Triggered vs. Distasteful: What is the difference: Guest post by Lilyn G. of Sci-Fi & Scary

Recently, during a very early morning, a tweet caught my attention. It was about trigger warnings for books and if they were a good idea. I read the article and thought hmm interesting. So, I retweeted and asked if trigger warnings on books was going too far or if was it needed. This little retweet started a very interesting conversation with other book bloggers, specifically Horror and Sci-Fi book bloggers. We are talking about people who  read some gnarly, gut churning shit. This was a topic each person I talked to agreed on.

However, my little retweet and the subsequent conversation got one blogger doing what we do best: writing. Lilyn from Sci-Fi and Scary sat down and wrote a guest blog post for me 🙂 talking about the difference between Triggered and Distasteful.

Lilyn G. is the founder of Sci-Fi & Scary, a book and film review site that focuses primarily on independent works, and giving artists and authors a chance to do guest posts and interviews. Head over to the site to meet the other members of the Cthulhu Crew. She will happily chat books with you on Twitter at @scifiandscary but if you try to talk her up on books only to ask her to review your book, you’ll get glowered at most sternly. Mother of two – one living. Spoonie.

ProfilePicLilynG

 

Trigger Warnings

What Being Triggered Actually Means, Why Trigger Warnings Are Good, and How We Could Implement Them

First off, I absolutely hate to see people toss around the word “triggered” in a sneering, joking manner. The impression this gives me is that these people have no clue what it’s meant to be so traumatized by something that has personally happened to them that they wince at the thoughts of seeing representation of that something elsewhere. I’m jealous of the wonderful life they must have lead thus far, and yes, petty enough that I at least momentarily hope at some point they come to personally understand why they shouldn’t joke about ‘triggered’. (“Just joking” holds no weight with me when it comes to making fun of people’s mental and/or emotional problems.)

I acknowledge that there are people in this world who somehow seem to miraculously make it through traumatic events without having the lasting scars those events tend to leave. Good for them. Seriously. But this article isn’t about them. It’s about people like me.

Know this: Being triggered isn’t nearly the same as finding something distasteful.

Finding something distasteful is simply encountering something that you do not agree with, or do not personally like. If I’m watching the national news, and I see people spewing the vitriol that the current administration has made ‘ok’ to say on live television, I can easily turn it off. If I read a book and see a conversation partway in where the character makes a slur about gays, blacks, etc, I can easily “Nope” and close the book and that’s it. (Well, then I might tell people to avoid the book if they have an issue with that type of language, but that’s as far as it goes.)

Being triggered by something is when you encounter a sound, sight, or situation that immediately invokes a mental and/or physical reaction that can run the gamut from a slight mental wince to breaking out in a cold sweat to feeling like someone has socked you in the gut. It can bring horrible memories crashing over your mind in the blink of an eye. Depending on how much you saw/read before your reaction kicked it in, the chances of you being able to just walk away from it are fairly low. Even after I’ve hurriedly flipped away from a movie, I’m still left with that heavy weight on my chest and my nerves twitching at even the slightest thing – like the sound of a flat line on a vitals monitor.

As someone who has had a past filled with enough shit to make me feel like the whole world is a walking trigger for me, I feel like every time I open a book, or go to watch a movie, I’m bound to encounter something that hurts me. Hell, I even avert my eyes walking past the baby section in stores because even after five years, it still feels like a punch in my gut.  (And stuff related to babies is far from the only thing that has happened to me. It’s just the freshest and the one I haven’t dealt with appropriately yet.)

How Trigger Warnings Help

Now, as a reader (and watcher) of horror, I increase those chances greatly. I understand that and accept it. Just as I understand and accept that I can’t read happily ever after stories of love, babies, and forever because my mind has broken enough that I no longer find myself able to believe in that malarkey.

Understanding and accepting this increased risk from reading/watching horror (and even sci-fi) doesn’t mean that I don’t take all possible steps to minimize my risk, though. As a reviewer, I even have a specific question on the review submission form that asks first “Is there child death in your book?” and “If there is, please explain.” Sometimes the explanation makes it clear that it’s something that’s mentioned, but not witnessed, or took place long in the past…etc. In those cases, most of the time I’m willing  to read on to the synopsis and see if the book itself looks interesting to me.

So, yes, I make authors give me trigger warnings for their books before I’ll even consider reading them.  (Oh, and just for the record, there are plenty of horror books out there that don’t contain triggers. For you non-horror readers, you might be surprised the depth the genre has.)

I’m sure some authors probably don’t like having to give away a big scene in a book in order to help convince me to read it, but I don’t care. I am a reader for pleasure. I review for free. If reviewing was a paying gig, maybe I’d suck it up and go into every book blind and read and review it regardless. But, until I’m paid more than I make at my current job to do so, at the very least, I’m not going to put my mental health at risk because of a scene in someone else’s story.

And it’s not just for me. I know several people who have certain things that they cannot stand to encounter in book or film. When possible, friends who know about these triggers often will reach out after experiencing the book/film themselves, and simply tell that person that they may want to avoid it. You know what the reaction to that inevitably is? “Thank you for giving me a heads-up.”

Trigger warnings spare people pain. That’s all there is to it. And why would anyone possibly consider that a bad thing?

Possible Implementation

Please note that while I’ve mentioned film and television in this post, for implementation I’m only covering books at the moment.

I am a huge advocate of trigger warnings for other people because I understand exactly how much an unexpected trigger can stomp your ass. But I’m also someone who has a fair bit of (un)common sense, so while I’d like to see them be used, I want guidelines in place as well.  Because, yes, unfortunately sometimes telling of a trigger can inadvertently spoil important parts or scenes in a book, and we all know that that just sucks.

I don’t think people need to go nuts with listing potential triggers, either. Circling back to the point where I mentioned that my life hasn’t exactly been sunshine and rainbows, I haven’t encountered anything in a book that couldn’t be covered under: (Child or family member) Death, Unexpected Extreme Violence (I say unexpected because if you’re reading a book about Kaiju stomping people, and have the nerve to bitch about the amount of violence in it, you’re just silly.), Rape, Molestation, and (Domestic, Substance, etc) Abuse. There’s probably something there that I’m not thinking of, but I think you get the point.

This is what I do as a blogger: I use trigger warnings as part of the ‘technical data’ I give readers of the site about the book that I’m reviewing. I keep it very, very vague on purpose whenever possible to try to avoid spoiling anything. Ie: “Trigger: Mention of maternal death”.  However, when I feel like the trigger is going to spoil an important plot point, I include it in the body of the review, hidden behind a spoiler tag. Both of these things are very easy to do.

This is what I would like to see established by publishers (mass market, small, self): 

An indication (perhaps a universally adopted minute half-moon) on the cover of the book, in an established position (perhaps lower left hand corner?) that lets the reader know this book contains potential triggers, and then a designated page inside the book (front or back, doesn’t matter) listing the triggers. It doesn’t have to be a big deal, and it’s not going to accidentally slap someone in the eyes with possible spoilers if they don’t care about the triggers. This would work for both physical books and e-books. With e-books there could be a linked page in the ToC that could be clicked.

Trigger Warnings are not notice of explicit content. The warning doesn’t have to be an inch high band slapped across the cover in a ugly way. It should be fairly easy to just establish something that people can look for if they’re curious.

Obviously, we can’t really do anything about books that have been previously published, but it would be a great thing going forward.

In conclusion, being triggered is not the same thing as disliking something, trigger warnings are important, and yes, I think it would be a positive thing to implement.

Thanks Lilyn for offering this guest post. In publishing this post I want to spark some discussion in the horror community. I think that because we do read some book with content that could be questionable and could trigger someone. I hope that this post will continue with the discourse within the book community.

Interview with YA Horror Novelist Bryce Gibson

In my humble opinion the golden age of teenage horror novels was in the 80s. They were light on horror and really fun reads. They made for amazing palette cleansers between hard core horror. With this in mind I reached out to YA horror author Bryce Gibson.

 

Bryce
Photo by Megan Byrne Photography

 

On the blog today is YA horror author Bryce Gibson. Bryce is the author of a number of books including The Reading Buddy, Perennials, and the newly released The Resort. Bryce, welcome to my little corner of the Internet.

Great! It’s awesome to be here.

Congratulations on the release of The Resort! I really enjoyed reading it. It reminded me of all the horror movies I watched as a kid.

Thank you I’m glad you liked it.

You and I have discussed movies a couple of times on Twitter, especially our love for the Sleep Away Camp series. What is your favorite movie series?

Picking a favorite movie series is tough, but the first thing that comes to mind is Halloween.

The Resort reads like a throwback to the 80s horror franchises…which franchise was your inspiration when writing this novel?

I don’t know if there is any one franchise that was an inspiration for writing The Resort, but, in my mind, the book kind of has the feel of 2000’s The In Crowd. I know that’s not 80s, but it has a similar tone. Fun and scary. I can see some of the 1988 remake of The Blob in there as well.

I was pretty sad when you unmercilessly killed off a main character in The Resort. What scenes did you find hardest to write?

There’s a scene near the end that has a big reveal, as all three of my teen books do. There’s a lot to explain during those scenes, and I don’t want it to come across as being too over the top. Anytime antagonists in books or movies explain their actions, things can easily slip into ridiculousness. It’s hard to balance.

You are also a farmer, so I would imagine that takes a lot of work. How do you balance your responsibilities as a farmer and writer? Do you have a set writing schedule, or do you just write every day?

I grow muscadines and scuppernongs, both of which are harvested in late summer/fall. I’m the busiest in the fields during March through mid November. Most of my writing is done in the winter when there is not as much work to be done on the farm.

As an author do you feel that social media has changed the way books are marketed?

Social media has definitely changed the way books are marketed. Honestly, I couldn’t imagine being in the publishing business and not having access to Twitter and Instagram.

As a book blogger, I am always interested in what people are reading. What is on your nightstand at the moment?

I’m finishing up a book called Friend Request by Laura Marshall. It is a fun read that reminds me of an adult version of Point Horror. I have so many books on my TBR pile/shelves/stack(s)/list that it’s ridiculous, but I’m planning on reading a Robert McCammon next.

What is your favorite under-appreciated novel?

Last year I read a book called The Gates of Evangeline by Hester Young. It is full of twists and turns and definitely worth checking out.

I know you are currently working on a middle grade novel. Are you going to be working on a “adult” novel in the future? I think the world needs a Southern 80s inspired horror novel…. Just my personal opinion.

My middle-grade book Mortimer was actually written several year ago, before I published my first teen book. I’m in the process of doing a quick revision on it. I’m looking forward to seeing what people think. Next, I’m working on another teen book titled Tethered. I’ve read some of it to my writing/critique group and the feedback has been great. It isn’t exactly horror or thriller, but a dark family drama. It’s is by far the darkest and most serious book I’ve written. As far as an adult novel, I would love to, but I don’t have any immediate plans on doing one.

You by Caroline Kepnes

I don’t have a list of favorite books. There are too many to love and the list changes. It depends on where I am in life. That being said I do have a list of favorite literary characters. One of my top five favorite characters is Patrick Bateman. Yes, that is right that lovable, status crazed psychopath from Brett Easton Ellis’s American Psycho. I think it was because of the way he was written. Ellis wrote his character bordering on the  ridiculous. The diatribe about Hughey Lewis and the News is probably one of my favorite scenes from a book or a movie. I don’t know why it just strikes me as particularly funny. Maybe it is the fact that Power of Love is playing in the background as he wields an axe. Another favorite literary character is Rob from Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity. Slightly narcissistic and a lot of snobbish lists regarding music. What would  happen if you crossed Patrick Bateman with Rob (books instead of music)You get a book loving psychopath named Joe.

Summary: The story follows Joe and his love/obsession for Beck. He isn’t going to let anything stand between them.

What I liked: THE WHOLE ENTIRE THING!! Kepnes is a storyteller of the highest order. Her characters are well crafted and three dimensional. One minute you are creeped out the other minute you are feeling bad for them. Particularly for Joe. How the hell does that work LOL?! I know what you are thinking but it is particularly towards the end of the story. The storyline flows so well. The pacing is so good. It is a slow burn and I really like that. You are pretty much at the edge of your seat the entire time.   The settings that are used throughout the novel also become characters particularly the bookstore. I could gush on and on and I don’t want to spoil this deeply creepy book for anyone.

What I didn’t like: There is nothing I didn’t like.

Star Rating: 5 stars

My thoughts: I started this story thinking OMG creeper status a million and I ended the story thinking OMG everyone in the story is well and truly f’ed up. But that is the beauty of this book. There are so many WTF and ewwww moments that it is such a pleasure to read. I love books like this for that exact reason. It was a a perfect read for a lazy Sunday. Why did it take me this long to read it!!

The Art of Escaping by Erin Callahan

I love thinking about what people I meet where like in high school and wondering if I would have been friends with them then.  I was a member of the all encompassing freak class. I had purple hair, smoked clove cigarettes and wore flannel. What made me even more of a freak  I read, usually had the answers in English or history class and I listened to weird music. Well at the time it was considered weird music until it hit the mainstream radio stations. I was more then happy with my small circle of friends and our mutual love of shared passions. One of these passions was anything horror. I would like to think I would have been friends with the main character in The Art of Escaping.

Summary: A misfit girl and a popular guy share a secret. But will this secret lead them to shared mutual destruction or freedom?

What I liked: Callahan was able to use a plot device I really like. The story is told from Mattie and Willem’s points of view. Callahan does a great job of tying the two stories together to form a cohesive narrative that overlaps so you get a in-depth perspective. There is another story within this story.  It isn’t intrusive and fits very well. The characters are well fleshed out. The plot was well thought out and the ending didn’t feel rushed or out of line with the character’s motivations. As this is a YA title the writing is appropriate for a YA audience. Actually, I think it is a great YA novel.

What I didn’t like: The beginning was slightly slow for me after about 50 pages it picked up and I was sucked in.

Star Rating: 4.5

My thoughts: I really liked this story. I would like to think that it is because I was one of the outcasts at high school. I love the way Callahan used Escapology as metaphor for the angst that you feel as a teenager. I loved both Mattie’s parents. I really identified with them as a parent that was a bit different then the other parents. This is going to be controversial but it was refreshing to read a YA book that didn’t end horribly or have something devastating happen to the characters. It was a story that had so much hope that it warmed my bookish heart and that made me happy.

I want to thank Amberjack Publishing for a review copy for my honest review and I want to thank Ms. Callahan for writing a YA book that is full of goodness and hope.

Spotlight on Small Publishing Houses: Black Spot Books

Not too long ago I wrote a blog about small and large publishing houses.  I wanted to take this one step further and start spotlighting these small publishing houses who are working hard to get amazing books into the hands of readers. First up, I reached out to Black Spot Books’ owner Lindy Ryan to get her take on launching and growing a small press publishing house.

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What inspired you to go into the world of publishing?

I’ve loved books for as long as I can remember, and have had an intrinsic yearning to be part of the literary world, so I think the inspiration was always there.

Choosing speculative fiction and diving into genres like fantasy, dark humor, and science fiction was a pretty natural decision. From authors like Orwell and Adams to Tolkien, King, and everywhere in between, these are the types of books I’ve always loved to read, so they were exactly the types of titles I wanted to publish.

Did you have previous publishing experience before launching Black Spot Books? 

As both a traditionally published and indie author, I’ve had the pleasure of working with some of the largest publishing houses and some of the most boutique, as well as brilliant folks in the industry — agents, editors, artists, and many phenomenal writers.

This incredible experience and network helped to solidify the vision for Black Spot Books. I think this has been something of a natural evolution after having been involved so intimately in the publishing community in various ways. You begin to put together what works and what doesn’t, what you’d like to see done differently, and where you can bring something new and unique to the market.

As most small publishers have a target market how did you find the authors to fit that market. 

It’s like that famous line from the film Field of Dreams, “If you build it, they will come.”

We reached out to our author network — our friends and peers in the writing community — and hit up social media and a few strategic advertising places, and were lucky enough to receive a great response to our initial call for submissions.

What aspect do you believe that social media ie… book bloggers and bookstagram play in the publishing world?

They are invaluable assets to the book community. We love working with bloggers and bookstagrammers. It gives us a chance to network directly with readers, connect authors to influencers, and show off beautiful covers!

What new projects does Black Spot Books have on the horizon?

The rest of 2018 will feature historical fantasy, seasonal fantasy, and we’ll release our first science fiction/cyberpunk title in December. The new year will bring new authors and new projects–including some magical realism and some highly-anticipated sequels! We’ve also just opened our indie romance ebook imprint, Siren Press, with first releases scheduled for August.

What advice would you have for people who want to become book publishers?

 

The publishing industry is not for the faint of heart–whether you’re indie, small press, or otherwise. It takes time, patience, and a lot of work in a very noisy market. For those considering publishing, my best advice is to start by becoming a rock-star reader, and get involved with local booksellers to learn the trade.

To learn more about the amazing books  that Black Spot Books is publishing have a look at their website:

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FYI I do happen to know that Black Spot is looking for Horror Writers to publish in 2019 have a look at their submission criteria if interested.

https://www.blackspotbooks.com/submit.html

The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty

I saw the movie of The Exorcist when I was in first grade. The most horrifying scene in the whole movie for me as a kid was when Regan was spider walking down the staircase. I think I kept my head behind a pillow for the rest of the movie. I was absolutely frightened by that scene. I am not sure what about that scene even as an adult still creeps me out. I had read the book about 10 years ago and once I saw some of the other horror lovers reading it I decided it was time for a reread. I am so glad that I did. It is one of those stories that scare you in different ways as you get older.

The exorcist

Summary: A little girl is possessed by an evil demon. This story follows the people who try to help her.

What I liked: I loved the writing. The writing is one of the most important parts of The Exorcist. When you can take something as mundane as a “invisible” friend and make it something terrifying  then you have hit the pinnacle of writing. The characters are fleshed out and you truly feel their emotions as you are reading. Blatty’s descriptions of the physical transformations that Regan undergoes are horrifying.

The storyline and the POV of the characters are as crisp and fresh as the day they were written. This story is as timeless and scary as it was when the book was first released. I hope that people will continue to read this horrifying book in the future.

What I didn’t like: There is nothing that I didn’t like about The Exorcist.

Star Rating: 5

My Thoughts: As a parent the whole premise of The Exorcist is terrifying. Your child is normal one day and then under goes a complete transformation practically overnight. I was raised Roman Catholic and possession was something that wasn’t discussed. The religious over tones in The Exorcist are really interesting. What I think is that the story isn’t so much about Regan but rather Father Karras. You watch as the priest goes from questioning his faith to being brought back into the fold.  Which makes me wonder if Blatty was questioning the divide between science and faith?

Kin By Kealan Patrick Burke

The first horror book I read was about fairies–not the sweet ones with glitter on their cheeks, but Irish fairies who would steal children and replace them with changelings. So, my first-grade self laid in bed and waited to be stolen by the fairies, listening to the clock ticking in the hall and figuring that as long as I heard it then I was still at home. I fell asleep listening to that clock in the hall tick, and I woke up the next morning in my bed. I am sure that my grandmother’s stories about fairies didn’t really help.

My tastes in horror run the gambit, and I am always grateful for a book that can give me goosebumps. Kin did just that!

kin

 

Summary: A family of cannibals loses a victim. What is to become of the family and the victim?

What I like: Burke’s writing style for me is perfect for this type of novel. His pacing was perfect; not to fast and not to slow. The beginning of the novel really piqued my interest and it didn’t stop. I had to know how the story was going to end. I appreicated the twists and turns in the story. The characters were well developed for their story arcs.

What I didn’t like: Burke killed one of the characters that I liked!!

Star Rating: 5

My Thoughts: I loved the page turning suspense that Burke built throughout Kin. So lets put it this way I loved the story from start to finish. It was gory and was psychologically thrilling. From the first page to the last page it was a page turner and hard to put down. My love of good horror was overly satisfied with Kin. I will defiantly be reading another by Burke.