Tuesday, October 30, 2012

"Trick or Treating in Snowtober" By Scott R. Caseley



“How much candy do you think we’ll get this year, fifty pieces, a hundred?” Max asked Peggy while they ate Sloppy Joes and tater tots in the school cafeteria.
“Told you Max, I can’t go,” Peggy answered mournfully pushing her tray away from her. Max with his own full serving of tater tots in front of him, snagged one of hers popping it into his mouth.
“Aw, c’mon, your dad’s gotta change his mind.” He had a mouthful of food, which disgusted Peggy to no end. Delighted by her repulsed reaction, he put their trays side by side to eat from both. “We’re eleven, it’s not like we can go trick-or-treating forever, y’know.”
 “It’s gonna snow tonight, dad says. He may even have to plow if it gets bad enough. He said the weather guys are calling it 'Snowtober'.” She watched him as he shoveled the food in his mouth, in awe that he could ingest so much at once, and not slowing down for a second.
“Yeah, right. First of all, it ain’t gonna snow and second of all, plowing really? Can you see him getting his lard butt off the recliner to do anything?” He swallowed hard, and let out a loud belch.
She waved her hand in front of her nose to brush away the nasty odor. “Not joking, he told me when he walked me to the bus stop.”
“He walked you to the bus stop? Were you in a stroller?” He asked teasing her, though he hoped she wouldn’t take it too seriously.
“Shut up,” she pouted.  A loud succession of three shrill beeps ended their conversation and their lunchtime.
* * * *
Several hours later, the wind swirled around the sky like a spoon stirring sugar into black coffee, but there was nothing sweet about it. It howled, and threatened to throw off Max’s typical play it cool demeanor. But, he still wanted to go trick-or-treating. Though it wasn’t the candy that he really sought. He had a crush on Peggy, which he feared was obvious to everyone, except to her.
He put on his light green ghoul mask and raised his hands up to the side and whispered “Grr!” repeatedly.  Though his sight was limited in the mask, he thought he looked pretty menacing.
“What are you doing dork?” a transparent female finger tapped him on the shoulder; he leapt up a good six inches off the ground.
“Dang Barb, why do you gotta do that?” he turned to scowl at her.
“What’s the fun of being a ghost if I can’t scare my little brother?” she hovered for a bit, placing her hands on her hips floating in front of the bathroom door.
“Fine, have it your way, but you don’t have to follow me into the bathroom.”
“Okay, okay. I’ll leave you be.” She passed through the door and Max went back to straightening his mask.
* * * *
Peggy walked into her bedroom and sat down at her desk. She picked up a strip of four black and white photos taken of her and Max in a photo booth the previous summer. She smiled at them.
“So, you like him too, eh?” Barbara’s voice echoed in her room, but it wasn’t one that Peggy recognized.
She rotated 180 degrees in her swivel chair and shifted left to right, the room was empty. No one had followed her in, no one in living human form anyway. She wanted to say something, though she didn’t know what. What does one say to a voice in their head, she wondered.
“Don’t be afraid, I’m not here to hurt you.” She drifted by the doorway. Through her apparition Peggy could see her dad sleeping on the recliner. “I know it’s strange, believe me, if I were in your shoes, I’d be pretty freaked out too.”
“Thanks, do you haunt… I mean hang around my house often?”
“No, usually at my brother’s.”
“Is Max your brother?” Peggy asked putting the pictures back on her desk.
“Yeah, he is, my baby brother. Funny thing is—” As she spoke, Peggy’s dad rolled over onto his side.
“Would you mind? Seeing my dad through your stomach is kinda freaky, you know.”
“Oh, sorry, you’re right. Sometimes I forget how transparent I am.” She sailed across the room with her arms outstretched like a majestic bird in flight. 
“What’s your name?” Peggy asked watching her glide wishing that she could move so effortlessly, so gracefully.
“When I was living, my parents named me Barbara, but I have since given myself the name Claramonde.”
“Why did you choose it?” She asked, becoming used to her presence much sooner than she expected.
“Well, I like to think of myself as a shining defender. And, Claramonde means just that,” when she spoke with pride, her voice echoed gently like a flute being played in a forest.
“Makes sense.”
“It’s going to be quite the storm tonight, do you still want to go trick-or-treating?”
The wind rattled her windows and the one story house shook a bit. “I don’t know. My dad said I couldn’t.”
“I don’t see a costume anywhere in here. Let’s put one together. Does your father have any coffee grounds?” Peggy gave her a quizzical look, and Claramonde smiled, “Trust me.
* * * *
An hour later, Peggy stood in her full-length bedroom mirror wearing a pair of blue sweatpants, a dark sweatshirt with a white tank top over it with stains on both. On her face, she had five o’clock shadow courtesy of some coffee grounds glued on with honey. She smirked at her reflection.
“What do you think?” Claramonde asked hovering behind her.
“I think my dad’s going to flip out when he wakes up and sees me like this.”
“You don’t think he’ll be flattered? You look just like him, minus the gut of course.”
“I don’t know.”
“Just relax, my brother tells me you worry too much anyway.”
“He does? I do?”
“Yes and yes. Now c’mon, let’s sneak on outta here, you don’t want your dad to see you talking to yourself, do you?”
“My dad actually believes in ghosts.”
“Really? Barely see that with adults these days. He must be open-minded.”
“Nah, just watches a lot of TV, he’ll believe anything.” It was a lie of course, her dad didn’t believe in anything out of the ordinary. But Peggy didn’t want to hurt Claramonde’s feelings if ghosts have them that is.
* * * *
Max walked out his house, and the first snowflake fell onto the shoulder of the brown blazer he wore. He thought if he was going to be a ghoul, he ought to be a well-dressed one. He bought a suit at a thrift store with his paper route money. As he carried his pillowcase, he hoped his investment would be worth it. Peggy emerged out of the darkness and appeared at his doorstep carrying a 
canvas bag from a local grocery store. “Nice costume, Peggy,” Max smiled. “Oh, my gosh, are you really—your dad, really? That’s pretty wild.”
“Yeah, I don’t know about it," she admitted, her arms flopping down to her sides.
“Well, I like it,” He sighed with content.
“Thanks,” Peggy said shyly. Claramonde stood invisible underneath an oak in the neighbor’s yard watching them, admiring their cuteness and hidden crushes for each other. With an invisible finger, she drew a heart with snowflakes to surround them.
“Ready to get some candy?” Max asked as snow continued to fall slowly. Claramonde followed them, but kept her presence unknown to them.
As they shuffled down the street, no cars or other kids passed them on quests for treats, and it seemed like some sort of trick. All the lights in the houses were off, and only a streetlight guided their way. Had Halloween been canceled because of a rumored storm?  Perhaps, Dad was right, Peggy thought, it was going to get pretty dicey out tonight. However, she kept these thoughts to herself. No matter how cold it got, no matter how much snow fell, she felt safe and secure with Max there.
When they were about two miles from their starting point, they finally saw one light at the end of a long driveway. Tall, menacing oaks flanked the sides, of the pathway, but they wouldn’t be intimidated. Though he wanted to go ahead of her, he knew the right thing would be to stay at her pace. The wind crept up behind them and lingered on each vertebra of their backs. The porch light at the distant house became a beacon, a hopeful promise of a night filled with fun and candy.
The wind shrieked behind them and the snow began to come down faster. Peggy shivered to herself, not from the cold alone but with fear. “We’re almost there, don’t worry.” She nodded; somehow he always seemed to know the right things to say.
Claramonde looked at the sky, a dark envelope pouring its contents out onto the ground and the two children below.
“I’ll ring the doorbell, you just look pretty. Well as pretty as an old man with a beer gut can.” He smiled, she laughed.
He pressed the doorbell and the porch light and the rest of the illumination went out at once. A dog inside began barking. Panicked, Peggy started running down the driveway. He chased after her equally afraid, but not about to let it show. When they got to the base of the driveway, Claramonde stood; a light blue aura surrounding her with little yellow sparks flickering around the edges like lightning bugs. She gave them a warm smile.
He looked at his sister’s and wondered how he would explain to Peggy who she was. “Back again, eh?” Peggy asked with a smile. Max looked at his crush, then to the floating apparition of his sister, then back to Peggy.
“Wait a minute? You know about her?”
“Yeah, who do you think gave me the costume idea?” her voice wavering.
“Should’ve known, Barb was always a joker.” Max said, and Peggy noticed he was kind of sad as he spoke about his sister.
“I told you, I’m Claramonde now.” Claramonde said gruffly.
“I know, but to me, you’ll always be Barb.” Max started to walk down the street into the opaque night.  “C’mon Peggy, we should find our way home somehow.” The snow kept getting heavier as the visibility decreased as reams of snow dropped from the sky.
“I can guide you,” Claramonde offered.
“We’ll manage, thanks though,” Max called back without looking at her. Peggy shrugged to Claramonde and rushed up ahead to join him.
* * * *
Fifteen minutes passed, and they were walking down some road, but the night was completely dark, they had no idea where they actually were. To make matters worse, full on blizzard conditions surrounded them.  The sleet pelted them like tiny needles hitting their bodies with precision, injecting Peggy with bits of punishment stinging her skin for sneaking out. “You know, my sister’s always been like that. Protective, I mean.”
“I never knew you had a sister.”
“I didn’t, I mean. She passed before I was born. But ever since I was a baby, I could see her, you know? She’d watch over me when I was in the crib, always standing off in the corner of my room smiling.”
“I wish I had someone like that.”
“You do, your dad.”
“Oh, he doesn’t count.  When he’s not working, all he does is sit in the living room barking orders at me. Go get me a soda, get me new batteries for the remote.”
“But he’s there. That’s the difference. My parents are always working, they never have time for me.”
“I guess.”
“Was tonight the first time Barb… Claramonde ever came to see you?”
“Yeah, kind of spooked me at first, but not as much as I thought it might. Is that weird?”
“Nah.” A car drove down the road, fishtailing . “What kind of fool would come out on a night like this?” Peggy gave him a dubious look, which of course he couldn’t see, but he knew what she was thinking, “I know, Peggy, but we’re different.”
“When that car went by, I could’ve sworn I saw a street sign a little ways down on the right, want to see where it leads?” Peggy asked.
“Sure, the sooner we get out of this mess the better.” Max started to head down the road, and stopped and held out his hand, found hers and held on tight.
* * * *
“None of this seems familiar,” Peggy said sloshing through the cold, wet snow that sent pins and needles up her calves.
“Don’t worry, I’m sure we’ll find our way soon.”
“What makes you so sure?”
“Trust me,” Max said sounding just like his sister, which made Peggy and secretly he wish she would reappear to guide them.
“Girls, guess we’re not the only ones out tonight.” The high-pitched voice of Alisha the most popular girl in their sixth grade class was heard with the aural accompaniment of wind tearing through the night. Her and her two steady companions Keisha and Lisa walked up to them with the radiance of green glow sticks dangling from their necks like lanyards. They were dressed as witches, which both Peggy and Max found to be very fitting.
“Nice costume, Peggy. You look like my dad.” Keisha chuckled.
“Mine too.” Lisa smiled.
“Where are we?” Peggy asked softly.
“You mean, you don’t know?” Alisha said evilly.
“You’re lost?” Keisha added.
“Good luck finding your way, power’s out across town.” Lisa smirked. The three bullies all cackled like a coven of witches. Max popped up behind the trio, and reached behind Lisa’s neck. With a deft move, he untied the string attached to her glow stick. When it released, he grabbed it. For a brief moment, they didn’t notice. And, that was all he needed.
“Thanks for the light, we’ll see ya.” Max grabbed Peggy by the hand and they ran down the road.
They only made it about twenty feet when Peggy slipped into a snow bank. Because Max had been holding onto her, he lost balance too. In the fall and the gale-force winds, the glow stick left Max’s hand sailed off several yards away. They both saw it sticking out of a foot and a half of snow. Max was about to pull Peggy up to reclaim it after noticing the green flicker of light from the two remaining glow sticks bouncing on them as the three “witches” pushed through in the opposite direction.  Suddenly, whole area before Peggy and Max became illuminated in a blue haze to guide them through the wintry terrain.
Claramonde’s aura faded without warning. “How are we going to find our way now?” A pair of headlights answered her. A truck with a plow attached to the front started bearing down on them. Peggy grabbed Max and took him to the side of the road just in case the driver didn’t see them. Tires screeching, the plow truck stopped across the street. The driver came outside with a flashlight in hand. “Margaret, Maxwell?” a baritone voice boomed over the wind.
“Dad?” Peggy asked in disbelief.
“Get in the truck, Margaret. Maxwell, I’ll drive you home.”
* * * *
Twenty minutes later, Peggy and her father sat in the living room surrounded by candles. She was still in her costume, but had a blanket over her shoulders. “I told you, it was going to be lousy out tonight, why didn’t you listen to me?” he asked.
“I don’t know. I just wanted to have fun tonight. Halloween’s my favorite holiday.” She pulled the blankets tighter.
“It’s mine too.”
“Really? Then why didn’t you understand that I wanted to go trick-or-treating so bad?”
“Because honey, you’re all I have. And, I didn’t want you to get hurt out there tonight. Besides, trick-or-treating got cancelled for tonight. It’s going to be rescheduled for tomorrow, weather permitting of course.”
“When did they decide that?”
“Earlier tonight, I was going to tell you, but you had already snuck out.”
“I’m sorry, Daddy.”
“Don’t apologize, I am upset, but I’m glad that you’re okay. I knew you were in good hands, and that calmed me down a bit.”
“You really do like Max, don’t you? You just wanted to be sure about him.”
“Yeah, well, there is that. But, Claramonde told me that I could trust him.” He said with a wink.
“You talked to her? I thought you didn’t believe in ghosts, Dad,” she smiled, raising her eyebrows in disbelief.
“I didn’t think we would ever have a blizzard on Halloween night, and well, after tonight, anything’s possible.”

THE END



Monday, October 29, 2012

Halloween Party and a Recipe

Every year, my husband, son, and I look forward to Halloween. For me, it's because I can dress up and be something that I'm not. A belly dancer, a renaissance princess, a rock star, or an alien. It's a chance for the imagination to run wild.

In preparation for our annual party, we carved pumpkins and roasted the seeds (see the recipe at the end of the post.) You can see our effort here.


Then, on Saturday, we joined with  family and friends to enjoy good food, good company, and play fun games. (Normally, I grab the camera and get pictures of all our guests, but this year, I forgot to take a single shot!)

It was a night filled with Zombie Dice, Zombie Fluxx, and Apples to Apples (oddly, the game company doesn't have their own link to this). There was plenty of brain ice and chocolate brains to go with our zombie game theme, but I'm happy to say, that though the Zombie king won Zombie Fluxx, the humans all survived the night.

Happy Halloween!







Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

Preheat oven to 300
2 cups seeds, well washed
3 cups cold water
1/2 cup salt

In a large pot, mix water and salt, stirring to dissolve. Add seeds and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 1/2 an hour. Remove from heat and drain. DO NOT RINSE. Spread evenly on a cookie sheet. Cook for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.(Look in on them in the last ten minutes to be sure they don't overcook. They will be a light golden brown.) Store in a dry place. Hope you enjoy!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Halloween? Or Happy New Year?

Hi, Pat McDermott here, getting ready for lots of chocolate and cute little pixies ringing the doorbell on Halloween. Millions of children preparing to go trick-or-treating are unaware that Halloween started in Ireland, as part of the Celtic Samhain (Sow-win) festival. Nearly 2,000 years ago, Samhain, the Celtic New Year, marked the end of summer and the start of winter. The boundary between the world of the living and the dead was at its thinnest at Samhain, and the Celts believed that on that night, the spirits of their ancestors passed back and forth through that boundary.

Celtic families honored their departed forebears by inviting them into their homes even as they dressed in costumes and masks to protect themselves from evil spirits. While the women prepared food for both the living and the dead, the men inventoried food supplies and slaughtered livestock to augment the winter diet. As part of the celebration, the people allowed their household fires to go out, and they tossed the animals’ bones on communal bonfires from which each hearth was ceremoniously relit to start the New Year.

The arrival of Christianity incorporated Samhain into the Christian calendar by renaming November 1st All Saints’ Day and November 2nd All Souls’ Day. Nice try, but several customs have survived these name changes, including the wearing of costumes and masks. The Irish who emigrated during the 19th century famine brought their Halloween customs all over the world. In America, they melded with the harvest traditions of other cultures, such as carving pumpkins into Jack-o’-lanterns.

Best wishes for a fun and safe Halloween!

Pat's Web Site and Blog

*Pictures courtesy of Photobucket

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Halloween...where does this custom originate?


So, Halloween is being promoted aggressively in Australian shops this year. Alongside aisles of Christmas decorations we have elaborate pumpkin lights, lamps, figurines, chocolates, cobwebs, witch motifs etc etc.
Halloween...when the door 
between the living and the dead opens...


The trick or treat custom has been gaining popularity here too. Ten years ago having children arrive dressed up as ghouls and wanting sweets was a rarity. Now it's wise to be prepared.

Looking at the origins of the commercial hype the blame tends to immediately be focused on the American hysteria generated during Halloween. This trend towards Trick or Treating seems to come from the USA but the preoccupation with Halloween dates from a different continent and custom base.

There are several sources of celebration. So although the American's have taken the commercial side, they are only borrowing from previous traditions. We in Australia are competing for the precious commercial dollar and are following hard in their footsteps.

Despite the origins, some stories are quite dark and scary, fairies swapping children in their cots... etc, the spirits of the dead returning... the children seem to enjoy dressing up and overdosing on sugar.

As long as they don't bounce off my walls when they have consumed their ration of sugar, it's okay with me!


The idea behind Trick or Treating comes from the old custom of collecting foodstuffs for the feast to celebrate Samhain. 

Believing Samhain was a time when the door to the otherworld opened and allowed the spirits of the dead to revisit their homes, people prepared feasts, inviting the spirits to share their repast. 

The open door also meant nasty creatures could pass through as well, and to protect against them costumes were often worn. The collection of goods from families was hoped to bring good fortune for the giver, and the idea of collecting in costume became part of the custom. 

The Christian church's All Hallow's Eve/All Saints Day was the day that the souls of the dead could pass on. 

Until that time they wandered among the living, and on All Hallow's Eve they had a chance to avenge any wrongs done to them while living. 

Thus wearing costumes or disguises became popular so the spirits didn't recognize people. The custom of baking soul cakes and 'guising'... trick or treating began to be common too.

 As a treat, no tricks involved, I am offering Book One in the Chronicles of Caleath, FREE on Amazon for five days leading up to Oct 31st.

If you have not yet discovered this epic fantasy science fiction series... take this opportunity to join Caleath and his adventures FREE.

Happy Halloween.
Offer opens on Oct 27th USA time.. so allow for global time zones. Thanks.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Karen Cioffi Writing and Marketing: Creating a Universe by Karina Fabian

Karen Cioffi Writing and Marketing: Creating a Universe by Karina Fabian

Very/sorta scary. Just in time for Halloween.

http://myemail.constantcontact.com/Happy-Halloween-from-MuseItUp-Publishing--Inc-.html?soid=1111262603628&aid=jVGJxjGgGX8

http://myemail.constantcontact.com/Happy-Halloween-from-MuseItUp-Publishing--Inc-.html?soid=1111262603628&aid=jVGJxjGgGX8

How to Help Kids Discover Qualilty Books by Kathy Sattem Rygg



HOW TO HELP KIDS DISCOVER QUALITY BOOKS
by Kathy Sattem Rygg 

I’m wearing two hats as I write this post—one as an author who writes middle grade books and another as the parent of a middle grader. I’ve had many conversations with moms surrounding the question, “What are some good books for my first, second, third grader, etc.?” Most of the time, parents answer by suggesting well-known series featured at major retailers. But I’d like to help parents and grandparents realize there are so many additional resources for quality children’s books.

Most adults obtain their news from multiple sources—newspaper, TV, and online sites. Children should obtain reading materials in a similar manner. Purchasing books from a local retailer and visiting the public library are important places for your child to find reading material. However, the online world has opened up limitless additional places to help them discover quality books.

You may think the book market has been flooded with self-published books that are of low quality. While there are some books that fall into this category, there are still plenty of really great self-published children’s books. There are also a lot of independent publishers producing high-quality children’s books. My young middle grade novel ANIMAL ANDY was recently published by Muse It Up Publishing. The submissions and editing process was the same as for traditional publishers, but Muse It Up only produced ANIMAL ANDY as an ebook. I was able to have print copies made through Amazon’s CreateSpace, which is great so I can make it available in school libraries and at my local bookstore. However, the big question is, how does my ebook reach middle graders?

That’s where parents come in. Unlike young adult readers, middle graders don’t have the power to purchase ebooks online, nor as a parent do I want them to. I think it’s necessary for parents to monitor what their children are reading. But I also think parents need to do the leg work to help their younger kids discover more than just what’s available at the bookstore or on Amazon. 

My nine-year-old is a voracious reader and it’s difficult keeping his bookshelf full, so I got him an inexpensive e-reader to supplement what he brings home from the library. Through a little bit of research and web surfing, I have found so many great ebooks for him to read, many of them free or at a very low cost! In addition to browsing Amazon and Barnes and Noble, I also search Smashwords.com, Museituppublishing.com, Featherweightpublishing.com and other independent publisher sites, children’s book review blog sites, and book giveaway blog hops.

On the flip side, my six-year-old is a reluctant reader, and the e-reader is great for him, too. First of all, he wants to be like big brother and read digital books. Second, with an ebook I am able to increase the font size and make the “page” he has to read less intimidating by having fewer words that are larger. By supplementing printed books with ebooks, I have even more tools to help foster a love of reading in him.
As parents and grandparents, actively help your children seek out quality books both in print and as ebooks. Buy your children an inexpensive e-reader and fill it with quality reading content. Parents want quality books for their kids. Authors are producing quality books for kids. Let’s get our kids and books together—it’ll be a match made in heaven!  

Bio: Kathy Sattem Rygg is a children’s author and the Editor-in-Chief of the children’s online magazine knowonder!, which publishes free, short stories for kids ages 3-10. She earned a degree in magazine journalism from Iowa State University and has worked for several Fortune 500 companies, including the McGraw-Hill Companies’ Business Publications Division in New York City. She was also the Editor-in-Chief of Women’s Edition magazine in Denver, CO. She currently lives in Omaha, NE, with her husband and two children.


ANIMAL ANDY: Ten-year-old Andy Ohman is spending his summer working at the Aksarben City Zoo where his dad is curator. There are rumors that the city might close the zoo due to budget cuts. An anonymous donor has given the zoo an antique animal carousel, and Andy’s dad is hopeful it will help boost attendance. Andy’s doubtful that an old kiddie ride will make a difference. He doesn’t see what’s so special about it. But when he takes it for a spin, he unlocks the magic that will help save the zoo.
ANIMAL ANDY is published by Muse It Up Publishing. The ebook is available online at the Muse Bookstore. The print version is available on Amazon.

Kathy Rygg’s blog site is http://ksrwriter.blogspot.com
Follow her on Facebook under KSR Writer
Follow her on Twitter @kathyrygg

Happy Endings or Sad by John B. Rosenman



Happy Endings or Sad: When, if Ever, is Poor Writing Good? 

by John B. Rosenman

In our writer’s group, we have a woman writing a chicklit novel. Basically it’s about four or five career girls/women scheming and conniving to meet Mr. Right, variously called “Mr. Success,” “Mr. Wallet,” “Mr. Hunk.” Their goals are clearly defined, pragmatic, predatory, and ruled by self-interest. After all, some of them are past thirty and their biological clocks are ticking. A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. Getting a man, preferably a rich, successful, handsome man isn’t everything, however. A couple of the main characters want to cling to that man’s coattails to get promoted and climb the corporate ladder. Still, landing a winner is the main thing, as indicated by the novel’s title, which I will leave to your imagination.

This is the first novel of this kind I’ve read, and it’s been an eye-opening experience for me. Besides the efficient man-hunting plot, the writer (I’ll call her Laverne) is superb at describing cosmetics, furnishings, and the various bric-a-brac of these women’s daily existence. When I go to a party or enter a dining room, I rarely notice what the place settings are or what people are wearing. But Laverne is great at describing silverware and tablecloths, bathroom fixtures and shower jets, 900 different types of flowers and Dior Toffee eye shadow. I wouldn’t know peach highlighter from Mango Shine lipstick at gunpoint, but Laverne excels in such areas.

Now, I’m not putting Laverne down. Really. She is a highly competent writer, and the women, while often single-minded and mercenary, are brilliantly characterized and sometimes sympathetic. Laverne’s novel is professionally crafted, and if it didn’t violate the basic principle that Romance novels should focus on only one couple and one relationship, I have little doubt she would be able to sell it for significant bucks – something, by the way, which I find it hard to do.

So what’s my problem? Simply that in the last thirty pages of the novel’s first draft, events, in my opinion, took a wrong direction. After three hundred plus pages of Grey’s Anatomy, i.e., relationship problems, star-crossed lovers, SEX, financial problems, family problems, SEX, etc., everything resolved itself in a HAPPY or HEA ENDING. Okay, perhaps not everything, but enough to trouble me. Couples ironed out their problems and got together. A case of possible breast cancer turned out to be benign. And most of the career girls who were fired, fell on their feet with new, better paying jobs.
Most of the folks in my writer’s group liked the ending, whereas I saw it as implausible and as ruining the novel. I mean, life just doesn’t work out that way. Occasionally, one or two or three things will fall into place, but everybody can’t ride off into the sunset to the swell of violins, can they?

Or maybe they can.

Astute and insightful reader and/or writer, this is the main question I am submitting to you: IF READERS OF A PARTICULAR GENRE OR TYPE OF NOVEL EXPECT OR WANT SOMETHING, DOES THAT MAKE IT GOOD? I’ve always assumed that if there are 16 billion ways to write a short story or a novel, then only one of those 16 billion is the absolute best, and all the others are to be avoided, but perhaps I’m wrong. Whether in romantic novels or romantic movies, if folks want a happy ending, isn’t that the best way to end it?

By implication, questions might be asked about other areas. For example is the quality of an “extreme” horror novel directly proportional to the amount of gore, vomit, violence and dismemberment it contains? The higher the body count there is, the better?

I know this is a subject many of you are familiar with, and in various guises, it’s been discussed before. Heck, I’ve discussed and debated it before with intelligent romance writers who prefer HEA or at least HFN (Happy For Now) endings.  What makes it especially relevant to writers is that highly formulaic writing is often required in the marketplace. When it comes to Happy Endings, I can understand it – up to a point. When we read that thriller or suspense novel, that romance or western, usually we don’t want futility. We don’t want to see the good guys or gals stomped into a giant blot of gore on the horizon. In general such writing is not commercially successful, though there are exceptions. But a Happy Face for all or nearly all of the main (and some minor) characters runs the risk of being a cheat, no matter how superficially satisfying it might be.

A few years back, I wrote an essay for 
www.storytellersunplugged.com titled, “Editors are Irrational (And Publishers, Agents Too) ( . . . Mainly for Newer Writers)”. The premise was that many editors’/publishers’ requirements for stories and novels are based on “a highly subjective sniff test of personal preference” and often are “unreasonable,” “too quirky and idiosyncratic.” It can get to the point where a story can be rejected if a character wears a plaid shirt or appears to be gay. What I am talking about here, in this essay, is a broader, industry-wide set of requirements and expectations, what is sometimes called a “slant.” While many of us are aware of this concept (we have to be, in order to get published), I suspect we occasionally rail and grumble about the unreasonable strictures and requirements we face.

So, to the beginning writer, I urge you to do your homework. Whatever area you are writing in, whether SF, Romance, Horror, Western, or what have you, read a lot within it and find out what you can and cannot do. That way, if you do decide to break a rule or two, you can at least do it intelligently and with purpose. Learn the do’s and don’ts, the taboos and traditional tropes. Otherwise, you may face many years knocking on doors which no one opens.

Speaking of doors, I hope I’ve nudged one of my own ajar. I invite writers to contact me at jroseman@cox.net, or leave a note at this blog, about creatively stultifying rules they’ve faced. Maybe it’s not the requisite Happy Ending or Excessive Sex/Gore/Violence, but something else, such as Tom Monteleone complaining years ago that horror publishers required skeletons or monsters on covers. Whatever the case, those rules made you feel you were lowering and betraying the quality of your work by adhering to stupid requirements you didn’t believe in. Perhaps you were told a particular rule was good, that it was established long ago by wiser heads than yours, but deep in your gut, you remained unconvinced.

C’mon, let’s hear your stories. I bet you’ll feel better getting them off your chest. And that in itself would be a happy ending.

John recently retired as an English professor at Norfolk State University where he designed and taught a course in how to write Science fiction and Fantasy.  He is a former Chairman of the Board of the Horror Writers Association and has published approximately 350 stories in places such as Weird Tales, Whitley Strieber's Aliens, Fangoria, Galaxy, The Age of Wonders, and the Hot Blood anthology series. John has published over a dozen books, including SF action-adventure novels such as Beyond Those Distant Stars and Speaker of the Shakk (Mundania Press), A Senseless Act of Beauty (Crossroad Press), and Alien Dreams (Drollerie Press).  Shorter books include A Mingling of Souls and Music Man (XoXo Publishing), Here Be Dragons (Eternal Press), The Voice of Many Waters (Blue Leaf Publications), Green in Our Souls (Damnation Books), and Bagonoun’s Wonderful Songbird and Childhood’s Day (Gypsy Shadow Publishing). Recent developments: MuseItUp Publishing contracted for three novels, Dark Wizard; Dax Rigby, War Correspondent; and Inspector of the Cross, and two stories, More Stately Mansions and The Blue of Her Hair, the Gold of Her Eyes.
Visit John at his website, http://www.johnrosenman.com