This will be the last week of featured Authors of the Horror Anthology "Exhumed" coming soon from Gravelight Press! Help me welcome the hilarious J C Raye on her excellent journey to the Writer's Journey Blog this week.
I am an old gal. That’s right. Old. Gal. (At this point you’ll likely stop reading to take a glance at my headshot, ya?) During the day, I teach at a little underfunded, urban/suburban, highly diverse community college you’ve probably never heard of.
It’s the course that makes everyone, simply everyone, both annoyingly juvenile and crotchety ancient, shake in their boots, and seek out a barf bag asap. I know, you are thinking you can probably guess the subject, right? Maybe BIO or CALC. Perhaps ECON. Nope. Public Speaking. Communication skills, really.
Public speaking is just one fascinating avenue of Human Communication Theory. It is the process of analyzing a specific audience, then ethically and credibly designing a strategic message for them, followed up by delivering that message in an unforgettable way, so it has impact. I suppose the course could also be titled, “How to Get What You Want Out of Life,” because that is what communications skills can do for you if you take your own seriously.
Well, your speech gets you that far... so long as you learn to manage your anxiety. And there’s the REAL challenge for any comm instructor. Teaching students how not to be victims of their nervousness. That shyness is not a permanent category in the furthest reaches of the netherworld. That is not the movie Carrie, where peers release a bucket of pig’s blood over your tresses and then laugh themselves silly. Most importantly, that a speech isn’t one pass/fail moment, but more a series of moments, some stronger than others, and, whatever your symptoms may be –low eye contact, shaky voice, dancing feet—there is always a counter-strategy to apply.
But that’s during the day... At night. I write.
My colleagues don’t know that I write. That’s because my colleagues do teach Biology, Calculus, and Economics. They also teach English, Sociology, and Global Business. And they write too. But their pennings are more, um, well, we won’t say boring, we will just say academic.
Course outlines, grant proposals, research studies, business plans, state-wide assessments, etc. And they use those Ph.D. words. Lots of those. You know, those giant words people use at a party that make you want to punch them in the face for daring to assume you might actually know what the words mean?
Folks bound to prove every day of their lives that they passed an SAT test half a century ago. I do love my colleagues so, but it has been five years and I haven’t shared with them that I write horror. (And hey, don’t you share it either, because I have no backup job.) I haven’t told a soul that I write creepy, disturbing, alarming, bloody, rather taboo horror stories with no other goal in mind than to mess up someone’s day in a real profound way. Yep, got the pen name too. Can’t be too careful.
I wrote my first story seventeen years into my career as an instructor. I wasn’t planning to. It was just another day of nonsense and politics in academia. (You may not know this, but at the community college level, teaching is only about 30% of what we do.) When I got home, I was angry, frustrated, feeling my age, and went directly to the computer and wrote a ghost story. It was about a teacher chased by an invisible samurai, released from an ancient stone by another professor who had a crush on her.
The teacher died in just about the worst way I could conjure up. The story sucked, badly, appallingly, as it should have since it was my first. I still had so much to learn. But damn I loved the feeling of writing something so alien, so forbidding and so completely unconnected to my day life.
Plus, I had always loved reading horror authors and watching horror movies. Again, another dirty little secret I have always had to bury when friends my age are swapping NY Times bestsellers and chatting me up about colonial-era documentaries, they caught on History Channel. With this new hobby, not only did I have license to read and watch every vampiric/apocalyptic/sea monstery/zombified/rat infested/axe-wielding narrative out there, hell! It was required research, and I no longer had to hide it.
Though sometimes, truth be told, I will still roll my eyes when I tell my friends I MUST watch a horror movie. I still feel like it is important to pretend I do not WANT to do this with my spare time. Poor me, I am only doing crucial research, while I go khaki pajama-land, seize a comfy blanket, light some colored wax, and pop butter-infused kernels.
Anyway, I highly recommend you adopt a craft that is nothing like your day job. Talk about a de-stressor. I am so lucky so late in life to have found mine.
My new adage? Don’t decide at any stage of life who you are. Focus instead on who you want to be. My college students seem to say it best, though I am not sure how trendy the expression will be in the near future, it has been circumventing the globe a while now. They say, "Do You."
Are you “doing you” these days? 😊 Something to consider.
DON'T SKIP THE BIO ON THIS ONE!😊
BIO: J.C. Raye's stories are also found in anthologies with Belanger Books, Chthonic Matter, Scary Dairy, Devil's Party Press, Books & Boos, Franklin/Kerr, and Jolly Horror to name a few. More stories in 2020 with Rooster Republic/Strangehouse Books, Transmundane, and Gravelight Press.
What does she write about? Hmmm...potato chip bag creatures on the beach, possessed monkey bridges in Vietnam, inept Inuit shamans in Alaska, crime sprees with cockroaches in the deep south, Pennsylvania tea bugs, witch addictions in Salem, and dust storm bunnies in Kansas. Yep. You got it. She is all over the damn place and clearly has some issues. Suffice to say, her tales will bother you long after you donate the paperback to goodwill.
Why horror & sci-fi, you ask? For 20 years, she's been a professor at a small community college teaching the most feared course on the planet: Public Speaking. Witnessing grown people openly weep, beg, scream, freak out, and pass out is just another delightful day on the job for her. And it is not just the students she upsets. For the last four years, she’s led a college-wide campaign to assist her colleagues in locating free, current, credible text resources and break the hold of the expensive corporate publishers. Right, so those companies and even some of the faculty are mad at her too. She’s just particularly good at getting under the skin.
Of course, her parents raised her all wrong too. Cause isn't that what parents do? Sitting her down in front of the same films they were watching. Ahh, the days of one shared screen for the whole family. Her clearest, youngest memories include The Poseidon Adventure, Night of the Living Dead, The Shining, Baron Blood, and Suspiria. Sorry there, Disney.
She's won numerous artistic & academic awards over the years for her projects in Communication and Film, and seats in her classes sell quicker than tickets to a Rolling Stones concert. J.C. also loves goats of any kind, especially the ones that faint.
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/J.C.-Raye/e/B0762F5MM8/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_8