2018 in Resentments – A year in writing

‘Tis the time for authors to make #amwriting year end summaries and/or lists of accomplishments. Some post submission/rejection statistics, others make best-of’s, and there are those who write look-back or look-forward type posts. I’ve decided to join the fray and make a ‘2018 in resentments’ blog.

“The man who lies to himself can be more easily offended than anyone else. You know it is sometimes very pleasant to take offense, isn’t it? A man may know that nobody has insulted him, but that he has invented the insult for himself, has lied and exaggerated to make it picturesque, has caught at a word and made a mountain out of a molehill–he knows that himself, yet he will be the first to take offense, and will revel in his resentment till he feels great pleasure in it.” – Dostoevsky, “The Brothers Karamazov”

I wrote a similar ‘resentments’ post last year, so might as well make it an annual occurrence. Of course holding onto resentment isn’t a good thing, but the harm isn’t the things we actually resent, but in the resentment itself—the deleterious effect of cortisol and the self-destructive behavior it can trigger. However, if we can avoid reacting with anger or denial, resentment can be helpful, much like pain. No one wants to feel pain, it’s terrible by definition, but it’s our greatest tool in positively modifying behaviors. Your hand hurts? Don’t try to be noble stoically dening that it hurts, see what may be causing the pain and, hey, take it off the stove. And maybe never put your hand on the stove again, okay?

Time was the resentment of 2018 that I couldn’t escape. It got particularly difficult to balance my writing goals with everything else this year. I constantly felt that I had no time and whenever I did anything it was at the expense of the five other things that I could have done. I felt like I was rationing aspirations and holding my dreams hostage. But time is a universal constraint. Everyone has the same amount—24 hours in every day—so it’s a mirage resentment. Resentments generally stem from unfairness, that someone next door is getting a free ride or being arbitrarily favored (re: Cain and Abel). So my frustration isn’t really with time, but in my choices of how I am using it. I admit that there is a lack of organization and planning on my part. I am a master of procrastination and allow myself too much leisure time as well.

One of the casualties of my time resentment was that I ended up only reading just two books all year (not counting short stories, but still). I feel especially guilty for all the writing friends whose books I promised to read, but ended piling up in my TBR pile one on top of the other. What’s worse, in last year’s post I vowed to read more. This misfire is especially damaging as reading is one of the best ways to improve writing. It’s a definite help for me to read professional authors to learn by osmosis. But it didn’t happen. It got to the point where I began to resent those book bloggers or Goodreads reviewers who read fifty books a year. I’m obviously projecting. I need to find the time to read, to make it a necessity, and not feel like I am sacrificing my writing time by doing it.

My reluctance to read also stems from my own inability to finish a book I wanted to self-publish. I stumbled on a writing blog a few months ago which introduced me to a new writing term of ‘Anthology Author’. Supposedly, this is a pejorative dig describing a writer who appears in many short story anthologies and magazines, but doesn’t have any novels or collections published under their own name, the negative implication that this is being something less than a ‘real writer’. This got to me a little bit I’ll admit. While I really wanted to get something out on Amazon/Smashwords that I am proud of, I found myself deferring all year to work on submission calls. However, the more I thought about it, falling into the category of ‘Anthology Author’ isn’t a bad thing. I love the challenge of writing for open calls and being a part of a group project. Writing for me needs to be fun and meaningful. Getting a regular dose of success and being active in the writing community helps keeps me engaged and motivated.

Some of the anthologies/magazines/websites I did get published in 2018 include Hinnom Magazine, The Sirens Call, Molotov Cocktail, Silent Motorist Media, Aphotic Realm (issues #4 and #5), Weird Christmas, Grinning Skull Press, and Trembling With Fear (Horrortree.com!). Of course, there are countless more which I got rejected from. But there is no resentment there; I am genuinely grateful to have the opportunity to submit. Also, here and there I get some feedback which is invaluable.

So I am grateful that there are markets dedicated to publishing stories and promoting relatively unknown authors like me. My only resentment is the lack of reader feedback that they get as I am always proud of my work and awed by the effort that goes into it. Whether I’m in a anthology/magazine or not, I wish more people would buy, read, review, and otherwise support these publications. But I am just as much to blame. While I have donated to some Patreon/Indiegogo projects during the year and bought a bunch of indie books, my reading and review writing is lacking. I need to step up my game in those areas.

What is the cost of not supporting indie authors/publications? During the year there were a few publishing houses that closed down (Hindered Souls Press for example) which means less opportunity for everyone. It’s a tough business and is important to support these places as they are important resources for authors, especially those of us who are starting out. Most of these markets aren’t run by entrepreneurs or business people, but genre fanatics doing it because books are a passion. Two magazines that I have stories in are from Aphotic Realm (‘Dystopia’ and ‘Eldritch’). Aphotic Realm don’t offer ebook versions deciding to publish in full-color glossy paperback. Yes, the magazines are relatively expensive to purchase, but part of the charm is the artwork and comics that wouldn’t translate well to digital, hence the physical only policy. Part of the price are the visual aesthetics and feel which are a throwback to enjoyment I got out of the graphic novels of my youth. I can be as penny wise and pound foolish as anyone, however, buying decisions shouldn’t only consider the actual product, but the support you are giving to the publisher for the viability of their future. Most people lose money in publishing, or at the very least put in a lot of effort (and time!) with zero compensation.

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Animal Control” illustration courtesy of Molotov Cocktail.

And then there’s this guy. My story Animal Control, published by Molotov Cocktail Lit Zine (3rd place finish in the 2018 #KillerFlash contest) is my favorite piece that I wrote in 2018. I got a great response from this story, easily my most commented on work. So what is there to be resentful about? Nothing, except perhaps the story itself is about resentfulness. Resentment is destructive, annoying, and toxic, much like my fictional animal control officer. You wish it away, out of your life forever, but when it’s forced out everything goes to hell, the counterbalance of the world thrown off. For example, most people end up worse off after winning the lottery. Yep, not an exaggeration. Maybe it’s best to learn to live with my irksome metaphoric animal control officer, endure his boorish behavior and obnoxious idiosyncrasies because the alternative may be worse. And when his negativity impinges on your conscious, use it to benefit by using it as a sign to check your life choices and your gratitude of everything you have accomplished.

I’ll wrap up on that positive note. Hopefully, I learn from 2018 and read more, write more, and post more reviews in 2019. Thanks to everyone who has read, commented, interacted with, published, and/or tolerated me over the last year.

S.E. Casey

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O Unholy Night in Deathlehem – a holiday horrors charity anthology available now

My doom laden Christmas story, TRADITIONS AND ROTTEN DELICACIES, is included in the latest edition of the Grinning Skull Press annual Deathlehem charity anthology series available here. Its for a good cause as proceeds go to The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.

This was a story I wrote a long time ago which was to be included in a Christmas/winter weird horror anthology by me. Due due to some heroic procrastination techniques I diligently employed throughout 2018, it hasn’t yet gotten off the ground, so it gave me an excuse to work on polishing one of the stories. Plus, it’s going to a good cause.

Thanks to Harrison Graves (editor) and Grinning Skull Press for publishing. Other authors include fellow flash fiction writers I often get published with Wiebo Grobler and Christopher Stanley (#teamdarkness).

Happy holidays and good reading!

S.E. Casey

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THE STARS OVER CASPER, TEXAS — honorable mention, Weird Christmas Flash Fiction Contest

My 350 word short holiday story, THE STARS OVER CASPER, TEXAS, received an honorable mention from WeirdChristmas.com‘s inaugural holiday flash fiction contest. You can listen to my story and 11 other weird flash fiction stories from the contest results episode of the podcast (mine starts at 12:41), or read it in the comments section. So, what is my story about? I think the host’s introduction to it says it all, “…a mix between Cormac McCarthy and Thomas Ligotti”. So, that’s going in the Author Bio; heh, heh.

Thanks to Craig at Weird Christmas for running the contest. He has committed to doing it again next year, so get your stories ready (only 350 days until the 2019 deadline). Also, thanks to Brian Earl (twitter- @XmasPastPodcast) from the Christmas Past blog for his reading of my story.

S.E. Casey

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CLICK FOR STORY LINK

The Toy Gun Factory – (A Christmas Horror Story)

There were no ceremonies and no witnesses. Twelve days before Christmas, in the middle of the Shaker Hills Mall parking lot, the tree appeared overnight.

Driven clear through the asphalt, its expansive width obliterated several rows of prime parking spaces. Gnarled bark and cankerous knots pocked its sooty trunk. Laden with rotten needles, its black branches swept off the stocky axis casting an ominous shade in the weak December sun.

Ribbons of mercury festooned the dark conifer, an infernal beauty in the cancerous tinsel although no one was fool enough to touch. We knew to steer clear, a tangible blight radiating from its awful core. At night, we beheld the lights recessed in the stygian foliage blinking deliberately like eyes of some wicked deep-forest predators.

No one knew the motivation behind the unwanted gift or the identity of its silent benefactor. The mall remained open despite the sinister presence. However, sales were sluggish, the mall plagued by a myriad of strange phenomenon. Without explanation and at irregular intervals, dirges of bassoons and oboes would blare over the PA system. Escalators suddenly reversed zooming backwards at ten times the speed, several broken bones and concussions the consequence. A six-year-old girl’s hand was badly scalded in the atrium wishing well, the waters somehow brought to boil.

The odd occurrences continued after hours. The department store mannequins were repositioned during the night, no one admitting to the deed. In the morning, the store owners would find them lurking in menacing poses or dangling from the ceiling in mock hangings. Thirteen mannequins went missing, the same number as the work gloves and coveralls mysteriously stolen from Krauss’s Sporting Goods.

Silent for decades, the abandoned factory behind the mall fired up its furnaces. Iron dust spewed from the dilapidated smokestacks which had been painted in a candy cane swirl. No one smiled at the mockingly festive design, a foul brown cloud gathering above the dilapidated building. Whoever manned the old assembly lines remained a mystery. No one could get close enough to find out, the demonic growls of the watchdogs slinking unseen amidst the winter shadows keeping everyone at bay.

The mall shut down three days before Christmas, abandoning the most profitable shopping days. The Yuletide spirit had been wrung out of us. We mostly stayed home, the shuttered factory’s hellish growl and faceless laborers the town’s only commerce.

On Christmas Eve, we were compelled to gather around the monstrous tree. Basking in the icy moon shadows, we celebrated under the starry black limbs, foolish worshippers shushing the crying children before hanging our sacrifices in those solemn, malevolent boughs.

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Story first published in 2017 on HorrorScribes.com. Placed 6th place in the Horror Scribes 2017 Christmas Horror Story Contest.

Dreams of the Undersea – story in Eldritch from Aphotic Realm Magazine

My latest story, Dreams of the Undersea, [click for link] is available in Eldritch, a full color glossy 8.5 X 11” magazine published by Aphotic Realm.

Some notes on the story. There probably will be no ebook for this issue. Ebooks are great as they are a cost effective way to publish and distribute the written word, especially useful if you have a short story you want published. However, in this case a large part of Eldritch’s aesthetic (and other past Aphotic Realm releases in fact) is in the art and layout. The vibrant colors, illustrations, and background designs contribute to the theme and atmosphere that this issue demands. Therefore, the physical copy, despite the higher price point is the way this magazine was meant to be consumed; much would be lost in stripping out the mere words from the color-filled page.

 

atlantis-2My story idea for Dreams from the Undersea begins innocently enough. An entirely ordinary man has broken down on the side of the road and has to walk to the next town. Of course, a storm is on the way and it’s getting dark. Also, it’s set in the Midwest, everything a flat field. Not too original, right? Where’s the conflict going to show up? As a writer’s challenge, things devolve getting weirder and weirder step by step, until…well, no spoilers here, you’ll have to read to find out.

The end of a story must be stronger rather than weaker than the beginning, since it is the end which contains the denouement or culmination and which will leave the strongest impression upon the reader.
H.P. Lovecraft

I started what ended up being this story a while back and put it away. What I had written in that first draft was satisfying in its succession of weird turns stemming from an ordinary beginning, but it had no real direction or consistent theme. So when the submission call from Aphotic Realm for an Eldritch-Lovecraft issue came up, I thought it could be a possible match. Since the story was sufficiently cosmic (and colorful), I re-purposed it as a Lovecraftian tale, adding a certain phantasmagoric aquatic…er, element. (again no spoilers)

Thanks to Dustin, Adrian, Chris, and all the others at Aphotic Realm. This is my third Aphotic Realm appearance. They are a new market who really love their weird, horror, and Sci-fi. Follow them on Facebook/Twitter. I hope everyone can find some way to support them!

S.E. Casey

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Ocean is more ancient than the mountains, and freighted with the memories and the dreams of Time.

H.P. Lovecraft

 

 

The Scaredy Men – New Story, Top Ten #FlashMonster Contest Finisher

Happy to announce that my new flash fiction story The Scaredy Men is part of the Molotov Cocktail Lit Zine’s Halloween #FlashMonster edition. This story started as one of the drabbles I wrote over the summer for another submission call. Initially titled “Scarecrow Music”, I decided this idea had so many facets and possibilities for something bigger that it needed to be expanded. In fact, one of the many drafts ended up being 1,200 words. Although there were many directions it could have gone, I committed to one pairing it down to the 1,000 word limit.

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Illustration by The Molotov Cocktail

One of my biggest frustrations in writing is choosing a definite path from the multitude of possibilities any premise can travel. Much like a cornfield maze, I know all the turns that I forewent and wonder if the story would have been better if I had chosen differently. It’s the same with most stories I write, the final result just one possibility out of the hundreds that could have been. Much like regrets and buyer’s remorse over any life decision, I suppose. But that’s another post…

My story ended up finishing 10th in the contest. Congratulations to the winners in the Top 3, and the other stories rounding out the Top 10 as well. Happy that some of my twitter friends, Christopher Stanley and Emma Miller, are part of this issue as well. It’s good to see some familiar faces who have read and commented about my work in the past being successful in their own writing endeavors.

Finally, thanks to Josh and Mary from the Molotov Cocktail for running the contest. I love the illustration for my story (see above). Also, as a top-10 finisher, I will be a part of the year end Molotov anthology which will be my third!

Happy Halloween!

S.E. Casey

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VASTARIEN, Vol 1 – An Existential Book Review

The Thomas Ligotti inspired collection VASTARIEN kicks-off with the one act play, “The Gods in Their Seats, Unblinking”  by Kurt Fawver. More accurately, it is an account of play, the playwright and actors vanished and possibly fictional themselves. The traditional roles between actor and audience quickly dissolves. Who are the real performers? Are audience and actors interchangeable? Redundant?

An excellent, thought-provoking story, it not only kept me interested in the narrative, but also in the larger philosophical questions posed. It is said that good art makes the audience an active participant, which is certainly the case here. Perhaps the placement of “Gods in Their Seats, Unblinking” (great title too) as the first story is a subtle hint to which VASTARIEN aspires. In this literary journal, there is a bleeding of fiction, meta-fiction, and nonfiction—the lines between reader and writer blurring much like the participants in Fawver’s play or Ligotti’s own metaphoric twilights and nebulous skylines.

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Vastarien Art by Dave Felton

Described as a source of critical study and creative response to the corpus of Thomas Ligotti, as well as associated authors and ideas, VASTARIEN focuses on the thematic elements and dominant subjects of the horror master. While this may sound a bit antiseptic and scholarly,  each author brings their own creativity and spirit to their chapter. This is not an echo chamber of a Ligottian ethos or a mimic of his style (unlike the many Lovecraft pastiches out there). Simply put, these are works that occupy a similar rebellious space of existential anxiety and escapism.

Some of the fiction highlights for me are “Nervous Wares & Abnormal Stares” by Devin Goff. A bucolic town is dismantled board by board, shop by shop, the rural niceties a cover for the strange and sinister. Jordan Krall delivers an unsettling, disorienting tale of the crumbling reality of madness in “My Time at the Drake Clinic”. Also, Christopher Slatsky’s mockumentary “Affirmation of the Spirit: Consciousness, Transformation, and the Fourth World in Film” expertly walks the fine line of fiction masquerading as the real.

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Vastarien – Art by Dave Felton

VASTARIEN’s half dozen nonfiction essays are highlighted by the simply named, “Notes on a Horror” by a psychologist using the alias Dr. Raymond Thoss. This piece provides a penetrating look into the world of trauma and treatment. Written for the layman in four digestible parts, the author makes the case of how Ligottian themes can be used to both conceptualize pathological dissociation associated with such things as PTSD, and how they can actually reconnect a patient to the world. Given how many dismiss Ligotti’s worldview as simply antinatalistic and pessimistic, I found this a compelling demonstration of how Ligotti’s work can relieve and even heal. For someone who has taken much comfort and solace in Ligotti’s words/worlds, I am glad to see this concept eloquently explored.

Finally, closing the collection, is Christopher Ropes’ “Singing the Song of My Unmaking”. This hybrid piece sums VASTARIEN as it is part poem, fictional story, and confessional autobiography blended into a coherent whole. It’s a fitting closer where dissociation, depression, and the dissolving of reality play out under the threatening clouds of engulfing nihilism. A emotional story that will stay with you long after reading.

VASTARIEN is a must read for the Ligotti fan. I found this dedicated journal gave me insights into his works that I hadn’t before. Also, to see what Ligotti inspires in others was something I hadn’t anticipated and gave me much to contemplate. For those who may not be familiar with Ligotti, there is a lot to enjoy here, nothing too esoteric or ‘inside’. The different pieces, while certainly challenging, are never out of reach, written both for the neophyte and Ligotti-phile. The inclusion of starkly personal works, too, make this an accessible book. An exciting beginning to the VASTARIEN journey. Congratulations to editors Jon Padgett and Matt Cardin of ‘Thomas Ligotti Online’ to make this project come to fruition. Looking forward to Issue 2!

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Vastarien Art by Dave Felton

Vastarien, Vol 1 on Amazon: Click for Link

Vastarien, Vol 1 on Goodreads: Click for Link