Dark Fiction by Lee Allen Howard

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DEATH PERCEPTION by Lee Allen HowardNovel The Bedwetter CoverNovel the-adamson-familyNovel ______
The Sixth SeedNovel Perpetual NightmaresCollection MAMA SAIDShort Story ______
DESPERATE SPIRITS by Lee Allen HowardTwo-story Collection NIGHT MONSTERS by Lee Allen HowardFour-story Collection Severed RelationsTwo-story Collection   ______
THOU SHALT NOT... edited by Lee Allen HowardAnthology Tales Of Blood and Squalor plus text UPDATEDAnthology STRAY by Lee Allen HowardShort Story ______
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Ramping Up My Writing Process

Productivity ChainA few weeks ago, I posted my 2021 writing goals. Toward that end, I’m ramping up my writing process. Here’s the well-greased chain I’m shooting for to increase my fiction-writing productivity:

Ideation > Brainstorming > Plotting > Outlining > Drafting > Editing > Marketing

Ideation: This is generating a story idea. I do this purposely several times a week on Twitter. For example:

You open the front door to get the mail. In the mailbox is a severed hand. Who put it there and why. How do you find out?

Brainstorming: Great idea. (I’ll write it someday.) But it needs a little—okay, a lot—of work. Here’s where I go through a process of answering questions about my character and his or her goals. I do a lot of work before I tackle structure. After all, I need events and motivation to plot.

Plotting: I develop character arcs for all my major characters and conform the brainstormed material into classic story structure. More at How to Write Stories that Sell.

Outlining: Here, I sort the information into a sequential scene-by-scene list from which I’ll write. I like my ducks in a row so that when I plant my butt in the chair, I can write without interruption.

Drafting: Using my outline, I write from beginning to end, incorporating all the information from my brainstorming, plotting, and outlining. I use Scrivener to build my manuscripts.

Editing: After one or more days, I’ll print the draft and edit it, making sure all the necessary information is in place and that I’m using the best language to tell a story. I go through at least five drafts before I consider the story ready for the reading public.

Marketing: I now have everything beta read. (If you’re a published writer and are willing to beta-read my fiction, contact me.) After final changes, I submit it to markets. If I don’t place a work after a while, I publish it myself.

This is my process, and I hope to perfect it this year so that I’m regularly churning out story after story, novel after novel. Expect to see more published this year. If learning about my process has been helpful to you, please leave a comment. I’d like to know your process, too.

Guest Post: Why Ghosts Haunt Me by Mark Allan Gunnells

I’ve been a lover of horror since, let’s see… Well, I don’t ever remember not being a lover of horror.

One of my earliest memories is of my family watching the original Salem’s Lot miniseries when it first aired in 1979. I was five. In the intervening years (no, I won’t tell you how many, and how rude of you to ask!), I’ve delved into every conceivable type of horror there is, and I love it all.

Mark Allan GunnelsBut when it comes to subgenres within the wider genre, I must admit I have a favorite.

Ghosts.

Tales of spooks, apparitions, and hauntings really hit my sweet spot. I enjoy other subgenres—vampires and serial killers and werewolves and, yes, even zombies—but ghosts thrill me most.

I’ve written many ghost stories. Hell, I published a haunted house novel, 324 Abercorn, last year, and my latest release, 2B, is about a haunted apartment. I can’t get enough of exploring this subject.

Why, you ask? Good question.

It boils down to my penchant for atmospheric horror over the more graphic. Don’t get me wrong, blood and guts don’t bother me, but when it comes to what really scares me, I favor more subtle things and the ambiguous. Uncertainty and the unknown haunt me, pardon the pun, longer than something more concrete and in my face.

Ghost stories aren’t the only types that employ the atmospheric approach, but they do it most effectively. At least for me.

Ghost stories often start out subtly, with things slightly off kilter, the characters questioning if it’s all in their minds. This early part, when things are uncertain, is what I find the most suspenseful and unnerving, because we’ve all been there. Did I move my wallet from the table to the counter and simply don’t remember? Did the glass fall because it was sitting too close to the table’s edge? Is that noise like footsteps only the house settling? (After years of watching haunted house movies, “the house settling” has become to me a euphemism for “This house is haunted as shit, and we should get out before blood starts pouring out of the walls!”)

In my favorite ghost stories, such as The Dwelling by Susie Malonie and Stephen King’s The Shining, suspense gradually builds and tension tightens as events escalate. Even then there can be ambiguity. Some ghost stories intentionally leave you unsure if the haunting was real, suggesting the main character had a breakdown and was imagining it all. This in itself can be horrifying. I’d rather have an undead spirit in my house than realize I’m losing my mind and my grip on reality.

One terrifying implication of ghost stories is that we can never truly escape toxic or dangerous people. If death cannot stop some folks from tormenting us, then what hope is there?

2B by Mark Allan GunnellsThe flipside is that those we love and cherish may never really leave us and, in this respect, some ghost stories can end on an uplifting note. This doesn’t make them any less horror, as I don’t believe all horror stories must end with the death of hope.

These thoughts are why ghost stories are my favorite horror subgenre and why I keep going back to it.

To see what I mean, check out my new novel, 2B, available in ebook and paperback on Amazon. “When your ex wants you dead, they will take you to the grave with them!”

Mark’s blog is at https://markgunnells.livejournal.com/. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter @MarkAGunnells, and Instagram.

Book Review: Writing in the Dark by Tim Waggoner

The Best of How-to-Write Horror

I’ve read a ton of how-to-write-fiction books including a number of texts on writing horror, but Tim Waggoner’s Writing in the Dark is the best of them all.

Writing in the Dark by Tim WaggonerIt opens with an intro by Tom Monteleone of Borderlands fame demonstrating why Waggoner is qualified to write the book. He’s a prolific writer of both horror/dark fantasy and media tie-ins. In the preface, Waggoner reveals why he writes horror. We’re of roughly the same age, and his journey in many ways mirrors mine. (It’s great to meet a new member of the Horror Family. Weirdos unite!)

He progresses through chapters such as “Why Horror Matters” and “Things Unknown” and turns a corner with “Everything You Know Is Wrong.” He covers various subgenres of horror, generating unique ideas for stories, and building one-of-a-kind monsters. I especially enjoyed the chapters “The Horror Hero’s Journey” (Poor Bastard’s Descent into Hell) and the importance of including an emotional core relayed through immersive POV.

Every chapter is insightful, helpful, and entertaining. Each ends with exercises to enable eager writers to implement what they’ve just learned as well as three or four “voices from the shadows”—accomplished horror writers—who discuss what makes good horror and best advice for beginning writers.

Waggoner teaches college-level writing, so you’re getting a college course in a book. I love to study, so I consider it a textbook that’s also a tasty morsel of how-to darkness.

My rating is 4.6 stars. The book lost a few tenths because the type is so small. As I read through, I was hoping for a workbook that expanded the exercises. Well, Guide Dog Books/Raw Dog Screaming Press recently announced a companion workbook is coming, so I’m excited about that. I’ll be buying it, too, when it comes out. But I hope the type is a little bigger for those like me over fifty.

I can’t recommend this text highly enough. Whether you’re a beginning, intermediate, or advanced horror writer, you’ll get something useful to take your writing to the next horrific level.

Follow Tim Waggoner on Twitter @TimWaggoner. Check out his website at http://www.timwaggoner.com/.

New Logo for Lee Allen Howard

In preparation for my website relaunch, I had a logo designed.

It’s based on how I sign my books for readers. (A decade ago I chose to market myself as “Lee Allen Howard” because I had discovered other “Lee Howards” were out there writing books too. But that long name took too much time, so I began to scratch my initials instead, with the L crossing the A and the H.)

Here’s the logo. What do you think?

Lee Allen Howard Logo

“Home”: My Favorite X-Files Episode

I loved The X-Files. It’s one of my all-time favorite TV series and the best of the 1990s, in my opinion. It had sci-fi, fantasy, the paranormal, the weird, and horror. I not only wanted to believe, but I did believe.

Inbred cretins in "Home"My hands-down favorite episode was the second in season 4, originally airing on FOX October 11, 1996. “Home” was controversial because it was so dark and violent. In fact, it was the only episode to carry a TV-MA rating during the series.

Mulder and Scully investigate the death of a baby born with severe physical defects. Traveling to the small isolated town of Home, Pennsylvania, the pair meet the Peacocks, a family of deformed farmers who have not left their house in a decade. Initially, Mulder suspects the brothers kidnapped and raped a woman to father the child, but the investigation uncovers a long history of incest…”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Home_(The_X-Files)

I’ll leave the rest for your viewing pleasure.

If you love horror, you’ll want to watch “Home” for yourself. This seminal episode is what inspired me to produce the horror/crime anthology Tales of Blood and Squalor at Dark Cloud Press. “If you were a mother, you’d understand…”

Watch Will Johnston’s review of “Home” on YouTube (Warning: contains spoilers!): The Best X-Files Episode | “Home”

My 2021 Writing Goals

Writing CalendarI hope it’s not too late to set some goals for the new year. It took me the month of January to get clear on some of them, but here’s what I’m shooting for in 2021.

  • I will master the art of storytelling. I will continue to study and apply what I learn to my writing process until I’m able to plan, plot, and write captivating stories with ease.
  • I will generate ideas and turn them into stories, writing prolifically. I will write story after story, mining my idea folder and #StoryStarter ideas I’ve posted on Twitter.
  • I will write faster. Having planned and plotted stories beforehand, I will be able to write them at least 2500 words per hour.
  • I will write to market each chance I get. Having mastered the art of storytelling and writing much and more quickly, I will write stories for open calls to increase my chances of getting published (instead of writing only my ideas and trying to place them offhand in markets).
  • I will write flash fiction. I will turn poems I’ve written into flash pieces or short stories.
  • I will develop and write a self-editing text, reading and compiling source notes, outlining, and writing chapters until I’m finished. I will submit a proposal to a publishing company.
  • I will revamp my backlist so that I win steady sales. This will include creating new covers for my one-off short stories and shorter collections.
  • I will learn how to market books on Amazon, including placing ads.
  • I will read a book on writing craft monthly. I will continue my writing studies, reading at least one craft text each month.
  • I will redesign my website and launch it. Leeallenhoward.com needs a facelift! Stay tuned.

I plan to make progress on all these goals in 2021. Have you set goals for the new year? What would you like to accomplish? Perhaps more reading? 🙂

Movie Review: Antichrist (2009)

Antichrist 2009Antichrist (2009), by controversial director Lars von Trier, is the most disturbing horror film I’ve ever seen.

It opens with one of the most horrifying scenes in any movie I’ve watched. The ending scenes are even more excruciating. I won’t go into details to avoid blunting the shock factor, but consider yourself forewarned.

After the death of their toddler (“Nic,” played by Storm Acheche Sahlstrom), a couple who remain unnamed throughout the movie (Willem Dafoe as “He” and Charlotte Gainsbourg as “She”) deal with Her atypical grief over this heartbreaking loss. After She is hospitalized for a month, He, a psychotherapist, transports Her to their wilderness cabin, which harks back to the Garden of Eden and is in fact named “Eden.” There, they embark on psychotherapeutic exercises to help Her overcome Her grief and fear.

She and HeThey seem to make progress, but His strange encounters with dead and dying animals—the Three Beggars: Grief, Pain, and Despair—coincide with Her descent into madness. He discovers Her thesis notes on “gynocide” that have degenerated over time into incoherent scribbles. He realizes She’s not as good a mother as He supposed.

FoxShe tells Him at one point, “Women do not control their own bodies; Nature does. … Nature is Satan’s church.” She demonstrates when she begins to terrorize him.

Fearing He will leave Her, She’s convinced He has become the enemy and intervenes violently to prevent abandonment. These climactic scenes are unbearably intense, gory, and sexually explicit. (Several scenes should have earned the movie an NC-17 rating, so beware.)

Von Trier’s perverse film is not for the squeamish. He developed it during a severe depression (which I admire because I’ve been unable to write while depressed), and his mental and emotional state during the writing and filming leach through to infect the mind and soul of viewers.

At the cabin, She renounces Her thesis and tells Him She believes that women are evil. Is the movie misogynistic? That depends on your point of view. Von Trier’s female characters are often abused, and NPR paints Him like male characters in von Trier’s other works as “a smug, sententious fool.”

While this film is sinister and unpleasant, Anthony Dod Mantle’s cinematography is gorgeous—especially the black-and-white scenes, the close-ups, and out-of-focus shots.

The acting is exceptional. Dafoe, who played Jesus in The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), always gives a good performance, and Gainsbourg (Claire in von Trier’s Melancholia [2011]) is stellar.

The movie deals with biblical themes about Satan, the Fall, and the nature of evil. But I couldn’t understand why the film was titled “Antichrist”; it had nothing to do with the man of lawlessness. When the handwritten credits rolled, I found out why: the director is billed as “Lars von Trier Antichrist.”

You will either love or hate this film. But as a study in dramatic horror, it’s a must-see for film students and enthusiasts alike. 4.7 stars.

Watch the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aCgkoWZzOrc

Lars Von Trier