Monday, October 31, 2011
On Horror and Other Scary Stuff
by Arley Cole
The Blacksmith's Daughter
out NOW at Musa Publishing
In Stephen King's excellent essay "Why We Crave Horror Movies," he basically states that we crave horror and scary stuff as a way of allowing our primitive, insane sides "to scream and roll around in the grass." We love the thrill ride of the scary movie or the scary book. We love proving we're tough enough to take it. And I agree with him.
But what makes something scary? Lots of people saw Arachnophobia years ago and ran screaming from the theater because spiders scare the willies out of them. Other folks weren't bothered by the spiders and thought it was a hilarious comedy--because apart from the spiders it is pretty funny.
I for one, saw the Robert deNiro/Nick Nolte version of Cape Fear in my younger days and was afraid to walk to my car afterward. It scared the ever-living crap out of me. I also got completely freaked out by the Rebecca deMornay movie The Hand that Rocks the Cradle. It is possibly the only women's horror movie I ever watched and it goes straight to the heart of what women fear.
That's probably the root of the question: what scares you? Spiders? The unknown? Failure? Loss?
In The Merchant's Son (sequel to my new release The Blackmsith's Daughter), I am creating monsters that scare me. There are hints about them burrowing in the ground, creating mysterious tunnels. There's a huge hint at the end of The Blacksmith's Daughter involving the thing Nerian finds in one of those burrows. So if you haven't read it yet, now's the time!
But why are these particular monsters scary?
One of the things that scares me most is the idea of creating something I can't control--setting events in motion I am powerless to stop, even if I really, really want to.
In the great wide world of technology, there are so many things in the modern world that cannot be stopped. I can't watch those virus movies because it's just too close to possible. At least the Black Death occurred in the natural course of things. But if scientists create and then accidentally release a superbug that turns us all into zombies, we're just done for. No amount of zombie killing can change the fact that most everybody is going to catch the bug and turn into zombies.
And that scares me more than the actual zombies.
The truly scary is the idea that you can't unscramble an egg. To quote Lost--still obsessed--"what's done is done." There's no getting back that time you wasted. There's no taking back those words you said. There's no rewinding that course of events that destroyed a relationship.
If Robert deNiro's scary guy wants to randomly confront me in a dark parking lot outside the theater and kill me slasher fashion, I guess it'll just happen. But what if I started the whole course of events by making him mad when I dumped a coke in his lap at the theater because I was goofing around with my friends instead of paying attention?
I didn't mean to start those events into motion. I really might wish I could stop it. But in the end it is all out of my control.
And that is scary.
Saturday, October 29, 2011
Confession: I own almost as many decorations for Halloween as I do for Christmas. Next to “the most wonderful time of the year,” Halloween has to be my absolute favorite holiday. Reflecting my enthusiasm, my house always ends up looking like a witch gorged on caramel apples, candy corn, and spiders, went all Norman Bates on a pumpkin in my living room, and then threw up everywhere.
In Yukon, Oklahoma, where I live, the first Saturday in October marks the ever-popular Czech festival. I try to attend every year but look forward to the day for a different reason as well. For me, the festival marks the beginning of Fall . . . and the day I can officially bust out my Halloween decorations without feeling like I’ll be criticized for being overly zealous. I force my husband to march up to the attic and out to the shed to retrieve the bins and boxes, and I go to town.
Whether cute, crazy, or creepy, all of the pumpkins, witches, ghosts, figurines, garlands, and lights make me giddy. Just one glance at my living room filled with decorations or my kitchen table covered in autumn colors makes me breathe in a breath of fun and festivity. I even make it a point every year to either host a Halloween party or at least have people over, partially so I can show off my hard work in decorating and partially to appease my Halloween hosting bug that’ll keep itching until I scratch it.
Somehow the whole holiday makes me feel like a child again, or, in the very least, a teenager. Maybe that’s why I love Halloween so much. It generates in me the sense of carefree joy that we as adults have too often misplaced in our busy and stressful lives. But once a year we get to dress up and be whoever or whatever we want, eat a bunch of candy and treats guilt-free (it’s a holiday, so calories don’t count), watch creepy movies, and party “old-school” with our friends the way we used to when we were a kid. Or, if you have kids, you get to relive your childhood of trick-or-treating with them!
Okay . . . now for the audience participation! I’ve been teaching my 9th graders about writing with imagery and using words with strong connotation to create a mood (whether fun or creepy or both), so… let’s see what you got! I would love to hear you describe the way you decorate your homes for Halloween. Or, if it’s not so fantastic, feel free to embellish it or fabricate something altogether!
Here is a short excerpt from my young adult urban fantasy, Shadow Eyes, due for release February 3rd, that depicts the outside of a character’s home on the night of his Halloween party…
“Orange, green, and purple lights draped over bushes and surrounded tree trunks. A grave yard sprawled over half the lawn where skeletons peeked out in front of their tombstones, clawing the earth with their bony fingers. For added visual effect, a creepy green spotlight was illuminating the grim scene. A homemade, life-sized mummy with ketchup-bloodied rags had been hung from an awning and was pointing its stained, bandaged finger at us. From the driveway to the door, two flickering trails of small ghosts lit the way up the sidewalk. Cobwebs stretched out and attached themselves to outside walls, trees, bushes, and the entryway, and eerie Halloween music crept out the door to the chilled air outside.”Dusty Crabtree is the Author of Shadow Eyes, due for Euterpe release February 3, 2012!
Monday, October 17, 2011
Customer Service Representative by day and writer by night, Arley Cole is the author of several short stories and the newly released fantasy novel The Blacksmith’s Daughter. She has spent far too much time in school and has written most of her life for other people. Now she is writing for herself.
Everybody always wants to know where I got the idea for The Blacksmith’s Daughter. They always ask me if my dad was a blacksmith. Trust me, that one is getting old.
The honest truth---not to sound like Stephenie Meyer or anything---is that I literally dreamed the opening part one night. The next morning I said to myself, “That would make a good book.” So I started brainstorming it out over the ironing board until I had it.
I would have to say that the magical system of the book was what took the most work and head-scratching. It comes a good bit out of my personal interest in the idea of the human body as an electromagnetic organism. I also asked myself what powers magic. Is it just born into a person or does it rely on an outside force to give it strength? What if that outside force were something present in the natural world? The Blacksmith’s Daughter just starts the exploration of magic in that world. More answers are to follow in the sequel, The Merchant’s Son.
It is fantasy which means it makes perfect sense to place it under Urania, the speculative fiction imprint at Musa. But I was a little perplexed when the editor decided to place it primarily in Euterpe, the Young Adult imprint.
After all, the characters in TBD are not your typical YA characters. For one thing, they aren’t teenagers. The book explores character choices that just aren’t appropriate for teenager characters---like the protagonists getting married right at the beginning. The development of the romance between Enith and Acwellen takes a very different turn than it would if they were 16 or 17.
But despite the fact that there is an adult relationship in the book, it is also not graphic by any means. Nobody is going to get embarrassed reading it. At worst, you might squee a time or two. That also helps make it YA friendly. Plus, I’ve never yet met a teenager who wasn’t interested in relationships!
And on reflection, I believe the book offers a lot for YA readers thematically. One of the major themes is finding out what you are meant to do and who you really are. Although I know 40 and 50 year olds who are still trying to answer that question, YA readers certainly are interested in figuring this out.
The least YA aspect of the book is probably the violence. The fights are bloody and I hope realistic. I get really out of patience with the sanitized TV violence we see. The killer pops a cap in somebody and they bloodlessly fall down twenty feet away. Nobody gets dirty. Nobody lies on the ground screaming until they finally bleed to death. I think that trivializes life. It makes us callous. Even though there are lots of baddies in TBD and lots of killing takes place, none of this happens without cost to the other characters. Life is valuable, and death is permanent. It does us good to remember this.
I am really glad that The Blacksmith’s Daughter found a place at Euterpe and at Musa Publishing. E-books are the future and Musa is building a brand and a library of good books that readers can come to time and time again to find something that they know will be good. They don’t have to wade through a sea of e-titles, hoping to find a buried treasure. I am thrilled to be here and hope everyone else is too!!For our Halloween treat, we are giving out a copy of The Blacksmith's Daughter! Just leave a comment here, and Like us on Facebook at Euterpe YA Books, and it could be you who gets this great read for FREE!
Saturday, October 15, 2011
I am not an artist, am I?
A post by Mindy Hardwick, author of Stained Glass Summer, due to be released by Euterpe on 12/30/11.
In my upcoming Musa book, Stained Glass Summer, twelve-year old Jasmine wants desperately to be an artist. Her award winning photographer father has taught her to believe that in order to call yourself an artist, you must win awards…something he does well, and Jasmine does not do so well.
When I was writing Jasmine’s story, I thought a lot about my own experience with art. Even though I am a writer, I have never called myself an “artist.” To me, artists are people who work in the visual arts—painting, drawing, and sculpture.
In middle school, I struggled with art class. We did a lot of drawing and painting. I remember sitting at the large wood tables with six other people. I’d watch as forms and figures took shape on their pages. But, all that ever seemed to take shape on my page were stick figures. I always seemed to have this block. I could see what I wanted to draw, but I couldn’t figure out how to take that image in my head and get it onto the paper.
When I started writing, a similar process happened. I would see the story in my head. But when I sat down at the blank page, I gasped! How would I ever get that story in my head onto the page? I’ve discovered two keys which help me take my initial story idea and craft it to be a complete novel.
Flexibility: I may have an idea of how I want the story to be when I sit down to write, but I have to remain open to where the story needs to go. I can’t control or hold on too tightly to my original ideas. When I drafted the first version of Jasmine’s story, her mother was an alcoholic. I thought this was a great idea. But, when I took the story to my first semester of my Vermont College MFA in Writing for Children workshop, Ron Koertge said, “Alcoholic mothers are a dime a dozen, change it.” He went on to say that usually the first idea that comes to us is not the best. This idea is the “typical” idea. It is the idea we have seen and heard a hundred times before. Ron was right, and I took my story home and changed the story to be that Jasmine’s father is an artist and she is trying to live up to his expectations. This change still gave me the necessary ingredients I needed for plotting Jasmine’s story. Plus, the shift made the story a little less typical, but still a familiar enough plot that readers could relate.
Study the Craft of Writing: There is no way around it. I can Twitter, Facebook, and study the markets, but, in order to write the best story I can, I have to know the craft of writing. Do I understand character motive? Can I build a story where that motive drives the plot? Can I craft a setting that works with my story? And can I revise again and again and again? These are all the keys to taking that story in my head and getting it down on paper.
I may never be a painter or drawer, but as a writer, I have come to discover that like my glass artist character Jasmine, I, too, am an artist. I can take a story that comes to me as an idea and turn it into a story that others can enjoy.
Stained Glass Summer
December 30, 2011
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
By Arley Cole, author of Euterpe's very first release, The Blacksmith's Daughter, due out on October 21.
I am a raving fangirl. I have always been a raving fangirl. And now, though technically I am so old I have to be a fanwoman, I am still a fangirl.
Right now, my latest obsession is with the tv show Lost. No, I did not watch it the first time through due to scheduling issues, but thanks to my fabulous 17 year old daughter who stayed up until 3 a.m. watching it on Netflix, I am now hooked too. She actually came into my bedroom in the middle of the night and said, “I am watching Lost. You spend tomorrow catching up to me so we can watch it together and talk about it.”
So now she and I, as well as her dad, are all hooked on Lost. I am married to a wonderful man, but OMG Sawyer is so hot. We just finished season three so I am still shipping Skate, but I am not completely happy about that. Kate hasn’t committed to him like she needs to. She only wants what she can’t have.
But I digress.
I am a fangirl. I play video games based on Dungeons and Dragons—love those Forgotten Realms books!---and watch Avatar: The Last Airbender. I love to talk ships and debate characters and have written loads of fanfiction as Arcole on these favorite fandoms of mine.
But I also love to create my own worlds and populate them with people (and ships) that I can obsess over. When I am writing, I dream about these characters. I see them as I walk through the mall. I hear their conversations at restaurants. I become a fangirl.
So that is the best part about working on a new book. I get to ship who I want, how I want. I get to develop interesting people with backgrounds and history. I get to daydream about hot guys—don’t tell the husband.
And my greatest dream is that somewhere out there are readers who will become fangirls and fanboys of my worlds. I hope they will write fanfiction and talk ships based on my worlds.
I am obsessed. I am a raving fangirl.
Check out Arley's blog!
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Post by Sharon Ledwith, Euterpe author of The Last Timekeepers and the Arch of Atlantis, due to be released May 18, 2012.
Are you a risk-taker?
Musa Publishing certainly is. This brand new publishing company knew that taking risks is essential when you want to reach a goal and that the purpose of goals is growth. When you challenge yourself, you bring more of yourself to the surface. This is what authors do with their characters. And this is what Musa Publishing does with their authors.
Allow me introduce myself – my name is Sharon Ledwith and I write YA fiction. My genres include: time travel mysteries (kind of like a mesh of fantasy with a splash of sci-fi meets Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys), as well as paranormal stories where teens deal with psychic powers like psychometry, telekinesis, animal communication – stuff like that.
Last month, I signed a contract with Musa Publishing’s YA imprint Euterpe for my time travel mystery, ‘The Last Timekeepers and the Arch of Atlantis’. This is the first book in a series I’ve developed for tweens and teens. I am so grateful for this opportunity to realize my dream, and share my dream with readers like you. Writing is all about the reader. My goal is to influence and empower today’s youth through the stories I craft. I believe everyone is here at this time with a mission and a purpose, and every child has something to add to our evolutionary advancement. Children truly are the keys to our future.
It is my hope, with Musa Publishing’s support, to be a risk-taker and unlock the portal of opportunity for the next generation.
Check out Sharon's blog!