The other night, I had a visitor over my house and she’d asked me how I got to writing horror. I told her how it started with Dark Shadows and the Hammer films. Stephen King, among other authors, only fanned the flames, I said, ignoring the fact that my dance with horror began 51 years ago, during a trip to Atlantic City with my mother. Had Mylar balloons existed, Atlantic City would have never happened because the balloons would have shielded my eyes from the sight. But, Mylar balloons didn’t exist, so I was left to face the monster on my own. And I never mentioned anything about Atlantic City to my friend.
After all, this story isn’t the kind of thing I’d tell to the uninitiated. I usually reserve this one for Halloween.
When I was a child, my mother and I used to go to the Italian Village at Atlantic City’s Million Dollar Pier. The Village knew how to make some mean hoagies, and gluten never entered the picture. At the time, there were amusements and goodies such as those booths where you could take four selfies for a buck. One day, they had a pavilion closed with a curtain, seated on a dais. The billboard read, “See live 1000-year-old woman.” That sounded awesome, so I got in line.
The people ahead of me formed a C-shaped ring around an ornate bathtub. Later on, I learned that bathtub was actually a sarcophagus. Further ahead, I made out jet black hair and a shriveled face. The woman had on an ornate vest, but nothing else. I stepped up to get a closer look. Not a woman after all, but a mummified skeleton. I stood there frozen, and the people just kept looking and chatting among themselves, as if they were gathering at a party. Seconds later, she turned her head and raised her arms, extending her hand. At that, I bolted from the pavilion, screaming.
As I got older, I realized that most likely the folks who engineered this constructed machinery and invisible ropes to make the body move. But when you see a dead body look your way, you don’t consider possibilities. You run. For most of my life, thereafter, I’ve had this fear of skeletons—I’d discussed this in previous blogs. I think I worked my way through it; noticed that I have skeletal images for illustrations. I’ve got a real beauty of a skeleton photo in NTD 29. All the same, I rarely buy Halloween balloons. I go with floral shapes and Mylar butterflies.
I’d say this sighting in Atlantic City ignited my fascination with horror. Then I moved on to Dark Shadows and the Hammer films which fueled the flames, followed by Stephen King. Thankfully, my Mylar balloons serve as a moderating influence.
I’m offering two giveaways: A signed copy of Steel Rose and a copy of Night to Dawn 28, to be given to a random commenter during this blog hop. And if you can guess how many Mylar balloons I have, the person with the closest guess will get an eBook copy of Close Liaisons and City of Brotherly Death.
Today, I planned a show-and-tell with my latest book covers, never realizing that the activities would begin with my trip to the supermarket. I headed to the Acme to buy two gift cards for an early start on holiday shipping. The gift cards would have earned me a $20 coupon, but then Mylar balloons swarmed me as I entered the store. I hied over to Baking Supplies and bought needed items, all the while hiding; but at the fruit stand, I had to face the music. Six strawberry Mylar balloons hovered over the bananas I wanted. The store may have had gift cards, but all that was lost on me when the Mylar balloons waylaid me.
Maybe I deserve a balloon treat since I’ve got some new releases forthcoming through the Night to Dawn imprint. Night to Dawn 28 is making an appearance on Amazon, and its cover has drawn many compliments from viewers. Sandy DeLuca has done awesome illustrations and poetry duets with Marge Simon for Night to Dawn magazine.
After reading Allan M. Heller’s 40 Frightful Flash Fictions, the lights will stay on long after bedtime, assuming you can fall asleep, for devastation is served with a smile. The anthology is going through the formatting stage. Stan Horwitz provided the images—real beauties; and for lettering and design, Teresa Tunaley pulled frightening birds out of her hat. Look for 40 Frightful Flash Fictions in the coming weeks.
In Infinite Sight, guilt over an infant’s death motivates protag Lilly into a rescue that catapults her into a war between two alien armies. Infinite Sight originally appeared in Fading Shadows’ Alien Worlds magazine as “The Good Samaritan Revisited.” It’s gone to Gemini Wordsmiths for a developmental edit, for no published book is complete without a healthy edit. At any rate, I’ve got a stunning front and back cover, thanks to Marge Simon. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Marge since I first took over Night to Dawn magazine as a spiral-bound book. I estimate a publication date during the holiday season or shortly afterwards.
What happens when the human brain spirals, cutting a swath between a masterpiece and monstrosity? You’ll find out in early winter (estimated) when L. M. Labat’s The Sanguinarian Id goes live. I anticipate a cover image shortly.
Ditto for When Blood Reigns, sequel to Steel Rose. I don’t have a publishing date or estimated time yet. It has gone through developmental editing and should be worth the wait.
Tomorrow I’m heading to the Giant supermarket for the remaining groceries still on my list. This week presented a heavy grocery list, and crunch time for budgeting. Will I remember that when the Mylar balloons come calling? I’m going to try, but when the Mylar “I gotta” bug bites, look out.
Night to Dawn has had to close to submissions again because a lot of folks responded, and I hate to make writers wait three years to see their work in print. A lot of acceptances went out, along with rejections.
How do I approach story submissions? When a story intrigues me, I take that work along with several others to the meeting room, where twenty-five Mylar balloons float around a long table, each with copies of the manuscripts, prepared for a go-no-go discussion on each tale. I ask every balloon for their thoughts on the first story, and a heated discussion follows. The heart-shaped balloon complains that the story needs more romance. The Smiley face might prefer a humorous piece. The flower points out that the story will need a lot of editing. The pink butterfly might holler, “Damn all edits, let the story fly!” With six stories on the table, the meeting might last three hours, and maybe three stories will make it to Night to Dawn. If I bring a novel manuscript to the table, I’d better pack a lunch. The ensuing meeting could take all day.
At least that’s how it works in my balloon world.
In the real world, like many other small publishers/editors, I read submissions borrowed from time needed for editorial and writing chores, not to mention my day job and life events. There is no editorial board or meeting room, though I might enlist the help of beta readers. I read each one, at least the first three pages. If the first pages keep me in suspense, I’ll continue to the end. The stories that spoke to me outright got an immediate acceptance, especially if they haunted me long after I closed the file. Some tales read mostly well, but something along the way stopped me. These went on my shortlist. Some folks haven’t heard from me yet because their story’s on the shortlist.
Several folks sent a cover letter addressed as “Dear Editor.” You don’t want to do that with any editor, balloon world or not. When you’re ready to submit, take the time to visit the website and find out the person’s name. Other publishers—and agents—have complained about “Dear Agent” or “Dear Editor” submissions on their blogs, too. My name is plastered all over my website, so a “Dear Barbara” cover letter would work. Heck, if someone sent me a letter addressed “Dear Balloon Lady,” I’d smile and think, this person sure did their homework.
On many of the rejections, the story doesn’t begin until page four or later. One story had a beautifully written setting that went four pages, describing the heat in the protag’s town. I imagined an egg frying on the pavement, but I couldn’t use the story. If you want to start with your setting, litter the ground with some dead bodies. Cleaning out a closet is backstory, but if the character stumbles into a corpse dangling by a rope, that will keep me reading. And, by the way, there’s no need to send “you’ll-love-this-work” cover letters. Like a Mylar balloon, a well-crafted horror tale will get my attention on its own merit.
Beware of typos. We’re all human, and no writer sees their own mistakes, but…a submission littered with typos would give any editor pause. Most authors review their submissions before sending, but folks who use their eyes a lot (like writers) can run into visual issues, especially as they get older. I know – I’ve dealt with cataracts and now, scarring. So if you’re straining to read the print, turn up the zoom feature. For editing, I magnify mine and use Word’s “search and find” feature.
Occasionally I get well-written work in a genre I don’t publish. Though I can’t use them, I might ask to see more work. Anytime I ask to see more work or offer a though critique, take heart. I never waste time picking dust off of battered balloons. And if I have nightmares after reading your Night to Dawn tale, you’ve done a great job. My Mylar balloons would agree.
When people contemplate horror tales and movies, zombies, traditional monsters, gruesome scenes, and death come to mind. Its roots started in folklore and religious beliefs revolving around the afterlife, supernatural, and death. Other types of horror involve nature, hostile aliens, rabid animals, killer insects, and perverted criminals – anything that will make people afraid. A good horror tale will scare people with fears they might not have. Take Mylar balloons, for example. I can’t pass a store without stopping in to buy one. Yet Pennywise’s balloons scared the bejesus out of me. I enjoy being around children, but when I edited Kevin R. Doyle’s The Litter, his feral children gave me nightmares.
The Litter offers a traditional monster, death, and feral children. These feral children terrorize a city in brutal ways. They can scent their victims’ fear and capitalize on it in nasty ways. According to some reviewers, Doyle’s book addresses the potential consequences of the breakdown of society and homelessness. That’s possible. Ever since my visit to Atlantic City’s mummy pavilion at age ten, I’ve been a lover of horror and Kevin’s tale was a delight to edit and publish. The body count started with page one. Sure, I had bad dreams along the way, and thus, his mission accomplished.
A great horror tale will keep the surprises coming. Why did Pennywise’s balloons frighten me so much? It’s the surprise element – the clown luring his victim to a brutal death. Kevin filled his tale with lots of surprises – people who knew how to defend themselves, but getting killed. The feral children hungered for meat, and they knew how to catch a victim unaware.
An element of suspense is crucial to an effective horror tale. The action needs to start on page one and keep me reading. In Stephen King’s It, a team of children banded up to fight Pennywise and his minions. All through the book, I kept hoping that the team would survive, but I had my doubts. As I read The Litter, I kept thinking that protag Karen was going to become the next meal.
An element of mystery will give flavor to the horror tale. I’m not talking about whodunits. Sometimes characters can surprise us – even the good guys. Perhaps halfway through the fight, we learn what the major character fears. There’s a strong element of mystery in The Litter. You won’t find out how the feral children got that way until toward the end of the book.
Spoilers (foreshadowing) play a crucial role in any good horror tale. People love them the way I like Mylar balloons. For example, during the first few pages of Steel Rose, Alexis and Johnny were reading about zombies. That spoiler hints that Alexis and Johnny were going to fight some zombies. The Litter has plenty of spoilers. In the prologue, Doyle drops a hint that something ugly is about to happen to one of the characters. And when Karen searched for a missing child, I thought, oh, oh, any second the killers will jump her.
Horror addresses the concept of good versus evil, but some tales will touch on social issues. Does The Litter? Whatever you decide, you’ll meet engaging characters. There’ll be some gruesome moments, so you might want to sleep with the lights on. The Litter debuts this week and will be available in paperback and Kindle on Amazon, Smashwords, and Barnes & Noble.
So if you love horror, crime, and suspense fiction, stop by and read an excerpt from The Litter. Kevin’s feral children would love to have you for dinner.
Twenty four hours is just not enough. It’s all I have, however. And that creates the dilemma. People get sick, stabbed, bowels burst, tumors grow and these ill or injured parties arrive at any and all hours. Just when is a body supposed to find the time to jot down a clever phrase or create a tragic romance?
When I first took a stab at writing in 2006, there just weren’t nearly as many sick people. My clinic comfortably saw about fifteen patients in an afternoon, call nights brought someone with appendicitis every third night or so, and I was usually home in time for dinner. Now it’s a very slow day when I only see fifteen clinic patients. A typical day on call for the ER call brings me three appendectomies and dinner is now at eight instead of six.
Finding time has become a real problem. My solution is to think and imagine and ponder whenever I have a few moments to stop and reflect. Ideas pop into my head and I commit them to memory until I find a moment to record these thoughts, eventually shaping them into a story. But time doesn’t stop.
“Night Clinic,” the collection of short stories which is the subject of this tour, is a direct result of this quandary about time. “ITP: Book Three,” the third installment of my futuristic science fiction trilogy languishes in my computer because of this shortage of time, its surface barely scratched. Short stories and article proliferate as the scarcity of general surgeons and the expanding number of sick and injured people reduce my writing time. Short stories are far more amenable to a busy irregular schedule than novels.
If I had my druthers, I would reverse it and spend hours every day thinking and imagining and creating, while reserving my surgical skills for those unusual cases which pique my interest. It would have been nice if the law makers of this land had legislated that people are only allowed to get sick between the hours of ten in the morning and five in the afternoon. Then again, it’s possible that buried deep in Obamacare is a rule stating just this. It’s probably on page 1872, paragraph 3. After all, no one ever has had the time or desire to read the entire Affordable Care Act.
But, for now, I search for time, ten minutes here, thirty minutes there and the result is “Night Clinic,” a brilliant and inspired collection of short stories. Visit the “Night Clinic” where you will find depressed vampires, morbidly obese superheroes, dwarves, strippers, dragons, and so much more under one roof. I am glad I found the time to write these stories. “Night Clinic” offers some of the most creative, clever and imaginative writing I’ve ever done. I am sure you will enjoy it.
“Night Clinic” is a collection of short stories which tell the unusual events which occur at the free clinic attended by Dr. Barnes and Nurse James. Monsters, magical beasts, villains along with ordinary folks come to the clinic looking for health and hope.
“Night Clinic” is a unique melding of medicine and magic.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
David Gelber, a New York native, is the seventh of nine sons and one of three to pursue medicine. He graduated from Johns Hopkins University in 1980 and went on to graduate medical school in 1984 from the University of Rochester.
He completed a residency in General Surgery at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, Texas, and Nassau County Medical Center on Long Island, NY, in 1989. Dr. Gelber now is in private practice in Houston, TX.
Gelber has been performing surgery for more than 25 years, but over the last few years he began to pursue his passion for writing, initially with his debut novel, “Future Hope”, followed by its sequel “Joshua and Aaron.”
These were followed by two books about surgery “Behind the Mask” and “Under the Drapes.” The apocalyptic “Last Light” and historical fantasy “Minotaur Revisited” round out his published works, while numerous articles have appeared on his blog “Heard in the OR.”
Now he presents “Little Bit’s Story” and his collection of magical medical short stories, “Night Clinic.”
He has been married to Laura for 28 years and has three college aged children. He and Laura share their home with five dogs and numerous birds.
Future Hope ITP Book One
Joshua and Aaron ITP Book Two
Behind the Mask: The Mystique of Surgery and the Surgeons who Perform Them
David will be awarding a $50 Amazon/B&N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour, and a $25 Amazon/B&N GC to a randomly drawn host.
Excerpt: “Speaking of bizarre and crazy, you are aware that the Intergalactic Convention is in town again? Star Trek, Star Wars, and every other outer space franchise all together. So I’m sure we’ll get our share of phaser burns, blaster bruises, and transporter malfunctions. Oh, and to get us off on the right foot, Derek is back with his annual ‘Trouble with Tribbles.’ I’ve left all the usual instruments in the room for you.”
“Not again,” I moaned. “You would think that after four, no five years, he would learn.”
I picked up the chart and gave it a careless glance. Before I saw the words I knew the problem. I walked into the exam room and saw Derek, a regular visitor, lying on his side on the exam table. Seated on a sterile tray were a rigid sigmoidoscope and a tenaculum.
“Derek, we’ve got to stop meeting like this,” I scolded. “And think of the poor Tribbles. They’re supposed to be comforting, I know, but you’re just supposed to hold them.”
“I do hold them, Dr. Barnes; for a little while. But, the way they coo and vibrate and shake, the possibilities are endless.”
“I hope it’s as simple as last year,” I remarked.
I put on a glove and lubed up my index finger and checked up in Derek’s rectum. Sure enough there was a furry object vibrating just inside. Past experience told me not to try to grab it with my hand; it would just slip away. I greased up the scope and passed it into his rectum. Immediately I visualized a furry yellow ball which was shaking and making low Tribble noises. I reached in with the tenaculum and grabbed the object in its mid portion like a pro and pulled scope and tenaculum out with a single, gentle pull. The Tribble, which was a toy available at the convention, popped out.
“Just one this year?” I asked, although I already knew there would be more.
“No, three,” he replied.
I repeated the routine, pulling out one purple and one red Tribble, both larger that the first and still vibrating.
“I’ll dispose of these for you, Derek. And, please, stay away from Tribbles. You know they’re nothing but trouble.”
He gave a short grunt as I walked out of the exam room.
When I first became editor of Night to Dawn Magazine, I read each submission carefully, trying to find unique twists to the vampire monster. After all, I had the credentials; I’d just published Twilight Healer and seen many of my short vampire tales in small press magazines. But then Mike had taken me to two consecutive mummy flicks (back in the days before he’d gotten sick). Author Jonathan Maberry introduced me to zombies, and Tom Johnson had me writing SF and mystery tales for his publications. Before long, I started seeking mummies, zombies, evil aliens, and psychotic killers for my magazine. What’s more, my novels have turned toward evil aliens and zombies for monsters, and in some cases, the helium found in balloons was used for a weapon.
After reading enough tales and watching enough flicks about monsters, I realized that for me, the zombie makes the truest monster. Why? It takes me back to my childhood, when I visited a 1000-year-old woman on display in Atlantic City. The picture on the billboard displayed a model, but when I entered a room surrounded by drapes, I happened upon a skeletal woman dressed in rags, lying in an oversized bathtub. She sat up and waved to everyone. Later on, I found out that she was a well-preserved mummy, and the bathtub was actually a sarcophagus. Of course, people used mechanics and thin wires to make the body move. But at age ten, I didn’t know about such things. I only know that a dead woman was sitting in a bathtub, and I fled from the pavilion screaming.
Every author has his or her own pet monster, even if they don’t write horror. Tom Johnson specializes in pulp crime and SF, but you’ll find plenty of monsters (dinosaurs) in his Jur novels. In Michael De Stefano’s Gunslinger’s Companion, the criminals and some plantation owners behave worse than supernatural monsters. As everyone knows, humans can make the worst fiends. Stephen King finds monsters everywhere he looks—cell phones, revenants, psychotic killers, and yes, even helium balloons. Every author has their own reasons for choosing a given monster.
For me, the zombie serves as stark reminder of that mummified woman, and so naturally the zombie has shambled into Night to Dawn. My expectation is that future issues will include more zombie tales. Dead walkers terrorize people in Steel Rose and will continue to do so in its sequel. So…I’d love to hear about the monster that appears most in your fiction and why you’ve chosen this monster. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.
I’m offering a signed copy of Steel Rose (first prize) and copy of Night to Dawn 26 (second prize) to a random commenter. Overseas winners will receive Starbucks gift cards and PDF copies.