Last Day of Crypticon

Thanks to Chelsea Hunter for this great photo!

Last day of Crypticon and we are looking forward to getting some rest tonight. If nothing exciting happens today at all we will still go home happy. It’s been a great event and I’m planning on visiting next year already.

As I rush out the door, I’ll share photos of the event so far. This album will be updated again this evening when we’re done. Thanks, everyone, for an awesome event… and it’s not even over yet!

You can see all the Crypticon photos here.

***Find out how to win $25—100 in an Amazon gift card
by entering the Bitter Suite Reviews contest.***

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Reviews Contest: Win $25—100 Amazon Gift Card

Another happy recreational suicider!

Crypticon is going really well and I’m thrilled with how excited readers are about the Bitter Suites. That makes me excited. Writers write to be read, right?

I’m so excited I think it’s time for a contest. I want to beef up the reviews for this book. I am willing to give away up to $100 of Amazon gift card to one, randomly drawn lucky winner. Here’s how to enter:

Leave a simple, honest review about Bitter Suites on Amazon. Copy and paste the review in the comments section of this post. One winner will be picked at random on August 1, 2018.

I’ll bump up the prize value based on how many reviews are posted. For 5-25 reviews, the prize will be a $25 Amazon gift card. For 26-50 reviews, the prize will be a $50 Amazon gift card. For 51 to 100+ reviews the prize will be a $100 Amazon gift card.

Share this post to help bump up those reviews to the max!

  1. Get a copy of Bitter Suites here.
  2. Leave a review on Amazon.
  3. Copy and paste your review here in the comments.
  4. Wait to see if you win and spend.
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Bitter Suites Back Online!

I’ve been getting messages that Bitter Suites has been listed as unavailable on Amazon. Yes, it has been unavailable and that is my fault. I decided to add a blurb to the back cover ahead of Crypticon and didn’t think anyone would notice.

I was wrong. The last few days have been a roller coaster of emotion—happy people were noticing and complaining the book was down and annoyed at myself I did that. For everyone who was looking, Bitter Suites is available again on Amazon, just in time for Crypticon.

I have reluctantly sold a few copies ahead of this weekend so I only have 15 copies left. They will be the only ones with the original back cover. Not having enough books has never been a problem for me before, so I’m enjoying the fresh new panic.

I’ve also never received a publishing congratulations basket before, so thank you Laura D. for having this gorgeous platter of snack by Smiles Delivered brought to my house yesterday. It made me feel like a rockstar—and it’s delicious. It was worth publishing for that alone!

I’ll be having a contest for reviews up by tomorrow. Anyone who reviews Bitter Suites will be able to enter their name to win an Amazon gift card. If I get up to 25 reviews, it will be a $25 prize. Up to 50 reviews will make the prize jump to a $50 Amazon gift card. If I get 100 or more reviews, the prize will be a $100 Amazon gift card.

That’s about it from me. I have a last few details to sort before we head off to Crypticon. As an interesting side note, this song randomly came on our Google as soon as I hit approve and made Bitter Suites live again. I hope it’s an omen of future success.

***Find out how to win $25—100 in an Amazon gift card
by entering my Bitter Suite Reviews contest.***

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Feed the Authors

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“Band-Aid” Body Horror

As I struggle with getting back on a day schedule I think I’ll cheat and repost another of my assignments from the Horror Writer Association’s online writing workshop. This assignment was to write “body horror,” a genre I’ve never explored.

Body horror is a subgenre of horror which intentionally showcases graphic or psychologically disturbing violations of the human body. It turned out to be a fun assignment. I’m not sure if it’s a genre I will visit again like this, but I enjoyed the trip.

Warning: It’s body horror. It’s gross.

Band  Aid

   Today just wasn’t my day.

   It started at the apartment pool. I don’t go to splash around after a long day at work. I go to relax, float and drink. I have a tough job—I work at McDonald’s. After eight hours of listening to kids whine about their Happy Meal toys, I’m done. I need to decompress. Last thing I want to see is another kid, so I go after dark when the little crapheads are in bed.

   I really needed to relax today—worst day ever. The headsets were acting up at work so every order I took was garbled with static. Of course, I got a bunch of the orders wrong. I can’t understand people over the stupid speakers on the best of days, which today wasn’t. Long story short, it was hours of “my fries are cold,” I’ve been waiting in line for 15 minutes,” and “that’s not the toy I wanted.” Whine, whine and frickin’ whine. By the time I clocked out, I was ready to stick some heads in the fryer. Instead, I went home, cracked a beer and changed into my swim trunks. Nothing is better than a soak in the pool to clean the stench of grease out of my pores. Usually.

  I was only in there like ten minutes when the gate opened up and these two brats wandered in with their mom. She was chatting away on her phone, not even looking at her kids. She just plodded up to the closest chair and plonked herself down. The two brats made a beeline for the pool and cannon balled in. There’s a sign that clearly states No Running. If the brats could read, they didn’t care. They both did a running launch at once, sending a tidal wave over my peaceful float.

  “Hey!” I yelled. The stupid mom didn’t even look up. Me and my beer were both doused. I wiped lukewarm chlorine water out of my eyes and glared at the nearest kid. He was dog paddling straight for me and clutched at the edge of my tube float.

  “Can I use this?” He coughed water into my face and blinked through his dripping bangs.

   “No,” I said. “This is my float and I carried with me. And you guys aren’t supposed to run in here. Shouldn’t you be in bed?”

   The little kid struggled to stay afloat, still gripping the vinyl and making us both spin and tilt. I twisted in the tube to get a better position and stabilize my beer. His nose was damp and crusty looking with a snot bubble poking out of his left nostril.

   “Kid, this is my float. This is grown up time. Go bug your brother.”

   “But I don’t know how to swim. I need this.” He pulled harder, grabbed on with both hands and coughed in my face.

   “Kid, go away. This is my float. I’m trying to relax.”

   I looked up at the mom. She was oblivious to the drama in the pool. She was sitting sideways on the lounge, almost with her back to us, deep in conversation. I bet she fed her kids Happy Meals all the time.

   “Want to see my ouchie?”

   I looked back to see the kid had gotten one of his scrawny little arms hooked through my tube. With the other hand he was pointing at his elbow. Hanging open was a nasty, waterlogged band aid. The edges were dark with kid grime and it looked like it had been stuck there awhile. Half of it had given up, the adhesive no match for whatever dirt the kid had subjected it to. It hung open, dark stained cotton pad exposed like a belly-up body. A large scab looked out at me, already turning mushy white from the soaking. He tugged at the band aid, loosening it more. My stomach lurched.

  “No, take that away, kid. That’s disgusting.”

   I tried to pry his arm off my float so I could paddle away. Pool time was over. He managed to pull the rest of the band aid free and held out out to me, resisting my efforts to get him off my float. The band aid dangled at me, just a few inches from my face. I turned back to get the mom’s help.

  “Ma’am! Your kid needs you…” That’s what I started to say. Out of the corner of my eye I saw him flick his wrist up, tossing the nasty piece of plastic and gauze at my face. It hit my cheek and stuck like a germy, scabby leech. I didn’t react well.


    I grabbed the kid’s arm and heaved him off my tube. The little shit kept his grip on my float and it tipped with him. All I could think of was the disease crusted thing that was stuck to my face. I threw my beer hand up for balance. The bottle slipped from my grip and I heard it break against the concrete. There’s actually a sign that says No Glass as well, but it wouldn’t have been a problem if the kid was in bed like he should have been.

   Down we both went. I heard glubbing and felt his little limbs thrashing around next to me. My legs hit the bottom and I struggled to stand up, scraping one of my toes in the process. I must have opened my mouth to yell, or breathe in or maybe just in surprise and swallowed a mouthful of water. I splashed to the surface, swallowing pool. Something rushed in with the water and stuck in the back of my throat. I tasted rubber.

   I hacked as soon as I hit air. Whatever was in my throat was stuck halfway. I think the kid was trying to cling to me but I shoved free and headed for poolside, still trying to clear my throat. My stomach was starting to heave as I realized I’d swallowed the kid’s band aid. That was too much. I hurled.

   Digested fish filet, fries and light beer spewed out into the blue water, floating across the surface like oil. I tried to twist out of it, lost my footing and took in more water. The inside of my nose was on fire. I was thrashing like a crazy person to get out and I think I may have kicked the kid. I resurfaced to see his mom had finally dropped the phone and was lumbering towards us.

   Bad luck for us all, my bottle had smashed against the side of the pool and gotten glass everywhere. She stepped right into it, shrieked in pain and then fell into the mess with us. It must have been a big piece of glass because I heard it crunch between the cement and her foot as she twisted and came down. By now I’d reached the wide stairs on the shallow end and was crawling up, still heaving. I could still feel something in my throat. I puked again, but this time at least I’d made it to the edge.

   I turned halfway to look behind me. The kid that had bugged me was crying and dog paddling toward the deep end. His mom was flopping around like a spandex encased whale trying to reach her foot with one hand. She was cut bad because in the pool lights I could see a red cloud staining the water around her. The other kid was clutching the pool edge like a little crab and screaming. I crawled free of the mess and flopped onto the warm pavement.

   “Lady, I’ll help you…” is what I was going to say, but I swear I tasted that band aid again. There was something on my tongue, probably just vomit, but the sensation and the flavor of scab and rubber was too much and my stomach decided to do another dump. I tried to get to my feet and at least get to the grass but I stepped on some of that damn glass myself. I felt the stab and looked down to see a thick shard of amber sticking up between my big and second toe. The blood just started bubbling out. I guess I scraped my toe on the bottom of the pool pretty bad too, because my big toenail was gone. There was a raw oval of open nail bed where a toenail should have been.

   I just screamed and fell down on one knee to reach my foot. The piece of glass was from the bottom of the bottle and it was halfway through one toe. I swear I could feel it cutting into the bone. I tried to pull it out but my hands were shaking and it was slippery with blood. I know I tried to get up so I could hobble somewhere away, probably the hospital, but I stumbled and tripped. I crouched over my bleeding foot and just started crying.

   My nose was stuffed up and I blew it out into my hand. Don’t judge me. It’s not like I had a tissue handy and I was already covered in more nasty than I’d ever seen. Whatever was stuck in there was lodged pretty good, so I plugged up one nose hole and blew it out, hard.

   It finally flew free and I could breathe again. Through the tears I looked back down to see what I’d dislodged. There, on my poor mangled foot, was the band aid. I guess it had gotten stuck up in my nostril when I was vomiting and I blew it free, right over my missing toenail. I think I just took it all in for a few seconds, every grimy fiber of that used band aid imprinting in my mind. I think I even saw what looked like scab crumbs stuck to it with bile. I know I started screaming then…

   …and that’s the last thing I remember, Your Honor, I swear.

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Officially Finished at Amazon

So long, Amazon! It’s been interesting.

As of last night I am officially no longer working for an Amazon Fulfillment Center. It’s been a challenging job that pushed me, physically and mentally, to my extremes. I met and became friends with some of the best people, and I am happy I got to have this experience.

As of now, I will be moving back to a daytime schedule. I have loved living the last year completely nocturnal, but it has made doing daytime events difficult. What comes to mind is my 33.5 hours awake Borderlands Bootcamp Trip last February.

I am very excited to be back on a daytime schedule just in time for my book signing event at Kansas City Crypticon this weekend. For the rest of this week I will be learning to be a daytime person again, finishing writing projects and preparing for Crypticon.

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Markets and Jobs for Writers

Erika Dreifus, a freelance writer and book publicist, publishes a weekly list of no-fee, paying competitions, contests, and calls for submissions—plus jobs for those of us who write (especially fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction).

She is also the editor and publisher of The Practicing Writer, a free (and popular) e-newsletter that features opportunities and resources for fictionists, poets, and writers of creative nonfiction.

Find her Monday Markets and Jobs for Writers list here.

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Bitter Suites Update

Thank you, everyone! Bitter Suites has been available on Amazon for about a week, and I’m happy with the reception so far. Five reviews are up on Amazon already and it’s been hovering in the 3k list for post-apocalyptic books. Find Bitter Suites on Amazon here. 

I wouldn’t have called it a “post-apocalyptic” story, but as someone recently pointed out to me, it kind of is. In this world there is no flash, end-of-the-world scenario, but it has that dismal feel.

Rather than a dramatic event, Bitter Suites takes place in a world where consumerism has bled the life blood from the people, and everything has become a commodity.

Regardless of how it’s listed, I’m really pleased to see it doing well so early on. I thank everyone who has supported the creation of this story, and continues as I write Suite and Sour. I’m interested to see how it does it Crypticon next week.

I would love to have more reviews, of course, so please keep them coming!

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Still Life Example

I’ve been occupied with the Horror Writer Association’s online writing workshop I’ve been taking. One of the assignments we’ve been doing are known as “still lifes.” Like a painted still life, we look at something someone else created and try to copy it into words.

A few weeks ago we did a study of the old Thriller video by Michael Jackson. I watched it a few times back in the 80s. Our assignment was to narrate the first four-and-a-half minutes and detail the events of 0:20 to 3:40. We were to put our own spin on what we saw, including what creature we thought Jackson had transformed into.

I really dreaded this assignment, but once I got started it turned out to be one of my favorites. It turned out to be good exercise. Here’s how my assignment turned out. Try a still life of your own—it’s great practice for learning to see all the details rather than passively watching.

Here’s the video for reference.

Thriller Still Life

   Crickets and frogs compete with each other for dominance of a park at night. In the distance, an older model car drives into view  past an old chain link fence meant to keep the natural surroundings contained. Soon, the sound of the car adds to the cacophony of natural noises, the ill tuned engine growling along the road. It drives down the battered asphalt ribbon slowly, sputtering to a stop. The dim headlights make a feeble attempt to illuminate the surrounding darkness before going out.

   In the car, a young couple sit. The male forces the grinding gears into park while the girl looks on. Dressed in 50s era pink sweater, her slim neck is cut off by a pristine Peter Pan collar. A matching white scarf accents her black hair, pulled back into a ponytail. Pearl stud earrings grace her earlobes. Her large eyes look on the driver questioningly with an air of innocence. By contrast, the male has a roguish air with a red letterman jacket and greased up curls.

   “Honestly, we’re out of gas,” he says defensively. He smiles, white teeth gleaming in the dim light. His manner seems light. He’s not worried about running out of fuel in the middle of nowhere late at night.

   She looks away, pursing her lips and initially seems displeased and suspicious of his claim that they are stranded. She thinks about their situation for a few seconds, gazing through the windshield and past the hood of the car before her attitude changes.

   “So, what are we gonna do now?” she asks.

   Her voice is soft and seductive and the innocent air she wore a moment earlier bleeds into the night. She cocks her head as she turns to him with a coy expression. He says nothing, but looks up at her with a smile, his eyes hopeful.

   Soon, two sets of feet are crunching along the deserted road. Her saddle back shoes are neat with laces primly tied in bows. Pristine white bobby socks show off plenty of her legs beneath her swinging purple skirt. He marches beside her wearing brown penny loafers and white socks as prim as hers. His jeans are neat and rolled into cuffs that almost seem ironed with their crispness. They walk along in silence, the only sounds interrupting the natural symphony are the crunching of their steps along the road.

   There is an appropriate space between them as they walk. Any chaperone watching would approve of the demure way she clasps her hands in the folds of her skirt. He keeps his hands shoved firmly in the pockets of his red jacket. They are following the protocol of the day for unmarried couples alone on a date, but the air between them is charged with tension. Their gazes stay fixed on the road ahead, but their attention is focussed on each other and the space between them. She breaks the span by reaching out to lightly touch his elbow.

   “I’m sorry I didn’t believe you,” she says. While she plays the part of innocent girl, the artful swivel of her shoulders show off her natural curves in the soft light. He turns to her in obvious surprise. He was calculating how to bridge the distance between them. Now that she has made the first move, his awkward boyishness shows for a brief moment. Despite his confidence, it’s obvious who is calling the shots between them. He isn’t complaining. He seizes the opportunity.

   “Can I ask you something?”

   “What?” She bats her lashes at him coquettishly and smiles.

   “You know I like you,” he says.

   “Yes,” she answers, her smile broadening. She smells victory here as the conquering female.

   “And I hope you like me the way I like you.” He speaks hesitantly, his face serious with worry.

   “Yes,” she says again. He smile grows bigger as she senses opportunity for a killing blow. His heart is about to fall completely under her dominion. She waits for the kill.

   “I was just wondering if you would be my girl,” he says. The tables have turned and now it is the male that wears the expression of innocence. His heart is overwhelmed by feelings of love inspired by her soft, clinging sweater and artful swells. He has become prey.

   “Oh, Michael,” she says breathlessly. She bares her teeth for the briefest of instances before she moves in to claim him. She embraces him, performing the ritualistic act of female dominance, and scents him with her perfume. Oblivious to his peril, he grins foolishly in the shadows, confident that he has won a prize. She allows him to think this because it suits her.

   She squeals in victory, allows him to feel her softness pressing up against him just long enough to set her hooks and then pulls back. She knows he will remember the moment where her flesh pressed against him and it will haunt his nights. This memory will serve as her leash to keep him as her prisoner. It’s his turn now to show his adulation with a gift.

   When her embrace breaks she steps back with an expectant air. He is prepared. Though young, he understands the small rituals of 50s era coupling. From his pocket he pulls a small object. Weighing less than an ounce, this small circle of metal serves as a reminder of his new subservience. He willingly places it on her finger as she utters more soft victory squeals.  She has set her snares well. The male belongs to her. She holds the symbol of her conquest to the light, admiring the gleam on her finger.

   “It’s beautiful!” she says.

   “Now it’s official,” he says, oblivious to the perilous trap he has stepped into. He grins foolishly and seems happy to be pledged to this queen. He exists in the moment, burning with young desire that clouds his mind and smothers the warning whispers that sound in the back of his consciousness. He buries them in the smolders of his passion.

   “I have something I wanna tell you,” he says. His eyes are worried that his new queen may be displeased by what he is about to reveal.

   “I’m not like other guys,” he confesses.

   “Of course not!” She knows he is not like other guys now, because he is her guy. Little does she know, in her inexperience, that sometimes the hunter becomes the prey even as victory seems assured.

   “That’s why I love you,” she reassures him.

   “No, I mean I’m different,” he insists. If this is to be a proper match, he feels he needs full disclosure between them.

   “What are you talking about?” she asks dismissively. Her immature mind can’t conceive any reality where she is not the victor in this situation.

   Overhead the clouds peel away from the face of the moon, revealing its face. It shines down upon the couple, bathing them both in a bone white glow. The male becomes twitchy in the light, his body convulsing as it touches him. He groans and collapses to kneel on the road as wolves howl in the shadows. She is appalled as she realizes perhaps she has been chasing damaged goods.

   “Are you all right?” she asks. Her mind struggles to understand what is happening to her recent conquest. In the back of her mind she becomes aware that they are alone.

  “Go away!” He snarls and looks up at her. His eyes have changed to those of an animal. His pupils have become black slits against gold. His mouth has become full of dangerous looking, jagged fangs. Appropriately, she screams.

   He stands upright, uttering guttural complaints to the moon that has revealed his true nature. Her eyes bug out in terror as it dawns on her that she is not in control of the situation as all. All her mother’s warnings about being alone with boys chase through her mind. She continues screaming, her feminine wiles suddenly insufficient.

   He screams with her as his body undergoes the wrath of puberty within seconds. Hair sprouts from him, his body is overtaken by unwelcome bulges he can no longer control and his nails grow into talons. His ears grow into feral points as sporadic whiskers sprout from his upper lip. He transforms, to the chorus of her desperate screams, into a were-lion.

   That is enough to break the spell of terror that has kept her rooted. She runs, flailing her arms foolishly in a last attempt to exercise the power of her femininity. Pausing for a moment, she presses a hand to her bosom to still her racing heart, but a growl behind her prompts her to continue her flight. She no longer worries that she will muss her dress or break out into a full sweat rather than a delicate perspiration. She is full on fleeing for her life.

   Behind her, the were-lion springs into action. He is angry that she would try to tame him and incensed at her coquettish tricks. He is intent on claiming her now as his conquest, tearing her delicate limbs apart and consuming her perfumed flesh. His tactics aren’t as artful as hers, but much more efficient. He races after her, aggressively killing an offending tree as he passes.

   The chase progresses through the dark woods. He gives frequent roars to herd her where he pleases. His roars alert the forest that a new king has arrived to this jungle and all of nature falls silent to escape his notice. The only sound that breaks the night are her panicked footfalls and the ominous music that accompanies them.

   Having herded her precisely where he wants her, the were-lion leaps from the shadows directly in front of her. He roars and she tries to step back, falling to the ground backwards. Her seater will surely be ruined from the damp leaf litter. She lays in the dirt, oblivious to the peril of her clothes, and looks at him helplessly. A small part of her hopes that her natural good looks may stay the beast like the fairy tales she grew up on, but as he descends upon her. His talons spread to rend her flesh and, like many young girls, she realizes the handsome prince sometimes is just a beast.

   All her aspirations of being the coveted princess disintegrate as he prepares to dismember her dreams, limb by limb.

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Trip to England for Speculative Writers?

The Centre for Science Fiction and Fantasy in Cambridge seeks “a non-UK based writer working in science fiction or fantasy at any stage of their career who is interested in sharing their ideas with researchers, practitioners and students.”

The chosen resident will be asked to draw up an appropriate program of activities which would not exceed ten contact hours over the course of the week and might include:

  • Running or presenting at seminars to students studying courses in SF and creative writing
  • Giving a public lecture
  • Mentoring sessions
  • Contributing to a panel presentation at the Cambridge Festival of Ideas
  • Contributing to videotaped resources to be used by students at the Centre for Science Fiction and Fantasy.
  • Contributing a blog or editorial to be published on the Centre for Science Fiction and Fantasy website/Samovar.

What’s included in the residency:

  • Accommodation in a centrally located hotel or B&B in Cambridge and subsistence up to a maximum of £1000.
  • Travel including UK transfers up to a maximum of £500
  • A stipend of £1000.

Interested in a writing trip in England? Find out more details here.

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