Welcome, Coffin Hoppers!

 

welcome to the happy horror writer's Coffin Hop stop!

Help yourself  – the keg’s full of ice cold Oktoberfest cheer. There’s candy corn, multicolored popcorn balls, assorted cheeses, and crisp apples. Feel free to explore the yard and relax near the chiminea. If you feel adventurous, take a short walk across the way to the empty field where there’s a cold spot that is always chilly, even in the brutal Texas summer. If you stand there long enough, you will hear either the owl or the other thing. If you hear the owl, you are in good company. If you hear something else –  run!

No Halloween party is complete without door prizes, and the Coffin Hop is a week long party! To participate, all you have to do is be a registered member of the Coffin Hop. To win, all you need is a little luck or the help of spirits conjured over candlelight and cauldron.

Prizes ( Ranked by Scream )

The Haunted House Group Scream:

Leave a comment with the phrase “Mother Nature isn’t just a metaphor,” and I will give you Stolen Climates, my horror ebook.

The Bloodcurdling Scream:

Ten commenters will get a signed Stolen Climates postcard.

The Strangled Scream:

Five commenters will win a signed Stolen Climates poster.

The  Pleasant Surprise Scream:

One commenter will win a  delectably twisted set of dark fiction ebooks by #TESSpecFic  authors, including:

The Imaginings, by Paul D. Dail

Valknut: The Binding, by Marie Loughin

Corridors of the Dead, by Jonathan D. Allen

100 Unfortunate Days, by Penelope Crowe

Stolen Climates, by Aniko Carmean

The ‘I Won The Grand Prize!’ Scream:

One person will receive a Stolen Climates themed goody pack! This includes:

Gauss Hotel’s Award Winning Waffle Mix (just add sytra!)
Helena’s Cosmos Seeds
Margot’s Hand – It’s Not Just for Breakfast Anymore!
A (previously enjoyed!) paperback of The Haunting of Hill House
A signed Stolen Climates poster

Come back and comment often! Multiple comments mean multiple chances to win. And you know you want a prize to go with that fine beer buzz and the thrill of walking out into the haunted field!

xoxo,

-aniko, the happy horror writer

Mother Nature isn't just a metaphor!

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Autumn, awaking.

October.

The name conjures earlier nightfall, crisp air, and the advent of all things spooky. It is thirty-one days of horror movies, pumpkin lattes, and the possibility of weather cool enough to open windows. It is a time of afternoon coffee, fresh radishes crisp as apples and nearly as big, and the first bowls of lunchtime soup.

When I moved to Central Texas five years ago, I thought that there were really only two seasons: Summer and not-Summer. I was wrong. There are seasons, but they are subtle. The trees may not erupt with the Autumnal fire of cooler climes, but they do change. The live oak mellows from a dark green to a gentle golden-green and the lush emerald of the cedars deepens. Insects and flowers that the sun killed return, making October a month of understated rebirth. Dragonflies float on sunlight-reflecting wings, glittering bits of consciousness hovering above the changed trees. Fireflies drift amongst dying thickets even as multicolored zinnias blow in the cooler breezes. On cloudy mornings, Austin’s ambient light reflects from the muzzy atmosphere, and a surprising profusion of sunflowers glow bright as good omens.

My creativity, which had grown sluggish beneath the constant blue of Summer’s onslaught, is also flowering. My work on expanding and revising the first book in my sci-fi/horror series is going at a good clip, and connections between characters and themes ricochet through my dreams to appear on the pages. In addition to work on the novel, I’m also preparing a short story for inclusion in an anthology. The story is a strange little gem inspired by Ouida Sebestyen’s novel, Girl in the Box. Not including reviews and blog posts, I have written close to four-hundred pages of new material this year. To put that in perspective, the final draft of Stolen Climates weighs in at just over 240 pages. I have never been this productive. I welcome my awakening!

***

October is also the month of horror blog hops. This year, I am participating in the Coffin Hop. Mark your calendars, because I’ll be giving away fun prizes, copies of Stolen Climates, and writing a post a day!

Coffin Hop 2012!

Summer Solstice in a Small Town

I like to take road trips, and the stranger the destination, the better. I like small towns that literally aren’t on the map. Breaker, Texas is one such town.

In Central Texas, scrubby trees grow up twisted from constant wind. The farther West you go, the hardier the stunted trees – at least, until you get to Breaker. There are no trees within the Breaker city limits, and no other vegetation of any kind: no grassy yards, no prickly pears, not even any potted plants. Breaker wasn’t always barren, but it is now.

That makes it all the more remarkable that the Makepeace Orchard survives at the edge of town. The peach farm has been continuously cultivated since 1822. Prior to that, a tribe known as the Cayalanzuvan grew sytra there. Urban legend links sytra to the bloodier aspects of atavistic paganism, and Goddess worship in particular. If that doesn’t compel you to put FM-6060 on your itinerary, consider this: a petrified tree stands just inside the gate. It is bone white, but certain sensitive people report seeing a black haze rise from the surface. Touch the tree, and those people say they hear a woman talking. Spooky? Perhaps, but even if you aren’t the type to enact your own personal episode of Supernatural, you can get a good deal on peaches. What’s not to love?

This is my fifth summer in Texas. I still haven’t made it to Treeletting, Breaker’s annual Summer Solstice celebration. Treeletting is a multi-cultural event held in the orchard, and gives prominent place to Cayalanzuvan ritual. The allegations of human sacrifice making the rounds of the tabloid circuit booked Breaker’s only hotel, The Gauss, for this whole week. I know because I tried to make reservations. Even without the (probable) journalistic embellishment of cannibalism, the true tragedy of 2007 is probably enough on its own to draw a certain kind of crowd.

Dubbed  “The Treeletting Tragedy,” the events of 2007 resulted in multiple deaths by fire and a possible abduction. Helena Makepeace, a mentally unstable young woman with ties to the orchard, is still on the Missing Persons register. You’ve probably seen her on those sad brochures that show up in the mail, the ones with a time-lapsed photo and information about what the missing individual was last seen wearing; she’s the one who would have been beautiful, if not for the accident that mutilated half of her face.

There is also bounty out for a father and daughter who disappeared shortly after the  ’07 solstice. The tabloids occasionally run with that, too, purporting that a small religious group known as the La Zaliites is behind the reward money. The La Zaliites think that the daughter, who was only three at the time of the incident, is the human incarnation of their Goddess.

If Breaker were on a map, it would at the epicenter of strange.

Happy Summer Solstice!

PS If you liked this post, consider adding Stolen Climates to your Goodreads bookshelf. You can also click Like on the book’s Amazon page. Neither costs you anything, but they mean something to me. Thanks!

My Dream Job

This morning, as I was eating breakfast, I realized I know what my dream job is. I even know where it is. In fact, if I wanted to, I could walk to and from my Dream Job’s location.

If you’re guessing that my Dream Job is writing and that I can walk to my writing desk, you would be partially correct. To write well is my Dream, but I do not want it to be my Job. The definition of ‘job,’ to me, involves doing things I don’t love in exchange for money. It is sitting in traffic, parking on the top deck of the garage, attending meetings, being bombarded by ten different conversations in a cube farm when I’m trying to concentrate, cleaning the  mess my co-workers leave behind them at the coffee bar, counting down until 5 on Friday. Don’t misunderstand: I have a great job. I work with awesome people, get to spend the majority of my time writing (technical stuff, but still, it’s writing!), and get paid fair compensation that comes with a kick-ass amount of PTO. I’m not bitching about my job. I’m simply saying that it is a Job because it is something I have to do in order to get by in life. It is not what I was born to do. It is not what I’m best at, or even what I love. It is simply a way to exchange my time and my intellect for money.

Money.

The crux of it all.

I love the idea of making money off of my book because that means people are buying it and, with any luck, reading what I’ve taken the time and care to create. What matters to me about a sale is that it represents a reader, that the story is being found by people who are meant to find it. The sale isn’t about the money, although I do charge. The reality is that my life is cost-driven; I have bills to pay, food to buy, and retirement plans to consider. At the very least,  I want to make back what I spent to produce the book because that’s money that came straight out of the Bank of Mr. and Mrs. Aniko. Vacation money. New counter money. Money for emergency vet visits. I can’t afford to give away my books. And that’s where things get weird. I need to make money, but I don’t want writing to ever have any aspect of job-ness to it. I want it to remain a pure act of creation, not driven by the money monster. I don’t ever want my writing to become my Job because then there will be unavoidable need to monetize my dream, to compromise, to do things because I need a payday.

Does this mean I would reject the opportunity to make tons of money off of my writing? No. What it means is that I’m not making the acquisition of money the focus of my writing. I am making writing the focus, the creation of worlds the focus, the telling of stories the focus. Foci! That’s a fun word: foci. Foci, foci, foci… focus! My goal is to write original, entertaining stories that are authentically mine. At this point, that means that I have no desire to seek out a publisher or agent, because I see those things as guarantors of compromise.  I don’t need to be rich, I don’t want to be famous, and I don’t need or want my writing to be my income. I’m not saying this to wave a pro-Indie banner from my parapet. I’m not saying this to be self-righteous or holier than thou towards those writers who wish to make writing synonymous with their income. I’m just saying how I, Aniko Carmean, feel about my writing and how I choose to view and manage the relationship of my writing to making money. I am happy for everyone who lands a publishing contract and for everyone who makes it big as an indie. I’m not happy with people who make it big and then turn their blogs into self-aggrandizing sales pitches or non-stop guest posts. But that’s a different topic…

What I would love is only have to work part-time to pay my bills. Then I would have more time to write, and would still be keeping the pressure of payday away from my art. At this stage in my financial lifecycle, I can’t even begin to consider part-time work, but I’m planning for it. I’m aligning my finances so that I can retire from full-time work. Not in the next year or two, but not too far from now, either. I hear some of you out there making those little tutt-tutt noises, those noises that indicate I can only choose to do that because I’ll be living off of Mr. Aniko, how lucky for me! Not true, ya’ll. Not that he wouldn’t do that and hasn’t already offered, either. The fact is, I want to be totally debt-free (including the mortgage), have a decent retirement fund being actively managed, and know that even if Mr. Aniko had to fly offworld and leave me behind, I could pay for everything I require and still not have to worry about my future, old-lady monetary needs. I want to help us build a stronger, more financially secure future where one or both of us could decide to work part-time and still have money to buy good food and comfortable shoes. I want that security, even if it means I have to wait a bit to pursue my Dream Job. Even if I have to put a price on my books – a fair price, but still a price. Even if it means that I keep writing in the pre-dawn dark, hours before I go to my Job. Write on the weekends, instead of hosting parties. Write when I’m tired, cold, or nervous about a meeting. It’s not easy to balance the writing with the working with the living.  But I do it because it is what I have to do. I work for money, but I write to live.

Even if, someday, my book sales are steady and make me money, I want to maintain a part-time job to keep the pressure of making ends meet off of my writing. If I have to have a Job, I may as well aim for my Dream Job. Which is, you ask?

To work part time at the liquor store down the street.

That’s it. I want to purvey oblivion. I want to stand between the cash register and the expensive or tiny bottles, the things that people would be tempted to steal. I want to have one of those cushy, gray mats under my feet. When the store is empty of customers, I want to be able to look at the rows of bottles and hear the hum of the cooler chilling the beer and the white wine. I want to use the hand truck to move around cases of Captain Morgan’s. I want to pour those teeny little plastic glasses at the taste-test station. I want to dust the glass bottles, all those different shapes and hues. I want to have a basket of limes and lemons, so that people don’t have to make a second stop to adorn their drinks. I want to work part time, get to know the regulars, be the first to hear about a new vodka, and spend the rest of my time writing.

What about you? Do you want your writing to be your living? Do you like the word foci?

Breaking News

Jonathan D. Allen reviewed Stolen Climates! I’m a huge fan of his writing and, because of that, feel a little bad about the whole breakfast burrito thing. Check out the review and, please, leave him a comment!

On May 7th, I’ll be interviewing Hunter Shea, author of Forest of Shadows and the forthcoming novel, Evil Eternal. Mark your calendars! The questions are fun, and there will be an excerpt from Evil Eternal.

And finally, but still totally rocking in awesomeness, I have been invited to participate in an Author Spotlight Interview over at Strange Amusements. Go live date for the interview is TBD, but I’ve got the questions, and they are wonderful! I’ll keep you posted.

XOXO,

-aniko

 

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#luckyseven

My friend and fellow Emissary of the Strange, Jonathan (@crimnos) tagged me to participate in #luckyseven. The rules of the #luckyseven are simple:

  • Go to page 7 or 77 in your current manuscript
  • Go to line 7
  • Post on your blog the next 7 lines or sentences – as they are!!
  • Tag 7 other people to do the same

This is my first tag as a blogger and an awesome chance to show off seven sentences from some works. I selected from three works, all of them at different stages of editing. What I discovered is that the more I edit, the shorter and more coherent my sentences get. For my third selection, I’ll show you seven sentences before and after one round of editing. There be dragons in the unedited version! Bad sentences, with a hint of unintentional plagiarism. See if you can spot the phrase that rightfully belongs to another, very awesome author – and note that I get rid of it in the first pass revision!

As for my seven tagged individuals, many of these are folks from the #WIP500. I do not know all of them well, but they are actively writing and pursuing the perfect sentence. I’d love to see what they’re up to!

  • Sandra Dehelen @dehelen
  • J Aric Keith @sirkeystone
  • Rob Sharkey Pruneda @sharkbaitwrites
  • Mari Biella @maribiealla1
  • Angie Richmond @write_me_happy
  • Wakefield Mahon @wakefieldmahon
  • Hunter Shea @huntershea1

Stolen Climates

Stolen Climates is a published work and in its final state.

They sat in silence, both of them looking at Linnae. She had wrapped her doll’s head with a blanket. One eye looked out, the lid drooped in sly knowledge.

“Are you feeling up to happy hour?” Malcolm asked.

“I’m already there,” Genny said.

“Maybe tomorrow we could ask Olivia to watch Laney for a little while, spend a little time just the two of us.”

“I’m not leaving my daughter with that creepy witch.”

Goat Song for a Joshua Tree

GSfaJT has been through several edits, but not formally sent to an editor (yet).

I crouch to relieve myself in the blue bin. Death has his hands on my ankles. His thumb joints rub my Achilles tendon.

I scream.

My voice echoes around and around in my concrete box, ringing like chimes as it shatters my glass self. I am less than what I was. I am an animal, a caged animal.

Raw, Unedited WIP “Fluffy”

Fluffy is absolutely unedited. Here’s a glimpse of what I suffer through when I write the first draft:

She froze; from the room came the papery abuse of shopping bags being hurled onto the bed. The television was tuned to a dead channel, hissing and hissing at the ringing phone jangling from the nightstand. Cold air poured from around the seams of the door, tendrils of unnatural frigidity unrelated to the intense heat of the cranked-up heater. Kirin’s fingers found the cardkey. She clicked shut her purse. It coincided with the thump of a gunshot muffled by a pillow.

Kirin bolted.

First Revision WIP  “Fluffy”

She froze, one hand in her purse. From inside the room came the papery abuse of shopping bags being hurled onto the bed. Cold air poured from the seams of the door, tendrils of unnatural frigidity. There! In a side pocket she felt the smooth plastic of her card key, the one thing she couldn’t afford to leave behind. Kirin clicked shut her purse. It coincided with the thump of a gunshot muffled by a pillow.

Kirin bolted.

Please follow my writing friends, and hop on over to Jonathan’s site, Shaggin’ the Muse to check out his #luckyseven!

Happy Friday!

 

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Aniko Answers – An Interview

As promised, I’ve put together a video response to the questions you posed via Twitter or my blog. I thank Erika, Mr. Erika, and the rest of their family for letting me hijack their Saturday evening for filming. I thank the following contributors as well: J. Aric Keith, Hunter Shea, Kasia S. , and Mari Biella.

Before you settle in with your popcorn and wine to watch my video, I recommend hopping on over to Strange Amusements. Nicholas Strange, author of the blog, has posted a review of Stolen Climates! Here’s a quote:

While there is some connection to traditional tales of ritual sacrifice, much of what unfolds is a unique hybrid of family drama, pagan horror, and other influences that combine for one of the most interesting and effective horror novels I have read in a long time.

I hope you enjoy the video. It’s just under ten minutes, and I have tried to keep it on topic and interesting. There are some places where the splicing that resulted from cutting out my rambling is a tad rough, but overall, I think it turned out well. I had fun recording, and I hope you have fun watching.

 

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Ask Me!

I’m gathering up a list of questions to answer in a video response. Questions can be related to writing, life, or any random silly thing that springs to mind. If there’s something you want to know, ask away – but do it soon, because the deadline is Monday, April 9!

This week, the World Literary Cafe is featuring Stolen Climates in their New Releases!  Here are some comments I’ve received from readers:

Getting a real Twin Peaks vibe from your book so far!  – @crimnos (Jonathan Allen)

Strange, unsettling, and engrossing: three words that spring to mind as I’m 40% of the way through STOLEN CLIMATES. – @NicholasStrange

This novel will leave you looking at nature with a cautious and questioning perspective. – Erika, Amazon Review

Want to know more? You can watch the trailer and read the first three chapters on my blog:  Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3

The book code named Fluffy is nearing first draft completion! I cannot overemphasize how much help and support the #WIP500 group has given me in making dedicated, daily time to write. Look them up on Twitter, and please stop by to say hello to the #WIP500 organizer, Cara Michaels. She’s doing an amazing amount of work to keep the wheels on this buggy – all while still writing her own fiction. I just bought the first book in her series, Gaea’s Chosen and I can’t wait to read it!

To sum up: get your questions in, get your read on, and say ‘howdy’ to Cara!

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