Monday, November 30, 2015

Blurring the Line: Interviews with Horror Writers

Horror can range from stories that elicit heart palpitations to cringing and nausea to an unease that won’t let go. Horror that makes me jump and then laugh at the adrenaline rush can be fun, and I can appreciate the imagery of a well-done slasher scene—both designed to shake us, give us a quick thrill?—but I generally seek out horror that evokes that unnamable unease, that makes me think and wonder and try to establish how the horror might fit in myself or the world I’m part of. 

I think the unknown plays into most horror; however, I’m drawn to horror that remains a bit of a mystery, that entails the ambiguous, something that might lie within us if not without, or that we finally perceive with a sense of near awe because it is beyond our control and yet part of this world, not to go away. 

In the new anthology Blurring the Line, editor Marty Young, founding president of the Australian Horror Writers Association and an Australian Shadows Award winner,  has pulled together stories that blur the line between reality and fiction, reflecting the strange, often surreal, mystery of our world. Each day, upon the book's release, authors in the collection will answer some questions about horror, from what horror is to them to what writers have influenced them most. 

I will add links to each interview below as they appear each day. Blurring the Line is now available, in time for holiday gifts or for a taste of the more sinister during the winter season bustle! 


Patricia J. Esposito is author of Beside the Darker Shore and has published numerous works in anthologies, such as Main Street Rag’s Crossing Lines, Cohesion Press’s Blurring the Line, AnnaPurna’s Clarify, Timbre’s Stories of Music, and Undertow’s Apparitions,and in magazines, including Not One of Us, Scarlet Literary Magazine, Rose and Thorn, Wicked Hollow, and Midnight Street. She has received honorable mentions in Ellen Datlow's Year's Best Fantasy and Horror collections and is a Pushcart Prize nominee.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Apolonio's Light -- vampire novel start

Arturo -1-
I have had moments of pride. Ah, fine, if you listen to your century’s wide, wireless infidelity, you’ll say I’ve had many moments of criminal pride. Arturo de Rosa—I use a brief name now for all I’ve been.
I brush a fly from my face and it returns to crawl up the black silk strands that drape my shoulder. I wonder if my long hair will be bug infested. I am eternal but I am not a god. At night mosquitoes nip and spiders bite and in the day the damn flies crawl over a body that doesn’t sweat. Yet I have scent. And like you, I’ve had moments of pride.
Fear them—those prideful moments.
Wait! Do not sweep me away, nor turn the next page. I imagine you reading this tale on loose leaf, crumbling it now and high-fiving it to the tall chrome pail.
Because loss and fatigue have made me humble, do you look to your surroundings for reassurance? Yes, let’s look at what you’ve accumulated, how grand the house stands in exclamation of how well you’ve done. The family talks around the table of Cornish hen and apple stuffing and organic greens from the fresh-mart. “Toss it in the recycling, Maddy.” Yes, you are successful.
What blood will be drawn, what spirit diminished in self-reflection? I stood in the Mosque at Cordoba, having led good hearts to this place of transformations. I could not kill my conscience on my own. I needed the help of the righteous.
Let me walk with you in your true-green grass. Ice clinks with the soothing sound that only crystal can sing as we sip. Sip? I’m generous—I believe that was a full-mouthed gulp. But we deserve it after such a day. Such a day. Into your phone, you say, “They don’t matter. It’s the edge we need.” There is much configuring in the world of the mighty. Our polished shoes crush the grass. Good-soled, we don’t feel the worms beneath.
But I was talking about fear before these distractions. Though pearly with lack of direct sunlight, my skin has a glossy health. I take my fill of nourishing blood, only the best, as you feed your progeny at the table their gluten-free, pesticide-free, soy-free, freeing wholesomeness. It’s a good feeling, isn’t it? Providing security and health? It defines us. It names us good. We look in the mirror and see success. And all that configuring and all that power points toward us, center of the universe.
As dawn rose from the dead in its humbling ritual, the mosque began to drown me. I needed him, my nemesis, my conscience. To survive, I needed him slain. I needed his blood. How else is one to survive but on the blood of others? The naïve willingness of the masses to … ah, am I naming my conscience “the masses”? I admit I did not mean to. Another humbling experience, when our words speak truths we didn’t know.
In the mosque, the man was Alexandros de Mersecal, a vampire, and it is his ash that itches under my healthy glossed skin. His ash that the flies smell. Inside, I am deteriorating. Conscience. It does us all in. With time. Do you have time?
From the verandah of empty wealth, I watch you cross the grass, phone to your ear, drink in hand. I pretend we are one because I am going to kill you. Through treated floorboards, insects find me. The Mosque is an open, pillared structure, an ordered labyrinth with the illusion of chaos if you believe everything is yours—if you demand the sight be mastered. How we fight the world we are part of.
The cellular voice picks at you, picking, tick, tick, pick, like the borers infesting the maple. “Damn, that’s why I’m at the top,” you say. “Edge.” It’s all about the edge, how we make our space, control the pillar in the labyrinth, while the lost wander hollow in a hollow place. Poor souls. I’ve found it’s easier to kill those we pity. I am trying to pity you, but the day has worn me.
You fall into the padded lounge chair and I close my eyes. My own phone buzzes like the mosquitos. I don’t need to open my eyes to know its message. “Arturo, where are you?” they keep demanding, and I don’t answer. I prefer talking to you. You swat bugs and settle back, your drink at rest on your thigh. Your pestilence encourages my hunger. Hunger to dash your greedy desires, your disdain at my dream: the moon and the sun, a boy, the magnetic nucleus.
Mon Dios, that buzzing! I throw the phone at the verandah screen and it bounces back. It buzzes. You slap a mosquito on your arm and stare at your bloodied hand. Desire stirs, but I don’t move yet. The dream is coming again: a young man mirrored, unsure what’s real and what’s beyond. The phone buzzes as annoying as the insects.
I fly over green-grass ocean. “Success is inconsequential,” I say to you and fling your phone to the grass. You don’t know how to scream without preparing its presentation. The silence amuses me, just legs kicking for life against polyvinyl-coated fluff and foam. I will give you to the river. Your blood will take me to this family’s son. My dream follows the moon.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

"Adjusted for inflation, the federal minimum wage peaked in 1968 at $8.54 (in 2014 dollars). Since it was last raised in 2009, to the current $7.25 per hour, the federal minimum has lost about 8.1% of its purchasing power to inflation. The Economist recently estimated that, given how rich the U.S. is and the pattern among other advanced economies in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, “one would expect America…to pay a minimum wage around $12 an hour.”


I hear people in the business world complaining about raising minimum wage. They say, "Get a better job if you want more money. Get an education." What I hear in that is fear that they're own position won't seem so lofty, that they want there to be a gap between where they are and where someone else doing a different job is. They want to feel they've been successful.

What many of these new employees in the business world don't realize is that their salaries (wage per hour) has slumped back to what the same job brought in twenty years ago. People looking for new jobs in their lifelong field are finding companies offering the salaries they began at twenty years ago. But younger employees don't have this gauge. They think making $17 an hour is, at least, well above minimum wage, so they should be satisfied.

Instead, they are making very little more than a minimum wage worker would be making if salaries and wages had kept up with inflation and management hadn't begun widening the gap with the majority of their workers making barely $8.00 an hour, while company leaders made $5,000 an hour and more.

If salaries were capped to something reasonable, imagine all the extra money that would be available to pay workers and offer benefits. Imagine a workforce that feels valued and valuable to their job, and has extra money to purchase washing machines, couches, TVs, cars, vacations, houses, and on.

To new businesses starting out, often management isn't making much more than employees. It's a struggle at the start and minimum wage is difficult. Yet in the past, it has been done. What if there were more incentives to starting new businesses? What if loans didn't have such high interest rates to feed the bankers? A business begins in the red and works its way out if loans are not designed to keep them in debt.

Through history, when people had more jobs and made more money, the economy thrived. If people would stop trying to keep each other down to raise themselves, maybe we could collectively stimulate all parts of the system. At the moment, I see a country clinging to whatever it has right now out of fear ... but I'd like to know what's so great about what they have. Simply that they're better off than the next guy?

Sunday, March 8, 2015

How Genre Influences a Story

The real event:

She walks with her sister down the apartment complex sidewalk. In the green, four guys bat a volleyball around. They look; she looks. She talks quickly to her sister about their visit. Rapid talk. And while  her mouth says things like "She looks healthy, happy." Her mind says, "Hotness. Don't look. Don't look." Their shirts are rolled up to their chests. Brown skin darkened already by summer sun. One's got the Bruno Mars hair (why, guys, why?) but cute nonetheless. Eyes flicker. Talking, walking faster. Past them now. Nearing the parking lot. At the first row of cars, she stops to give her sister a hug and kiss. The four, at a distance now, stand still in a line. Goodbyes, and she and her sister head to their row of cars. She gets in, sighs with relief. Phew, hot. And the volleyball comes winging, then bouncing over, through the lot, to roll in the car space next to hers. Bruno Mars comes jogging over to retrieve it, bending, standing outside her window. She rummages through her purse till he moves on. She drives away.

How genre might determine a story's unfolding:

Fantasy: As he bends for the ball, the string around his neck slips out of his shirt. A flash of turquoise. I gasp and look away. It's a polinar. There's nothing I can do but stare ahead as he tucks it back into hiding.

Western: He twirls the ball on one finger, and swaggers over. Sun glints off his buckle. He nods without a smile and moves on, taking the empty sidewalk into shadow.

Erotica: He picks up the ball but makes no move back to his friends. Standing, shirt rolled up his chest, he flips the ball hand to hand. His dark eyes stare. I unroll my window.

Mystery: It was a ploy. Obviously. The ball had to be kicked to reach this far. But they couldn't know what was in my trunk. David said he'd put it there before sunrise.

Literary: I looked away as he bent for the ball. His shoulders were too broad to call him kid anymore, but still, who wasn't susceptible to the mockery of peers? He deserved space to collect himself. In this complex, eyes pried through slitted window shades, and mean grins slammed the doors. He walked head up.

Romance: He snatched up the ball and sheepishly smiled. What had he done to his hair? I thought, and couldn't help but smile back. I could see him moussing it up, laughing at himself in the mirror. But that memory was two years old already.

How much does genre choice influence our stories? I know some people write a specific genre regularly. It's what they read; it's what they write. I jump all over the place. And I don't think we're necessarily aware all the time what genre we're aiming for. I think we might just be inclined more toward one than another. And it could be our mood, or an unconscious need that dictates what works best. Just thinking ..

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A spark in Chicago music

Train Company at Double Door March 20, 2015

You can't listen to one song from The Remains of an Effort by Train Company and think you know this band. There's no pigeonholing a collection that ranges from gritty rock to nightclub jazz, from sexy blues to timeless pop, with genres I can't name in between. There is something for everyone. How this core band of five plays together with such diversity is astounding in itself, but what's even better is how energetic, sincere, empathetic, and joyful it all sounds together.

There's nothing like falling in love with a song, finding the kind of connection that makes you want to hug the music to your heart. I said you can't listen to one song to know this band, yet it takes only one song to know you're in love. Whatever genre they're playing in, the heart of Train Company comes through to create a full, cohesive work that in the end tells a story you want to hear again.

While exploring themes of change, the kinds of mistakes we all make, the kinds of growth we all need, there's both a sense of the drive to find yourself ("Look at you/Your face in your hands and you don't know what to do"; "to fill the void you make some noise") and a sense of compassion ("Through the air the numbered masses stay connected"; "'Cause I know, I've been there before/I know I'll be there once more") always recognizing the patterns of life we all go through ("You never know you're goin' round and round/Still fallin' up/All the way") with the feeling it's all okay, maybe even the point.

The musical arrangements (with added horns and strings) are the sound of seasoned players who know when to embellish and when to hold back. The music doesn't always go where expected, breaking the formulas with an understanding of layers and the power of nuance. Keyboardist Sam Wyatt taps tempos and crescendos from elegant to joyfully wild, as saxophonist Mark Alletag blows svelte seduction or a playful bounce; bassist Mike DeWitt tantalizes with rhythms that fix in our stomachs, as drummer Rob Lejman controls us with his steady beating or, with expert elation, rolls everything out; and singer/guitarist John Zozzaro buoyed on it all, responds to what he feels, tickling up guitar melodies, luring us around corners, seducing us with a bluesy lust, or pounding a dynamic rhythm to get even non-dancers dancing. 

As a songwriter, Zozarro, seems to have a vision, and it's played out in his lyrics, as well as in his emotionally textured yet astoundingly smooth, clean voice that is tender, sexy, triumphant, and playful.  He can wail with a voice of silken seduction, rip out guttural need, or soothe with the tenderness of a friend who cares. 

The opening song, “October,” is a beautiful testament to the band’s fearless experimentation and talent. It’s followed by the driving “City Down by the Shoreline,” a catchy song that then builds to a wild mesh of sound that demands relinquishment. “Leavin’” feels like the aftermath of a final night of sex and the thrill of new adventure,” and beside “Look at You,” leads the listener on in an album that begins to feel like a story. Bold assertion and sexy nonchalance blend in songs like “Still Can Feel the Heat” and “Myself in Two,” while the world turns moody and psychedelic in the midway gem “The Otherside,” then quietly compassionate in the lovely “Real Digital,” which I can’t believe isn’t a radio hit yet.  The feeling of story continues in songs like the rat-pack sounding “Face in the Crowd,” the vivid streets and voices of the cleverly constructed “Steve,” and the mysterious ambiguity of “Remains of an Effort,” while the charming “Bannister” pops up as one of the sweetest sexy songs I’ve heard in a long time.

When The Remains of an Effort ends—to snag a new meaning from "Face in the Crowd"—"You take a deep breath, then you start over." Train Company is the band to listen to if you’re “lookin’ for some change.” It’s time, isn’t it? 

Get a taste of them here! 
And you can see them March 20 at Double Door

Reviews by Patricia J. Esposito
author of Beside the Darker Shore ----

Reviews of Beside the Darker Shore

Goodreads Review 
Romance writers review 
GLBT Bookshelf review 

Friday, February 6, 2015

His Eyes, or Then Again...

It’s his eyes, she said, his eyes,
the upper lid’s arch of symmetry,
delineated by the blacker arc of brows,
ink-defined in careful calligraphy,
to say watch here what is framed below,
to say here is where the world begins,
beneath this sensuous snake of night,
bedded under black-lace lashes,
straddling what we know will rise.

The bottom lid decides its own way,
to rise from medial commissure
as lids join against the nose, to dip
in a sweep that splashes us beneath
the hazel-sun iris rising on our ride,
heads thrown back, the rush of warmth
in his breezy, sun-flecked gaze,
prairie-stretched, plunged into long-grain,
gold-heat, laid-in-the-meadow summer.

It’s those eyes, she said …
then again, those lips …

by Patricia J. Esposito, author of  Beside the Darker Shore
GLBT Bookshelf Review

Goodreads Review

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Collective (2 versions)

These things I hear:
woman is spherical
and permeable
man is warrior spear
we are blood and blood
alike with earth
maiden fern
and bleeding heart
formed in our rituals
dated in our cave paintings
our soul a layered thing
apparent but untouched

In spoken touch
such abstracts warm
we live and live again
recreate creations
my words yours and yours
permeable man
or spearing woman
shedding skin to muscle,
muscle to bone,
bone to ash and air

This is how I hear--
in your salon
your institute
your lounge chair
on the pampa, now
and one hundred years ago--
you speaking


Bend to the bowl
rounded and deep
open down and bent
Shear the grain, the wood
the steel, pick the harvest
and prod the bridging street
Earth the maiden fern
the bleeding heart, ashphalt
bowed in steaming sun
Learn the bison roaming caves
the virgin crippled on her candle row
the fairy in her flower fold
Shed skin to muscle, muscle
to bone, bone to ash and air

What touch is spoken
What word touched

In the bowl where your taste
lingers, in the scythe
that whistles your call
in bedrooms or institutes
churches or streets
or lounge chairs in suburban sun--now
and one hundred years ago--
you're speaking.


With reading glasses tipped
between the page before me
and the prospects beyond,

my eyes flicker to passing
cars in the school’s lot of rampant
and distracted energy.

The sun sets on their release
from debate teams and football
and orchestral dream-duties.

And I wait for the spindly legs
of my teen daughter, bold in step,
ripping the sidewalk beneath.

Ten minutes, twenty, the sun fat
on the blue roof, the red brick weakening
to pink--an old energy stirs in me.

It must peak in my eyes just then,
as the boys drift by in their lazy Buick
arms out the window, heads to the breeze.

Because over glasses my blurry eyes
find startled focus, as his eyes lock-click
on mine, trapped in what’s lost,

his grin dangling like a glittering key.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Complicating the Old Rule: Show, Don't Tell

Good writing isn't as easy as following a list of ten rules. All writers have heard the importance of learning the technique "show, don't tell." But in too many blog tips and how-to lists, I think the concept has become oversimplified to a quick-and-easy fix, as if changing an adverb to an action fulfills the quest for reader involvement.

I recently came across a writing handbook that suggested showing rather than telling a story and gave a short example:

Telling: "No, I won't go," Ron said angrily
Showing: "No, I won't go." Ron slammed down the phone.

Within the context of a story, this might work. As readers, we might have been feeling Ron's anger building for three paragraphs and the phone slamming is exactly what we would do too. But as an example of learning to show and not tell, I think it fails. And I see lessons like this too often. If the reader isn't feeling the same anger, the action of slamming the phone will be as ineffective as "Ron said, angrily." So what?

"Show, don't tell" isn't simply replacing a stated emotion with a physical action (Jillian felt sad/Jillian wiped a tear). It's the writer becoming so involved in the story that he or she stops telling it. The story begins happening around the writer; the story's world reflects the feelings and governs the actions. The reader is then involved in that world because the writer is involved.

I came across a passage from Elizabeth Chadwick's novel The Summer Queen. I would present this as a superb example of an author showing us the story as the character lives it rather than telling us what the author thinks the character feels about the story. By its close, I feel my breath tight, suffocating on the news.

      William broke the seal, read what was written, and turned to Alienor. “Madam, perhaps you should sit down,” he said, gesturing to a carved bench near the wall.
      She stared at him. Dear God, Louis was dead, she thought. She did as he suggested. Roses overhung the seat, heavy and red, their perfume filling each breath she took.
      A frown clouded William’s smooth brow. “Madam,” he said gently, “I grieve to tell you that Raymond, Prince of Antioch, has been killed in battle against the Saracens.”
      Alienor continued to stare at him. The smell of the roses intensified and the air grew so thick that she could barely breathe, and what air she did inhale was drenched with the syrupy sweet scent of flowers on the edge of corruption.
       She felt his hand on her shoulder, but it was a flimsy anchor.

I would suggest delving deeper into "show, don't tell" by reading good, respected writers who have proven their skills over time. I would look at passages in which you, as a reader, have felt the emotions deeply, have experienced a setting and become lost in it.

To show and not tell isn't as simple as phrase replacement. When I'm editing my work, I sometimes come across pages in which the story feels distant to me. I'm not involved. Nowhere in them do I necessarily find a pointless dialogue tag or have a narrator say, "Samuel felt confused." Yet, something is missing. Despite steering clear of what appears to be "telling," the story isn't immediate; it's not "showing" the world in an authentic, immediate way that makes me feel without thinking and know without being told.

Think back to when you were a kid playing pretend. Your parents call you for dinner and you suddenly realize that you have been gone from this world, lost in something else as true. Think of those day or night fantasies, those moments when we imagine a scenario and forget we're driving or become startled as someone speaks. I think writing requires that same state of being lost to one world and alive in another. When we pretend, we don't tell. We are doing. And in a good story, that doing is shown to a reader.

So, to those quick-and-easy writing tips, I would add just a little more: Don't simply slam down the phone. Be there to know the phone and the table it's on, to know the clipped, tense language that surrounds you, to know if the air is thin or heavy, to know the history of the relationship happening over the phone. Be in that place and time with that character so that what happens is inevitable.

Show the reader what you saw when you were there, so that they can be there too, without instruction, without clear guidance, but inevitably as they follow your character, as they read the next words.


Patricia J. Esposito is author of the novel Beside the Darker Shore

Reviews of Beside the Darker Shore:  
GLBT Bookshelf
Two Lips Review
Goodreads/Thomas Olbert

Thursday, January 8, 2015

An Affair with Trust

Two people fall in love on a cruise and agree to meet at the Empire State Building on New Year’s Eve if they dissolve their current relationships and believe their new love is true. The woman gets in a car accident and is paralyzed. She doesn't want the man to be burdened with this and so doesn't make the New Year's Eve rendezvous (nor does she call). The man thinks she changed her mind, believing the love on her part proved false.

When I saw the An Affair to Remember with Deborah Kerr and Cary Grant, I cried and cried. That’s what I was supposed to do. I was also angry that something seemingly easy to rectify might have kept these two lovers apart forever. Maybe it was because I cried so much that I began to approach with skepticism each romance plot based on miscommunication or fear of communication.

I became impatient, although, really, it seems the plot worked well and continues to work in many novels and movies. After all, like most storylines, romances are usually based on conflict and resolution, and what better conflict than two people in love being kept apart? Yet the ways in which characters are kept apart are more than miscommunication. Wars, duties, career choices, natural disasters, commitment fears, all keep characters from fulfilling their romance.

Are these reasons less frustrating? Possibly they are to me. Possibly I’m at war with people’s inability to communicate because too often pain can be avoided with a little step over the line, a whisper of truth, swallowed pride, a risk of vulnerability, a trust and belief that the other person will care.

Is that what we learn in many of these romances? That it would have been okay to tell the truth? That it would have been okay to show interest, to say, “Hey, where were you? I was waiting”? Is pride at the root of failed communication?

I wrote the story “A Penny Trust” to see what might happen if communication was thwarted but without pride and fear aiding in love’s destruction. It's the story of a college senior, Ian, who buries himself in books of poetry and romantic notions of love. When a dark, exquisitely beautiful classmate begins eyeing him in the school courtyard, Ian finds his books flat open on his knees, words not living up to the sight of the daring boy, Polo. One day Polo hides something in the stone wall of the courtyard, glancing back at Ian as he leaves. What Ian finds beneath the stone he takes and keeps as a secret gift. In return, he tucks his first love poem to Polo beneath the stone in the wall.

But Polo never receives this poem, nor the others Ian leaves. Someone else has intruded on their space, and although their attraction runs high, the deception leaves each boy confused. Will the intruder thwart their chance at love? Or will Ian discover that real romance might not lie in mystery but in something better?

For me, this story became an exercise in how to build tension without the two lovers acting on the broken communication, because whatever the professor did, the two boys would not doubt each other's attraction and honest interest. I didn't want either to be governed by pride or be afraid to trust the other. Their affair moved forward despite the hindered communication. Instead, tension had to come in the pursuit of love regardless.

Is it a failed story because there are no tearful scenes of misunderstanding? No angry scenes of false assumptions? No months and years of anguish in doubting? I hope not. For me the story was a rebellion against the perpetuation of fear and pride in relationships. This doesn't mean thwarted love stories shouldn't be written. In our real lives it seems to be a little harder to swallow that pride, to just ask the simple question, "Hey, what happened?"

But what would it mean to give up the romantic conceit of love thwarted, not by war or disease or careers or family responsibilities, but by simple lack of communication?  What if we saw character after character, saying, "Fuck this wondering; I'm going to call"? A naïve idea? We're a sad little bunch of humanity, afraid to appear love-struck, afraid of rejection, and I've no idea why. Pride? Pain comes regardless. I believe I'd rather face it quickly and move on.

Ah, here, someone passed me another novel to read, and as I try to begin, I see the character all bundled up in pride, refusing to say, "It hurt me when you did that," instead steeling herself against communication, and I put the book down. Another goes unread. No tolerance. Life's short, we discover as we get older. Or maybe romance just needs to be a little more about fun.

"A Penny Trust" $0.99 ebook available at Amazon and other major venues.