Friday, July 29, 2011

On the Border

As some of you may know, I am hard at work on a very important project. One very near and dear to my heart. Borderlands is currently accepting submissions for their sixth anthology. What does this mean to me, exactly? Well it all started nearly 20 years ago, back when I was a whelp of a horrorfiend who hung out at the local library the way some kids will hang out at an arcade, and with equal ardor for the institution's stock in trade. Mostly, I was left on my own, widely regarded as "That scary kid" by the library regulars. Being 8 years old, a precocious little thing in pigtails and MoonDreamers T-Shirts, who lugged around Stephen King novels in a purple Tweetybird backpack and lingered in the horror and science fiction sections while most children were on the other side of the library, reading The Cat In The Hat and playing on the big wooden tug boat, most adults didn't know quite what to make of me. The exception to the rule was one of the junior librarians, Miss May. I do not know if that was her first or last name, I only wish I did so that I could thank her. Many an afternoon was spent in the staff break room behind the check out desk at the library with Miss May, a mug of coco for me, coffee for her while we discussed various literary topics. I always felt special, being allowed in that secretive area where others were not, like I belonged to some sort of exclusive club. I don't remember much about my dear friend, other than her brown eyes and hair and that she was a student at the local community college, but she meant a lot to me in the time that I knew her. She showed me that it was OK for girls to like horror, she treated me with respect and camaraderie, she never once talked down to me or acted like I was a freak, but most important of all was a gift she gave me, one I still have to this day and is counted among my most precious possessions. A copy of the first Borderlands anthology. It wouldn't fetch much on amazon, given that it's a little dog eared because I've read it so many times over the years that I could probably recite it from memory, my name is scrawled on the inside cover in big blue crayon letters (Actually, cerulean. What? It's my favorite color!)  and there are various stickers from Jem and The Holograms to Popples and generic Halloween ooglies all over it, but it means the world to me. It was my introduction to the rabidly amazing Poppy Z Brite whose work I would come to love, and who would become a role model for me in the coming years. Stories like John Shirley's "Delia and the Dinner Party" and Francis J. Matozzo's "On the Nightmare Express" have stuck in my brain, embedded there like little shards of glass, but above all what meant worlds to me, what I spent countless hours on, was reading Thomas F. Monteleone's introductions to each of the stories. The love he felt for pouring over submissions and discovering gold was evident, his pride glowed through his words. Many a youthful daydream was spent on imagining that one day he'd be glowing over having discovered me, my work, my stories. It was with that thought in mind that I wrote my very first horror story at age 9. It's been many years since then, and many, many more stories have been written, most of them better... I hope... but it's only been within the past few months that I've really begun to believe that I might have a shot at really for real getting published... and it's with that hope in my heart, and a fluttering in my chest that I cast aside all trepidation and fear and self doubt. I'm really going to go for this. All in. I've got to come up with something amazing, something perfect, something that will make Thomas Monteleone stand up from his desk and announce that he's found something new and wonderful, and something that will make Miss May, wherever she is, proud of the monster she played a role in creating.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Horrible Saturday Reflections/ Alyn Day on Writing

It's not often in our lives when we experience something truly impactful, something that picks us up, shakes off the dust, and allows the sharper lines of the framework underneath to come into view, but when we do have those experiences, we should appreciate them to their fullest extent. As you've probably guessed, I had a pretty significant experience recently, one that both inspired me and that helped reinforce the fact that this - writing - is something I was born to do.

This past weekend, I made the journey from Boston down to York, PA to attend a little something called Horrible Saturday at an amazing book store called The York Emporium. Now, as a lover of horror first, and a writer second, there are few things that can get my blood pumping like a good book store, especially a good used book store. Immediately upon entering, I was overcome. There were So. Many. Books. I could've spent days in that place, running my fingers over the spines of book after book after book, reading synopsis after synopsis, reveling in the smell of paper, ink and binding, the essence of the printed word itself. But that wasn't what I was there for. I was there to meet some utterly awesome, fantastic authors, hopefully get them to sign some of their terrific work for me, and gain some insight via the scheduled panel/Q & A session.

                                                    Brian Keene and I show some love! Photo by Susan Scofield.

The Q&A session was all that I had hoped and more. Listening to the quotable quintet of Brian Keene, J.F. Gonzalez, Kelli Owen, Bob Ford and Mary SanGiovanni, all of whom I've read and loved, and J.F., whom I interviewed on this very blog, was an experience that was well worth the trip on it's own. At one point, I of course posed a question to the panel. I asked them about memorable criticism they had received, in light of receiving some rather unpleasant feedback on my story The Lesser just prior and not really knowing how to deal with it. Mary SanGiovanni's answer will always stick with me - she compared writing a story to building a pretty car (leave it to the lovely Mary to describe a car as "pretty":)) and went on to say that criticism was like mechanics finding problems with the inner workings of the car, and that ignoring them wouldn't help the car's performance in the long run. I thought this was a very fitting analogy, and I've given it a good deal of thought over the past few days, on the drive home especially (and not just because I was *IN* a car). Changes are coming, my friends... And I am in search of some new mechanics.

One of the more impactful things that occurred over the weekend was a conversation with the incomparable Kelli Owen. If you aren't familiar with her work, you're missing out. Kelli is a fantastic writer with an amazing style that makes you wonder how it's possible that with a talent like hers, she's not more famous...yet. I'd offer to let you borrow my copy of her first novel, Six Days, but then you might damage or lose it and as it's not easy to come by, I'd have to eviscerate you and strangle you to death with your own intestines... but I digress. Kelli is as amazing in person as she is on paper, if not moreso. She's funny, engaging, amazingly insightful, and somehow manages to put everyone around her instantly at ease... but let's get back to that insightful part, shall we? I mentioned to Kelli, rather offhandedly, that I had never really felt like I fit in anywhere. Without missing a beat, Kelli responds with "Yeah, you're a writer." I opened my mouth to respond, but then I stopped. Just like that, she had cut to the quick. It was the sort of no nonsense, how-did-I-never-think-of-that answer that made absolutely perfect, concrete sense in my mind at once. It was like something that had always been just slightly out of place was clicked into where it belonged. All the little pieces just sort of seemed to make sense. Also, I was feeling all glowy over the fact that Kelli Owen called me a writer!

Over the coming weeks, you're going to notice some changes around here, if you're keeping up with the blog, that is. The stories I have posted will remain up just as they are now, but I won't be making any more of my work publicly available. This wasn't a decision I came to easily, after all, I don't write for the idea of earning money, I write for the joy of exorcising the demons in my head and pinning down a little piece of infinity that's all my own, and the most motivating thing for me is, has always been, and always will be an admiring reader, but I don't just want to wallow in unpublished obscurity my whole life, that's not a writing career, and not what I'm after. I want to be published someday. I want to walk into a book store or a library somewhere, maybe both, and see my name on something on one of those hallowed shelves. I want to sit in a dusty little bookstore somewhere, or maybe a convention, a line of people in front of me gushing about my latest work and asking for more as they give me their names and ask me to sign the things I've written for them. This is my dream, and with luck, dedication, and maybe a pinch of destiny, it will become a reality. Wish me all of these, my friends, and please don't stop reading.