Michael A. Arnzen's Blog: News from Gorelets.com

July 17, 2014

Originally posted on Notegraphy

Originally posted on Notegraphy

The message above was my overwrought response to a question posed on the Science Fiction Poetry Association‘s mailing list, that asked: “Is horror a genre or an attribute of literature?” It’s heavy-handed, but that’s kind of why I like it, so I turned it into a notegraphy post.

[I've been using Notegraphy with students in my flash fiction writing course this summer. Here's my profile and I think you can see (though you may have to be a member first) some of my students work here ]

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Published on July 17, 2014 05:59 • 11 views

June 14, 2014

“Skull Clusters” – Get the wallpaper sized image on flickr

The Goreletter Vol. 9, #3 was delivered to mailing list subscribers on 6/13/14 @ 11:00pm est. It contains extra entertainment/material not available here on the weblog version, including a “scratch and dent” sale item exclusive to subscribers, new creative writing, a photo from WHC 1996, and even a sequel to the infamous poem, Fuzzy Bunnies. A version of the image above was also included in the newsletter — if you like it, you can download a large size of it as a desktop wallpaper on my flickr gallery.

If you subscribe and did not receive this issue, review the archives at gorelets.com. If you need to check or update your subscription’s email address, just enter it in the subscribe box and review the report.

Subscribe today…it’s free and you can always unsubscribe if it terrorizes you too much. Issues are sent just once every two-or-three months, so your inbox won’t suffocate. Contact me if you have any questions. – Michael A. Arnzen

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Published on June 14, 2014 08:10 • 10 views
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Published on June 14, 2014 07:52 • 4 views

June 13, 2014

Give your cannibal character a dietary restriction.

Have your cannibal review a restaurant critic as they dine on him.

Put your cannibal on a fat farm.

Play referee in a new sporting event: Cannibal vs. Cannibal!

Depict the chores of the dishwasher in the back of the cannibal cafe.

Your cannibal has lost his teeth. What now?

Write The Constitution for the country of Cannibali.

Convert your cannibal to a new religion.

Poison your cannibal in an inventive way.

Describe the day job of your cannibal without ever referencing his or her insatiable appetite.

Invent a TV show for the Human Food Network.

Choke the cannibal.

Enough with cannibals. Invent a “cantibal.”

Happy Friday the 13th! Here are the Instigation prompts from the latest issue of The Goreletter. If you like story starters as wacky as these, Instigation: Creative Prompts on the Dark Side has over 500 more!

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Published on June 13, 2014 07:54 • 3 views

June 8, 2014

Read KZ's 100 Nightmares

Read KZ’s 100 Nightmares

The Instigation Showcase page has been updated with a new featured author, KZ Morano, who talks about her creative process and offers up a new Instigation prompt all her own. KZ is the author of the new book, 100 Nightmares — an illustrated collection of horror drabbles, each 100 words long. Recommended reading!

She also generously reviewed Instigation: Creative Prompts on the Dark Side on Amazon with the following kind words:

“…These are not the kind of prompts that you can find just anywhere. The ideas are bold, bizarre, brilliant. They make you go to places that you never even knew existed…This is a book that every aspiring horror author should have.”

Thanks KZ!


Don’t forget to subscribe to the Goreletter to make sure you don’t miss any writing prompts… the past two issues have featured prompts related to “valentines” and “streams” which have not appeared elsewhere (including here). But here’s a few of my favorites from them:

+ Write a stream-of-conscious piece from the deep point of view of a sausage grinder.

+ Depict the Grim Reaper delivering a Valentine’s gift to the type of person he or she most “loves” to kill.

+ They say your life “flashes before your eyes” as you die. Depict this, but feature a curious pause or other glitch in the stream of time/flashes.

+ Portray Cupid as the monster baby he really is.

Get more in The Goreletter — always free, always weird. New issue coming soon!

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Published on June 08, 2014 21:35 • 3 views

April 29, 2014

Horror 101: The Way Forward has just been released by Crystal Lake Publishing, and if you’re a writer on the dark side, I highly recommend it. As Mort Castle wisely notes in the book’s introduction, this book is a successor, of sorts, to JN Williamson’s classic writer’s guide, How to Write Tales of Horror, Fantasy and Science Fiction, and enters the canon of “essential reference” for the dark fiction author, alongside the HWA’s On Writing Horror and Michael Knost’s Writer’s Workshop of Horror. It’s a great collection of “advice from seasoned professionals” on how to sustain a career in the genre, and very cheaply available for the Amazon Kindle at just .99 cents.

As I write this, the book is #1 in the Amazon bestseller list for “Writing Skills,” “Counseling” and “Vocational Guidance”!

My contribution, “The Five Laws of Arnzen,” extends my essay from Instigation: Creative Prompts on the Dark Side, and is just one of a treasure-trove of essays on a wide variety of themes — all of which are especially helpful for those authors who have already begun their publishing career and are wondering “what now?” and “what next?” I’ll post more information from the publisher below, but you might as well just head right to Amazon and get a copy for your Kindle.

See other Arnzen anthology contributions in the new Anthology page

Horror 101 The Way Forward cover

Horror 101: The Way Forward – a comprehensive overview of the Horror fiction genre and career opportunities available to established and aspiring authors.

Have you ever wanted to be a horror writer? Perhaps you have already realized that dream and you’re looking to expand your repertoire. Writing comic books sounds nice, right? Or how about screenplays?

That’s what Horror 101: The Way Forward is all about. It’s not your average On Writing guide that covers active vs. passive and other writing tips, Horror 101 focuses on the career of a horror writer. It covers not only insights into the horror genre, but the people who successfully make a living from it.

Covering aspects such as movies, comics, short stories, ghost-writing, audiobooks, editing, publishing, self-publishing, blogging, writer’s block, YA horror, reviewing, dark poetry, networking, collaborations, eBooks, podcasts, conventions, series, formatting, web serials, artwork, social media, agents, and career advice from seasoned professionals and up-and-coming talents, Horror 101 is just what you need to kick your career into high gear.

Horror 101: The Way Forward is not your average On Writing guide, as it is more focused on the career options available to authors. But don’t fret, this book is loaded with career tips and behind-the-scene stories on how your favorite authors broke into their respective fields.

Horror 101: The Way Forward is perfect for people who:

• are suffering from writer’s block

• are starting their writing careers

• are looking to expand their writing repertoire

• are planning on infiltrating a different field in horror writing

• are looking to pay more bills with their art

• are trying to further their careers

• are trying to establish a name brand

• are looking to get published

• are planning on self-publishing

• want to learn more about the pros in the horror genre

• are looking for motivation and/or inspiration

• love the horror genre

• are not sure where to take their writing careers

Includes articles by Jack Ketchum, Graham Masterton, Edward Lee, Lucy A. Snyder, Emma Audsley, RJ Cavender, Scott Nicholson, Weston Ochse, Taylor Grant, Paul Kane, Lisa Morton, Shane McKenzie, Dean M. Drinkel, Simon Marshall-Jones, Robert W. Walker, Don D’Auria and Glenn Rolfe, Harry Shannon, Chet Williamson, Lawrence Santoro, Thomas Smith, Blaze McRob, Rocky Wood, Ellen Datlow, Iain Rob Wright, Kenneth W. Cain, Daniel I. Russell, Michael McCarty, Richard Thomas, Joan De La Haye, Michael Wilson, Francois Bloemhof, C.E.L. Welsh, Jasper Bark, Niall Parkinson, Armand Rosamilia, Tonia Brown, Ramsey Campbell, Tim Waggoner, Gary McMahon, V.H. Leslie, Eric S Brown, William Meikle, John Kenny, Gary Fry, Diane Parkin, Jim Mcleod, Siobhan McKinney, Rick Carufel, Ben Eads, Theresa Derwin, Rena Mason, Steve Rasnic Tem, Michael A. Arnzen, Joe Mynhardt, John Palisano, Mark West, Steven Savile, and a writer so famous he’s required to stay anonymous.

Published by Crystal Lake Publishing

Edited by Joe Mynhardt and Emma Audsley

Cover art by Ben Baldwin

eBook formatting by Robert Swartwood

Final line-up:

Foreword by Mort Castle

Making Contact by Jack Ketchum

What is Horror by Graham Masterton

Bitten by the Horror Bug by Edward Lee

Reader Beware by Siobhan McKinney

Balancing Art and Commerce by Taylor Grant

From Prose to Scripts by Shane McKenzie

Writing About Films and for Film by Paul Kane

Screamplays! Writing the Horror Film by Lisa Morton

Screenplay Writing: The First Cut Is the Deepest by Dean M. Drinkel

Publishing by Simon Marshall-Jones

Weighing Up Traditional Publishing & eBook Publishing by Robert W. Walker

Glenn Rolfe Toes the Line with Samhain Horror Head Honcho, Don D’Auria by Glenn Rolfe

Bringing the Zombie to Life by Harry Shannon

Audiobooks: Your Words to Their Ears by Chet Williamson

Writing Aloud by Lawrence Santoro

Ghost-writing: You Can’t Write It If You Can’t Hear It by Thomas Smith

Ghost-writing by Blaze McRob

The Horror Writers Association – the Genre’s Essential Ingredient by Rocky Wood

What a Short Story Editor Does by Ellen Datlow

Self-Publishing: Making Your Own Dreams by Iain Rob Wright

Self-Publishing: Thumb on the Button by Kenneth W. Cain

What’s the Matter with Splatter? by Daniel I. Russell

Partners in the Fantastic: The Pros and Cons of Collaborations by Michael McCarty

The Journey of “Rudy Jenkins Buries His Fears” by Richard Thomas

Writing Short Fiction by Joan De La Haye

A beginner’s guide to setting up and running a website by Michael Wilson

Poetry and Horror by Blaze McRob

Horror for Kids: Not Child’s Play by Francois Bloemhof

So you want to write comic books… by C.E.L. Welsh

Horror Comics – How to Write Gory Scripts for Gruesome Artists by Jasper Bark

Some Thoughts on my Meandering within the World of Dark and Horror Art by Niall Parkinson

Writing the Series by Armand Rosamilia

Running a Web serial by Tonia Brown

Reviewing by Jim Mcleod

Avoiding What’s Been Done to Death by Ramsey Campbell

The 7 Signs that make Agents and Editors say, “Yes!” by Anonymous

The (extremely) Short Guide to Writing Horror by Tim Waggoner

Growing Ideas by Gary McMahon

Filthy Habits – Writing and Routine by Jasper Bark

A Room of One’s Own – The Lonely Path of a Writer by V.H. Leslie

Do You Need an Agent? by Eric S Brown

Ten Short Story Endings to Avoid by William Meikle

Submitting Your Work Part 2: Read the F*****g Guidelines! by John Kenny

Rejection Letters – How to Write and Respond to Them by Jasper Bark

Editing and Proofreading by Diane Parkin

On Formatting: A Concise Guide to the Most Frequently Encountered issues by Rick Carufel

How to Dismember Your Darlings – Editing Your Own Work by Jasper Bark

From Reader to Writer: Finding Inspiration by Emma Audsley

Writing Exercises by Ben Eads

The Year After Publication… by Rena Mason

Writing Horror: 12 Tips on Making a Career of It by Steve Rasnic Tem

The Five Laws of Arnzen by Michael A. Arnzen

The Cheesy Trunk of Terror by Scott Nicholson

How to be Your Own Agent, Whether You Have One or Not by Joe Mynhardt

Networking at Conventions by Lucy A. Snyder

Pitch to Impress: How to Stand Out from the Convention Crowd by RJ Cavender

You Better (Net)Work by Tim Waggoner

Friendship, Writing, and the Internet by Weston Ochse

Buttoning Up Before Dinner by Gary Fry

How to Fail as an Artist in Ten Easy Steps by John Palisano

Writer’s Block by Mark West

Be the Writer You Want to Be by Steven Savile

Afterword by Joe Mynhardt

Order now from amazon.com.

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Published on April 29, 2014 07:54 • 14 views

April 21, 2014

Click below to read “One Moment Please” — a new short-short “clickable” story posted to my Tapestry page.

Based on a true story.

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Published on April 21, 2014 19:36 • 8 views

April 18, 2014


I know

something about

opening pimpers and whores

I know

how to kill quietly

and mop up

bloody wooden floors

I know

how to hide body parts

behind my cabinets and drawers

Clipping the strippers

Clipping the strippers of their spinal cord wires

Their stunned paralysis inspires

Inspires me

I like

laughing at lap dancers when they’re tied to chairs

I like

listening to harlots when they make their final prayers

I like

watching while they clutch their throats for air

Avenger’s happy in the dark

Avenger’s come

Avenger’s come to take away your mark,

devil’s mark

devil’s mark

I am the Avenger



Peter Gabriel’s song, “Intruder,” is one of the creepiest “crime poems” I’ve ever heard set to music, so I wrote the dark homage above as my contribution to “30 Days of the 5-2″ — a special guest blogging marathon, with a new poem or article posted each day of April — in celebration of National Poetry Month.

I’ve contributed to the 5-2 several times in the past, including a poem and online reading of it (“This is How I Murdered the Librarian”) and last year’s extensive NaPoWriMo celebration of Angel Zapata’s excellent work in an extensive essay (“Outlaws at the Treffpunkt”). The 5-2 is an awesome journal and I hope you’ll check them out regularly, and support their ebooks (editor Gerald So will contribute the income to Academy of American Poets this month).

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Published on April 18, 2014 14:12 • 6 views

March 23, 2014

Sample screen from Arnzen's new web app -- Diabolique Strategies: Random Provocations on the Dark Side

Sample “draw” from Diabolique Strategies

I’ve long admired the “Oblique Strategies” — an infamous deck of creativity cards invented by musician Brian Eno and artist Peter Schmidt that has a cult following among artists and musicians. It is one part thinking game, one part fortune cookie. They made it as a way to spur them into thinking differently about their current projects, by drawing random lateral thinking triggers from the deck (like “destroy the most important thing” or “give the game away”).

But I’ve always wondered: What would they look like if Eno had been in a Death Metal band instead of Roxy Music? Or if Schmidt were more of an HR Giger?

So, borrowing a page from my book of prompts, Instigation, I rewrote the Oblique Strategies my own way — turning it to the dark side. And I made a web app out of it to “think outside the coffin,” called Diabolique Strategies: Random Provocations into the Dark Side.

Diabolique Strategies is a creative thinking engine. It doesn’t give you ideas, scenarios or story-starters, so much as it bends your approach to any given topic in an offbeat direction. Some call this lateral thinking. I call it BENT thinking. Think of the prompts as redirection cues — turning your thoughts toward the underside of your imagination…the place where surprise lurks and originality dwells. Go to http://diaboliquestrategies.com and crack open your evil fortune cookie whenever you like. There’s over 200 sick little strategies lurking inside and I keep adding more when inspiration strikes.

Please pass news along and share this brand new site with all the strange and creative personalities in your life.

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Published on March 23, 2014 16:11 • 15 views

March 8, 2014

Last weekend, I attended the 2014 Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference (aka AWP14) at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle. The AWP website boasts that with over 12,000 attendees and 650 exhibits it is “now the largest literary conference in North America” — and it certainly was the largest I’ve been to in my life, with a shopping-mall sized number of tables (featuring colleges, writing programs, presses and publishers) at the bookfair and plenty of superhuman writers as guests (Sherman Alexie and Ursula LeGuin gave readings, for example).

Seton Hill University had a table for our MFA program in Writing Popular Fiction, and at any given time you could probably find me hanging out there with fellow teachers and alums like Heidi Ruby Miller, Jason Jack Miller, Nicole Peeler, Lana Ayers, Danielle Hinesly, Christopher Paul Carey or Tasha Kreger. I also spent a great deal of time hanging out with my old friend, the poet Bryan Dietrich, just a few tables down from us, and swinging a row over to chat it up with the crew at Minor Arcana Press, who not only were there to promote a new book (Drawn to Marvel) that I’m a part of, but who gave awesome tarot card readings to passers-by. (I drew the 8 of Cups, aka, The Elopement of Knowledge, from the Celtic Wisdom Deck, which Anne Bean interpreted as signifying that I was at a point in my life where I had more knowledge to share than I realized, and would only realize it by sharing it freely).

When I wasn’t at the table, I was surfing the bookfair, and seeking out old friends and making some new ones. It was great to chat with Todd Davis, Gerry LaFemmina, Bill Ransom, Sam Weller and too many others to count. At one point, I bumped into the bizarros at Eraserhead Press, where I finally met Cameron Pierce, and then grabbed publisher Rose O’Keefe so we could go on the hunt for my former mentor (and Raw Dog Screaming Press colleague) Lance Olsen…he was there, but I never managed to find him. After that, I haunted many a publisher in seeking out a non-fiction book on a particular topic, and could not find one, so I basically pitched the idea for the book at various presses and may end up writing it myself someday (which is why I’m speaking opaquely about the subject matter). While there were many college presses and stuffy journals at the AWP (nothing wrong with those — seriously), there were a few literary rebels that really spoke to me, like Eraserhead, Minor Arcana Press, Fiction Collective 2, and University of Hell. But one awesome press I discovered that was new to me was Black Ocean, who publishes an array of very dark material (mostly poetry or prose poetry) by international authors, in fabulously designed formats, and as I sampled from their books I was BLOWN AWAY by the literary horror writing I found. I was so surprised by my own ignorance about this press that I felt I must know them better, so I surreptitiously bought every single title they had on display like a crazy person. That resulted in a funny photo which leads the gallery below. I enjoyed meeting Janaka Stucky from the press, and I guess I’m now a Black Oceanographer proper.

One high point of the conference happened the first night I arrive, which I attended bleary-eyed and exhausted from all the travel (I’d left at 3am to get to Seattle!): the “Superheroes of Poetry” reading, where very good poets all read their speculative genre work at the Jack Straw Center (a really special place that has a special audio training program for poets!). It was fantastic getting to meet and see in action Bryan Dietrich, Jeannine Hall Gailey, Sally Rosen Kindred, Jason McCall, Lesley Wheeler, host Lana Ayers, and Evan J. Peterson (who gets a special shout-out for rocking some horror poetry from his book, The Midnight Channel, an homage to the ‘final girls’ from splatter films). You can witness a video recording of the whole event on youtube.

On the final evening of the conference, Minor Arcana Press hosted a reading/signing for the anthology, Drawn to Marvel: Poems from the Comic Books (which also includes Dietrich, SHU’s Albert Wendland and some high profile folks like Sherman Alexie and Lucille Clifton, just to name a few). This was an “offsite reading” at a local gamers’ parlor called “Ray Gun Lounge” where about 12 contributors — too many to list — read their poetry. This was one of the highlights for me, not only because of the camaraderie but because of the fun location (I got to stand near a larger-than-life Dalek). It was recorded on video, so I expect you can see it on YouTube soon.

I brought new “Instigation” postcards to the AWP and handed them out to many writers. These include prompts on the back that could be mailed back to me to post on the Mastication Publications site. A few have already come in, so be sure to visit the “Greetings from Hell” routinely to see what people send in!

I could go on and on, but maybe it’s time to let some photos speak for themselves…

Sweeping the Black Ocean
Nicole Peeler & Mike Arnzen
Horror Lunch
Arnzen & Lana Ayers
Bryan Dietrich at Bookfair
Jeannine Hall Gailey at Jack Straw Center
Heidi Ruby Miller & Jason Jack Miller
Nick Mamatas
Lana Ayers at Jack Straw Center
Peeler & Danielle Hinesly
Evan Peterson, Oscar McNary and Anne Bean from Minor Arcana Press
Heidi signing Many Genres, One Craft
Arnzen, Evan and the first Instigation Postcard submission
Jason and Arnzen
Arnzen & Dietrich Attack
Evan at Ray Gun Lounge reading
Rose O'Keefe from Eraserhead with Mike Arnzen
Todd Davis & Arnzen
Peeler & Hinesly at SHU table
Jason Jack Miller made & read a Fridge of the Damned Poem at the con
Jason McCall signs Drawn to Marvel
Evan Peterson reads at Jack Straw Center
Jack Straw Center flyer for Speculative Poetry Reading
My Tarot Card
Seattle, ablur
Drawn to Marvel cover
Arnzen reading with Dalek
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Published on March 08, 2014 07:32 • 17 views

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Michael A. Arnzen
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