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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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.

Needles – Drabble published by Trembling with Fear (HorrorTree)

My 100 word story, Needles [click for link], is included in the 12/2/18 edition of The Horror Tree’s Trembling with Fear weekly fiction blog.

I thought of the story more than a year ago as a possible drabble, but never actually wrote it due to laziness. I originally came up with the idea while commuting, which I have found where most of my stories are born. Writing a number of drabbles over the summer, I decided to see if my ‘Needle’ idea worked and finally conquered the procrastination imp to write it.

Thanks to the Horror Tree—Steph Ellis, and Stuart Conover—in publishing. I have been using the Horror Tree for submission ideas, publishing news, and industry tips since I started writing. It’s a great resource, informative, and a big time saver. Glad to contribute a little something to the site, hopefully this goes some of the way to saying thanks!

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Vinegar Chips available at 101Words.org and Other Drabble News

My 101 word story “Vinegar Chips” has been posted at 101Words. It’s the first in a group of drabbles I have recently written. There has been several recent drabble horror anthology releases that have been making the rounds in recent months (DrabbleDark, ed. by Eric S Fomley and 100 Word Horrors, ed. by Kevin J Kennedy), so I thought I would throw my hat into the ring. Perfect, the short-short format, as in the summer, my time to write is limited.

I also have 100 word stories accepted to be published in Chronos: An Anthology of Time Drabbles (available for pre-order) and Drabbledark II (release TBA). Also, I have written two other drabbles that I am waiting for markets to open. Another 100 story I wrote I expanded into a full fledged flash which I am excited about.

Thanks to Maura and Shannon from 101Words for publishing. Check out 101Words.org and their sister site, FlashFictionMagazine.com too!

S.E. Casey

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DYSTOPIA – by Aphotic Realm: The Day the Towers Rose

Happy to announce my dystopian tale, The Day the Towers Rose, is included in the latest Aphotic Realm release DYSTOPIA. What’s it about? Chances are that society won’t end with a bang. Like most empires, it will slowly waste and erode, the fear of austerity and stagnating culture eventually fracturing the system. How long would you hold onto the life you know? Would you keep going to work knowing the end is near; mow that lawn, keep up with that diet?

Dystopia5I am pretty sure I would hang on to the very end. I would take a minimum wage job mopping the decks of the Titanic instead of making a run for the life rafts. I have grown used to depending on order and rules. Safety. Complacency. So what would you do? Embrace the uncertainty and chaos like a modern day Mad Max? Are you sure? Since everything is temporary and the end is inevitable, why haven’t you checked out of the system already? Quit the job, live off the grid in the mountains. No one’s stopping you. Still sure??

Thanks to A.A. Medina, Dustin Yoak, and everyone else at Aphotic Realm. Dystopia is a giant issue: 100 pages! Other authors include S.J. Budd, John F. Leonard, Brian Black, Kevin Holton, Mandi Jourdan, Lachlan Watt, and Bo Chappell to name a few. Happy to share this issue with all! Also, if you are looking to support Independent authors/presses, check out Aphotic Realm. They work hard and love what they do.

Amazon Purchase Link : DYSTOPIA – Aphotic Realm Magazine #4

S.E. Casey

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Biological Determinism – Short story up at Silent Motorist Media

My latest flash fiction surreality, Biological Determinism, has been published by the relatively new weird and bizarro online magazine/blog Silent Motorist Media. Originally, I wrote this in response to a contest call by SMM for 200 word stories relating to “Esoteric Sausages”. While an idea based on this theme came to me quickly, I had a little problem deciding which 15-20 darling words I would need to chop off to get it down to the count limit that, along with other deadlines distracting me, had the contest end before I got a chance to submit. What to do with a odd, esoteric sausage story? Fortunately, Silent Motorist Media opened up soon after for general submissions. Without the word count limitation, I was free to expand my abstract creepiness to 420 words. Submitted. Done.

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        *Click for Biological Determinism story link*

 

Thanks to SSM’s creator, chief editor, and benevolent tyrant Justin Burnett for publishing. Justin has a lot on his plate, but was really enthusiastic about working with me and featuring this piece on his site. Check out and subscribe for other Silent Motorist Media content. Music, literature, philosophy, art. Interviews too, most recently a-list horror authors Michael Wehunt and Philip Fracassi. Hopefully, I will be talking with Justin myself, soon.

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