Sunday, May 6, 2018

The Number 1300

Back in the early days of my writing career, I got it into my head that I would strive to pen 1,000 completed works of fiction. This likely owes to one of those biography shows on the late, great Rod Serling, one of my lifelong role models and as prolific and supremely talented a scribe as there ever was. In January of 2013, I attained that goal and hit the Number 1000. For the longest while (decades?), I assumed that I'd stop at 1000. But my imagination didn't retire at the millennium mark, and I've kept writing, past 1100 completed works of fiction, 1200, and, at the end of 2018, toward the Number 1300.

In early March of this year, as another notable anniversary date readied to be celebrated, I wrapped my sequel to last year's novelization of the classic made-for-TV Gerry Anderson movie, The Day After Tomorrow: Into InfinityThe Day After Tomorrow: Planetfall all but consumed me during the start of 2018. Pages flew off notepads at a ridiculous clip -- one of those lovely instances where the writer seems to be channeling spirits. I absolutely loved the experience, and wrapped the longhand draft well in advance of my deadline with Anderson Entertainment. Planetfall is scheduled for publication in September, and landed on my list of completed works at #1299. Without delay, I pulled out a fresh notepad of lined paper, uncapped my pen, and began work on #1300, my Space:1999 fan fiction "Ninth".

Dating back to the start, most of my big numbers have been odes to the series that put the pen in my hand at an early age -- 1, 50, 100, 500, 700, 800, 1000, and 1200. 900 was my one and only Lost in Space fan fic, which came to me in a dream back in 1982, and was a joy to pen. The title, "Ninth", refers to John Robert Koenig, the ninth commander of Moonbase Alpha (as unforgettably referenced in the first season episode "War Games"), who finds himself alone capable of saving his people from a malevolent intelligence being beamed to Alpha from a point on the nearby starmap. The idea came from one of six I drafted for a failed revival of the series several years ago. While doing a forensic exam through every notebook (and stray note) last November to corral all of my as-yet-unwritten ideas, I came across those episode treatments and, along with "Plato's Tears", deemed them worthy of translation into short stories. And "Ninth" did not disappoint.

I tore through the story in a similar daze, putting down the words and pages and loving the experience. A full week before our writers' group would celebrate it's fifth anniversary with a big party, readings, food, and guests, I finished "Ninth" and hit the Number 1300. And when the Berlin Writers' Group gathered to mark its fifth year in existence, I was able to celebrate another milestone by reading the opening to "Ninth".

As of today, with the novel sequel edited and turned in and other deadlines calling, I've reached #1303. Sitting in my catalog of story ideas waiting to be written are eighty individual cards, containing one adventure apiece. New ideas this year have been slow in coming, which could mean my prolific imagination is slowing down or that I'm finally, after a lifetime of courting the muse, being granted a reprieve to catch up. Either way, I continue to write, finish, edit, and submit my work. I continue to dream and love the writing life. Will there be a Number 1500? First, I have to reach #1400!

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Black Infinity 2

I've often spoken of my childhood spent in an enchanted cottage located between deep woods and vast lake, and of the healthy diet of creature double features and classic SF television I grew up on. Last summer, I sold the first of several short stories and novellas to Black Infinity, published by the fine folks at Dead Letter Press. "The Tree Surgeon" -- which I'd penned during my unforgettable time at Christine Woodside's Writing From Nature retreat and workshop -- is an homage to my late, great grandfather, Wallace Runge. In my youth, my mother regaled me with amazing stories that fed my young imagination, including the fact that Grampy Wally had been a tree surgeon in his earlier years. I doubt he ever encountered a tree anything like the one my main character does; I sent out the story and it was accepted on its maiden voyage into Black Infinity 2's special "Blobs, Globs, Slime and Spores" issue by publisher Tom English. Contributor copies arrived on a recent snowy Friday afternoon, and they were, frankly, stunning, the oversize pages filled with classic reprints, stories by new master writers like the brilliant Kurt Newton, comics, movie reviews, and a foreword by English referencing some of my all-time favorite TV series and movies: Space:1999, Lost in Space, and the ultra-creepiest of creature features, Attack of the Mushroom People -- when that film ran on Saturday afternoons, I refused to go outside afterward, too terrified to consider playing in those green forest wilds.

Reading an issue of Black Infinity is like a trip through time back to my boyhood; to bigger worlds and universes. It was my pleasure to sit down with publisher Tom English to discuss the publication, and the deep love behind its production.

Talk about the 'vibe' if you would -- the wonderful retro tone of BLACK INFINITY and your own taste regarding a time when, even if it was dark, SF was fun.
Well, I grew up in the late sixties and early seventies -- a wonderful time, I think, for TV, comics, and old SF magazines. The Silver Age of comics was coming to an end, but the local thrift stores were stocked with back issues of books originally published in the 50s. Kids were able to pick up old copies of Mystery in Space, Amazing Fantasy and, occasionally, EC’s Weird Science. There were also plenty of dog-eared copies of old SF digests, like Astounding SF, Fantastic, and Imaginative Tales, to name a few. That’s what I was reading. Meanwhile, broadcast TV was awash with the first waves of syndication of some classic (and groundbreaking) SF shows, namely The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits. And on weeknights Chiller Theater (or some variation) was airing movies such as Howard Hawks’ The Thing From Another World and It Came From Outer Space. For the most part, all these movies, shows, comics and books shared common themes: alien worlds aren’t always welcoming, science isn’t always your friend, and space can hold its share of horrors. This is the kind of stuff that hooked me as a kid. After all, who doesn’t enjoy a good haunted house story, for example? Or the creepy SF equivalent, a creepy derelict spaceship? But the SF genre was shifting. Space travel, as depicted in movies and TV, was becoming routine and a little dull; science always had the right answers; and aliens were just misunderstood. Okay, there’s nothing wrong with this overly optimistic take. I’m certainly not a doom-and-gloom guy, but I missed the sense of foreboding, the moody eeriness, and ... the monstrous creatures. I think the genre is returning to much of this. I think movies like the original Alien and John Carpenter’s The Thing started this return. But I wanted to do a magazine that fully embraced this type of SF, and which celebrated all the comics and movies and books and shows that helped shape spooky SF. Hence, the birth of Black Infinity, an idea I’ve had for almost a decade. Issue #1 explores the most obvious theme: Deadly Planets. Issue #2 features “Blobs, Globs, Slime and Spores” (which frequently menace humankind in SF). For each issue I tried to pull together the classic stories featuring the theme or element, added fresh takes by some of today’s best writers, threw in columns on weird science and retro movie reviews, and tied everything together with an introductory overview of each theme. Oh yeah, and lots of movie photos and illustrations. Is Black Infinity for everyone? I seriously doubt it. Does everybody like everything? But my hope is that, for those of us who fondly remember 1950s Sci-fi movies and stories, Black Infinity will be a lazy Saturday afternoon must-read.


Can you share themes for upcoming issues, and also the fantastic classic tales you'll be reprinting?
I’m working on #3 at the moment. The theme is Body Snatchers: alien control/alien possession/alien replacement. John W. Campbell’s “Who Goes There?” is among the classics scheduled, with new stories by (so far) Douglas Smith, Scath Beorh, Kurt Newton and a guy named Gregory Norris.Issue #4 is being planned also. Theme is Strange Dimensions. Future issues will feature Rogue Robots, Derelicts in Space, Cosmic Canines and.... Well, big plans.



I had a great chat with Kurt Newton, and we both pretty much made it a love letter to working with you and BLACK INFINITY. You treat your authors well, Tom English. Why is that important?
I don’t really think I’m doing anything any other good editor wouldn’t do. But several things influence me. First, I love books and I put that love into all my projects. Second, I’m a writer, too. And I abide by The Golden Rule: I treat my writers the way I hope to be treated, and present their stories with as much care as I’d want for my own tales.I feel, for the most part, writers are under-appreciated. What writers do is magical. It’s hard work. It’s lonely work. And I try to do my part to facilitate their efforts.

What do you want today's readers to know about the publication?
Simple mathematics. I put a lot of time and money, sweat and inspiration into every issue. I try to make the magazine fun and cool and entertaining, nostalgic and thought-provoking -- without being offensive or preachy. But I can only do this as long as people buy the magazine. I’m a small, independent press trying to maintain a foothold in the market. So if you want a good read, or if you need to give a gift to someone who loves SF, support Black Infinity by purchasing a copy. Leave a review or just tell a friend. You’ll have my sincerest thanks -- and I can continue to provide an attractive forum for talented writers. 

Friday, February 23, 2018

BEHOLD: MURDER INK 3!

Sometime in the late 1990s, part of a story came to me involving a son born and kept secret from his father for nefarious reasons. Said father was Latin; in my imagination, the son resembled Boxing's then-Golden Boy, Oscar De La Hoya. I envisioned the story as a mystery, but nothing came of it at the time. I had a huge plate of weekly nonfiction deadlines during that stage of my writing career, many for prestigious national magazines like Soap Opera Update, Cinescape, Heartland USA, and Sci Fi, the official magazine of the Sci Fi Channel. Flash forward to a few springs ago. We were invited to Saturday Easter services where one of our writers' group friends was being confirmed. The church was stunning, the service some four hours long. While plunked on that wooden seat, my mind wandered, as did my writer's eye. Over to the confessional, primarily. As the service continued, that old story partial from long ago resurfaced, becoming one with a tale about a reporter who vows to go to any length to get the dirt on a notorious town figure -- even into the church confessional. I scribbled notes on the program, which came back with me, and clipped it to a story note card. The first draft wrote itself in two sittings. Now it's my honor to announce that "Only Begotten Son" appears in the third volume of the celebrated Murder Ink series, even more tales of New England newsroom crime.

Being part of all three releases -- Murder Ink with my short story "Exhuming Secrets on a Hot August Day", and my sports-themed "Murder at Channel Ten" in 2017's Murder Ink 2 -- has been a complete joy, and I would like to thank Plaidswede publisher George Geers and series editor Dan Szczesny for giving my work such an incredible home. While conducting a forensic-style run through every notebook I've kept since I was fifteen for stray ideas last December, I discovered notes for a sequel to "Murder at Channel Ten" -- whether or not the Murder Ink franchise continues for a fourth volume, I plan to dive into that tale this spring.

Many of my fellow Murderers shared the back-stories behind their stories in Murder Ink 3.

Karen Dent and Roxanne Dent on "Killing Secrets": "Our last story in Murder Ink 2 ended in 1948 with Ruby solving ‘The Werewolf Murders.’ Judi Calhoun, a friend and fellow scribe (who is also included in Murder Ink 3), suggested we write about Ruby’s early years. “Killing Secrets” was born. In 1935, the Depression is far from over. Ruby is sixteen-years-old, and working on the Portsmouth High school newspaper. Her goal is to be a journalist. Walking to school, Ruby is almost flattened when Betty, the resident mean girl, takes a nosedive from a third story window. With no evidence of foul play, it’s declared a suicide. Ruby’s gut tells her different. This is her chance to prove herself. Ruby’s dogged determination to follow clues leads her to uncover a long-buried secret that could get her killed."

Patrick Sullivan on "You Never Know What You've Hooked": "Connecticut’s Northwest Corner, like everyplace else, has a bad problem with opioid drug use. We have dealers who are not exactly subtle about their trade. We have overdoses and occasional drug-related violence. And we have meetings -- oh boy, do we have meetings -- about the problem. It was at one of these meetings that a woman -- a minister, no less -- suggested that if something wasn’t done about the dope dealers, people might take matters into their own hands. Nobody formed a posse as a result, as far as I know. But the remark, made in a room full of people and with print and television reporters present, did get my attention. The main events in this story all happened, with the exception of the murder itself. All I did was change them around to avoid libel lawsuits and work in a few jokes."

Mary Duquette on "Masterpieces": "I have a literary fiction background, so I suppose because I originated from that angle, I was initially inspired by the characters. As I wrote the story, it sort of unfolded itself, and I wasn’t sure where it was going until the end. The idea of creating art using a dead body was intriguing and horrifying and was the running-off point for the plot of the piece. Also interesting to me was the idea of a reporter becoming fixated with a story (and the person in the story) to the point of obsession -- particularly when the fixation reveals something going on within that person’s own life. I also wanted to explore how deep love and grief can propel people to act in dangerous, unthinking ways. And, that something gruesome and tragic can also somehow be crazily gorgeous -- that there is a certain magic in finding magnificence in the ghastly, the moral within the immoral, the divine in the macabre. Is there an inherent art and beauty in all things? If not, where do you draw the line? I’m also fascinated by the idea of loving characters, and forgiving them, even when they do horrible things. I hope I achieved that!"

Oreste D'Arconte on "Beta Theta Pieman": "The last book in the Randy Dixon trilogy has some of my favorite elements in it: college fraternity life, the wonderful game of women’s rugby, witchcraft, the Patriots fan train to Gillette, Kurt Vonnegut, legal pot and Alcatraz. Oh, and a couple of murders and attempted murders along the way. Newspaper reporter Randy Dixon is in the middle of it, as usual, and pays in the end a heavy price for eluding a crushing conclusion of certain death. This third story follows ‘One Way Dead End’ and ‘Obituary Mambo’ (in Murder Ink anthologies 1 and 2) and ends with a broken Randy seeking a less exciting career than the noir-ish newsrooms of New England."

Amy Ray on "Last Resort": "This is my third story to be included in the Murder Ink series and all have featured Kay Leavitt, a reporter for a small weekly newspaper. Kay finds it hard to make ends meet on a reporter’s salary so she takes a second job caring for an elderly woman, Evelyn Lea. Evelyn is the owner of a sprawling beach resort and when she dies on Kay’s watch, Kay teams up with her bumbling editor and his crime-solving pug named Poe to investigate the suspicious death. I got the victim’s name from my first car, a secondhand Volvo nicknamed Evelyn. ‘Last Resort’ is set in Hampton Beach and I’ve spent many happy hours there listening to music at the Sea Shell Stage, just like Evelyn does in the opening of the story. Evelyn’s fictional resort would be located on Ashworth Avenue, one block from the ocean. It’s not my first story to use the picturesque coast of New Hampshire as a backdrop -- my novel, Dangerous Denial, was set there as well. The ocean spray and crisp summer breeze will always be a source of inspiration for me.”

S. J. Cahill on "The Canine Solution": "In Murder Ink 1, Gailene Palmer, an ambitious young reporter, murders the publisher-owner of Granite State Press as a short-cut to the top. In the ‘Solution 151’ story, Gailene introduces 151 proof rum as a weapon of convenience and a cover for the murder. With her name on the masthead of the paper, she begins using police detective Sanford Moulton as a background source for her prize-winning columns and writing her way to a Pulitzer. Unfortunately for her, Dan Szczesny created Murder Ink 2 and in The Moulton Solution’ story, Sanford Moulton discovers that Gailene is a serial killer. Realizing he can’t prove it, he goes rogue, telling us that ‘Cops make the best killers.’ and becomes a vigilante. Unfortunately for Detective Moulton, Editor Szczesny extends the series to Murder Ink 3 and freelance pet columnist Alexis Logan, who runs a Doggie daycare, discovers what detective Moulton is doing and realizes he is coming for her. In ‘The Canine Solution’ story, Lexie Logan is able to stop him by letting every dog have its day. Let’s hope Dan Szczesny convinces Plaidswede Press to publish Murder Inc 4 before Lexie Logan comes down off the porch to run with the big dogs."

Judith Janoo on "Tangled Trawl Lines": "Ted Holmes, owner and editor of a small weekly newspaper, The Coastal Chronicle, plunges into a new mystery. He’s been working a feature on the lobster industry in his coastal Maine town but finds the subject of his profile, a seasoned lobsterman, has drowned. Why would an experienced fisherman, cautious and meticulous, end up overboard tangled in his own trap line? And did someone want him out of the harbor? Ted sets aside his profile casting a light on the industry that sustains his community to get at the truth of this man’s death. Ted has had a few successes, like stumbling into the murderer in Volume II of this series and covering that story, but mostly he struggles to sell enough papers to pay Rocko, his ace reporter, and a few part-time columnists. In matters of the heart Ted’s been schooled in the hard knocks of female rejection. But like any real newshound, he considers persistence his virtue. Holmesport may resemble the harbor town where I learned many of the mysteries of life, but the characters and events of this story floated in from somewhere miles offshore."

Lisa Eckelbecker on "Flea Market Felony": "If you’ve ever thought that shopping could be the death of you, you might be right. My story was inspired by a real death in 2008 at the Brimfield Antique Flea Markets in Brimfield, Mass. A Florida man who’d been selling general merchandise at the ‘fleas’ for years was found dead in a sleeping bag in his van. A brief news report indicated he’d been feeling ill the day before. I don’t know what killed him, but I was struck by how the fields of a New England flea market could be the backdrop for tragedy. I’ve shopped at the Brimfield market for years, and I’ve written about it more than once, so I had a lot of experience to bring to this story. However, I’m also indebted to photographer Christine Peterson, who has sold antiques at Brimfield and offered invaluable suggestions about how collectibles dealers think and operate. This is my first piece of fictional writing, and I’m also incredibly grateful to author and journalist Hank Phillippi Ryan, whose mystery writing workshop at a Goat Hill Writers conference in Rhode Island gave me the confidence and tools to write this."

And artist Donna Catanzaro on creating Murder Ink 3's cover: "The bombshell blonde and the handsome hulk return for the third Murder Ink cover. Here the two reporters investigate a murder on a shadowy city street. The police have come and gone, their chalk tracings of a body and a tommie gun remain on the slick cobblestone street. A gunshot-laden, leaking wooden crate of rum gives a clue as to the nature of the crime: it’s the height of Prohibition, and a rum-runner has had a run-in with the competition. But the two reporters are not alone. In the distance a man stands outside a car, watching. The shadow of a man with a gun lurks behind the female reporter. If you look closely you’ll see she has a weapon in the pocket of her trench coat. She senses the danger, from the strangers in the shadows who may be the murderers, and from the other reporter, who she has had an on-again off-again romantic relationship with since the cover of Murder Ink 1. Will they get back together someday, and grace the cover of a hot and steamy romance novel?'

Sunday, November 12, 2017

BEHOLD: THE MAD VISIONS OF AL-HAZRED!

My 2017 began in a challenging manner. Newly returned from a long hospital stay and working on a novelization of the classic made-for-TV movie I'd been hired to write, The Day After Tomorrow: Into Infinity, my creative batteries were somewhat depleted. Editor H. David Blalock had rolled out his usual wonderful welcome for me to submit to his third Lovecraftian anthology for the fine folks at Alban Lake Publishing -- I'd been accepted into the first two, and this year's focused around the mysteries and horrors concerning the fictional "Mad Arab", Abdul Al-Hazred. But ideas for the submission call eluded me, which I found fairly maddening.

Until I departed on a brisk Friday morning for Massachussetts with good friend and fellow writers' group moderator, Jonathan Dubey. Jonathan had also been featured in the previous two years' releases, and had his Al-Hazred story ready for submission. We were headed south to stay with friends for the weekend, and from there were off to Boston to enjoy the launch party of Murder Ink 2, a mystery anthology we'd both been accepted into. On the long ride, I mentioned the germ of an idea I had concerning a memorial time capsule being opened, the most I'd managed to come up with before setting out for our big literary weekend. By the time we arrived some three hours later, I had the entire story outlined in my mind. Before Boston and the book party and luncheon, I'd also recorded the rough outline of "For Sale by Owner" on a note card. I dashed off a draft, polished, and made Mr. Blalock's deadline, and my story joins others in Alban Lake's new release, The Mad Visions of Al-Hazred.

Many of my fellow authors shared the back-stories behind their stories.

Jordan King-Lacroix on "My Eyes Were Set Aflame": "The back-story to my work might seem a bit banal, but really once I read the prompt, the idea just kind of came. I have always been fascinated by madness in fiction, and unreliable narrators in general. My favourite novel is One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, so that probably has something to do with it. The complete freedom I had to express al-Hazred's harrowing experiences was a big draw as well: with Lovecraftian horror, it's kind of a wonderful 'anything goes' territory."

Paul StJohn Mackintosh on "The Howling in the Sands": "I wanted to use Abdul Al-Hazred’s fictional history to dig deeper into historic Islam, especially Sufi mysticism. The Jinn have always appealed to me as entirely credible beings of pure force that could have easily come to Earth on an iron meteorite. What better source for the mad Arab’s visions? The faux etymology of the ‘Al-Azif’ gave me all I needed to connect all of these. I had Muslim friends look the draft over, and they liked it. Islamic culture has a bad and bigoted press currently, and I wanted to help redress the balance on behalf of one of humanity’s great traditions. Plus, I have a Miyazakiesque love of weird flying machines of all kinds. When I unearthed the Imperial Airship Scheme, and the plans to fly the R101 over Arabia, that pulled the whole story together."

Bryan Dyke on "The Andalusian": "I penned a massive term paper in high school on ‘Al-Andalus: the Tragedy of Moslem Spain’, it was a grand, sprawling forty-page treatise and one of the biggest papers I had ever written at the time. I remember buying yellow parchment paper to print it on, so it was a pretty big deal. I think since then I’ve always been fascinated by that period. For this anthology, I wanted to also dive into what could drive Al-Hazred insane and push him to write down such a maligned book. Enter the Yith; who, despite their oft-benign status, were always one of Lovecraft’s most terrifying beasts. The Yith represent a sort of twist on the ‘Body Snatcher’ concept and their entire relationship with their rivals, the awkwardly named ‘Flying Polyps’, was vintage Lovecraftian brilliance.That set the stage for me to write a sort of two-fisted tale from a villain’s perspective in and around ancient Damascus in Syria. I wanted the lead character to be somewhat evil. If not a true villain than a character with obtuse motivations and morals, that is, ‘mostly’ beyond our understanding, but not entirely. Thus, ‘The Andalusian’ was born."

Allen Mackey on "The Buzzing": "Pssst, hey you, come here.  I have a juicy secret to tell you...Okay, here's the story behind the story, or as I like to call it:  Behind-the-Scenes of ‘The Buzzing’. One Wednesday morning in late June 2017 I was looking online for for Lovecraftian fiction markets and found a listing for an original anthology based on the Mad Arab!  The deadline was the next day.  I wrote ‘The Buzzing’ right then and there in one draft, sent it off and it was accepted.  Thank you David and everyone at Alban Lake Publishing.  See you next time."

Jonathan Dubey on "The Horrid Fate of Professor Merchant": "So I was at a garage sale with my mom, don't judge me, and I came across some old books. I opened one up because it was so old I couldn't read the spine and I could smell this musty, dusty, odor.  For a minute I wondered what I'd just taken into my lungs, then something else distracted me, so I moved on. Some time later, I read the submission guidelines for The Mad Visions of Al-Hazred and that afternoon came back to me. That was the start of ‘The Horrid Fate of Professor Merchant’. When I noticed the story becoming too dialog heavy, I chose to try something different; I cut out everything else. Why not tell a story with dialog and nothing else? People including the publisher and editor seemed to think it worked and so it was. Being entirely dialog lent itself well to being an old-fashioned horror radio show, so I did that too. Listen to it here: http://www.ghostshipradio.com/the-horrid-fate-of-professor-merchant.html."

Aaron Vlek on "The Prophet of the Black Hajj": "When I saw the anthology call for works exploring possible origin stories of the Mad Arab Abdul Al-Hazred, to say I was excited is an understatement of epic proportions. Beyond a few thin references that could be gleaned from bad Hollywood movies, I had never seen the character of Abdul Al-Hazred placed firmly within his Islamic cultural tableau. My own lifelong study of Islam, including a degree, and my personal closeness to many elements of Muslim practice, as well as being a lifelong lover of all things Lovecraft, gave me just the opportunity I needed to rectify this and to offer what I believe is a unique look at what a Muslim mystic who is lured to the proverbial Dark Side might actually look like in a historic context."

 DJ Tyrer on "The Coils of Apedemak": "I wrote ‘The Coils of Apedemak’ because I wanted to look at Al-Hazred in the early days of his career, when he was still more knowledgeable than most, yet some distance from becoming the author of the Al-Azif, and I wanted to take him somewhere beyond his more usual Arabian haunts. So, I took out an Atlas of Islamic History and began looking at places he could visit and decided to take down the Nile to the kingdom of Makurria, or Al-Muqurra. As I researched the region, I discovered the existence of Apedemak, a god of pre-Christian Meroe and the story coalesced from the wonderful images of the deity."

Morgan Griffith on "Withered Moon Obsidian Black": "I first discovered Lovecraft tales in a used bookstore back in the ‘70’s. The place was a maze of shadowy aisles where silverfish darted across walls and soft, degrading cardboard boxes were stacked high with books at the end of each aisle. It was an incredible, and sometimes disturbing, treasure hunt. It’s been a while since I’ve read HPL, but the manuscript call for Mad Visions was intriguing. Research to refresh my memory of Al-Hazred sparked images of insects and moonlight; a creature in yellow, and the discovery of his cryptic manuscript. It’s an honor to be included in this collection."

Saturday, November 4, 2017

BEHOLD: DARK LUMINOUS WINGS!

I have a certain fondness for my dark SF short story, "Alchemy." On December 22, 2016 I returned from a long hospital stay during which I dreamed daily of coming home to family and muse. It wasn't that the latter was acting scarce as 2017 began -- in fact, my constant hospital companion helped me dive almost directly into a big project, the novelization of the classic made-for-TV movie I'd been hired to write the previous October, The Day After Tomorrow: Into Infinity (I escaped from Room 384 with a tiny scrap of paper covered in notes for the novel and one short story that I penned in first draft on Christmas Day, a long and beloved tradition). But as 2017 unfolded and the weeks progressed, something seemed to be missing.

My imagination is a new idea factory. Among the results are wonderful ideas and quite a few not-so-pretty ones. I write across a broad spectrum of genres, unable or unwilling to judge the good from the bad from the ugly. They're all my babies, I love each and every one, and I've learned more about writing from difficult efforts than pretty, shiny tales that wrote and sold themselves with ease. No, the problem was that for the first time in a very long time, new ideas eluded me. I thought about writing a story concerning my hospital bed, which tortured me for twenty-three nights, destroyed my spine, and made sleep impossible. I grasped at invisible story threads while translating the movie script into novel format. Nothing. It's not that I didn't have enough banked material to work on once the novelization was done -- I kicked off 2017 with ninety-nine unwritten ideas on note cards. But the new births had waned to nothing following my hospital stay, and a voice inside my skull wondered if the well had dried up. Not so, it turned out. A story about an alien planet and technology discovered in caves and beneath the soil crept upon me one winter day while seated at my desk, and the idea blossomed. I took a two-day break from the novelization to pen a first draft and, upon conclusion, was exhausted -- and unsure if what I had was even of quality. But I let the longhand draft sit, polished it up, and sent it off on its maiden voyage to the fine folks at Pole to Pole Publishing, the wonderful team responsible for last year's magnificent release, In A Cat's Eye, who were reading for a new project, Dark Luminous Wings. Within two days, the verdict came back, "Alchemy" was accepted. And as for that drought? As of November 2017, I've been deluged by thirty-eight new ideas, all but four of which (including a short novel and a screenplay) have already been written in first draft.

Why this theme?

“[Fellow Pole to Pole publisher] Vonnie Winslow Crist and I like to read fantasy, science fiction and horror. So, we're always looking for a theme which allows us to collect stories that will work with any of those genres. And when we put together a collection, we like to narrow the focus so that the stories we choose will blend together to form one cohesive collection. We usually start with a poem -- or an adage -- to give us the flavor of the anthology. We make a point to include the inspiration when we make our call for submissions so that authors can keep it in mind when they write their stories,” says publisher Kelly A. Harmon. "This worked extraordinarily well for Hides the Dark Tower and In a Cat’s Eye. Dark Luminous Wings was inspired by the second stanza of the poem Mors et Vita by Richard Henry Stoddard:

‘Under the awful wings
  Which brood over land and sea,
  And whose shadows nor lift nor flee –
This is the order of things,
And hath been from of old:
    First production,
    And last destruction;
So the pendulum swings,
While cradles are rocked and bells are tolled.’

What we were expecting was an influx of dragon stories -- and what we got was altogether different -- which we were ecstatic about. Dark Luminous Wings does include one dragon story, but it’s not what you’d expect, we guarantee it. And there are a host of other stories that are equally fabulous and different -- each including wings."

Many of my fellow authors shared the back-stories behind their stories in Dark Luminous Wings.

Nancy Springer on "the Raptor": "My good friend and neighbor, a remarkable woman raised in a circus family, suffered and struggled with cancer for five years before she died.  Her death was recent when I received the invitation to write a story for Dark Luminous Wings, and it was an event in my life that required exorcism via words.  Around the same time I saw a swallowtail kite swoop low over my car.  These are magnificent birds. Looking up at its white breast, I nearly drove off the road.  In some mysterious and symbolic way guided by the unconscious mind, the two events mixed to set off my story.  I had to change the bird's markings, but only a little.  The swallowtail kites visit my area once a year, in May, and they do indeed soar at treetop level hunting for snakes."

Todd Sullivan on "Wheels and Deals": "I came up with the idea for my story, ‘Wheels and Deals’, years ago while attending university. The idea was supposed to be for a novel, and I actually wrote twenty or thirty pages before putting it down. In 2015, I finished my most recent novel, NATURAL POLICE. When I began to work on its sequel, GWI’SHIN, I decided to explore some of the less developed subplots of the narrative. One of the minor characters in NATURAL POLICE is possessed by a darkness that only he sees and interacts with, and I wanted to give a back-story to the darkness. I thought back to the idea I had conceived years ago in university and decided to recycle many of its narrative components to flesh out the history of the dark entity. ‘Wheels and Deals’ is a short story meant to develop the character of the dark force that will play a major role in the sequel to NATURAL POLICE. Readers have not seen the end of the fallen angel from ‘Wheels and Deals’. When the angel appears in GWI’SHIN, it will be significantly more malignant as it strives for individuality."

Rebecca Gomez Farrell on "Treasure": "‘Treasure’ is one of the first short stories I wrote after deciding to pursue writing as a career. It was initially titled ‘Black and White’ as it was an exercise in exploring how someone with a harsh worldview might react to encountering people very different from themselves, people who prize taking care of each other and the greater good over personal enrichment. The ultimate test in this fantasy fable is Enkid’s, the protagonist. She must decide what’s most worth treasuring -- the peacefulness and love of the community she’s discovered or the tangible wealth that could set her for life back home. Can she overcome the avarice she’s cultivated to survive? Enkid is quite similar to one of the three main characters in my first fantasy novel, Wing Unseen, that came out this summer from Meerkat Press. But their ultimate ends are very different, although both stories feature a flying menace."

Jason J. McCuiston on "The Wyvern": "When my wife and I first moved to our new town, I was blessed with the opportunity to write almost full-time, but also cut off from everyone and everything I’d ever known. To battle the creeping funk of this new isolation, and to improve my craft, I decided to create a world to use as my sandbox for writing. Inspired by my love of the Fallout 3 video game and the horror movie, The Atticus Institute, I came up with a post-apocalyptic world devastated by magic and monsters, where I could write in pretty much any genre I like. To date, I’ve done a high-fantasy story, a western, a military adventure, a sci-fi tale, a neo-noir detective yarn, and of course the story in question, which is a blend of steampunk and horror, set in the skies above the Mojave Desert. Like in Stephen King’s “The Mist,” the real horror is not the supernatural threat encountered by the protagonist, but rather his ongoing series of bad decisions, which only makes matters worse. For me, that’s where real fear lives; in the place where we can no longer trust ourselves to do what is right in a crisis."

D.H. Aire on "Knight of the Broken Table": "I first wrote ‘Knight of the Broken Table’ six years ago. A couple of months later I received my first book contract. I believe there’s a lesson in perseverance here somewhere. You see, when I wrote ‘Knight’ I had just gotten divorced. Looking to find myself again, I’d turned to writing and seeking to getting published. That first published novel I’d actually copyrighted over twenty-five years before. After a number of rejections, I’d stopped sending anything out. I decided to just write for myself and as I re-wrote draft after draft, my writing got better and better -- I just didn’t realize it until my life went into the toilet, as it were. I then began entering my stories in contests, getting a few Honorable Mentions in Writers of the Future, and ‘Knight’ came this close to getting published early on through another contest. The editor wrote me his reason for rejecting the story, which got a thumbs-up from all the judging readers but him. It came down to his not liking the tone. So, I took that to heart and believing in the tale kept honing it. Definitely a lesson in perseverance and learning to believe in yourself."

(the fabulous Ms. Harmon)
Nemma Wollenfang on "The Devil You Know": "I’ve always been fascinated by the way one culture can invade another and, in some cases, obliterate it, leaving only tantalizing traces of what once was. You see it throughout history -- when the Romans invaded Britain, when the Old World colonized the New. Pagan religions are particularly obscure, as most existed pre-record. Very little is known about them and what is has often been vilified and altered by the new order. With ‘The Devil You Know’, I explored this concept a little -- in my own darkly speculative way -- how one religion takes over another, how aspects of the former become twisted into a more abominable light. In this case, my focus lay particularly on dying paganism in Celtic Britannia. I read somewhere that the Devil wasn’t always depicted as a cloven-footed, horn-headed, half-beast man. That, however, was how pagan gods such as Pan and Cernunnos were depicted -- this overlap was supposedly created by early Christians in an effort to throw the old pagan gods out of favor and push conversion. While I don’t know how true this is, the idea is what gave birth to this dark little number."

Steven R. Southard on "Instability": "Seeking inspiration for a ‘wings’ story, I came across an account of a medieval monk in England who supposedly flew from the abbey’s tower on a pair of homemade wings. I’d written plenty of historical stories, but none from the Middle Ages, mainly because I focus on my characters’ reaction to new technology. I couldn’t resist the idea of a Benedictine monk attempting to fly. Why would he do that? What did his fellow brothers and the abbot think of him? The resulting story has its dark elements in keeping with the anthology’s theme, but also humorous ones. Some readers will laugh at my unimaginative and skeptical monks. Other readers will wonder whether today’s society treats its more innovative thinkers any better in our more enlightened age, as they invent their own metaphorical wings and attempt to fly."

Kelly A. Harmon on what's next for Pole to Pole Publishing: "You’re hearing this first:  As an experiment, P2P is going to publish two reprint anthologies in 2018. One will be dark science fiction, the other will be dark fantasy and horror. P2P is still firming up details, but look for that announcement soon! And, of course, P2P will be publishing their annual new-fiction anthology in October next year. Vonnie and I have been looking at artwork and dreaming of themes. We’ll make our pitch to the folks a P2P in a few weeks to see what they think. P2P will open that call for submissions some time in February. Finally, P2P will be publishing a short book that Vonnie and I have written about writing for anthologies. (In it, we divulge the secrets of how to get your work looked at more seriously by editors!) It’s in the final editing stages now. Look for it in a few months!"

Sunday, October 29, 2017

BEHOLD: DOWN WITH THE FALLEN!

On Christmas Eve in 2009, I shot awake in the darkness of our old house struggling to breathe. I'd just experienced one of the most terrifying and memorable nightmares of my life. In it, I was walking along New Hampshire's Route 93, surrounded by devastation and other survivors of an alien invasion. Chasing us was an enormous vortex, which looked like a massive bruise in the sky. A tornado touched down from the vortex, and, right before waking up, I felt myself being drawn up into its maw. My last memory was of looking into the vortex and seeing a hateful alien face, massive, unforgettable, merciless. Dating back to when I was fifteen, the year I had that big Eureka! moment about living the writing life, I've penned an entire short story on Christmas Day. That year was no different. Possessed by the same lingering terror that chased me through the dream, I put pen to paper and bled out the words. By the time dinner came out of the oven, I had a completed first draft.

I sent out "Vortex" several times in 2010, and had quite a few near misses. As other projects and deadlines drew my focus, I stopped sending the story out -- until this year, when I read the call for Franklin/Kerr Press's apocalyptic-themed anthology, Down With the Fallen. Not long after submitting, I received a glowing acceptance by editor Jordon Greene. Down will soon be released, containing work by an amazing group of authors. Many shared the back-stories behind their stories in Down With the Fallen.

J.C. Raye on "To Market, To Market": "Justice. Interesting word, isn’t it? Sometimes, in the darkest place of our heart, we’d maybe like to see a little more of it rear its head, now and again. For real. For…right. Witness it dispensed a little more evenly. More publicly. Over a wider array of truly worthy recipients. For example, do you secretly wish that driver who ran the red in front of you would accidentally wrap their Hummer around an oak? No deaths or injuries or anything like that. Just a trashed car. Well, of course not! Evil to even think about. Would you love to see that shoplifter discover an angry scorpion in their jacket pocket, replacing the stolen pair of earrings dropped there only moments before? Please. What’s a few baubles in the scheme of things? Ever fantasize about making that oh so delicious short film, documenting your neighbor’s majestic belly flop into his pool while still collecting state disability payments? Oh no. Not you. Not your brother’s keeper and all that jazz, right? But hey, what if there was someone who could dispense that kind of justice? We’re talking payback folks. Accurate, swift, righteous. And right to your door."

Garrett R. Kirby on "The Other": "I will never forget coming up with my idea for ‘The Other’. I was suffering from a serious case of insomnia at the time, and it was somewhere around five in the morning. My alarm wouldn’t go off for another hour, but suddenly, in that odd state between consciousness and dreaming, I found myself imagining something that truly horrified me. It was the idea of a mother, carrying two unborn twins, dying of exposure in a nuclear fallout. The idea was that while she lay dying, something alien had sprung up in her womb, and began leaching life off of the fetuss’, creating this symbiotic relationship that caused this thing -- this Other -- to grow from the radiation, while also keeping the fetuses alive, meshing with them like some mutant cancer. The thought chilled me to the bone, and while none of this is directly in ‘The Other’, you do certainly see the aftermath: a world where these monstrous Others have become the apex predators; things which must be avoided by the remaining humans at all costs. I also thought it would be a bit more frightening if that little tumor wasn’t quite so small anymore…"

Jeremy Megargee on "The Rip": "Limax maximus literally translates to “biggest slug”, and I’ll be the first to tell you, these slimy bastards are BIG. Another common name for them is the leopard slug, and if you live in North America, chances are you’ve seen them sliming across your porch or your deck on a damp night and leaving a trail of grimy mucus in their wake. If you’re ever bored after midnight, take a seat and watch their progress. There’s something alien about their movements. The twisted contortions of their bulging forms mesmerize and repulse all at the same time. And on some level, if you watch them, you get the strange feeling that those stalk eyes are watching you right back. I’d watch these creepy little crawlies as a kid, and I guess something about it resonated, and that memory became the inspiration for ‘The Rip’. There’s something otherworldly about a slug, and I did my best to expand upon that concept. Don’t take my word for it. Watch them. Study them. Marvel at them."

Tobey Alexander on "Thirteen Days": "‘Thirteen Days’ was born from a whim but ended up being something to test me as a writer. I’ve always focussed on longer stories and thought I’d challenge myself to write a short story, it was October so the Halloween mood took me. When I asked my helpers (my two sons who thankfully often act as my brainstorming medium) they told me I should write a zombie story. I was worried about being too cliché and sat down to think how I would want it to be different, a little away from the norm and yet chilling in itself. I came up with the idea of taking a first person perspective. Not only did I decide to write a short story where I normally write novels or novelettes, I wrote in the first person instead of the third and so ‘Thirteen Days’ became my ‘out of my comfort zone’ tester. Hopefully, I’ve given you all something entertaining and chilling at the same time with a little feeling of humanity in a situation where humankind is not necessarily top of the food chain anymore. That said, what really separates us from the monsters? I’d guess...not a lot!"

Jack Lothian on "Men of Tomorrow": "It was a few years ago, Halloween night. We were making our way home in the wee small hours. The streets weren’t exactly empty but most of the parties were over. As we crossed over the main road, we passed a small alleyway and I could see someone standing at the end it. It was man, dressed in tights and a cape, an emblem on his front, hair slicked into a S-curl that had got messier as the evening had gone on. He was staring off into the distance with this look on his face… it wasn’t annoyance or anger. It was more like some kind of revulsion for the world he found himself in. Now, I understand that in reality he was probably a partygoer who’d had one Jäger shot too many and was now dealing with a rebellious gut, but there was something about him standing there, in the shadows, in that costume, with that expression of disgust… Anyone with the power to save the world would have the power to destroy it too, should they be so inclined. I hope he had a good Halloween anyway."

 M.B. Vujacic on "Freshmint": "‘Freshmint’ draws more from my own life than most of my stories. I'm a big fan of hookahs, and the hookah lounges where the story takes place are inspired by actual places in my hometown, Belgrade. The two male characters are caricatures of me and a buddy of mine, and freshmint was our favorite flavor at the time I wrote this story. Finally, as far as I'm concerned, the forearm-length centipedes that live in South America and hunt bats are among the scariest creatures on Earth. Even the small, black ones that occasionally find their way into my house give me the creeps. Fun fact: I'm currently writing a full length novel set in the same apocalyptic universe in which ‘Freshmint’ takes place, so I guess you could say ‘Freshmint’ is a prototype of sorts. A prototype I'm rather fond of. Here's to hoping the readers will share the sentiment."

Rohit Sawant on "The Pack": "Usually when you trace the origin of a story, you can follow the thread leading to the collision of ideas that sparked it, but sometimes, like in the case of 
The Pack’, it’s like waking up to find a mound of puzzle pieces on your doorstep. I only had a rough storyline, but even in its half-formed state, the characters and the imagery fascinated me, but most of all I was drawn to exploring how certain situations were likely to throw a harsh light on the fickleness of alliances when the chips are down; however, it still felt incomplete so I set it aside. It wasn’t until I saw this photograph my dad took of a New Jersey neighborhood when he visited the states late last year that things clicked, which was odd since the location doesn’t feature specifically in the story, but in that mysterious way, something about it brought everything together, and I began work on the piece about these two characters who butt heads in a post-apocalyptic setting while carrying out a task. Now that might sound pretty vague but revealing more would only spoil the fun!"

Marvin Brown on "Grandfather's Room": "I set two ground rules before tackling my post-apocalyptic tale: first, there would be no zombies or mutants or aliens. Second, the planet couldn’t be destroyed by nuclear mayhem, climate catastrophe, pestilence, asteroids, extraterrestrial invasion, or electromagnetic pulse -- any of the usual ways we get to the end of the world in these types of stories. Oh, there will be a collapse of civilization and my New Creatures will roam, but anywhere I can sidestep common tropes of the subgenre I did. I like the texture of post-apocalyptic stories: vast man-made structures in ruin, unmanaged nature taking back its planet, the devastating silence. Most unnerving, though, are the echoes and footprints and fading photos of the extinct. So, as your tour guide, I aim to provoke with these time-tested horrors, and point out some new ones as we cross this dystopian terrain."

Irina Slav on "A Year Later": "My first thought when I saw the phrase ‘post-apocalyptic anthology’ in the Franklin/Kerr call was ‘Disease! Zombies! Yay!’ My second thought was ‘Oh, how banal can you get?’ I still wanted my disease-caused Apocalypse, though, I’m kind of pigheaded with my ideas, so I looked for a way around the banality of disease-zombies-survival. I left the disease, dispensed with the zombies as we know them, and decided to make the story personal. What happens to Haley and Julianne in ‘A Year Later’ is pretty run-of-the-mill survival in a post-apocalyptic world where every human touch is death up to one point. For that point, I had to reach into that darkest corner of my mind when the most gruesome horrors lurk. The horror I pulled out this time is kind of disturbing but it had to be in the story. There was no other way, as Haley would probably say."

Christine Stabile on "Dry Leaves": "This story was born from a nightmare. The kind that jolts you awake drenched in sweat and sobbing. Unlike most of my vivid dreams, this one didn’t fade away. It plagued me until it was written and Jill’s story was told. Was it a glimpse into the future? I hope not. You can find me on Facebook -- I’d love to hear from you."

Jordon Greene on "Forbidden": "You know what I hate more than anything? It's not people who drive too slow in the left lane, though they do rank near the top of the list, or liars and thieves even. No, what I hate more than anything is when people use the government to oppress others who don't follow or agree with their religious views. What is more high minded than that? ‘Forbidden’ takes this deep distaste for religious tyranny to the next level in a world that I hope we'll never live in. It takes a current issue that seems to rile up a lot of fuss in our day and throws it in the middle of a horrifying political system only a theocrat could appreciate to make a point. Tyranny is tyranny, no matter what label you put on it. As a person of faith myself, I don't have a problem with religion, I have a problem with its abuse."

Jessica Clem on "Slits": "In the dystopian world of ‘Slits’, the First Battles of the extremist True Cross militia has eliminated law and order in a small community. Those who remain must obey their commandments, including participation in the annual, bloody Holy Arcturus. This gruesome game pits eight randomly selected people against each other, where they must cut and gut their way to victory inside the claustrophobic confines of a mega trailer home. This story follows Charlotte, one of the chosen who is afflicted with PTSD flashbacks. We follow her from room to room as she battles former acquaintances and neighbors, and the crazed ringleader known as The Gorgeous Man. She knows whomever remains will become a member of the militia. But whomever doesn’t... This story was inspired by a terrifying nightmare of mine. The trailer was original to my dream, but the extremist mania of the army was inspired by the ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’, ‘The Long Walk’, and the Crusades. I wanted to the horror to be inside and out of the trailer, bleeding into every edge of the community. Is there a world worth fighting for in ‘Slits’? It’s up to YOU, brave reader, to decide!"

Monday, October 16, 2017

BEHOLD: HAUNT!

In June 2016, I had the great luck of attending Writing From Nature, a workshop/retreat set in the wild shadows of Mount Monadnock (which I climbed almost to the summit the autumn I was fifteen). On the Saturday of Christine Woodside's excellent weekend experience, she sent us out into the woods without notebooks and pens -- which I found supremely unnerving. We were to walk, observe, and return after an hour. I like to be challenged, and this facet really tasked me. Rarely have I ever found myself without pen and paper by my side. I ambled down to the little chapel near the lake, sitting on a granite bench set beside a field stone wall at water's edge, and was supremely inspired. So much so that I couldn't get back quickly enough to work on my short story "The Shut-in", of which so many details came to me from that one hour sans writing utensils. Over that afternoon and the next morning, I belted out most of the story, about a young man who finds a kind of counterfeit happiness in a haunted lakeside bungalow over the course of a troubled summer. But returning home and to other deadlines, the folder went into the 'works-in-progress' pile on top of the second of the two big four-drawer lateral file cabinets in my Writing Room, and there it stayed until late December. In between my return from Writing From Nature and the time I again picked up the story was a twenty-four day stay in the hospital. The very last completed project of 2016 was "The Shut-in", and only one day following its 'The End' I received a personal invitation from Marie Piper to submit to a new charity project being planned -- Haunt, which would benefit Chicago-area homeless initiatives. Would I be interested, and did I have anything that fit the particular guidelines? Did I? "The Shut-in" seemed the perfect submission, and it was. Within days of sending it in, I received a wonderful acceptance from Ms. Piper. Tomorrow, my tale appears in Haunt alongside eight others by some of the most talented contemporary writers out there, with a stunning cover by artist Aleisha Knight Evans.

Many of my fellow authors shared the back-stories behind their stories in Haunt.

Randi Perrin on "Redemption Hill": "This story was all about stepping outside of comfort zones. I’ve written paranormal/fantasy romance, m/m romance, and contemporary romance. I’ve never done anything in the horror vein. So when this project was pitched to me I was excited, which then gave way to fear. I had written the project off, and emailed Marie and told her I was too damn busy to do it. The truth behind that was that I was too damn scared to do it. I can’t write horror. What the hell had I gotten myself into? Then one day this character appeared to me, little spunky thing she was. The problem was that she was seventeen. I. Don’t. Do. YA. It’s my general hard and fast rule. I’m willing to do all kinds of things, but write about high schoolers? Are you kidding me? Still, Amelia wouldn’t shut the hell up. Once she gave me her first joke I knew I couldn’t just bury her and pretend she never existed. As a result, this story was born, which is everything I said I wouldn’t do: horror, YA, and not a romance. That’s extra scary for me. If you need me, I’ll be over here biting my nails while I rock in the corner."

Harley Easton on "People Who Live in Glass Sanitoriums": " I often find myself inspired by multiple sources. Elements of places, stories, and interactions that shouldn’t make sense together sit in my brain until they gel into something more solid. In my area, there is an old insane asylum that is rumored to be haunted. It has been the subject of neglect and vandalism. A beautiful building, the local historical society had been trying to raise money to save it by offering history walks and haunted tours. At one point, it was rumored that the asylum might be renovated for a haunted bed and breakfast location. The city keeps trying to tear it down and sell off the land, but they haven’t done it yet. The idea of this old asylum’s tenuous fate combined with the glass brick walls of an early 1920s house in our area and my teenage fascination, pre-reality television shows, with all things ghost hunting. Thus came the idea of an old sanitorium turned hotel and paranormal research center that had a stunning glass wall as a distinctive feature. My characters came out of real life as well. People will tell you that irritated authors will write you into their stories. Believe them. In my early twenties, I had a particularly bad series of dates with an individual who grew into my character Drew. It took over a decade, and several story revisions, for the character to soften out to someone likable enough to be the narrator and still flawed enough to ignore some rather blatant hints about where his actions were leading the story. In the end, I was much kinder about my character and his eventual fate than I could have been when I originally conceived the story."

Katey Tattrie on "Roommates": "Ryan Headley loves the outdoors and working with his hands. After a long search, he finds the perfect house, with land big enough for his dog to enjoy, for just the right price. But he soon finds out why; it’s haunted. Would you knowingly share your house with a ghost? What if it was the ghost’s dream house and it didn’t want to leave? If you could talk with them, would you hang out like friends? Especially if your dog loves them? Curiosity soon takes over, and Ryan can’t help but go digging into the ghost’s life, stirring up stories. Can he find out the mystery, of what has tied it here in death?"

C.M. Peters on "The B Room": "Manors. Big ol’ huge manors. I’ve always had a weakness for those fabulous looking homes but only got the chance to visit one, Casa Loma. It’s a beautiful Gothic Revival style house in Toronto built between 1911 and 1914. Large bedrooms, huge windows letting the light in, but frightening at night with all the creaking and wind drafts coming through the cracks. Although it’s not the setting I used for The B-Room, I kept it in the back of my mind while I wrote Beth’s story. So, when the time came for a haunted house story, what better to use a house I’ve visited and was terrified in -- an 800-meter long tunnel runs under the manor and feels like it’s suffocating you at every corner. Now add a young woman, which I see as the lovely Alicia Vikander, suddenly having to deal with his house as an inheritance and all that comes with it -- even if it might not be of this realm. This is what I began with and thus ‘The B Room’ was born."


Marie Piper on "Jessie": "My story came to me in a roundabout way. It exists in the same universe, and serves as a sort of epilogue, for my Maidens & Monsters serial, which is comprised of classic gothic/horror tales re-told in a Kansas town in 1880. But, while those books were all based on classics like Dracula and The Phantom of the Opera, I decided that Jessie needed to pay tribute to a more modern horror master…Stephen King. It was inspired by Gerald’s Game, a book that still haunts me to this day (and was just recently made into a movie by Netflix!) I’ve always been fascinated by the American west, and the spirit of exploration that sent people crossing the country to find something new. Jessie and her husband, Daniel, came to Kansas to be free of prejudice they faced back home. But after Daniel disappears, Jessie is alone, trapped in her bed in an isolated farmhouse, with only her thoughts to keep her company. But is she alone? You’ll have to read to find out."

Sienna Saint-Cyr on "Possessed": "When asked what my inspiration for Possessed was, I huffed, then promptly felt my cheeks filling with heat. Normally, I’d have a real answer. Like, I had this experience that I wanted to write about, but not this time. I really didn’t have an inspiration for this story. I was dealing with depression and horny as heck at the same time. Thus, a story of tragedy and sex. While this isn’t the most creative of inspirations, I do connect to the main character in a deep way. Not only that, but I’m very into tantric sex. So I brought some of the energy/spirit scenes in to honor that part of me. All in all, this story was super fun to write. I enjoyed it because it wasn’t heavy in me dealing with trauma through writing, or rewriting some part of my life I wish had gone differently. It was simply fun. So for me, this is a huge win! I hope you enjoy my sexy little story of heartache and pleasure!"

S.B. Roark on "By Tethers Bound": "Every horror story needs a memorable antagonist.  I am a fan of vampires.  The bloody monstrous kind, no sparkles added.  I like my monsters with bite and unafraid to explore the bloodlust in us all.  Vampires have always been a mirror to humanity, showing us the demons which lurk inside our ‘civilized’ minds.  When I wrote ‘By Tethers Bound,’ I asked myself the question ‘What would it take for a vampire to truly dwell in civilized society?’  Inspired by Jekyll and Hyde and the tales of Jack the Ripper, I decided that the only answer was that they would have to let the monster out at times.  But what if they could cut out the monster completely and set it free on an unsuspecting world?  Would this person be responsible for the actions their monster took?  And to what lengths would they go to avoid facing their own personal demon?"