I’m incredibly please to announce my Australian creature feature story “Above the Peppermint Trail” has been sold to Fox Spirit Books for their forthcoming anthology, Pacific Monsters.

The Fox Spirit Books of Monsters series, include several other anthologies already: African Monsters, European Monsters and Asian Monsters.  They’ve included stories from some of the best in speculative fiction, including:  Ken Liu, Nnedi Okorafor, Adrian Tchiakovski, Aliette De Boddard, Nerine Dorman, Sarah Lotz, Xia Jia, Usman Tanvir Malik, Isabel Yap, Eve Shi, and Jonathan Grimwood, to name a few.

The anthologies are coffee table style books which include a ton of fantastic artwork by a number of authors.

Check out this panorama of the three previous FS Book of Monsters anthology covers by the fantastic Daniele Serra:

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Fox Spirit have just released the Table of Contents for the anthology:

  • Tina Makereti: ‘Monster’
  • AJ Fitzwater: ‘From the Womb of the Land, Our Bones Entwined’
  • Rue Karney: ‘The Hand Walker’
  • Michael Grey: ‘Grind’
  • Octavia Cade and Dave Johnson (art) : ‘Dinornis’
  • Raymond Gates: ‘The Legend of Georgie’
  • Jeremy Szal: ‘The Weight of Silence’
  • Simon Dewar: ‘Above the Peppermint Trail’
  • Iona Winter: ‘Ink’
  • Bryan Kamaoli Kuwada: ‘All My Relations’
  • Tihema Baker: ‘Children of the Mist’
  • Kirstie Olley: ‘Mudgerwokee’
  • Michael Lujan Bevacqua and Dave Johnson (art) : ‘I Sindålu’
  • AC Buchanan: ‘Into the Sickly Light’

The book will have illustrations by Laya Rose, Lahela Schoessler, Kieran Walsh and Eugene Smith.

Check out othe Fox Spirit titles on their website:

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Pleased to announce I have a  release by Pint Bottle Press as part of their Double Barrel Horror line up.  The chapbook contains my stories ‘Black Rock Boys‘ and ‘The Perfect Figure-Eight‘.  It’s available on Amazon. I love the camp-as-fuck pulpy clip art-style cover!

Black Rock Boys is a bit of weird-maybe-cosmic-horror story about a boy who finds help when he’s on the run from his girlfriends vengeful brother.

The Perfect Figure-Eight is literary-horror-but-maybe-also-magic-realism, about teen love, and racing, and the cycle of pain and violence that swathes through our lives and off into the lives of others.

Very much enjoying what Pint Bottle Press is doing. Like a novella, the chapbook format gives readers an introduction to an author without them having to commit to a full novel. And a 99c, you cant go wrong.

These stories will also be collected in the forthcoming paperback anthology edited by Matthew Weber, Double Barrel Horror Vol. 2, also from Pint Bottle Press. They’ll feature alongside double shots of horror and dark fiction from the likes of John Boden, Patrick Freivald, Chad Lutzke, Karen Runge and M.B. Vujacic

 

 

Hi Everybody!

I’m editing a novel Fall to Rise for Dark Recesses Press, by an author called Lucas Pederson. DRP intends to release the guys book at the Scares That Care Weekend,July 21-23, 2017 DOUBLETREE BY HILTON WILLIAMSBURG, VA . That, in and of itself isnt really unusual, however, for Lucas it’s a bit personal.

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Lucas Pederson

Lucas’ mother has developed Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis which is this incurable neurological disease which in the end stops your breathing and kills you. So going to Scares That Care Weekend would be a really big deal for him.

Lucas mum

Lucas’ mum

Lucas has created a gofundme campaign to raise some money to assist Lucas to attend his own book launch, but also to put some funds towards supporting his mother’s medical bills and, with luck, the Scares that Care charity.  Click the go fund me logo below to go to Lucas’ campaign page and please consider donating to support Lucas and his mum.

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Scares That Care is a fully above board 501(C)3 registered charity, and I encourage you to find out more about them by clicking this banner:

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Please Share and Reblog this to spread the word!

Thanks,

Simon Dewar

 

Hacked

Posted: March 3, 2017 in Uncategorized

Dear all,

I have reason to suspect that  I have recently been hacked.  I’ve taken necessary steps to secure my computer and accounts. If you get any strange messages or emails, let me know please.

Simon

drp

Dark Recesses Press

Hi everyone,

I’m pleased to announce my new role as Executive Editor for Dark Recesses Press, owned and run by publisher Bailey Hunter.

DRP has brought me on board to help with a little bit of everything, and I’m looking forward to the challenge.  There are some upcoming projects at DRP that I’m very excited about, and which I plan to be up to my elbows in.  Keep your eyes peeled for forthcoming DRP news!

http://darkrecessespress.com/2017/02/welcome_simon_dewar/

Thanks,

Simon

 

I just sent this to Books of the Dead Press via email and will be sending it to their last-known mailing address via registered mail.  I have also decided to post this here to ensure that the message is recieved.

—–

Dear Roy,

I’m writing to you to express my sheer frustration and bewilderment at the lack of communication over the last few months.  I’ve tried contacting you several times and have not received any response to my attempts at contact since October 1.

 I signed Suspended in Dusk 2 with you on September 12, 2015.  On July 4, I gave you a fully-edited, triple proofread manuscript of an anthology featuring stories from some of the best names in the business.  You told me that the book would be released “in a couple of months”.  On October 1 2016, you told me the book would not be released until Q1 2017. The author contracts have now expired  and publication of Suspended in Dusk 2 with Books of the Dead is no longer feasible.  The headlining authors such as Stephen Graham Jones and Damien Angelica Walters have resold their work elsewhere and they would not re-sign with Books of the Dead Press given a year has gone by and the anthology was never published. This hasn’t just tarnished your reputation, it has tarnished my reputation and credibility as a professional editor to some of the best names in the horror fiction business.  I have already emailed you about this, and it is coming up to 3 months since your last email to me.
To make matters worse, your website has disappeared too and I’ve been fielding emails from the writers published by BOTD who are trying to work out if BOTD even exists anymore and what is happening with their books which they’re not getting royalties for  but which are still being sold on Amazon etc.  

In addition to the failure of Suspended in Dusk 2, each royalty payment I’ve received from Books of the Dead for Suspended in Dusk has been progressively closer to the “no later than 160 days from the end of the period” stipulated in my contract.  It has now been 168 days since the end of Q2 and I still have not received payment, as per the aforementioned paragraph of the contract.

I have lost faith in Books of the Dead Press to adhere to and fulfil the contract for Suspended in Dusk 1 and the contract for Suspended in Dusk 2 has been made completely redundant by the lack of communication and action from yourself which has resulted in the lapse of all the author contracts and the sale of their fiction to other markets. The virtual disappearance of your presence in social media, the disappearance of your website and the disappearance of royalty payments within the contractually agreed time period leaves me no choice as to my actions. I regret to say that I am—without delay and on the basis of there being no “notice of default and right to cure” clause in the contract requiring me to grant you time to correct this—reclaiming my rights to both Suspended in Dusk 1 and 2.  I will be requesting that Amazon remove Suspended in Dusk from their site and I will send you this as a letter via registered mail to the one address that ANY of the books of the dead authors have for you:

 

Books of the Dead

c/o James Roy Daley

742 Pascoe Crt.,

Oshawa, On,

Canada, L1K 1S9

 

I will also put the contents of this letter of this letter on my blog, in the hope that you have received this message. 

I don’t know why you’ve disappeared. Maybe you’ve had some life or health problem that you needed to take care of. It happens to all of us and I genuinely hope you’re well—but I can’t do business with you and I need to take my work to someone who is visible, communicative, is paying as per my contract and who actually has their hand on the tiller.

Sorry it had to be this way,

 

Simon Dewar

 

very+cold+woman+walking

I’m walking to work, freezing my ass off in the morning chill, flicking through Facebook on my phone and thinking “Why horror?”. Ahead of me, pedestrians gather at the crossing—pre-morning-coffee men standing sullen in their suits and long trench coats; Women, slightly more composed in their lacquered nails and corporate war paint, leather knee-high boots and long, quilted coats.

This is not exactly unusual; I examine the “Why Horror” question on a semi-regular basis, despite thinking I have my answers down. This morning is a little different, however. I don’t pull out the usual trite “We read/write horror because it helps us to deal with the horrors of the real world” bollocks, which, although true enough, seems played out and tired. I don’t roll with the “We just like to scare ourselves. Us human beings get a real kick out of it” business, despite rightly enjoying the cheap thrill of controlled frisson as much as (or more than) the next person. It’s the loss of warmth in my phone hand as the circa 0-degree Celsius weather saps what little warmth is left from my poorly-circulated arthritic claw that causes my epiphany.

Horror fiction is not only about loss; ultimately, it’s about love.

Whut? I know, I know—allow me to join my nonsense-dots for you.

Let’s assume literature (or all art really), is—on some level—an attempt by humankind to explain, rationalise or comment on the world around us, or to an attempt to evoke or recreate emotion. We see this struggle for realisation and understanding it in the basic mythologies and creation myths. We see it in religious texts. We see it in the the works of philosophers and the socio-political commentary of books like 1984, Animal Farm, and Catch 22. We see it manifest in the commentary (feminist literary criticism, formalism, moral criticism, etc) and analysis of literature (What did the author mean when they said such and such? And even the legacy authors has left the world today…see: Lovecraft, Shakespeare, Rumi, et al). We see our emotions evoked via rousing tales of comedy, valour, drama, terror and love. Through this w of this we, as readers, come to know ourselves, our fellow humans and the world around us.

To be honest, on this frigid morning, hundreds of bleak Soviet-seeming metres away from my heated office, I’m a pretty selfish guy. I couldn’t care less how literature has performed that function historically, or how it does it today. Remember—It’s Monday morning, pre-9am. I’m pre-coffee, and I’m freezing my balls off in the fog by the traffic lights; this is all about me, mate. So “how does literature ‘do it’ for me?” I wonder as my bony blue-ing claw clamps rheumatically around my Motorola.

While there’s no hard and fast rules in the world of writing (indeed, perhaps the very best literature smashes, or at least subverts, the rules), it’s always seemed to me that certain genres of literature seemed to be purpose-built for certain things. Where literary fiction might be best suited to answering (or at least asking) timeless questions of life, and the human condition—science fiction seems geared to dealing with issues of morality, ethics surrounding societies and their development and implementation of technologies. And how it may all fit together (or fall apart!) sometime into the future. Fantasy, on the other hand, gives us the ‘Hero’s Journey’, riffs on good versus evil, allows us to imagine changing of the world for the better, and perhaps even allows us to indulge our complex modern thinking in a simple pre-modern setting (credit to Nick Mamatas for that last poignant observation). These are all important genres that often ask important questions or deal with important issues. Exciting and fun genres, even. But there’s something about them that, to me personally, seems so separate from my condition. At a basic level, something about them fails to speak to me-as-human-being, in a particularly profound way.

It’s 2016. Maybe it’s the Prozac. Maybe it’s because I deal with complex technology all day in my day job and secretly harbour an Anarcho-Luddite fantasy of the nuclear bombs going off and a return to much simpler times. Maybe it’s because I’m locked into the same 24/7 news cycle hamster wheel we all are and am heartily repulsed and disillusioned by all aspects of the greater human condition. Maybe it’s simply because I’m older now and have slipped so far into nihilistic cynicism that I can’t appreciate the wide-eyed wonder of fantasy anymore, and disbelieve in the possibility of individuals creating profound change. Frankly, as often as I do, I don’t really connect with this subject matter and find the themes tedious. I don’t care to ask l questions about the fundamental truths of the human condition. I couldn’t care less about the imaginings of future technology and how it may impact society. Who cares if the hero has a journey, or if he even arrives at his destination? Most of the time, I just want to feel something. Anything.

Back at the pedestrian crossing, the little green man signal springs to life. There is a brief moment where there my fellow pedestrians remain frozen in hesitation, not trusting their eyes that it’s truly safe to step onto the asphalt. I shove the icicle on the end of my arm into my coat pocket. I don’t need the phone anymore, I have the bit in my teeth. I’m onto something here. I step onto the road.

Jack Ketchum once related that a fan thought his writing was really all about loss. Having read most of Jack’s work, I think that reader was right. Having said that, I’d go a step further and say it’s not only true of Jack’s work, it’s true of all horror fiction. So how have I made that leap? Well, to understand that we need to discuss fear. After all, horror fiction is that which deals with the emotion fear in its various forms.

Fear (and its most extreme form, terror) is the oldest emotion. With fear comes that animalistic fight-or-flight defence mechanism, an aspect of our existence that’s survived countless aeons, the selection and mutations of evolution, and man’s descent from the canopies and ascent into consciousness. As the oldest emotion (and probably most important, I think), we as humans are ruled by it. It’s central to our existence and who we are. It governs all our most important decisions and actions. And fear? Fear thrives on loss. I’d go so far as to say that if you think about it the right way,  almost everything we fear is actually a fear of losing something.

Let’s take your employment, as a case study and we’ll ‘what if’ it to the nth degree. None of us want to lose our job, even the mere thought of it causes most of us anxiety or true panic. What happens if you lose your job? In the worst case scenario, you lose your financial stability. You lose your ability to buy food. You lose your ability to pay your rent or mortgage. You lose your ability to provide for your dependents. You might lose your spouse and your kids. You lose your ability to sustain your hygiene and health. Hells bells, my pulse quickens a little just entertaining the thought of any of that stuff.

Now let me refer you back to that initial bizarre comment about horror being somehow about love. If we fear to lose something—if the thought of its loss or its destruction, is so horrifying to us— it’s usually because we actually love that thing. We love the challenge and the reward of gainful employment. We love the stability and security it brings. We love full bellies and the warmth and comfort clothes over our back and a roof over our head. We love our spouses and children and our ability to provide for them. We love our vitality, good health and happiness. This is all as true for me in 2016 as it would’ve been for a me in 3000BC. Or 10,000BC.

At this point, I’m halfway across that road, breath steaming in the morning air. I’m beginning to feel some tingles of life in my phone hand again, but you heard me say ‘Horror is Love’ and I can hear y’all revving your engines, ready to run me over, little green man be damned!

Upon reflection, this might just be the truest, most-distilled reason why I read and write horror fiction. By the mere virtue of what it is, it’s just so damn emotionally honest. It’s the literature of love and loss. It speaks to me, like no other fiction does, on a truly animalistic level and in a wholly intuitive way that I don’t need to overly rationalise. My inner fucking caveman understands what’s going on here! Don’t get me wrong, I can appreciate and enjoy the over-arching tale the author is telling, even the cautionary tale or social criticism they’re exploring—but beyond and deeper than that, on a fundamentally primordial level, as a motherfucking biological being, I can relate to horror fiction. No other genre gives me this visceral response, which harkens back to my most basic involuntary reptilian psychological and physiological functions. No other form of literature seems such an honest expression of what it means to be human or to be alive. No other genre understands me as a biological being that is trying to survive this inexorable series of harrowing moments between birth and death. I’m not even joking when I say—truly understanding fear, understanding horror, is in my (all of ours, really) DNA.

The little green man becomes a little red man as I step onto the kerb. The sullen men and well-manicured and composed women hurry away to their workplaces like good corporate denizens, anticipatory frowns creasing their brows. I smile because I understand now, and I appreciate the honesty.

Love and loss—that’s horror.

That’s life.

Hey folks,

Just dropping by to mention that the Morbid Metamorphosis anthology from Lycan Valley Press is now available on Amazon and Smashwords.

The anthology features 22 stories from some fantastic authors, including my story “Little Spark of Madness”.  My story  was inspired by the late Robin Williams. It explores the idea of “the creative spark” that drives us: do we just discover it? Is it given to us or bequeathed to us? And what happens when/if we lose it?

See below for cover, table of contents and links to buy it.

Mobridmeta

Table of Contents:

  1. Become Him by Greg Chapman
  2. Joey’s Grove by Roy C. Booth & R. Thomas Riley
  3. The Skelly Effect by Terri Delcampo
  4. Keep the Change by David Gammon
  5. …And Thou! by Nancy Kilpatrick
  6. Crowded by Rod Marsden
  7. You Are What You Eat by Jo-Anne Russell
  8. Spirit Walk on Sour Ground by MJ Preseton
  9. The Lake by Stacey Turner
  10. The Death Vaccination by Tina Piney
  11. The Moonlight Killer by Suzanne Robb
  12. Pickin’ to Beat the Devil by Franklin E. Wales
  13. The Catamount by Donna Marie West
  14. Vile Deeds by Suzie Lockhart
  15. The Corkscrew and the Void by Cameron Trost
  16. Paper Trail by Daniel I. Russell
  17. Little spark of Madness by Simon Dewar
  18. Under the Weight of Souls by Amanda J. Spedding
  19. Danger’s Balls by Ken MacGregor
  20. Ezzie Does It by Erin Shaw
  21. Febrile by Gregory L. Norris
  22. Hyde and Seek by Nickolas Furr

Go here to buy:

Morbid Metamorphpsis – Amazon Ebook Edition

Morbid Metamoprhisis – Print Edition (Amazon)

Morbid Metamorphosis – Smashwords Ebook Edition

Front_End_Loader

One trick for starting a short story is the trick of front-loading, so that the overarching fantastic element, source of melodrama, or underlying theme or emotion, is presented to the reader immediately or shortly after the story commences. This technique is often useful because within the first few lines or paragraphs of your story, the author still has the readers’ complete trust. The reader has not had a chance for doubt to creep in and impinge upon their suspension of disbelief. In short:  At this point, they’re still open to buying what you’re selling.

Now before we go any further I should probably point out that this is just one technique which can be used effectively when commencing a short story. It is not the be-all-end-all of how to start a story. There is no single one right way. To quote Nick Mamatas once more from his fantastic collection of essays, Starve Better:

Write what you want, when you want, and how you want to write it. If you keep finding yourself staring up at the lights while the ref counts to three, try another strategy. There are plenty to choose from … whatever gets the story published and enjoyed is what works.

Getting back to the idea of front-loading: Using the term “curse” as a byword for melodrama in plot, Ansen Dibell says in her book :Elements of Fiction Writing – Plot:

There are straightforward ways of setting your curse in the middle of solidly credible things and declaring it right from the beginning. There are other methods of misdirecting attention so that the curse has already happened and been accepted before the reader has a chance to holler, “Hey, now, wait a minute!”

I’ll start with the front-loading ways first—putting the unusual right up front and making it part of the story’s fundamental reality.” (Simon: Emphasis mine)

Ansen then goes on to list a number of ways to do this, and gives examples of:  the protagonist in Kafka’s Metamorphosis awaking and realising he is an insect, the opening scene of Star Wars: A New Hope being laser fire between spaceships, and the vampire talking into the tape recorder at the start interview with a vampire.  (Note:  Ansen’s book is a great book, buy this book.)

Kristi DeMeester, author of Split Tongues, whose short fiction you can find at places like Black Static Magazine, Shimmer zine, and Shock Totem Magazine, says:

“That great short story idea you had? Put it up front. Make it your lead. If your story is about a woman birthing plastic dolls who is then deemed the new Madonna/Mother Mary, start there with the shiny, plastic birth.”

And what a start to a story that would be! In fact, I want to read that story. (Kristi, fill your boots!)

Joe Hill, author of novels such as The Fireman, Heart Shaped Box, NOS4A2, and fantastic short story collections such as 20th Century Ghosts, says on his blog Joe Hill’s Thrills:

“Readers are inclined to just go with you at the very beginning of a story, which is why it’s the best place to drop a whopper on them. I began my short story “Pop Art” like this:

My best friend when I was twelve was inflatable.

The reader’s response? Oh, okay, Joey! Inflatable friend. Got it.

Also: think about if you saw a U.F.O. or a ghost. If you were telling a friend about it, you’d probably drop that shit on them right away: Dude, I was driving back from work last night and I saw a fuckin’ U.F.O. And it landed! And a ghost got out of it!!

You wouldn’t tell him about the business account you lost during the day, the conversation you had with your Mom that made you angry, and the nap you took under your desk. You wouldn’t even *think* of telling him about that stuff, not at first. YOU SAW A U.F.O., DUDE. Start with that part. Don’t be afraid to be amazing right from the beginning.”

Often this kind of declaration of intent that a writer makes, is actually a method of introducing that The Event as well (Refer to Part 1 of this series for more on that)

The following except is from the beginning of Angela Slatter’s British Fantasy Award winning story, The Coffin-Maker’s Daughter and I think it makes a fantastic case study of several cool techniques, including front-loading:

The door is a rich red wood, heavily carved with improving scenes from the trials of Job. An angel’s head, cast in brass, serves as the knocker and when I let it go to rest back in its groove, the eyes fly open, indignant, and watch me with suspicion. Behind me is the tangle of garden—cataracts of flowering vines, lovers’ nooks, secluded reading benches—that gives this house its affluent privacy.

The dead man’s daughter opens the door.

She is pink and peach and creamy. I want to lick at her skin and see if she tastes the way she looks.

“Hepsibah Ballantyne! Slattern! Concentrate, this is business.” My father slaps at me, much as he did in life. Nowadays his fists pass through me, causing nothing more than a sense of cold ebbing in my veins. I do not miss the bruises.

In this scene, Angela does a number of cool things:

  1. The arrival at the house of the dead man is The Event. The house, more specifically who lives there and the business the protagonist Hepsibah has there, is central to the entire story. So her rocking up on site really is the beginning of the story here.
  2. By describing the door and the knocker she impresses upon the reader the importance of what is behind the door and instils a sense of trepidation. What horrors lurk behind this portal?? Perhaps also mixed with wonder or intrigue, as the description of the plush garden and reading nooks, and the general affluence of the house is raises questions. Who lives here??
  3. Then the dead man’s daughter opens the door, leaving us thinking “Who died? And what importance does their death (and perhaps death generally!) have to this story?” Additionally, the contrast of the pale, peachy, lickable maiden who answers the door versus the suspenseful description of the door from the preceding paragraph and the horrors it implied,  is masterful.
  4. And finally, and most crucially as far as this post goes, she front-loads that fantastic—she reveals Hepsibah’s dead ghostly father is beside her berating and beating her “as much as he did in life”.

Within 4 short paragraphs, I’m anticipatory; I’m intrigued and tantalised; I’m not even blinking my eye when she’s telling me there is horrid ghostly fathers that follow around their children cursing them. Hell, I’m buying what Angela is selling, folks!

Alternatively, rather than front-loading the element of the fantastic, an author can front-load the theme of a story or the underlying emotion of a piece for incredible effect.

I’ll use the opening paragraphs (which includes one of the very best opening lines I’ve ever read) from Jack Ketchum’s novel The Girl Next Door:

You think you know about pain?

Talk to my second wife. She does. Or thinks she does.

She says that once when she was nineteen or twenty she got between a couple of cats fighting—her own cat and a neighbor’s—and one of them went at her, climbed her like a tree, tore gashes out of her thighs and breasts and belly that you can still see today, scared her so badly she fell back against her mother’s turn-of-the-century Hoosier, breaking her best ceramic pie plate and scraping sick inches of skin off her ribs while the cat made its way back down her again, all tooth and claw and spitting fury. Thirty-six stiches I think she said she got. And a fever that lasted for days.

My second wife says that’s pain.

She doesn’t know shit, that woman.

Yes, that poignant question is the opening line of a novel rather than a short story, but it illustrates the point I’m trying to make here. Straight away we know what this tale is about. We have some idea of what the subject matter is, the primary theme the novel is going to explore. When you read that opening line you immediately  question yourself, you question that knowledge you think you have about pain.  I know about pain, asshole. I think. Don’t I??

When you read the following description of the lady who got mauled be the cats, and the narrator’s assertion “My second wife says that’s pain.”, you know know this novel is going to be a treatise on or an exploration of pain. And, indeed, that’s what it is (along with an extreme social commentary on rape culture, mob mentality and many other things).

Important notes/sub-essay in the margin:

When I’m talking about front-loading, I mean front-loading the element of the fantastic or melodramatic; front-loading the theme, front-loading the central emotion of your piece etc. What I’m NOT talking about is front-loading exposition (scene, descriptions of the fucking weather or descriptions of characters) or back story.

When you start up front with backstory, you’re missing the Inciting Incident Describing back story, Donald Maass, literary agent and owner of the Maass literary agency, says in his book The Fire In Fiction:

Backstory is the bane of virtually all manuscripts. Authors imagine that readers need, even want, a certain amount of filling in. I can see why they believe that. It starts with critique groups in which writers hear comments such as, “I love this character! You need to tell me more about her!” Yes, the author does. But not right away. As they say in the theater, make ’em wait. Later in the novel backstory can become a revelation; in the first chapter it always bogs things down.

I’m telling you now folks, this is as true of the first scene of a short story as it is of a novel.

Here I’ll turn to Thomas B. Sawyer, head writer of the classic TV show Murder, She Wrote and author of Fiction writing Demystified:

Don’t front-load your exposition.

Sure, you’ve fully imagined your characters, given them complexity and dimension. You’ve created concise and solid biographies for them. You know a lot about them (though you’ll learn more as your story progresses), and you’re anxious to use it, to tell your readers about it.

Resist, with all of your strength, the temptation to squeeze all that great stuff into the first scene, into those first moments that this or that character is onstage.

Why? Because, as far as the Theory of Locomotion is concerned, exposition is dead writing. It’s not moving things forward at all. Rather, if we do what was suggested in Part 1 of this series and start with or near The Event, and then frontload our story with something appropriate, the start of your story can be a powerful and adroit delivery. On time and on point, so to speak.

Having said that you can still have a slow burn story—one that starts slow and builds up. It doesn’t have to begin with vampire fangs, ghosts, or the apocalypse. There is no requirement set in stone that one must, or necessarily should, front-load the fantastic/theme/etc. There are different horses for different courses, and there are no rules. At the end of the day, what works is what works, what gives the best effect, and what results in a fiction sale is what was appropriate.

For example, one might start near the Event, yet not really front-load anything.

In my own “Little Spark of Madness” (forthcoming 2016, Morbid Metamorphosis, Lycan Valley Press) , we can see that I open it like this:

“She wore a fluffy, pink dressing gown and a vacant stare. The lady stood outside the large red brick house at the end of the cul-de-sac, set well away from the other houses; a building cast under a shadow, as though a cloud had parked itself directly above.”

In this instance, The Event is the character Brodie is meeting the other main character, Sally,  in the story for the first time. It’s equivalent of the “Stranger comes to town” archetypal beginning. In this story, and particularly in this beginning, there are no UFOs, no ghosts or full moons, no overt element of the fantastic. There are no laser beams. What relationship or effect this lady is going to have on the protagonist is not immediately apparent. And that’s OK. What I hope the reader might be thinking at this point is:  “Who is the woman? Why is she staring vacantly? Is she sick/sad/etc?”. Perhaps they might too consider the contrast between the pink and fluffy dressing gown and the lady’s catatonic appearance.

Nick Mamatas says the following in Starve better, and I think he makes a good point here:

“Start with a hook” is bad advice, ultimately, because of the word ‘hook’. A hook is an important part of a story to be sure, and could do anywhere. It is the motor of the story—it can be the twist at the end, the broad concept, the compelling change the character undergoes, the language or clever structure of a piece…whatever makes a story worth reading is its hook. A hook may go in the beginning, but it need not. Beginnings are for something else. The start of a story, its first paragraph, should assure the reader that they are in capable hands. The beginning of the story should tantalize, not hook, the reader.

Starting with a “strong hook”, front-loading the fantastic, grabbing the reader by the balls, laser beams—is just ONE way to start a story. It is ONE technique.

Try it. Experiment with it. See when and how it works for your fiction.

AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER NOW! 

SevenSins

I was super chuffed to beta-read this collection. I am so happy this is going live.

Karen is the future of horror. Her work pulls at your heart strings while making the bile rise in the back of your throat. Buy this book.

If you don’t believe me, here’s Paul Tremblay and Stephen Graham Jones, two of the best horror writers we’ve got right now, telling you to do the same:

“I want to read this book all over again, just to see how Karen Runge does it – how she uses her prose like a razor, her insight like a probe. The story collection of the year.”
– Stephen Graham Jones

“The desire and despair of her characters is intelligently and compassionately rendered, and you’re made to feel every drop of spilled blood. A stunning debut collection.”
– Paul Tremblay

Just do it:
http://www.concordepress.com/seven-sins