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Nathan Ballingrud Double Feature Book Review

After reading the short story “Atlas of Hell,” in Ellen Datlow's Fearful Symmetries, anthology, I looked up Nathan Ballingrud on Facebook and told him how much I loved the story. He seemed pleased that I had responded positively to what he described as a real change of direction. I mentioned the story to several friends, one of whom told me, “You think that story was good, you should read his collection, North American Lake Monsters.” 
I’ve been writing and reading horror since I was a teenager, and that book was unlike anything I’d read before.Lots of people have pointed out over the years that horror is the only genre named after an emotional reaction. The stories in North American Lake Monsters are actually less about the monsters than they are about that emotional response. They aren’t just horror stories, they’re stories about horror – the emotional fallout that monsters leave in their wake. It is riveting and devastating and merciless. It reminded me of nothing less than Flan…

Review of Curious Toys by Elizabeth Hand

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From the decadent, dystopian science fiction of her debut novel, Winterlong; to the immersive magic of her art world fantasies like Mortal Love; to the harsh, earthy, crystalline landscapes of her Cass Neary suspense novels; Elizabeth Hand’s ouevre is as dark, sensuous and edgy as anything out there.

I keep a copy of Hand’s short story collection, Errantry, beside my desk to give me something to aim for with my own fiction. It’s a bar so high that not many writers reach it more than a few times in their lifetimes, but Elizabeth Hand has pretty much resided there throughout her 20+ book career-to-date.

So when I received an advance reading copy of her upcoming book, Curious Toys through a Goodreads draw, I was over the moon. After reading it obsessively over the next few days, and raving about it to friends, family and co-workers, I have finished it, thought about it, and am ready to declare it one of her best.

In this convincing evocation of early 20th century Chicago, 14 year old P…

Writing Lessons from Other Disciplines

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In addition to writing, my other creative outlet is stone sculpture. The two may not seem to have much in common, but sculpting has taught me a great deal about writing. 1) Patience. If you rush a sculpture, all sorts of bad things can happen. The most obvious and common one is splitting the stone unexpectedly. When you are handcarving stone, you start with big tools, sharp hammers and chisels that can sheer away unwanted stone and help you start shaping your sculpture. Rushing this step can be a big mistake. With the amount of stone dust you raise, it can be hard to see cracks forming - and the sheer impact of each hammer blow can encourage any pre-existing hairline cracks to split wide open. I've had more than one sculpture simply sheer in half right when I was starting to get excited about what it was going to become.  If you take your time and pay attention, and you can catch a problem early enough, it can often be averted, by removing the chunk of rock that is already unstab…

SO Last Millennium

This post Includes Game of Thrones Final Season Spoilers
After reading the ASong of Fire and Ice books, I started following Game of Thrones. Been watch faithfully since Season One Episode One. Subscribed to HBO for ten years to get where we are now.  The last few episodes have rendered the entire exercise a colossal waste of time, money, and talent. Game of Thrones has become instantly outdated and irrelevant.
The show runners can talk all they want about having planted the seeds of what the Mother of Dragons would become from the beginning, but the point is, Daenerys, as played by Emilia Clarke, evolved and the writers didn’t. The world we live in evolved and the issues we care about changed dramatically over the past 25 years. But the show runners chose not to adapt along with it. They made no attempt to weave our moral awakening into the storyline, instead, choosing to be blind to the forces and deaf to the voices that have blossomed in our societysince then.
What was for a time, the…

Breaking Writers Blocks

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Not all writer’s blocks are equal. Sometimes they are all inclusive – dictating that your mind will shut down as soon as you try to write anything. This is the famous blank page syndrome of classic writer’s block.

Some stop you from writing altogether while others thrive on misdirection – allowing you to write, but sending you down the wrong paths (more like labyrinths than huge walls or electric fences). There are more writer’s blocks than there are writers and everyone you face is likely to be different.
So there cannot be one cure for writers block.
For me, writer’s blocks are more likely to be project specific – they come as a direct result of having worked myself into a corner. It’s almost impossible to get enough distance to see what I have done to create the problem for myself. And problems you can’t perceive can be very hard to solve.
When that happens, you need to find workarounds to get yourself going again. During my fourth draft of my Work In Progress, I recognized that there…

The Keys to Visibility are the Keys to the Kingdom

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I remember a story I read in Asimov’s when I was just starting out that blew me away and had a huge influence on me.
Don’t remember what it was called though. Or who wrote it. Or what it was about.
It was stylistically daring, beautiful, and funny. Eager to read more work by that writer, I looked, but couldn’t find any. I moved three or four times, and the magazine got packed in this box or that, and almost certainly wasn’t in any of the boxes that moved with me across the country. I wish I could remember more about it, because it deserves to be read again.
Around the same time, I read another cool story - this one about an artist working in new media. This was a couple decades before PC’s. The main character made or watched a film starring a number of top actors from various points in Hollywood history and had an original soundtrack by Peter Gabriel (it was a far future story). The author’s name was M.A. Foster. After getting excited about the story, I looked for the name in the bookst…

Finding Beta Readers

How do you find beta readers? I'm sure the answer to that is different for every writer. The one thing everyone tells me is that once you find some good dependable beta readers who give you good feedback and are happy to do it - you should do everything you can to hold onto them. How many beta readers do you need? I know people who have just two. And I know others who put it out to a large number with every book. I'm still looking, so I'm pretty sure I have more than I need for this book. But I'll winnow that down for the next one. I have a crew of friends and loved ones I go to for help and advice at different stages, but it's important to me to have beta readers who are reading the manuscript for the first time.

When I ask people to beta read for me, I often have to explain the concept of “beta-reader.”

Beta-Readers are essentially a hand-picked sample group. What the writer needs you to do is read it as though you just dropped the full cover price to buy it and …