Wednesday Fiction – Open Slay, Part 1: The Beast

Welcome back to Wednesday Fiction, folks! As promised, I’m ready to continue this ongoing fiction experiment. The new series, Open Slay, is designed to be delightfully cheesy B-movie schlock (is there any other kind), so don’t go into this expecting any sort of highbrow art. The concept itself is silly enough, so I felt that trying to carry out a “serious” take would just undermine the whole endeavor. Besides, I’ve loved cheesy horror anthologies ever since I was very young, cutting my teeth on The Twilight Zone and the Outer Limits and numerous comic horror anthologies. I wanted to write one of those stories, and…well, last week when we had breakfast at Cracker Barrel I saw a completely demented looking snowman. Thus was born Open Slay…

Todd Bell stepped away from his snowman, putting his hands on his hips as he admired his precise handiwork. The snowman proved that he deserved better than spending Christmas weekend banished to a remote cabin in the Poconos.   He should be sipping nice claret in a warm, dry studio, not standing shin-deep in the snow, his shoes covered in ridiculous plastic bags.

He promised that he would address the issue with Ally that very night. No matter how great a lover the girl might be, she was not worth the misery of this filth.

He sighed. Still, you must do what you can with what you’re given, he thought. He thought this to be the motto of a true artist; no, a creative force. A craftsman.

Critics had hailed Todd’s paintings as – dare he think it – genius, possessed of a dramatic flair natural for the Daniel Reich gallery. He had deliberately cultivated the shocking, bloody style, as one did not see it in many other Village artists. He felt he could have carved or thrown clay. The medium didn’t matter, his dedication to excellence mattered.

And you have certainly outdone yourself this time. He smirked. He had granted The Beast (as he had christened the snowman) a strange smile, crooked and a bit deranged, promising something far worse than holiday cheer.

I have to make sure that asshole Bailey sees this thing, Todd thought. Andrew Bailey. Voice art critic and bane of Todd’s existence, the troll of a man had appeared in several of Todd’s paintings now, first as a victim of a brutal back alley mugging and most recently as the disgustingly obese victim of a murderous wife.

This, though? This might well be the best likeness yet.. Todd had decided that The Beast’s mouth – as a central feature to Bailey’s ugly maw – would have to be its most important feature. Simple stones would never have done justice to the thing, so he had used a simple spoon to carve the teeth from the snow, ensuring that they came out pointy and jagged, in the same fashion as the snaggle-toothed critic. The eyes had been a simpler matter. He had rendered these as large, rounded things that regarded the world with a perpetual hunger. Todd’s point of pride, however, had to be The Beast’s limbs.  The lack of articulation had always been his objection to the snowmen that his friends had created as a child. Today, he had kicked them in the back of the head, fashioning The Beast’s legs into thick trunks that supported its barrel body.

Snickering, Todd whipped out his iPhone to snap a picture. He may not have been able to get a signal in this godforsaken asshole of the world, but he could still ensure that the world saw his genius, Instagrammed, the moment that he got 4G reception. Continue reading

The #TESSpecFic Weekly: A Short One

It’s been a little while since I’ve done an Emissaries update; we’ve all been a little distracted, and I suspect the Summer and vacations and whatnot are to blame. I mean, I’ve even been insanely busy, between finishing up a short story, creating the shorts on this site, and editing Room 3. Thankfully, it seems like things are beginning to heat up once again, so I figured it was time to get this thing going.


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Indie-Pendence Blog Hop Day 5: The Emissaries of Speculative Fiction

Welcome to the final day in Shaggin the Muse’s Indie-pendence Blog Hop Blowout. First things first, to those of you who commented: thank you. I fully intend to join in the conversation once I get a free moment. It’s been quite the week with the holiday and pushing to get both a novel and short story finished on top of five blog posts. Spinning plates, my friends, spinning plates.

Next order of business: be sure to check in tomorrow, when I’ll be announcing the winners of this week’s book bonanza. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, we’re  giving away loads of books for free. Let’s review what you stand to win this week:

-eBooks of the Corridors of the Dead (limit 5)
-eBooks of the Kayson Cycle (limit 5)
-eBooks of the Station (limit 5)
-Advance eBook of Room 3 when it releases (limit 2)
-eBooks of the Newfoundland Vampire (limit 3)
-eBooks of Marie Loughin’s Valknut the Binding (limit 5)

That’s 25 free books ready for folks to win. And all you have to do is comment. Once you’ve commented, you’ll go into the drawing spreadsheet. On Friday, I’ll draw your number from the hat (a random number generator), and notify you of what you’ve won. Your odds are really, really good, and I know the involved authors would love your comments on our posts. I’m hoping this will be fun for everybody and spur some discussion.

Now, then. If you’re a new reader, I’d like to introduce you to our writers group, the Emissaries of Speculative Fiction, also known as TESSpecFic. The concept behind our group is very relevant to the Indie-Pendence Blog Hop, as it was originally created to bring together like-minded indie authors in not just marketing, but also supporting one another, whether it be through beta reading, editing, formatting advice, or just support when things suck. It’s the embodiment of the idea that I’ve pressed a few times here: that we, as indie writers, need to find ways to present quality and add value to works for readers. I had thought of guilds as a solution, and this is similar in nature. Each week, I typically handle a week-in-review retrospective showing what our team has been up to, but I think this week I’d like to take a look at each member. Continue reading

The #TESSpecFic Weekly (With Special Guest): Fire Evacuation Edition

Hey hey, another week up. It’s been a busy one on my end, as I’m shifting into the final phase of editing Room 3 and firing up the bellows on City of the Dead. Oh, there’s also a short story or two digging in there somewhere. Next week should be a lot of fun, too, as Shaggin the Muse will be a stop on the Indie-pendence Blog Hop celebrating and discussing the state of indie publishing. This will mean some interviews, some in-depth posts, and free copies of books that I’ve recently read, including free copies of my own works. Be sure to check back in!

But, of course, we have to talk about this week for the Emissaries of Speculative Fiction. I realize that I haven’t defined the nature of our group yet, and need to clear up some of the confusion. Simply put, we are a small group of like-minded authors who write things such as science fiction, fantasy, horror, and all blends thereof.

There, simple enough, right? Now let’s talk about this week. I’m spotlighting another deserving blogger this week, Amberr Meadows. She writes in a slightly different vein, but I enjoy her stuff. Without further ado..

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The #TESSpecFic Weekly (With Special Guest): Excitement!

Welcome to the weekly Emissaries post! I’m doing something a little different today, as fellow Emissary Marie Loughin suggested that I feature a rotating guest slot on the weekly update. It sounded like a great idea, so I took up the challenge. We also have some amazing posts this week, so this should be a lot of fun, and hopefully you can get to know some new writers. I’m geeked!

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The #TESSpecFic Weekly: Happy เดือนมิถุนายน!

Good lord, is it really Friday? Did I really make it through this week? It should have been easier than it turned out to be, given that I was off of my day job Monday and Tuesday, but here we are. Posting five entries this week certainly did not help; no wonder I burned out when I was previously maintaining that pace. Don’t expect that again anytime soon!

Since I’ve thoroughly said all I have to say for this week, I’ll let my pen-mates take over from here.

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The #TESSpecFic Weekly: Wait, What?

Hey, everybody! It’s Friday. You know what that means; that’s right, it’s time to slack off. I mean, time for the weekly Emissaries update. I have to admit, it’s probably going to be a little difficult to focus on this one. I’m going into a four-day weekend that just so happens to coincide with my birthday. I have no idea how I’m going to focus, but it’s worth a shot. What’s the worst that could happen, after all?

Oh, and by the way, Kim Koning nominated me for the Kreativ Blog award. Thanks, Kim! This is my second shot at the award (or was that the versatile blogger? Can’t say for sure), so I’ll have to find some more interesting information to dig up. I’ll do that on Monday and nominate some more great folks worth checking out.

Now, let’s take a look at what my comrades-in-pens have been up to over the last week.

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The #TESSpecFic Weekly: Your Regularly Scheduled Program

Okay, I think I’m back on a routine schedule. For now, at least. Sometimes, you miss the routine, and sometimes the routine misses you.

I’m not even sure what that means, but it feels true, so we’re going with it. I know, I know. You’re wondering what the hell I mean. I mean that it’s time to see what the Emissaries of Strange have been up to for the last week.

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What is Horror? Baby Don’t Hurt Me

Welcome to my thrilling stop on the banner TESSpecFic blog tour, the tour that dares to ask: “What is Horror”? This all started about a week or so ago when our fearless founder, Marie Loughin, posed quite the question: Just what is horror, i.e., how do you define the genre, especially as it relates to dark fantasy and other related genres? She invited each of us to take our shots and examine the question from our perspectives. In the process, we would also get to see the views of our fellow Emissaries and respond in kind. I think it’s been quite the success thus far; lots of intelligent replies and  See the end of this post for the whole list of worthy posts. It’s been fun, illuminating, and above all, intelligent. I hope I can hang in with the other folks.

Before I look at what some others have said, I felt I should begin by examining my own history with the genre. My love affair with horror began at a very young age, when I saw movies like Halloween, Friday the 13th, and Alien. This meant that, from a very young age, I associated horror with blood, guts, and physical distress. It wasn’t until I was older and a little more sophisticated that I discovered the other side of the coin, that psychological terror and dread that can be just as effective as the physical threats of slasher stories.

Don’t get me wrong, I think both are valid as measures of horror, and while the term “psychological horror” gets bandied around, to me, horror is horror – psychological or more overt. So if that’s the case, how can I call my own work dark fantasy rather than horror? I thought about it, and realized that, in my mind, horror is based in reality, if a slightly warped version of reality. Halloween? Implacable serial killer on the loose in a small town. Check. The Shining? What may or may not be a haunted hotel transforms a man into a monster. Oh hell yes, and this fits in well with Jaye Manus’s definition:

Even killing the monster does no good because the reader is left with the realization that the monster is inside us and never going away.

I like that definition, but I have to disagree with it as a broader definition of horror. It can certainly be an element, but I don’t think it’s a prerequisite. Horror is all about fear – and our fears are not all directed at our own failings or the failings of our fellow man. Fear of snakes, for instance, is a primal fear, and has been used effectively in horror. Anything that is charged with negative, fearful emotion – that is horror. The most skillful authors can tap into their own fears, ones that others may not necessarily share, and convey them in such a manner that they become frightful to others. I don’t share, for instance, Clive Barker’s apparent fear of bees, but Candyman conveys it so well that you dread them when they show up, even if it walks the fine line between DF and horror.

So, all that said: what is dark fantasy? Well, according to Paul Dail and the publishing industry, it’s a sub-genre of horror, which would still make me a horror writer. I’ve tentatively accepted that, but I still feel that there are some significant differences between horror as an overall genre and dark fantasy. For me, dark fantasy is all about creating new fears – things that you might not have considered – in the context of a new world. Dark fantasy allows the author to create more expansive horizons. Ultimately, I think Charles L. Grant, the man who is said to have first created the term, put it best: ”a type of horror story in which humanity is threatened by forces beyond human understanding.” (from Wikipedia) That Wikipedia article also says that Grant “often used dark fantasy as an alternative to horror, as horror was increasingly associated with more visceral works”, and that is exactly what I am trying to say here – horror is about the known or knowable threat, dark fantasy is about the unknowable threat.

The unknowable threat has always fascinated me, which is why I love dark fantasy. What other hazards might there be out there in the universe, ones which we don’t currently understand, or may never understand? Those are the questions I seek to answer.

Here are the rest of the posts from my esteemed colleagues, with Penelope’s post still to come:

Marie Loughin – Wednesday, 9th May

Jaye Manus – Thursday, 10th May

Paul D. Dail – Friday, 11th May

Kim Koning – Saturday, 12th May

Aniko Carmean – Sunday, 13th May

Penelope Crowe – Tuesday, 15th May

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We’re Baaaaack…the #TESSpecFic Weekly Rises

Wow, missed doing this last week. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t trade the events of last week for anything, but I did miss bringing folks up to date on what my brother and sister emissaries have been up to. I may even have fallen behind myself. I know, I know. Hard to believe, what with all the free time I have.

I’m trying to figure out something else to say, and drawing a blank, I’m just so excited to see what everybody’s been up to. So without further ado…

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