woensdag 27 juni 2012

Interview with author R. Murry

Hey all!

Todays interview is with author R. Murry who is a Newbie Author at age 64, who has been writing most of his life in a personal journal. He trained in the last couple of years to write this novel, and it paid off with the publishing of his book by Black Rose Writing in March 2012.

Books & Writing: Do you remember the first story you wrote?

R. Murry: Not really. What I do remember is that my Bentley College American Literature professor told me I could write 37 years ago. She gave me four 4.0 grades for my journals, which were critiques on American Authors’ Books.  

Books & Writing: Where you inspired by someone or something?

R. Murry: Yes. I was inspired by one of Dr. Wayne W. Dyer’s sayings paraphrased: Don’t let the song in you die with you. I read this a few years ago and said to myself: “I’m going to write my book.” And I did.

Books & Writing: What do you like about writing a story?

R. Murry: The time being alone with my characters – developing them, re-writing, and seeing the final draft.  I’m still re-writing when I read my book for others.

Books & Writing: Can you tell us a bit about your book The Audubon Caper.

R. Murry: As you know, this is a true crime autobiography. It’s the story of a time in my life I can’t forget, because it defines who I am today. I had to get this story out so people would know the untold story of the theft of John James Audubon’s prints from their home in Key West, Florida in 1977.

I’m the man in the middle who makes choices that leads to my life hanging on the edge and being place on the U.S. Witness Protection Program with my pregnant wife. The story starts there. Going to trial I tell the story and it ends with the trial where I’m the star witness for the U. S. Prosecution. 

Books & Writing: Are you working on something new at the moment.

R. Murry: I am working on my second novel The Three Wives of Don Quixote Smith. It’s the story of three women who use one man to get their U.S Citizenship. They tell their story from their point of view.

Also, I started a blog, using my developed critique abilities, to read and review Twitter Writes’ Books sold in that social media. The name of the blog is www.conniesbrother.blogspot.com .

Books & Writing: Do you have any tips for aspiring authors?

R. Murry: Firstly, make certain that writing is your calling, because if you’re not willing to write, write, re-write, and re-write, you will not succeed.  You must have patience and work hard at your endeavor.

Books & Writing: Which authors inspired you?

R. Murry: Mark Twain; Ralph Waldo Emerson; and Henry David Thoreau.  They believe in keeping the written word real and simple.

Books & Writing: Where can people go and read your work?

R. Murry: The Audubon Caper: The Untold Story of the Theft of an American Treasure can be found on both Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble.com:



Books & Writing: Where can people find you on the internet?

R. Murry: On FB: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Audubon-Caper/113280662134003, on Twitter: @roylmurry425, and at: www.conniesbrother.blogspot.com

Books & Writing: Is there anything else you want to share with readers?

R. Murry: Not really. Just keep on reading, because Authors need you – you’re part of the Art of Writing.

maandag 25 juni 2012

Interview with author Mark Cassell

Hey again!

This time I had the pleasure of interviewing author Mark Cassell, about his writing and books :)

Books & Writing: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Mark Cassell: I live in a quiet country village in Kent with my wife Helen, and a number of animals.  We had seamonkeys once, but they didn't last long.  I've been several things in life after being a paperboy: I was a baker, then a laboratory technician, and currently I've got the freedom of self-employment as a driving instructor.  Gives me the opportunity to organise my diary so I can find time to write.

Deep down I've always been a writer.  I've had short stories and poetry published in magazines and on various websites.  Back in '96 the second New Voices Anthology was released in paperback and that featured one of my stories.  I was also shortlisted in an international short story competition – narrowly missed that one!

Books & Writing: Do you remember the first story you wrote?

Mark Cassell: Okay, so I must've been about six or seven years old, not too sure, but I distinctly remember that I even cut the paper into shape (badly) and taped the thing together – you know, to bind it like a proper book.  It was called 'The Clockwork Man' (perhaps an early stab at steampunk?) and it was about a clockwork man funny enough.  Actually, I think he was more of a clockwork boy.  His mother had a problem with her arm, I think her mechanism was faulty or something, and the only thing the clockwork man could do was to find a piece of wire with which to fix it.  Well, he looked everywhere and eventually found one in the boot of their car.

That story did have a beginning, a middle and an end, so it was a real story.  And I guess it had a bit of conflict in there too.  No idea where it is now though.  I really hope my story writing's improved since then...

Books & Writing: Were you inspired by someone or something?

Mark Cassell: That's a tricky one.  In the early '90s I read a heap of James Herbert, Shaun Hutson and the compulsory Stephen King.  Plus I watched plenty of Hammer Horror movies.  I guess it was a massive combo of that lot and also my English teacher telling me to stop mucking about in class.  He believed I was capable of more, and it snowballed from there.  So I took off my Jester hat – but only in English class – and after that, each story I wrote received top grades.

Books & Writing: What do you love about writing a story?

Mark Cassell: Freedom of speech – or the written word equivalent.  Just get out what you've got in there (*tapping head).  If it's a load of rubbish then sift through it till something coherent comes out.  Then it's fun to pass it on for others to read, and of course listen to their feedback.  Sheepishly, in most cases.  I just love telling tales.  When you've got an imagination, it's fun to share.

Books & Writing: Can you tell us a bit about your upcoming book “The Shadow Fabric”, and the main character(s)?

Mark Cassell: It's a novel about sins, shadows and the reanimated dead.  Yeah, 'reanimated' – not zombies as such.  It follows Leo, a man who has no recollection of his past.  Starting a new life he begins working for a cranky old guy called Victor, and Leo witnesses him kill his own brother.  Chased by both his past and the Shadow Fabric, Leo is dragged into a darkness that touches on the history of witchcraft.  He soon begins to mistrust everything and everyone... including himself.

Books & Writing: How did you come up with the story for the book?

Mark Cassell: The title I've had knocking around for something stupid like 20 years!  But it wasn't until my wife bought me a chunky notebook for Christmas did the ideas begin to flow... and they really did: word association with anything to do with shadows and darkness, and then witches and reanimating the dead.  And also the Great Fire of London.  It went crazy, and after discarding the unoriginal ideas I jotted down scenes on little squares of paper and stuck them to the wall in my study.  Then rearranging them almost randomly, I had to fill in the gaps to create a timeline.  Eventually I reached the last page of that notebook and had the makings of a novel.  Now looking at that notebook, I can see how the story developed, and it’s quite amazing how many of my daft little doodles inspired me.

Books & Writing: I understand you wrote a 55,000 word novel for NaNoWriMo called "Heroes of Sol". Can you tell us a bit about that?

Mark Cassell: I did, yes.  That was fun: write at least 50,000 words in the month of November (this was back in 2010).  Thirty days of hardcore writing.  I got myself up every single morning at 5 AM, and just had to write for an hour or so before work...  Some of it was crap – just really badly written, but the point of NaNoWriMo is just to get it written.  I'd roughly plotted the novel a few weeks beforehand and come November 1st began writing it chapter by chapter, so the story did flow.  Only some mornings my muse didn't wake up with me, but I forced my hand without him.

It's a Young Adult novel of a boy named Kuo who runs away from home and joins up with the Heroes of Sol.  He ends up saving the world from the all-consuming Darknest.  The story has a few twists and turns, but there simply isn't enough characterisation.  There's a lot of shadows and darkness, which I guess sparked several ideas for The Shadow Fabric.  One thing NaNoWriMo taught me though, and that was that I could find time to write.  And that proved to be the catalyst for me to attack a 'proper' novel.

Books & Writing: You started out writing short stories. What attracts you in those?

Mark Cassell: I think you've got to start somewhere, and I guess going straight into a novel isn't going to work – though it may work for plenty of others.  I don't know.  For me, it was to learn the craft of writing.  To find my voice, if you like.

Books & Writing: Which genre is your favorite?

Mark Cassell: It's been horror all the way.  Always supernatural horror.  Not mankind's horror, you know?  Not real gore and graphic violence, I don't like that... I'm talking about the horror that exists on the other side of what we can see.  Yes, in the shadows.  Over the years I've read all sorts of genres, but nothing quite swings it for me.  Always I come back to the horror novel.

Books & Writing: Are you working on something new?

Mark Cassell: I am, yes.  My second novel.  Though I'm on one of the final drafts of The Shadow Fabric, so I'm concentrating on fine-tuning that right now.  But my new project is beginning to surface.  At the moment it's got the working title of 'Beneath' – I've been toying with some left-over scribbles from The Shadow Fabric.  Perhaps it'll be a sequel.  Or maybe not a sequel as such, but I guess it'll be related somehow.  Like the offspring of your cousin.

Books & Writing: Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

Mark Cassell: I think that if you intend to write – and be successful – you've got to recognise that we all have the potential to write a load of crap.  Really.  And it's your job to learn from that.  From there, when you've got your piece written, whatever it is, just edit.  Edit, edit, edit and edit.  Sharpen it till the damn thing gleams.

Books & Writing: Which author inspires you?

Mark Cassell: Always difficult to point at one in particular, so I'm going to give you three.  Firstly, the imagination of Brian Lumley and the awesome crafting of his Necroscope series in which he perfects the crossovers between horror and fantasy.  There’s a slice of sci-fi in there too.  Next, I've got to say the boundary-leaping Clive Barker: his supernatural stuff is off the chart.  It's always been awesome.  I love his films too.  Hellraiser: brilliant.  Finally, there's Stephen King – when you write horror, how can you not look up to that man?

Books & Writing: Where can people go and read your work?

Mark Cassell: Well, maybe it's possible to dig up a copy of ‘The New Voices Anthology 2’ and you'll find my short story called Brother in there.  Also if you've got a few writer's mags hanging around you might find me in those, but I am on the internet.  I'll soon be seeking an agent to represent The Shadow Fabric, so that's my next step.  I want to go down the right channels once I've finished tweeking it.  It’s nearly there.

Books & Writing: Where can people find you on the internet?

Mark Cassell: www.markcassell.com mainly.  I've yet to add some of my short stories there but I'm working on it. I'm promoting www.theshadowfabric.co.uk too, just to generate some interest and maybe attract the eye of an agent out there.  You never know, right? Plus, you can follow me on Twitter : @mark_cassell

Books & Writing: Is there anything else you want to share with the readers?

Mark Cassell: I just want to say thanks.  To you firstly, for having me here – I think it's great what you're doing for us authors.  And of course I've got to say thanks to the people reading this.  Ha!  And not just my family and friends.  To all of you: pleased to meet you guys...  When The Shadow Fabric's published go get it.  Buy it, enjoy it.  You'll enjoy it, I'm sure.  Then tell your friends we've met someplace before.

Below is an excerpt from "The Shadow Fabric"!


Staring into his brother’s dead eyes as the body vanished into the shrinking swirls of darkness, Victor stumbled backwards.  I could see a mix of emotions flash across his face, his bushy grey eyebrows dancing.  He looked first from the bloody knife clutched tight in a white fist, then to the rapidly retreating shadows.  The hammering of the mantelpiece clock counted out long seconds before that ornate blade slipped from hand to carpet.  It bounced with a red splash and yanked him from immobility.  He fell to his knees.

            “Oh good God.”

            Watching a grown man cry is never a good thing.  Being witness to a murder is worse… and then there’s that moment in your life where all you’ve believed real is whipped from under you, and you’re left to survive in a world that’s a lie; its backbone revealed as some pliable matter betraying everything – absolutely everything – you’ve ever known.  All the things in life you’ve taken for granted are sheathed in weak veneers.

            I bounded across the room as much as my knee allowed, and staggered to a halt beside my boss.  At some point on that awkward dash I’d dropped the BMW’s keys.  Sobs wracked Victor’s frame and I placed a hand on his bony shoulder.  I stared into the empty space where Stanley had been, the violin case still open like a crooked yawn.  I had no words for that moment; no words at all.

            On reflection, Victor wouldn’t have been surprised that the shadows had taken his brother.  After all, those shadows – that darkness – is associated with all that is dead... or should be dead.

            I don’t know how long we both stayed like that, with the light creeping almost with reluctance back into the room.  Silence drenched the air like we were buried.

            When I took to writing this I didn’t know where to begin, and so to get my hesitant fingers moving I’ve chosen to start at the moment where I lost touch of what was real.  From then, everything became disconnected from the plain and simple, and from there it got stranger still.

            I shall, however, rewind to a suitable beginning; to the first few stages of my new life…

donderdag 21 juni 2012

Interview with author duo Wodke Hawkinson


Todays interview is with author duo Wodke Hawkinson which is the name under which authors K Wodke and PJ Hawkinson release their co-written works. They live in the central United States in different cities and do a lot of their writing via email and phone. Karen and PJ have been friends for years, but only began writing together in 2009.

Books & Writing: Do you remember the first story you wrote?

Karen: I don’t remember the first story I wrote, but PJ and I used to write silly stories in high school. I remember some of those.

PJ: Karen’s answer is mine also. We have a collection of our earlier writings and they are quite unique.

Books & Writing: Were you inspired by someone or something?

Karen: Great writing, no matter who produces it, always inspires me. Sometimes inspiration can come from a photograph, an overheard conversation, or even a dream.

PJ: My first novel, Half Bitten, was inspired from reading the Twilight Series by Stephenie Meyer and the True Blood series by Charlaine Harris.

Books & Writing: What do you love about writing a story?

Karen: The part I love happens after the initial idea or plan is formulated, when I actually start putting the words on the page.

PJ: I love the beginning of an idea for a story or novel. Sometimes I can’t wait to get them on paper. We have many of these beginnings that we can hopefully use someday.

Books & Writing: I understand you have written several books. Which one is your favorite?

Karen: This is a hard choice. I think I like our anthology, Blue, the best, although Betrayed would be a close second. Perhaps we haven’t even written my favorite yet.

PJ: The most challenging book we’ve written to date is the one that will soon be released. As far as a favorite, I’d have to say Betrayed.

Books & Writing: Can you tell us a bit about your last book “Betrayed”, and the main character(s)

Karen & PJ: Betrayed is about Brook, a woman who is taken captive during a carjacking and held by brutal men for several days. She escapes only to end up lost in the Colorado wilderness at the beginning of a harsh winter. When she’s running from her captors, she stumbles across a wild-looking mountain man, Lance, and fears he will harm her, too. Betrayed contains scenes of graphic violence, but it also contains a tale of tender love.

Books & Writing: How did you come up with the story for the book

Karen: Betrayed combined a story idea of mine with one of PJ’s. When we were discussing our characters for our different stories, we suddenly realized they belonged in the same book.

PJ: Karen is correct and the two ideas meshed wonderfully.

Books & Writing: I understand you have also written a version of the book with a different ending. Why did you decide to do that?

Karen: A reader actually inspired the idea. I’ll let PJ tell you how that came about.

PJ: A close friend mentioned he had been looking forward to Brook gaining revenge and it wasn’t until he only had ten pages remaining to read that he realized there were to be no killings. This got me to thinking about writing an alternate ending in which Brook does get revenge; thus, Betrayed-Alternate Ending came to life.

Books & Writing: What is it like to be a writers duo?

Karen: Working with a co-writer is like having an extra set of eyes and a complete extra brain. It helps that we were friends for years before becoming co-authors. It’s also very beneficial that we have similar writing styles and the same tenacity when it comes to editing and revision.

PJ: Karen and I complement each other in our writings. If one of us gets hung up on a portion of the story, we pull from the other.

Books & Writing: How do you create a story with two writers?

Karen: It involves a lot of discussion and sometimes a bit of compromise. We don’t always agree, but at least we haven’t killed each other yet.

PJ: Our short story books were the funniest since we both had such diverse ideas. And though I balked at our writing our next release (not because it isn’t a great idea, just because I can’t stand one of our characters), I finally buckled down and we got the job done.

Books & Writing: You have also written some short stories. What attracts you in those?

Karen: Short stories are like mini-books. What I like about writing a short story is how you must condense the action and try to capture a briefer slice of the bigger tale, kind of like a snapshot of a particular time in the characters’ lives.

PJ: We also enjoyed writing one story in each book where we both took the same characters or idea and came up with two entirely different angles. It was fun.

Books & Writing: Which genre is your favorite?

Karen: I can’t choose just one.

PJ: I like all genres of books, the same way I enjoy an eclectic taste in music.

Books & Writing: Are you working on something new?

Karen: We are just finishing our next novel, Zeke, and after that are considering writing a fantasy.

PJ: I think the fantasy idea we have will be our next novel; but, one can never be sure what will happen tomorrow.

Books & Writing: Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

Karen: Write often and edit even more. Produce the best quality you can, and then you can believe in yourself. It’s critical that you believe in yourself.

PJ: I agree with Karen and I can’t stress the editing part enough. You must edit your writing, then you must edit, and after that, you must edit once again. Even then, it is possible to miss something.

Books & Writing: Which author inspires you?

Karen: All well-written and entertaining writing is inspiring to me. I like Tolkien, Stephen King, Jerzy Kozinski, Jenefer Schute, Asimov and many others. I enjoy books I can get lost in.

PJ: I like JRR Tolkien, Stephen King, Piers Anthony (Xanth Series), JK Rowlings, Robert Heinlein, and the list goes on and on.

Books & Writing: Where can people go and read your work?

Karen & PJ: Our books are on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.

Books & Writing: Where can people find you on internet?

Karen & PJ: Wodke Hawkinson author website: http://wodke-hawkinson.com/

Website for readers & indie authors: http://findagoodbooktoread.com/

Books & Writing: Is there anything else you want to share with the readers?

Karen & PJ: We would like to thank them. Time is valuable, and in short supply these days. We are honored when readers spend their reading time with us.

Books & Writing: Below is an excerpt from the book Betrayed!

She had lost the stream and was thirsty again, and the cold had reclaimed her. She took small mouthfuls of snow, but it did nothing to ease the parched feeling in her mouth and throat, and she had started to shiver again. It was another half hour before she found a shallow rain puddle in the hollow of a large flat rock. She broke through the paper-thin crust of ice over the water, and drank deeply before moving on.

The woods grew denser, and the ground became riddled with knobby roots and half-buried stones. Her progress was slow and painful. After a while, she came to a game path, hard packed dirt with few rocks. Brook thanked God for giving her a way relatively clear of obstacles. She crawled onto the path, brushing stray branches and rocks from the ground as she went, making her way steadily onward, putting more and more distance between herself and the wrecked car. The shirt she wore was now wet and clung to her skin like a layer of frost.

Snow began to accumulate under the wide-spreading branches overhanging the trail. But, so far it was just a light covering, and for this she was grateful.

After a while, she tried to stand again, pulling herself upright with the help of a tree. Pain radiated up her legs, but her feet were numb from the cold and she found she could stumble along at a slow pace. It seemed she had been wandering for hours. Providing she hadn’t been going in circles, she calculated that she should be miles from the car by now. But she could see no help in sight and no foreseeable end to her misery. She had heard that freezing to death was a peaceful way to go. Brook couldn’t imagine how that could possibly be true as she stood quaking in the frigid air. She assumed she would eventually just lie down and close her eyes, and then it would all be over. She would just fall asleep and never wake up. Tears stung her eyes again. She didn’t want to die! Keep moving, said a small voice in her head. Keep moving.

Her feet grew heavy and her limbs ached with exhaustion. Brook realized she was probably traveling further away from any possibility of help, but she had no idea which way to turn. There was nothing but trees in all directions. Trees and more trees. And she was so tired. She focused on the mechanics of taking a step. First lift one foot. Then set it down. Then lift the other. Set it down. Moving very slowly now, she trudged on.

It began to feel as if she were sleepwalking. Shadows darted here and there in the trees at the periphery of her vision, but when she turned her head to look, she saw nothing. Faint music reached her ears, like a radio playing far off. A chorus sang in perfect harmony. Angels, Brook decided with a weary smile. She strained toward the sweet voices, but each time she concentrated on the sound, it faded. I'm dreaming, but I'm awake. With dull surprise, she became aware that she no longer felt the cold. Groggy as she was, she still knew it wasn't a good sign. I won't sleep. I won't sleep. Head hanging, Brook pushed herself forward, one difficult step after another.

She stumbled into a clearing at the same time she heard another nightmarish scream. Unlike the earlier screams, this one was deeper, sounding as if it were wrenched from the throat of a demented being. It jolted her from her daze. Jerking her head up and scanning the area ahead of her, Brook’s gaze fell upon a madman. He stood before her, holding the bloody remains of a body. Long straggly hair hung wild about a bearded face, and streaks of blood smeared his cheeks and clothes. He threw back his head and howled again, as if enraged or locked in the throes of some sick passion.

Shock slammed through Brook. Before she could stop herself, she cried out. The crazy man turned his head. Surprised eyes met hers, and she felt an icy fear slither down her spine. For a long moment, neither of them moved. Then her survival instincts kicked in, flooded her system with a healthy dose of adrenaline, and she turned to flee from the killer. Slipping on the snow-slick humus, she scrambled for purchase, found her footing, and ran face first into a tree. There was a sharp thwack as her forehead made contact with the wood. She slumped gracelessly to the forest floor and was still.

zaterdag 16 juni 2012

Interview with author Allen Schatz


My latest interview is with author Allen Schatz who was born and raised in the Philadelphia area (Pennsylvania, USA) and will always consider that his “home”. For the past 15 years or so he has lived in southwestern PA with his wife. They have two adult children. His “day” job is as a financial and accounting professional. Other pastimes include umpiring youth baseball and writing, of course. People will notice most of these characteristics are integral components of his novels.

Books & Writing: Do you remember the first story you wrote?

Allen Schatz: Oddly enough, or not oddly, GAME 7: DEAD BALL is the first real story I’ve written. That’s not to say writing hasn’t been a big part of my life. It is, however, the first formal attempt to create a story. Prior to that, my writing was more business-related writing in my jobs, as well as personal letters and such. Throughout that time, however, I did hear a lot of “you should be a writer” comments.

Books & Writing: Were you inspired by someone or something?

Allen Schatz: Mostly it was a feeling of “I’ve always wanted to try this.” There wasn’t a particular event or person I can say inspired it to happen.

Books & Writing: What do you love about writing a story?

Allen Schatz: The creativity and freedom to explore things real life doesn’t let you do. I can go anywhere at any time without restrictions – like time or money. That’s what makes it fun. There are no “can’t” barriers in writing. If you can imagine it, you can write it.

Books & Writing: Can you tell us a bit about the series of books you published and the main character Marshall Connors?

Allen Schatz: Marshall is the “me” I never was, an alter ego if you will. Many things in his life are very similar to things in my life – not the situations he finds himself in the middle of, but more personal things. As for the stories, I’ve always been a fan of mysteries. I wanted to combine my love of baseball into a mystery, similar to what Dick Francis did with horse racing.

Books & Writing: How did you come up with the story for the books and the character Marshall Connors?

Allen Schatz: I think the idea came out of how in sports, especially playoffs, there is a building intensity until the final game of a series or championship. I thought it would be cool to place a wider mystery within that environment, where off the field things intertwined with on the field events, to create something no one else had done. I decided Marshall would be something not expected, in this case a baseball umpire. I also then made him more of a reluctant hero because no one would expect an umpire to be such.

Books & Writing: I understand your love of baseball is the basis for the Marshall Connors series. Do you plan to write about something else in the future?

Allen Schatz: I think I will, yes. I’m sure baseball is always going to play a role in anything I write, but there are endless possibilities on doing that. I may also step into some other sports as well.

Books & Writing: What does your family think about your writing?

Allen Schatz: My wife and children think it is cool. A few of my other relatives are really excited by it as well. Some others don’t seem to have an opinion one way or the other. I find from talking to other writers, that’s about normal. A lot of people don’t really see writing as “a job” per se, maybe because most can’t really do it with much success.

Books & Writing: Are you working on something new?

Allen Schatz: I’m working on the next Marshall Connors story. It is tentatively titled “Liars Ball” and I hope to release it sometime this year. Most of the favorite characters will return, to the extent they can.

Books & Writing: Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

Allen Schatz: Start early. If this is what you love, don’t tuck it away until you’re in your late 40’s, like me. Grab hold of it and don’t let go. Publishing is changing and being part of this now is very exciting. Take the journey and make it your life.

Books & Writing: Where can people go and read your work?

Allen Schatz: Samples of my books are available on all of the websites where the books are sold. Visit www.allenschatz.com/wherebuy.html to find links to the eBook versions. At those links you’ll find additional links to sample portions.

Books & Writing: Where can people find you on internet?

Allen Schatz: I have a website: www.allenschatz.com. I’m also on Twitter (@raschatz) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/AllenSchatzWriting ).

Books & Writing: Is there anything else you want to share with the readers?

Allen Schatz: Visit the blog link on my website for past posts with other thoughts on writing.

Below is an excerpt from the book Game 7 Deadball!

June 20, 1997

Bluefield, West Virginia

Opening day for the minor league Bluefield Orioles baseball team was one of the few bright spots in this otherwise dismal and decaying town long removed from its former glory days. The same was true for Tammy Rogers. Her luck had been mostly bad for a long time and prospects of something better were fading faster than the worn-out shingles on the building where she lived. She needed out in a bad way.

On this night, she would get her wish.

The journey started, as it usually did, at a place called Wild Aces. At best, the bar was nothing more than a dive where the legal drinking age meant little, making it a must-stop for most of the ballplayers after every game. That many of these young men were barely out of high school never deterred Tammy because she was very good at ferreting out those old enough to play her game.

Her first pitch came shortly after ten P.M., when she paused just inside the bar’s entrance to size up the crowd—and let it return the favor. At twenty-six, she had a natural look and all the right curves in all the right places. Her uniform this night was a knee-length, spaghetti-strapped, pale yellow sundress. She had her long blonde hair loosely tied into a messy updo, and a light application of make-up finished the look.

Satisfied she’d delivered strike one, she sauntered to the far side of Aces’ long bar and worked herself onto her usual stool. She was greeted there by Billy Dubbs, the tavern’s proprietor and a man with whom she’d once shared a night. It never went beyond that, outside of being the reason for the always open and waiting stool after every Orioles home game.

“Hello, Tammy,” Billy said as he placed two drinks in front of her, a shot of Jack and a Miller Lite. “I’ll start your tab. Try not to forget to settle up this time.”

“Oh, Billy, it was only that one time,” Tammy said, applying her cutest smile. “And I made up for it, didn’t I?”

“You did,” Billy said, his head shaking but a smile giving him away.

A man standing near the bar at Tammy’s right was watching the exchange with great interest, and when she quickly downed the whiskey, he perked up even further. Tammy noticed the stare and adjusted her position on the stool to get a better look. The light around her, somewhere between an old flashlight and a handful of candles, was enough to allow for a decent view.

Liking what she saw, she fired her next pitch, a mouthed “Hi” in the man’s direction. He responded with a smile and moved toward her. The closer he got, the better he looked, and it was Tammy’s turn to perk up. As he reached her stool, he extended his hand and she took it. The touch sent a shiver down her back and she shuddered.

“Tammy,” she said after recovering.

“Nice to meet you, Tammy,” the man said before motioning to the empty stool next to her. “May I join you?”

That he failed to introduce himself never registered.

“Please,” Tammy said with a small nod.

Her heart was racing as the man sat, and she silently chided herself for being so flustered. It was usually the other way around, especially with the baseball boys, and as the man settled onto the stool, she took a swig of Miller and tried to regroup.

“You’re not from Bluefield, are you?” she said after swallowing.

“Nope, first time,” the man said as he motioned to Billy for a new drink.

“Oooh, a traveler,” Tammy said in her best pick-up voice.

The man offered up a nonchalant shrug.

“I get around.”

“I’ll bet you do,” Tammy said through a sly grin.

Billy interrupted the dance when he arrived with the man’s refill. Tammy used the break to take another sip of beer, accidentally-on-purpose dribbling some down her chin in the process. As the liquid made its way to the space between her breasts, she pinched a napkin off the bar and made an elaborate show of dabbing at the moisture.

“You missed some,” the man said before using the side of his finger to wipe a drop from her chin.

The touch produced new shivers and Tammy’s nipples got rock hard under the thin fabric of her dress. The man’s eyes took notice of her excitement.

Strike two.

“All fixed,” the man said.

Tammy pushed some air through her lips.

Yes, it is,” she said under her breath.

The man smiled and sampled his beverage. Tammy waited for him to finish.

“So, what brings you to town?” she said. “Are you a ballplayer?”

“I’ve been known to play a game or two,” he said as his finger came back to her body.

He used it to draw an imaginary line across her shoulder and down her arm. Goosebumps sprouted and Tammy closed her eyes to absorb the sensations. What had started as her game had become his. She was wet from the simple touches and more than ready to go. All the man had to do was ask. An hour later he did.

Strike three.

It was the last time Tammy was seen alive.

vrijdag 15 juni 2012

Interview with author Matthew Acheson

Hey again!

Today's interview is with author Matthew Acheson who earned his Bachelor’s in Computer Science and Ancient History from the University of Southern Maine, and he is a Director of Engineering for a publicly traded telecommunications company. He has also worked as a dig-hand on archaeological excavations in Egypt, Israel and throughout New England. He tried to learn Hebrew once, so he could cast medieval spells on people, but that guttural Chaf sound they make is just hell on the larynx. Matthew is also a member of the Horror Writers Association.

Books & Writing: Do you remember the first story you wrote?

Matthew Acheson: When I was just a boy I went away to Camp Chewonki and discovered a gnarled Oak tree with a cave-like hollow spot in it and a terrible secret. There was a war on, you see, between two ant colonies and a nest of caterpillars. I was enthralled, and a series of illustrated short stories called Insect Wars was born. There were wasps, flies, a chieftain’s son named Herby riding in a tin foil boat, and of course a fire breathing praying mantis. The stories were quite dreadful, so naturally my mother pinned them up on the fridge. Did I mention there were pictures?

Books & Writing: Were you inspired by someone or something?

Matthew Acheson: My siblings were all much older, and my mother worked two jobs so I spent most of my childhood alone in the woods with a dog, a stick, and a notebook. It was a creepy forest, and a lot of my nightmares and bizarre experiences made perfect fodder for Fantasy Horror fiction. Blackwood, Machen, Lovecraft, and King all conspired to derange my fiction tastes further. Then there was that incident with a ghoulish creating living at the bottom of the mossy brook behind my house, but since a blood pact was involved, I can’t go into details. I’m sure you understand.

Books & Writing: What do you love about writing a story?

Matthew Acheson: I’m constantly creating new worlds, characters, and tales in my mind. The act of writing - for me at least - is just the art and alchemy of raising up flesh, and blood, and bone where there was nothing before. When I’m fully engrossed in the creative process, it’s the only time that I feel really and truly alive. Chocolate is pretty good too.

Books & Writing: I understand you have written several published short stories. What attracts you in writing short stories?

Matthew Acheson: I grew up listening to my father and uncles telling scary stories around the fireplace at night, and I have continued that tradition with my 14 nieces and nephews. Fear can be such a wonderful, primal experience when served up in deliciously small portions. Some of my oral stories have found their way to parchment, while others will remain spooky twilit tales told only around the fire-pit.

Books & Writing: Which one of your short stories is your favorite and why?

Matthew Acheson: My favorite is “Whispers From the North”, a 10,000 word novelette that is set in my Fantasy realm the Nordurlandes. It represents so much of who I am and the life experiences that have shaped me as a person. There is a lot of pain, hope, fear, loneliness, and regret in that story. I threw a sword in there too, and a screeching door, for effect.

Books & Writing: What attracts you in horror, science fiction and fantasy?

Matthew Acheson: I love to read and write stories that make my heart race, with strange plots, hairpin turns and protagonists whose trials leave them broken, damned, deranged. I want stories that leave me sleeping with one eye open and a pistol loaded with silver tipped bullets on the nightstand.

Books & Writing: I understand you studied history. Do you use your historical knowledge in your stories?

Matthew Acheson: Absolutely. Many elements of my Fantasy realm, the Nordurlandes, have some basis in the geography and cultural history of our world. The fallen Vallis Imperium (Empire of the Valley) shares aspects with the Roman Empire. The folk of Kaldyrnord (Cold North) are similar to the Geats and the Norse. The Countdom of Vlakmorea (Strangers of the Moor) is somewhat like the Eastern Carpathian region.

Books & Writing: Are you working on something new?

Matthew Acheson: I have 5 new Nordurlandes Fantasy stories in the works – Shiver, The Reaver Stirs, A Hard Night, The Nine, and Glass City, Black Heart. Between June and December of 2012, I’m releasing 10 of my previously published short stories as free audiobooks available on my website. I’m also chipping away at the 2nd draft of my first novel, The Hotel, which is a mystery/thriller.

Books & Writing: Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

Matthew Acheson: Don’t pick up the pen to become the next Stephen King or J.K. Rowling. Write because you have something to say; write for the love of storytelling; write because your eyes will roll up in your head and you’ll froth at the mouth if you don’t. Once that’s been sorted out, the formula gets much simpler. Read, write, repeat.

Books & Writing: Which author inspires you?

Matthew Acheson: Algernon Blackwood’s fiction has influenced me the most. The man was a master at weaving beautiful, terrible, haunting atmospheres into his short stories. I can also personally identify with many of the experiences his protagonists relate. That and I’ve been communing with him through a gate in my basement for several years. Not a regular gate, mind you, but something else.

Books & Writing: Where can people go and read your work?

Matthew Acheson: My short stories have appeared in various fiction markets, including Pseudopod, Raygun Revival, Spinetingler, Allegory, Morpheus Tales, the Willows, and others.

Books & Writing: Where can people find you on internet?

Matthew Acheson: All of my published stories and audiobooks are available on my website www.cryptichouse.com

Books & Writing: Is there anything else you want to share with the readers?

Matthew Acheson: Beware of the Three that walk calmly out of the Void. Leonard Barnes has shown them the way, and they are coming. We’re in the process of interviewing meet-and-greeters. Preference will be given to candidates who are psychic, deranged, and have poor judgment.

donderdag 14 juni 2012

Interview with author David Bain

Hello all!

Today I am talking to David Bain who is a community college English professor and a writer with more than 100 traditionally published stories and poems to his credit in venues as diverse as the academic journal Poems and Plays and Weird Tales magazine. He is also the independent author of the crime/horror novel Gray Lake, the Will Castleton series of psychic detective stories, and several short story collections. He lives in the country with four dogs, four cats, two chinchillas and several other humans.
Books & Writing: Do you remember the first story you wrote?

David Bain: Most likely not. But how far back shall we go? I remember in first grade writing a story about kids in some foreign country where it rained a lot and how they went on vacation to somewhere sunny and hated it. They then returned and it was rainy season and couldn’t wait to get out and dance in it. In third grade I wrote something about an astronaut who opened the window of his spaceship and got hit in the head by a stray meteorite during a meteor shower. I had a horror story entitled “Contact” published in Central Michigan University’s student-centric literary magazine Framework. I haven’t looked at it in years - it’s probably awful, but I think I’ll put it in a future story collection for anyone interested. The magazine had a huge print run, was offered free at the doors to every building on campus, so it’s likely still one of my most-read pieces. Shudder!

Books & Writing: Were you inspired by someone or something?

David Bain: Need I say Stephen King, Clive Barker, all the usuals for someone of my generation? No? Okay, how about writers I know in person? Mort Castle, Wayne Allen Sallee. One of my old professors - Ron Primeau, who recently solicited an essay from me for a textbook he’s editing. The essay is entitled “American Road Narratives in The Dark Fantastic” and should be out in fall 2013 in a book from Salem Press and Ebsco. I try to emulate Ron as a teacher as well as his scholarship.

Books & Writing: What do you love about writing a story?

David Bain: I love the challenge. I love the way, once it’s finished, it seems predestined. That is, I love the interaction between the conscious and subconscious required to produce good, surprising, moving fiction.

Books & Writing: What attracts you in horror?

David Bain: I like that horror literalizes what’s in our subconscious. It literalizes what mainstream fiction must talk about in metaphor. In a mainstream story, the might fight a metaphorical demon such as alcoholism, a bad family situation, etc. In horror, they fight a literal demon. For me, they’re both talking about the same thing. There are all sorts of different levels of this literalization in horror, of course, but it’s almost always there. It’s pretty much the language of horror - and fantasy as well.

Books & Writing: Can you tell us something about your book “Gray Lake: A Novel of Crime and Supernatural Horror” and the main characters Brian Henderson and Scott "Iggy" Ignatowski?

David Bain: I conceived of a good portion of Gray Lake when I was 16. I tried writing it once in my twenties, got 300 pages in, and realized I was still just starting it. It would’ve been the size of IT or The Stand and I wasn’t up for that. I set it aside, focused on honing my craft by selling stories, then gave it another ultimately successful go in my thirties. It isn’t, but I look at it practically as a true story - it more or less summarizes my life from age 16 to 27 or so. I think Brian and Iggy definitely represent conflicting dark and light sides of myself from that decade of my life.

Books & Writing: I understand you also wrote a lot of short stories. What attracts you in those?

David Bain: First of all, I was attracted by short stories because … they weren’t my infinitely long first novel. But short stories require you to be on top of your game with each word. They teach you economy, voice, scene, rhythm, everything that’s important in writing - they teach you craft. They can also be a fun break from longer projects. And, furthermore, you can sell them! It’s changing now with all the self-publishing going on, but I love the whole process of sending stories out, getting acceptances and rejections, getting to know editors, etc. I think anyone who is just putting their short stories out as ebooks without submitting them to other markets first is doing themselves a huge disservice.

Books & Writing: Can you also tell us a bit about the other books you’ve written?

David Bain: I have a series character, Will Castleton, who is a “slightly psychic” paranormal detective. Right now there’s The Castleton Files, which collects four stories and one novella from several different points in his career - you can get it as an ebook or trade paperback. One of the stories from the book, “Island Ghosts”, which originally appeared in an anthology of hard-boiled detective stories, is available for free pretty much anywhere ebooks are sold. The first Will Castleton novel, Death Sight, should be out by the end of summer 2012. Right now my plans are to self-publish all the Will Castleton stuff, but who knows what might happen, as I’ve had a few nibbles of interest from other places, based just on the stories.

I plan on putting out a series of crime novellas set in my fictional town of Green River. I want to write these between longer projects, with an aim of about 15,000 words each. The first one, entitled Weed, is available as an ebook or trade paperback.

I’ve also self-published several collections of previously published short stories with more to come. Two are available right now: David Bain’s Grindhouse Quintuple Feature gathers five previously published novellas of diverse genres inspired by B movie cinema. While the City Sleeps collects crime and ghost stories from my fictional town of Green River, Michigan, the same town where Gray Lake takes place. I also hope to have two more collections available by the end of 2012. Ghosts, Just Behind You will collect about a dozen ghost stories - including a new Will Castleton story - and Shadows, Whispers, Shivers will collect about a dozen more previously published stories.

Books & Writing: How does it feel to have a book published that you worked so hard on?

David Bain: Great, of course! But let me use this space to muse a little on the perks and perdition of self-publishing. Gray Lake was supposed to have been published by a small press, but it fell through, as things so often do in that market, so I decided to try self-publishing it. Overall, I’m glad I did. Would I have been happier had it been picked up by, say, a mass market publisher? I’m not sure. I love the creative freedom of self-publishing. As an English professor, I’m meticulous about my books, my covers, my copyediting, etc. My books are exactly the way I want them, no compromises, no selling out, and there’s immense satisfaction in that. But I’m not going to say popular success wouldn’t be better - what writer doesn’t dream of it? For now, however, I’m reveling in the creative freedom to tell the best damn stories I possibly can.

The most gratifying thing of having something published - traditionally or self-pubbed - is the positive feedback from the handful of people who seem to know I exist. I’m always amazed when people email or tweet, asking when I’ll have the next story featuring a character I thought was a one-off, someone in just one story. That’s how the Will Castleton series started, and why I keep playing with Green River as a setting. It’s enthralling, knowing there are people out there waiting to see what I come up with next. One that surprised me especially is that I’ve had several requests to do more with the characters from my weird Western story “The Cowboys of Cthulhu”. The story was in an anthology called Amazing Heroes and had been out of print for several years when I self-published it. I received zero response from the antho, but now I have readers asking for a sequel - so, yes, there are indeed things I love about self-publishing!

Books & Writing: Are you working on something new?

David Bain: Always! My goal is to write 500 words of fiction per day. If I finish one project, I begin the next one the next day. This is in addition to editing, covers, marketing, etc.

Within the next year or two you should see a couple Will Castleton novels; more Green River crime stories; a novella (co-written with C. Dennis Moore) called Band of Gypsies, which combines cosmic horror, the undead and Jimi Hendrix lore; a big Lovecraftian zombie novel; and a mainstream novel called The Care and Feeding of Michael Anthony Zee, which is all but finished. Will these be self-pubbed or through a traditional press?  We’ll just have to wait and see!

Books & Writing: Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

David Bain: Don’t be afraid to suck. When you’re working with words you’re working in clay, not marble. You can change things. Send stuff out to editors. Grow a thick skin about rejection. And don’t quit.

Books & Writing: Which author inspires you?

David Bain: Joyce Carol Oates is my favorite writer. Prolific but literary. Unafraid of any genre. Unafraid of the criticism that can come from being prolific. Hyper-attentive to language, detail, form. A consummate master of craft, craft, craft. There is nothing that woman can’t do with words.

Books & Writing: Where can people go and read your work?

David Bain: Hm. Back when I was doing mostly short stories, I focused largely on print. Most of the anthologies I published in are out of print and 90 percent of the magazines are dead, but used copies are around on Amazon and Ebay and such. There’s a poem in the archives on StrangeHorizons.com. But, yes, mostly my web site and the ebook stores these days…

Books & Writing: Where can people find you on the internet?

David Bain: DavidBainBooks.com

Books & Writing: Is there anything else you want to share with the readers?

David Bain: Send me $100 today and you’ll automatically get an electronic copy of everything I self-publish for life.

Below is an excerpt from the book Gray Lake!

“Because Gray Lake is haunted,” Brian said. “I mean think about it. I know at least fifteen Gray Lake ghost stories just off the top of my head.”

“Fifteen?” Iggy lifted his back from the windshield of Brian’s Jeep and propped himself up on his bony elbows, the tendrils of his curly hair twisting about the shoulders of his t-shirt, the ends long enough to still be brushing the glass. The Jeep sat on the skinny ribbon of public access, which was little more than a wide berm. Iggy began counting on his fingers. “Let’s see – Hatchet Man, Little Lost Lucy, crazy Dr. Sallee – who may even have been Hatchet Man – the ghost girl made of fog over in the marsh, what other ones?”

Brian and Iggy were facing Deadman’s Hill, which was infamously steep and high. After descending Deadman’s, Lakeview curved around the contour of the lake. There was a good deal of shallow water and leafy shore shrubbery between them and the hill, which loomed about a football field and a half away.

Brian remained lying on the hood. His athletic frame, white tennis shorts, red polo shirt and close-cropped blonde hair stood in stark contrast to Iggy’s spindly, spider-like body, cut-off jeans, black Misfits skull t-shirt and long, dark, shaggy locks.

“Well, okay, what I’m saying, Ig, is whenever anyone from Green River tells one of those ghost stories – urban legends, I mean - like even the old one about the killer with the hook hand scratching to get into the car where the kids are making out, ever since I was a little kid, people have set that one right here at this spot. Right where we are now. This little strip of sand along the road. You know it didn’t really happen here - as if it really happened anywhere - but there must be three dozen lakes around Green River. So why do they choose this one if it isn’t really haunted?”

“Because it’s a popular make-out spot?”

“People like to say that, but tell me, how many times do we come out here, you, me and Bull, and it’s empty, like it was made just for us. Or it’s just one or two people hanging out, stargazing like you and me, or smoking a cigarette and looking out over the water or something? In fact, have we ever encountered anyone making out here? I’ll tell you something. Back in the bad old days of last semester, back when I wasn’t single, I took Janie out here one Saturday and, dude, there was just too much traffic. We’d get warmed up, all breathy and slurpy-faced – she was a really sloppy kisser - ”