Monday, June 28, 2021

Another Big Gay Book List

 

It’s PRIDE month, ya’ll. You know what that means?

That’s right. Another list of books you need to get off your butts and read (preferably, with a glass of something sweet and bubbly).

These are ten of my favorite queer books—either written by queer authors or about queer characters—in no particular order:

1 – The Starless Sea



Erin Morgenstern’s long-awaited follow-up to The Night Circus made all of us run to our local bookstores with grabby hands, and not just to be immersed in another lush, beautifully written world that only someone like Erin can create. The Starless Sea follows Zachary Rawlins, a gay gamer with a heart just big enough to handle the kind of magic and romance most of us can only dream about.

2 – When You Are Engulfed in Flames



This book by David Sedaris is one of few non-fiction books that make my “best-of” lists. Written with his particular brand of dry wit, many of these essays center on his relationship with partner, Hugh, who, at the best of times, is lovingly exasperated by the author. I can too-easily relate.

3 – Space Opera



Eurovision. In. Space. With Aliens. And a pansexual, non-binary front man with incredible fashion sense. What more do you need?

4 – A Darker Shade of Magic (Series)



I won’t lie, I rebelled a little bit against reading these books. I won’t share my very, very petty reasons for avoiding them, but I will tell you not to make my same mistake. The magic system and world V.E. Schwab created are complex, captivating, and easy to fall into.

5 – The Drowning Kind



Jennifer McMahon has been a favorite author of mine since I first picked up a copy of The Winter People. The Drowning Kind is her most recent release, about a young woman pulled back to her childhood home after her sister dies in what appears to be a tragic swimming accident. Both suspenseful and tragic (and a little bit romantic), this is the kind of horror I love.

6 – Mostly Dead Things



Though I haven’t had the chance to pick up Kristin Arnett’s newest book (With Teeth), it’s high up on my to-read list. Mostly Dead Things is a slice of life novel that does the heavy-lifting of helping to pull queer lives into the mainstream. All queer stories aren’t coming-out stories; we live, too.

7 – The Cabin at the End of the World



Paul Tremblay is one of those authors you buy without reading the back blurb. His style sits somewhere between capital-H-horror and “literary,” between blood and guts and deep character dives. The Cabin at the End of the World follows two gay men and their daughter, on what is supposed to be a peaceful weekend in the woods. You and I both know there is no such thing.

8 – Into the Drowning Deep



I love a woman who goes by many names. Mira Grant (aka Seanan McGuire) takes a fairy-tale creature we all know and love—the mermaid—and gives her teeth. Grant’s horror reads just as good as her sci-fi, fantasy and YA offerings. I’m pretty sure there’s nothing she can’t write.

9 – Alice Isn’t Dead



Brought to you by the guys who brought us Night Vail, Alice Isn’t Dead is part suspense and part radio-play, following a long-haul trucker as she looks for her missing wife, all while avoiding creepy zombie men who want to eat her alive.

10 – Furiously Happy



Jenny Lawson (aka The Bloggess) is a national treasure. Though she just released a third book (Broken in the best possible way), Furiously Happy is my favorite of the trio. While still being achingly funny, the message to be Furiously Happy despite everything pushing you in the opposite direction is heartfelt and apt.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

10 Reasons to Date (or not Date) an Author




Reasons to Date an Author


1.) We're creative, which can be useful in bed or when decorating the house.

2.) We often spend a lot of time parked in front of our laptops, so you don't usually need to wonder where we are.

3.) If we make it big, you can say you're dating a professional author. If we don't, you can still say you're dating a professional author. The lifestyle is the same either way.

4.) We will always know where to get the best coffee, weed, and/or booze. 

5.) If you need research done on any subject, we will likely have a resource for you.

6.) Authors are generally well-spoken, so you can impress your friends with your smarty-pants partner. If we aren't well-spoken, you can just say we're "quirky."

7.) You never have to wonder what we're thinking about, because it's usually writing.

8.) We tend to find any excuse NOT to write, so that leaves room for cleaning, cooking, and chores.

9.) We are easy to shop for. Starbucks gift cards, books, and cats make excellent gifts for authors.

10.) FREE BOOKS!



Reasons NOT to Date an Author


1.) Our search history may or may not result in an FBI visit to the house.

2.) If you piss us off, we may kill you in our next book.

3.) If things end badly between us, be ready to be villainized in our 'tell all' memoir.

4.) The workspace in our home will be cluttered and disorganized. It might also have various stains from the food and drink we squirrel away.

5.) We can spend hours writing at a time, and you may forget we're there until we shout "FUCK!" and slam the laptop closed.

6.) Since we will find any excuse to NOT write, we may turn to you for entertainment. This will get old fast.

7.) We will constantly be running ideas by you and/or asking you to  review our work.

8.) We do a lot of events, cons, and signings, so when we come home, any con crud we picked up will be passed on to you. It's just like dating a teacher.

9.) There will be an overflow of books in your house. Good luck getting us to get rid of any.

10.) Once you go author, you'll never go back...to dating...ever again. We will ruin you for anyone else.

Monday, June 21, 2021

Villains are overrated

Hey everyone! A very jet-lagged Mary here, just back in Jersey from the West Coast after my first trip outside the Northeast in a year and a quarter. Damn, I'd forgotten how much jet lag sucks.

Anyway, recently I filled out a blog-interview questionnaire, and one of the questions got me thinking. It asked about recurring themes / ideas across works, and while I could name a few, one of the first thing that popped into my mind was villains. Or rather, lack thereof.

It's not that my books don't have tangible villains - I've written my fair share of scary monstersevil corporations, killer robots, and dark lords. But something I've noticed in common across all these things is that they tend to be abstract, shadowy, or hidden threats... more like forces of nature than individual characters. It's something I've wrestled with a bit in my writing, especially since a lot of cultural commentary makes much ado about compelling (and sexy) villains.

I get it. People want their bad guys to be interesting. And as a consumer of media, I guess I do too. Honestly, I don't believe I think as much about it as is fashionable these days, and I've started wondering why (I didn't even notice the "Marvel villain problem" so many commentators have complained about until I read said complaints, basically saying that Marvel movie villains are largely boring). 

And then it hit me: I'm not too interested in villains, either as a consumer of media or a writer of stories, because I want to focus on the heroes. For me, it's not so much what they're up against that matters, but how they handle it. Who cares about the tragic backstory of the latest superweapon-wielding megalomaniac? I'm more interested in how the scrappy underdog is going to handle all those goons. So what if the hot dark lord of the day sees something of himself in the heroine he's trying to defeat/seduce? I care more about how she got herself into that situation and what she's going to do to get herself out. How did the evil leader of the dystopian government attain that position? I really don't give a damn; just show me how the teen rebels take them down.

I guess it's natural to be fascinated by those who do evil. It's why endless documentaries about serial killers, cult leaders, and con artists continue to flood streaming services. Yet all this focus (and glorification) tends to overshadow those who suffered and those who did the work to keep others from getting hurt. Perhaps that's why I prefer to keep my villains vague or hidden. Delve too deep, and you inevitably begin making excuses for the cruelty they inflict.

Meanwhile, in the real world, a lot of villainous forces are things without a face - forces of society, consequences of history, systematic issues that sometimes get projected onto a handful of people but ultimately are too big for any one person to contain.

Some of the most interesting stories out there are those without a villain at all, precisely because they level the spotlight on the hero and allow for the space to explore said hero in depth.

Anyway, again I'm well aware that my opinions are distinctly unfashionable these days. But in my opinion, villains are overrated, and I'm perfectly okay with stories that leave them in the dark.


Thursday, June 17, 2021

Listen Up: True crime podcasts to inspire your next thriller

Hello, dear readers! The weather is dazzling in Northeastern Pennsylvania right now. I mean, sure, it could be hotter, but it's sunny. And what better way to welcome summer's warmth and brightness then by listening to sinister and terrifying true crime podcasts.

Podcasts don't just educate and entertain, they can inspire your writing. A good podcast episode can reinvigorate a stodgy plot or awaken a protagonist. They help pose the question: what if that happened to my character? 

 Lately, I've noticed podcasts and podcasters are featured heavily in crime fiction (If I Disappear by Eliza Jane Brazier and Girl, 11 by Amy Suiter Clarke spring to mind). Podcasts, being an integral part to our media consumption, are well-positioned (just like TV and film) to ignite story ideas. So grab that laundry, crank up the volume, and listen to these fabulous podcast suggestions that are not My Favorite Murder (although I do love those ladies). One of these might inspire your next book. 

 

CRIMES OF THE CENTURY WITH AMBER HUNT

As Amber says, she "will discuss a case that's lesser known today, but was huge when it happened." I am a sucker for old-timey crimes, and Amber Hunt delivers. This well-produced and well-researched podcast delves into historical crimes, some more well-known than others such as the Lindbergh baby kidnapping and serial killer H.H. Holmes. And in other episodes, Hunt explores the social and political impact of crimes such as the Radium Girls and the Scottsboro Boys. 

My favorites: Episode 2: Leopold & Loeb--The Jazz Age KillersEpisode 19: The Murder of Marie Smith.

HOLLYWOOD CRIME SCENE

Hosted by Rachel Fisher and Desi Jedeikin, HCS is often a raunchy ride as Rachel and Desi explore all sorts of crimes connected to Hollywood. These include episodes about the rise and tragic fall of starlets, Jazz Age killings in Los Angeles, and murders that inspired the movies based on them. The women are funny, foul-mouthed, and entertaining. There is a lot if inspiration to be found such as in Episode 187 about the Bling Ring, a band of teenagers who rob celebrities' homes and

My favorites: Episode 95: James Ellroy (whose mother Jean was murdered in 1958) and Episode 119: Mae West (a woman way ahead of her time)

TENFOLD MORE WICKED/WICKED WORDS

Tenfold More Wicked and Wicked Words are a multi-season podcast hosted by Kate Winkler Dawson on the Exactly Right Network (created by My Favorite Murder mavens, Georgia Hardstark and Karen Kilgariff). Dawson is a journalist and producer who knows how to draw in listeners. 

Tenfold More Wicked devotes a one season arc to a historical crime. Dawson interviews descendants of both the victims and killers, as well as travels to the areas where the crime had taken place. She also interviews forensic and legal experts. In Wicked Words, a spin-off podcast, Dawson interview authors who write about true crime cases and know them best. 

My favorites: Tenfold More Wicked, Season 2: The Body Snatcher. This season delves into the crimes of William Hare and William Burke who murdered people to sell their body to a famed anatomist in 19th century Scotland. Wicked Words, Episode 101: Dr. Katherine Ramsland: BTK Killer Dennis Rader

JENSEN & HOLES: THE MURDER SQUAD

Also on the Exactly Right Network, Billy Jensen, a true crime journalist most famous for helping to finish the late Michelle McNamara's book I'll Be Gone In the Dark about the Golden State Killer, and Paul Holes, a retired detective who helped take down the Golden State Killer, team up to discuss cold cases. Their goal is to tap into the murderino network in order to drum up leads for unsolved cases or to identify victims. Unlike historical crimes that provide a sense of detachment, The Murder Squad episodes are often dark and unsettling.

My favorite: Episode 4: The Golden State Killer (of course!)

SOME PLACE UNDER NEITH

Brought to you by the Last Podcast Network, Some Place is hosted by stunt woman Natalie Jean and comedian Amber Nelson. They focus this podcast on cases involving missing women. Admittedly, I just started listening to this podcast because they're doing a multi-episode arc on the Institute in Basic Life Principals (the weird cultish religion the Duggars practice). So I can't attest to the other episodes, but I feel comfortable in saying that they seem to know their shit.

If you want to be inspired to actually do the writing, here are podcasts for crime fiction writers. 

UNLIKEABLE FEMALE CHARACTERS

Hosted by three of my favorite women writing today--Kristen Lepionka, Layne Fargo and Wendy Heard--this podcast explores the intersection of feminism and character in literature, media, and pop culture.

THE SISTERS IN CRIME WRITERS' PODCAST

Produced by Sisters in Crime, this podcast features interviews with crime fiction authors and is hosted by SinC's Executive Director Julie Hennrikus.

CRIME WRITERS OF COLOR PODCAST

This podcast features interviews and discussion with leading crime writers of color including Kellye Garrett, S.A. Cosby, and Tori Eldridge.

Do you have a suggestion to be added to the list? Let me know in the comments!


Monday, June 14, 2021

All Stories are Horror Stories

P.T. Phronk
A post by P.T. Phronk,
of Forest City Pulp fame
I'm reading a book on writing: The Successful Novelist, by David Morrell, the guy who wrote First Blood and thus created Rambo. In it, he describes asking aspiring novelists "why do you want to be writers?" After getting the usual unobtainable goals out of the way (e.g., money and fame—yeah right!), he gets deeper into why writers write, and part of it is because we have terrifying ideas intruding on our thoughts that we need to get out.
 
"The difference between fiction writers and civilians," writes Morrell, "is that we make it our life’s work to put our daydreams and day-nightmares on paper."
 
He doesn't even mention the horror genre, but he describes how his process, and indeed the process for all writers, involves capturing vivid waking nightmares, each uniquely traumatic to a particular author.
 
No wonder writers don't like being asked where their ideas come from.



It's a thought that leads to an interesting conclusion: every great story is a horror store at its core. In order for a story to have the necessary conflict and personal meaning to make it a unique work from a unique voice, it needs to address a writer's greatest fears. Morrell even describes how the idea for his first short story came about while having a sudden waking vision of being stalked in a forest and feeling certain someone was going to kill him. Even when Morrell is not writing horror, his story ideas start with horror, and at their core are about overcoming fear and other types of trauma.

If every story is really a horror story, then what sets the actual horror genre apart? I suppose it's that, while all stories have some terrifying, hungry thing lurking below the surface, the horror genre lures that thing above the surface and lets it take a few nibbles. In the horror genre, fear is the point, not only a driving force.
 
I need to apply these lessons to my own writing. My writing has been stagnating, partly because of that pandemic thing, but I think also because I've been screwing around with stories that aren't deeply, intentionally personal, and if I'm going to take it to the next, I need something more traumatic. The past year has uncovered a lot of fears in all of us, me included. Fear of isolation, fear of other people, fear of death, fear of losing people, fear of losing time, wasting the limited days we have on Earth pretending the universe is anything other than indifferent to the fleeting lives we spend chasing after little pieces of paper that we can trade for shelter and Starbucks. What a mess. I need to write some of this stuff down, and/or get therapy!
 
All writers in all genres, from action to romance to children's stories, should look for the horror underneath their stories. If there is no fear being addressed, some waking nightmare that the author and the reader can really identify with, then is the story's conflict compelling enough to drive the plot forward?
 
Maybe there are exceptions though. Let me know what you think. 
 

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Spotlight on YA Indie Jewish Authors

www.karissalaurel.com



Over the past year, I've dedicated some of my posts to bringing attention to indie authors who belong to marginalized communities. It's something I hope to do more of in the future. Today I'm thrilled to introduce you to three Young Adult indie, Jewish authors and put a spotlight on some of their  wonderful books. 


 LISA AMOWITZ is an award-winning author of three fantasy/thrillers for young adults: UNTIL BETH, VISION, and BREAKING GLASS, and anthology contributor to UNBOUND. She is also a cover designer and Director of Digital Design at Bronx Community College where she has taught for the past twenty-five years. Having successfully raised two creative and independent offspring, she lives with her husband in New York City, making trouble, art, and trying to do yoga every day. You can learn more about Lisa at lisaamowitz.com.

Until Beth by Lisa Amowitz

Talented rock guitarist Beth Collins has been barely holding herself together for months, ever since her boyfriend and bandmate became the latest victim in a string of suspicious disappearances. When her brother is injured an accident and she sees something dark billowing around him as he hovers close to death, she’s convinced her sanity is collapsing for good.

Then she's accepted by a boarding school for the musically gifted. All of her new friends are bursting withtalent, but they're also keeping secrets. Can she trust Vincent, who's so sweet that his very touch makes her fears melt away? Or Xavier, who's trying to tell her something but is hiding even more?

And will anyone be safe when her true Talent comes out?

Purchase Until Beth from Amazon
Purchase Until Beth from Indie Bound

And Coming Soon from Lisa:

Breaking Glass by Lisa Amowitz

On the night seventeen-year-old Jeremy Glass winds up in the hospital with a broken leg and a blood alcohol level well above the legal limit, his secret crush, Susannah, disappears. When he begins receiving messages from her from beyond the grave, he's not sure whether they're real or if he's losing his grip on reality. Clue by clue, he gets closer to unraveling the mystery, and soon realizes he must discover the truth or become the next victim himself.


~~***~~~ ************~~~***~~


EMILY COLIN'S debut novel, THE MEMORY THIEF, was a New York Times bestseller and a Target Emerging Authors Pick. She is also the author of THE DREAM KEEPER’S DAUGHTER (Ballantine Books). Her young adult titles include the anthology WICKED SOUTH: SECRETS AND LIES and the SEVEN SINS series, both from Blue Crow Publishing, as well as the anthology UNBOUND: STORIES OF TRANSFORMATION, LOVE, AND MONSTERS (Five Points Press). Regardless of whether she’s writing for adults or teens, all of her books feature love stories and supernatural twists.

 Emily’s diverse life experience includes organizing a Coney Island tattoo and piercing show, hauling fish at a dolphin research center, roaming New York City as an itinerant teenage violinist, helping launch two small publishing companies, and working to facilitate community engagement in the arts. Currently, she finds joy in teaching classes for the Writers Workshop at Authors Publish and working as a freelance editor. Originally from Brooklyn, Emily lives in coastal North Carolina with her family. She loves chocolate, is addicted to tiramisu, and dislikes anything containing beans. You can find her trying to do yoga, with her nose buried in a book, or getting dragged down the block by her over-enthusiastic dog, Moo.

Sword of the Seven Sins by Emily Colin

Eva Marteinn never wanted to be a killer.

Raised in the Commonwealth, where citizens live and die by the code of the Seven Sins, Eva is sickened by the barbaric punishments the High Priests inflict. She sees the Bellators of Light, the Commonwealth’s executioners, as no more than conscienceless killers.

When she’s Chosen as the first female bellator—and can’t refuse, on threat of exile or disgrace—Eva is devastated. But she turns out to be inordinately gifted at the very role she abhors…no thanks to her mentor, Ari Westergaard, who alternates between ignoring her and challenging her to impossible tests.

Ari’s indifference conceals a dangerous secret: He’s loved Eva since they were children. When Eva falls for Ari too, she knows they should do anything to avoid each other. Love is forbidden. Lust is a death sentence. But as mentor and apprentice, they’re bound by the blood oath they swore the day of Eva’s Choosing.

Balanced on a razor’s edge of desire and betrayal, the two uncover a secret that could overturn the Commonwealth itself. Now Eva must make an impossible choice: Turn her back on Ari, and remain loyal to the only home she’s ever known—or risk everything on the slim hope of freedom, and stake her life on the boy she’s come to love.

Purchase Sword of the Seven Sins from Amazon

Purchase Sword of the Seven Sins from Indie Bound

Purchase Sword of the Seven Sins from Barnes and Noble

Emily's new release:

Shadows of the Seven Sins: A Story Collection by Emily Colin

What risks would you be willing to take for love?

In the oppressive world of the Commonwealth, citizens live and die by the rules of the Seven Sins: pride, greed, wrath, envy, lust, gluttony, and sloth. Affection is punishable by death…but all of the rules in the world can’t stop people from falling in love.

Fighting back against the High Priests who rule the Commonwealth and the vicious Bellatorum warriors who enforce the law is terrifying. But for love, even ordinary people will take daring chances. For love, people will do terrible—and wonderful—things.

In the pages of this spellbinding collection, dive deeper into the stories of your favorite characters from the Seven Sins series and meet new ones; discover dark secrets they've been hiding; and witness the courage of rebels who risk their lives—again and again—for the justice they fight for and the love they hold dear.

Purchase Shadows of the Seven Sins on Amazon

Purchase Shadows of the Seven Sins on Barnes and Noble


~~***~~~************~~~***~~


KIMBERLY G GIARRATANO lives in the Poconos with her husband and three kids. A lot of her books are set in my rural surroundings, therefore one might she I writes Poconoir. She can walk outside her house to describe the specific slope of a decaying tree trunk. Or the notorious fog rolling off the mountains. In the winter, it’s not uncommon to have three feet of snow on her lawn. A person can bury a body under the snow pack and it won’t be discovered until April.

 She’s a television junkie and a podcast fiend. She loves young adult literature and crime fiction, and young adult crime fiction.




Grunge Gods and Graveyards by Kimberly G. Giarratano



 2015 Silver Falchion Award Winner

 Parted by death. Tethered by love.

 Lainey Bloom’s high school senior year is a complete disaster. The popular clique, led by mean girl Wynter Woods, bullies her constantly. The principal threatens not to let her graduate with the class of 1997 unless she completes a major research project. And everyone blames her for the death of Wynter’s boyfriend, Danny Obregon.

 Danny, a gorgeous musician, stole Lainey’s heart when he stole a kiss at a concert. But a week later, he was run down on a dangerous stretch of road. When he dies in her arms, she fears she’ll never know if he really would have broken up with Wynter to be with her.

 Then his ghost shows up, begging her to solve his murder. Horrified by the dismal fate that awaits him if he never crosses over, Lainey seeks the dark truth amidst small town secrets, family strife, and divided loyalties. But every step she takes toward discovering what really happened the night Danny died pulls her further away from the beautiful boy she can never touch again.

Purchase Grunge Gods and Graveyards on Amazon (also currently a Kindle Unlimited book)

Also by Kimberly:

School Lies by Kimberly G. Giarratano


“Levi and Troy are poignantly real, and the 90s setting serves as an eerie reminder of how far we’ve come, and yet how much more we have to go. Riveting and suspenseful.” –Kate Moretti, New York Times bestselling author of The Vanishing Year

After finding his headmaster father slumped over his desk from a gunshot wound, Levi Abrams is ready to sever his ties to Hulbert Academy with a sharp blade. Though the authorities have ruled his father’s death an accident, Levi has his doubts. But with graduation only weeks away, Levi wants to get his diploma and move on.

Then Troy Byrne returns to school.

It’s been three years since Troy got expelled from Hulbert on bogus drug charges–but he’s over it. And over his parents’ impending divorce. Maybe even over his feelings for Levi. But when his troubled sister disappears, he must return to the treacherous halls of Hulbert. Photo negatives in her trashed apartment connect her disappearance to the headmaster’s death. To find his sister, he’ll need Levi’s help. Now Troy has no choice but to confront his feelings for a boy he was hoping to forget.

As Troy and Levi follow a scavenger hunt of clues, they unearth a dangerous blackmailing scheme that extends far beyond their claustrophobic prep school. Is Troy’s sister missing or did someone make her disappear? And are the boys next?

Set against the backdrop of the mid-1990s, School Lies explores the depths we go to protect ourselves and those we love even if it means betraying others.

Purchase School Lies from Amazon (also currently a Kindle Unlimited book)

Monday, June 7, 2021

Read Wide (Interview with Sean Seebach, Author of THE BUCK STOPS HERE)

amazon.com/author/kozeniewski

Another quality post brought to you by Steve!

Hey, everybody!  It's my turn to do an interview, and I have got a doozy for you today with a real up-and-comer in the horror field.  Let's meet our guest, then dive right in!

About Sean Seebach:

Raised in the Buckeye state in a town of no more than 200 people, Sean Seebach began writing at the age of 33. He's published two novellas, one novel, and a collection of short stories. His work has appeared in the anthology DIG TWO GRAVES VOLUME I from Death's Head Press.

When he isn't writing or working a day job, he enjoys reading, cooking, and listening to an eclectic variety of music.

He currently lives in Ohio with his wife, daughter, son, and their little terror terrier, Bowie.

You can find him on TwitterInstagram, and his website.

Interview

SK:  Tell us about your published work?  What's great?  What's crap?

SS:  It’s great to be here, Stephen. Thank you for having me.

I write to get a better understanding of the world and the human condition. My stories are in the vein of the "Twilight Zone" and "Tales From The Crypt." The early stuff, stories I had submitted to Thought Catalog, have a very “Willy’s Wonderland” feel to them. Some heart, not much, but full of campy and over the top themes. The enthusiasm from readers gave me the confidence (or delusion) to keep working at this writing thing.

TC also published my first book, a novella called OUR MONSTERS ARE REAL: THE PIG MAN. Intended to be a series, PIG MAN is a mash up of dark fantasy and horror. It has a magic harmonica, dual antagonists, and good ol’ midwestern teenagers trying to navigate puberty and bad home life. Out of everything I’ve written, it comes the closest to coming-of-age.

AUTUMN DARK came next. I pitch it as a poor person’s SALEM'S LOT minus the vampire. A big city detective returns to his small town to find his missing sister during the arrival of a peculiar new preacher.

A LOOKING IN VIEW is a collection of short stories, some of which were previously published on Thought Catalog. I wrote new stories to complete the book, and really challenged myself to go deeper into themes of down-on-their-luck characters who get their just deserts.

Fast forward to 2019 and I got my second acceptance after five years of writing. Death’s Head Press was kind enough to purchase “Murdock’s Magnificent Emporium” for their anthology DIG TWO GRAVES VOLUME I. It’s a splatter western set in a dystopian world. I was hot off the heels from reading the DARK TOWER Series and Roland was still fresh in my mind. I wrote about a Roland-esque character who sets out to find the monster that killed his family.

THE BUCK STOPS HERE is my latest, and features a were-deer terrorizing a quiet town. The OCD sheriff is forced to blow the dust off her badge after a local is murdered and find the killer. Think of yourself channel surfing on a rainy Saturday afternoon while eating cold pizza and you come across this ridiculous movie on the Syfy channel. That’s the mood of THE BUCK, and I think out of all my work, people have had the most fun with that one. The book also gave me the chance to tip my hat to Owl Goingback’s seminal novel CROTA.

All proceeds from THE BUCK benefit the World Wildlife Fund. However, for those thinking of purchasing it, the typesetting in the physical copy is small, so you may want to opt for the digital version.

(While we’re on the subject of creature features, check out Stephanie Rabig’s PLAYING POSSUM, James Sabata’s THE CASSOWARY, and THE ROO by Alan Baxter. They’re all in the same vein, and Elderlemon Design was kind enough to create the covers for free.)

Ultimately, my progression as a writer is shown chronologically through my publications. So, to me, the early stuff isn’t as good as "Murdock’s" or THE BUCK, but that’s up for readers to eventually decide.

SK:  How did your pandemic year go?

SS:  Despite contracting COVID in late November, pretty well. My family and I learned that we could isolate outside of our jobs and still love each other. It brought us closer together, for sure. I got my sense of taste and smell back a month ago, a small inconvenience considering the tragic outcomes across the world. Political feelings aside, I gained a new perspective on what community means, and feel a greater sense of empathy and compassion toward others. There’s a silver lining in almost everything if we search hard enough.

SK:  What have you always dreamed of writing?  Do you think it will ever happen?

SS:  I’ve always wanted to collaborate with another author on a project. You remember that serial you did called "Silverwood: The Door?" I bet that was a blast. To get that back and forth with another creative(s), get a feel for someone else’s creative process first hand would be a great experience, I think. You oughta know, you’re the king of collabo. That said, would anyone want to write a book or story with me? Maybe, maybe not.

SK:  How did your #pitmad go last week?

SS:  Ha! Two of my scheduled tweets didn’t even send, but I got support from the community, including you, Gabino Iglesias, and The Sisters of Slaughter (huge thank you to all!) from the one that tweet that did go out. I searched the hashtag before I left for work, and it was great seeing all those writers out there trying to get an agent to represent their manuscript. A beautiful thing.

SK:  What else do you want the fans and readers to know that we didn't get to cover in this interview? 

SS:  Read books by diverse authors and read them to your kids. Read what you like. Read wide. I’ve learned just as much if not more from reading books outside the horror genre. I’m not talking exclusively about craft either. There’s much to be gained from learning about other cultures, heritages, and perspectives.

About THE BUCK STOPS HERE:

Abigail Laine is comfortable being the sheriff of Rockbridge, Ohio. She only conducts a few traffic stops a week, has minimal paperwork, and cruises the town's mostly vacant streets. This leaves her plenty of time to read and keep her living space and work area orderly. But when Caleb Welsh gets murdered on his way home late one Friday night, she's forced to blow the dust off her badge and find the killer.

With the help of Rockbridge's finest civilians, Laine must draw a line in the salt lick and assure that THE BUCK STOPS HERE.

All proceeds benefit the World Wildlife Fund.

Thursday, June 3, 2021

10 Signs You're Overextending Yourself


By Cheryl Oreglia

Let’s face it, I’m not good at weathering storms, dealing with attacks on multiple fronts, or saying “no,” especially when it comes to just about anyone. Which means I end up being no good to anyone especially myself. I think it’s time to rethink my exit strategies.

How about you? Can you muster up a hardy “no” if the situation calls for it? If not, read on, because I’ve created a personalized script for you to practice in front of the mirror, and together we’ll slowly learn the art of self-preservation. 

Look at me (You’ll have to use your imagination).

I’m a walking billboard for chronic middle-age syndrome (overextended, massive temporomandibular joint issues, but still smiling) because according to Dionne Warwick, “you can always count on me.” Who knows the full extent of the damage we endured after being force-fed lyrics like these during our impressionable years. Lord have mercy.

Speaking of mercy, I find myself repeatedly telling God, “mysterious signs are so out, use your words” (even though that didn’t work out so well a few thousand years ago).

I’ve had plenty of ambiguous signs: lung issues, runny nose, chronic cough, insomnia, congestion, gas, emotional instability, and a spliced finger. YES, IT’S MY RIGHT HAND. There’s really nothing left on me to mangle. 

It is shockingly obvious I am not fluent in sign language ~ I’d rather you speak slowly and perspicuously. 

I’m afraid to get up in the morning and slip out to the patio for a cup of coffee. I might trip over the dog (again), be attacked by enraged crows (unlikely in Campbell but it is garbage day), or fall to the ground because the fabric decides to give on the patio chair. Times are tumultuous, use extreme caution, God doesn’t play by the rules. She never has.

A person in my situation might stop and ask herself what the hell is going on? 

a. I’m the unluckiest person in the world.

b. Karma’s a bitch.

c. God is bored.

d. It’s time for an overhaul.

e. I need a vacation. 

The answer is…all of the above.

10 Signs you’re Overextended:

1. Chronic Fatigue – Do you find yourself yawning at inappropriate moments? Falling asleep in the middle of a conversation (Larry)? Drinking gallons of coffee before noon? Wearing sunglasses at the office to cover the huge bags under your eyes? Dosing off while waiting for your dog’s flea medication? Check the Box!

2. Sickness – Continual visits to the doctor, resistant infections, lots of snot, sleeping in a lounge chair two or more nights in a row? You find your spouse snoring under a mermaid comforter in the guest room because your seventeenth Ricola is not working. Do you NyQuil and chill more than twice a week? Check the Box!

3. Clumsy – Tripping over curbs, dogs, babies, toys, and footstools? Slicing and dicing your delicate appendages? Attempts at emptying the dishwasher are a catastrophic loss? Does no one want to play darts with you?  Check the Box!

4. Confused – Unclear about why you entered or left a room? Can’t remember the date, the time, what the president is tweeting about? Why you gave up wine? The name of your firstborn? Which of the 5 remotes turns on the television. Check the Box!

5. Emotional – Do Frigidaire commercials make you cry? Did you burst into tears when you burnt the last piece of toast? When someone said, “Happy Mother’s Day,” did you sob uncontrollably in the lobby? Did you have a total melt-down while standing in line at the DMV? It happens. Check the Box!

6. Eye Twitches – Do you have spastic eye twitches that are especially active when trying to maintain eye contact with your boss? Have you considered skin-colored duct tape as a viable solution to resolving the twitch? Would you rather confess to a botched facelift than admit you’re overextended? Check the Box!

7. Temporary Tourette’s – Have you said something out of character lately? Used vocabulary that would make Gordon Ramsey blush? Didn’t realize you were verbalizing your thoughts on salvation in a crowded elevator. Check the Box!

8. Weight Change – If you have fluctuated one ounce, Check the Box!

9. Pimples – This really seals the deal, if one red, flaming, pustule appears anywhere on your face, check the damn box!

10. Googling a Therapist – This is not a red flag, this is the white flag, and yes I’ll take the first available appointment. Check the Box!

Three or more boxes and you might need to reevaluate your current commitments and your wavering ability to say “NO.” I tell my students to practice in front of the mirror before presentations. You can do this with any life situation so you’re prepared to hold up the hand when necessary. Practice. Practice. Practice.

“No, that’s not possible, I have a conflict.” 

“Oh no darling, this does not work for Cheryl (fill in appropriate name).” 

“Oh my goodness, I’ll be out of town for the next (insert: When did you need me?) yes, that.” 

“Let’s return to this particular issue at our next meeting, in the fall, adjourned!” 

“I’d love to but I’ll be on tour promoting the benefits of prunes all summer.” 

“It just so happens I’m allergic to dust and mortified I won’t be able to help with the clean-up.”

“This is not compatible with my religious views but I will pray for you.”

“I can not possibly take on… but this is what I can do.”

“Not today and tomorrow doesn’t look good either.”

“I believe there is someone more qualified for this job.”

“No, I’m staying home to work on my soap sculpture.”

“I would love to but I can’t be separated from my therapy alligator and she’s not well trained.” 

Take the word should out of your vocabulary. Easy peasy. Anna Taylor reminds us, “love yourself enough to set boundaries. Your time and energy are precious.  You get to choose how you use it.  You teach people how to treat you by deciding what you will and won’t accept.” When we claim more than we can handle, we limit the opportunities for another person in our community notes Jeff Shinabarger.  Suzette Hinton comes right to the point, “if the person you’re talking with continues to press you for more or can’t seem to accept your answer, then you are being harassed, I know that sounds hard for people-pleasers to accept, but it’s true. No means no.”

When I’m not writing for Across the Board, I’m Living in the Gap, learning to say “no.”

How good are you at saying “no” especially when your well-being is in jeopardy? 







 
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