Pen of the Damned: 31

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Pen of the Damned.

A group of horror and angst driven writers sworn to their eternal suffering.
We are

The Damned.

I’m a member of The Pen of the Damned, a group of writers who get together and write short fiction based on picture prompts. It’s fun and keeps my brain from getting cobwebby. The stories are between 100-200 words long, so they’re delicious bites of horror and depravity.

My favorite.

If you’d like to stop by and taste the shards of some dark shorts, please stop by and read exercise 31.

 

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My Nemesis Matt Betts Takes Over My Blog!

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Matt is just the worst. THE WORST.  He’s been my nemesis for years and he just won’t stop. Won’t stop writing poetry, won’t stop putting out books, won’t stop being successful, etc etc.

Such a jerk.

Anyway, he has a brand new book titled The Boogeyman’s Intern that I may or may not have read months and months ago (I did) and I may or may not have blurbed (you can’t prove it) and I may or may not have pre-ordered (I’ll never tell.).

But the book is fresh and fun, I totally enjoyed it and the goofy characters, and Matt took over my blog when I wasn’t looking. Until next time, Nemesis! Gar!

 

The Importance of Having a Nemesis

by Matt Pee-Pee Head Betts

Look. Just because I’m writing a post for her blog, doesn’t mean I don’t HATE, HATE, HATE Mercedes Yardley. Let’s just get that straight right away.

I’m sure she’s given up on reading this already, so let’s talk about what brought me here today. Let me tell you the benefitof having a Nemesis. What’s that? But Matt, I don’t hate anyone that much to call them my Nemesis. That’s crazy.

Dig deep. Find one. Find one or I’ll assign you one.

Best to stick with other writers, though I suppose artistic-types in general would work. Don’t pick a child. You should handily be able to defeat a child in whatever competitions arise.

Okay. Got one? Good.

Now. Randomly pick a fight with that person on their blog. Not an ugly fight, nothing mean. Rather, you should challenge them to something. It can be relatively meaningless; it just has to be some sort of challenge. Who can write a poem and get it published first? Who can finish their next chapter the fastest? Who can be accepted to the Horror Association or the Poetry Association first. Doesn’t matter.

Then… get to work. Write like the wind. Write like flying monkeys are chasing you. Don’t let up.

Then, when you see how amazing your progress is… Taunt your foe. Tease them with your superiority. Flex your creative muscles and throw serious shade in their direction. But be prepared to get the same back from them. That’s the fun of it.

Lather… Rinse… Repeat… Do it all over again.

Pick a new challenge, work, taunt, get taunted.

Doesn’t really matter who wins. There’s always another challenge. The point is you now have someone to push you. You’ve got someone that will hold you to the fire when you set a goal. It doesn’t all have to be public for everyone to see, it can be on messenger, or by text, or over coffee, but you’ve established a relationship with someone, hopefully someone with similar goals, challenges and questions. It’s a writing buddy who occasionally slaps a ‘Kick Me’ sign on your back.

The benefit of having a Nemesis? There’s always someone there to keep you going. To kick you in the pants, and shove you off the cliff. That’s a good thing. Occasionally, you get to a cliff and overthink whether you should keep going. A good Nemesis won’t let you do that-A good Nemesis is more than happy to NOT think for you.

Sound dysfunctional? Well… sure, if you analyze it. But if you stand wayyyy back and squint, it’s the perfect way to keep yourself motivated and moving toward your goals. What kind of weirdo analyzes something that works so well?

Not that I’m saying I like my relationship with Yardley. Nooo. Not me.

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Here’s what it’s all about…

Not everyone lands their dream job.

Take Abe: He’s bottomed out as an Imaginary Friend and has to find a new job before his bosses assign him a truly crappy one. Just as he’s about to resign himself to a life of making toys in a workshop, he’s given a reprieve–of sorts. Now he has the opportunity to be the first policeman on the Hill and solve an impossible murder.

For assistance he ropes in his career counselor, a Bigfoot, and his best friend, a Boogeyman. The job requires him to talk to Tooth Fairies, Leprechauns, Yetis and everything else humanity has dreamt up over the years. None of them offer any clues, but since Abe’s supervisors are Mother Nature, Father Time and Death, he can’t just give up and walk away.

Dream job? Dream on.

“A dreamlike quality permeates this story, and the basic whodunit set-up turns into a multilevel metaphysical quandary as Betts injects one twist after another into an increasingly unsettling tale.”–Publishers Weekly

“The moments of humor are well-earned, and Brady and Zane are standouts….The ending manages to be both fascinating and endearing. An offbeat, entertaining look at timeworn mythical characters.”–Kirkus

“‘There is something under your bed. There is something going bump in the night. Something is following you.’ Betts’ novel finds a way to encapsulate that chilling sentiment in a surprisingly hilarious way…”–Booklist

“What starts out as a quirky tale about a burnt-out Imaginary Friend turns into a locked room murder mystery for a creature that cannot die. An entertaining mash-up of “Monsters Inc.” and “Chinatown” in a world populated by Bigfoot, Tooth Fairies, and Boogeymen. Perhaps, the start of its own genre: Imagin-noire.” – Josef Matulich, author of Camp Arcanum

“In The Boogeyman’s Intern, Betts injects equal shots of wit and humor into a genre that often takes itself too seriously, all while never jeopardizing what makes it unique. With deft prose and sharp dialogue, this book is a refreshing take on the fantastical.” – Tim McWhorter, author of the horror thrillers, Bone White and Blackened.

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Pimp A Friend Friday: Barones Lovey de Luxe

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I was invited to a fun, super sekrit project that will be coming in 2020, and I needed some pictures for it. Pictures aren’t my favorite things. I have that “Hello, I had triplets” tummy, a stiff smile, and now I have this strange wonky eye. (Thanks, scorpion!) I’m awkward and uncomfortable in front of a camera. I’ve never had a photographer take a headshot I like. It’s usually me in the backyard with a phone so I can take 200 shots and narrow it down to two.

Enter Baroness Lovey de Luxe, a fantastic photographer from Seattle who regularly travels to Vegas. I came across her on Groupon, and I was attracted to her for two reasons. 1) The photos on her site are gorgeous. 2) She’s a boudoir photographer, so I figured she’d be adept at dealing with somebody awkward and nervous. I was absolutely right.

She did my hair and makeup, which was just exquisite. She was fun, professional, and warm enough that I soon felt at ease, which is saying something. She had several different ideas for several different photos. I said things like, “I don’t know what to do with my meat hands,” and she showed me how to place them. She told me how to pose and made me feel like a star. And when I got the pictures back, I nearly cried.

Look at me. LOOK AT ME.

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She brought out confidence. I felt beautiful. I look at these pictures and smile. That eye doesn’t look like a life-changing horror at all.

She’s planning to be in Las Vegas on August 8-10. She’ll also be coming out for a few days in September. I’m trying to talk her into coming to horror conventions and taking some shots there because she is just incredibly talented and warm. If you’re looking for pictures, I can’t recommend her highly enough. You can check her out here.

 

Mercedes’ Great Wednesday Adventures!

Seriously, today was insane, and it’s only 11:30 AM!

I had a full day so I dropped the kids off to the school a bit early. I needed to hit the ATM, but had received a notice saying our bank branch was closing and to go elsewhere. So I found another one to go to. It was inside a building, but since I had already taken the time to drive there, I went in.

They were remodeling. No ATM.

I hurried to the car and found the next closest ATM. After driving there, I pulled up gratefully. Hooray!

No hooray. The ATM was not only down, but it told me to go to the original ATM that I received the notice about.

Well, okay. That ATM is closest to the grocery store, and it must be opened because otherwise the broken ATM wouldn’t send me there, right?

Wrong.

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So forget it. Time for shopping. I’m in a rush. I go inside, and a strange man follows down several aisles. He starts a conversation about five times. I say something brief and then I’m off. He gets his groceries after me. I’m finishing loading up my car and he asks me to give him a ride to an area waaaaaaay far away on the edge on the desert. You know, where people go to die.

I say no, which is a complete sentence, hop in the car, and toodle off. I’m hot, frustrated, and a bit shaken up. Then I come home to see that the garbage truck came and mostly emptied our trash, except for this one that smells like death because it has raw chicken bits in it. I guess it was too difficult? Or maybe they didn’t see it? Because raw chicken at 107 degrees smells JUST AWESOME! Like my body would have in the desert after grocery store guy murdered me.

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I come in, unload the groceries, change into a robe (because I’m overheating) and sit down. The doorbell rings. I grudgingly put on clothes and answer it to find that my new alarm system has arrived. Which makes me laugh because it’s so timely.

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It’s been a bit of a hassle, but now finish up some things, and then eat lunch and watch a movie during the middle of the day like the laziest of the lazy. I’ll catch up tomorrow. I have wonderful things I’m working on and a few cool things to announce, but today is not that day. Happy Wednesday, friends!

Storymakers 2018!

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It was a fantastic conference. It’s one of my favorites. Storymakers  is a writing conference for LDS authors (although you certainly don’t need to be LDS to attend) to help us elevate our literary work. The classes are phenomenal. If you have the opportunity to go, you should definitely try it. Hold on to your hats, because it is intense.

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I was honored to not only teach a class, but be a workshop mentor on Thursday. We had six hours of intensive discussion about my eight attendees’ pieces, which we had read previously.  IT WAS AWESOME!

I taught my “Creating Sympathetic Villains Your Readers Can Root For” class, which was just super cool. This was my first PowerPoint presentation ever, which means that I’m now an adult! Even though I used THIS DEVIL SLIDE. Or maybe especially because I used this slide. We also had an incredible mass signing.

 

A highlight for me was meeting Dan Wells in person, who is just everything I had hoped he would be. Dan was kind enough to write the foreword for Little Dead Red and Other Stories. He thinks he looks like a cardboard cutout in this picture. Perhaps I didn’t really meet him at all, but after this shot, tucked him under my arm and ran for the hills.31949444_10155567892976446_4580670255696707584_n

I left inspired and exhausted, which is a good way to do things. Here’s to aspiring higher! ❤

This Mother’s Day Thing is a Mixed Bag

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We love our mothers. Of course we love our mothers. But they drive us crazy. They raised us wonderfully/strangely/amazingly/poorly or they didn’t raise us at all. They fill us with love or hate or guilt or horror or remorse. We take care of them or they take care of us. Perhaps we have never met them. Perhaps we like it that way. Perhaps we spend our entire lives searching for them. What if we lost them to death and the thought is still too much to bear? Mothers fill us with emotion. But they make us So. Very. Tired.

No matter how you feel about your mother, somebody will tell you you’re wrong. She’s sweet but overbearing. She was abusive but at least you had a mother. She was missing or dead but at least she wasn’t abusive. Be grateful for what you have. Think of all of the other people out there who love/hate/avoid their mothers. They really had it bad. You’re lucky and ungrateful.

Happy Mother’s Day.

We love our kids. Of course we love our kids. But they drive us crazy. They disobey and spill things on the carpet. They get into our things and date people that scare us. All three of them try to sit on our laps at the same time. They’re always in the hospital. They’re always in rehab. They scrape their knees and pierce their faces and take razors to their skin and hurt our hearts. They make us so incredibly happy and so desperately sad. They want their arms around us 24/7 when we need a break or won’t hug us when we’re dying for their affection. Perhaps we’ve lost one or two or several, and Mother’s Day reminds us keenly. Children are made of kisses and starlight and demons and magic and they make us So. Very. Tired.

No matter how you feel about your children, somebody will tell you you’re wrong. If you’re weary from not sleeping through the night for 16 months or for crying about their newest and greatest hurt, somebody will tell you to think of those who can’t have children. Who would be grateful for the nights spent worrying, calling their friends and hospitals looking for them, for helping them through their nightmares, for finding out that you couldn’t protect them from the monsters in their lives. Think of all of the women who would be better mothers to your children. You’re lucky and ungrateful.

Happy Mother’s Day.

There are women who are mothers, but not physically. They’re teachers, aunts, babysitters, Nana’s, friends, family by blood or by mutual decision. Perhaps they ache because they have no children of their own. Perhaps it’s by choice. Perhaps they’re told they’re less-than because they have working wombs but “selfishly” won’t use them to create babies.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Single fathers, who do all of the work, go to all of the plays, and fall asleep in front of the TV at night.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Individuals who want nothing to do with children at all, but have pearls and cards and chocolate advertisements shoved in their faces.

Happy Mother’s Day.

I know people who love the holiday. I know people who hate the holiday. It can stir up the happiest and darkest of emotions. I have friends who won’t come to church on Mother’s Day because the speakers wax on about their virtuous mothers, and it makes my friends feel inadequate. It feels like a day where we’re judged. Put on a pedestal or judged too harshly or perhaps we have distorted views of ourselves. We see ourselves when we’re frazzled and stressed and sick and we’re feeding everybody cold cereal for dinner. It’s easy to forget the love and cuddles when all we can see is that we can’t afford the money or time for a child’s gymnastic’s class or football practice.

Let’s forget the judgement. Let’s be kind. Celebrate this Mother’s Day, and give each other (and yourself) a pat on the back. Enough with the Mommy Wars, the Gender Wars, and every other single kind of war that saps us of our energy.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Rest In Peace, Beautiful Thug Bunny

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I don’t even know how to start this post.

It’s a love story. Once upon a time I was looking at the local shelter’s website, and I found a picture of a black bunny with terrified eyes. The shelter had saddled him with the ridiculously unimaginative moniker “Shadow.” I told my best friend, the Angry Ginger, that I had found my bunny and we were going to get him. She called shotgun.

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This bunny had lived with a family but they grew tired of him and gave him up. He was frightened, cranky, growly, and because of reasons, was classified as a rabbit of indeterminate gender unless the vet preformed exploratory surgery to determine sex.

No surgery necessary, we said. We didn’t care. He was ours and we loved him as-is. All of that was just crazy talk.

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Sir Reginald Bunnington III, of the Cottontail Bunningtons, was simply called Thug Bunny because he was a tough guy from the streets, yo. He’d cut you without a second thought. He’d shank your mama.

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He hated human contact. He had utter disdain for others. He was bunny box trained and lived, uncaged, in the living room. He never left that patch of carpet for any reason. He was always there, throwing gang signs, eating apples, and deigning to breathe the same air as those lesser humans. He ate our baseboards, our phone chargers, and our carpet.

I loved him with my whole soul.

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Eventually he let us pet him. He’d sit by my feet, a warm bunny on a cold night, and he was just always there.  Now he won’t be there, and I don’t know what to do.

We love you, Thugs. My heart has joined the Thousand, for my friend stopped running today.

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Find Me at Storymakers!

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I’ll be attending Storymakers Conference, the biggest literary con in Utah. It is hands down the most professional writing conference I’ve ever attended. I’ll be there as a mentor for six hours on Thursday, workshopping student’s pieces one-on-one for the Plot and Story Arc class. Saturday I’ll be teaching my class on Creating Sympathetic Villains Your Readers Can Root For. Because, my darlings, villains are what make a story. Take a peek at some of the awesome teachers who will be there!

The rest of the time will be spent hugging friends, attending classes, finally meeting Dan Wells in person (who wrote the foreword to Pretty Little Dead Girls and Other Stories), and then retreating back to my AirB&B with Aften Brooke Szymanski and a sewing machine. I’m excited and hope to see you there!

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Mercedes M. Yardley

Mercedes M. Yardley is a dark fantasist and horror writer who wears poisonous flowers in her hair. She is the author of Pretty Little Dead Girls, the Stabbie Award-winning Apocalyptic Montessa and Nuclear Lulu: A Tale of Atomic Love, and the Bram Stoker Award-winning Little Dead Red.

Class: Creating Sympathetic Villains Your Readers Will Root For

Last Week to Submit to the HWA Poetry Showcase!

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My dear friend and colleague Stephanie M. Wytovich is the editor for the 5th volume of the HWA Poetry Showcase. And this is EXCITING.

Something also exciting? She’s asked Michael Arnzen and I to be guest judges. Eeeee!

You can read a wonderful interview with Stephanie here where she tells you a little what she is looking for.

Members of the Horror Writer’s Association are invited to submit. You can find the guidelines and submission form here. The submission window correlates with April’s National Poetry Month, so it opened on April 1 and closes on April 30 at midnight, Pacific time. Please send us your work, and good luck!