Sunday, September 11, 2016

L. Andrew Cooper FIVE THINGS LEARNED WRITING PERITONEUM

By Peter Welmerink

 

Snaking through history--from the early-1900s cannibal axe-murderer of "Blood and Feathers," to the monster hunting on the 1943 Pacific front in "Year of the Wolf," through the files of J. Edgar Hoover for an "Interview with 'Oscar,'" and into "The Broom Closet Where Everything Dies" for a finale in the year 2050--Peritoneum winds up your guts to assault your brain. Hallucinatory experiences redefine nightmare in "Patrick's Luck" and "The Eternal Recurrence of Suburban Abortion." Strange visions of colors and insects spill through the basements of hospitals and houses, especially the basement that provides the title for "TR4B," which causes visitors to suffer from "Door Poison." Settings, characters, and details recur not only in these tales but throughout Peritoneum, connecting all its stories in oblique but organic ways. Freud, borrowing from Virgil, promised to unlock dreams not by bending higher powers but by moving infernal regions. Welcome to a vivisection. Come dream with the insides.


Five Things Learned Writing Peritoneum

Peritoneum is the second collection of my short horror stories. It’s new as of May 2016, but Seventh Star Press published it alongside a new edition of my first collection, Leaping at Thorns, in May 2016 as well. Since the new edition of Leaping has three previously uncollected stories, since I was working on the new edition at the same time as Peritoneum, and since the two books share some characters and other features, I end up discussing them together in my “Five Things.”

1. Traumatizing readers is risky business.

The first section of Bram Stoker’s Dracula—with Jonathan Harker in Dracula’s castle—is by far the scariest section of the book. The opening sequences of great horror films—think about Drew Barrymore biting it in Scream—put viewers on notice, saying, “Oh yeah, this movie goes there.”

With the principle of the Shock Start in mind, I arranged Leaping at Thorns and Peritoneum so that the story most likely to cause the biggest trouble comes first. In Leaping, it’s “Charlie Mirren and His Mother,” which is about cannibalism and a mother-son relationship, and in Peritoneum, it’s “Prologue: The Family Pet,” which is about a boy whose older brother tortures him via their pet dog. These stories still bother me when I read them. They’re vicious. They go there, and there is a place most people are afraid to visit.

To start with a bang, or at least a solid hook, is advice-for-writers that is darned nigh unquestionable, but something that happened with Leaping is making me pretty paranoid about both the re-release and the new book. With Leaping’s first release, all of “Charlie Mirren” ended up as the free preview on Amazon. Not only did that make public the story I most want to keep out of the hands of kids (it’s 18+ or a reason!), but it also risked letting readers get shocked without having anymore pages to turn. In a movie with a Shock Start, the viewer just sits there, and the rest unfolds. When readers have to make the physical effort of turning pages—or worse, actually buying the book—while in a state of shock, horror, and repulsion, will they?

Reviews of Leaping’s first edition suggest that at least reviewers enjoyed the horror of “Charlie Mirren” and kept going. Will the same happen when reviewers and other readers react to horrors of “Family Pet” and Peritoneum? Will readers be traumatized enough to get the story but not so traumatized that they stop reading? With my extremely horrific Shock Starts, I’ve learned that one of the biggest fears I’m creating rests with me. I’m afraid all the hard work I did to be shocking will end up toasting my readership!

2.The short story, as a kind of writing, is changing.

As I put together Peritoneum, I kept reading articles and social media posts about the changing shape of fiction, not just the usual dire predictions about the death of literature (which people have been heralding for about a century), but about how new reading styles are much more accommodating of shorter forms, the kind of writing people can digest in single sittings (the ride to work on the train—a short story) or other relatively brief periods (the plane ride or weekend getaway—a novella). A lot of the writing from big presses designed to meet the demand for quick consumption, i.e. the “big” short stories and novellas, seem to me to be as formulaic as a lot of television, designed to be enjoyed thoughtlessly and forgotten because it follows a pattern of character and plot development that is familiar to everyone.

I like some formulaic TV, and I like some formulaic writing, but as a creator, I don’t find the mass production of predictable and disposable work very attractive. I am, however, excited

about The Short Story and The Novella becoming more important forms, because that means the forms can evolve. For example, a key to marketing plans for novellas is to publish them in series—we may see a return to serialized stories in a fashion that hasn’t really been popular since the age of Charles Dickens. While that’s not what I did with Peritoneum… and while I’d really prefer for people to read it the new old-fashioned way, as a longer book… serialization’s interconnectedness still fits with the way I think because my stories almost all end up connecting to each other somehow. Although some of the connections are very hard to see, each story in Peritoneum connects to at least one other, and they connect to many of the stories in Leaping at Thorns as well—in fact, there are details in Peritoneum that tie together previously unconnected stories in Leaping at Thorns. I find interconnected patterns, repetitions, and mutations irresistible.

Paranoia is all about making connections, real and fictional, and I write about a lot about paranoia. With new emphasis on smaller, connected forms of writing, we may be coming upon a proliferation of new fictional connections, a scenario ripe for my kind of horror!

3. Those rights have probably already reverted.

The first edition of Leaping contained nothing but previously unpublished work, but for the second edition and for Peritoneum, I wanted to use a few stories I’d placed elsewhere, so
for the first time, I had to worry about whether I had the rights to my own short fiction. I of course couldn’t find the contracts I’d signed for a couple of stories several years ago, and since rights never seemed to revert in my academic publishing experiences, I looked up the editors of the magazines where I’d published, and I contacted them. They were very nice to me, but I figured out that the mere suggestion that the rights wouldn’t have reverted to me years ago was a bit preposterous. You see, except when explicitly negotiated terms stipulate otherwise, such reversions of rights should be standard features in publication contracts… at least in the fiction-writing world. I was nowhere near taking this point for granted, and I don’t think a writer should take it for granted: read your contracts! However, I should have been more mindful of the industry norms when I made inquiries. I also should have been more confident that my previous deals with good magazines and anthologies had left me in a workable position!

4. Working directly with a cover artist rocks.

Aaron Drown Design (http://www.aarondrowndesign.com/) did the covers for the new Leaping, for Peritoneum, and for Reel Dark, a book I co-edited with Pamela Turner. I’ve had a range of experiences with cover art. For my first book, I didn’t see anything related to the cover until friends told me it was up on Amazon. For another book, the publisher showed me and the co-editor a series of options their designers had come up with, and we got to rank them. Most of my books have involved buying images from artists or photos from archives and then cooperating with the publisher on design. Aaron Drown took a look at some suggestions and mock-ups and went to work, creating all-original art, and the results are, I think, gorgeous (if you’re like me and can think of Peritoneum’s depiction of fortressed viscera as gorgeous!). Although Aaron gets the most credit, the work was collaborative enough to make the vision feel shared… although far more beautiful than I imagined!

5. The small press is a big workshop.

Peritoneum is horrific and nasty stuff, traumatizing, which is its own kind of reward for horror fans, but also bizarre fun that gets downright silly at times—you can’t take an army of supernatural lizards invading Louisville’s popular 4th Street Live nightspot too seriously, after all. Putting together such a risky, weird book, in the category of what some people are calling “transgressive fiction,” isn’t an experiment that a lot of publishers could stomach. Seventh Star Press gave me a long leash to do what I wanted with this book.  As a result, I felt free to craft what I wanted to craft, to do things that I know some people won’t like.
Gosh, I hope a lot of people like what I’ve done, but I don’t want to please everyone. Once upon a time, creativity was about challenging dominant tastes, and horror was about shocking people out of their complacency… but contemporary mass marketing has created an impossible push to try to please all the people all the time. Seventh Star Press understood up front that I wasn’t going to do that, and I think my work is better as a result.

While SSP is emblematic of what I’m talking about, it’s true of other smaller presses, too: they’re where freedom and creativity are right now. Looking at the tables at big writing conventions, I see offerings from big and small houses side by side, and the big houses all seem to be offering the latest work from or inspired by an artist or character or monster who’s been around for a very long time. Don’t get me wrong—new ideas do land in big houses, and big houses’ distribution and marketing are super. Big the big kids lack the courage of their musculature. They take their cues from the wee folk.

So if you’re with a small press, maybe you’re in Renaissance Italy. Maybe you’re at the forefront of reinventing the short story or the novella, or of finding e-book hybrids of novels and comics, or something else. Build a partnership. Try something new. Create!


AUTHOR BIO
L. Andrew Cooper scribbles horror fiction: the novels Burning the Middle Ground and Descending Lines as well as collections of experimental short stories Leaping at Thorns and Peritoneum. He also co-edited and contributed to the anthology of grown-up fairy tales Imagination Reimagined and the new anthology Reel Dark: Twisted Projections on the Flickering Page, set to become the first of a series about the dark, dangerous pleasures of the cinema. His study of film, Dario Argento, examines the maestro’s movies from the 70s to the present. Cooper’s other works on horror include his non-fiction study Gothic Realities as well as his co-edited textbook Monsters, which span from eighteenth-century Gothic through Universal’s classic films, and he has in recent years published essays on Cabin in the Woods and A Serbian Film. His B.A. is from Harvard, his Ph.D. from Princeton. 

Find his work at www.amazon.com/author/landrewcooper.  

Additional links: www.landrewcooper.com, www.facebook.com/landrewcooper 


Thursday, August 4, 2016

We've got a new home! The Seventh Star is now live at a new location!

We will keep this location as an archive for all of our previous posts and activities, but from here forward we have a new location to invite you to!  The Seventh Star, the official blog of Seventh Star Press, is now located at:


With the change in location, there are also new improvements and content!  We will have regular columns on a variety of topics, featured guests and still bring you the press' news and announcements. 

Go check out the new home and bookmark it!  Lots of exciting things ahead! 


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

New YA Steampunk Available Today with J L Mulvihill's Rails West!

Seventh Star Press is proud to announce that J L Mulvihill's latest YA Steampunk adventure, Rails West, book three of the Steel Roots Series, is now available in print and ebook formats!  Direct links to different versions are below.



eBook Versions: All priced at $2.99





iTunes (will be live shortly)


Print Version







Synopsis of Rails West“The System Regulatory Unit has determined that the responsible parties of last week’s explosion in Downtown St. Louis are none other than the notorious Abigail Steel and her band of pirates. She is wanted for questioning regarding numerous acts of rule breaking against the System. She is considered armed and dangerous and should not be approached but informed upon at once.”

Not only is her name misspelled, but the System has her description all wrong because AB’Gale Steel is not a criminal. She just wants to find her papa and now she feels she is so close, but will the System catch her before she finds him? And what about the marks on the map the old hobo gave her? What was Papa doing in all those places? Why is the System so concerned about Bishop Steel and his daughter? Are the people of America seething with frustration? And is there an insurgency boiling beneath the surface?

All the answers lie within Rails West.


About J. L. Mulvihill:  A California native born in Hollywood, J.L. Mulvihill has made Mississippi her home for the past seventeen years. Her debut novel was the young adult title The Lost Daughter of Easa, an engaging fantasy novel bordering on science-fiction with a dash of Steampunk, published through Dark Oak Press in 2011.  The sequel to this novel is presently in the works.

Her most recent novel, The Boxcar Baby of the Steel Roots series, was released in July 2013 through Seventh Star Press. Steel Roots is a young adult series based in the Steampunk genre and engages the reader into a train hopping heart stopping adventure across America.

She is also the co-editor of Southern Haunts; The Spirits That Walk Among Us which includes a short story of her own called Bath 10, and a fictional thriller involving a real haunted place. Her poem, The Demon of the Old Natchez Trace, debuts in Southern Haunts part 2, Devils in the Darkness.

J.L. also has several short fiction pieces in publication, is very active with the writing community, and is the events coordinator for the Mississippi Chapter of Imagicopter known as the Magnolia-Tower. She is also a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), Gulf Coast Writers Association (GCWA), The Mississippi Writers Guild (MWG), as well as the Clinton Ink-Slingers Writing Group.

J.L. continues to write fantasy, steampunk, and poetry and essays inspired by her life in the South.  You can find some of her short stories at

Dark Oak Press www.darkoakpress.com

as well as

Seventh Star Press www.seventhstarpress.com

and at her websites:

www.elsielind.com

jlsbooks.blogspot.com/

home.comcast.net/~mulvijen/site


Thursday, July 21, 2016

Cover Reveal for JL Mulvihill's new YA Steampunk Novel Rails West! Book Three of Steel Roots!

Seventh Star Press is proud to reveal the cover art created by Anne Rosario for Rails West, the third installment in JL Mulvihill's amazing YA Steampunk Series Steel Roots!



Out July 26th in eBook formats and July 27th in print, Rails West is the conclusion of the trilogy that began with The Boxcar Baby and continued with Crossings.


About Rails West:
The System Regulatory Unit has determined that the responsible parties of last week’s explosion in Downtown St. Louis are none other than the notorious Abigail Steel and her band of pirates. She is wanted for questioning regarding numerous acts of rule breaking against the System. She is considered armed and dangerous and should not be approached but informed upon at once.” Not only is her name misspelled, but the System has her description all wrong because AB’Gale Steel is not a criminal. She just wants to find her papa and now she feels she is so close, but will the System catch her before she finds him? And what about the marks on the map the old hobo gave her? What was Papa doing in all those places? Why is the System so concerned about Bishop Steel and his daughter? Are the people of America seething with frustration? And is there an insurgency boiling beneath the surface?

All the answers lie within Rails West.


About JL Mulvihill: A California native born in Hollywood, J.L. Mulvihill has made Mississippi her home for the past seventeen years. Her debut novel was the young adult title The Lost Daughter of Easa, an engaging fantasy novel bordering on science-fiction with a dash of Steampunk, published through Dark Oak Press in 2011. The sequel to this novel is presently in the works.

Her most recent novel, The Boxcar Baby of the Steel Roots series, was released in July 2013 through Seventh Star Press. Steel Roots is a young adult series based in the Steampunk genre and engages the reader into a train hopping heart stopping adventure across America.

She is also the co-editor of Southern Haunts; The Spirits That Walk Among Us which includes a short story of her own called Bath 10, and a fictional thriller involving a real haunted place. Her poem, The Demon of the Old Natchez Trace, debuts in Southern Haunts part 2, Devils in the Darkness.

J.L. also has several short fiction pieces in publication, is very active with the writing community, and is the events coordinator for the Mississippi Chapter of Imagicopter known as the Magnolia-Tower. She is also a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), Gulf Coast Writers Association (GCWA), The Mississippi Writers Guild (MWG), as well as the Clinton Ink-Slingers Writing Group.

J.L. continues to write fantasy, steampunk, and poetry and essays inspired by her life in the South. You can find some of her short stories at

Dark Oak Press www.darkoakpress.com

as well as

Seventh Star Press www.seventhstarpress.com

and at her websites:

www.elsielind.com

jlsbooks.blogspot.com/

home.comcast.net/~mulvijen/site

Monday, July 18, 2016

Elements of Storytelling—The Flaws of Mass Effect 3 (or How Not to End a Story)

If you haven’t heard the controversy to the ending of Mass Effect 3 by now, then you’re just not a gamer—or you don’t waste as much time on YouTube like I do.
But studying the ending to this otherwise masterpiece of video game based interactive storytelling can be extremely helpful, because you will then know what not to do when it comes to endings. And knowing what not to do can be more valuable than knowing what to do.
For starters, the ending suffers from a bad lack of clarity. Most gamers were left confused over what was really going on. After Harbinger decimates Hammer Squad likes it’s nothing, and then just leaves like a pimp after assuming everyone’s a corpse, and Shepard wakes up badly wounded struggling to his feet, my own first set of questions popped up:
1) What the hell happened to my cool personalized and modified armor? Why is he (or she if, like me, you played “FemShep”—What? Did you think I was going to look at a man’s butt for 50+ hours?) suddenly in a badly beaten and burned version of the standard N7 armor he started with at the game’s beginning?
2) Where’s my rockin’ awesome Widow sniper rifle? Why is it that the only gun near him in the whole death field just happens to be the worst handgun in the Mass Effect universe? I might have even been okay with the ending(s) if I hadn’t had to die fifteen times to three wimpy Husks and one wussy Marauder because my gun sucked and Shepard’s crippled ass couldn’t aim steady! That’s a whole lot of work to go through for just a “meh” set of endings with no resolution.
3) Oh. AND WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED TO MY TWO SQUAD MATES! One second they were with me, and then suddenly gone, disappeared, no where to be found, not even two dead corpses.
4) After getting beamed up onto the Citadel and having to deal with the Illusive Man (which was actually the only part in the entire ending that seemed to have been handled well), and Shepard’s nearly bled out, do we suddenly get dumped with a Deus Ex Machinae in the form of a ghost boy calling himself the Catalyst who then gives Shep three choices on stopping the Reapers, all of which ends up in his death (well, except for the “perfect” ending in the Destroy option, where it shows him taking a gasp of breath even though the Destroy option was supposed to destroy all synthetics and Shep is half synthetic. And for the record, I didn’t pick the Destroy option. Screw the organics! I ain’t killing off the Geth and EDI just to take out the Reapers, not when other options are available, you heartless psychopaths!).
And those are just a tiny tiny sample of the almost infinite amount of questions the ending left you with.
And that is the true problem with the ending before it got “fixed” with an extended cut that finally fixed some of the plot holes and offered resolution, but still leaves you stuck fighting off the husks and marauder with the crappy gun and non-modified armor. It wasn’t that Shep died (now he only clearly dies in two of the endings). It wasn’t because you were left with only “three” choices. It wasn’t even that annoying ghost boy I wish I could shoot (which I now can but….). It’s because no matter how it ended, the plot holes were still glaringly obvious. And they wouldn’t have even been noticeable by most if the ending had been done well.
And it all comes down to the editing. Vital parts were missing, parts that might have provided the needed clarity. I could see what they were trying for, and I even applaud the attempt. And if it had been done correctly, fans would have been arguing over the philosophic merits and flaws of the ending instead of…well, it’s fictional structure. They managed to keep the players in a suspension of disbelief all the way through 90+ hours of gaming, only to completely break that suspension in the last five minutes of it.
If anything proves just how important the ending to a story can be, ME 3 shows it with perfect clarity.
A couple months ago Bioware came out with a free DLC that provided an “extended ending,” adding cutscenes and dialogue to help bring more clarity to what actually happened (Was Shepard being Indoctrinated and it all was just a dream? Did it really happen, and the galaxy really is that screwed? And how did the Mass Relays blow up without destroying all the star systems they’re in like what happened when Shep walloped a Mass Relay with an asteroid in “The Arrival” DLC? Or was it a bizarre combination of real events mixed with Shep hallucinating from an Indoctrination attempt by Harbinger? And where the hell did Harbinger go?!).
While they did manage to pull it off to some extent. I still wondered at first if the damage was already done, and there was no going back? No more suspension of disbelief? But what I discovered with the extended ending was that, yes, suspension of disbelief can be returned with a good enough fix, but I still haven’t stopped caring about being stuck with the crappy gun and not having my cool armor anymore. I’m just willing to set that part aside now.
Personally, I think they should’ve gone with this ending. After all, why not? The damage is already done anyhow.
So let this be a lesson to all storytellers, no matter the medium they tell their stories in:
Never, ever, ever screw up the ending.
And always, always give your audience the resolution they need.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Brick Marlin's New Science Fiction and Horror Novel Ozarium Now Available in eBook Format!

Brick Marlin's Ozarium, a brilliant blend of science fiction, horror and dark fantasy that is the second release in his Transitional Delusions Series, is now available from Seventh Star Press!  Featuring illustrations by Enggar Adirasa, Ozarium is the follow-up to Brick's highly-acclaimed Shadows Out of the Sky! 


Direct links to eBook verions.  All priced at $2.99






Synopsis of Ozarium: The Shift of the world transitioned without delusion. The Reckoning has molded a brand new world, beginning with a colony ran by a large corporation called Slader Corp which invents a bizarre lottery, randomly choosing a winner, awarding him or her with infamous amounts of BodyKredd to spend nearly however they wish; though, in turn, surrendering their bodies to the demi agents when they come calling. 

But what happens when a child wins the lottery?


About Brick Marlin: Brick Marlin has been writing since he was a child. From an early age he was exposed to older, original horror movies. The great ones that have made a mark in history. He also tackled reading the likes of Stephen King, Clive Barker, Ray Bradbury, Kurt Vonnegut, Dean Koontz, Charles Dickens, Harper Lee, H.G. Wells, W. W. Jacobs, etc. Thus, he decided to engage himself and write horror and dark fantasy, scaring readers such as his parents, his friends, a handful of neighbors, and even leaving a few school teachers scratching their heads wondering if the boy should be committed or not with his gruesome tales of terror. Short story ideas continued to visit. A book idea or two sometimes stopped by for a sit. In 2007 he decided to take a more professional approach with his work. Hence, as a member of the Horror Writers Association, already having five books published by small presses with one more in the works coming soon, nearly twenty-five short stories published, adding to the few anthologies and collaborations with other authors, Brick Marlin trudges onward, hoping to achieve more creations, living in the minds of his characters making decisions such as whether to turn the knob and enter through the Red Door, or perhaps try and take a chance at the Blue Door, the one that is already ajar, a bony finger beckoning the next visitor. 



Married to the best woman in the world, she allows him to tuck himself away inside his office, donning his Anti-Literary Gremlin helmet, and produce his bizarre tales.


Be sure to pick up Brick Marlin's Shadow Out of the Sky, the first book in the Transitional Delusions Series, too! 


eBook links: 











Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Restless Spirit, the latest Tipsy Fairy Tale Release from E. Chris Garrison, Available Today!

Seventh Star Press is proud to announce that Restless Spirit, the 2nd Book in the Tipsy Fairy Tales from E. Chris Garrison, is available today!  With a blend of the paranormal, thriller elements, humor, and contemporary fantasy, Restless Spirit will delight readers who enjoyed the first book in the series, Blue Spirit! This release also includes 2 new illustrations by Anne Rosario! Direct links to eBook and print versions are below the cover art here:


eBook Links (all eBook versions are $2.99)





Print Links





Synopsis: When Skye McLeod is asked by her pal Phil Jenson if she wants to cosplay at his game company's booth during Big Con Weekend—and get paid for it—she jumps at the chance. Besides, Skye’s hit a rocky patch with her girlfriend Annabelle, who wants her to stop drinking and act more responsibly.

Then Skye gets a call from paranormal detective Rebecca Burton for another job; something big is going on at the convention, and she needs Skye to be her eyes and ears there. So now Skye’s getting paid to have fun—twice!

Then The Night Duke, a creep from Skye’s live role playing days, shows up and uses some weird mojo, seemingly turning pretend zombies into real ones. After barely escaping an attack, Skye learns the fairies and trolls within the magical realm are getting restless, and her old friend, the Transit King, is in the middle of it.

Skye decides to once again enlist the aid of her fairy companion “Minnie.” For Skye to enter the magic realm, she needs to get tipsy. Then she’ll just have to control the powers within her and contain the outside forces that threaten to spin into chaos. How can she possibly screw this up?

Book Two of the Tipsy Fairy Tales Trilogy



About the Author: E. Chris Garrison writes fantasy and science fiction novels and short stories. She used to publish as Eric Garrison, but has since upgraded.

Her latest series is Trans-Continental, a steampunk adventure with a transgender woman as its protagonist. Chris’s supernatural fantasy stories include the Road Ghosts trilogy and the Tipsy Fairy Tales published by Seventh Star Press. These novels are humorous supernatural fantasies, dealing with ghosts, demonic possession, and sinister fairy folk.

Her novel, Reality Check, is a science fiction adventure released by Hydra Publications. Reality Check reached #1 in Science Fiction on Amazon.com during a promotion in July 2013.

Chris lives in Indianapolis, Indiana, with her wife, step-daughter and cats. She also enjoys gaming, home brewing beer, and finding innovative uses for duct tape.



Monday, June 20, 2016

Elements of Storytelling—Symbolism, Redux (or how to get it Right)


Handling symbolism in fiction can be pretty tricky. But when done right, it can enrich your fiction in wondrous ways. Throwing it in just to have it in there can be done, but I don’t recommend it. If a certain line from a famous poem keeps showing up, then it better damn well have a connection to the story’s plot or theme, or to a main character. Otherwise, it’ll just be redundant and annoying. 

You also have to avoid the danger of getting too esoteric. After all, it’s pointless to fill your book or film with hidden messages if it goes over the head of the majority of your audience. But then again, if even one person in the theater during a showing of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen jumps up and yells “Jesus Christ has chrome!” when Optimus Prime is brought back to life, then maybe you did your job right after all…

Symbols are also good for foreshadowing later scenes. Like the old saying goes: if you show a gun on a table in Act I, then it better get used by Act III—or something like that. The point is symbolism needs to be more than just symbolic; it needs to fit within the overall structure of the story. Otherwise, all you got is useless fluff. And nothing in your story should be useless—ever. If you like useless, then go write literary and call yourself an aaaaaahhhhtist. Or better yet, learn how to write a real story so you don’t have to.

So yeah, symbolism is cool (Hehehehe, yeah! Cool!). But only when it isn’t overdone and only when it actually matters.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Elements of Storytelling—Symbolism and Iconography in Fiction


While a lot of what I mention is self-evident, I’m actually including source references with this article due to the, ahem, “touchiness,” of some of the symbolic aspects that I mention. So, yeah, you’ve been warned:

Symbols are everywhere, and we are only beginning to understand the full psychological effect on the human psyche. Why are people attracted to certain colors?1 What’s up with the color black always being viewed as a sign of evil or masculine aggression? Why did the Cross (which exists in many forms, like the Egyptian Ankh) give people a sense of protection even before the Christian era?2 And what does all this have to do with writing fiction?

Long before writing and language became the dominant form of communication, ancient humans used to paint symbols onto cave walls to communicate vital information to the rest of their tribes, like the best food to hunt and where to find it.3 So reaction to symbolic imagery was ingrained into the human psyche thousands of years before the first Sumerian cuneiform was created. The skill that ancient humans used to interpret the symbols is what we today call symbolism, better called symbol literacy4.

As writing and language became the dominant communication method our skill in symbol literacy diminished; although, it never completely died out, and much of it became incorporated into the great myths and fairy-tales--the forerunners of fantasy, science fiction, and horror. And it is in those three genres where you find the ancient symbolic iconography appear most often, whether it’s the color symbols used by Edgar Allen Poe or Tolkien representing Sauron as a fiery All-Seeing Eye. Often the image use is a subconscious act during the writing process, but sometimes the writer knows exactly what he’s putting in there and its intended effect.

Nowhere does it become more obvious than in big-budget films like Ultraviolet. You could possibly write an entire book about the symbolic iconography in this film alone, and there are hundreds of films filled with symbols to one extent or another. But let’s just break down one or two of the basics.

In Ultraviolet you have the headquarters of the main antagonist, Dax. The walled compound is in the shape of a cross (a symbol for Life and Resurrection2), and while some of the structures are pyramidal, the main building in the cross’s center possesses a domed roof comprised of triangular glass panes, representing the “dome” of the Sun. Why does the evil guy responsible for tyranny and death dwell here? Because he’s the corruption from within. It’s no accident that the final battle involves flame-covered swords and that the compound gets destroyed by fire, for fire is a two-edged sword that can both destroy and purify at the same time. Throughout the film, the hemophage protagonist, Violet (a color made by the mixing of red with blue, or war with peace) acts as a matronly protective Madonna figure to a child named Six who was engineered with a pathogen that could doom the entire world but also contains the key to possibly cure the hemophages. Six dies, thus saving the world from the pathogen, and Violet’s tears (representing the Water of Life) later “resurrects” Six as a hemophage. Whether the hemophages will one day be cured is left open, but the Twice-Born God2 nature of Six combined with the Isis/Horus (or Mary/Christ) relationship between him and Violet intentionally leaves the viewer feeling hopeful.

In Lord of the Rings, Gandalf the Grey resurrects as Gandalf the White. The color white represents goodness, or the Light. But why does it represent this? Because in ancient times the rise of the Sun meant a new day dawned and they had survived one more night. Night was the most fearful time of all for ancient humans. Predators came out at night who could see at night far better than humans could. That is why night, or darkness (black), was personified as evil; and day, or light (white), was seen as good. This is why white was often viewed as a feminine aspect in matriarchal societies but as a masculine aspect in patriarchal societies. And it is also the reason why the Sun plays such a prominent role in ancient myths all over the world.

Sauron is described as “a great eye, lidless, wreathed in flame” that can pretty much see anything he wants. The All-Seeing Eye is an ancient symbol that represented the Eye of God which the ancients often viewed as being the Sun. So why is a being of evil (or night) pretending to be God? Just as Set seeks to stop Ra, and Satan seeks to stop Christ, because he wishes to be the ruler over all (God); so too does Sauron seek to stop Illuvatar by pretending to be Illuvatar, but he can only succeed at being a cheap imitation.

The above are only tiny examples of the richness and depth to be found in the meaning of symbols that appear in literature, film, music, or even the building you passed on your way to the grocery store. But how can you incorporate such richness to enhance your own fiction?

The first step is to understand that the symbols cannot become the story, they only serve to enhance the story you’re trying to tell or to provide a “hidden” story within the story (which Neil Gaiman does quite often).

Second, unless you plan to let your subconscious have all the fun, you have to know your symbols. A good book to get is Elisabeth Goldsmith’s Ancient Pagan Symbols. That book is the mother load of ancient symbols and their meanings. A good study of the psychological influence symbols and colors can have on the human mind can be found, of all places, on YouTube: Michael Tsarion--The Subversive Use of Sacred Symbolism in the Media. It’s in eleven parts and is an eye-opener to the amount of ancient symbols people get bombarded with on a daily basis and how corporations use them to sell their products. Tsarion is well-known among the alternative research field, and many of his views on other things fall in the category of conspiracy theory. However, I find his work on symbolism well-researched and much along the lines of what people like Elisabeth Goldsmith, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Joseph Campell has written or said on the subject. So, Dan Brown, eat your heart out.

And last but not least, read Poe. Poe knew symbolism, and more importantly he knew how to incorporate them into his stories without making it too obvious. Of course, if you try to bombard your readers like Poe did, you better know exactly what you’re doing; otherwise, it’ll fall flat.

But whether you decide to bombard the human psyche with “in-your-face” iconography, use it sparingly to enhance a scene or two, or just study it to learn what your subconscious had known all along, one thing is for certain. Once you become symbol literate, you’ll never again see the world through the same eyes.

And, with a little luck and some skill, neither will your readers.





References

1. Color Theory--Color Lessons in Art and Design.                                                                                        http://www.artyfactory.com/color_theory/color_theory_2.htm



2. Goldsmith, Elisabeth (2003, June 11). Ancient Pagan Symbols (Illustrated Edition). Red Wheel.



3. Cave Paintings. New World Encyclopedia. http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Cave_painting


Friday, May 13, 2016

5 New Releases from SSP Today,from L. Andrew Cooper, Crymsyn Hart, and Dan Jolley!

In celebration of the big StokerCon 2016 weekend that Seventh Star Press is attending in Las Vegas, we have five brand new releases to announce!  USA Today bestselling author Dan Jolley's cross-genre Gray Widow's Walk kicks off the Gray Widow Trilogy and brings you an amazing new heroine!  The followup to bestselling author Crymsyn Hart's Death's Dance, Death's Revival, takes the next step in the Deathly Encounters series with a great Grim Reaper element!  Then, L. Andrew Cooper's horror short story collection Leaping at Thorns is available in a second edition, along with the speculative fiction anthology Reel Dark that L. Andrew co-edited with Pamela Turner.  This edition features two brand new short stories from bestselling author Michael West and Alexander S. Brown. Finally, L. Andrew's brand new short story collection Peritoneum makes its debut!

L. Andrew Cooper and Dan Jolley are currently out in Las Vegas at StokerCon 2016 launching Peritoneum and Gray Widow's Walk, but you can get these and all the new titles today!  Our guide below includes direct links to various formats, and includes a synopsis of each book! All titles/versions in eBook format are just $2.99!


Get Gray Widow's Walk today at these links:





Synopsis of Gray Widow's Walk: “The only thing in this world you can truly control is yourself.” 

Janey Sinclair’s ability to teleport has always been a mystery to her. She tried for years to ignore it, but when tragedy shatters her life, Janey’s anger consumes her. She hones her fighting skills, steals a prototype suit of military body armor, and takes to the streets of Atlanta, venting her rage as the masked vigilante dubbed “the Gray Widow” by the press. 

But Janey’s power, and her willingness to use it, plunges her into a conflict on a much grander scale than she had anticipated. 

Soon she encounters Simon Grove, a bloodthirsty runaway with a shapeshifting ability gone horribly wrong… 

Garrison Vessler, an ex-FBI agent and current private defense contractor, who holds some of the answers Janey’s been searching for… 

And Tim Kapoor, the first person in years with a chance of breaking through Janey’s emotional shell—if she’ll let him. 

But as Janey’s vigilantism gains worldwide attention, and her showdown with Simon Grove draws ever closer, the reason for her augmented abilities—hers and all the others like her—begins to reveal itself. Because, high above the Earth, other eyes are watching. And they have far-reaching plans… 

Gray Widow’s Walk is book one of the Gray Widow Trilogy, to be followed by Gray Widow’s Web and Gray Widow’s War. 



Get Death's Revival today at these links:





Synopsis of Death's Revival: Becoming a grim reaper was right up my alley. I enjoyed being dead. I helped souls crossover into either Heaven or Hell with my fellow reaper, Than. For two years, I enjoyed my life and then the killings started. Psychics were being murdered at haunted sites and souls disappearing.Someone was tampering with the fabric of the universe, trying to draw something evil into this world. To do that, the killer needed the souls of the psychics and the ghosts he could gather to open the doorway.I was charged with saving those souls and find out who the serial killer was. Yeah, being used as bait was definitely not my first choice, but who can kill a grim reaper?I'm already dead.With Than's help, I'll stop the evil from penetrating this world so I can get back to my soul gathering. 

I mean the dead stay dead, right?


Get Peritoneum today at these links:





Synopsis of Peritoneum: Snaking through history--from the early-1900s cannibal axe-murderer of "Blood and Feathers," to the monster hunting on the 1943 Pacific front in "Year of the Wolf," through the files of J. Edgar Hoover for an "Interview with 'Oscar,'" and into "The Broom Closet Where Everything Dies" for a finale in the year 2050--Peritoneum winds up your guts to assault your brain. Hallucinatory experiences redefine nightmare in "Patrick's Luck" and "The Eternal Recurrence of Suburban Abortion." Strange visions of colors and insects spill through the basements of hospitals and houses, especially the basement that provides the title for "TR4B," which causes visitors to suffer from "Door Poison." Settings, characters, and details recur not only in these tales but throughout Peritoneum, connecting all its stories in oblique but organic ways. Freud, borrowing from Virgil, promised to unlock dreams not by bending higher powers but by moving infernal regions. Welcome to a vivisection. Come dream with the insides.


Get Reel Dark today at these links: 





Synopsis of Reel Dark:  Welcome to a macabre cinema for the imagination, to twisted tales projected not on a movie screen but on the page. In Reel Dark you'll find suspense, horror, science fiction, and fantasy in fiction and poetry by authors ranging from new voices to bestsellers. From the battle for recognition between a child actress and a vengeful, long-forgotten film star in "Whatever Happened to Peggy...Who?" to a hapless artist whose talent propels him into a nightmare of jealousy and revenge in "The Dreamist," the authors have created worlds filled with madness and twisted desires. Where the lines between reality and fantasy blur, where films flicker at 24 frames per second, we catch a glimpse of strangers' dreams and nightmares. As David Lynch puts it, "This whole world is wild at heart and weird on top." As Karen Head writes in her poem "Amnesia," responding to Lynch, "In the movies / everything is illusion." But with cameras everywhere, how do you know whether you're in a movie?


Get Leaping at Thorns today at these links:





Synopsis of Leaping at Thorns: Leaping at Thorns arranges eighteen of L. Andrew Cooper's experimental short horror stories into a triptych of themes--complicity, entrapment, and conspiracy--elements that run throughout the collection. The stories span from the emotionally-centered to the unthinkably horrific; from psychosexual grossness to absurd violence; from dark extremes to brain-and-tongue twister. These standalone stories add important details to the fictional world and grand scheme of Dr. Allen Fincher, who also lurks in the background of Cooper's novels Burning the Middle Ground and Descending Lines.


Thursday, April 28, 2016

New Science Fiction Release from RJ Sullivan, Commanding the Red Lotus, Available Today!

Commanding the Red Lotus, the brand new science fiction release from R.J. Sullivan, is available today!  eBook version is just $2.99 in all formats, with direct links below.


Direct Links to eBook versions:




Synopsis of Commanding the Red Lotus

Money Can’t Buy Respect

Sayuri Arai, privileged daughter of a corporate mogul, abandons a promising career to find her own path. She invests in a broken-down asteroid mining ship and steps in as the commander of its crew. Every day presents a new challenge just to keep her ship from falling apart and the bitter crew from killing each other. Can Sayuri unite the feuding factions, or will her rivals turn the entire complement against her?

Commanding the Red Lotus offers a classic sense of wonder for today’s science fiction readers.

Volume one of the Red Lotus Stories, now in softcover for the first time.

Commanding the Red Lotus includes the previously released ebook novelettes:

Fate of the Red Lotus 

Red Lotus: Innocence Lost 

Plus the brand-new novella Mutiny on the Red Lotus


About the Author: Best known for his ghost story thrillers, Commanding the Red Lotus is R.J.Sullivan’s fifth book and his first release in the genre he most adores.

R.J.’s critically acclaimed, loosely connected ghost story trilogy and his short story collection are all available in paperback and ebook though Seventh Star Press. R.J. resides with his family in Heartland Crossing, Indiana. He drinks regularly from a Little Mermaid coffee mug and is man enough to admit it. Learn more at rjsullivanfiction.com

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Cover Reveal For New Edition of the Reel Dark Anthology from Editors L. Andrew Cooper and Pamela Turner!

Seventh Star Press is proud to reveal the cover art by Aaron Drown of Aaron Drown Design for the new edition of the Reel Dark anthology from editors L. Andrew Cooper and Pamela Turner.  With a cinema theme and a mix of speculative fiction tales that include suspense, horror, science fiction, fantasy, and even poetry, readers will find this anthology a unique and captivating reading experience.




This edition features 2 brand new stories, one from bestselling horror author Michael West and one from acclaimed author and editor Alexander S. Brown.  eBook and print editions are set for release in the first week of May.

Synopsis of Reel Dark: Welcome to a macabre cinema for the imagination, to twisted tales projected not on a movie screen but on the page. In Reel Dark you’ll find suspense, horror, science fiction, and fantasy in fiction and poetry by authors ranging from new voices to bestsellers. From the battle for recognition between a child actress and a vengeful, long-forgotten film star in “Whatever Happened to Peggy...Who?” to a hapless artist whose talent propels him into a nightmare of jealousy and revenge in “The Dreamist,” the authors have created worlds filled with madness and twisted desires. Where the lines between reality and fantasy blur, where films flicker at 24 frames per second, we catch a glimpse of strangers’ dreams and nightmares. As David Lynch puts it, “This whole world is wild at heart and weird on top.” As Karen Head writes in her poem “Amnesia,” responding to Lynch, “In the movies / everything is illusion.” But with cameras everywhere, how do you know whether you’re in a movie?

About the Editors:

L. Andrew Cooper: L. Andrew Cooper scribbles horror: novels Burning the Middle Ground and Descending Lines as well as anthologies of experimental shorts Leaping at Thorns (2014 /2016) and Peritoneum (2016). He also co-edited the anthology Imagination Reimagined (2014). His book Dario Argento (2012) examines the maestro’s movies from the 70s to the present. Cooper’s other works on horror include his non-fiction study Gothic Realities (2010), a co-edited textbook, Monsters (2012), and recent essays that discuss 2012’s Cabin in the Woods (2014) and 2010’s A Serbian Film (2015). His B.A. is from Harvard, Ph.D. from Princeton. Louisville locals might recognize him from his year-long stint as WDRB-TV’s “movie guy.” Find him at amazon.com/author/landrewcooper, facebook.com/landrewcooper, and landrewcooper.com.

Pamela Turner: Pamela Turner’s short paranormal suspense novels include Death Sword, a Chanticleer Blue Ribbon Paranormal Awards 2013 finalist, Exterminating Angel, The Ripper’s Daughter, and Malice and Mayhem: Tales of the Macabre. Her short dark suspense story, “Family Tradition” (MuseItUp Publishing), was a finalist in the EPIC 2014 EBook Awards, and her short screenplay “Cemetery” placed second in The Writers Place Short/Teleplay screenplay competition. She’s a member of Sisters in Crime, EPIC, and a supporting member of HWA. Besides coffee, she likes cats, cemeteries, and old abandoned buildings. Find her at her website, Haunted Dreams, Dark Destinies (http://pamelaturner.net/); her blog, Darkling Delights (http://www.pamela-turner.com/); on her Amazon Author Page; or https://www.facebook.com/PamelaTurnerAuthor).


Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Legends of Darkness and Witches from Georgia L. Jones Both Available in eBook Format Today!

Seventh Star Press is proud to announce that both Legends of Darkness and Witches, the first two books in Georgia L. Jones' Remnants of Life series, are available today in eBook format!

Both titles are priced at just $2.99 and direct links to Kindle and Kobo formats now live are below.











Synopsis of Legends of Darkness:
Dangerous Saviors…what would you do if your life rested in the hands of something that really wanted to EAT YOU…

Come journey through the realms of the next world where everything you know about Good and Evil are put to the test.

Samantha Garrett lives and dies a good life in the human world. She awakens a new creature, Samoda, a vampire-like warrior in the army of Nuem. She is forced to realize that she has become a part of a world that humans believe to be only “Legends of Darkness”. Samoda finds her new life is entwined with the age old story of Greed, Love, Betrayal, and Vengeance.

Join our Heroine as she battle’s not just for her own existence, but for entire human race’s future.

Synopsis of Witches: The second book in the Remnants of Life Series follows the story of the Warriors in their age old battle against evil that constantly fights to take over the human world.

In “Witches” meet Kali and Seline, a set of seemingly human twins who discover their heritage, which is rich in the blood of the Strega. Learn about the Strega and the role they have played throughout history. Follow our hero’s through Southwest Missouri and beyond as they pursue the demons and unravel the puzzle that has Kali and Seline right in the middle of it.



About Georgia L. Jones: Georgia L. Jones was born in Columbia, Missouri on September 21st, 1968. In 1992 she settled in the beautiful Ozarks town of Lebanon, Missouri, where she has lived since.

At a young age Georgia learned the value of getting lost in a good book. She has always enjoyed reading and letting her imagination run wild. In her early teenage years she began to put her own stories down on paper as she plunked out the words

Over the years Georgia has harbored the dream of being a published author and written many short stories. On January 10, 2010 she embarked on the dream as she began to bring the characters from her first novel, “Legends of Darkness”, to life. Upon completion in June 2010 she realized that it was not a single book but a series and created the concept of the series “Remnants of Life”.

On September 5, 2010 the “Remnants of Life” series was contracted through a small press publishing house out of Louisville, KY., and so her career began. Through that press, Blackwyrm Publishing, Georgia L. Jones published the first two books in the series, Legends of Darkness and Witches, took part in several anthology works both as an author and editor, and created a new character to add to her own multi-faceted personality, Smarty Mic Smartypants who endeavors into the more cynical and snarky side of life. In September of 2015 she became part of the Seventh Star Press Family which is based out of Lexington, KY. The second edition of the first two books in the “Remnants of Life” series as well as the third book in the series are currently contracted through them.

When her muse isn’t dragging her to lands unknown, you will find her hanging out with her family and friends in the Novalunium Paranormal Mansion, the 1840 farmhouse that she calls home as well as home base for the small Paranormal Research Group that her and a couple of friends have founded.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Cover Reveal of R.J. Sullivan's New Science Fiction Release, Commanding the Red Lotus!

Seventh Star Press is proud to reveal the new cover art by Enggar Adirasa for R.J. Sullivan's science fiction compendium Commanding the Red Lotus!




Commanding the Red Lotus is set to be released in eBook format and trade paperback at the end of April, and will feature 3 Red Lotus novellas.  These include the previously released (on eBook only) Fate of the Red Lotus, and Red Lotus: Innocence Lost, along with the brand new novella Mutiny on the Red Lotus.

Get ready for some great new science fiction from the creative mind of R.J. Sullivan!


Synopsis of Commanding the Red Lotus

Money Can’t Buy Respect

Sayuri Arai, privileged daughter of a corporate mogul, abandons a promising career to find her own path. She invests in a broken-down asteroid mining ship and steps in as the commander of its crew. Every day presents a new challenge just to keep her ship from falling apart and the bitter crew from killing each other. Can Sayuri unite the feuding factions, or will her rivals turn the entire complement against her? Commanding the Red Lotus offers a classic sense of wonder for today’s science fiction readers.

Volume one of the Red Lotus Stories, now in softcover for the first time.

Commanding the Red Lotus includes the previously released ebook novelettes:

Fate of the Red Lotus

Red Lotus: Innocence Lost

Plus the brand-new novella Mutiny on the Red Lotus



About R.J. Sullivan:
Best known for his ghost story thrillers, Commanding the Red Lotus is R.J.Sullivan’s fifth book and his first release in the genre he most adores.

R.J.’s critically acclaimed, loosely connected ghost story trilogy and his short story collection are all available in paperback and ebook though Seventh Star Press. R.J. resides with his family in Heartland Crossing, Indiana. He drinks regularly from a Little Mermaid coffee mug and is man enough to admit it. Learn more at rjsullivanfiction.com



Follow R.J. Sullivan at:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/R.J.SullivanAuthor/
Twitter
@RJSullivanAuthr 

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