Happy Halloween! Or: I Just Can’t Help Myself.

I’m a horror writer. You’d think I’d only listen to death metal (or at the very least, hard German rock). But this Halloween I’m confessing my own dark secret: I love super-catchy, cheery, pop-y music*. And, what with Halloween making me giddy (it’s the horror-kid’s Christmas!), I thought I’d post something cute tonight.

Happy Halloween! May your night be long and creepy, may the clouds fog the moon, and may you avoid the razor blade in your apple!

*I do like heavy rock, though. And some dubstep. And blues. And classic country…

Life’s Better In the Zone

Yesterday I wrote.

That wouldn’t be anything out of the ordinary — excepting unforseen catastrophes, I try to write something every day.

The difference with yesterday was that I tripled my typical output.

I’m working on a novel right now, and have a couple shorts bubbling away. (People said I should put one out for Halloween, being a horror writer and all, but neither is ready yet. I’d rather wait until I love them more.) Yesterday I sat down, set my timer, figured I’d get some words down on the novel then go about the rest of my day.

But what happened instead was that I fell into that mystical place: the Zone. Where the words seem to flow through you, whispered in your ear by some other storyteller. All you have to do is catch them before they wink out, and nail them down before they get away. When you’re there, you know: it felt like my hands were guided by someone, or Something other than myself, and when I read over what I’d written it seemed to have come from someone else altogether. At the same time, the voice is completely, one hundred percent me at my best, and I couldn’t be happier. I love the story, and everyone and everything in it. I know what’s happening and where it’s going.

I came away from the session with legs cramped and brain spinning. Pleasantly exhausted and wrung completely dry. It was running a marathon. It was winning a gameshow. It was years of practice at writing distilled into one perfect afternoon.

I can only hope Whatever that was comes to visit me again soon. We’ve got a lot of work to do, the two of us.

Find Out “What’s Inside”: a Horror Preview

Just in time for Halloween, I thought I’d share an excerpt of my short horror story, “What’s Inside”. Graphic, disturbing, and unsettling, this one’s my favourite!

“She’s only a little dead. I can feel the warm. The bits inside, for sure, are hot.

There was a lot more blood than I expected; more than when I done either the mouse or the chipmunk.
Maybe it’s because of the babies. I learned in school that a lady has more blood when she’s pregnant. “It’s because the baby needs more food,” Mrs Chappel told us. I don’t know what that had to do with anything; I just wanted to hear about the blood. But when she talked she rubbed her hand around and around on her belly, and the sound drove me bananas until I couldn’t hear her words anymore. She was always touching her belly and smiling; I don’t understand why she was so happy to be getting fat.

I’ve got my favourite sharp stick here and I squidge it around inside. There’s some lumpy stuff, and a thing that looks like a kidney bean. I tried poking at it but it got stuck on my stick and I had to shake it off. It went splat when it hit the dirt and had little stringy bits like a spider’s web all over it.

I kicked some dust on it. It’s not what I want.

I get up close again, and don’t get any grass on my knees. My Mom just bought me these jeans and she’ll be mad at me if I wreck ’em.

The knife I took out of Daddy’s drawer is right here with me. It’s all rusty and I couldn’t get it open at first but I worked real hard and it opened right up. It just took some wiggling.
“My clever boy,” Mom says inside my head, and it makes me smile. I love my Mom.

It’s starting to get a little dark out. Goosey bumps are all over my arms, even though I have my coat all did up.

What happened was I stayed in the cloakroom after the last bell. I was trying to think. It was warm and dark in there, and even though it smelled like wet boots it made me feel safe.

Mrs Chappel came to the doorway of the cloakroom and pulled me out of the pile of other kids’ clothes. There’s babies inside her, two of them. I wanted to know if they could see me from in there.

“Do your babies have eyelids?”

“Well, that’s a good question. Yes, I think they do.” She was rubbing at her belly again and her hand went scratch scratch scratch against her shirt.

“It’s too loud! I don’t like when you do that.”

Her hand stopped. “Okay, Cody, time to get you home. Put on your coat.”

I let her help me, even though I’m big enough to do it myself. And then I had a lightbulb.

“Mrs Chappel, my mom can’t come get me today. Can you take me home?”

“Hmm. Why don’t we call her? We’ll go to the office and I’ll let you use the phone.”

“No! She can’t come. She had a appointment. And my dad can’t come either. He works.”

Mrs Chappel’s eyebrows went all up.

“It’s close to here.” It’s not, really, but I tell good lies.

She got down on her knees and zipped up my coat. Her eyes were big and brown, with little bits of green.

“I can’t take you home to an empty house, Cody.”

“I could…I could go to my neighbour’s. She’s old, so we can’t call her. She doesn’t hear. But she watches me, sometimes.”

Mrs Chappel tried to stand back up, but it wasn’t easy for her. I put my arm out and let her push on it, but I knew she wasn’t really putting weight on me. Grownups never think you can do stuff.

I do lots of things that grownups don’t know about.”

From What’s Inside, a horror short by Stefanie N Snider.
Throw a buck at Amazon or Smashwords and find out why some kids are better left alone.

Cholera: Before and After

“1831 engraving of a young Venetian woman, aged 23, depicted before and after contracting cholera. Photograph: Wellcome Images”

This image was part of a collection called “Dirt: The Filthy Reality of Everyday Life”, which sounds both revolting and fascinating. I’m sorry I missed it. Click here to read a detailed review of the collection by Laura Cumming, of the Observer.