The N-Words and other Unmentionables

The N-Words and other Unmentionables

By Michael R. Collings

 

Future generations (assuming there will be such) may look back on our times and wonder at the power we ascribe to individuals and to words.

Whenever there is a social problem, a cultural chasm, the first thing our society turns to—and attempts to change—is often not so much the problem itself, the underlying causes that make human beings treat others in specific ways, the assumptions (often unarticulated but influential) that direct our actions, but rather the most superficial manifestations of that problem.

The language used to describe it, talk about it, or denote it.

In other words, the words.

In 2012, the New York Department of Education, concerned about cultural divides among students, published a list of fifty words proscribed from appearing on official, standardized tests, under the assumption that they might irrevocably harm the developing psyches of school children. Among the victims on the hit-list:

Birthday—possibly offensive to Jehovah’s Witnesses and others who for religious or cultural reasons do not celebrate such events;

Dancing—possibly offensive to religious groups that reject such activities—ballet, however is allowed;

Dinosaur—possibly offensive to anti-evolutionists;

Halloween—possibly offensive to religionists because of its associations with paganism;

Homes with swimming pools—possibly offensive to the benighted few who do not have such amenities in their back yards;

Poverty—possibly offensive to anyone associated with it, because, after all, such a state is not any individual’s fault but society’s;

Religion—possibly offensive to those who have none;

Slavery—possibly offensive to young people multiple generations removed from its practice in New York City;

Terrorism—possibly offensive to members of groups tangentially associated with extremists who actually practice this means of radical social change;

War—definitely offensive to any right-minded person to whom violence (expunged) and bloodshed (also expunged) are anathema under any circumstances.

Superficially, such a list of prohibited words might seem over-reaching, perhaps to the extent of becoming ludicrous. Yet in our world, our fear of offending someone—anyone—has reached such epidemic proportions that at times it seems as if words themselves, our primary means of communication, are under attack.

In September, 2012, the NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell responded to questions about possibly forcing the owner of the Washington Redskins to change the team name. “If one person is offended,” he announced, “we have to listen.”

One person.

Curiously enough, I’ve rarely read of any Native Americans objecting to the names.

The brouhaha means, one supposes, that the Kansas City Chiefs will soon be forced to change their name as well, along with the Dallas Cowboys—the latter because of all the mayhem cowboys inflicted upon Native Americans, including their Chiefs, more than a century ago. The Minnesota Vikings are in jeopardy, particularly as the Vikings are now credited (positively) with ‘discovering’ America and judiciously leaving it the way it was…we wouldn’t want to offend any of their descendants. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers bring to mind murder, rapine, and theft—hardly role models for today’s youth. The New England Patriots might offend southerners who find such rabble-rousing inappropriate. The Oakland Raiders definitely need to polish their name; and the Arizona Cardinals need to think about the implications of cardinal, since it is a homograph for a word closely associated with a specific religion—separation of Church and State, after all.

If one person is offended.

And that is just in one sport.

But back to my title.

You will note that I specified “The N-words”—plural.

That was intentional, because I want to look briefly at several near-homophones and explore their differences in meaning…and when they might be useful in writing fiction.

The first is the classic “N-word”: nigger.

In terms of its linguistic history, the word is entirely legitimate. It stems ultimately from the Latin word niger, meaning ‘black,’ and was used descriptively…just as black now is (the latter, by the way, comes from an Anglo-Saxon word, blæc, meaning alternately ‘dark’ or ‘pale’—the usual word for ‘black’ back then was sweart, from which is derived swarthy).

For much of a number of centuries, it remained largely neutral; in the mid-1800s, for example, it became part of the “Mountain Man” lexicon, with the associated sense of ‘pal,’ ‘man,’ even something as colloquial as ‘dude,’ with  no definitive  racial overtones. Not until the early 1900s did it become specifically and exclusively pejorative—which creates serious difficulties in reading late Victorian literature such as Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, or early 20th-century pieces by, say, Edgar Rice Burroughs. When used in such literature, the word might still be primarily descriptive. In a contemporary effort not to appear offensive, one publisher recently introduced an edition of Huckleberry Finn substituting slave—with the unintended consequence that one of Twain’s most powerful characters becomes “Slave Jim,” diminishing him in ways that I don’t think Twain intended.

Be that as it may, the word became pejorative and remains so, to the extent that several recent instances suggest that it now may not even be spoken (by non-blacks, at least) without fear of legal reprisals. It has replaced the infamous “F-word” as the most impermissible utterance in the English language.

(I don’t want to digress into the morality or the rightness of black speakers using it as a term of endearment or affection—that appears to be in flux at the moment, so I can draw no conclusions about it).

But there it is. A word that, despite a respectable genealogy and reasonably respectable history, is now literally (using literally to mean both ‘literally’ and ‘figuratively’) unspeakable.

Except….

In Jonathan Maberry’s Ghost Road Blues, a character named Vic Wingate uses the word perhaps half-a-dozen times in as many pages, always referring to Oren Morse, an itinerant farm worker/blues musician whose murder Wingate orchestrates in an early chapter. The word isn’t accidental; the repetition makes that clear. So why does such a careful, conscientious, masterly writer as Maberry include it?

The reason is not difficult to find. The word appears, not to characterize Oren Morse, who has already been established as a key character, one who knows the truth about a siege of deaths in Pine Deep, and the only one with the courage to seek out the monster and slay it; but rather to characterize the speaker, Wingate. By the end of the trilogy of which Ghost Road Blues is the first volume, Wingate is second only to the Great Evil itself in his debasement, his degradation, his corruption. And one of the first indications of this occurs when he speaks to Morse. Through his use of a single word, he lays his dark soul bare and prepares readers to believe any and all of the horrors he will perpetrate over the next 1200 pages. Six appearances of one small word—and we know all that we need to know of Vic Wingate.

Yes, it is pejorative. Yes, it is socially inappropriate. And yes, it no longer describes but characterizes…except that now is characterizes the speaker rather the subject—a complete reversal of its earlier negative meanings.

In a sense, then, it has found a place, although by left-handed means (I’m left-handed, so I can use the phrase prejudicially), as a useful adjunct in story-telling.

But there has been fallout.

Consider one of the synonyms for snicker: snigger. According to some sources, it is simply a variant of snicker, differing in meaning from the original in the slightly increased sense of disrespect it suggests.

Yet….

On one of the social forums, I found this comment:

I don’t know where I heard it [snigger] first, it has just always been part of my vocabulary. I never once linked it to the N word, which I find horrendously offensive (I have black relatives, and I just like people and don’t like derogatory terms in general!), but when I just typed it into a forum I’m a member of, it censored the middle arrangement of letters. I never use the word “snicker” because it reminds me of the candy bar, and the LAST thing I need to do is create a craving for… oh, drat. Too late. Now I want a candy bar.

Regardless of its meaning, snigger was censored merely because of an adventitious arrangement of letters. The obvious message: MUST NOT USE.

The next post on the forum was explicitly angry, not that snigger had been misused but that it had been used at all:

I am offended when I come across this word. Why do authors use it when it is so close to the “n” word that it is uncomfortable to say? The word “snicker” would have the same meaning and would be less disturbing to the reader. I’m positive that I’m not the only one who feels this way about the use of this word.

One person expresses offense; should snigger therefore be expunged from the language?

If snigger has experienced difficulties, imagine what life must be for the second “N-word”: niggard and its adverbial, niggardly.

Their etymology actually goes farther back, to the 12th and 13th centuries. Nyggard in Middle English paralleled hnøggr in Old Norse, one of the contributory languages to English. Hnøggr, in turn, was cross-related to an Anglo-Saxon adjective, hnēaw, meaning ‘stingy.’ From the beginning, then, niggard and niggardly have carried a single meaning, one utterly divorced from race, color, or social opprobrium (except insofar as it is deemed antisocial to be stingy).

Yet….

I’ve been told explicitly never to use it.

I wrote it on the greenboard in my classroom once, and the entire class gasped in shock.

An associate of the mayor of Washington, D.C., was forced to resign for using it (appropriately) to describe a proposed budget.

A college student in Wisconsin complained that a professor used the word repeatedly during lectures on Chaucer, in spite of her being deeply offended by it.

A teacher in North Carolina was reprimanded for using the word during a discussion of literary characters and was required to attend sensitivity training.

Newspapers and magazines have officially banned the word, fearing the public consequences.

An accidental arrangement of letters that results in a near-homophone.

And the word is banned.

Curiously, a second near-homograph/homophone has largely escaped controversy. Niggle comes from the identical root as niggard—the aforementioned Old Norse hnøggr. It has a related meaning: Whereas niggardly means ‘parsimonious’ or ‘penurious,’ niggle means to criticize repeatedly, albeit in a peevish, petty, rather miserly way. It is, admittedly, not common in contemporary English, although J. R. R. Tolkien used it magnificently in one of his lesser-known stories, “Leaf by Niggle.” Niggle is the main character, appropriately enough described as a “little man.” One of the points of the story is the way in which he is niggled by others, to the extent that his greatest artistic achievement—a landscape painting—is eventually allowed to deteriorate until all that remains is a small scrap with a single leaf…hence the title. In the end, the tale becomes a story of redemption and validation, and the name “Niggle” becomes synonymous with Heaven.

I’m not aware of any particular fuss about him—or anyone else—using niggle, and the reason, I think, has largely to do with pronunciation.

Niggard ends with a low plosive—‘d.’ That means that the final sound literally explodes from the throat as the tongue drops from the palate and allows built-up air to be released. It cannot be prolonged, and for that reason, in speech, it frequently disappears, leaving behind only the lingering sense of the guttural ‘r.’ And in that context, the unaccented -ar sounds exactly like the unaccented -­er. In effect, niggard can become another word entirely when heard.

Niggle, on the other hand, lacks the final plosive. In fact, its final sound—the high liquid ‘l’—allows the speaker to hang on to the word, to let it continue until the speaker simply runs out of breath if so chosen, and in doing so, it effectively defuses the implicitly negative sense of the first letters: nigg. The ‘g’ becomes less rough, less thick, and the physiological effect of the word is much lighter, much higher. Niggle becomes acceptable.

In both cases—snigger and niggard—the words’ disrepute stems not from meaning but from sound. Neither is in any way related linguistically to the infamous N-word. Nor does either bear any connection to racial comments. Indeed, if embedded racism were the primary criterion for choosing which words to avoid, then the ubiquitous boy, given its usage history, should join the list.   

Yet from the evidence provided by our society it would be difficult to tell which word is the most undesirable: dinosaur, war, or niggardly.

Fortunately, the New York City Board of Education’s attempt met with the scorn I think it deserved. And attempts to can nigardly from college campuses resulted, in at least one instance, in a broadening of freedom of expression rather than a narrowing.

Now to bring the discussion down to my ultimate purpose—talking about story-telling and fictions.

No words are too sacrosanct to use in a story; and no words are so horrific—especially in writing darkness, horror—that they cannot appear. Even the most socially inappropriate of words, used carefully and with the intent to characterize the moral failings, not of the subject, but of the speaker can become effective.

All that is needed is a clear understanding on the part of writers of four points:

* The way the readers might react to the words and how that will impact the story’s reception—as can be seen from the case of Huckleberry Finn, merely using a certain word might be enough to turn a portion of the readership away;

* The possibility of using synonyms that lack the emotional charge but that will allow the story to remain true to itself—remembering always that there are almost no true and complete synonyms in the English language;

* The responsibilities writers have to themselves, to their characters, and to the world in which they live—in Maberry’s novel, for instance, the word is almost required, given the choices that his characters will eventually have to make between Good and Evil…and his language is expressly designed to allow readers to see, understand, and accept those choices; and

* The freedom of writers to self-censor and choose responsibly, fully aware of implications and consequences; but when a society identifies certain words that must never be used, that society has overstepped its legitimate bounds

Fortunately, in spite of NFL commissioners, boards of education, college administrators, and others who would restrict the language to meet their view of the world, authors remain free to choose and to explore.

JournalStone Publishing Announces Signing of Author Glen Krisch to a three book apocalyptic series, The Brother’s Keeper Trilogy, with book 1, Arkadium Rising set to be published in December, 2014.

SAN FRANCISCO, September 16, 2013 – JournalStone Publishing (JSP) President, Christopher C. Payne is pleased to announce the signing of a contract with author Glen Krisch, to publish a three book series titled, The Brother’s Keeper.  Book, 1, Arkadium Rising, is set to be published in December 2014, Book 2 to follow in 2015, with Book 3 concluding the trilogy set for a 2016 release date.

About the novel, Arkadium Rising: Jason and Marcus Grant are brothers who have traveled quite different paths. Jason is a hardworking journalist trying to make a name for himself.  Marcus, a former neo-Nazi and a sometime drug addict, has joined a religious cult that is as old as the bible itself.  This cult, the Arkadium, comes out of hiding, unleashing a plot to bring down modern civilization in the space of a single afternoon.  They want to turn back time ten thousand years and they don’t care who gets hurt in the process. Marcus is an established leader in the Arkadium. In a time when the written word has been banned, Marcus forces Jason to secretly record the history that unfolds after the apocalypse. Book One of the trilogy chronicles the fall of modern man.

About the Author: Glen Krisch’s novels include The Nightmare Within, Where Darkness Dwells, Nothing Lasting, and Arkadium Rising (Brother’s Keeper Book One). His short fiction has appeared in publications across three continents for the last decade. Besides writing and reading, he enjoys spending time with his wife, romance author Sarah Krisch, his three boys, simple living, and ultra-running. He enjoys talking to his readers. Feel free to stop by his website to see what he’s up to: www.glenkrisch.wordpress.com

JournalStone Publishing is a dynamic publishing house, focusing in the Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror genres in both the adult and young adult markets. JSP also owns and operates the Hellnotes website, offering daily news and reviews of interest to genre readers and fans, and Dark Discoveries Magazine, a slick, full color, internationally-distributed quarterly magazine.  We publish in multiple book formats and market our authors on a global level. We are also active with numerous major writer’s groups, including the Horror Writers Association (HWA), and produce a monthly newsletter with a large circulation.

 

# # #

For further information –  415-763-7323 (415-763-READ)

Contact:           Christopher C. Payne, President JournalStone Publishing

Email:              christophercpayne@journalstone.com

Website:           http://journalstone.com

Editor vs. Reviewer

As a writer, I often don different hats: novelist, short-story writer, poet, critic, reviewer, editor.

Occasionally—and frustratingly—the hats collide when one function strays over into another. For example, I am the Senior Publications Editor at JournalStone Publications, which means that when working with a manuscript, I need to be alert to anything that impedes the flow of the narrative while simultaneously remaining as true as possible to the words and rhythms of that most marvelous of creatures, the author.

I am also a reviewer for my own site, Collings Notes (michaelrcollings.blogspot.com), for Hellnotes (hellnotes.com) and for Dark Discoveries. When I wear that hat, I am responsible for assessing the effectiveness of narrative, taking into account as many elements of writing as possible.

Once in a while, however, I find these two hats at odds with each other. I recently read a novel that had compelling characters; a well-constructed story; a clear setting; and a distinct beginning, middle, and end—in a nutshell, the author had conceived of an intriguing story, structured it imaginatively and interestingly, and told it well.

Or almost well.

By the time I finished the novel, I was frustrated.

The reviewer in me wanted to conclude that this was a strong story that deserved an equally strong review. The editor in me, however, balked.

The problem rested, not with the story per se, but with the words used to tell it. At the level of editing—correcting grammar, spelling, punctuation, syntax that might otherwise create distractions and derail the story—there were so many problems that they eventually took over. The story as story dissipated and finally disappeared.

In this instance, the problems dealt primarily with punctuation, with the all-too-common sense among many authors and editors alike that little things like commas and hyphens really don’t matter that much. If you want a pause in a sentence, throw in a comma, regardless of how that actually changes meaning. Or, if you wish, just leave such trivialities out altogether.

At the moment, there are two popular memes on the social networks, designed to remind people that punctuation counts.

One is a sentence that reads:

I enjoy cooking

my pets

and my family.

Writing the words on a single line reveals the essential problem: “I enjoy cooking my pets and my family”—a truly horrific meal in progress, presumably. The solution to the problem: two small commas: “I enjoy cooking, my pets, and my family”—three creditable activities although, one hopes, listed in reverse order of importance.

The second meme is similar but even shorter: “Let’s eat kids.” Again, a rather carnivorous, not to say cannibalistic intent worthy of Jonathan Swift at his most satirical. Add a comma, and we get: “Let’s eat, kids.” An entirely different statement.

As I thought about the problem, I came up with six words that, depending on how one punctuates them, are capable of several meanings:

He watched the grandmother eating bear.

Surface level, as punctuated—a man is watching an elderly woman consuming the flesh of a bear. Perhaps from a historical novel, perhaps from a novel about survival in the wilderness, but either way, perfectly acceptable.

Add a comma, however, and the meaning shifts:

He watched the grandmother, eating bear.

Now the man, whoever he is, is contentedly observing the elderly woman while he chows down on his evening meal of bear steak. Same words; different action.

To ring yet another change, delete the comma and add…a hyphen:

He watched the grandmother-eating bear.

By indicating that grandmother and bear are connected as a two-part adjective, the sentence now asserts that the man is hot on the trail of a man-eating (or grandmother-eating) carnivore and, having located it, is watching it…presumably prefatory to killing it.

[By the way, the possibilities of ambiguity and misunderstanding increase if homonyms come into play: bare instead of bear—something that SpellCheck won’t pick up.]

Granted, these sentences are contrived. In novel after novel, story after story, however, it is fairly easy to find parallel structures that—through the positioning of a comma or a hyphen, or the lack of same—assert a meaning wildly at odds with the tone and movement of the story.

“But the context will make it clear,” some will say, impatient at what appears to them as nitpicking.

True. It will.

But in the period, however brief, between initially reading such a sentence and fitting it into the context of the story, there is necessarily a pause, a break, a moment’s hesitation that for that instant fractures the story. And enough of those small moments, enough of those uneasy junctures, and there is the danger that the reader will not only back up sufficiently to put the sentence into context but will back out of the story completely.

That is a danger no writer should be willing to risk.

JournalStone Publishing Announces – Limbus, Inc. will be stocked on the shelves of Barnes & Noble bookstores.

JournalStone Publishing Announces - Limbus, Inc. will be stocked on the shelves of

 Barnes & Noble bookstores.

SAN FRANCISCO, September 8, 2013 – JournalStone Publishing (JSP) President, Christopher C. Payne is pleased to announce that Limbus, Inc., the collaborative anthology featuring five authors (Jonathan Maberry, Benjamin Kane Ethridge, Joseph Nassise, Brett J. Talley and Anne C. Petty – Editor) and the obscure corporate entity of Limbus, Inc. will be stocked in select Barnes & Noble bookstores.  “We are very pleased with our progress here at JournalStone as we continuing moving forward, establishing a footprint in the larger brick and mortar marketplace.” – Christopher C. Payne

About the novel: Are you laid off, downsized, undersized? Call us. We employ. 1-800-555-0606 How lucky do you feel? So reads the business card from LIMBUS, INC., a shadowy employment agency that operates at the edge of the normal world. LIMBUS’s employees are just as suspicious and ephemeral as the motives of the company, if indeed it could be called a company in the ordinary sense of the word. In this shared-world anthology, five heavy hitters from the dark worlds of horror, fantasy, and scifi pool their warped takes on the shadow organization that offers employment of the most unusual kind to those on the fringes of society. One thing’s for sure – you’ll never think the same way again about the fine print on your next employment application!

How can you help: Head over to your nearest Barnes & Noble bookstore and buy a copy of Limbus, Inc.  If they don’t have a copy, ask them to bring one in, or possibly stock the book at that particular store.  If they do have some copies on hand, ask them to drop it on the front shelf.  Bring some focus on it.  Whatever you can do to help bring attention to Limbus, Inc. in Barnes & Noble is very much appreciated.  Thanks!

JournalStone Publishing is a dynamic publishing house, focusing in the Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror genres in both the adult and young adult markets. JSP also owns and operates the Hellnotes website, offering daily news and reviews of interest to genre readers and fans, and Dark Discoveries Magazine, a slick, full color, internationally-distributed quarterly magazine.  We publish in multiple book formats and market our authors on a global level. We are also active with numerous major writer’s groups, including the Horror Writers Association (HWA), and produce a monthly newsletter with a large circulation.

 

# # #

For further information –  415-763-7323 (415-763-READ)

Contact:           Christopher C. Payne, President JournalStone Publishing

Email:              christophercpayne@journalstone.com

Website:           http://journalstone.com

JournalStone Publishing Announces Signing of Award-Winning New York Times bestselling Authors, David Liss, Robert Jackson Bennett, Joe McKinney, Rhodi Hawk and Hank Schwaeble to a multi-era novel peeling away the layers of a hundred-year mystery: CENTURY.

SAN FRANCISCO, August 19, 2013 – JournalStone Publishing (JSP) President, Christopher C. Payne is pleased to announce the signing of a contract with award winning and New York Times bestselling authors, David Liss, Robert Jackson Bennett, Joe McKinney, Rhodi Hawk and Hank Schwaeble, to publish a collaborative novel Century, developed and written by the five members of the Candlelight Writers Group.  The novel is set to be published August, 2014

About the novel: In the summer of 2014, be prepared for the mystery of the Century. Five award-winning authors take you through an epic span of supernatural noir, a full hundred years of webbed conspiracy, from the tenement slums of turn-of-the-century New York, to the dawn of talking celluloid in Hollywood, through the hard-boiled streets of Houston in the age of Sputnik, past a seemingly lone act of history-changing violence during the Reagan Administration, all the way to the here and now of today and the inner workings of the powerful machinery at the end of every string.  One novel.  Five authors.  Five eras.  One… CENTURY.

About the Authors: David Liss is the author six novels, most recently The Devil’s Company. He is the bestselling author of five previous novels: A Conspiracy of Paper, winner of the 2000 Edgar Award for Best First Novel, The Coffee Trader, A Spectacle of Corruption, The Ethical Assassin and The Whiskey Rebels. Robert Jackson Bennett is the Edgar Award and Shirley Jackson award-winning author of Mr. Shivers and The Company Man.  Joe McKinney is the Bram Stoker Award-winning author of several novels, including the four part Dead World series, Quarantined and Inheritance.  Rhodi Hawk is the International Thriller Writers Association Scholarship Award-winning author of A Twisted Ladder and The Tangled Bridge.  Hank Schwaeble is the multiple Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Damnable and Diabolical.

JournalStone Publishing is a dynamic publishing house, focusing in the Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror genres in both the adult and young adult markets. JSP also owns and operates the Hellnotes website, offering daily news and reviews of interest to genre readers and fans, and Dark Discoveries Magazine, a slick, full color, internationally-distributed quarterly magazine.  We publish in multiple book formats and market our authors on a global level. We are also active with numerous major writer’s groups, including the Horror Writers Association (HWA), and produce a monthly newsletter with a large circulation.

 

# # #

For further information –  415-763-7323 (415-763-READ)

Contact:           Christopher C. Payne, President JournalStone Publishing

Email:              christophercpayne@journalstone.com

Website:           http://journalstone.com

JournalStone Publishing Announces Signing of Award-Winning Author Hank Schwaeble to a four-book deal for novels three through six of the Jake Hatcher series

SAN FRANCISCO, June 28, 2013 – JournalStone Publishing (JSP) President, Christopher C. Payne is pleased to announce the signing of a contract with award winning author, Hank Schwaeble, to publish his next four novels in the award winning Jake Hatcher series.

About the novels: The Angel of the Abyss, novel three in the Jake Hatcher series, is tentatively set for publication on Friday, June 13, 2014, and follows ex-special forces interrogator and demon-magnet Jake Hatcher, who has inherited millions after thwarting Valentine and the Carnates’ plan to open a portal to Hell. Finally able to be with the woman he loves, life—for anyone else—would seem charmed. But Hatcher’s good fortune came at a steep price; one that doesn’t merely haunt him, but dictates his every move. Ultimately, Hatcher must discover for himself what is real, and what isn’t, on whose side he should be fighting, and whether he can prevail in a potential battle of wit and wills with both a new contender for the throne of Hell and the being that has been its occupant since the dawn of Creation—the Crowned Ruler of all Demons, the Lord of all Damnation, the Great Deceiver… The Angel of the Abyss.  The additional three novels under contract will follow Jake Hatcher as he continues his hellish adventures.

About the Author: Hank Schwaeble is a thriller writer and attorney in Houston, Texas. His debut novel, DAMNABLE (Berkley/Jove 2009) won the Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel. His second novel, DIABOLICAL (Berkley/Jove) was released in June, 2011. A graduate of the University of Florida and Vanderbilt Law School, Hank is also a former Air Force officer and special agent for the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. He was a distinguished graduate from the Air Force Special Investigations Academy, graduated first in his class from the Defense Language Institute’s Japanese Language Course, and was an editor of the law review at Vanderbilt where he won four American Jurisprudence Awards. Hank is an active member of the Horror Writers Association and the International Thriller Writers Association and is married to fellow author Rhodi Hawk.

JournalStone Publishing is a new and dynamic publishing house, focusing in the Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror genres in both the adult and young adult markets. JSP also owns and operates the Hellnotes website, offering daily news and reviews of interest to genre readers and fans, and Dark Discoveries Magazine, a slick, full color, distinguished and internationally distributed quarterly magazine.  We publish in multiple book formats and market our authors on a global level. We are also active with numerous major writer’s groups, including the Horror Writers Association (HWA), and produce a monthly newsletter with a large circulation.

 

# # #

For further information –

Contact:           Christopher C. Payne, President JournalStone Publishing

Email:              christophercpayne@journalstone.com

Website:           http://journalstone.com

JournalStone Publishing Announces Signing of Award Winning Author, John R. Little, to a four book deal

SAN FRANCISCO, June 25, 2013 – JournalStone Publishing (JSP) President, Christopher C. Payne is pleased to announce the signing of a contract with award winning author, John R. Little, for the publication of four novels – one per year – beginning in 2014.

About the novels: DarkNet (announced earlier this year) is a suspense/thriller about an abused woman in Seattle who decides she needs to take extreme action to save herself and her daughter from her violent husband.  The book is full of shocking twists that will surprise every reader and make them wonder what could possibly come next.  The additional three books will also fall into the suspense/thriller genre.

About the Author: John R. Little published his first short story in 1982 and hasn’t stopped since.  He’s published ten books so far and has many more ideas finding find their way to print.  John won the Bram Stoker award for Miranda in 2009 and was nominated two other times (The Memory Tree and Ursa Major).  His most recent books are Ursa Major and Scavenger Hunt (co-written with Fatima Monteiro), and a new collection of stories, Little by Little is coming soon.

JournalStone Publishing is a new and dynamic publishing house, focusing in the Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror genres in both the adult and young adult markets. JSP also owns and operates the Hellnotes website, offering daily news and reviews of interest to genre readers and fans, and Dark Discoveries Magazine, a slick, full color, distinguished and internationally distributed quarterly magazine.  We publish in multiple book formats and market our authors on a global level. We are also active with numerous major writer’s groups, including the Horror Writers Association (HWA), and produce a monthly newsletter with a large circulation.

 # # #

For further information –

Contact:           Christopher C. Payne, President JournalStone Publishing

Email:              christophercpayne@journalstone.com

Website:           http://journalstone.com

Phone:             415-763-7323. (READ)

Wer Means Man—Some Thoughts on the Werewolf.

Wer Means Man—Some Thoughts on the Werewolf.

Michael R. Collings

 

The werewolf as theme, character, and motif has intrigued me for decades. One of my earliest poems dealt with the theme, followed shortly thereafter by a short-story version (more about both of those later). My science-fantasy novel, Wordsmith and one of its prequel-stories, “The Calling of Iam’Kendron,” use a variant on the werewolf as a rite of passage for young characters whose manhood is about to be tested.

I grew up on an occasional but welcome diet of werewolves—of the filmic variety, that is. The four-o’clock-movies after school frequently replayed such classics as The Werewolf of London  (1935); The Wolfman (1941), with Lon Chaney; and I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957), made long before Michael Landon made it big on Bonanza or Little House on the Prairie. As an adult, I counted werewolves among my favorite film creatures, even as advances in technology and special effects rapidly transformed the visual impact of the monster with The Howling (1981); the mind-blowing An American Werewolf in London (1981); Michael Jackson’s Thriller (1983); Ladyhawk (1985), with its re-imagining of the character…and its incredible juxtaposition of medieval landscapes and contemporary music; and so on, through Dog Soldiers (2002), Von Helsing (2004), and other reincarnations of the beast. (I will admit, however, to never having seen any of the Twilight films.)

Several werewolf novels remain among my favorite reading. Stephen King’s Cycle of the Werewolf (1985) and the subsequent film/novelization, Silver Bullet, introduced me to many of the intricacies possible in this manifestly complex creature. Whitley Strieber’s The Wolfen (1988) almost persuaded me to devote time to writing a critical study of his novels. Robert R. McCammon’s stunning The Wolf’s Hour (1989) is one of the few novels that I re-read simply for the sheer pleasure of it; I’ve worn out two paperback copies and now have a third that I have re-bound as a hardcover. These and others have maintained an interest that began with my initial, tentative steps toward understanding what psychology might underlie the myth.

Which brings me to that first poem.

The original version of “Wiros” was written over thirty years ago—roughly at the time I first watched An American Werewolf in London—and found its initial publication in my collection of science-fiction, fantasy, and horror poetry, Naked to the Sun: Dark Visions of Apocalypse (1985). The next year, it was reprinted in its original state in Footsteps VII. In 1989, a heavily edited version was included in my chapbook, Transformations, which in turn became a significant part of my second collection of SF/F/H verse, Dark Transformations: Deadly Visions of Change (1990; rpt. 2007). Finally, again re-visited and re-visioned, the poem appeared in In the Void: Poems of Science Fiction, Myth and Fantasy, and Horror (2009). The fact that it has kept me intrigued for over three decades suggests that there is something elemental—and perhaps still unfinished—about the concept:

 

Wiros

Crouching here, dark-shadowed

from heat-searing sun,

this body seems mine…almost—

or I its, I do not know.

 

I run. The knife piercing my heart

matching the knife heavy in my hand.

Blood streams naked thighs,

flashing crimson as I race—

 

hot-red from my new kill…

it terrifies…attracts.

Within shadows, my quarry

cowers.  It knows I am here, but

 

not yet who or what.

It fears the phantom-shadow

of bright day, killing and

killing. By night they search

 

but will not, cannot find,

or know that I hunt with them

as they search, that I

AM the monster—and in sweet darkness,

 

I will not know it either. Now

I run, naked through the sunset, bleeding

from thorns and briars, heart hammered

by the demon I have become—

 

hideous body erect,

hairless, clawless, fangless,

slaying brothers.  I weep to die,

but cannot.

 

Day-nightmare, at night blessed

oblivion of reality. With the night,

I will become the wolf

again.

 

And there it is, the secret perhaps of my sometimes obsession with werewolves—the possibility that we have all gotten it wrong, somehow, that the true horror is not man transforming into wolf but the opposite…wolf transforming to man.

I still like the poem, from its original incarnation to its final one; I like the panicked yet breathlessly energized sense, the sudden shock at the end as the man-wolf (rather than wolf-man) understands for the moment what it has become, that it is killing its own kind and detests itself for it, hungers for the night when it can resume its true form.

Being who I am, however, I could not let it rest. Shortly after the poem was completed, I tackled a far more intimidating project: to tell it as a story. Obviously there were problems, particularly since for at least part of the tale, the p-o-v character must be inarticulate, driven by instinct rather than reason…and yet remain at the heart of the story.

It appeared, along with the source-poem, in Transformations and, also along with the source poem, was reprinted in Dark Transformations. It was well received—the reviewer for the SFRA (Science Fiction Research Association) called it “a chilling tale of physical and psycho­logical transfor­mation with an unusual twist” that concentrated in man’s connections with animals, with nature, and with self.

That response strikes at the heart of what I think a key reason why the werewolf remains perennially popular. There is a deeper involvement with the human psyche when it comes to the werewolf than perhaps for other basic monsters. Vampires are not human and, as such, often come across as cold and dispassionate, even when they are imported into sexually charged plots and settings (Twilight excepted). Ghosts have little or no substance and often reflect only small slices of human psychology…loneliness, despair, hunger for revenge, a need for rest. Zombies are simply dead. There is little of the human remaining in them save appetite…horrific, ungovernable, and limitless.

But werewolves were and will again become fully human, aware of their transformation and often overcome by complex feelings of desire and guilt, appetite and remorse. The complexity increases if we accept, as Stephen King has suggested in Cycle, that lycanthropy need have no clear cause-effect relationship in a narrative; it may simply happen. An otherwise respectable, even admirable man or woman is bitten and, will ye-nill ye, undergoes the transition from clear-thinking, rational human to beast; occasionally, as in McCammon’s version, the beast retains some level of human consciousness, but over time, even that is threatened. To remain a wolf too long means to relinquish the hold on humanity; hence the need to transform back, either with the coming of the dawn or at some other specific moment.

This intense sense of often almost tragic loss stimulated my early attempts at dealing with the motif. It is bad enough for a human to become trapped within the beast; for the beast to abruptly have to deal with the enormous ramifications of both emotion and intellect would be nearly overwhelming. It creates an essential alienation, an extraordinary vulnerability in both stages of transformation:

For a long time, he huddled on his haunches, his rear legs tight against his warmth, his forelegs stiff and straight. The bunched muscles in his haunches quivered, rippled. He felt as if something in him were about to burst.

And then he moved again.

He balanced precariously as his forelegs—still deathly stiff and straight—rose rigidly in front of him and his hind legs suddenly bore his entire weight.

And still he rose, his eyes bulging in terror as his spine crackled and the muscles of hip and knee twisted and his taut forelegs glowed, glistened hideously in the moonlight, whitely smooth and bare.

His claws receded with the whispering of snakes in dead grass. They almost disappeared into long, narrow, soft pads that separated from each other and then wriggled slowly, singly, fluidly, like summer reeds in the riverbeds.

He swayed, caught his balance somehow, then looked down to where his hind paws clutched at the rock.

Swept by a wave of dizziness and nausea at what he saw, he thrust his glance upward and concentrated on the ring of clouds around the Small Bright. He shivered as his lips grew parched. Uneasily, he allowed his body to lean backward until it rested against a rock. Rough granite dug into his naked back. The rock was cold and sharp.

He looked down again.

His hind legs had lengthened. They ended in useless, flat, gross parodies of paws—hideous lumps like his front paws had become, only longer at the base, with the reed-like extensions shorter and blunter. They had no claws, no hair. The crumbling rock beneath them cut into tender flesh.

And, as if one deformity were not enough, something horrible throbbed awkwardly at the juncture of his legs. It was blunter, longer and thicker than his own, and rose against the shadows cast by moonlight against rock.

His vision blurred again and salt dripped into his mouth. For a moment, he felt numbed, dead. Sight had failed; smell had almost disappeared; taste faded to mere hints of tangy saltiness tantalizing his tongue—soft, flat, smooth organ rubbing against nubbed teeth that could neither rend nor rip nor tear—without betraying the secrets of its source.

He swayed, frantically slapping the useless, distorted paws against the granite. A shard sliced flesh, and he saw black blood on the rock—his blood—but could not smell it. He touched hand to tongue. The flavor was faint, mild, tepid. A new wave of dizziness slammed against him, and the extensions on his paws flexed like reeds and grasped again at rough places on the cliff. They held him tightly against the coolness of rock.

For a long time, he struggled in himself.

And then….

And then…. What? (I know, of course, but what happens next is central to the story.)

Moving from either direction—man to wolf or wolf to man—implies, as noted above, extraordinary vulnerability, symbolized what Graeme Reynolds refers to in High Moor as a oxymoronically “jubilant lament,” a spontaneous howl for what is augmented and what is diminished. For an instant, as in Ladyhawk, the sufferer is neither…and both. Then comes the change, and with it loss of certain key elements or sudden acquisition of other, often antithetical elements, physical, mental, emotional. Either way, there is danger. The potential loss of the essence, the foundation of being.

A Colon- and Semicolon-oscopy

A Colon- and Semicolon-oscopy

Michael R. Collings

As a general rule, people fifty years of age and older should be all too familiar with this word and its definition—Colonoscopy: the act of examining the colon. Having been on the receiving end (pun maliciously intended) of this procedure several times, I consider myself, if not an expert, at least a seasoned observer and legitimate commentator.

So what has this word to do with writing? Nothing at all.

Because, of course, that definition has a different colon in mind than the sense I intend to explore in the next few paragraphs. And the linguistic process involved promises to be far less intrusive and humbling than the medical one.

Of all marks of traditional punctuation, colons (:) and semicolons (;) are the least understood, the most complicated-seeming, and certainly the most intimidating. I know people (including a fair number of my former students) who will probably go their entire lives without using either one. Some people hate them. Others fear them.

Actually, however, there is no need to do either. Both marks have specific, highly useful, and easily understandable uses. It just takes a few moments of thinking.

Both colons and semicolons have a similar primary function: to join syntactical structures, including sentences; clauses (word-strings containing both subjects and predicates, often dependent upon a preceding or following sentence); and phrases (simply put, word-strings not containing a subject and predicate). How they join them and when they join them are far less complex than the sentence you just read.

To begin, when used to join sentences, the colon introduces formality: It usually feels out of place in fiction since storytelling often works at the informal, often colloquial level. Its primary use is to connect two sentences, as in the example above, when the second sentence basically says the same thing as the first. In this case, the initial clause (the sentence controlling the structure) makes a statement about formality; the second clause refines, expands, or explains just what the first sentence meant. Note that the colon is followed by a capital letter. This provides readers with a clear sense that what they are about to read is a second statement. The combination of colon and capital just as clearly indicates that essentially no new information will be added that is not implicit in the first. Since few people think or talk this way, colons appear infrequently in prose.

Except for the exceptions. Those deal with paradoxically more specialized and yet more familiar instances that might be useful in fiction: introducing lists, separating hours from minutes; identifying Biblical phrases; and completing the salutation for a formal letter. (It can also be used to introduce an indented quotation, should that be useful.) For example:

When he heard of the coming invasion of vampires, he stopped only long enough to gather the necessities: stakes, mirror, and a necklace of garlic.

He checked his clock—it read 11:52pm, which meant that he was in mortal peril for the next eight minutes.

He felt as though he should say something scriptural, but the only thing that came to mind was the Bible passage that showed up so often on banners at  ball games: John 3:16—“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Since vampires were immortal, that one didn’t seem quite right.

By 12:01 am, all that remained of him was a fragment of paper and a single line of writing—“To whom it may concern:”—his last words.

Except for a few esoteric uses that most likely won’t be needed for effective storytelling, that is it: colons join closely related sentences; they introduce lists; they separate numbers that deal with different things or quantities; and they conclude formal salutations.

Semicolons also join structures. Although they too look complicated and frequently seem intimidating, the convention for usage is quite simple: Semicolons join syntactically equal structures or a series of structures containing commas. That is, whatever arrangement of words lies to the right of the semicolon has the same structure as the words to the left.

Semicolons can join sentences to sentences. They are particularly useful when writers want to jamb two sentences together, to juxtapose them on their own merits, without an intervening and, but, however, or any other words or phrases that spell out the relationship between them. For example: “All along, he had hoped for some kind of help, some kind of aid; by midnight he had to accept the obvious…he was alone.”

They can also join clauses (word-strings with subjects and verbs) to clauses or phrases (word-strings without subjects or verbs) to phrases if the individual units contain internal commas.

Here is a sentence containing a compound object, several syntactically similar elements in series, each containing an appositive (renaming the noun) separated from the noun by a comma: “I went to town and saw these people: Mrs. Green, the grocer; Mr. Brown, the dentist; Dr. Collings, the sometimes pedantic retired professor, all of whom were by now zombies.” Number of zombies seen: three. If the sentence has been punctuated differently, using only commas to separate parts, it would read this way: “I went to town and saw these people: Mrs. Green, the grocer, Mr. Brown, the dentist, Dr. Collings, the sometimes pedantic retired professor, all of whom were by now zombies.” The number of zombies seen: six. Punctuation counts.

There are innumerable permutations on the possibilities but actually only two large categories in common use: Semicolons join sentences to sentences; and they join equally syntactic elements containing internal commas.

One final hint.

Note that the marks, the colon (:) and the semicolon (;), differ only in the lower component. If it is helpful, think of the colon as a kind of super-period: The lower mark most often separates two utterances as sentences, like a period would; while the upper mark holds them together. They join while simultaneously allowing two sentences with similar content their structural individuality and independence.

Semicolons, composed of an upper dot and a comma, act like super-commas. They can join two sentences, something uncommon with commas without creating a comma splice; but they can also join parts of sentences in series, something usually reserved for commas—if there are already commas within the elements, the semicolon avoids any possibility of ambiguity in meaning.

JournalStone Publishing Announces Signing of Bestselling Author, Jonathan Maberry, to Contract for First Ever Hardcover Limited Editions Of The Acclaimed Pine Deep Trilogy

SAN FRANCISCO, June 21, 2013 – JournalStone Publishing (JSP) President, Christopher C. Payne is pleased to announce that he has reached an agreement with Kensington Publishing/Pinnacle Books and New York Times bestselling and multiple Bram Stoker Award® winning author, Jonathan Maberry, for the publication of the first-ever deluxe hardcover limited editions of his acclaimed Pine Deep Trilogy.  The series of related supernatural horror novels is set in the fictional rural Pennsylvania town of Pine Deep, considered the “most haunted town in America,” and the epicenter of a booming tourism industry related to the town’s history and the Halloween holiday. The first novel in the series, Ghost Road Blues, won the 2006 Horror Writers Association Bram Stoker Award® for Superior Achievement in a First Novel. The second novel in the series, Dead Man’s Song, was released in 2007, and the third novel, Bad Moon Rising, in 2008. The Pine Deep Trilogy were the first three novels written by Maberry, and they propelled him into the center of the horror world. All three novels were paperback originals and heretofore there has never been any hardcover edition of any of these books published. The anticipated release date for the collection is in 2014.

About the Author: Jonathan Maberry is a NY Times bestselling author, multiple Bram Stoker Award winner, and freelancer for Marvel Comics. His novels include EXTINCTION MACHINE, FLESH & BONE, GHOST ROAD BLUES, Dust & Decay, Patient Zero, The Wolfman, and many others include a new mystery-thriller YA series, WATCH OVER ME, scheduled to debut in 2014. His nonfiction books include ULTIMATE JUJUTSU, THE CRYPTOPEDIA, Zombie CSU, Wanted Undead or Alive, and others. Jonathan’s award-winning teen novel, ROT & RUIN, is now in development for film. He’s the editor/co-author of V-WARS, a vampire-themed anthology, co-editor of the forthcoming REDNECK ZOMBIES FROM OUTER SPACE, and is developed other anthology projects for adults and teens. He was a featured expert on The History Channel special ZOMBIES: A LIVING HISTORY. Since 1978 he’s sold more than 1200 magazine feature articles, 3000 columns, two plays, greeting cards, song lyrics, and poetry. His comics include CAPTAIN AMERICA: HAIL HYDRA, DOOMWAR, MARVEL ZOMBIES RETURN and MARVEL UNIVERSE VS THE AVENGERS. Jonathan writes SCARY OUT THERE, a weekly blog for the Horror Writers Association that features interviews with the top names in young adult horror fiction. In 2012 Blackstone Audio released two collections of Jonathan’s short stories: TALES FROM THE FIRE ZONE and HUNGRY TALES. Jonathan is a Contributing Editor for The Big Thrill (the newsletter of the International Thriller Writers), and is a member of SFWA, IAMTW, MWA, SCBWI, SFWA and HWA, as well as a jurist for the Edgar and Stoker Awards. He teaches the Experimental Writing for Teens class, is the founder of the Writers Coffeehouse, and co-founder of The Liars Club. Jonathan lives in Bucks County, Pennsylvania with his wife, Sara Jo and a fierce little dog named Rosie. www.jonathanmaberry.com.

Visit his website at www.jonathanmaberry.com or find him on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, GoodReads, Library Thing, Shefari and Plaxo.

About the Publisher: JournalStone Publishing is a small press publishing company, focusing in the Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror genres in both the adult and young adult markets. JSP also owns and operates the Hellnotes website, offering daily news and reviews of interest to genre readers and fans, and Dark Discoveries Magazine, a slick, full color, distinguished and internationally distributed quarterly magazine.#

# # #

For further information –

Contact:           Christopher C. Payne, President JournalStone Publishing

Email:              christophercpayne@journalstone.com

Website:           http://journalstone.com

Pone:               415-763-7323. (READ)

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