Flash: Horror prompt

George picked the back corner at the corner bakery. His coffee cup teetered on the edge of the table as a sign that he’d paid for his right to sit there for the next few hours.

The laptop started up. He’d given up trying to learn how to work the stupid thing. It had a power button and it had an app icon. That was all he needed.

A black screen popped up. In the center of the screen was a blue orb button. Scrunching into the corner and angling his computer away from the preying eyes of the public, he stabbed the orb with his finger. The screen faded. The blue progress bar glowed bright against its black background. 25%. The counter girl glanced at him, and he wriggled further back. 87%. His leg started bouncing. 100%.

Small white letters typed out across the screen in a stead mechanical cadence. “This is a contract for your soul. You have five days remaining.” Two buttons outlining in a pulsing blue appeared. “Negotiate” and “Cancel.”

His hand clutched at scrap of paper in his pocket. It said, “I give half my remaining days to spend my final time with my wife.”

These words had been perfected. His family lawyer approved. He said it was a simple statement, but a more complete contract would provide better protection and one could be drawn up at $150/hour.

The priest at the catholic church told him that any bargain with the devil would be hallow and leave him wanting. That he risked his eternal soul by considering the exchange. George thanked him and momentarily considered tell him that his eternal soul would never be accepted into heaven where his wife surely lived.

His son gave him a sad smile and told him it would be a wonderful dream to see mom again. It was his son who suggested a fair exchange of half his days, one for her and one for him until his natural death. Afterall, George wouldn’t want to have her back for a day and lose her again. He barely survived her death the first time.

The paranormal investigation group had been so excited. They wanted to know how he found the program and if he’d read any reviews on it and if it really worked. They investigated his laptop and pressed the orb, but no one was ready to offer their soul. They asked to be present when he made the deal. Having them watch him felt too raw, so he refused, but if his wife came back to him, he’d take her by to say hello. They were nice kids and didn’t treat him like a senile old man.

He’d even asked the lady at the greeting card store. Her eyes grew round and shinny. She must have been to wrapped up in the spring love season because she gushed at how romantic it was that I still loved my wife after ten years since her passing. She had obviously never been married for forty years and grown to rely on having that person there.

There he sat. His knuckles bulged with arthritis. His hands shaking. The counter girl bending over the counter to stare at him better with horror filled large eyes.

The light around him dimmed as if the darkness from the computer reached out to consume him.

It was time to make his choice. Negotiate or cancel.

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Genre Fiction – Literary’s grotesque cousin?

In 2016, I attended WorldCon, which is a convention put on by the World Science Fiction Society.  At the convention, they talked a lot about genre fiction and the future of sci-fi and fantasy particularly. That has me thinking recently.

Some of the speakers talked as if genre fiction is looked down upon. When I goggled genre fiction, I came across this article at the Huffington Post. The author agrees, saying “There are certainly high brow literary readers who believe that genre fiction does not deserve any merit. Then there are the types who exclusively read one or two subtypes of genre fiction and automatically classify any “serious” works of literature as pretentious or boring.” Sadly, I think I lean toward the genre fiction over literary, but I didn’t even realize there was this animosity out there.

The Huffington Post article argues that one factor separating genre fiction from literary is the memorability of the story. It says, “But do they [genre fiction] provide a means to stay inside reality, through the trials and tribulations of every day life, and deliver a memorable experience that will stick with you emotionally for the rest of your life? In my opinion, no. The works that are well written by genre writers are the ones that provide the best form of entertainment and escapism that fiction has to offer.” The article mentions a bunch of genre and literary writers.  When I read the lists of names, I could only remember the stories from the genre writers even though I have read many of the names on the literary list. That suggests to me that the memorability of a story has less to do with a “literary” designation and more with a person’s interest in reading.

The article also argues that “The main reason for a person to read Genre Fiction is for entertainment, for a riveting story, an escape from reality. Literary Fiction separates itself from Genre because it is not about escaping from reality, instead, it provides a means to better understand the world and delivers real emotional responses.” Again, I disagree in part. There is a significant portion of genre literature that is escapism, but there is also a part that comments on society, human nature, and our perceptions. Part of the underlying current at WorldCon revolved around the prevailing view published by the scifi/fantasy industry and opening the genre readership to novels that had expanded world views. This New Yorker article argues that some of the genre literature is not actually genre literature. It specifically says, ““All the Pretty Horses” is no more a western than “1984” is science fiction.” This strikes me as odd. Finding that a novel is not genre because the novel, which would fall under genre in general, has a story line is acceptable in “literary” circles, that lacks logic. It suggests literary and genre fiction are two total separate areas whereas I believe they are more of a venn diagram with overlapping areas.

A while back I discovered this Venn diagram by Annie Neugebauer which I thought was brilliant.

speculative-fiction-diagram
A great article on this diagram at SPi-Global

Anyway, I think one more overlapping circle could be literary. There is no reason to pull a genre novel from the genre when it could just as easily be both genre and literary both.

All this comes down to:

As an average reader, I never cared or distinguished genre from literary.

As a new writer, all the attempts to classify and shove books in specific categories is annoying.

As an amateur market watcher, I understand why the book selling industry categorize novels into a specific pigeon hole particularly when bookstore shelf space prevented placing a book in two sections, but with the growing electronic book sales, there is no reason books have to shoved into a single category, especially when my understanding of fiction is much more overlapping and mingled than what the old classifications allow.

Author Highlight: H.T. Lyon

I have another new author lined up. This is part of a series of author interviews. Please check out H.T. Lyon’s website and Twitter.

How much research do you do?

That depends. For hard science fiction I do a lot. If I am trying to describe what life could be like in the near future as we (hopefully) colonise our solar system, then I want it to ring true.

There’s a lot of information available and I learned some amazing stuff. What is most interesting and challenging is when I learn something that invalidates an assumption in my story. Then there’s a little burst of creativity as I work around this. Sometimes I learn amazing stuff that I had never thought of. The immensely abrasive and damaging nature of moon dust came as a surprise and something I needed to take into account. Doing that enriches the story though. For smaller works, I’m less likely to research. Accuracy is less important than the message.

Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?

I do believe that the cover is important. Books are like any other purchase we make. We judge them against other purchases of a similar type. In indie publishing circles, the cover along with the keyword and blurb is probably one of the biggest marketing tools. And for most genres, covers have a look and feel that readers expect. If the cover is too amateurish or has errors, it’s a massive turn off. In fact from what I understand, if you only have the money for one thing, put it into the cover! The web is a visual medium and unless your book takes off on Twitter or something, it will heavily rely on the cover the drag readers in.

How are you publishing this book and why?

I am committed to self-publishing simply because I want to retain the control of my work. That’s very important to me as I am writing to prompt readers to think about the world they live in and I want to make sure that the questions I raise stay strong and aren’t diluted by someone else in the publishing process. A second reason to self-publish is because I don’t want to spend the time and emotional energy going through the traditional publishing process. I prefer to sink that time into more writing. I simply don’t need the validation of having work traditionally published. I have a day job and I’m good at it, I get all the validation I need from that.

Would you or do you use a PR agency?

I don’t think I would use a PR agency. Not unless my work really took off. I’d much rather self-market to get a reasonable fan base and work from there. There seems to be a lot of luck in the writing business and, honestly, I don’t think it would pay off. Certainly it would have a lesser return per dollar than a good cover designer or a competent editor.

What advice would you give young readers who want to become authors?

I would say, get started. Write anything. If you like a television series, then write fan fiction but whatever you do get going. The biggest problem is fear of failure because your writing sucks. The secret is that your first draft will always suck and once you learn that, it’s all ok from there. When you do start, get support for your hobby from other writers and NOT from friends and family. Writing is a long process and non-writers don’t understand that drafts are very rough documents.

 

H.T. Lyon is a aspiring writer of science fiction. A futurist with a keen interest in where our society is heading, he focuses most of his attention on stories that examine the direction our society is taking or that shows where we could end up. Optimistic by nature, he believes that one day we will look to settle the Solar System as we outgrow our planet and some of his stories examine how this could look. Currently, he has a number of novels underway and some short stories. His aim is to get one of these up and published before the end of the year around the other commitments that exist in his life.

Anthology from the JL

I have a story coming up in the JL Anthology.

June 17.

Between Heroes and Villains 3D large.png

What is the difference between a hero and a villain?

A hero should always use their power for good: a detective devotes his life to chasing gifted villains; a girl uses her frost powers to rescue her father; a weary sidekick faces her childhood nemesis; and a young man must protect his loved ones against a tyrannical authority.

But having unique gifts means facing tough decisions: a doctor must choose between saving his reputation or his patient; a young woman saves a drowning man and finds herself in danger as a result; a student discovers the consequences of choice; and a wannabe hero takes on a supervillain hoping she’ll be invited to the hero’s league.

And the line between good and evil is oftentimes blurred: a self-made hero crosses that line to save the world; a lovesick henchman blindly follows his master’s orders; a mentor attempts to prevent a pupil from being drawn to villainy; a superpowered military team questions their orders despite the inevitable consequences.

Follow these men and women as they set out to save themselves, and the world, from the great evils around them.

Heros

Heros are the summer theme for me.

Next month, I anticipate a short story of mine will be published in an anthology published by Rowanwood Publishing and the Just-Us League.  This is the second anthology.  The first one, From the Stories of Old, featured fairy tale retellings. The retellings were everything from the classic Rumpelstiltskin to more modern Hans Christian Anderson Little Mermaid, eastern culture tales like East of the Sun and West of the Moon, and less common stories such as my own based on the Struwwelpeter.

This second anthology is stories of heros and villains. I’m excited to introduce Madame Pain, the voodoo diva, and her nemesis the Volcano. I imagine their great battle takes place in an ancient portion of a cemetery that looks a little like this picture:

haunted-new-england-graveyard
This picture is taken from the Ghost Diaries and their blog about the most dangerous cemeteries

My hero and villain battle it out over the most common of all causes, love. Believe it or not, despite the terrifying cemetery and the romance, I consider this story a humor piece.

I’m excited to have this one published.

Author Highlight: Dawn Chapman

April is here again. It’s my birthday month, and I’m celebrating with an author interview.

Dawn BookDawn Chapman is the author of The Secret King Series and Director of TSK Productions Ltd.

Do you write full-time or part-time?

It’s almost full time, even with a full time job. I work 7-3pm in the day as my paying job at the moment, and then from 4pm till 9pm I’m working on TSK’s projects.

Any tips on what to do and what not to do when writing?

Write what you want to. Don’t always try and please others. Get some beta readers you can trust and work had to keep them. If one person says something is wrong you can ignore it, but if 5 people say it… then think about what they’re saying.

Where is your favorite place to write?

A caravan site in Devon. 🙂 I’ve just come back from a weeks holiday there, the other half goes fishing, and I get to create in peace. Love it.

How often do you write, and do you have a special time during the day to write?

I would much prefer to write early, but if I’m off, I write all day. Sometimes 16 hours a day.

Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?

I’ve done both, as part of NaNoWriMo. In fact TSK’s first novel was on the fly. I hadn’t planned anything, and one of my TSK fans for the series, said ‘why don’t you try writing their story before they get to Earth’ and that was it, I thought why not, and I wrote my first 50k in the 30 days. The following 84k I wrote up till my birthday on the 13th december, and the rewriting took TSK’s first book to 103k.

Dawn 1

Dawn Chapman has been creating sci fi and fantasy stories for thirty years. Until 2005 when her life and attention turned to scripts, and she started work on The Secret King, a 13 episode Sci Fi TV series, with great passion for this medium.

In 2010, Dawn returned to her first love of prose. She’s been working with coach EJ Runyon who’s encouraged her away from fast paced script writing, to revel in the world of TSK and Letháo as an epic prose space journey.

Where TSK came from.

The Secret King began its journey in 2007 when I broke my hand. I had a dream and that dream became a feature script. I wanted to learn and find likeminded people, so I joined an online writing community, this is where I met one of TSK’s partners Steven Kogan and from that first rough draft of a feature film I began to plot a TV series. I asked Steven if he would like to write inside my world and he accepted, together we penned 13 episodes, and became fast friends over the next few years.

In 2010 I started entering competitions and discovering NaNoWriMo was where I found my second partner, Jaime Bengzon, who also came on board with TSK’s TV series as a character designer. In 2016 we made it official and formed TSK Productions, with the dream of novels, novellas, comics and animation in our sights.

To date the TSK team is 14 strong, and growing. And we just released our first two audioshorts from the series by the talented Holly Adams! –

 

Visit Dawn on her personal blog – kanundra.com — and —

 

Check out TSK on the following:

Websites –

Production Website –  www.tskproductions.com

Main TSK Website –  www.thesecretking.com

 

Twitter –

Production – https://twitter.com/ProductionsTSK

TSK – https://twitter.com/TeamSecretKing

 

Facebook –

TSK Productions Ltd –

https://www.facebook.com/TSKProductionsLtd

The Secret King Fan Page –

https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Secret-King/836723299691777