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These are the first four entries in my ongoing poetry saga. As always, eBook versions are $3USD or less – several are free, including a PDF version for those without eBook readers. These are available from Smashwords, Amazon, Kobo, Apple Books, and others, and all have a print edition for sale. Feel free to add them to Goodreads if you have an interest in reviewing one later. These make up books zero-through-three and the fourth and fifth should be out this June.

Absolute Heaven Blurb: Absolute Heaven is an omnibus of poems that capture the darkness which hides deep in the mind. Devilishly blurring the lines between romantic hatred and grotesque love, Absolute Heaven is a work of raw emotion, blood and nightmare that spans all genres of horror. Not for the faint of soul or the weak at heart.”

Cosmic Love Blurb: Solemn and dreamlike, Cosmic Love paints a vivid image of love and hurt in the wake of an unknowable future. An infusion of science and magic, heart and mind, this poetry collection rains down its verses like stars. Cosmic Love is nothing short of inspiring with its dark, imaginative romances.

Blood Ballet Blurb: Straight from the dark side of the female experience, this collection is a theatre of blood sprouted from an embryo of prejudice, injustice and mental illness. The poems in Blood Ballet may wear a violent mask, but their core holds a thousand years of women’s heartbreak and pain. Blood Ballet is a social and psychological horror story of murders, witch hunts, self-harm and nightmares – a hidden history brought to the open in honor of those who have had to suffer it in silence.

Infinite Summer Blurb: Infinite Summer is spun with a love that peaks and dies like the sun. Inspired by the dual nature of fairytales, this collection of poems is heavy with magic, ghosts, and memories lost to the golden enchantments of a summer’s day. Infinite Summer is in equal parts haunting and charming, a macabre kind of romance that only an imp’s curse could bring about.

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Poem – A Rabid Distressor

A Rabid Distressor

He shivers through the fog of night
A rage-mad animal on the prowl
He is not a man nor his phantom,
Only a rabid distressor bearing gifts
Which are little more than arsenic
Concealed in the globe of a night terror

Copyright ©2019 S. M. Shuford
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Writing Progress – Project Gluttony

This is by far the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to write. The apt name Project Gluttony is a working title for a horror novel which will be part of a heptalogy loosely correlated to the seven deadly sins. It’s not exactly a series, but I’m treating it like one for the sake of progress. The books are barely related to each other, and might not even have the same publisher.
I feel like Gluttony will not be the most difficult of the seven, but it’s veering damn close, so perhaps it is better I’m getting it over with this year. Project Gluttony and Project Envy are the most pressing because they are the most developed – Envy has been much easier, since it’s basically a full-length adaptation of a short story I’d already written. (It wasn’t so short either, topping out at about forty pages.) Envy is also nearing completion, which means I’m allowed to take a break on it.

Gluttony, however, deals with more tender subjects that I have to be more careful with handling – namely abuse based in religion, and it is for the most part completely freestyle, since only a half-draft of the first two chapters existed, and I’ve since had to rewrite from scratch because they were terrible. I originally began the novel for an open call for pieces of horror fiction, which I’ve since forgotten the initial point of and is possibly long over. Continue reading “Writing Progress – Project Gluttony”

Writing Progress – Seven Sins Heptalogy

My book blogging unrelated to my own work is going on a soft hiatus throughout the summer. Reviews won’t halt, just slow to a crawl because this project will and is starting to eat up my already scarce reading time. Due to recent unforeseen upheavals in my life and this heptalogy, I won’t have as much opportunity to curtail the reviews, and would rather not update than risk posting something that was notably low-quality. Not a huge deal, this is just so you won’t be surprised when there’s more list reviews and re-reviews than previously unexplored books.

Anyway, what the seven sins heptalogy is, is not exactly a “series”. It is seven books that are tenuously related at best – I think some might be set in the same universe but with little-to-no overlap in settings and characters – but are labelled by their general theme. Project Envy, Project Gluttony, etcetera.

I have a lot of difficulty focusing on specific projects to finish, so decided to pull ten major ones that I cared about most from my list and complete them all before I allow myself to start anything new. I figure that if I can finish these works of fiction, I will be able to consider myself a true success as a writer, even if they don’t come out immediately after they’re done. Future works will flow out with far less distress. Continue reading “Writing Progress – Seven Sins Heptalogy”

Book Review – Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James

★ 1.5 Stars

Genre: Romance / Erotica
Publication Date: May 25th, 2011
Publisher: Vintage

Volunteering to read Fifty Shades of Grey is like volunteering to be waterboarded, except with poor writing in lieu of water. Just when you think the torture might be over, another faceful of metaphor slurry and childish dialogue floods into your lungs. You knew what you were in for, and you knew exactly how fun it would be, and yet some irrational seed nudged you into doing it anyway.
In a way, Fifty Shades does succeed at being the ultimate act of sadomasochism. It actively hurts to continue and yet you remain compelled to. This is not so much out of intrigue, as trying to figure out what value anyone could possibly see in the experience. Why was there such a mysticism and phenomena surrounding this chunk of fanfiction? That’s all it is, really, and reading the entire series I imagine would be something akin to spiritual suicide.

At the height of Fifty Shades of Infamy, I saw what I’m pretty sure were middle-schoolers toting copies of this stupid book. Which, by the way, the physical design shocks me. The cover is as aggressively uninteresting as its innards, and looks like an early vanity press churn-out. It has that same plastic, filmy feel and cheap JPEG texture to the design. I couldn’t believe Vintage published this! Their books are typically beautiful. It’s like they were subtly trying to inspire you to avoid it, but were stuck promoting it at the same time.

Fifty Shades of Grey, as you likely already know, revolves around a closet serial killer, Patrick Bate– I mean, Christian Grey, who, in his spare time between being a pompous entrepreneur and being a Criminal Minds villain, seduces a blushing idiot named Anastasia. They get into a relationship that borders on abusive and a series of embarrassing euphemisms ensues. What is supposed to be steamy deflates quickly as it begins to come off as creepy.
The more mundane scenes aren’t much better, full of nonsensical pseudo-economics and a general dull lack of realism I shan’t bother going into, because you might fall asleep on your keyboard. On the other hand, you might accidentally type out a better book than this if you do, so maybe I will…

I am a survivor of Victorian in-joke Irene Iddlesleigh, so in fairness, Fifty Shades is hardly the worst book I’ve ever read. Sure, it’s tedious and insulting, and romance readers deserve better, but it is at least a functional book that humans can read easily using their eyestalks. But that’s a bare essential, not a compliment.
Everything about this novel is boring. “Boring” is the deadliest of the seven book sins. Rarely, the amateurish writing has the good grace to be amusing, especially with the “sex scenes”, which are almost the exact antithesis of sexy, coming off as peculiar, awkward and strangely prudish, despite trying their maximum try-hard level of hardest to be edgy. But mostly, Fifty Shades of Grey is more like Fifty Shades of Brown, because it’s about like watching molasses drip. It’s not even fun to parody, as you’ll notice if you look through the plethora of equally boring parodies that were churned out in its wake. Continue reading “Book Review – Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James”

✨Infinite Summer is Free on Kindle!✨

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I believe nearly the entire Poetry Collection is effectively free in all of its digital forms, except for the omnibus of art and cut materials that is Book Zero. This particular entry is loosely themed around fairytale horrors and romances.
This giveaway, like the others, is indefinitely permanent, because it’s my personal motto that poetry is the one genre that should not be barred behind hefty prices. If it’s in my control, at least, which most of it is. By its nature, poetry is intended to be shared among others. It and the rest of the series is available on Kindle, but the first three are also in ePub and PDF formats on Smashwords, Kobo, and other major sellers worldwide. Enjoy!

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Book Review – Perfect by Natasha Friend

★★★★★ 4.5 Stars

Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publication Date: September 16th, 2004
Publisher: Milkweed Editions

You are never alone in anything, no matter how it feels. Everyone must face their own tragedy, and deal with their own disorder. Some are just better at seeming composed.

I could read this book about a thousand times and find scarce to dislike. I believe this is one of the absolute best young adult books, especially for girls. Friend, I’ve noticed, takes care to challenge the conventional concept of perfection, and if it’s even necessary. Which it isn’t, spoiler alert. Coming from a staunch perfectionist who’s struggled with abandoning society’s expectations, you know I’m serious about that. At the end of the day, if the goal you’ve reached is the desire of someone who isn’t you, and came at the cost of important facets of your personality, it wasn’t worth it, and will be replaced with a new one to covet tomorrow.

Perfect is about the cycle of unhappiness that spawns eating disorders, though there are a lot of small and traumatic events that usually factor into it. Friend writes in a way that’s easy to approach and never preachy or contrived, letting you come to your own conclusion about Isabelle’s path.
The death of her father led into a depression, and the only influence outside of that is a girl she befriends at school, who despite all appearances as “the perfect girl”, has an extremely damaged self-image and forces herself to throw up so often that she starts bleeding from the mouth. Isabelle sees in her a mirror of her own bulimia, and their relationship becomes a paradox of enabling each other’s disorder and offering a genuine bond based around it. Continue reading “Book Review – Perfect by Natasha Friend”

✨Blood Ballet is Free on Kindle!✨

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Forever and ever and ever, so feel free to pick one up if it interests you! Blood Ballet is a compilation of horror poems with themes of feminism and body horror. It’s also available in ePub and PDF through Smashwords, Kobo, and the other major retailers. In a bit of other news, I’ve had to delay the next few entries in the series, Book 4 to June 16 and Books 5 and 6 to next year, to focus on more important work, so this should make up for it! Enjoy! If you read it, you’re welcome to let me know what you thought. 🙂

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Poem – “Alive”

Alive

Awake, a heart beating only in motion
Never alive without the ominous question
Will the blood still churn in the morning?
Will I succumb like those before me,
Weeping like children in front of an audience
That never tried to notice until hours burnt down
The shack of wills, so hasty and pointless, was felled
And they decided not to exist, only a motion

Copyright ©2019 S. M. Shuford
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Trying Unusual Candies From Japan

 

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Strange candy is a topic that fascinates me, though I, uh… wish it didn’t. Sugar loads a nice sucker punch to my gut every time I give it a chance, so I try to actively avoid candy. (Candy is bad for you, kids.) Odd flavours of candies, however, notably KitKats in Japan was something I feel a lot of people are curious about, and I’ve always wondered too, so when the opportunity cropped up, I thought I’d tell you what the experience was like! KitKats have such a variety and popularity in Japan because the name sounds like a Japanese word for “winner” or “sure winner”, so are thought to be something of a good luck charm for students.

First thing I noticed is that, compared to Western candy, these were not that sweet at all. Even the ordinary KitKat was far from that saccharine, milky taste they have in the Americas. But the so-called “weird” flavours were delicious.
Some of note were the roasted tea (the one with the cup of tea on the second row) and melon and marscapone (bottom left). The roasted tea has a savory, bitter taste that’s quite rare and unexpected in a piece of candy. It tasted almost grain-like, reminding me strongly of dry noodles with its texture.
The melon and marscapone cheese was, oh, absolutely the best. It was one of the sweeter ones, but again, not in that syrupy way. There was a more natural melon flavour with a cheesy softness afterwards. Just hearing “melon and cheese”, that might not sound like a tasty combination, but believe me, it was! The green tea and wasabi were also interesting, though definitely for more of a bitter pallet. I don’t really see those being popular with children. They seemed like more “mature” flavours to me. The wasabi wasn’t spicy, which is what surprised me the most. Continue reading “Trying Unusual Candies From Japan”

A Note on “Reviews Revisited”

I have to restrain myself from re-reading older reviews sometimes, especially ones from before 2018. I’ve completely rewritten many of them, but the remnants are some sweet cringe. At least to me. Recently, I’ve been revisiting some of these books and I think I will start a new branch of book reviews on ones I’ve already covered, but may think differently about, or think they deserve a better (or worse) review upon another examination. I’ll list them as “Reviews Revisited”, so if you’ve seen the book on here before, you’ll know why. A lot of movie critics will do this, but books I feel take more of an effort to decide if you like it or not, or what it objectively deserves. They consume a lot more time to finish and have a more unusual set of nuances than film.

Not that it matters when you’re just writing reviews for fun, but it’s good to have some spores of integrity. People have worked hard on these, and though many of the authors whose work I’ve written about will never see it, several actually have, so I think on that off-chance, they deserve honesty. And anyway, it takes some effort to get a cruel review from me. It’s got to be some maggot-ridden dumpster fodder to get stamped with a one or zero-star rating.

I grade books a little bit differently from most reviewers, I believe. The Goodreads star system, for example, rates one-star as a standard “I didn’t like it”, but I personally consider two-star to be in that range for me. Two-stars or a low three is just an ordinary bad read for me. I didn’t like it but someone else could. It’s competent as a book, at least, if not enjoyable. One-star I reserve for books that are in some vein harmful, pure idiocy, bad pseudo-science, abusive, slandering, unreadable, poorly written, non-plotted pieces of smoldering, grade-F guano that should be left to rot, if they aren’t already being used as torture devices to get people to confess. It has to really suck, in other words. As far as I recall, only ten or twelve books have ever earned this place. I’ll get to those eventually, too.

Poem – “Upstairs”

Upstairs

Look alive, here they come creeping
Can you hear their parade of legs come skulking
Open your heart for the final hour of prayer
Here they come, better watch your little spine
Here they come stalking down the stairs with
Baskets full of heads, lullabies in reverse time
Look alive, look alive,
Playing dead in shallow corners
Here they come again tonight

Copyright ©2019 S. M. Shuford
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The Book Genres I Don’t Like

At the risk of coming across as one with that title, I am not exactly a literature snob. I don’t care what it is, who wrote it, whether it came out as a mainstream title, indie, or had to be etched on a tome of warlock flesh. I do not care as long as it’s decently written and has visible effort put into it, even if marginal amounts. Transgressive or clean, unorthodox or classic, I like certain things about most types of books.

That being said, there are genres I won’t read and don’t like. There are a handful of exceptions in these genres that I’ve picked up, and I don’t think that they are “worthless” genres. Somebody loves them, or they wouldn’t be written and continuing to sell copies. I just have not acquired the taste for them. There are my opinions, I don’t fault anyone for finding something they love in these genres that I don’t see in them. To each his own.

Splatterpunk
This one pains me on a heartstring level. I adore horror. All of its subgenres, too… except splatterpunk. Splatterpunk is the black sheep (or bloodstained sheep?) of horror to me, I cannot force myself to like it no matter what. If anyone can point me to a quality splatterpunk book, please do! I want to like this subgenre so badly.

I’ve concluded that what I don’t enjoy about it is not the relentless violence, although that is admittedly pretty boring after so much exposure, but the ones I’ve stumbled upon have not been well-written. They read like edgy high-school essays sprinkled copiously with the thesaurus choices for “viscera” and “blood”. One exception is Clive Barker’s Books of Blood, which are decidedly more dark fantasy but have a distinct splatterpunk element and are a good read. In fact, Barker is cited as one of the fathers of the splatterpunk movement, but I suspect this is more for his Hellraiser works. (I liked the first movie, never read the novels.) I think splatterpunk can work when moderated with something else. Like, just describing gore is not going to evoke fear automatically, even in the very sensitive.

Body horror I find unsettling because it creates an “uncanny” effect – it seems human or animal, but it’s neither and your eyes and mind register that. Gore on the other hand is not fundamentally scary, not even in real life. In real life, it’s only scary because you want to get the person whose guts are hanging out to a freaking hospital. What could make that situation horror is if the hospital was an American one and turned them away, intestines in hand, because they didn’t bring their wallet.

Contemporary Romance and Harlequins
I know, I know. True lit snobs always bear an avid hatred for the romance genre. I don’t dislike romance, though. As is the case with splatterpunk, I feel like diluting the genre with some other genre or factor makes it better. As a pure chemical, it ain’t digestible. Like sodium and chloride. Individually, they are dangerous, together they are delicious table salt. Continue reading “The Book Genres I Don’t Like”

My Books Hit #1 and #2!

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This was really awesome, and thanks so much to anyone who downloaded a copy! I promise to bear a larger variety of posts next week. My fiction and the poetry book coming out on the 25th have eaten up much of my reviewing and book-related posts, you’ll understand. Today is one of the last to get Absolute Heaven for free if you want it.
As a side note, you can’t really see it in the screenshot but it kind of unsettled me that Absolute Heaven‘s occultish cover was next to this incredibly wholesome-looking religious poetry collection. I’m like, oh no, this looks awkward, but hey, the symbolism on AH’s cover is Christian.

To tell the truth, I never expected even this much out of my poetry. You would think with the constant of poetry on book sites that it’s not as much of a niche as it is. Feel free to support their ongoing progress with a review if you’re up to it. Cosmic Love, as it has been since its publication a month ago, is always free on most eBook sellers.

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Writing Process – When to Describe Characters in Detail

From personal experience and discussing this with other readers, it used to kind of bemuse me how much people hate detailed physical descriptions of characters. I’ve not been able to pinpoint why, but upon taking this into consideration, I’ve noticed many (but not all) of the best novels I’ve read don’t rely heavily on what a character looks like. It’s usually kept to simple descriptions or notable features, say for instance if they have piercing blue eyes or are unusually thin, but their every freckle and hair won’t be described in detail. It’s just enough to fuel an image for the reader, who will make what they will of what the author’s given them. Not all readers, but many readers, will feel a bit stripped of the chance to stretch their imagination if you describe literally everything about a characters and leave nothing to be visualized on their own. Continue reading “Writing Process – When to Describe Characters in Detail”

Poetry Giveaway – Absolute Heaven

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Absolute Heaven is absolutely free on Amazon Kindle from today until this weekend (May 22-26), if you’re feeling brave for some unadulterated weirdness from the bowels of Hell and beneath. Objectively, this is a very strange book. I birthed this monstrosity, so I don’t really see it as abnormal, but it is really out there and different. So, if that’s your flavor, or if you just want to own the whole collection, pick one up. It’s free in all regions.

Oh, and if you do read it, add it to Goodreads or write a review. It doesn’t have to be anything poignant, lengthy or gushing, just your honest thoughts are appreciated. 🙂

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A Thank You to Recent Poetry Readers!

Thanks to all those from my blog who’ve picked up a copy of my recent releases, either the paid, print or free ones. All are equally appreciated, and I love to see that my work is enjoyed so much! 🙂 Cosmic Love has been in the Top 10 in Contemporary Poetry and in the Top 250 in Dark Fantasy for nearly a month!

I was afraid that, like what’s kind of been happening with my books on Goodreads, since earlier versions of some of them came out last year, there would be little-to-no new downloads or feedback, despite the two versions being extremely different, and I don’t feel right promoting them much at the moment. At least not until there’s more of the series out. I adamantly want to focus on my fiction, but I’m certainly grateful that my poetry seems to have found its path. I am a little bit more interactive on Goodreads, so if you read my books and want to tell me what you think, that’s the better place to do it, and you’re welcome anytime.

The next entry, Infinite Summer, ought to come out internationally on May 25th, then on Amazon somewhat later.

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Writing Progress – May 21st

This is mainly for my own benefit, but if it interests you, feel free to follow along with these posts. Fair warning that they will be more stream-of-consciousness than my other types of posts, seeing as they are to primarily serve as measurements and raw notes. Since I have essentially nothing else to until I go back to college (and then probably quite little to do that’s of any account) I’ve decided to cram some novel-writing into this year. Including the short stories book I was already working on, I’ve decided that four would be the least stress. The three novel-length works are one psychological horror, one young adult, and one I will just call dark fantasy because I don’t know what it is yet.

Writing Progress by May 21st, 2019
Haunt Me to Sleep (short stories) – No work this week, but is around 1/3 complete
Untitled Novella (psychological horror) – At 13,000 words
Untitled Novella (young adult) – Rough outline, no official words yet
Untitled Novella (dark fantasy) – Rough outline, no official words yet
Other Things – Infinite Summer and MHz on the verge of completion at around 50 pages apiece. These only lack finished cover art.

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