Sunday, October 22, 2017

Pandora's Box of Horrors 2017 Spoken Word Halloween Contest Winner: David Lewis Paget


1st place: David Lewis Paget: Myth maker: 

Halloween might just be my very favorite holiday. It's creepy and fun, fueled by sugar and imagination. In other words, it's right up my alley! So, when I was invited to help judge the 2017 Spoken Word Halloween Contest for Pandora's Box of Horrors, I jumped at the chance.

And here's our winner!

David Lewis Paget's "Mythmaker" won "for form and literary structure, for spoken word delivery, scare factor, and for the “totality” of the tale. Judges agreed it had great story appeal, a satisfying completeness of the story, and a well resolved dénouement."



David was kind enough to answer a few questions about his work for me.

Tell me a little about you as a writer: I began to write back in 1966, mainly short stories, but then poetry. I do remember that a love of language was involved, and I was most impressed by some of the Lennon/McCartney lyrics of the time such as, "she kept her face in a jar by the door." They had a surreal ability to open whole new vistas of thought.... "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" etc. I was educated in England, so my exposure was to the old English Poets like Blake, Coleridge, etc. who all wrote in rhyme and metre. I was determined to master rhyme and metre right from the beginning, and refused to go the way of free form, which I always considered to be the lazy way out.

I wrote interpersonal poetry for the first thirty odd years, until I was convinced that I'd eventually meet myself coming back, or begin to repeat myself, which I didn't want to do, Then fortuitously I took a teaching job in China for a year, and was exposed to Chinese Folk Lore which fascinated me. I came to the conclusion that the only poetry that really survives is that which tells a story, so I began to write in a narrative sense. Since then I have written well over 1,000 narratives, which takes my total output to over 1400 poems. I publish through Lulu.com and have seventeen books of poetry available there, for those who would like to check them out.

What was the inspiration for your piece for this contest? The 'Myth Maker' is merely just one of many Gothic Type themes that I've played with over time. I like to wander across a landscape that exists outside what we might describe as 'normal,' where the most improbable things happen to the most improper people. I was a very early fan of Edgar Allan Poe, having gorged on his 'Tales of Mystery and Imagination' at the age of eleven, when my father pointed it out to me on his bookshelf. That experience captured me for life, and I attempt to continue Poe's experimental works in my own style of Gothic Narrative Poetry. As a horror story, I think the Myth Maker hits the spot.

Where else can our readers learn about you and your work? All my poetry is posted onto the timeline of my Facebook Page, as a link to the actual work on WritersCafe.org. I usually post to about 15 different sites, so as to try and gain as wide a readership as possible. So you may befriend me on Facebook, or on WritersCafe to view my work. On Facebook I only accept friend requests from people whose own pages reflect an interest in poetry or literature of some kind. But I usually accept all requests from people on WritersCafe. I hold a monthly reading over Gulf FM 89.3 which is streamed, and may be heard anywhere in the world.This is on the last Wednesday of each month between 12.30 - 1.00pm South Australian time. It's part of the Copper Coast Writers Program.

I also have a number of video readings on youtube, and some audio readings on Soundcloud. Just google my name on those sites to bring them up. In addition, Jeanette Leone Skirvin has collaborated with me on recording some of my poetry as videos, and are certainly worth a look. All on youtube.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

My Year in Books (So Far)

I'm big on setting goals and challenges for myself. I track my word count, my exercise, my meals, and my reading among other things.

In 2017, I set my usual goal of 52 books, one a week. I'm nearly there already and it's only October, so I think I'll make it. But I thought it might be fun to look at what I've read this year.

Not all of my reading is self-selected. I participate in two book clubs. But I chose those books clubs precisely because I wanted to be led to books I might not have found otherwise (and because talking books with other readers is one of life's greatest pleasures).

Goodreads says I've read 48 books in 2017. That's a little off. Three books got counted twice in different editions. One is a book of writing prompts, which I did look through and use some of…but did I "read" it? Not exactly.  So, let's call it 44 books. Not bad, especially when you consider the busy-ness of my life (day job, writing life, two kids, husband, rescue dog, occasional social life).

I had a few things in mind for my reading this year:

Read more people that I know. I have a lot of writer friends. That happens when you're a writer :-)  I haven't read enough of their work. Twenty of these books were written by people I'm acquainted with either online or in real life (Twenty-one, if I count my own book). I've got some truly talented friends and colleagues out there.

I also wanted to read more women. Despite being one myself, I found that I haven't been reading as many women authors as you might expect. Twenty-one of these books were written by women.

I wanted to read more people of color. Eight of these authors (that I know of) meet that criteria.

So, why does any of that matter?

I believe that we are what we read, just as we are what we eat. I read to get to know other lives, to deepen my understanding of the world and learn about things I know little about. Reading is an escape and a solace, but it's also an opportunity to stretch and grow and expand yourself.

So, here's the list:

How about all of you out there? What have you been reading this year? Why? Did you choose it or just kind of end up there? 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Halloween Escapism: Nightmare Fuel

Life can be such a horror show sometimes. People are jack-holes or just thoughtlessly, selfishly cruel. Systems fail us.

You would think that would make horror fiction unappealing, but at least for me it only adds to the appeal. Especially at this time of year when I'm in a long stretch of no breaks in the school schedule, honeymoon period ending, I'm ready to escape.

I want excitement in my story, but not any real-life trauma or drama. Even though these stories are tense to read or watch, they are relaxing in that I don't really believe they are true. So, I look to horror at this time of year in my reading and movies. This year, I'm giving it a go in my writing as well.

I'm playing along with a friend's challenge to write a piece of flash fiction every day in October. She calls it Nightmare Fuel, and provides a creepy/spooky picture every day. You can follow the collection of prompts here and you can look at what I've been up to here.

Here are some of the images I've been writing from.


It's led to quite a range of spooky things: creatures hidden in fog, invading aliens, transformations, inanimate objects moving, tortured spirits. I'm really having a great time remembering the playful side of writing for a while before I get back on track for NaNoWriMo.

Here's one to chill your Wednesday. It goes with the picture above of the muddy person leaving into the water:

I thought it had to be a statue. Though I couldn’t imagine why anyone would go to the trouble to place a sculpture out here. This little lake was hardly a tourist attraction and the path so little traveled that I had to beat down weeds in places to get through.
But still, the figure by the water had to be some creation, a fake thing. It was so still you see.

No rising and falling of the chest. No sound.

It squatted there at the water’s edge in a position that made my hips hurt just to consider. It’s impossibly skinny arms stretched too long in front of a rounded back that also seemed elongated and out of the expected proportions. Its attention remained focused on the space between its elbows.

I stopped. My hand crept to the gun at my side. I couldn’t have said why, but when my hand drifted that direction, I tended to let it. I think my subconscious has some secret pathway that goes straight to my trigger finger without involving my brain along the way. I don’t resist it. It’s saved my bacon more than once.

Nor did I call out. Idle curiosity trapped more than one fool. If there was a choice between knowing and living, I knew which I’d choose. What was the old saw? Ignorance is bliss? Sometimes it really is.

I took a step backwards, feeling too exposed where I stood. When I snapped a twig with my boot, I thought I was toast, but when I looked back at the muddy bank, the figure had not moved.

It had, however, changed.

The arms and head seemed to be fusing together, forming an elongated triangle. The process was slow, molasses slow, but a change was definitely happening. The human-looking pieces, the head,arms, legs, and torso all melted into one another, bit by bit, until the creature stretched long and flat, with a dangerous and toothy snout aimed out at the water.

The eyes didn’t open until the bumps began to rise on its back. Crocodile. There had been stories, tales I’d heard all my life, of the crocodile people who populated the swampy backwoods areas. I never thought I’d see one.

The yellow eyes blinked. First one and then the other. Like a wink. Then the creature smiled. The long mouth flexible, turning up in a weird, toothy parody of the human expression.

I tipped my hat. Courtesy never hurt. A little respect could keep a body whole. It was worth a shot.

Both eyes closed and the crocodile-man pushed into the water. I watched for a long minute before I lost track of him in the muddy waters. I turned back and picked up my pace, hoping the transformation back to land-form took as long. I might could make it to shelter before he hunted me down, if I hurried.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Tales From the Underground: New Release

Don't you love the smell of a new release in the morning? Or any other time of day? I'm turning over my blog today to help some friends celebrate the release of a new anthology: Tales From the Underground. I hope you'll check out this preview and consider getting a copy of the book! -SB
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We have a challenge for you. Put your feet on the ground. Feel the earth under your feet. Now imagine… imagine what is under that earth. Imagine the Underground.

Tales From The Underground is a new collection of stories from Inklings Press – with a dozen stories from writers around the world, all imagining what might lie beneath the ground.

There are stories of fantasy, there are stories of science fiction, there are stories bringing you a shiver in the dark.

So here, join us as we discuss what lurks beneath…

What is Inklings Press?


Inklings Press started out as a collective of writers working together to publish short stories – and though the net is wider these days, that’s exactly what Inklings Press remains. Royalties are evenly divided between writers, so every book sold gives contributors more money in their pocket. The press takes a single share too, the same size as any writer’s, to pay for advertising and promoting the book.

In short, Inklings aims to provide a place for writers who are new or up-and-coming, and we’re delighted to bring those writers’ stories to the world.

Why Tales From The Underground?

Tales From The Underground is perhaps the most natural development in the Inklings collection of books so far. The idea came from the writers of previous anthologies. In discussion, the writers themselves suggested the theme, so we ran with it. And the outcome is the biggest collection of stories yet from Inklings Press.

Who is in the anthology?

There are writers from around the world in the collection – there are stories that were authored in Australia, made in Mexico, that flourished in Finland and France, emerged from England and were born in The Bahamas.

The list of authors includes those with novels to their name, and those who are still taking their first steps in publication.

The authors in the anthology are Jeff Provine, Brent A. Harris, E.M. Swift-Hook, Claire Buss, Ricardo Victoria, Christopher Edwards, Lawrence Harding, N.C. Stow, Rob Edwards, Jaleta Clegg, Jeanette O’Hagan and Leo McBride.

You would love this anthology if you loved…?


One of the nice things about this collection is the range of stories inside.

Fantasy is a strong theme throughout, as in the urban fantasy of Rob Edwards’ The Lords of Negative Space, about the world just out of sight. But there are also science fiction tales, such as Jaleta Clegg’s tale, The Angels of Mestora, in which unwary dwellers of a distant planet are lured away from civilization by “angelsong”, and Ricardo Victoria’s Buried Sins, with a battle in an ancient underground city.

Jeff Provine delves into a cavern with a reputation for weird events, while Brent A. Harris takes us on a trip through time. N.C. Stow imbues her tale with the influence of Russian mythology, while both Lawrence Harding and E.M. Swift-Hook tell us tales of mythology in worlds of their own devising. Claire Buss goes underground in more than one sense in her tale Underground Scratching, and Jeanette O’Hagan presents a team of miners fighting for their very lives against supernatural powers.

Christopher Edwards tells us a tale of strange visions in an RAF bunker, and Leo McBride follows explorers retracing the steps of an expedition that never returned. There are ghosts, there are distant planets, there are things happening in the ground under our very feet. Legends are revealed, and legends are made.

It is a delight to watch the stories take such different directions while all sharing the same theme.

Where can I get it?

Tales From The Underground is available on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Tales-Underground-Twelve-hidden-legends-ebook/dp/B075ZQ579N/. You can also learn more at www.inklingspress.com. Each story also includes information about the writers, so if you fall in love with one of the works, you can follow the links to learn – and read – more.

So take a peek, and come join us, down here… in the dark.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

IWSG: Writing is my Therapy


It's the first Wednesday! Which means IWSG Day. Today's question: Have you ever slipped any of your personal information into your characters, either by accident or on purpose?

After you see what I have to say, be sure to check out other posts and our lovely and generous co-hosts: Olga Godim, Chemist Ken, Jennifer Hawes, and Tamara Narayan!
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Writing is my therapy. Often, it is through my writing that I find out what is bothering me at a subconscious level. Like many an introvert, I prefer to stay a little hidden. Like an ogre, I've got layers. Some of them are even hidden from myself at times.

I'm not comfortable with most forms of therapy. Hashing things out with a stranger has mostly caused me more anxiety than it has solved (I'm not putting down the process; I know MANY people that traditional therapy has helped. I'm just not one of them).

But if I write, especially if I write fiction, so that I fool my brain into thinking that none of this about me, I end up working my way through a lot of issues. And that is truly therapeutic.

The first novel I ever wrote (unpublished: His Other Mother) was like that. It wasn't autobiographical at all. The main character had in common with me only that she is a teacher. She was younger than me, very different from me in personality, dealing with infertility and schizophrenia which are not issues I've had to personally face. So, while I was writing the novel, I was sure it was all fiction.

But when I got to THE END and starting revising the novel, I realized that parts of me were all over that book. The husband and wife dynamic was very similar to my first marriage (though I reversed the genders, writing myself as the husband and my ex as the wife: bet Freud would have a field day with that).

Because schizophrenia makes up more than one branch in my family tree, I worry about my grasp on reality sometimes. Writing Sherry Morgan helped me feel my way through these issues, without feeling like that was what I doing.

When I discovered that, I was shocked. I'm not a fan of fiction as disguised memoir most of the time. I've never set out to write a book about myself. I just don't think I'm that interesting, not compared to my imaginary friends who go out there and do things I only think about.

But I've found a comfort in expressing my worries and doubts through my characters. Though most of my characters are not very much like me, they do share emotions and prejudices with their creator. Through my Menopausal Superheroes series, I've worked through some of my issues with the medical establishment, aging, and sexism, for example.

I've never flown without an airplane, or thrown a pick-up truck, but my heroines all reflect my experience in some ways. I definitely value writing for a way to talk to my own subconscious and come out the stronger for the experience.
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If you're not already following #IWSG (Insecure Writer's Support Group), you should really check it out. The monthly blog hop is a panoply of insight into the writing life at all stages of hobby and career. Search the hashtag in your favorite social media venue and you'll find something interesting on the first Wednesday of every month.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Celebrating Four Years of Writing Every Day

Tuesday, September 26, 2017, is a landmark in my writing life. It's day number 1,460 in a row in my writing chain. That's four years of writing every single day. (cue the fireworks and confetti, please)

I've written before about what a game-changer a daily writing habit has been for me: here, here, and here, most recently. It's not for everyone, of course. Creative process works in mysterious, highly individual ways, and every day is not feasible for every artist. But for me, it meant steady, forward progress, finishing things. Even more importantly, I stopped wasting time floundering around and trying to remember my own story.

I've written a heck of a lot in four years. According to Magic Spreadsheet, one of the tracking tools I use, I've written nearly two million words in that time frame. (When I'm editing and revising, I count 10% of the words I process in that session as word count). My school-day nightly goal is 800 words, my vacation-day goal is 2,000 words. A day still counts as a writing day so long as I make the rock-bottom minimum of 250 words.

(It's best when it's not just "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" over and over).

https://ih1.redbubble.net/image.349879360.8035/flat,800x800,070,f.jpg

I've seen three novels, a collection of short stories, and seven short stories in multi-author anthologies onto bookshelves during that span. I swear, I look at the pile of books and I feel like Ozymandias: "Look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair!" (though I hope that doesn't leave me crumpled in the desert with dried up pages blowing by in the wind).



I still want to be more productive.

I'm a twenty-first century girl after all, and I want to make sure I live my dreams to the fullest.

I have too many unfinished projects and too many still waiting for me to develop them.

As I move into my fifth year of daily writing, I plan to be a little harder on myself. Up until now, I've counted all writing: blog posts, articles, book reviews, marketing plans, synopses, journalling, etc. I still plan to keep track of all that work, but for a day to count as a writing day, it must include at least 250 words of fiction.

After four years of building this habit, I'm not willing to let myself slack off. My expectations for myself will continue to rise.

But right now, I'm just breathing a moment of satisfaction, sticking out my chin and spreading my prideful feathers. Look how far we've come!

…I think I'll celebrate by adding 250 words to my newest novel.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Son of a Pitch: Entry Ten: Long Lost Treasure: A Promise Kept


For my regular readers, these are some special posts this week as part of a pitch contest I'm providing feedback for. My normal musings will return next week.


For participants, welcome to my blog! I'm happy to host you and excited to see what kinds of stories you've written. Please remember that only the author of this piece and the participating judges are supposed to comment. All other comments will be deleted.


We're Team Fluttershy! Because here on Balancing Act, we're both quite sweet unless you provoke us, in which case, we are terrifying.

You can check out other teams on the other hosting blogs: Rena Rocford (Rainbow Dash), Kathleen Ann Palm (Rarity), Elizabeth Roderick (Discord), Katie Hamstead Teller (Princess Luna)

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Title: Long Lost Treasure: A Promise Kept
Category and Genre: Adult Romance
Word Count: 26,000

Query:

Beth, a military widow, left her life behind ten years ago to start over. Now due to an unexpected situation, Beth is forced to return home, but without fail finds herself caught in middle of making decisions she’s not ready to make, torn between her present state of happiness and the life she left behind so long ago, and becomes quickly overwhelmed by all her past rushing towards her with so many unanswered questions. DB, Beth’s former brother-in-law and has been a best friend to Beth all her life, but now needs more than anything wants to know and most importantly understand why she left so abruptly ten years ago without even a good-bye.
So, will Beth’s visit force her to face her past and reveal more than one secret that could change her future forever? Or will DB force her to leave again and never look back?

First 250 Words:

Under a hot summer sun, sitting quietly with tears streaming down my face, listening to the 21-gun salute ringing out in the distance, and clinging to a folded American Flag, all I could think was that this was all just a dream.

Military wives always dread two things, moving and ‘the phone call’. It was earlyThursday morning, as I was getting ready to head out for my morning jog, when something told me not to leave just yet. Ten minutes later the phone rang and it was my brother-in-law, Dallas ‘DB’ Bryant. The moment I heard his voice I knew something was wrong and my life would forever be changed.

“Beth…” there was a long moment of silence, “…do you remember the promise I made?” he struggled to say.

Here’s the thing about promises, they are meant to be broken, but this one was made to ensure it would never be broken. Jackson ‘Gage’ Bryant, was my best friend and high school sweetheart, we were married two weeks after graduation in a small intimate ceremony and then six weeks later he and DB were off to boot camp. They were inseparable. DB was almost two years older than Gage, but the military was a passion they shared, other than sports and women. Against their family’s wishes because of the war in the Middle East, not to mention there was a strong family tradition of military men in the Bryant Family, they enlisted together. They insisted it was something they had to do for not only their country to preserve the freedom they cherished, but for generations of Bryants to come.

We had been married a year when their unit was scheduled to deploy to Iraq for eighteen months, with possible five-day weekend home passes every four to six months. I made them promise that if anything was to happen, for one of them to call me or their family before the military officials did.

“Beth, are you there?” a shaky voice questioned.

“Yeah,” I choked as the tears began to fall down my face knowing this was the call I didn’t want.

“Gage…” he started, “…Gage is gone Beth” he continued with another moment of silence before explaining what happened. He and three other members of his unit went out on patrol early this morning when an Improvised Explosive Device or IED, otherwise known as a roadside bomb, detonated near their Humvee. There weren’t any survivors.