Thursday, December 18, 2014

Christmas Legends and Tales

So I love Christmas fiction, but I also love those elusive Christmas legends. I have a soft spot for holiday stories that originate from medieval and European stories that infuse magic with symbolism or the religious. There are some truly spectacular tales out there, and I love reading them, hearing them, and working with them in my own fiction.

A lot of them trace back to Christian beliefs, but no matter what area your faith lies in, I find these to just be really well put together little tales. They’re quick narratives that touch the heart and capture the imagination. I have a favorite in particular: One involves a little French boy who happens to be a hunchback who is skilled at working with wood. He decides to carve a new cradle for his village’s creche, but work piles up and late on Christmas night he’s still slaving away when a boy his age comes into his workshop to help. He falls asleep and wakes up to see not only a beautiful cradle, but finds that he’s been cured of his affliction. When he takes the cradle to the creche his notices that the baby looks quite a bit like a younger version of the boy who helped him.

Whatever your traditions are, I thought I'd share some of my other favorite Christmas legends, and I'd love to hear some of yours!

 The Legend of the Christmas Spider – this one is a German story, and I’ve heard different variations so I’m providing the link. The basic theme is that spiders want to see the Christmas tree (the object of much fuss in the human household) for themselves, but being nearsighted they have to look up close and leave their webs everywhere. Through magic (or a miracle depending on the story) their webs are turned to silver and gold threads, thus giving the world the first inspiration for tinsel.

The Legend of the Poinsetta – A young Mexican girl has no gift to leave at the nativity on Christmas Eve, but gets reassured that even the most humble gift is welcome. With no other options, she gathers a handful of weeds, but when she leaves them at the nativity they’re transformed to beautiful flowers with fiery blooms. I got so much extra credit in Adv. Spanish class for being able to read the Tommy DePaola …mainly because my mother had gotten me the Spanish/English translation of the book the year before for Christmas.

Silent Night – a simple story that may or may not be true. A young priest writes a poem and wants music to go with it, so enlists the help of the church organist. According to someit, on Christmas Eve the organ was broken so it was played on guitar and a legend began. Others theorize that Franz Gruber preferred a simple melody he could play on guitar. Whatever you believe, it’s a story that many people know and love.

Santa’s Helpers…and I don’t mean the elves. Depending on the region, back in the day Santa usually had a servant/assistant/co-person who punished the naughty kids while he gave gifts to the good. This could be everything from taking back the toys, giving coal or switches (that parents would use as a reminder of what would happen if children misbehaved), or in the case of Krampus (admittedly fast becoming a personal favorite of mine), he would put you in his magic sack and drag you to hell. And GUYS DID YOU KNOW ICELAND HAS YULE TROLLS?! AND A YULE CAT!? Apparently the thirteen trolls will either play pranks on you or give you presents. But the Yule cat will eat you if you don't get new clothes by Christmas Eve. So you'd better get shopping!

Talking animals on Christmas Eve – This has to be my absolute personal favorite of the bunch. I first saw this referenced in an Irish faerie/ghost story when I was ten, and since then I love when an author can reference it in fiction. It’s been used by authors from Beatrix Potter (Tailor of Gloucester) to Anne M. Martin (On Christmas Eve), and used deftly and gracefully. The original legend goes something like because animals acknowledged or allowed Jesus into their home on Christmas Eve, at midnight every year until dawn they’re able to talk and communicate like everyone else (although in Potter’s story you have to be able to interpret their animal-speak to be able to get the full gist). I will admit that although I am an adult I may have cornered my cat after midnight every year on Christmas Eve…just in case. 

I love things like this because they stand the test of time and because they give me ideas as an author and all-around creative person. Whether I choose to use any of them or not, I like that there’s such a rich history and story-telling tradition in the winter holidays – and that’s not even counting the history of traditions like wassailing and kissing under the mistletoe or legends behind symbols like holly and ivy. There’s so much to work with, and it’s all beautiful and rich with possibility.

And speaking of symbols like holly and ivy...even though this story seems like a cozy little romantic story with a bit of magic, I can tell you that it very much stemmed from the symbolism behind the plants, as well...


After losing her job and her boyfriend, Holly returns to her parents’ farm. Embarrassed and hopeless, she doesn’t expect to bump into a forgotten childhood friend that wasn’t supposed to exist. Ivy is not only a dryad, but she lives in the pine trees Holly’s family grows to sell at Christmas. As the old friends reconnect, Ivy not only shares her strong oninions, but gives Holly a charm that will change both their lives. As days melt into weeks and the seasons change, Holly’s life magically turns around. Christmas not only brings surprises, but a choice for the human woman. What’s more important: stability, success, and love, or keepinga promise to an old friend?

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Gift of the Editor


The Gift of the Editor

I am not good at editing my own work. I’m ok at first pass, and a second. But… well. I have at least 2 Beta’s who read my work, and their comments on my grammar are awesome. Then there’s RIe, who does not only call me on my grammar but also my content / style.

I can do content editing, but not the rest. And there was one story that I wanted so badly to come out, and I just couldn’t get it there. Rie was my editor through MMP (Thank you, Nicole!), and she figured it out. Once I told her what was going on in the story (flash) piece, she knew exactly what needed to be done.

Whew!

Garden is one of my favorite stories that I’ve written. I’ve also gotten the best compliment on The Golden Apple and Other Stories because of it. My neice bought and read the book. She liked Cinder’s Ella the most, but she remembered The Golden Apple. Then she told me that she thought the story Garden might help one of her friends who had lost a child…. and that hit me in my heart. At it’s heart, Garden is a story about motherhood, and grief… and love.

I don’t know if she’s shown it to her friend. Or if she did and it helped or not… But I do know that my writing touched something deep inside a reader…. and a reader that I know and love, that I spent my childhood with.

That my friends….

That’s a great editor.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

#New Release: The Golden Apple

 Mocha Memoirs Press proudly presents...

The Golden Apple 

& Other Stories 
by Wynelda Ann Deaver

BLURB

Step inside a world of pure imagination, where fairytales new and old come to life: 

* Clickety Clackety: Jenna doesn’t quite know how to take the homeless man who keeps after her to play the name game. She’s played along, a good sport. Then one day, she invites him for a cup of coffee and unlocks her past. 

* Cinder’s Ella: Ella doesn’t know what she did to deserve multiple fairy godmothers… especially when they (almost) all get it so wrong! 

* The Golden Apple: Dulcie survived her family with the help of Goat, Bear and Fox. Now she needs their help to add a new member to the family. 


Available Now 

About Wynelda Ann Deaver

Wynelda Ann Deaver has been writing since she learned how to read. Somehow, she survived the local university’s graduate program with her love of fantasy and romance intact. A voracious, eclectic reader she tends to write bright, funny fantasy. Although every once in a while a story will turn dark and twisty, or take place in modern times just to shake things up. Who knows, maybe someday she’ll even do a real romance. 


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Night Owl Review's Book Lover Contest #NORWinterWonderland


Night Owl Reviews Booklover Contest


This year Mocha Memoirs Press was proud to be a sponsor of the Night Owl Review's Book Lover Contest. The contest ran from mid November and will end December 10th. Which means we are quickly approaching the final hours of the contest and wanted to share the link to prizes to our readers.

Check out the prizes below and the click on the Rafflecopter to join in on the fun and enter for your chance to win :)

Prizes

5 = $100 Amazon Gift Cards 
5 = $50 Amazon Gift Cards 
18 = $25 Amazon Gift Cards

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The shape of the dream: Fantasy vs. Science Fiction

What other-worldly fiction resonates with the public these days?   For those of us in the other-worldly fiction genre, it sometimes comes down to a question of fantasy or science fiction.  What is the appeal of each to the reader, and what are the disadvantages of each as a tool to the writer in getting across the desired emotions and characters?

Both SF and Fantasy cover such a wide array of sub-genres,  it's hard to pin either down.  Any sub-genre could fit with either one, but some seem to work better with one than the other.  Romance, in the classic sense does seem to blend more easily into the fantasy and paranormal realm than it does with science fiction.  Eroticism often seems like a better fit with SF.

So, what are the core differences between the two genres, and what chords do they strike with the readers?  Obviously, one is based (at least loosely) on science, and therefore is grounded in physical reality and/or its theoretical properties, and the other on magic, therefore grounded in ancient beliefs or new mythology, either of which seems to resonate on some emotional level.  In short, one aims at the head, the other at the heart.

In the realm of fantasy, J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" captivated the public for decades in print, re-defining the fantasy genre, and then made a big explosion recently as a big-screen adaptation.  LOR is straight action; heroic quest and the war of good against evil.  The female characters are few, though powerful, if only in a symbolic or functionary sense.  J.R.R. Tolkien was a devout Christian attempting to paint a stark landscape of uncompromising light vs. darkness.  It aims at the heart of the child and strikes the mark.

In the turbulent 1960's, Gene Roddenberry's "Star Trek" was slower to catch on with the public, but the melodramatic character interplay eventually caught on, spawning a cult phenomenon which helped humanize science fiction.  Also simplistic in its way, it offered a wide-eyed, optimistic vision of the future which often manifested in social allegory and symbolism.  Mainly, it tried to tap less into the heart of the child and more into the imagination of the adolescent; striking out for the frontier, challenging the boundaries.

In the tamer 70's, George Lucas's "Star Wars" captured the public's imagination with a technological re-imagining of the Arthurian fantasy genre, fusing science fiction with fantasy.  The magic sword was now a laser beam, the magic of wizards was now a cosmic energy field known only as The Force.  Different tools, but same swashbuckling hero-saves-princess idea.  Back to simple good vs. evil, and it caught the public's heart.  In the aftermath of the Vietnam war and Watergate, the public longed for something clean and innocent.

The books that have captured the enthusiasm of the younger crowds and made it to the big screen currently are another sub-genre of SF:  Post-apocalyptic fiction. ("Hunger Games," "Divergent," "Maze Runner.")  The SF that begins with society's destruction, rather than its advancement.  And, its sub-genre is teen and young adult fiction.  It resonates with the young, perhaps because in these fictional worlds, the adults have destroyed the world and the young protagonists of the future are at war with a new generation of  tyrannical adults who want to control their minds.  (The 60's reborn?)

The fantasy-romance genre that has also captured the young audience currently is of course vampire fiction.  The "Twilight" phenomenon tapped into a simplistic romance formula based on a traditional viewpoint of female virginity and idealized, unconditional love.  A daughter of divorced parents seeking a truly eternal love of undying youth with a boy who loves only her.

As contemporary society seems almost to be devolving back into the turbulence of the 60's, with racism and police brutality coming to the forefront of the public mind through the new technology of social media and protests growing in the streets,  I have to wonder what otherworldly fiction will resonate next with the public?  Will writers in our genre envision a dark future of race war, or a more idealistic future beyond the killing in the streets, or will we retreat into fantasies of gods, angels, demons, brave knights and faery princesses?  We'll see.

Monday, December 1, 2014

It's Beginning to Look Like the End of the Year...

Alright then--NaNoWriMo is over. Did you participate? It was a heck of a ride, but I made it. I even got to take most of Sunday off.

But now THAT'S over, what next? It's December, and it is time to take stock of the year. It hasn't been quite the whirlwind of activity last year was--but it has also been a bi less exhausting.

And it isn't quite done. There is still time for you to add a few credits to your resume. There are quite a few anthology calls still looking for contributors. Including ours. Have you submitted to Avast, Ye Airships yet? My friend Diane Jortner just recently made a blog post with a number of anthology calls collected together. You still have time for most of them. ;)

And even if you don't submit anything new before the end of December, take a moment to take stock of what you have managed to accomplish this year. Whether you submitted once or a thousand times, take this chance to make a list, set a goal, write a blog post--somehow chronicle your year, and look forward to what you will do next year!

Last year's goal proved impossible for me...300 rejections was a bit much for anyone...

This year's goal wound up sidetracked by a lot of things--like being burned out from trying to get 300 rejections!--and I didn't get terribly close to my 200 rejections.

Next year, I am going to shoot for 100 rejections. If I push myself, that should be possible. (Especially with my new Dragon Speaking Naturally which should be here any minute...)

What will your goals be for the new year?

December can be an end or a beginning. You get to choose which.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

#New Release: Thomas in Fairyland

Mocha Memoirs Press is proud to present...

Thomas in Fairyland

by Tysche Dwai

Blurb

Thomas Rymer struggles to make ends meet working two jobs and playing guitar in a local dive at night. Same thing week in, week out. Until the night he starts home to find a beautiful woman sitting on a hilltop. Sensual and exotic, she is everything Thomas has ever dreamed of. She praises his playing, and asks him to come with her...to Fairyland.

The old tale of Thomas the Rhymer takes on new life in this modern revision.




Available Now


About Tysche Dwai

Tysche Dwai has written erotic romances for publishers ranging from eXtasy to Phase. She also has work with Melange, Breathless and Mocha Memoirs. Her favorite thing to do is to take a fairy tale and add a bit of spice. She has adapted the Irish tale The Cunning Thief for Melange, and the Chinese tale The River God's Bride for Mocha Memoirs, as well as writing some of her own for Phase.

But she also likes to dabble in other genres, from the contemporary—like Jacqueline and the Giant—to fantasy—like To Catch a Thief. She has also self-published a historical piece called Seducing Sadie. Her latest offering is Thomas in Fairyland from Mocha Memoirs Press.

Tysche loves to tell a tale, and hopes to do so for a long, long time.

Autumn Thoughts

I love fall. It's probably my favorite season, and it never lasts long enough for my taste. Besides Halloween, there's just something nice about the gradual progression of the changing weather, the changing scenery, the changing attitudes. The full stress of the holidays isn't upon us yet (unless you pay attention to store displays), and the full drag of winter isn't upon us, either. Fall is almost more of a New Year for me than Jan 1. There's something to be said of shedding away the old before the barren season begins to make way for spring. It's the perfect time to embrace getting older, to appreciate all that's around you, all that you've gained and lost.

Weights and measures, balances and scales. Gain and loss. Harvest and reaping.

I could ramble about the crisp weather and how I love walking through it, my love of Halloween, my new appreciation of Thanksgiving as I get older and know I won't see every face around the table for one reason or another with each passing year. I could talk about the leaves and the impending holidays and sweaters and spices and all the usual stuff. And they're all great, don't get me wrong, but I think there's a deeper reason why I connect with autumn.

I'm a fairly emotion-based person, though I try to temper that down in my daily life. For me, autumn is a swirl of feelings as much as it is the rattling of leaves on the whispering winds. It's one of those seasons that I'm so glad to experience because it brings to mind all that happened over the summer, all that needs to happen before the winter, and all that I'm lucky enough to have in my life, whether it's people, things, experiences, responsibilities. But it also brings to mind those that I've watched leave within this past year, and those that are a memory from long ago. And while I miss them, there's gratitude there too, a thankfulness even for the disappointment and loss and shadows. How would I be the person I am if it wasn't for those experiences? How would I write what I do if I didn't have them? It's a season of emotional warmth and chilliness, but it's one I welcome.

Maybe it's morbid, but one of the reasons why Halloween and Thanksgiving are so great for me is that they're similar in an odd way. With Halloween you're remembering in a backwards way that you're still here, still safe, still able to see the sun come back around, even though the shadows are out there. And Thanksgiving you embrace all that you have around you, no matter what your situation. It's a getting ready time, and those times are always really exciting for me. Things may not be fully developed, but to know there's potential waiting under the piles of leaves, that's awesome. Although I find the season relaxing, I always start getting a little twitchy in the fall, and the sensation meanders around through the spring, because that's usually the idea formulating time for me, the percolating time, the fermenting thoughts time. It's frustrating that things don't always go quickly enough, whether it's a writing project or something else, but I always, always trust the ideas I get in the autumn. Things happen in the shadows, under the leaves, down under the ground, and they grow into beautiful things later on. I love that early anticipation.

Because what's thankfulness and memory without a sense of something happening and something to look forward to?


Monday, November 17, 2014

Dark & Twisty

So. I've always thought that what I wrote was a little... fluffy. Mostly the bright side of the fiction barrel. Anything dark and twisty in my writing must be an abberation, or at the very least the result of something in my life. Right? Right!
Wrong!

I am basically a "Look on the bright side" kind of person. I've been called Pollyanna while at work. But as I've told my boss, just because I'm cheerful or putting a positive spin on something does not mean that I'm living in lala land. Oh no.

nononononono

I don't like to share dark and twisty Wyn so much. When I do, it is perversely more personal than any bright and happy story I could ever share. Dark and twisty is where the artist in me has created her lair... She hides in there sometimes, waiting, watching. Others, she comes roaring out spinning webs of darkness and beauty wherever she might go.

Because that's what I really like. I don't like horror. Not anymore. Grew out of most of it rather quickly. But if you can spin me a web of darkness and beauty, oh.

Oh.

I write the two different types of stories differently, too. Happy, funny stories I write in discovery mode-- finding out what's gonna happen next. It's great, it's fun for me as a writer. The other comes out of my brain fully crystalized and it's a marathon to get it out. And get it out correctly.

So.. I guess what I'm saying is this:

I might have a split personality.

But that's ok. We're all doing just fine in here :)
 
Do you have any story abberations? Or stick to one style/type?

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Evil in Modern Myth


Classic fantasy contains formulized images of good and evil; heroes and villains, both clearly defined.  Fantasy has given us creatures that embody evil:  The dark witch, the vampire, the werewolf, the dragon.  The evil presents itself, and the hero braves danger to destroy it.

So, what’s happened to the classic role of evil in modern fantasy?  It seems that characters traditionally relegated to the realm of evil are taking on a decidedly more sympathetic role.  The vampire perhaps most of all has become a romanticized figure embraced rather than condemned.  There was always a subconscious underlying sexual theme to vampirism; that’s primal.  But, lately, the vampire has evolved from the villainy and horror of Dracula to the sympathetic, romantic leads of “Twilight” and “Vampire Diaries.”  When did this begin, exactly?  Most credit Anne Rice for giving the point of view to the formerly reviled undead back in the 70’s.  Personally, I think it started earlier with Jonathan Frid’s portrayal of lonely, tormented vampire Barnabus Collins on “Dark Shadows” in the 60’s.  Whatever the reason, the vampire, though just as blood hungry and homicidal as ever, is now an appealing fairytale creature with skin that sparkles like diamonds in daylight, instead of sizzling and burning.  Now, vampires can walk in daylight, plan school dances, go to college, attend outdoor barbecues in the bright sunlight.  (What’s happened to standards?)  Even the dark prince Dracula himself has been re-invented as a 15th century superhero in the modern prequel “Dracula:  Untold.”  (Was that Bram Stoker turning in his grave?)

The re-definition of evil isn’t limited to vampire fiction, though.  Fairytales, the very things that shaped our mindsets as children are being stood on their heads.  Angelina Jolie turned Maleficent from villainess to heroine on the big screen, delightfully mangling the all-time classic fairytale of the Sleeping Beauty.  The king is the villain who used and abandoned Maleficent, abused her trust and stole her power of flight (an obvious feminist metaphor.)  The handsome prince means well, but he’s weak and ineffectual, so his kiss fails to revive the sleeping princess, since his love is childish and still needs time to mature.  Maleficent reclaims her power and overcomes her bitterness with love, slays the evil king and wakes the sleeping beauty not with a lover’s kiss, but with a mother’s.  “No truer love,” we’re told.

Every fairytale ever written is being turned inside-out in the television series “Once Upon a Time” (my personal favorite.)  In the course of the show’s storylines, Peter Pan is cast as villain and Captain Hook as hero, and classic villains like Rumpelstiltskin and the wicked queen who poisoned Snow White are more dysfunctional and misunderstood than evil.  Mainly, they just want what everyone else wants:  a happy ending.  The classic rules of fairytale morals are upheld:  Henry, the youngest character on the show reaffirms the classic rule that good always triumphs over evil and that happy endings always come only to the heroes, not the villains.  But, Henry still loves his adoptive mom, Regina, even though she was the wicked queen.  He never gives up hope that she can be redeemed, and she’s desperately trying to change.  Regina’s nemesis, Emma Swan, daughter of her sworn enemy Snow White is going through changes as well as she struggles with her unpredictable life and the cruel twists of fate.  Emma and Regina started out as enemies, but they’ve become allies of necessity, their opposites of dark and light magic combining against common enemies for the sake of Henry, whom they both love.  And, Emma even hopes she and Regina might someday become friends because, though on opposite sides, they understand each other; They’re both lonely and unlucky at love.

So, what does this re-examining of the classic myths say about the evolving mindset of our society?  Does this changing of points of view, seeing the story through the eyes of former antagonists, this new emphasis on change and compromise indicate a coming of age, a maturing?  Let’s hope.  God knows we don’t see enough of it in real life.  We think of our enemies (foreign and domestic) as the “bad guys”, the embodiment of pure evil.  We’re always swift to judgment and eager for revenge.  Even our elected officials are regarded as less than human.  We seem to embrace hatred and darkness, while seeing it only in others, never ourselves.

In “Black Goddess,” the protagonist is a young man whose life has fallen apart.  Through his eyes, nothing makes any sense.  Life seems like random configurations of cosmic dust without meaning.  Ironically, he seeks meaning and ultimate truth by seeking ultimate evil.   Pure, unadulterated evil born at the very moment of creation.

Since evil is the mainstay of all classic myth, it seems we need irredeemable evil to justify our existence, to give it meaning.  But, does it truly exist, or is evil just how the other guy looks from where you happen to be standing?   Given a history so littered with dead bodies, it’s hard to believe true evil doesn’t exist.  But, in looking for it elsewhere, we often feed it in ourselves.  Maybe our upcoming generation will benefit from fairytales that teach them to look through another’s eyes.

 

Monday, November 3, 2014

One, Two, Three...Write!

It's that time again -- Halloween has come and gone, Christmas is still around the corner, and in between? National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo.

November is officially a time for writing, even if you never have done so before in your life. Thirty days, fifty thousand words. It comes out to 1667 a day. They don't even have to be good words. The point of the exercise is to get yourself used to the idea of everyday commitment to writing something on paper.

I have been participating since 2000 or so. No, I don't always manage to finish, but when I do, it is a feeling of amazing accomplishment. And it can also lead to something actually publishable. One of my NaNo projects was published several years ago. Another took two years of trying, but is now in edits.A third led to the start of a series--and this year's project is Book Two.

So, even though the month has started, it isn't too late to sign up and join us! It is easy to catch up this early in the game; just a few extra words every day will easily bring you back to the necessary total.

And don't forget--we are still accepting submissions for the Avast Ye, Airships anthology through the end of the year.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Autumn: A Time of Change

Judging by the dreary, rainy, lovely (and I write that with no sarcasm what so ever) weather out side, it is fall. The transition time between two of my favorite seasons, summer and winter. A lot of changes take place during the fall season: leaves change color, it gets colder and daylight savings time ends. 

You don't look like your picture!
 Halloween is the highlight of fall, where people, young and old, dress up in costumes and enjoy themselves. I dressed up at Nick Fury, much to the delight of my children’s friends. I wore a Nick Fury badge around my neck and as I was signing in to the school, the security guard remarks “You don’t look like your picture,” to which I replied “Look at it with one eye.” Rimshot!!


I must say, however, my most favorite part of fall is watching the leaves change from green to gold and red during the season in New Jersey. It is such a beautiful display that makes up for the wacky hurricane weather: some days are 70 degrees, other days are cold, wet and rainy.


Enjoy fall - it’s your wonderfully temperate walk into winter…depending of course, on where you live.

Now, a word from our sponsor…..


Reluctant Magic - A Short Story
Not only does “Reluctant Magic” take place during the fall season, it is also a book about transition. Kami is a gifted witch who shuns her gifts because of the reputation of her mother, who was a not-so-good witch. Her story opens after the mysterious death of her abusive husband. Kami has come to terms with her solitary existence, busying herself with running her yarn shop and taking of her two cats. (Of course, a proper witch has cats, right?). However, she didn’t bet on a bull on the run changing her quiet life. I don’t want to write anymore, but check out the short story, if you’ve a mind to.



Interested in anything else I have to say?  You can check me out at The Sultry Scribe or here:


Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Anticipation Versus The Bang

There's a famous Alfred Hitchcock quote that sticks with me every time I write a horror story: "There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it." The man could not have been more right, especially when it comes to dark fantasy when it mixes with horror. Obviously this applies to the horror genre, building up the atmosphere until the scary monster leaps out from the shadows onto their victim, but with dark fantasy there always seems to be more in the way of atmospheric scares than splatterfest gore.


Think of any scary story you've ever read. Imagine reading it alone at home one night. You're unable to go outside because there's a huge thunderstorm crashing around your house. Thunder and roaring winds make the windows rattle and the blinding lightning is making you blink, your eyes seeing the shadows take new, towering shapes.

You shift on your couch and try to make yourself more comfortable, wrapping your blanket around you as though it will protect you from whatever tricks your mind is playing. You tell yourself that it's just a stupid storm, and go back to your book. In it, the main character is moving toward the attic to find out what they heard. Their hand is shaking on their flashlight, their footsteps creaking the on the attic stairs. Past the wooden groans and their pounding heart, they hear the raspy breathing coming from the attic. Your own pulse begins to quicken. You know something is up there, and you want to tell them to turn around. But they won't. The storm rages beyond you. 

The character enters the attic. They step onto the floorboards and see nothing, but the tortured breathing is louder than ever. It's coming quicker, moving from shadow to shadow. Your mind is telling the character to run back down, but they take another step. The trap door slams shut behind them. They spin around, choking on their scream, and lift their flashlight when they see–

The door of your house slams open. You jump and scream, the book flying out of your hands as you whirl around–

And see your husband standing there with a bewildered look on his face.

Not a true story, but I had you going, didn't I?

While I was writing my latest Mocha Memoir novella, Hotel Hell, I focused on heightening the tension. The story revolves around a young man named Milo who searches for his missing fiancee, only to come across a hotel with dark, disturbing secrets. Concentrating on the creepiness of the hotel was key. Adding in little situations where Milo and the readers know something isn't right, but they can't figure out what. Even when I was planning the story, I knew I had to write it as though the hotel itself was a character with a mystery, and that its employees were just as terrifying as the building itself. Creating the horrors inside the hotel was the funnest part, and I think it made the impact of the climax so much more frightening. It's amazing what you can imagine if you take an ordinary object, and twist it into something that Neil Gaiman would create.

For me, dark fantasy and horror tend to go hand in hand, as they both concentrate on the anticipation of the danger. Both genres want to set off warning bells in your head, even though you're dying to turn the page and see what lurks behind that corner. They feed each other, one building on fear in the readers heart through romantically twisted scenarios while horror weaves itself into the cracks, like glowing red eyes through the slits of your closet. Don't worry– I'll save that story for another time. 

Happy Halloween! 

- - -
Amy Braun is an aspiring urban fantasy and horror author addicted to monsters and mythology. When she isn't writing, she's reading, watching movies, taking photos, or gaming. She was the recipient of April Moon Books Editor Award for "author voice, world-building and general bad-assery" in 2014.

Her current work includes the novellas Call From The Grave, Needfire, and Hotel Hell, and has short stories in the Lost In The Witching Hour anthology (Charlatan Charade) and AMOK! (Dark Intentions And Blood). She also has two more short stories that will be featured in two different anthologies, as well as her first full length novel releases in 2015. More information on these releases and Amy can be found online through her blog, Literary Braun, or followed on Amazon, Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A New Kind of Scary #Dark Fantasy #Halloween

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A New Kind of Scary


by Marcia Colette

I love this spooky time of year because I grew up on this stuff. But, wow, have things changed. Sadly, Hollywood seems to think that grossing us out is the best way to garner a scare. Honestly, spew-fest of blood and guts will only make me turn the channel. Not because I get grossed out the easily, but rather, more blood splatter doesn't mean better entertainment. It just means the screenwriters don't have much of a plot. On top of that, we get our usual TSTL characters and the one chick who always seems to survive no matter what.

One of my favorite shows on TV is the Walking Dead. Yes, there's that gross-out factor I just spoke of, but this is different. It's not the apocalypse that draws me in--honestly, it can be centered around any apocalyptic event (volcano, floods, ragweed, etc.). It's the relationships among the survivors and their reaction to their situation that keeps me glued to the screen every week. That's smart TV, and why I can overlook the gross-out factor.

One of my least favorite shows on TV is Once Upon a Time. I thought introducing the Frozen characters might actually make me want to watch more, but it hasn't. If anything, I just don’t care enough about the characters to stay tuned in every week. There's magic and mayhem, which make such a perfect combination, but unfortunately, the suspense isn't suspenseful enough for me.

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My biggest guilty pleasure on TV is Teen Wolf. Yes, I said it. For some reason, it's like the Buffy the Vampire Slayer of Millennial Generation, only darker. A regular high school of horrors. The suspense is up there and whatever you think is going to happen next, think again. It's probably going to be worse.

But if I had to go with one show that is the epitome of dark fantasy, it's Sleepy Hollow. I can't tell you how refreshing this show is. Just like my first trip to Washington D.C., I never had an appreciation for history until I saw it. This is like a glimpse in the scary past of American history coupled with biblical elements. It's perfect. For me, anyway.

Do you have any TV shows that bring out the dark fantasy in you? I can, but I want to hear from you.
Oh, and if you haven't heard, my latest release The Portal Guards is going on a review tour tomorrow.
There's a nice prize attached, too.

Thanks for stopping by!
If you want to know more, come find me here...and on my blog.

About Marcia Colette


Bestselling author Marcia Colette didn’t discover her love for reading until her late teens when she started reading John Saul and progressed to works by Bentley Little, Stephen King and Laurell K. Hamilton. Her reading tastes convinced her to write paranormals where curses cause people to shift into spiders, psychotic and telekinetic mothers are locked away in attics, and murderous doppelgangers are on a rampage. Let's not forget about the hunky werecheetah coalitions who live throughout North Carolina. As long as she can make it believable, that's all that matters.

Born and raised in upstate New York, Marcia now lives in North Carolina with her mom and beautiful daughter. They’re not raising zombies in the backyard. There aren’t any hellhounds living in the den, only a rabbit and a cockatiel. So where she gets her ideas is as much a mystery to her as anyone else.

The best place to find her--when she's not stirring up trouble--is on her blog where she loves connecting with readers.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark #amwriting #DarkFantasy #Writing

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Don't Be Afraid of the Dark


by Rie Sheridan Rose

Whether you write fantasy, science fiction, horror, or even romance, you come to a point where you have to decide what type you will explore within your genre. Some people are most comfortable with the comedic slant. Others, write lush, epic work full of emotion and description, but barely touching on the dark side. Don’t be afraid of the dark.

Everyone experiences fear, anger, pain and other darker emotions—why should you suppress them? Having a world with none of the deeper, darker aspects of emotion is flat and one-sided. Everything needs at least a touch of darkness.

And exploring the dark side can be fun. As I said, everyone has those emotions…so, why not put them on paper? After all, that’s a lot more socially acceptable than acting them out in the real world.

Taking “what if?” and applying a coat of darkness to it has the potential to be very liberating. It can allow you to slip into the mind of a serial killer without needing to actually be one. It can give depth to the depiction of a dragon. The denizens of an alien world will be more rounded with psychology that isn’t tempered by human goodness.

I challenge you. Write something dark. It can change your outlook on the craft—and no one says you have to be dark all the time.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Stories can save your soul

When the princeling was about 4, he started having horrible nightmares. I mentioned that we could go somewhere in our dreams and meet.

And thus, the candy garden bloomed again.

Fountains spilling Skittles, a Sprite stream filled with Swedish Red Fish and gummy sharks. You get the idea. I wrote a flash fiction story about it. The Princeling adds to it, or subtracts, depending on his current likes. He is now 8.

When I was in the hospital in June, he was with my sister in law. In talking on the phone with him, he asked me, sobbing, where to meet him that night. “Do you want to go to the candy garden?”

Sniffling, he replied: How about a candy ocean? The sand is sugar, and….

And we were off. Something amazing happened that night, something amazing that touched my soul in a way no other story that I ever have come up with has.

The Candy Garden is imprinted on my son’s soul. And when we’re separated, he knows, deep down inside, that he can go there and find his mom. It’s an avenue for our creativity to go wild, together, but more than that… It brings my child comfort.

So yes, one story can make a huge difference. Even if it’s a one off, a way to sooth a child at bed time. It can grow, it can morph and take on a life of it’s own… And can feel like a warm hug on a dark and scary night when you’re miles from your mommy.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

#New Release: Death's Cafe

Mocha Memoirs Press Proudly Presents
DEATH'S CAFE



Death’s Cafe is a compilation of five chilling, short stories set around Death’s adventures and exploits. Edited by well-known horror author, Eden Joyce, the series has launched just in time for Halloween and delivers stories guaranteed to entice readers who enjoy speculative fiction.

Each installment of Death’s Cafe is available now via Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Ashes and Coffee by Sumiko Saulson

Death is stalking Berkeley, California in a sleek new jacket and snazzy checkered fedora. Insects and animals collapse in his wake. When the indigent begin to mysteriously die in the streets, the rest of the town is indifferent. Red Montgomery, a nineteen year old black homeless woman, is the only one who can see him. She feels powerless to intervene. But is she?
Amazon | Barnes and Noble


Hotel Hell by Amy Braun

While Milo searches for his missing fiancée, Kate, he stumbles across a dark hotel with even darker secrets...
Amazon | Barnes and Noble


Surrender to Destiny by Francis Gideon


Detective Inspector Sebastian Thumbs has just been promoted on the London police force when he and his partner, Joseph Atwell discover the body of a mellified man. The victim has been turned into a hive for honey--and a mechanical queen has been lodged inside his chest cavity. The case develops when both detectives realize their victim was pierced by a stinger in the back of his neck, turning him into a drone, and giving him no free will.
Amazon | Barnes and Noble


The Storm by Justin Key


Confirmed bachelor Baylor has never let a woman near his heart. When his best friend Jez braves a storm to come to his store to buy a treat for his pregnant wife, he almost feels sorry for the man. But this storm is whispering horrible truths. As the rain beats down, it’s not Baylor’s heart in danger of breaking, it’s his mind.
Amazon | Barnes and Noble


Who’s Life is it Anyway? by Jim Becker

Whose Life Is It Anyway? is a dark reminder that life is unscripted and that accidents happen for a reason. As Emma and Jacob Dupont celebrate eighteen years of marriage, a circus of events transpires that tests the bonds of their wedding vows. Especially the closer: Until death do they part.
Amazon | Barnes and Noble

Monday, October 6, 2014

Halloween Reader Event


Hello All,

Join Mocha Memoirs Press  for A STROLL THROUGH SHADOWS, Halloween  reader event on Facebook, October 30th - October 31st 2014.

Hang out with our MMP authors and participate for the chance to win prizes.

Each week leading up to the main event day, we'll be posting games and trivia for readers to get a chance to win prizes and bragging rights.

Come celebrate the month known for dark fantasy with us. Join the event HERE and get in on the fun.


WEEK ONE PRIZE 

Our first giveaway prize is a print copy of  THE GROTESQUERIE 

Twenty-two short horror stories written by women are here on display for your enjoyment or your perverse fascination. Within these pages, beauty becomes deadly, innocence kills, and karma is a harsh mistress.

The Grotesquerie is now open…

HOW TO WIN
Eligibility to win is simple. Scroll down to the raffelcopter widget below and let let us know the name of your favorite horror/scary movie character. You can enter as may times as you like. You also get extra points for following MMP on twitter (@mochamemoirs) and liking us on Facebook.

a Rafflecopter giveaway






Censorship in our times...


There’s been a lot of talk lately about censorship during “Banned Book Week,” so I thought I’d chime in, since I’m as affected by censorship as any other writer.  (Largely since editors and artists have commented on how dark some of my stuff is.)

First, what constitutes censorship?  If the federal government tells a library or publisher they can’t publish or distribute a given book, for political or ideological reasons, (or, supposedly national security) that’s censorship, and it’s supposed to be prohibited by the First Amendment.  (We all remember John Ashcroft and his battle with librarians.)  But, if a library or a school board chooses to ban a book, is that censorship or just a local right of choice?  We all remember the legal battles over whether schools could ban Mark Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn” over racist stereotypes and use of the “n” word.

My personal view is that schools and libraries, which are publicly funded institutions should not be allowed under federal law to ban anything that isn’t covered by criminal obscenity statutes.  And no, PTA’s and townships shouldn’t be allowed to vote on whether to ban this list of books or that list of books.  The First Amendment should stand, as far as I’m concerned.  Nobody, no community or institution has the right to tell consenting adults what they can or can’t read or what they’re allowed to let their children read.  And, educational standards can quickly decay if left to the mercy of local sensibilities.  (Remember the Scopes Monkey Trial?) Some parents have complained that their right of parental control over their kids is usurped when libraries or bookstores can lend or sell their kids something they don’t approve of.  Okay, arguably, it might be acceptable to require book distributors to card their young patrons, as liquor store owners are required to do, but not to ban books altogether.

Remove all governmental censorship, and the decision of what to publish rests with the editor and the public (not necessarily in that order.)  As a writer who stays largely in the dark vein, I’m frustrated sometimes when I read an editor’s guidelines that say “no rape, no abuse of minors, no sex between people under 18, etc.”  Understandable restrictions perhaps, depending on the individual sensibilities of the publisher and the scope of the target audience, but it’s sadly limiting at times and screens out stories that I think should be told.  Neither “Hamlet” nor “MacBeth” would pass muster today with any editor who won’t read anything that “is violent or depicts any criminal act.”  Charles Dickens wouldn’t fare so well, either.  And, that “no sex between minors” rule…Well, there goes “Romeo and Juliet.”  How could a writer produce a story about a character similar to Malala, a minor almost murdered because she dared to defy militant “traditionalist” elements within her society in daring to go to school, without hitting editorial restrictions prohibiting violence against minors, negative depiction of other cultures, etc.?  Or, stories about the brutality suffered by teenaged girls abducted by warlords in Africa?  Some editors might consider stories that deal directly with such subject matter to be “exploitive of the suffering of others.”  But, these are stories of reality, after all.  Dark issues that have afflicted the human race throughout time.  Are such subjects simply off limits?  Can we deal with them artistically at all, to grapple with the demons both external and internal that spawn them, or must we look away?

 Some editors take a middle-ground and say that there shall be no such violence (rape, etc.) for the “sole purpose of titillating the audience.”  Meaning, they might publish a story that sincerely seeks to explore the dark issue of rape or evil in the soul of Man in general, or the struggle of a rape survivor to rise above the evil, or the moral question of revenge.  And, many editors say they won’t consider anything that promotes “racism, sexism, bigotry, intolerance” etc.  Very laudable on its face, but then, there’s that Mark Twain argument again.  So, what about editors who say they won’t publish anything with characters “of color" or just quietly avoid doing so?  What about editors who say they won’t consider any stories containing GLBT characters?  They’re still doing that quite openly. 

 I’ve had editors refuse to publish my stories, saying “Why put in things that offend some people?”  (Because they’re my stories, obviously.  I’m not about to worry about what offends anybody, since I’m not a public servant!)  I’ve had to let deals fall through because I wouldn’t take out violence I felt was necessary to make the story real, or because I wouldn’t omit gay characters.  I’ve had horror editors reject stories that dealt with rape, saying “That’s an everyday horror.”  (Murder’s okay, even though that’s an everyday horror, but rape is out.)  Perhaps society making rape a taboo subject in general is part of the reason people are always in denial about the seriousness of it, and always blaming the victim.  Some victims even blame themselves, or are too afraid to come forward.  I know it’s hard, even impossible to deal with sometimes, but if we’re supposed to omit it from fiction, are we supposed to omit it from the news as well?  Evil has to be faced, or at least acknowledged, or it continues to hide.

My title “Black Goddess” deals with torture (which I researched pretty extensively) among other manifestations of human evil.  My short title “Hell Shift” deals with human evil in many forms and with visceral, gory directness.  My other short title “Along Came a Spider” touched on revolution as well as sex.  Any one of which would have earned these titles rejection from any number of editors.

A diversity of editorial policies isn’t the problem.  But, I think the greatest danger of creeping censorship is the gradual evolution of “common standards” linked perhaps more with marketing than morality, slowly eroding any semblance of controversy or diversity from fiction.  “Safer is better” can be the epitaph of literary freedom.


Sunday, October 5, 2014

New Look!

Hello All,

As you can see our blog has a new look. We've dusted off a few cob webs and hope you enjoy the new digs. Over the next few months you'll see a few more changes-all for the good I promise.

You might have already guessed that I am one of the changes. I'm happy to come on board with Mocha Memoirs Press as the new Communications and Promotions Coordinator.

We have several events planned and the schedule here on the blog will change a bit as well. However, no need to worry, your favorite MMP authors will all still be here and ready to share their thoughts, and information regarding their books, inspirations and more.

Best,
Laurel Cremant

Let's Get Ready to WriMo!

I promised answers to last month's collective noun challenge, so here they are:

clowns                                                                    mutiny             
bishops                                                                   bench
doctors                                                                   field
zombies                                                                  stench                                                                     
boys                                                                        blush  

baboons                                                                tribe
cats                                                                        clowder
geese                                                                     skein
otters                                                                     romp

kangaroos                                                             mob

Now that is out of the way, on to other matters.

I know a lot of people are doing Halloween based entries for October, but I have my mind set further down the road. November is almost here, and I have participated in NaNoWriMo every year since 2003. I haven't always completed my 50,000 words, but I have participated, at least a little.

It is a great way to focus your energy and get a project off the ground. I find it works really well to research a bit ahead of time -- say October. :) Then you are ready to go when it hits November 1st. Some people like to outline the entire project, but I don't do outlines too well. I just figure the parameters.

Still, it has served me well. If you don't finish a novel in one year, finish it the next. I did that with one novel currently in edits. I also wrote my first Steampunk novel for NaNoWriMo.

So, I will be signed up again next week at https://nanowrimo.org/sign_in and getting ready for November. Care to join me?

Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Many Faces of Horror...

In view of Halloween's rapid approach, and the current call for horror submissions at Mocha, I thought I'd do a post on horror fiction.

We all know horror takes many forms, appealing (and, disconcerting) in different ways to different people.  Eden Royce's anthology "In The Bloodstream" included many different paths through the dark; many different approaches to fear.  Some of the stories drew from ancient mythologies, others from modern movie-type horror, others from childhood fear and others still dealt with the living nightmare of not knowing where dark delusion ends and reality begins.

That last one is perhaps the most compelling kind of horror.  Trapped in a dark place, not knowing its parameters, desperately seeking any way out.  Sometimes, not knowing if you're asleep and dreaming...or, in hell.   It's a primal kind of fear, and often one that forces us to confront our most deeply-buried sins.  Maybe that's the most effective kind of horror; the kind that marries our inner demons to a maze of dark corridors in which we find ourselves trapped.  I tried to do something along those lines with my short story "Hellshift," in which the protagonist feels he's trapped in a nightmare, unsure of his own sanity and facing an unseen external enemy whose nature he doesn't understand. The monster out in the dark may be real or imaginary, but it's like the ghost of his own sin come to haunt him, and there's no place to run.

The writing that goes into Hollywood horror is, I'm sorry to say, growing sadly formulized.  The trend right now is demonic possession, which appeals more to the audience's desire for easy answers than anything else.

This evening, I braved the stubbornly lingering summer heat to catch a glimpse of this new bit of Euro horror:  "As Above, Below."  (I'm guessing it's not doing too well, since I had the theatre all to myself.)  Basically, the premise is "Indiana Jones Meets the Blair Witch Project."  Yes, yet another "live-action" mockumentary look at horror, where the camera joggles all over the place as screaming characters run through dark tunnels pursued by unseen horrors.  This time, the dark tunnels in question are the famous catacombs of Paris.  Which, according to this film, are actually a gateway into Hell.  (Satan's subway?)   The characters, trapped in the catacombs while hunting mysterious ancient relics pertaining to afterlife mythology, find themselves confronted in the dark corners of their labyrinthine subterranean prison by the ghosts of their innermost guilty secrets.  Obviously not the first time this has been done, and it's overdone in places, including the main character having to swim through a river of blood.  But, the all-too-familiar primal horror of claustrophobic dark tunnels coupled with the deep dark specters of guilt we all fear does make an effective combination.

Overall, maybe the most basic recipe for horror is:  Take a dark place, pour in the primal fear of the unknown, fold in a few repressed personal secrets for flavoring, sprinkle in the right number of surprise "ahas" just to spice it up a bit, and bake well with suspense.  Don't oversoak with blood, and you should get a fairly tasty treat.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Going Collective

I have always been fascinated by the fact that a group of crows is a murder. Who first decided that this was the correct name for a collection of the carrion birds? I don't know, but their imagination was so spot on.

We know--and expect--certain collective nouns. A herd of horses, a school of fish, a pride of lions. But you can really spice up your writing with some of the more unusual ones. It is always easiest to find the animal congregations. A good list can be found here. But animals aren't the only groups of nouns. There are also names for groups of people and things. Some of those more uncommon nouns can be found here.

Let's have some fun. Can you match the group to their collective noun -- without looking?

clowns                                                                    blush                                                                          
bishops                                                                   field
doctors                                                                   bench
zombies                                                                  mutiny                                                                    
boys                                                                       stench

or what about these?

baboons                                                                 romp
cats                                                                        mob
geese                                                                     tribe
otters                                                                     clowder
kangaroos                                                              skein


But not all group nouns have been given names yet, and you can have a lot of fun with those. For example, in one of my short stories, I had a group of cheerleaders, and I wanted to refer to them with a collective noun. They became a "giggle of cheerleaders." I was extremely proud of that one. ;)

Remember, a little goes a long way--especially with some of the more esoteric combinations, such as an "implausibility of gnus." This is a spice to use sparingly, but it can really add something to the mix.

(I will give you the answers next time. ;) )

Monday, August 25, 2014

Damn, I'm late

I totally forgot my spot on the 21st but I have a good excuse...life. I was in the middle of traveling for work and it's as if my brain goes on hiatus when it comes to things not work related. Although I have a largish head, it can only house so much at a time. I think that's the crux of the parttime writer experience. I'd love to be able to devote all of my time to writing and the little extras that go along with it being my full time gig, but I also love paying my mortgage and eating three meals a day (okay several meals a day because food is life!). So I'm late, but I'm not absent, and know that while my brain is bogged down with the many intricate details of my non-writer life, my imagination is patiently taking notes for when it has free reign again.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Spiral Bound

I have an admission to make. In this age of technology, when I have something hard to write or am blocked I...

Play around on Facebook
Play games
Read a book or ten...

And then I quite mucking around, and sit down to write. But when it's hard, when I'm stuck and just can't move on, after I do all those things I take a pad of paper and a pen and write it out by hand.

Currently, I'm working on something I've never done before: First Person POV Paranormal. That's not what got me stuck, tho... I couldn't bear what I was about to do. Just. Couldn't. Do. It.

I couldn't see the next part, and I desperately needed to. It was something that was new, unique to this world view. Also, I couldn't bear to put my character's in that much peril. When I finally stopped wasting time, I sat with pen and paper, and began to write it out.

This method works for me. Why? Partly because I feel more connected to it; the slide of my hand against the paper, the ink flowing as if from my fingertips. There's also the fact that scribbling out something that doesn't work, the hard slash of the pen, is so satisfying. Much more so than a delete key. Also, if you change your mind? Well, if you scratch it out just so you can still read what was there before. (I sometimes doodle on the edges until the idea shakes free, too.) It also lends itself to short bursts of time, which is what I normally have. Between the day job and the Princeling, some days I don't even boot up the computer. A notebook is much easier to deal with in 10-15 minute increments.

I just sprinted across the line on my current work in progress. I still need to get the handwritten notes put into the computer file. I still need to write the final scene... But it's doable at this point.

Fun Fact: Dragon's Champion was written entirely in a spiral bound notebook the first time around. I started with the character, and decided I had to see what the heck she was getting herself into :)

Until next time, my lovelies. Enjoy reading!


If your looking for some new reads, check out the Toil, Trouble and Temptation titles out by MMP now!