Jan Kozlowski is a freelance writer and web consultant, who lives in Connecticut with her husband of 24 years, a neurotic German shepherd mix named Louie, and 8 rescue cats. She chatted to me about her new book, why e-books are the new pulp fiction, and why you should write what you love.
This is one of the short stories I wrote last month for my horror compilation. It is dedicated to Jim Connick, who has a fear of going round a corner quickly and being impaled on a pointy thing, which he blames on the film Dog Soldiers.
I’m running for the last bus, slipping and sliding on wet concrete in old cons wi nae grips, hurdling knocked ower bins and homeless folk and piles of vomit, breathing hard as my tired lungs gasp in cold night air.
One of the stories I wrote for October’s horror book. I found a T-Shirt I hadn’t worn in ages and couldn’t remember whether it was mine or not, and because I am a banal sort of person at times I tweeted about it, prompting the suggestion a creepy story was to be had.
“Mmm?” I say, turning away from her and snuggling down into the nest of blankets.
I should have known she wouldn’t let me get away with it that easily.
“The neckline is wrong,” she says. Her voice seems unnecessarily loud in the quiet dark of the morning, like she’s shouting, although she probably isn’t. “It’s my size, but none of my stuff has a scooped neckline like this.”
I sit up with a sigh, bleary eyed, reaching for my glasses. It’s an early winter morning, and the only light comes from a side lamp with a strange blue bulb, but even with that I can tell there’s nothing the matter with Vicky’s shirt.
“See?” she pulls at it insistently.
“Maybe it’s one of Katie’s?”
Thought I’d get in early this month with my entry for Glempy’s Pictonaut Challenge, and remind you there are ten whole days to come up with a 1000-ish word story based on this lovely picture. I wrote mine across two, so I don’t want to hear any excuses!
I’m still working on short stories based on your comments, so don’t think I’ve forgotten you if you’ve suggested something and it hasn’t turned up! I might schedule them as posts crossing into November, because having made the decision to NaNoWriMo this year I won’t have as much time to dedicate to the blog.
In the meantime, today I’m posting a story about the lovely weather we’re having, in Edinburgh at least. The title, ‘parapluie’ (pa-ra-ploo-ee) is the French for umbrella.
Writing short stories is a very different experience to novelling.
The main issue is that in an ideal world a short is self contained – you can’t have too many threads because it gets confusing. Over the past 9 months I’ve got used to bashing out big, sprawling narratives that rabbit on and keep introducing new characters all over the place, safe in the knowledge I can rescue the salient points when editing time cometh.
However, I’m finding I can’t hide behind hazy future editing time when writing a short story. Obviously I can point out in a pathetic sort of way that it’s a first draft and it will change a bit in the edit, but if the whole notion is crap I can’t junk one bit and expand a subplot. There aren’t any.
Which leads me to a confession: so far this month, I’ve been going back and editing things. I can’t help it. I physically can’t bash out a wee story at 1.5k and move on – I feel compelled to re-read and change bits.
In my defense, I haven’t given up on anything and I’m mainly only changing phrasing here and there. The most I’ve deleted completely is a paragraph. But technically it’s against the NaNoWriMo keep on keepin’ on spirit of the project, so I thought I should come clean. After all, when the trust is gone what do we have?
Speaking of NaNo, it has occurred to me that if I’m drawing a graphic novel (or more likely a comic) in November I almost certainly won’t be coming up with 50k of text to go with it. I haven’t decided on a story yet, and drawing a page takes considerably longer than writing one. So what should I do? Write out the storyboard and dialogue and leave the drawings for some other time? Or sit NaNo out this year? Answers on a postcard, please. Or in the comment box, which is easier and doesn’t cost anything.
I’ve now had a whole lot of horror story suggestions which are all fermenting away in the back of my brain (although I still don’t have 31 so am happy to take more – just leave a comment) and last night I decided to put a little bit of research in to speed that process along a bit. Whilst some story ideas spring to mind fully formed without provocation, others need more help.
The first comment I had was from the enigmatic stranger behind 1 Story A Week, who fears being infected with a virus that makes his own flesh the only thing he can eat. I think that’s a pretty logical thing to be afraid of, if a bit unlikely. Anyhoo, the first search term I put into Google was ‘infected with a flesh eating virus’ and most of the results discussed a condition called necrotizing fasciitis.
Not long after I started writing this I realised it was not going to be a traditional horror story. But on the plus side, it’s quite short.
Nobody ever had anything nice to say about Batty McShay. But there again, Batty McShay didn’t have anything nice to say about anyone either, and they do say that you ought to lead by example.
The example Batty set was not a great one. She ate her food in an obnoxious sort of a way, chewing with her mouth wide open and never cleaning her teeth after. She sat and pleated her leg hair when you were trying to tell her something, or sometimes she just fell asleep then and there and would claim later on it was your fault for having such a monotonous voice. She had a necklace made out of garlic and onions which she wore only when visiting quiet places full of people too polite to tell her to go away – mainly libraries and monasteries. And she always took a pad of post-it notes wherever she went so that she could make ‘kick me’ signs to plant on people’s backs.
There were several reasons why Batty was the way she was, but the main one was probably the fact that her dead father lived in the attic and sang her jingoistic songs of the old times at the top of his voice. That sort of thing will drive anyone to distraction if it goes on for long enough, and the old duffer had been dead for twenty years.