Posts Tagged ‘Short Stories’

I am wishing you all a healthy and happy new year. Keep up on those resolutions you’ve made. Here are a couple of mine (yes, I am doing more than one).

  • Save some cash with my hubby
  • Get published (this one I surprisingly have never made to myself before, but this year I plan to send out more stories, more often, to a much wider variety of magazines, and I would like to finish and send out my novel Lashine).
  • Publish an e-book (possibly under a pen name, I’m not positive I’ll do this one though)
  • Fix up the house (we plan to do our bathroom and kitchen by the end of next winter, and I’ve been wanting to paint my office too)
  • Work out regularly (for muscle tone only)

I never seem to be able to keep up with my resolutions. This year I’m writing them down and sticking them up on a wall in my office, that way I have to look at it all the time, and I’m constantly reminded of the promises I’ve made myself.

But now, onto what I really want to discuss here. The Arbor House Treasury of Horror and the Supernatural (1981). I first heard of this collection of short stories in a Writer’s Digest Genre Series, How To Write Horror Fiction. It was recommended by the author as something every writer in the genre should read. Without doing much research as to whose work was in this collection of short stories, or how much a copy goes for, I asked my Mom to get me a copy for Christmas, if she could find it. Now, I have no idea what she paid for it (though she did say it was pricey, and other copies were going for as much as $500), but she found it, and over the last couple days I’ve been reading some of the exceptional works of horror and supernatural fiction.

I believe The Arbor House Treasury of Horror and the Supernatural, is no longer in print, which would account for the high prices and high demand. However, I think most libraries would have a copy you can borrow, if you don’t want to purchase one.

Any way, I highly recommend this anthology of short stories. It includes such masterpieces as: Hop Frog– Edgar Allen Poe, Rappaccini’s Daughter– Nathanial Hawthorne, Squire Toby’s Will– J. Sheridan Le Fanu, Sticks– Karl Edward Wagner (which I loved), and Sardonicus– Ray Russel, The Doll– Joyce Carol Oates, The Crate– Stephen King, and so much more. Most of those listed, I’ve read, though the last two I haven’t.

The book itself is divided into two sections: I. Grandmasters, and II. Modern Masters (pretty self-explanatory, I think). I started in the Grandmasters section (skipping Hop Frog, only because I’ve read it before in a collection of Poe’s work, though it is one of my favorites of his work) and read a few before jumping to Modern Masters. I’m nowhere near finishing the entire book though.

I feel that there is a lot to be learned from both the “Grandmasters” and the “Modern Masters”. Though, being that it’s from the early eighties, the “Modern Masters” aren’t so modern anymore, but that’s not to say these stories have lost their luster or grandeur. The writing styles captured in this collection vary, as well as the topics of the macabre and the supernatural, but all are great in their own way.

And now that I’ve made my recommendation, I have work to do on a short story I started just before Christmas. It’s coming along well, and I’m looking forward to finishing and editing it to perfection. I won’t bore you with what it’s about, until my next post, maybe. Now that the holidays are over (though tomorrow is Ty’s birthday), I should be able to resume my normal couple posts a week, and get back on top of my writing.

Looking forward to reading some of your posts before I log off, and to reading some of your comments. I’ve missed you all!

Again, Happy New Years, and I’m wishing you all the best of luck with your own writing.

 

We’ve all seen, or read, at least one horror story or movie with a child as a main antagonist, or even the protagonist. There are countless works of fiction that fall into one of these categories. Such as: The Shining-Stephen King, IT-Stephen King, The Omen-David Seltzer, (to the more recent works like the 2011 movie Don’t Be Afraid of The Dark) and so many others.

It’s my (loose) belief, that there is a right and wrong way to use children in horror. This is all a matter of personal opinion, and I’m not going to rule out the greatness of a story just because of my beliefs, but let me outline how I use children in horror.

I try to steer away from a child protagonist. It’s just what I like. I think creepy children in horror should be outlawed (not seriously). It could just be that they scare me so much I avoid them in my stories like they have the plague (and in most cases they really look like they have it), but no matter the reason, I choose to mainly use children as antagonists in my stories. The young antagonist reminds us so of what we were afraid of as children, and is that not where all our modern fears are rooted? To me, the creepy kid is a depthless monster. They often have little motivation, or motivation not easily understood by the audience. When you think about what makes children murder, how many possibilities can you come up with? Abused (or murdered) by parents, bullied at school (or murdered by bullies), and the son/daughter of the devil, are just about all I can think of (off the top of my head). There are only so many ways and times that these concepts can be used (but of course there are always going to be spin-offs and twists on these tried and true child protagonist motivations).

To me, the child protagonist unleashes a largely overdone genre of horror, in which the antagonist is disarmed by worry for a child who is actually out to get them. This is useful, for suspense and surprise, but, I feel it’s often not done “right”. (Do any of you know what I mean by this? I hope so.)

I don’t know exactly why child protagonists bother me, it could be that I feel that youth should be care free, fun, and light, not dark, evil, and murderous.

No matter what side of my debate you fall on, the usefulness of children in horror cannot be ignored. Time and time again, I turn to child antagonists to give my stories a youthful naïve tone, and to (hopefully) remind the adults out there of what they were afraid of as children. The Wish, is one such story of mine, where a young boy finds an old brassy urn buried in the sink hole behind his family’s home. He makes a wish, out of anger, and finds that it comes true. This would never work with an adult, because one of the main factors in this story is the main character’s naivety and inability to stop making wishes in hope that they will turn out alright this time. There’s also: The Dark Place, The Property, Potty Training, The Puddle, and one, currently untitled, about a boy with ear infections who goes to a “Free Clinic” for treatment and ends up worse for wear upon leaving. The boy’s oblivious mother continues to take him to the doctor, believing that her boy will be all better soon.

Just as sure as the sun comes up every day, be sure that horror writers across the world (myself included) will continue to utilize children in horror as an invaluable character, unmatched by their adult counterparts.

When making your antagonist a child (let’s say under the age of 16), it’s important to understand children, how their minds work, their thought process, and basic behavior characteristics. (The Writer’s Guide to Character Traits by Linda N. Edelstein, Ph.D., is a priceless tool in this regard. In it, she outlines basic behavior patterns and characteristics for different age groups, and also contains adult characteristics as well) One thing I do, is watch children (not in a creepy way, I swear!), pay attention to how they interact with each other and adults. I have two younger brothers (both well under the age of 16), and two nieces (one coming up on two yrs and the other will be one). Watching them (especially with each other) gives me ideas for new stories. Be sure to take note in their mannerisms, the words they use, how they seem to see the world, and how they react to the unknown and fear. As always, I stress RESEARCH. Do more and more and more, until you feel like your brain can’t hold any more information, and when you reach that point, research some more still. You can NEVER gather too much information. Of course using all the information you’ve gathered would be a gross overload, but you’ll be able to pick and choose the right characteristics to create the child character that fits just right.

Now, here’s something else I’ve noticed about my using children in horror: I tend to favor boys. I don’t know why. It could be their seemingly constant willingness to prove themselves, or their mindset that they are a “big kid” and can do anything. Girls, I find a little harder to utilize in horror fiction, but that’s not to say I haven’t used a female child antagonist. The Property is a short story I wrote, about a young girl with a fat pet cat who doesn’t come home for his usual breakfast. Worried, the little girl heads out into the marshy swamp her parents own, across the road, in search of her beloved Snuggles. Little does she know, the cat stayed away for a reason. There is something evil lurking in the eighty acres across the road, its following Snuggles deeper and deeper into the swamp, with the little girl in tow. (I need to re-write it because I lost all but one copy of it when I had computer malfunctions back in August and had to do a system recovery.) I also broke my own rule with this one, turning the little girl into a thing of nightmares in the end, however, this is different because she began as the antagonist and fell victim to the evil. In the story, she is a terrifying “thing” for a matter of just a few paragraphs, and it ends on a “what if?” note.

There is no real right or wrong way to use children in horror fiction. Play around with your characters and try something new. Who knows, you may invent a genre of horror of your own.

Do you write about children, or use them in your stories? How does it work for you? Where do you stand on child antagonist vs. child protagonist? Do you have any favorite horror stories with children as the main characters?

Please, feel free to comment. If you don’t get a reply from me, it’s because I feel your comment warrants no reply. If you would like a reply, be sure to ask a question or something that would require an answer or response. I know little to nothing about the etiquette of blogging/comments, and I do have a life of my own and stories to write, so I don’t always take the time to respond. Sorry!

 

Every body knows the unicorn (or should at least). A fabled, mythical creature, so elusive it’s said to be nearly impossible to catch. The horse-like animal, with one long horn protruding from its skull, is also said to take a liking to young women and will cautiously approach them.

I wanna know where my unicorn is.

“The Unicorn Idea” is that elusive, impossible to find idea for the perfect story.

You see, for the last few days, I’ve been feeling that my work has been too commercial, to stereotypical. Every story seems the same, and I can’t  find the factor missing from my literary equations (stories). I’m searching for that eccentric twist, that special “thing” (because I don’t know what it will be) that will make my story stand apart from the others.

What I’m looking for is something new, something groundbreaking, and as of yet, I haven’t found it. I felt that I was close last night, watching the sappy, dramatic, and hormonal “Teen Wolf” series on TV. I had this idea (based loosely off events from the episode) for a story. It was intriguing, but not enough to ignite a fire beneath my pen. While it felt “good”, it just didn’t feel great. I think I’m going to have to shelve the idea for now.

I’m not sure what exactly is driving me to look farther and deeper for ideas that may expand or stray from the known genre of horror, but I think it may come from a subconscious need for a challenge. With my work finally getting back on track (I finished a couple of stories in the last week and am ever nearer to finishing Lashine), and a couple of stories ready to be sent out (the market’s lookin slim right about now, a lot of magazine’s websites I checked out said that they were closed to submissions for the foreseeable future), I’m feeling less stimulated than I had in the past. This is a good thing, meaning I’m becoming more comfortable with the level I’m at with my writing, but at the same time, it’s almost like I’m a sixth grader in second grade English class.

Is this making sense to anyone?

I feel that the ideas I’ve been working on, are, for lack of better word, stale. The cause is almost glaringly obvious; my lack of leaving the house for the last month or so. Generally, we’ve got a little extra cash, and I’m able to go to town twice in a week for groceries and errands, and while I’m out I people watch, listen to conversations, and generally look for inspiration in the public. But Ty’s just been laid off, and money’s tight. I don’t get out as much as I do, and it’s likely that staring at the same four walls, day in and day out, is making my mind stagnant. When I’m cruising on a story, this wouldn’t be a problem, I could stay home all month and not worry about it, so long as I’ve got the inspiration to work on something. But between projects I begin to feel restless.

I suppose this could be some form of writer’s block, but it doesn’t quite feel like writer’s block normally does. Generally, when I’ve got writer’s block, I totally lack of drive to write. It seems I have nothing to say, and that no one would listen any way. This, is different. This is more like the drive to write is there, but the spark is missing. Again, I’m not sure what it is, and the more I write about it the more it’s starting to bother me(yes, I’m ridiculous), like I know “it” is out there, I just have to find it.

Today I think I’ll go for a walk, try to clear my head, and maybe I’ll work on the “Alice In Wonderland” inspired story. I’ve been wanting to write this story for months now, about a young author who goes for a walk to help with writer’s block and finds herself lost in a strange world. She has to fight her way home, narrowly missing an untimely demise at every turn. The writer will finally emerge from the realm, victorious, and return home to her husband, only to find that something doesn’t quite feel right (at which point there will be a realization that she never escaped the other world, and she never made it home). While I’ve got the basic story line plotted out, the details still elude me. It needs that spark, that something different to set it apart from other similar works. Maybe I’ll fall into another world, or at least get an idea as to how it would happen, or what this other world would be like.

All in all, I’m searching for something more, something as of yet unknown, that will add that extra life to my next story, and help it to stand out from the others. Any of you ever have a similar problem? Did any of you ever find your “unicorn idea”?

Comment, like, subscribe, if you want. I love hearing from you guys and hope you are all doing well (especially with the apocalypse nearly upon us; haha).

 

I’m stressing myself out. I know it’s my own fault. I start a project, don’t quite get it done, and find inspiration for the next and move on. Then my unfinished work just sits in the dusty depths of my hard drive, waiting for me to pluck it out and cherish it again.

What I currently have on my plate:

  • One nearly finished novel (and I know I call it almost finished all the time, but it’s still almost finished) 129 pages done, God only knows how many more to go.
  • One novel only started, 21 pages done. (I don’t even want to think about how many more to go)
  • Two half-finished short stories, which I can’t seem to figure out the ending for.
  • One finished short story that needs some serious re-working, editing, and re-writing.
  • About four or five finished short stories that need editing and re-writing.
  • Seven ideas, all at different levels of development. Some I’m more excited to work on than others.

There could be more even, but I’m not willing to spend the next hour going through all my projects to see which are finished and which aren’t.

My point being, I need more hours in the day.

(Is that little clear pill from “Limitless” real? The main character was an author, remember?)

You are all probably sick of me going on and on about all the work I’ve made for myself and not finished. Therefore, in the future, I will not log onto here until I’ve written something worth while.

Wish me luck. I’ll need it where I’m going…   Happy Blogging Everyone. =]

An invaluable way to hone and enrich your craft is to deconstruct others’ writing. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to say you should pick apart someone’s writing and belittle them into never writing again. What I’m talking about here is the process of breaking a story (or novel even) down into sections so that they’re easier analyzed. Look at how the author develops the characters, how they introduce the main setting on which the story will take place, how events leading up to the climax build suspense and urge the reader on, how the climax is constructed, how the story is resolved, etc.

So much can be learned by discovering the inner mechanics of another writers’ story. Think of the story as an engine. You’re a curious mechanic, wondering how someone could create a more efficient engine than you know how to do. Deconstructing a story is just like taking apart that more efficient engine to see just how it works, how all the pieces fit together just right, how they all work together to make something that purrs beautifully.

When looked at as a whole, a story seems to take on a life of its own. By breaking it down into more manageable pieces, you’re able to more easily see the little parts and pieces that move the story (and the reader for that matter).

Also, deconstructing your own stories can prove invaluable as well. You’ll be able to more easily see where your story went wrong (if it did), where you got off topic, where there are holes in the story, and areas that may need description or a little something else. Break the story down into scenes and ask yourself if you were to rearrange these scenes, would it still make sense? If your answer is yes, you’ve got a lot of work to do. Your scenes should follow a basic logical sequence of events. If, in the opening scene, your protagonist is already going after the villain, you’re not going to be able to hold the reader’s interest through the end. Make sure that your story flows well between scenes and that they are logically placed within the story.

Character development within a story holds so much importance, I feel it deserves a paragraph of its own. The author must know how to ease the reader into the character’s lives, and rather than just telling the reader about the character, the author must show the favorable characteristics through the character’s actions and words to bring the reader closer to the character. The characters have to feel real to the reader, otherwise you won’t hold their interest. They have to be able to identify with these characters on some level. The way these characters interact with others should be realistic as well.

Here’s an example of unrealistic interactions:

George came into the house, nearly spitting fire. “I thought I told you to have this goddamn place clean when I got here!” He growled at his wife on his way to the kitchen. “It’s a pig sty in here.”

“Oh, sweetie,” Luanne said lovingly, kissing her husband’s cheek. “I love you.”

Now, after being berated by her obviously angry husband, it would make no sense that Luanne would react so sweetly to his anger. There has to be logic behind her ignoring his comments. Instead, try something like this:

George came into the house, nearly spitting fire. “I thought I told you to have this goddamn place clean when I got here!” He growled at his wife on his way into the kitchen.

She bit her tongue, knowing speaking now would only anger him more.

“It’s a pig sty in here,” he said.

“Oh sweetie,” Luanne said lovingly, thinking of how she would exact her revenge when the moment was right. She leaned forward, hating even the smell of him, but keeping this from her face as she placed her lips on his sweaty, prickly cheek. “I love you,” she said, thinking, I hate you.

Luanne biting her tongue, thinking of revenge,  hating the smell of her husband, and that last little: I hate you, adds the logic missing from the first passage. We know from these things that Luanne doesn’t love George, and that she’s only putting up with his ill-treatment long enough to exact revenge.

Everything, and yes, I mean EVERYTHING must follow a logic order and make sense to the reader. If your monster sprouts wings and flies away suddenly, explain how a radioactive chemical spill allowed the creature to grow the wings, or monologue a character’s thoughts on their previous inability to see said wings due to darkness. If you’re going to surprise the reader, don’t do it at the climax. Doing so will lose your readers faith in your ability to suspend disbelief, and the entire story will come crashing down around them. If your monster is different from the norm, let the readers see it (or part of it) before the tension builds to the no turning back point.

There are numerous ways a writer can learn from deconstructing both their own writing, and others’ as well. It may seem a little pointless at first, but once you do this a few times, you’ll be easier able to see the scenes individually, without actually breaking down the story, and will thus be better equipped to write your own.

Comments are, as always, welcome. =]

I’d like to advise a bit on what writing supplies work for me, and why I chose some of the things I use.

First off, notebooks are extremely important. They’re used for so many things, like free writing, jotting down ideas, writing out scenes, writing first drafts, as well as personal writings on your views and opinions of the world around you.

I ALWAYS use composition style notebooks. Why?

I have this nasty habit of throwing things away that don’t suit my standards. Usually it’s not junk either, just ideas only half-formed before writing, or something that needs a little more character or setting development. I do it with my art too (being that I paint, sculpt, draw, and wood burn). If it’s not up to par, it goes.

The way composition notebooks are made suits me well, because when you rip out one page, another comes out with it. Knowing this, I no longer tear out pages with “bad” ideas or writing.

The reason I do this is to prevent myself from tossing something that could one day be re-worked and turned into a masterpiece. (Do you all know the importance of keeping everything when it comes to writing?)

Another very helpful supply I keep in my desk would be note cards. They’re invaluable for writing down notes on previous events (when writing a novel) as well as character notes and descriptions, and I also use them for jotting down research info. So long as you keep them close, they will be of great help.

I’ve gone through working on a novel or long short story and forgot important details from earlier in the story. Rather than scroll back through searching for the info I’ve forgotten, I’ll write down anything I think I may forget on note cards.

Be sure to carefully label them and keep them separated from one story to the next, otherwise you may end up a bit mixed up.

Highlighters are useful as well. I use them for highlighting things I read in articles that inspire me, for highlighting sections of my printed draft that need work. I also use them in the books on writing I’ve purchased to highlight great advice and tips, since they are only mine.

Ever have an idea that you want to think a little more on, but you don’t want to forget about it? Try using sticky notes. I like to write down my partial ideas on them and stick them around my office, to my notebooks, or just around the house. That way when I look at them, I’m reminded of the idea and can sometimes come up with the once elusive other half to them.

When re-writing edited work (I print the stories out and go back through them with a pen. I find it helps me to see the problems better when my writing is not on a screen.) I use a red ink pen. Sure, black or blue work just fine, but I’ve found that I’ll sometimes miss mistakes I’ve corrected with a black pen because it does not catch my eye as well as the red ink will.

Since organization is key (though not my strong suit), try keeping printed previous drafts, as well as ideas, in file folders. I keep mine in a filing cabinet, but even if you don’t, the tabs are still helpful for finding the right folder. I like keeping various copies and drafts of the same story in the same file, but you can separate between drafts or whatever.

And those are just a few. Try out different things. You may find a certain style of something works better for you.

Got any special tools that help you with your writing? Share them! I’m always looking for ways to improve my writing process, skills, and my office.

Thanks for reading. Take care of yourselves and have a great day.

For those of you who don’t know, as of the 15th of November, white tail rifle season started in Northeastern Michigan. It’s a wonderful time of year, when you’re more likely than ever to be run off the road by a bunch of idiots drinking beer. However, it is good for the economy (because we get lots of out-of-towners and out-of-staters), and I just love spending a few day out at camp, drinking, playing cards, and just having a good time. Besides that, I love hunting.

Rather than join my husband at camp for the first few days of season, I’d opted to stay home in order to get some work done on my writing. But, I didn’t. I spent two days farting around on the internet, watching TV, running errands in town, and drinking wine. I wonder why I do this to myself, all the freakin time.

Any way, needless to say, it’s been a rather unproductive few days, and I’m feeling it, mentally that is. If you write, you may know what I’m getting at here.

I find that my thought process works much differently for writing, than it does for almost any other task, such as speaking, problem solving, personal interactions, general pondering, etc. When I get myself into that thought process, I could write for hours, days, weeks even, on end. I could write until my hands fell off, and still be bursting with ideas and new things to say. Lately, that very thought process has been a bit harder to achieve. I think it’s because I too easily allow distractions to break my attention to my work.

It’s taking me a while, but I’m slowly learning the conditions I need in order to write productively. Here are those I can think of:

  • No cell phones
  • No TV
  • No conversation (even in the slightest)
  • Generally silence helps, but occasionally I’ll listen to a certain style of music to inspire myself
  • No leaving the room (Basically I stay in my office, if I’m using my desk, or the bedroom or living room if I’m using my lap desk. Accept for bathroom breaks!)
  • No people (they too easily distract)
  • No pets (they generally crave attention that I can’t give them while writing, and they also distract)
  • No internet (Unless it’s for research purposes, and generally I’ll only stop writing if I absolutely cannot go on without certain information. Otherwise it must wait.)
  • Alcohol (I know what you’re probably thinking, that it’s all in my head that I write better drunk, and that could very well be the case. However, I feel that drinking loosens my grip on society’s norms, allowing eccentric ideas to flow easier. Which, as a horror author, IS what I want. And, I don’t drink every time I write, only occasionally, since it’s not very awesome to start at ten in the morning.)
  • Cigarettes (Only because I’m addicted.)
  • Comfy clothes
  • Moderate/comfortable room temperature

I may not have listed all, but that’s all I could come up with for now. Everyone has different condition requirements for productive writing, so what works for me may not work for you. I can only suggest, and of course not all my suggestions are the best.

It’s my belief, that the part of your brain used for writing is like a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it gets. So after half a week of slacking, I’m having a hard time using my writing muscle. This issue should be remedied, come Tuesday, as Monday I’ll be back on schedule, and writing regularly again, in my optimal environment.

I’m sure most of you writers out there have heard of this, but I feel it should be mentioned as I’ve been discussing conducive writing conditions. When you’re not feeling well (emotionally or physically) and you write, the reader will be able to tell, and your condition/feelings will be reflected in your writing. Basically a good day makes for good writing, and a bad day makes for bad writing. Now this is just a rule of thumb. Say you’re home sick, eating your chicken noodle soup and lounging about the house, and you’ve just come up with this marvelous idea for a short story or novel. By all means, have at it. Write your story, or at least get your ideas on paper. If I had to guess, the rule is more for emotional distress, but for me, sometimes being sick can bring feelings of helplessness, and that upsets me.

As always, these are mere suggestions (and not very good ones at that), and I’d like to mention they may not work for everyone, and everyone may not agree with them. These are only what works for me. How do you find what works for you? Experiment, try things, just do it, and you’ll learn as you go.

I hope all my readers are having a great weekend so far. =]

Questions? Comments? Feel free! I love to hear back from you all. If you have any thing to add, or suggestions, or want to share your own conducive writing conditions, please do.

I always have a hard time figuring out where my work would best call home. I know, most magazine websites (since I’m talking short stories here) tell writers to buy and read a copy before submitting so that we can get a feel for the style of the magazine. But if I were to do that, I’d be broke (literary magazines usually run $10-$20 bucks a copy depending on circulation, content, and whatnot), and I’d have even more clutter to put up with than I do now. So how do we go about finding a magazine that wants our work?

First off, I find the Writer’s Market invaluable. It separates fiction and non-fiction, as well as consumer magazines, literary magazines, special interest magazines, etc. The problem I have is that there are probably ten horror fiction magazines, and most of them accept work on a seasonal basis. So where do I send my manuscripts? Literary magazines, mostly. When using the Writer’s Market, you have to read carefully. Some magazines won’t accept any horror, or fantasy, or romance, or dysfunctional family stories, or whatever. Many also have limitations on how many fiction manuscripts they can accept as well as the style of writing.

What I’ve done with my 2012 copy of the Writer’s Market (deluxe edition), was that I sat down shortly after getting it and read through all the literary magazines, their requirements and restrictions for fiction. I paid careful attention to those that accept horror, sci-fi, and fantasy, and marked them with little high-lighter tabs. That way I can easily turn back and find a magazine I felt might accept my work. I really cannot stress to you how helpful the Writer’s Market has been for me. Besides listings of agents, novel publishers, magazines, and contests, there’s also LOADS of helpful tips and tricks and priceless advice for the new/young/emerging writer.

Honestly, if it weren’t for that book, I probably wouldn’t have had half the work I’ve sent out read, and I don’t know anywhere else to find all that information, especially in one place.

There are other ways you can go about publishing though. For example, say you live in a small-town area, like I do. Small-town magazines and newspapers generally don’t get a lot of fiction submitted, and most would weigh more heavily towards an acceptance, knowing that you’re a local writer. The local paper here, doesn’t have a section for submitting work on their website, but check yours out, they might. I think the best thing to do if they don’t have any requirements posted would be to follow standard submission guidelines and write standard cover letters/query letters, and then simply send your manuscript in to the paper or magazine’s fiction editor. If they don’t have a fiction editor, then just send it to the general editor.

And my last, and probably least attractive, advice on publishing/placing work, would be that if all else fails, and you’ve got so many rejection letters that you’re wading through them, maybe it’s time to consider self-publication (such as the popular e-book, which I can offer little to no advice on, being that I haven’t even looked into it yet) or posting your work on an online forum. The only problem with blogging your work or posting it on facebook, is that NO publisher or magazine will buy it (on average at least) after you’ve done this. That’s because by posting it online, you’re allowing others to read your work and essentially publishing it yourself on your own forum, and publishers don’t want left over work that’s been read by God knows how many people. They want new, they want something no one has seen before. They want edgy, they want top of the line. This is why any of my work you read on this blog, will not be placed (until maybe I can get a collection of short stories together, and maybe not even then), and has already found its home here, as I’ve mentioned before.

Placing your work can be one of the most frustrating parts of life in the world of writing, but don’t get discouraged. Even hearing about how tough it is to break into this field and how many writers go broke or starve trying to get their work recognized, you can’t let it get you down. Have faith in your ability to create masterpieces with your words, and hang in there.

Don’t mistake my encouragement for belief that we all get our chance, our moment in the spotlight, but it’s impossible to get anywhere if you don’t just try. Taking on writing is a daunting and often lonely task, and sometimes we forget why we’re in it at all, but that’s not reason enough to give up on your dreams and aspirations.

I actually wrote this post because I am trying to place a few of my pieces. I’ve got to go through and see what’s ready to be sent out, then I’ll be on the hunt for a magazine that might want them. Hell, I think I may even try the local paper. At least it might give me some credentials. However the problem with that is some literary magazines take 90% (sometimes more or less) previously unpublished or new writers. If I were to have work published in the local paper, I would no longer fall into the new writer section, and may have a harder time placing my work with certain magazines. (There’s sooooo much to know in publishing, it’s often exhausting.)

Which brings me to one last point. It’s so important to pay close attention to directions for submitting work. One simple mistake can make your work undesirable, especially to the most discerning editors. Make sure you follow all guidelines. Check your font size, margins, spacing (I’ve sent out more manuscripts than I’d like to admit with single spacing rather than double, which is standard, simply because I forgot, and it makes my work less attractive to the editor.), did you number every page, is your name at the top of every page, did you address your cover letter correctly, double-check the magazine’s mailing address, and so much more need your careful scrutiny. Don’t let your work get tossed simply because you didn’t pay attention or forgot to do something.

If anyone has any advice for finding a home for manuscripts, please feel free to comment with any tips and tricks or opinions on the world of publishing. I love to hear back from my readers.

I added a new page to my blog titled “The Dark Thing”. If you’ve been following my blog from the beginning, you may have read my posts on my inspiration for this story. It turned out quite well, and being that I only had one of my works posted, I figured that for Halloween I’d share it with you all.

If you’re curious about shadow people, check out some of my early posts on them. Though I can’t remember how much info I’d included about lore and stories going around about them. I would love to hear about any experiences any of you may have had with shadows or shadow people, since the idea came partly from my own experiences.

Feel free to comment on the story. I’d like some feedback.

As promised, and on time this week, here’s the discussion for Stephen King’s Survivor Type.

Now, this story is a bit more complex than last week’s, so I’m hoping this doesn’t turn into a record length post and take half my day to do.

SPOILER ALERT: I cover the entire story in the overview and discussion, so if you would like to read this story for yourself, do so first, then read my discussion on it.

One more thing, this story is not acceptable for young readers. It has gruesome details and adult situations and subject matter. Please use discretion while reading or for sharing/re-posting.

Overview:

Richard Pine (or Pinzetti, before he changed his name) begins telling his story on January 26th, by saying that he’s been on the island for two days already. He mentions that he has no shortage of matches or heroin, and neither are of any value on the island. Richard then goes into a spiel about his life. He tells us that he grew up in New York’s Little Italy. His life-long is to become a surgeon, something his father doesn’t agree with, and Richard begins playing football to get an athletic scholarship to get him into college until he could get his grades high enough to get a full academic scholarship. After completing college, Richard begins his residency. That is when he gets into illegally selling drugs. It begins simple enough, with Richard selling blank prescription pads as well as copies of actual doctors’ signatures for forgery reference. He mentions that the hospital drug room was poorly monitored, before ending the passage for the day. Richard takes inventory on what he has. Four gallons of water, a sewing kit, a first aid kit, the life boat inspection book he’s writing in, two knives, a spork, matches, and of course $350,000 worth of heroin. He has no food and is becoming increasingly hungry. The next day, Richard spies a sea-gull and throws a stone at it, wounding it, before he rushes over and breaks its neck. In the process, he manages to twist his ankle. He eats the bird raw out of desperation, and refuses to allow his stomach to vomit the only food he’s had for days. Richard then gets back into his back story, and explains how he built his practice on his own, and then began performing operations that weren’t exactly necessary. He tells us that he never did a surgery against a patient’s will, and never once had he had a patient who looked at their prescription and said “I don’t want this.” Then what Richard refers to as “the tax people” got to an associate of his named Lowenthal. The “tax people” threatened Lowenthal with five years and he gave up a dozen names, including Richard Pine. He was then watched, and confronted, at which point Richard threw a few people to the wolves, as he put it. He remarks that it was no one who didn’t deserve it, and mentions his hunger again. Starving, he kills another sea-gull on the island and eats it. He then begins hearing voices, including the man he bought the heroin from, telling him to “take a thnort” (as the man had a lisp). Richard seems to consider this, but then remarks that he’s never done drugs before, not even sleeping pills. He returns to the story of how he ended up on the island by telling us he wanted his surgeon’s license back, and some people he’d talked to said it could be done for a price. Richard had $40,000 in a safe deposit box, and decides to try to double it. He goes to an old friend from his old neighborhood named Ronnie, a loan shark, who sends Richard to Henry Li-Tsu and Solom Ngo. Henry is a drug dealer known to sometimes give people fake drugs, and Solom is a chemist who will test the product for a fee. The next day, on the island, Richard remarks that he has seen an airplane. He ran after it, trying to flag it down, and twisted his ankle in the same hole as last time. Only this time, he fractures his ankle. Richard lost his balance and hit his head, knocking him unconscious. He wakes shortly after dark and finds that he has hurt his ankle, scraped his head, probably had a concussion, and is extremely sun burnt from laying in the sun. The pain in his ankle is excruciating. The next day, he makes a “HELP” sign on the beach out of rocks. He notes that his ankle is extremely swollen and increasingly discolored. It is at this point that Richard mentions that he may have to amputate his foot. The next day he tells us that his ankle seems to only have gotten worse, and details a little of how he plans to amputate, should it become necessary. He has knives, matches for sterilizing, needles and thread for closing the wound, his shirt for a bandage, as well as the heroin for pain medication, and his own surgical skills. On Feb 4th, Richard decides he must amputate his foot. He has had no food for four days and believes that if he doesn’t act soon, he may faint mid-operation and bleed out any way. It is on this note that he tells us that he will finish his story, incase the surgery goes awry. Richard had flown to Saigon as a tourist where he met up with Henry and procured the product which he then took to Solom who tested it and found that it was high-grade. For three weeks, Richard stayed in Saigon, then booked a ride back to San Francisco on a cruise ship called the Callas. Solom had made a deal with customs agents on Richard’s behalf in order to smuggle the drugs on board. From there, the plan was to put the drugs into a waterproof container with a red dye packet attached to a timer, which would be tossed over by someone Richard was looking to pay for the job, shortly before docking. While Richard was trying to find the person for the job when the Callas sunk. During a storm, an explosion began the unfortunate events, rocking the boat from side to side. Chaos broke out, and people began running everywhere. Richard went to his room, got the bags of heroin, and went to a lifeboat. After getting it into the water, he rows, knowing that the suction from the sinking Callas could pull his lifeboat under. He fights the waves, and is eventually lost in the dark of night and the storm. The storm dumped him on the rock covered island with no vegetation. He tells us that this may be his last entry, but he believes that if he survives it, with the help of prosthetics, he could be good as new. The next day, Richard writes that he did the operation. He explains how he used heroin as a painkiller, and half way through he wanted more, but held off for fear of fainting during the surgery, at which point he would bleed out. Richard tells us that because of his skills and use of the drugs, he was able to remove his foot. Then he reminds us that he has had nothing to eat for four days, and tells us that no one will know. He will destroy the book before he leaves the island. Richard has eaten his own foot, but he does not come right out and say it. The next entry tells us that he has pain in his stump, and an extreme itch that is nearly unbearable. Richard fantasizes about ripping his bandages off and digging his fingers into his stump to quell the itch caused by the healing process. He has been “stoned” since doing the amputation and mentions that the heroin staves off his hunger somewhat. Another plane had flown by, but Richard was unable to signal it. He daydreams about food, making himself more hungry. After trying to kill another gull, and it escaping he is left deflated and low on energy. Richard continues to consume the heroin, and notes that when he gets home, he will gladly go to rehab. The next day, he amputates his other foot, due to the lack of food. He tells us that he was drooling throughout the operation, just as he had been while he stalked the sea-gull. Richard eats his foot by telling himself that it is “cold roast beef”. Having broken his watch while chasing the last sea-gull, he begins to lose track of time. It begins raining, and he creates a small shelter out of rocks. He stays inside his shelter, eating the one spider he’s found, and snorting heroin. After two or three days the rain stops and Richard crawls around the island and finds boards from his lifeboat have washed up on shore, along with some seaweed he eats. With luck, he finds a crab and eats it after cooking it over a fire. His “HELP” sign had washed away in the rain, and he spends a day fixing it. A few days later, Richard takes off his right leg at the knee, then cooks it over a fire, dreaming about roasted pork. After a few more days, he removes his left leg from the knee down. He wishes he had stayed in the old neighborhood where he grew up, and tells himself that with prosthetics and therapy, he could be as good as new. Later he finds a dead, rotten, stinky fish and eats it. He reminds himself that he “will survive”. By this time he has lost complete track of his days, and only knows that it is February. Richard contemplates how he will be able to tie off his femoral artery so high up on his thigh. He has already marked where he will cut his leg with his pencil, and cannot stop drooling. One passage is entirely Richard’s ramblings about a Big Mac from Mc Donalds. Later, he tells us that he has looked at the reflection of his face in the water and saw nothing but a skin-covered skull. He contemplates his sanity and writes that he is a freak with nothing left below his groin. Richard tells us that if we are what we eat, he hasn’t changed a bit. After having a nightmare about his father, Richard tells us that there is nothing left of him to cut off. He has already taken off his ear lobes. Richard finishes his journal entries by rambling about his hands, and telling us that they taste like “lady fingers”.

It’s reasonable to assume that Richard had been stranded on the island for over a month. In that time, he reminds the readers that a patient can withstand trauma simply through their will to survive. Richard, apparently has that will. It seems to me that he does things most people wouldn’t ever consider, simply to survive. He is overcome with his desire to survive, to the point where his sanity is absolutely questionable.

Throughout the story, he shows little remorse for what he’s done so far as selling drugs. His only regret seems to be that he has landed on the deserted island as a result. He writes openly and honestly about selling drugs, and I believe this is simply because there is a chance he may not live. The question as to why he got into the illicit business is quite simply put: money. If he never began selling drugs in the first place, it would be reasonable to assume that he would have never end up stranded on the island. For this reason, I find his lack of regret hard to understand.

The first thing Richard eats while on the island is a sea-gull. The last thing we know Richard eats while on the island is his own hand. This shows us the vast change in his circumstances while stranded. Under similar circumstances, how many people would be able to do the same? It takes serious cojones to consume one’s self when faced with starvation, yet, can you say that you would not do something drastic for a chance at survival? I wonder what others would do in the same position.

Richard mentions his poor relationship with his father, and how it impacted his life. It seems he pushed himself harder when his father scoffed him. When Richard mentions his father’s death, it is with no remorse, sadness, or grief. Yet in the end of the story, it seems his father is the only other person he can think about. Richard writes about his father similar to how an angry teenager might. Had his father not died, would they have been able to mend their relationship? I think not. It seems to me that Richard is a self-righteous sort of man, and beyond anything else, he is stubborn. It is this stubbornness that drives him to survive, and I think it stems from his poor relationship with his father. It’s likely that were it not for Richard’s father, the stranded man may not have had the will to survive so long as he did.

In the end, we don’t know that Richard dies on the island, yet it’s reasonable to assume such. We are left feeling shocked and appalled by what this man did to himself in the name of survival, though we feel that he is a stronger man than most simply because of this. At this point in the story, we assume that Richard is so far gone, mentally, and literally that he could not lead a normal life even if he was to be rescued and brought home. He would be crippled and disfigured for the rest of his life, as well as being unable to operate as a surgeon because his hand is gone. But before Richard reaches this point, he tells himself that he could return to his life as it had been, and continue his practice as a surgeon, though he would need the help of prosthetics and therapy. Is he reaching a bit though? It seems to me that between his drug use, the amputations, and his mental state it is unlikely that his life would be what he expects. Is it possible, that perhaps dying on the island is the best thing for Richard?

It’s strange, to me, that Richard pushes himself so much to live. When you think about it, he has nothing to go back to besides the slight possibility that he could get his surgical license back. At this point in his life, Richard’s parents are both dead, he has no siblings, he has no wife or girlfriend, and no children. Besides all that, he had lost his practice and had to save his own skin when it was discovered that he was peddling drugs. So why does he go through all the agony to live? This story, at its most base point is about the human will to survive. It’s about how far one man will go to return to, quite frankly, nothing back at home.

Cannibalism is a taboo subject as it is. Stephen King takes it a step farther by making the subject of cannibalism the main character, and having that main character eat himself. There are real cases of people eating human beings in order to survive, yet none are as appalling as this fictional story about a man who consumes himself when faced with starvation and death. Superstition and abhorrence surround the subject of cannibalism, making it something that is widely unacceptable in most places of the world. Yet, it still happens, in extreme circumstances and even in some tribes that remain largely unchanged by the outside world. I watched an interview with Stephen King once, where he mentioned that this is one of his least popular stories, and I believe he said that he was unable to publish it outside of the collection of short stories it calls home. Is this because of the cannibalism? I think so. As a society, we have come to the decision that it is wrong. Yet I am working on a novel titled “The Hunger” in which after unknowingly consuming human flesh, a man is consumed by the desire to eat more. He slowly changes, becoming a monster in more than one sense of the word. I have yet to figure the ending, and am only in the beginning stages of writing it. So I wonder, will my novel be unpopular due to the cannibalism? However, there is a form of cannibalism that is accepted by the public, it is that of the fictional creature, the zombie. How is that much different from a healthy human being eating another? It is simply because the zombie is known to be a monster, and we can see that it is, whereas the man who secretly eats people in the comfort of his own home is a monster we cannot see, he is the more terrifying of the two. I think this is why fictional stories of cannibalism are unpopular. I will, however, finish my novel (some day) and I’ll let you guys know if it’s hard to sell or not, though I can only assume it will be.

Please share your thoughts on this week’s book discussion. Did you like the story? How did you feel about Richard as a character? Do you think what he did to survive was acceptable? What would you have done differently in the same position?

I hope you all enjoyed this post. I apologize for any mistakes because this post was so long, I really don’t have the time to go back through and reread the whole thing to make sure it sounds alright. If you have any suggestions for next week’s discussion, please comment and share it with me. As of yet, I have no ideas, but if the book I ordered, titled Rosemary’s Baby, by author Ira Levin, comes in the mail soon, I’ll try to get it read so that I can discuss it with you faithful readers of mine, though I’m not sure how long it is, or when exactly it should get here.