“Howard’s Bookshelf” at Midwest Book Review

Hey, I got my own “bookshelf” at Midwest Book Review’s website this month.

Check out my reviews of Barbie Wilde’s THE VENUS COMPLEX and Carlton Mellick III’s QUICKSAND HOUSE. Here’s the link:

http://www.midwestbookreview.com/rbw/oct_13.htm#howard

Also, search the site from the home page for “Michael A. Arnzen” to read my review of PLAY DEAD.

I hope to write more reviews for MBR. Let me know what you think.


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The Creepier, the Better

I’ve been wanting to post this for months, but I’m just getting around to it.

My motto for 2013 is this:

THE CREEPIER, THE BETTER

Instead of being ashamed that I’m creepy (and I’ve been creepy since a very young age), since writing my Arnzstigation, I’ve decided to exult in my creepiness! It’s something that contributes to my uniqueness, and I’m going to capitalize on it. (Thank you to Mike Arnzen for setting me free.) And thanks to John Edward Lawson, I got this great graphic:

The Creepier, the Better

I’ve been buying creepy art for my home:

Creepy Art

And I’ve started to wear creepy jewelry:

Skull Ring

In the first quarter of this year, I wrote the creepiest and most disturbing novel I’ve ever written. Read more about CALL OF THE PISS FAIRY here.

What is the result of all this creepiness? I’M REALLY FREAKING HAPPY! It’s good to be creepy; it’s good to be me!

I just watched this nine-minute video about the nature of creepiness and loved it:

In the latest installment of VSauce, Michael Stevens takes a fascinating look at the subtler qualities of “scary stuff,” with a special emphasis on terror and creepiness – feelings he argues stem primarily from a sense of ambiguity:

Creepy things are kind of an ambiguity but they’re also kind of not, so our brains don’t know what to do. Some parts respond with fear, while other parts don’t, and they don’t know why. So instead of achieving a typical fear response – horror – we simply feel uneasy. Terror. Creeped out. Between the mountains of safety and danger there is a valley of creepiness, where the limits of our trust and knowledge and security aren’t very clear.

Watch “What Makes Creepy Things Creepy.”

Like my Facebook author page, and you’ll get a 9:00 a.m. #creepyphotos post every day.

Are you creeped out yet? If so, my work is done.

Now I’m going to go read a scholarly study titled, “On the Nature of Creepiness,” by Francis T. McAndrew and Sara S. Koehnke, Knox College, 2013. Because I’m not just creepy, I’m seriously creepy!

“Creepy people are unable to change, but they do not necessarily have bad intentions.”
–McAndrew & Koehnke

So, I can’t help myself. And exactly what my intentions are remains to be seen…


Coming Soon: HYSTERIA by Stephanie M. Wytovich

HYSTERIA by Stephanie M. Wytovich

Asylums once used to confine those deemed mentally unfit to linger, forgotten behind trees or urban development, beautiful yet desolate in their decay. Within them festers something far more unnerving than unlit corners or unexplained noises: the case files left to moulder out of sight, out of conscience.

Stephanie M. Wytovich forces your hands upon these crumbling, warped binders and exposes your mind to every taboo misfortune experienced by the outcast, exiled, misbegotten monsters and victims who have walked among us. The poetry contained in Hysteria performs internal body modification on its readers in an unrelenting fashion, employing broad-spectrum brutality treatment that spans the physical to the societal, as noted in Stoker Award winner Michael A. Arnzen’s incisive introduction.

HYSTERIA: A Collection of Madness by Stephanie M. Wytovich

Introduction by Michael A. Arnzen

Cover art by Steven Archer.

Collection of horror poetry coming in paperback from Raw Dog Screaming Press this summer

Raw Dog Screaming Press


Book Review: INSTIGATION by Michael A. Arnzen

INSTIGATION: Writing Prompts on the Dark Side by Michael A. Arnzen from Mastication Publications

“Where do you get your ideas?” Since it’s not cool to say, “From fantasizing about strangling the living shit out of you,” I’m telling everyone, “From Mike Arnzen’s Instigation: Writing Prompts on the Dark Side.”

Michael A. Arnzen, PhD, is an award-winning author of horror fiction (four Bram Stoker awards), an English professor at Seton Hill University, and a mentor in their Writing Popular Fiction MFA program, of which I’m an alum (with an MA).

INSTIGATION: Writing Prompts on the Dark Side by Michael A. Arnzen

INSTIGATION by Michael A. Arnzen,
from Mastication Publications

Over a decade ago, he began writing a column for Hellnotes journal called “Instigation,” which provided not only creative—but darkly creative—writing prompts for writers. He continued this tradition at Gorelets.com and in his Goreletter (totally worth subscribing to). Arnzen has expanded his original collection of prompts and revised, updated, organized, and supplemented it into a terrific resource for creative writers on the dark side.

I recently downloaded INSTIGATION and gave it a spin. I’m so glad I did.

In “Here Comes the Fork: An Introduction,” Arnzen discusses writer’s block and creative desiccation, and how writing prompts can get the imaginative juices seeping again.

One trick to getting started is to sidestep the burden of coming up with ideas or a plot first. That’s what a prompt does — it challenges the writer to respond without having to worry too much about premise or plot. It hands you a deck of cards and maybe even the rules too and encourages you to simply start dealing them out.

Yet for the writer of dark fiction, most writing prompts fall short, providing only inspiration. “Rarely,” he says, “do they push you to do something truly weird, taboo, goofy or unthinkable (ergo, original).” Sure, your plot and writing may follow typical form, but Arnzen believes that “the best genre fiction always marries convention with invention.” And that’s where his envelope-pushing prompts slither in.

Arnzen suggests successful usage in “How to Use This Book,” while advising that, when writing, the best counsel is, “Do whatever works.” This may involve journaling or freewriting.

“365 Sick Scenarios” lists a story starter for every night of the year, with prompts like: “Create a numbered list: ‘Rules for Human Hunting'” and “Clot a wound or make a tourniquet with an unexpected object.”

“Spurs: 31 Turns for the Worst” includes prompts for works in progress—when you need a jab in the flank by your demon rider to “take things in an unexpected direction.” Like “Torment with temperature” (a creative way of saying turn up the heat on your character).

“Resurrections” are prompts that will help bring your story “back from the dead” during revision. This will come in handy for me soon.

“Memoir Mayhem” is a collection of journal prompts to inspire you beyond the realm of dark fiction.

The D.I.Y. section, “The Devil Made You Do It Yourself,” enables you to customize his prompts or come up with your own writing exercises. I particularly like “The Monster Mash” and “Weird Sins.”

All these sections are numbered with a scheme so that you can do a random search to pick a prompt out of the skull cap.

INSTIGATION concludes with a few short articles to help you overcome writer’s block. (Which makes me think of a chopping block. “Stick your neck out and write, or just stick your neck out.” How’s that for inspiration and encouragement? You only have me to blame for this prompt, I’m afraid.)

Arnzen encourages INSTIGATION users to write their own material and drop him a line to get a link to their work posted in his “Instigation Showcase.”

My favorite phrase from the book: “sloshing, galumphing breasts.” To find out what that’s all about, writer, get your copy of INSTIGATION: Writing Prompts on the Dark Side by Mastication Publications, providing “Unusual Ideas to Chew On.” Ebook formats include Kindle (.mobi), Nook (.epub), and PDF. Only $3.99.

Subscribe to the Mastication newsletter, and get a 25% off discount code!

Then incise an artery and start writing.

Mike Arnzen is also the creator of “The Refrigerator of the Damned” magnetic poetry kit. Take down your kids’ drawings and post a horrific poem about how they cried. Get your kit at Raw Dog Screaming Press.

Search for #TFOTD on Twitter. Follow @MikeArnzen and Like his Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/gorelets.

I describe how Mike Arzen has inspired me in How Arnzstigation Set Me Free.


How Arnzstigation Set Me Free


 
Arnzstigation Days


When I was earning my master’s in Writing Popular Fiction at Seton Hill University, professor of dark literature extraordinaire Michael A. Arnzen was my mentor while I wrote my thesis novel, DEATH PERCEPTION.

Besides being a terrific teacher with a great sense of humor, Mike is super creative in supporting the careers of fledgling writers. In his critique of DEATH PERCEPTION, I’ll never forget one suggestion he made about protagonist Kennet Singleton. Mike pointed out that he could get revenge through fire, which, as a crematory operator, is Kennet’s element. My book is so much better for his input.

So is my career. As I’ve struggled to honor the ideas that come to me, however twisted, Arnzen taught me that it’s okay to be dark, and that I must go there without flinching. In the past my darkness has gotten the better of me and laid me low more times than I can count. But since I posted a Facebook status about a month ago, all Arnzen’s past advice seemed to jell like clotting blood. “I exult in my creepiness!”

Arnzstigation set me free. I’m now working on the darkest story I’ve ever written, and it’s sharp as a scalpel.

I post this with gratitude for Dr. Arnzen’s influence and support. And I want to tell you about a brilliant project he’s got going…

You know those magnetic poetry kits you can assemble into verses on your refrigerator door? Arnzen has created one for the darkly inspired, with words like headshot, grotesque, and embalmed. Here’s a sample that also showcases his photographic talents.

The project is called Fridge of the Damned. Although phase 1 is fully funded, providing the capital to produce the magnets, there’s still a push to complete phase 2 of funding so that the magnets can be packaged in custom tin boxes. (Phase 2 goal is $2700.) I’d much rather have a tin box than a plastic bag, wouldn’t you? (Especially if it contains something severed and dripping.)

There are plenty of support levels, and every bit helps. You get the coolest premiums! I know I want at least one set of magnets—packaged in custom tins, (un)naturally. E-books, too. Did I mention Mike is an award-winning poet and micro fiction writer?

If you are a lover of horror, you must get his stuff, and supporting Fridge of the Damned is a great way to kill two birds with one donation.

There’s only a week left. Please support now, and support big. This project and its creator are worth it. Besides enabling this creative dark poetry kit to be packaged in style, you’ll be able to damn your refrigerator—as if the tender parts packaged inside weren’t enough.

Support Fridge of the Damned Magnetic Poetry Kit Kickstarter Project Now

I Survived the Arnzstigation
Thank you. I’m all about making someone’s nightmare come true.

Everyone has talent. What is rare is the courage to follow the talent to the dark places where it leads. –Erica Jong

Who else is behind the project:

Connect with Michael A. Arnzen at gorelets.com.


Hazard Yet Forward for Donna Munro

Ginormous Multi-author Genre Anthology to Benefit Seton Hill University Alum

Hazard Yet ForwardSeventy-six writers connected to the Seton Hill University Writing Popular Fiction program contributed to a multi-genre anthology, HAZARD YET FORWARD. All proceeds from this project benefit Donna Munro, a 2004 graduate of the program. Munro, a teacher living in St. Louis, Missouri, was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. An active member of the SHU WPF alumni committee, Munro helps organize the school’s annual writing conference, In Your Write Mind.

To aid Munro and her family, faculty members, alumni, students and friends of the Writing Popular Fiction program immediately responded to compile this massive anthology. The book features flash fiction, short stories and a full-length novella. There are 75 works total from various genres—literally, something for everyone—ranging from horror to romance to mystery, and everything in between.

Notable writers in the anthology are World Fantasy Award winner Nalo Hopkinson, Bram Stoker winners Michael A. Arnzen and Michael Knost, Bram Stoker nominee Lawrence C. Connolly, ALA/YALSA Best Book for Young Adults winner Jessica Warman, Rita finalist Dana Marton, Spur winner Meg Mims, Asimov’s Readers’ Award winner Timons Esaias and WV Arts and Humanities literary fellowships winner Geoffrey Cameron Fuller.

HAZARD YET FORWARD co-compiler Matt Duvall says, “It’s an unprecedented collection of stories from every genre imaginable.” This large volume is an electronic book for the popular Kindle platform and is available for purchase through Amazon, reasonably priced at $9.99.

When I heard about the project, I quickly responded by contributing my story “Mixed Breed, Loves Kids.” Donna was my sponsor when I entered the program in 2004, and she does so much for the WPF program. She’s an all-around fantastic person; I want to support her while she conquers breast cancer.

You can order HAZARD YET FORWARD here.

You can find more information about the anthology at http://hazardyetforward.wordpress.com. To learn about the unique and exciting Writing Popular Fiction program, visit http://www.setonhill.edu/academics/fiction/.


The 777 Game

Author friend Rose Vanden Eynden tagged me in her blog post today. It’s a fun game, and here are the rules:

  1. Go to page 77 of your current work in progress.
  2. Scroll down 7 lines.
  3. Paste the next 7 sentences into your blog.
  4. Then tag 7 more authors to carry forward the 777 game. Add their links, and remember to link to the person who tagged you… (Also, let everyone know.)

From page 77 of DEATH PERCEPTION:

Antogonist Cecil Grinold puts protagonist Kennet Singleton to the test, to see if the young man really can discern cause of death by toasting marshmallows over the cremated remains of the deceased. But Grinold is up to no good, of course.

“I was just thinking of a little experiment.” Yes, why not find out whether my young employee is telling the truth or inventing tall tales? Knowing that his psychic “gift” was impossible, Cecil gloated about the time when he would fire Kennet for good. Hopefully, soon.

“Experiment?”

“Yes, Kennet. Are the marshmallows still here?”

“Unless you threw them away.”

“I should have, but I didn’t. Bring them out.”

“I hope there’s no problem . . . ”

“Relax. Just get the marshmallows.” Dummy.

Okay, so I posted a few more than 7 sentences, but it was a good breaking point. You can learn more about DEATH PERCEPTION here.

Rose’s links are at the beginning of this post, and here are links to 7 of my friends’ blogs. Check them out. Read their stuff. Support writers!