Archive for January, 2014

“The Big Move…or, Now I Understand Why There’s a Liquor Store Right across the Street from U-Haul”

BY KARIS WALSH

As some of you know, I recently moved from my beloved Pacific Northwest to my beloved in Texas. My move has closely coincided with the release of my new book Wingspan, and I’m celebrating both this month. I’m excited to be in a beautiful home with a huge state to explore, new friends to make, and new experiences to…well, to experience. But (again, as most of you probably know), I have a difficult time with change, even positive change. Moving was stressful, made more so by the continual fiascoes along the way.

Over the course of several weeks, I made the drive from Washington to Texas, back to Washington, and back to Texas. If you’re interested in hearing more about those trips, including the, um, interesting story of the night I spent in a hotel room with two goats, please visit my blog: http://kariswalsh.wordpress.com/ For now, though, let me tell you about the fun I had getting my belongings to my new home. The process of packing, decluttering, donating, and transporting was a good lesson in what stuff means to me. What could I part with? What few precious things did I pack in my car instead of shipping? What really mattered to me?

I—rather foolishly—thought it would be easier to ship my things in a U-Haul crate instead of driving a moving van and towing my car. I should have been warned when the moving men had to go to three different U-Haul locations before they were able to pick up the crate I had reserved weeks before. But, no. I thought that was an isolated incident. Hmm…

With the crate loaded, I packed my dad and my favorite, couldn’t-bear-to-lose items in my car and drove to Texas. With only a suitcase full of clothes and a travel case of toiletries, I figured I’d live like a hobo for a few days before the rest of my things arrived. But it was a couple of weeks before an e-mail informed me that my crate was in town and that I would receive a call from the local U-Haul w/in 24 hours to set up delivery to my house. No call. So I called them, twice. No return call. (I never did find a telephone number that went directly to the location where my crate was—I always had to go through a non-local dispatch center. These people are as protected as the president during an international crisis.) I finally was told they wouldn’t deliver it as planned—I would have to rent a truck and do it myself. Here’s what followed when I arrived:

ME (at 9 a.m.): Hello, I reserved a truck and trailer to haul my U-box.

The clerk (after clicking away on his keyboard for ten minutes, in sloooow motion) found my reservation, told me the truck was due back at 2:30, and quoted me what sounded like a very low price.

ME: Does that include the trailer for hauling my U-box?

CLERK: You need a U-box? Let me make sure we have a trailer for that. (He goes outside and walks around the building before coming back and clicking some more). Yes, we have a U-box and trailer ready to go.

ME: Is it my U-box?

CLERK: No, it’s an empty one.

ME: I’d rather have the one with my belongings in it.

CLERK: Oh, you already have one filled? (Some more clicks, some paperwork to sign, and he hands me a key.) Do you mind bringing the truck back here at 2 to pick up your U-box?

ME: What?

CLERK: That’s when the manager will be here. He’s the only one who can drive the forklift and put your crate on a trailer.

ME: (sigh) Why would I want to rent a truck for the day if I can’t get my crate until this afternoon?

Let’s zoom ahead here. Past me leaving in my own car and returning in the afternoon to learn (from the four people working there, none of whom was qualified to drive a forklift) that the manager had something else to do and wasn’t coming to work that day. Past me asking how difficult it was to become qualified to drive the forklift (one button for up, one for down. How long does it take to master that?). Past them telling me that to come back at nine the next morning, and that my crate would be ready to go.

"…except to my house."

“…except to my house.”

So, we arrived at nine. And sat on the car bumper to watch the manager (in flip-flops and pajama bottoms—were they recommended in his forklift safety course?) spend—no lie—two hours getting my crate. He set out cones in a small square, moved EVERY U-box in the warehouse because mine was on the bottom in the back, hauled an empty crate off a trailer, and loaded mine on the trailer. Then—as a crowning touch—he spent fifteen minutes using the forklift to put a bright orange drapery over the crate so I’d be a moving advertisement for the company. It said, in huge letters, “Making your move easier…” Really? It took us less time to drive the crate home, unpack everything and move it into the house, and drive truck and trailer back to the store.

All told, my belongings were held hostage in my new town for almost two weeks. After the first few days, I was expecting to start receiving ransom notes, the words pieced together from what I’d written on my boxes. “Send cash, or we’re getting out the box cutter!” I felt like a hostage as well. I felt transient, unsettled, not quite myself without my things.

Kendall Pearson, one of the characters in Wingspan,Wingspan is held hostage, too, but by her desire to fit in. A painful past keeps her from being able to be openly and completely herself. She hides behind a safe job, conventional clothes, and carefully controlled speech. But the things she can’t resist—like her classic Corvette, her secret architectural drawings, and the wild piece of land she buys—scream who she is even though she tries to stifle her personality. She has to learn to embrace these outward reflections of her inner character and desires.

So…I have my belongings around me again. I still haven’t completed the chore of unpacking boxes, but my things are here, and it feels good. Am I defined by them? No. Could I survive intact even if they were gone? Of course. But my stuff—my books, my instruments and music, my kitchen gadgets, my stacks of sticky notes—reveals who I am. I got rid of a lot of the excess and kept what mattered, what was really me. Finally, I can feel settled.

The Amazon Trail

BY LEE LYNCH

Holiday Tree

Holiday Tree

 Axing the Coaxial

Our introductory contract with the cable company ended after a year and they wanted to up our payments by over $50.00. Sorry, Charter, we need that fifty more than you do. We declined further TV service and let go of our land line. Internet is $55.00 per month; can’t see a way around that yet. We quit Verizon Mobile for Consumer Cellular and cut our cell phone bill from $120.00 to $52.00. Robo calls, telemarketers, are, so far, a thing of the past without a landline. There have been a couple of times when the fax line might have been handy. It makes me crabby to use our cell phone minutes waiting on hold for, say, an insurance call center. But the TV? No problem, never watched it. When I watched author Carsen Taite’s Vlog at “Women and Words” <http://goo.gl/Kd7SD0 >, about TV binges, she got me thinking.

Writer at Computer

Writer at Computer

Both my sweetheart and I used to watch TV. She worked long hours at her job before leaving the rat race to join me as a downwardly mobile West Coastie. TV was the perfect antidote to her thankless high pressure job. I kept away the lonesomes by paying bills, doing my taxes, brushing the animals while tuning in to “Law and Order,” “Boston Legal,” “Gray’s Anatomy” and “The Closer.” We did have a tradition of watching the New York Thanksgiving Day Parade while preparing our meal. On New Year’s Eve we liked to watch the ball drop at Times Square. This year we watched the Snoopy balloon and Anderson Cooper on line. There is even a way to receive a TV signals through our computers and broadcast it on a larger TV screen. But we haven’t bothered. Maybe we will by the time Ellen hosts the Oscars again. I developed an aversion to TV as a kid. My father brought home the first one when I was five and soon that was the only thing the family did together on a regular basis. After a few years of that, I found myself getting angry while watching, or while others watched. TV had become an irritant. As a teenager I considered TV to be the drug of the masses, although I did watch old movies in the wee hours. In college I was usually the one to turn off the television in the dorm lounge, which otherwise would have droned 24/7. Into adulthood, just the sound of the infernal machine drives me bonkers. The flickering of the light, if I’m not looking directly at a screen, makes me nauseous. Was all this the result of a lesbian childhood spent in the company of heterosexual parents? Do televisions trigger the anger born of that poor fit? Maybe. Or: I remember, at an early age, complaining to my mother about the ads. She explained that’s how the stations made money. I was having none of  it and had a little 8 year old socialist revolution. Then my father fashioned a “blab-off.” He attached a wire to the mysterious back of the console TV and put a toggle switch on his end. The sound of the ads blessedly disappeared. Now cable companies think we should pay fees and watch ads. When I was living in Florida, every doctor’s office had a T.V., usually controlled by staff and often set to FOX News or docu-ads. I saw a retina specialist periodically. It was crazy-making to sit in a waiting room trapped with other people half-blinded by dilation drops, a screen flickering above us, and the volume turned high for the hard of hearing seniors. Even more maddening was the acquiescence to this common visual and aural bombardment at the internist’s, the vet’s, the eye surgeon, the diagnostic lab. Our television is draped with a rainbow flag. DVDs of TV seasons and movies have been sitting of shelves for years now, ready for viewing when we have time. We never do have time. Instead, we play with our rocks, pictures and books. We collect agates, petrified woods fossils and jaspers on beach walks and pour over these beauties in the evening. My sweetheart is a natural archivist. She spends hours looking at and organizing photographs, content as a little kid. Or researching for fun. We both read our eyes out, as my Irish-American mother used to say, complaining that I read too much as a child, even though she’s the one who took me for my first library card. The irony, of course, is that often we read on our Kindles. My sweetheart’s archiving is all done on line. Together, we own 2 basic Kindles, three laptops, an HP Touch, a first gen iPad, two smart phones and a Galaxy Tab 3. If their screens are not enough to make up for the loss of TV, as a last resort, our shelves hold about 5,000 books. Which is yet another reason we needed to ax the co-ax.

Writer with Tablet

Writer with Tablet

Copyright Lee Lynch 2014

January 2014

Two great tastes…but do they go great together?

BY DANIEL W. KELLY

Hey! You got sex in my horror! No! You got horror in my sex!

What’s all the bickering about? Isn’t that a delicious combo? Does the inclusion of sex in horror fiction automatically make it “erotic” horror? It seems in the world of publishing, heavy sexual content scores you an “erotica” label, just like we expect a penis in a movie to get slapped…with an NC-17 rating. But isn’t there a distinct difference between sex and erotica depending on its purpose within the context of a story and its effect on the reader?

Either way, you would think that in the world of LGBTQ fiction, expressing our sexuality openly in our stories would be embraced. Hell. It should be encouraged! Instead, we need the prudish “erotic” warning label to protect our virgin minds from unsavory adult content!

It often seems that the inclusion of sex in a book has readers holding crossed fingers up to it as if they’re warding off a vampire with a crucifix or stamping an X rating on the book. And so, any books that feature sexual situations get the old “erotic” subgenre attached to the true genre: erotic horror; erotic romance; erotic mystery; erotic fantasy (that last one sounds the dirtiest of all!).

I don’t know how it works with the other genres, but I personally cringe every time I see the word “erotic” attached to the “horror” classification on my books—which is basically all the time. Just the fact that “erotic” leads the classification creates an assumption about a book; before even getting to the “horror” part, the mind has already sent the wrong signal of terror loud and clear. “EEK! This is a sex book!”

I would prefer to call my fiction grindhouse horror or exploitation horror. As in those types of movies, the sex in my books is most often presented as over-the-top, absurd, and funny. Come on. A guy pleasures a big red bear with a dildo using only his mind in my new book No Place for Little Ones,No Place for Little Ones 300 DPI and a man’s expulsions taste just like dairy when he’s “milked” in my novel Combustion.Combustion 300 DPI

Occasionally, there’s a “romantic” sex scene (because my characters do have hearts!), but generally, the sex is there as a prelude to the horror, to place characters at their most vulnerable when the horror shows itself, or even to just go for the good old gross out.

These are all purposes that go hand-in-hand with horror. Sex isn’t meant to arouse; it is intended as foreplay to awaken the senses and emotions and to enhance the intensity of the climactic moment of fear.

And hey. If sex in horror does turn some readers on, that’s a result of their warped ids. Some people are that sick and twisted. I’m fine with them calling my stuff erotic horror. For the rest of you, it’s simply horror. Just have an adult cover your eyes during the dirty parts.

Blending Aww and Boo

BY CATE CULPEPPER

The most frightening room in the universe was the tiny bathroom in my parents’ house.

The terror it evoked had nothing to do with kidhood illnesses or humiliating accidents.  Our bathroom didn’t inspire visceral horror because of the stabby-shower scene in Psycho, or the corpse-in-the-bathtub chapter of The Shining.

The Culpeppers’ windowless bathroom was the only space in the neighborhood, perhaps in all of New Mexico, capable of complete, impenetrable darkness.  Our bathroom was as natural a habitat for pre-adolescent ghost stories as the sea was for the Kraken.

We’d all end up crammed in there eventually, huddled on the cold tile floor—me and a half dozen of my nearest and dearest amigas, brought together by that ancient challenge, the crafting of the perfectly calibrated horror tale.

The highest honor I’ve ever received for creativity was my reputation as the hands-down best ghost storyteller in the eighth grade.  Part of my gratification was the no-doubt unseemly pleasure I took in making six other girls scream and grope each other at will.  I emitted blood-chilling howls in that echoing little room that sent them lurching into each other’s laps.

I preferred burning a single candle when I told my stories.  The lovely faces of my listeners glowed in that small, flickering light.  Their parted lips and shining eyes were my first taste of the spooky connection writers hope to forge with readers.  Today I remember the glint in their eyes, and I hope for it still.

This serves as my long-winded explanation as to why I write about ghosts.

I’ve incorporated the supernatural in all of my books—from the Tristaine novels to my latest, Windigo ThrallWindigo Thrall 300 DPIThere are certain drawbacks to this.  Some folks just won’t read horror stories, in any form.  Those who love the genre can find more shriek-inducing writers than Cate.  There isn’t much gruesome imagery in my books, and very little blood-letting.  There’s always a potentially lethal supernatural threat, but it’s vanquished with a minimum of exploding heads or grisliness.

I’ve always considered my stories more romantic than sinister.  Creepiness is much enhanced if you genuinely care for the women being creeped upon.  If they don’t vanish forever into some spectral hell, you want them to end up together.  I focus a lot on the anxieties and joys of first love and growing passion—I just have one of the women trying to eat the other, is all.

Not the fun eat.  Eat as in bite, chew, chew, swallow, burp, bite some more.  In Windigo Thrall, Jo Call chases her beloved, Becca Healy, all over Mount Rainier, trying to eat her up.  Yep, bet I lost a few romance readers right there.

Jo and Becca are the couple introduced in my last novel, A Question of Ghosts.  Windigo Thrall also features Grady and Elena, from River Walker.  I grew fond of both couples as I wrote their first stories, and they mesh together well as a quartet.  It makes sense to me that Jo and Grady would be teeth-gnashing adversaries, and Becca and Elena fast friends.  I’ve also enjoyed my new couple, Pat and Maggie, who add some sexual spice to the spookiness.

A word about the cover.  My friend, artist Richard Gerhard, created this  witchy Windigo for me.  It’s not a typical cover image for our books—there’s nothing alluring or seductive about it. In fact, it’s rather off-putting.  But I love the ominous silence in Richard’s portrayal of this ancient monster.  The history of the Cannibal Beast in Algonquin lore is harrowing indeed, and I thank Richard and BSB artist Sheri Dragon for the unique flavor of this design.

I hope you enjoy Windigo Thrall.  Hauling you into my parents’ bathroom seems unlikely at this point; but I’ll trust you to read my story in a dark space, lit by a single candle.


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