Friday, September 28, 2018

Writing Song of the Shark God

Smart Rhino Publications recently published A PLAGUE OF SHADOWS (September 2018) an anthology of unique, non-traditional ghost stories in collaboration with the Written Remains Writers Guild. The theme of the book is hauntings and the haunted. It's a diverse collection written by our guild members as well as invited guest writers. One of my stories, "Song of the Shark God" is included.

"Song of the Shark God" grew out of a story I wrote a couple years ago during Camp NaNoWriMo. The original story was about two buddies who throw a Shark Week Party and end up doing something stupid as a result. The story was funny, but I wasn't happy with it and so it languished in a file on my laptop for a year or more until it was revived and transformed by a confluence of coincidental occurrences. While the old story was the origin of "Song of the Shark God," it was these combined occurrences that were the inspiration for the new story. 

First, I came across a book, in the Dollar Store, of all places, called The Shark God: Encounters with Ghosts and Ancestors in the South Pacific by Charles Montgomery. Not long after, two Great White sharks were tracked and identified near Rehoboth Beach at the mouth of the Delaware Bay. Some time after that, I read a splendidly written article about the world's greatest surfer, John John Florence, and finally, a friend told me about his daughter's genealogy project through which he discovered, to his great surprise, that the man he had believed all his life to be his father was, in fact, not his father at all and was also of a different race.

Before all those things happened though, I was intrigued, and still am, by Thom Jones' story "Fields of Purple Forever " from the collection Sonny Liston Was a Friend of Mine "in which the civilian Sergeant Ondine, a Vietnam veteran, takes up long-distance swimming in much the same way Odysseus, say, took up sailing: 'Ondine a night swimmer and he all over the night. Captain of the night. I swim in the fields of purple. Nothing and no one can harm me forever.'" I've read "Fields of Purple Forever" dozens of times and will continue to re-read it. It's no lie for me to say that story haunts me.

And so, much like putting the final piece of a puzzle into place, and much like the experience my character, Mannie, has during his night sail on the ocean off Rehoboth Beach, I now had all the pieces I needed to write the new story.

That's not to say "Song of the Shark God" was an easy story to write. In fact, it was quite difficult. The story went through six or more drafts and the scrutiny of a number of beta readers and editors before I was satisfied with it. When I was finally satisfied, or at least as satisfied as I ever am with a story, I felt that because of the effort I put into the writing of this story, my writing skills had jumped to a higher level.

Anyway, here are a few interesting facts about "Song of the Shark God" and me that you might find amusing.

The shark god tiki sculpture that Tina purchases for Mannie in the story is an actual sculpture I saw and photographed at Tiki Murph's (near Rehoboth) on the Coastal Highway.

(Photo credit: JM Reinbold)
The two sharks in my story were inspired by two Great White sharks that visited Rehoboth Beach in May of 2017. Those sharks were Mary Lee and Cisco. I've been tracking them since they were first tagged by Ocearch. You can read about them here. If you're interested in following these sharks and others around the globe, you can use the Ocearch tracking app to see where they are pinging (surfacing) at different times during the year.

It's possible that Mannie suffers from selachophobia, fear of sharks, due to a traumatic experience in his childhood. However, he's also obsessed with them. In "Song of the Shark God", Mannie doesn't share with anyone the real reason he's afraid of sharks, instead he tells his friends and Shark Week buddies that he hasn't gone in the ocean since seeing Jaws. That's not true for Mannie, but is true for me. Believe it or not, I haven't gone in the ocean since seeing that film!

(Photographer unknown) 

Thalassophobia is the fear of the sea or deep dark water. It can also include fear of being in large bodies of water, fear of the vast emptiness of the sea, of sea waves, and fear of distance from land. It's a fear that I'm familiar with and something Mannie experiences in the story. Hey, writing about what you really are afraid of gives a story authenticity, right? I'll be talking more about that in my workshop "Haunted: How to Write an Outstanding Ghost Story" for Delaware Writers Studio on October 21, 2018. Click here if you're interested in attending. 

(Picture accompanied an article on thalassophobia. Artist unknown)

Peter Benchley's novel, Jaws (1974) was credited with causing a dramatic increase in selachophobia and for keeping people out of the water. A reviewer for A Plague of Shadows credited "Song of the Shark God" with having the same effect. I don't know if that's good or bad, but I'll take it as a compliment, at least for the story!

You're probably wondering how ghosts fit into all this stuff about sharks, the sea, and genealogy. Well, they do, and I hope I've intrigued you enough to read "Song of the Shark God" to find out how!

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

My Review of Killing It Softly 2

Cracked Spine Book Reviews

Killing It Softly 2 edited by Suzie Wargo Lockhart

Killing It Softly 2 is a big book. Thirty-eight stories to be exact. All by women. All unique. All terrifying. And all wonderfully well written. Kudos to editor Suzie Wargo Lockhart for putting together this superb collection. Killing It Softly 2 puts to rest the ridiculous notion that women can’t write horror. These stories hit hard, cut deep, and leave scars. I don’t usually single out individual stories in a review, but in this case, I will because these stories will stick with me for a very long while. “The Whims of My Enemy” by Amanda J. Spedding, “Scarecrow” by Vonnie Winslow Crist, “Death Warmed Over” by Rachel Caine, and my personal favorite “Bloody Rain” by Rie Sheridan Rose. While every one of these stories is cringe worthy and will make your skin crawl, some will also bring you to tears and some will make you cheer. Bloody amazing and highly recommended!

Review by JM Reinbold

Link to Amazon review.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

My Review of Abandoned Homes: Vietnam Revenge Murders by Frank Hopkins

Cracked Spine Book Reviews


Abandoned Homes: Vietnam Revenge Murders
by Frank Hopkins.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s college campuses across the United States were sites of anti-war protests sometimes accompanied by violence as students and the country divided over the war in Vietnam. In 2008, when retired University of Maryland history professor, Paul O'Hare stumbles upon two skeletons in an abandoned home he's photographing in lower Delaware, he suddenly and inexplicably finds himself at the center of an intense and long-ranging police investigation. Paul is eventually cleared, but as the police uncover more and more evidence leading to the identity of the real killer, old enmities and enemies emerge from the shadows of Paul's past, making him a target right up to the story's dramatic conclusion. Abandoned Homes: Vietnam Revenge Murders is a step-by-step police procedural page-turner. Recommended for fans of realistic detective fiction, with a bonus if the reader is from Delaware and can recognize locations and landmarks.

Review by JM Reinbold

Link to Amazon review 

Frank Hopkin's website