Monday, October 31, 2016

Michelle's Pitch Wars Story

Over the weekend, I got a huge surprise involving Pitch Wars, a contest I entered about two months ago. Many of my friends have asked how the heck this all came about, so here’s the low-down:

The contest, for those who don’t know anything about it, is run by the fantabulous Brenda Drake and an army of angels. Mentors (published/agented authors, editors, and industry interns) each pick one mentee (writers with completed manuscripts) with whom to work. After two months of crazed revising, the mentee’s work is presented to literary agents in a blog post consisting of a pitch and the first page of their manuscript. Agents view the posts, and, if they so desire, request to read more.

I blame author Dan Koboldt for convincing me to enter Pitch Wars. We interviewed him this summer, and during a conversation about pitching contests he kept saying, “You have everything to gain. Just try it!” Dan was right. I had nothing to lose, especially since I was already planning to query this fall.

Being the uber-competitive person that I am, I went into the contest determined to believe anything that happened would count as winning*. I was blown away by the Pitch Wars community. I never felt like I was running a race against each of the other mentee hopefuls—it felt more like we were on a soccer team together. Each time one person did well, the entire team grew stronger.

When Brenda posted the names of all the mentees and their mentors, mine wasn’t there. I read it three times, wondering if there could’ve been some kind of mistake. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t spend a couple of hours wallowing. It was a rough day. 

And then Sharon Johnston, a mentor I’d been talking to during the choosing period, emailed me and asked if I’d like to be her unofficial mentee. I didn’t even think—I typed “Yes”, hit “Send”, and then went, “Wait, what did I just agree to?” I hadn’t read the entire email, and I had to go back and make sure I hadn’t agreed to anything too crazy. Turns out, I’d agreed to the most intense revision in the universe. Holy Giant Editing Letter, Batman. The first chapter ended in the wrong place. I had three gazillion instances of “look” and “suddenly”. Someone else had published an award-winning book with my title. It was too long (Draft One was a hefty 103,000, the draft I sent in to Pitch Wars was 91,000**). The foreshadowing for one of the twists was weak.

I wasn't sure I could go through with it. I really liked Sharon, but how could I know if her ideas would actually help? Even though I had some initial uncertainty, Sharon’s comments on the first page calmed my doubts. I knew after editing for five minutes that no matter how painful the edits, my book baby was going to be better. I didn’t mention the entire story of Sharon working with me to anyone but my in-person critique group; I didn’t want it to seem like I was waving that fact in anyone’s face. I wish I had known there were other “secret” mentees—we could’ve banded together for support before this morning!

After about a month of intense editing, life became…difficult. Family chaos, lay-off announcements…essentially four weeks of sh** hitting a room full of fans.  I was only a few chapters away from re-finishing the book I had entered in PitchWars, but I simply couldn’t do it. I was spent. I tried to hit “Refresh” on my brain, but all I got was the little hourglass flipping over and over on a blue screen. I decided to switch gears and work on a novel I’d finished in May. It's not like I had a deadline for the other book. Who cared?

And that brings me up to Friday afternoon, when Sharon messaged me about a possible mentee spot—if I could have everything done by the 31st. Cue all-out panic.

With 26,000 words to go through, I had no idea if I was going to make it or not. Besides that, I still had some timeline issues I needed to clean up throughout the entire manuscript. Plus, Beyond the Trope was supposed to be at Mile Hi Con all weekend! I ended up sitting at our table typing like a madwoman (and guzzling triple shot mochas) for two straight days. 

I'm not saying you should do what I did, but my panic paid off, and now I can't focus on anything because THE AGENT SHOWCASE IS THIS WEEK, and I'm so dang excited to read all the pitches and watch everyone's requests rack up.

I don’t know if this will lead to agent, but I’m happy to say that even if it doesn’t, I’m thankful to be here. This experience has taught me so much! If an experienced author tells you to try something new, try it. If an amazing mentor offers to work with you, say yes. If a door unlocks, kick that thing open and keep going.

Michelle is so excited about Pitch Wars she can't concentrate on anything else. Stay tuned over the next couple of weeks to find out what happens with her manuscript!

*Because I’m so competitive that it has literally taken years of mental preparation to teach myself not to be a sore loser. Pitch Wars has been really good for me in that way--it's not as simple as First Prize and Second Prize.
**I’m such an over-writer. Good grief. But I hate trying to find places for new scenes in Draft Two, so you could say I put in ALL THE POSSIBILITIES from the get-go.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Book Review: Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

Okay, I’ll admit it. I’m starting to like creepy stories. Stalking Jack the Ripper certainly falls into that category. I picked up this book from the new releases shelf at Barnes and Noble because  it had an interesting cover. (This seems to be a pattern…) After I read the blurb, I decided I needed to read it. Stalking Jack the Ripper was an intriguing mystery thriller and I especially enjoyed the way it wove history with the author’s creative license.

Audrey Rose Wadsworth is supposed to be a proper Victorian lady. After her mother dies, Audrey Rose decides she needs to understand the inner workings of death. Therefore, she begins an apprenticeship with her Uncle Wadsworth, a respected, if sometimes feared, forensic scientist. With a germophobe for a father, and a nervous brother, Audrey Rose has to hide her deepening love for slicing open cadavers. When murders begin occurring around her neighborhood, and Uncle Wadsworth is brought in to investigate, Audrey Rose is thrown into the terrifying world of Jack the Ripper and begins a relentless search to find who is committing such heinous crimes.

Audrey Rose is a character that I think young adults can look up to. She's courageous, thoughtful, driven, and isn’t afraid to break the expectations that other people place on her life. Maniscalco does a wonderful job of creating a main character who is relentless but also has human shortcomings. Audrey Rose fearlessly slices open the dead and will stand in a puddle of congealing blood, but when the last Ripper murder occurs, she understandably loses her lunch. The other characters that the author introduces into Audrey Rose’s life are as real as her protagonist. Her father is an understandable germophobe who wants to protect his family at all costs, her brother is the one person Audrey Rose can rely on for support, her uncle is as professional as the day is long and a terrific mentor for her budding scientific curiosity, and Thomas brings a sense of comedic relief to the reader.

I enjoyed the world that Maniscalco created for her characters, too. The Wadsworth family lives in proximity to the Ripper murders and all the restrictions of Victorian society are included in the story. There are even realistic elements of steam technology scattered throughout the story. I appreciated that the author included the location, neighborhood, and date at the beginning of each chapter because the story jumps around through different times and places, I found that information helpful.

While I really liked the characters and the story, I was occasionally yanked out of it for various reasons. In my opinion, this could have used another pass through a critique group in regards to the plot. At the end of the story, during the big reveal (and no spoilers here, I promise), I had difficulty keeping track of the characters in the room. I tend to think of it as “cardboard cutout syndrome.” While Audrey Rose was mentally pulling all the pieces together to solve her puzzle (which seemed to take a really long time), the Big Baddie seemed to be just standing around waiting for her to finish thinking. That didn’t work for me.

I also felt that some of the elements of the story were thrown in because someone said they had to be. Every now and then, Audrey Rose goes into detail about what she’s wearing, the tea parties her aunt makes her attend, and the mundane details of her life and the story's setting.

Finally, when the Big Baddie is revealed, Audrey Rose asks the person a question about a piece of evidence that was found at the crime scenes. When she asks the person why the evidence was left behind, they say, “I simply left them where I’d dropped them.” I’ll tell you this: the Big Baddie is an intelligent and methodical character. I couldn’t believe he would just leave these clues behind without a calculated purpose.

These issues aside, I thought this was a good debut novel! Maniscalco has a talent for world building and character creation, even if they come up a little short in this particular novel. Based on what was said at the end of this story, I am looking forward to Audrey Rose’s next adventure.

Emily is looking forward to Mile High con.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Is NaNoWriMo Right for YOU?

This week on the podcast, I shared some pages from the one and only time I participated in NaNoWriMo. I've mentioned NaNoWriMo every year, and that's because, in large part, I don't participate. This year is no different for the same reason as every other year I've held back: I already have a project I'm working on.

What about you, though, good listeners and readers? Should YOU try NaNoWriMo this year? Well, maybe, but it depends on a few things. Let's ask a few discerning questions and find out:

1. Have you ever wanted to write a novel but never made the time (notice I don't say "have" the time, because writers MAKE time, everyone else makes EXCUSES)?

2. Are you currently looking for a project?

3. Will you EDIT it before sending it to publishers or agents?

4. Do you enjoy crippling self-doubt and a constant fear of failure?

If you answered yes to all of those, then NaNoWriMo could be right for you. But if you answered no to ANY of those questions, well, maybe November holds other options for you.

NaNoWriMo was an excellent learning experience for Giles, but he's not sure if he'll participate again since he's constantly working on projects, especially in the middle of November.

Monday, October 24, 2016

This...or That?

Yesterday at Sunday School, a six year-old taught me a good lesson. We were discussing Halloween costumes—a serious affair for children and adults alike. (I love asking first and second graders for advice. They come up with the best answers). So, I asked Clare to help me decide between two costumes: Wonder Woman or Belle. Without missing a beat, she said, “I think you need to decide for yourself.”

It wasn’t exactly the answer I was looking for.

I bounce a lot of ideas off of people. Dinner options, places to buy long jeans, ways I can actually remember to water my lawn… I like to gather survey results and research before making a final decision. My costume is for a kids’ Halloween party, so I naturally wanted to pick something they would enjoy. But Clare’s words resonated with more than my outfit options. The costume dilemma is representative of a much bigger problem in my life right now—I could go down one of ten paths, and as usual, I’ve been asking many different people what they think I should do.

Choosing your next path is both exciting and terrifying. I’m one of those people who fears making the wrong decision. Once you decide, you can’t always change your mind. I’ve been mulling over the Costume Conundrum and the Other Life Problem for several weeks now. Hearing a six year-old tell me to just make a decision for myself makes me wonder if I haven’t been taking too  long to figure things out.

It might be time to jump in head first and simply see what happens.

Oh, and…I’m going as Wonder Woman.

If it's broken, chances are that Michelle will fix it with duct tape and spray paint.

* Don’t tell anyone, but Clare's pretty much my favorite. Every time I see her, we talk about books. This week it was the Magic Tree House Series which is, we agree, THE BEST.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Backup Your Backups!

This past week, the hard drive on my laptop failed. Totally kaput, computer wouldn't boot up, gone. After the initial moment of panic, I realized that I was okay. I had backed up my data only a few days before on my external hard drive, and even more recently when it came to the writing I backup on Dropbox. Everything was safe.

This wasn't the case the first time my hard drive crashed (on a different computer), back when I was in college. I hadn't backed anything up. Ever. I was a hundred pages into the second draft of what would turn out to be my first finished novel (you know, the one I spent 8 years on). I would have lost everything, if it weren't for a data specialist who retrieved most of my word documents for a pretty sum of cash. It was awful. Worst breakdown I've ever had.

With NaNoWriMo coming up, there will be a lot of talk about backing up your work. If I remember correctly, there's an entire week dedicated to reminding you to do it, if you're part of the NaNo communities.

So, here's your early reminder to back up! And back up your backups. Keep them in multiple places, just in case. The advice I heard was at least one hard copy backup and a backup in the cloud, with potentially a second hard copy backup in a different location (you know, in case of fire or something). Multiple backups and archives will only help make sure your work stays safe and accessible. Make sure you back up frequently, too. At least once every other week or so, preferably more often. The more often you back up you work, the less data you'll lose in the event of a crash or other awful thing.

Take from me: there's nothing quite so relieving as knowing the latest draft of your story is safe and sound.

Emer is still breathing a sigh of relief over the fact that her stories are safe. She's also celebrating the fact that the kickstarter for the anthology she has a story in is almost funded! Throw money at it and enjoy her story "Glitter Bomb," plus twelve others.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

And now for something completely different!

So, I don’t have a review for you this week. Why? Because the creepy book I was hoping for at the end of last week’s review just showed up on Tuesday. While I am a pretty fast reader, I’m not a speed reader by any means. Also, I’m kind of weird. I like to read books slowly and actually enjoy the story.

So, instead of a review, I thought I would share a portion of my TBR (to be read) list. Most everyone I know has a TBR list and they can be rather daunting. In fact, the other day I saw an online calculator that will tell you exactly how long it will take you to finish your list. Apparently, it’s going to take me a very long time. 

My list is a collection of books that have been recommended to me by friends, or it could be by an author that I already enjoy, or it may just have a pretty cover. (Yes, I can be that person. Sorry, not sorry.) Above all, does the book blurb pique my curiosity? 

So, without further ado, here is my illustrious TBR list, and why the book made it onto the list! (Disclaimer: This list is in no particular order. In fact, I have purposefully placed it in alphabetical order just for my own sanity.)

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray - There’s a girl in a corset on the cover and the blurb intrigued me.

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery - My mommy said I should read it. I listen to my mommy.

Arabella of Mars by David D. Levine - Space, automatons, and London. Enough said. 

A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir - I really liked An Ember in the Ashes. I’m hoping the sequel will be just as good.

The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde - I LOVE Jasper Fforde’s writing. One of my all time favorite book is The Eyre Affair.

The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey - I really enjoyed The 5th Wave and I’m starting to be a braver reader. We’ll see how this one goes.

Newt’s Emerald by Garth Nix - This one came recommended by a friend at work. I read Shade’s Children a long time ago and remember liking it.

Persuasion by Jane Austen - As much as I love Pride and Prejudice, you’d think I would have read all of Austen’s other works. I haven’t. Must rectify this mistake.

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater - Michelle said so.

Ridiculous by D.L. Carter - Gail Carriger recommended this one on her blog a while back. I like the idea of a Regency era comedy.

Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco - When James Patterson starts his own publishing imprint and chooses this book as his first, my ears tend to perk up. When the main character is going against societal norms to become a forensic scientist in Victorian England? Even better.

So, hurray for TBR lists! Bring on more books!

Emily is currently reading Stalking Jack the Ripper. She’ll have a review of it for you next week. Did anyone play the Beyond the Trope drinking game while reading this review? If you’re not sure how to play, keep your ears open in the next few weeks for the rules!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


We've talked with Thomas A. Fowler before about branding, and it's something I've been keeping in mind pretty much since we recorded that first episode. If you listened to this week's episode, you'll know that author brands is something Thomas is passionate about. And personally, I'm passionate about it, too.

Recently, I got asked to help some friends come up with ideas for their own podcast (totally different from Beyond the Trope). The biggest point I hammered home to them (two separate groups) is that the brand needs to be consistent. The group I helped that's composed of professional writers, I reminded them, too, that this will become an extension to their brand. No matter what they do in their professional capacity, it will either mesh with what they've created up to this point, or it will diverge from their brand and dilute it, which isn't always good.

It's something I keep in mind, too, when I'm considering which cons to go to, what panels I sit in on (volunteer for), whether or not I want to approach another podcast to be a guest (for example, I won't go on political podcasts, regardless of their ideology because my brand is a-political).

There's a lot more to branding than just those small considerations, but that's why everyone should go check out Thomas A. Fowler's book. Then start applying those principles.

Giles is still considering his branding, but there are some things already set in stone, like this blog and podcast.

Friday, October 14, 2016


No, Beyond the Trope is not currently running a kickstarter. But I'm part of one!

On a couple episodes over the past year, I've mentioned by short story "Glitter Bomb." It's a fun comedy about a super villainess trying to take over a city and finding out her arch nemesis is someone unexpected.

The anthology it's in, Dangerous Women, is currently running a kickstarter campaign. We're almost at $5,000 (of a $7,500 goal), after launching last Saturday. The money will go toward printing and shipping costs for the anthology.

Our first stretch goal after we make the basic printing goal is to pay us authors more. So throw your money at us! Support Beyond the Trope by supporting my story in the anthology! Make sure I can keep affording to bring cheddar bunnies to recording! And get thirteen stories about queer lady super villains in the exchange. Or every book/comic still in print by Northwest Press. You know, because you need more comics and books in your life.

If you don't want to donate money, at least watch the video to see my dorky face in action. And let all your friends know. Word of mouth is super helpful. That's how we've survived as a podcast--all you amazing listeners!

Emer is super excited to actually see her short story in print. It's a great one. Not that she's biased or anything.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Book Review: Poisoned Blade by Kate Elliott

A while back, Gail Carriger recommended Court of Fives on her blog as a must read. I was looking for a new book at the time, so I checked it out from the library and read it over the course of two evenings. After I was done, I told everyone I knew about it, including Michelle. She said it was ridiculously good and she hated me because it ended on a cliffhanger. Ha! Kate Elliott’s Poisoned Blade was released back in August and is the second book in the Court of Fives series. So, why am I reviewing the second book in a series when I never reviewed the first? Because this is one of those rare occasions where you can pick up the second book and settle comfortably into Jessamy’s world without necessarily having to read the first book.

Before we begin, a little backstory: In the first book, Court of Fives, we find out that Jessamy is born into a family that, according to her society, is not allowed. Her father is a Patron, a member of the ruling class, and her mother is a Commoner, a member of the lowest class. Technically, their marriage is not legal because of their societal divide, and unfortunately for Jessamy, she is subject to the rules and expectations of both classes. One of the activities she is not allowed to participate in is the Fives, an athletic competition that pits Adversary against Adversary for the entertainment of both Patrons and Commoners alike. Jessamy rebels against the expectations of her family and participates in the Fives without their knowledge. Jessamy is incredibly successful in her Fives pursuits, and at the end of the novel, she is elevated to the next rank of Adversary, a feat that has rarely been seen.

In Poisoned Blade, Jessamy’s story forges ahead as she must continue to compete in the Fives to protect her family. Jessamy takes the chance to travel around her world and finds herself in the beginnings of a civil war that will change both her life and her world forever.

It had been over a year since I had finished Court of Fives, and I was nervous that I wasn’t going to remember the details of the last novel. Lucky for me, the author drops hints throughout the first three chapters of Poisoned Blade to remind the reader of what happened in the lengthy climax of the last book.

I continued to like Jessamy throughout this sequel. She is one of those characters who seems almost superhuman. She’s an amazing athlete, brave, and a good friend to the other competitors in the Fives. What I loved about her character more is that her weakness is her family. She’s willing to do anything to save them. I also liked that Elliott continued her building of Jessamy’s world. The traditions, beliefs, religions, and class systems seem like they could exist anywhere. Her characters are forced to struggle with a multitude of injustices, including racism, classism, and barbaric religious traditions. I was impressed that Elliott was able to weave these topics into Jessamy’s world without the reader feeling like they were being beaten over the head with a message that pulls them out of the story. Finally, I loved the ending. Not everything is wrapped up in a pretty bow, but it provides enough closure for the reader to hold out until the next book.

There’s only one thing I didn’t like about Poisoned Blade. When I was reading Court of Fives, I found myself so sucked into Jessamy’s story that I would actually have audible reactions. I believe phrases like, “Oh, that’s just messed up!” and “You have got to be kidding me…” actually made their way out of my mouth. That didn’t happen in the sequel. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed it, but it didn’t give me quite the emotional reaction that the first novel did.

It’s going to be a while before the third book in the Court of Fives series is released, but I am looking forward to seeing how Jessamy is going to survive the inevitable civil war that is coming. Good luck, Jessamy. I’m rooting for you.

Emily is impatiently waiting for two books to come in at the library. One is a comedy and the other is another creepy mystery. It's a race to see which comes in first! (She's secretly hoping the creepy one makes it...)

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Activities to Relax

Jumping into the discussion of relaxing on the blog this week (and no spoilers, but we're releasing a "self care" episode in the near-ish future, so keep an ear out for that), I figured I would share some of what I do to chill out when I need to destress.

First, I've been watching a LOT of Supernatural with my wife. We never watched the show when it first aired, and it's been on Netflix for quite a while, now (can't remember when, exactly, it got added). But we never sat down to watch it. You see, neither of us are really horror fans. But my wife watched one episode, and I caught the tale end of it and though, "Hey, this could be a fun show." Then we started watching it. And kept watching. Now we're almost done with season 5 and excited to keep going!

Second, I still play video games. Fallout 4 is pretty much consuming all of my gaming focus when I'm not playing a game for review. I got all of the trophies for Fallout: New Vegas, and I want to try to do the same thing with Fallout 4, which means I have to do at LEAST four play-throughs. Having accomplished two of them, I'm now a few levels into play-through number three. And, of course, I downloaded Star Trek Online for the PS4 and plan to jump on there at some point (played on my Mac for a while, then stepped away when new games caught my attention). Then, in November, I'm hoping to get Dishonored 2. I loved, loved, LOVED the first one and have played through it so many times, I can't even keep track. It's a blast and sucks me in EVERY DANG TIME! High hopes for that game.

Third, podcast listening. I have several non-writing podcasts that I listen to and enjoy, and I keep those on my playlist because, with all the stress involved with putting myself out there, I need something to engage in that doesn't remind me how hard writing can be.

What do YOU do to relax?

Giles is writing and reading quite a bit, too, though not as much as he'd like/should. Still, relaxing and getting into the creation groove is a central focus. As it should be.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Stay Sane With Crafts!

Some of you may have noticed that I haven’t been around much lately. I’ve been caught between a really amazing thing--one of my best friends got married yesterday--and an incredibly sh$#!y thing--earlier last week, my company announced that they’re moving our offices to a skyscraper in Chicago*.

I’m not usually the one to write about self-care—especially since my advice is normally, “Go work out, and then get back to being productive.” But this time around, I’d like to share something that has helped keep me sane over the years: designing flowers.

I got to make all the boutonnieres for the wedding yesterday. Most of the men couldn’t have cared less about them, but it’s a simple way to tie everyone together. It’s not something many people know how to do. I love crafting things like this—not only do I get to be creative and take my mind off of some of the craziness in my life, I get to give the finished product as a gift. It’s win-win.

Here’s the collection of boutonnieres I made for yesterday’s marriage celebration, plus a quick description of what went into them:

Real calla lilies are dang expensive and fragile. These deep purple ones are 100% fake, but look real (seriously, you have to touch them to believe they're fake). The fathers got Dusty Miller (aka senecio cineraria) and Berries, and the pastors got Dusty Miller and Naked Eucalyptus. 

The ring bearers were both under the age of 4, so I made their boutonnieres out of a Spray Rose bud, a tiny leaf of Dusty Miller, and a little sprig of Naked Eucalyptus. The whole thing was barely two inches tall and the cutest ever. The ushers got a sprig of Myrtle, Berries, and fake Succulents.

Disclaimer: these were the first corsages I ever made that I actually liked. I'm much more comfortable with boutonniers, but I'm happy with how this mix of Spray Rose, fake Succulent, and Naked Eucalyptus turned out. 

The groomsmen were wearing shirts and suspenders with no jackets, so I needed to make something lightweight for them, but the groom was going to have a jacket on, so it didn't matter if his was a bit bulkier. They all had Cedar, Dusty Miller, fake Succulents, and Berries. I added a little twist to the bottom of the groom's boutonniere to add a little flair. 

Here's the final collection (minus the corsages and the groom's boutonniere) in all its glory:

Your artist for the day has been Michelle. She has no idea what kind of Day Job she wants to do next. Copywriting? Floral design? Teaching? Something totally new and different??? Who knows?

*No, I’m not moving to Chicago. Ha. I’ve never even been there! Maybe if they were moving to Paris…

Friday, October 7, 2016

Lyrical Power

I know Michelle has talked about using music for her stories before, but now I'm going to tackle the subject! Because I'm totally listening to the soundtrack I've made for my novel in progress at work today and marveling at how wonderfully Lindsey Stirling's rendition of the Pokémon theme song fits the ridiculousness I'm trying to hit in this book. Don't tell anyone.

Music is a powerful thing. And I'm not just talking movie soundtracks helping to create a specific mood.

Most of my current book soundtrack is songs with lyrics (with a few exceptions). There's something bizarrely satisfying about finding a song with lyrics that make you think immediately about a character or plot point. especially if it comes from a super unexpected source (like, say, a Broadway musical). It's been pretty entertaining listening to Pandora or the radio and having to scramble to find a song title and artist because the lyrics are just so dang perfect.

Song about playing Dungeons and Dragons and splitting the party? Totally for both the characters who play D&D and for their magical group in general.

Song about someone with the same name as the love interest? Totally going in.

Song about Captain America? Perfect for my character's BFF, who has been described as Steve Rogers multiple times by the Marvel-obsessed protagonist (what? Of course she's not based on me at all. Why would you think that?).

A lot of writers talk about using instrumental songs to help them get into the mood for a scene, but I think lyrical songs can be just as useful. Just be careful if you're the kind of person who gets caught up in the song while writing. No one wants to read someone else's song lyrics instead of your writing!

What songs do you use to describe your characters or get into the writing mood? I'm always looking for more music!

Emer is totally in love with music, and not just because she gets to sing along. She's also gearing up for the kickstarter for the anthology her new short story, "Glitter Bomb" will be published in. Check our feed for more information soon!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Book Review: Nightmares Unhinged edited by Joshua Viola

Let me make one thing very clear: I’m not a horror kind of person. I’m the girl who jumps at the slightest noise and cried the first time Giles accidentally snuck up on me in our new house. For some crazy reason, Giles and I started binge watching Supernatural on Netflix about a month ago, and for some crazier reason, I really got sucked into it. Then, Giles brought home a copy of Nightmares Unhinged, a horror anthology. It sat on our table for a few days, staring at me. (Literally. It has a creepy skull on the cover!) I decided to be brave and I read the first story. In broad daylight, under a fuzzy blanket, with a cup of tea, and the cat on my lap. After the first story, I couldn’t...stop...reading...

Nightmares Unhinged is a collection of twenty short horror stories that run anywhere from slightly creepy to downright gruesome. There were stories that were funny (that was a happy surprise), twisty (uh...what just happened?!), and even one that took place on another planet. Those of you who listen to the Beyond the Trope podcast will recognize a few of the contributing authors: Aaron Michael Ritchey, Warren Hammond, and the editor, Joshua Viola (coming soon!). I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but I really liked these stories!

I loved the variety of stories that Viola pulled together. The first story was a classic monster tale, the second, a story that left me laughing, and the third could have been another story in the life of the narrator from Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven. From there, I read stories that could have come straight from a summer horror flick, one about a seriously sketchy librarian, and another that made me physically sick to my stomach. If that isn’t enough variety, I don’t know what would be.

In the same vein, I liked that each story wasn’t dripping in gore, nor were they too much alike. In the forward and introduction of the anthology, Steve Alten and Joshua Viola made it clear that the anthology was a collection of stories that would give someone a nightmare at some point. I think they accomplished their goal. For example, there was one story I just simply didn’t get, but I’m sure it would creep the heck out of someone else. And the story Needles by Viola and Dean Wyant would have given me nightmares, if I hadn’t shut the book and read a few fairy tales before I turned out the light. Seriously guys...*shudder*

Finally, I enjoyed reading stories by friends of ours that were different from their other works. Aaron Michael Ritchey’s story Deep Woods left me seriously disturbed, and Warren Hammond’s Delicioso was so different from anything I’ve read of his, it made me wonder what dark, nasty little corner of his brain that one came from.

Before I read Nightmares Unhinged, the only other horror story I had read was Stephen King’s The Shining. And that was only because I “had” to when my friends in high school discovered my dad’s name is also Steven King. For a horror novice, this was a great reintroduction to the horror genre. Well done, ladies and gentlemen. I’m looking forward to the next one. 

Emily is kind of happy that she can put this book on the shelf so the skull on the cover will stop staring at her. She’s looking forward to Hex Publishers’ new anthology, CyberWorld, which is due out on November 10, 2016. Emily’s going to go read something happy now.