Tag Archives: Embers Amongst the Fallen

Women in Horror: Colleen Anderson

WiHMX-horizontal-WhiteIt’s the ides of February. Well technically, that would be true possibly every four years, but it is halfway through the month and there are still many other women in horror to showcase. I would be remiss if I left myself out of the Women in Horror Month. So I too will talk about how I stumbled upon horror.

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Available on Amazon

Like many of the people who have already posted, The Haunting of Hill House and The Lottery were stories that stayed with me but I really don’t think I read them when I was a child. (And I have to mention the very good TV series of The Haunting of Hill House.) Most likely I watched these as a teenager. My first brush with horror was earlier with movies though. Not so much Dracula for me, though I do remember Frankenstein. When I was about six or seven my parents fought so badly that my mother would bundle us in jammies into the car and off to the drive-in we would go. The House of Seven Gables and The Fall of the House of Usher with Vincent Price, another king of horror, are forever conflated into one movie for me. I was that young and my mother certainly didn’t seemed worried about our young minds being warped.

Those two movies where Vincent’s character pickaxes his sister and buries her in the walls (or under the floors) stuck with me, along with the first nightmare I remember at age six. After that, the endless recycling of The Twilight Zone and the Outer Limits coupled with reading Edgar Allan Poe and Ray Bradbury made me who I am today.

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The Beauty of Death contains “Season’s End”

While I always liked the weird I was not a fan of horror. I detested most horror and gore movies. Slasher and murderer thrillers were not and still aren’t really my cup of tea. But the strange is and always has been, and that may be reflected more in the shows I watched and books I read.

When it came to writing, I was writing fantasy and SF. I wasn’t writing horror. I was a member of SFWA for a long time before I even knew of the Horror Writers Association (HWA). But I found stories I sent to magazines of SF or fantasy would be rejected with a note that they didn’t do horror. I was confused; maybe I still am, but my stories didn’t seem scary to me. Of course, they came from my mind so I knew where they were going.

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Colleen’s launch for A Body of Work takes place Feb. 23 at The Heatley.

Somewhere along the way I started to submit to some of the darker markets and like the sun setting on the longest day, I finally figured out that I sold more stories if I went darker. I have written a few truly terrifying depictions of horror in the gore sense, such as my flash piece “Amuse Bouche,” but while it was an exercise for me, it wasn’t where my heart lay. A writer friend once asked, “What theme are you exploring? We all explore a theme.” Hers were animals. Another writer’s was children…

 

I never thought I explored one theme until I put together my first collection of fiction Embers Amongst the Fallen. At that point, it became clear that I do morality tales. Not all of them but there is often a disturbing moral dilemma that a character must face (“The Healer’s Touch,” “An Ember Amongst the Fallen,” “Season’s End,” “Hold Back the Night”). In that sense, as opposed to the “other” outside of you invading your sanctity of life or home, it is the “other” inside. What deals with the devil will a character make to save something dear? I find that extremely interesting and personal, something to which we can all relate.

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Alice Unbound contains 22 speculative stories and poems inspired by the world and character of Lewis Carroll.

As with many of the writers here, we have a fascination with vampires, or werewolves, or creepy crawlies, or disturbing dolls, or clowns, or the dark, or subterranean depths or things hidden in fog or water or space. Just a readers do. It is as old as humankind–that fear and need to conquer it, and an intense curiosity about the unknown and the strange.

I have written several stories that also explore the psychopath/sociopath (modern studies don’t really distinguish between the two) intellect. The mind encased in a human body where that the person doesn’t think like a regular human. It is alien. I’ve look at aspects of this mind in such stories as “Exegesis of the Insecta Apocrypha,” “Sins of the Father,” “The Book With No End,” and “Gingerbread People.” The first was one story that very much disturbed me in the writing, and the last was an examination of the nature of evil based off of the two Canadian serial killers Paul Bernardo and Carla Homolka, where she was given a lighter sentence because she said he made her do the terrible crimes. Can you be made to commit horrors that go against your fundamental core, and who is more evil–the person committing the crime or the one making that person do it?

And this gets down to what is the scariest thing: to many it is man/woman as monster, the feral side, the side the loses control; like Dracula, like werewolves, like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. You could say my fascination with the weird is my fascination with people and that no matter how normal all of us look there is something that makes us individual, and sometimes it is disturbing. Thankfully though, most of us are just  harmless eccentrics.

hoodieColleen Anderson is a Canadian author with over two hundreds works published including fiction and poetry. She has two fiction collections, Embers Amongst the Fallen, and A Body of Work which was published by Black Shuck Books, UK in 2018. She has been longlisted for a Stoker Award and shortlisted for the Aurora and Gaylactic Spectrum Awards, as well as having placed in several poetry contests. A recipient of a Canada Council Grant, Colleen has served on Stoker and British Fantasy Award juries, copyedited for publishers, and edited three anthologies (Alice Unbound: Beyond Wonderland, Exile Publishing 2018).

Look for some of her work in Canadian Dreadful, Tesseracts 22, Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, The Pulp Horror Book of Phobias and By the Light of Camelot. A book launch for A Body of Work will take place in Vancouver of Feb. 23, at 3pm at The Heatley. Come by and say hi and hear Colleen read. Read a review of the collection here.

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News in the Summer

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A collection of previously published speculative fiction, available through Smashwords and soon through Amazon.

Okay, it’s been a very busy couple of weeks. I was working hard to get my book up on Smashwords, and Embers Amongst the Fallen is available now there. It turns out that Smashwords, while they say they put it up on Amazon, doesn’t really because Amazon won’t accept from Smashwords. So I next have that to do.

I also put up two previously published erotic stories, under my pen name, T.C. Calligari. Those are all available now but will soon be up on Amazon. I’m still hoping to have my end of the month goal of the print edition of Embers.  I have other writing news, some that I can reveal and some that is in the works.

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Obvious what this one is about.

Imaginarium: the best Canadian speculative writing has come out through ChiZine Publications and is edited by Sandra Kasturi and Halli Vallegas. Any one who has had published speculative pieces for 2012 can submit to the next one, as long as you’re Canadian, living in Canada or expat Canadian. None of my pieces placed in it but I did received two honorable mentions fro poems:

  • Anderson, Colleen. “Darkside,” ChiZine.com, April 2011
  • Anderson, Colleen. “Shadow Realms,” Witches & Pagans #23

I did sell another poem to Polu Texni.It’s a villanelle titled “Mermaid” and I don’t know yet when it will be up on the site. As well, just before I left for holidays (hence the big lag in posts) I found out I had sold my flash fiction piece “Lady of the Bleeding Heart” to Fantastic Frontiers for their second issue. Their first issue will be coming soon.

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Through Dagan Books, available soon.

I’m still waiting for another poem to go up at Bull Spec. Better ask them again as it’s been a year. And I think Bibliotheca Fantastica is coming out soon with my story “The Book with No End.” I’m negotiating a contract for a story right now and if we can agree on that contract I will be able to announce that information soon. As well, I will be editing an anthology and I’m just waiting for the moment to announce that, when the publisher gives the go. More details by September. So, yes, it’s been very busy in the writing front, and I’m certainly not done. Rewriting a story, working on several others and of course trying to get more works up on Smashwords in the near future.

The posts were on hold for the last two weeks because I drove from Vancouver to Calgary to visit family, friends and to go to the When Words Collide writing convention. The Aurora Awards were also being presented and I was a nominee in the poetry category. I did not win but Helen Marshall did for Skeleton Leaves and it was well deserved. If you can, go get a copy of this lovely book that is a poem that is a story.

When Words Collide was great fun. Held at the Best Western in NW Calgary, it wasn’t all about speculative literature but there was definitely a large portion that favored this area. The Romance Writers were also present. Panels abounded and numerous authors from across Canada were there to read, be on panels and hobnob. Jack Whyte was guest of honor but had to leave early due to a family emergency. But not before he showed up at a room party wearing a dapper shirt, singing in his deep voice, chatting amiably with his lovely thick accent and flirting with the crowd. I’m not sure he was responsible for all the scotch but he was definitely a major contributor. Perhaps it was the power of his dark sorcery that left a few people looking a little green in the morning.

There were book launches and parties by ChiZine Publications, Bundoran Press, the Steampunk group, Edge Publications and others. I got to meet many new people and put faces to some names. I bought a few books and am currently reading Nancy Kilpatrick’s collection Vampyric Variations.

The weather was hot, the hailstones, when they fell, the size of golfballs & then peas, and the company great. In between all that I made a trip to Edmonton to visit more family. It’s been a long time since I did the long drive out to Alberta. I broke it up by staying with friends in Penticton. Overall the trip was really good and that’s because I saw lots of people and visited with some great friends including Andy Tarrant, the talented artist of Trespasser Ceramics. If you’re looking for a gift, check out his site.

One thing I forgot on my drive, was how beautiful the mountains really are. Rogers pass was filled with blues; azure, indigo, phthalo, navy, and greens: emerald, kelly, peridot, lime, forest and more. The scenery is truly amazing and the weather was perfect. Of course I didn’t stop, thinking I would do this on the way back and then I couldn’t find my camera. I thought I had left it in Calgary until I got to Revelstoke and realized it was in a bag with books. Of course it was too late then. I love the scenery around Merritt as well where it turns into rolling hills spilling out of the Coquihalla, with ponds tucked in between. So lovely. Too bad the drive is so long and a bit hard for me. Next time I might see if I can snag someone to share.

I had limited internet and decided to just enjoy the break. I’m right back in the swing of things now, and on to the new writing projects. I expect to be quite busy this fall, and hope to even get a few readings going where my book will be available for sale. More on the writing front as it happens.

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Writing: The Cover Art Process

It’s been a very busy couple of weeks getting Embers Amongst the Fallen ready for publication. I decided to go the electronic reader route first and chose Smashwords, which will format it for different ereaders, PDFs and html. While formatting a story is relatively easy (I have a couple of stories I will be putting up) the formatting of a book with titles, footnotes and table of contents took far more time. And even then I had to keep correcting items. Eric Warren of Creative Touch Design Group did the cover for the book. I’ve never had control of the cover before and the process was an interesting one.

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One of our first tries, before I changed the title.

Eric is a friend, a writer and a great photographer. I told him that I wasn’t sure what I wanted but it needed to be darkish and smeary, with red, brown, green in it. He read a couple of stories and I filled him in on what some of the others were about. The images that caught him were ghost children, a woman being swarmed by insects and a funeral pyre. He sent me the version on the left. I liked the image of the person but I didn’t like the glaring white of the shirt. I liked the blurred features but felt the background was too indistinct. When I stood back and looked at this book there was nothing that really said fantasy or horror and it could just as easily be a book on spiritual inspiration.

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Version two did not have “speculations” but we thought this would help clarify the category though it has confused a few of my friends.

So we talked about it. One problem is finding enough images in the public domain where there isn’t copyright infringement. Sometimes you can change a picture enough. I liked Eric’s ideas and said can you add a wing behind one shoulder of the person? After all, there is a tale of angels in the book as well. With some hunting Eric found the right wings. Sandra Kasturi suggested I go with Embers Amongst the Fallen, taken from the title of one of my stories and much more imagistic than Temptations and Transformations. I also used Facebook to poll people.

Version 4 with image toned down and bugs added.

Version two was significantly closer. It had the blurb from Wayne Sallee, and the new title, flames and wings. But it was still too white. I didn’t like the white. And I liked the blurry androgynous figure better. This one looked like a man. To me it didn’t mesh. I was happy with the font. We decided the blurb was too busy so we dropped it.

Eric sent me a blurry and a non-blurry version because sometimes our brains envision other than reality. I also said, how about a swirl of insects coming over the body and up under “Embers.” Like an S curve, Eric asked. Yeah that’s it. Okay, it was getting better but it was still too white for me. And the font was a little too subtle in color.  I suggested taking the yellow color from the fire and using that on the font instead. The bugs looked more like ships from Star Trek and I wanted some contrasting color. I asked Eric to put a mask on the shirt and make it green and put a slash of green into the background. I also asked for one version with a cursive script just to see how it would look. Eric added a screen to the background, which also helped in texturing.

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Version 7 is getting much closer. There is more depth between the background and the font and the bugs look better.

Version 7 was getting closer. But the cursive font didn’t work. Too light to be seen in a thumbnail image that Smashwords puts up on their site. Eric added in some bees and beetles that helped define the swarm better.  The flames also stood out from the background, and the greens were helping. But the shade on the shirt wasn’t right, too opaque. I asked him to make both like the background color.  Then I was fooling around in Picassa when I downloaded one of his versions and I hit one of the screens. It turned the whole thing a bit more yellow but it made the wings creamy. That’s what I wanted, no white except my name. I also suggested putting a dark green drop-shadow behind the title to differentiate it a bit more.

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Version 10, with many tweaks. At this point I posted it for comments.

We went back to the other font and added Aurora Nominee above my name. He suggested Two-Time Aurora Nominee but I thought that was too much and would be cluttered. We decided to try a few bugs over top of the font. At version 10 I asked for opinions. Overall positive, but I’d already noticed that the beetle over the “L” in Fallen cut the word too much. People said it looked like an “I”. We moved it down but it was still cutting it too much so I said, try a bee instead. We also dropped “Speculations” down a bit to differentiate it as a subtitle. Embers had also been too close to the border so I had Eric bring that down as well.

I’m quite please with how the cover turned out. Eric’s happy with it too. The important thing in designing a cover is to allow for some artistic interpretation and know your first design probably won’t stay.

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Embers Amongst the Fallen available through Smashwords

Your ideas may not come out exactly as you envisioned: I know what I had in my head but it probably would have involved an illustrator. Still, this works well and I let Eric actually begin the process. Bugs and flames and wings speak of more than one thing and it references the 16 tales in this book. So here is the final version and if you would like to order an ecopy go to Smashwords. I should have a print version by the end of August and will post that when I do. Now I’m off to Alberta to the When Words Collide convention where I will be on several panels, do a reading and see if I win the Aurora Award.

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Writing Update: The Collection Progresses

I have actually been too busy to write here but I thought I’d toss in an update on what’s been transpiring.

Deadline for voting in the Aurora Awards closes on Monday, July 23 so if you’re Canadian and would like to vote you can go here. There is also a voters package that contains the works being nominated. Since you pay $10 to vote (unless you already paid to nominate), then you can consider it a purchase of several novels, short, stories, art works and poems. My poem “A Good Catch” is nominated in the poetry category and the awards will be given in Calgary at the When Words Collide convention, which I will be at.

I have a week left to finish my story for Masked Mosaic. It’s been a bit of a struggle so I’m not sure how successful I’ll be. But mostly my time has been taken with formatting and getting my collection of stories ready for putting on Smashwords, for ereaders and then for print. If you’re interested in a print copy, send me a message and I’ll let you know when it’s ready and the cost.

The collection will be called “Embers Amongst the Fallen” and will include sixteen stories, two of them new. Wayne Allen Sallee has written a lovely blurb:

“Anderson is an enigma. Many of her stories evoke the tense subtleties of Shirley Jackson, but then I go on to another story and it breathes of Richard Matheson or the late Ray Bradbury. Few people can pull off the whipsaw of terror to wonder and back, but Colleen makes it way past easy.”

Wayne is a “5 time finalist-Stoker Award-First Novel, Collection, Novella, Novelette, Short Story.” East Coast, dark fiction writer Steve Vernon is writing an introduction for the collection as well so I feel very honored that these people, along with Sandra Kasturi of CZP who proofread it, have agreed to be part of it.

Polu Texni has bought another poem, “Mermaid,” which is written in the style of a villanelle. I’m not sure when it will be up on the site. Now, on to the process of self-producing a book.

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Creative Commons: Ninha Morandini

Smashwords is for ereaders and once you have your book formatted they will make it readable for different readers and send out a catalog. You have to meet their formatting guidelines and produce a cover. I have a friend working on one right now. There is a giant book that can be downloaded for free that is the Smashwords style guide. Interestingly enough, it has formatting issues in rtf, but is okay in PDF. It’s written for those who are not even that familiar with using Word. I’m pretty much an expert (though the stupid Office/Word 2007 sucks big time and annoys the hell out of me) so I’m finding the book a bit tedious in some sections. I have to glean through though because some information is buried and some not so clear.

I have got rid of most of the marks and spaces that they require but I also have one story with footnotes and I still have to determine how to make sure those show correctly. I’m presuming once I get to the submission part that I’ll get to review before it goes to the vetters (they send it back if  there are formatting errors). It’s that part that could slow down my release date of Aug. 1.  I’m more than half way through the formatting and just waiting for the intro (and to complete my acknowledgements) so I hope by this weekend I’ll only be dealing with getting the cover art finalized.

It’s been an interesting process and I’ve been working on a few erotic stories to put up as well. Formatting one story is much easier than the book but I’m learning some things when doing this. Stay tuned for the release of my first collection.


			

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