This Writer Crush Wednesday, I’m sharing a passage from a book I finally read last year. Yes, last year! But this excerpt is so good I’m still thinking about these few paragraphs months and months later. I’ll probably always think about them. They’re from Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina at the very moment Anna and Count Vronsky succumb to their passions. I won’t ruin it by trying to explain all that’s going on here. Just read.
He felt what a murderer must feel, when he sees the body he has robbed of life. That body, robbed by him of life, was their love, the first stage of their love. There was something awful and revolting in the memory of what had been bought at this fearful price of shame. Shame at their spiritual nakedness crushed her and infected him. But in spite of all the murderer’s horror before the body of his victim, he must hack it to pieces, hide the body, must use what he has gained by his murder.
And with fury, as it were with passion, the murderer falls on the body, and drags it and hacks at it; so he covered her face and shoulders with kisses. She held his hand, and did not stir. “Yes, these kisses–that is what has been bought by this shame. Yes, and one hand, which will always be mine–the hand of my accomplice.” She lifted up that hand and kissed it. He sank on his knees and tried to see her face; but she hid it, and said nothing. At last, as though making an effort over herself, she got up and pushed him away. Her face was still as beautiful, but it was only the more pitiful for that.
“All is over,” she said; “I have nothing but you. Remember that.”
This is how I want to write when I grow up.
What do you think of this passage?
Have you read Anna Karenina?
What writers have blown you away?
I stopped by Chat About Books with Kerry Parsons and answered a few questions about my writing process, naming characters, and other ramblings. Please check it out and subscribe to Chat About Books. If you’re an author or publisher who would like her to review a book or feature you on Chat About Books, I’ll leave all her links at the bottom of this post.
From the end of the movie Gift – Perry Farrell from Jane’s Addiction and Ice-T from Body Count duel it out with Sly & The Family Stone’s classic.
Don’t call me nigger, whitey
Don’t call me whitey, nigger
Don’t call me nigger, whitey
Don’t call me whitey, nigger
Well I was down, across the country
And I heard two voices ring
They were talkin’ angry to each other
And neither other could change a thing
Don’t call me nigger, whitey
Don’t call me whitey, nigger…
Originally posted on ScifiandScary.com
Christa Wojciechowski is just an awesome person. There’s no other word for it. She might write stories that utterly disturb me, but she’s great. She is, to date, the only author I actually correspond with on a semi regular basis. That says a lot. She’s written Sick, which I’ve reviewed here, and Sicker which I hosted a giveaway for. She’s got a talent for getting under your skin, and was the perfect person to write this piece on Why Psychological Thrillers Terrify Us. I hope you enjoy reading it, and high recommend you check out her books!
The Horror of Being Human: Why Psychological Thrillers Terrify Us
by Christa Wojciechowski
Horror books are scary because they trigger human beings’ most basic survival instincts: fear of creatures that might eat us, fear of the unknown, fear of the bogeyman, and fear of other nasty possibilities such as disembowelment or possession. It’s easier to face our fears by inventing monstrous archetypes because it’s “just pretend.” But the most terrifying monsters lurk within each one of us as life twists and shapes us by our experiences.
I’ve been told my psychological thriller series, SICK, is disturbing. I didn’t necessarily set out to frighten and disgust anyone. My goal was to tell the story of John and Susan Branch. I see their relationship as an exaggerated version of any marriage dynamic. Beneath the “honey-dos and sweetie pies” is a constant power struggle and insatiable craving for the beloved’s attention. At the heart of SICK is a romance that shows how two terribly f*cked-up people are trying to survive with their mental health issues.
The reasons behind their freakish behavior are desires we all share: safety, acceptance, unconditional love. I think that’s why readers understand John and Susan even when they hate to admit it to themselves.
One of my readers, a mother, felt uneasy when she associated John’s clutching neediness with her relationship with her toddler. Several readers identified with Susan’s resentments and frustrations about caregiving and the conflicting emotions between wanting a sick person to live and wishing they would die.
We all have a shadow side, and depending on what school of psychology you ascribe to, this side can be slightly different things, but what’s agreed on is that this darker side is lurking in our unconscious mind. We are either unaware of it, or we blot it out and ignore it.
Another reason I write about psychologically disturbed characters is because mental illness is present in my family, and losing my mind is one of my greatest fears. As a writer, I’m always analyzing and observing people. I pick up little clues in their body language and in their speech. They’ll flash their shadow side, exposing some selfish or childish trait or pattern that I recognize in myself. I wonder how easily I could end up like them. Are they aware of how crazy they sound? Will I know it if I’ve lost my mind?
That’s why it’s important for me as a writer to explore this shadow side through my characters. We must be vigilant of our true motivations, fears, and desires so they don’t consume us.
The reason books like SICK may affect readers on a deeper level than a traditional horror novel is because they expose this desperately hidden dark side. Underneath the bright and ordinary exterior of everyday life, people like my characters DO exist. We see parts of ourselves in each of them, and facing the inky void of our shadow side is the most frightening confrontation our conscious selves can imagine.
About Scifi and Scary:
SciFi and Scary is run by Lilyn G., a female with a serious love of horror and “hard” science fiction. I also have an almost obscene love for bad puns. Since the beginning of the year, including about 30 short stories, I have read 120 books according to my Goodreads Challenge for 2016. Pagewise, that comes out to 24,174 pages as of 11:39 p.m. on 4/8/2106.
So, you could say: I Read. A Lot.
Visit the site!
What do you think is scarier? Zombies, vampires, or your own inner demons?
For this month’s guest author, I’d like to welcome Christa Wojciechowski, a fellow horror/thriller writer who focuses on novellas. Her work can be seen in the series titled SICK and her book The Wrong David. Christa and I will be chatting about her writing process and her books. Let’s get to know Christa.
Do you ever come across a passage in a book that makes you stop and marvel at the genius of the writer? I’m going to be sharing my favorite lines with you on Writer Crush Wednesdays. I’m reading The Handmaid’s Tale right now. This is my first Margaret Atwood book and I’m astonished by her writing. I’ve selected an excerpt to share with you. Notice how skillfully she describes a face.
A little of her hair was showing, from under her veil. It was still blond. I thought then that maybe she bleached it, that hair dye was something else she could get through the black market, but I know now that it really is blond. Her eyebrows were plucked into thin arched lines, which gave her a permanent look of surprise, or outrage, or inquisitiveness, such as you might see on a startled child, but below them her eyelids were tired-looking. Not so her eyes, which were the flat hostile blue of a midsummer sky in bright sunlight, a blue that shuts you out. Her nose must once have been what was called cute but now was too small for her face. Her face was not fat but it was large. Two lines led downward from the corners of her mouth; between them was her chin, clenched like a fist.
The chin really got me. The description also says a great deal about the character’s personality.
Take notes, fellow writers! There is no doubt this is the work of a master.
The SICK Series has been dubbed as horror by quite a few bloggers and reviewers, but I’d never even read modern horror! I was curious, so one late night, I began investigating on the internet to seek out fellow female horror writers. That’s how I discovered author Carrie Green, who was kind enough to send me a review copy of her book. Here’s my review of her Top 100 Amazon Bestselling collection of short stories, Roses are Red.
Roses are Red: Not Just for Horror fans.
This book was like a dark chocolate sampler of Carrie Green’s writing. Each story is unique in plot and theme. Her writing is descriptive without unnecessary gore, and her characters are all too human, which is why they are so chilling.
Green gives us an impressive amount of information within the brief space of a short story without bogging us down with details. Not only does she cleverly reveal her characters’ flaws, we know exactly what motivates them.
A Long Distance Relationship starts off as a brutal murder, but becomes much more than a crime story. I found it tantalizing because you could view it as a ghost story or one where guilt executes the ultimate revenge.
A Lucky Human surprised me. I’m not familiar with scifi, and this turned out to be my favorite tale. Green’s vision of the future was realistic and believable, and the concept of the story was brilliant.
Cash Only focuses on one of my favorite themes, discovering the ugly truth about oneself and deciding whether or not to accept it.
What I found most charming about Carrie Green’s stories is the understated delivery of the denouement. It takes a minute for the complexity of the endings to sink in. When they do, you just sit back and go ‘Wow.’
Not only will horror fans love this collection of horror stories, readers of literary fiction will appreciate them too. I’m excited to read more of Carrie Green’s writing. It is a horrific pleasure to read.
Get your copy.
Connect with Carrie Green
Forest of the Lonely River
I used to want to be a painter more than I wanted to be a writer. As high school graduation approached, my art teacher encouraged me to look at art schools moved me up to portfolio classes, but I gave up before I got started. I didn’t see a future in it. How likely was I to make a living off of painting? I dropped art in my senior year so I could join a program that allowed me to leave school after lunch to go to work. I became an artist all right – a sandwich artist at the Subway. Glamorous, I know.
Now, my main character in The Sculptor of New Hope, Ona Price, has taken on my struggle as the aspiring painter. Me? I haven’t painted in years, but I was inspired by my friend. Her name is Fay Kambos and she is always on some creative endeavor. I decided to make painting this week’s artist date because giving up art is a source of regret for me. I had some potential back then. If only I had believed in myself, I might have done well.
Here is my first humble attempt at watercolors. I didn’t plan on what to paint. I didn’t use anything for reference either. I forced myself to trust my artistic intuition. I forgot the simplest of drawing techniques, but I kept going, curling my nose at it the whole time, trying to relax into some measure of enjoyment. I tried not to dwell on the fifth-graderishness of it. Do you know how difficult that was? You’d be amazed at what your inner voice says when you start taking dictation. Some of the thoughts that went through my head were:
- Ha! You don’t know what you’re doing. This sucks
- It’s watercolor. You’re supposed to leave white space. Duh!
- You should just crumble this up and throw it away.
I don’t even register them most of the time, but they are definitely sneering and sniggering whenever I create something. Now I know the culprit of my creative blockages.
I turned on music to distract me from the annoying voices. Soon, I began to stop thinking. I reached the place where I wanted to be. Not thinking, just doing. In the end, I’m pleased with my little scene. It’s no Van Gogh, but I made something out of nothing.
I did it. I painted.
But I wondered why the scene was so bleak. What did that say about my neglected inner artist?
I decided this forest would not be desolate, but fertile ground for the creative future. At the very last, I painted in the first few leaves as a sign of the new growth to come.
It goes to show you how self-doubt can kill you before you get started, but if you persevere through those negative feelings, you will create something – anything, and it’s yours. No one else could’ve created anything quite the same.
(And it just so happens that I had a breakthrough while writing the last of my SICK series. The artist dates already seem to be working!)
Keep writing, keep painting, keep dancing, keep the creative fires burning. Take your inner artist out on a date and hashtag it on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as #myartistdate so we can all share in the positive creative vibes.
I’ve begun reading The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. This book is a workshop to discover and recover your creative self.
All of us lose that dauntless creative spark as we get older, and I wanted to develop a creative lifestyle so that I would get into a better writing routine. I didn’t even feel creatively blocked, but now that I delve into this book, I realized I do have some rusty, old blockages and stale issues with self-doubt that need to be resolved.
I bought this old copy from Amazon. I like the worn-in magic of used books. I feel they hold some of the residual energy of the previous owner. The book is very spiritual and it’s also superstitious. I love its wide margins peppered with inspirational quotes. I’ve been using the extra space for notes, which is what I’m sure the author intended.
There are many exercises to do each week, but so far, I’ve only been doing what’s called ‘morning pages.’ They are three pages of stream of consciousness writing first thing in the morning. I thought this journal writing stuff would take up too much of my time, but I find that after I’ve done my three pages, it’s as if time moves more slowly. My head is less cluttered with aimless ruminations, and I have space to think productive thoughts.
I also started going on the ‘artist date.’ Scandalous, I know! This is a date you have with your inner artist to fill the creative well and trigger inspiration. You must be alone on this date – and it’s not setting aside a few hours to write/paint/create by yourself. It’s inventing some other activity that isn’t directly related to your work.
For instance, one week I watched and reviewed Bitter Moon. The next week, I gutted and refurbished the woman cave – my artistic haven. It can be anything from going to a garage sale to making an exotic recipe you’ve never tried before. I think it’s all about training your brain waves off the usual tasks to allow the unconscious processes time to gel.
I plan to give this copy away when I’m done with my journey. I hope to pass the creative spark and the notes along to another artist. This book has changed the lives of people all across the world. Artists form groups and go through the journey together. I will at least share my experience with you and pay it forward.
So, join me in my journey if you’d like to cultivate your creativity, and hashtag your posts on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram with #myartistdate so we can share in the creative cauldron!
May the artistic force be with you!
I’m sharing one of the best blog posts I’ve some across in a long time. Are you a fan of American Psycho? Read this piece by Jeremy Dyson about how well-written shock and gore fiction can and should make profound statements about society.
This year marks 25 years since the release of the controversial classic, American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis. I’ve read a number of articles online about how Pat Bateman has become such an iconic character and rehashing the themes of materialism that got the novel so much acclaim. Still, every article I read seemed to come up far short of explaining the impact that American Psycho should have had on the world of fiction.