The Process

A common interview question for authors is “Do you have a writing process?” This refers to the little things we do or incorporate into our routine in order to be productive in our writing. It’s fascinating because every writer is different, and some have some pretty weird shit they need/do to keep the creative juices flowing.

Christian: When I write non-fiction, yes. I write down all the main points I want to make in order, then do the necessary research and piece the whole thing together like a puzzle. That’s more of an exact science, and there are formulas to follow.

But when I write fiction, none at all. I generally wing it. I don’t know what works for other people, but I hate routines. Too stifling. I think when you try to pour creativity into a bottle is where it all goes wrong. I set targets like word counts and make sure I hit them. That’s about it.

Liam: Yes. I call it “daydreaming on paper.”

Michael: Early morning pottering, tea, radio, social media, i.e. the time-sink – get it out of the way, chores. Sit down to work at ten. Stay until 1pm lunch and news. Two hours in the afternoon. Pleased if I make 1K words. End with a ‘To do’ list for the following day. Weekends are spent editing or critting in the SFF Online Writing Workshop, which I thoroughly recommend.

Katrina: I write things on a bunch of dry erase boards like a big crazy, ignore most of them, and draft in Scrivener because I like how fancy it makes me feel.

Steve: Panic. Write. Repeat.

Renee: I do not have a process. I want one, but I can’t settle into a writing routine long enough to develop one.

So, there you have it. Some of us have a very distinct “routine” we like to follow when writing, and some just work with what we have when we get the urge to write. What about other writers out there? Do you have a process? Any weird shit you have to do or have to have in order to be productive?

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So, Let’s Talk about Why You Didn’t Like My Book

Wouldn’t we all love to ask a reader that? Especially those one-star jerks who leave NO EXPLANATION AT ALL? Yeah, you guys suck. In case you’re wondering, here’s one question we’d ask readers who didn’t like our books. Except Michael, who has to make sense and be rational all the time.

Michael: I have no questions. He or she has bought it so have every right to opine.

Katrina: There was one reviewer who couldn’t believe ALL DARLING CHILDREN was published because apparently it was so bad that anyone who okayed the publishing was obviously stupid. I’d probably ask her what put her in such a bad mood that she needed to be so horrible. It wasn’t as if she was criticizing any one or two things; she was just being shitty.

Christian: What’s wrong with you? Are you some kind of fucking dunderhead? Hello? McFly?

I’m kidding. I have no idea what I would ask them. If someone doesn’t love you, you just have to accept it. You can’t make them love you. Bonnie Raitt was right. I tried that before and ended up with a body buried in the garden.

Steve: “The fuck’s your problem, jack? Got a small penis or something?” I was once drinking with a friend who asked this question to a particularly petulant doorman. The question got his nose broke in answer, but it was worth it, I think. (Although it wasn’t my nose, to be fair.)

Liam: “Hey, if your favorite book is To Kill a Mockingbird, what in hell are you doing reading my stuff anyway?”

Renee: Where did I lose you? How can I get you back? Please love me!

Just kidding. Seriously, I’d want to know what it was that turned them off. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of they didn’t like it and there’s nothing I can do about it.

So, basically, when leaving reviews, don’t be mean. If you have to be mean, at least explain where the author went wrong, so that they never make the same mistake again. Let’s turn this around now. Readers, what’s one question you’ve wanted to ask an author about a book you hated? (You don’t have to name names or books, just put the question out there and maybe you’ll get an answer.)

Superpowered

If you could have any superpower, what would it be? This question is harder than you’d think to answer, because there are so many possibilities. The Dolls have considered their limitations as mere mortals, and we all have a power we’d love to claim, even for a little while:

Steve: The ability to change people’s minds in internet arguments. I realise that’s very fantastical, but indulge me.

Renee: Time travel and/or immortality. I can’t make up my mind. It’d be nice to have both. Although, if you can travel through time, isn’t that a sort of immortality? I guess it depends on the rules of the time travel ability, right? I don’t know. Let’s go with immortality. I’m pretty clumsy and I’m sure my death will be the result of some stupid and/or embarrassing thing that could’ve been avoided. With immortality, I can’t hurt myself too badly.

Katrina: ENDLESS ENERGY. I’m sitting here chugging a Redbull as we speak. GIVE ME WINGS.

Peter: The ability to slow time down so that I could get more done! With the magazine that I put together each month, and Boxes of Blood (horror paperback delivery service), as well as promoting my own work and a huge stack of books to read, there is little time for writing.

Michael: Extreme longevity in peak physical fitness so I could do more things.

Christian: I’d like the ability to travel through time, please. Would that be considered a superpower? It would be much more useful than being invisible or some shit. Imagine the famous historical mysteries I could solve! I’d unmask Jack the Ripper, find out who really killed JFK, and invest all my money in Microsoft.

What about you guys? Any superpowers you’d be stoked to have? What about shitty ones? Are there any you’d think would be more of a burden than a gift?

Off Limits

Recently we talked about the one subject we’d never write about. As writers and creative types, it’s nice to think we’re open to almost anything, but most people have a certain subject/theme that’s taboo for them. Here’s where each of us draws a line (or doesn’t).

Liam: Is this a trick question? Seriously, anything I put down here, no matter how bizarre, I’ll just end up cursed to write about someday. Once, I would have said “I’ll never write about a physic with a chipped tea cup on Key West…” We all know how that ended up.

Katrina: I don’t think there are any subjects off-limits for me. I could probably write about anything, given the right context.

Peter: I haven’t found anything that I wouldn’t write about…yet. I think if it’s well enough written, and an essential part of the story, then no subject is taboo. After all, writers shouldn’t be afraid to push boundaries. But there is no merit in writing just for shock value.

Christian: Animal or child abuse. Some writers consciously tackle taboo topics others shy away from. They think they are being brave or edgy. But you know what? There’s a reason most people stay away from certain topics, even in the horror world. And that’s because there are some things nobody wants to read about.

Renee: I used to say I’d never write about child abuse or about a child or animal abuse/murder, but that was kind of naive. I wouldn’t write a graphic play-by-play of the actual event, because it would be purely for shock value in most situations, which does nothing to enhance the story, but I don’t shy away from having my characters deal with these things. So, I don’t think anything is off limits for me. Not yet anyway…

Michael: Paedophilia because I couldn’t /wouldn’t enter their headspace.

Steve: I’m a scab picking son of a bitch and I’d write about anything. Whether I’d let anyone read it, though, is another question.

Negative Nancy’s

Negative reviews suck. Doesn’t matter if the reviewer is making good points or if they’re just being malicious. They all suck. Each of us has our own way of dealing with them, right or wrong, and we thought this might help some of you dealing with the same for the first time, or maybe it’ll help you decide, as a reader, how to write that review that says you didn’t like a book at all.

Christian: If they have something constructive to say, I take what I can from them. Writing is a constant learning curve. I’m better at it now than I was when I was twenty, but if I wrote until I was three hundred, there would still be room for improvement. For some reason, though, most negative reviews just tend to be scathing and offer nothing of value whatsoever. That’s how you spot the malicious ones. They just say something like ‘Awful!’ or ‘Terrible!’ Thankfully, I haven’t had too many of them.

One of the worst ones I’ve had was from a woman who read my novel Sker House and called me a misogynist just because one of the characters (a 21-year old student) used the term ‘friend zone.’ That was harsh, and untrue. I would have liked the chance to explain to the woman that whatever our characters do or say, it isn’t a reflection of the writer’s core values. If it was, Thomas Harris would be a serial killer.

Renee: I try not to think about the negative reviews that don’t offer me some constructive criticism I can use to improve in the future. I’ve been lucky in that I haven’t had any truly nasty reviews. (Probably just jinxed myself.) There was one reviewer that called me and my book a man-hating, nazi-feminist, blah, blah, etc. All I could do is laugh and move on, because I can’t do much about that kind of thinking, even if it’s a totally inaccurate description of me and the book.

Most of the not so great ones at least tell me why they didn’t like the story/book. That’s helpful and I can use that moving forward. I’ll admit to bitching about them in private, though.

Steve: Poorly. Especially the ones that make a valid point. I hate those suckers.

Peter: I have been very lucky in not having received many negative reviews, and when they do come I’m way more confident now that I could take / ignore any criticism. The only 1 star review I have had was actually from a close family member, so that stung, but I don’t think they actually read the book.

Liam: I stalk them online and plot their death. Not really, I just shrug and move on. Just the fact that they actually read it counts as a win for me. Everybody has different likes and dislikes, and not everybody is going to like my stuff. They probably absolutely love something that I detest.

Michael: Purse my lips.

Katrina: I just pretend they aren’t there, like I do with ALL the problems in my life.

 

Internet Etiquette

By C.M. Saunders

I know what you’re thinking. Internet etiquette? It’s the internet, there is no etiquette.

But see, you would be wrong.

So wrong.

Because everything you post online, every snide comment, scathing retort, and misguided or misunderstood witticism, is there for all the world to see and it stays there until you delete it.

And even then there are ways to get it back, or so I’m told.

This means that past, present and future friends, colleagues, partners and employers can all see how you interact with people, and what kind of person lurks behind that cool exterior. Oh, and you can add the government to that list. Not just yours, but more than likely several, and even your great aunty Zelda. You didn’t think she used Facebook? Best think again. Even regular Joe’s who you don’t notice lurking online and don’t give much of a shit about anyway can pose a threat.

The DO’s are quite simple: DO use the Internet however you see fit, DO surf to your heart’s content, DO find some of its hidden corners, DO look up those old friends and flames, and DO find new ones. In short, have a blast. Just be aware of a few DON’T’s.

By the way, this (non-exhaustive) list is aimed primarily at indie writers and other internet marketers, but with a little improvisation, can be applied to just about anyone’s daily life. It is designed to help, not hinder.

DON’T post book links, or any promotional material, direct to people’s Facebook wall.

DON’T send book links, or any other promotional material, in the form of direct messages. This topic is particularly prickly amongst the Twitteratti. They fucking hate it.

DON’T tag people in political posts or rants about Lady Gaga, football, the environment, the refugee crisis, veganism, or anything else that could be construed as even vaguely divisive or controversial. The post likely reflects YOUR opinion, not that of the people you are tagging, and by tagging them you are associating them with your views against their will.

DON’T add people to groups without their permission, even if you think you’re doing them a favour. Just don’t.

When commenting on other people’s threads, DON’T see that as an opportunity to drop your book link. That, my friend, is spam, and it tastes like shit.

Similarly, when people ask for book recommendations, DON’T recommend your own book. Show some humility, you pretentious asshole.

Listen, I get that some people just aren’t very savvy. They might mean well, and just don’t know what they are doing is annoying the shit out of people. But the vast majority of social network users know exactly what they are doing. They know they are taking liberties and being annoying. They just don’t care. That’s just disrespectful.

Do yourself a favour, follow these unwritten rules, and make social networking less painful and awkward for the people who know you.

61yusXRXjwL X3, the third collection of fiction by C.M. Saunders featuring revised versions of stories taken from the pages of The Literary Hatchet, Siren’s Call, Morpheus Tales, Gore Magazine, Indie Writer’s Review and several anthologies, is available now. X3 also includes two previously unpublished stories, extensive notes, and exclusive artwork by the award-winning Greg Chapman. 

Meet the airline passenger who makes an alarming discovery, the boy who takes on an evil troll, an ageing couple facing the apocalypse, a jaded music hack on the trail of the Next Big Thing, the gambler taking one last spin, and many more.

 

 

Has Being Offended Become Cool?

by Renee Miller

 

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First, let’s talk about words. All the words. Swear words, slang, regular words that the masses have decided we’re not allowed to use anymore, and their replacements. All the fucking words, man. I love them. Even the tricky ones like cunt, whore, and yes, even retard. While some of these words bother me for personal reasons, I can’t hate any of them, because each one is full of history, emotion and POWER. I’m a writer. I will use whatever word gives what I’m writing the proper emotion, and this means using the words I might choose not to use in real life.

Why shouldn’t this offend you? You have the right to feel how you want to feel, but think twice before publicly shaming someone simply because their choice of words bothers you. When I use a word you find offensive, and you scold me or worse for using it, you are giving ME your power. You’re giving the word you hate power. The only person not getting any power is you.

I like profanity, as you all know, and I use it frequently. People are offended by this sometimes. I don’t really give a fuck, but sometimes their offense at my language offends me. I want to tell them to fuck off. Get off their stupid pedestal, and join the real world. Sometimes I do tell them that. Usually I don’t, because fuck them. Why can’t I love all the words, including the nasty, dirty, messy ones? It’s not just words, though. In the book world, even ideas, thoughts, themes, etc. offend people. One of my besties, Katrina Monroe, experienced a bit of backlash for her book, Sacrificial Lamb Cake, which is a brilliant, witty, fun read that I will always love. Yes, it’s blasphemous, but that much is clear if you read the damn cover blurb. Yet, she’s received negative reviews (alas, I can’t find any of them now, so maybe the Goodreads cleaning crew has passed through?) because someone either didn’t read the blurb, or did and decided to read the book anyway, and their wittle feelings were hurt.

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Why would someone who is uncomfortable with subjects such as lesbians and/or heavenly bodies who are anything but what the Bible describes, read a book that STATES the messiah is a lesbian RIGHT ON THE COVER? Is it not pretty likely you’re going to hate this book? It’s not just her either. Another author friend, who writes deliciously disgusting horror , has received a slew of negative reviews because of the nasty shit her characters think and do. It’s horror! What do you expect? Another author, whom you all know well, C.M. Saunders, received backlash because in his book, Sker House, a male character used the term “friend zone.” And I’ve had folks refuse to rate books, or knock stars from their ratings, because they don’t like the “rough language.” It’s offensive. Oh, muffin.

I’m not whining about it. If you feel like you can’t review my books or can’t say anything positive because you were so upset by content and/or language, then that’s how you feel. I’m just saying I think it’s ridiculous, because that’s how I feel.

By the way, this post is intentionally offensive to anyone who is easily offended, so if you’re one of those people, stop reading. Or keep reading if you need your “I’m a self-righteous douchebag” fix.

Personally, I find it astonishing that we are all still offended by what is essentially a bunch of letters. I am always shocked when someone gets bent out of shape over holiday greetings, celebrations, phrases, etc. Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms out there! Now I’ve pissed off anyone who hasn’t had a child, can’t have a child, has lost a child, or doesn’t want a child at all, as well as the ones who hate their mothers, or were abandoned by their moms, or lost their moms. Shit, it’s all so exhausting.

Merry Christmas pisses off people who don’t celebrate Christmas, but Happy Holidays pisses off the Christians. And for the love of God, don’t you ever use “Xmas”, you lazy, insensitive motherfucker. Happy Chocolate Bunny Day pisses off the folks who know Easter isn’t about candy and bunnies. Well, it is in my house, because I’m not a Christian. So, um, yeah. You can wish me a happy Easter or a Merry Christmas. I’ll say thanks, even if I’m not religious, because I appreciate that the greeting came from a good place. You’re not trying to oppress me or convert me, or whatever… are you? Oh, you crafty little bitch.

see waht you did

I did start a list of everything that offends people these days, but it was way too long to put in a single post, because you jerks keep adding shit every damn day. I can’t keep up. I should add that some of the things I read/hear online bother me too, but I don’t call the moral police to have the guilty parties arrested and flogged, because who the fuck cares? They have the right to say what they want to say, and I have the right to not like it. I don’t have to be a drama queen about it, and I don’t think I’m helping anyone by telling them their words hurt me. In most cases, that was their goal all along, so why give them exactly what they want?

I’m not entirely sure why being offended is a fad, but I’m thinking part of it is that we have become addicted to that wonderful self-righteous glow that being offended leaves behind. I mean, how awesome does it feel to knock some cocky prick down a peg or three, because he uses a word or phrase that causes us discomfort or pain? I don’t care the context he used it in, or even if it was meant to be offensive or not, I am going to rip that fucker a new one. Yeah, that shit feels good.

But let’s think about this: When you CHOOSE to be offended by what someone writes online or in a book, or even by something they’ve said in real life, (and make no mistake, it’s a choice) you also CHOOSE to be a victim.

wtf

Hmm. Not so cool now, eh?

Yes, yes, I know that some words are emotional triggers for people. But if we have to stop using words because it brings back an emotional trauma for this person or that, then I quit humaning. It’s over. Might as well quit writing too, because the whole point of it is to use words to affect people on an emotional level. If that’s no longer okay, then what’s the point?

I am sorry if you have shit in your past that hurts. I’m sorry if it more than hurts. It’s awful that you’ve had to endure any heartache or trauma at all. I wish this world was fair or at least kind to good people, but it’s not. It sucks, but when you try to make other people change to alleviate your pain, instead of finding a way to prevent that pain from consuming you, you’re choosing to stay in the role of victim and you’re giving power to the words you’re trying to make everyone else stop using. The more power a word has, the less likely it’ll go away.

Before anyone asks who the fuck am I to tell someone how to deal with trauma, let me add that I’ve been victimized too. I’ve wallowed in a pit of misery, fear and self-doubt, and I let the trauma rule my life for too long. When I stopped giving certain words and actions power, I was free of all that shit. The rest of the world didn’t hurt me, so why should they pay for something someone else did?

And I know that some people online use certain words in an intentionally negative manner. They try to hurt you on purpose but hey, you don’t have to be their victim. Don’t give power to their words by being offended. People are going to say what they want. They’re going to like what they like. How do their preferences, be it words or actions, affect you personally in your day-to-day life? In most situations, it doesn’t affect you at all, unless you want it to.

If you don’t like violence, don’t read horror, crime, suspense, or any genre that generally includes violence.

Don’t like swear words? Don’t use them. If you can’t handle other people using them, you should probably leave the Internet. Bye.

If you don’t like the idea of Satan being a good guy, or Mary being a crack whore, or the savior of mankind being gay, then don’t read books that explore those themes. Read the cover before you buy. Easy.

I know some of you are having trouble getting behind what I’m saying here. It’s okay, I know I’m rambly. I’ll just make it real simple by sharing what occurred to me as I thought about all of this:

Finding reasons to be offended is actually kind of offensive. So, in doing the thing you think is cool, you’ve become not cool.

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Where the M Comes From

By C.M. Saunders

 

I’ve been doing this for a while now, and you may have noticed I use different names for different kinds of writing. For academic writing and more formal or serious stuff, I use my full given name. It looks more official. For sport, lifestyle and comedy writing, I use the slightly snappier moniker Chris Saunders. And for fiction, I usually use the name C.M. Saunders. There are practical reasons for doing this. I like to keep different facets of my writing career separate because it’s easier to get my head around. Besides that, the people who read my horror fiction would probably be deeply disappointed if they accidentally picked up one of my travel books, or the one I wrote about Cardiff City FC, and vice versa.

Over the years, a lot of people have asked me why I use C.M. Saunders, especially since I don’t actually have a middle name, and so no middle initial. It’s kind of a happy coincidence that my boyhood nickname was Moony. Because I have a round face, apparently. I guess it could have been a lot worse. There was a boy in my street called Dickhead. Anyway, no. That’s not where the M comes from. It’s not as straightforward as that. But there is a very good reason for it and for the first time in public, I’m going to reveal what that reason is.

It’s for my grandfather on my mother’s side. Firstly, he’s probably part of the reason I grew up to be so into the whole horror thing. He was a big reader, and would go to the local library a couple of times a week. This was back when libraries had books. Whenever I went to visit him and my grandmother in his bungalow at the top of the village when I was a kid, he would always have the latest horror novels lying on the table next to his reading chair. I was too young to read them, or even remember much, I just loved looking at those covers. Stephen King, James Herbert, Graham Masterton.

A little word about my granddad, or Pop as we called him. His name was Stanley Martin. Like my other granddad on my father’s side, he was a coal miner almost all his life. Proper old school Welsh. Being a miner was a hard life. He would delight in telling me, my sister, and cousins horror stories. Some were things that really happened to him or his friends, some were local myths or legends, and he probably made the rest up just to entertain us. The man was covered in little blue scars where coal dust had got into his cuts when he was underground, and he was still coughing up black shit twenty years after he retired. He met and married a Welsh woman called Lillian and they had three daughters, including my mother. All three daughters grew up and got married. As per tradition, when they got married they took the names of their husbands so pretty soon, the Martin name vanished. I always thought that was a bit sad, and when I started taking fiction a bit more seriously and was looking around for a pseudonym to distinguish it from my journalism, I thought using the ‘M’ initial might be a cool way to keep the name ‘Martin’ alive. He died a long time ago, and when he did his surname died with him. Now, every time I have something published under the name C.M. Saunders, it’s a silent nod to the man who introduced me to horror. If there’s a heaven, I know he’s up there looking down with pride in his eyes. Cheers, Pops.

 

61yusXRXjwLX3, the third collection of fiction by C.M. Saunders featuring revised versions of stories taken from the pages of The Literary Hatchet, Siren’s Call, Morpheus Tales, Gore Magazine, Indie Writer’s Review and several anthologies, is available now. X3 also includes two previously unpublished stories, extensive notes, and exclusive artwork by the award-winning Greg Chapman. 

Meet the airline passenger who makes an alarming discovery, the boy who takes on an evil troll, an ageing couple facing the apocalypse, a jaded music hack on the trail of the Next Big Thing, the gambler taking one last spin, and many more.

 

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?

 

Happy Halloween

by Steve Wetherell

 

I guess I was maybe five years old or so when my dog died. Her name was Sherry, a big loafy German Shepard who I assume was brought as protection, but whom I never recall even snarling. I had come down into the hallway on an ice white morning, barefoot in my pajamas, my parents not yet up. I found her lying there in a way that I must have known wasn’t natural. Her eyes were open, she had a dried trickle of blood on her nose. I suppose I must have been old enough to process this as ‘dead’ rather than ‘sleeping’.

I don’t remember being scared, horrified or even sad. I found my siblings and we told our parents. Then Sherry was taken away. It was just a thing that happened.

If I remember one emotion I attached to the event it was excitement. Let me explain, because I know that sounds pretty awful.

As a kid I was obsessed with the paranormal. Ghostbusters was my favourite movie, even though the librarian gave me nightmares. Thanks to a big sack of pirated VHS tapes and our parents often leaving us to our own devices, my brothers and sisters let me watch a whole host of horror movies we shouldn’t have. If you think the furry scene in The Shining is disturbing as an adult, try processing that shit as someone who is only a few years removed from learning where poop is supposed to go.

The night before the death of Sherry I’d been up with my brother and cousin, swapping tales about the White Lady. No, she wasn’t a pumpkin spice obsessed yoga instructor. She was a typical Victorian apparition of a long dead lady who had flung herself from a balcony. She was rumoured to haunt the private school my brother attended, but I later found out she was sort of a franchise operation, claimed by any old building with a balcony that wanted to jazz up their history. When I found the corpse of my dog, I didn’t process it as a natural death. I clearly remember exchanging hushed whispers with my siblings. It was the work of the White Lady. She had come in the night. Our dog had died protecting us.

This would similarly link up to the next time we saw a dog corpse. We were creeping around a junk yard, that same brother and cousin and I, when amongst the majestic piles of abandoned appliances and spindly old bikes, we saw a dog, lolling out of a pile of trash-bags as though frozen mid catch. Clearly this dog was another victim of the White Lady’s gaze.

I guess it’s understandable. I guess it’s just taking a big, complicated shape and squeezing it into something a child can hold in his head. What should have been at least a little traumatic became a jump scare in an ongoing game.

That obsession with the supernatural never really left me. I don’t believe in ghosts (except the brief moments when I do, before I remind myself I’m a 250-lb grown up with a Quarter 4 planning meeting early in the morning,) but I sort of want to. Maybe that’s just ingrained in me now. That when something awful happens, it’s because of something.

This is not a healthy habit, and I wonder how many other writers, comedians and creators have it at their core. That little part of you, in the midst of disaster, is already weaving this awful news into punchlines, blog posts and prose.

That thing that, when finding a pet dead on the floor, won’t let you stay with it. Is already licking the tip of its pencil.

I mean, that’s sick, right? That’s got to be some sort of obsessive compulsive narcissism? Or maybe it’s just sad, maybe it’s just a human looking through a window at a sky full of terrible void, and writing something distracting in the condensation. I dunno. It’s pretty scary.

Happy Halloween.