis Incursion, an apocalyptic sci-fi adventure novel. Segran will be awarding a randomly drawn commenter via Rafflecopter a $25 Amazon/Barnes & Noble gift card, so make sure to enter using the Rafflecopter box below.
About the novel:
On a bright July morning in 1948, a B-29 Superfortress flying a top-secret research mission over Nevada crashes into the calm waters of Lake Mead and sinks, remaining lost for half a century.
It has been nearly a year since five friends - Jag, Kody, Mariah, Tegan and Aari - mysteriously reappeared in a small town in Yukon several weeks after their small plane went down in Northern Canada. All were found in good health but with no recollection of what happened to them after the crash.
A baffling contagion is spreading across the bread-basket of North America destroying vital crops. As this dark shadow marches across the globe, widespread famine and riots bring desperate nations to the brink of war.
These seemingly unrelated events set the stage for a battle between the forces of darkness and those destined to become the 'bearers of light'. From ravaged fields in the Great Plains to clandestine installations around the world, the Aegis League must race against time to save humanity.
“Unique and compelling! With non-stop action, adventure and intrigue, Aegis Incursion will appeal to fans of Maze Runner, Percy Jackson and Hunger Games.” --Michael Beas - Bestselling Author of Strump: A World of Shadows
“S.S.Segran brings us a worthy sequel to her best-selling debut novel, Aegis Rising. Relentless action and gravity defying twists and turns hold the reader in a tight grip till the last page.” --Honore Gbedze, The SAGE Foundation
"RECOMMENDED! A good sequel stands alone as a strong work without the accomplishments of its predecessors, but a great sequel inspires readers to go back and relive a book they've already read, and that is precisely what this book accomplishes." --The US Review of Books
"FIVE STARS! A great book to dive into and a fantastic follow up to the first... One of the best things author S.S. Segran has done here is that the book can be read as a stand-alone. Highly recommended!" --Readers' Favorite Reviews
…A sound in the distance snapped him out of his daydream. It was a low rumbling, like thunder, but that was impossible—the sky was still bright and cloudless. As the sound gradually became louder, Elwood was able to pinpoint the location and slowly looked toward the east. He squinted against the sun, then gasped when he saw a shimmering silhouette emerge from the glare…
…The aircraft thundered right over Elwood’s head, so near that the vortex of air created by the plane’s passing churned the water violently, capsizing the canoe and pitching him into the lake. He struggled and attempted to cry out, only to choke on water. He floundered back up to the surface and sputtered and spat as he tried to regain his bearings.
Catching sight of the plane as it boomed overhead, he watched, agape, as the aircraft hit the surface of the lake on its belly. The massive propellers struck the water, violently tearing three of the four engines away from the wings…
About the author:
S.S. Segran spent a good chunk of her childhood exploring the enchanted forest of a million tales in the mystical land of books. In her early teens, she began crafting intriguing new worlds and conjuring up characters who came alive with the flick of her wand... err... pen. With the publication of her first novel in the Aegis League Series during her senior year of high school, she was surprised by the abundance of time that magically appeared right after graduation. She plans to use this newfound resource to expand the arc of the series. Her future plans include studying Cognitive Science at university and helping youths in developing countries realize their potential through her non-profit organization, Aegis League (www.aegisleague.org)
When not devouring a book or writing one, S.S. Segran can be found standing behind the cauldron of life, stirring a potion made up of chores, parkour, gaming, drawing, horseback riding and—having recently jumped off a perfectly fine airplane at fifteen thousand feet – perhaps skydiving.
For more information, check out her website, follow her on Twitter and Facebook, and go to her Amazon author page.
This collection is short, making it a quick read. The stories are well written, and being a fan of American Indian lit, I enjoyed the Mike Money shorts threaded throughout, although I do wish some of those stories had a bit more structure. I’m glad the introduction warned that there was no theme or specific genre, as I would have gone in with expectations that might have led to an altogether different review.
“The Speed of Dark” is creepy and surreal, a great choice with which to start the collection. 5 stars
“The Disappearing Frying Pan” is serious and witty at the same time, a nice introduction to the rez at Big Trout Lake. 4 stars
“Stiletto” is a classic tale of revenge, offering some great details and a good amount of characterization in such a short space. 5 stars
“Retrovirus” is a lovely take on evolution and a nice commentary our technophile society. 5 stars
“Big Trout Lake Blues” is a sad slice-of-life tale with a lot going on but no real climax. Still it has a satisfying, fitting end and is a very good read overall. 4 stars
“Regarding Love” is my least favorite of the stories. It has a good premise but not quite enough follow-through. I really wish this one had been fleshed out a little more. 3 stars
“Wrong Number” is my favorite story in the collection, a great piece on the dark influences that push people into committing terrible acts—but also a nice glimpse into human redemption. A beautiful read. 5 stars
“The Maniac” first comes across as a supernatural thriller, but the twist is anything but. I liked the witty yet simple ending. 5 stars
“Return of the Dwarves” adds a hint of bizarro to an otherwise strictly sci-fi/fantasy story, but it’s the embedded social commentary that makes it so great. 5 stars
Congratulations to Carla L., Jody G., and Ashley W. for winning The Private Sector Goodreads giveaway. Your signed paperback copies are in the mail!
Saturday's the last day to enter the Goodreads giveaway for you chance to win one of three signed copies of my new dystopian thriller, The Private Sector.
The story speculates a tax-free society with no social services and a nearly nonexistent government. A political dream or a corporate nightmare? You decide.
If you haven't signed up, here's your last chance. Use the direct link below. Good luck!
When determining what kind of world my dystopian future would look like beyond the obvious political and economic troubles, I pictured a place in which time has dissolved the racial divides we still currently struggle to overcome. Skin color has integrated to the point where differences are no longer substantial enough to merit delineation. Still, I felt it important to include a form of segregation along with the economic divides, one that clearly pointed out our need to take a look at the ways we continue to define “us” versus “them.”
For that, I used a social experiment that took place in 1968, beginning the day after Martin Luther King Jr.’s murder, as my inspiration. Grade school teacher Jane Elliott, an advocate for human rights on many fronts, decided to show her eight-year-old students, all white, the effects racism truly had on society—not only on the people being discriminated against, but also those imposing the discrimination. She segregated her classroom by “blue eyes” and “brown eyes,” first convincing the children that blue-eyed people were intellectually superior, and thus offering them privileges the brown-eyed children were denied, such as longer recesses, more food at lunch, and being seated at the front of the classroom.
Resistant at first, the children soon changed their attitudes toward one another. The blue-eyed children began to treat their brown-eyed peers poorly, teasing them and putting them down, and the brown-eyed children showed an immediate drop in self-esteem.
The next day, Elliott told the children she’d lied the day before—that brown-eyed people were in fact superior—switching their roles. Interestingly, the brown-eyed children suddenly behaved exactly as the blue-eyed children had before the tables had been turned. It seemed that it took little provocation to create a racist society. For those curious to see the experiment in action, PBS has the full 46-minute Frontline exposé available here.
Watch the first ten minutes in the video below.
Those familiar with the experiment probably recognized the significance of the blue-eyed “deviants” in World-Mart. No different than anyone else, save a negligibly higher immunity to antibiotic-resistant superbugs and their tell-tale icy-blue eyes, the deviants are the future’s slave laborers. They are believed to be intellectually inferior to “normal” human beings, and they are treated as such.
When I set out to write The Private Sector, which prequels World-Mart by about forty years, I was excited to explore the deviants’ origin as “designer children” available only to the wealthy. People marvel at how beautiful their eyes are—the pale blue color being an unexpected side effect of the particular genes manipulated in an attempt to create a future immune to the diseases killing people off in droves. When they fail to prove society’s answer to the plagues, some begin to demonize them as abominations, the sickening result of man trying to play god.
What underlies this shift is my own personal observation that humankind is predisposed to an “us” versus “them” mentality. Even with actual race taken out of the picture, we find a way to create meaning out of petty differences, a reason to treat others differently.
A reason to feel superior, be it physically, intellectually, or morally—and we use it to justify mistreatment, neglect, and downright hatred.
We see these behaviors resulting not only from differences in skin color or other genetic traits, but in egocentric nationalism, anti-feminist attitudes, and discrimination against homosexuals and the transgendered. In no time during documented history have we not seen evidence of a socially imposed underclass. The first natural response to this might be to question why.
My question, and the question I raise in my World-Mart series: Why do we continue to allow these types of attitudes to rule the masses? More importantly, what can we, as socially responsible human beings, do to eradicate the “us” versus “them” mentality once and for all?
My prequel to World-Mart, dystopian thriller The Private Sector, is now available on Kindle! Check back for more formats and vendors.
The man wore a trench coat with the collars turned upward to mask his face, and a wide-brimmed hat obscured the upper part of his face. He looked around and over his shoulder while he walked. He carried something in one hand, but Dianne could not tell what it was until he stopped at the brownstone she had been studying, checked the address, and flicked a lighter. She backed a step from the window when she realized he held a Molotov cocktail. He looked around once more while he lit the fuse, and then he launched it through a downstairs window.
Dianne watched helplessly as the flame exploded inside and fire erupted through the broken window. The arsonist ran into the alley, was out of sight for only a minute, and then emerged wearing a firefighter’s uniform.
He stood at the edge of the sidewalk while sirens began to blare in the distance. Flashing red lights swept through the street with the fire truck’s arrival, and the arsonist joined his colleagues when they began to fight the growing inferno. Dianne backed completely away from the window, terrified that someone might see her despite her standing in a dark room. The thought of being caught as a witness to the crime brought about a sudden sense of paranoia, and even from her distance and the barriers between them, she feared someone would hear her loud, panicked breaths.
She retreated to the hallway and hid against the wall, then leaned back for support, dizziness giving way to a fear of passing out. She’d heard stories of corrupt firemen starting their own fires when business was slow, but this was the first time she had actually witnessed it. She wished she had the money saved to be able to call a police officer and file a report, and she even considered shouldering the debt in the name of all that was right and good in the world, but thoughts of what might become of Junior should she fall into criminal debt held her back. John had proven himself thoroughly unreliable, and it was unlikely her father would be willing to bail out two daughters in as many months, even if she happened to have been arrested for a noble cause.
“Junior, no!” She darted into his room, where she found him peeking behind his closed curtains. She pulled him from the window and swept him into her arms. “You’re supposed to be in bed.”
He tried to squirm from her hold. “I wanna see!”
“We need to stay away from the windows.”
“It’s too dangerous, sweetie.” She quickly searched for a reason he might be capable of appreciating. “The fire could trigger an explosion, and if we’re up against the windows, we could get hurt.”
“Can we watch from my bed, then?”
She shook her head. “It’s just too dangerous.”
He whined for a few seconds, resisting her attempt to hold him close then resting his head against her chest with a defeated cry. His hair smelled of the shampoo she’d used earlier that night to wash his short hair, and it was soft against her lips when she kissed his head. She cringed at the sight of red lights strobing rhythmically through the cracks between the closed curtains.
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