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Women in Horror Month

 

Full moom behind clouds by Richard EdwardsFebruary is Women in Horror Month. You’d think celebrating women writers wouldn’t be controversial, but it is in some circles. For one thing – the thing I’m going to examine today – some folks will tell you flat-out that women can’t write horror.

What? Women can’t write horror? Who says so? A surprising number of people will tell you they don’t read horror written by women. They’ll say that women don’t write to the extremes men do. That women don’t write the graphic horror. Women are too emotional, too interested in relationships, not interested enough in gore and guts.

I’m willing to say many (not all) women write differently than most men. Different does not mean lesser. A writer writes from his or her soul or inner self or deepest, darkest, secret places. Phrase that however you wish. Who you are will affect your writing.

So does that make woman-written horror inferior to man-written horror? Not from where I stand. Horror doesn’t have to be all blood, dangling entrails, and ripped out organs. Some of the best horror is purely psychological.

To be honest, if all a book (or film for that matter) has in its bag of tricks to frighten me is popped-out eyeballs dangling onto cheekbones or gouts of spurting arterial blood, I’m not going to be scared. I’m going to be bored. Bored. Write vivid, interesting characters—someone I can root for as well as someone I can hate. Write with emotion, with depth, with intelligence. Twist my mind into a pretzel, and I’ll follow you anywhere.

 

 

Photo credit: Richard Edwards Free Pictures A-Z

IndieReCon is Coming!

How many times have you heard a writer say (or say yourself – I know I’ve said it), “I’d love to attend a conference, but they’re so expensive. And how can I get away from home? Conferences are all so far away. I don’t know the city such-and-such a conference is in, and I’m nervous about being there alone.”

Well, this one is online (you can attend from your bedroom or living room or the coffee shop down the road), both in real time and archived (so you can read the sessions and watch the video chats any time), filled with high-quality teachers (to judge from last year’s roster and the few announced so far for this year), and FREE. Free. Can’t beat that.

If you’re a writer, whether you’re an indie or traditionally published author or a hybrid, you owe it to yourself and your readers to work on your craft every way you can. Attending writers conferences, whether online or physical, is one way to do that.

So why would you pass up this opportunity? Great teachers. Extreme convenience. And free.

I attended last year and will again this year. And for the record, I have no other connection with this conference. I’m not a presenter; I’m not a sponsor; I’m just an attendee who thinks this is a great resource for writers of all stripes.

Just one minor thing but so important

Okay, let’s talk for a moment about the comma. Not all about its many uses in punctuating sentences – gracious, that would take all night. Let’s just pick one aspect of commas and look at it a bit.

Lately, I’ve edited a couple of pieces in which the writers didn’t quite understand the way an address–the sort where one character addresses another, not a street address 🙂 — inside a sentence is punctuated. So I fixed a lot of sentences like these. I hasten to add that none of these sentences appear in the manuscripts I edited. I invented these “brilliant” bits all by myself.

“Waldo what do you think you’re doing?”

“Come over here Mike, and give me a hand.”

“I don’t know, Sally if I’d open that door.”

Each of these is incorrect. The mistake is easily fixed, though. Add a comma before and after the name of the person being addressed.

“Waldo, what do you think you’re doing?”

“Come over here, Mike, and give me a hand.”

“I don’t know, Sally, if I’d open that door.”

However, English being the tricksome beast that it is, don’t get tripped up by multiples.

“William, you and Thomas wash the dishes while Kimberly feeds the cat and dog.” Correct? Incorrect? All those names! Well, who is the speaker speaking to? She (I visualise this as a mother; I suppose because I am one and gave millions of orders like these.) is speaking only to William, so his is the only name set off with a comma.

“William, wash the dishes while you, Thomas, dry them. I want you to feed the cat and dog, Kimberly.” Perfectly dreadful sentences, honestly, but the commas are correct.

 

 

I wouldn’t really spend a blog post talking about this if I hadn’t seen errors recently. It’s not hard. If one character speaks to another one, add commas and stir. Smile

Why I Watch *gasp* Reality TV

I’m addicted to trashy reality television shows. Give me a show with someone snatching off her shoe and threatening to smack someone else upside the head. Or tipping over a table in a restaurant while (1) screaming that another guest is a “Prostitution Whore!” and (2) ignoring the horrified children in the room – and then saying with a straight face, “I’m a lady.” I’ll watch the body language and study the reactions of all the folks on all the shows.

Why? Well, for one thing my friends and I are NICE and KIND to each other. My family is supportive and loving. We don’t cheat, manipulate, backstab, lie, and threaten each other. But I’m a writer, and writing about nice, kind, supportive people is . . . um . . . er . . . boring. Add to that the fact that I’m mostly a writer of horror. I need nasty, cruel, snarky people to observe.

Enter Reality TV. All those Housewives of Wherever, in particular. Greedy, nasty, manipulative, dishonest, backbiting, backstabbing, lying inspiration. As one of my sons said a couple of weeks ago when he was visiting, “Mom, when you watch these shows, you’re doing more psychological research than anyone else I know.”

Yep. Research. You do it where you can.

Takeaways from a one-day workshop

Yesterday I attended a one-day workshop sponsored by Winston-Salem Writers (a group of which I’m a member) and given by the truly amazing C. Hope Clark. One reason she’s amazing is that she’s a bit of an introvert, not the kind of person who enjoys standing up in front of a crowd of strangers and sharing her knowledge. You’d never know it, by the way. She’s learned some strategies for dealing with that. And she shares them in one of the two books I bought at the workshop, “The Shy Writer Reborn.” It’s available from Amazon in e-book and paper. The Shy Writer Reborn 

One of the most important things I learned—or maybe just had reinforced for me—is to value your writing. Hope Clark is the founder of “Funds for Writers” (and if you’re not getting this newsletter, at least in the free version, why not?), and she reminded me that writing for free is not, as a rule, beneficial to your career. Write some guest blog posts for free, sure, and your own blog, but don’t give away your writing.  Much of her focus is not the same as mine. She loves writing for magazines. I have a dreadful time writing non-fiction. Still, the thought is the same.  If you’re writing short stories and submitting them to anthologies that don’t  even offer a contributor’s copy and/or a token payment, you are not valuing your own writing nearly enough. That anthology publisher is going to charge money for the book, isn’t it? Then why on earth not compensate the people who provide the content?

Another thing I picked up from the workshop is to look for opportunities in places you might not consider from the get-go. Look beyond the surface. Do your research. When you start looking for an agent, if that’s something you decide you want, don’t give up. Write a new query letter for each agent, tailoring it to that particular agent.  If the book isn’t hooking the interest you think it should, perhaps you need to rework the book entirely. Don’t stop. Don’t stop trying to improve.

And I’d say you might give some serious thought to picking up Hope’s newsletter. Try the free version for a year or so. Then graduate to the paid subscription. It’s only $15 a year and the newsletter is packed—packed!—with opportunities to make a bit of money (or maybe a lot of money) with your words. Go here (Funds For Writers) and sign up. You’ll soon find out why Writer’s Digest has named this website one of the top 101 websites for writers year after year. At the top of the page are buttons where you can follow her on Facebook and Twitter as well.

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