Sunday, January 18, 2015

Strange Ideas

There's something exquisite about short stories that you can't say for the novel. I suppose a novel could be exquisite, but it would be quite rare. I can think of a few novels that reach that pinnacle, but there certainly aren't many in all of literature.

However, many short stories do reflect that kind of perfection you don't often see in art. I believe it's because one small ant-like idea can become of such importance that it's a whale. The story is a complete package unto itself. If done correctly the reader should sit back after reading a successful short story and say, Wow, that was something. Then the story should linger, like a fine wine on the tongue. 

If it sounds like I love short stories, you'd be right. I began writing them first, before novels, and I practice the form all year, every year. Ellen Datlow doesn't pick them to honor and they've won no awards, but I know what I've done and I pronounce it...a pod of whales. Sometimes work gets overlooked. Perhaps that's my status with the short story, and that doesn't slow me in the least. My whales swim and a lot of readers like them. That's what matters in the end, my friends.

I wrote a short story this past week that I like very much. I just published it as a little e-book on Amazon with a great cover by my cover artist, Jeffrey Kosh. I could have submitted it to an anthology or magazine, but I just couldn't do it. I wanted this one as my own, share it personally, and get it to readers as quickly as possible. It's called THE PEOPLE OF THE TOWER. I'll try to explain how it came about.

I was sitting on my sofa, the TV on, my laptop on the coffee table in front of me. Into my head came this, truly out of the blue yonder: Tower. Big castle-like gray granite building. Someone is put there and not let out. The people who put him or her there never speaks. It's a little town.

I sat in surprise, the idea twirling around in my head. A castle tower. Really? That sounds Gothic, I thought. But why are people put there and what happens to them and who does it and why? All the story questions came to me and I knew I couldn't answer those questions unless I wrote the story. I wrote it like a suspense tale, despite I knew from the first it would be a supernatural horror story. I get an idea and I just follow to see where it leads. I know, I know, writing advice books tell you not to do that. You could end up in a big empty pasture of words and no where to go. That's not been my experience, so I trust the Muse to lead me forward, knowing whatever tale waits I want to read it so I have to write it. Writing advice is fine for most people. It doesn't work for me.

Then the denouement came finally and not more than two pages before I got there I knew what it was. I saw it coming, though readers shouldn't, and so far it appears they don't see it coming, which pleases me. I hate letting an ending get to the reader before its time. It's like comedy. It's all in the timing. You have a knack for it or you don't, there's no maybe about it. 

You may ask:

How do you know the idea that comes to you is worth pursuing? I don't know. I trust. Creativity is an instinct. I accept the idea because it came out of the ether and it tapped my shoulder and I am at its service the amount of time it takes to write the story. Nothing makes me happier than to read a new story, one that I wrote, one that gave me such pleasure writing. 

Have you ever taken an idea that came to you and it failed, you didn't complete the story? Yes, that happens, but seldom. If it doesn't work out, it wasn't strong enough, it didn't have "legs." That rarely happens for me, though, thank goodness or I'd have a hard drive filled with partially completed short stories and I don't.

Do you suggest other writers do what you do? Hell no! I wouldn't try to tell anyone else how to write. If this is the way it works for the writer, as it does for me, then fine. If it doesn't, if the writer has to outline a story, take notes, study details of character or setting before starting, that's simply the way it works for the writer and who am I to say it isn't the correct way. Because it is the correct way for THAT writer, not this one.

If you want to see how my out-of-the-blue-yonder idea came out, you can pick up PEOPLE OF THE TOWER. If you want to know why anyone is in a castle tower in a small Southern town the way I did, here's your chance. It's $.99 and I won't make much money from it, but sometimes that's not the point. That's not the point at all.

People of the Tower
To buy click here: PEOPLE OF THE TOWER

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Travel Bug Strikes Again!

Many years ago my husband Lyle drove big rigs for a big company and I often went on the road with him, traveling cross-country. From those first trips on the road a novel came into creation titled NIGHT CRUISE. (On Amazon now as Night Cruising.) Cruise was an unsuspected serial killer driving a Chrysler across country, killing as he went. Then he decides he needs a witness to his crimes, someone to take note of his actions, and picks up a teen hitchhiker running away from home. I used truck stops I'd been to, people I'd met, even dialogue I heard on the CB in the book that gave it a feeling of truth beyond fiction. The book went on to garner the prestigious Edgar Award nomination. The book lost that year to an Alaskan detective book that was part of a series--well, that's all I'll say about that. It would be rude to say more.

Travel infused a novel. The night lights, the long empty roads, the truck stops, the movement of strangers past one another on the road and in the cafes and stops held a sort of romance for me that has never dimmed. Off and on I would ride with my husband and we'd be in Northern California one week and in North Carolina the next. Every day a new view, every minute the landscape changing, and stimulating my creative juices. I'd always liked traveling, but this was like traveling on steroids, day after day a new city, a new part of the country. In the end, over the years, we drove through and enjoyed 48 of the states, from coast to coast and into Canada.

It gets in the blood. Sitting still at home gets boring for us now, Lyle and I. Over twenty years, off and on, we'd take off in a big rig and roll over the land, having the time of our lives. Whether in snow or storm or tornado, whether a blizzard raged or the rivers ran high, we rolled on through to the other side of it, often into sunshine.

We were traveling this way last December when in California I had to go to an Emergency Room and was diagnosed with lung cancer. That stopped the travel for the foreseeable future, if not forever. But I got a reprieve and went into remission. Now we may be going on the road again, Lyle maneuvering the big rig, me in the jump seat taking photos, and feeling the joy of a sunset in a new place. I can't tell you how happy that makes me.

Some are home people, loving only being at home. I like to COME BACK home, but if I can just get a few miles under my feet, I'm never more content. My grandfather said of my wish to travel that I had "sand in my shoes." He said that to me when I was a teenager pining for a way to go somewhere, anywhere. He was so right.

The experiences you can gain by travel are worth millions. It's a tough job, the food on the road is bad, sometimes the traffic is horrendous, but then you walk over to a cafe for dinner in some state and get the most marvelous meal or you see a sunset behind mountains that you know you'd mourn if you'd missed it, or you see a rushing stream over boulders shining in the morning light and your soul is lifted. Clouds drift above you in one place and five hundred miles distant those clouds are different, the world is changing, the planet is twirling, and the wheels are rolling taking you on to the next view and next adventure.

I hope I get to do that again in a few days. When inspired by the travel I'll write blogs about it and see if I learn anything new. I hope you'll follow along. The next best thing to travel for me has been armchair traveling. When not on the road I read dozens and dozens of travel books just to feel in touch with those, like me, who take to the road when life is too routine, too the same.

As my grandfather predicted so many years ago, I still have to shake this sand from my shoes.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Five Days left to SINISTER Launch

It's December 10th and on December 15th SINISTER-Tales of Dread 2014 can be ordered as an e-book on Amazon. Today and for five more days you can pre-order it for the ridiculous price of $.99. When published it will go back up to the normal price of $3.99.

I'm doing a Thunderclap campaign for the book too and I hope you can support me. No cash involved. Just share it with Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr. Here's the link:

THUNDERCLAP TO SUPPORT SINISTER

I've read recently where famous writers and movie stars (William Shatner) are doing Kickstarter campaigns to fund their projects. Shatner wants donations for his book about living successfully after fifty. Well, someone had to write that, I guess. I often wonder if I should try a Kickstarter. For instance, I'd like to create an anthology of horror and also a new noir suspense novel. I suppose it wouldn't hurt to try.  You don't know what you can do until you try.

I've made a couple of memes today with quotes from my own writing. Here they are for your amusement.

HE WAS BORN OF AIR AND HATE AND FIRE. Billie Sue Mosiman, from her story opening of "The Monster Waiting Above."

I saw my fictional monster looking a little like this, but bloodier.





This is a quote that I used in my novel, THE GREY MATTER. I know it's macabre, but looking around at the state of the world this is how it often feels to me.  We're bringing it.

A word about "extreme" horror. I think much of it today is taken too far. I never write it--until I wrote my latest short story, "The Monster Living Above."  I didn't mean to do it. I'd really not done it before. But this demon came from Hell on a mission and performed it. It had to be extreme. I hope it didn't go too far and I don't think it did. It's when we go to the extreme with close-ups of rape and molestation that I say it has gone too far. I don't like it, I don't write it, and I am sad anyone else would. That's just my take on extreme horror fiction. It has to have control or it's just horror porn, don't kid yourself.

So I hope you will support the debut of my story collection (without an extreme horror story in sight in it) and support it at Thunderclap. The more people know about the collection the more readers might read and review it. I do appreciate anyone who supports, buys, or reviews my work. It's just dark love poems from me to you.  Get it for the holidays as an e-book or paperback, and soon as an audiobook. SINISTER 2014




Thursday, November 13, 2014

Lock in The Goodness-A Sinister $.99 Proposition

It's difficult for writers to promote themselves. Some go overboard and hit every Facebook group available, tweet the thing a thousand times, and give away prizes if people will only pay attention. Other authors today have bowed out and said to hell with it, I'm no shill. Is there a sweet spot? Can we let our dear readers and maybe new readers know we have a book out without appearing to be egotistical and desperate?

I can't even answer that. It's really become a conundrum for every author, including me. I don't want to browbeat people, annoy them, or beg them. I'm not a publisher's publicist. I haven't been trained in marketing. Few authors have. The truth is we spend our lives, mainly, in a hermit like existence doing our work. Hours that stack up to days and, then to years, are spent alone with our imagination, creating other worlds and other people. We simply aren't equipped to step out into the limelight and say to you, the reader, we have the best thing for you to read, the best book to spend your money and time upon, and here it is. In some cases it makes us feel so badly we do finally give up and go silent.

If we do that, however, we've orphaned the book. We've crippled it and sent it packing into a dark corner. Even publishers don't promote our works and we're expected to do it on our own, with very little help. If we want to pay for promotion, it's going to come out of our pockets. If anyone mentions it on Facebook or Twitter or Linked In, we have to do it. 

I'm using my blog today to announce to you the Pre-Order availability of my latest fiction, SINISTER-Tales of Dread 2014. Yes, you can go ahead and order it now at the lower price of only $.99,  lock it in, and you'll have it delivered on the first day available, December 15th. Later it will return to full price. This is my small way of announcing the book, just so you'll know. If you care to know. No harm done if you aren't interested, I suppose. Don't hold it against me. I'm just a writer.

SINISTER 2014 is a collection of stories I've written in the past year. I began this series of collected stories last year and that, too, is titled Sinister-Tales of Dread 2013--the years and covers change. Not every story I wrote is in this year's collection as a couple of them didn't have the rights returned yet, but nearly every story I wrote is in it. Compared to last year's collection, this one contains more realistic suspense and psychological fiction compared to horror. It just worked out that way, though there are some horror tales in there (vampire! contagion! killer apps for a smartphone!) that should disturb the reader and make him check the locks on the doors. 

As the author, I can't tell you if this is the best collection of stories out there. That would be foolish. I can't tell you your life will be better, your hair will turn from gray to brunette, your children will become angels in their comportment, and your friends will lavish you with gifts on your birthday. All I can promise is you'll get Mosiman stories written at the apex of my ability. Weird, strange, odd, and in a case or two, there are stories that are emotional rollercoasters. 

As I stated in an earlier blog, the short story is my love letter to the world--no matter how dark it might be. I write them at full-force, head-on, and barreling down the freeway at a hundred-forty miles per hour. I hold nothing back. I don't second-guess the characters and their decisions. Like some other authors have claimed, I really take down dictation and the stories write themselves. There must be a reason for this. If I'm given stories, then they're meant to be shared, to be read, and if I did my job right, they will be enjoyed. 

Therefore, that's my pitch. I have done my promotion thing, the thing we all despise because it isn't really our job and we aren't trained in it. I hope you will go to the link, look at the cover and the listed stories and decide to put in a pre-order. Sort of a little early Christmas present to yourself--and to me. I'll know you're out there and you're interested in my storytelling. Nothing encourages a writer more than to sell copies of her work and to receive reviews from readers who liked it. If you want the paperback copy instead, that too will be available soon on Amazon.




PRE-ORDER YOUR COPY.
Thanks for your attention to this blog post. It had to be done, you know it did. And something else, though it's not December yet, I hope you have the Happiest Holidays ever--with my book or without it! That's more important than anything else.





Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Christmas Gift for the Demented

It's that time of year when I gather my year's stories together into a collection for those who enjoy the dark side. I don't always write pure horror fiction, though I've indulged in it using the short form for about three years now. My real home is suspense, psychological suspense to be precise. In my new collection this year, SINISTER-TALES OF DREAD 2014, the thirteen stories are pretty even between suspense/noir and horror. If readers are like me (and I always think they are), they like both genres and don't mind a variety of stories in a collection. This will be ready to pre-order by December 5 and ready to buy by December 15, a real holiday release.

Here is the new Kindle cover for the collection. It is original from the cover artist, Jeffrey Kosh:



There will be a paperback edition, also, available from Amazon. Eventually I hope to have at least a trio of the Sinister collections.

Why do I write so many short stories? Because I have to. I have a million ideas and very few of them are ready for the prime time of the novel arena. Most of them don't have the "legs" for noveldom, but they are perfectly right for the short story form. I get to explore characters, situations, and locations that I'd never be able to explore if I stuck completely to writing novels. It's true, too, that I began my career writing stories. I've written and published them for over thirty years and the majority of them were published, hundreds of them. In the 80s and 90s I had so many contributions to paperback and hardback anthologies the copies filled up four shelves in my bookcase. Since the advent of digital ebooks, I've tried to gather some of the older stories into collections and now I've decided to make my yearly collections into the Sinister series.

I love to read short stories. In today's world we seem to have little time to devote to reading and the short story is the perfect solution. You can read one story at a time during a doctor's visit or when out camping, or when your mother-in-law is in the kitchen rearranging your spice cabinet. You know how that goes. In a collection or anthology a reader can skip around and not lose anything for doing it. Read the last story first, sample the one in the middle, or read right from the beginning, the way we read a novel.

I've been lucky to have my stories taken by editors and featured in various anthologies and magazines. I take nothing for granted. I expect hundreds of thousands of stories are written a year and the inclusion in print by an editor is quite a special event for writers. The competition is fierce, other writers are terrific and inventive, and stories proliferate. I'm always grateful for the impetus that keeps me writing short stories, for the way sometimes editors want to publish them, and for you, the reader, who come back for more when I do a new story or create a new collection of the year.

Writing is my love, my Muse is my helpmate, and the short story is my love letter (no matter how dark it might be.)

I hope you'll remember me in December when the Christmas lights are shining and the presents are stacked beneath the tree. Look for SINISTER-TALES OF DREAD 2014 on Amazon and see what you think. I promise to give only my best. I give you all I have.

If you absolutely need a novel fix, please look at THE GREY MATTER, my latest novel of suspense on Amazon from Post Mortem Press.







Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Awful Desperation of the Fiction Writer in Today's World

I've read disturbing facts on Facebook having to do with publishers. Asking for forever copyright to a book, plus all foreign rights and movie rights, for instance. What!? Just go get a gun and shoot yourself instead, that would be a faster way to destruction. Or what about a publisher changing terms in the midst of accepting stories. What? You don't go changing terms willynilly. Not if you want to keep contributors worth their salt.  I’ll address that later.

Because really, trying to take away a writer's copyright? Insanity.

The number of years you grant is one thing and it's what you feel you can live with, but giving away your entire copyright forever? You'd have to be brain dead. Yet I've heard of a small press asking for those forever rights and maybe even one of the Big Five or Six is trying to go that drastic (for the writer) route too.

If a writer doesn't understand the strength and power of his copyright, he should get out of the writing business immediately. Do it, do it now, and don’t look back. You’re making the rest of us look stupid.

Yeah, I blame sneaky publishers for proposing such an unheard of thing, but let's blame "writers" who even listen to such rubbish without going ballistic.

Sometimes I think I've fallen down Alice's rabbit hole. If this is the way so-called publishing is going, it deserves to die. A big, rattling, snorkeling death.

Nothing gets me hotter than people taking advantage of writers or writers allowing it to happen.

Stealing copyright is like someone coming into your paid off home and saying, "I live here now, I'm taking over. I'm going to keep this house until 70 years after your death. What do you get in return? Bumkus, that's what you get."

Bottom line...there are NO circumstances under which you lose or give away your copyright forever. None. Not offers of money or the hope of heaven. None.

I've felt desperation as a writer before. Years trying to get published did that. But even then if the largest publisher in NY had offered a deal asking for all rights forever I would have embraced my desperation and said go away Junk Heap brain, I can't talk to you. You simply can’t be so desperate you would do that, can you? Again, Jesus, go cook a casserole or something instead of trying to be a writer.  You can’t possibly think giving away your copyright is an okay deal, under any conditions.

As for anthologists who change terms during the acceptance phase of compiling an anthology, well, cripes and soda crackers, what’s going on there? You want the fiction for a whole year, then you say okay I’ll settle for six months, then after stories come in you go back to a year’s rights. What? You offer a certain amount of payment then you change it, THEN you come back and change it back again! It’s like dealing with a swinging door in a stiff breeze. You say there will be just minor edits, then you go hogwallers all over the pages of stories, or so they say, and that swinging door is flying in a hurricane.

This, my dears, is not professional. Professional people do not do these things. There’s a statement of rights, a statement of payment, a true statement of editorial interference, and that’s it. It does not change on a whim and out of the blue.

I’ve been disturbed for some time when I’ve seen so many new writers giving away their stories or novels for “exposure.” Is your work not worth payment? Then don’t fucking write it in the first place! This is a profession, get it? It’s not a Look At Me I Got into an Anthology game.

Oh don’t be such a hardass, you might say.  Have a little sympathy. Sorry, I have no sympathy for morons and people indulging in stupid practices. Don’t devalue stories and novels. Don’t devalue yourself. Have a little pride, at least a little pride, for chrissakes. If you don’t think fiction is worth paying for, worth protecting the rights of, worth keeping out of pseudo-publisher hands who is stealing it and doing a terrible job with it, then hell, go along your merry ignorant way because you do not belong in the writing profession. And I’m not the only one who thinks that way.  I may be one of the few who will tell you the unvarnished truth, (because frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.) I am not the only one who thinks writers are being used and abused and, evidently, liking it just fine.


 Bah. Move over Alice, I’m trying to climb out of this hole. It’s got too many dancing cards in it and the rabbit's wearing a hat.


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

WRITE FOR EXPOSURE! (I'll expose you to my back as I walk away.)

I've been reading submission guidelines for short stories and thought I'd just make up one of my own here for your entertainment. It is a mash-up of all the guidelines I keep seeing. "Flash fiction length to novel length. We don't pay. We crowdfund/give you a copy/make you famous/think you should be happy we even read you. We only want the best. The best of the best. It better be the goddamned Best or don't even bother sending it, okay? If you don't write as well as today's bestselling authors, don't bother. I'm serious now. You better be writing at the top of the heap because we don't play. We will keep all your rights for a year. Or five. We're thinking that part over yet. We expect you to have your manuscript professionally edited and ready to go. If we have to actually edit it, we may have to break your legs. If you go one word over the suggested length, your mother may get a knock on her door late at night. If you think you've got what it takes, take your best shot. Oh, and we don't pay. Or maybe we'll pay you to take out the trash from the office. We might pay for that."

 I suppose there's a need for all kinds of markets, but goodness, some of these aren't for the serious writer. I don't know who they're for, but not the serious writer. Harlan Ellison, of course, said it first and best, "Fuck you, pay me." Also, don't expect to keep the author's rights on a short story for an inordinate amount of time. Because you don't need it and you certainly aren't paying enough for it and we don't have to give it to you. That is the truth you need to see.
 

I don't want to go around browbeating publications, but I see so much of this kind of thing that it's gotten under my skin. Like a virus or a bug or a worm that's five feet long. It's like saying, "We don't really respect you or the writing you do. We want to see it and judge it and if we like it, we can take it for nothing, meaning you are nothing and this antho/mag/zine is nothing and the whole project is nothing, but we want you to work on something for a long time, edit it about ten times, and we want you to give it to us for twelve months or more so you can't use it in a collection of your own that year, you can't have it reprinted, you can't do bunkus with it, and all this so we can try to make lunch money off it. Also, we give you 'exposure. That's more precious than gold.'" 

That, in a nutshell, is what they're saying. And I find that disrespectful to all writers everywhere.

But then I'm a curmudgeon and I often say what I think. Probably not the best way to be, but some things just tick me off. And using writers for whipping posts and lunch money is one of those things. If a publication cannot afford to pay a pro-rate, I understand that. But on top of not offering enough money to buy a quarter tank of gas, if you also think you can ask for all rights for a year, then you must be delusional. 


No wonder so many writers turn to self-publishing. It's a real alternative to these sorts of offers. I heard people say but yeah, there are so many markets for fiction! Sure there are. And three-fourths of them are ridiculous and I suppose some writers flock to them, I don't know why. The few who pay good rates and don't try to tie up all the rights are as crowded with submissions and as competitive as a bar with free beer on a Friday night. The response time on your work? Long time. Long, long time. That's the rule. Some might be faster, but who can expect the better markets to wade through thousands of refugees from the No Pay-Only Exposure-Keeping Your Rights' bin? So you send a story and wait a year. That's always a barrel of fun.

I have no solution. I just have complaints. Well, I do have a solution. Don't treat writers like morons. Don't take advantage of them. Don't believe serious writers want to publish with you. Don't delude yourself into thinking you're doing a good thing by disrespecting writers. They're your lifeblood. If you can get it cheaper, or for free, that's what you're getting--cheap and free. Good luck with that. Keep flooding the market with cheap, free, stomped-upon writers in your projects and see how that works out for you.

Pay writers a decent wage for good work. Don't take or keep rights you do not need to take. You're probably a writer too, Mr. Zine Man and Ms. Anthology Editor. Be good to your creative partners or it's just not going to work out. And that's a truth you can take to the bank.