A Blog By Jessica Lynne Gardner

A Blog by Jessica Lynne Gardner: It's terrifying and, at times, adorable.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

"Read Us or Die!"

The world is ending!!!! Aaahhh! Ok, it isn't, but I did have a nightmare about the world blowing up last night. In order to save the planet, I had to hunt down an antique clock and turn the hands back to three hours prior. Anyhow, I digress.

But I do have new short stories published after what felt like an eternity of a dry-spell. "Truth" and "Code-Red" are two of my newest pieces and will be included in the wonderfully twisted anthology "Read Us or Die!," which was put together by none other than the visionary Jason Gehlert! Black Bed Sheets Books' Nicholas Grabowsky is the proud publisher of this beautiful literary beast and the authors are not only some of the most talented but the hottest around (see what I did there?). Here is a link to the titillating forward and the cover to whet your appetite until the release!


Aaaand, for even more fun, here is an excerpt of one of my stories:


Friday, July 5, 2013

Harvest musings

Death has been on my brain more than usual and as the month of harvest draws nearer, I find myself preparing for many culminations. The end of August traditionally signals endings, but endings can often be considered beginnings. Personally, it will be the end of my treasured free time that began in May (it actually began last week as two of my three on-line classes ended), the start of an increased work-load as kids flock to retail stores to prepare for school, my vacation to Salem, MA (I can't even begin to describe the pumpkins dancing in my head as I count down the days for this mini-vacation), and lastly, a very different back-to-school experience for me. This Fall, I will begin my internship and study under a mentor teacher in some (as of yet) unnamed High school. I will no longer be able to wear my torn jeans, brightly dyed hair, and skull accessories. Instead, I must transform my outer shell into something more refined. It's true that I've had to do this often enough in the past; Holidays, special events, and retail work have filled my closet with dress-clothes, but there was always those days when I was able to get away with flip flops or spaghetti straps. From this semester on, I will be watched. Professors will be keeping close tabs on my performance as well as the entire staff and student body of the high school I will be reporting to. Besides my wardrobe, I am not allowed to carry mace for my own protection (something I've been doing for years now).

While these aren't major transitions by themselves, it was a stark reminder that I am (finally!) entering the career world. I've followed my life-path to the place that I feel I can make the most difference and now must be prepared to deal with the realities and sacrifices this entails. Teaching is not a glorious profession but it is one that I've always respected. Many of my teachers in the past have complained about the pay, the environment, the staff, etc, but most of them were willing to talk to me whenever I needed them or confronted me after too many missing homework assignments.
Teachers are role models because students are told to look up to them. They stand in front of a class full of cranky children or teenagers day-after-day, and put themselves up for display and sometimes, annihilation. High school kids can be cruel and criticizing, tearing a teacher apart, or they can be diligent and inspire hope. Though sometimes difficult, it is here, in their teenage years, that students need the most patience. As someone who has had a few crashes along life's landing strip, I can say that patience wasn't completely inherent in me but developed over time.

My goal to be high school teacher isn't solely unselfish. Helping people does give a kind of satisfaction. But another reason I want to teach is the access to knowledge. I've always loved learning something new and sharing it with my friends, my family...the cat...whoever would listen. Learning something intriguing (Literature and mythology are two of the subjects that stimulated my imagination while growing up but art, history and science-fiction brought this excitement out of me also), being filled with exuberance, and then passing that same contagious fire on to someone else made me feel connected to world in a very unique way. I was a guide of sorts.
A few people in my life told me that I would make  great teacher but I laughed at them then. Teaching was the last thing I saw myself doing. I wanted to do something more hands-on and better paying: Veterinary technology.  

Besides this heavy philosophical metamorphosis, I also landed three new short story publications, one of which is slated for August. Along with the changing of my intellectual outlook on life, I've put more energy into my writing this Summer and have noticed intriguing changes. This break has given me a few extra moments at the end of each day (you know, instead of collapsing into my bed as I usually do after an eight hour shift and two to four classes + homework) to mentally catch up with how much I've changed in the last few years and somehow, it always surprises me when I've passed the half-way mark. With these new musings, I decided to tidy up my website. I've made some of the syntax sharper, cleared out the spam-bot nest in my guestbook, and updated some things. If you're feeling bored, take a gander and drop me a (non-spam bot) comment in my guest book. More updates about my publications soon!       

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

On Time, Writing, and Two New Short Stories

I recently noticed a strange phenomenon on Facebook which slowed my crazy life to halt for a few moments, forcing me to ponder it. There are memes, a variety of pictures and cute sayings that writers themselves are posting, which are prompting writers to, well, write. Some are gentle reminders, quotes even, that coax and motivate the way of the writer. One says "Keep Calm and Write On." Another is a stick figure pointing a gun at another stick figure seated at a keyboard. There is humor in this, sure, but there is also a sadness. Shouldn't writers long to be writing? Shouldn't they count down the hours until they arrive home from work or school and then finish dinner or chores so they can relax into their element and type away?

I suppose that I am somewhat biased in this because as a full-time student and member of the working retail community, I'm lucky if have time to write a few pages that aren't about theory or curricula over a four month semester. I hear the siren song in my blood to write. The ideas bubble up while I'm in class or in the subconscious of my mind while asleep. Friends and family ask if I've been writing and I look at them tiredly and say, "If only I had the time." They laugh and reply, "Of course there's time. Anyone can make time if they want to." This is true. I could stay up extra late (that means later than it took me to write my five page reflection for homework after being on campus for twelve hours) and then show up to another class the next morning (or work depending on which day of the week it is) looking like I had partied hardy at a rave all night. Trust me, it's very hard to concentrate on a monotone lecture without the extra obstacle of sleep deprivation.

Don't get me wrong--- I'm not condemning those who have a lighter workload. I didn't always feel so motivated. Even though fairly prolific when I was younger, I remember days when lazily hung out with friends or watched TV when I wasn't working. Days when I wanted to lounge around rather than writing. This was before my years at Towson University. There were times when I had to force myself to write but was glad of it later. For those who have a full time job with odd mixed hours or have a family, I sympathize. It's hard to have a full plate of responsibility and be a creative person. Creation takes energy and tireless nurturing, something that is hard to do when balancing papers, long hours and or taking care of elderly family members or children. But even then, there is time. We can find that time and cherish it. In some ways, it is better to have the experience of being torn from doing what you love for a time. It hones and shapes your longing so that when you return, when you find those unexpected moments to release that overwhelming urge to write, paint, sculpt, dance---whatever your passion is, then the spectacular font of imagination bursts forth from the dam and drowns out everything else.

I know for a fact that though I have only written three pieces over the last four months, those pieces are better than what I had written before them. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, true, but experience also shapes the writer. And with stories brewing in my brain, the steeping brought out all of the sweetness and bitterness that would have been lost with a fresher cup. Writing helps me make sense of where I've been and where I'm going. For me, its not about putting writing into my life but about putting life into my writing.

So for those that are stressing themselves to write-write-write and hitting a wall, perhaps take a break. Turn off your Facebook, your phone. Go a few days, a few weeks, without writing and then see if you aren't the one attacking your muse rather than expecting your muse to attack you.   
Thanks Mom, for pushing me to write this post. Blogs are shorter but no less meaningful than novels. Though I don't always have time to write more than a few pages, there are some lucky days when I do have twenty minutes to write something. And so I did.

News about my latest publications coming soon. For now I'll say that two short stories, "Truth" and "Code Red" will be coming to a special anthology by Black Bed Sheet Books.  

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

For Love or Money?

Finding one's direction should be easy. We have compasses and devices for this type of thing along with the sun and the North star. But what happens when we get distracted by the things in our peripheral and lose sight of what is most important?

People get caught up in the rush of life. The bills become a task-master and so we slave away until we die. But there should be much more to it than that and many don't stop long enough to realize that they've just lost several years of their life at a job they hate. I believe in destiny- not the sort of destiny where it's preordained and written in stone but that we all have an ideal path if we should choose to take it. Some people sense what to do and they go about it without any mishaps. Others doubt themselves or rebel against their ideal path. And some get distracted. I believe that I'm meant to be a high-school English teacher and help prevent bad grammar and spelling in the next generations while sharing my (hopefully contagious) enthusiasm for literature. It took me a good long while to realize this but as a writer I know I can never be too far removed from books and can talk a great deal about topics that interest me.

This, along with the work hours, suits my lifestyle the best. Plenty of time to write on the weekends and time for family and friends. Not to mention summer break and Holidays.
But as it has a way of doing, money decided to distract me and I heeded it's siren call. Circumstances worked in such a way as to allow me advancement in my current job but the amount of hours demanded conflicted heavily with my 4 college classes which I was currently enrolled. I found myself scrambling to do both and still maintain a life. I don't know the meaning of compromise so I burned myself out. I snapped at family and friends and worse, complained. Sadly I also completely lost initiative to write.
When you begin to sour toward life, its time to pick another path. It may take you a few tries to find what jives with your destiny but its definitely worth the uncertainty and the push into new surroundings. There is always disappointment when life's threads work themselves into knots but in the end, we have to realize our limitations. Yes, we are human and miscalculate.

And so with this in mind, I'll be rearranging my life and dusting the literary cobwebs off of it. So you can expect more writing from me once that is done  ^_^

Moral of the story- pick a job like a relationship: for love, not money. If its your ideal path, money will follow. Or perhaps you'll be poor all of your life and famous posthumously ;)

Monday, September 5, 2011

HORRORFIND WEEKEND: Where its ok to love blood

Horrorfind Weekend 2011 was in Gettysburg, PA this year.
I was late the first day but that's only because I decided to put everything off until the last possible moment. Admittedly, I was one of those people who grumbled about the con being further from my location this year but Gettysburg gave it a different and better flavor of clientele I think, because it has more tourists during this time of year than Baltimore (as well as more ghost hunters...and ghosts for that matter but I digress) and more to do during both day and night. I stayed down the street from the rowdy Wyndham which probably meant that during the whole three hours I spent in my room, I slept better than the unfortunate souls who stayed over there. I much preferred the less expensive but private Days Inn which was very nice for the price I paid. And for an added bonus the hotel (like many in Gettysburg) is supposedly haunted which, if nothing else, added to the charm. I have to admit that I was listening for ghosts every time I entered the room.
It seems like a Horrorfind tradition that I always manage to see Kevin Lucia before anyone else. Maybe it's because he is just simultaneously everywhere. I must ask him his teleporting secret. Business was good and I sold 2 entire boxes full of books which, frankly, really surprised me given how the market has been. I may have sold many more had I actually brought more boxes with me. My vendor neighbor was the talented macabre photographer Dan Westfall who had incredible stories to tell about his travels as well as gorgeous prints (which I of course purchased).

I admit freely that I am a True Blood fan and was slighty more excited about meeting Sam Trammell than I should have been. I got his signature and a pic with him but was ashamed to act like a gushing girl upon talking to him. It doesn't happen often. 
Scarioke the first night was insane and wonderful of course, if you are like me and need an occasional burst of insanity to break up the monotony. Lots of cool venders and con goers there to pal around with.
By the second day, I sold out of every novella, anthology and magazine that I had brought. Now free from my table prison, I attended the Bizarro World  Author Readings and was moved to tears (No it wasn't a soppy Twilight love story but it WAS the funniest vampire story you'll ever read) of laughter by the always awesome Greg Hall and his, "Dracula's Winkie". In addition were four other excellent writers who I had the pleasure of meeting: Eric Mayes, Jordan Krall, William Pauley III and Andersen Prunty. All of them had great performances and I got a needed dose of bizarro and dark humor which is always appreciated.
That evening I had some drinks with said writers and also stopped to chat with Jason Wolfgang Gehlert who had some great pointers about writing and the industry as well as an innate talent to out-scare even the purest evil (a.k.a. the mini Jason that was running rampant that night).
Later was Scaryoke with a group of drunken guys that I kept bumping into and the infamous Karlos Borloff who I had the pleasant surprise to reunite with after my appearance on one of his shows in 2008.
 Needless to say I slept little, drank too much and was slightly unprepared for the mayhem but I can easily say it will be among my favorite memories of 2011.
In the end, it's all about the people. I'm never disappointed leaving Horrorfind. After all, where else can artists and enthusiasts gather together and so openly talk about murder, blood and cheesy movies with as much gusto without being arrested???

Thursday, August 18, 2011

What Scares A Horror Writer?

Sharks, sharp pointy things and really bad grammar may give me chills but my number one fear is probably not something you would have guessed. As someone who uses fear as an art form, I can honestly say that many of the big horror films that are released don't disturb me as it might other people. I spend more time alone with the possibilities of what lurks in the dark than the average woman my age. But something very mundane strikes fear into my heart. It stems from a long, rocky relationship with stability and the lack thereof. Change has haunted me from a very young age and whenever I became optimistic or tried to embrace it, its claws would lash out like the monsters from Alien (which I did have nightmares about in my younger days). It's terrifying! The first big transition every person faces is the exit out of a safe, loving bubble into the loud, open turbulence that is the world. Then we grow hair, teeth, longer limbs...we skin our knees then break our hearts. We feel attraction, anger, fear, trust, betrayal... With each new growth there is an equally painful lesson. But regardless its still a lesson.

Horror writers imagine terrible things happening to people all the time. We contrive a thousand (or more) ways to kill someone in the most vivid, horrible, and memorable act (sometimes we write in past lovers or backstabbing friends) and then chuckle as we record it into a short story or novel and then share our personal recipe of doom with the masses. We know how to strike fear into your hearts. Words spin into being a shadowy phantasm, psychotic killer or cerebral monster that will haunt you for days or longer. But what is it about these things that terrifies us so?  The dark: the unknown that children are often afraid of. The possibilities. The unspoken threat that it COULD happen. It could happen to you or me or the neighbors. That our perfect or not so perfect lives could be interrupted by some being, curse or psychopath intent on robbing us of our only given choice: life. That a change could take everything away quicker than the gasp we would make if we could.

And that is why I write horror. Perhaps to remind myself (and all of you) of the fleetingness of everything. To remind myself that these small complaints and even great losses are not the end but a start to something beautiful. Because change is not only a part of death, it's a part of living. And when you embrace it, you accept a whole, wide world of exploration, emotion, challenges and completion. You accept yourself.

So the next time you see a scary movie, read a horror novel or visit a haunted house...go ahead and scream. Enjoy your mortality to the fullest and let others have a good laugh.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Mantis Hitch-hiker

Today was a long day, but not unpleasant. When I shuffled to my car after work, I hopped in and proceeded to drive out of the parking lot when something caught my eye. I saw a long wing ruffling in the forty-mile-an-hour wind (now you all know that I speed in parking lots) and the long legs of an insect perched upon my windshield. For some reason my brain screamed "locust!" and I recoiled. But upon seeing it turn it's robotic head  and bulbous, wise eyes, I recognized it as a rather large praying mantis. It stared at me and I stared back, shoving my phone in its stunned face so I could remember this strange phenomenon (and post the pics here of course).

(Looks creepy, huh?)

It's funny how they resemble something alien to us: the giant eyes, antenna, jack-knife legs and streamline body, but they are so much more natural than we are. Their survival is the hunt and also knowing when to hide from birds, cats and humans. 'Fight or Flight' is more than a theory or reaction to them it's an art form. I had slowed my car down as much as my lead-foot would allow and drove around the corner. Her (I say her because I'm pretty sure the females are larger) shape disappeared from my windshield and I was worried she'd fallen off. I stopped at a store along the way and Mrs. M was still hanging out with a death-grip on the top of my car. I spoke to it (I know...) and it seemed to be listening. My phone caught another picture and her saucer eyes followed me as I walked away.

(It was actually pretty adorable in person)

Somewhere along the drive from there to my house she had took off but I found myself thinking about the relationship between wild animals and humans. Creatures that once coexisted now rarely interact with us and we want nothing to do with them. Everyone may know what a preying mantis is but how often do you see them, watch their behavior or talk to them? How about deer, foxes, bats? It just put into perspective how far away we've gotten from understanding what is right in front of us. Our first response when we see a wild creature is 'can it hurt me?' or 'will it get into my food/hair/house?' We forget that these creatures (most of them anyways) have a good reason to be around. Bats eat mosquitoes, foxes help keep populations of small rodents and other animals down and mantis eat spiders, crickets, beetles and other annoying bugs.

And though that mantis may not have realized what it was doing by hitching a ride on my car, it made a valid point. Who knows, maybe they miss the human/nature interaction too. :)