MANW Week 40 Check In: New Theme and Saddling Up

Make Art Not War October Challenge Badge

Hello everyone! As I mentioned previously, I spent September finishing up the Make Art Not War Challenge: Rules, Essays, and 31 Creative Prompts eBook. Now that pledge has been fulfilled and my travel is more manageable, I’m back in my office and here to make art. Rah! Rah!

This month’s theme will be SELF-CARE. Fairly self explanatory, but a topic I’m going to write about further. I think we all need this reminder, especially in the wake of several natural disasters in addition to politics. I’m sure you probably know someone who is affected by what’s happening in the world today, and it can be hard to stay motivated. But, we have to!

Today, I want to revisit my pledge as a means of getting back on track.

My Original Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge pledge:

  • I pledge to devote one hour a day to my original art.
  • If I don’t feel motivated, I pledge to write down the reasons why I wanted to take this challenge for fifteen minutes or one-to-three pages whichever comes first.
  • I pledge to mark down on the calendar whenever I complete a day’s efforts.
  • As the challenge creator, I pledge to create a weekly accountability post every Wednesday beginning on January 9th. Comments will be open. Hashtag #makeartnotwar2017 #manw2017
  • I pledge to check into social media twice a week for personal use, and once a month with my local community of artists and writers.

Here’s where I am sitting with my Make Art Not War Challenge pledges today:

  • I fulfilled my promises in September, and managed to make a few jewelry pieces. I’ve been spending the time getting my space and personal business sorted as well, with a goal of December 31st.
  • I did freewrite a few times, but I haven’t had an issue with motivation lately.
  • I haven’t marked my progress on the calendar, but I do plan on logging time going forward. I’d really like to end this year with a bang.
  • As the challenge creator, I pledge to create a weekly accountability post every Wednesday beginning on January 9th. Comments will be open. Hashtag #makeartnotwar2017 #manw2017 You’re looking at my post, right now! Hee.
  • Connections are proceeding apace, and my social media time and usage will need to be adjusted further. I’m seriously considering further means of altering engagement, especially since Facebook and Twitter don’t seem to take the hint that not all of us use the tools in the same way. But, for now I have it blocked during work hours, and I’ll take it from there as time allows.

Right now, it feels like it’s February all over again, and I’m rocking with new energy, fresh to-do lists, and a heap of goals. The productivity is there, and after this year’s round of ridiculousness I can say this with vigor: if something doesn’t work for you, then consider letting it go. For full-time writers like myself, we have to remain vigilant and focus on work. If something throws our routine off-kilter, that can be disastrous unless we get back up on the horse quickly.

I’ve got some fabulous news, but can’t say anything for quite a while. It does mean, however, all the work I’ve done to clear up my proverbial slate and get my shit together has paid off. My business plan is solid, I’ve been doing some awesome work with Onyx Path Publishing and Wizards of the Coast for games, and I’m very happy with the direction my career is headed. Thanks to Luke Cage, the motto “Forward. Always forward.” is a wonderful thing. No matter how slow the mechanism of publishing moves, it’s still moving. Hah!

Mood: Huh. It’s Wednesday? Okay then!
Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Yeah. It’s “ashamed to admit” levels.
Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Went for a short walk in the blistering heat.
In My Ears: Tron: Legacy soundtrack
Game Last Played: Pokémon Go
Book Last Read: Loads for work. Loads.
Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: Westworld
Latest Artistic Project: Make Art Not War Challenge eBook
Latest Releases: Over the Edge for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, Dagger of Spiragos for Scarred Lands.
Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update. New project update coming when I get time.




Enjoy One of My Horror Stories for Free!

“Prey” is one of the older pieces I wrote, and it will probably show up in a personal collection at some point. I tend to look back at my older stuff and wince, but this piece is one that I’m still proud of. “Prey” first won a contest quite a few years ago, then was picked up by Pseudopod.org and performed on their podcast. (If you prefer to listen to Flash: Prey read by Christina Ellis rather than read it, be sure to click through!)

Anyway, I wanted to offer “Prey” to you here on my website, as my way of saying “Thanks, for reading!” I hope you enjoy the story!

Prey

A musky scent drifts lazily on stale, moonlit air. Alara knows this scent—fear—it holds little meaning to her. Her hawk’s eyes narrow as she circles above the cemetery searching for her dinner. Focusing on a small, brown mouse huddled against a piece of stone, Alara dives to strike. The mouse sees her and freezes.

Something hot hisses and sparks, burning her dinner to a blackened crisp. Alara leaps to the night air, squawking in alarm. She lifts higher caught by the smell of pungent, moldy earth and burning candle fat. Faint sounds penetrate the smells; a harsh voice interrupts the monotonous droning. Alara knows the voice—it belongs to her master.

Circling above the voices, Alara’s winged form is thinly veiled by the moonlight’s smoke-filled mist. Syllables turn into well-formed sounds; she knows little of the language of men. Swooping again, her watchful eye catches white, wriggling worms breaking free from the ground before her master. Her body streams through the air, diving for her prey. Clamping down on the worm, she leaps to finish it off, but the thing won’t let go.

Alara spits wriggling flesh out of her beak. A human hand rises from the ground and creeps forward. Her master’s mouth turns foul; blackened sparks of menace fly from his skinny lips. The more he speaks, the faster the unnatural thing turns over well-shoveled earth. Alara looks from her master to the rising form and loudly complains. Nothing here is safe to eat.

Carefully placed candles burn brighter than a midday sun. Shaking her foggy head, she casts off a ravenous glare that bores into her feathers. A naked hand grabs for her wing and misses. Alara lifts gently above her attacker and dives, pecking at it. Fingers pry at her tail feathers, she screams out in pain and flings herself on her master. Instead of saving her, he throws bits of oily words at her, coating her wings. She knows her own scent now—fear. A face appears before her, her master’s face, holding something sharp that glints in the moonlight. Inhuman eyes glow as he pulls back his knife. Alara juts forward, pecking blindly at whatever is in front of her.

Howling in pain, her master stops the flow of menacing words. The candles’ light dims; Alara pecks her master again and again with wings outstretched. He swings the knife at her, his anger thick. Pushing herself off the ground, she attacks his eyes with her talons. Black ooze seeps along the deep grooves in his face. Her master drops the blade and Alara forces herself up to a low hover. She cannot move, or fly, or breathe.

Opening her beak, she gasps for precious air. Black ash swirls around her, stinging her eyes. Somehow, she finds the strength to peck hard, claw harder until she has no master left.

Too exhausted to lift her head, Alara crashes into a deep sleep, dreaming of mice and fish and morning’s light.

More on Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling

Upside Down Inverted Tropes in Storytelling Cover

Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling features several authors and essayists, including Maurice Broaddus, Nisi Shawl, and Victor Raymond who are all in town for WisCon 41 this weekend. I thought this would be a perfect time to bring up this collection of short stories and essays again, and post the full Table of Contents for the X-page book. You may recall that I wrote about the anthology for Scalzi’s The Big Idea, and that the concept for the collection came from some serious discussions about tropes and cliches.

Challenging what we think about tropes and cliches can be both fun and uncomfortable, and that has shown in the reviews, like the starred review of Upside Down we received from Publisher’s Weekly. I quote: “When the stories are shocking, they demonstrate how thoroughly these narrative conventions have become embedded in our psyches.” This, by itself, was one of the reasons why I wanted to put together this collection.

I know I’m a smart-ass, but I try to operate from the mindset that I don’t know everything, that I am always learning, to prevent cynicism and bitterness from taking over. Editing Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling taught me that my lessons in life will never be over, and that isn’t something to fear–but to celebrate. Everyone has a story to tell, and sometimes the best thing we can do as writers and readers is to truly listen to that tale to understand our differences and what we have in common with one another. I’m very proud of the collection, and am so pleased to have worked with such fine and excellent individuals.

If you’re interested in this collection, the anthology is available in digital and print wherever books are sold. You can find Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling on Amazon.com, DriveThruFiction.com, and many other bookstores, too!

Table of Contents

Introduction. JERRY GORDON

SECTION I: INVERTING THE TROPE

On Loving Bad Boys: A Villanelle. VALYA DUDYCZ LUPESCU
Single, Singularity. JOHN HORNOR JACOBS
Lazzrus. NISI SHAWL
Seeking Truth. ELSA SJUNNESON-HENRY
Thwock. MICHELLE MUENZLER
Can You Tell Me How to Get to Paprika Place? MICHAEL R. UNDERWOOD
Chosen. ANTON STROUT
The White Dragon. ALYSSA WONG
Her Curse, How Gently It Comes Undone. HARALAMBI MARKOV
Burning Bright. SHANNA GERMAIN
Santa CIS (Episode 1: No Saint). ALETHEA KONTIS
Requiem for a Manic Pixie Dream. KATY HARRAD & GREG STOLZE
The Refrigerator in the Girlfriend. ADAM-TROY CASTRO
The First Blood of Poppy Dupree. DELILAH S. DAWSON
Red Light. SARA M. HARVEY
Until There Is Only Hunger. MICHAEL MATHESON
Super Duper Fly. MAURICE BROADDUS
Drafty as a Chain Mail Bikini. KAT RICHARDSON
Swan Song. MICHELLE LYONS-MCFARLAND
Those Who Leave. MICHAEL CHOI
Nouns of Nouns: A Mini Epic. ALEX SHVARTSMAN
Excess Light. RAHUL KANAKIA
The Origin of Terror. SUNIL PATEL
The Tangled Web. FERRETT STEINMETZ
Hamsa, Hamsa, Hamsa, Tfu, Tfu, Tfu. ALISA SCHREIBMAN
Real Women Are Dangerous. RATI MEHROTRA

SECTION II: DISCUSSING THE TROPES

I’m Pretty Sure I’ve Read This Before… PATRICK HESTER
Fractured Souls. LUCY A. SNYDER
Into the Labyrinth: The Heroine’s Journey. A.C. WISE
Escaping the Hall of Mirrors. VICTOR RAYMOND
Tropes as Erasers: A Transgender Perspective. KEFFY R.M. KEHRLI

SECTION III: DEFINING THE TROPES

Afterword. MONICA VALENTINELLI & JAYM GATES
Trope Definitions/Index of Tropes.

SECTION IV: ACKNOWLEDGMENTS AND
ADDITIONAL BIOS

Script Excerpt from Last Man Zombie Standing Comic

Last Zombie Standing | Unfashioned Creatures: A Frankenstein Anthology

Today’s excerpt is something fun! I wanted to share with you the first few pages of my script for Last Man Zombie Standing.

Did you know that I’m a fan of Vincent Price? I feel the iconic actor really brought a lot to horror, and there’s a lot to be said for the beauty of black-and-white television. I wrote the script with a few easter eggs built in; writing it was a little challenging, in the sense that I had to communicate my vision not knowing the artist. I’ve never met Josie Pi Grant, but I think she did a brilliant job breathing life into the undead imagery I had in mind.

If you’re interested in this comic, you can pick up a copy of Last Man Zombie Standing on DriveThruComics.com. Or, you can pick up a copy of Unfashioned Creatures, A Frankenstein Anthology from Red Stylo Media’s website.

Here’s the first page straight from my script!

Last Man Zombie Standing

PAGE 1

PANEL 1: The first image is a close-up of piles of newspapers lying on the edge of a lab table. The date is March 8, 1964. The headlines read: “U.S. Scientists Blamed For Outbreak.” “Millions Undead.” “Human Cloning A Disaster.” “Apocalypse Now!” Here, the title of the comic may be superimposed on the left hand side of the image in a gory, stylized font.

Silent Panel

PANEL 2:
In this image, we see we’re inside a science lab; the room is in total disarray. Piles of books and newspapers are stacked haphazardly on the floor. Tubes hang down from the ceiling. There are lab benches piled high with bottles of different shapes and colors. The light source is directed toward the right corner. The windows have been boarded up. There are mousetraps scattered across the floor, ashtrays filled with cigarette butts, and empty bags of airport peanuts. Mary Tyler Moore and other models adorn the walls; their pictures have been ripped out of magazines and taped up for decoration.

1 Dr. Powell (off screen from right): Dare I?

PANEL 3: We see DOCTOR POWELL leaning toward a coffin-shaped glass tube filled with an electric blue fluid. The tube sits at a 45 degree angle. Inside the propped tube, lies the body of Doctor Powell’s clone, 000138, but we can’t tell who the man is yet, just that he’s male. Doctor Powell is a tall, spindly man with high cheekbones, heavy brows, and a thin moustache. He is wearing a traditional white lab coat, shiny black shoes, and tweed pants. His clothes are worn and threadbare. A ballpoint pen hangs over his ear. His hair is graying at the temples and he looks malnourished. He still wears his beat up name tag and there is an old metal flashlight sticking out of his pocket. He also wears a broken watch. On his right hand, between the thumb and forefinger, is a series of digits: 000137.

2 Dr. Powell: Why, there’s no telling what the two of us could do. Build armies! Clone Eve! Find the cure!

PANEL 4: Here, see a close up of “Dr. Powell” in the tank and our suspicions are confirmed: this clone is Dr. Powell. He is not as malnourished as the scientist is, and he is clean-shaven, but the resemblance is clear.

3 Dr. Powell: Or should I say: “Just the one of us?” Yes… That’s right…

Tomorrow’s Precious Lambs, A Zombie Short Story Excerpt

The Zombie Feed Volume 1“Tomorrow’s Precious Lambs” is an interesting zombie story for me, because it represented a lot of “first’s”. It was the focus of my first reading, it generated requests for a sequel, I wrote a gospel song while writing it, and it was also my first reprint in Extreme Zombies, too!

Published by Apex Book Company, you can find “Tomorrow’s Precious Lambs” in The Zombie Feed, Vol. 1, which is the original collection filled with stories by Lucien Soulban, Maggie Slater, Simon McCaffrey and more! Extreme Zombies is also available through Prime Books and features really awesome writers like George R.R. Martin, Nancy A. Collins, and Joe R. Lansdale. Both collections are available on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, and wherever books are sold.

Here’s a bite of the story! Enjoy the braaaaaaaiiiiiiiinnnnnnnssssssss…

Tomorrow’s Precious Lambs Excerpt

Midnight. The hour when flesh walks and good, little children are stashed away like stolen diamonds. The hour when the feast begins: skin-ripping hair-raising bone-cracking crunch, crunch, crunches. The hour when my thunder stick comes out, zap, zap zapping all the way ’til dawn.

Go on down. Down to the ri-ver. Go on down and wash a-way.

One-thirty. Dog tired. Got a call from headquarters. Had to exterminate a nest out by a gas station. Was worried I was going to run out of ammo. Pause. Rewind. That’s right. I didn’t need to re-load. Long battery life. Couldn’t use the stick like I wanted. There were too many of ’em and not enough of me. So I introduced them to my best friend and mortal enemy–C4. Crickle-crackle snap, snap, snap. Orange flames licked the corpses, ate their rotting flesh right down to the bone. Smelled like my momma’s church picnic. Hungry. Nothing to eat. Found an energy shot. Slammed two of them. Made my belly hurt even more.

Come to the ri-ver. Wash, wash, wash your sins and pray.

Fell asleep at the wheel. Phone woke me up. Three a.m. Witching hour. Sergeant’s on the line saying something about domestic abuse. Tell her it could wait ’til daylight. Man beats a woman down, that’s bad. Man eats a woman’s brain? That’s the guy I’m coming for.

“Officer Mike….” Sergeant’s got that disapproving tone in her voice, like she’s my mother. My momma was a preacher, but she died in a fire, along with the rest of the parish. Don’t know much about Sarge or how she survived. Then I remember. She sticks to the rules, because it’s all she’s got. It’s like her feelings dried up and they were replaced with a pile of useless laws. Like my appendix. Don’t know what I need it for, but it’s still there.

Maybe the law is all I got, too. “Yes, sir?”

“We got a biter.” Fuck. “She’s twelve.” Double fuck. I’ve been on this job too long, but not long enough. Three years. Shitty pay. Crappy benefits. Divorced. No kids. That was before the dead rose up out of their graves. Some folk thought it was the Rapture, welcomed the dearly departed back into church with open arms. Then the dead took over, gnawing on people like they were Thanksgiving leftovers. Told myself this had nothing to do with God or Jesus or the devil. This reeked of greed, something man-made, and it was up to me to find out who’s responsible.

“I’ll be there.”

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Monica Valentinelli > Books & Stories

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