Lisa's September 2018 Newsletter (#21)
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Hi Gang!

With this issue of the newsletter I'm inaugurating a new column: "The Write Stuff", in which I'll offer a few basic writing tips each month. I'll try to make this as nuts-and-bolts as possible so that it might be helpful to those of you who write...and those who don't, well, heck - you might still be able to pick up the occasional useful tip.

Despite record-breaking, energy bill-busting heat (which has only calmed down over the last few days), August was a good month. My partner Les Klinger and I turned in the manuscript for our classic ghost story anthology, I signed on for another term as President of the Horror Writers Association, and Halloween stuff started to hit the stores, YAY!

I hope your summer is ending on a high note and that you're ready to see fall kick in. I know I am.

Still Life
In which I rhapsodize about favorite movie photos from my collection
2018 is a big anniversary in horror history.

It's the 200th anniversary of the first publication of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's classic Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus.

Of course nobody in 1818 knew Mary was the author of the book, because it was published anonymously. Many believed her husband, Percy Shelley, was the author, partly because he provided a preface to the first edition. In fact, Percy had a hand in the book, but examination of the original manuscript shows that it's plainly Mary's hand throughout most of the work.

Mary was 20 when the book was published, meaning that she was still a teenager when she wrote it. 

I know I could (and possibly should) have chosen a more dignified still to represent Mary's monumental and brilliant achievement, but I've always had a soft spot for the later films in the Universal monster cycle; they remind me of those long summers as a kid when the local channels showed these movies every day.

In this still from 1943's Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman (with Bela Lugosi playing the Monster opposite Lon Chaney Jr.'s Wolfman), you gotta love the way actress Ilona Massey is posed at the feet of two battling creatures, looking more like she's just realized that she forgot to feed the cat.

Sorry, Mary.
The Halloween Spirit
Tips for keeping it going all year 'round
In case you think Christmas is the only holiday with its own music, think again.

For twenty years now, a duo known as Midnight Syndicate has been scoring Halloween...or, more specifically, Halloween haunted attractions.

Edward Douglas and Gavin Goszka are the team responsible for crafting 20 albums of bone-chilling mood music. The music of Midnight Syndicate appears in literally hundreds of haunts across America; haunts are allowed to use the music free of charge provided they register with Midnight Syndicate at their website.

But Midnight Syndicate's splendidly spooky tunes aren't for haunters only; their albums are available for purchase via their website, and make for excellent background writing music throughout the year.

Give the music a try in the video linked below, and I'm guessing you'll fall under Midnight Syndicate's musical spell just as thousands of other fans have.
A taste of Midnight Syndicate...
Strange Fruit
The weirdest thing I've recently uncovered in my research
Apparently even the finest writers occasionally regret word choices.

That's Edith Wharton in the photo above, the author of such classics as Ethan Frome and The Age of Innocence.

However, many readers may not know that Wharton was also one of the early 20th century's finest practitioners of the ghost story. Her uncanny tales are still genuinely eerie, and of course beautifully written.

For our forthcoming anthology of classic ghost stories, my co-editor Les Klinger and I chose Wharton's 1904 story "The Lady Maid's Bell" for inclusion. While I was working on the introduction to the book, I came across a quote from Wharton that I thought would be a wonderful opening to the introduction: " “What, after all, except for the fun of the shudder,” she reflected, “would he really care for any of their old ghosts?" "

Literally dozens of scholars and journalists have used that quote, which is from Wharton's story "Afterward", in discussing why we enjoy ghost stories. But if I've learned one thing from years of researching non-fiction books, it's that even the most oft-repeated quotes may be...well, wrong.

And that was the case with this one, too...sort of.

When "Afterward" first appeared in a 1910 issue of Century Magazine, the quote actually read, "“What, after all, except for the fun of the frisson,” she reflected, “would he really care for any of their old ghosts?

But, when Wharton's collection Tales of Men and Ghosts was published later that same year, "Afterward" was included...and "frisson" had become "shudder". 

Although it's certainly possible that an editor behind Tales of Men and Ghosts changed the word, my guess is that it was Wharton's choice. 

And a wise choice it was, because I'm betting that the quote wouldn't have been nearly as widely shared had it boiled down to "the fun of the frisson."
Behind the Screams
About a Story
"The Ultimate Halloween Party App" from The Mammoth Book of Halloween Stories

When editor Stephen Jones invited me to send him a Halloween story for a new "Mammoth" book, the invite included the possibility of sending a reprint. Goodness knows I've got plenty of previously-published Halloween stories to choose from.

But Steve's a good friend, and this sounded like a special book, so a reprint wouldn't do. That left me with the burning question: is there anything about Halloween that I haven't already written a story about?

I started thinking about new trends in Halloween haunted attractions, and one of the ones I found most interesting was the notion of using virtual reality. In 2016, Knott's had tried such an attraction with "Fear VR", in which guests were strapped into a wheelchair while a Samsung VR headset was placed on their heads. The attraction, by the way, was pulled shortly after opening because mental health advocates noted that it was insensitive.

So, what could I do with VR in a Halloween story? What if I pushed it into the near future, when clunky headsets might no longer be required for a virtual reality experience? And what if it was an America where terrorism (an ultimate horror) had won out? 

I was intrigued by the notion of blending near-future tech, current events, and Halloween, and I'm pleased with the way the story turned out. 
The Write Stuff
Tips for my writing friends
Welcome to the first installment of "The Write Stuff", in which I'll try to pass along a few tips I've garnered from 30 years of being a working writer. Sometimes I'll talk about craft, but today we're going for something far less arty...

I'm talking about submission guidelines. 

See, I just finished reading 300 submissions for the Horror Writers Association's next anthology, and I'm not joking when I say that over half of those submissions didn't follow the clearly-stated guidelines. Let that sink in for a moment...OVER HALF. Maybe as high as 70%. Editor friends tell me that's pretty typical. 

Some markets will instantly void a submission that doesn't follow guidelines. And even if an editor doesn't immediately kick out a story that hasn't adhered to the rules, that editor may still be prejudiced against the story right from the beginning because of that. 

So, here's Rule Number One for any writer who is submitting work:


Now, here's a technical trick that might help. One of the things I saw most often in the submissions was an extra space between every paragraph. You as the writer might think, "So what? Big deal. Live with it." But there are two problems with that thinking: 1) it tells the editor that you may not be good at following instructions...which could eventually include their rewrite notes; and 2) it really does make the manuscript longer, which means the editor has to spend more time scrolling.

It got me to wondering if a lot of people maybe just don't know how to fix this. So, here's how (and IT'S EASY, which is another reason there should be no excuse):

First off, I'm going to assume you're using Microsoft Word, which - like it or not - is really the industry standard. Second, I apologize in advance for the fact that I use an ancient version of Word and it may not line up perfectly with your version, but I think you'll be able to figure it out.

For some reason, Word's default setting is to put text into single-spaced blocks with no indents and a blank line between each paragraph. Most editors want to see manuscripts that are double-spaced, with a .5" indent at the beginning of each paragraph, and no space between paragraphs. Here's how to fix it:
  1. Open your completed story file in Word. In my version of Word, there's an area at the upper right called "Editing". One option is "Select". Click that, and then choose "Select All". Changes made will now apply to your entire file.
  2. Somewhere near the top middle is the "Paragraph" section. Click the little arrow in the lower right corner to open the Paragraph Dialog Box.
  3. Your file will likely already be set to "Left" for Alignment and "0" for Indentation, so leave those alone.
  4. In "Special", choose "First Line" from the drop-down menu. It should bring up 0.5" in the "By" box.
  5. In "Spacing", set both "Before" and "After" to 0 pt. This will remove those pesky spaces between paragraphs.
  6. In "Line Spacing", choose Double.
  7. Click "OK" at the bottom.
That's it! Paragraphs are now formatted perfectly, and you've just given your manuscript a leg up over the hundreds of other submissions. 
My current works-in-progress
Since the ghost story anthology is now completed, I've been catching up on some short stories. I can't talk about these yet (well, except for the third volume of The Lovecraft Squad, which I mentioned last issue), but I'm enjoying getting back to writing my own short fiction after reading and editing so many short stories this year by other writers.

I'm also working on some proposals for new projects. Let's say that both writing and more editing could be in my future!

In the meantime, I just spotted the below at Amazon, and I'm excited about it because it includes my first straight mystery story, "Whatever Happened to Lorna Winters?":

The Samhanach and Other Halloween Treats

The Samhanach and Other Halloween Treats is now available in e-book and print from JournalStone. It collects four novellas, ten short stories, a new introduction by Nancy Holder, and new notes about the stories from me.
Keep Halloween Going!
Ghosts: A Haunted History
My acclaimed book Ghosts: A Haunted History is now available in an affordable trade paperback.
Haunt Yourself
CD Select: Lisa Morton
CD Select: Lisa Morton is a mini-collection gathering together four tales chosen by me, with accompanying notes. Available in either e-book or signed & limited hardcover edition.
Reserve Yours Now!
Scream and Scream Again!
Includes my YA story "Summer of Sharks". Available now! 
Start Screaming!

Haunted Nights

This anthology of all-new Halloween (and Dia de los Muertos/Devil's Night/All Souls' Eve) fiction features sixteen stories by some of the genre's hottest authors. The anthology received a starred and boxed review in Publishers Weekly, as well as raves from Rue Morgue, Locus, and many others.
Haunt Your Nights!
The Lovecraft Squad: Dreaming
This volume in Stephen Jones's "mosaic novel" includes two chapters by me. Coming in November 2018.
Pre-order Now
The Five Senses of Horror
The Five Senses of Horror is edited by the Bram Stoker Award-winning author and editor Eric Guignard, and includes work by John Farris, Ramsey Campbell, Poppy Z. Brite, and Richard Christian Matheson.
Get Sense-ible
The Mammoth Book of Halloween Stories
Includes my story "The Ultimate Halloween Party App". Coming September 2018.
Get Ready
It's a trade paperback of Eric Guignard's just-released anthology The Five Senses of Horror, which includes my story "Feel the Noise." Click the button below to enter, and good luck!
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Copyright © 2017 Lisa Morton All rights reserved.

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