Last week, I spoke with Carol Gyzander about how she’s adapted to the challenges of writing during the pandemic and she gave a little backstory about Writerpunk Press.
This week, Girl Meets Monster welcomes Patrick Freivald, who I affectionately refer to as a belligerent nerd. Patrick is a writer, teacher, gourmand, and bee keeper who makes honey that will burn your soul, among other things.
Patrick Freivald is a four-time Bram Stoker Award® nominated author, a high school teacher (physics, robotics, American Sign Language), and a beekeeper specializing in hot pepper infused honey. He lives in Western New York with his beautiful wife, parrots, dogs, cats, chickens, and several million stinging insects. A member of the Horror Writers Association and the International Thriller Writers, he’s always had a soft spot for slavering monsters of all kinds. He is the author of eight novels and dozens of short stories, from hyper-violent kickass thrillers and teen zombie melodramas to science fiction, horror and fantasy. Find him at Patrick.Freivald.com, on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and at www.FrogsPointHoney.com.
GMM: Welcome to Girl Meets Monster, Patrick. Your Instagram account is one of the most interesting ones I follow because it gives a tangible snapshot of many of the different aspects of your life: bee keeping, honey making, cooking, teaching, your pets, your wife, and occasionally promotions for your writing. Has social media helped with the promotion of your books? Your honey business? Were you using social media as frequently as you do now before the pandemic? Do you view your social media accounts as an outlet for creativity?
PF: I handle my Instagram rather differently than my Facebook. Instagram is all about food, family, cute critters, maybe a little about teaching (though I try to keep my teaching and my social media very, very separate, ESPECIALLY given the level of vulgarity and cannibalism jokes I’ve actively cultivated on my Facebook page), while Facebook is a mind-dump of whatever’s bouncing around in my skull. Social media has definitely helped with marketing both books and Hot Honey, though by and large I think that’s because it’s been an effective way of marketing myself. I post about whatever I want–science and technology, writing, funny gifs/memes, articles about science or politics or gaming or religion or whatever strikes me as interesting. I sometimes get caught out by people thinking that just because I’ve shared something means that I believe it hook, line, and sinker, but that’s a “them” problem, not a “me” problem…usually my commentary is enough for a reasonably astute person to realize that it’s unlikely I’m fully onboard with whatever I’m sharing. And I’m rarely fully on-board with something someone else wrote.
Facebook has been awesome at promoting Frogs Point Honey (www.FrogsPointHoney.com) — a good number of people hate food posts, but lots of people love them, and I love them, so when I post delicious food things that feature Hot Honey or Rubbit or what-have-you, it draws new and existing customers often enough. The business has built up quite nicely over the past five years, and that’s with pretty much entirely word of mouth advertising, and almost all of that coming from Facebook.
I’m not using Facebook any less than before, and no more, either. I post way too often, to the extent that some people think it must be a managed page rather than just one dude with an obsessive streak and a smart phone, but I’ve been that way with online interactions since the bulletin boards of the early 1990s. When it comes to Facebook as a marketing tool, if all you do is post your own stuff then no matter how interesting you are you’re not going to get a lot of oomph out of your effort–you’ll share a bunch of stuff and get crickets in return. You have to like other people’s stuff, comment, share, etc.; and don’t do it just to game the algorithm, do it because you’ve surrounded yourself with interesting, cool people worth engaging with. It’s an opportunity to be social, to be creative, to share who you are and what you find interesting with the world.
GMM: Tell me about your latest release, Murmur. What is the premise of the book, and what inspired the story? Some of the words used to describe the book include “magical, disturbing, erotic…”. I tend to combine horror and erotica in my own fiction, and I’m always curious about writers who do the same. Why do you think horror and sex make a good pairing in fiction? Is it more difficult to write the sex scenes or the horror? Do you combine the two, or keep them separate in the narrative?
PF: Murmur is, fundamentally, about an affluent New York socialite being sexually stalked by a demon while trying to contend with the one bound to him, that he keeps in a prescription bottle. The inspiration is a combination of an old roleplaying game character and being really disappointed with a movie I’d just watched about demonic possession–it turned out to be very much the same-old same-old, extraordinarily Catholic-themed Exorcist riff, and there’s just so, so much of that out there. So I wrote a book about a kind of half-possessed guy who’d been that way for over a decade and was at a sort of détente with his “pocket demon”, Murmur.
Sex and horror make a good pairing because sex is often beautiful and wonderful and sometimes horrific and awful (at the time or later), we’ve all got our own experiences to bring to the table when we read or watch, and both lend themselves to a great deal of catharsis. I absolutely combine the two–I was somewhat inspired by David Cronenberg’s A History of Violence (starring Viggo Mortensen and Maria Bello, with amazing support from William Hurt and Ed Harris). There are two sex scenes in that movie, the first very playful and loving, and the second very raw and downright angry, and they’re between the same two people, who are husband and wife, after some rather serious revelations upend their relationship. I don’t know that I’ve seen sex used to portray the evolution of characters and their relationships done that well anywhere else, and after rewatching it on cable I started chewing on the idea of sex as a storytelling device. The book is kind of smutty, but oh yeah do the sex and horror merge as things progress. Davis is an unreliable narrator who sees Hell and the real world overlapped all the time, and that lends to a lot of opportunities for really trippy body horror and gore amid the naked wumpledance. I took those opportunities, with gusto.
GMM: You mentioned that the flash piece you submitted as your fragment was written during Borderlands Boot Camp. Can you tell me about your experience participating in that program? What initially drew you to enroll? What did you learn about your own writing? Did you come away with some new skills or tricks to improve your writing? Would you recommend the Borderlands Boot Camp to other writers, and why?
PF: Borderlands is awesome–it’s three days cooped up in a hotel with a bunch of other writers, with workshops specifically tailored toward making you a better writer, run by absolute giants of the genre. The year I went they had the three regulars of Tom Monteleone, F. Paul Wilson, and Doug Winter, and also the recently-retired editor Ginjer Buchanan and some guy you may have heard of named Peter Straub. They, and all of the attendees, each read your work and gave targeted, specific feedback–and then you had basically overnight to bang out a story using what you learned. It’s pretty grueling, but you make a lot of friends and learn a lot of things you didn’t realize you needed to learn.
I enrolled because almost all of my beta reading group are alums, they’re all fantastic writers, and they all said it was 100% worth the time and money. I learned that the only person who hates words more than I do is Doug Winter–I have a rather terse style, and he cut the bejeezus out of my manuscript, which was awesome. Ginjer had some really insightful points about the evolution of society between now and the future setting of my work, which threw my perspective on science fiction off-kilter a bit in all the right ways; in particular she asked, “Why would these people be married? I don’t believe that the institution of marriage would have survived, at least not in any form we’d really recognize”–and it was a fantastic question, and made me question a lot of assumptions I hadn’t thought to previously.
If you have the money and the time, Borderlands is absolutely worth it.
A Spiteful Man
By Patrick Freivald
“I am a sick man…I am a spiteful man.”
Anna muttered the words again and blinked away tears that obscured her daughter’s image through the scope. She took her finger off the trigger, then tossed the rifle, wig, and sunglasses in the trunk. Squeals of panic and laughter scattered across the field; a boy had plopped a toad onto Sally Walker’s lap.
“Stupid bitch. Stupid coward bitch.” Henry’s words spilled from Anna’s lips as she peeled off the latex gloves and stuffed them into her pocket. Real change took courage. Boldness. All those things Henry never let her be.
She got in the car.
Twelve minutes home, twenty to clean up and get dinner on the table.
He trudged in on cue, scowled at the kitchen table.
Through sheer will her wince became a smile.
“How was work, Sweetie?”
His tools clanked against the floor, canvas bag toppling against the mound of yellowing newspapers she’d take to the dump some day.
“The fuck is this?”
“Dinner.” She patted his chair. “Stephanie’ll be down in a minute.”
He scowled, opened the fridge and popped a beer. With a grease-stained hand he scooped the fish sticks from his plate, then plucked up the rest from Steph’s.
“She doesn’t need ‘em.”
Anna grabbed his wrist. “Those’re for—”
Light shattered her equilibrium, white hot. Pain spread, red and warm across her jaw. Beer spattered the floor, the wood cool on her cheek. Henry’s boot dug into her back, steel toe a knife in her kidney.
“Your. Daughter. Don’t. Eat. Stop throwing good money after that stupid kid.”
With another beer he disappeared into the living room.
Spiteful man. Hated his wife, hated her daughter. The kind of man ain’t worthy to raise a child, ain’t worthy to walk free. Too stomach-sick to eat, she mopped up the mess and threw her dinner in the garbage before shuffling next to the TV, careful not to block the game.
“You need anything, Baby?”
Henry drained his beer and dropped the can on the floor. She took it and fetched another. And another and another. Drunk past sulking, he’d sleep, and they’d be safe.
She jerked away as Frank touched her cheek.
“I said I fell. That badge make you deaf and stupid?”
He leaned against his patrol car, gave her the same cute scowl she’d loved in high school.
“Press charges. I’ll help.”
“I ain’t calling social. They kill families.”
“C’mon, Annie. You got to get out of there. He’s gonna hurt you. I mean, worse.”
“Oh, we’re getting out. I got a plan for me and Steph.”
Frank kicked dirt. “You can stay with me and Bev a while. We got a spare room, car you can borrow when I’m at work. Maybe get you a job down at Lucky’s?”
“I said I got a plan. Henry gon’ shit what’s comin’ his way.”
“Don’t get too clever, Babe.”
“I ain’t. And I ain’t your babe no more.”
“You fuck with him he could really hurt you.”
She met his gaze. “Oh, he ain’t never hurting us again. Bank on it.”
She wagged a finger. “A lady don’t kiss an’ tell.”
“Lady?” He ran his tongue over his teeth. “Tell me when you find one, would ya?”
“I am a sick man…I am a spiteful man.” The stupid wig slipped. A year’s worth of hair rubber banded to a shower cap, some of it had to end up on the ground.
The tick-tock of the swing brought the blond boy into sight at regular intervals. Anna’s bruise throbbed against the wood stock, every pulse a reminder of that sickness, that spite.
Four-fifty. Time enough for Henry to get here, not enough to get home.
She breathed out, held it, and pulled the trigger. The rifle jerked, impossibly loud. Ears ringing, she watched straw-yellow hair puff red before she cycled the chamber.
Red hair, blue shirt. Ben spun to the dirt as the round hit him high-right.
Timmy gaped at nothing until Anna sprayed his guts across the gravel next to the swing.
Running, now. Panic. Bridget’s mom dragged her behind the tractor tire sandbox. Anna took her knee with the fourth shot, rolled, and bolted for the car.
Flushed, breathless, she sat at the table, hands folded. Henry’s rifle lay in its case, bullets in their box. The gloves and wig and spent brass drowned at the bottom of Frog’s Point, weighed down with lead from Henry’s reloader in case the cops found them. Dinner sat on the table, three plates of all-day roast she’d have had to baby hours and hours if she hadn’t have cooked and frozen it three weeks earlier.
Henry kicked the shit out of her anyway, and she managed not to smile through it.
Upstairs, Steph slept. Safe.
“You okay?” Frank hugged her, maybe too tight for proper, them standing in his guest room with his wife at work.
“I’m good. Real good. First time in a long while, you know. You?”
He scowled. “I had—doesn’t matter. We nailed the bastard. That’s what counts. He…what kind of sick fuck does that?”
She shrugged, looked away. “Don’t know, you know? A monster, the real kind. I’m just…I’m just glad Stephanie weren’t there. We’re free. Finally free.”
Frank frowned. “Steph’s dead, Annie.”
“Dead? No, she’s right…” She scanned the empty room.
“Gone. She’s gone.” Frank squeezed, his embrace warm and welcome and full of poison. “I’m sorry, Sugar.”
“Nonononono. She ain’t dead. Not dead. She can’t, I only shot, it was just the boys. Ain’t no way she’s…She’s okay. Steph’s just fine. It was just boys.” Frank stiffened, stepped back. He plucked the picture from her bedside table, ran his finger down the image of her daughter’s soft cheek. “She’d have been beautiful, our girl. But it’s been nine years, Honey. We’ve both moved on. You got to let this go.”
Do you have a fiction fragment? How about your friends? Would you like to recommend someone to me aside from yourself? Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. See you next week!
Guidelines: Submit 500-1000 words of fiction, up to 5 poems, a short bio, and a recent author photo to the e-mail above.