The Dollhouse of Nadine Earles

by Frank E. Bittinger

I remember being entranced many years ago by an article I was reading about a dollhouse built by a loving father for his little girl. In fact, the article had such a profound effect on me I cut it out and kept it pressed between the pages of a big, thick book for safe-keeping, taking it out to reread every so often. The article remained pressed between the pages of that book for nigh unto twenty years.

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Image of Nadine Dollhouse grave, Lanett, Alabama via Flikr

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After I’d bought my home in my late twenties, I eventually got around to doing what I’d always wanted to do–frame the article to hang in my office/library in my house. The picture hung on the wall from then up until 28 May 2008 when an arson fire destroyed my home along with my possessions.

Miraculously, after all the debris had been cleared away and contractors had worked on the house enough for me to move back home, I started finding some things around the house I knew had been destroyed in fire, finding them in places such as in the new upper cabinets in the kitchen, under the cushions on the new sofa, in the new bathroom medicine cabinet. I still to this day believe the ghosts tried to save things they knew held great sentimental value to me and brought them back to me, but that’s a whole different story for another day.

One of the items that made its way back to me was the framed article about little Nadine Earles and her dollhouse that had hung on the wall of a room that had been completely gutted by fire. The frame and glass were somehow intact. The article itself had a few water stains on it and it’s yellowed, but other than that it was in perfect condition. This is the framed article. It is doubly valuable to me because it is something from my childhood and because it somehow managed to find its way back to me after the fire.

Like Rosalia Lombardo, I also wrote a little bit about Nadine Earles in my book Angels of the Mourning Light.

The place is Lanett, Alabama. The year is 1933. Four year-old Nadine Earles has been hinting she wants a dollhouse for Christmas. In November, she was diagnosed with diphtheria. Her parents, Julian Comer Earles and Alma Earles, hoping to make her feel better, gave her early Christmas gifts of a doll and a tea set. But what Nadine really wanted was her dollhouse, which, unbeknownst to her, her father had already begun to build on the property.

Her father told her she would have to wait until Christmas, to which Nadine replied, in the true fashion of an expectant child, “Me want it now.”

Unfortunately, little Nadine would never get to play in her dollhouse. Weakened from the respiratory tract infection, she contracted pneumonia and died the week before Christmas, on 18 December.

Nadine Earles was laid to rest on Christmas Eve 1933.

Her favorite wanted to fulfill his promise to his little girl. He had the partially-built dollhouse moved to the cemetery. By the Spring of 1934 little Nadine finally had her dollhouse. Nadine’s dollhouse was built over her grave so she would always have it. And each year on birthdays and holidays her parents would place gifts they’d bought for their daughter inside the dollhouse. They even held Nadine’s fifth birthday there, celebrating with cake and ice cream.
Inscribed on the headstone inside:
“Our Darling Little Girl, Sweetest In The World
April 3rd, 1929 – December 18th, 1933
Little Nadine Earles
In Heaven We Hope To Meet”

Along with Nadine’s demand:

“Me want it now”

Visitors can still visit the cemetery and see it for themselves. Over the years different people and organizations have taken it upon themselves to see to the upkeep on Nadine’s dollhouse, cleaning, painting, fixing, and even decorating for holidays and occasions. Visitors come by, some stop to talk to Nadine, others leave notes and cards in the dollhouse’s mailbox.

Her mother and father are now buried in the little yard that surrounds the dollhouse, not far at all from their beloved little girl. Instead of a macabre tale, it’s a demonstration of the profound love a parent possesses for their child.

I have always wanted to visit Rosalia Lombardo in Palermo, Sicily, and Nadine Earles in Lanett, Alabama. Perhaps one day I will have the opportunity to do just that.

 

The Swearing Corner: Why Swear?

by Steve Wetherell

Swearing is fucking great. I mean, some people don’t think so, and that’s fine, but you can’t deny swearing has power. No really, you can’t, science fucking says so. Studies show that your pain management greatly improves when you swear. It’s purely psychological of course, you can’t just substitute the swear word with an angry noise and get the same effect. So, when you hit your thumb with a hammer, you call the hammer a cunt, and then throw it through a cunting window and then scream at your bastard wife when she asks you what the cunt you think you’re playing at.

Swearing has power, and that’s why it’s a useful tool for the writer. The right swear word at that right time can amplify a threat, lend further weight to despair, or sharpen the edge of spite. And that’s not even getting into the comedic potential, where a swear word can act like a punch line in and of itself (if you ever need to end a scene on a high note, have a sweet old lady say “piss flaps”.)

This is not to say, however, that a writer shouldn’t exercise restraint. Not for any kind of moral reason, but to increase the impact. Just like violence, sex and humorous ethnic comic relief, too much of a good thing can lessen its value. Saving your big guns for the right moment can give you some vital muscle when its needed, which might otherwise be lost in the static of a dropping an f-bomb every paragraph.

Of course, that’s no iron clad rule. Casual swearing can be hilarious, or it can set the entire tone of your piece. Think about any Tarantino movie, for example, or anything by Irvin Welsh. Your book may want to reflect a type of social environment where everything is expressed through enthusiastic genital references. That’s fine and perfectly valid.

You may, however, want to write a book where no on uses any foul language at all. It’s perfectly possible, I’ve done it myself (if you don’t count crap, bugger, arse and hog-shagger which… I guess are swear words, actually, now that I think about it.) But you will be depriving yourself of some of the most creative, historic and powerful words known to the English tongue. These words have weight and history, and no, I don’t mean internet puffery like “twat waffle” and “cum burglar”, I mean the classics. Stuff that goes right back to Chaucer. You shouldn’t be ashamed of them, or to admit they have power. Break ‘em out like a surgeon breaks out the bone saw now and then.

 Fuck it.

Five Thoughts with Renee Miller

  1. If we have lived past lives, and this reincarnation thing is true, I’m kind of worried about my dog. Do we remember our past life on some level and does it affect who we are and what we do in the next one? (Actually, this would explain a lot if it’s true.) But back to my dog. Sometimes he watches me like he knows things, and I’m all “Stop that.” He doesn’t, of course. Anyway, what I’m asking is; Have I ruined his next life with the shit he’s seen?

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  1. We only know our life through our eyes. Think about that. All you know, experience, etc. is only in your head and when you’re gone, so is your truth, because no one experienced these things the same way or saw what you saw and how you saw it. And even when you write it down, it’s still never going to be the same for anyone else, because they were never in your head, so they can’t see what you’re describing the same way you imagine it. I don’t like that idea.split.gif
  2. What if we’re just a giant science experiment? Maybe we’re just something cooked up by some advanced alien race in another universe. Like, we’re not even real. This whole life, planet, everything that’s happening is just a massive virtual reality thing and when we die, it’s because someone deleted our character file or worse—because we got stuck with someone who is shit at playing video games? Is that a book? If it’s not, it will be.

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  1. Ladyscaping is my least favorite thing to do, and yet I keep doing it. Who decided women should have no body hair and why did everyone else agree?angry.gif
  2. Sometimes I think I’d like to go back in time, but only if I can control where I go and who I get to be. I’d hate it if I was some medieval tavern whore accused of witchcraft or whatever, or worse, the girl who has to dump the chamber pots or give her warty, overweight lord a sponge bath. Gross. If I went back in time, I’d like to go way back, but as a wealthy (or at least titled) person, so I would have nice things and could boss people around and then wow everyone with the things I know. Yes, I’d totally mess with that shit. Screw you, time-space continuum or whatever I’d fuck up. We’d have plumbing way earlier. Bite me, Romans. And I’d find the bitch who started the ladyscaping thing and get rid of her before she fucks us all for the rest of time. Yeah. That’s what I’d do.evil-laugh.gif

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.)

Writer’s Block

by C.M. Saunders

For better or for worse (usually worse), I’m involved in a lot of groups on Facebook, Linked In and the like, where writers of varying descriptions flock together to discuss various aspects of ‘the craft.’ The one topic that crops up more than any other in these groups is writer’s block.

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            The thing is, and feel free to fight me on this if you want, but I don’t think writer’s block exists. It’s a myth perpetuated by hobbyists with delusions of grandeur. The kind of people who sit in the corners of cafes and coffee shops with expensive tablets and a skinny latte because ‘that’s where they do their best work.’

            You’ll find these pretenders haunting most establishments. The trendier the better. They’ll sit quietly, smoothing their beards thoughtfully, adjusting their beanies, and making a single hot beverage last three-and-a-half hours. A smug half-smirk will be tugging at the corners of their mouths, and if you listen carefully, you might be able to hear their inner thought process.

            I am a gifted individual. People envy me. I write, therefore I am. My words will change the world. But wait, no I don’t want to write any more. Right now I’d rather be checking the Ted Baker website to see if the new knitwear collection is available for pre-order yet. Yeah, that’s what I’ll do. Must be writer’s block. I’m a tortured artist! The angst! Oh, dear creative God’s, deliver me from this hell!

            I recently remarked to one of the many ‘WRITER’S BLOCK. AAARGH!” comments that clog up my newsfeed most days that, in my opinion, writer’s block is something that separates the pros from the pretenders. It didn’t go down very well with the supposed victim. I wasn’t being pretentious. The point I was trying to make is when faced with adversity, pros will find a way over, around, or through the obstacle preventing them achieving their goals. Whereas hobbyists, who would just as happily be doing something else anyway, will just give up.

            But here’s the rub. They don’t want to admit giving up so easily. That would show weakness, and a lack of integrity. So they pin the blame on something other than themselves instead. Something intangible and unquantifiable, some mysterious ailment that only the supremely gifted can suffer from.

            Writer’s block is a luxury professionals can’t afford. If they don’t write, they don’t eat and they get evicted. Simple. Have you ever heard of plumber’s block? Dentist’s block? Estate agent’s block? No? That’s because there’s no such thing. Sure, sometimes they have days where they don’t feel like going to work. Just like there are times when you don’t feel like doing the washing up, or changing the bed. That’s when you put your head down, grit your teeth, rise above it and get the job done.

            Just to be clear, I have no problem with people writing as a hobby. Quite the opposite, in fact. Generally speaking, I think the human race in general could benefit from reading and writing more. Then maybe a higher percentage of people would be able to spell and punctuate properly and we wouldn’t be such a nation of fucktards.

            One acquaintance of mine who complained of suffering from writer’s block said the only thing that alleviates the condition is playing video games, so he did that for three months. Three fucking months. Wait a minute, are you sure you wouldn’t just prefer playing video games? Because it sure seems that way. Incidentally, this writer was unpublished, and it’s easy to see why. I’m not knocking his ability. Who am I to judge? The guy might be a very good writer. Hell, he might even be the best writer who ever lived. The thing is we’ll probably never know, because when the chips are down, he boots up Halo. How many dentists out there do you think take three-month sabbaticals where they don’t work, they just play video games?

            I understand that maintaining writer’s block doesn’t exist might be a controversial view.  Message boards and chat forums, even the odd serious article or academic paper, argue otherwise. But what’s really happening here is people misdiagnosing the condition. Writer’s block is an excuse to give up when things get tough. Or, in most cases, an excuse to not do something you don’t even have to do in the first place. Some writers like to blame their inadequacies on things that are beyond their control. It makes them feel better about being fucking lazy.

            I want to leave you with this thought. Real writers write. They don’t sit around pissing and moaning about how hard it is. Those that do it on a regular basis know it’s hard. It’s not the exciting, romantic existence some people seem to think it is. If you’re not enjoying it, or you’re struggling with your latest case of writer’s block, the one that stops you from ever actually writing anything, go find something else to do. Don’t take to social media to bare your soul every ten minutes. It’s boring.

            If you want to be a professional, or at least acknowledged as such, act like one. Grow a backbone. Learn about sacrifice, resilience and endeavour. I’m sure Stephen King, Dan Brown and Robert Ludlum would love to kick back and spend three months at a time playing computer games, or watching Friends, or whatever the hell else floats their respective boats. But they don’t. If they did, they wouldn’t have written all those books.

            You see? Pros and pretenders.

Privately Publishing and Promoting Your Novel

By Frank E. Bittinger

            After you have written your manuscript and polished it to the best of your abilities, your attention turns to putting your novel out there for the public to read. Deciding to privately publish your written work, instead of or after you have submitted your manuscript to mainstream publishers, is arguably the second most important decision you will have to make in your professional writing career—the first being your decision to begin a writing career.

 Speaking as an author who has chosen this route, I know the effort that goes into researching private publishers, for there are literally dozens and perhaps hundreds out there from which to choose.

The biggest piece of advice I can offer you is to select a publisher who can make your book available to Ingram Book Group, the largest wholesale distributor of books in the world, because most book stores order product from Ingram instead of from individual authors or publishers. If one of your goals is to make your book available to chain stores such as Borders or Barnes and Noble, it is imperative for your chosen publisher to have the capability to make your work available to Ingram. This also gets your foot in the door when approaching book stores about scheduling signings for your novel, but we will talk more about that later. Amazon also offers a nice publishing set up and your work will be available on their sites worldwide.

My second piece of advice is to select a publisher who can offer you the total package. Watch out for those who will offer you a list of services—such as cover design, ISBN assignment, etc—priced individually as extras even if they claim the basic publishing is free. Request publishing guides so you can gain a better understanding about what the publishers have to offer you. And look for deals. Many times publishers will have incentives for submitting your work by a certain date. For instance, if you submit your manuscript by such and such date, providing it is ready to be submitted, you may get a bigger discount on copies or a certain number of copies free. And do not be afraid to ask the hard questions such as “If I am paying to have my cover art designed, do I retain the copyright or will I have to pay a royalty to the artist if I choose to use the artwork on publicity posters or postcards printed in order to promote my book?” (A hint about cover art or editing: Local colleges and universities are full of students looking for projects as part of their class work or work experience; seek them out!)

Take your time and do the research, get the most for your time and effort. It will be worth it.

If you find one or more publishers who look good to you, remember you have the ability to go to the bookstore or library to check out books they have published, to see firsthand the quality of the merchandise. Look at the binding, the quality of print and the paper on which it is printed, the dust jacket, and any and all artwork on or in the book. You want your published work to be something of which you are proud, as well as a book that will hold up to more than one reading.

Once you have made your decision and your book is in the process of being published, the next step is planning your battle strategy for promoting your novel. It’s never too early to begin promoting, unless you have not yet written the book.

Local newspapers and magazines are a terrific way to get exposure. They are usually interested in artists living in the community and may be able to offer you an interview or an article. Radio stations are also a viable option. Remember, you can offer one or two autographed copies of your novel as “give-aways” to the above-mentioned to sweeten the deal.

Bookstores are always on the lookout to host author signing events. This is why it is imperative to have your book available to Ingram Book Group. Don’t be afraid to go to bookstores and introduce yourself. Tell the manager or assistant manager you are an author, take a copy of your book with you, and you are interested in scheduling local book signings. Ask if your book is available for the store to order. Persevere, for every no you get, you will get a yes.

Libraries are also places which host author signings and offer a great opportunity for promotion. In most communities, when an author donates a copy of his or her book to the library, the local paper or magazine will print an article and perhaps a photograph.

Find out if there are any book clubs in your area. A good source for this information is the library and the newspaper. You will often see blurbs in the paper or flyers in the library for these events. Make your offer attractive to the book club, tell them you are available to come to the club meeting to discuss your novel and to answer any questions. Trust me, readers discuss the books they read with family, friends, and other people they know. My experiences with book clubs have proven to be enriching and worthwhile.

Offer to give readings: this is where an author will read excerpts from his or her work at events. This is an excellent way to intrigue people who may be walking by or merely browsing. Select what you believe are some of the best scenes from your book, ones which will capture the attention or imagination of your audience.

The biggest piece of advice I can offer about promotion and publicity is to network, get out there and get to know people. Hand out bookmarks and flyers, mail postcards, and, yes, even give away a few copies of your novel. Word of mouth has proven to be the most effective method of advertising and it’s free in most cases. The more people you have talking about your book, the more publicity you will have.

You can’t sit back and wait for it to happen. Be active.

Get your book out there—get the buzz going.

Filling Your Niches

 

by Renee Miller

Many of us here at Deviant Dolls write in what are called “niche” genres. A niche genre is one that appeals to a small, specialized reader base. So, unlike something like romance, which has thousands and thousands of loyal readers, our genres attract a fraction of that number. And traditional publishers don’t go gaga over such books. Yeah, they want you to write something original and new, but not too original or new. They need to have somewhere to put it. If they can’t find the shelf your book belongs on, it’s a marketing problem. Plus, a fraction of thousands is not as good as thousands. It’s risky. Publishers are businesses, so this is understandable. Frustrating, but sensible if you’re looking at things from their point of view.

Just wish they’d stop asking for all this newness if they don’t want it. *grumbles*

I’m joking. Mostly. So, why would we choose to write in genres with such limited sales potential? Well a number of reasons.

First, a niche genre doesn’t mean you won’t sell just as much as someone writing in a popular or “commercial” genre. I mean, consider how many authors are out there writing the popular stuff in the first place. Spread those many readers out across those many authors, and the numbers aren’t so staggering for individual authors.

Second, I’ve found that these niche genres have the most loyal readers ever. This means, if they like what you’ve got, they’ll keep coming back, because it’s hard to find what they like. And they don’t mind paying. There are a lot of readers out there who’ve grown accustomed to the freebie. They expect it. Nothing wrong with that. We writers have created that expectation, so it’s our own fault. However, fans of niche genres like bizarro, erotic horror, absurdist comedy, slipstream and the like, know that it’s tough to find well written books that appeal to them, so they see value in it. When a reader sees what you’re offering as valuable, the freebie thing becomes less important.

Third, it’s fun. The most exciting part of publishing today is that we can bend and break genre lines. There are a bazillion sub-genres out there, and authors are creating new ones every day. Are they going to be bestsellers? Probably not. I mean, selling is the really tough part of publishing. However, it doesn’t mean they won’t sell. You can experiment. Have fun with your settings, themes, characters, etc. This experimenting helps us learn and evolve, and eventually, find the genre (niche or otherwise) where we excel.

I love writing weird stuff. If it’s strange or uncomfortable, I’m your girl. I also love writing sex scenes. Is that weird? Probably. I love writing about themes that are uncomfortable and using bizarre characters or situations. The more “WTF” or “OMG, no!” a story is, the more fun I have writing it. I’m not much for the butterflies and rainbows or the happy ending. What I’ve written previously that includes such things was a chore to write. I struggled to make it be what I was told it should be to “fit.” Sometimes I love writing tried and true stuff, but my “muse” is only truly satisfied when I’m going to an extreme of some kind. I like being a little uncomfortable with what I’m writing. Makes me more productive.

At Deviant Dolls, we chose to embrace genre straddling (and genre breaking) authors, because we believe in fiction that challenges the reader to think in new ways. We believe entertainment is valuable and so is allowing the reader to escape into a world that asks only that they buckle in and enjoy the ride. We love readers who beg to be scandalized, horrified, and/or tickled until they wet themselves. Niche genres make it easy to do this. Maybe, one day, these niche genres will become part of the norm. (Exciting) It’s more likely they won’t. That’s cool too.

Because we’re always looking for new ways to keep our readers happy, we’re curious: What’s your favorite niche and is it being filled? (Pun intended, because puns area great.)

Check Out Our New Member

by Renee Miller

 

How’s your Sunday going? Lazy, I hope. Before I can get on with the lazy, there are updates to be posted. So, what’s up with the dolls? Well, we’re being disgustingly neglectful of this blog, but with good reason. We’re busy little bees. Also, everyone but me is kind of a jerk. (I’M JOKING FORBES. PUT THE MATCHES AWAY.)

First, say hello to the newest Deviant Doll, Frank E. Bittinger. Frank writes horror mostly, and he’s a tad eccentric. That’s how we like our dolls, right? Of course it is. Make sure to check out Frank’s book and stalk him a little. He likes that. He likes a lot of strange things, apparently.

What else? Well, Katrina Monroe (also known as Katrina Saete, because she got – ugh – married) FINALLY released her haunting Neverland re-telling, ALL DARLING CHILDREN in October via Red Adept Publishing. YOU MUST READ THIS BOOK. Get your ass and gear and do it.

Speaking of must-reads, Tony Bertauski has added another science fiction adventure to his list of only the best books ever. Humbug (the Unwinding of Ebenezer Scrooge) will be released on November 15th, BUT if you pre-0rder it, you’ll get it at the low price of just 99 cents. So what are you waiting for?

And Forbes West has also been doing things. Writerly things.  Like re-releasing his weird, but wonderful tale NIGHTHAWKS AT THE MISSION, via Auspicious Apparatus Press. Not only is his original story reworked, but there is bonus material you don’t want to miss. If you don’t buy it, he’s going to bitch and moan. We’ll have to tell him pretty things and hold him for a bit. Please, help us.

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Hanna Elizabeth has been quiet the past few months, but while being so, she’s released a haunting tale originally published in the FLYING TOASTERS anthology, titled THE MAN UPSTAIRS. A haunting little ghost story that’s perfect for a cold, dark night, as most are this time of year.

What’s what? Oh, that. It’s just Steve sobbing. He does that sometimes.

Speaking of Steve, I see you over there eagerly awaiting news about him, you frigging weirdo. If you haven’t already yet, check out his  Authors & Dragon’s podcast. HIL-ARIOUS. Steve is also working on new bookish things, but he hasn’t told us much about them yet. Stay tuned. Don’t worry, he’s only crying because he’s happy. Promise.

*Katrina, do something about him.*

The other funny-talking Doll, Christian Saunders, has a few short stories coming soon. Keep your eye on DeadMan’s Tome, because they’ll be publishing Christian’s SOMETHING BAD in mid-November. He tells us there is significant emphasis on black goo, so that’s intriguing.

And finally, there’s me. Well, I have a few novels “in progress,” such as a follow-up to Mind Fuck, called “Small’s Soldiers.” I know you’re all used to me publishing those rather quickly, but I’ve slowed down the past few months. Not because I’ve stopped writing. I’m just taking it easy and shit. By shit I mean I’m working on short fiction as well. Look for my latest, THE FRIDAY SPECIAL, on November 11th over at DarkFuse Magazine. It’s delicious, I promise.

I guess that’s all for now. Don’t forget to like our Facebook page for news, events and the occasional free goodies. We’re also planning a Christmas thing. It’ll involve festive days filled with little contests, freebies, new books, and possibly a virtual party. We know how you enjoy those. Stay tuned.

Mind Fucked: Meet the Nutters

Editor’s Note:

As many of you know, we’re planning a virtual party on Facebook on September 17th, to celebrate our new books and to thank you, the reader, for supporting us. Event details can be found here. To “gear up” for said party, each of the dolls have written a little bit about our favorite titles. And, just by reading and then sharing and/or commenting, you’ll be entered to win a free book. Don’t forget to TAG US via Facebook or Twitter when you share!

Today, it’s Renee’s turn. Up for grabs is a Kindle copy of MIND FUCKED.  And now, Renee’s going to introduce you to a few of the nutters:

When I started writing Mind Fuck, the goal was one thing: hilarity. I had a very loose outline but the character of Milo Smalls was fully formed in my brain. He was perfect. Nothing could change him. No ONE could change him. He was the star. No one else.

My problem was he was too awesome. I needed characters that challenged Milo and created the right kind of “foil” to make him shine. That meant they had to be way “out there.” All of the characters in this book are outside the realm of normal, which means the average reader is unlikely to have much in common with them. To solve this problem, I gave them quirks, habits and thoughts similar to the ones we hide every day. And then I exaggerated these traits, so they “seem” more insane than the rest of us.

The characters are what makes this book so awesome. (Not just in my opinion. Readers agree, so stop with the doubty face.) So let’s meet a few of them, shall we?

Rochelle Middleton

Also known as Doctor Death, Rochelle runs a therapy group Milo’s police captain sends him to. Problem is, Rochelle might be crazier than the people she’s treating. Her list of quirks:

  • Obsessed with cats. And I mean she LOVES cats. Collects them.
  • Control freak
  • Fears heights
  • Bumpy surfaces make her uneasy
  • Fears light bulbs
  • Believes if everything is perfect, then nothing will happen that she can’t control. The problem is, the more she tries to perfect her patients, the more out of control they become, and the stronger and more violent her desire to fix them becomes.

Andy Zunser

Andy is my daughter Kennedy’s creation. He has an uncontrollable urge to lick children. Now this isn’t based in sexual attraction. Andy simply has to lick children. The rest of his shit? Does he really need more? Fine.

Andy is also whispers all the time, and he’s extremely insecure. He desperately wants to fit in, but the licking makes that impossible. How many of us just want to fit in, but have something inappropriate or awkward about us that prevents running with the pack?

Ozzie Lemon

Ozzie is my favorite character next to Milo. I wanted him to be offensive, but funny. Someone that challenged Milo where the others only perplexed him. Ozzie is a little bit me, a little bit my father and (don’t tell her) a tiny bit Katrina Monroe. He blurts profanity as naturally as he breathes. He’s also intuitive, smart, blunt, and empathetic. The person people “see” on the outside, a rude, insulting dick-smack, is nothing like the real Oz. Few people would bother to find that out, because they let his “first impression” make up their minds.

  • Afraid of farts, because of a childhood prank gone horribly wrong
  • Dislikes the number 8
  • Compulsive gambler
  • Sorts everything by color and size

Estella Butler

Estella is infatuated with Milo. Her fear of fingers and being touched, is an exaggeration of one of my quirks. I hate feet. My feet, your feet, all the feet. When someone touched me with their foot, I feel irritated. Almost angry. A bare foot touching me? Ugh. Violent thoughts begin. Bare feet touching MY bare feet? I can’t even.

I gave Estella the same issue with fingers, but to a degree so intense, it affects how she functions in daily life. She bit off her own fingertips, for example. The rest of the group has to wear mittens just so she can focus. However, while Estella can’t stand fingers, she also has an overwhelming need to be loved. The aversion to fingers makes that extremely difficult. She lives in a constant state of anxiety. In addition to that, Estella also has a compulsive urge to rub whiskers and she believes dreams are really ghosts speaking to you. She doesn’t like ghosts.

Nina Fleet

Nina was supposed to be a love interest for Milo, but as both characters developed, I realized her promiscuity would spark Milo’s phobia of germs, which meant they wouldn’t work well together. So, she became a character who added color to the setting and other characters. Sometimes you need one of those. (Although she ended up serving a greater purpose later on) She seems extremely confident, but is more frightened little girl than highly sexualized woman (although this is the persona she presents to the world). Nina is a nymphomaniac and a hoarder with a really bad memory. She can also be a massive bitch, when she feels threatened. She symbolizes everything we’re told (as women) not to be, as well as the things we’re told we should be.

Buggy Flint

I guess you could say that Buggy’s phobias and compulsions mimic our struggle with what we know is good for us, versus what we desire despite that knowledge. Buggy’s fear of green is so intense; he wears special glasses that filter color, because he completely loses his shit if he sees it. Like, full on nervous breakdown. He also has an irresistible compulsion to gorge on broccoli, while fearing it because he knows it’s green. We all know how it feels to want something we know is bad for us, right?

Charlie Howard

Charlie was a last minute addition to the cast. I wanted a character that symbolized the annoying stereotype of the alpha male, but exaggerated to show how silly it is. And we got Charlie, who loves to put his dick in holes and lies because he just can’t help himself. He’s basic. Selfish. Thinks with his penis. Has to put it into whatever hole he can find, regardless of the danger it presents to his physical well being. He’s absurd, but charming.

He’s also afraid of toes and doesn’t like the sound a zipper makes.

Shamus O’Connell

We don’t see a lot of Shamus, but what we do see is definitely memorable. Shamus is a sensitive and trusting man. Like an overgrown child really. He tries desperately to overcome his compulsions, but in the end, the poor soul can’t resist the overwhelming urge to bite the heads off birds. At the same time, he loves them. So, while he wants to hold them, pet them, admire them, he also destroys them in the most horrific, unsettling way possible.

Milo Smalls

Finally, Milo. He’s a little bit of everyone I know and love. He’s exceptionally smart and intuitive, and he’s observant, mistrustful, honest to a fault, curious, and stubborn.

At work, his previous captain prepared a list to help future coworkers deal with Milo without any… awkward situations.

  • Writes ONLY with pens, because he doesn’t like the impermanence of pencils
  • Doesn’t trust technology: The Internet is an absolute “nope” and he loathes the cell phone he’s forced to use for work.
  • Loathes change. Routine is his best friend
  • Likes things in groups of three. Sees this is a good omen. Hates groups of two. Believes two means bad things are going to happen, and more than one group of two means that bad thing will be worse. Having one left over isn’t as bad as two, but it’s cause for concern, “because there’s one left over.”
  • Suspicious of gingers. His suspicion increases to uneasiness and even fear depending on the level of ginger. For example: Strawberry blonds are the least harmful ginger, giving him only a mild sense of unease, while bright orange gingers are the most dangerous.
  • Fearful of cats (most furry animals make him at least a little nervous, which stems from how dirty he believes they are)
  • Believes rap music is the cause of society’s slow but steady destruction and is like poison for our brains.
  • Feels uncontrollable rage in the presence of jelly donuts
  • Avoids long-term relationships. Is a little too impulsive when it comes to anonymous sex
  • Photographic memory, yet he still keeps meticulous notes on every case. Writes everything in notebooks (which are the same color, size, type, etc. If one is damaged, he rewrites it. If he can no longer buy the same type, brand, etc., he replaces all of the books)
  • Obsessive need for cleanliness. This is so severe, he won’t or drink from anything that is not disposable and packaged. (In other words: Only used once. By him.)
  • Dislikes nail biters and ankle socks.
  • Tweezers give him the heebs.
  • Despises bow ties.

You might think that these issues would make Milo a total shut-in, or it would at least inhibit his ability to solve crimes. Think again. Milo actually uses each of these quirks to help him solve cases. Those that he can’t, he bravely tries to overcome in the name of justice, proving if you feel passionately enough about something, nothing will hold you back.

Oh, look at me motivating the masses. I’m a good person.

I’ve left out Joy, James, and of course, Captain Cunt. You’ll have to meet them on your own.

 

Our Obsession with Darkness: Serial Killers

by Renee Miller

 

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It’s no secret humans have a sick fascination with death. As an extension of that, we are enthralled by serial killers. A twisted mind is intriguing. Inspiring even. I devour shows like The Following (LOVED Joe Carroll’s character), How to Make a Murderer, and Dexter—Oh. My. Fucking. God. Be still my little writer heart. What is it about these horrible, sick people that takes hold of a person’s mind and won’t let go? Well, I’ve pondered that a lot.

I write a lot of murder scenes. In my Milo Smalls series (Mind Fuck), the MC is a homicide detective with a nose for serial killers. So it follows that my Google searches are interesting to someone. How to get away with murder, mistakes killers make, weirdest way to kill a person… It’s all just research. Honest.

Maybe you’re like me, and your interest lies in what makes such a mind tick or why we’re drawn to them. Perhaps it’s the danger that attracts us. I don’t know. Fiction plays into this in a big way. Readers love that evil genius, who is borderline insane, strangely attractive, and desperately wants to get caught. But not all serial killers are geniuses, nor are they men, as many people believe. We imagine them as white males of higher than average intelligence, because it’s what we see in the media. Many of the killers who’ve become infamous are white men; Gacy, Rader, Bundy, Dahmer, etc. Finding a female serial killer is rare. You probably knew that, though. Is it because there are fewer women out there murdering than men? Perhaps. Statistics say that only one in six serial killers are female.  When I see that I think “Well, only one in six who are caught.”

And most of the time, I believe they do whatever they can to avoid getting caught. They don’t want to be locked up. They don’t want to stop. So they become experts at manipulation. They become adept at being invisible. They’re often pretty damn charming too. Sure, they might be a little weird. Creepy, even, if you get close enough to catch them with their guards down. But who would want to get that close? Not this girl. However, most of them know how to read people. They’re able to manipulate victims into situations they might usually avoid, after all. I mean who would expect this guy,

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Would turn out to be this guy?

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Who else is a little turned on right now? Just me? Moving along then.

Many serial killers are on the fringes of society. They may appear to be part of everything, but inside they’re not wired the same as us “normals.” And they know it. So they watch. Make notes. They use this information to blend in, to behave in a manner that keeps suspicion off them.So next time you’re all aflutter over that stranger’s winning personality and bedroom eyes, remember there’s no way to know who among us is harmless and who just got back from a skinning session. It’s not like they have a particular trait or physical characteristic that warns us. Many psychopaths are very much in touch with reality, and understand right from wrong so they do whatever they have to do to keep their activities a secret. They move around below our radar. Most are not reclusive, social weirdos. They don’t act strange and aren’t easily identified. They have families, jobs, and can be upstanding members of their communities, and do whatever is necessary to ensure they’re overlooked by law enforcement and victims.

And this leads me to another disturbing fact: It takes a lot for a serial killer to grab our attention these days. Sure, law enforcement is VERY interested, but the general public is all “Oh, you shot fifty people? Did you eat any of them? Make a skull headboard? Skin lamp? No?”

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“Ugh. Move along, Mr. Lunatic. We’re done with you.”

If a serial killer these days wants to be famous, or has a desire to be remembered, he’ll have to up the ante. Terrifying thought, but there it is. We reward the vilest deeds by almost fangirling them. It’s fascinating, thrilling even, to know every detail of their crimes. To stare at their images from the safety of our homes, look into their eyes for evidence of something, anything, that makes them different from you or me, and hypothesize what went so wrong this person would enjoy taking lives.

A sort of consolation prize for getting caught, I suppose, is that everyone learns who you are and what you did. Thanks to the constant bombardment of horrific images we see in movies, games, television shows and news reports, we’ve all become kind of blind to the stuff that used to keep us up at night. It’s almost like now they’re at our mercy if they’re seeking infamy. We need them to be truly horrific monsters. That way, we can rest easy believing Average Joe next door would never break in and wear our skin as a cape or fry up our liver.

What have we become? Relax. It’s normal to feel or think all of these things. Getting a thrill out of these stories doesn’t make you a bad person. It makes you pretty average. I mean, what makes a gripping story? Action, danger, dread, mystery, a hero and a villain… All of these things are present in serial killer stories, real or imagined. No wonder we’re captivated. We get to see the disturbing details of their lives, pick them apart, figure out what went wrong. We can determine how they kill, what they look for in a victim, and maybe, just maybe, protect ourselves from becoming another name on a list in some documentary about a serial killer.

And don’t feel bad for getting hooked by the “what if” factor either. You’re human. It’s normal to wonder (if only once) what it would be like to do whatever we wanted, society’s rules be damned.

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After saying all of this, I admit, I sometimes wonder if writers are guiltier of romanticising serial killers than the rest of the public. Maybe. We do like to dig inside the heads of people who live life on the fringes. But then, if readers didn’t love it so much, we’d be forced to find another way to grab their attention. Lucky for us, there’s always sex.

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For the foreseeable future, serial killers will hold a place in the dark recesses of our minds and hearts. We will continue to watch and wonder when one is caught. We’ll continue to obsess over those who got away. And some of us will still be here to write about all of it.