Category Archives: Ramblings

A World Without Fear

Last week I wrote a post about some of the issues faced by female horror writers – it’s something close to my dark little heart, what with horror being what claws its way out me. While there is a lot of support for female writers within the horror community, there’ll always be those naysayers who believe we shouldn’t tarnish their ‘man-cave’ with our cooties.

But today I’m going to take the ‘horror writer’ out of the equation and talk about living in society as a female – yep, I’m poking that bear again. Sad, really, that the idea of me speaking out about feminism means I’m ‘poking a bear’. I’m not being over-dramatic; there’s a lot of hatred directed toward the word ‘feminism’ – wrongfully directed. And my last post on feminism had a man telling me I was ‘doing feminism wrong.’

So… cards on the table. I’m a feminist. I’m not a ‘humanist’ or an ‘equalist’ – I’m a feminist. I believe in equal rights and equal pay for women (because the gender pay-gap exists); I believe that while steps have been taken in the right direction, equality still eludes us. Does this make me an ‘equalist’? No, that would mean I’d be fighting for the equal rights of women and men, of which there is surely a current imbalance. So I’m an unapologetic feminist.

feminism 1

Right, now I’ve got that out of the way, let’s head into some pretty awful territory. Two days ago I woke to the news of a young Australian woman murdered in Melbourne. Seventeen this girl was, and viciously murdered so very close to her home. At this stage, investigative police believe it a random, sexually-motivated attack (they have a suspect in custody). My daughter watched this with me and said: “This is why you worry, isn’t it?” A seemingly innocent question, but there was an undertone I had to address. I don’t want my daughter to go through life frightened or hyper-vigilant, believing the onus is on her to remain safe – why should she have to?  To stay alive? To go through life not being a victim of violence because she was born female?

I told my daughter the truth. Yes, it is why I worry. You see, this young woman who was murdered the other evening was the twenty-third woman this year in Australia to die from a violent attack. That’s right, twenty-three women to date this year – that’s almost eight women a month; two a week.

I’ve seen the questions being asked already: what was she doing out at that time alone? And while that might seem like an innocent enough question, that’s victim-blaming right there. Why not the question: what monster thought it well within his right to do that to her?

It’s that type of seemingly innocuous question that shifts rightful blame from the perpetrator. It’s that type of question that should never be asked. Just as the questions about what the victim was wearing, if the victim had been drinking, if the victim made the right decision by walking home alone, should not be part of the conversation. It. Does. Not. Matter. Apportion blame where it’s due. (Just so we’re clear — that’s the perpetrator.)

The minute these questions make it into any news report, any conversation, any online ‘debate’, then it’s nothing more than excusing the perpetrator. The blame always lays squarely on the offender.

Rape-culture-pic

But that’s not always the case. When there are instances of schools telling their female students not to wear certain articles of clothing because it’s ‘distracting boys’ – that’s reinforcing a belief that girls must be responsible for not only themselves, but take into account ‘male thinking’ and act accordingly. That doesn’t just insult women, it insults males as well. I also remember the case where a young girl was kicked out of prom because some fathers were having “impure thoughts”. When is it ever okay to place the onus of another’s behaviour or thought process on the person on the receiving end of such idiocy? Why are they responsible for another’s actions or thoughts? It’s this type of thinking, this type of victim-blaming that is prevalent in society that often makes women who are victims of assault not come forward.

The online world is particularly guilty of rampant misogyny in certain circles, as seen by GamerGate and the subsequent doxing of those women who spoke up about death threats, threats of sexual assault, and ongoing harassment by ‘men’ who felt vilified. Just this month Ashely Judd was subject to such threats for a twitter comment she made re a basketball team during March Madness. Judd, is rightly pressing charges against those who threatened her.

This is the world I live in, the world my daughter lives in. Even walking down the street I’m subjected to whistles or men yelling out things they’d like to do to me. Just last week some jerk smiled and leered “niiiice arse” at me while I was out getting groceries. When I told him to fuck off, he was offended. How dare I speak to him this way when he’d paid me a ‘compliment’. How dare I? How dare you. I’m not here for your amusement, your will, your words, I told him. He then said he wouldn’t fuck me anyway.

When I gave a ‘whistler’ the finger, I was called a lesbian. This is the world I live in. One where I have to be vigilant, one where I have to be aware of my surroundings and who’s in them. It’s a world that has me fear for my daughter – we both deserve better than that. As does every woman.

It’s my right to live in a world without fear, a world without blame, and a world where exercising opinions, ideas and thoughts don’t result in threats against your person. It’s every woman’s right.

 

 

 

Why You Can’t Argue With Crazy (and should you?)

No, I didn’t forget Women in Horror Month. Yes, this isn’t technically posted in February, but I wanted to see the month out before I wrote my opus. I’m a woman who writes horror, and on my good days (when the writerimposteritis isn’t gnawing on my ankles) I think I write horror well. So when I hear of those who think women can’t or shouldn’t write in the genre I love, I get my back up. But what good does that do? Those who spout such nonsense want exactly that angry reaction. Most of the time they’re trolls, but every now and then you’ll find that misogynistic belief really is their truth and nothing and no one can dissuade them. You can’t argue with crazy.

Last year I wrote a piece on the best way I’ve found to handle any vitriol thrown my way regarding my choice and ability to write horror: Fuck the Naysayers and Make Good Art. I’ve heard all the arguments against female horror writers: we’re too soft, we’re nurturers, we don’t understand horror, we dilute it, we’re… (wait for it)… always putting romance in horror.

Like I said, you can’t argue with crazy.

can't argue with crazy

February 2014 was particularly nasty when it came to WiHM. Truly terrible and disgusting things were said. The first two weeks of this February, however, were fantastic. There were blissfully positive posts and interviews, the sharing of fellow authors’ work – a real sense of community and support. Then someone had to ruin it for everyone.

I’m not going to name names here but it spawned #horrorhags, and that should give you a pretty good idea of what was said about one female horror writer in particular before all were tarred with that same brush. It united horror writers and had, I’m guessing, the opposite effect the person intended. Or did it?  One has to wonder if the stupidity of comments such as these is nothing more than to raise someone’s profile, garner interest in their books, get the horror community talking about them et al. But really, who’d be that stupid? You’re insulting potential readers, you’re embarrassing your publisher, and the chances of you getting another publisher are now pretty damn slim. Authors remember. Editors remember. Publishers remember. The horror community remembers.

Thing is, you can’t control what people think, what people say, and how people act (especially on the Internet). You can only control what you think, what you say, and how you act. I’m not saying don’t take on the controversial issues, self-censorship isn’t the way to go either, but remember that trolls and those who forgot to activate their ‘don’t-be-a-douchewaffle’ button, are always going to be around, and they’re going to say and do things that will make you want to rage-quit humanity, but is that what they want from you? An escalated reaction? Notoriety? Do you want to feed that?

horror hag

WiHM seems to attract those who want to start a brouhaha (not a discussion) about exclusivity when it’s all about inclusivity. Why give the douchewaffles what they want? I’d never heard of the writer whose rant started the #horrorhag – now I do know their name. So was this ‘mission accomplished’ on the writer’s part? Tough call that. Yes, I know their name (some would say that’s marketing gone right), but it also went very, very wrong as a lot of publishers now have this person on a ‘blacklist’. They won’t publish them. Ever. I’d say that’s marketing gone wrong.

Writers are a passionate bunch, and as a whole a damn supportive one – woe betide anyone who messes with our community. And community it is. Writing is a mostly solitary profession, so when we find and meet like-minded folk, we celebrate the wonder and weirdness that is who we are and what we do. No one understands a writer like another writer. So when a scribe takes aim and fires those misogynistic bullets, they don’t just hit the female horror writers, they hit us all. I mean, dude, that shrapnel goes everywhere. And no one likes to be shot at; no one likes their friends and peers shot at, regardless of gender. But to do so during WiHM? That shit be crazy, and I do have to wonder at their motives.

It’s no secret that getting your work and your name out there and recognised isn’t getting easier – it’s simple mathematics (I can do it and I suck at math). The advent of self-publishing has increased the amount of books available to readers, which, as a reader myself, isn’t a bad thing; as a writer, you need to stand out in the crowd. (Hint: decrying female horror writers probably isn’t your best bet). So part of me wonders if this wholly uncalled for #horrorhag rant wasn’t a publicity stunt gone wrong. If so… bad call, dude. If not… well, you can’ t argue with crazy.

All I know is that I will continue to write the best horror I can, and I will continue to support WiHM until there’s no need for it, and I will continue to support my fellow horror writers regardless of what does or doesn’t swing between their legs.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go disembowel a despot…

WiHM 2015

 

 

Artful Conservation of the Imaginarium

Art, how I love thee! Like my collection of books, my collection of art is getting to a point where I’m running out of wall space. But I’ll not stop buying either, ‘cause that’s just crazy talk. Crazy talk!

The difference between my buying of books and my buying of art is that I don’t actively seek out art. It kinda finds me. In my previous post here, I mentioned that should I meet the deadline for the Black Friday Wager (the completion of the eleventy-first draft of my novel), I would win by not only having a completed novel-draft but get the bonus of some art as well. And it was a bet I won. That’s right – draft complete! That was the bet I had with the wonderfully-crazy Elizabeth Wayne.

It was Elizabeth who put me onto the artist from whom I get to choose two pieces. I already have two artworks (below) from Jeannie Lynn Paske’s ‘Obsolete Worldthat sit perfectly on the walls of my hallway. There’s a melancholy about each piece that really struck a chord, and her use of colour, light and shadow reinforces the solemnity she creates in her work.

Flight of the Recently Departed
Flight of the Recently Departed

In Paske’s own words: ‘Obsolete World is a name that was originally taken from the 1961 Twilight Zone episode “The Obsolete Man” where in a future totalitarian state, Burgess Meredith’s character (a librarian) is a man put on trial for the crime of being obsolete. I had always loved that episode and I pictured a similar scenario in which the make-believe creatures of childhood suffer a similar “crime” as one grows old. I took to the task of conserving these victims of consequence, and created Obsolete World as a place where my own creations could safely while away the hours.’

As a writer, I live in make-believe worlds with make-believe creatures –creatures of my own creation. I breathe life into them; give them purpose and reason, lives and loves – both beautiful and terrible. I laugh with them, rage with them, bleed with them when I must. I’m connected to them in ways that might seem a tad odd to non-writerly folk, but a little piece of you goes into each creation.

Once the story is done, I leave them to their world, their lives (or their deaths) and move to the next creation. While they are never truly forgotten, do they venture into the realm of obsolete?  Like the imaginary friends we have as children. Or the teddy bear that knew all our secrets and gave us unconditional succour. What happens to them? Where do they go?

Lovely Intangibles
Lovely Intangibles

There are those ‘creatures’ we can’t let go – we all have them. Mine is a teddy bear I’ve had since my second Christmas – Pink Teddy, her name is (cut me some slack; she’s pink and I was two when I named her).  She hasn’t always been with me.  I put her atop my cupboard when I was a teenager where she stayed for a long time; she didn’t come with me when I moved out of home, and she was soon consigned to memory…until my parents returned her to me when I was 35. I remember opening that shoebox at Christmas not at all expecting Pink Teddy to be inside. My parents had a bet: my father said I’d cry, my mother said I’d smell her. I cried as I put my nose to her tummy and breathed in deep. I’d reconnected with my past and all the memories that came with Pink Teddy’s return.

It’s this part of Paske’s work that resonates – the memories of what once was – and why there’ll be more of her art on my walls.

Pink Teddy
Pink Teddy

Horror and Writers and Interviews, oh my!

This February marks the 6th annual ‘Women in Horror Month’. Started by Hannah Neurotica, WiHM aims to: [assist] female genre artists in gaining opportunities, exposure, and education through altruistic events, printed material, articles, interviews, and online support. The vision is a world wherein all individuals are equally given the opportunity to create, share, and exploit their concept of life, pain, and freedom of expression.

I have mixed feelings about WiHM, but I understand the need for its existence (this will be the subject of a post later in the month). I will always support authors – especially in my genre – and particularly female horror writers. Hell, I am one. Pay it forward and pay it back; karma will always be good to you.

I’ve received a lot of support from horror writers and readers, and I’ll be forever thankful for it. One of those who helped me enormously at the beginning of my writing career was the extraordinarily talented and supremely wonderful Kaaron Warren – one of the best horror writers about, no doubt.

I was lucky enough to be mentored by Kaaron, and what she taught me I will never be able to repay – her knowledge of storytelling and the industry was priceless. She was always there to look over my work (no matter how nervous I was) and answer any questions I had (no matter how ridiculous they may have been). I hope to one day help others as she did me.

WiHM 2015

Support comes in all forms, and I was the beneficiary of said support from the very talented Greg Chapman when he asked to interview me for WiHM. His questions were insightful and ones that deserved to be delved into. Not only that, I was interviewed along with Kaaron, which was like the icing on the cake for me.

The interview is here, and you’ll see that I’m far more ‘chatty’ than Kaaron – she really does know how to get to the heart of things succinctly! Our interview is part two of a series Greg’s doing. You’ll find part one here, where he interviews Marge Simon and Stephanie M. Wytovich – two very talented author/poets from the United States.

Greg asks us all which female horror authors we believe should be read, and if for nothing else, take a look at the lists the four of us offer – they’re wide-reaching and wide-reading.

So if you’ve never read horror written by a woman, or would like to read more horror written by women, check out Greg’s interviews.

Right then, time for me to get back to destroying a world of my own making. Horror writing really does rock!

 blood spatter

NOVELS AND ELEVENTY-FIRSTS

There’s a count-down calendar on this page. See it? Over there on your right… scroll down a little… a little more… Bingo! TWELVE DAYS TO GO! Ahem. ‘pologies. Didn’t mean to yell.

This is my second round at ‘The Black Friday Wager’ and my second attempt to finish the first draft of my novel. Well, to be completely honest it’s really more like draft eleven of the first draft of my first novel. ← That makes a weird kind of sense, trust me.

‘The Black Friday Wager’ is the brainhild of Elizabeth Wayne and Marty Young. Now, when I say ‘brainchild’ I mean a lovechild born from a sarcasm-riddled back and forth between the two on Facebook (it was a short pregnancy and a relatively pain-free labour – so not like actual births with the swearing and the pain and the blood… Hmm, now I think about it….)

BFW 2

The idea behind the BFW is a support network with incentives. We all have goals we’d like to achieve be it with writing, exercise or quitting the smokes… you get the idea. What the BFW allows those in the group to do is set a goal they’d like to achieve by the next Black Friday in the calendar year then another group member takes them up on said goal and a wager is set (decided upon by the two wagees).

I didn’t hit my goal last time ‘round, which cost me a bottle of scotch (happily delivered), but I’m very close to hitting my goal of finishing this eleventy-first draft of my novel. With twelve days to go, I just passed the 60,000-word mark, and I know I’m on the home stretch, which holds both relief and excitement.

Relief because this is the longest piece I’ve ever written, and there were times when I lost faith in myself as a writer and believed it was just something I could not do. I raged and swore, hated and kicked, and there were quiet moments of despair. Writing a novel is hard; writing a first draft of your first novel can be soul-destroying at times but here’s where the BFW group kick in. Beyond anything else they’re a support network, even those with whom you have a wager want you to succeed as much as you want to succeed. They’re your cheer squad, your sounding-boards, your oracles and your pickers-up when you’re down. I could not have come this far without them and I’ll be forever thankful.

And excitement because I can see where this novel is going; I know where the characters are going (not anywhere good, ohh no, not anywhere good at all), I know what they’re doing and what they hope to achieve despite all the crap I’m going to be throwing their way. And it’s a lot of crap. Apocalyptic worlds are never a fun place to be… for them. For me, I’m finally starting to enjoy myself, enjoy the process, and that’s something that’s been seriously lacking.

It’s been more stressful than I thought it would be, but that’s due to the unwarranted pressures I put on myself. I’m my own worst critic, and being an editor that tends to double the self-recriminations. It may not be right but it’s honest.

Is the draft good? Some of it, yes. But not all. Hell, some of it’s pure shite and I’ll admit that a lot of it will probably go in the rewrite, but it has created a greater focus for the story and a much better understanding of the characters and the world they inhabit. And that is all kinds of good.

BFW

So, with Friday the 13th closing in fast, my wager with the ever-wonderful and crazy-smart Elizabeth Wayne looks like being a success. And I don’t mean just the success of having a completed draft with ‘End’ sitting at the bottom of the page, or the fact that I’ll receive two illustrations from one of my favourite artists – Jeannie Lynn Paske – but the success of understanding that I can write long pieces, that I can be kind to myself – I should – and that maybe the short-story form isn’t the only place I can lay my hat.

ELEVENTY-FIRST, IT’S TIME TO END YOU!

Writers and the ‘Real’ World

Writers, by and large, are a solitary folk. We live in our heads as much (if not more) as we do the ‘real’ world. Even when venturing into the gathering places of other humans, a part of our mind is ticking over with story plots, envisioning (and having conversations with) characters, trekking through worlds of our own creation. We function as other non-writerly folk do, but part of us is always lost in our words and our worlds.

imagination

The advent of social media has brought us solitary creatures together, given us a sense of community and understanding. Still, we continued to sit before our screens and ‘interact’ with other like-minded beings, and the sometime sense of isolation drew back a little. However, the thought of interacting face-to-face can often be an altogether different beast. A terrifying thing wrought with insecurity and panic. Our created worlds are safe havens, places we know and love that offer security and acceptance.

So it was with much trepidation (and a little fear, truth be told) that a couple of years ago a small bunch of Sydney horror writers who’d interacted online finally decided a meet was something we should try. You know, in person, face-to-face with conversation and all that jazz. And beer, let’s not forget the beer.

Jo and Cat Me, Tracy and Jase

And so the Sydney SHADOWS was born. That first get-together was a little daunting I have to say, but it soon grew into a core group of about ten who now can’t wait to meet up and talk shop and shenanigans. You see, no one understands a writer like another writer – they get that excitement of a new story/idea, the joy of publication and the suckiness of rejections. They know you live in alternate universes that are as real as the one our bodies inhabit. Among us there’s a wealth of experience and information we readily share with one another, but more than that we’re letting our hair down (well, those of us with hair), swearing up a storm, and acting silly as only writers can. Sure, we get strange looks from those at other tables, but we’re writers – even out in the world we bring our own worlds with us… while creating fantastical places in a hubbub of shouted ideas. (Cake drones! Ahem…)

Rob and Alan Me and Tracy  Jo and Rob Alan and Rob

Three or four years ago if this opportunity had come up, I’m not sure I’d have taken the leap, but now I can’t imagine not meeting up with this lot. We drink, we talk shit, bond over hats, and boy do we laugh. It’s a letting off of steam, of the build-up of all that we carry around in our heads, which can sometimes be very dark stuff.

There are times when my husband will ask: “When are you getting together with your people?” That’s his not-so-subtle way of telling me he can’t help me with the writing stuff that’s driving me crazy, and/or I need to get out of the house (and stop wearing my pyjamas all day).

Alan and Tracy Tracy and Me

Being (physically) around other authors brings a normalcy to what most of us experience when we tell other humans we’re writers (especially a horror writer) – a frown of distaste, a look of incredulity, a gasp followed by ‘but why?’. And meeting up with like-minded specimens is damn inspiring, no doubt about it.

So yes, writers are, by and large, a solitary folk, but when we get together it’s a celebration of what we do and who we are – warts and all. And for writers, there’s not a lot better than that.

Me, Alan, Jason  cat

(If you’re looking for fantastic writers and great reads, check out some of the work from Sydney SHADOWS members: Joanne Anderton, Catriona Sparks, Alan Baxter, Robert Hood, Andrew J McKeirnan, Marty Young, and Jason Crowe – you can’t go wrong!)

(All pics courtesy of the wonderful Cat Sparks, who can take a photo like no other!)

Not Everyone Loves A Clown

They really don’t. And I’m one of those people. Some call it ‘Coulrophobia’, I call it common sense, the will to live. There’s something innately disturbing about clowns (in all their forms). They’re creepy as all hell, and pure horror fodder.

They’ve been well represented in the genre: ‘Pennywise’ from Stephen King’s IT; ‘Twisty the Clown’ from American Horror Story: Freak Show; hell, even the clown doll from Poltergeist gave me the heebie-jeebies. And is it any wonder? All it takes is a smudge of that makeup to have them look as inherently evil on the outside as they are on the inside. I mean, what lies behind the mask?

twisty the clown

So when Halloween came around this year, I thought it about time I wore the mask myself. As my daughter was Trick or Treating with friends (I didn’t cry, I swear), and my boy was Halloweening as a mercenary (casual clothes and an array of weapons – most underwhelming), it was up to me to carry the Halloween flag this year. I wasn’t going to let the side down; I was going all out, determined to bring at least one child to fearful tears (What? Everyone needs a hobby.)

The suburbs in my area have embraced Halloween quite spectacularly, and there’s a fantastic feeling of community as parents walk the streets with their little witches, skeletons, zombies and reapers. There’s been nothing quite like this since our government legislated against Guy Fawkes night in the late 1970s. Man, someone loses an eye, a couple of fingers and ruins it for everyone (this is why we can’t have nice things).

104

So while there are those in Oz who boo-hoo Halloween (“Americanisation”, blatant consumerism, blah, blah, blah), for those of us in and around my neighbourhood, it’s fostered an even greater sense of community.

Except for clowns.

From the response to my Halloween “mask”, clowns are the sewer dwellers of the monster hierarchy – pariahs amongst the ghosts and ghouls of All Hallows Eve. Children stared, pointed, then veered very much away from me (not my own kid and his friends – these boys are a special kind of awesome), while parents voiced almost identical responses to the mask: “Everyone hates a clown.”

I asked a couple of parents why, wanting to know if their response mirrored mine, and most just pointed to the mask, “that’s why.” With ghosts and demons, witches and zombies, you know what you’re getting, what you’re up against. With clowns, you don’t know what lies behind the makeup – there’s no honesty in who and what they are, and it’s all hidden behind a too-wide smile.

091

I found only one other clown wandering the streets… well, not quite wandering. I noticed him from a distance, deathly still, head cocked just so. Children crossed the street rather than approach. He played his part beautifully.

Clowns. I hate them. But they’re the perfect Halloween mask. Both parents and children have an automatic distrust of them. Even those in the circus (another pet hate), who are supposed to bring laughter and joy engender a sense of something not quite right, of unease, disquiet.

It’s what I brought to Halloween this year, if the faces of those I passed were anything to go by.

As for reducing a child to tears… Achievement unlocked.

Seb & Me