Short Tuesday #46: “Kissing the Coronavirus” by M.J. Edwards

Well, I did it–I read the short story that at one point reached #144 on the entire Kindle story. “Kissing the Coronavirus” came onto my radar via a writing friend. (“Have you heard??” etc. etc.) Welp, I’ll admit it shamelessly: 99 cents was too sweet a deal to pass up, and it took all of thirty seconds before I hit the Buy Now button. (It’s also free in KU.) Here’s the link if you want to buy it yourself…

What’s the story about? I figure the cover speaks clearly enough about that, but essentially our horny MC is working in a research lab searching for a COVID cure and has trouble containing herself around the mesmerizing, “bubbling, creamy liquid [sloshing] around the inside of the [test] tube.” After that, sexual chaos ensues.

There are some really great lines here, like:

Alexa’s heart fluttered like it had one the time she’d fucked the farmer’s cross-eyed son and uncrossed his eyes.

or:

Alexa edged back, pushing back until her back pushed back against the wall.

Disturbingly, one blockhead reviewer on Amazon rates the story one star in part for the above sentence. Awful writing, one star! Goodness gracious, is 2020 the year that humor officially died?

I’ve seen some claims that this is tasteless and shouldn’t have been written; I never really buy arguments like that, since “Kissing the Coronavirus” is abundantly obvious about what it is, and you could just choose not to read it. I also don’t think anyone’s getting off to this–or maybe they are, I don’t know. Strange times and all that. Anyway, I’m glad I gave it a read, and I think, given it’s one-of-a-kind nature, that really there is only one way I can rate this story.

My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix

This is the third book I’ve read by Hendrix, and I’ve loved all of them. I mean with a cover like this, it’s hard to go wrong. I read Exorcism as an ebook, but from what I understand the inside cover is filled with all sorts of handwritten messages from the characters of the book. The book also has a good amount of scanned letters and articles that supplement the narrative. My recommendation? Get a physical copy of this book, rather than the ebook version.

Set in the eighties, the premise of My Best Friend’s Exorcism is exactly what it sounds like: after a spooky foray in the woods while taking LSD, Abby’s best friend Gretchen finds herself possessed by a powerful demon. Only Abby possesses the presence of mind to see matters for what they really are; none of the adults in town can see with any clarity the evil growing inside Gretchen as the demon slowly but surely gains control over her.

For anyone unfamiliar with Grady’s writing, he’s extremely funny, and his sense of horror is superb. (As it should be, since he wrote a whole book about horror paperbacks from the ’70s and ’80s.)

In Exorcism, the horrors of high school and adolescence match really well with the horrors of, well, the horror genre itself. As Gretchen’s evil influence begins to spread throughout the school, Grady uses her possession to touch on such topics as teen friendships, class differences, eating disorders, illicit crushes, and woefully negligent teachers.

But this book is not YA, and I found myself wondering while reading where exactly the differentiation between this book and YA lies. To me, My Best Friend’s Exorcism reads decidedly adult, despite the teen main characters, and I think that comes down to Grady’s voice. It’s a little more removed and top-down than you’d see in your typical YA read, and there’s some authorial distance from Abby’s decision-making that just reads more adult. Plus the intensity of Grady’s gross-out descriptions outpace any offerings you’ll find in the YA sphere, and in terms of plot, anything is on the table if it will tell a good story. Those who shy away from the harder parts of horror might want to look elsewhere for a spooky read, since some parts of this book can get intense. But for anyone looking for a Halloween-themed read that’s an ode to the eighties, definitely give this book a try!

Short Tuesday #45: “Outside of Omaha” by Ray Nadler

We’re back for another Short Tuesday! Today I headed back to Nightmare Magazine, this time to read “Outside of Omaha” by Ray Nadler. You can read the story here…

I loved this story from the very first sentence: “You would have hated your funeral reception.” Such a striking sentence, and as the rest of the story reveals itself, the author spins a quiet tale of a man, his unearthly wife, and a hatred for others that knit their relationship together into a hidden paradise. This is a story beautifully told, especially in terms of pacing and language.

On the days I went to town I felt as if, as my mule stepped out onto the country road, I was crossing a barrier beyond which was another place, not our own. Inside, our world was bright and cunning as a painted Persian box, where I lived in lacquer with someone strange and stranger than myself. And I would unlid for no-one what was inside.

This is the kind of muted, subtle tale that you can’t help but love. Not much happens, just hinted-at secrets and a richly detailed description of an unlikely relationship. Yet the whole mood of the piece can’t help but draw you in–I was loving the feeling of a dusty, forgotten America where monsters hide in plain sight. It’s a story on the shorter end, so if you’re wanting a palate cleanser with purposeful, gorgeous language and a philosophical feel, give this one a try.

The Rose and the Thorn by Katherine Macdonald

This year it’s seemed like every other book I’ve read has been a Beauty and the Beast retelling–and that’s hardly an exaggeration of the real numbers. I’ve read seven retellings of the classic fairy tale in 2020 alone, and more last year besides to survey the field as I finish up my own sci-fi retelling.

And somehow this “tale as old as time” never gets old. I once heard an academic say something to the effect of how the basic story concept of Beauty and the Beast is about as close as you can get to an ingrained female myth. That’s a sentiment that’s really stuck with me; I adore the BatB framework, whether that’s the beastly male character who must be tamed or the overall concept of slow-burn romance. I’d even argue that the popularity of vampires with female readers, myself included, taps into that same psychological itch. It is deeply alluring to imagine yourself in the MC’s shoes as a woman powerful enough in her beauty and character to “tame” her beastly love interest.

So I was absolutely delighted when I bought indie author Katherine Macdonald’s book The Rose and the Thorn on a complete whim and unexpectedly dove into one of my favorite reads of the year thus far. This book really caught me–I spent forty-eight hours binge-reading, while I neglected work, chores, and, to my husband’s dismay, an early dinner. (“Just ten more minutes, sheesh!”) There are so many elements here that I love–lyrical language, thoughtful character development, just the right level of description, the perfect amount of whimsy without veering towards the saccharine sweet, and a grounded first-person POV. I was getting Robin McKinley vibes throughout, which should say a lot about this author’s competence; those who loved Beauty will likely have a fun time with this one. A fair warning that anyone who gets annoyed by slow burn might want to steer clear, since this burn is sloooooooooooow… but for me, this was well up my alley.

Isn’t this the wonderful thing about the indie sphere? It feels like in trad publishing nowadays you hear about the same books day in day out. (Sarah J. Maas and Taylor Jenkins Reid, anyone?) With indies, though, there is always that potential to discover a new favorite whom you’ve never heard of. I can absolutely say that I’m now a huge fan of Katherine Macdonald, and I’ll be buying her new retelling of Sleeping Beauty one its day one release August 22nd.

Short Tuesday #44: “Spider Season, Fire Season” by Carlie St. George

We’re back (finally) for another Short Tuesday! I was so happy to head back to Nightmare Magazine, this time to read “Spider Season, Fire Season” by Carlie St. George. I’d read a different story of hers last year which I adored, “Some Kind of Blood-Soaked Future,” so I was excited to read something else by this author. You can read the story here…

I thought this was a fun read, though it didn’t wow me as much as St. George’s other story. It’s a story in detached parts about a pregnant woman who can see ghosts, and it’s the kind of story where you have to be paying attention and fitting together the pieces. (I still don’t quite understand the section with Dot.) The mood is just right, and I especially enjoyed the main character’s matter-of-fact interactions with the ghost in her house.

The man is gone. It’s just a woman now, in her late twenties or early thirties. Dark frizzy hair, pale skin, a soft, sagging belly underneath a sleep-wrinkled tank top. “I don’t suppose you remember me yet,” the woman says. “I’m December, and that’s Clara. We’ve done this a few times now.”

I do wish, though, that this was a longer piece; it’s on the shorter side at 3700 words, and there’s a lot that’s going on here, especially given the jumps in time. I think this could have been a more satisfying story if it was given a bit more space to breathe. Nevertheless, it was a fun read, and I’m definitely up for reading more by this author.

FINAL CHAPTER of The Gold in the Dark and a Writing Update!

Illustratoin courtesy of Ally Grosvenor.

The final chapter of The Gold in the Dark is finally out, with the last, brilliant chapter illustration courtesy of Ally Grosvenor! You can get started on the series with Chapter One right here or on Wattpad. It’s hard to believe that all the chapters are finally posted–it’s been a very long time coming! Oddly enough, I received another offer a week or so ago to sign a contract for the book with another one of these Wattpad competitors, this one run by Chinese corporate giant Tencent. A Google search quickly helped me decide not to sign, but it’s funny that that’s the second offer I’ve received for the book in one month. I must be on a list somewhere. Rest assured that, at least for the time being, The Gold in the Dark is going to remain absolutely free. In fact, I’m putting together the ebook edition right now with the plan to release it for free in the next week on Kindle, Kobo, and all the other usual suspects.

As for what else is going on in my life–well, I will be honest and say that this past week has been very difficult for me personally. I had to put my dog down, which was incredibly hard. That was then followed a few days later by Tropical Storm Isaias, which knocked out our power for fifty-something hours.

However, there have been some happy moments as well. I learned that Specter is a semi-finalist for the BBNYA 2020 Awards, and in my senseless quest to read all the Beauty and the Beast retellings I’ve discovered a new-to-me indie author who is just fantastic called Katherine Macdonald. Check out her book The Rose and the Thorn–I can’t recommend it highly enough!

With the last chapter of The Gold in the Dark now posted, let’s talk a little bit about the state of this blog. Umm… I’ll just say it: updating the blog in the wake of COVID-19 has been challenging, to say the least. I love blogging when I do it, but I haven’t managed to get into a proper routine of it while working from home. But I really don’t want to stop blogging, so my immediate goal for the rest of this month is to fix that. I want Short Tuesday to be a thing again. I want to post reviews again, and fun blog posts, and bookish thoughts… So I’m going to be pulling out all stops to meet that goal.

Anyway, I’m going to wrap it up here. Have a great (and healthy) rest of your weekend, and enjoy the final chapter. Or, if you’ve been waiting for the whole book to be posted before jumping in, get started with Chapter One right here. ❤

Chapter Forty of The Gold in the Dark and a Writing Update!

Illustratoin courtesy of Ally Grosvenor.

The fortieth chapter of The Gold in the Dark is out! New chapters, complete with brilliant chapter illustrations courtesy of Ally Grosvenor, release every other Sunday at 11 AM EST (and many times earlier)! You can get started on the series with Chapter One right here or on Wattpad.

There’s only one more chapter of The Gold in the Dark to go after this week! Like I mentioned a few weeks ago, I’ve been spending a bit of time thinking about what I want to do with the book after all the chapters have been posted. One really interesting thing that happened a few days ago was that I was actually approached by a competitor to Wattpad, asking if I’d be willing to sign a contract with them to have the book on their service. The indie author in me balked at signing away rights to the book (including not only the ebook rights, but also hardback, print-on-demand, game rights, etc.), and the company’s business model didn’t seem like it would prove successful in the long term, so I didn’t sign–but still, it was a nice ego boost. 🙂 I figure even if I don’t have plans to make money on this book right now, I still want to have full control over the book in the event that the book does prove valuable to me sometime in the future.

I’m still hard at work on Beauty and the Beast and Aliens. We’re at the 70k mark, and… somehow there’s still a lot to go. Ah well, such is life. It will be out sometime, lol.

Anyway, I’m going to wrap it up here. Have a great (and healthy) rest of your weekend, and enjoy Chapter Forty.

Chapter Thirty-Nine of The Gold in the Dark and a Writing Update!

Illustration courtesy of Ally Grosvenor.

The thirty-ninth chapter of The Gold in the Dark is out! New chapters, complete with brilliant chapter illustrations courtesy of Ally Grosvenor, release every other Sunday at 11 AM EST (and many times earlier)! You can get started on the series with Chapter One right here or on Wattpad.

I’m going to keep it very quick this week! Not much has changed–I’m (still) chugging away at my WIP, and the story just seems to grow and grow and grow. I’d initially envisioned this project as a short book–no longer! Now I’m wondering if it might come in close to 90k, or maybe even higher. I’m also starting to get that writer fear that nobody’s going to like it–too long, too weird, too rambling, not enough plot. Specter wasn’t a book where I had that concern, since it so related to the Stranger Things zeitgeist and had tons of forward plot momentum, but my untitled problem child is turning out very different from Specter.

Oh well. Time will tell, and at least I’m proud of it. It definitely felt like one of those stories that needed to be told, as opposed to the random story ideas you can get that might not be deserving of a full book treatment.

Anyway, I’m going to wrap it up here. Have a great (and healthy) rest of your weekend, and enjoy Chapter Thirty-Nine.

Chapter Thirty-Eight of The Gold in the Dark and a Writing Update!

Illustration courtesy of Ally Grosvenor.

The thirty-eighth chapter of The Gold in the Dark is out! New chapters, complete with brilliant chapter illustrations courtesy of Ally Grosvenor, release every other Sunday at 11 AM EST (and many times earlier)! You can get started on the series with Chapter One right here or on Wattpad.

Well, it’s the same old story these past two weeks–I’m still working hard on my problem child WIP, Beauty and the Beast and Aliens. It’s the type of story where I’m forever realizing that there’s something else I need to add to the narrative, so I go back and do that… then realize there’s something else I missed too… Rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat. Is this an exhausting way to write? Yes, but it’s just the way I work, and on the positive side of things, this way of working normally means that my first draft are normally quite clean and don’t require major changes. So let’s cross our fingers and hope that this WIP needs minimal editing.

The Gold in the Dark is also in the home stretch of having all chapters posted! This has been a real marathon, not least for Ally, my illustrator extraordinaire. I’ve been trying to think of what I want to do with the book once it’s fully illustrated and posted. I definitely don’t want to sell the book for money, since its story arc demands a sequel and it doesn’t have one yet. I’m not sure if I will complete a sequel since I’m pretty devoted to other projects right now, but I do have about 30,000 words of one done, maybe more… It’s been a while since I took a look at the Scrivener file.

(I’m also kind of thinking that it makes a lot of sense to get the sequel done and hopefully bring the story to a close so that I could have a complete series and a reader magnet… But the idea of doing that is a little exhausting, so we’ll place that on the back burner for now. :P)

But to go back to the original question about what to do with The Gold in the Dark in the here and now… well, it would be nice to have it available in mobi/epub format and also to get it listed on Goodreads. Kindle Unlimited is out of the question, since that would mean I would have to pull it down from my website and Wattpad, so I’m considering offering it as a free download on Amazon. Amazon technically doesn’t allow authors to list books as free, but there’s a workaround where you can list the book as free on other marketplaces and wait for Amazon to price-match (which they will eventually). So that seems like the best option right now.

Anyway, I’m going to wrap it up here. Have a great (and healthy) rest of your weekend, and enjoy Chapter Thirty-Eight.

Chapter Thirty-Seven of The Gold in the Dark and a Writing Update!

Illustration courtesy of Ally Grosvenor.

The thirty-seventh chapter of The Gold in the Dark is out! New chapters, complete with brilliant chapter illustrations courtesy of Ally Grosvenor, release every other Sunday at 11 AM EST (and many times earlier)! You can get started on the series with Chapter One right here or on Wattpad.

Not much is different these last few weeks–I’ve just been working more on my WIP. The plot and character realizations are coming fast and furious now; I love that happy stage when everything seem to start coming together into a cohesive story. Is there a lot of editing to do? Yes. Is it going to be a good book in the end? Also yes, I think.

I know my posting on the blog has been (extremely) scarce–I’m okay with that, as long as I’m drafting. I miss doing reviews, but I know I’ll get back into them again once I’m done drafting. Lord knows I have thoughts aplenty about the books that I read, but one only has so much capacity for creative attention, and I feel like I’m putting all of it where it counts most, which is in finishing my next book. So no excuses from me–I’ll settle back into blogging soon enough.

Anyway, I’m going to wrap it up here. Have a great (and healthy) rest of your weekend, and enjoy Chapter Thirty-Seven.