Friday, April 16, 2010

Call for Horrors!

Posted by LD Keach on Friday, April 16, 2010

We want you--to send us your Horrors!

If you have any stories about horrible things that’ve happened to you as a writer, drop us a line. Even if it’s just stories of horrible things you’re worried might happen to you; or horrible things that didn’t actually happen to you, but could have; or fantastic writers’ resources that saved you from said horrible things; or horrible things that happened to someone else…we want to hear it!

Email me at [email protected], or Randi Herself at [email protected], or just put it in a comment below (if you’re particularly exhibitionist.)

Or, you can send us a carrier pigeon or summon a shambling horde of the undead to deliver the message at my house. (Although, I’ll warn you; I only have room in my parking lot for two, maybe three shambling hordes, so an email will probably do just fine.)

Particularly bone-chilling personal stories will be featured in upcoming posts of the Horrors of Horror Writing. And any super-cool writers’ resources will get extra-fancy exposure in the Cult.

And I’ll talk to Baphomet to see if there’s anything he can arrange any eternal rewards in the underworld (but you’ll have to wait a few years…and probably die…for those to kick in.) But it should be very awesome!


  1. You can put this in your column, too, if you like. I've told this one to a few people already, and it's not really shameful to begin with.

    I'm not the greatest with sex scenes. Either I go way overboard into "Jessica's having a dirty daydream" territory or I get really self-conscious and don't take the scene far enough, usually the latter. I actually agonize over exactly what I'm going to write, fearful that I'll end up with something that sounds jarringly pornographic or veers too far into the "this should be in a romance novel" territory. It can be a real source of anxiety for me.

    While writing a sex scene for my current project (a flat-out horror novel that's really not supposed to be sexy at all), I needed to make things as uncomfortable as possible without going too far with it. It wasn't an arousing scene at all, and the only purpose it had was to make one of the characters feel incredibly guilty and humiliated in front of his friends. I was not looking forward to this at all.

    At the time, my Macbook battery was dying. It still held a charge but only at about 25% of its max capacity, and the moment I unplugged it from the wall the meter would start draining a few percentage points per minute. Can you see where this is heading?

    I had just about wrapped the scene up and had about twenty percent battery life left when my laptop suddenly died. It didn't even bother counting down. I was left with a dead machine. I let loose a torrent of expletives, hooked it back up to the charger and turned the Macbook back on. A few minutes later I returned to the document and found the latest autosave had been before the scene began.

    I had to rewrite the unsexiest sex scene ever, and I felt like I NEEDED to shower immediately afterwards. I also bought a new battery online right there on the spot. Never again.

  2. That's perfect and horrible, Jessica! I've known the horror of vanishing pages of writing gone in the blink of an eye, but to suffer it when it's such a tough scene to write in the first place (let alone the second?) Oi, I'm so sorry. But, oh, that so deserves some direct quoting...

    Plus, you win Baphomet's Laz-e-Boy of Doom, to be redeemable upon entering the afterlife. Relax in style while the mulit-setting auto-penance feature thrashes your otherworldly minions for you! With heated massage and a drink holder! I'll be sending you your coupon shortly. Congrats!

  3. Beth: Wow.

    If I had a nickle for every time that happened to me...okay, I wouldn't have any nickles. But, based on my understanding of inter-dimensional demonic breeding practices, I can offer you the following advice:

    First, buy two quarts of white vinegar, a box of chalk, one wire Finch cage, and a 1972 Chevy Nova.

    Take the two quarts of white vinegar and pour them over the cellar stairs while holding the empty Finch cage in your left hand. Turn around three times and then chant "Prenatal vitamins" over the stairs for fifteen minutes.

    Then, with the box of chalk, draw an Isosceles triangle over the door and write a short poem to the fuzzy-softness of sheep's wool, after which, walk backwards through your house to your front door and get into the driver's seat of your nova.

    Then, in the nova, drive to Demonic-Toys-R-Us, 66 Waterloo Quay, Auckland, 1041. (I'd suggest purchasing a stuffed goat. Demon offspring aren't too keen on teddy bears, from what I hear.)

    (And thanks for the comment!)

  4. A couple of horror years

    I am not sure when I started writing, when I really started writing. It must have been when I was around fourteen years old. I was writing, back then only for myself and a friend who read everything I wrote and commented on it. She was the only person who ever truly got it.
    I worked up the courage to tell my mentor, who was a poet and a writer herself, that I write and that I would love it if she would review my poems. When she first heard that she looked at me askance and I should have known right then and there that it was a bad idea, but I went on with it.
    I gave her my latest manuscript. I admit that not even to this day I don’t understand what made her behave the way she did. I received a phone call from her, late in the night. Her voice seemed excited and the debit of her speech was incredible. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, she liked what I have written and she told me that we will discuss everything the next time we meet for our lesson.
    She came to my house and she took out the books and notebooks. I was anticipating what she will say, I was waiting for her to tell me what she liked and what she didn’t like, my heart was pounding so fast. Then, tragedy stroke. She took out my manuscript, threw it on the desk and said that I have no talent to writing, that the energy in my poems comes from being a teenager and having normal teenage problems. It was a one-hundred and eighty degrees turn from what she told me over the phone, when she compared me to a great Romanian poet.
    She went on to quote a couple of my verses that she liked the most: “life is a cynical philosopher” and “above all, hope is humiliating”. Nothing about the way I create an atmosphere, nothing about the narrative poems, nothing about the philosophy concepts that I tied in. Her words rang in my ears, “it’s not talent.”
    I ended up giving up writing for two years and the weird thing is that I cannot remember much from those two years. It was as if life went by without me, without my involvement, as if my life simply lacked me and it kept on going, like a runaway train, without a destination, without a path, without a plan. I hate those two years.
    I started writing again at the age of twenty when I discovered the drawers filled with manuscripts. I read those old manuscripts and thought to myself that this person cannot be me, that this person who has written these lines is someone very talented indeed. Maybe I am just subjective. But I did come back to writing and I love every minute of it, even though sometimes I hate it, I still love it. It’s a big part of me, a part that I choose not to live without.
    Her words, that have rang in my ears for two years, mean nothing to me now. They were just a little thorn that I had the misfortune to step on. But it is gone now and the wound is healed.

  5. I finished my novel, Iban Dream. After years and years of research and hard work, my head-hunting story was finally done. Yet this was soon followed by a year of rejection from agents and publishers. What is wrong! What is wrong! I hollered to my empty wall, begging for it to respond to me - one creak, two - anything at all. But nothing.

    Then, I found them. An agency that claimed they can find publishers from anywhere in the globe. All I needed to do was upload a synopsis & 2 chapters of my work into their server, then sit back and wait. So that was what I did, I sit back and waited, 1 month, 2 months, and on the 3rd month, I wrote an email to inquire. An auto respond was all I got. I wrote another mail a few days later. Still the same auto respond. I logged-in and tried to delete my file but the system wouldn't let me. I wrote to tech support about the problem, and received the same auto respond. Then I sit back and I thought. I gave them the benefit of the doubt, but two days later when I still got the auto respond, I became livid. Why wouldn't they let me take out my file. What is going on?

    I called on the spirits of my ancestors, and suddenly the room darkened. A warrior, black with the blood of his enemies and spewing rage from every pore, told me to shut the fuck up and think things through. So I followed his wise counsel. And that was when I remembered that I had no problems uploading new files to replace the old ones. I deleted words from the two chapters, then wrote an explanation of why I was uploading this new file in place, and I changed the files. The moment this was done, the warrior shouted a cry of victory and disappeared into the dust.

  6. Sibel,

    I wish I had my copy sitting nearby for easy reference, but I believe the author of Romancing the Stone (and several other novels) had a very similar experience. One of her college writing professors tore her a new one over a manuscript, told her she had no talent at all, and promised to let her pass in exchange for a promise that she would never attempt writing again. It crippled her, for a very long time, and she nearly gave up forever. Luckily, she returned to writing several years later to great success.

    Good for you that you didn't let it keep you down. People like that don't deserve to have their words considered, let alone even heard.

  7. Thank you Jessica, yes "cripple" that is the word. That's how I felt.
    By the way, I am like you when it comes to novels and to sending query letters for them (self-doubt and nervousness).

  8. Golda: awesome. I might quote you directly in an upcoming post--how does that sound to you?

    Sibel: I'm so sorry. (I might quote you, too, if you're agreeable.) That is a horrible, horrible experience, and thank you so much for sharing it with us. (I'm going to have nightmares of mentors and college professors spitting at me that I'm a hack and I should stop. Which, may or may not be true, but still; scary nightmare.) I'm glad you've got the courage to keep up the dream!

  9. Yes, please do tell as many writers as you would about this experience.

  10. Lorna: Yes, I am ok with being quoted, ha ha. It was a horrible experience, but it is also true that what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger. I do believe that I am stronger as an artist today, as a direct result of that experience.
    I am not sure it was courage to follow this dream, I think it's impossible not to write. The urge is just too big.