Monday, February 27, 2017

Horror in Photos: Can You See The Ghosts?

I love Photoshopping ghosts into photos. Just for fun, I wrote a dark story inspired by shots I took. 
Can you see the ghosts?

A thick fog lived in his mind. He couldn't reach through it to grab his past. Bones showed through his skin. His clothes hung like oversized sacs. His stomach cried.

Phantom winds stirred leaves in the small stone room. Silence made a home in these walls.


His name was...Silver?

His arms and legs felt like brittle sticks. Silver's mouth tasted like sand. Shards of glass attacked his throat every time he swallowed.

He used the wall to steady himself. Stone squares with ornate handles sat close to his hand. Drawers? Something was inscribed on each box. The letters wouldn't stop moving. What was wrong with his eyes? Silver gave up trying to read them. One of the drawers was missing. Did he come from that hole?

Legs feeling steadier, Silver walked out of the room. A name was etched above the door.


A sharp pain twisted in his chest. Fire lived in his arms. He needed to break something. Kill someone. The name taunted him. Silver wanted to feel this Wissmann's blood cover his body. He wanted to peel off the skin and wear it. His stomach flipped. Silver shivered in excitement.

A song swept through the tunnel. It's beautiful yet sad notes surrounded Silver in a comforting wall. They eased his rage. He followed the sound.


Chanting voices joined the song, quiet to match the somber notes. Then louder and louder. Hundreds of screaming voices drowned out the beautiful song. Their desperate words flew at him all at once. He couldn't understand any of them.


Voices burst from the rooms he passed. Doors opened and closed as though pushed by invisible hands. Drawers inside the stone chambers trembled. Whispers of the wind brushed past his ear. The back of his neck itched. He felt hundreds of eyes on him.

Yet, Silver wasn't afraid. He licked his lips. A warm tingle started in his fingers. It moved through his body. His stomach groaned. His throat rumbled.



Tapping echoed above the noise. Shoes. Each footstep crushed a scream. The chanting voices died. The steps remained. They drew closer yet Silver didn't see anything. He kept walking. Again, he wasn't afraid. This was familiar. The memory was still too far out of reach. How had he gotten here?

The footsteps stopped. A black cloud of smoke rose from the floor. Silver stopped walking. This... person, that felt wrong, enjoyed creating footstep sounds even though he didn't need to walk. He enjoyed the fear his invisible steps caused. Who was he? Silver saw a name but he couldn't grab it.

The smoke rose high enough to touch the ceiling. It formed a hooded figure with glowing yellow eyes. The figure bowed with its hand over its chest. A wooden flute was in his other hand.

"Master Silver, I hope you had a pleasant rest." The voice was low yet cheerful, opposite the figure's size and demeanor.

Silver's stomach knotted. His heartbeat lived in his ears, it lived in the walls. The air shivered. He inhaled. Silver knew that scent. Fear. Those that screamed and chanted were afraid of him. They hid inside their rooms, trembling.

"It took me years to prepare this feast. Please enjoy," the figure said.

"Leave me." Silver's voices wasn't as commanding as he expected, too long without use. "Thank you...Tah."

Silver couldn't see Tah's face but felt his pleasure.

"I will return when you are finished," Tah became smoke and vanished.

Voices groaned and wept. Why were they crying? They wouldn't feel anything.

Friday, February 24, 2017

The Week in Links 2/24/17 Get Out, Switch, Han Solo



Welcome to the weekly roundup of links for fellow writers and nerds.

Book Marketing and Branding
Proven Instagram Stories Strategies from the Experts at Bustle – Hannah Caldwell
Video Blogging: How to Create Consistent YouTube Content

Fantasy/Horror/Sci-Fi
Congratulations to Our 2016 Nebula Award Nominees!‘American Gods’ Finally Gets A Start Date
Catch a FIYAH: Notes on Building a Black Speculative Fiction Revolution

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Guest Post: Behind the Horror Film by R. Prioleau


Please welcome R. Prioleau as she talks about her film project, The Descended.

Thank you, Auden, for allowing me to guest post on your blog during Women in Horror Month 2017!

I would love to tell your readers about my first film project of the year, The Descended. Inspired by my Gullah ancestry, The Descended is the story of two estranged sisters who travel to the Gullah south to inherit family property. Along the way, a restless spirit possesses one of them and other must work with Gullah Witches to save her.

I really loved this original concept, however, I knew it needed something more. I reached out to the members of Colors in Darkness (www.ColorsInDarkness.com) and four amazingly talented and creative authors, Eden Royce, Kenesha Williams, Paula Ashe, and Lori Titus, answered the call to form our writers’ table. They helped give the script a much-needed boost, making everything from the atmosphere to character development much better, and allowing the script to become an Official Selection at the 2016 Fright Night Film Festival and the October 2016 Indie Wise Film Festival.

We were also very fortunate to secure Hollywood Actress/Producer Lunden De’Leon as our Executive Producer, truly one of the sweetest people I have ever met. She’s all about her business, too. With a recording label, production company, and her own line of cosmetics, she is a powerhouse to look out for in the industry.

I must admit that casting has been the hardest thing about pre-production. Because the writers’ table did such a wonderful job with the script, matching the talent to the project has been challenging. We posted a casting call online and got several responses, however, we've decided to hire a casting agency to help make sure the best actresses are selected for each role.

Finding locations, on the other hand, was not as big of a challenge. The State of South Carolina has a Film Commission website (www.FilmSC.com) that helps productions find locations. We submitted our script and allowed them a few weeks to respond with several options. As of this moment, we are looking at Hobcaw Barony Farms in Georgetown, South Carolina. The location has over 70 cultural sites with rice plantations and includes old cemeteries as well as intact slave cabins (featured in the Slave Dwelling Project).

As you can see I am very proud of this project and I cannot wait to share it with the world! #BlackGirlMagic!

For further information and to track this 2017 film production progress, visit www.GullahGeecheeHC.org.



Rasheedah Prioleau is a southern writer of speculative fiction. Her early education included studying math and sciences, however, she found herself easily getting lost in great books.

With a B.S. in Art Marketing, she began her professional career in the Marketing Department at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia. She spent her early twenties freelance writing and traveling internationally. A chance encounter with Octavia Butler’s Mind of My Mind in an airport book store sparked her dream to become a writer. She turned her attention to creative writing in her mid-twenties, becoming a script reader and creative developer for a literary management company in Los Angeles, CA.

She continued to freelance as a ghostwriter for independent writers and producers. Completing her MFA in Creative Writing at Full Sail University, Rasheedah shifted her focus from screenwriting and began her career as an author with her breakout novel American Specter: The Seven Sisters, a paranormal mystery, and dark fantasy currently under Hollywood option.

More information on Rasheedah Prioleau and her books can be found on her website at www.RasheedahPrioleau.com. She may be contacted by e-mail at rasheedahprioleau@yahoo.com.

For Women in Horror Month, #WiHM Rasheedah Prioleau is promoting her Gullah Horror novel.




Everlasting: Da Eb’Bulastin:

After another incident of sleepwalking, Aiyana Gamelle wakes up lying under the stars on the Beach of Sa'Fyre Island, an island off the coast of South Carolina with a rich Gullah and Native American history.

Knowing these incidents of sleepwalking have something to do with her long-awaited transition to becoming the Gullah queen of the island, Aiyana shrugs them off as little more than a nuisance to be expected since her lineage leads to a mysterious African goddess.

Aiyana moves forward with plans to host a week-long festival that will end with her succession to the island throne, but the murder of an important guest and the passing of her grandmother bring the festivities to a screeching halt and Aiyana learns that the transition also involves an unwanted possession and the revelation of a dark family curse.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Dealing with Fear in Your Writing Life


Fear can cause writer's block. It can chase you off the path. Being an author, or an artist for the matter, is...challenging. The past couple of months have been rough for me. Most days, I wonder why anyone would choose to be a writer. "Success" can take years. The fear sets in while you're waiting.

  1. You're not on the wrong path- You want to make a living off your books or, at the very least, sell enough to pay bills. You aren't so you start to fear you've chosen the wrong path. Maybe you should quit. I've been searching for a job for months with no success. There's little money coming in from book and photo sales. Often I've thought I should give up this writing/running my own business stuff and focus 100% on a "normal" career. Seems like a logical thing to do.

    I think of it this way, I have 11 published books and 5 years spent marketing my brand. All that will go to waste if I quit now. You put a lof of effort into publishing your book. Don't quit because things aren't going the way you expected.

    Besides, I've sold books and I've gotten great reviews. I'm just not selling as much as I would like. The writing life can be a pain but I love what I do. Just because the money is trickling, and I mean trickling, in doesn't mean you chose the wrong path. This is normal. You've heard of the starving artist. It's not just some romantic notion. It's hard to earn a living from selling art. 

  2. Losing followers is normal- Most of you know how much I love social media. Recently, I realized I'd gotten it in my head that I need to post every day, several times a day or I'd lose all of my followers. Turns out, that's not true, not all the time.

    I used to tweet 5 times a day. I cut it back to 3 sometimes 2 and it made no difference. I'm active on Facebook but I don't post as often as I used to. Didn't change anything. Instagram is different, though. I skipped one day of posting and lost like 10 followers. I consoled myself by saying, if they jumped ship after one day then they weren't that interested in my content and therefore, not my audience.

    I don't particularly care about unfollowers anymore. I just unfollow them and move on. Don't waste your bandwidth on them. Getting unfollowed is like getting a one-star review. It's going to happen. It will suck but don't stress too much over it. 

  3. Dark stories can lead to a dark imagination. Read something fluffy once in a while- When you write dark fiction, you're, most of the time, torturing your characters physically and emotionally. That's not something I ever get used to. I could write lighter stories but they aren't as much fun.

    The problem with writing dark stories, at least for me, is I scare myself just by simply commuting into Manhatten, imagining all the bad things that could happen to my train. My dreams are really weird. I start thinking all these dark stories are messing with my mind and I need to stop.

    I combat this by taking breaks from reading and watching dark stuff. I'll read a story with the right amount of fluff. Certain parts don't often make sense but overall, the story is enjoyable and relaxing. I also have soothing sounds playing while I sleep. One of my favorite apps is Relaxing Melodies. Take a break from the dark stuff every now and them. 

  4. Don't be afraid to dream big- You hear often that it's impossible to be a full-time author. so you don't even try or you keep your dreams realistic. I have a habit of doing this, been trying to stop. When someone talks about how my book would make a great movie, my response is usually, "that's not going to happen." I didn't dream of becoming a bestselling author because I knew the facts.

    I wasn't being realistic. I was shielding myself from potential hurt. Those dreams aren't impossible but they're at the far end of possible. Right up there with winning a million dollars. There is nothing wrong with dreaming your book gets turned into a movie. There's nothing wrong with wanting to be a bestselling author. It's good to be realistic but that doesn't mean your dream is out of reach. Look what happened to Fifty Shades of Grey. These days it's not impossible to live off of your art but it can take years, a lot of work and a great deal of planning. 
I didn't include fear of rejection/negative reviews on purpose. I also thought of adding fear of my upcoming book not selling. I haven't sold a book in months. I'm not afraid of that anymore. Between my writing, photography and design, I've been rejected so often I've gotten used to it. Rejection and no sales still hurt but I'm not afraid of them. They come with this life.

There is always hope.

"It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default." J. K. Rowling




Common Writer Fears (A.K.A.,You’re Not Crazy)
5 Common Writing Fears and Hor to Overcome Them

Friday, February 17, 2017

The Week in Links 2/17/17: J.K. Rowling, Pokemon Go, Nintendo



Welcome to the weekly roundup of links for fellow writers and nerds.

Book Marketing and Branding
What’s the Value of Romance in Sci-Fi & Fantasy?

Writing, Publishing and Bookishness

Nerdy 
PewDiePie Apologizes For Anti-Semitic Content, Accuses Media Of Attacking Him
How to Develop a Unique Style for Your Photography

Want to see your post in the next The Week in Links? Email me at audendjohnson@gmal.com. The post needs to be published between today, 2/17 and next Friday, 2/24.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Guest Post: How Dungeons & Dragons Inspired Me by V.M. Sang


It's always fun learning what inspires other artists. Welcome fantasy author V.M. Sang 
...

Hi. First of all I would like to thank Auden for allowing me to post on her blog. I appreciate it.

I always enjoyed writing essays and stories for school as I grew up, and when in my teens I wrote a very bad romance for the consumption of my friends. I also started writing poetry at that time too, but most of that has been lost over the years. My very first published work was a poem. It was published in the University magazine.

I taught in secondary schools. and it was in one of these teaching posts that I began to play Dungeons and Dragons. Two of my colleagues played, and I had always fancied the game as I love fantasy books. We started having sessions during lunch time, with occasional meetings at weekends, but when the colleagues who were the main instigators left, I started one with the children.

I became Dungeon Master, of course, and used commercial scenarios. Then one day, I thought 'I can write a scenario.' This I did and it proved very popular.

One day in the Summer holidays, I thought I would try to convert this scenario into a book. After all, it had worked for the Dragonlance Saga. So I sat down at my computer and began.

What started as one book gradually grew. By the time I'd got to the end of the first part of the scenario, the finding of the Sword of Sauvern, I had reached over 100,000 words. No way was the whole thing going to fit into one book.

The Wolf Pack, which is the first part of The Wolves of Vimar Series, began with me having a couple of characters in mind. I always liked to play a magic user in D&D, so it was natural for me to have one as the main protagonist. Carthinal is also a half-elf, a race I often played too. I'm not quite sure where the rest of him came from. My picture is of a tall young man with very striking deep blue eyes and shoulder-length auburn hair. He also has a quick temper.

In my original scenario, there was a brief appearance of a young lady, the daughter of the Duke of Hambara. When I started to write her, she became nothing like what she was in the scenario. She appeared to be very snooty and thought she was better than everyone else because of her birth. She also insisted on going on the quest with the others, and not staying at home, as she had done in the scenario.

One character amazed me in a really surprising way. I don't want to give away details, just let me say that a young boy told everyone, and me, something that made a big difference to him and his life.

This development, and others, surprised me. There were things I did not know about the characters at the beginning, and things came out as I wrote. It was almost as if they were real people and they were dictating what they said and did, and not me. At first I thought this most peculiar, but I've since learned, by talking to other authors, that this is not uncommon.

I am what is called a 'pantster'. I fly by the seat of my pants. This does not mean that I have no idea where I'm going (or at least, where I think I'm going, my characters permitting). I do have an idea in my head, but I don't write it down, and certainly don't write a plan chapter by chapter. I like what my characters tell me to do.

So far, in The Wolves of Vimar Series, I have 2 published books. Book 1, The Wolf Pack, and Book 2, The Never-Dying Man. book 3, Wolf Moon, is completed, but my publisher wants to publish another fantasy I've written before bringing that out.

I have also published a recipe book, Viv's Family Recipes in which there are recipes from my family and friends, some dating back as far as 1909.


If you want to know more about me, and read some more of my work, visit me on:

Monday, February 13, 2017

Behind the Camera: Book Photography


Those who follow this blog know how much I love Bookstagram and photography. I'll be releasing a photo book, this year or next year. I've been trying to figure out a theme. I think book/journal photography would be pretty interesting. I have enough photos. I wonder if I'll run into copyright issues publishing a photo book of books. I'll have to research it.

Usually, I'd take books outside and find good photo spots.


Since it's cold outside, I don't do that often. Plus, there's snow on the ground. Water and books do not mix. I started taking photos of books inside.

When shooting outdoors, nature can provide some good scene decorations. I have to get creative when shooting indoors, decorate the scene with things I have on hand. I also read that bookstagramers use pages from ARC's they don't read. I use book pages and open journals as background. I also use random decorations from around the house like candles, fake flowers, tiny masks... a nice pen also works too.

Lighting has been one of my biggest problems. The lights in my apartment make all my photos come out too yellow and too dark.


I can fix this in Lightroom. I'd rather get the shot right...or as right as possible.

Funny enough, I discovered by accident I can fix this problem with my flash. Seems simple, I know. I got out of the habit of working with flash because, most times, it washes out the color. Recently, I started using my camera's auto mode to focus on composition and get a better handle on exposure. I was lining up my journal shot and the flash popped up. My first instinct was to close the flash but I decided not to. Turns out, flash unsaturated the photo.


It also puts more emphasis on the pen. Too much emphasis while washing out the paper.

I moved the pen.

Not bad. I don't know if I like the pen being on the side like that, though.

Different angles can make the photo too white. 


We've completely lost the paper's texture. Besides, shots of the journal straight down can be kinda boring.

To bring back the paper's texture, I took my camera off auto mode.


Better. A bit too dark but the pen isn't glowing. We have some nice texture. The paper looks more like parchment.

I took shots from different angles.


And different backgrounds.



Since my setup was on the floor, Oreo took the opportunity to get in the photo. She acts like anything on the floor belongs her. Of all the places to sit, why there?!


I try not to get carpet in the shot. It can be cropped out but that often changes the photo.


It took some time and editing to figure out which one I'd share on Instagram.

I like this angle. The composition is better.

Just for fun, I made everything but the pen black and white.

Find me on Instagram!

Friday, February 10, 2017

The Week in Links 2/10/17: Castlevania, Samurai Jack, Nintendo



Welcome to the weekly roundup of links for fellow writers and nerds.

Book Marketing and Branding
9 YouTube Marketing Predictions for 2017 From the Pros
How to Create Content that Deeply Engages Your Audience
How to Improve Your Pinterest Visibility and Engagement
9 Powerful Time-Saving Tips to Help Grow Your Brand on Instagram
How Pinterest Helped Build the Shifting Landscape of Bradley P. Beaulieu’s With Blood Upon the Sand

Fantasy/Horror/Sci-Fi
14 Tips On How To Create Your Own Urban Legend
8 Tips From Authors To Make Your Writing More Inclusive

8 Tips For Doing Stunning Urban Landscape Photography

Want to see your post in the next The Week in Links? Email me at audendjohnson@gmal.com. The post needs to be published between today, 2/10 and next Friday, 2/17.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Guest Post: Power of World Building by Julian North


Please welcome Julian North author of the dystopian novel Age of Order

The best books are those that you’re still thinking about after you turn the last page (or power down your e-reader). A good book will keep your mind too occupied to sleep. You might still be thinking about a great one years later. And it seems that the dark ones are often the most powerful. It’s all about the world. If you can imagine yourself there, it can reach your soul.

Cormac McCarthy’s The Road is one of the most awesome works of dystopian fiction ever created (IMHO). I read it on an overseas flight in 2006. Eleven years later I still think about the haunting images it conjured. Yet, I’ve never read it again, as I do with many of my other favorite novels. I just can’t go through those emotions again. You can see the places in its pages. We don’t get much explanation, but it doesn’t matter. Reading that book stung when I wasn’t a father. I couldn’t imagine reading it again now knowing what it’s like to be a dad. When my children are facing difficulties in life where I struggle to help guide them, or protect them, I think of The Road.

I wrote Age of Order while facing the challenge of getting my young children into school in our adopted home of New York City. Let me tell you, there is darkness in this town. The kind that hides in plain sight, behind tight smiles and glittering jewels. Some of that darkness inevitably found it was into the novel—the world of Age of Order is a dystopia. Luckily, over the months that I was writing the book, I found hope too. I met a precious few people of compassion, of integrity, who were also struggling to raise their children in this place and keep them sane. I think it saved the book. It certainly saved me. But when things turn dark, I still think about The Road, and a future that could be…



Title: Age of Order
Author: Julian North
Genre: Dystopian Young Adult/New Adult

What if the people who thought they were better than you… really were?

In this world, inequality is a science. Giant machines maintain order. And all people are not created equal.


Daniela Machado is offered a chance to escape the deprivation of Bronx City through a coveted slot at the elite Tuck School. There, among the highborn of Manhattan, she discovers an unimaginable world of splendor and greed. But her opportunity is part of a darker plan, and Daniela soon learns that those at society’s apex will stop at nothing to keep power for themselves. She may have a chance to change the world, if it doesn’t change her first.

Age of Order is a novel that explores the meaning of merit and inequality. Fans of the Hunger Games, Red Rising, and Divergent will enjoy this world of deception and intrigue, where the downtrodden must fight for a better future.


I dashed towards the dilapidated collection of storefronts hugging the fringes of the worn avenue, the rusted metal gates firmly closed, lean-to homes piled on their concrete roofs. Makeshift cardboard dwellings crowded the sidewalk. I ran for one of the lightless alleys between the buildings. Lurkers lived in those narrow corridors as surely as rats lived in the sewer, but I’d rather face them than the machines. I leaped towards the darkness.

A finder beam latched onto me as I sailed through the air, the comparative safety of the alley as tantalizingly close as candy in a shop window. I imagined the tight little dot on my leg, hot and hungry. I could almost touch the alley wall. But not quite. The hulking metal slave fired.

A correction pellet sliced through the fabricated leather of my sneaker and bit into my flesh. The force of the impact was enough to screw up my balance too. I landed on one foot instead of two, falling forward. Chewed-up concrete surged towards me. I sacrificed my right palm and left elbow to protect my head, and the viser strapped to my left forearm.

I scrambled to my feet and ran down the alley, my jaws clenched, but the pain wasn’t what was bothering me. I told myself that my shoe had blocked a lot of the pellet. That I probably hadn’t gotten hit with a full dose. That what was coming wouldn’t be that bad.


I’ve been writing since I could grab a pencil (remember those?). Then I had kids. Not much time for writing anymore. Until they started school… in New York City. I’m not from here, and the tumult of that experience inspired me. AGE OF ORDER grew from a diary of injustice. Now I write what I’m feeling, and let the rest flow from there. I hope you enjoy it.

Please visit my website at www.juliannorth.com and join my book club to receive a free short story set in the same world as AGE OF ORDER.



Julian North will be awarding a $50 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, February 6, 2017

Life of a Dark Writer: Behind the Photo

Because I'm weird and obsessed with horror and darkness, I visited Green-wood Cemetery over the week. Yes, it was cold but I wanted to go there to get some horror-y shots. I wore my layers.

When photographing, I try not to come at a scene straight on, at eye level, because that's how everyone sees the world. Since I can't often get higher, I get lower. I saw a cool looking crypt and kneeled to get the shot. My jeans didn't like that. As soon as I got down, I felt a pull than a give. My jeans ripped. Fortunately, because of my layers, I was fine.

Photographing these things can be kinda terrifying. My imagination goes crazy. I saw a person in a green hoody standing on a hill. Their back was toward me so I couldn't see their face. For some reason, that freaked me out. I kept looking back hoping they don't just vanish. Green-wood Cemetery is supposed to be haunted.

1

2

3

I kneeled for this shot because it has a nice line.

As you can see, the photos are of the same scene just lighter or darker. I bracket all my photos. There's a setting on your camera that lets you take a shot at three different exposures. I take the three photos then examine them when I get home.

Which should I keep? I check the histogram for that. The graph on the camera and in Lightroom will tell you the photo's exposure.


You can see the histogram in the upper right corner. Not a bad curve though the red in the photo shows it's overexposed in some places. This is photo #1.

Here's #2:

There's nothing that's over or underexposed in this shot but you can tell by looking at it and the histogram that it's too dark.

I only need to look at the third photo to tell it's too bright. That one gets deleted.

The first photo is the one.


 I did some adjustments in Lightroom to fix the exposure.

Now for the second problem. Becuase of that white statue and those grave markers in the distance, I feel, the photo is too heavy on the left side. I took shots of the crypt from different angles. I could either give up on this angle or see if I can fix it.

Let's try to fix it first. Time for some cropping.


That's better.

Now, the pot on the right balances the grave markers on the left. I did some more tweaking: increased the vibrancy, changed the light and shadows... Here are the final results:



I'm going back and forth between giving it a 3.5 or a 4 rating. It's not a terrible shot but I'm not blown away by it. I think I like the black and white version better. What do you think?

Here are the other angles.



You know I had to have some Photoshop fun with this photo.

Looks like something out of an old horror movie.

Follow me on Instagram to see more photos!