Thursday, June 30, 2011

Thoughts on the Craft -- cannegardner

“One cannot hide his identity under cover of the third person narrative, nor establish his identity solely through the use of the first person singular.” – Henry Miller

Many quotes strike to the core of an author, but none so deeply for me as this one. Let’s take a step back to the Vitruvian Narrator for a moment. When I am writing fiction, I never consciously choose my narrative voice. When the stories come to me, they usually come to me in the voice that is meant to tell the story. Since I write novellas -- by the literary definition of the term -- and since those novellas are an emotional, psychological, and philosophical portrait of a particular character, I oftentimes use the first person singular. I like the intimacy. However, in the case of The Thin Wall, I struggled with the level of intimacy – for eighteen months and two editions to be exact. It seems a simple thing, to just choose, but all artists know that the choice of colour, or depth perception, is not an easy one, nor is it a choice to be taken lightly.

I finally came to realise, in the throes of late night agony, that my main character and narrator, Laleana, the woman suffering in the thrall of love; Laleana, the co-dependent; Laleana the delusional middle-aged woman, was not a reliable narrator. I came to realise that she was far too emotional to narrate the story. Now, epiphanies are great and all that, but through that epiphany, I had pitched myself into a new dilemma. I knew I didn’t want a third person omniscient narrator because I wanted to retain a certain level of intimacy, a confessional level of intimacy, for that was what the story demanded of me. Therefore, what was the answer? Well, humans have the unique gift of duality, and so the choice -- the only choice I had really -- became clear. In the end, I decided to have Laleana, the prim and proper librarian, narrate the story for the most part, using third person limited, as I felt that this was the only way I could show the duality of her being, could illuminate her secret internal struggle – her intimate struggle with her own shadow. Yes, it seems a bit psychotic, to look outside ourselves as if we are an alien entity, but in fact, we do that all the time, for it is the only true path to self-awareness. Carl Jung talked extensively about the shadow, and this type of narrative depth is very effective. Even Ellis allowed Patrick Bateman to step outside of himself for one chapter in American Psycho; hell, Fight Club is written entirely from the shadow perspective, and isn’t our own inner voice The Dweller on the Threshold of a sorts and respectfully analogous to Jung’s shadow. Although in these examples the principles of Jung’s shadow have been reversed, the shadow-self being the benevolent in these cases and not the one to be overthrown. I thought so, and so I decided who better to narrate my story -- the supressed inner voice of reason.

So hopefully, my attempt represents well on paper. The Art is by Gustav Dore from Milton's Paradise Lost.

Cheryl Anne Gardner

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Review: Color Me Grey

Title: Color Me Grey
Author: J.C. Phelps
Genre: Action Adventure
Publisher: New Pub
Price: $9.99 Kindle Edition $0.99
Pages: 147
ISBN: 978-0981769004
Point of Sale: Amazon
Reviewed By: Cheryl Anne Gardner

Book Description: Meet Alexis Stanton, a 5' 4" petite young woman with a yen for adventure. She grew up as a tomboy wishing she could have all the adventures boys could have. She has since decided that being a boy instead of a girl has its advantages, but being a woman is much better. Raised in a family with money, she was able to pick and choose her education. She had been schooled in everything from being a lady to courses with Special Forces instructors. Her desire for adventure and her boredom with her current employment and a strange 'Help Wanted' ad causes her to quit. She finds that job she could 'just die for'... and it looks like she just might!
Oh my! Alexis Stanton. Only a privileged angsty twenty-something would brag about living off mommy and daddy, quit her job, and go apply for another one without a clue as to what the company does or what the job entails, but that's the sort of story you are in for when you pick up Color Me Grey, a Bondesque coming of age story.

The Alex Stanton chronicles are slated to be a series of books, so in this, the first one, we get a lot of expository background info straight away so we can get to know Alex. The book is told in the first person, so to me, it feels more confessional in it's story telling style than your typical action thriller, which would be mostly scene and dialog versus summary. Some readers may not like this writing style, and some readers may not like Alex. She is your stereotypical spoiled twenty-something: all attitude and very little life experience to back it up, but she gets by, and I, as a reader, just wanted to see her survive herself.

Alex comes from a rather sheltered background. She comes from money; her father is an Admiral and now works some kind of secret ops job, and her mother paints. Both are retired, and both are very forgiving when it comes to their daughter. She is home schooled, though anyone familiar with home schooling will find some inaccuracies in Alex's particular scenario, and speaking of inaccuracies, those familiar with the military might take issue with a few things as well. If you don't take the book too seriously, it's a much better read.

Anyway, Alex is spoiled, and she decides out of pure boredom to up and quit her data processor job to scour the want ads for something just a little bit more high adventure, maybe she'll miraculously find a job where she might be able to use her convenient hacker skills and some of her ninja combat training. She finds a mysterious ad and heads downtown for an interview. Yes, Alex has a set of brass ones. No one in his or her right mind would head off to some unknown company office for an interview without getting some background information first. At the very least, a job description would be in order. But this is a fantasy adventure book and this job just happens to be Alex's ideal fantasy adventure, so I just went with it.

Of course, instantly our little Alex develops a teen crush on the very hot-ticket owner of the firm code-named Mr. White, but too bad for her she won't be spending much time with him. She'll be off at a mountain retreat with Mr. Black learning some useful survival skills along with all the other superspy maneuvers she will need to complete the jobs she might be assigned. Her training is quite brief before she gets slammed into her first full on terrorist retrieval operation, which she fumbles and winds up killing someone. Oh well. In this job, it just goes with the territory, so she sucks it up and moves on rather quickly. The book sort of reminded me of the movie Point of No Return in that the dark handsome black ops man trains this petite young thing to become one of the best spy-killing machines in the business, until things get a little to close to the cuff for her. In this case, Alex has no desire to "get out" and when her family is targeted, she refuses the option to stand aside. The only thing lacking in Color Me Grey was the deep internal conflict. Alex happy go luckily quits her job, gets no flack for it from her parents, waltzes into an interview, is perfectly qualified, and gets everything she wants. It's just a fun read plain and simple.

The story is also a very feel good pro-woman story. Alex can hold her own with the best of the boys, and I had no problem believing that. We've got women in combat, we've got women truckers and construction works; we've even got women boxers and body builders too. I had no problem with a woman working as a secret ops agent. If we weren't allowed to do that Angelina Jolie would be out of a job. It's a short book, so there isn't a whole lot of detail when it comes to the actual combat training, so some things just have to be taken on faith, which I had no problem doing since the inspirational " you can do anything you set your mind to" message to young women was much appreciated and duly noted. Since this was an adventure story and a short one at that -- being the first of several books -- character and relationship development was a little thin, but those will probably be expanded on over time. This isn't a novel; it's a series, and readers will need to be patient while getting to know Alex. She has the potential to grow into quite a complicated character, and what sort of spy reveals everything about themselves on a first meeting anyway?

7/10 for some editorial issues

Saturday, June 25, 2011

REVIEW: Sherlock Holmes: My Life

Title: Sherlock Holmes: My Life
Author: Sherlock Holmes/Lawrence Spencer
Genre: Mystery
Price: $2.99 (via Smashwords)
Reviewed by: Veinglory

"My Life" is a clever but very rambling ostensible autobiography by Sherlock Holmes.  The conceit of it is that Sherlock Holmes is not a fictional character that some people like to pretend is real, but a real person who is rendered fictional by a dastardly conspiracy.  Many other Victorian characters and authors get scraped into the faltering narrative from Alice in Wonderland to Gilbert and Sullivan

I predict that an enthusiast of the Sherlock Holmes stories will find this work interesting and irritating by turns, other readers will be pretty much bemused from the outset. The cover does not quite strike the right tone which is more whimsical and convoluted than dark and suspenseful.  The editing is strong sentence by sentence, but I feel heavy-handed editing would make for a far better book, and the formatting is a little erratic. 

Overall it is hard to say how this book will work for other readers, but I will give it a tentative 7/10 for entertainment value alone (even if it is of the 'I see what you did there' variety).

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Thoughts on the Craft Redux -- cannegardner

From the Guardian
April 9, 2009

How much do authors owe their readers?
Readers can become very proprietorial about books, but authors' imaginations need to remain their own.

"It's a sweet anticipation, awaiting your favourite author's latest book, or better yet, the next in a gripping series: that longing to know what lies in store, tinged with the fear that things might not go the way you secretly wish.

For George RR Martin fans, however, enough was enough. After announcing yet another push-back on the completion of A Dance of Dragons, the latest volume in his fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire, the author admitted on his blog to finding himself facing a "
rising tide of venom", as frustrated readers deluged his inbox with complaints. They took him to task for watching football, going on holidays, and "wasting time" on other writing projects, as well as toying with his own mortality by being "60 years old and fat".
It's only natural for readers to feel a certain possessiveness over the characters with whom they spend so much time – but what exactly does an author owe his or her audience? And where does this responsibility start and end?

Some would argue that authors simply owe their readers an ending; a sense of narrative closure...

Read full a article here."
This is a very sensitive subject, apparently. I have seen readers slam authors for killing characters, making characters gay, and generally writing a book in a way the readers didn't want it to be written. I have seen readers assume that the fictional events were fact, and that the narrators of books were actually the authors.

As an author, I do feel a certain loyalty to readers who have taken a chance on my work. I owe them a debt of gratitude. They trust me, and I trust them. I trust them to accept me, no matter what I write. I trust that when they read my work that they will remain objective and understand that the story is fictional, a mixed metaphor for whatever message I am trying to convey at that moment, and that the emotions used to construct the story are invariably my own. I may call to mind the emotion of someone else, but the interpretation is my own. I also trust that they understand that those emotions are culled from years of personal experience and do not necessarily correlate literally to a scene in one of my books. I may have written about the suicide of a husband in The Kissing Room, but I have never lost a husband to suicide. I lost my father very young to cancer, and lost many friends and lovers to drug and alcohol addiction, so the emotion of loss is very real to me, but the circumstance in the book is fictional.

This can be true of our favorite characters in literature: we have lived with them; we think we know them; we connect with them; but in reality, we are really connecting with the reflective images and echoes of various parts of ourselves. The characters are fictional. As a reader, I have no right to dictate how they grow or how the author designs each individual character's psyche. They are the artistic renderings of an author's experience merged with their imagination. Do we as readers have the right to alter them, to steal them away and make them our own, to insist that they belong to us. I think not. Authors grow and change, just as their stories and characters do. They mature with time, and even though they may not mature the way we, individually, want them to, does that diminish the writer or the stories they write? Again, I have to agree with the Guardian here ... no, it doesn't. The only thing that seems to diminish is our ability to accept change. To quote the Guardian article: "We might occasionally wish to tear into the authors' imaginary worlds and take up control of their characters, but reaching into an author's home life to dictate what, how, and when they should write is surely a step too far."

Cheryl Anne Gardner

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Review: Little Miss Straightlace

Title: Little Miss Straight Lace
Author: Maria Romano
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Publisher: Createspace
Price: $10.95 Kindle Edition 3.29
Pages: 370
ISBN: 978-1453868140
Point of Sale: Amazon
Reviewed By: Cheryl Anne Gardner

Book Description:
When a dedicated researcher learns a bit too much about her client's new drug, the horrors from her past seem destined to return. Just as her life begins to spin out of control, a dashing computer security expert arrives from South America and seems the perfect antidote. But is his sudden arrival just the happy coincidence it seems? Find out in this complex novel of romance and suspense that takes the reader on a roller coaster ride of murder, mayhem, sex, and drugs—of the pharmaceutical variety, of course—until the very last page.
This book is a romantic suspense novel, but I felt it was a little more heavy on the romance than the suspense. Josie Natale is a genius bio-statistician who works primarily on pharmaceutical trials. She's your average brilliant person, great with the numbers, but not so great with the basics of life. She can't cook; she's always late; her apartment is a chaotic mess, and she has some difficulty forming lasting romantic relationships. Her current boyfriend Henry is younger than her, a bit mentally distant, and all her real friends think he's a prick. Josie Natale is one of those women who barely seems to have control of her life. Everything happens TO HER in this book like she is some sort of lightning rod. She knows this, and she blames her weakness on an assault she suffered as a teenager and then a later assault by a client when she refused to alter the data on one of her research projects, which would inevitably bankrupt the company. Josie's take-no-shit attitude and her closed off emotional state makes for no shortage of enemies and haters.

This all sets the stage for the suspense plot in which we have threats from a religious cult called the Warriors of God, leading to subsequent break-ins at various clinics. Research data is being stolen and altered, and when Josie's friend winds up in the hospital, it's time to call in the big guns: Enter security agents Nic and Robert. Nic is a security expert and his friend Robert, who looks like the man who assaulted Josie when she was a teenager, is an expert in cult ideology, having been rescued from one when he was a child. This will come in handy later in the story, which is a rollercoaster ride of drinking, eating, shopping, golfing, sleuthing, kidnapping, attempted murder, actual murder, and medical experiments with nefarious drugs.

The plotline of this book is all over the place with a lot of twists and well placed coincidences in order to lead the reader down various assorted sinister paths. Is Nic really a good guy or not? being the most obvious. There are a lot of characters coming and going – some readers might find this on-stage off stage scene setting a bit hard to handle -- but all were firmly grounded in their world. No one was super extraordinary, which made them believable. Nic seemed a little too perfect in the beginning, but he has his flaws too. In real life, you could run into any one of these characters on the street or in the boardroom. The romance is messy, all the characters are not without a few uncomfortable secrets here and there, and the detail is almost impeccable. My only problem with the book was that I thought it was a bit long, and the pacing slowed for me during the mundane moments of shopping and girl talk and golf games and evenings with friends along with all the Freudian internal exploration and examination. I was more into the suspense plot not the romance between the sexy petite genius and the uber wealthy Latin security god, but that’s just me: I am not a big romance reader. However, those who love romance will be thrilled with this one. The emotions are well articulated, and the romance is not without it's struggle.

As for the suspense plot, I thought everything was tied together quite well, and even though the HEA ending was predictable, it was not without its thrills. The book tackled quite a few unpleasant and important issues such as rape, religious cults, and most importantly the safety concerns we have about the pharmaceutical industry. Overall, I enjoyed the mystery, and I especially enjoyed the close knit friendships that existed at the start of the book and the new ones that were made by the end.


This book was reviewed from a PDF provided by the author.

One way to get your self-published book featured on the Daily Show....

Is, um, to be a former major of New Orleans. Oh well. Full show here, interview at 15:00.

Monday, June 20, 2011

On The Business of Writing - Author Readings

My co-blogger Cheryl Anne Gardner writes here often about the craft of writing. I'd like to talk a bit about the business of writing. First, a little background.

I am a self-published author. My first novel, The Mars Run, came out in 2006. Since then, for various reasons I decided to try and go the traditional route. I've had some success at that, and my new novel Pirates of Mars will be coming out by Hadley Rille Books in November, 2011. Coming from the self-published background, I've been working on marketing the new book, and this past weekend attended Duckon, a local science fiction convention.

At this convention, another, much more well-known author and myself were scheduled for a reading. Only one person came, for the other author, who decided to go back to his booth in the dealer's room. So no reading. I then attended a session put on by the leader of the Literary Underworld, and she had several tips to pass on to me:

1) Authors must promote their readings themselves! Even if you have a "captive" audience, like at a convention of science fiction readers, you have to tell them what you're reading.

2) Bribes are helpful. Consider a "reading with chocolate" or other munchie.

3) Murphy is alive and well. At this particular convention, figuring out what room each event was in proved challenging. So, don't put the room number on your flyers until you get to the event and confirm the location. If, as is typical in these events, your assigned room is off in Lower Slobovia, you may need to add directions to the room.

4) If the book is already out, be prepared to sell books at the reading. If not, have a marketing giveaway for people to take with.

5) ETA: Here's another thought about author readings: signing and dating the typescript and leaving it behind for whoever wants it. It doesn't draw more people to the reading, but it is a nice giveaway that costs nothing and makes somebody happy.

I write because I want to tell stories. Storytelling requires an audience, and I need to tell a story to my audience about why they should listen.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Thoughts on the Craft Expanded Redux with Story Links -- cannegardner

“Believe me, I grow daily more convinced that the atmosphere is an inexhaustible source of countless beauties. It is up to we artists to learn, hour by hour, to penetrate it…to understand about Distance, to know the Air and space, which is never still, but always vibrating and wiggling. The tiniest oscillation is, in itself, a motive for art – it is a new beauty: fluttering, creaking, disjointed, and buoyant.” -- Mario De Sa-Carneiro

That quote is from the short story titled “Wings” by Mario De Sa-Carneiro found in “The Great Shadow” collection put out by Dedalus Classics. De Sa-Carneiro’s writing is so tantalizingly beautiful, one can get lost it, and I think it mirrors Miller’s comment from last week regarding an artist’s ability to get beneath the facts. Sometimes, I find that the facts clutter my writing, especially when I am writing historical fictions. We want the facts in order to give the story a sense of authenticity, but as artists, I think we have to be mindful of the innately cumbersome and didactic qualities they posses. Yes, facts ground a story in reality, but it’s easy to overdo it at the expense of emotional depth. We must constantly ask ourselves if the facts are relevant to the story -- what do they mean to the story – and that requires the artist to dig deep beneath those facts, to not only make the facts known, but to imbue the fiction with their mysteries.

Since I began writing flash fiction, my ideas about facts have become somewhat blurred. I found myself initially struggling to find a place for them. 500 or fewer words isn't a whole lot of space to work with, and I found myself having to rethink what the facts really mean to a story and how they can be conveyed without literal inclusion. That was a hard, tall, drink of ice-cold water, but in this case, the answer lies with metaphor, or rather, what words can one use to allude to the facts without ever really presenting the actual facts to the reader. I mean, shit, the facts are the point. I don't write a story unless I have some thesis I am arguing or some statement I am making in the abstract. That's just how I write. A story is never just a story for me, and fact and conjecture are a huge part of the storytelling, for me anyway, so I had to find a way to "write in" the facts on a more subliminal level. I think I am making headway in my struggle. I have a few published this month that focus on some very chaotic moral and political hot topics. I do like to stay relevant as much as possible, but the bottom line here is, the facts themselves are often integral to the story, but they don't always have to be expressed at face value.

Here are a couple of stories I had published this month so far. Yes, I have been dabbling more in the horror genre of late. Warning: Doll Heads contains mature and disturbing/potentially offensive content Reader Discretion is advised.

Pin Head Fiesta at Dark Chaos

Doll Heads at Carnage Conservatory

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Thoughts on the Craft Expanded Redux-- cannegardner

"I thought that a man, to be a writer, must do at least five thousand words a day. I thought he must say everything all at once -- in one book -- and collapse afterwords. I didn't know a thing about writing. I was scared shitless. But I was determined to wipe Horatio Alger out of the North American consciousness. I suppose it was the worst book any man has ever written. It was a colossal tome and faulty from start to finish. But it was my first book, and I was in love with it. [...] I didn't dare to think of anything but the "facts." To get beneath the facts I would have had to be an artist, and one doesn't become an artist overnight." -- Henry Miller on The Tropic of Capricorn.


That quote is from the book "Henry Miller on Writing." A very good friend of mine, and fellow author, sent this down to me, and even though I am only a few chapters in, there is a lot that can be gleaned from it. No, it is not one of those notorious style guides, and no, it isn't one of those how to write for the market books either. It's simply the very objective thoughts of man as he took a moment to reflect back on his journey, the journey that made him a great artist. I think any artist whose passions are driven by the word will find a kindred spirit on the page. It's full of all of the joy and all of the futility of being a writer, written in Henry Miller's very blunt and often times crass style. Well worth the read for Indies and pretty much any artist, writer or not. Miller is a self-styled and self-taught talent. I don't always care for his subject matter, but his genius is without question, and his lessons are those of the "hard way" variety. We can all take value from them.

There has been much debate over the last week or two -- heated debate -- about daily word count. Some writers are just very prolific and enjoy working on a schedule. They write every day, and they feel productive when doing it and lazy when they don't. Other writers simply can't write to a schedule, or the writing schedule is muddled up with other things such as contemplation and research and outlines and … living a life even. Your writing schedule in no way defines you as a writer nor does it indicate whether or not you will be a successful one. Writing isn't just about the literal act of putting words to paper. That's just too narrow a view for so creative an endeavor.

If you write non-fiction or historical fiction, research is a huge part of the writing process, and the writing tends to come in the form of extensive note taking. In Fiction, you can make up a lot of shit. Fiction allows for that, of course, but making shit up will only get you so far. A little time and effort in the research department goes a long way to suspending disbelief in the reader. Sadly, I have read way too many self-published books where it was obvious the writer didn't do enough or, in some cases, didn’t do any at all.

It takes me a long time to write a book, with or without research. The words have to be just right because my inner poet tells me so, or rather, screams it until my eardrums bleed, so I have days when I seem to be cranking out the words, and I have days of note taking and outlining and out-to-see-the-world time, which is also very important. I also have a family, other hobbies, and a full time non-writing career, so writing gets squeezed in where I can, when I can, but I never force the issue. If I don't feel like writing because I can't get my head in the game, then I don't write. The words will be shit, and I can't deal with that. I can and do work on multiple writing projects at the same time to avoid such editorial burnout, sometimes it's a blog post, sometimes it's a journal entry, and sometimes it's flash fiction. I do try to write one flash fiction piece a day during the workweek, 500 words or fewer, but sometimes that doesn't pan out either, and again, I don't force it. There is a huge difference between procrastination and your muse taking a smoke break. Unless you are a deadline junkie and can create under that kind of pressure, then it is best not to force the words. I've seen forced words, and they stink like an editor’s rotted lunch sack. If I had to force five thousand words a day, I often wonder what kind of words they would be? Probably a lengthy dissertation on my own impending suicide, no doubt. Writers write. No Shit! Can't argue with that, but so do people in insane asylums, in feces, on the wall. They do it all day, every day, and it's not like the psych review board is announcing Pulitzers every week, month, or year.

If you want to be a writer, you are going to have to write, but don't let anyone else tell you how to do it -- except when it comes to grammar. Every writer has to get Zen with their own process. Find one that suits you and your writing will come easier. Adopt your own philosophy. Think for yourself. Being creative is not about strapping yourself into some arbitrary schedule designed by the latest productivity guru. It's about finding your own creative identity and crafting your writing life around it. When you got a good fit, you’ll know it.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Revew: Reboot

Title: Reboot
Author: Carl Rauscher
Genre: science fiction
Price: $1.99 (Smashwords)
Publisher: Smashwords
Point of Sale: Smashwords
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

Reboot, a novel by Carl Rauscher, is an interesting entry in the science fiction subgenre of “post-apocalyptic” writing. The book is set a few years after The Pulse, a man-made electromagnetic event designed to destroy all micro-processors, including the ones in your car and PC. It’s the story of Oscar Ridell and Bonnie “Rabbit,” an eight-year-old girl who is working as a messenger. After The Pulse, America has reverted to an early 19th-century technology level, and Oscar is one of a group of people sent out (belatedly) by Washington to get some level of technology (think 1950s) up and working. Oscar arrives at a small town in Iowa beaten and shot, and he spends the winter working on his mission while dealing with the local heavies.

Now, I rather liked the premise of Reboot, and the story is generally well-written. However, I have several issues, the first of which can all be boiled down to the author playing a game of “let’s keep a secret.” Oscar is a major character in this story, and large parts of it are told from his point of view. Yet, we the readers aren’t told a number of key facts that Oscar knows. These are the sort of key facts that would be “front of mind” for Oscar.

Now, I understand that Oscar can’t announce these facts to the world, but he can (and should) tell them to us, the reader. Not knowing these facts is supposed to generate suspense. It doesn’t work – rather it generates irritation in that we’re being kept in the dark. This irritation hides the real tension, which should be between the townspeople and the (unknown to them) Bad Guys.

My second issue is related to this. We have a Bad Guy who is somewhat hidden from the townspeople. But he doesn’t need to hide, or at least his need to hide is not well-explained. As written, the Bad Guy is a not-very-bright mustache-twirling caricature. I would have liked to have seen more from this character’s point of view.

Despite all of this, I did in fact enjoy reading Reboot. I found it an interesting twist on the concept of rebuilding after the apocalypse, and technically well-written and executed. I also felt that Oscar Ridell and Rabbit were well-written characters. In fact, with the exception of the Bad Guy, all the characters worked for me. Overall, I was pleased with Reboot.

Rating 7/10

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Thoughts on the Craft Expanded Redux -- cannegardner

“If the brush strokes I have used disturb and distress you, then your redemption is nigh, and I have accomplished what I have set out to achieve. But if you find the truth they depict offensive, if they provoke you to curse their author…then, wretched reader, you have recognised your own self and you will never change your ways.”
—The Marquis deSade
I have spoken before on various other forums regarding censorship in art. My own work deals almost exclusively with cognitive dissonance and our deeper and darker thoughts. Often the imagery I choose to use is disturbing to some. Many people who have read my novellas know that I am not afraid of the dark. I don't go there too often or too deeply, or at least, I haven't in the past, but since I became obsessed with flash fiction, I have found myself staying in shadows much longer than before. Recently, my flash fiction piece titled Beware of Dog was accepted over at The Carnage Conservatory -- a new flash fiction horror ezine who is currently looking for your darkest work. I do try to stay away from overly descriptive gore, but that's not really a self-censorship issue as much as it is a style issue. I find subtly can often be more frightening. So instead of a long dissertation on deSade's very poignant quote, I'll leave today's thoughts with yet another question: Sometimes, a truth about life finds its way into the work, be it intentionally, subconsciously, or otherwise, and perhaps this truth might be something rather disturbing. Should you alter the story to make it more acceptable? And if you endeavour to soften the edges, will the truth you seek to expose lose its virility or its purpose? In other words, should an artist self-censor their work, alter their choice of imagery, symbolism, and metaphor to make a story more palatable for a wider audience? Will it lose its truth should we leave its symbolic nature open for interpretation or non-interpretation? Is the story really telling a truth about the human condition, and shouldn't we, as artists striving for truth, endeavour to lay bare that truth which might be construed as beautiful and poetic in one person’s eyes and yet offensive in another’s?

Religious Painters like Bosch certainly believed in the truth, and I do too; however, when you are running the submission rejection gauntlet, the question of self-censorship has the tendency to slam into you like a car crash. I doubt my story Beware of Dog would have gotten accepted at very many places. I am glad it found a home, but that isn't always going to be the case. At the moment, I have one very dark story about a serial killer who was abused as a child by the grade school's head nurse, who happened to be a transvestite. I explore a lot of very dark territory in a very small amount of words. I love the story, but I doubt I will be able to place it because of the subject matter. I know one thing though: I do so love the story, and whether it gets placed or not is irrelevant because I won't rewrite a thing. I don't always mind rewriting as long as it's for the good of the story. In Beware of Dog, I originally ended it at meeting the mailman at the gate. Carnage felt it needed one more punch in the end, and so I added the last couple of sentences. Minor editorial rewriting to me is not censorship. Had they asked me to take out all reference to her having sex with her lunatic husband, then I would have had to decline.

Cheryl Anne Gardner

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Free Book Friday Winner Pending

We have selected a winner and we are waiting for their reply.

I'll give it until the end of the week. If I don't hear by then, we will select another winner.

Thanks All.