Why Dark Fiction?

So, I get curious from time to time, and I force the other dolls to play along and answer my many questions. This week, we’re all going to share why we choose to write dark fiction. (By dark fiction, I mean speculative, dark comedy, etc.)

Michael: I don’t limit myself to dark fiction, though there is darkness in all of my books. I have three ‘historicals’ in the pipeline – two set in the twilight years of Roman Britain, and one in early colonial America. In these, as with the Gift Trilogy coming out this year, the speculative part lies in the interstices of historical fact. But to answer the question why do I like dark in the first place – in my case it might be a very traditional Catholic education where there was no light without dark and Hell was a real place.

Steve: Dying is easy and comedy is hard, or so it goes. I’ve never died, so I can’t really attest to it. But, of all the many jobs comedy and fantasy has, one of them is trying to make sense of the dark. And in doing so, perhaps see the funny side.

Katrina: Because realism is too hard to write and reality is boring anyway. Some people call speculative fiction “escapist” like an insult, but I think it’s the best part about it. Why wouldn’t you want to escape?

Christian: I wouldn’t know what else to write. At least ‘dark fiction’ is a big playground big enough to get lost in. When you think about it, it can encompass almost every other genre, from crime noir to sci-fi. It overlaps a lot. I used to call myself a horror writer, then I asked myself what horror was and I couldn’t come up with a satisfying answer. It means different things to different people. Besides, I wrote a love story once and nobody liked it.

Renee: I write in multiple genres, but “darkness” is a constant element in all of them. I enjoy writing dark fiction/speculative fiction, because it’s such a broad category. You can delve into almost every genre and writing it is like an escape that allows me to go to those places we all avoid, because we’re not maniacs.  Also, I find the best characters in the dark.

Peter: I write in a range of genres, but there is certainly a darkness to each of my stories (with the exception of my children’s book, of course!), and that darkness comes in different forms. I find there is a certain freedom that comes with writing speculative fiction; an opportunity to be more imaginative with events, giving greater range to the topics that can be covered.

Liam: Because it’s there.

What about you guys? Writers and readers, why do you write/read dark fiction?

 

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She had a yellow balloon… and green crayons

 

by Liam McNalley 

I have a confession to make. I don’t like the Beatles. This may sound strange coming from someone of my generation, but when a Beatles tune comes on the radio, I turn it off. This dislike has nothing to do with their music; I think they wrote some amazing songs, I just can’t listen to them.

It all goes back to when I was in the first grade.  This was back when the band was really becoming popular… all the screaming girls and everything.  I had no idea what all the fuss was about; my parents listened to the Kingston Trio, and Peter, Paul and Mary. However, I heard all about them at school.

There was a little, curly black-haired girl that sat next to me. Her name was Vicky. I can’t remember my teacher’s name, or the name of a single other person in that classroom, but hers is indelibly etched in my memory.

Ah, Vicky. That girl was some kind of bat-shit crazy. She told me everything about the Beatles… whether I wanted to hear or not. She apparently knew the lyrics to every single tune they did, and sang them (very much off key) constantly. She was yelled at by the teacher more than the kid that liked to pluck buttons off of other student’s shirts. Vicky was absolutely nuts about the Beatles, especially Ringo. The girl drew stars on her hands (and everything else that would stay still long enough.) I heard how she was going to marry Ringo when she grew up at least a hundred and thirty four times a day.

But that’s not the worst of it. You see, she had another obsession. Oh hell, I’ll just come out and say it… she ate crayons. Green crayons. No green crayon was safe when she was in the room. I never saw the silly wench that she didn’t have green wax stuck in her teeth. All those decades have gone by and the Beatles and the image of Vicky joyously chomping on a green crayon are inseparable in my mind.

To this day, every time I hear the Beatles, I get a little sick to my stomach.

 

Shrink Wrapped : Liam McNalley Edition

Interview by Renee Miller

We get a new guy and what’s the first thing we do? That’s right. We shrink wrap him. For those of you following this blog regularly, you know what this is about. For the rest of you, we developed a series of highly unscientific questions that allow us to gain insight into the brains of each Doll. Now, we just realized Michael and Liam never got a chance to be shrinked, so here we go. Liam McNalley’s turn.

How would you explain Twitter to an alien?

Since the Twitter is as alien to me as it would be to him, I’d just say “How many twats could a twitter twit tweet, if a twitter twit could tweet twats?”

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Okay… You’re walking down the street and you see a severed arm blocking a storm drain. Do you assume it’s real or fake? Why.

Depends on whether my dog starts eating it or not…

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If an alien abducted you tonight, what part of your body do you think they’d be most confused by?

Hey, I’m an old man, what wouldn’t they be confused by? All seriousness aside, I’ll keep it clean, and say the rock hard callouses on the fingertips of my left hand, (and not my right,) otherwise known as “guitar picker fingers.”

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What are the least dramatic circumstances it would take for you to kill someone?

“Seriously, officer, it was an uncontrollable reflex… the bastard annoyed me while I was reading.”

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**Yes, seems totally reasonable to me.**

Tomorrow you wake up and you’re the opposite gender. What’s the first thought that comes to your mind, and the first thing you do?

First thought: “My beard! Nooooooo!!!!!!”

**Maybe they’ll let you keep the beard…**

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First thing done: I’d say “Ima be rich!” Then I’d realize that nobody is going to want a 60-year old hooker, and just lapse into depression.

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**Yeah, we see what you mean.**

Ink blot test: Tell us what you see.

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That’s easy. It’s a moss covered skull rising malevolently from the midden.

Of course it is. Well done, Liam! 

A Halloween Rant

by Liam McNalley

 

Let’s just say that Halloween is not my favorite holiday. My dislike of this bizarre cultural ration of insanity only grows worse as I get older.

The creepy, sometimes disturbing “decorations” my neighbors put out to give small children nightmares is only the beginning. The worst part is that Halloween seems to be the time that all the stores start putting out all the cheesy Christmas stuff. Seriously? Can’t I enjoy Thanksgiving before I get inundated with wretchedly bad Christmas music, and visually assaulted by over-commercialized yuletide crap?

Halloween is also a stark reminder that autumn is slapping me in the face, and all the things I wanted to do during the summer never got done. It makes me feel old.

Speaking of feeling old, I dare not leave the house on Halloween. The idiotic tendency of people wearing dark clothing to walk right out in front of me while I’m driving makes me go bat-shit crazy. Delinquents tossing eggs on my truck makes me want to do Halloween the original way… by instead of carving a face in an oversized, vine grown, hard-skinned fruit, making a real jack-o-lantern. Originally this was done by hacking the head off an enemy, and tying it by the hair to a tree branch. “Get off my lawn.”

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Sure, pumpkins look cool, but butternut squash is much better in beer, and sweet potato pie is hands-down more flavorful.

Halloween also tweaks a pet peeve of mine… Just for the record, Cider is NOT that unfiltered apple juice everybody on the planet calls “apple cider.” Cider is by definition, an alcoholic beverage made by fermenting apple juice. There is no such thing as “hard” cider, since ALL cider is alcoholic. A person is either drinking apple juice, or they are drinking cider… period. Adding the word “apple” in front of cider is as redundant as saying “I made an apple, apple pie.” Just because one idiot misuses a word doesn’t mean everybody has to. I recently saw some pear juice marketed as “Pear cider.” This is a labeling abomination. Cider consists only of apples, and if the pear juice was fermented into an alcoholic beverage, it is called “Perry.” This stuff wasn’t even fermented, so they failed miserably on all counts.

My favorite memories of Halloween are not even of dressing up in a silly costume, and guilting adults into giving me candy; they are of the food my mother used to cook. Roast pork and mashed potatoes drowned in rich gravy, and my favorite: melt a half cup of butter in a big cast iron skillet. Add a half cup of brown sugar, a couple of teaspoons of cinnamon, and one of nutmeg. Let this cook for a minute, and add a bunch of sliced tart apples, and some water. Let them cook until tender. YUM!

Staying up late to watch scary movies on a black and white television set, while stuffing my face with popcorn, was pretty fun too. But I can do that any night I want now, and the television is actually in color!

So there you have it, my take on Halloween. While you are enjoying whatever fun crap you have planned, I’ll be the drunk guy muttering profanities with all the lights turned off.

Why don’t you pick up a copy of our new anthology, ECHOES & BONES, which is dark, like Halloween… and me, I guess. You can also enter to win a copy on Amazon. ‘Muricans only, because them’s the rules. Folks from other countries can go to our Facebook page to find chances to win book goodies.

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Weird Writerly Things

Every writer has a process. Even if it’s only that they write in a specific room or at a certain time of day, we all have something that helps get us in the mood. I (Renee) forced everyone to tell me one weird thing they do to get in the zone for writing. Some of the Dolls didn’t disappoint. Liam, you need to get weirder. Just saying.

Anyway, here’s what they told me. Now they know the confidentiality thing I made them sign is useless.

Liam: Just daydream and type what happens.

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Hanna: Being in nature. I usually write best outside too.

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Oh yeah, sounds great, Hanna.

Steve: Smoking cigarettes and staring at the sky was a great way to zone out and run a chapter through my head. Unfortunately it’s not a good habit, lung-wise, so I can’t recommend it in good faith.

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(right?)

Michael: Cleaning the toilets usually does it, followed by strong coffee. Either that or a tomato sandwich.

(Did you say tomato sandwich?)

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Renee: Candy Crush. I wish I was joking, but I’m not. Playing a few rounds of that empties my brain of other things. I just play until I’m ready and then I write. If that doesn’t work, I take a nap, because naps are awesome.

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Katrina: Coffee and a swift kicking of everyone the hell away from me.

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(We had such high hopes for yours, Kat.)

Christian: I don’t have a weird thing that helps me get in the zone. Is that weird?

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(Yes, Christian. It’s weird. You’re weird.)

What Bugs You?

Everyone’s got something that annoys the shit out of them, right? I think sometimes creative types are a little more in tune with such things, because some of us pay a little too much attention to people and what they do. So, we thought, why not share our peeves, and then invite you all to share yours. Once a bad thing is out, it’s not so bad, right? Maybe. Here goes.

Liam: Autocorrect is evil.

(Agreed, but sometimes it’s also funny)

Steve: Publishing pet peeve – Writers who point out other writers’ typos publicly on social media (without invitation to do so). You’re laying down a gauntlet there, and you’d better be pretty fucking good before you feel you have carte blanche to call out other writers based on a typing error. And in most of the writer groups I’ve been in, nobody’s that good.

Other Pet Peeves – People who assume moral superiority for having the “right” opinion. I’ll take a brash cunt that does the good in front of them over a prick that loudly moralises from an unchallenged high ground any day of the week.

(I love it when you use the C word, Steve.)

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Hanna: Someone chewing with their mouth open, which makes me want to scream, For fucksakes, close your damn mouth when you chew!

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Katrina: Publishing-wise, when a writer is convinced they’ve nothing left to learn or refuse to edit beyond grammar mistakes. Makes me stabby.

(Like, one time I said I wasn’t making the edits. ONE TIME. Jeeze.)

Christian: (Are you all ready for this?)

1. Cunts who block me on Facebook for no reason.

eyebrow.gifFTL markets (In English: For the love markets, which pay zilch to authors)

2. Snowflake pretenders who spend a lot of time whining about how hard writing is instead of, you know, writing.

3. People who have multiple online profiles. I don’t mean pseudonyms for writing. That has a purpose. But I’ve recently learned that some weird fucks maintain multiple profiles just for the hell of it.

(We’ve contacted his doctor and he’ll be receiving stronger medication in the future.)

Renee: Oh, the list is so long. I let too much annoy me. First, I cannot stand know-it-alls, so I guess that’d fall into snowflakes who think they don’t need editing or have nothing left to learn, and moral high ground assholes, as Steve mentioned. Second, loud eaters. Really hate those. And close talkers. Mostly because they breathe on me and I hate when people breathe in my face.

Publishing: Whiners bug me. Do your bitching in private, not on social media. Kay? Thanks.

Finally, just in general, I also can’t stand sniffers. By that I mean, people who constantly sniff and snuffle. Get a fucking tissue and blow your damn nose. I think that’s enough for now.

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Now it’s your turn. What bugs you guys? Come on, share and we’ll judge you for it.

 

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