May 23, 2016

12 Opening Lines to Start Your Novel Right Now

12 writing prompts in one go. If you manage to tie these twelve into a single, coherent story, I'll gladly call you a genius.

1. In 2001 I buried a man and a woman in the desert, southeast of Pahrump. They claimed to be my siblings, which I know is a lie. In 2016, they showed up on my doorstep smiling, with a bunch of daffodils and a bottle of Volnay Clos d'Audignac like nothing had ever happened.

2. Dead set on making up for 1987, Paul crossed the street clutching the gun in his pocket.

3.  They called him Elbow Wizard on account of things tended to break open when he used his elbow on them — be they heads or walnuts.

Andreas Wiedemann

4. Mrs Belfry turned the unusual potato in the light, her thin old fingers so translucent Maria couldn't help but think of shower curtains and Victorian ghosts.

5. Theodore woke up in the garden, on the ground, about six years ahead of the alarm he had set the night before. He had time-traveled in his sleep again.

6. Silke touched the redwood and stopped breathing.

Ana Markovitj

7. The pigeons all looked suspicious, the crumbs on the ground no less.

8. Peterson turned to face the bay of Biscay and said, no force on this Earth will make me go look for my son when he doesn't want to be found.

9. There, I have come home, said the Tartessian in bad Greek. He pointed to a black pillar standing in the fog that mantled the shore. Howls and woebegone cries rose from that fog and one of the sailors covered his mouth: "Sirens!" he gasped. "No, not sirens," I said. "I smell something worse."

Hans Kanters

10. The disturbance began with a tour of the empty slaughterhouse.

11. A woman threw her glasses on the ground as I drove by and next thing I knew a fist-sized rock flew through my windshield.

12. Marcel sat down, flicked the imp off his desk and picked up his quill. "You will never finish this copy of yours," said the imp. "You do your duty, devil, and I do mine," said Marcel. "I shall blunt your nibs and vomit on your vellum!" said the imp, clambering up Marcel's leg.  

Scorpion Dagger

May 17, 2016

Culture Wars VII:

The naked people came howling down the mountainside! Jane reached for Tomeka's arm, toppling her coffee cup, browning the scratched Formica tabletop. "Chantelle! Lock the back door!" an old waitress yelled.
"They were telling the truth," said Jane. "Not just messing with us."

Dellydel, Make America Great Again

A note on the names used for this prompt:

Tomeka has never enjoyed much popularity as a baby name. It allegedly derives from the Swahili word for sweet, tamu. How you get from point A to point B on that, I can't really say.
A more likely origin would be the Japanese Tamiko, "child of the people."
However, Tomeka is an American coinage. As a forum member on Behind the Name noted, "The name was probably introduced to the United States by the 1963 film A Girl Named Tamiko. This film, though about a Japanese woman falling in love with a White American man, was in many ways an anti-racism story. This appealed to African-Americans back in the 1960s, and some of them who saw the movie named daughters Tamiko because of it."

Jane, on the other hand, has taken root in dozens of languages. From Ivana to Xoana, the name varies from language to language, country to country, until it takes on shapes that challenge belief. But then, Jane means "Grace of God," and what typical parents throughout History would sneeze at that?

Chantelle comes to us from French Chantal, meaning "stony" in its original incarnation. (Or "inlapidation"? "Inlithification"? I don't know.) Now people associate it with chanter, to sing. Which is just as well.

May 13, 2016

5 Questions with Soren Narnia of the Knifepoint Horror Podcast

Do you remember your first campfire story? The thrill of pondering the unknown as a wall of black trees surrounded you under the roof of night?

Two weeks ago I happened upon a podcast that recreated that experience for me. I didn't know what I was looking for — it found me instead. Knifepoint Horror barely teased the contents of each episode, with one-word titles like Sleep, Fields or Staircase.

Lying back in my chair and pressing the play button I listened to Chasm. Told in the first person, it took you on a dangerous journey to lake Baikal where a curious man faces a thing of nebulous contours and dread so immense he won't even look upon it.

Max Ernst, The Temptation of Saint Anthony

That one episode hooked me. I started binge-listening. Then I wanted to know more about the guy who wrote these short, sometimes intentionally artless tales and read them out loud at a slow steady pace.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you 5 Questions with Soren Narnia. And I encourage you to learn the story behind that pseudonym.

Can you describe yourself in three words?

Lazy, daydreaming procrastinator.

Can you remember/describe the first thing you ever wrote?

That would be the super-awesome 'Valley of the Vampires', a 4-page, 28-word handwritten opus complete with illustrations and bound with two stout staples. In the first sentence, I informed the reader that there was such a thing as the Valley of the Vampires. In sentence #2, I assured them that this was a bad thing. In sentence #3, I assured them that it was REALLY a bad thing. That was pretty much where the story ended.

As a writer, I suppose you have a number of favorite authors. Who might they be?

J.G. Ballard for his kind of sad yet disturbing sci-fi writings; Kurt Vonnegut for his humanity, grim ironies and totally unique style; H.P. Lovecraft for his comfortingly repetitive visions in that creepy Cthulhu world; Joyce Carol Oates for the way she writes about the jumble of neuroses and flaws that make up even the most functional among us; Spalding Gray for his likeable everyman adventures; Stephen King for his impressive skill with words and the ability to create such recognizable human beings and situations.

In one of your stories, you mention a fictional movie, "The Language Demons Speak" by the equally fictional moviemaker Thomas Naroth. Do you see a metaphor for the genre of horror lurking in that title, where "demon" stands both for the Christian concept of demon as evil spirit and the Greek concept of daimon as spirit guide? What is horror trying to tell us, then? 

Horror is the spirit guide that takes our hand and offers us a virtual encounter with gruesome death so that our curiosity about what it might be like to suffer one can be temporarily satisfied. Then the spirit takes us back home safe and sound. But if we ask the spirit to show us another death, and another, and another, that spirit starts to become a true demon, trapping us in unhealthy dark thoughts, making us enjoy them too much, causing us to forget that it's not good to look so often into the spidery corners of mortality. Once you're possessed by that demon, it's time to start watching Star Wars movies or rom-coms or something, for the sake of your mental health.

Two Knifepoint Horror episodes feature trees as very prominent symbols -- for example, the trio of phantasmal trees that appear to the narrator's uncle in Sleep. What do trees mean to you?

There's something up with trees. On a lovely summer day, they're beautiful leafy green shade-givers. On a crisp autumn day, a dazzling display of natural color. But on a cold drizzly day in winter, they're intimidating, beckoning, silent and jagged ogres looming all around you on every side, each step in the forest pulling you deeper into the embrace of a silent coven whose intent is unknown. The seasons completely transform their meaning to me. So here's my open statement to trees: I'm not buying your innocent act anymore. I know what you really are. Who the hell do you think you're dealing with? You think I'm a total chump? Do you?

FOR MORE: || knifepoint horror

May 9, 2016

The Monster's Last Meow

"I have... call it a PhD in monsters. I'm not even sure certain things have actually happened to me."
"What things?" she asked.
"Would you like me to slow down time? I've got some of the old juice left, and it's a long story."
"Did you say slow down time?"

Poster by Polish designer Franciszek Starowieyski for the play Oni ("They")

Apparently his posters are in such high demand you have to ask to go on a wait list.
See dozens of Starowieyski's poster designs here.