What Makes a Novel Scary?

This question is almost impossible to answer, but I believe it boils down to atmosphere and the author’s personal goal. Horror is all-around a difficult genre to work with, because horror is just so subjective, but books, as I’ve found, are one of the harder mediums to make scary. Movies, I think, would actually be somewhat harder because they require a large, perfectly functioning team effort, but as far as something you would create by yourself, it’s books and stories. I love horror for its creative stories, but personally have only been not just unnerved, but genuinely scared by a very, very tiny handful of books. This makes me either an amazing or a terrible horror writer, because nothing I create scares me, either. Granted, once you’ve spent hours tweaking the details of a phantom, it kind of loses every ounce of its fear factor, but working on this latest book, I have learned a lot about what horror takes.

What kind of “scary” you’re going for can be changed instantly depending on how your concept and execution match up. If the concept is terrifying, but the execution is over-the-top and silly, a thrilling, serious horror could turn into an unintentional comedy. The overlap between humor and horror is really difficult to prevent, though I’ve found most good horror books have a bit of self-awareness about it when it happens.

When you are creating horror, consider what scares you, and what you want others to feel from your book. Dread? Panic? Fear? Sorrow, even? Or would you rather it be a dark comedy? Horror relies heavily on anticipation. The general feeling, and how this anticipation will be built up is the most important thing to know, before even deciding if it fits into any sub-genres. Genre labels are not actually that important, in the long run. Many of the greatest books I’ve ever read, or ones that are celebrated by the public, do not clearly fit into any singular genre. Some do, some don’t. It’s good to know, but it doesn’t matter nearly as much as succeeding at whatever atmosphere you want to convey. Continue reading “What Makes a Novel Scary?”

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Halloween on the Horizon

Image result for creepy vintage halloween costumes

Halloween, limited to a single day? I don’t think so. Didn’t you know that the entirety of September and October exist solely as an excuse for horror to be socially acceptable for awhile? Who am I kidding, of course you did! They haven’t renamed it Septober on Mars for no reason…

Image result for santa claus conquers the martians gif

I already prepared most of this year’s Harvest of Horror special back in May and June, because I was anticipating publishing a book near Halloween, and wanted to give myself plenty of time. I ended up with a couple of excess horror-related shenanigans that I no longer have room for to publish during H.H., and I don’t really want to save them for next Halloween, so I’m going to go ahead and publish those this month. I only start to wake up around September, so this is a perfect way to get started.

Last year’s Harvest of Horror was somewhat unfocused, because it was the first Halloween special I’d done since starting this blog, but I ended up featuring mostly books. This year, the special will revolve around horror as an interactive medium, in video games and other alternative methods of storytelling. I’m doing a countdown of the, in my opinion, best and worst horror video games, as well as some unrelated horror reviews and posts, and of course, Haunt Me to Sleep should be published by the end of October. I’ll be posting previews of it sometime this month, too, as I think I’ve already mentioned.

Some more of what’s happening in September includes a week dedicated to the Silent Hill franchise and its legacy – the main series, the books, the movies, everything – and some miscellaneous horror reviews and poems. Also coming up is some art! Yes, I’m actually posting some drawings again. I talk about it often, but go through with it rarely. The ePub and paperback editions of MHz should also be out soon. There was some complications with the cover design and formatting that prevented them coming out when the Kindle version did, and I didn’t figure anybody was in a huge rush for it to be out, so I’ve put off fixing it. ‘Tis the way of procrastination. Anyway, hope everyone’s looking forward to Halloween as much as I am!

A Commentary on Cosmic Love

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+Cosmic Love is free to download on Amazon, B&N, Kobo, and Smashwords. Get a copy worldwide in any format here. Add Cosmic Love on Goodreads here. A paperback is also available.+

Genre: Poetry / Dark Fantasy / Romance

Commentary: Cosmic Love was unceremoniously plopped out as a miniature chapbook of haiku in early 2018. Its second half, Parasite of the Sun, was also supposed to be its own separate book, but the two were so thematically similar and short that I conjoined them to save time.
The project began namely as an experiment to test myself, to see if I could handle the rigors of publishing a piece of writing. Spoiler: I couldn’t! The initial “beta” version was not that good, and it still brings shame to me just how many people read it! I suppose it shouldn’t. I mean, there must have been something salvageable about it that I didn’t see, or there wouldn’t have been nearly over a hundred downloads by the time I took it out of print that fall.
I feel like, no matter what I write later on, Cosmic Love will always be my most popular poetry book. At least now, I can be somewhat proud of it! In both cases, I was determined for the cover to be pink. And it is certainly pink.

The new version was developed from February to April 2019, off and on and in snippets. The haiku are still present in the final, or what I like to call the “real” version, but cleaned-up and strung with the freestyle poems in a more coherent way, to form working themes of tragic love, cosmic horror and cosmic beauty. The oldest poems are “In the Land of Rust”, “System Time” and “Patchwork Tower”, which are all out of a notebook I kept in high school. They have been cleaned up heavily from the source poem, don’t worry! They aren’t that old, but it’s amazing to see how your writing changes and, hopefully, improves in just a few years.

Some of the inspirations for this collection were the science fiction novels Double Star by Robert Heinlein and Dune by Frank Herbert, and various sci-fi horror films like Sunshine and Fantastic Planet. Retro sci-fi in general, with a blend of Eastern philosophies served as kind of the building point that Cosmic Love grew from. One poem that might be intriguing is “Wandering Melon”. The title, and obviously the poem itself, were inspired by the nara melon, a mysterious fruit that somehow survives and thrives in the hottest, most arid parts of the world, in Namibia.

What ended up being probably my personal favourite poem, “Hidden in a False Sun”, was written on a day, on a whim to enter into a contest. It didn’t win but it did appear in an issue of Radium Piano Band, along with my second-favourite, “In the Land of Rust”.

The passion of sound flares my final dream
I evaporate in the corals of Neptune
Into the parhelia of a hidden sun –
No one else will know what I found there

-from “Hidden in a False Sun”

Personal Fave Poems: “In the Land of Rust”, “Hidden in a False Sun”, “Promenade of the Palm”

Never Finding the Book You Want

“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” – Toni Morrison

Does this sound familiar to anyone? Something that has always plagued me when seeking out new things to read is that there never seems to be enough of what I crave from specific types of books, whether we’re talking about the psycho-visual aspect of the writing or the story itself. This is even true with just a single author’s catalogue. One of their books may have that exact “vibe” I’m looking for, and the rest may lack it. It’s hard to pinpoint anything about the feelings I seek through books, save for a jumble of loosely coordinated images.

All of my current books are poetry, but I’m a fiction writer at heart. To soothe this dilemma was one of my key motivations in transitioning more and more into fiction, beginning this fall. Poetry can capture some of those, I don’t know what exactly to call them, I suppose “ambiences” or “atmospheres” would be appropriate, but not nearly as efficiently as a story, which has more time to build it, until it becomes a tangible thing that you remember, though of course none of it actually happened.

There are two “ambiences” that I have the most trouble finding in published books – one I could describe best as “urban psychological”, like that feeling you get wandering an empty, fluorescent-lit street or listening to smooth, ambient lo-fi music. Japanese novels and urban thrillers are probably my best bet for reliving this feeling in a book, as I’ve had the most luck with them, but unfortunately, there is only so much to choose from. The second is the “ambience” of occult mystery. I have yet to find more than a rare handful of books that truly capture that sinister feeling, and it would be difficult to describe. A transcendental, conspiratorial sort of horror, maybe. One that got that “ambience” right – even though the book itself isobjectively not that great, I loved it nonetheless for this reason – is the obscure paranormal novel The Sisterhood by Florence Stevenson.

Anyway, just some curious musings on my never-ending scour of the shelves. Have you had a similar problem? Feel free to leave a comment.

News on Haunt Me to Sleep

Haunt Me to Sleep is my debut fiction project. I’ve talked about it a little bit, but before I was positive about what the project was going to be like. It hasn’t quite strayed entirely away from poetry, as there are multiple prose pieces, but I thought a mix of styles would be perfect for what I was trying to convey. There are 52 pieces total, most of which are stories or prose. I think about 10-12 of them count strictly as poems.

Haunt Me to Sleep is an unorthodox book of “ghost stories”. Some are ghosts in the traditional sense, and some are more like mythological monsters. On the other hand, some are more metaphorical “ghosts” – something that haunts a character that isn’t really a tangible person or thing. I drew heavily from Japanese and Cherokee mythology for the design and nature of some of the ghosts, as well as themes of existential horror and common phobias.

This book, this insane book, which began as a pet project, has absolutely consumed the majority of my spare time. (Have patience with me! This book might have actually become some kind of evil entity by this point.) What was initially a poetry book of roughly ninety pages is now a fully fleshed-out book of short stories that I estimate will top out at 43k words. I’ll probably be able to post some illustrations from it soon, as I’ve set it to be published between late September and mid-October.

As of today, I still have about eight stories to clean up. Seems like a lot, but none of them are over eighteen pages. Everything else is finished, save for the cover and some touch-up on the interior artwork, which hopefully, you’ll love. The ghost portraits turned out very creepy and quirky. I am not as practiced a horror artist as say, Junji Ito or Stephen Gammell, but for a twenty-something novice, the illustrations at least look professional and smooth. Anyway, it’s something to look forward to, and I really can’t wait to start sharing some excerpts from it! 🙂

Books I’ve Read But Will Never Review

 

I have no strict review guidelines, at least not as far as my casual reviews. I used to think it was better to try to make them poetic… which, looking back at some of my older reviews, maybe it wasn’t… But there are some books, while I might have liked them, I don’t feel adequate in reviewing them. I love nonfiction and memoirs, but I slightly dread getting requests to review them, because I’m not often as knowledgeable about the subject as I feel I would have to be to do the book justice. These are some that I probably won’t ever review, at least not in-depth, though some hold a lot of interest for me and I like to discuss them.

The Bible
Genre: Religion
I’ve read the majority of the Bible, and even took a class on theology. It’s a fascinating subject to me, but understandably, I would never feel right “reviewing” a religious text, period, even though it would be more of a general overview than a typical review. How could I possibly? The Bible means so much to some people, and to others bringing it up infuriates them. It’s not fair to either party, and I would need to gather loads of historical information and context to even begin. Not to mention that the only version I’ve read likely is missing crucial pieces. You can also count other religious texts as literature I will never review.

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
Genre: Magic Realism / Science Fiction
Infinite Jest tested my patience. I don’t believe I finished it. I admire Wallace as a journalist, his nonfiction is amongst my favourite, but I don’t personally enjoy his fiction. If you’ve never heard of this book, it’s a strange science fiction novel about the size of an orca, with about ten squillion characters, each with their own unique narrative styles. I don’t not recommend it, but to me, it wasn’t pleasant at all to attempt. It would be ideal for a specific type of reader, that is not me, but I would definitely download a preview before you buy a copy. Continue reading “Books I’ve Read But Will Never Review”

Psychological Novels You Should Read

Psychological thriller and its fraternal twin, psychological horror, are hands-down, my favourite genres. It’s the genre I strive to carve my name in, and it’s the one I get the most excited about when seeking new books and movies.
While few and far-between, compared to other genres, the spectrum of dark psychological fiction consistently churns out works of pretty high quality. There are exceptions, of course, but of all the psychological media I’ve watched, read and played, I can’t name ten that were any worse than “mediocre”.

That being said, I believe that the key reason for this, unfortunately, is that the genre is somewhat alienating. You have to be passionate about it to make it, and creating a good psychological work involves an exploration of dark places in the human psyche. Not exactly a fun weekend trip, that. Discovering new works in the genre can be difficult. So, I thought I’d share a handful of diamonds in the rough that I’ve discovered, and loved, in my eternal quest to scour everything the psychological duo have to offer.

The Coma by Alex Garland
Genre: Psychological Suspense
The Coma is like a softer, more sinister Inception, taking place in the mind of a man after he is assaulted on a subway, and wakes in the hospital to find he can no longer hold a grasp on what is real and what isn’t. Everything that was once normal in his life seems out-of-place and has a surreal, stilted tone to it.
I finished this novel over a weekend, and at first wasn’t sure what to make of it, or even if I enjoyed it, but in retrospect, I think it’s excellent. Garland conveys a transfinite reality that can be broken and morphed at will by one person’s subconscious.

Perfect Blue: Complete Metamorphosis by Yoshikazu Takeuchi
Genre: Psychological Horror
Though its place on the roster shifts now and then, Perfect Blue is one of my favourite novels of all time and will likely remain one forever. It is, as you might have guessed, the basis for the cult horror anime Perfect Blue, but despite that and sharing a title, the film and the book aren’t incredibly similar other than the basic premise, and the creators’ shared disgust with the pop idol industry in Japan, and how those idols are (mis)treated by media and fans alike.
The master of creeps, the unnamed “Darling Rose”, who stalks and attempts to murder the pop singer heroine throughout the novel, is one of my favourite book villains. He is borderline inhuman, yet with an uncanny basis in reality, mirroring the crimes and motives of many real-life celebrity stalkers. Perfect Blue is not for everyone – some may be turned off by the blunt violence and abstract style, but I personally think it’s phenomenal both as a social satire and as a piece of horror. Continue reading “Psychological Novels You Should Read”

Most Disappointing Books of 2019 (So Far)

I recently pieced together a rough selection of books that, for the time being, are the most likely to make it onto my “Best Books of 2019” list at the end of the year, so figured I may as well tackle the opposite end of the spectrum, while I’m at it. These are the current contenders for the most disappointing books I’ve read in 2019. If you want to keep up with my books, feel free to follow or friend me on Goodreads, too. Goodreads feels dead as a cemetery lately, so I wouldn’t mind more interaction.

Keep in mind for this list that a novel being disappointing does not necessarily make it “bad”, so if one of these happens to be your favourite, that’s totally fine. Varying opinions are what make people interesting. If they made it on this list, it simply means I didn’t enjoy them, expected much more from them, or expected something different than what I got.

Gossip Girl by Cecily von Ziegesar
Genre: Contemporary Fiction / Romance
Books about bullying and how it differs between say, a lower-income public school and a prestigious prep school, carry a lot of psychological baggage for their writer to convey. Or, they should, if they want to remain in good taste. Gossip Girl was too self-indulgent and easy to take unironically for me to even find it a guilty pleasure, like I do the similar series, The Clique by Lisi Harrison. Neither I feel are especially good influences, not for their intended audience.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Deborah Moggach
Genre: Contemporary Fiction / Humor
What I expected to be one of the best books, since I loved the film so much, turned out to be one of the worst. Starts strongly enough, but is ultimately made pointless by its ending and comes off as shockingly racist. I usually like to begin reviews with a quote and couldn’t find a suitable one in the actual meat of the text, so ended up having to use an unrelated quote that the novel used as a chapter header. That should tell you something. Skip the book and just watch the movie adaptation, you will have a much more fulfilling experience that way. Continue reading “Most Disappointing Books of 2019 (So Far)”

Finally Back on Track!

Hello, I’m finally back on a somewhat regular basis, and with a lot of fresh content! July and June have been really weak months for me, and I’ve been focused on trying to get Haunt Me to Sleep‘s semi-final draft finished so it’ll be ready to format by October. Of the 54 pieces in the collection, around 46 are on their final draft, so I feel that’s good progress. Apparently, it’s only taken around five months, combined, to put this collection together, which surprised me.
For the rest of July, I’ve got several new Lovecraft reviews, stand-alone book reviews and some poetry. I’m also working on content for my Halloween special, because I have something fun planned and want to perfect it ahead of time.

Anyway, about the final poetry book I’ll publish this year, MHz, it’s gotten pushed back several times but God and the fates willing, should be out at last on July 31st. If not then, then August 7th. It should come out around that time, in any case, inititally for a dollar, and become free slightly later. Unless you want a print copy, which there will be. The three previous collections are still all free or cost under $3USD to download an eBook copy of your choice on Amazon, Kobo and Smashwords.

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The Best Books of 2019 (So Far)

On this day, more of this year is now dead than alive. Normally I cling to time like a miser clings to pocket change, but I will be happy when this year’s over. Not merely happy, but elated. 2019 has worked its way into the official hall of shame in my memories, slightly higher than middle school but slightly lower than the entirety of 2016. And there’s still five long months to suffer through!

One of the few upsides, however, is that I’ve discovered some truly wonderful books. Most of my reading this year has been average, as usual, with only a handful of ones I would call “bad” reads, and a surprising amount that really stood out. So far, these are the best contenders, in no particular order, for the final countdown I’ll be doing around the end of the year. Be sure to check them out if you can. These are books and authors definitely worth their salt!

The Mad and the Bad by Jean-Patrick Manchette
Genre: Mystery / Thriller
Every now and then, the stars align and produce the exact book you desire at the exact moment you want to read it. This is one of those rare occurrences. The Mad and the Bad is an older, and comparatively obscure piece of noir fiction that is at the same time, far different from any noir fiction I’ve ever read – quirky and outlandish yet with an insanely dark sense of humor and irony. I plan on doing a review of this one eventually, so won’t spoil too much. You should just go out and read it, it shouldn’t take more than a few days to finish it.

Stain by A.G. Howard
Genre: Dark Fantasy
Young adult fiction needs more writers like A.G. Howard. Her writing style is unabashed and intelligent, and wickedly contorts the over-used tropes of fairytales into something brilliant. While I thought Howard’s more famous series, Splintered, was phenomenal, Stain shows a stronger sense of mischievous, calculating cunning and maturity in its development that ultimately made for a deeper story.

Smashed by Junji Ito
Genre: Horror / Short Stories
I am a hardcore Junji Ito fanatic, so pretty much any new work of his, even if it’s a stylish reprint of older stories, will automatically make the Top 10 for that year. Smashed got mixed reviews for being, I suppose, more haphazard in tone than his last two horror omnibuses, but as far as enjoyment of the stories goes, I actually liked this one more than both Shiver and Frankenstein. Continue reading “The Best Books of 2019 (So Far)”

Is It Ever Okay to Ban Books?

You would think the automatic, short answer to this question would be a resounding “NO”, and you would be correct… ninety-nine percent of the time. There is the rare book that should be banned for promoting hatred, but unfortunately, these tend to only be published within private circles. The good thing about that is they’ll probably never reach the mainstream public, but the bad thing is that someone thought it necessary for hate lit to exist in the first place, and also that they sometimes slip into the library of public domain if they’re old enough or the copyright has expired. Who would ever want to own the copyright for a piece of hate lit is beyond me, though.

When you consider most classics were banned somewhere simply for being honest about uncomfortable topics, or “brazen” with their writing styles, it really makes most controversies with books seem pointless. I think that there are cases where toning down content or mild censorship for a specific audience are okay, or even a good idea. But it should always be the decision of the author to do so. Massacring the hard work of another because of your own cowardice is the sin of sins, to me.

What brought the question up is that I’ve seen a recent upswing in banning and ordering censorship edits of books within independent publishing – yes, independent books, you read that right. The avenue created expressly for freedom of content is not allowing certain books on their platforms. And before you ask, yes, it’s mostly erotica and horror being subjected to censorship. What are arguably two of the first genres to ever exist, along with fantasy, have been challenged right and left since conception. Continue reading “Is It Ever Okay to Ban Books?”

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”

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.

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”

Writing Process – The First Chapter

I will, to the hour of my death, stand by the belief that the hardest part of writing any book, of any genre, is the very first thing you have to write. There’s a volume of quotes about this issue said by authors and public speakers throughout the years, and with reason. I’ve been toying around with a trio of novels in the time when I’m not working on cleaning up and publishing what poetry I’ve finished, and I’ll just level with you.

There is absolutely NO guaranteed way to make the first chapter easy on yourself. It’s going to be doubtful, aggravating and you’ll likely have more drafts of that chapter than any other in the book. Unless, that is, you just have years of experience under your belt already, but even then, a lot of highly-regarded writers still get “brain farts” when it comes to beginning a new project.

Something I’ve tried, and it seems, for some reason I can’t quite configure into an explanation, to make the first chapter flow easier is writing it down by hand. Isn’t that strange? For some reason, it’s easy to type out the rest of the story but the first chapter benefits from a sketchy draft on paper. You can try it if you want, see if it works for you. It’s not much to write, in any case, if it doesn’t work out. Everyone goes about the process in different (and often very eccentric) ways. I have tried and gleaned little else that helps, even having plenty of inspiration and reading about writing and reading books. None of that seems to mollify the beast that is Chapter One, at least not for myself.

Book Formats by Difficulty

This week I’ve had to reacquaint myself with digital book formatting for the upcoming Absolute Heaven and Cosmic Love, which ought to be out in at least their eBook formats by next week. If this helps anybody at all in deciding to publish their own book, these are in my own experience, the difficulty levels of designing each format yourself. Guides to these are available on Amazon, Smashwords, and a handful of other booksellers’ websites.

Easiest – Paperback, Hardback and Print

Print versions are the simplest because all it takes is typing out a good-looking PDF. There are a plethora of templates available to find the exact size you need for your book as well. You know exactly what it will look like without having to guess about much.

Moderate – Kindle

Kindle formatting has a steep learning curve, but once you’ve got it, it becomes very simple. It takes slightly longer than designing a print copy, but half the time of formatting an ePub. Kindle Create is a very useful program that takes most of the stress out of wondering what your book will look and behave like, so I’d recommend downloading that as well. The only tricky parts of Kindle formatting involve images and centering text, which a Kindle reader is somewhat touchy about. Kindle is very flexible and lenient on the author in general, hence why it’s so popular.

Hardest – ePub

Oh my God. Where to begin? Formatting an ePub book is nothing but raw hell. There’s just so many things that can completely ruin your work. If you have this format down pat, you should reward yourself somehow. I don’t even like the ePub format in general, nor do I own an ePub reader, but trying to work arounds its limitations is rigid, user-unfriendly and often a misery. And that’s for a basic book! Nevermind if it’s image-heavy or requires tricky text.
It’s Smashwords that burnt me out on wanting to push my ePub copies. It seems like nothing I tried could make the ePub versions I published with them look decent. Sometimes they came out damaged and smushed to bits, despite following the guidelines. Anyway, screw ePub. Kindle master race forever.

 

7 Hardest Types of Books to Review

I like to read pretty much anything that looks remotely interesting, I don’t care what genre, who wrote it, or the hows and whys of them pulling it out of their brain onto paper. As long as it’s decently-written and valuable in some way, that’s all that matters. That being said, when it comes down to reviewing it, that’s another matter entirely. Some reviews I absolutely hate writing, but still feel compelled to just because I took the time to read it. Comprehensive reviews even written for fun aren’t always easy. These are the categories that I still have difficulty reviewing after three years of practice. Have one of your own? Feel free to leave a comment below!

7. Poetry and Art

I adore reviewing poetry, as you’ll know. I’m actually a little proud of the fact that my most frequented review genre is one that’s considered among the most complicated to review. ARC reviewers often won’t accept poetry because it’s just that hard to articulate. Especially if it’s good or middling. Poetry isn’t visual exactly, but it’s an abstract, psychological feeling than a novel can’t provide in the same way.
Art and graphic novels are also difficult because they are more visual than writing. The review ends up being a lot of descriptive words, and reviewing several at one time makes it clear how same-y it can be. I don’t typically review every volume of a graphic novel or manga series for this reason, when it can be summed up in a few of its entries.

6. Indie Books, Especially Bad Ones

If you ever review indie books, the author will read it eventually. I find this kind of nerve-wracking, even though I value indie books and am lenient on their faults, if they have any. It’s awkward even to have an author “like” your gushing, positive review of their work, and I try to evade being trapped into writing negative ones if at all possible.
I enjoy neither dishonesty nor ripping on someone’s personal work, and those who do enjoy tearing apart indie ARCs ought to re-examine their relationship with books. You have to consider it’s one person doing a team’s job. If the book is genuinely bad and you’re still stuck with reviewing it, it’s better to be critical in a helpful way than critical for laughs. Continue reading “7 Hardest Types of Books to Review”

Some News on Upcoming Books

So, I’ve finally got somewhat of a clear idea on when all those books listed on the bookshelf are going to be published. Only took like six months, right!? It feels like it’s been 2019 for decades…

I’ll be doing an eBook giveaway on my entire body of work when the first three in the S.M. Shuford Poetry Collection are out, so be on the lookout if you want to get the whole lot for free. A rough schedule I’ve got mapped out for the time being. The first four books (not counting Absolute Heaven) will be free in their digital formats indefinitely. #5 might be free too, though #6 will cost a dollar. It was more of a challenge than the others, is the only reason. I don’t feel that’s outrageous.

#0 Absolute Heaven – A version of this is already out on Amazon, but a newer one with slight cosmetic and editing changes will be out around April 15-April 20.
#1 Cosmic Love – The old version, which is just haiku and the initial introduction, will be compiled in Absolute Heaven. It’s also in the archives of this blog, as I’ve noted before. The new version, a more realized book, will come out in ePub, Kindle and print sometime around April 16-May 1, around the same time as AH.
#2-#4 – These will probably be finished about April 21-May 5, but may not come out until later in May because poems in them might be featured in other publications first.
#5-#6 – #6 is more or less finished now, but again, there is a wait time, and #5 has to come out first, so these will be out between June and August.
#7-#12 – No idea. These are basically on concept levels only right now. There might be a #13 if I feel like writing it by then.

In other news, I have a traditionally published book of poems and one of short stories coming out in 2020, as well as two novels. But I’m not going to hype those up until their time. There’s not much point right now.

National Library Week – 5 Ways to Support Your Local Library!

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National Library Week runs in 2019 from April 7th to April 13th. This movement began in the United States, but I don’t see why it can’t be celebrated elsewhere as well. Libraries are vital for much longer than a week! These are five ways you can, very easily, support your local library.

1. Be a Frequent Patron

This is the simplest way. Borrow lots of books. Just having a heavy patronage supports a library more than anything. This seems obvious, but many public libraries have shut down, if not due to financial upkeep, then lack of patrons.

2. Donate Money and Volunteer

Whether you have a massive, metropolitan library or a remote one with a modest choice of books, many libraries will accept and are in need of donations. It can’t hurt, in any case. Depending on what country you’re in, your library system will still likely have some kind of group, such as the Friends of the Library Society, that support libraries through charities and volunteer work.

3. Recommending and Donating Books

Donate books that you don’t read anymore that are still in good shape to your local library. If you think your library does not offer enough of a certain type of book that there’s a demand for, say for example, science fiction, then you can donate books of that sort or personally recommend them for purchase. Continue reading “National Library Week – 5 Ways to Support Your Local Library!”