Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween Flash Fiction

Cat Call
by Kat Heckenbach
(originally published in There Was a Crooked House

The mewing came distorted and musty. I lifted my gaze from my laptop and tuned my ear toward the fading sound.
Skittles, is that you?
I squeezed my eyes shut and shook my head. Of course not. The old tabby died long ago. I glanced at the now-empty windowsill behind my desk, then returned my attention to the computer. I’d only imagined it.
            This time it was louder, insistent. Could someone’s cat be inside the house? I stood and crossed the room, opened the door. The crying intensified.
            My heart thudded against my breastbone. With the door shut, I hadn’t heard the distinctive upswing at the end.
            “Skittles?” The word creaked out, rusty from disuse.
            I shuddered. A memory played in the back of my mind. We’d been telling ghost stories at a party, when a girl I’d never met before—black clothes, chalky white skin, silver cross dangling from one ear—gazed at me through wispy, black bangs.
             “They say you hear the voice of the dead just before you are about to die,” she said, and then one corner of her mouth lifted into a smile that sent shivers down my spine.
            Could it be? Am I hearing Skittles because I’m going to die?
            I skulked across the carpet of the hallway. “Skittles, is that you?”
            I stepped to the top edge of the staircase, heart pounding.
I lowered my foot to the second step. My heartbeat steadied. Maybe the girl had it wrong and the voice of the dead is warning you, calling you to safety?
            I took the third step down.
            A strange shadow filled the corner of the window at the base of the stairs…misty-gray, with pointed ears and a flicking tail.
            Fifth step…
My toe caught the edge of the carpet. As gravity snatched my upper body, I realized the snag in the carpet was where Skittles had clawed the pile loose.
            My knees hit first, jarring me and knocking me sideways. I grappled for the handrail, fingernails clawing against the wall, and then the world became intense light and electric pain, as walls, stairs and ceiling whirled in a spherical blur. Sharp corners bit into my arms, back, legs…and a final concrete thud slammed through my skull.
            Colorful mosaic tile came into warped focus in my periphery. Something dark and viscous flowed across it, away from my face. My body refused to obey my command to move. Even my lungs rebelled, releasing air but not taking in more. My eyes, despite my attempts to shift them, remained fixed on the bottom edge of the window. A gray mist of a tail flicked against the wall below the sill.
            And then she disappeared as one last thought trickled through my brain....
            They say you hear the voice of the dead just before you are about to die. But is that only because hearing it brings you there?

For more scary short stories by me, visit my Wattpad page. (Free to read! No account necessary.)
And find my horror (werewolf) novelette, Ordinary Folk, on Kindle and Nookbook for only 99 cents.  

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Goodreads Giveaway of Finding Angel (ends Nov 12)

I told myself before the Necronomicon that I'd run a giveaway when I got back. It took me a few days to get in gear, but here it is. Two copies up for grabs.

Note that there is less than two weeks to enter! And PLEASE share the link!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Finding Angel by Kat Heckenbach

Finding Angel

by Kat Heckenbach

Giveaway ends November 12, 2013.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Monday, October 21, 2013

Necronomicon 2013: The Best One Yet

Seventy-two hours of AWESOMENESS.

Day One:

Imagine my joy.

Getting a book and dust-jacket signed by Christopher Paolini. Can you say "nice guy"? :)

I got to bar tend at Friday night's Ygor/Igor beer-tasting party. Cheers!

Day Two:

The author table, and the author :P.

GORGEOUS corset. Those are TARDISes, btw. I love the latches down the front, too. 

Na-na na-na na-na na-na....

Steampunk love runs in the family :).

Author bud, David Berger.

My every-year Necro companion. We were waiting outside here because the hotel was evacuated when a sprinkler went off. The story seems to be that either someone hung a dress on the sprinkler, or a curling iron was left on.
Either way--it was the wedding party at the hotel, not the freak-fest that did it! Mwahahahahahahaa.....

Before they became enemies, the Doctor and his Cyberman were friends... ;)

What I did *not* get a picture of was the awesome silver balloon that these two had that said "Leaded Zeppelin." 

Me and the astronomy geekess in her awesome Dalek dress. 

Bow ties and fezzes are cool.

The pic doesn't do these two justice. They really looked the parts.

One--the Two--Elvira is pretty tall herself, so...
Anyway, they both looked awesome. 

Me and my Necro-companion, and author bud Bill Hatfield. 

Maleficent. Again, the pic doesn't do justice. She looked even more fabulous.

Welcome to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry...

I admit--I stole this off Facebook, but it's so much better than the one I took. This costume was
(And yes, that's Christopher Paolini again!)

Day Three:

(No pics during the con itself--just a few panels and then selling books.)

After the con, hanging out by the hotel bar and listing to Bill Hatfield play and sing. A lot of talent under that hair.

After the con, at dinner at Mr. Dunderbak's.
What happens at the con stays at the con.

Feeling Like an Outsider Because of My Faith: This Year's Con Experience

This past weekend was the Necronomicon science fiction, fantasy, and gaming convention. If you've been following my blog for a while, you know I go to this every year. It was my first con as an attendee, and my first con as a guest author. It's been great fun every year...and I'd have to say that this year was the best yet!

The people who run the Necro work so hard, all year long to prepare, and it shows. They are awesome people, as are the attendees and other guests. There were some amazing costumes this year, too! And I took lots of pictures that I will post in another blog post. (If you are friends with me on Facebook, however, go look up the album I have there.)

And while I could spend this entire blog going on and on about how much fun I had participating in panels and selling books and meeting people and people-watching and dancing and cheering...that's not going to be the focus of the post. Not because I want to be negative--believe me, I don't! I never, ever want to give the slightest negative impression of this con because it is near and dear to my heart! But there was this one panel....

You see, as an author I get to participate in writing panels, as in being on the panel of guests. Here is the schedule I had this year:

Friday2:00 PMSALON AWriting Basics–Creating Anti-Heroes, Rogues, and Villains
Friday5:00 PMSALON GSocial Media and the Author
Friday8:00 PMSALON CHow to Keep Writing in the Face of Adversity
Saturday4:00 PMSALON BReligion in Science Fiction and Fantasy
The first three were massively fun. Even the social media one, which I was nervous about because I feel for the most part that I'm stumbling around in the dark when it comes to social media. The general consensus, though, from the panelists was that we all feel that way, and everyone was just so supportive of each other. 

But the last panel, the one I was both really looking forward to and also a little nervous about because I wasn't sure what direction it would take, nearly broke me down.

Let me take this moment to point something out: There has been much talk in the news lately about "harassment" at cons like these. But they focus mostly on women wearing revealing costumes. Or women, and I suppose some men, of larger sizes wearing costumes some would deem appropriate only for skinny-minnies. And there is a lot of effort to show acceptance to LGBT guests. All of which is wonderful.

Notice, though, that there is nothing in there about guests of religious faith. 

I blogged about this a few years ago regarding this same con. In my first post, I mentioned some rather uncomfortable moments that stemmed from an attendee's t-shirt that mocked Jesus' resurrection, and that year's guest of honor slamming Christians who write sci-fi. The following year (two years ago), though, my experience was nearly a 180-degree change, as I met several guests who were open about their Christian faith. Last year there was one small instance where an attendee made a joke at the expense of Christians - to me - and I simply gave her a look that included a smile, but that made it clear I didn't find it funny. 

I've let this all slide. I've never said anything to anyone at the con about it all. I figure you're going to meet people who differ from you, and sometimes people say things without thinking, and we ought to just forgive and move on.

However, when you are sitting in front of an entire room of people as a guest on a panel about religion in science fiction and fantasy, and you are the ONLY one on that panel that is NOT an atheist***, and the other panelists are speaking rather frankly about how they consider all religion to be myth and fiction...

And then when an attendee speaks up and shares his "clever" remark for "dealing with creationists"--a remark that includes calling our God "stupid"...

I nearly walked out.

But I couldn't. For one, it would simply be unprofessional. Also, it would just fuel the fire. 

Fortunately, that attendee asked why authors aren't "addressing" the issue of the stupid-god worshiping creationists in fiction, and I explained to him that writing fiction with a message and agenda like that, whether it be Christian in nature or atheist in nature, is considered "preaching at the reader" and ignores story and should not be a part of fiction.

He said no more during that panel.

I thank God that He was there with me through that hour. That I had the words to answer that attendee. And that I found through looks and comments an attendee that obviously shared my faith and with whom I spent some great quality time talking after the panel. I'm not sure my nerves would have survived if not for her, to be honest. 

Anyway, my point is not to bash anyone from the con. Or, as I said, to focus on negativity there. Because 99% of my experience this year was phenomenal

I just needed to get this out there. I felt harassed for the first time at a con. Not directly--no one came up to my face and called me names--but the comments were said with such a strong assumption that sci-fi cons are just not a place for Christians

Yes, the panelists were more diplomatic, although as I said, they made it clear that they find religious belief...naive. A few of them did step in and remind the audience that authors need to be careful when touching on religion because their readership may very well include someone of the very faith they are including in their fiction in a negative way. I did appreciate that. But the hurt is still there. The sting still felt.** 

The other thing felt was the irony of the situation, being that those of non-religious belief are free to fill their books with religious reference, yet those of us with religious belief are expected to keep it under wraps.

And speaking of irony--there was another instance, although no one in the room (other than me) was aware of it. There were six panelists including me. I was the only Christian. Those that are not tend to point at science as the "proof" that there is no God, or at least the measuring stick on which they lean in that assumption--and yes there were comments in that area. Yet, I was also the only one on the panel with a background, much less a college degree, in science

Still, as I said, the other 99% of the con weekend was pure awesomeness and ended with many hugs and "see you next year"s. Maybe I'll even see you there!

**I hold no one--no one--that ran/worked the con or participated as a guest responsible for this feeling. Just so you know. My utmost respect for the con crew in every way.

***I am adding this clarification based on some comments I've gotten--the panel did talk about religion as mainly myth, and I did take that as the rest of the panelists being atheists. Only two of them outright said they are atheists. The other three never said specifically, and may have some kind of spiritual beliefs, but my impression was that their spiritual tendencies were...deity-free. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Necronomicon 2013

Yes, I've totally slacked on blogging lately. Get over it. Or, come to the Necronomicon this weekend and berate me in person:

Florida's Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Convention
October 18-20, 2013 - Embassy Suites USF - Tampa
The "Back To Tampa" Tour!

(Click HERE for more info and directions.)

Guest of Honor:
Christopher Paolini
Author of "Eragon"

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

So Few Words, So Much Power

I just finished reading The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvator. You can see my review of the book here. In that review, you'll notice I mentioned a comment I posted on Facebook:

"I'm reading one of *those* books. The kind that reminds me why I started writing. The kind that makes me lose myself in another world. The kind that is so wonderfully written, I feel like a total hack and wonder what possessed me to think I could ever do this...."

For anyone who doesn't know, The Dream Thieves is the sequel to The Raven Boys. And this week, my friend Kessie Carroll posted a blog that features Stiefvater's prose in The Raven Boys.

Take a moment and go read the blog post. Seriously, now.

OK, back?

One of the things you should have noticed is this particular statement by Kessie:

"I don’t think there’s a superfluous bit of description in this whole book."


A thousand times THIS.

I know that all the great classics are filled with full-to-bursting paragraphs, passages, even whole chapters of rich, vivid description. I can't even deny that my own writing may run a little long in those areas--at least in Finding Angel. Probably not so much in my other work, as my beta readers tend to whine for more description these days :P.

But here's my point. Description, and prose in general, the way Stiefvater does it just blows my mind because it keeps things to a minimum and yet packs a full punch. A fuller punch than most books that are weighted down with massive amounts of description.

It's kind of like what you learned--or should have learned--in physics. There is less impact from the same force spread over a large area. You make that area smaller--the head of a hammer, the edge of a knife--and the force is not only more powerful, it's easier to control.

After finishing The Dream Thieves I picked up some older historical fiction as part of research I'm doing for a work in progress. Honestly, it was painful.

***Please, historical fiction fans, don't take this wrong. I know that many readers love detailed description, and I am NOT saying my preference is better!

What I am saying is this: 

There has been accusation that fiction has been dumbed-down. That this minimalist approach, with less description and making sure every single action, word of dialog, thought, etc, moves the story forward, forward, forward, is sucking the intelligence from fiction. Granted, I'm not going to disagree that much fiction out there is dumbed-down, but I take heart in books like The Raven Boys and The Dream Thieves because they prove that less is not always less. That less CAN be more. That power comes from the force behind the words. That a big vocabulary is only as strong as the intent of the author using it.

In other words, NO, I am not losing brain cells from reading YA, because there is SO much YA fiction that packs real force behind fewer words.

That is how I want to write. And the kind of fiction I want to read. I admit it. And it's not from laziness. Impatience, maybe, but only because I'm seeing it done in these amazing books and I just really no longer want to take the time to read paragraph after paragraph when the same thing could be said with:

"Gansey had once told Adam that he was afraid most people didn’t know how to handle Ronan. What he meant by this was that he worried that one day someone would fall on Ronan and cut themselves."

So few words, so much power.