Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Endings - Zombie Games

Not only is it the end of 2013, which I must say was a wonderful year, but also the end of my
 my first paranormal series, Zombie Games. These five books meant so much to me and I have to admit, I already miss the adventures. Many of the characters were derived from people close to me; the others that I created from scratch, well, they became very real and special as well. Their voices would fill my head and I'd just type, wondering where they'd take me. Did I know where I was going with the series? Not really. I started out zombies but it somehow turned into demons and well... if you've read the books, then you'll know what happened next. Anyway, here is a sample from Zombie Games Five (End Zone).

 I stood up and walked to the large bay window and stared outside. It was dark, well past midnight, and the yard looked like something out of a horror movie massacre. I glanced at the slaughtered zombies sprawled out all over the lawn and wondered if Bryce and the others were having problems with any more undead.
“You see them yet?” asked Paige.
I looked over my shoulder at her. “No. They’ve been gone for over an hour. I can’t believe it would take this long to find something in this neighborhood.”
Paige walked over and stood next to me. “It’s finding a large enough vehicle with gas in it that’s difficult, I’m sure.”
Before I could answer, a zombie staggered into view from the side of the house. We watched as it wandered into the center of the yard and then stopped under the moonlight, swaying back and forth. Like the others, it was in rough shape, with its bloody torso and stringy decayed flesh barely covering bone. This one also had a stump for an arm and was one the verge of losing its ratty flowered dress. With her long red hair, she reminded me of Eva a little, and I couldn’t help but shudder.
“It’s pretty bad when you see something like that and it doesn’t even shock you anymore,” said Paige as we stared.
The zombie turned around, as if it heard us talking, and started in our direction.
“Oh, great,” said Kristie, now standing behind us. “I hope it doesn’t attract any other ones that may be hanging out in the other yards. They’re much scarier in packs. Like rabid dogs.”
The zombie, now clearly on a mission, stumbled up the first two steps and then tripped on the third, landing on her face.
“What a life, huh?” sighed Kristie, staring at the zombie with empathy. She shook her head. “It’s just a damn shame. I’ll bet that girl had it all before. Now, she’s just a walking corpse with her bra hanging out and her dress stuck in her panties. Kind of reminds me of college. Those parties were crazy.”
“Actually, if you think about it, they don’t have it too bad,” said Paige. “Think about it - no cares in the world except finding food. They’re not conscious about how they look, if they need a shower, or what may have happened to their missing arm. Nothing matters but finding food.”
The zombie slowly lifted itself from the ground and then staggered to the window. Placing a hand on the glass, she stared at us silently with her pale eyes.
“I don’t know what’s creepier – her staring at us or us staring back. What do you think she’s thinking?” mumbled Kristie.
“Remember going to the bakery and staring at all of the donuts through the glass?” said Paige. “Thinking they all looked so yummy.”
I grimaced, and the zombie’s black lips pulled up into a black toothy grin, as if it knew what we were talking about. Its eyes traveled slowly to Kristie, who took a step back.
“Okay…why in the hell is that thing smiling at me?” she asked in a strained voice. “Like it knows something that I don’t.”
Page smirked. “Hell, I think she just found her donut.”


To read more, check out the Zombie Games series...

Happy New Year Everyone! Have a Fun and SAFE night tonight

Monday, December 30, 2013

Zombie Dreams and Writing...

It's funny how you can get stuck on a project - I don't mean writer's block - which I don't believe in - but stuck as in uninspired and unmotivated and then a dream provides the answer.

I've been working on a particular project for a while - I can't provide details yet but it involves yes, zombies and a historical person - and was moving along pretty well on it. Then I hit a snag, meaning a badly written chapter which actually turned out to be unintentionally pretty funny at the same time.

It stopped me cold while I figured out subconsciously how to fix it. And I got bored and lost motivation. So I let it go for a week or so.

Maybe sometimes you really have to let things sit and stew a while so you can be sure you are moving in the right direction. I'm an outliner and have only done a light outline on this as I know more or less where it has to go. But vague spots tripped me up.

Most things work themselves out as you write. For me, something comes to mind or your words take you in an unexpected or unplanned for direction. I do, however, like to know where I'm going with something.

Then this dream came. Or let's say a dream outline really, which provided the coolest ending I really hadn't thought of yet. Because I am writing about a long-dead but real person and some specific events, I've tried to stick to much of the truth - except that because of the kind of story it is, obviously I have to bend and recreate certain things to fit my story.

The hard part is having to include two plot lines - the real and the imagined  - as it's easy to get lost or feel like you have to stick too much to the truth. And maybe that was holding me back.

This dream idea opened up a totally new line I hadn't thought of and enables me to put an unexpected twist into a  real life event. It allows me to take another unexplained event in this person's life and give it a plausible explanation as to what could've happened, based on my own framework, of course.

The best part - the idea is one I can't wait to write! It's creepy and so unexpected and so neat that I hope my readers will feel the same once I get to that point. I love it and jotted it down to make sure I don't forget it (you know how dreams can be), though I know I won't. This has stuck with me.

I had hoped to finish this project in November and December, but now that I can get back on track, I am about halfway through. So I will get back to it with a vengeance and continue completing chapters. Some people are fast writers, (not me), but it's not about speed. It's getting to the finish line.

So look for more updates soon.

** Got a project you've been working on and got sidelined on? Share your solution or how you worked past it.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Happy Near New Year!

It's a new year soon.

A new slate.


Not boring --- exciting.

What will be on yours? 

Friday, December 27, 2013

My Latest Zombie Pictures

I received the holy grail of pictures recently:  George Romero with my zombie books.  My friend Jerrod Brown was kind enough to get these for me, and I was incredibly excited when they showed up in my inbox.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

George Romero

Hare Krishna zombie

Another The Walking Dead zombie

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Tis the Season....

In this gift-giving season, it's a good time to reflect on what your're thankful for.

To repeat some of a previous post I did:

Besides the obvious - health, having some kind of job and not being on the street - 2013 was a good year, despite the economy.

What else I'm thankful for:

* Still being able to write despite the changing world of newspapers. They remain my first love though it is getting challenging to stay in that field at all.

* Having my first horror-zombie-ya-sci fi book out and a publisher interested in publishing a "non-typical" book. I enjoyed writing GIRL Z: My Life as a Teenage Zombie  and hope to continue finding new readers and enthusiasts.

*  Continuing to be part of a fun, supportive and interesting writer's group and having supportive writer friends who share writing opportunities. You never stop learning.

*  I appreciate the writers and collectors I've met online. It's fun to share their successes and go along the writing journey with them.

* I especially appreciate readers willing to give a book a chance and get to know an author they may not have known before. It's a treat getting feedback when someone enjoys your book and your writing.

So, what are you thankful for? Share some of your writing highlights for 2013!

Here's to an even better 2014 and a dwindling of trolls spreading their 1 and 2 star sour "reviews" everywhere!

Take time to enjoy the lights and faith and the things you already have. 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Merry Christmas!

A blessed Christmas to everyone and like Tiny Tim says, "God bless us every one!"

And I hope you find that special book under the Christmas Tree... 
(or you can get it still in print and Kindle.)

(Pic: Christmas tree from my miniature Christmas dollhouse, see website, click Miniatures) 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas Eve Reading!

To all our faithful readers, I want to say it's been a blast writing this blog the past year.  Having faithful visitors and readers is the best gift an author can have. We hope to keep on doing more in 2014. If you have any ideas or suggestions, please share them.

I really don't like to mix other things with Christmas, but for those looking for some "different" kind of Christmas tales, here are a few other reading suggestions:

 1. Zombie Christmas Songs - It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Zombies. You'll never think of Jingle Bells the same way again.

2. A "new" Classic? Zombie Night Before Christmas. I don't want to know what they hung in those stockings.

3. I am Scrooge: A Zombie Tale for Christmas. You think Cratchit had problems on the job before...

4. I saw Zombies Eating Santa Claus: A Breathers Christmas Carol. Wrong, just plain wrong...

Okay, that should be enough to keep you wide awake all night... heh-heh...

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Kid's Story of Haiti and Zombies by Jinx Schwartz

  Today we offer a glimpse into what may be the "motherland" of voodoo and zombies -- Haiti. Author Jinx Schwartz offers a look at a land of color and freedom in her kid's zombie book, Land Of Mountains, also an Eppie Award finalist for Best YA book.

 (And most interesting -- it's inspired by real life - the author lived in Haiti - and likely saw a "real" zombie!)

About Land of Mountains:

A 10-year-old’s new home on an exotic Caribbean island proves so fascinating she quickly forgets she didn’t want to leave Texas. After all, where better than a jungle world teeming with voodoo, mystery—and a really pesky zombie—to indulge her favorite pastime: snooping. 

Lizbuthann (her real name is Elizabeth Ann, but no one calls her that) and her best friend, Doux Doux Boudreaux, ride horses through jungles, swim wild rivers, spy on the general population, and generally have a grand old time in a land they think is paradise--and grown-ups consider a nightmare.

Inspiration behind the book:

As the book recounts, the family flew from Miami to Cuba, spent the night in Havana, then on into Port au Prince the next day. My father was already there, where he was working for a large Texas construction firm to build a dam. I was nine, and we left when I was 13. 

From the minute we arrived we heard about Zombies and voodoo. For a kid from Texas, this was a fascinating, if a little scary. Our mode of transport was company trucks, or in our case, my father had a car. 

One night on our way back from a shopping trip to Port au Prince (60 miles away from the camp we lived in), we had a flat tire. Our driver was replacing it and we were standing around while he worked. He suddenly yelled, "Oooh-gah-oooh!" (zombie!) and shoved us inside. In the headlights was a large man, who walked as if in a trance. He walked right by us, but we were convinced, as was the driver, that we had seen an honest to goodness zombie.

Land of Mountains, which is what Haiti means, is a fictography, a greatly embellished account of my years in Haiti, told from the point of view of a little girl. It is both a coming of age and a kid's adventure. 

Me and my best friend did ride horses through jungles, swim untamed rivers, and snoop a lot, but I only met one Zombie, though we were sure there were plenty more about.

One of my favorite lines from the book tells a lot about the freedom Lizbuthann had to roam.

Once in a while we’d take a new path, go over one too many a mountain, and get lost, but we almost always ran into someone walking along the trail, and since Daddy put out the word on the jobsite that there was a standing reward of a dollar to any Haitian who brought us home, we were pretty safe.

Excerpt from Land of Mountains:

Doux Doux Boudreaux was a year older than I, and a foot taller. She also had a head of unruly white-blond hair cut in an attempt at a Buster Brown.

Her real name was Dorcas, but her nickname, Doux Doux, was pronounced Doo Doo. Doux Doux means sweetheart in Creole, but we enjoyed getting away with the slightly naughty play on words.

The Boudreaux bunch was from east Texas, but Uncle Lloyd said they were really Cajuns from the bayous of Lousy-anner.

Daddy explained that Papa Boudreaux was a Cajun and that’s why he and all his kids talked funny. Doux Doux didn’t speak Cajun or Creole like her father did, but she had his habit of starting sentences with “Mais, cheré,” Cajun for, “But, dear.” She pronounced it “Maysha-ray,” rhyming with “ray” instead of “ree.” She also used a lot of dis’s and dat’s for this and that, and would say things backwards, like, “five or four miles down de road,” instead of four or five. I thought she talked just fine, but when I tried it at home it went over like a poot in a pew. 

(Note from Chris: And for something different - check out my annual, two-part Christmas miniatures story by author Robert W. Walker at my other blog. )

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Skulls Make the Perfect Holiday Gift

Forget the other stuff. Now here is something for a truly one-of-a-kind gift.

For just $200, you can buy preservation work on one of the 139 skulls of the Hyrtl Skull Collection  in the Mutter Museum of The College of Physicians in Philadelphia, Penn.

Called the "Save our Skulls" campaign, the goal is to help preserve the 19th century skulls which have been continually displayed for more than a century, and now need "dental" work to have cracked and loose teeth repaired. See story and "Save Our Skulls" details.

The "Save our Skulls" PDF catalogue provides name, suspected age and injury of the victim. Many were soldiers.

** Hurry! Subscriptions end Dec. 31, 2013.

(clip art: The Graphics Fairy)

** Check out the video:

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Holidays Are Upon Us

Christmas is right around the corner, and I hope everyone is gearing up for a lovely time with their family, no matter what you may celebrate!  If you have a chance, take some time to relax by the fire and pop in your favorite zombie flick or curl up with an undead book.

My plans involve the walking dead, and I'm going to do some research and writing.  See you all in the New Year!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

It's A Walking Dead Christmas

by Karina Fabian

Hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful holiday  of any kind you celebrate this season. May your joy be full, your heart light...and may this character not show up at your doorstep.

Incidentally, this twist on the spirit of the season was created by George Silliman, who illustrates my Neeta Lyffe novels. You can buy them on cafepress.  You know, for your friends who like a little gore with their peppermint cocoa or who think A Walking Dead Christmas would make a wonderful new tradition.

A Walking Dead Christmas...could you see it?  It's a Zombiefied Life. Rick wishes he'd died instead of slipping into a coma and an angel appears to grant him his wish. What do you think he'd see? Come on, post your comments, and if we get enough good ones, I'll see if I can make a short story from it.

Whenever a zombie loses his brains, an angel gets his wings.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Zombie Must-Have's for Christmas

You know there's some weird office and home stuff you just have to have? Well, fill the Christmas stockings with these truly unique zombie gifts....

Zombiefy your desk with this pencil and clip holder...  Yikes!

How about this interesting pencil-pen holder (but kind of pricey!) 

Oh, and if you don't get the message - a funny sign by PatchSigns on Etsy

And don't forget.... GIRL Z: My Life as a Teenage Zombie
(Check out the new reviews! - The perfect stocking stuffer or gift!)

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Great new zombie book reviews for GIRL Z: My Life as a Teenage Zombie

Stumped on your holiday shopping? Think zombies are all guts and gore? Got a girl who wants to read about an independent, strong girl - who just happens to have turned into a part-zombie?

  Well.... a couple new reviews and different viewpoints on GIRL Z: My Life as a Teenage Zombie 

** Get it in Print & Kindle  - US   &  UK **

Rebbie's Reviews says, "...In a world hit by the zombie virus, Christine Verstraete shows us an example of true friendship, teamwork and determination. For me, this is a new vision of a tried and tested genre with realistic consequences including mobs and discrimination.I’ll be honest, of all the zombie books I’ve read, this one is a refreshingly girly book..."

A guy's point-of-view from Zombies & Toys, "...Girl Z is an original entry in a saturated market. Every time I try to explain why, I always come back to the characters. Becca is a tough, independent teenage girl, but that’s just what she is. I believe her story, and I feel like she’s struggling her way through this mess just how I imagine I would if I were in her shoes. I really enjoyed the bilingual dialogue and the fact that neither Becca nor Carm were written as half-witted eye candy, nor were they male characters in female camouflage..."

Thanks Rebbie and Todd!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Excerpt from Athena's Daughters story, The Songbird's Search

Read an excerpt from my upcoming story, "The Songbird's Search" in the upcoming anthology ATHENA'S DAUGHTERS - now being funded on Kickstarter.  ** You can still get in on amazing stretch goals!**

This is a beautifully illustrated anthology, with art by Autumn Frederickson. And Meet Marietta! Here's the gorgeous art for my story. Meet Marietta:

The Songbird's Search

No one could remember the last soul who came to Devil’s Gulch and made such an impression. When she stepped through the doors of the Black Fiddle Tavern that day, all conversation stopped and silence fell like a heavy winter snow.
Everyone took notice because the woman just didn’t seem to fit in either the brass-embellished tavern or the burgeoning town. Miss Marietta Parsons was as plain as could be.
Marietta knew that everyone considered her plain, homely. But she didn't care. Nor did she take insult at the look of regret that flashed across the painted face of the striking bar owner Luella, who had posted an opening for a songstress and thereby lured Marietta to the tavern.
Marietta nodded a simple greeting to Luella.
Conversations rose, glasses raised in toasts, and coins were tossed on the tables of the card players. From outside came the clatter of a wagon trundling by.
Marietta walked to the piano man, and pointed to the sheet of music he had in front of him. As his fingers danced over the keys, she loosed a stream of notes so beautiful the whole room quieted. Not a coin or glass clinked.
And when the last note faded and the din resumed, Marietta saw how eager Luella was to sign up the plain 'lil songstress before someone else did.
“Lookin’ for work, sugar?” Luella asked. "I surely could use a songbird like you, brighten the place up a little."
"Could be." The singer stepped to the bar and gave a small smile as she took a loud sip of the sarsaparilla Luella placed before her. "How about a whiskey instead while we discuss terms?"
Luella nodded. "What I like, a woman who knows her mind. A shot of my best whiskey. Here you go. Now come on back to my office and we'll sort it out."
A nibble of excitement stirred in Marietta's stomach as she followed the other woman to the small back room. Everything was going along as she'd hoped.
A half-hour later, a small advance on her salary in her faded tapestry valise, Marietta followed the tall barman Hank up the narrow rickety stairs to the second floor. He opened the door, and she noted his slight flicker of interest. That was a good sign since she suspected he thought her staying here was wasted space better used for paying customers. Still, he remained respectful. She liked that.
"Here you are, Miss." He set down her worn travel trunk and cleared his throat, his voice a bit gravelly from one too many cigars. "Let me know if you need anything. Any problems, you come to me. I'll set things right."
Marietta reached out and gave the old barman's gnarled hand a squeeze and offered a coy smile, watching the pleased expression on his face blossom.
"Thank you, Hank. I'll be sure to do that."
Her small room held simple furnishings—an iron bedstead, a bureau, its top dinged and dented with age, and a sturdy nightstand. The furniture sat against a faded bouquet of blue flowered paper on the walls. Nice, but not too frilly. She felt at home.
Humming, Marietta slipped out of the repressive, prim clothing, reveling in the feel of the cool air against her skin. She lowered herself into the tin tub already filled with warm water; it was just as she'd requested. She poured in the Epsom Salts and let down the strands of wavy hair that shone and glittered like heaven's stars. Leaning back, she let the bath plump and enrich her skin's thirsty cells. She could feel the water doing its work to her parched skin.
Ah, yes, this tavern, this room, this town, was just what she needed.
During the next few days Marietta noticed that when she went out the townswomen avoided her, giving her a wide berth when they passed on the worn, wooden sidewalks. She knew being employed and living at the bar made the righteous biddies uneasy, probably considered her a whore. She cared not a whit what they thought.
The men interested her far more.
Several nights a week she donned one of her fancier dresses, nothing as revealing or flouncy as what the showgirls wore, but decent just the same. Marietta didn’t give her wardrobe a second more consideration than necessary, but she also knew the importance of appearance. She chose the soft blue and peach silks for how they brightened her sallow complexion. A touch of rouge to pinken her lips and cheeks, a few curls to her hair, and a dab of perfume made her presentable.
But it was her smile and voice that made her so appealing.
Once in the saloon, she stood by the piano and sang her set, then sat down to a few whiskeys and polite conversation. She’d rise to finish her last tune, and an audible low sigh of disappointment followed the final note. The tavern patrons always wanted more.
Luella tsked-tsked and raised an eyebrow as she slid glasses of beer across the scarred bar. "Don't know how you do it, sugar. You got them eatin' out of your hand. You can have the pick of the crop, you know."
Marietta knew. It was her music.

** More coming in the anthology, ATHENA'S DAUGHTERS from Silence in the Library.

 * Get to know the Athena’s Daughters awesome authors with our blog hop! 
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- See more at: http://disquietingvisions.com/2013/12/17/kicking-athenas-daughters-notch/#sthash.PEaPhYzN.dpuf

You can still get in on the amazing stretch goals! - Including a "Tuckerization" - be a character in mine and other stories!!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

White Zombie Book Video & Print Available!

Author Stephen D. Sullivan shared a new video for his unique novelization and new script of the classic 1932 Bela Lugosi film, White Zombie.

*  Besides the ebook and Kindle versions, you can also get the book now in print  - or get the Special Edition print version which includes the recreated movie script. (Ebook - Smashwords; Special Edition  - Smashwords)

Friday, December 13, 2013

Zombies Bring People Together

That really goes without saying.  After all, when there are just a handful of humans left, the best thing to do is pool resources and fight the undead threat as a whole.  The survival rate is generally much higher.  Zombies also bring people together who share a passion for the genre, whether it be films or books, whatever.  They bring people together for Zombie Walks, which more often than not are done to raise awareness or funds for a charity.

As I've been working on my nonfiction book, it amazes me how zombies have brought me together with people from all walks of life and from different parts of the world.  Interestingly, the vast majority of them aren't even zombie fans, but they are so happy to help me with my research and have  given me great ideas for the book.

For example, I recently had an email conversation with a woman who lives on the East Coast but goes to Haiti every few months to work.  She's had experiences with zombies.  I've talked to people in England about zombies.  I've talked to anthropologists, scientists, professors, astronomers, and they have been so freaking awesome!

It's amazing what one creature can do for the world.  They scare us, yet they unite us.  Maybe they're the answer to world peace.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

A Zombie Book for Every Christmas stocking!

It's that time of year... and if you still need to fill that Christmas stocking, what about a print or ebook version of GIRL Z: My Life as a Teenage Zombie?

 A zombie book with a little horror - romance - zombies - humor - and more!

* *  Print & Kindle- US -  UK   ** 

About GIRL Z: My Life as a Teenage Zombie: Sixteen-year-old Rebecca Herrera Hayes faces every teenager's biggest nightmares: bad skin, bad hair, and worse… turning into one of the living dead.

Becca's life changes forever when her cousin Spence comes back to their small Wisconsin town carrying a deadly secret—he's becoming a zombie, a fate he shares with her through an accidental scratch.

Now she's a part-zombie, with all the weird quirks and things no girl wants to be noticed for. But time is running out... Becca needs to find something, anything, to stop this deadly transformation before it is forever too late...

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

About the Athena's Daughters Anthology Kickstarter

 * The Athena's Daughters Sci Fi anthology is a Kickstarter project running now through Jan. 8, 2014. See the Athena's Daughters Kickstarter page for all the details and fantastic incentives. (Funded! Now they're funding for the stretch goals... some great stuff - check it out yet!)

Athena’s Daughters
 is a collection of short fiction from some of the best female science fiction and fantasy authors in the industry. This anthology features stories written by women about women. I'm also incredibly excited to have an introduction to the anthology by retired astronaut and Space Shuttle Commander Pam Melroy.

The publisher, Silence in the Library, believes strongly in the concept of bringing the artistry back to publishing. To that end, every anthology they produce features illustrations for each and every story. 

This anthology features wonderful art by Autumn Frederickson. Here's the amazing full illustration for my story, "The Songbird's Search." (Cool, huh?) 
 Meet Marietta: 

In addition, a portion of every book sold will go to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization. RAINN created and operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline in partnership with more than 1,100 local rape crisis centers across the country and operates the DoD Safe Helpline for the Department of Defense. RAINN also carries out programs to prevent sexual violence, help victims and ensure that rapists are brought to justice.

Includes stories by:

Danielle Ackley- McPhail: Looking Back - If necessity is the mother of invention, then desperation is its sire. Lady Clara is left with stewardship of her lost cousin's inheritance and the uncertainty of her own fate. She employs the dubious assistance of an American inventor to find her cousin before all is lost, only neither could have anticipated the unique nature of their...success.

Maggie Allen:  Lunar Camp - Having to spend her summer break at Camp on the Moon is more (and in some ways less) than thirteen-year-old, botany-loving Bee bargained for.

Conley Lyons: Oh, Sisters, Let’s Go Down to the River - Mary Walker thought there weren't nothing scarier than cleaning out the inside of the family well. But she didn't ever count on hearing voices while she worked.

Gail Z Martin: Retribution - A vintage silver hip flask and a Roaring Twenties-era poker set spell trouble for Cassidy Kincaide when old ghosts turn murderous.  Cassidy runs Trifles and Folly, an antique and curio shop in historic, haunted Charleston, SC that has a secret mission: to get dangerous magical objects off the market. Can Cassidy discover what ties the tragic history of an abandoned hotel to the maliciously haunted objects before more people die?

Jean Rabe: Visage - When Peaches' father goes missing along the Amazon River, she hires a guide to search for him. Instead, Peaches uncovers a grisly secret that stretches back centuries.

Sherwood Smith: Commando Bats - Commando Bats: what happens when old women get powers.

Janine Spendlove: Millie - What happens when a modern day military pilot, Major Sara Colón, meets a time traveling aviatrix?  

Vicki Steger-Johnson:  Burly and Cavendish Blend - It looks as though archaeologist, Abigail Watts, obsession with ancient artifacts will lead to her demise, when she and her cousin, Dawson Willoughby, are left to die in an abandoned Egyptian tomb.

DL Stever: Vernon’s Angel - Gentle Vernon's desire to become popular with the tough high school basketball team is only in his dreams.  When help comes in a most surprising way Vernon's life changes for the better.

C. A. Verstraete: The Songbird's Search - Marietta was plain-looking, but she had a voice the men found irresistible. Now with time ticking, she hoped to find just one who would appreciate her true, inner beauty.

Jean Marie Ward: The Gap in the Fence - A ten-year-old girl will do anything to save her best friend's dog from being put down--even bargain with the fairies who live behind "The Gap in the Fence."

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Kickstarter Athena's Daughters Sci Fi Anthology Goes Live!

I'm involved in a special project - the cool Athena's Daughters Anthology Kickstarter begins today and runs through Jan. 8, 2014!

Authors include Mary Robinette KowalGail Z. MartinCleolinda JonesDanielle Ackley-McPhailJean RabeSherwood SmithJanine K. SpendloveVicki Johnson-StegerCynthia Ward, and Jean Marie Ward and new and exciting talents like Maggie AllenConley LyonsDoris Stever, and C.A. (Christine) Verstraete

And.... it includes an introduction to the anthology by retired astronaut and Space Shuttle Commander Pam Melroy!
Athena’s Daughters is a collection of diverse and engaging science fiction and fantasy stories (clocking in right around 100,000 words with more to come when we reach our stretch goals!) with one unifying theme: all of the protagonists are strong women that exhibit a wide range of physical attributes and abilities. And by strong we don't necessarily mean physical strength (though we have those characters too), but ALL kinds of strength. The strength to stand up for what you know is right, the strength to make an unpopular decision, the strength to be a calming voice in a contentious situation. ALL forms of strength. 

It also includes beautiful illustrations by Autumn Frederickson.

Here's a peek at part of the illustration for my story, "The Songbird's Search." (Be sure to go see the whole thing! It's wonderful, as are the others!) Meet Marietta:

In my story, "The Songbird's Search," Marietta comes to town, hoping to find a new life. She's as plain as can be, but when she steps into the Black Fiddle and opens her mouth to sing, everything changes. Her voice... oh, her voice is like heaven! Now all she needs is to find that one special man who finds her as irresistible...

And if you wonder... what's a Kickstarter? Well....

The project by Silence in the Library is looking to raise $8,500 to get this anthology and all the goodies underway. Be a backer for $5 (you can bid a minimum $1 too) and up to $500 and if the project is funded you can get all kinds of fantastic incentives like ebooks, original signed artwork, trade paperbacks and... cool! Be "Tuckerized" - be put into a story as a character!

My story is one of the chances to be a literary star!

There's much more, so check it out! Funding is from Dec. 10 - Jan 8. Hope to see you there!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Dreaming Monsters with Anna Taborska

Today we welcome author Anna Taborska, who's talking about her intriguing collection of horror short stories, FOR THOSE WHO DREAM MONSTERS.

(What a gorgeous cover! The artwork, and interesting stories, truly make this a book to collect!)

Anna shares about the book:
The book is dedicated to all those who, like me, suffer from nightmares and/or are compelled to explore the dark side of human nature. There are all kinds of monsters in the book, many of them of the worst type – human.

I had the good fortune to receive an offer from British writer Reggie Oliver, also an excellent illustrator, to illustrate my work, so each of the stories in the book is accompanied by an eerie and beautiful piece of artwork.

Christine, thank you so much for inviting me on your blog.

I come from a film-making background. The process of making a film is lengthy. It starts with writing a screenplay and, if funding is not forthcoming, often ends there – with an unproduced screenplay that only a handful of people ever read. While trying to find a producer for my film projects, I started writing horror short stories and, in November 2013, Mortbury Press (get print version in UK) (home of The Black Books of Horror) published 18 of them in my first book, FOR THOSE WHO DREAM MONSTERS.

Here’s a little bit about the stories behind the stories in the book:

* Schrödinger’s Human – A psychopathic physics professor acquires an extraordinary cat.
This story was inspired by the fascinating “Schrödinger’s Cat” thought experiment. I figured that if a cat can (at least theoretically) be alive and dead at the same time, then it can certainly be in two places at once. Like quite a few of my stories, this one incorporates a recurring nightmare I used to have, of fleeing something through a landscape that shifts and changes. One of the most amazing places I’ve ever seen are the Paris Catacombs, and I used imagery from these in one of the dream sequences.

* Little Pig –  (See a short excerpt below.) Fleeing from a hungry wolf pack, a young mother has to make a horrific choice.

A family friend once recounted how, when he was picking up my grandmother’s best friend Irena from Heathrow Airport, the elderly lady, on accidentally crushing her glasses, uttered the phrase “Little pig”. He thought she was senile, but it subsequently turned out that “Little pig” was an expression denoting a small sacrifice, which would somehow avert a greater disaster. The phrase was one used by Irena and my grandmother, who were born and grew up in the Eastern Polish Borderlands (now Ukraine). The winters there were harsh and, when travelling in horse-drawn sleighs through the forest in winter, people would often take a piglet with them, to throw to the wolves if they came after the horse. I wondered what one would do if the wolves were closing in, and there was no little pig to sacrifice.

* Fish – A violent assault fuses a hapless postman with his pet scorpion fish, turning him into a man-eating fish monster. I’ve had quite a few nightmares about being caught in murky water with a variety of horrible creatures beneath me and all around. I wanted to write a story about a scary underwater beast.

* Buy a Goat for Christmas – The inhabitants of an African village get more than they bargained for when a foreign aid worker turns into a werewolf.

This story was inspired by a poster on the tube (on a London Underground train), which read something like this: “That’s the family and its conscience taken care of. Buy a goat or some chickens from Farm Africa for £10… An enterprising blacksmith can convert weapons into farm tools, e.g. swords to ploughshares. A tank converts into 3,000 farm implements.”  Well, what if the enterprising blacksmith had other plans?

* Cut! – A film director hires a psychopathic actress, believing that she’ll be “a natural” to play the violent lead in his slasher movie, but soon comes to regret his decision.

This film was inspired by a casting tale narrated to me by a film producer friend. The film shoot is based on my early experiences of working in the film industry, including directing my first film, The Rain has Stopped. The film director in my story is a tribute to the wonderful Richard Rush movie The Stunt Man (1980), in which Peter O’Toole superbly portrays a charismatic megalomaniac film director.

* Arthur’s Cellar – Arthur faces a challenge when the Nazi cannibal his grandfather keeps in the cellar goes on the run.

I wanted to write a story that would be relatively easy to film. And I wanted to show how complex people are, and how often they live in complete denial, unaware of their own extreme hypocrisy. Arthur has a normal, loving relationship with his grandfather – a twisted psychopath who truly believes himself to be “a good Christian”.  I hope that one day I’ll get to shoot the screen version.

* The Apprentice – A sadistic baker’s prayers are answered when he acquires a mute apprentice.
I wanted to write something about a sadistic brute who loves making little heart-shaped buns. And something with a twist in the tale.

* The Girl in the Blue Coat – a dying man working on his autobiography dictates a ghost story to his ghost writer.

I wanted to explore how powerful emotions can live on long after the people who experienced them have died, thanks to the power of storytelling. The ideal vehicle for this type of narrative seemed to be the “story within a story” format (such as that used in films like The Locket (1946, dir. John Brahm) and The Saragossa Manuscript (1965, Dir. Wojciech Has)), so that’s what I experimented with in The Girl in the Blue Coat.

Mindla’s story was told to me by an elderly lady I interviewed in Poland when researching the Second World War. My interviewee’s husband, also present at the interview, added that the local peasants had seen “Death walking up and down the ditch” in which Mindla’s body had been dumped. I decided to make Mindla’s story more “western” and “Gothic” by changing Death to the familiar trope of the restless spirit of a dead girl whose body has not been found.

 In reality, Mindla’s partially clothed body was found in the ditch at the bottom of the peasants’ fields, but not the bodies of the two Jewish girls also mentioned by my interviewee. The town in the story is real (I simplified its name, which is actually made up of two words); its history and fate are real. It has haunted me ever since, as have the stories of many of the other 100 or so people I interviewed at that time. I don’t really like to revisit those stories, but some of them have been keeping me awake lately.

* A Tale of Two Sisters: 
I. Rusalka – A young man goes in search of his mother’s village in Eastern Poland, and ends up falling for the wrong girl.

I was tasked with writing a Gothic tale based in an unusual location, so I chose Poland, where tales of evil nymphs abound. I wanted to bring together something of the beautiful nymph-related ballads of Polish poet Adam Mickiewicz with work by my favourite writer of all time, William Shakespeare.

II. First Night – A young Brit visiting the home of his ancestors falls victim to an ancient curse.
I felt I hadn’t finished with Polish nymphs just yet, and I wanted to explore the myth from the other side – from the nymph’s point of view.

* Halloween Lights – A dying man is drawn to the wrong light.
I was asked to write a tale for Halloween. If on that one day a year the dead are allowed to walk among the living, what would happen to a lost soul trying to find his way to his beloved?

* The Coffin – Jack’s shortcut through the local cemetery costs him dearly.
When I was about thirteen, a friend of mine and I went for a wonder in a cemetery at night. In the distance we spotted a pale-coloured grave or sepulchre, seemingly on the paved central path. No matter how quickly we walked away, the stone slab seemed to get closer and closer. When I was asked to write a vampire tale, the moving grave slipped its way into my story.

* The Creaking – when young Tommy Tyrell goes missing, his bloodthirsty and influential father raises a lynch mob and goes in search of a scapegoat.

The story was inspired by another horrific event from history: a pogrom in which Jewish men, women and children were murdered following a false accusation of child abduction and blood libel. As usual, fact is infinitely more disturbing than fiction.

* Dirty Dybbuk – Good girl Mitzi goes bad after she’s possessed by the disembodied spirit of a deceased nymphomaniac.

This story was originally written for an anthology of humorous Jewish horror, which sadly never came into being.

* Underbelly – A woman makes a deal with a man-eating demon in order to alleviate the pain caused by her cancer.

It always horrifies me that with all the apparent progress being made in modern medicine, terminally ill people frequently suffer the most terrible uncontrolled pain. At the time I wrote this story I was feeling rather disillusioned with the medical profession and with people in general.
* Tea with the Devil – The owner of a museum of devils has an unexpected visitor.
A story inspired by my visit to the Museum of the Devil in Warsaw, Poland.

* Elegy – In a Poland occupied by Nazi German forces, a Jewish author records his childhood memories while waiting for the liquidation of the ghetto in which he has been imprisoned.

Written for an anthology celebrating the life and work of Polish Jewish writer Bruno Schulz, killed in 1942, this story was inspired by Schulz’s own writing, by a play I saw as a teenager based on Schulz’s life, by a film by Polish director Jan Jakub Kolski called Burial of a Potato and by eyewitness testimony I heard from Poles about the liquidation of the Jewish ghetto in Zduńska Wola.

* Bagpuss – Since her father walked out on her and her mother, Emily’s only comfort has been her cat Bagpuss. When Bagpuss disappears, Emily goes to extreme lengths to make sure that her mother won’t abandon her as well. 

I dreamt this story, but, on waking, I only remembered that it was a story about the loneliness of a girl whose cat goes feral. I worked from that starting point, developing the dream sequences from an amazing poem called Metamorphoses by Polish Jewish poet Bolesław Leśmian, in which plants turn into animals. As the cat in my dream was called Bagpuss, it seemed only natural that the cat’s 12-year-old owner should be called Emily – after the little girl in the 1974 UK children’s television programme Bagpuss created by Peter Firmin and Oliver Postgate. I also remember that Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle was at the back of my mind when I wrote this tale.

Favourite story
Of all the stories in FOR THOSE WHO DREAM MONSTERS, my favourite is probably Little Pig. It’s the story that seems to have made the biggest impact on readers, and has opened the most doors for me. Renowned editor Ellen Datlow selected it for her anthology Best Horror of the Year Volume Four, and the screenplay version of it was a finalist in the Shriekfest Film Festival Screenplay Competition. Of all my screenplays, it was also the one that came closest to getting funding, although sadly it didn’t, so it still only exists on paper.

Little Pig Extract

The sleigh sped through the dark forest, the scant moonlight reflected by the snow lighting up the whites of the horse’s eyes as it galloped along the narrow path, nostrils flaring and velvet mouth spitting foam and blood into the night. The woman cried out as the reins cut into her hands, and screamed to her children to hang on.
The three little girls clung to each other and to the sides of the sleigh, their tears freezing onto their faces as soon as they formed. The corner of the large blanket in which their mother had wrapped them for the perilous journey to their grandparents’ house had come loose and was flapping violently in the icy air.
“Hold on to Vitek!” the woman screamed over her shoulder at her eldest child, her voice barely audible over the howling wind. But the girl did not need to be told; only two days away from her seventh birthday, she clung onto her baby brother, fear for her tiny sibling stronger than her own terror. The other two girls, aged two and four, huddled together, lost in an incomprehensible world of snow and fear and darkness.
The woman whipped the reins against the horse’s heaving flanks, but the animal was already running on a primal fear stronger than pain. The excited yelps audible over the snowstorm left little doubt in the woman’s mind: the pack was gaining on the sleigh – the hungry wolves were getting closer.

Most important story
In terms of importance, the most important story is that of The Girl in the Blue Coat, as the lady who related Mindla’s story to me in the first place was desperate for the her childhood friend’s story to reach a wide audience. I hope it will.

Future plans
In terms of future plans, I am working on a screenplay based on a novelette which will hopefully be published next year in my new UK-based collection. The working title is Bloody Britain, but this might change.

* Watch the video: